drawing a bigger circle

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I have been contemplating many things of late. Everyone seems to have his or her list of what is required to measure up to this or that standard. I find myself weary…weary of the lists, weary of wondering if I have performed to someone else’s satisfaction, weary of pondering whether or not someone else has measured up to my standards.

I thought of this poem…I think recalling my grandma and her gracious spirit prompted the memory.

They drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win –
We drew a circle that took them in.

Edwin Markham

Oh Lord, it is so very hard sometimes. Help me not to take offense when I am shut out. More importantly, help me draw my circle bigger.

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bearing a child’s burdens

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“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”   Galatians 6:2

 

In the middle of one July with Midwestern temperatures soaring into the high 90s and humidity registering about the same, my three little preschoolers came down with the chicken pox. Their creamy Scottish complexions combined with the intense heat left them with nearly every square inch of their little bodies covered in the itchy, painful rash. For three weeks I spent most of my days taking them in and out of baking soda baths and feeding them popsicles and pudding. We camped out on the hide-a-bed watching Little House on the Prairie reruns and reading until my voice was hoarse. When Clay came home from work, he took over as only a daddy can do, and in the night we took shifts.

Every mom has similar stories of bearing the burdens of her family, some much more difficult than our chicken pox saga. I have friends who have children with physical struggles, others who care for little ones with learning disabilities. In reality, all of us have burdens and live with children who do, too. We live in a fallen world where physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual burdens are continually part of the ebb and flow of life. If this is true and burdensome for us, how must it be for children who do not have the context for understanding their woes or the maturity to face them?

Bearing the burdens of others, especially of our children, involves both sympathy and empathy. As Christians, we are called to come alongside others, sympathizing with them, even if we do not understand the struggles or the pain. As mothers, we have experienced so much of what our children face that we need to recall our own experiences as part of empathizing with them, thus helping them carry their burdens. Ultimately, we become a living example for them to see how Jesus bears our burdens and calls us to do the same for others.

In our parenting zeal, we often forget what it was like to be a child. They are shorter than adults and closer to the ground so they see things we miss. Everything is new to them and they want to examine and explore. Their concept of time is measured by events rather than a schedule. When they have teething pain they have no idea why. When they wake up alone in a dark quiet room, they are scared and just want to be with somebody else. Their little bodies do not comprehend a menu plan, they just know they are uncomfortable and eating makes them feel better. Bearing the burdens of our children is no mystery, it is meeting needs they have simply because they are children; it is seeing each one as someone in need of an advocate rather than as an adversary.

Scripture talks about bearing the burdens of each other in terms of a weight that prohibits someone from being able to function, that presses down on them or around them. Sometimes we can see that burden, like chicken pox or a swollen gum hiding a new tooth. Other times there are hidden needs, an emotional or a spiritual burden. As children walk through their teen years, in particular, it is natural for them to struggle in ways we cannot see. But if we have purposed to carry those burdens we do see, being free of judgment and full of tender mercies toward them, our children will be more likely to allow us to carry the heavier burdens they bear as they grow up. And we cannot pick and choose what we will bear; we are called to bear all things (1 Corinthians 13:7)! And what is the result of bearing the burdens of our children? We fulfill the law of Christ, to adequately complete our service, literally “to fill in” as in filling an empty ditch to overflowing!

In John Bunyan’s famous allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, the protagonist, makes his way along the path to the Celestial City but falls into a miry swamp, “such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.” Christian struggles to near exhaustion when a friend named Help comes along and, looking from a different vantage point, is able to see steps that come up out of the bog. He shows them to Christian, who is then able to get free of the entanglements of the slough and they both go on their way.

I believe this has a particular message for parents as we mentor our children. We, ourselves, are further down the path than our little ones. We know the dangers and the trials associated with sin as well as life’s struggles; we, too, have wallowed in the Slough of Despond. So when our precious children fall and are tempted to despair, we can come alongside them and are able to give them steps to returning back to the path! What a privilege it is to be called to such a glorious ministry of encouragement in their lives!

 

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celebrating forty years

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Clay and I celebrated our 40th anniversary this month. Where has the time gone! I have had so many thoughts but this quote from one of my favorite books really describes what I believe is absolutely the heart of being a good wife!

 

“The greatest asset a woman brings to her marriage is not her beauty, charm, her feminine wiles, or even her ability to bear a child. It is her theology. Every wife is her husband’s partner, pastor, spiritual counselor, motivational speaker, and his fellow soldier in the war zone. With her eyes fixed on Jesus, she is less inclined to make her husband, herself, or her children the center of the universe. With head and heart filled with the knowledge of God, she will find strength to enter the fray and wrestle with all of life’s problems alongside her husband. As she lives in the light of God’s sovereign goodness, she will radiate hope and courage to him in the darkest hours. With her feet firmly planted on God’s holy character, she will find boldness to stand up to her man when his disobedience is tarnishing God’s glory. And her husband will only be the better for it.” – Carolyn Custis James from When Life and Beliefs Collide 

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truly loving God

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“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Loving God means we must acknowledge that He is sovereign and that nothing we are or have is of ourselves. Oh how difficult this is sometimes! How often are we tempted to believe that because we have achieved some measure of success as a homeschooling family, either academically or spiritually, that it is because of how well we have performed!

I often think of the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked how he could inherit eternal life. “He asked Jesus, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’

Consider that for a moment. This was the first part of the test for this young man. Of course the only correct response would be “I call you good because YOU ARE God.” But that was not what happened, which tells us that this young man still didn’t recognize Jesus as God. Jesus went on to say: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And the young man replied, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, the young man became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “’How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:18-23).

Here was a young man who had attained status in his community and had accumulated great treasure; he claimed all of it for himself and was not willing to part with it for eternal life. And you notice that, though he claimed he had never broken any of the commandments, in essence, he had broken all of them by not acknowledging the Sovereign God who had given him everything. Perhaps he had obeyed the letter of the law, but he had missed the point. Unless you are willing to acknowledge the source of your riches and recognize that what you have is not a measure of your righteousness, you cannot love God. You must be willing to give it all up for the sake of Christ. If you are unwilling to do this, you do not love God. God and His sovereignty over all our lives MUST be first.

 

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

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valentine goodness

cookie hearts

Looking for some new ideas for Valentine’s Day treats? Here are some of my favorite easy recipes!

 

Easy Gingerbread Cookie Cutouts

1 package spice cake mix
1 C. all-purpose flour
2 Tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 c. oil
1/2 c. molasses
White and pink icing for decorating (You can make your own or to make it a quick and easy job, use the icing in tubes from the grocery store.)

Mix together cake mix, flour, and ginger in a large bowl and stir until blended. Add remaining ingrediens and beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Cover and put in fridge for 2 hours. Place dough on floured surface and roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out with heart shapes and placed on greased cookie sheets or ones lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, depending on the size of the cutters and being careful to not let them get too brown around the edges. Cool on wire racks and decorate. I like to place the decorated cookies on cookie sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes to set the frosting.

 
Crock Pot Peanut Clusters

1 (16 oz.) jar unsalted peanuts
1 (16 oz.) jar salted peanuts
1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (12 oz.) bag milk chocolate chips
2 (12 oz.) bags peanut butter chips
2 (1 lb.) packages White Almond Bark, broken in pieces

Layer ingredients, in order listed, into (4 quart or larger) crock pot. Turn the pot on low, cover it with a lid, and allow to sit for two hours. Remove lid and stir to combine. Check to see if almond bark is melted, and if so, stir and spoon mixture onto wax paper or into miniature valentine papers. Decorate, if you wish, with miniature valentine sprinkles or additional chopped peanuts. Allow to harden 1 hour or so before enjoying.

 

Simple Sugar Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together flour and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add in flour and salt. Divide dough and roll out on cookie sheet between 2 sheets of waxed paper. (about ¼ inch thick) Place cookie sheet in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. Cut out shapes and place on another cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-14 minutes, depending on size of cookie cutters and your oven. Be sure to take out before they are browned. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes and finish cooling on rack. Decorate as desired. Can be frozen and decorated later. You will not be disappointed in the results!This recipe makes about 4-5 dozen smaller cookies or 2 dozen large ones.

 

Homemade Gumdrops

1 cup white sugar
¾ cup apple sauce
1 3oz package strawberry Jell-O
1 .25oz package of unflavored gelatin
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar for coating

Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and place in the refrigerator. In a medium sized saucepan, combine sugar, applesauce, jell-o, unflavored gelatin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Allow to boil for 1 minute. Pour mixture into cooled baking dish. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm. Once the mixture is firm, turn out onto a baking sheet sprinkled with granulated sugar. Using a sharp knife or cookie cutters cut out your gumdrops. Give the gumdrops on last good coat of sugar and allow to dry overnight. Store in an airtight container.

 

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are you qualified to admonish?

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Teach and admonish one another.”   Colossians 3:16

When we consider our natural role as teachers and life-long mentors of our children, we recognize there are three aspects of this process that are crucial in relationship building: encouraging each other through good and bad times, challenging each other to obey Christ, and making sure everything we say and do is bathed in love. For most people, understanding how to biblically deal with conflicts is the biggest challenge. Whenever we are in relationships with others, addressing issues is always necessary. It is, in fact, the process we must go through to assure our personal and spiritual growth!

The words “teaching” “admonishing” and “instructing” are all facets of the same gem. Whereas teaching often implies instructing and explaining with an exhortive bent, admonishment more often involves a warning or pointing out pitfalls and the natural consequences of taking a dangerous course of action.

Admonishment comes with very clear prerequisites for the one doing it. In addressing his Roman brothers and sisters, Paul stated: And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another (Romans 15:14). In other words, to be qualified to admonish someone else, you must be a spirit-filled and spirit-directed believer who understands the specific area that needs to be addressed. He goes on to say: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted“(Galatians 6:1). Admonishment is never done in a way that humiliates another but rather is approached with kindness and gentleness and its end goal is always restoration.

In the past year, I have seen repeated examples of parents who thought it was wise to publicly shame and punish their children, using social media to do so. One couple paraded their young son around a department store wearing a sandwich board declaring him to be a “thief.” Another mother forced her teenage daughters to stand along a busy street holding poster board that revealed their lack of respect for their dad. Advertising these “discipline” methods on their Facebook pages, their actions were met, for the most part, with admiration and encouragement, even among Christians who gladly republished these stories. Every time I see this, I cannot help but think of how much different Jesus was in His approach to those who sinned. Though He was direct and truthful, He was never unkind or harsh. He did not seek to expose another’s sin in order to shame them into obedience.

If we are harsh in our approach to others, we are demonstrating that we are not qualified to admonish anyone because it shows our lack of spiritual maturity. The opposite of harshness is the spirit of gentleness, which in the Greek means “with humility,” lest we also be tempted. If we look at this verse in terms of relating to our children, we have to ask how we can be tempted. I think it could be when we forget that we are sinners, too, and that we, ourselves, are overtaken daily in trespasses. When we reject a humble, gentle attitude toward our children, we are tempted to mistreat them, physically and verbally. We can either build up and restore a child by our words and actions or we can tear down and lord it over them, showing no spirit of humility whatsoever. We, too, are sinners in need of a Savior, and are still a work in progress ourselves. How we respond to sin in the lives of our children will have lasting consequences and if we are harsh might even cause them to give up altogether.

 

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

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should we expect siblings to always be best friends?

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“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5

“Be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:50

“So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Romans 14:19

 

One of the greatest rewards of homeschooling is the sense of oneness in spirit that family members can experience. Siblings become peers and classmates, bosom friends and life-long companions. I have witnessed this over and over again and recently one of my sons shared with me about his friendship with his closest-in-age brother, “We talk on the phone nearly every day. Even though we live 3,000 miles apart and don’t see each other very often, he is still my best friend.”
This is not to say that there are not differences that come up between family members, sometimes even great and conflict-inducing ones. But because of the closeness and purposes in life that are shared, there is a foundation on which to build if conflicts do occur. Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Romans 12:16). Although there is a natural bond in families, being like-minded is a goal that must be worked toward.
Growing up with no siblings, one thing that has always confounded me has been the delight that siblings get out of teasing and provoking each other. My husband has one younger sister and has often reassured me that this is normal, fun behavior, but it often seemed like the most energy-draining part of every day for me. It has taken me many years to fully appreciate this dynamic!

 

Undoubtedly there are certain attributes and characteristics each family member has that mix about as well as oil and water and will most likely never be fully appreciated, even into our mature years. My mother was the middle child in a family of nine children and she was always matched up with her sister who was 16 months older than she was. They shared the same room, sometimes the same clothes, and many times I heard my grandmother even confuse their names! One time I picked up my mom at this aunt’s house after she had been there for a visit and when she got in the car, my mom sighed, “Well, I’m glad that’s over with. Edith always bosses me around, tells me what to wear, what to eat, and what to like on television.” They were both in their 80s at the time and it made me giggle but she was completely serious!
Sometimes we are placed into relationships that we might not have chosen if not for the family ties. In fact, most moms say that one of their children seems to grate on their nerves more than others or that certain sibling combinations cause them more grief or disruptions to family unity! But rather than lamenting the struggles and finding ways to not engage the other person, being in a home with others who share your experience of homeschooling, in spite of the differences, can shape our character for the better. Learning to recognize the different personalities and gifts and how to express appreciation for those qualities takes skill and practice. Without siblings, I had to learn this lesson later in life!
During my second year of college, I was part of a musical team that was sent out to churches on the weekends. The fine arts department assembled a variety of people for each group and, to my surprise and disappointment, Denise, a girl who lived in my dorm, was placed on our team. Denise was aloof, generally unfriendly, and sent the message to the rest of our team, not to mention our whole dorm, that she was better than everyone else. Being in close quarters with her was unbearable and spending hours in the school van with her was only possible when I offered to be the map reader in the front seat or arrived early enough to sit next to a window with one of the other team members sitting on my other side.
On one weekend in early spring, we were sent to a church in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Caught in a blizzard with blowing snow and temperatures in the negative double digits, we were invited into the homes of church members to wait out the weather and, of course, Denise and I were sent home with the same family. After we arrived at the old farmhouse, out in the middle of nowhere, they carried our bags upstairs and said, “Sorry we don’t have any heat in the upstairs but we put extra quilts on the bed. If you just snuggle up real close you will be fine!” I am not sure which of us was more horrified but we were so cold we jumped into the bed and pulled the covers over our heads, shivering and, through chattering teeth, giggled at the absurdity of the moment. Talking long into the night, I heard stories about her family and discovered her goals for the future. I would like to report that this was the beginning of a lovely friendship, but I cannot. It did, however, help me appreciate some of our differences and helped prepare me for many other times in my life when I had to rise to the occasion and “work closely” with someone whose personality and gifts I found irritating!
Should we expect everyone to always get along well with each other in the same household? I do not believe so. Though two people may both be born-again, growing Christians, there may be differences that prevent the closeness that other relationships share. Even within families, there are typically such a variety of tastes and perspectives that there will always be conflicts. Those who say this is not true and offer a formula for guaranteeing sibling harmony are expecting even that which Scripture has shown us does not always happen! Consider the story of Paul’s disagreement with Barnabas regarding their missionary journey from Acts 15:39. Paul was adamant that Mark would not be going with them on the voyage and Barnabas insisted that Mark should go. We are told, “there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another from the other and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.”
Sometimes being at peace with all men means agreeing to disagree and to go separate ways. For mothers, this can be particularly difficult to reconcile, as we love all our children so dearly. This is when we need to cry out to the Lord for wisdom in helping our children express respect and kindness to each other but without expecting all of them to create an artificial environment of being bosom buddies.

 

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

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the agony of defeat

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As we take on the task of mentoring our children, we, like Paul, must realize that ministry often means pain and suffering, heartache and opposition. Too often we are criticized by family members, ostracized by our neighbors and mocked by fellow believers. Even our children are often resistant to us, balking at learning the basic subjects and many times even the Gospel message itself. Combined with the stress of everyday life as a homemaker and teacher, we can easily become discouraged when we see little to no fruit for our efforts.

The Greek word Paul chooses to use for “opposition” is interesting. “Agon” literally means “putting forth intense exertion in the face of conflict” and was typically used in the context of a sporting event where opponents fought to the death. We get our word “agony” from this word, hence the popular phrase from ABC’s Wide World of Sports: “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” How often do we fall into bed at night, knowing all too well the agony of defeat?

Paul reminded his beloved Thessalonians that he was willing to do spiritual battle on their behalf, assuring them that being a Christian is not easy. He was transparent with them as he shared his past experiences and painted no picture of a perfect Christian life. Just imagine Paul showing his scars to the wide-eyed believers, making sure they understood what embracing Christ could look like up close and personal!

This is the model Scripture places before us.

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

 

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January banana bread

 banana breadLook what nine sad bananas on the counter made on a frosty winter morning!

January Banana Bread

1 stick salted, softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350°. Cream the butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, and mix well. Mix the bananas, adding to wet ingredients. Add salt, soda, baking powder; mix well.  Add flour and milk, a bit at a time, alternating the two as you mix. Spray pans well with non-stick cooking spray. (This recipe makes one large loaf, 3 small loaves, or 1 dozen muffins.) Fill pans no more than half full as they will rise well. Bake muffins for about 15 minutes, small loaf pans for about 25 minutes, and large loaf pan for about 40.  All ovens are different so watch carefully and test for doneness with a toothpick. Cool briefly then turn onto racks to complete cooling,

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