Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Can you trust me Lord?

I’ve not had to mow much this summer due to the extreme drought conditions here in southern Illinois.  When I mow, it’s my chance to “read”, think, and pray without interruption.  I’ve missed mowing this summer. :)  Last week, thanks to Isaac,  the grass was green and thick again and as I mowed I contemplated a question that has tugged at my heart and mind for a couple years now.

Discussions abound on the trustworthiness of God.  I’m sure a stack of books a mile high could be found on the need for us to trust God.  But what of the question, can God trust me?  I know, I know, trust is about things like not being in control and not having knowledge.  Really can we call it trust if we have knowledge?  So is trusting even something we should think about an all-knowing, self-reliant God doing?  Well, I’ll leave that debate to the theologians.  But it is a thought that has me searching my heart and soul.  The question came to me two years ago when I was in a very dark place emotionally and physically.  I felt as if I was a drowning women grasping at waves to stay above water. I prayed for God to save me from that place that felt like death.   I cried out to Him again and again, that even in this dark place I would trust Him.  It sounds so dramatic, but it was very real and it was all that got me out of bed every morning.  In spite of how I felt and in spite of the heavens being quiet with nothing changing, it always brought me peace to trust Him.  So I settled back on my mower one day and listened again to the book of James.  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith(trust) produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith(trust), with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  That’s when the thought hit me.  I had chosen to trust God, but could He trust me?  This trial… this dark time….could He trust me with it?  Could he count on me to continue to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done” even now?  Would I be a double-minded woman?  Or would I endure and let His perfect work be done in me? I wondered if I would trust Him if it meant being in this dark place forever?  It took some time of soul searching and gut honesty before I was ready to say, that yes, even if it was forever, I would trust Him.  I ceased to pray that the darkness would lift and started to pray that he would help me to be faithful to him and my family and my duties through it.

Since then the cloud has lifted and even now with “normal” life trials I still pray that He will help me to be trustworthy.  That I would be the kind of child that He could count on to trust Him in the very hard things.  Last week I mowed and listened to an album entitled, “Beauty Will Rise” by Steven Curtis Chapman. All the songs were written from his heart after the tragic death of his daughter.  He seems to scream from a bleeding soul, “I will trust you, trust you, I will trust you God I will.  Even when I don’t understand…”  Song after song is a cry of trust in a time so dark it makes my bout of darkness look like a bright summer afternoon.  And again, I was challenged, “Lord, could you trust me with even that?  Do I want your will even if it means that kind of pain?”  Please don’t misunderstand; I don’t think tragedy falls from the hand of God.  I believe with my whole heart that the world is fallen and because of that, unthinkably terribly things happen.  But I do know our human tendency is to turn our backs on the same God we fail to thank for all the good things we experience the majority of our lives.  So can He trust me to trust Him?  Am I the kind of daughter that He can trust with the darkest of times and know that I will cling to Him and come forth as gold?  Believe me, I don’t ask for the opportunity to prove it.  But, I will continue to ask myself this question.  Because whether God “trusts” people or not, I need to continue to search my soul and be sure that I can trust myself.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Critical Thinking

With the advent of May we are drawing very close to the end of our school year.  This time of year brings on mowing and gardening and camp preparations etc.. , yet it also frees me on rainy days to catch up on my dear friend's blogs and perhaps to blog a bit myself.   I have had so much on my mind, but very little time or energy to share.  I look forward to reconnecting. 

My Dad and I flying kites

A little over a week ago Matt and I went to the Midwest Homeschool Convention.  We always come away from that convention fired up and ready to tackle another year of educating our boy's minds and hearts.  Josiah will be starting 5th grade level work this coming school year and within the classical trivium this is the beginning of the logic stage.  Formal logic is not something I know a lot about.  I don't even really identify myself as a  "logical person", I can follow a rabbit trail with the best of them.  My upbringing certainly pushed me in a direction that tended to force me to think rather critically though.  I had 3 big brothers who had a zero tolerance for any girl's excuse of "monthly" emotions and a complete lack of compassion for a claim of hurt feelings when they were just "telling me like it was."  My Daddy would, and still does, happily take an opposing view on any given topic.  This stretched my young mind to constantly try to evaluate any given argument from both sides of the issue. I knew almost any position I took on a given issue I would more than likely be called to defend. Therefore, I think I may be a decent student of formal logic.  And I can't wait for Christmas to try it out on my Dad. :)

In all seriousness though, I do see the value of critical thinking/logic.  How many relationships have been destroyed by a lack of careful thinking?  How many families have been splintered by people simply following how they feel and ignoring what is real?  How many young people have walked away from God and the church because of the irrational, yet passionate ranting of a college professor?  Because of this, critical thinking should be one of the skills we all pass down to our children.  Learning to think is not just about formal argument or proving how right you are.  Critical thinking forces us to dig beyond what may seem obvious and search for what is real....what is true. 

This year at homeschool convention I learned a few tools for helping my children think critically.  One need not homeschool or even buy a curriculum to teach/learn to think critically.  One workshop I attended taught how to teach literary analysis by reading simple readers like "A Bargain for Francis" or a poem like "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere".  Reading a book and thinking beyond the story and plot itself and thinking about what the conflict of the story is and where the conflict arises(there is always conflict in a story) is a powerful tool to teach critical thinking.  Context is another tool.  Do we think that any story is written to just entertain us or to teach us a new vocabulary?  No, more than likely the author had a message.  Encouraging our children(and ourselves for that matter)to think about what they are reading and what the author's intent was is a huge step in developing a critical thinker. 

So how does this effect their lives really?  What if my child is not really a reader or a "deep thinker"?  While the point may seem trivial.  Really who cares what Longfellow's motive was for writing about Paul Revere?  Think with me for a minute about your very real life.  When reading scripture isn't the context of the words and the intent of the author of great importance?  When we feel a force to have hurt feelings over something our husbands have done or said, isn't it important to think about what he really meant? Don't we want him to do the same for us?  When giving our children instruction, isn't the context and intent of your instruction all important?  "Mom said not to eat the rat poison in the kitchen, but she didn't say anything about drinking the ant poison in the bathroom."  In this situation we must demand the implementation of critical thinking, including the context and intent of our original words. 

I am challenged to think more critically myself.  As with almost every step of this parenting journey, I am learning alongside my boys.  I am challenged to continue to grow and learn, not for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of my relationships with others and with God. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Violins for Sale

My boys keep growing out of their violins!! I really feel like I've been ripped off a bit, because my plan was to have Micah use Josiah's old violins, thus getting double the use out of each purchase. Unfortunately, Micah has decided to give his big brother a run for his money on the whole growing thing. Therefore, we now have the equivalent of twins. Their clothes are the same size and they will have the same size violins....not fair!! OK, so I'm pouting and you're really not interested in my whining. I promise I'll hush now. :)

So, if you've ever had to buy a violin you will know it is similar to buying a used car. According to the salesman, if you are buying a violin, it is such a wonderful sounding instrument and all the dings and nicks give it character. Of course, 6 months later when you try to sell the same violin back to the nice man, he tells you that small violins never have a very good sound and yours isn't worth much! I'm a terrible haggler, and so I really don't play the buying game very well. I've been blessed in that we've bought our violins up to this point from a friend. She's told us honestly what they paid and we've given them a fair price based on what they paid. Now that the boys are in the same size(I might bitterly add a whine here...but, I won't), we have started to have to rent one for a boy and buy the other from the said friend.

Ok so why did I tell you all this? I really have no clue. I have these moments and usually don't post them...part of getting old I think. Oh, look there goes the pretty pink pony. Oh yes, I did have a point. We have two violins to sell. I'd much rather just sell them to a cyber-friend, then deal with the used car salesmen...er I mean knowledgeable violin dealers. So I'm trying my blog and facebook first.

Here is "Goliath"(we are keeping "David" and "Samson" since they were the boy's first violins)
Goliath is a 1/8 size violin. The inside of the violin reads as follows: Florea Modela Oradea Series 3618704 Made in China 2003 We are selling the whole outfit. Violin, bow and case for $50 plus shipping costs, or you can pick it up if you'd like.

Our next lot is "Paul". Paul is a very nice sounding 1/4 size violin. The inside of the violin reads as follows: Peccard Model : V-8 Copy of Antonio Stradivari West Coast String Instruments Anno 2003 We have papers for the outfit that estimates the violin's value at $850 and the bow's value at $300. We didn't pay close to that and the used car salesmen...er I mean experts, valued the whole outfit for less than that as well. We are selling the whole outfit; violin, bow and case for $400 plus the cost of shipping(by the way the bow is is an E. Guasti).

I'm happy to upload a video of each violin being played if you'd like to get an idea of the sound. Just email me at mattnjuwah@yahoo.com for that info or to contact me to make purchase.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Idea

Geography is one of those subjects that we haven't really hit hard yet. We often have a world map on the island in our kitchen under clear plastic. As the boys are eating a snack, we sometimes quiz them on the location of countries or they often ask us questions about certain countries. But we've only done one year of a formal geography curriculum. This year we've been so busy with our other subjects that once again, geography has fallen by the wayside. That is until I realized I was missing an opportunity to learn more about geography while doing "school prayer time".

We love the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs and so we get a lot of correspondence from them. A few weeks ago we got their annual prayer map. It shows all the countries that are hostile or restricted nations toward Christianity. Everyday the boys and I choose a country from the map and pray for our brothers and sisters in that country. We wanted to know more about each country and so we ordered the 2011 report from VOM that gives information about the persecution in each country and even a little about the country's history, economic status, or government(you can get 10 of these books for $5). So now while I'm reading about the country of the day, the boys make a flag for the nation about which we are learning. Then we pray for that country. We were doing this for a few days when I realized that we were "doing" geography. Each day as I mentioned a country they would run to the map in search of the country and discover its location. I love combining subjects, so you can image how happy I was that not only were the boys learning to have hearts for the world, but they were also learning about the locations of African and Middle Eastern countries. SCORE!!

After we finish the persecuted countries, I think we may just go on to learn about and pray for the rest of the world.....I'm thinking we've got a couple of years of geography lined out now. :)

Just thought I'd pass that "accidental idea" on to you today.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Precious Birthday Treasures

Can I have a "mommy moment" here? My boys each wrote me precious birthday poems that I will cherish for life. I thought I'd share them with you.

I'm so glad he thinks I'm "tidy and neat" cause that's not exactly how I would describe myself. :)

Can there really be anything more dull than a shopping mall to a 6 year old boy? :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas 2011

I know, I know, it's been a pathetically long time since I've posted. Actually, I've written several times, but haven't posted the results. Most of the times, it just didn't "feel" like the timing was right to post what was spilling from my heart to my fingers on this faithful old laptop. Other times, I'd written, rewritten and then as I hit "publish post" the document was forever lost in cyber-space. Needless to say, I didn't have the heart or the time to start over. So here we are. I do so love to blog, but the phase of life I'm in right now, just doesn't allow for a lot of it. Someday, when my guys are a little bigger and need me a little less in the educational process, I'll be faithfully blogging. Until then, duty call. :)

I hope you all had a marvelous Christmas. We certainly did. Our family and friends spoil us with good gifts that are unnecessary, but certainly appreciated. The Christmas photos and letters are always such a joy to receive as well. This has been my favorite Christmas so far with our boys. While Christmas is always a joy, especially with children, it also affords some pretty intensive training days as a parent. My children did not come into the world thankful, gracious beings. In fact, as "cute" as they were, they were pretty selfish, greedy, and ungrateful. So the last 8 Christmases have been spent in training them to say thank you. Not to open one gift, heave it in a pile and say, "What's next?". To think about the sacrifice someone has made, the hours they have worked and the thoughtfulness they have shown in choosing and then purchasing a gift just for them. We've worked hard to help them experience the joy of giving. The joy of being excited for someone else. You get the picture. So this year was the first year that both of the boys were just thankful, without our prodding. The first year that they both showed as much joy watching the other open a gift as they experienced opening their own gift. The first year that we didn't have to say, but we heard them say things like, "That was so thoughtful of ......to get that for us." It truly is a joy to see your children walk in truth. Don't get me wrong, I know we've got a LONG way to go. Our training years have just begun, but it's nice to sit back occasionally and enjoy the fruit of past efforts before you dive back into the job again.

I will confess there was a little disturbance Christmas day at our house after one particular gift was opened. We now have one Confederate soldier and one Union soldier in our home and never the twain shall meet. Pray for reunification in the Thomas household. :)

One last little tidbit I will leave with you before I rush off to clean my house. I've just recently been exploring the world of Pinterest and I saw an idea that has worked beautifully, well for the last two nights anyway. My dear hubby and I have found ourselves really frustrated with trying to instill in the boys table manners. We feel like most meals we spend saying things like, "Lean over your plate, don't take such big bites, one elbow on the table, don't talk with your mouth full." At the end of a meal we feel as if all we've done is criticize. Well, three days ago on Pinterest I saw an idea I thought worthy of trying. So I went out and bought a pig....a plastic pig that is. We set "Wilber" (terribly original, I know) on the table. If anyone is not using his/her table manners any member of the family is allowed to award that individual the "Wilbur Award". Then the "winner" can watch to see an opportunity to pass the award on to the next "piggy". Whoever has Wilbur at the end of the meal has to clear the table. We have had two evenings with Wilbur as a guest and I will have you know he has yet to be awarded to anyone. It has even been a motivator for Matt and I to be more careful. So Wilbur seems to have brought a solution to our messy mouth issues. Napkins are used, elbows are limited, bites are reasonably sized, and criticism is gone. Wilbur certainly is, SOME PIG!!

New Year's Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stationery card

Very Merry Moments Christmas Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 Fall Recital

Saturday was the boys Fall Recital. I promised grandparents that I'd post the videos, so here is Josiah's:

And Micah's:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Busy Summer

Well, it's been next door to forever since I've posted. Summer is always a busy time, but this one seemed especially busy. It was a good kind of busy mostly, but still busy enough to keep me away from any blogging.

One job I enjoy in the summer is mowing. I mow close to 4 hours a week when the weather is prime for grass growing. While I mow I listen to audio-books, a luxury of which most mothers only dream. I started out the summer listening to A Brave New World, but soon found myself, quite unintentionally, listening to book after book with the French Revolution being a big part of the story. The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Count of Monte Cristo, and now Les Miserables. It only seems like a few books, but the unabridged reading of Monte Cristo alone is over 47 hours of listening. I've so enjoyed all these books. Monte Cristo was fascinating with it's theme of revenge veiled in "righteousness". In the end, however, the lead character realizes that even those who feel they are on a mission from God, must guard against pride. Human beings are subject to error and if they become so self-righteous that they forget they are fallible, they can easily wreak havoc in their world. Of course Les Mis is a story of redemption and self-sacrifice. As Lewis said through Lucy in Narnia, "a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician's Book." All "good" stories are the stories that remind us of the great story of Christ and his redemption. Not only have the books I've "read" this summer pointed me to the "Great Story", they also have prepared me for this school year. This year the boys will be studying the 19th Century so I will be thoroughly Napoleoned out before the year is up. :)

We had the joy of hosting some friends this summer as well. Harold, Kayla and their boys came in for a few days while on their deputation. What a blast we all had together. What a joy it was to have a good chat with my dear friend again. Just like old times, with the exception of 6 boys playing in the background. :) Charity and her kiddos also came for a long weekend visit. The kiddos got along splendidly and Charity and I solved the world's problems and laughed quite a bit while we did it. I'm counting on the rest of you to follow Kayla's and Charity's examples and make a visit to the mid-west soon.

We have added another student to our little school this year. She only attends two days a week, but she shows great potential. :) Kenlee is a big hit around here with the boys. I wasn't sure how homeschooling and babysitting would mesh, but with "Little Miss" it's going great. We all enjoy her so much.

That pretty much updates you on our little world. Since I last posted we've lived a lot of life. We've had our share of pain and more than our share of joy. In joy and in sorrow we trust our dear Abba and say to him a clear resounding, "Yes, Daddy!" to all He wills in our lives. I look forward to catching up on all your lives in the next few weeks. What an encouragement reading your blogs is to me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

An Excellent Daddy!

I wanted to dedicate this blog to my good hubby Matt. I knew when I chose to marry Matt that he was a good man of godly character. I knew he would lead our family to Christ, but I had no idea what an amazing daddy he would end up being.

“Why is the sky blue?” I looked in the rear view mirror at the little one strapped in a car seat, the one who asked a million questions that day already. I was about to give the standard answer, “Because God made it that way”, when my husband says, “Well Bub it’s blue because of the earth’s atmosphere.” Then he continued to explain light and color and all things blue. I laughed inwardly. He looked at me when the science lesson was over, “what?” I smiled coyly and said, “Do you think he got that?” He wisely said, “Maybe not, but he will.” That has always been my husband’s approach with our boys. I read Bible story books to the boys, but he pulls out the Bible and they read together and exegete the scriptures. And yes, they do enjoy it. Not so much because they are understanding every word, but because Daddy is amazing. Daddy is on the floor explaining real life stuff to them. Daddy doesn’t have a life of his own and then occasionally joins our world for a few hours before bed, but our world is Daddy’s world and they know it.

As the boys grow older, I am amazed at how much they do understand. Over the years I’ve seen the wisdom of my husband’s approach and now use it myself. You see when you are shaping a little life, there is no down time. Even the common things of life are opportunities to shape their worldview. Is it easy? No. Sometimes we’d rather just say, “Who had it first?” and end the silly spat. But there are much deeper issues in seemingly simple everyday occurrences . Hearts are being molded. One selfishly snatching the toy and the other selfishly demanding to keep it. If we don’t help them to see what the real issues of life are, when will they learn it? Maybe they won’t. Maybe they will be the ones to split the church because someone sat in their pew or maybe they'll just grow up content with not thinking at all, floating through life like an amoeba that simple reacts to what it bumps into.

Teaching them diligently is not a task that comes naturally for most of us human beings. Our flesh wants to be comfortable and getting off the couch at the end of a hard day to answer a lot of questions or deal with disobedience isn’t what comes natural for us. It is a choice that we make with God’s help. For Matt and I it has been and still is a process. We are still learning to choose daily to teach in the moment, but the more we do it the more it becomes as natural as breathing. I thank God for a husband who challenges me to be a better mother and that my boys have a daddy who is willing to be here in body and spirit moment by moment teaching, loving, and pointing us all to Jesus.