My latest book, "Snapshots" is back up, please feel free to download and read (see right side bar to access your e-copy)! However, other Documents are still temporarily off-line as we continue recovery after the major hacking of our secondary site. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, in-article free download documents will be back up soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Going Home

As the light of a home I've known all my life poured out into the darkened suburb walk, familiar and foreign mixed and I couldn't measure whether I had come home or was simply displaced inside of familiar.

Two weeks ago today I touched down on the tarmac of Chicago's O'hare Field.  From a metal bird in the sky like those I watched from my bedroom window growing up, I wondered if one of the many lights below belonged to the home I knew as a child.  Had the flight patterns changed at all in 40 years? 

I was welcomed by baggage claim by a childhood friend.  We shared memories of recess races and I met the fiance, she is marrying late in life after decades of adventures both in and out of ministry.  Then my step-dad, opening wide that door as I reached the top step to the front of this all-to familiar house.  He looked the same, but weary.  No doubt wrestling with that morning's diagnoses of stage 4.

I've been torn since before my flight lifted off the ground in sunny south-central Montana.  Torn between 2 worlds.  The one which holds most my close family members, the ones I spent growing up holidays and family picnics with... the ones I left for the west when I was 18, returning for only brief visits since.  And the one my husband and I have grown in the west.  With kiddos and youth group and Bible camp plans and university graduation plans and garden plans.... Both worlds are me.

If home is where the heart is, how do I reconcile my heart for aging parents and siblings and nieces and nephews with the heart which has labored and birthed blood of my blood and teaching and growing?

This has been my wrestling match in the midst of doctor's appointments and surgeries, and a house planted 60 years ago, watching 3 generations grow old.  I'm needed here... but I am needed there.

Last weekend I had an opportunity to get away.  To make the 2 hour drive outside of the city and into the freshly plowed corn fields of north-western Illinois.  To see, one last time, the house my biological dad built right after I moved away.  The one he and I had dreamt about when I was still in middle-school.  With acres and orchards and gardens for bumper crops.  The one he just sold because my other Step passed away 2 years ago from a similar Sentence. 

Funny how life shifts.  Funny how home changes.

We talked for hours, just me and my dad.  This man whose features and mannerisms I mirror more than either of us readily admit. He took me to dinner before I headed back to the city, back to my surviving Step to care for and keep walking out this Sentence with.  As we drove through the small farm town a church marque caught my eye.  An old familiar verse which seemed to bridge miles:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord
Jeremiah 29:11a

After dinner and good-bye I drove back the 2 hours, listening to Klove and rolling that Jeremiah verse over and over.  Rolling home over and over.  The following morning I dug in deeper...

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, 
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

and this morning, deeper still....

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  
Jeremiah 29:11-13

...and suddenly I knew.  Home is where the heart is.  And when the heart is in Christ, no matter where we go we are home.  Somehow, reading Jeremiah 29 and being reminded that GOD knows the plans he has for me... even if I am confused.... that as Israel was being given this sentence of exiling, God was saying through the prophet that they would come home.  That when they call upon God, pray to him, seek him with ALL their heart... home would come.  Perhaps here it is literally, but for me this week, it became proverbial and beautiful.

Grandpa laid the floor in this 2 city block long V.A. Hospital back when it was first built.  Now my step dad is making regular trips across this piece of history as he battles for life.

Illness, separation, challenges... they are all blips on the map of time.  Tiny spots God desires to use to grow us: first closer to Him and then farther in our Walk.  I never left home, whether at 18 or my 2 weeks ago flight.  Home has always been in my heart with Christ.  I have left the presence of people to pursue the plans and direction God has, but I have never been gone.  We are blessed in this day and age with Skype and face-time and cell phones... the people are still close but no matter where I go, God is always closer.  Home is always here.

Some day I will say good-bye to the last of my parents.  I already have with mom, almost 15 years ago.  My step-mom, 2 years ago.  My step-dad has a chance and may kick around for a while to come, my biological dad is strong and healthy.  Aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and so on.... they have their own 'homes', their own plans and trajectory.  Their home is in their families and, for those who share my faith, in God as well.  We may not be close in body, but we are still family.... as for me and my house.... I'm always home with God.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Homeschool Journal: Poster Power

Our home is... what's the word?  Oh, yeah, cozy.  With a family of 5 (6 when Zach is visiting from college) I have had to learn how to be smart with my use of space.

I'm also sort of obsessive concerned with the aesthetics of the main living area because my heart is in hospitality.  However, our living area is also our school area so the management of this space is often under my own scrutiny. 

When my kids were elementary age not only did we live in a house with a separate 'school room' but I deliberately managed my decor to be kid friendly. This isn't the case anymore though.  Teenagers are a different breed of youngsters.  Yet, I found out recently that certain tricks from their younger years are actually more effective in the older ones.  Or maybe just more effective in our simpler, cozy-home lifestyle!

I'm talking about educational posters.

Currently I have framed, on a cork board, a vintage colored poster of the United States to supplement our studies of U.S. History this year.  I reference it often, as do they.  It nestles next to our magnetic dry erase board, which I would love to have framed in wood so it blends better, but instead it is usually edged out with some sort of seasonal greenery, disguising the schooliness of it all!  A vintage looking globe and pretty basket of dry-erase markers are housed in one corner and an un-knowing onlooker might wonder if it is a school setting, a study setting, a missionaries meeting area, or just a retired teacher's attempt at vintage decor with a modern board in the mix.

This year, however, I found myself utilizing the blank wall space underneath in a more non-traditional way.  Our walls are plaster so I can't pop tacks in them as I use to in other homes.  But I can hang posters and print-outs on magnetic clips positioned on my dry-erase board and that is just what I did.

First, battle maps from the Revolution War took rotations every few days during class.  Then, a miniaturized constitution hung proudly for a few weeks as we moved into the establishment of our country's laws.  As that came down, we were entering our study on Chemistry in our 9th grade Earth Science book and a periodic table I scored at the Dollar Store a couple years ago made it's appearance.  More colorful and less keeping with my subtle tones decor in the main living area of my home, I was nervous about this one.  But I hoped.

My nervousness about this bright poster hanging in our otherwise homey-cozy space?  This same poster had hung in our craft studio where we once did science experiments and art class.  It had hung on our laundry room door in our last house where our school room was set up in our large basement which mostly just got used for computer games and morning get-togethers around the dry-erase for English from the Roots Up lessons... oh, and laundry when that door was opened and closed to the task.  No one seemed smarter on the Periodic Table of Elements for these attempts at subtle education.

Now? We do schoolwork at the same table we eat at and do Bible study at and sometimes have hearty discussions at.  This same intimate dining area is directly connected to our modest living room where the main couch faces the stage of our learning.  To stroll out to our back deck, one must pass through this educational alcove.

My hope was obvious: perhaps, this time, in seeing a study-related poster hanging in it's simplicity where they live and eat and breathe, my children may gaze over throughout the day and reinforce the information.

I tried this when they were younger.  I LOVED putting together billboards (it was always a nod at one of my favored jobs in High School student council).  But I never really noticed info being absorbed.  But now they are older, it was worth one more try.

So, imagine my excitement last week when, as we were having a totally separate, non-science discussion, they began talking about the elements and atomic numbers and relating it to a regular-life observation.  When I asked how they knew that, they explained knowledgeably, they had observed it on the poster I had reluctantly left hanging on the wall.


In the past I had sooooo much on my school room wall and, if I am honest, it was mostly decoration and I rarely ever pointed to it. Maybe part of the problem for them was not knowing where exactly to attend information so they chose not to attend any, other then what I directly taught them.  I just wanted a "school" room with all it's fandangles like I had grown up with and worked in as an adult.  But for my kids, simple and direct and hanging right-where-we were learning was what hit the spot.

There is power in posters.

It helped, too, that I kept drawing their attention to the hanging posters I have used lately.  For Chemistry, I gave them a personal sized one to reference for some of the smaller numbers which might not be so clear from their vantage point.

Poster Power. 

Don't underestimate it!  Don't over-do it either.  There are a lot of great posters out there.  Unless it is a map you are using regularly in your schooling.... or the alphabet or weather chart for those early learners.... (basically, something you are referencing daily throughout the year) my advice is to keep it simple:
  • Pick and hang posters which directly relate to the current lesson
  • Take them down when the unit is complete
  • Check the Dollar Store, you can often find great scores there (my chemistry posters even came with copy-able worksheets on the back which my kids ate up!
  • Reference the information on the poster throughout your teaching sessions, don't just use it as a pretty prop
Have fun!!

Our Homeschool This Week...


Dad had an episode on Sunday and we thought I was going to be flying out even earlier then early!  He is doing better though and surgery is still scheduled for next Friday (the 14th).  I leave this coming Wednesday (the 12th).  Hard to believe.  His doctor's appointments this week and last-minute preparations often interrupted the schooling routine but everyone was great sports about it.  They continued to work on their assigned reading and Brooke even found confidence to self-teach her composition which is great because I am going to be leaving her with a unit to do while I am gone!

On that note, we read through the Civil War battles this week. 

TIP:  Get excited about teaching!  It can make the driest material come to life!  Act shocked, disappointed, even excited as you read about events, actions, and even how things work... even if you already know the info, your kiddos don't and they will be more engaged with your narrations then without.  Also, don't be afraid to pause reading material to share related info in a side-note.

We only have one lesson left in our PACE History booklet on Civil War. I was going to have them work on a Civil War battle map but decided to leave that for them to do when I leave.

We will be ready to wrap up our formal schoolwork Monday so we can hang out together Tuesday and I can start packing since my flight leaves shortly after noon Wednesday.

I won't have anymore "Homeschool This Week" after this one until next school year.  But I will try to get some articles up on schooling and teenagers and how our long-distance learning is going.  So stay tuned!
 While I waited with baited breath Sunday to see if I was catching a quick flight out to help my dad, I worked on a Menu Planning notebook for the girls to use while I am gone.  I got the idea from Pinterest.  As usual, I put my own twist on it!  Included are tips for shopping, tips for cooking and recipes to go with the menu suggestions.  Most of which are family favorites, easy and my own.  I tried to pick recipes the girls have either helped me with enough to know how or ones that would be easy to figure out.  I should really do a photo-shoot and share on Menu Monday!

I attended a Facebook Usborne party recently and decided to order language books for the kids.  They may be high school but I figure it is like Rosetta Stone in book form: pictures with words to associate.  Brooke is fascinated with French and the book came with a reference in the back to help in sounding out the words.  She has enjoyed thumbing through it since it came.

 Thursday we ran some errands and then I took the kids for a rare treat:  ice-cream at a downtown specialty shop.  We had a bit to burn before getting hubby from work so we visited an antiques mall around the corner.  I love that my kids love antiques like I do!  Ashley made a great point: antique malls are like museums but better because you get to touch most of the displays!  I whole-heartedly agreed!!  Great field trip possibilities for older kiddos who are more skilled in not breaking things they touch then younger ones! 

Thursday we also finally captured that illusive haircut.  I forgot how fresh and even more handsome my man-child looks with a cut!

 Weeds were taking over my front gardening area.  A situation I desperately wanted to rectify before I left.  I don't know if my garden will get put in this year with my trip and all the unknowns when cancer is pronounced, but I at least didn't want a garden of weeds to present to the public at large!  The girls helped and between the three of us we made quick work of it after school books were closed on Friday.
 Clearing away weeds and leaves I found a patch of random green onions!  I planted seeds last spring but they never grew.  I thought our outdoor cat dug them up, yet here they are, about 2 feet over from where I put them!
Weeding helped make the flowers POP.  Bulbs planted by the previous owners are super fun to watch bloom in the spring.
Brenden finished his yard work (mowing and raking) and I sent him in to shower while the girls and I finished up.  We looked up from our task to see this in his window!  He is too funny.

 Speaking of things in the window, I planted herb seeds only a week and a half ago to get my window garden re-vamped.  A didn't expect to see them flourish before I left so I was super excited to see little plant babies peeking out. 

What have you been up to this week?


Linking up today with some of these...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In the Beginning and the Power of God's Word

I was watching a video recently in which a man was tritely asked to quantify the existence of God, time and creation.  It was only a clip so I do not know the context or parties involved but I can say; the defender spoke quite well as he confidently explained, in our finite thinking, we cannot truly comprehend an almighty God... we can not quantify something.... or rather, someone.... who is beyond measure.

As he expounded, he quoted Genesis 1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

He went on to break this down:

beginning = here we see God created time
heavens = God created space
earth = God created, well, earth and the matter all around us

He was clear and concise and, granted, as a Christian I am biased, but I was inspired by his fervor.  I have heard this explanation before, however, it never stops being powerfully beautiful.  And every time the defense of a God-centered creation elicits one of my favorite verses in all of God's Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

John is probably my favorite gospel because of the powerful truths there.  Truths like...

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:16-17

John the Baptist's humble proclamations that:
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30

The grace-upon-grace filled story of the Woman of Samaria and Jesus speaks a truth which tears down all barriers, prompting her to run and tell the Good News (chapter 4).

In this gospel, Jesus calls out not just the religious elite, but also the self-righteous commoner.  We hear his heart when he declares,
"...I say these things so that you may be saved..." (5:34b)

And as he bares witness, there are all the Truly, Trulies calling attention to the GREAT TRUTHs he came to share.

He speaks to people on judgment and protects the adulteress woman from being stoned.

In John he uses the famous title "I AM" as Moses once heard God self-describe. (8:58)

So much power, precision, symbolism (the correlation between the feasts and Jesus' claims in conjunction to them), and even peace.  Where else is Jesus recorded for FOUR whole chapters in a row giving his last big speech in private with his closest disciples and then praying a powerful prayer which encourages us as Christians to this day.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the word you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Easter (Resurrection Sunday) is in a short week and a half.  I've been so consumed by the Timothy study the kids and are doing and the Hebrews study our pastor is doing, and the craziness of being 'on-call' for cancer (my dad's) and prepping for a 1200 mile journey, and hubby switching jobs...... it is scary-easy to glaze over this momentous day.  I found out yesterday I will be leaving for back east to help my dad a week earlier then planned and will ultimately be spending Easter in a Chicago-land hospital talking with doctors about cancer and recovery and making sure my dad is well cared for.

It almost seemed wrong.  But in the end.... it is absolutely right.  Jesus didn't come for celebrations and traditions... he came to remind the world he was bigger then all that.  He came to serve and save and deliver.... what better place to be on Easter then where all that can be applied?

So this morning I flipped open my worn Bible to the pages of John.  I read, "In the beginning..." and I journaled John 14:27 and I made a commitment within myself to keep on reading John between now and Easter because no matter how worn those pages get... they never get old. 

The epistles may testify to the Glory and teachings of Christ... all of the Bible embodies the Deity and promise of God, but the gospels breathe out his life in clear, crisp, technicolor... something we need to regularly remember in the detail God so brilliantly provided through their authors.  The celebration of Jesus' Resurrection and fulfillment of the greatest promise to man isn't on a Sunday in the spring... it is every day for all eternity.  Yet, I will admit, springtime is a great time to be reminded of the renewal and new Life Jesus came to give.

I pray, wherever you are in God's Word this season, that you are seeing the awesome Power of God's Words, spoken to create life in the beginning, and continuously given through time to renew life even now.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27