The Printed Word

The five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation in Europe is kind of a big deal right now. As in, I feel like I have seen it pretty much everywhere online, I attended a conference themed on it, I know local churches with Reformation Day parties this year (even ones that wouldn’t normally have gone to the trouble), etc. It is pretty amazing. Now, while I was trying to focus on United States history with my kids this year, for a two week period (last week and this coming week), we are putting it all aside and replacing it with a unit study on the Reformation. What a great time we have been having! Our focus in this Reformation unit is primarily art and literature, which necessarily includes copywork and theology and singing and other such wonderful things. Yesterday my children and I sang David Erb’s version of Psalm 46 (which they had learned at music camp in the summer), and then Martin Luther’s famous Mighty Fortress. And I think, especially for the big boys, it really meant a lot to them, having known more about the history of the music and the words and the musicianship represented there.
We are essentially jumping in deep with these books for our unit:

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I introduced the subject, era, and keynote people with ABCs of the Reformation and some excerpts of The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History. And the kids each had books on Martin Luther they read on their own. But as the kids asked questions about the “whys” behind the Reformation, we ended up leaving the theological men and their stances of the mid-1500s behind and stepped further back into the world of Johannes Gutenberg. We very much loved Fine Print and are currently enjoying Ink on His Fingers as well, plus some other little snippets on him, his life, his work that have simply repeated & filled out what we found in those books.

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Undoubtedly the most stunning thing we realized, though, is that my family has a unique bookcollector right next door… my father collects old Bibles… he has studied them, loved them, researched them, worked with other collectors, learned some dying craft of mending pages and bindings, and he has even traveled in order to acquire or restore Bibles. So I asked him if we could take a peek at one of his early copies. Not only did he allow us to take a peek at it, but he dropped it off so we could fully explore its pages at our leisure. What a gift! This particular copy was printed in 1549, using the sort of mechanisms, leather-over-wood binding, goldleaf, moveable type, handmade ink, etc. that Gutenberg himself created and implemented.

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The kids took turns gently turning pages, smelling & feeling the cotton paper, examining the old inks, following worm holes through sections of pages, fingering the thick embossed leather on the cover. This particular copy was not printed until 1549 (let’s be honest: that’s pretty old!! And to have it in the family, where we don’t need to wear special gloves or keep it under glass, etc. is a special gift we don’t take for granted), so the kids wanted to figure out if someone like Martin Luther or John Calvin could have touched this book. They wanted to know if this would have been chained up to keep it from being stolen; if it would have belonged to a church, a common family, or an elite; they wanted to know about the gold leaf & the leather – where would they have come from? While I don’t have specific answers to most of those specific questions about this specific copy of God’s Word, it was really fun to talk about and imagine and ponder. Who else has held this book and read its pages and had their soul fed in the last 468 years?!

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We then spent an hour over lunchtime yesterday watching this video, where Stephen Fry walked through a lot of Gutenberg’s footsteps and recreated his craft and science and system of creating the printing press which changed the world. It has been really fun to learn, through books and the video, about the process of setting the type. I love the odd spellings and letters in the old English copy here!! I read Psalm 23 to the kids, which even Evangeline knows by memory in the ESV, and had them all follow along with it in this book… which doesn’t even have verse designations… and they were impressed by the difficulty of discerning the words because of the spellings and the spacing and such. The video really touched on that too, so that was a helpful nuance.

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What a contrast I noticed… little Simeon had just received his own little tiny pocket-sized Bible this week… which I picked up for 49-cents when I was grabbing another armload of used children’s books at Goodwill… and this little thing has no real monetary value, no big dramatic story behind it, it was probably printed with very little effort along with thousands of identical copies… yet it is a treasure to this tiny boy who now walks around with it tucked in his arm, and sets it beside him while he plays (such as here, below, when he was playing in the little toy kitchen)…

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And it is the Reformation that makes this kind of thing possible. Where there was chaos, God brought order. Where there was unrest, God brought peace. With a family so deeply in love with books and written words, this is a unit study that hits home deeply. It makes me speechless and just boggles my brain. The world had only manuscripts reproduced by scribes and owned only by the truly elite. The “paper” (vellum from calf skins) was even hard to come by, let alone inks and reeds, and then the immensity of time it took to copy it all! Wow. It’s utterly phenomenal how God brought Johannes Gutenberg to the apex of art & science to bring us the printing press.

I guess I’d say personally speaking, the internet and the printing press are the two biggest things that I think God created through mankind to change the world. And while I am not ready yet to wrap my head around studying the history and creation and implementation of the internet with the kids, I am absolutely stunned by the breathtaking world of the printing press’s creation.

The printed words brought us the printed Word.
What better gift could the Reformation have brought us?!
And then, because this 1549 copy of course is in English, we have so very much to be thankful for in the Reformation fight for Scripture in the vulgate too. We get to worship in our native language, we get to have more copies of the Bible than we even need (and we even carry it around in our pockets, thanks to places like OliveTree!).

The Reformation was a tool our King used to give us these gifts.
As for me my household, we are grateful.

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Teach Them Diligently

This week, I participated in a conversation about how to keep a Bible routine with the children in your home. It seems both super simple and overwhelmingly complicated at the same time. God granted me four precious children to train for His Kingdom. What an immense responsibility! In some sense, I’ve only got one shot at this parenting gig. In another sense, the Lord’s mercies are new each morning so I’ve got an endless amount of shots at this parenting gig. It is seeking to live a life of balance by His grace, with faith in Him, where I need to focus my eyes as I work day in and day out training & educating & discipling these children of His.

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As a stay at home, full time homeschooling mama, I don’t have to rush out of the door in the mornings, so I aim to do Bible time with my kids around the breakfast table. Steven and I were recently discussing how we can get him incorporated into it more (which is super tricky with his long work days), so we are thinking of having him lead that on Saturday mornings after breakfast (although Saturdays have been crazy because of rushing out for bowling league & ballet lessons right after breakfast… so we will need to do some planning before that starts up again next month), and then also on Sunday afternoon just before we start our weekly “family fun night” (which includes board games, a movie, special snacks, etc).

Part of me misses the old bedtime routine we used to have with our older boys (in the quieter days pre “real” homeschooling, with fewer rascals bouncing around), which involved rocking and reading books, singing as many songs as they would beg for, etc. Now it has turned totally different, because our evenings are spent more in the family room or playing soccer outside or something. And then the “bedtime routine” is just a rush of necessities rather than a special time of bonding. And that’s okay! We tidy up, we get in jams, we brush teeth, sometimes there are baths… and with four young kids to take through the routine of basic necessities, it draws things out and has resulted in needing to cut short the snuggly part of the bedtime routine. It’s just a different season now, and I’m slowly learning how to embrace that. But I also don’t mind admitting that I miss the old bedtime snuggle phase.

Anyway.
During our morning time together each day, I read from Scripture (we always do something from Psalms and Proverbs, and then I am reading straight through the Bible with the kids – we are currently in Ecclesiastes), I read from a picture storybook Bible, we sing “psalms & hymns & spiritual songs” (it varies day to day… we are working on memorizing a couple Psalms right now, and also the old hymn Praise To The Lord, The Almighty), I quiz the kids on their catechism (Gabriel is through Q68 in this Westminster Shorter, & I the one my 3 little guys do is called The Small Child’s Catechism – Simeon knows three Qs, Evangeline knows 27, and Asher just about has all 50 down pat), we pray together, I read a page from The Boy’s Devotional, and then I read a chapter of an allegory (we did Pilgrim’s Progress, Basket Of Flowers, Hedge Of Thorns, Hind’s Feet On High Places, and are now in Mountains Of Spices – I love the Lamplighter books for this, and when I purchased the Boys of Grit collection this week I also might have just signed up for the 4-book-per-month book club!).

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Honestly, our “Bible time” really sounds more intense and complicated than it actually is, now that I’ve typed it out. :blink:

It only “needs” to take about ten minutes, and sometimes on days when we have places to rush to, I just pick and choose two or three of those things. On “at home/school days” we do the whole routine and it takes about an hour. It’s the kids’ favorite hour of the day, though, pretty much. I try to start it while they are eating breakfast, and then while they are still sitting in their seats at the table, I give them copywork to do (I give them a verse each day that they copy… Evangeline is just now barely beginning to copy them properly into the actual words/sentences in a readable way, mostly now that she knows how to read so she can tell the actual difference), coloring (especially Bible themed coloring books that you can even get from the Dollar Store!), and my nine-year-old does some Bible word searches and Scripture/catechism copywork, and then both of my big boys (ages 9 and 5) have sketchbooks they draw in. So I keep their hands busy as much as I can so they pay attention. It’s my own attitude that sometimes gets most in the way because I get sick of being interrupted every three sentences with someone needing something or the kids just get noisy.

But I am trying hard to humbly realize that the important thing is just to cover them in Scripture, and make it a normal part of their life. It honestly doesn’t matter so much how I do it, or how much I do it, or how well I do it!!! It’s just that we seek to live a life that is saturated with Scripture. It’s all over our walls in pictures and on chalkboards. We have cds playing nonstop all day, and about 90% of the music I play is Christian music or straight up Scripture set to music. We are currently on an Indelible Grace streak. ;)

My little ones (ages 5 and under for sure) looooooove the Jesus Storybook Bible. They also love the old Children’s Illustrated Bible that I picked up for fifty cents at Goodwill! And the Lindvall series of Read-Aloud Bible Stories (there are five volumes I think). We have others we read at a variety of times also: The Garden, the Curtain, and the CrossThe Biggest StoryRead Aloud NTRead Aloud OT. They love the app on my phone, too, Bible For Kids, which they really only rarely get to play, but they get totally addicted to it and into it! My big boys (especially the 9 year old) love The Action Bible. When it comes to reading the Bible storybooks, sometimes I do add my own little commentary to include things that I  might notice missing/incomplete. But I am constantly emphasizing to my kids (even from before they understand, like my 21 month old) that these are Bible storybooks, not Scripture. When I read the Bible with my kids, I read them a real translation of Scripture (usually ESV or NKJV because those are what I have handy). But we make sure to train their sensibilities to know that there is a difference between Bible stories and Scripture. Both are good, so we use both! But making that distinction is one of my key points even with the littlest. After I read Scripture to them, I say “the Word of the Lord” and all four of my kids strongly respond “thanks be to God” – but we don’t do that after reading stories out of the Bible storybooks. That is just one way we practice reiterating that and putting teeth to it, so to speak.

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We pray a lot during the day, so they are constantly bathed in prayer being a normal part of life as well.
Before each meal, when we do “Bible time”, when we arrive somewhere (while kids are still buckled in, after I’ve turned off the car, we usually quickly pray for all of us to have self control and joy etc while we are doing whatever it is we are about to do), before bed, and just at random times throughout the day like if someone gets an owie or needs a prayer for self-control or faithfulness or diligence, we pray during our discipline routines, we pray when we get a parking spot right next to the cart return, we pray when we see an emergency vehicle rushing by us…

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As I seek to prioritize the education of my children to line up with what I most see in Scripture, these are just some the things I am personally doing at this current time with my kids. It’s the most structured and formal it has ever been yet in our family, largely because I am homeschooling fulltime so it works out well in that way (which is one of the reasons we wanted to homeschool, actually). But I do not think it has to be super structured. I do not want my children growing up in at atmosphere of legalism, emphasizing works over faith, or being pressured into “spiritual disciplines” as though our entire lives were not an act of worship & spiritual discipline. I honestly firmly believe that if you just spend your hours with your children loving Jesus, it will happen naturally.

Praying for my children, I think, is hands down the biggest and best blessing for them and their souls. Both in the short term and in the longterm. I am seeking to grow in that area. I love praying for them when they are listening, because I think it feeds their souls as well as helps to shape their own prayers. But I also need to be truly purposed about praying for them when I am alone with God as well. I got Andrew Case’s book “Setting Their Hope in God” as a springboard for praying for my children, largely because I am lazy about it. :blush: But I know that… and acknowledging that and humbling myself should be the first step in growing in that area and asking God to gird my resolve to pray more frequently and more passionately for my children.

Also, back to that idea of seeking to find balance & grace without slipping into the ditch of legalism, I have learned to realize and & embrace that it doesn’t have to be every day.

Seriously. Are you shocked that I would say that publicly? Hah!

If you pour into them little bits at a time, even if it only feels like you’re “doing adequately” once a week (or whatever), God does not turn that away void.
Give what you can give to your children in faith.
Offer up those bits of time as loaves and fishes to Him, and let Him multiply it for your children.
Be gracious with yourself.
God is not constrained by our work schedules, our noisy & silly kids, our wiggly or consistent prayer times.
He gathered the children onto His lap and blessed them.

Honestly. It’s enough.
It’s enough because He takes what you offer in faith, and He multiplies it, makes it fruitful, and brings the increase.

We end every day with singing Numbers 6:24 over the kids, and saying “God bless you, I love you, peace be with you.”
Even if that is all I manage to sneak into the day, God knows my heart. He knows the hearts of my kids. He is at work. :happytears:

 

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Busy Bookworms

Our summer has continued to be busy, busy, busy!
But one constant has remained despite the crazy schedules: namely, busy bookworms.

My bookworms do not take summer break.
(nor would I want them to!)

We have three library cards for the county library, and we can check out fifty items at a time on each card… and would it shock you if I told you that I am constantly maxing out how many things we can bring home at a time?! It is kind of hilarious, but also incredibly beautiful. We do not have a lack of imagination around here, let me tell you.

I am thinking I need to start some kind of document where I keep track of the books each of the kids have read, and some kind of rating system so we know what books we absolutely adored and which ones we wouldn’t bother checking out again.

Personally speaking, I have been devouring all kinds of information (from booklists to podcasts to my new canvas bookbag…) from the Read Aloud Revival (check it out if it’s new to you, especially if there are children anywhere in your life), the Story Warren, and CiRCE Institute.

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I’ve been absolutely amazed at the results that come from spending so many hours indulging in books on my own and with the children. Gabriel is starting to write poetry and short stories, and you can tell from his sentence structure that he has been reading a lot lately! Good writers tend to be good readers. In order to pour out, you must be filled up somehow. It’s true in so many areas, and my nine year old son shows me how true it is even in reading & writing. When he is constantly reading and hearing beautiful language and imaginative themes and redemptive storylines, those things are what begin to come out of his own mind and fingertips too.

So what are some of our current reads that are fast becoming favorites??
How many of these books we keep checking out do we actually remember??
Let me poll the people in my home for you!

Simeon
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?
Doggies
The Jesus Storybook Bible
Pat the Bunny
Animal Alphabet
(and also pretty much any other book he gets his fingers on…
but he is currently obsessed with those)

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Evangeline
The Seven Silly Eaters
This Is My Home This Is My School
Angelina Ballerina
Roxaboxen
Little Red Writing
The Princess in Black series
Little Drummer Boy
My Goodnight Book
The Going To Bed Book
Jabari Jumps
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series

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Asher
Green Ember series
Leepike Ridge
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
Motor Miles
Miss Maple’s Seeds
Mercy Watson series
Balloons Over Broadway
Shel Silverstein books
Nate the Great series
Calvin & Hobbes
Billy & Blaze

Gabriel
Wing & Claw series
Tom Swift series
Rump
100 Cupboards series
TinTin books
Guys Read series (Heroes & Villians and True Stories so far)
Flora & Ulysses
Father Brown Readers
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
Encyclopedia Brown series
Magic Treehouse series
Edge of Extinction series
The Wilderking Trilogy
Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes
Harry Potter I & II

Melissa
***   favorites:
Anne of Green Gables series
The One Year Book of Hope
Brave New Family
Supper of the Lamb
Bread & Wine
Streams in the Desert
Mom Enough
Loving the Little Years
Fit to Burst
Mere Motherhood
***    recent reads
:
Different
Desperate
Teaching From Rest (again!)
The Unhurried Homeschooler
Virtuous
Present Over Perfect
Uninvited
Good Girl’s Guide
The Rise & Fall of Mount Majestic (aloud to my children)
The Green Ember series (aloud to my children)
Pilgrim’s Progress (aloud to my children)
Basket of Flowers (aloud to my children)
Hedge of Thorns (aloud to my children)
Hind’s Feet on High Places (aloud to my children)
***    current reads:
The Meaning of Marriage
The Life-Giving Home
Missional Motherhood
Educating the Whole-Hearted Child
Intended for Pleasure
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series (aloud to my children)
Mountains of Spices (aloud to my children)
Illustrated Shakespeare (aloud to my children)
Shakespeare for Children (aloud to my children)
Shakespeare Sonnets (aloud to my children)
Some Writer

Steven
***    favorites:
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
The Hobbit
Good to Great
The Narnia series
***    recent reads:
The Anglican Way
100 Cupboards (aloud to the children)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
The Way of Kings
Built to Last
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
***    current reads:
Theology of the Family
Hebrews
Dandelion Fire (for the second or third time, to the children)
Words of Radiance

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So as you can see, we are quite the bookish bunch of gingers around here.
When I asked the children to tell me the best books they have read so far this year, they were all clamoring and proclaiming titles simultaneously, begging one another to “let me say that one!” and vying for my earshot.
They literally had to go around and around taking turns, and letting me make sure I heard each of them correctly… and eventually I just had to put a cap on it, because they probably would never have stopped telling me book after book!

Excuse me, please… I have a stack of books and snuggly children waiting for me on the couch… this is the good stuff of life, people. This is the white cream of the Oreo, smashed between all the other (also good) parts of life.
We are people of story.
And this is very good.

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(…and about ten minutes after I hit publish on this post, I ordered $223 of books for our upcoming school year because I found a coupon code for a discount & free shipping! Yay! More books coming our way! These will primarily be about Church history, classical composers, inventors, math (hello Sir Cumference!), and men from the Renaissance & Reformation eras… I love buying books as school supplies that are not consumable, so the initial financial investment is much higher than the longterm because all of the kids will cycle through the books as the years go on…)

This Is Our Newest Must-Read

 

You know those times when you stumble upon a great book that you just read over and over again because it’s that good?
Usually I would say my favorites that fall into that category are things like The One Year Book of HopeTeaching from RestStreams in the Desert, or other things in that type of category. Maybe something like Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie or even the Brambleberry Hedge collection… I don’t know. But I wouldn’t say that I usually fall in love with short, simple picture books from the children’s section at the library. I feel like it is pretty rare that I want to run to the bookstore (or open up Amazon, because, really – I’m an hour from bookstores, and I’ve got four busy little people in tow!) because I have fallen in love with a picture book.

Confessedly, I did buy Papa’s Mechanical Fish for my dad’s birthday not long ago, after having gotten it at the library for my kids… and it was too much right up my dad’s alley NOT to get him a copy. (Whizz-bang-thump-whirrrrr!)

But this one? My newest favorite? I can’t help but share it with all of you. 🙂

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I love the artwork, I love the simple wording, I love the reality, I love the humor.
I love seeing my own life reflected in something as simple as a picture book.
This is My Home, This is My School by Jonathan Bean is one of our newest favorite books.

It will be arriving on my doorstep when my dear old 2-day shipping comes through.
And just because it’s that perfect, it will also be arriving on the doorstep of some of our dearest friends. (hint, hint!)

If you aren’t a homeschooling family, you might not quite get the apt humor and nuances, but perhaps it would help give you a little glimpse into what the homeschool can be like.
And if you ARE a homeschooling family, I would take a leap and say that this is a total must-have for your home library!!

  

Of course, the boys might take pleasure in calling our dog “the bully” and me “the grumpy cafeteria lady” now… but it’s all in hilarious good fun!

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Our Daily Reads

We have been doing a lot of reading aloud together lately. A lot. Maybe it’s because I realized that I really can not split myself up to have one-on-one reading time with each kid every day of the week. So they get lumped together a bit. It is also partly because I like the children to take turns reading aloud to one another. And I want them to each have opportunities to listen to books they love, but also listen to books they don’t love or are not initially drawn to.

Of course I recently poured my soul out to you about our Family Loves here, and books was one of our top three. If my description of my recent purchases and library runs didn’t convince you, allow me to show you through some quick snapshots (sorry for the photo-editing flubs… I’m new at this…) what our current reads are. And yes, I’m pretty serious that we go through a stack as tall as my daughter almost every day. Our daily reads are quite broad, you could say. And we love it

So let me just share with you some of the books we have been reading (and most, we’ve been loving) lately.
The boys want me to point out, however, that this is not a complete list because they didn’t want me to bring down the books currently at their bedsides. I know one of those is The Action Bible because Gabriel has read through that multiple times, and just keeps repeating it! And there are usually a couple Calvin & Hobbes and some Magic Treehouse books stashed by Asher’s pillow.

Those are the books that we tend to read in the morning (just Mommy & the kids), and then a couple of them are what Daddy read aloud to the whole family… the slew of N.D. Wilson and C.S. Lewis, for instance.

This is the stack of seasonal books we picked up at the library recently, which the kids and I have been loving. Books about gardens, spring, animals, Easter, nature, bugs, dirt…
All totally lovable things, and perfect for these sometimes-rainy, sometimes-sunny school days!

And do you want to see some of the things we have yet to read as a family?
Some of these we will do as a family of six at the dinner table in the evening (because the adults always finish our plates first, so Mommy washes the dishes & Daddy reads aloud while the kids keep munching and listen intently).

It looks like kind of a daunting stack, especially when I consider the ones that belong to the county library, because those actually have official due dates… whereas at least the ones from our own little family library here at home don’t have to be completed & returned to the shelf at any specific date!

And honestly, you know, life wouldn’t feel quite rounded out if I didn’t have my own little stash of personal reading on my bedside table for nights and mornings…
I’ve been asked if I would consider reviewing a couple of these, so we’ll see if I end up following through on that or not. 🙂

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What are your current reads?
What are you reading with the children in your life?
What do you like to fall asleep reading at night?
What do you read when you need a laugh, or encouragement, or a quiet moment?
What books would you choose to write a review on, if someone gave you that open opportunity?

Family Loves

I said a few days ago that in my journey of teaching people, one of the main things I am doing is teaching my children what to love and how to love. Over the last few days I have thought numerous times about my children someday no longer being children. It’s happening right before my eyes. Every day, I’m one day closer to my empty nest, to their wings carrying them off, to my grandbaby birds peeping around. There are times I can get so downright caught up in the daily living of life and training of my little people that I can honestly lose sight of the bigger picture.

When I am up to my elbows in crockpot meals, dirty dishes, laundry to fold, books to read, worksheets to check, diapers to change, bills to pay, phone calls to return, appointments to keep, seasons & holidays to embrace… I can forget the big rocks in the jar. How in the world it can be so easy to overlook those… it’s beyond me… but I get so buried in all the little pebbles that I no longer see the cornerstones.

So it’s helpful to ask myself occasionally, when my children fly the coop, what are those cornerstones I want them to see when they look back over their shoulders toward childhood? What solid rocks do I want them to carry on their own journeys forward?

I suppose the biggest answer is a pretty obvious one. I want my children to have their Triune God as the absolute overriding pillar of their childhood. I want joy to be the feeling they recall. I want their memories plastered with family and the family loves.

So since y’all know I come from a Christian background and am seeking to do my utmost for the Kingdom in the raising of these little saints for Him, I’m going to just skip over the first two points, assuming that you would nod in agreement with me and think, well duh.

But when it comes to the memories plastered with family and the loves of our family… I think that is where our own little family cultures start to take their unique beauties and precious forms. No two quite exactly alike.
Some families have football and classical education at the top of their Family Loves list.
Some families have speech club and farm-to-table gardening in first place on their Family Loves list.
Some give precedence to family birthday parties, Sabbath meals, and Winnebago journeys across the country.

I have been evaluating the Family Loves of my home.
What Loves do I emphasize for my children to embrace, so that they know God and feel joy through the Loves?
I feel like I can somewhat confidently narrow it down to three:
Food, Music, & Books.

When I expressed this to someone recently, I was met with a hearty laugh, a hand clapped on my shoulder, and an encouraging word: “well, then I can see you are on the right path. It’s pretty clear that those are the loves in this home.”

Maybe it’s the excitement the kids have three times a day about gathering around our table for food & fellowship. Maybe it’s the almost incessant cycle of making sourdough bread in our home. Maybe it’s the freezer full of muffins, scones, cookies, and bread. Maybe it’s the beef, the balsamic covered salads, the homemade pesto on al denta pasta. Maybe it’s the ice cream every Sunday night with the family movie. Maybe it’s the dinners at Grandmama’s house with all the cousins, and the heaps of food that fill bellies & fatten souls.

Maybe it’s the grand piano and two harps that take a bit of center stage in our family room. Maybe it’s the fact that we start almost every day with singing around the breakfast table. Maybe it’s that the kids have music instruments at their disposal from the time they know how to blow a whistle or shake a tambourine. Maybe it’s the fact that they have a mother with a degree in music. Maybe it’s the fact that their mother believes music should be a foundational pillar in a Christian home. Maybe it’s the fact that these little redheads honestly just can’t stop singing. All day long. They sing about everything. Maybe it’s how they beg me to play piano for them at night after I tuck them in; that is as much a part of our bedtime liturgy as brushing teeth, tucking them in, praying for them, and singing their blessing.

Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t go a week without bringing more books home from somewhere. Maybe it’s because between my husband & me, we have gone to the library every day this week. Maybe because I found an amazing woman on craigslist who literally runs a bookmobile side business out of her minivan, and I brought home 70 books two days ago… and then hit the library sale for another 30 books yesterday… and then decided today that it was time to figure out some of next year’s curriculum for the boys, so of course that involved buying books from Amazon and Veritas. And if you know me very well at all, you know I have an addiction to the 49-cent children’s books on the shelves of Goodwill. Maybe it’s because we don’t have a television in the family room, but we do have a wall of bookshelves, and about five other storage containers for books all in that room (plus more in the schoolroom and every bedroom and Steven’s study). Maybe it’s because we spend about half our waking hours reading books in this house.

But wait.

Are those the causes? or the effects?
Are those the reasons these things are our main Family Loves?
Or are these the outworkings of them being our main Family Loves?
Both, in fact, I should think.

If you were to designate a few main Family Loves in your home, what would they be? And why?
What is it about those specific things that makes you want your children to love them?
And how do you envision creating a culture of loving those things in your home?

Teaching People…

I have been contemplating a lot about teaching lately… Everyone says that there comes some kind of slump at the end of February… it seems to coincide with spring fever! So I decided to talk to myself, and pray with my Lord, about things quite a bit this week.

I finally got tired of constantly re-requesting Teaching From Rest from the local library, so last week I went ahead & Amazoned it (yep, I used that as a verb – I’m cool like that). It’s much happier to have this sweet, encouraging, accessible book at home on my own desk.
I have recently gotten more addicted to perusing Sarah Mackenzie’s website and instagram. Last year, her ideas about spiral notebooks totally changed the way our homeschool (and life!) works – this year is far and wide smoother and sweeter than previous years. Steven and I credit a lot of that to the simple, wise implementation of our spiral bound notebooks (our children simply refer to The Lists, and yes, in their eyes they are quite capitalization-worthy). Hands-down without a question, we will be doing it this away again next year, in case you were wondering!

I’ve been teaching some fun music classes at our weekly homeschool co op this winter, and am about to jump into teaching some new things in the spring session! I’m pretty excited about it. And I actually enjoyed teaching music theory this winter a lot more than I thought I would. :) My students were great, and the curriculum/notebooks I was able to compile over Christmas break worked really well! I am so thankful for God’s grace in the details.
I do find that I am still a newbie at teaching other peoples’ kids, and some of the more seasoned moms have reminded me recently that when I am sassed or disrespected, it is not only in the best interest of the classroom at the time but also just one more way I am teaching a student, to send the student to their mother for instruction and correction. I am ever so thankful for the more seasoned mamas who have so much grace and generosity with newbies like me!

Yesterday I was also approached on the subject of teaching children about Sunday worship. It was an interesting little conversation, and got me pondering the issue a great deal more. Interestingly, I had just listened to a podcast on the subject last week, so I had already been mulling over some principles and methods before the conversation even came up yesterday.

Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that I am teaching math, teaching English, teaching music… teaching subjects.
But the reality is that I am not teaching things.

I am teaching people.
In fact, I’m teaching my favorite people in the whole world!
While I am teaching brains, shaping cultures, instilling eternal souls with a variety of life,
I’m essentially continuing on my journey of creating people.
Sculpting, molding, shaping, filling.

I show them what to love and how to love.
It’s a big job. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming.
I don’t want to get caught in the trap of stressing over methods, curricula, schools of thought, schedules.
I want to focus on teaching precious people how to love true, good, beautiful things.

This takes time and thought and joy and peace and grace.
It also does happen to take books and pencils and instruments and keyboards and recitation and repetition and trying-again.

And yes, it definitely also takes a sense of humor and a pot of coffee every morning. :)

 

Being Real

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I don’t do social media. I am trying to be better about not spending much time every day even on emails or blogging.
I think my personal biggest temptation is to look sideways and play the comparison game, especially with other mommies. Other moms (either celebrity or personal friends) seem to have it all together. They are thinner, stronger, prettier. They have better complexions and fewer grey hairs. They have kids with perfect table manners and “yes ma’am” down pat. They craft with their kids with the best of the Pinterest folks without getting glue and glitter all over the house… or at least the other mamas don’t seem to care about the messes and have magic fairies who tidy up. Their kids can cook, clean, and organize circles around even the most put-together Rubbermaid-queen mamas.

That’s what I see anyway. I see other lives through filters. Rosy glasses. Carefully selected snapshots. Snippets of seeming perfection.

What I see here without filters, through my dirty & scratched old glasses is every moment of my life. I don’t take time to put on makeup every day. I don’t remember to wash my hair every week. I can’t remember the last time I exercised on purpose. There are occasional foodie moments (like my loaves of sourdough I’m trying to perfect) or crafting successes that may make me want to take pictures and sign up for an Instagram so I too can show off my domestic prowess!

But I’m too busy wiping bums, sorting laundry, stoking the fire, reading history books and Bible stories with the children, finding lost mittens, feeding mouths that never seem satiated, and doling out new school assignments by the hour.

No time for blogging.
No time for taking pictures, even though I have both my Nikon and my iPhone on my desk. Right here in the kitchen. Center of the chaos.

But this is reality.
It’s my life.

This is the MOST WONDERFUL JOB IN THE WORLD.
I do not want to trade it for anything!!
(And yes, if you happen to see my tear-stained face, it’s true: I still struggle with the desire to add more crazy kids to the already-chaotic mix, and it is a real heartache to the depths of my soul that I can not.)
I love my job as Senior Domestic Engineer and Vice President of Clan Development.

And simultaneously, this is the HARDEST, MOST EXHAUSTING JOB IN THE WORLD.
I daily feel unfit for the position.
I am unworthy of the privilege and overwhelmed by the responsibility.
How often I have to take deep breaths, cry ugly tears, and grab a handful of CheezIts… I won’t actually admit.

I want to be real.
I want to share the ups and the downs.
I want to let people know that I love my work, and that I am sometimes overwhelmed by it.
I also want my friends to know that I am not overwhelmed because I am ungodly, not spiritual enough, don’t pray long enough, or am a less-than mommy.
I am a specifically created woman, with a unique frame and a highly sensitive nature (click here if you want to know what that means).
I am (in the words of a dear friend) a recovering people-pleaser.
I am a truly imperfect perfectionist.

So I’m seeking to find opportunity where I can carve out more moments to be real.
To share the real.
To give glimpses into the incredibly amazing, joy-filled, beautiful, chaotic, messy life I have.
Out in the country. In the home I designed with my husband. Balancing work and play, grief and joy. Raising the children we created together. Homeschooling these sweet brains that are way too intelligent for my good. Discipling these incredible hearts & souls for the Kingdom of God.
I cook good food here to feed real people. I (try to) clean and organize this home. I fill it with books by the dozens (thank you Goodwill for shelves full of 49-cent page turners!!).
This is where mistakes and messes happen. This is where Grace and Forgiveness takes on flesh. This is where we need Lysol wipes and plenty of Bath & Bodyworks soap pumps. This is where I fall into bed at night feeling like I can not bear another moment with sounds and lights and people and demands… but where I also do not want to miss a moment with these delightful beings in this precious place.
I am sad when another day ends. But also relieved.
I am delighted when another day begins. But also overwhelmed.

There’s not much more real than that.

Here’s hoping God grants me occasional moments to continue being real with you.
I long for my words to capture where the joy, the grace, and the freedom really is.
So I can embrace my calling, my life, my messes & my beauties, my joys, and my struggles ~ and not feel like I have to hide.
I don’t have to cast sidelong glances elsewhere, and crawl back into my hole.

God made me. For His glory.
And that’s got to be totally enough.
Really.

Perspective on Loving My Children

A friend of mine from our homeschool co op shared this sweet little take on 1 Corinthians 13… it made me smile and brought courage to my heart. It is a day where I needed this strong reminder: all else (including freezing rain, cranky hearts, fussing siblings, sick kids, and halfhearted schoolwork) will fade away, but faith, hope, & love will remain. May the Lord grant me perspective and give me grace to daily show love-in-action to my family.

“Though I teach my children how to multiply, divide, and diagram a sentence, but fail to show them LOVE, I have taught them nothing!

And though I take them on numerous field trips, to swim practice and flute lessons; and though I involve them in every church activity, but fail to give them LOVE, I profit nothing!

And though I scrub my house relentlessly, run countless errands, and serve three nutritious meals every day but fail to be an example of LOVE, I have done nothing!

LOVE is patient with misspelled words and is kind to young interrupters.

LOVE does not envy the high SAT scores of other Homeschool families. LOVE does not claim to have better teaching methods than anyone else, is not rude to the fourth telephone caller during a science lesson, does not seek perfectly behaved geniuses, does not turn into a drill sergeant, thinks no evil about friends’ educational choices!

LOVE bears all my children’s challenges, believes all my children are God’s precious gifts, hopes all my children establish permanent relationships with Christ, and endures all things to demonstrate God’s love!

LOVE never fails!

Where there are college degrees, they will fail; where there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

For we know in part and we teach in part. But when the trials of life come to our children, the history, math, and science will be done away and faith, hope, and love will remain;

But the greatest of these is love.”

~Author Unknown~

Big Kid Joys

I love babies. My mom might smile and tell you that’s largely because I’ve had “easy babies.” But let’s be honest: to at least a certain extent, babies are babies, and babies are also honed by the hard work of their mama. So while God definitely did give my babies their blessed personalities and natures, He also has used the hard work of my hands, my time, my tears, my discipline, my prayers, my tactics… It’s not like they have grown up into “easy kids” in a lot of ways. So I think it might be safe to say that I’m GOOD at babies. I’m not quite so good at the preschool season. Not yet anyway. I am praying for grace to get there! 🙂

There are lots of joys that I can easily place my fingers on when it comes to my baby. Each one of my four children has brought me immense joy, and there is nothing I have loved (yet!) more than their babyhoods.

Perhaps that is one reason that I struggle emotionally with having the baby years closing behind me. In another couple of weeks, my baby will be a year old. That is, officially speaking, the end of infancy and the beginning of toddlerhood. This is the first time I’ve come upon a child’s first birthday without being/having been pregnant again. It will be the first time I have celebrated a child’s first birthday without the huge shadows of grief & fear. (I was pregnant with Promise on Gabriel’s 1st birthday, and had just miscarried Glory shortly prior; I was pregnant with Evangeline on Asher’s 1st birthday, and utterly terrified; I miscarried Heritage just two days before Evangeline’s 1st birthday, and was grieving immensely the death of her baby sister.)

Now the only shadow I sit under is the unique heaviness I feel upon knowing that this is the last time I will celebrate my child’s first birthday. (Praise the Lord for the hope of grandchildren!) I have had so much joy with my babies.

But here’s the thing I want to emphasize: there are going to be so many big kid joys in the future.
And this is one of the things I am just now discovering.
Perhaps it is because my friends’s kids, and my nieces & nephews are largely younger kids too. With a couple of rare exceptions, the folks we tend to hang out with on an intimate level are either in the same season of life we are, or are even a step or two behind us on the path.

And I need to know that the biggest joys of motherhood are not exclusively behind me.
Because, in all honesty, that is one of my big temptations, one of my big fears.
The baby years are familiar to me, they are joyful and comforting and deliciously sweet.

I am only barely beginning to see what some of the future joys may be.
The challenges of the older years seem to express themselves more easily.
I know there are hard times ahead. (Oh boy. It looks like menopause may intersect with puberty… that will be fun.)

So I need to start writing down the big kid joys as they come.
I need to look ahead with happy hope.
I need to laugh at, rather than fear, the future.

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I need to remember that resurrection follows death, in God’s economy.

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

~Rachel Jankovic~

Yesterday, my 8 1/2 year old (who is, by the way, beginning now to show me lots of big kid joys!) came grocery shopping with me. Now, that’s not unusual. But the unusual factor is that we did not have the 4 & 3 year olds with us. Simeon rode around the store strapped to my chest, I led the way with list in hand, and Gabriel took the initiative to choose a cart & push it along behind me. He was very intentional about letting others go first, about being a gentleman, and about jumping in when he saw an area to help. We talked about math a lot while we were shopping; figuring out which were the best mozzarella and parmesan purchases to make, based upon price per ounce, for instance. We did a good bit of math in our heads but also pulled out the calculator on my phone to help us with minutia.
But the biggest joy to this mama’s heart yesterday hit hard when he pushed the cart into the checkout line for me, while I ran back to the baking aisle to pick up a bag of powdered sugar. When I came back to him, he explained that he did not want to load the groceries onto the conveyor until the older woman in front of him was out of the way, because he wanted to give her space; but then he did not want me to lift a finger (except for the 17lb pumpkin…) because he wanted to do the heavy lifting. 🙂

He did not wait to be asked to help. In fact, he did not even ask if I wanted him to help.
He simply saw an area where he could help, and his servant-heart jumped into gear.

There also was not a bagger at our checkout line, so Gabriel helped bag things and placed every single bag into the cart.
By the time we reached the car, and it was time to buckle in his baby brother and help me put all the bags in the back of the Pilot, I was bubbling over with happy, humble thankfulness. To God and to my big boy.
I told him so.
And then when given the option of two “rewards” of a sort (two different reward systems we’ve got going on currently), he chose the option that would also affect his siblings, rather than the option that would only affect himself.

These are good things. They are big deals in the moment. (Sure, I understand they are not huge in the grand scheme, but my prayer and hope is that they will lead to huge good things in the bigger picture of our future.)

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There are also big kid joys like bowling league. Ballet class. Kids following their daily activities lists without me needing to micro-manage every hour of their day. Kids who basically fight over who gets to help Mommy set the table or wash the dishes. The joy of being able to play Carcassonne with my son, rather than always needing to play Chutes & Ladders; of being able to play real Monopoly, rather than always the Jr. version. The joy of watching my son both tithe & serve in a worship service with a happy countenance and willing heart.

Oh. And losing teeth. That’s a uniquely big kid joy, too. 😀

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There are definitely joys behind. These moments and memories will remain dear to my heart.
But knowing that there are joys ahead is a huge encouragement & blessing to me.
Experiencing the firstfruits now gives me hope for the future.

I so truly love the season of life where my sweet little branches develop beautiful, strong buds.
But now I am beginning to see the beauty of the buds opening, and the petals beginning to open little by little.
And I have hope that when the blooms are fully open, the true fruit will begin to show itself.
And someday, oh someday… those fruits will come off this tree… and I want to have joy & thankfulness about it…

So cheers to the future! Watch me embrace the next phase, as we move into big kid joys.
May God be my strength and establish my roots,
so that the sap is flowing thick & sweet for nourishment all around.
The roots are deep.
The buds are beautiful.
I can’t wait to taste the fruit.

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