Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Educational Tradition {or a late Winter Break or an early Spring Break}

A couple of years ago, “Museum Week” was birthed from, “I don’t think I can do school tomorrow........or really all week,” while whining to Jeff on the couch one Sunday night.  After staring at the pictures hanging on the wall, I said, “I think we will go to all the museums in town.”  I perked up, started clicking away on the computer and planned a really fun week.  It’s now, of course, survival an educational tradition.  Call it what you will.  Other than our long Christmas break, it is my favorite thing about home schooling flexibility.

I plan our break during our Science and History Museum’s Engineers Week because at least some different things are going on at a place our family frequents.  It’s also the only museum in town that is opened on Monday........except this year.  It fell on President’s Day and so at 7am Monday morning, I had to figure out a way to kick off Museum Week.  In a big way-- and quickly.  For the kids not to be disappointed about staying home all day knowing they had fallen asleep thinking we were headed to their favorite museum, my plan had to at least SOUND exciting.  I knew food would help so I promised sweets for breakfast.  

Complete with sprinkles.....  even math could be fun with sprinkles, yes?

Maybe not.

Now, what “museum-ish” could we do?

I grabbed some of our random art books, making sure I had some “boy” ones and decided to play the “stare” game seeing who could remember the most details after thirty seconds.  Brighton is always up for a contest even if it means looking at eight different art pieces.

I chose three poems that told a story from this book and read them intermittently through the morning and had them choose one to illustrate.  Brighton drew pictures about “The Ship that Never Returned” by Henry Clay Work and Julia illustrated “The Land of Our Pilgrim Fathers” by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.  I never tire of their pictures, especially the ones drawn with colored pencils.

In between “stare” competitions and poetry, we read a few of our most loved history picture books that touch on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Lindberg’s first flight and World War II.  These are great reminders when we’ve been stuck in the B.C. dates for 2 years in History.  American history has the BEST picture books.  I read them to the kids any chance I get and there are some that I can’t get through without the nagging lump in my throat.

Here’s what sealed the deal--for B, anyway-- the deal of having our first day of Museum week on our den floor.  I hooked my laptop up to the television and showed them almost every “forward” or interesting email I have received over the last six months.  We traveled through Viet Nam, Thailand, and Cambodia with my parents, watched a cat play with dolphins, saw a baby hummingbird nursed to maturity by a teenage boy, watched the kids of Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska perform a creative rendition of Handel’s Messiah.  We watched an airplane being assembled for Boeing and a space shuttle launching at Cape Kennedy.  We saw pictures of Queen Elizabeth with eleven different U.S. Presidents and watched the progression of a hornero bird in Uruguay building its nest and wondered if it were really true that it worked every day but Sunday.  We saw snow moose {white} roaming in Michigan, icebergs in Antarctica, amazing rocks in deserts across the world, and photographs from a scanning electron microscope.  The grand finale was the UK's 24 Hours in Pictures.

Museum week is what I sometimes wish our summer days looked like....at least some of them.  My plans are grandiose and well-intended that first week of June and then I am not sure what happens.  The sun and water call us out to swim wherever we can and then I am debilitated by this summer malaise that gets me every year. It must be the combination of chlorine, self tanner {!!}, heat and sunscreen. I mean, I think for a while at least in July, I don’t even care if my kids know who Pierre Auguste Renoir is much less Robert Frost.

But that’s okay.

It returns every August with the NEED to sniff some No.2 pencils and plan weeks like this.

The rest of our week:

{gifts 1046- 1060}

that she forgave me

these dates

his all-boy declaration at Target

that Joshua’s surgery went well

that she didn’t hear how preposterous what the crazy man said was

Brighton, eager to tell his story of trusting Christ as his Savior

Father/Son weekend

that B was brave, “showed a little grit” as Jeff said

free time with Julia

movies like this

projects like this

Sunday mornings in our den- new faces and faces we’ve grown to love

sifted through and thinned out kids’ rooms

hugs in hallways

marvelous Mondays... because the kids made the choice

the freedom and ease of Museum Week

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Ordinary- Def.
1. of no special quality or interest; commonplace
2. plain or undistinguished: ordinary clothes.
3. somewhat inferior or below average; mediocre.
customary; usual; normal: We plan to do the ordinary things this weekend.

The abundance of our life is made from ordinary moments.  The ordinary comes like a metronome marking time keeping some sane beat to these full days we live.   But in the beat, in the fullness, it’s the ordinary moments that can be the footing for an extraordinary life.  We must look for it because sometimes commonplace things don’t catch our attention.

I can’t plan ordinary.  It just happens. It’s like Monday morning.......... coming every seven days.  Usual.  Normal.  And like the metronome forcing a beat, ordinary forces a choice ~with every beat of the day.  Will I even get out of bed to have a little time and be ready for my kids on this ordinary day?  Will I have anything to add to their foundations in an awfully ordinary moment of training?  With my words and actions while making the bazillioneth sandwich for lunch, will I add to the security of their footing on this launching platform we call home?  Will my words really make a difference 10 years from now in this ordinary discipline moment?  I don’t know about you but the ordinary has been my sanctification but that’s for another time.

The extraordinary can come to a life if the ordinary has made room for family, creativity, conversations that might have been lost, games, tuck-ins, books, cookies, friends, meals together, hugs, rest, band-aids, hot chocolate and eternal investments.  But, again, we must be careful or we might miss it.  It’s pretty plain.

So a question I ask myself, when they leave my home, what will have been extraordinary to them?

Jeff and I listened to a podcast last weekend from Focus on the Family and Gary Thomas was talking about his book Spiritual Parenting.  He had great things to say and wise advice but it was the unplanned comment that stuck with me.  With all of his children in college now, he said he’d give $10,000 to be able to rewind time for just one weekend at home with his kids when they were 11, 9 and 7.  He was dead serious.  He missed the ordinary.

It’s the ordinary moments that can be the footing for an extraordinary life.

This night after getting back to our cabin, our day transformed into extraordinary as we watched this.......

slip into this...........

and into this..............


~ My friend In a House Full of Boys, who incidentally just returned from this amazing weekend, is starting “Five on the Fifth” which means she will take a picture of all five of her boys on the fifth of each month~ all in the same frame which I am sure can prove tricky.  Each year she will have a collage of twelve pictures~ VERY cool.  So I stole my cool friend’s cool idea that I think she stole from one of her cool friends.  I made a collage of ordinary moments from 2011.

January- headed into school
February- hot chocolate at home
March- petting Aunt Adele’s horses in Soperton
April- taking a school break on a windy day
May- Mother’s Day- NOT ordinary- but I like how we are all in pajamas
June- the lake and B’s cute belly
July- Slurpees and brain freezes at 7-11 when it was 110, I am SURE
August- first day of school
September- last lake trip of summer
October- Faith in Action weekend
November- sleeping away from home
December- What could be more ordinary than “Go Fish” at Christmas!?
{gifts 1128- 1045}

hope that comes with a brand new morning

that I called Julia “Julia Sue” last week without thinking  {my grandmother’s full name}

podcasts with Biblical teaching that make a difference

that both kids were really just fine

Erin, willing to stay

The Cheeks and Andersons making room in their nests for my peeps

time with just Jeff

trailer food

friends remaining faithful to the call in San Antonio

missed accident

kids who know when their Daddy says, “get the house ready” , know what to do

that I can watch my nephew play baseball online

friend wrapped up in my Grandmother Julia’s shawl

George Mueller’s life and testimony {Thank you, Jessica, for the book!}

“Museum Week” for us {for me, a lot less school}

Em, always willing to sit and pet Gabe

that Nehemias got the EXACT gift that Brighton requested~ a teddy bear

the ordinary making room for the extraordinary

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How Sweet It Is {Part 2}

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  
~ C.S. Lewis

This time twenty years ago I was walking in and out of shops on Sea Island, Georgia thinking my boyfriend had planned the best Valentines ever.  Nothing else crossed my mind except how great this day was and how sweet of him to go to all this trouble to take me to one of my favorite places {basically any coast line}-- all for Valentines.  Even as the day unfolded, finding out we would be having dinner at the Cloister {driving home afterward, of course} and realizing he had somehow managed to have all the right clothes and cosmetics for me and noticing that the people at the Cloister restaurant seemed to know Jeff and that they were all smiling when we walked up and finding eleven beautiful roses on the table at which the hostess seated us, my thoughts never changed from what an awesome boyfriend I had.  My only defense against how spoiled I might have been or my thinking this was “special normal” is that he had prayed the Lord would “make [me] stupid” so that he could surprise me.  The lovely ring with a timeless question came right before dessert.

I said yes.

The restaurant clapped and we scooted out for me to catch my breath and imagine the next six months leading up to a very special day.  I had to dig every pot hole* {what ifs} and then fill in each of them so I could walk the road to August 8th, 1992 in peace and excitement.  It wasn’t Jeff’s ideal half hour after the proposal but he let me dig and fill. Then I was free to move on, eat dessert and make all the phone calls-- from a PHONE BOOTH!  Oh my.  I feel like I am saying I sent a telegraph or letters on horseback.  Anyway, it was a cozy and quaint wooden phone booth.

And the romancing continued..... on a moonlight cruise in the marshes of the island, he pulled from somewhere on that dark little boat the very first gift he’d ever given me~ a framed photograph he had taken of one of his aunt’s pink roses.  As he opened the frame and removed the matting, he showed me the letters in pencil, “WYMM”.  Christmas of 1990 was way before the texting age but any girl new that stood for “Will you marry me?”  He knew that December, a year and two months before our Sea Island date, I was the one and he committed then to pursuing me.  Twenty years ago today, he asked me the question he’d written on the back of the picture of the pink rose which symbolized his intention of marrying me.  A pink rose came out with the ring.

And that pink rose made twelve on the table.

Taking a risk, he made me feel loved, special, chosen, and worthy of celebration.  In the grandest way possible, he let me know he preferred me above all others.  And every girls wants that.  I wanted that.  He knew that.  And, thankfully, he took a chance lavishing it on me.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.”  In the world, there is nothing safe about vulnerability.  In a marriage covenant, it is life and breath and the ultimate safe place.  I am still learning that.  Jeff’s love has been extravagant.  His love has been tough.  His love has been filled with grace.  His love has led us.  His love has gone out on a limb.  His love has carried us.  His love has been filled with courage.  He has taught me much about love and I have still much to learn but I do know that parts of me that were “dead”, possibly “irredeemable”, have been awakened and redeemed because of how God has loved me through Jeff.

This love is for a lifetime.  My sanctification is for a lifetime.  Praise the Lord.  His grace abounds.

For How Sweet It Is {Part 1} click here.

*Thanks to Kathy Keller for confessing to this sometimes irritating habit and for calling it what it is sometimes..... sin.
{gifts 1109-1127}

hard working techs

happiness ice cream sundaes brings

Tony Evans’ gift of illuminating Scripture with every day occurrences

the nuclear powered Susan Blackmon

people who filled their tables

principals like her


Valentine’s Parties

tree swings

mopped floors

toes tucked under

May Michael and Sophie

watching snow fall

handmade Valentines, the lovely.....the cute.... and the quick

{never mind he made it out of a left over invitation while I turned around to get the cereal and my candy was from his HALLOWEEN stash}

Blue Bonnet Bakery boxes from Papa

prayers from near and far

that there was an opening at 2

answering knocks on the door and finding these sweet people with yummy caramel

February 14th, 1992 ~ that he asked

the healing and sanctification possible in marriage when God’s love is poured out lavishly through two people
{May it ever be.}

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seat belts and Bibles {and Hearthtime}

Sometimes when I am driving kids from place to place, I think how I never have to remind them to buckle and I wonder, how did this happen?  It’s one thing on a very short list of things that I don’t have to nag remind them to do.  Never.  They always grab that thing, pull it around their little selves and snap it in place.  Done.  All without any fanfare.  Ponder that a moment.  Amazing.  What made putting on a seatbelt EVERY time the car is cranked perfunctory? If I knew, I would apply the principle in all sorts of areas.  Yes?

For a while, we did it for them. We buckled their car seats backwards, then forwards, so tightly it ruined our seats, unless you had the hubby who insisted on putting the towel or something under their seat.  Once facing forward, they noticed we did it too.  Then came the booster seat and we buckled them for a time until they were strong enough to make it click. I definitely ruined my back under the delusional idea that I was Elastigirl buckling their seat belts from the driver’s seat.  And once they could apply the right pressure at the right angle, it was never an issue.  They buckled up.  It made them feel safe.  They knew it was for their good.  And if they ever were in a wreck, I think they would see the benefits.  And they kept seeing us do it.

I’ve prayed since Julia and Brighton were babies that they would have a genuine love for God’s Word and that they would know in their minds and hearts the inexpressible, incomprehensible value of it.  It compares to nothing else.  What other book is “living and active”?  What other book can you read through every year of your life and continue to “find” things that hit you square in the heart?  That cause you to sit and stare at the page?  We know His words changed the world but on a personal level, just think for a minute, what has it changed about you?  What have His words led you to do?  We all could write pages and pages on that.  If He had stopped at forgiving me of my sins past, present and future, sealing me with the Holy Spirit, offering me a peace I cannot comprehend, the promise of His Presence with me and a future of eternal life with Him, I would have reason to praise Him........forever.  But He didn’t stop there.  In my youth, His Word gave direction allowing me to go into marriage without a lot of heartache and baggage.  In His Word’s amazing ways, He said “yes” to marrying Jeff.  His Word told me to follow Jeff’s leadership and if I did, there would be blessing in my obedience to God.   His Word was my survival, my lifeline through years of infertility, waiting on His plan for us.  Early in our marriage, fellowshipping with Him through His Word filled the gaping hole of having no close friends with which to share life.  His Word gave me His confidence, when I had none, as I waited to adopt two amazing kids.  I never would be on my fifth year of schooling them at home had it not been for my time in Zechariah that morning five years ago....and the list goes on.

I pray I have many years more to get to know Him through His Word and so my prayer for Julia and Brighton is that they get started personally.  Not only through Jeff and me reading it to them and not only through their memorization of it but through their personal desire to know it for themselves. At a young age, I want them to experience the life and the activity of His Word in their lives.  I want them to learn the weight it carries when they are struggling or when a friend needs encouragement.  I want them to witness the power of His Word when they are in situations they find themselves that are way too big for them to figure their way out of.  I want Julia and Brighton to personally discover the healing His Word brings in sticky, hurtful situations.  And as this world persistently, unashamedly broadcasts its old ideas in new, flashy, or sometimes, covert ways, I want them to know His Word well enough to sense that something is awry and know exactly why.

 A lot to want?  Yes.  It is.  But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Putting on their seat belts became perfunctory.  Do I want their Bible reading to become perfunctory?  Yes.  And no. I don’t want it to be something they check off their list for the day.  I don’t want it to be rote and stale and mindless.  My hope, my prayer is that His Word is their first thought when they need a safe place to go. Or when they need to make a decision or when they are hurting or when they are needed by a friend.  I want His Word to be one of their first thoughts in the morning knowing and trusting that with Him is the wisest way to start their day.  When things are shaking and moving, my desire is that their spirits long for Truth and their feet RUN to His Word, His Truth that never moves. That kind of perfunctory.  Like breathing.

With seat belts, they went through stages when we did it for them and when we helped them with it until it became just a normal thing to do.  Every time.  Without fanfare.  Because they watched us do it.  Because they know it’s safe.  Because it’s for their good.  And because they have seen and lived the benefits.

By His grace may it be and all glory to God.....



Each of my children have a little notebook.  We have a two uses for it:  to write down the gifts as they think of them or as I ask them to and to write prayers requests for me to see later.  As an invitation, these notebooks stay on the hearth along with a simple one page devotional.  Some mornings I open the book up to the right page, set their notebooks out opened up to a blank page on the hearth.  They read the Scripture and the short devotional and write any prayer requests in their notebooks for me to read and pray for later.  This does NOT happen every morning but I pray as the months and years go by, it will become more consistent for them out of desire and need.  And just maybe one day, it will translate to a way of beginning their day, to a way of life.

{gifts 1091-1108}

You’ve Got Mail-- that WE like it and it makes us laugh after the umpteenth time

kids getting their work done

their excitement about a mini road trip with daddy

Craig’s List

Hey Cupcake! cupcakes

nephew’s first three college baseball games- that he got in every game and did his job!

$35 chair in the back

doing crafts at Sarah’s!

that Kathie and I can pick up where we left off

transparency of brothers and sisters in our den- you bless me


Jeff, at tuck-in time, with 4 newly laundered and newly purchased {BY B} Goodwill stuffed animals under his arm and mouth medicine in his pocket for J~ real Dad stuff

Fort Worth with the added bonus of Dallas 30 minutes away

being invited

that I didn’t get upset about this when I came back to see their grammar work

celebrating Jeff

His Word and how if fills all that is empty about us