31 October 2005

Try Something New - Sushi!

A friend called me up yesterday evening - and asked if I wanted to go check out a used book store and get some sushi. Well when it comes to books, I am like a ravenous wildebeast - I can't get enough - but the sushi - I could take it or leave it - and since the sushi bar is at the Chinese buffet restaurant - I said I'd LEAVE the sushi and eat something else.

So we headed off in the dark dinner hour of having recently turned the clocks back for our evening out. The bookstore was so quiet and I found some great selections for only a few bucks. Then we went to the Chinese restaurant. I had some good food - but as I watched my friend eating her sushi - I wanted to try some!
I can't explain it - but something that used to repulse me was suddenly very appealing. I started asking questions about what was in the different kinds she was trying, and when I decided to brave some new selections, she accompanied me to the sushi bar to offer some advice on how to start slow. I got a "California roll" which she calles "FAKE sushi" and I loved it!!!! I also tried something that contained smoked eel - and found that quite disgusting. I had several different selections that contained salmon and other fish. It was all very good. In fact, I want to go again - VERY SOON!
I am not sure whether indeed it was the evening out with a friend, or the "trying something new" or the combination, but my spirits were lifted after being out last night. There are so many new experiences on the horizons of my life, and this little thing was symbolic of the fact that I can try something new and it can be good!

30 October 2005

Halloween Party Happenings

I have two Tinas in my life, and they are two of my very closest friends. One of my Tina's had a Halloween party at her house on Friday night - and the kids had so much fun. The fun actually began when we got together on Thursday to decorate -

Here are the kids making funny tombstones - and painting lanterns made out of cans to line the walkway. Their friend Walker is really busy in the middle - I'm not sure we could have gotten it all together without his helpful holding of the Cheetos bag!

Then the costumes - what fun!!!

The Lovely French maid had her shoulders raised to their appropriate positioning after this picture was taken! I wish I could get her to dust at home! And the 80s child on the right is dressed up as her mother - "Julie - circa 1984!!!!

The handsome young Jedi!!!

It was a really fun night - but I ate way too much chocolate! Never tell a chaperoning adult where the chocolate stash is hidden - especially if it's me!!!!! Tina's house is small and cozy - and she opens it up to more people than anyone I've ever known. She made it such a nice party for all of the kids. They ate candy, played hide-and-go-seek outside in the dark, danced around to a strobe light, and laughed like they were going crazy! I'm just sorry for the rest of you that you couldn't be there! Maybe next time.

29 October 2005

Self-Examination with the Great Physician

It is always interesting to me when God allows something to happen in your life, and it is so bizarre later to make the connections and see how something so seemingly insignificant was being placed at precisely the moment on the timeline of your life where it serves the largest purpose. Lately a lot of things have been lining up for me as our family enters a season of great change. It is not just preparing for a physical move, but moving on from things in our lives that have been harmful and destructive, as well as physically, spiritually and emotionally crippling. I have felt much this week like a stranger and an alien. Many things I used to enjoy all seem quite empty and shallow now, and I feel a bit lost - unanchored, and at the same time, liberated and unfettered. I know Christ has set me free from the captivity of my own emotions - and I cling to the one who made me and knows intimately how I feel. I am not lost in Him.

About a week ago, I had a rather intense discussion with a friend wherein lay a disagreement. This friend is someone who I love dearly - and always will, but during this season, we are on different sides of a figurative fence. My friend's assessment because of our conflicting perspectives, was that we were going different directions - and her summation was that I was becoming "worldly". These words were stinging and have attempted all week long to make me bitter and resentful. However, when I get stuck right there in those feelings, I fail to utilize the opportunity for self-examination, and for the Lord to tell me what He has to say about me. It is His opinion that matters, and none other. He is the one who I must give an accounting to of my life. I accept that others may not always see things the way I see them, agree with me, or even understand my perspective. The irony is shortly before I entered into this time of trial in my life, not only with this particular friendship but virtually all of my relationships outside of my own family, the Lord had led me to begin reading Job. I am not suggesting that I am being persecuted, or even suffering at the extreme that Job was - but that I can identify with the position of having to stand under the accusations of others - even ones who have claimed to be your friends.

Always when someone says something about you that cuts, wounds, injures or maimes, there is a responsibility for the believer to examine these places in themselves where others have poked, pointed, jabbed and jeered to see if any validity is to be found in what is being said about you. I have asked God to show me - to walk me through these things and sift what I think to be true out of what He is showing me that His truth about me would prevail. It is hard, but refinement always involves a testing by fire. Lord, help me to stand in Your strength as mine has failed me. I know He will. I know He will.

28 October 2005

Family Reading

When our family decided to take the plunge, pull our oldest daughter out of kindergarten and become homeschooling pioneers in our own rite, we only knew two homeschooling families. These two families were very different in their homeschooling lifestyles - and yet on one thing they were in passionate agreement: a well-rounded education involves reading, reading and more reading - but most importantly sharing good books as a family. Having grown up in a family that never read together at all, this was quite a foreign concept. I am sure that my parents read story books to me when I was quite small, and then passed the torch when I was able to read for myself at the tender age of 4. If I had never met these two women, who shared their contagious joy of family reading, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences I could have ever shared with my children.

When we plunged into the homeschooling world, there were two other families that were jumping in with us, and so we started a little "support group". Mostly we got together and asked lots and lots and lots of questions to these veteran moms. Often the questions about registering with the school board and how to test, when to test, what curriculum to use, how to pull it all off on a shoestring, etc. left me feeling confused and frustrated. It seemed like another life task to be overwhelmed by - until my friend said very simply to me, "You'll never do wrong by your kids if you spend time reading with them. Just read." This simple sentiment was not lost on me, and I quickly discovered the joy of reading aloud to my family. One way to implement this activity was that our small group began to have book discussions. I will never forget the first book they decided to introduce us to was Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. Then we got together for a fun afternoon of snacks and book discussion. The kids were all very small at the time. Now before I incite a fury, and onslaught of hate mail - I don't like reading books about animals. And yet, there was such a benefit, a connectedness, a treasured time spent together of snuggling up with my kids and sharing these stories. Our second book The Little House on the Prairie was right up my alley - and we devoured that one very quickly. One of the best book discussions we ever had was on The Giver by Lois Lowry about a Utopian society and the pitfalls perfection can create. Awesome.

What I want to convey in this post is that reading is in and of itself a definite pleasure. I wish I made more time for it personally. There is a quiet joy in meeting new friends, sharing their lives, and understanding more about yourself in the process of the slowly unfolding stories a good book shares. But better than that, when in our frenzied, hurried, busy lives, we take time to just sit quietly, snuggled up on the sofa or with pillows piled all around us on mommy and daddy's bed, and share stories together, you create family memories that last a lifetime. To be able to talk about books you've shared together is one of the best connections you can make with your children. Over the years our family has read missionary biographies - one of our favorite was Torches of Joy, and we like the "Heroes then and Now" Series by Geoff and Janet Benge. We have read stories that brought us closer to World War I like House of Sixty Fathers. We have listened to many books on tape, such as the one we heard in its entirety played on our long trip to the Outer Banks in NC - we had two teenage friends in the car with us, and all five children were spellbound - nobody talked, nobody slept - everybody listened the whole way, called "Z" is for Zachariah - a story about the end of the world. Another great book that stands out is Homesick by Jean Fritz, a famous author who shares her stories of growing up as a young girl in China. Her descriptive writing about the culture, the people, long voyages in boats, and riding in a rickshaw will make you feel as if you are really there.

What I want to know is, do you read with your family? Do you share good books together? Do you desire to develop reading comprehension, listening skills, communication ability, attention span, etc. in your children? Reading aloud to them is an awesome way to work on each of these skills. But aside from all that, do it for the intense pleasure it will bring to you and your children. Pick a good book and start today! No child is too young, nor too old. I have an 8 year old who has been listening to chapter books along with his sisters since he was a baby and I still read to my teenagers. We are currently reading a missionary biography about George Muller during our family devotional time, and daddy is even enjoying that one. Let me pass on the best, simplest piece of advice my friend ever gave me about homeschooling with you- Just Read!

If you are interested in doing this with your family, please feel free to email me for ideas, or encouragement. You will also find the best resources in a series of books called Honey for a Child's Heart, Honey for a Teens Heart, and Honey for a Woman's Heart by Gladys Hunt. The names of her books were inspired by this verse: Pleasant words are a honeycomb; Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 It is my hope that you will share good books with your family and sweeten your life!

26 October 2005

Boyd's Bear Country for Brenna's Birthday

This weekend we went with my friend Carol and her daughter Brenna to Boyd's Bear Country in Gettysburg, PA to celebrate Brenna's 14th Birthday. It was a lot of fun. That place is a bear wonderland. If you like stuffed animals, and specifically teddy bears, you will go nuts there. It is like a teddy bear world. There are Christmas displays (just to get you in the mood), a baby nursery, a make your own bear shop, etc. We had a great time with some great friends. Here's a picture of my kiddies next to a "bear" nativity:

I even heard they have one in the great state of Tennessee!!!!! You should definitely check it out - especially at Christmas time - they decorate so special for the holidays.
Here is Kullen making his own animal - which just so happens to be a stuffed monkey - he later dressed in camouflage!!!! (Don't ask!) It was a really fun day - and if you get a chance to swing by there, you definitely should!
Thanks for inviting us!
There was a very thought provoking post on Amy Beth's blog. She was asking for a respectful conversation - not debate about the difference between the witches and such in the Chronicles of Narnia - stories such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe versus other types of fantasy wherein witchcraft is present and evil is a thematic element. I would like to continue that discussion here - and hear comments from anybody interested in participating in what I hope would be a continuation of the conversation that was started on Amy Beth's blog.

First of all, when the Harry Potter series first came out my children were much younger than they are now, and my thoughts on the Christian controversy were that there were so many other good books to read, they had no need of getting involved in something that clearly contained witchcraft. The Bible warns against participation in witchcraft as a practice, and also that we are to abstain from even the very appearance of evil. But as I took my stand the controversy brewed on. During that time, I saw an increase in books related to the occult, witchcraft, spells, etc. appearing on the shelves and highlighted in special displays in our library. Here is where my concern began. It is one thing to read fantasy, but it is another all together to benignly expose yourself or your children to things which allow an opened door for evil into your life.

However, I read a book three summers ago, just prior to a long trip to the South Carolina coast called Honey for a Teens Heart by Gladys Hunt. Having trusted her recommendations for years in Honey for a Child's Heart, I was stunned to discover in the fantasy section of this book full of reading recommendations for teens - the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I will share some of her synopsis here: J.K. Rowling, who has authored the most astonishing series in the history of children's publishing, causing many former non-readers to take up her Harry Potter books, has said that she has been deeply influenced by C.S. Lewis. That's one reason there will eventually be seven books in the Harry Potter series, just like the Narnia Chronicles. They are so wildly popular because they work well on several levels - as laugh-aloud books with word-plays, jokes and spoofs of British boarding school life, and as an introduction to a thoroughly real set of true-to-life characters who have their own quirks, foibles and endearing charms paralleling our own. Except for the Dursleys, there are no cardboard, predictable characters. These include elves, giants, ghosts, animals and oddball teachers of all sorts. Most importantly, Hogwarts is a complete world unto itself, a believable sub-creation in which the characters take chances, grow, fail, are forgiven, and learn discernment as they join the fight for the life-giving good against the life-destroying evil Though Rowling is not a Christian believer, we can see the C.S. Lewis influence on her work in how she has created a "Moral world that is consistent with biblical revelation of the nature of good and evil" (Connie Neal 176). Our recommendation if you hesitate to to let your children read Harry Potter because of the many claims that the books promote witchcraft as a positive lifestyle, is to read them yourselves first. Then explore the well balanced, in-depth discussion in Connie Neal's What's a Christian to do With Harry Potter? You must be fully convinced in your own mind, but exercise that mind prayerfully and with all the facts. You may become convinced, as we are, that not only are the books excellent fantasy, but that God can use them for redemptive conversations within your family and with the larger culture.

I immediately went to the library and checked out Connie Neal's book and read it in a day. She presents the arguments, assertions, and conflict between Christians on this subject, and I felt like I had an intelligent opinion afterwards - not just a random fear. As believers we read about witchcraft, demons, dragons, murder, prostitution, etc. all in God's word. It is the practice that is forbidden, not reading about it. C.S. Lewis himself states in The Screwtape Letters that there are two equal and opposite errors one can make about demons - the first is to be convinced that they do not exist - the second is to have a preoccupation with them. (my paraphrase). I believe we can see the same dynamic in this realm. We either behave as if witchcraft does not exist, or have an unhealthy fascination with it. That needn't be so. Christ has set us free. We can read fantasy without condemnation, and with grounded convictions avoid the fear of being sucked into a practice the Bible forbids. During our trip to the beach that year, I read the entire first book in the HP series.

I do not believe these books are for young children, and yet after reading the first book in the Harry Potter series, and handing it over to my daughter to read - I was able to have one of the best discussions I've ever had with her. I have found this "read it first" or "read it with" practice to be an incredible relationship builder with all of my children. In the very first book, Harry is an orphan because his father was killed, and his mother died saving his life. This is an easy way to communicate the gospel to unbelieving teens who are familiar with this story - because rarely in real life do we have examples of this sacrificial kind of love.

Something I found extremely enlightening in Ms. Neal's book is that Christians often accept other stories widely - that have ghosts, witches, and the like. A Christmas Carol and it's musical counterpart Scrooge for example have the "ghosts" of Past-Present-and-Future, as well as a apparition of Ebenezer Scrooge's dead partner Marley coming back from the dead. Scrooge himself participates in a ritual called astral projection - in which his spirit leaves his body to travel around London in order to see and yet not be seen. Most Disney movies have a villan, often a witch, demon or other evil influence, and yet we watch these fantasy stories with our children benignly without a second thought.

Here's my advice - don't jump to conclusions and be afraid. Read books with your kids or to them as a family read-aloud and discuss the things in them that you find are contrary to the word of God. Raise your kids to be thinkers, not those who shrink back in fear of the unknown, so submerged in their own little world that they cannot engage the culture around them. Help them be challenged in what they believe by reading things that they or you may disagree with. And, assert your opinions and convictions with respect to those around you! So if you would like to post a comment - please do so - even if you disagree - as long as you are considerate of others.

24 October 2005

Bloggers Block

The last few days I have felt unable to blog. Truthfully, I have felt unable to do much of anything productive without extreme amounts of effort and energy. Mentally, my mind has come to a stand still in all creative elements, and spun uncontrollably with all thoughts that preoccupy me. I have prayers on my lips for names that crush me to speak, and in my heart an ache instead of a song. I know there are others that have much pain around something that is happening at my church home where I have grown in the Lord, laughed and loved for the past 10+ years. My desire is for my heart to be laid bare on the altar before the Lord that He might use me to help bring healing. I keep hearing the words to the Third Day song - "Cry Out to Jesus" - this is what I am doing. I am perhaps without friends - but the Lord knows my heart, and every motive is clear to Him - I will leave it up to Him to reveal truth to blinded eyes - or not. He knows of my love for those that are hurting - I need not defend what is true. A ministry of reconciliation is what I seek - and if it is not to be, I will plead to the Lord to give me a peaceful heart to accept that human relationships will be sin-stained this side of heaven - and not allow my heart to shrivel for fear. God - help me love in a way that abandons my own selfish needs in relationships with others - and love the way Jesus loved - forsaking His own life that those He loved could reap the benefits.

23 October 2005

What are YOUR Flowers?

My friend Carol and I had a chance yesterday to spend some much overdue time together. She is way more like an older sister to me than just a friend. Our conversations together have always made me think deeper, helped make my convictions stronger, and challenge what I believe. Yesterday out of hundreds of topic we touched on, one in particular stood out and I said to her "I want to blog about that!" So here goes -

We were talking about husbands. You know, there is an understanding among women that if your husband brings you flowers, it really means a lot. For us girls, it means that during the course of the day he thought about us enough to stop what he was doing and bring something home to us in order that we might know he was thinking about us. As flowers wither and die, often rather quickly, and the expense that they are in spite of this fact, when a man brings a woman flowers, it is a demonstration of extravagant love. It says, if this will bless you, it was worth the cost. Yes, having the man that you love bring you flowers is awesome.

However, not all men choose to express love in this way. I can remember one guy I dated that said flat out, he would never buy me flowers because it was "expected" and what "everyone else did". {Shall we all pause for a moment of silent prayer for the poor woman who may now be married to this man??!?}

I can remember several years ago having a conversation in a ladies Bible study group about romance. We were going around the circle sharing the most "romantic" things our husbands had ever done. Some women had awesome stories of being swept away to a mysterious vacation, an elaborate proposal, etc. and as we rounded the circle it was obvious that some women were feeling awkward and uncomfortable. A younger woman sitting next to me said her husband didn't really do anything romantic and then started to list off the things he did do for her - like to go work every day so she could stay home with her children, and told how the night before he had stayed up the whole night with the baby so she could rest because she was sick. I couldn't help it, I said, "That is so romantic." And while we don't think in these terms, our culture has tainted us as women to only see love expressed in specific, materialistic ways. In our culture we have often chosen to define romance as things. Dictionary.com says in its definition of 'romance' that it is often short-lived, fleeting. Real love is giving something that requires a sacrifice on your behalf for someone else, and doing it over and over again through time.

I will admit, I have a "gift-challenged" husband. He hates to shop. Having a blue-collar income often dictates buying new tires for the van over other less utilitarian type things. But, I have memories of a day he stopped on the side of the road and picked me flowers, and different things he's made me over the years. One of his particular talents is working on our computer, and I have seen him labor tirelessly for hours to get something to work right for me - over and over again. A few years ago he had been laid off since the beginning of November and Valentine's day was approaching. With no money, he found a piece of wood in our basement and carved "Travis s Julie" on it. On the back he wrote that any tree he carved this in may be chopped down, but this way, I had it forever - his expression of love for me! These are the things I have been asking the Lord through the years to open my eyes to see as my "flowers". What are your "flowers"?

21 October 2005

Sweet Ride

So, even with the "Napoleon Dynamite"-ish title, you still decided to read this entry? I guess I could write pretty much anything now, and I would still have an audience, huh? Just kidding! I know this is an highly intelligent community and you would expect way more than that!

I have exciting news, and I have hesitated to share it before now, because someone who was involved asked that we not say anything - but YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE and we are very thankful.

My news is {drumroll please} I have a car!!!! I know it may not sound like a big deal for a middle-class family in middle-America, but there is much you don't know. This saga started out last year - the week of Christmas, my dear husband cracked the block on his car. It was DEAD - even after hours of CPR, no pulse, flatline - gone! Christmas was only days away and I had much shopping to do and preparations to make, when he gives me the news that his car is gone... and.....that he will have to drive my car to work.....and.....that since he worked an hour and a half away at the time it would make no sense for me to drive him! I handled the news with humility dignity and grace (NOT!) Over the past ten months, I have gone round and round with these wrong attitudes. The Lord has been a gentle and patient parent, showing me that His timing is perfect.

Also, my husband and I don't do credit cards or bank loans for anything other than our house - because he has always been convicted that you save up for what you need, and then you buy it - not the other way around. So for months we waited - and saved. We were finally able to buy a little truck that was for sale down the road from our church - but that was to be short lived - because on the way home with the "new truck" it broke down! And even though he had asked permission to leave the truck there, the next morning the owners of the driveway his truck broke down next to, had it towed away! After much TLC from my friends wonderfully talented husband, we determined that it was un-fixable, or at least not worth the expense it would take to fix it!

Over the ten months of car-less-ness, the Lord has taught me so many things - but he couldn't do that until I stopped kicking, screaming, crying, whining - and they have made me a better person. I am not good at depending on other people - and over this past year, I have had to depend heavily on all my wonderful friends who have taken me here, there and everywhere. I am sooooo thankful for a vehicle to drive. But he didn't just provide any vehicle, it is more than I could have ever asked for - the desires of my heart. And even if there wasn't a car in the driveway this morning - I would still say He is good! Better than a new car, he gave me a new joy in my heart. He didn't just effect a change in my circumstances, He made a humongous change inside of me.

Tuesday night around 10:00 when Travis brought the car home, we all went out and took a ride in it. Kullen summed it up perfectly when he said it - and not just about the car, about life, "Daddy, this is a sweet ride!"

20 October 2005

Halloween - Has it Gotten a Bad Rap?

I've had Halloween on the mind lately. I have been struggling as a believer in knowing what to make of it all. I have heard it called "the Devil's birthday", or "Satan's holy-day", "All Hallow's Eve", There is much confusion in these assertions, and a lot of history to sort through in order to have an understanding about the holiday Americans celebrate on October 31st.
I have come across several very interesting articles on Halloween origins such as one done by the History Channel called This article outlines the Celtic festival of the dead, and the tradition of dressing up in costumes on what was considered the eve of their new year, when it was believed that there was a blurr between the worlds of the living and the dead. Eventually around circa 800, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saint's Day - a day to remember and honor saints and martyrs, essentially, the dead. it is also widely believed that this was an effort to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a church-santcioned holiday. The old English word for this celebration is Alholowmesse - meaning literally "All Saints' Day" and the night before it, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.
I also stumbled upon an article by Christan Apologetics and Research Ministry on the origin of Halloween. The conclusion of this article assesses that the origins of Halloween are a mixture of old Celtic pagan ritual superstition and early Catholic tradition. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in learning more read what is written here. It is clear and concise, outlining scripture specifically addressing some of the negative aspects of Halloween, such as witchcraft, the occult and demons, of which the believer should beware.
The author of the CARM article also points out how other symbols, which had pagan origins have been redeemed by Christians, such as the Christmas tree. It's origins indicate that it was originally an ancient fertility symbol. As believers the evergreen tree has come to symbolize eternal life afforded to us because a Savior was born, to die on a "tree", to pay a debt He didn't owe because we owe a debt we couldn't pay.
The bottom line is that a person's decision to celebrate Halloween or not is based on their heart. What do the things associated with Halloween mean to you? The author of the apologetics article uses the references where Paul speaks about eating the meat sacrificed to idols. Where one man's freedom allows him to eat that meat with no association to the pagan worship it derived from, based on his life and history another man may not. (I Cor. 10) Our freedom in Christ, and our living of our lives is based on the conviction of the Holy Spirit working in each of us individually. In your heart, are you associating with Satan and his minions by passing out candy and allowing your children to dress up for Halloween? Or do you you see this as a tradition rooted in Americana, with no attachment to the "dark side"?
In the 70s my brother and I would dress up and take our pillowcases off of our bed. We would walk five blocks in one direction - as far as we were allowed to go without an adult - and get our pillow sacks half full. We would then go home and dump them on our beds, and go five blocks in the other direction! I did not grow up in a "Christian" home, and yet in my mind Halloween was ALL about candy and dressing up and not about the devil.
I read another interesting article that suggests believers are giving Satan a foothold by withdrawing from this holiday. The author asserts that while we lock ourselves up in our churches for this holiday we are missing out a valuable opportunity to be a light in a darkened world, on the one day when the world appears on our own doorsteps. Interesting perspective.
I am not saying to celebrate Halloween or not to celebrate Halloween. My concern is that as believers we level mandates at one another. It is not our job to legalistically regulate the lives of those around us. I can't tell you the times I've heard a self-righteous believer proclaim "We don't DO Halloween." In all honesty, it makes my skin crawl - not that I don't understand the sentiment, but that I am reminded of the prayer of the Pharisee, wherein he proclaimed to God all that he wasn't - and patted his own back for being so much better than the next man.
There is no conclusion to be found in this post - I am still torn on this issue. I would love to hear your comments and what you're thinking about the issue. Please check out some of the articles I've linked above, and if you're passionate about this one way or the other, please count slowly to 10 - and backwards again if necessary and please post your comments in a loving way that may reach the hearts of anyone who reads what we have written here!

18 October 2005

Chaos, Chaos, Chaos

I have a lot going on in my life right now - and even though there are the physical things, like homeschooling, schedules like work and housekeeping, activities like roller skating and Awanas and play practice - most of the chaos is in my head. I have spent my prayer time each morning for the past couple just trying to quiet my mind enough to focus on telling the Lord about the spinning feeling. My mind wanders and I feel guilty. I don't know how to get focused - and partly that is because I am avoiding some things I know that I have to do.
The biggest of those things is writing a difficult letter. I have at least made a step in that I wrote the draft about a week ago. When I re-read it, it sounded much like that sound you hear from down the hall in the middle of the night when your kid gets a stomach virus and between two of the wretching sounds is a gasping call for "MOM!" Yep - it sounded a bit like that - and that is not at all what I want to convey. I want to speak the truth in love, and yet everytime I attempt to think it through or write about it, this nasty, foul stuff is all that comes out. So I wait - but not patiently or peacefully knowing that the Lord's timing is right - but anxiously turning it over and over in my mind. As I lay in bed at night, the rough draft begins to re-write itself in my head, and my heart aches because what I will say, even in love, I know will hurt. What I really want to do is what I did before I was a Christian - I want to run away. I want my house to sell quickly, so I can get out of this situation, and never have to deal with it. The Lord allows no peace when my thoughts go here. I have been wrestling Him for two months on the issue, and the only time I feel like the match stops is when I settle it in my mind that the only right thing to do is to write the letter - and convey a message of love and forgiveness. Perhaps the Lord has not allowed me to write the complete letter because He knows I am not there yet.
Everything else I am juggling is much easier than this burden I am carrying. I am going to continue to seek His help in this area. I know He is patient with me, even when I am like a wiggly child, squirming on His lap. I am so thankful that He is the perfect parent - unlike me who would be saying "sit still!", "be quiet!", "pay attention!" The Lord just continues to patiently pull me back into His arms and speaks to my heart with that still small voice until I gaze into His eyes - and all of these trials and troubles melt away when I get my focus on Him!

14 October 2005

Quiet Time - Lessons from Job

I hate to admit it, but there are times when my quiet time with the Lord, reading the Word and praying in the quiet, still hours of the morning all alone before anyone wakes up are the absolute JOY of my life - and then there are other times when I struggle and strain, pulling what seems the weight of an elephant uphill against that time that so refreshes my life, if only I can let it wash over me. I am in one of the latter times right now. Mind you it is not willful disobedience, but rather a sick heart that keeps me from the only place that I know to truly make it well - what irony!
Recently I was led to the book of Job during this time between the Lord and I. I have read Job several times in the past - specifically two other times when I felt I was suffering conflict, persecution, and trial. But this time was different. I felt the Lord led me to that book because he had something very rational, very logical, very grounded in truth that He desired to show me. In the beginning Job suffers terribly - and that is previously where I had identified. But this time something altogether different came into focus as I have been reading. Job has friends - and they mean well, but everything they speak into his life only bring more discouragement, more opportunities for condemnation, and make his struggle to stand much harder than it ever needs to be. He has two choices - to give weight to the opinions, condemnations, and judgments of these friends, or stand, grounded in truth of his righteousness before the Lord. How many times in my life have I allowed the opinions, prejudices, preferences, ideals, and thoughts of others press on my life - bringing conviction that should come from the Lord alone, and by His Spirit. In this I am to blame - preferring the approval of man to simply pleasing my Lord.
I am thankful for His word and the power it has over and over to speak truth in my life. It is hurtful to realize you allowed the influence of another person to cripple you spiritually and hurt your family because you did not stand against the false accusations of others. But knowing this truth is the first step towards tremendous, liberating, exuberant, extravagant, elaborate, extraordinary, beautiful freedom in Christ! It is the strangest feeling - sorrow and anxious expectation. I will wait on the Lord.

11 October 2005

More Thoughts on Halloween

This weekend my family and I were riding to a fall festival in the next state and we had an interesting conversation. Our church has decided to have a fall festival this year, and are extending it beyond our church family to our surrounding community. As this is an outreach, the people organizing it decided that they didn't want it associated in any way with Halloween, and therefore have asked that the children not dress up. I understand the importance of the church keeping these two things separate, but my children, who have only ever attended this event at their church, were very disappointed that it was going to be so different.

A couple of years ago, our church did not have a fall festival. I think there has always been some tension - some think the children should dress up and others think it too Halloween-y. One well meaning woman suggested that our children be allowed to dress only as animals or Bible characters. This was the topic of our family discussion.

The first and most dramatic point of that discussion was that the Bible was full of characters that were not at all wholesome. For instance, Satan is a character that appears in the very first book of the Bible. Among others we listed were serpents, Cain - the murder, Rahab - the prostitute, David and Bathsheba - partners in adultery, Goliath - a monster, Saul, Pharoah or the death angel that passed over and struck the firstborn of Egypt, Lot's daughters, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention, what costume would you wear if you decided to dress up as Adam and Eve before the fall??? That wouldn't go over very well anywhere, much less at a church sponsored event.

It was interesting to think about how the Bible is not a baby's bedtime story book, but a book filled with rich history which is not always beautiful. It is an annal of war for the Jewish nation. It is a gory, and bloody book of crime and passion. It is a book full of sinful people living in a fallen world. And although the prevailing message is of a scarlet thread of redemption from Adam to Jesus Christ and extended to each of us - there are people all along the way who distort that message.
On another interesting note, during the pagan rituals that originated what eventually intertwined with Catholic traditionto become Halloween, the participants wore animal masks!!!

08 October 2005

PLEASE Mom, Can We KEEP Him?

My answer was, "Ask your father!" Guess what he said? I never would have expected it - THE MAN SAID "YES!" I didn't see that coming!!! Undone by my own husband! We went to a rainy and dreary fall festival today and instead of candy, pumpkins, and bellies full of hot homemade soup, we came home with this.............

He's an adorable black lab/german shepherd/golden lab mix - a mutt basically - and we love mutts. We have found them always to be the best dogs.

But here's the deal - Kullen has asthma and is allergic to dogs. The allergist told us about a year and a half ago, and with much sadness we relinquished our pet ownership priveleges - at least for a time to see if it helped his asthma get better. We also had friends help us change our flooring. The allergist said we should give him a break. So we did, and he has done better. We are hoping and praying that with the new leather sofa instead of soft covered furnishings, and laminate flooring instead of carpet, the puppy dander, which is what causes the trouble, won't be as much of an issue. Otherwise, the puppy goes. A good friend of mine already said she'd take him - because he is really awesome. He's calm, quiet and sweet.....at least for now. My kids love having a dog so much - and it really is something we've missed a great deal! So please pray for us that God would help Kullen not have a reaction to this puppy. On a side note, we have many friends with lots of cats and dogs in their homes, and unless he pets them and touches his eyes, he doesn't seem to have any trouble, so we're hopeful.

The puppy's name is Jet - like jet black!!! He is pictured with Kaitlyn, Kendra, Kullen (my three kids) and our friend Jamey - an awesome kid in my youth group! (I'm trying to figure out how to fit that kid into a suitcase and take him to Texas with us!!!!)

07 October 2005

Ravioli Soup

Yesterday my 12 year old daughter, Kaitlyn made an awesome dinner called "Pizza in a Pot" - from Fix it and Forget It - crock pot cookbook. It was very yummy! She also made a gourmet chocolate Hershey bar bundt cake! That thing should be illegal! I really like to cook and that is one thing I really hope I pass along to my daughters. Kendra doesn't seem quite as interested in cooking as Kaitlyn, although she can make a mean apple pie!!! I got inspired this week to make Ravioli soup because my friend Kathie was making it last week! It is for our dinner tonight - and it turned out so yummy I just had to share the recipe, so here goes:

Ravioli Soup

3/4 pound ground beef or Italian sausage
1 can beef broth
1 pkg cheese ravioli or tortellini - fresh or frozen
1 small zucchini - cut into small quartered slices
onion & garlic
1 can diced tomatoes

In 5 quart pot, cook meat; drain. Add tomatoes, broth, and 1 3/4 cup water - Bring to a boil - reduce heat. Stir in ravioli and cook according to package directions. Add zucchini and heat through. Season with pepper and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and/or mozzarella according to preference.

I made a double recipe of this - so I used both ground beef and Italian sausage - only one bag of small raviolis (and it is loaded). I added onion and fresh garlic with the meat as it cooked. I'll serve it with garlic bread. It is so yummy! I just wish it would turn into chilly fall soup weather!!!!

Did Homeschooling Get Trendy

I was random blogging yesterday - actually using my 'Friends' list - and stumbled for a second time on a post by jayfromcleveland asking for feedback from bloggers in response to some possible statistics indicating that homeschooling numbers may be on the decline. I feel certain that the homechooling spirit will never die - primarily because as homeschooling families, we are raising the next generation of homeschoolers. I know from the time my girls were little, they both wanted to be 'homeschooling mommies'. Even as teenagers, with waxing and waning convictions, I know they know why we believe that when it comes to school, there is no place like home!
Through the years we have homeschooled, we have seen waves in the numbers of homeschoolers in our county, and the tri-state area where we live. After Columbine and several other school tragedies that followed, there seemed to be a shock-wave of parents, afraid to send their children to school. Many of those well meaning parents took their children out of school and soon realized that fear was not an effective motivator, nor an effective catalyst for longevity.
In churches, sometimes when there is a large group of homeschoolers, there can be a wave of people - who my husband calls "followers". They see what others are doing, want to be plugged in with those people, and will do just about anything to be included with the "group" that is appealing to them. (Hey, we've all heard of peer pressure, haven't we?) I attend a small church in rural WV, and for several years the homeschooling families in our congregation were a majority. I remember this coming to my attention when someone who had visited the church a handful of times asked me one morning, "Do you HAVE to homeschool your children to go to this church?" (GULP! - As homeschoolers, we have to be consciously aware of our propensity toward being somewhat of an exclusive club in our Christian community.) Peer pressure also is not a good reason to become a homeschooling family, nor will it help your family go the distance.
In the same way these reasons have caused waves, many others have as well, and many more will in the future. If our country recognized how much money we save our local school systems, and began to give homeschooling families a tax break, we may see another wave. If our government were ever to institute a program to allow vouchers for homeschoolers as privatized education, we may see a tsunami! But in all these things, just because homeschooling numbers seem to swell and drop, I think overall it won't change the fact that there is a core group who homeschool our children, because of a conviction by the Lord to do so - and we intend to go the distance. In our efforts to make family the primary influence in our children's lives, second only to the Lord, we are raising up a chosen generation of Bible-believing, family-centered, independent thinking young men and women who won't be content to simply go against the flow, but desire with all their hearts to turn the tide.
As Jesus said, in the last days, just as it was in the days of Noah, people were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage - it is my belief that people will be homeschooling their children, holding out a chosen remnant until Jesus comes again!

*scripture reference - Luke 17:27

06 October 2005

Real Education

I have the awesome privelege of being the youth leader to the junior high crowd at my church. It is an amazing group of kids, and I feel so blessed to get to know them. However, within in this group their are teens and pre-teens from all different kinds of families- some are homeschoolers, some are public schoolers, some have been adopted within the last couple of years out of Russian orphanages, some are friends that come along for the candy. We really have a wide ranging mix.

One thing that I have become concerned about, is not the level of education the kids are getting, but the amount of "real learning" that I think is missing from their lives, and their stunted ability to seek out information if they are interested in something. For example, every week, I present them with a challenge - to find out how much they were paying attention during the sermon from the previous week. It could be as simple as asking what color the pastor's sweater was, or as complicated as asking them to cite a scripture reference, or finish a quotation. Last week I asked them to fill in one word of a quote Porky gave from Ralph Waldo Emerson. During the class, one of the younger students raised her hand - (which thrilled me - I love it when they ask questions - that means they're listening and interested!) - and asked, "Who is Ralph-whatever?" So I gave them an assignment to find out. I wanted them to come in with one simple statement about him.

For a couple of years, I have been explaining to the kids who just recently graduated up to the senior high group that questions are so important. It is so hard sometimes to put yourself out there for embarrassment or ridicule by raising your hand and asking a question, especially as a teenager. I have encouraged them over and over by saying, it is okay not to know - but it is not okay not to WANT to know. Ask the question, and seek the answer until you find it - and to apply this not only to the entire world around them, but passionately to the word of God.

That little sweetheart will never know how precious her raised hand and her question were to me. In our society where we are used to immediate gratifcation, I think she was a bit disconcerted to find that I did not immediately provide her with the answer to her question. But, how much more will I provide them with if I can only plant in their little hearts that spark that sends them hungry on a quest for an answers, and a lifetime of real learning.

05 October 2005

Job Description

I recently put together a resume - and I cracked myself up when I attempted to describe my job as a homeschool mom. Notice none of the descriptions are "teacher-y". I was wondering if you could add some other funnies to this list???

Forsythe Family School

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

(304) 725-4045

Supervisor – Travis G. Forsythe

Duties have included all of the following (and much more) – chief cook and

bottle washer, nose wiper, cookie maker, hug giver, back massager, chore-

meister, laundress, housekeeper, hiney-swatter, improvisational comic, teen-

counselor, crisis hotline, Barbie clothes dresser, Hot Wheels wheel-fixer, finder

of all lost things, grocery shopper, bug killer, reacher of all things on a high shelf,

chauffeur, kisser of boo-boos, household manager, financial consultant, one-

“blue collar” income juggler, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

03 October 2005

Funny Things Kids Say - "School" Dream

Kullen usually gets up and gets into bed with me when Travis gets out of bed to get ready for work in the mornings - sometimes his daddy is still there and he just wedges in between us. This morning was one of those mornings. He cuddled up to me in a half-asleep state and in a slightly amused voice said, "Mom -- I dreamed last night that I went to school!" I said, "You did? Did you like it?" "No," he said, "All we did all day was sit around on a bed." I opened my eyes now, and looked at him, slightly concerned that this child really had NO idea what "school" was like. I said, "Kully, have you ever seen a school before?" To which he condescendingly replied, "Yes mom!" So I tried to make my point, "They don't have beds in school." At this point he was really worried about me, so he explained, "Mom, it was a DREAM!"

Another funny point about this early morning conversation is that last night when I was reading The Magician's Nephew to him, something in the story triggered a conversation wherein I was explaining to him how adults often lose their ability to use their imagination! HA! Caught me!