Friday, August 28, 2015

Embracing the Challenge

It's shrouded in mystery right now... or at least it feels that way.  You know how when you are reaching for something in a dark corner under your bed, that spot which rests only just out of reach, your fingertips can feel the tiny atoms which surround it but you just.can' that is our house right now!  A very long story which I am positive will continue to reflect God's mighty provision and hand as He has revealed himself so many times already... but right now it dangles in that dark, just out of reach place and we aren't quite sure WHY things don't go as you would plan but we are positive God is using it all to show His perfect timing.

In the meantime, we were suppose to close today.  We might be closing Tuesday (we HOPE anyway).  We wait.  But we don't just wait.  All who have moved at any point in their lifetime know the in-between of one house to another is filled with packing, cleaning, organizing... and for this homeschool mama of a senior, it is filled with extra planning.

You see, the one day I had off in the midst of packing, cleaning, phone call dealing chaos... that day when we went to the homeschool kick-off at our local pool and gabbed with other homeschool families, I asked the wrong (or is it right) question and I sort-of-volunteered myself to coordinate graduation for ALL our city's homeschool seniors. Yeah, I'm good at stepping into stuff like that.  And it wouldn't be so bad except I have only lived in this city for 2 years and still know so little about it, it's venues, and the people here.  Oh, and I forgot the best part... since no one else stepped up sooner, ALL the most important details need to be either set in motion or scheduled within the next 2-3 weeks ("It really should have been done in August" was the repeated comment from previous year's coordinators).  *sigh* 

I put "exercise more patience" on my bucket list for this summer... I know better than that!!!

So, with graduation organization beating on my door, we stand braced for a move that could happen at.any.minute.  We will know 24-48 hours before closing that we are closing, at which point we will mad-dash to pack those last few things we had to keep out because we are too big of a family to live off paper-plates and take-out.  Then we will mad-dash to clean the new house, clean the old house, unpack the kitchen in the new house because we are too big of a family to live off paper-plates and take-out and begin the long process of settling in WHILE welcoming our oldest son visiting from college who is coming with my mother in law this Thursday, starting school a few days after they leave THEN hosting my father-in-law for a few days... all while my husband has used up all but 2 of his vacation days so I will be sort-of solo flying along the way.  The roller-coaster of potential closing means we can't paint BEFORE we move in so any critical areas will need to be painted AFTER while we continue to live out of boxes and paint dries.

Breathe Amanda. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention, my youngest (Brooke) started homeschool basketball.  Practice is 7-8:30 AM and we are a one-car family.  I'm praying a good carpool scenario might work out.  To top it off, being homeschool, volunteers are critical.  You guessed it, I signed up for a "use me where-ever you need me" slot and I am required to log 10 hours before the year is over. 

I think I should take a job as a circus clown juggling bowling pins when this season ends!

Truthfully though, I secretly thrive on all this.  I'm excited to enter this season of new home, new middle-schooler playing sports, senior year and making it memorable... all while still blogging here.  I'm excited because, for the first time since God brought us out of full-time missions, telling us this City was our mission field, I actually feel like it finally is.  Like everything is finally clicking and life is going to go from trolling the streams of life to full-throttle living, doing and being part of the Kingdom work God has planned.

The house.... (like I mentioned, long story) fulfills the Word we received early on to offer hospitality.  We have hosted multiple missionaries and ministry workers in our current dwelling, now, we will have a GUEST HOUSE and a long list of amenities to be better hosts while also doing ministry from our house including re-kindling a crafting outreach project I have formulated, working on Bible materials and eventually leading small group meetings (I hope!).

The graduation.... we are part of a Christian based association and the ceremony can reflect this.  Put missionary mama in charge and I have ideas flowing everywhere... praying others will bring amazing ideas for God-glorifying plans to the table as well.  Together, I pray, we will have a magnificent graduation ceremony where the gospel can also be shared for any attendees who may not already know it.  (I hear a minimum of 300+ guests often come for a modest 20-30 graduates!)  In short, I see this coordination as my mission. 

The basketball.... again, Christian based association.  Prayer is said at every practice and game (no matter who we play), Christian attitude is taught and non-Christian attitude is promptly reprimanded (ie. bad sportsmanship, language, etc).  The girls will have opportunities to not just share their faith but also exhibit it.  As a mom helping out whether at the concessions or score board or just cheering form the stands, I get an opportunity in witnessing as well.  It is my daughter's mission and we get to join her!

The blog.... in so many ways, God has shown me this blog is His will for me to serve and act as a vessel of His Words and a reflection of testimony of His Work in and through me.  So, as such, I felt the need to hop on today and share all the above and let dear readers know I will be stepping away for a week or two while I stand at the starting line waiting for that gun shot announcing it is time to RUN to the exit of this house... run to handle the initial stages of graduation prep (I have been assured this month and the last month are the two busiest in the whole process)... run to encourage my daughter in her calling and opportunities... run to finish all the work that needs to be done over the next week so a peaceful transition might be found at the end.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, 
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:5

I'll be back in a couple weeks with Menu Monday and all the rest.  I already have all the pictures taken to share our curriculum for this year and other great article ideas are just itching to pour through these fingertips!! 

I pray you have had or will have a great start to your school year no matter what is going on in the margins (or plain space) of your life right now.  Embrace each challenge as an opportunity to help God shine! 


Monday, August 17, 2015

Menu Monday: Weeks of August 17th - 28th

We are suppose to be closing on our house in less than 2 weeks (this week's menu is for 2 weeks).  A lot of tiny little details could still hold up (or even cancel) the sale.  I am nervous, I will admit it.  I am also recognizing this as a TEST in trust, faith and patience.  Me, the planner, at the very beginning of a critical year of schooling, trying to remember the power and importance of letting go.... and letting God.  He is so much better at the details than I!

On that note (and in-case you missed the impact this is having on our menu plans visit this Menu Monday article) I will fully admit I am nervous about packing!  We don't have a TON of stuff but we do have stuff and we use most of it regularly.  IF the deal falls through, I will be UN-packing just as quickly as I packed!  ugh.  Trust, Amanda.

My menu reflects this sort of mindset right now.  Ashley is mostly better and finishing up antibiotics for tonsillitis so her help may be back to alleviate some stress.  It just seems like every time I make plans, things come up to thwart them.  It was exasperating me trying to stick to my menu and provide balance in food choices.... then I realized: it doesn't HAVE TO be that stressful.  So, for now, my entire menu is tentative but I wanted to share anyway... in case it can inspire someone to hold on through the roller coaster rides... hold onto your budget and don't given into the money-sucking monster of fast-food even in trying times of life.  In the midst of chaos, sometimes cooking for your family can be the ONE thing that holds you to normal and care of the ones you love... although, sometimes the added work is taxing, my menu reflects this.

This week pack, pack, pack.  The doctors think I have fibromyalgia so I have to be careful and pace myself in all aspects of physical work.  This is the most important balance I am seeking as I plan my days and my menus.  I hope mornings can be desk time to sort emails, work on our ministry newsletter, and blog!  This will allow the kids to sleep in this last bit of summer.... they have worked hard with Christian Youth In Action this year and deserve a rest! Afternoons will be packing with a break before dinner prep which I will employ the help of my children.  Below is a list of meals I will draw from while planning either the night before or the morning of.  I hate to plan like this, but not knowing when we will have to run to the realtor's office or handle phone call mania during prep/cook time or meet an inspector at the house... requires me to be more flexible.  This list and grab plan will help us better manage our food budget and less-exasperate me when last-minute items come up.

(I will be using my slow-cooker for these as much as possible... prepping and cooking food early allows me to clean up and only worry about serving later on when my energy is gone!)

Breakfast.... the usual: cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, eggs

Lunch... leftovers or sandwiches (ham, tuna, PB&J, cheese)


Chicken galore (I just bought 2 big bags of frozen boneless chicken breast at Costco)
  • Chicken Salad and Fresh Bread (Bread Machine stays out till moving day!!)
  • BBQ Chicken in slow cooker, baked potato and corn (make extra for good left-over shredded chicken sandwiches)
  • Stir Fry
  • Mexi Chicken and salad
  • Chicken Sandwiches and salad or chips
  • Hobo Chicken Stew and fresh bread
     Hobo Chicken Stew is soooooo easy.  I use 2-3 cans Cream of Chicken soup, 1 cup chicken broth (I make mine with bullion), dash of garlic and onion powders, dash of salt, pepper, sage (if you have it) and celery salt or flakes (if you have it).  Drop in 5 FROZEN chicken breast and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.  Cook on low for 8 hours and viola!!!

Frozen Beef and Sirloin Patties (I bought these at Costco as well)
  • Burgers and Chips (we usually do these on Saturdays and sometimes on Wednesdays)
  • Mock Salisbury "steak", mash potato (both done in two slow cookers) and side of green beans
  • Spaghetti and "meat balls" (cooked and cut patties)
     Mock Salisbury "Steak" is another easy-ish dish.  I will pre-fry Sirloin Patties (I have used regular burger patties too) just until lightly brown on the outside (don't burn or worry about cooking all the way through).  Make some gravy using the recipe on Wondera and beef broth (made with bullion), slide gravy and beef and some chopped onions into a baking dish (or slow cooker) and roast until bubbly (about 30-45 minutes in oven)... I will put in slow cooker just so it is ready whenever we are.)

Quick and Easy (I bought 2 of these meals at Costco which may stretch to 3 or 4 if I plan right)
  • Egg Rolls to serve with veggies and rice (I use a rice cooker so it is quick and easy)
  • Spinach stuffed Ravioli with French Bread (in bread machine)

Beans and Miscellaneous
  • Bean and Beef Casserole with Salad (can use the burger patties crumbled, I happen to have some ground beef and ground turkey on hand this month)
  • Bean and Mexi Rice Casserole with Salad and Tortilla chips (I have leftover Mexi rice in the freezer)
  • PORK Roast as-is with carrots and potatoes OR with BBQ sauce as shredded sandwiches

What are you cooking this week?


The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, 
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. 
- Proverbs 21:5

Thursday, August 13, 2015

When Family Doesn't Share Your Faith

I sat shocked as the words sunk in.  We don't understand what you believe and we don't want to.  I knew my family chose a life not of faith in our Lord and Savior, I can't change that.  But I had never been so directly cut by words like these.

When family members near and dear whom you have known all your life choose to walk a different path it is difficult.  When they choose to pass judgement and issue attack for your divergence... it is down-right painful.  How do you go from sharing a life loaded with memories of sibling fun or parental care or holiday frivolity to a soldier or army standing across from you poised to attack even though you have done nothing to provoke?

Simply: The Word of God

You see, I was born to an atheist and a Christian who wasn't walking out her faith at the time.  Divorced when I was still a baby, I have no memory of my parents being united.  All my memories contain step parents and opposing views.  My childhood was rocked with disunity as I was used like a pawn for attack vs. attack.  Who was the better parent?  Who had the right answers?  Even years into adulthood I wasn't clear on the debate!

The complexities of my families run so deep, I wrote a book to hash it all out.  One that is off the site right now for editing.  But the one constant was my grandma, a fire and brimstone Southern Baptist, she took me to church every chance she could.  When I was 16 I "walked forward" accepted and got baptized.  It was fire insurance.  I was scared.  By 18, married to my high school sweet heart and living 2000 miles from home, I walked away.  I thumbed my nose at God and told him to get lost.

For 6 years I ran the other direction.  Trying my hand at many forms of lost ways. Divorcing, remarrying, suffering and running.  My family was still a roller coaster but at least I was still 'like them'.  Generally accepted as 'normal' by societal standards.  Then something interesting happened.... my mom re-dedicated her life to Christ.  She started reading her bible, learning God's Word and, most of all, she started to change.

No longer was she needling me about life's past... instead she was encouraging me about life's future.  We would talk for hours about her Hope.  I would ask hard questions, jabbing questions, and she would patiently respond.  Something happened... something changed inside of me I could not deny.  Something that told me the answers were at the local non-denominational chapel so I went.

Within a year of showing up and sitting in the pews, God finally got through and I GOT IT.  No longer seeking fire insurance, I surrendered to my NEED for a savior and my love of what He had done for me.  I was sold-out, 100% born again and thirsty for the Word, anxious to share and ready to live, all-in.

Over the years my faith has grown and the roots have run deep.  Storms have blown but I still stand strong.... and often stronger after each one.  God has delivered me from so much and brought me to so much.  My testimony fills that book down for repair!  But then the rug really went out on how to walk in the midst of my relations.

The phone seemed to crackle as she said it, "I think I am gay".  My step sister had decided to 'come out'.  Another long story which is really not fully mine to tell, sums up with my dis-belief of her choice and my Christian understanding to what really was going on:  This young, intelligent woman going to pre-med school to become a ministry doctor... someone who planned to help the inner-city sick and share the word of God as she went.... suddenly gets drawn into the life of secularism and lesbian ways.  She was supported by an atheist step-dad and a non religious mom.... the family raved at her decision.

I stopped.

I didn't know what to do.  I couldn't bring myself to condemn her, I loved her.  Nor could I bring myself to fully accept her choice because I knew, I was positive of what God's Word said.  How do you reconcile sinful living in someone you love so dearly?  I sought answers and for what felt like forever, none would come.  We talked sparingly, most of our conversations were frustrating as she preached a liberal agenda which called for legislation to increase her rights while diminishing mine.  Common sense spoke up but always got shot down.  I stand for Biblical marriage, the family stands by her and her right to 'love who she wants'.  I wasn't trying to create an antithesis or argument.  But like anyone who shares the weekend's party photos or latest tattoo or even their jaunt to Vegas.... I felt I wanted to share my heart, my Christ, and my belief that some things need to remain constant for the peace of a nation.  I know this view isn't shared by all.

Modern ethics say: agree with me or become my enemy.  No more opinions or ideas... simply conform or be persecuted.  We use to live in a society where differences were respected even if not agreed on.

This is my plight.  This is what caused me to make the difficult decision 5 years ago to remove myself from the line of fire.

It wasn't easy to step back from the people I love with so much of my heart.  I don't condemn them, but I do consider them so different from myself it is difficult to do much more than check-in once in a great while.  I mean them no ill will, but as the statement shared at the onset of this article articulates; they are not interested, in the least, in my lifestyle.  I have to respect their choice whether or not I agree.

My husband was good to remind me of Matthew 10:14, the scripture graphic I shared on Facebook earlier this week:

This past week, after the heart-wrenching statement and phone conversation I had, I felt led to study this passage closer.  I found something reassuring...

11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.
12 As you enter the house, greet it.
13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
- Matthew10:11-15

We can try to reach out.  We should never give up in our prayers for the lost, especially the ones we love.  But God's timing is the key.  HE knows whom he calls and when he calls them.  We can't understand when or why but we can pray and we can reach when we are led to (no beating over the head with our Bible).  At the end of the day, though, if the house determines it is not interested in the hope we share, we need to let our peace return to us.  We need to respect their choice, just as we desire them to respect ours.  Christ has given us peace and we need to claim it.  We need to walk away and let them be.

Jesus knew the path before us would not be easy.  He predicted not just people of our towns would persecute us but also family and loved ones.  This is why, among his final words to the disciples, he tells them this:

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

And then He closes his pre-game speech to them with this awesome statement:

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

Whether talking with my gay sister or the multitude of Atheist and Agnostic family members, I don't talk to their sin.  I speak to their humanity and I testify of my hope.  Sometimes it means I go for weeks and months without talking to them... mainly because we don't have a whole lot to say.  It isn't personal, it is simply walking out  John 10 which reminds us to reach out but don't sell out and kick the dust off our feet so we can go to the next 'house' which might be ready for the hope we share. Jesus encourages us to hold onto our hope and peace.  He helps us to realize WE are not judgement day, God is.  HE overcame the world, we are over-comers through Him. What DID Jesus do in these situations with loved ones?

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.
- Matthew 12:46-50

His mother, most certainly, wasn't an atheist or agnostic... though we do know at least one of his brothers didn't buy into the whole "Christ" thing until later on.  BUT, many scholars believe they were trying to pull him away for rest.  They were trying to help him and in their concern they weren't seeing the greater picture of what he was doing right then.  He was about his Father's business.  When we are Born Again, we should be about our Father's business and guess what?  We inherent MORE family to share life with!  They may not be the ones we chased for a game of tag when we were little or crawled into their lap when we were scared as a child.  But they are a NEW family, just like we are made NEW in Christ and they are the ones who share our passion for God.  With our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in Christ, we will find the most unity.  

I'm not saying dis-own your secular family.  Just walk forward realizing you CAN love them but their approval is not what you seek... your peace is not in them.  Your peace and approval comes from the Lord.

My grand advice... my steeped experience... the Word of God which has given me most hope?   

Peace in Jesus.  

You have the ability to claim the power of peace.  Like the words of Elanor Roosevelt who said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission", I believe the same to be true with our faith.  NO ONE can take your peace without your permission.

It is OK to walk with hope and peace when the people around you are falling apart.
It is OK to have joy because you have a future when those around you carry nothing but sadness and bitterness.
It is OK to believe the Truth of God's Word when people around you want to argue it is a lie
It is OK to stand on your testimony when someone wants to 'explain' it away or argue the facts.
It is OK to NOT argue, after all, we are not called to 'argue', we are called to bare witness, and let the fight go.  To let someone walk the path they have chosen even when your deepest desire is to see them walk alongside yourself.
It is OK to be different, to be made fun of, to be ridiculed, misunderstood, and even ostracized because our family and our future is not here.  This place is temporary... we are sojourners, just passing through.
It is OK to love and be kind to family members who don't believe what you believe.  I learned that my best response to my sister.... was to love her and show her kindness.  I don't have to accept her lifestyle to be concerned about her and be kind to her. Secularists don't understand this.  They want to believe that Christian's stance against abortion and gay marriage and other main-stream ideas is the same as rejection, judging and condemnation... but it is not.  

Remember: our first century brothers and sisters of the faith faced the same challenges when they refused to bow before and offer sacrifices to the false gods.  They faced this when they rescued cast-away infants and cared for the sick and dieing of a fallen society.  Secular historians were perplexed by these Christ followers and their kind hearts and different ways... walking among pagans but not pagan.  Persecuted but not giving up.  THEY STOOD OUT.  We should too.

It is OK to stand out... as a matter of fact, if you don't stand out you should ask yourself... am I actually sold out for Christ.  Standing out is synonymous with our faith.  Not because we are bad different... but because we are good different.  

We love when the world says hate.  
We give when the world says take or keep.  
We help others when the world says help yourself.  
We share hope when the world shares hopelessness.  

It IS possible to serve the world, to live in the world, without loosing your self or your faith.     

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

 Life in a fallen world... and especially a fallen family... isn't easy.  I have walked out these principles EVEN in a house with a husband who did not share my faith for 10 years.  It CAN be done.  STAY in the Word of God.  Fix your eyes on Him.  Don't give up. Don't loose hope.  CLING to the giver of hope.  YOU CAN DO IT!!



Monday, August 10, 2015

Menu Monday: Week of August 10th

For the goofiness of this month's menu plans, see last week's Menu post!

This week It is a miracle I am even writing!!  I think Ashley has tonsillitis.  She seemed to be better yesterday but has relapsed today.  I may be taking her to walk-in care this afternoon.  Brenden and Brooke are working the county fair all week (except today).... they are sitting a Christian Youth in Action booth painting faces and sharing the gospel.  Working 2-8:30 we have decided to do dinner for lunch on fair days so they go with a full stomach and we can all just snack in the evening (I pack them sandwiches to take with).  To top it off, we have a meeting with the inspector tonight.  Anxious to see if the house passes the mark... passing will mean a step-up in packing.  With Ashley down sick and Brenden and Brooke gone most of the day... dinners will be interesting and the work will be taxing!  Boy am I looking forward to getting moved and re-settled!!

This weekend I tried a recipe I saw on Pinterest for Jalapeno Popper Cheese Bread and WOW, it was AMAZING.  Even the kids liked it!  It had a bit of a bite but not too much.  More along the lines of a mild salsa.  The recipe is a bit hard to understand when it comes to rolling out and setting up the loaves for baking but I quickly found out this stage was rather forgiving.  My alternate recipe recommendations:
  • it says two 8x4 loaf pans, I would recommend at least THREE.  It was too much dough for just two.  
  • increase the cream cheese to at least 2 packages and, if you do three loaves, increase the cheddar to at least 2 1/4 cups.  
It took some time and work but it is well worth it.  I baked it on Saturday when I had the extra time and, naturally, I used my bread machine on dough cycle to do all the hardest work... just put all the bread ingredients in wet first, flour and yeast last, and let 'er go for 90 minutes!!  When the bread machine was done I pulled out the dough, rolled it out according to instructions and filled it up with all the goodies.  Put it in loaf pans, let it rise and baked.  Viola.  The longest part was processing the jalapenos.  Next time I will take pictures! 

Oh, and when my husband went to eat some of the left-over BBQ boneless pork ribs I had done in the slow cooker last week, his plate looked so pretty I took a picture for you!  So fast, easy, and delicious!

Menu for this week...

BREAKFAST.... is the same this week as it was last week
- hubby and I usually share eggs and toast in the morning before he leaves for work.
- kids will have cereal or oatmeal (it and milk are still on sale this week)
- I will probably make pancakes or waffles at some point this week

Chicken Stir-Fry (using left-over  rice from Sunday... we had poor-man's Jambalaya)
Goulash in slow-cooker with a side of Salad and Fresh Bread from bread machine

Burgers and Home Fries
     - Brenden will run the grill for me.  I am taking Wednesday as a down-day break from packing so can take the time to fry potatoes

BBQ Chicken in the slow cooker, Baked Potato and Salad with a side of Biscuits...
     - I think I will make biscuits to go with breakfast this day and use the extras with lunch/dinner

Grocery shop day.  A lot going on this day so I am not sure what our meals will be Friday/Saturday.  It is pay-day and sometimes we will grab a pizza on pay-day.  Costco hot dogs are a possibility as well!


What are you cooking this week?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Creating Serious Learners and the Whims of Homeschool Philosophy

My homeschool planning for  the 2015-16 school year is almost complete!!!  This year is set to be quite a different year with one graduating and one needing to step-up the studies since his graduation is only 3 years away.  Brooke is starting 7th grade and acts as my more serious student.  She wants to be a teacher (and, one day, a homeschooling mama).  How do you create serious learners?

That is the question I kept asking myself as I chose curriculum, wrote out lesson plans and prayed over their year (and their futures).  It is probably one of the most serious questions we can ask ourselves as homeschooling parents.

The problem.
For too long I road the waves of homeschooling philosophies.  There are many out there.... most of them are good.  But all of them can't work at the same time (you kinda need to pick just one!).  As I ran the spectrum of public school animosity after how my kids were treated .... to public school acceptance as a pillar in community, I still run hot-and-cold in my feelings about what is socially 'acceptable' in HOW to school and what-to-teach-when.  I truly don't care about 'acceptance' but I do care about ability.  I want my children to be able to compete among their peers for jobs, scholarships and even college... should they choose to go.  But this was the other problem.

To college or not to college and how to make ready.

The spectrum runs crazy on this topic as well.  If the public school spectrum is any indicator of secular college education, the future of our students is bleak.  Then there is Christian college, which often costs an arm and a leg.... but without college, what kind of future do my kids have in today's job market? 

So there I sat, praying and facing these two big challenges:  What homeschool approach is appropriate and not dictated by the system but rather by our call.... and what path for/or against college prep is best?

The realization.
It isn't about them.  The 'thems' out there telling us what is crazy or acceptable or unacceptable when it comes to educating our kids.  It isn't about the standards set by homeschoolers (yes, homeschoolers set standards) or school districts.  It isn't about the 'thems' of public or private college preaching job opportunity propaganda and the order of operation in obtaining a college degree. 

There is NO box I am meant to find and shove my kids into.

It IS about my kids.  They are the only 'thems' everything boils down to.  It is about what call God has on their lives and the path He has called them to take.  Homeschooling advocates may say don't teach kids as school at home... don't test because then you are only teaching to a test.... do only use classical literature because modern works are junk... do let your child lead the learning because it is all about them.  Don't teach sentence diagramming... Do teach sentence diagramming....  Learn from life... learn from books... keep a schedule.... go with the flow... read from text books... use 'living' books because texts are too dry..........

Then college advocates say prep for SAT.... just take the compass.... try out dual enrollment.... do community/Jr. College first.... go away to university.... sty for university.... online college is best.... get done early... take your time............


As I sat with papers sprawled out before me and books piled to my side I thought of my oldest daughter getting ready to graduate and begging me to test her this past year.  She told me she felt like she took the subjects more seriously and understood them better if she knew she had to prepare for a test.  4 years ago she begged me to give her grades... real, honest, GRADES.... because SHE wanted to know how she was measuring up and where she stood. 

I thought of my oldest son, now entering his 4th year of college, and how he started unconventionally.  Though attending public school through graduation, he took a semester off, did tech school, took another semester off and now is at university.  The competitiveness of structured school work and potential of college scholarships drove him on.  And while I debate, at times, his Christian university education as being too liberal for my taste.... he will graduate with better opportunities for his field of work whether he uses his degree in the mission field or in the secular work force.  The world and all good opportunities to share Christ will be at his door step.

Whether my kids go to college/tech school/university makes no difference.  Whether they take it one class at a time over 10 years or all their classes at a traditional pace doesn't matter.  Whether they go AT ALL is truly up to them and what God leads them to do.  My job, is to prepare them for whatever they do end up choosing.  Once they cross the threshold at graduation, preparation time is over and decisions will need to be made.... why not make those decisions with every possible opportunity for their ability in hand?   We can't get back the past, but we CAN be prepared for the future.

The choice.

Keep in mind, I am managing middle through high school students.  If yours are younger than your considerations won't be so serious yet... some points will be applicable now, the rest can serve as something for down the road....

I can't care anymore what others think  and how others do homeschool.  Whether I give my kids too much or too little of any given subject, grade, activity or tests is not open for debate.  I have to do what I know works for them and places them where God is calling them to be.  What does that look like?

- We need a schedule.  Ashley = ADHD, Brenden = Dyslexic, Brooke = Over-achiever/planner.... when we don't have a CLEAR SCHEDULE for every single subject and set times of work, we don't get anything done.  Every single one of us loose the drive to strive and complete tasks.  Other families may be able to roll with it.... we can't.  It may seem rigid and anti-homeschooling theology but that is just it: homeschooling isn't ONE WAY... it is meant to be the way that works best for each family.

- We will test and grade.  I banned both for so many years because I didn't want my children feeling like failures.  That is how Brenden and Ashley felt years ago as public schooled kids in 2nd and 4th grade.  But what I forgot is how they can also feel like victors through tests and grades.  Will I cater to their strengths in this aspect?  Yes.  Where a public school teacher may see "wrong" when 3x5 does not equal 8 I will see my dyslexic son reading the 'x' sign as a '+' sign and mark it half off for being only half wrong, then talk with him about taking his time to look closely at signs.... or ask for help in having his homework and tests read to him for greater accuracy.

Quick Fact:  we make mistakes and mis-read in 'real' life and most of the time we get a chance to fix it and set it right or ask for help.  Why should school work be any different?  Even college offers helps for learning 'giftedness' such as Brenden and Ashley experience.

- We will use text books.  We actually use various types of materials, being eclectic homeschoolers, but as Brenden and Ashly have hit high school I have noticed gaps as the result of our lack of consistency in  materials and use of textbooks.  Gaps which make them seem like I don't teach them on some subjects!!!  Gaps which could lead to awkward situations as adults with peers in various conversations.  We laugh about this being 'UN-important' in homeschooling circles but the fact is: it is very important.  If your child has no clue where Guam is or that Russia was once (and debatably may still be) the way, what is communism?... then they are going to seem UN-educated and, in our culture, will loose respect and ability to witness about greater things like their faith in Christ. 

Quick Fact:  It boils down to this: if they seem like half-wits on basic matters, how will anyone believe or accept their faith as anything more than something only naive people believe? 

We will use text books for their gap filling ability, their broad coverage of a topic and as an outline for all the basics we need to cover.  We will supplement texts with 'real' books and self-guided research for deeper understanding on topics related to their studies.

- They will keep a student planner and have due dates.  All of western culture revolves around your ability to be organized.  It is a fact.  If you want to be successful you have to be able to plan your day well, set goals, and meet deadlines.  While we may be able to fix mistakes... we can't go back and re-arrange deadlines and due dates.  Those simply ARE.  If we don't foster this sense of responsibility and ability when they are young... it will be a hard habit to create and keep when they are older.

The conclusion.

The above is what will work for us.  We filtered in some of these standards this past school year and I saw great improvement in various areas of study and comprehension.  Our mantra will be Paul's words for ministry since I believe all of life has ministry potential:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
- Philippians 3:12-14

Jammies are still an option for school day apparel... as is completing assignments on the cozy couch.  The materials and expectations may change a little but our heart to equip and be the best for His service will not change!  Neither will our desire to grow as learners for life and not just pails to be filled.  All the materials and plans I propose are not just items for the bucket.... they are tools for the task, resources as part of a process meant for the end product.... fuel for a fire set to blaze a lifetime through.

I pray you will search the Lord for your Homeschool focus and potential.... not the whims of the masses, rather, the clear directive of God.... whatever that looks like for YOUR homeschool!


Unless the move takes me away from an update, I will share what we are using this year and HOW we are using it in an article this month.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Five Brides... one dress... no redemption

Summer was on approach and I thought a good period fiction was just the ticket to kick-off the slow easy days of school break.  After the first few chapters I realized fiction is like a favorite food: almost completely open to taste.  I have a very particular taste and am extremely guarded with what time I do get to read fiction literature.... I'm only glad I had the time to spare for this one.  I will try to weigh opinion carefully since fact can be found when extracting quality in fiction.

Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson is a story in reflection of five women sharing an apartment in 1950s Chicago.  One day, when they just happen to all have time to knock about downtown together, they wander into Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co, try on and fall madly in love with a beautiful wedding gown and determine to all share the cost of purchasing since the price is far to steep for any one of their budget's alone.  They work out a plan to share the dress when each of their weddings arrive.

This aspect of the story only consumes a small part over halfway through the 480 pages... most of which are actually spent sharing the drama of single/dating life in the world of post-war 1950s independent women.  I was flustered by the constant darting around in the story between these 5 women and their associations because many of the transitions left me hanging on what would happen next and often did not return to clean up the loose ends.  These cliff-hangers which were never completely reconciled left me perplexed and, at times, confused as to what was going on in the story.

The author mentions soap operas of the day on a few occasions and I finally made the connection that this story was written in Soap Opera style while at other points ringing more like scenes from Breakfast and Tiffany's.  I felt like the bulk of the author's research was done through sultry movie scenes of period films though I am aware of the earmarks of good actual research on the period which this book does have, even if in frothy doses at times.  Still the over-play of drama and dilemmas the characters find themselves in made it difficult to truly enjoy most of the young women and their companions in this story.  I found myself frustrated with some of the poor choices and their lack of knowing or even growing to learn the appropriate way to manage their problems and challenges.  Their perception of faith was skewed by their various religious beliefs; Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and so on.  I never saw a real connection to relationship with Christ but rather a few occasions to obligation that their respective faith brought.

The book's final pages did nothing to help my perspective and opinion of this story, it left far too much to wonder with no sequel in mind.  If you like soap operas and open-ended books, you will love this story.  If you are like me, waiting for the climax of "You see Timmy..." and everyone skipping off holding hands in the sunset with lessons learned, hearts healed and problems solved.... then this book is NOT for you!

My opinion aside, a good Christian romance should offer redemptive qualities.  The defining aspect of good Christian fiction is one or more character's walk before, during, and after understanding a need and ability to trust Christ as redeemer and helper.  Whether someone of the faith grows deeper in their faith and understanding and exhibits those applications.... or someone outside of the faith enters into a relationship with Christ.  This book had the potential to offer BOTH aspects with various characters but it offered none.  It simply played into the dramatic flare of secularized Christianity.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House for my review. This review is my opinion alone.

Menu Monday: Week of August 3rd

Well, I can't promise to get this up EVERY week this month as I will be packing and cleaning and prepping for the BIG MOVE!!  As of right now, closing is set for August 31st but I suspect it could be even later than that.  So what does a family of 5 on a budget eat when packing?  Read on!

This week I am making use of my slow cooker and oldest daughter as much as possible!!  All the kids will be helping with the packing process (Brenden and Brooke have the week off from Bible club teaching).  However, as you know, some jobs only mom can do so I will leave them in charge of some dinners and handling of clean-up in the evenings.  We will use paper plates as much as possible, though some dinners require 'real' plates.  Here are the plans for this week, the first FULL week of packing while juggling back-to-school prep and other household duties (my dryer is still broke so laundry takes twice as long with the process of line drying!)....

- hubby and I usually share eggs and toast in the morning before he leaves for work.
- kids will have cereal or oatmeal (it and milk were on sale this week + coupon I got LIFE cereal for 50 cents a box!!!)

- will be leftovers from the night before

Dinner: SLOW COOKER BBQ Pork Boneless Ribs, Baked Potatoes, Corn and Salad
Dinner: SLOW COOKER Caesar Chicken Sandwiches, Baked JoJo and Shredded Lettuce and Carrots
     - I will slow-cook the chicken in broth and Italian seasoning, drain, shred and add Caesar dressing into the pot, warm for an hour and serve on whole-grain burger buns. 
     - The JoJos will be made with left-over baked potatoes from Monday, coated in oil and roasted at 425 until edges brown..... my older kids can help!

Dinner: Taco Salad (Ashley is in charge!)

Dinner: Roast Chicken, Cubed Red Potato and Green Beans
     - Quick easy meal because I simply coat a 13x9" pan with butter*, lay the chicken in, sprinkle Greek Seasoning on, put a tad of butter on each one and pop in the oven on 350-375 for about 30-45 minutes.  The leftovers will be cut over salad for lunch the next day!
     - I will have Ashley cube the potatoes, put into a cook pot, cover with water and a sprinkling of onion soup mix and boil until tender (about 20 minutes).  I might have her slice some onions into there as well.

Dinner: Costco-bought Baja Burritos, salad and tortilla chips  (we will ALL need a break by Friday!!)

Dinner: Burgers and Chips ... my youngest son has learned how to grill!!  He is quite proud to be a our stand-in grill master (and hubby is proud of him for doing it so well... even figuring out 'perfect' grill marks on the burgers!!!)  All the kids put on quite a good team effort in getting the table ready on burger night, including condiments and buttering buns for toasting on the grill.  I love it!

I will be grocery shopping on the weekend and deciding then.

* I always say "butter" but what I mean is margarine.  I know there is debate on the health value, however, with a family our size it is more economical to use margarine. 

What are you cooking this week?