Thursday, February 26, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons....

I know what you are thinking, but it isn't what came to mind as I hid in my bedroom half laughing and half crying on the phone with my husband.  I was explaining the madness of my day and suddenly it just shot right out of me: "When Life Gives you Lemons, Don't squirt them in your eye!"  He chuckled, knowing I just needed to vent and take a deep breath before I tackled the rest of my day.  I was grateful for that nugget of time to do so.

His situation isn't much better.  Persecution at his job for being the only acting Christian, office politics, and young women who invest more time in being caddy than in actually doing their job.  His frustration reaches fever pitch some days as he seeks to walk in grace in the mist of heaps of lemons.  I try to encourage him: focus on Jesus.... peace in Jesus... to have his vent, breathe in and out, and move forward.  He assures me he is but sometimes his rantings betray him.

Add to all this, my youngest is hitting puberty.  Homeschool or not, she complains as if she is public schooled.  My darling, sweet, meek, a hug could melt your heart daughter is becoming my least favorite pupil.  Her incessant complaining and downward look turns my stomach.  I want to cry some days... to run and hide from her and everyone else who seem to keep telling me they CAN'T or WON'T seek the brighter side of the equation.

When life gives us lemons, how often do we GRAB them and, squirt, there goes lemon juice in our eye.... or an open cut.

We don't intend to be self-injurious, but we often are.  And once we have inflicted our own pain (or allowed the pain of the situation to saturate) it is all we can or choose to see.  I know what you are thinking: sometimes it isn't that simple.  Sometimes our spouse or our children or our best friend or family member or coworker throw us a curve ball.  How do you avoid the lemon juice then?

I'll admit, it isn't easy.  This past week the Faith Dare has been reminding me of how we can choose joy.  I wrote about it here recently concerning a situation I was in.  I chose joy.  Yet, shortly after my choice, things in my world seemed to go on attack.... my husband's job and his venting, my daughter's attitude about life and school.... driving today I lamented to God how I could choose joy but it is just too hard when others around me won't.  Almost as quickly as the words left my mind, the reply swept over my heart.

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

We are meant to choose joy in ALL circumstances.... especially when no one else is.  I felt like God was showing me how this is a test of sorts.  He presented the message last week, opened an opportunity for me to personally choose joy, and then challenged me (the refiners fire) to make that choice in light of the situations others face as well.... to learn how to not let other's hardships steal my joy while still being compassionate to their needs.

Yeah, it is a juggling act.  However, the great news is, I don't have to do it alone.  I have the best Coach!  I can CHOOSE to take the lemons being handed me right now and squeeze so hard I squirt them in my eye.... or.... I can make sweet refreshing lemonade and serve it with a smile.  I can focus on my circumstance, or, I can focus on the solution and the Perfecter of my peace.  How often do we say, 'I AM focusing on Christ' when in fact we are holding onto our problem while seeking Jesus instead of letting it go and holding onto Him while we fix our eyes on him.  It is an all-in deal which provides the greatest peace.

How about you today?  Are you half in?  Eyes in one place while holding onto another?  Are you inadvertently (or deliberately) taking lemons and squeezing so hard they are squirting in your eye?  I pray you will take those beautiful globes of fruit and make sweet, refreshing lemonade and serve it with a smile which radiates from a heart filled with the joy and peace of Jesus to overcome any and all of life's lemony throws!

Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Art of Housewifery: Almost Done Balancing

Last week I shared my ambition to getting things in order/revived in my house.  I do mean ambition.  I allowed distraction after distraction to pull me from my needed task until I sat down mid -week to write here on the blog and I couldn't.  I.was.stuck.  I felt overwhelmed, at a loss, stumped.  Any adjective along this thread would work.  I sat back in my chair, praying for words and wondering why my precious little time at the keyboard was at a stand still.  As I prayed, the image of my stacked to-do pile popped into mind and I knew instantly what I HAD to do.

I closed the laptop and stepped out of my quiet place.  I moved my pile to the kitchen table and began to spread out with pencil and post-its in hand.  A note pad and check book for needed bills and letters (yes, I still do some of them old school!) and off I went.  In under and hour my pile was tackled and everything, yes, EVERYTHING but the monthly deep-clean lists were handled.  The school balancing came this past weekend.

It was liberating.

Proof NOT to procrastinate and the damn we build in front of our stream of potential productivity when we pile up our postponements.

This weekend I sat down with my homeschool binder, planner and the school books requiring my attention.  I worked in segments, walking around, doing dishes or catching a quick show with the kids in-between.  It kept the task from being daunting.  As I worked through their lesson plans for the week and the overview I needed to catch for the reminder of our school year, I kept  my planner close at hand.  I marked personal reminders on my dailies and referenced my yearly overview at the back to mark some gauge points in their work-texts so I could keep an eye on our progress and make sure we don't stray too far off course.  I was even blessed with the time to organize their Health lesson for the week and set-up an outline of our new history study with projections for the remainder of the year following Da Vinci.  I hadn't committed and planned like this since the start of the school year.... it.felt.GREAT!  And the best part: I was done in only a few hours of work with plenty of 'fun' and break time in-between.  Other than the quick 20 minute weekly set-up and prep, we are pretty much set up till spring break when I will need to prepare for our explorer studies.  But I'm not too worried!

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
- Proverbs 16:3

This approach works great for multiple areas within the household to-do set:
  • set aside time for the big planning tasks
  • pray for God to guide the process
  • give yourself permission for short breaks 15-30 minutes +/- each and get up, stretch, do a non-sedentary or non-thinking task to refresh your mind and body
  • work in segments not too big and not too small; time segments or topic segments
  • reward yourself at the end with a t.v. program, book reading, or outing... whatever helps you celebrate!
  • use a timer for both working and breaking if you don't trust yourself to stay on-task

Why is balancing and planning so important?  A well-planned day (or weeks or schedule or list of any kind) allows you to work more efficiently and more completely.  Who couldn't love that?

Prepare your work outside;
    get everything ready for yourself in the field,
    and after that build your house.
- Proverbs 24:27

I hope my floundering adventures this past few weeks can be used to encourage you in yours!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Faith is... Remembering

I can still smell the pine mixed with cedar... feel the cool dry air.  The Tamaracks were just beginning to hint at their golden glow which would be warn in full regalia as autumn pressed on.  This place, this vantage, had held throngs of youth through long summer hours as they sang camp songs, flew through tree tops on zip lines and ran barefoot through the paths of warn forest floor.  Cabin tops tucked behind aged trees where women had chatted on weekend retreats and the small chapel in the clearing at the center of camp had housed both hymnals and contemporary tunes singing praise to Jesus.

It was a blessing to sit on the split log bench and soak in this view.  A quiet week nestled into the off season lull.  A cabin all our own, set aside for Kingdom workers to find retreat and solace and search out the Lord; His will, His way, His heart.  I miss those slow peaceful days with air so fresh you could drink it in to sooth the aches of the soul.  Hearing His whispers, not just the breeze on the swaying trees.  I come to this picture often and cast out all else that surrounds me to be on that bench once again, to see the ducks drift lazily by, the breeze ripple the glass-top water and contemplate mountain goats in the far folds of that majestic mountain range.  I come to this picture to remember the Presence of God.

I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law. 
- Psalm 119:55

As my youngest flirts with teen years she is coming into that age of realizing.  Realizing her Creator, desiring His presence and lamenting when she feels "far from God".  At first I was concerned when she would come to me with her off-and-on dilemma.  Then I understood; her age of realization lends to noticing the natural wave of wondering why the presence of the Lord isn't always in an overwhelming, tangible flow.  It is something every Christian experiences whether from the businesses or distraction of the day.... or the lack of dedicating ample time for Bible Study and prayer.  Sometimes God is just quiet when we want to hear him speak.  After all, how many times does David lament in his psalms, "Oh, Lord, why have you forsaken me?" or "Why are you so far from me?"  If David, God's #1 of the day, felt disconnected, how much more so can we expect it at times.

I lean towards my daughter, to be sure she can hear the reassurance which pours from my heart and I  explain all this and I sum it up in one simple fact:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

It isn't always something we see or feel completely to our bones.  Faith is trust.  Hebrews 11 is often dubbed the "Hall of Faith" and as I talked with my daughter I recalled the many times I have had to visit the hall of faith to REMEMBER.  No, I don't always feel God's presence, but I remember Him and all he has spoken to me, provided for me, comforted me and simply been.there. for me and I trust He still is even when I don't feel or see him.  Abraham believed God, even when he could not fathom or see God's promises, and it was counted to him has righteous.... righteous enough to be placed in the hall of faith!  And look at the great promises fulfilled as a result!

If re-visiting the "Hall of Faith" doesn't bring it full circle, the follow-up in Hebrews 12 does:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

It doesn't say 'because you SEE or feel God's presence run the race...'  No, this passage points to the concept of remembering SO GREAT a cloud of witnesses.  Jesus sets the example.  After all, the fact is, we are foreigners here.  We are removed from the presence of God as we stand in the presence of man and as a result remembering and trusting are key components....

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
- 2 Corinthians 5:6-9

The wonderful thing: we still receive the great blessing of feeling God close this side of heaven.  When we are in one of those lulls crying out like David, we simply need to remember those times and step lively in hope on every occasion in-between.

My favorite place is in the presence of the Lord.  My second favorite: in the reflection of those wonderful moments.  In the meantime, I will press on...

I pray you may know and remember those beautiful quiet moments where God whispers and his arms are warm around you.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Art of Housewifery: More Balancing the Clean

Monday morning.  What would normally be English from the Roots Up time in front of the dry-erase was filled with.... snoring?  Our mini vacation from last week spilled into Monday.  Feeling almost completely refreshed but definitely not on top.

Our extended weekend of downtime opened up some dialogue with some of my young students.  Something that has been itching my brain has apparently been itching theirs too.  They didn't know what to call it... but I did:  CABIN FEVER!  Yup, that time of year where the weather is moodier than the Israelites in the wilderness!  That time of year where you wonder where the sun went and when it does pop out... always seems to be right in the middle of a lesson.  How to break these hum-drums?

Well, I explained to my young pupil how some subjects and their seemingly monotonous context are unavoidable if we are to lay good groundwork for future material.  However, I also recognized how other subjects have the freedom of being stretched into a more exhilarating frame of study.  All the while I am also becoming more aware of a need to start on some spring cleaning, something I am not able to do ALL in one day as I did when I was younger.  I admitted to myself, in light of last week's article on balancing clean, that I need some sort of master list and general rotating plan to keep the grime out of the corners and the cobwebs off my book shelves and window pains. But how?

We already have a full week with school and blogging and volunteering.  Weekends come and it is our time to sort of.... crash.  Together.  How do we fit the clean into the creases of our day.  FlyLady always comes to mind.  Her time saving strategies and nuggets of quick-hits on key spots.  With a team like I've got here, we can cover four-times the space in a fraction of time!

So, tonight, I tackle the pile.... the pile of papers and school books which I have been quite neglectful of over the past week.  Sorting the pages I have been procrastinating on handling and set a plan for managing them right away.  The books are subjects which are due for their mid-year review on effectiveness and assessed for any strategies or changes necessary to make them more applicable.  The extra filter this time will be how to make them more engaging.  I need to re-visit our school schedule and see where we can move from hum-drum into actively engaging our texts.... bring history to life, live like a real scientist or observe health from the astute perspective of a doctor in-training.

Most importantly is my planner and notebook.  They double for articulating both school and chores. Once upon a time I kept a large binder with all the break-downs I needed for each room when it came time to do their deep cleaning.  I put them in a page protector I could use dry-erase markers on and away I went, cleaning and checking off my to-dos.  That was many years ago and in a house many counties away!!  I am now not only faced with a need to find routine in DEEP cleaning a different house well... but also in decipling my children on this task lest they wonder why rodents and/or bugs always want to invade!!

Tonight, and perhaps throughout this week, I will turn to a fresh page in my spiral notebook and begin:
  • to list out each room and each aspect of those rooms which requires attention
  • I will also jot down a map-of-sorts of our daily NEED-tos and the hoped for want-tos  
With all this information spread out before me I can begin to maneuver each element into a routine.  With the room break-downs I can develop a new working list to print and put in sheet protectors for deep-clean time and with the week overview I can develop routines that work, leaving time to breath and 'play'/adventure in life!  We are already working on adding an adventure afternoon on Fridays to wrap up our week and get out and about.  Visit the Audubon nature preserve, local parks, museums and even sneak in some art walks!  We will learn our new city yet!!!  And, hopefully, come home to a cleaner house where a dropped utensil doesn't draw our eyes to a neglected corner or a lost pen in the couch cushions doesn't reveal the depravity of furniture vacuuming!

I will keep you posted on our progress, in case it helps you with yours!  I know the testimonies of other housewives' routines certainly helped me to find mine back when it seemed hopelessly lost!!

I pray you have have peace as you balance the clean in your home!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Hard Moments and Little Vacations

It's been one of those weird homeschool weeks where all my resolve from the beginning of the year till now to STAY ON TASK and hold tight to the bucking bronco of homeschool.... simply wained and fell!

It started with a phone call in the middle of an algebra lesson on Monday.  My step-sister's voice seemed tiered as she attempted a cheerful salutation then began explaining how my step-mom had decided to refuse chemo.  The cancer, which has lived a year in her lungs, was not responding to the highest level of chemo they could issue.  Weary from the fight, she was giving up the loosing battle. I was dazed.  Stunned.  Even though I knew this news was coming.  My heart ached... the term heart-sick had tangible meaning.  My scramblings to secure airfare for a final hello/good-bye fell through the cracks as we all prepare for weeks instead of months left. There are deep-heart issues which spin around my family and this news.  Let it simply suffice to say, at this time, the death sentence of cancer is never easy to take, especially not in circumstances like ours.

 The kids and I filled our afternoon that day with a health movie on circulation and white blood cells on the attack via the Magic School Bus for it's humor and light-hearted material. I no longer had the energy to do jumping jacks and discuss taking our pulses.  I needed to place my thoughts and grasp towards peace. At the end of the program we pulled out our new Clue board game.  It seemed I had more ability to teach strategy at that moment then I had for health concepts.  Ironic.

It is this weight of life which hung around my neck heading into Tuesday.  I had a triple task:
  1. attempt to keep our regular school schedule including history studies in the afternoon
  2. start helping at a new Bible club with CEF
  3. don my sack-cloth as David once did.  (To mourn the sick and dieing as is appropriate... right?)
But the gloom was too heavy.  My children, who have not been able to form a relationship with their grandma (due to distance and communication) couldn't quite understand my bereaved mood.  I couldn't expect them too.

 As the day trudged on my weariness allowed History to turn into another round of Clue.  I wanted desperately to be prepared with a heart felt smile for the children at club before the day was through.  I snuck away for a short space of quiet praying and seeking.  I felt as though God met me as understanding dawned: I can choose hope and joy in the midst of this sadness.  I can and should focus on Jesus for peace... no amount of mourning would change the circumstance.   No one would blame me for my melancholy mood but the peace of Jesus also meant I had the freedom to enjoy His presence to overcome my heartache.  I had experienced this glimmer of rest when my own mother passed away suddenly 13 years ago.  I could have that peace again.

I stepped from my quiet spot praising and thanking God for His divine comfort.  I was renewed, even if still heavy hearted, I could smile and hope and give my kids and our club my all.  And I did!

As I welcomed renewed strength, by bedtime Tuesday night, Ashley was coming down with a bad head-cold.  As ready as I was to finish our week stronger than we started it, I also knew that sometimes we simply need a break.  The kids have worked hard since Christmas break ended over a month ago.  So, I instructed them to leave their alarms off and Wednesday morning I announced a mini vacation!

I would like to say we have been constructive with our down time.... but the only thing we have been constructive about is doing nothing!  I did manage the outlines for a website upgrade my darling husband is helping me with!!  Super excited about that.  Otherwise, it has been rather lawless in my house since about noon Wednesday!  I did warn them though: ENJOY it because when we hit the books back up on Monday, we will be in FULL SWING until spring break at the end of March!

I have to admit, though, this break wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the wonderful host of the linky party I am hitting today.  Last week, Kris Bales of Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, shared in her Weekly Wrap up a tiny statement which had a HUGE (almost prophetic) impact on me:  "I will not be a slave to my curriculum".  While we do need to be careful to not take too many liberties as homeschoolers, her point was well made in recognizing how sometimes we just NEED a break.  Public schoolers take them with teacher in service days and school holidays and so on.  Why shouldn't homeschoolers from time to time?  So I gave myself permission to lay down the curriculum and simply breathe.

We are all enjoying the benefits already and, yes, even the kids are looking forward to starting back up on Monday while they immensely enjoy this impromptu partial vacation!  I don't want to seem insensitive to the plight of my family back east.  My heart continues to ache and my prayers are constantly lifted up. I know, when that final call comes, it won't be an easy day then either. God has, however, given me the ability to both live and pray with hope in the same breath.  This is the step I choose.

I pray you give yourself permission for life's little vacations when you need them and that you find hope to walk forward even in life's hardest moments. Jesus did, we can too!
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
 - Psalm 34:1-8


Linking up today with:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Balance and The Dare


Checking in because it has been a month now since I declared my One Word for 2015.  This year's word didn't seem as intensive as 2013'sThen God drew me into a TWO-year adventure of transformation... one which has inspired the outline of a chronicle I will (eventually) publish.  No, this time the One Word came as an assurance... a resolution so-to-speak.  Not as in the New Year's type of "I resolve", rather, as in that I.just.know and I am resolute to do as I feel God laying it, like a mantel, over my heart, kind of 'resolution'.  I am simply resolved to BALANCE.

So whats to it?..... easy enough... right??

Balance, for January, has been a reminder.  A subtle tap on my shoulder when I want to lend myself to extremes.  Balance has been my tether point.  It has been my training wheels to a new lifestyle I recognize God leading me into.  Yup, you got that image right:  I am wearing training wheels while tethered to a stake in the ground marked "BALANCE".  See, I told you.... e.a.s.y.

   Easy when each time I wanted to make a cusp decision God whispered  balance.

   Easy when I want to spend too much time fiddling with the website or facebook or Pinterest.... or one of any other diverging tasks instead of wrapping up an assignment or taking care of chores.  God whispers balance.

See, on top of my tether stake of  BALANCE is a knob (it keeps my tether chord from popping off the stake!)  I recognized this 'knob' in January as the balance of time (can you tell I am a very visual thinker?!).  Using my time appropriately (not that I can't or don't still have my crazy off-the-hook moments.....) but simply that I recognize how far I can tether before my chord becomes taut and I need to be mindful of balance.  I ACCEPTED (because I have always known and often alluded this fact) that a little balance now = a lot of peace later.

Like I said: Easy.

... until....

....laying in bed (because I couldn't handle sitting at the desk to work) typing the first draft of this article there were no more whispers.  More like sirens and the pain in my abdomen to tell me my tether point cap for February was another well known but often alluded point:  Diet.

I don't mean that ugly word we often seek to dodge and break and make excuses for avoiding.  No, I mean that lifestyle which we should all be cautious of in order to keep a healthy and clean temple for the Spirit to indwell.  The word which simply represents:

I know this is my tether point cap for February because I heard that voice in the back of my head as I slowly became more and more over-indulgent these past few weeks.  It said BALANCE, even ESPECIALLY in food.  My Faith Dare challenge even spent a chapter discussing the mindset we, as Christians, should regard with highest priority: we are Not of this World.  And guess what just one example was?  FOOD!  Author Debbie Alsdorf had to alter her diet after a premature bout of heart trouble.  She shared her struggle and distress over the drastic food changes tempered with the Trust and understanding that this is not our world, we have another destination and the best we can do is be at our best here for God's Glory.

You see, after some very alarming health issues in November and a series of resulting tests, in December I was diagnosed with Diverticulitis. It may not seem so serious.  I read it is one of the most common 'diseases' out there.  However, discussion with my specialist revealed my case is rare in that I am a mere 40 years old and my entire colon is absolutely riddled with the disease.  Something they expect from a person far more advanced in age than I.  As if that wasn't bad enough, I have a lovely tumor at the opening of my colon.  Non cancerous but annoying non-the-less.  Treatment:  diet change.  Can't get rid of diverticulitis but can manage the symptoms with caution and good choices.

A nurse called with follow-up info.  She assured me life would be 'normal' if I followed her advice.  I thought... surely these suggestions are merely 'guidelines' and my illness which led to all the testing and diagnosis was a fluke.


My flagrance and blatant ignoring of diet plans and all warning signs put me flat on my back this week because sitting caused too much pain from an infection that literally felt knives twisting in my upper abdomen.  B.A.L.A.N.C.E.  It is more then schedule... it is moderation in EVERYTHING.

I don't know if a new "cap" will be placed on my Balance tether point each month.  I do know I have two there now though.  Time and Diet.  I am positive I want to be more focused on God and being useful for His glory here... not on things and food which pull me away or bog me down.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I love food.  Plain.and.simple.  This won't be easy.  But when I think on how Christ has done so much for me... the least I can do is take better care of myself for Him!  To be ready and able to be used by Him.

I pray your life would be balanced in everything... that you would be able and ready to be used by God in whatever course he has for you!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Art of Housewifery: Balancing the Clean

We walked through the door, 4 kids in tow, elementary age and younger.  One was a guest, a special treat for my oldest daughter, a friend making a rare visit.  She was raised by house-mama extraordinaire: good, clean, Christian home with financial security and the routine that only comes with experience and self-discipline.  The first I was gaining, the second I deeply lacked.  Our little friend stopped, smiling and gaping, almost visibly struggling between manors and the obvious statement she longed to say.  Seeing her demeanor I mentally formed the words, 'This house is TRASHED'!

To be honest, I didn't see it clearly at first.  It took the rustle and movement of something... something which wasn't a pet (we owned none at the time).  "What was that?" she squealed and laughed.  We all scattered to see as a large mouse darted from under a crumbled piece of paper on the floor and shot down our hallway.  We could have tracked it better had we managed the clutter and junk of daily life with multiple small children.  Instead, the floor was riddled with clothes, shoes, toys and paper.... paper seemed to be everywhere from drawing projects the kids left scrambled on the floor... even an empty Coke box which had doubled as a boot during a game of pretend earlier that day. Traps were set that night and the intruder was eventually dispatched.

I was appalled at myself though.  How on earth did my house get so messy and, what was more, how did I not NOTICE it?!  I wasn't raised that way.  I grew up an only child until the age of 14.  I had no concept of true MESS until I accumulated young children myself.  I had no real understanding of balancing clean.  Until then, cleaning was a routine I learned.  Every Saturday we each did our part.  Dust, vacuum, wash.  The house stayed relatively neat between sessions.  But that was before children.  I was in uncharted territory. I was overwhelmed and I didn't know where to start.

Thankfully, one of my weaknesses at the time was women's household magazines.  I liked the economical Woman's Day and Family Circle best.  It was while browsing one of these publications, desperate for ideas to order my chaotic life (I couldn't afford fancy solutions, giant dry-erase calendars, storage contraptions and such) when I found her:

She saved me from myself!!  An answer to prayer for help from above, God guided me with this REAL, down-to-earth lady (not the hard-to-obtain Martha Stewart type).  She showed me I could be comfortable in my own skin while helping me to see the toys, crayons, discarded coloring papers, clothes and shoes as, yes, a part of life with wee ones but not a vice I must endure until they all grow older.  She showed me how to balance the clean and still have plenty of time to rock my babies and play dolls and read books.  Within weeks the embarrassment of a floor we couldn't even walk 2 feet on without stepping on something was just a distant bad dream!  I began to gain confidence and drive to get-on-top of all that needed my attention.

Did or does my house always stay perfect now?  No.  But the balance I learned has become a core part of all I do as a housewife now... even if I don't still need a control journal... I do still keep my own version of one so life doesn't get as out of control again.

Are you struggling with the Art of Housewifery, balancing the clean?  Save your money on books and magazines and check out FlyLady's website for FREE.  Take baby steps (as she readily cautions), be patient, forgive yourself and embrace a balance of clean!

This isn't a plug as part of a promotion.  Rather, I considered sharing balance in clean on the blog today and many of my core practices generate from FlyLady, so why not plug?  She and her ideas have been so profound in my life... perhaps someone out there is needing this profound change too!

Consequently, I tried to find an old dingy picture for the blog today, to show how bad it use to be.... but my computer files don't go back that far!  Her method has lasted that long!


Friday, February 6, 2015

Our Story and the Gift of Dyslexia

I watched as he squinted his tiny eyes, turning his head to make out the words.  Some days I caught him with his book upside-down.... and reading better than when it was right-side up.  In kindergarten they threatened to flunk him.  Wanting to avoid humiliation on anyone's part I negotiated afternoon classes to re-enforce his learning.  It helped enough to pass him into 1st grade.

I couldn't understand.  My son wasn't 'stupid'.  Flunking, reading problems... it didn't make sense.  He was a model student.  He always paid attention to the teacher, though sometimes it seemed like he couldn't hear... perhaps residual from being almost completely def as a toddler.  He worked tirelessly, never complaining, on every single assignment handed to him.  And where most kids would buckle under the pressure of reading impossible words... he only tried harder.

What was wrong with my sweet son?

2nd grade brought the answer I was beginning to suspect.  A series of tests revealed my son had moderate to severe Dyslexia.  He scored rather high for Dyslexia in the reading sections and measured quite steadily for Dysgraphia as well (like dyslexia, dysgraphia deals with the writing aspect).  We had our meeting with the school counselor, my son's teacher and a classroom aid.  Classroom accommodations were discussed and plans for assisting him at home were set forth.  I was relieved: finally we can start making ground.

Each day seemed to bring renewed frustration though.  My son began to dislike school.  I was told he missed recess regularly because he 'wouldn't' do his work on time, caught daydreaming and still desperately struggling to read.  What was happening with my sweet, compliant child?  I paid closer attention to his habits when I visited and helped in his classroom.  As I observed, the problem was quickly revealed: The dyslexia and dysgraphia made it difficult to take notes.  The teacher would write notes on the board but as my son would go to copy he couldn't keep up when his learning delay took over.  Eventually he would give up and simply 'zone out'.  Recess would arrive and no notes meant no recess so he was stuck inside still copying the board while his friends screeched and laughed at the playground outside his classroom window.  My heart ached for him.  I tried to talk with the teacher.  It seemed like such an injustice, especially for a mere 2nd grader.

The final blow came when reading with him one night.  He froze and became teary-eyed.  He wasn't trying to squint his eyes or turn his book, he merely sat, frozen, petrified and over-whelmed.  When I inquired why he didn't just turn the book to help he nearly fell apart: "My teacher won't let me."  I couldn't believe my ears, but my son had never lied before.  I pursued the issue further with his teacher.  I discovered he was getting in trouble in class for sitting on his legs so he could hover over the words.  He would also get in trouble for turning his book upside down.  The teacher explained that she couldn't let him do these things, or the rest of the class would think they could to.  I couldn't understand why she couldn't just relay to the class how my son needed those accommodations.

My heart ached and cried for my son.  But God used this... He told me almost audibly: I want YOU to teach your children.  He had been whispering it since my oldest was in preschool 10 years prior to this moment.  I loved teaching and helping in class and being part of their learning process but I pushed the idea aside.  I felt under-qualified, inept.  I didn't have a degree in teaching, I had book knowledge and writer's knowledge.  My studies had been in business assisting and medical billing. But God showed me I was, in fact, best qualified to instruct my children and as the issues mounted with my sweet son's dyslexia, I knew what God was saying at that very moment: it is time - no more running from the Call.

7 years ago I made the decision to answer the Call and pull my children from public school and begin homeschooling.  As if God's leading wasn't enough, my son's second grade teacher made a glaring and pivotal point: you can't fully accommodate when you have a classroom full of kids who can do their work the "normal" way.  I saw that at every end of the spectrum, with 4 children and 4 different learning styles and needs from average to accelerated.  Looking at my son, knowing how absolutely important reading and writing were to life, I knew it was time to become an expert on him and how he could rise above "normal" to touch the extraordinary he was.

I have tried to become an "expert" on the Gift of Dyslexia... but I am not!  I have gained a great deal of experience though and I know many parents out there NEED to hear there is hope and need to know what to do.  I feel Led to write regular articles here to discuss how we have managed this gift and pray to encourage those of you who have the need to be encouraged!  For now, I want to leave you with this bit of encouragement...

As I type this my marvelous son just started the 3rd book in the Inkheart series.  He has been devouring the books of this series one-per-month.  Last year alone he read the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring) and is 3/4 of the way through Two Towers (he decided to take a break from the monotony of the chronicles to explore Inkheart).  I never thought I would see my dyslexic avidly enjoying such great works!  It didn't come over night... but it came.  He is even starting Algebra and doing math problems with ease in his head... something which seemed impossible just a few short years ago.

So many times I think of the apostle Paul's beseeching to run the race and keep steadfast to the track ahead... the goal WILL be reached.  If it is true of our faith and living for Christ, how much can it be true for all of life as well?

Patient understanding, perseverance and holding on when you want to let go...

If you or someone you know are working with a dyslexic or gifted child, hold on, keep at it, don't give up.  You WILL see fruit from all your labor.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Breaking Norm - Difference Makers

Breaking norm.  That has been my life.  I wouldn't even know where to begin to explain this pattern.  As a Christian, breaking norm ought to be the very definition of our lives.

I choose to break norm not because I want attention, rather, because I don't want the ruts of what 'everyone else is doing'.  The most wonderful part of breaking norm?  My kids have learned to do it too.

I see it when my daughter's peers attempt to lure her with "... but if you don't do it to, you will be left will look different...." and its various forms.  She shrugs and honestly replies, "I don't care, I'm use to being different."  She likes different too and the ruts she carefully avoided.

I see it when my son shares Christ, witnessing at a playground, anti-God peers walking away while only one or two stay and listen... he lends his heart to the two without a care for the taunts of the wanderers.  He delights in the rut-less path.

When my oldest hits college head-on and peers discuss booze and lifestyles contrary to his rearing, he breaks norm with his polite decline yet devoted friendship in spite.  They seem to like him all the more for it... he avoids the ruts and finds smooth ground instead.

When my baby, not a baby anymore, helps in the nursery on a chaotic night, wild children bouncing everywhere and the nursery leader looks to her, the pillar of peace in a normally chaotic room and draws her strength... ruts are long gone and a heart to help prevails in the tall grasses of life.

We are the difference makers.  Parents... moms.... the old adage comes to mind "The hand the rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."  We are raising the future.  And while there is a world of issues, brokenness and way-ward worries... problems we could never hope to fix in one lifetime... there is also a hope in the Call to make a difference with those God has given us.  The requirement: faith, trust.. that is it.

We, the difference makers, we are perfectly imperfect.  Abraham = perfectly imperfect, yet God "counted it to him as righteousness" because he believed, he trusted. David = perfectly imperfect, he managed to break every commandment and upon realizing, he repented and devoted and God counted him righteous for his faith, his trust.  Many men and woman of Bible history were perfectly imperfect, redeemed by grace alone... the only one perfect was Jesus Christ... the one in whom our faith and trust rest.

So I break norm, every day of my life, when I choose Christ as my savior.

I break norm, every day, when I place my children and my husband in a place worthy of my investment no matter how bedraggled I get... no matter how many more times I have to explain or try... I don't give up because breaking norm, I make a difference.

Every time I stand my ground on faith, my kids see.  Every time I say yes to right and no to wrong, my kids see.  Every time I let God work on me and through me, my kids see.  And even though I don't always see the difference in them... my faith, my trust, springs hope and I know... someday I will see as they break norm too.

I pray you find the strength and courage and faith and trust to BREAK NORM in your own life.  To stand for truth when others tell you sit.  To stand for life when others breath death.  And to know you are never alone, for God is your strength... to know that when you step out of the ruts to break the norm... you make a difference!

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, 
for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. 
He will not leave you or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6


My mom use to firmly believe:

Do not go where the path may lead, 
go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Perfectly Imperfect, Beautiful Mess

Canning aftermath.  I so wanted to go hide!

I'm not perfect... there, I said it.  So glad that is off my chest!  It's the truth: my life isn't perfect... my kids aren't perfect... my marriage isn't perfect.  My house is rarely cleaned right, my bills aren't always paid on time, my meals are sometimes over/under cooked and I haven't had a real haircut in almost a year.  I buy my clothes at the Goodwill or $1 rack at Wal-Mart, my kids wear hand-me-downs and I can't quite remember the last time we took in a movie at the theater.... wait, yes I can.... Epic,when it first came out 2 summers.

Oh, it feels so good to get ALL of that off my chest!! Last week I blogged how "I am not them" and shared the reality of trying to live up to a standard which wasn't set for me.  This week I realized it goes both ways: sometimes others try to live up to a standard I accidentally set for myself.... an image which is produced by stuffing under the carpet those ugly things we don't want others to see because then maybe, just maybe, they will think less of us, less of me.... or worse, less of the message God gives me to share.

The anxiety of thinking I can't blog if someone finds out {gasp} my husband and I don't see eye-to-eye to the point of arguing from time-to-time!  That just last night we argued over whether to invest in a specific ministry for our kids or pursue other avenues for their ministry work.  It ended with me feeling like a failure and my husband refusing to finish the conversation... probably because I wasn't staying calm!  I wasn't yelling... but I wasn't staying calm! (He knows when I need a break from talking better than I do!!)

Typical school day... typically when someone stops by,!

My kids need regular reminding to stay on task.  This has been a good week... but many are not.  I feel like a failure as a mom and a teacher and I want desperately to look like a success.  To see my kids remember where New Zealand is located on a map or why the Silk Road is significant.  To solve simple equations in their mind rather than taking a solid minute when a cashier decides to pop-quiz them on expected change.  To not seem unpatriotic because they don't remember all the words to the pledge or the national anthem and not seem sarcastic because they don't understand the importance.  And by the way, despite our travels across these great states, they still forget where Idaho is and are clueless on most capitals.

Is it because I fail to do my 'job' or do my job right that my husband gets erked with me, my kids slip up or my house looks like a train wreck up until 30 minutes before my husband walks in the door (we do a "daddy's on his way home" clean-up so he doesn't think we slouched off all day).


It is because I work so hard to fill my kids and my home with all the right stuff that my pedestal crumbles.... the one I never belonged on in the first place. 

It is a passion for truth and right which compels my husband and I to be at odds.... only recently recognizing how much we have in common except that we don't communicate our passions clearly or seek the same directives to reach the same goal which drives us at odds. 

It is my deepest desire to see my children able to communicate well and THINK strategically which drives me to focus more heavily on Bible and language arts learning than almost any other subject.  5 days a week they perform these studies along with vocabulary, spelling, and higher level math. While 2 days a week are devoted to history and science.... important subjects where we focus more on the drive of cultures past than the names and dates and borders they squabbled over.  Only this year realizing (and finally implementing) daily map and math fact studies might excel their response time in needed situations.

In the lack of value I place in our things and excursions of financial drain, my children have discovered a deepened value in relationships and closeness and all that God has created and given us just through a step out our front door into his creation.  Reality check so you don't get this sweet image of me and my kids skipping down a nature trail singing sweet songs: they do complain about some of our nature walks....mainly because they want to stay in and read or play a game!  I'm the one pointing out fairy nests and troll hide outs while the older child shakes her head!  But most days they do enjoy the fresh air... as long as I don't ask them to draw a leaf or tree or wandering beetle!

Total I'm far from perfect story here!

My life isn't perfect.  As a matter of fact, it is one big mess.  But it is a  beautiful mess.  Do I sometimes wish I had the furniture or school supplies or clothes which give ease: yes.  Do I wish we could blow off to a movie or a dinner or a fancy vacation to break the norm: yes.  Do I desire a bliss-filled marriage. Yes.  Do I wish my kids all said yes mam and no mam and played classical instruments with beauty and passion and read the great authors and quoted Shakespeare and taught calculus to underprivileged.... no actually!!!  Ok, maybe some of that.  I would at least like them to be less fickle which makes me more frazzled!!

My life is... what it is.  It is the life God gave me not so I could live it wishing and wanting it to be "perfect", but so that I could learn and live and love; perfectly imperfect.

Last night, after not just my husband's quick dismissal of a topic I wanted to discuss but also a day of heartache over a hard family issue which I don't mind sharing but would take a whole 'nother blog article to draw out; I felt defeated.  I felt worthless.  I felt like, 'Are you there God?  It's me, Amanda.' the looser who wasn't worthy to shine the sandals of my savior.  The one who has NOTHING, that's right, n.o.t.h.i.n.g. to offer women and the blog world as a whole because my life is so messy....  And as the Spirit would have it, an article almost literally got shoved under my nose.  The weekly Homeschool Minute:

I want to quit (but I won't)
Hey Mama,

Never give up...

The trials you face today are the wise counsel you will provide tomorrow.


His Purpose.  His Plans.  His Reasons.  God has it all in His hands, He knows what you are going through right now, and it's all very MEANINGFUL.... None of it is random.

And you have a beautiful future in Him.  Keep enduring.  Persevere, Mama.  It's worth every moment from an eternal perspective, and that's the only perspective that matters.

I slept so wonderfully after that.  Of course I am inadequate.  God didn't create me to be perfect  He created me to lean into Him in all things and how would I see that need if I had it all together?  I don't want a perfect life.... I want the life He has for me and I want to glorify Him and all the wonderful things he does through this beautiful mess I call my life! 

My prayer for you today is that you will embrace your wonderfully imperfect life with gratitude and not, for a minute, think anyone is better than you or has it more together... or that you need to proof that false idea to anyone else.... we are all a work in progress!  Let His glory shine through your beautiful mess!