Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Dino Dig

Homeschooling is not for the faint at heart. It takes patience. It takes time and more time. It takes the strength of Goliath to meet each and every day with the curious minds of children and all their questions, not to mention what happens when someone is feeling particularly cranky. I have to laugh when I hear someone comment that homeschooling is 'safe' and that what my choice for education for my kids keeps them sheltered. It is not a 'safe' thing to do by any stretch of the imagination and they most certainly are not kept in a dark basement with out the hope of the light of day to shine forth. When I see them in action at a field trip or when they conquer a concept, or even when one of them is laying their head down on the table in agony because of a math problem, I know that they are just right where they are suppose to be...

Dinosaurs. There is something that is endearing to many elementary children about that topic. They are a bit mysterious. They are adventurous and they are BIG. From my seven year old's perspective, they look cool, they are so strong and it would be super awesome to ride one.

It happened to be that a field trip was formed and I signed the two younger boys up to participate. It was a beautiful sunshine-filled day. A perfect day to be outside digging for dinosaur bones. There were over 140 kids who were signed up for this trip. They were everywhere. I did notice a steady trail to the 'cookie' table which was a highlight for my two boys as well.

The mama Myasaura dinosaur bones were what were buried for the kids to dig up and clean off with a brush. They all had a chance to dig in the sand and to discover 'a treasure'. The instructor went over how to properly unbury a fossil so that nothing was broken off in their excited attempt to grab it up. After all the bones were discovered, the kids took them inside for the instructor to talk about the dinosaur and to put it together so the kid could see the skeleton as a whole.
The instructor had asked the kids how a mama takes care of her children. Aaron raised his hand and proudly announced that his mother took care of him by giving him food as he was rubbing his tummy and licking his lips. He also knew what the mystery bones were...the shoulder blades.
He is a pretty smart boy, if you ask me. It was neat watching them attentively interact with the instructor and what was being taught by her. Now if only they would do that at home....

You can't force all of your learning into four walls but need to provide moments for them to experience all that you are teaching them outside of that, to experience the adventure of it, to touch it, to see it, to feel it. It brings education alive and makes it real so that it not only is expanding their minds but also wrapping around their hearts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Surprise Visitors

It is very unsettling when you realize the lock between you and the world beyond your front door could potentially not keep them out. We put a lot of faith in our front doors, our locks and our dead bolts. But what happens when your house has been foreclosed on? Do you still feel safe and secure? If we are not careful, fear could overtake us. We hear stories about the contents of the neighbor's house being thrown out on their front lawn by the sheriff. We hear stories of how realtors are demanding that people have to leave and then later find out that they themselves have moved in illegally. We hear stories about the tent cities and the rotation many homeless people are on in the state parks. How do we separate ourselves from the fear and anxiety that is everywhere we go?

Friday, we had a couple of visitors show up at our front door. One was a realtor that explained that he thought the house was unoccupied. He wanted to know what our plan was. He also wanted to come in and take a look at the inside. Of course, we haven't gotten any legal document from anybody other than the one we were served back in November stating that the house was going up for auction so he didn't get to come inside. My husband explained to him that the only thing that we have planned right now is to continue trusting that God will direct our steps and give us wisdom on what to do next.

Truly, saying that we are trusting God is not a pat answer. We really are diligently beseeching (to implore urgently) the throne of the Lord God Almighty for wisdom, direction, for guidance. We are not just sitting here idly, doing absolutely nothing. We are taking whatever computer work that comes our way. I, even, have put on a computer technician hat and am crawling under desks helping install computers. I never pictured myself doing that but you do what you can. I believe that God has put certain opportunities before us and I am trying to do the best that I can to take what God has placed here.

The second visitor showed up with a truck, trailer and lots of equipment. He arrived to board up the house. He was quite taken back that there was someone living in the home. I couldn't help but feel fear as I thought about what could have happened had we not been there. People leave their homes without taking anything. So in my thinking, we could have been away and come home only to find that our key wouldn't work, leaving us locked out of our own home. Could they just walk in? It is scary. It makes me not want to leave without someone being here to stop people from coming in.

There have been so many scary things that we've had to face and yet, God has been there to give us courage and strength to meet each of them. It happened that when the guy showed up to board up our home, some friends of ours were there. I believe that that was God's provision. They had come over to pray with us and to offer us their love and concern. The friends that showed up the next day, that called, that emailed just showered us with the confirmation that God was providing what we needed to face this. When you know that you have the strong support of friends and family, it enables you to pick yourself up and continue moving forward. Those were totally divine appointments.

In Proverbs 3: 5-6 it says that we are to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways to acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight. In order for us to combat fear, we have to realize that God is the one who passionately cares about our lives and is personally involved. We have to trust Him even when we do not understand all of what is happening. He may not remove the trials of the day from us but He has already arranged for us to see His glory even in the midst of tough times. If we believe that God promises to never leave us or forsake us than we have to know that He is there to work things out for us. He gives us what we face what we have to face.

I do not know what tomorrow is going to bring, what we are going to have to face or what mountain we are going to have to climb. But, I do know that God is worthy to be praised no matter what is going on. He is faithful to provide. He is a passionate Father who cares very deeply for His children. He will take care of all of our needs and that includes giving me the peace and security that I need to look fear in the face and loudly proclaim that I have nothing to fear, that those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty, that He alone is my refuge, my place of safety, that He will shield me with his wings and His faithful promises are my armor and protection. (Psalm 91)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Gracious God

We've been walking this road of unknown for quite some time now. God has been stretching, pruning, refining and rebuilding a faith in us that strong enough to withstand what we are going through. Just this morning, during worship at church, we were singing a song about standing firm on the foundation and it hit me that that was what was happening. People comment to me that they just don't know how we are making it through this and the answer to that is this: We have firmly planted our selves on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation. So that when the storm is raging around us, we know that foundation will hold firm. We may trip and fall but we will not crumble.

It's amazing to me how much an empty refrigerator can tangle my emotions into a knot. When you have hungry stomachs looking up at you because there isn't a whole lot to eat, it's enough to push you to the edge and beyond. The thing that gets me is that time and time again, my husband and I have stood in front of our refrigerator and prayed that God would fill it and He has. I know this. I've seen it happen over and over and yet, I still get distraught when we happen to go through a time that is quite sparse. I want so very badly to get my will and emotions to instantly act in agreement to what I know in my heart. God promises to provide and He has and continues to do so.

After enduring a few days of a lean and echoing refrigerator this past week, I found myself having a bit of a temper tantrum letting God know just how much I was frustrated that He wasn't answering our prayer when I thought we needed it. My husband once again, reminded me that God will provide and together we brought our requests before Him. Later that night, I headed off to see a friend of mine. During my time with her, I got a call from my husband telling me my freezer was full. A friend of ours had brought over a bunch of meals that filled the entire freezer and then mentioned that there was more coming next month. I was speechless and I felt really, really small and a lot like a heel. I quickly asked God to forgive my rash behavior. He is an amazing God and I am just overwhelmed by how much he provides for our needs even when my behavior is less than stellar. A dear friend gently reminded me that God was not taken by surprise by my behavior. In fact, He already knew how I was going to respond. In spite of it, God loves me and his gracious mercy covers me daily.

It is good to be reminded that in spite of who we are, what we do and the choices we make, God is there in His amazing mercy and grace to pour himself out on us. Why? Because He loves us so very much. It doesn't matter what I do or how I act, He is there loving me in spite of it all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thrilled to be Three

We recently celebrated little peanut's third birthday. It's hard to believe that she is now such a grown up or so she thinks. This tiny sweet thing has grown into this person who is simply sweet with a side of independence who is not afraid to tell you how things are going to be. How's that for a mixture. She's like Billy Bob's sweet and sassy dressing with a kick. I suppose she has to be. She's number five and she will be heard.

When I sit there and watch how she interacts with the world around her, she simply amazes me. Only God could have created such perfect uniqueness. Each stage is something to cherish. I know that there are some pretty crazy moments but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

She was pretty excited to have her birthday here. For days beforehand, she'd ask if it was time yet for her prizes and cake. We'd have to tell her nope, three more days or nope, two more days and she would drop her head giving us the most precious pouty face. Then the day arrived and the twirling began. She twirled and twirled telling each individual that it was her happy birthday. She even told the little old lady down the street who happened to be walking by our home on an afternoon stroll. Her birthday is something to be celebrated. Her life is precious to me. I always tell my kids that no matter where they are whether they are here with me or off on adventures of their own, I will celebrate the day of their birth because that is the day that our eye's met for the first time and my life was changed forever. A special day, indeed!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Poverty Simulation

Our church was offering a poverty simulation recently. I debated about signing up to participate because well...we have our own level of poverty and it's real life for us. However, as I was sitting in church listening to Pastor Randy speak, I felt a real sense of urgency to go to this. Even though, we are going through this right now, I know that every situation is different. You just never know how God can use you. That has been my prayer--that God would take our situation and turn it around for something good and useful. I want to be open and willing for God to take our situation and use it for His glory. That means sometimes facing difficult opportunities that require you to open up and be vulnerable, causing you to relive the rawness of life.

It turned out that our oldest son also went. I was really proud of him for being willing to go to this, considering all that he's had to face as a teenager walking this journey. This isn't just hitting my husband and I. It's our whole family. Each individual has experienced it. For the older ones, it has been an extremely tough time. A life changing experience.

They had us separated into groups which were your family for the three hours. Each were given a description of their particular situation, a set amount of money, a few items you could pawn off and some transportation passes. As we were going about taking care of our families needs like getting food, paying bills and working, most were having a fun time with the simulation, really getting into the acting of their part.

After the simulation part was over, we sat around discussing our observations. Many noted how quickly the family unit fell apart, how many of the kids resorted to criminal activity to help their families survive, and how utterly hopeless and frustrated everyone was at the end.

It was really draining on me emotionally and I have to admit I was quite a bit out of sorts and cranky when I got home. It's hard to not be able to leave that behind and to have to live it day after day. However, there are two things that stuck out to me. First, it was noted that the more frustrated and hopeless these families felt, the less they focused on others. Instead, the focus was on their survival. Secondly, the kids were left to raise themselves as the parents were trying to work, get help from the agencies or take care of everything else leading the kids to pregnancy and drug use.

I am so thankful that even though we are financially drained and falling apart, that our family unit is sound. It is even stronger than it was before all of this happened. In fact, one of the neatest things to come out of this is the fact that my husband has had the opportunity to reconnect with His children and has had the time to share what burns on His heart. The love He has for God. It has been amazing watching this develop and grow and how much the kids have learned from him through all of this.

I also have felt very strongly over this past year to not focus solely on our situation but to focus on others. God placed that on my heart for a reason. It was so I wouldn't get so centered on my needs that I missed seeing others around me. It was so that I wouldn't become utterly hopeless. It was so that I would see what God was trying to teach me. It has helped me immensely. One way to get out of your pity party, feeling the hopelessness of your situation is to help others. The last thing I ever want to do is for God to lead me to an opportunity to help someone and I walk away from it. It means getting our hands dirty and getting involved with people's lives, it means being open for God to use us in someone's life. Now that can be a life changing experience.

I'm glad I chose to go to this simulation even though it was a bit agonizing. It was a reminder that everyone I come across whether it be a neighbor, a friend or a stranger--that you just never know what they are having to live, to experience and that I, even with a kind word or a smile, can have an affect on them. We, as believers, have a responsibility to share the hope of Christ, to encourage, to comfort, and to share what we have...our faith.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Dates. They are important to us. Birthdays. Holiday's. Graduations. Weddings. They signify the importance of people or events in our lives. But dates also represent some not so fun things. As much as I try not to fuss or worry about certain dates, they come. This past week our six month redemptive period came and went. It hurt. Not physically, however, I did feel sick to my stomach but emotionally and mentally.

I guess I was hoping something would happen to intervene. I realize that God is never late and that He is always an on time God but I couldn't help but be disappointed. It is so hard to get our eyes off of what we see around us and get them securely placed on where they should be. On God. He promises to take care of our needs and has done so over the last year. I know that He will continue to move on our behalf even in the midst of my feelings of insecurity. God is not bound by a piece of paper or a date or anything on this earth. He is God.

There are many things that do not make any sense. Most without any answers. But in spite of it all, we are to trust God. He is faithful. He has shown us that over and over again. He may not answer how I want Him to but He will provide for us. He knows the desires of my heart. He knows my thoughts. He knows every last detail of who I am and yet, He still created me. He created me in His image. How can I deny the love of my creator?

I will praise Him no matter what date comes and goes. I will praise Him when I'm at my lowest point. I will praise Him. My prayer is that all of this that we are going through is not for nothing. I know that we have grown spiritually as individuals and as a family but I want it to go beyond that. I pray that it will encourage others to fight for their faith. That it will be a testimony that points to God's faithfulness, that through it, you will see the real struggles, the real emotions and most importantly a faith that is real.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Standing Stones

I recently went to a woman's breakfast at a wonderful church. The theme was 'standing stones'. If you don't know what that is, I'll explain. Standing stones are a pretty big monument made of stone that was a visual reminder of something significant. In this case, it is referred to visual reminders of a faithful God or someone that has been a significant influence in your spiritual life.

One of the ladies spoke of an incredible journey that her family has been on over the last year. On her foyer table is a glass jar full of different size stones that represent how God has been faithful in their lives. Little stone for little thing and bigger stones for God meeting their bigger needs. I thought this was such a beautiful visual reminder as it is easy to forget all of the ways God moves in our lives. She also had written in a journal an account of every stone so that they can go back and read about each story along with all the details that the stone represents.

I thought this was a great idea for us. We've been on a journey for quite some time and I can only imagine what our glass jar would look like. I've shared here on my blog some of the stories of how God has been faithful to us but I've not written every day to day way that God has met our needs. The visual reminder is an encouragement that God is right here with us, that He cares about the little and the big things.

There also have been 'standing stones' that God has surrounded us with. Men and women who have encouraged and ministered to us in ways that only God could have provided. You know that old saying that God won't give you more than you can handle? We have come to the conclusion that He gives you what you need to face what has come across your path no matter what it is, if you'll let Him. Many of us push that gift away because we are upset and angry but God has it readily available if only we will accept it.

God knows exactly where you are, what you have to face today and is working on your behalf to provide you with all that you need to face the suffering of the day. He cares about your mental, physical and spiritual state. We've seen Him move to physically meet our needs but also our emotional needs. When we start to get lost in the fog, God always sends someone to encourage, to pray with, to make us laugh or to give us a hug. God is in every detail.

My hearts desire is for all of us to remain faithful to the very end, taking God's hand and letting Him lead us through whatever it is that we may face. He is our source of strength and courage. I pray that you will see the 'standing stones' in you own life and that it will be a visual reminder of God's faithfulness to you.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The One Kid Rule

A long time ago, I made a new rule. It's called the one kid rule. It only applies to going to the store with Mom. It's for my sanity. It is for productivity. It is for safety. It's for budget control. It is for the opportunity to have one on one time with whichever child is with me at the time. It has been a beautiful thing in my life. It's just so....priceless.

Recently, though, I made an exception to the rule. One time. Here are the results:

Ryan is an energetic child with the attention span of a squirrel. He's usually good and obedient but he get's a little squirrely if we are gone for more than hour. So I make sure the store attending adventures he is a participant of is short and of quality.

Aaron is lovingly nicknamed 'houdini man' because he likes to disappear. Not a good thing when a certain parent is looking at the yogurt trying to decide which flavor and how many would be sufficient for each family member. Poof...he's no where to be found. Then a certain parent is yelling out his name running up and down the aisles in a crazed panic trying to locate and put an end to the disappearance act. At which point, her energy is all used up and is ready to go home. Very unproductive. Usually a trip to 7-eleven is about the right store trip for him. Small store. Small aisles. Slurpee machine. Need I say more?

I needed a few things for dinner. It was going to be a quick trip to store. It was a great time for Ryan to come along. As we were headed out the door, I caught a glimpse of the sad eyes of a five year old who has been getting left behind too often as of late. His plea to come along pulled at my heart and I gave in. How bad can it be with such a quick trip to the store, I asked myself.

As all three of us walked into the store, I was feeling pretty confident that this was going to be painless and easy. I grabbed the cart and off we went. We cruised the hot dog bun aisle. Each boy had to grab their 'own' package and then Aaron said we needed a third one because we always run out which I agreed was correct so it went into the cart. As we headed over to the hot dogs, each boy ran to them and announced that they were getting them, shoving the other aside. I settled that as we need two for each boy. I had a painful thought that a pattern was being set right before my eyes.

As we headed over to the chips, guess what happened? Yep, each boy was in desperate need of a different flavor and since they had about crushed the bags in their little hands, I felt responsible to purchase both bags. (Grace thinks I bought faulty bags of chips but really it was a five year old and a seven year old that had a hand in crumbly them up properly.) Then, we headed over to the juice aisle. Yep, we ended up with two.

Now let me tell you about the ice cream which I had promised the children we would get since I made them pass up the first ice cream truck cruise down our street this season. We took the cart down the fun aisle, the land of rainbows and lollipops. One boy wanted ice cream sandwiches, the other wanted Jell-o pops. The next thing I saw was both boys on the floor in a scuffle. One in a headlock and the other with his arms wrapped around his brother trying to break free. (Note to self: do not ever, ever, ever bring both boys at the same time to store ever, ever, ever...again unless one needs to remember how much fun it REALLY is.)

As I lovingly and gently took them by the arm to break up the cute little squabble. I told them since we were going to purchase two packages, each would get to choose. Perhaps, mommy should have thrown something darkish, chocolatish Hagen dazish into the cart or maybe twoish for me to eat before I got home!

We, then, went to the cashier to check out. Both boys started grabbing things out of the cart to throw onto the conveyor belt before the other one could grab it. The buns were a bit more mangled, the chips were more crumbly and so on. As I was trying to save the merchandise from any more evidence that is was handled with such care, I heard the lady behind me softly say in a relieved sort of way that she was glad she left her boys at home.

It was quite an eventful trip. One I won't forget for a long, long, long time. It's always an adventure with two very lively boys. Now to explain to my husband why we have two of everything....