becoming a true friend

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“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” ~ Charlotte’s Web

 

I have always loved this sweet exchange between Wilbur the pig, and Charlotte, the ingenious spider who saved his life. E.B. White’s insight was profound: true friendship is a treasure.

Often we consider what attributes we are seeking in a relationship and purpose to find someone who will meet our needs and match our requirements for friendship. But what is most important is to become a friend who is worthy of someone else’s affection. Obtaining the qualities that will shape us into true friends should be our goal.

True friendship reveals itself in times of crisis. We once had a terrible house fire that put us out of our home for seven months. During that time we were amazed at the people who came alongside us and offered to help us in so many ways. It inspired and humbled me, challenging me to be more aware of the true needs of others; it allowed me the privilege of knowing what true friendship looks like.

True friendship expresses itself through kindness. Each of us has rough edges that need to be polished off as we grow in grace. Genuine friends will welcome those foibles, seeking to confront and encourage each other to change while always doing so in a kind way. Cinderella’s admonition to “have courage and be kind” is never more apply applied than between friends!

True friendship always seeks the best for another and never allows jealousy to rule the day. So often we are tempted to not only want what someone else has but we also do not want them to have it. Beauty, success, and talent can become snares that will keep us from enjoying the other good gifts God gives to us. Scripture warns us that Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4)

True friendship will bring us together with another person on a number of levels but for a Christian, the deepest experiences will be with those who share a spiritual connection to us. While we can enjoy relationships with all sorts of people, those things that matter most in life can only be truly shared with another person who is also committed to Jesus.

True friendship is a gift orchestrated by God. While we can work toward the goal of becoming women of character who can be wise and dear friends to others, we must remember that God, in His sovereign plan for our lives, is the one who places true friendship in our path. C. S. Lewis said it so well: “In friendship …we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” ~ The Four Loves by C.S Lewis

(Originally published in Dear Magazine, 2015)

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looking at Abigail Adams, homeschooling mom

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Abigail Adams

A few years ago I spent time researching the lives of mothers who had raised and home schooled extraordinary children and considered what traits I saw that created fertile ground for learning in their homes. My favorite was Abigail Adams! The wife of our second president  Abigail is still an inspiration to me today.

Take some time to listen to these podcasts.  I know you will be refreshed!

Here are some lessons I learned about Abigail as a homeschooling mom and some thoughts on what we can apply in our own lives. I would welcome your own thoughts as well!

  1. Abigail learned to persevere through trials and sufferings, keeping the big picture always before her.
  2. Abigail made the study of the word of God a top priority and her children were forever grateful for that discipline.
  3. Abigail knew that, after training her children in Scripture, she needed to also do whatever she could to instill godly character in their lives.
  4. As her family had done as she was growing up, once a wife and mother, Abigail opened her home and table to those who would expose her children to great thoughts and ideas.
  5. Abigail used every opportunity to teach her children, especially in the midst of world events as they unfolded around them.
  6. Abigail taught her children love of country and the need for self-sacrifice.
  7. Abigail Adams was known as a woman of principle who was passionate and articulate as she stood firmly for those things which she most honored and cherished.
  8. Abigail was also the first to recognize that her own education had some gaps in it and purposed to become a life-long learner, forever studying and researching those things that she wanted to know that she believed would make her a better partner to her husband and a better homeschooling mother to her children.
  9. Abigail, though she missed her children terribly, rose to the occasion to allow her children to gracefully and gradually grow up and become adults and patriots in their own right.
  10. Building on the solid relationship she had with her children when they were younger, Abigail continued teaching and influencing them all their lives through letters that she wrote to them.
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it needs to be said ~ relationship driven goals and objectives

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In the olden days of homeschooling, circa 1980s, our first exposure to homeschooling was actually one workshop that was offered as part of the Central Illinois Sunday School Convention. A couple who had been homeschooling for a few years talked about their convictions and offered a very short list of books and magazine articles to read. The 15 or so of us who attended chatted about homeschooling and the resources we had found available, mostly Christian school curriculum we would have to adapt for home use, and we each went our separate ways. A room full of novices and dreamers, we were.

As time went by, a local support group was formed and began hosting an annual small local conference. Over the years, they brought in speakers who promoted the priorities of building character into children, becoming strong as families, and making the study of God’s Word central to all that we did. The small exhibit halls offered a handful of items to purchase, but mostly the speakers were there to encourage and cheer us on; few had something to sell or promote other than the value of homeschooling. By necessity, we had to creatively find ways to teach our children the things we believed they needed to know, and, in the process, learn some things ourselves.

Today, the possibilities are endless and the resources are awesome. But perhaps it would be in our best interest to consider how a more minimalist influence in homeschooling, not only in curriculum purchases but in lifestyle, is needed to bring us back to the basics of why we educate our children at home.

In recent years, homeschooling has become curriculum driven rather than motivated by the individual needs of real children, often ignoring what is necessary to create opportunities for them to explore and discover themselves. This was really confirmed to me a few months ago when I chatted with a mother of preschoolers who was intent on purchasing a curriculum package for her two preschoolers, both of them boys. As I asked her about their interests and about the type of learners they were, I encouraged her to not push an intense reading program on boys at too early of an age. It became obvious to me that her agenda was to purchase and proceed through a curriculum rather than to assess her children individually, considering what would be best for each of them. I smiled and nodded, my suggestion of reading Better Late Than Early by Dorothy and Raymond Moore quickly rebuffed, and I was told, “Oh, I have heard of the Moores and we would never be interested in what they have to say. We believe in early childhood education.”

This is exactly why I think entire curriculum packages can be so counterproductive. They make it so easy to believe that learning and education are somehow equated with formal school and seatwork. They promote doing formal schooling in your home, assuming that all children learn in the same manner and that it must come from textbooks and worksheets. These packages can further the false notion that if a book is completed during the school year, learning and education have occurred. This is the reason both moms and children, especially boys, often burn out in the early years.

On the other hand, real books from the library, a tub of art supplies, being read stories rich in vocabulary, a variety of good music, the daily discussion of God’s Word and how it relates to the world around us, and the attention of a loving parent who includes them in all the activities of real life are the secrets to a great learning experience for children. Winston Churchill once lamented, “My education was interrupted only by my schooling,” and how very true that can be, even for homeschooled children.

Along with this notion about curriculum comes the illusion that the more money that is spent on teaching children, the better educated they will be. I remember hearing a homeschooling conference presenter once admonish parents to spend the same amount of money on home education as they would on tuition in a private school, telling them how vital this was to provide an adequate education for their kids. I can only imagine how discouraging that statement was for many, and how many families ultimately decided that cost would prohibit them from homeschooling.

A few years ago I attended a local school board meeting and tediously witnessed the bureaucracy that is the public school system. I sat in amazement as teachers and principals talked about their various programs and the need for money to fund them. I kept thinking about the emperor’s new clothes, watching as school board members and parents nodded one by one in support, clueless as to how unnecessary much of this funding truly is and forgetting that they, too, are the taxpayers who pay for it! Why is it that one-room schoolhouses were able to provide a far superior education to our grandparents than our grandchildren receive today in school districts around the country, and all on a shoestring budget?

Another concern I have is that filling days and nights with activities outside the home is now equated with a “well-rounded” homeschooling experience. How often I have heard homeschooling moms lament how busy their weeks are and how much time they spend in the car rather than at home. One mom told me how their family gives one day each week to her co-op and that it takes her at least one other full day, and sometimes two days prior to their class day, to help her children prepare. Other moms have four or five children to taxi to various lessons and practices each week, and, when added to church activities, family meal time and free time to just live in the world around them is often compromised.

Having older children who desire fellowship and friendship is a good reason to get involved in occasional outside events and classes where particular skills can be honed. But the subtle pressure to provide “enrichment” for our children can often turn into an endless list of outside pursuits that steal away the hours of family living. I love the way Laura Ingalls Wilder describes the beauty of simply living life together: “As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”

Any time spent away from home should be measured by the benefits. Does it leave time to explore and learn new things on our own? Does it inspire creativity and further study? Does it promote a healthy lifestyle or does time outside the home mean that fast foods provide frequent meals for your family? Does it require younger children to spend endless hours strapped into car seats while older children are taken to one event after another? Do you find yourself looking for ways to offer your children all the amenities of the public school system, or do your children have time to serve others? Do your children spend most of their time with people who are a variety of ages or mostly with peers? Are you the one providing most of their Bible instruction and discipleship or does your church do it? Do your children know that you always have time to listen to them and pray with them every single day?

We need to be able to discern the true goals of a real education. One of the common concerns often expressed to us over the years about homeschooling is whether or not we could possibly teach our children everything. My answer is always “no,” followed by the correct observation that there is no teacher or institution or family who could possibly teach everything. And it shouldn’t even be a goal! The vast amount of information, especially technological information, that is generated increases exponentially each year. Rather than worrying about knowing it all, our goal as homeschoolers ought to be to raise, and to become ourselves, lifelong learners. This is accomplished first by providing an environment rich in life experiences and then by giving our children an introduction to ideas and concepts outside of those experiences. By teaching and training in research skills, and allowing our children plenty of space to study things they are curious about rather than simply uploading them with information, we have given them the tools to be successful no matter where the Lord leads them!

 

(This is taken from the chapter Relationship Driven Goals and Objectives from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home)

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the quilt

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My grandmother was an amazing woman. Born in Missouri in 1897, at the age of 16 she traveled to a tiny little place in the middle of the Illinois prairie called Uniontown to become a hired girl for the Tasker family. Each morning she would get up with Mrs. Tasker and together they would fry bacon and eggs, peel and boil potatoes, stir up and roll out biscuits, and bake a half dozen or so pies. While the Tasker men were busy milking cows, caring for livestock, and walking behind a plow, my grandmother was preparing meals for not only the men who lived in the household but for the farmhands who would be there for the day.

Once the men were fed, the kitchen was cleaned up for the morning, and the wash was run through the wringer washer and hung out to dry, Mrs. Tasker would sit my grandmother down and teach her how to sew and mend the clothing. Overalls were worn until there was almost nothing left but seams and pockets, so there was a never-ending parade of clothes to sort through and repair. All-cotton shirts and dresses were sprinkled and ironed and the womenfolk had to wear a fresh apron each day, a habit my grandmother kept even past her “in the kitchen” days.

On Sundays, my grandmother went along with the Tasker family to the Uniontown Baptist Church. As one of the boys rang the old bell, calling all of the community into worship, she was preparing for the two most important events of her life. My grandmother had not come from a Christian home. She had not been told of the most miraculous event of all human history, of God becoming man in the flesh through His son, Jesus, so that man might be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with his creator. These were marvelous truths to my grandmother, and by God’s grace, she trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord.

God’s sovereign plan for her life was revealed as she faithfully attended church every week and also went to prayer meetings and Bible studies. While there, she met a dashing young man five years her senior, and after a sweet time of courtship they were married. Over the years they were blessed with three sons, nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and, to this date, 20 great-great-grandchildren! God’s plan for the life of this one hired girl was not so unusual, but also not so ordinary.

As I was growing up, whenever I visited my grandmother, one of my greatest delights was seeing the latest quilt in the old walnut frame in her front parlor. She belonged to a group called the Busy Stitchers and each month they would travel to one member’s home for rich homemade desserts and a quilting bee. The beauty of these quilts, these works of art that were at the same time so random and yet so intricate, intrigued me. Looking closely, you could see the variation in stitches, as each woman had her own lovely and unique touch.

One day, when I was 16, my grandmother asked if I would like to see all the quilts she had made through the years. With much anticipation, I watched as she pulled from her cedar chest one glorious quilt after another. I oohed and aahed as she tenderly unfolded them, one at a time, each more incredible than the last. Proudly, she told me their names: there was a striking red and white Lone Star, a delicately embroidered Sampler, a common but beautiful Nine Patch, and her magnum opus, the Ribbon, made up of thousands of tiny one inch blocks strung together to look like miles of calico ribbons. I was amazed at the hours it had taken to design and sew such masterpieces. I marveled at both her skill and creativity. I smiled when I saw bits and pieces of dresses my mother and I had worn in years past and leftover scraps from many of her own aprons.

When the last one had been brought out, she explained that there was one for each grandchild and each daughter-in-law and she asked which one I would like to have one day. Without hesitation, I chose the Garden Path, an appliqued pattern of brightly colored daisies, all sporting buttery yellow centers and looking amazingly like her own flower garden! Each block was pieced together with a tiny rosebud print, and a scalloped edge finished off the glorious quilt on all four sides. It was exquisite!

Excitedly, my grandmother turned it over. There, in one corner, on the back, was my own name already embroidered in her handwriting! Of all the dozen or more quilts she had lovingly stitched, she knew which one I would want and had chosen it just for me!

As homeschooling moms we get so caught up in the tedium of daily living that we often forget the incredible privilege we have of being called to love and mentor our children. Our hearts are prone to wander away from what really matters in the grand scheme of life. We neglect people and don’t make them a priority over things. We fail to practice the one anothers and daily need to hear the Gospel message of grace. We have past hurts and failures, present struggles and disappointments, and future fears and burdens that make up the scraps of who we are. And yet, God is sovereign and has a plan He crafted for us from before the foundations of the world, choosing us as His own and weaving together something beautiful and unique in each of our lives, in each of our homes.

Isaiah 49:16 tells us this about who God is: I will not forget you. ’Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.’” Like my name embroidered on my grandma’s beautiful quilt, God has already written not just my name but me on the palm of His hand! He has called me to serve Him and bring glory to Him in the work He has given to me and will provide all I need for the task. Be assured, He is doing the same for you!

 

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Sir Ken Robinson teaches what homeschoolers already know

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I have recently been reading books by Sir Ken Robinson and am amazed at how well he is making the case for old-fashioned homeschooling without even realizing it. I love his insights and find myself cheering often as I read. He is saying what needs to be said about creativity, the importance of the arts for all learning, and the need for outside-the-box education! But I cannot see the public education system being able to pull any of it off! In fact, I am really concerned that many homeschooling families are blindly following the government system down the same foolish path. Robinson lists three key aspects of public education that is killing creativity and certainly not preparing all students for bright futures:

Schools are heavily weighted in the area or academics over any other aspect of learning or life preparation.

Schools practice a hierarchy of academic subjects that places the STEM classes above others.

Schools rely on testing to measure success.

Almost always the first question new or potential homeschooling moms ask is “What curriculum do you use?” Let me encourage you to listen to the various Ted Talks done by Ken Robinson and to read his books. There is just so much great thought here for this generation of homeschoolers who rely on curriculum packages and are determined to recreate public school in their homes. We need a fresh approach and Robinson is spot on in his assessments.

 

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living in the light

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When my friend, Anne, was in college, her fiancé often made the four hour drive to see her on the weekends, leaving as soon as he was off work on Friday and arriving after dark. Knowing he traveled along the interstate highway that passed by the campus, before each visit, Anne placed a small fairy light candle in her window to assure him they would be together soon and that he was on the right path, the one that lead to her!

As believers, we are commanded to share our faith with others, both those who are unsaved and those who are already Christians. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His followers “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (NASB) He encouraged Christians to live as Christians, to present a way for others to be able to learn how they, too, can follow him. He also reminded us that, though they cannot save us, our good works will bring glory to God and provide a much needed light to a dark world.

As we grow in God’s grace and experience the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, as described in Galatians 5:22-23, that light becomes a brilliant beacon for those in need. Like the light of Anne’s small candle, we have the opportunity to show others the way to Christ! It is by applying these fruits of the spirit….love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control….in our relationships with others that Jesus shines through us! But what does this look like in action?

Love: Considering others before ourselves!

Joy: Embracing everything with the assurance that God wants His best for us!

Peace: Pursing the path of righteousness!

Patience: Trusting in the perfect timing of a sovereign God!

Kindness: Bearing someone else’s burdens!

Goodness: Asking “What would Jesus do?” and “What did Jesus say?”

Faithfulness: Staying the course without wavering in our convictions!

Gentleness: Treating others as we want to be treated!

Self-control: Living for the eternal rather than the temporal!

19th century songwriter Eliza Hewitt penned dozens of hymns that reflected her faith in Christ. Trained as a schoolteacher, she suffered paralysis when a student struck her with a piece of slate, leaving her bedridden for a long time. Though others are more well-known, one song she wrote describes so well her desire to fulfill a believer’s calling to be a “light see by men.”

 

Stepping in the Light

Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,

Trying to follow our Savior and King;

Shaping our lives by His blessed example,

Happy, how happy, the songs that we bring.

 

Pressing more closely to Him Who is leading,

When we are tempted to turn from the way;

Trusting the arm that is strong to defend us,

Happy, how happy, our praises each day.

 

Walking in footsteps of gentle forbearance,

Footsteps of faithfulness, mercy, and love,

Looking to Him for the grace freely promised,

Happy, how happy, our journey above.

 

Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,

Upward, still upward, we follow our Guide;

When we shall see Him, “the King in His beauty,”

Happy, how happy, our place at His side.

 

How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,

Stepping in the light, stepping in the light,

How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,

Led in paths of light. (1890)

 

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when children struggle

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A sense of personal calling on the lives of our children will help them persevere during those times of discouragement and difficulty that are certain to come to them. Early on, our children must embrace the truth that God has no plan B for their lives, only a plan A, and that He is bringing that plan to pass in spite of our best efforts or worst mistakes. Sometimes our children sin miserably and, lost in our own grief and disappointment, we forget this truth ourselves. But it is during these very times that we need to fulfill the calling God gives to us as parents: to comfort, exhort, admonish, strengthen, and encourage our children, affirming God’s forgiveness and watch care.

I am always jarred back to reality by the story of Jonah, of his refusal to obey the Lord, his recognition that he was in the belly of the fish, the biggest mess of his life, because of his disobedience and the fact that it was God who placed him there. In the second chapter he cries out to the Lord for mercy and deliverance and then makes this profound statement: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8) (NIV). How well Jonah summed up the reality of what happens when we follow a life plan that does not please the Lord or put Him first! If our children fail and try to run away from the Lord by sinning against God through disobedience, especially by following a call He has not placed on their lives, they need to know that God may use amazing but painful ways to bring them back to Him. They need to understand that God is also a merciful and gracious God who is swift to forgive. We should do likewise.

taken from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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doing good

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“Practical Christianity is the active operation of Christian principles. It means keeping watch for occasions to exemplify these principles. It is “exercising ourselves unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7) We cannot tell in the morning what opportunities we may have of doing good during the day; but if we are sincere, we will try to keep our hearts open, our minds prepared, and our affections alive to do whatever may occur in the way of duty. We will, as it were, stand in the way to receive the orders of Providence. Doing good is our vocation. We reject no duty that comes within the sphere of our calling, nor do we think the work we are employed in a good one if we might be doing a better one.”
~ Hannah More

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caprese chicken


caprese chicken

After several recipes for Caprese Chicken popped up on my Pinterest feed, I decided to experiment and the Italian food-loving group at my house was thrilled with the results. I am certain you will enjoy it! Note: This combination is very rich so a little serving goes a long way!  This is especially delicious leftover!

 

Caprese Chicken

3 pounds chicken breasts, cut into strips.

Olive oil

Minced garlic

One half jar of pesto

1# shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese

6 fresh sliced Roma tomatoes

Drizzle olive oil in bottom of baking pan. Place chicken strips on top and turn to cat. Sprinkle with a bit of garlic. Spread each strip with pesto. Bake on 350 degrees until meat is cook through. Top with cheese and tomatoes. Return to oven until cheese is melted and tomatoes begin to cook. Serve over fettucini alfredo if desired. Crusty bread and salad makes a perfect meal!

 

Fettucini Alfredo

1 # fettuccini noodles

½ cup or 1 stick of butter

½ cup flour

4 cups half and half, heavy cream, whole milk, or combination

2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Cook fettuccini noodles until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat and stir in flour, making a smooth roux. Add half and half or cream until smooth and thickened. Stir in parmesan cheese until melted.  Salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly with noodles.

 

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lego evangelism

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“As homeschooling moms, we are participating in the most fruitful and productive way to teach and guide the next generation of believers. It matters little what kind of curriculum you use, how much you spend on books and resources, or how many activities you provide for your children. What matters is that you give them your time and energy, your openness and transparency, your love and commitment. As you build relationships with your children, you are building the Kingdom of God, one cookie, one Lego at a time!”

~thatmom.com

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