Saturday, July 31, 2010

Overheard.....

Little Man, while hugging me and seeing a hint of cleavage at the top of my shirt: "Mommy, you have a breast line that I can see."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Son G at the dinner table, after an afternoon of chores: "My side of the bedroom is 'mommy clean' but Little Man's side isn't very clean."

Little Man: "Well, I couldn't clean my room because I had a really bad headache."

Son L, while rolling his eyes: "Welcome to the land of excuses!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(For this next conversation, you need to know that Mr. Ed is the kind gentleman who has loaned us a vehicle for the past month)

Son L: "Mommy, you know that verse in the Bible that says our good deeds will be tested in a fire, and some will be burn up like hay and some will shine like gold?"*

Me: "Yes."

L: "Well, Mr. Ed is going to have lots of golden good deeds in heaven!"

*I Corinthians 3:12-13

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Fun! (and co-op planning)

I mentioned that our co-op moms met together (all 3 of us now that Angela has moved away ~ boo hoo!) and planned out the writing portion of our co-op for this coming year. Our kids also had a chance to swim and play together - which they dearly loved!





This is a short video showing each of the children on the slip 'n slide. It will put a smile on your face!!

video


As the children played, us moms were able to: schedule out the entire year, which weeks we would be meeting, schedule which lesson of our writing curriculum would be taught each week, and schedule who was teaching which lessons. I feel so good about what we accomplished!


This year we will be using another IEW product called "Student Intensive Continuation Course - B", or SICC-B for short (just like "sick-b"). It picks up where our writing class left off last year, and will be a rigorous class for our older children. Each week there will be a dvd lesson taught by Andrew Pudewa, and then the writing teacher will help the students begin outlining and practicing the new "dress ups" and "decorations" prior to their homework assignment.

Since all 3 families are using Tapestry of Grace (though not the same year plan), we each plan to substitute the content of the homework assignments with topics from our history studies, which means the moms will grade their own children's work rather than the writing teacher doing it. We also have to adjust SICC-B down considerably for our younger writers which will require another gab session, oops! I mean planning meeting. ;-) But we got a lot decided!

As an aside, doing SICC-B along with a grammar program (such as IEW's Fix-It which our family will be using) and literature discussion (which is included in Tapestry of Grace's program) counts as 1 English credit. So at the end of this school year, our daughter G will have earned her first "official" high school credit!

Our younger children, who did the young 5's alphabet class last year, will be working through several books from Five In a Row, Volume 1 (more on that later). We will essentially have 3 groups, 2 writing groups and the Five in a Row class, and just 3 moms. So Friday mornings are going to be busy! But we are very excited for our upcoming year and are thankful for likeminded families and good friends to learn with!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Devastated

Dear, dear friends of mine learned devastating news yesterday. My heart is broken for them. Such a difficult, sorrowful road God has asked them to walk. I don't get it and I don't like it. It isn't at all what I would choose for them. BUT, I know that God loves them more than they can imagine and I know that God is faithful. I am clinging to this truth and praying they will as well. And when they are too tired to cling any longer, that God would hold them fast to Himself.

Also yesterday the moms in our little homegrown real life co-op met together to plan the writing portion of our co-op for this coming year. My children were so happy to see their co-op friends again! The children swam and laughed and played in the yard all afternoon. It was odd and bittersweet to see their joy and know that at the same time my friends were experiencing such grief.

If the Lord brings them to mind, will you please pray for my friends? Thank you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Call me crazy...

but I went swim suit shopping (for myself) with all the children. And was successful!

It was evident this summer that my 10 years old at least suit was no longer suitable for public viewing. So on Friday afternoon, mere hours before leaving for the cottage, we made a run to Target and I checked out the suits. I found one top in my size that looked pretty modest, so I sat the kids down outside the fitting rooms, dashed in and tried it on. It fit and was marked down to $17.99. I bought it and home we went! Most painless swimsuit shopping trip I've ever had! Who knew??

Today's trip to the grocery store on the other hand.....not so painless.

It was definitely a "Monday".

(so thankful tomorrow's Tuesday!)

Fun Weekend!

We got back late last night from a weekend at the cottage. We had so much fun! We spent hours and hours in or on the river, we all returned sun kissed and tired, and (drumroll please.....) a highlight of the weekend was Sunday afternoon when all five of our children waterskiied!!!!! Sadly, my camera ran out of battery power so I was not able to get video of each of them. The older 4 children all got up on beginner skis that are tied together at the front and back with about 6-8" of rope. They each skiied for at least several seconds before falling, daughter G skiied much farther but she has been skiing for several summers now, so she is our "veteran". Little Man got up on a ski board made especially for young children. It has two "skiis", one for each foot, but they are connected at the top with one big curved piece, and the handle for holding on is attached to this board rather than the boat. He skiied for quite a long way!! We are so proud of all of them for their effort.

I can't say I let down my guard completely concerning the water, but I was much more relaxed. It helped that Little Man wore his life jacket at all times while on the dock or in the river!


We relaxed the trampoline rule of only 2 on at a time when we realized the children just wanted to lay down on the thing and sunbathe. :-)


There were several others at the cottage, but our little family went for a long family boat ride on Saturday evening in Uncle Brian's boat. It was nice to have that time with just us.





I love this picture! These are 6 of the people I love most in all the world, enjoying the view.



Little Man with his same age second cousin.




Here is my husband trying out a new kneeboard. He and his brother say kneeboarding is really fun because it's much easier on the knees than skiing (?) ~ something that becomes important past 40. ;-)

video

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Doesn't this look cozy?

In preparation for our camping vacation coming up soon, a couple of the children have gotten new sleeping bags. They are so excited about these bags!! They have been playing in them, reading in them every afternoon, and of course listening to stories in them too.

I love this picture because I love it that my husband reads out loud to us almost every night. We have worked our way through the Chronicles of Narnia and are listening to The Last Battle now. My husband does all the different voices, and his British accent is quite good! Jolly good actually. ;-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Overheard.....

The children noticed a sign at McDonald's that said "drive thru open 24 hours", so this evening we were talking about how people work different shifts so that no one person is up and working that whole 24 hours.

Me: "Some people work there during the day and then they go home, and some people work there during the evening and then they go home, and other people come at night and work there all night long."

Little Man: "You mean they are nocturnal?"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preparing for School - Week of July 11

This week on my "Ross day" I mapped out hands on activities and center activities for units 1 and 2 of Tapestry of Grace Year 1. That is half the year! We are really looking forward to going back to the beginning and studying the ancient world with Tapestry. It has been 5 years since any of our children studied ancient history, and then it was primarily just our daughter. Little Man wasn't even born yet!

In preparation for this, I quickly made a form on the computer that just listed out different areas of study. Us perfectionists can easily spend hours creating the "perfect" form, and I didn't want making the form to take up all my time, so it's just super simple and I realized later that I had left off a couple things. But it just helps me to tie everything together for a week of study ~ such as what hands on activity to do that week, what science we hope to complete that week, if L and C will make timeline figures that week, any special books or activities for Little Man to do in kindergarten that week, etc.

This was my work area:

And this is the form I made. Click on the picture to enlarge if you want to see the details. I have to go through this stack again and add science and writing assignments, but I got all our history activities mapped out for half the year! This will help insure that the fun supplemental activities will actually be used, and the hands on activities will actually be done. Whoo-hoo!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Basement Remodel - week of July 11

"Remodel" is really too fancy of a term for what we're doing, but for lack of a better description that's what I'll call it. Last summer when we moved our school room to the basement we intended it to be phase 1 of a bigger school room project. This summer we are working on phase 2. Phase 2 involves knocking out this wall and thus enlarging our schoolroom by about 8 feet:



But before knocking out the wall, we had to get rid of all of this stuff which was behind the wall:


Pretty depressing, huh?

And once we get rid of all that stuff we have to dismantle the wooden shelves and rebuild them on the other side of the basement before we can knock out the wall. Whew! Definitely a sequential vortex! (that's what my family used to call projects that had multiple layers, where doing one thing required something else first, and that thing required something else first, and so on. Isn't "sequential vortex" a descriptive phrase?).

Emptying the shelves has been my project this week. Going through our basement stuff, purging and organizing, has needed to be done for years. It's not a fun job, but it's a great feeling to get stuff OUT of our house! Each day this week I have filled at least two large garbage bags with junk to throw away, as well as at least one bag for Purple Heart. I have gone through files upon files upon files, sifting through old papers from as far back as my husband's initial Navy days (that would be 26 years ago!). I found my college acceptance letter! We threw out an entire garbage bag full of old floppy disks. Yes, an entire bag full of just those. I mean, this is stuff that should not still be in our house! We have taken 3 old bookcases and 3 file cabinets to the curb to bless others. Each time we take old furniture or bags of stuff out of the house I feel a bit more freedom. Isn't it amazing how "stuff" can make us feel so tied down?

Unlike the show Clean Sweep, we do not have the option of taking every single thing out of the laundry/storage side of our basement and then putting only those things back that are worth keeping. We have to sort and purge as we go, moving things around and piling stuff on one side of the room while we work on the other. It's not ideal, but it's slowly getting done.

Here are some before and after pics from this week.

I knew the schoolroom would get totally trashed during this project, needing to temporarily house stuff that would eventually go back on the storage side. So before tackling the storage side I carved out a desk area for myself so that I could continue working on school prep throughout the summer. Here is before:

And here is the same area after:


Here is that pic again of what was behind the wall:


And here is that same area today:


Our plan is to dismantle and rebuild the shelves on the right first. Then move the stuff that's on the shelves on the left onto the newly rebuilt shelves, and then dismantle the shelves on the left. Make sense? We don't have a lot of space to work so we have to do one side at a time.

This is the whole length of the laundry/storage side. Washer/dryer is behind the camera, and currently there is an "L" shape that curves past the filing cabinets and goes behind the wall that we're planning to knock out. This is before:



And looking at the same area after:



The baskets to the right are my laundry baskets and they sit directly under our laundry chute. The clothes fall into the wicker basket and we can sort whites into the white basket on one side, and darks into the brown basket on the other. This sorting system is helpful for those children who are just learning how to do laundry. The baskets are sitting on our old school cubbie! Which now makes a great place to store tubs of organized stuff. The boxes stacked on the left of the photo are my husband's that he has to go through at some point.

I have things just about ready for my husband to start dismantling and rebuilding the shelves. Whoo-hoo! ;-)

(and if you're curious, we threw out the high chair ~ it was pretty nasty ~, stored the exersaucer up in our attic, and saved the crib which found a new home behind the laundry baskets. I love having a crib to loan out, and I hope to use it for grandchildren some day!).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fun Weekend, and GOOD news!!

Last Friday was the day my husband learned that he was passed over for a second interview and that our car loan application was denied. It was a tough day. I knew we needed something fun to lift our spirits on the weekend, so I suggested to my husband that we take the children to see the movie "Toy Story 3". We rarely go to the movies all together so this would be a big treat, and a possible last "paying" family date before unemployment. My husband readily agreed, so off we went.

Oh my word, we had SO much fun!!! The children were super excited to be going to a movie in the middle of the day. With our whole family! And we opted to see it in 3-D which was a totally new experience for all our children. They were sporting the glasses long before the 3-D previews started. :0) We enjoyed the movie immensely. I found it every bit as good as the first one and all of us but Little Man cried at the end (don't tell my middle aged boys that I told you that). I don't want to give anything away if you haven't seen it, but the ending was SO bittersweet, and done SO well, and any parent who has watched their children grow up and out of certain stages will get teary-eyed at the end unless their heart is made of stone. It was a satisfying wrap up of the whole Toy Story "story" and a very fun time together. Then we came home and swam and played in the pool for a long time.

On Sunday afternoon we took son C to the library to get his VERY. OWN. LIBRARY. CARD. Yes! It was finally his turn!!

Signing his name....




...and then checking out his first book with his own card!



We went home and curled up in the family room ~ some of us read and some of us watched the World Cup final on tv. It was a fun, fun weekend and it made me so very grateful for my family and God's goodness in enabling us to enjoy one another.

Fast forward to the middle of the week, and yesterday my husband received the news that his current employer would like to extend his contract 10 more weeks!!!!!! Yippee!!!! It's not a permanent job, but it's 10 more weeks of work and it means we can go ahead with a vehicle decision. God is SO good! Thank you for your prayers! He hears and He is faithful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Job Interview Update

It was not the news we wanted to hear. My husband got passed over for a second interview. Since this news was conveyed through a third party, we are not sure exactly what the reasons might be, but my husband feels fairly certain that not having asp.net experience probably played a big factor. In the field of software development, new development tools come on the scene at a pretty fast rate. Whatever the latest and greatest technology is for software development is what cutting edge companies want to be using. You can have years of experience, know a variety of languages, have worked with a variety of development platforms, but still not have "it". And right now, asp.net seems to be "it".

So my husband is convinced he needs to create his own experience with this tool. It is actually pretty easy to write a basic computer program, but to create one that does certain things using certain technology that runs in the background (unknown and unseen by the end user) can take hours upon hours upon hours of work. This is what he feels he needs to do starting immediately after his last day of work this Friday.

To my faithful friends and loved ones who have prayed so often these last couple years for our job situation....thank you. You have no idea what your prayers have meant to us and what they have DONE for us! I appreciate your love, demonstrated through your prayers, so much. And I humbly ask you to keep praying! Pray for a job, of course. God knows we need one. But also pray for good time management, for clear thinking and fast learning as my husband teaches himself asp.net and tries to create something with it, for patience and trust. For both of us to walk by faith and not by sight. For love to abound in our home amidst the uncertainty.

The timing of all this is really interesting. We also learned that our application for a car loan was denied. Which means we either have to fix our minivan after all, or buy a cheap clunker type vehicle to hold us over until such time as we can get approved (length of time on his current job - just 2 months - was cited as a major reason for denial of our application, and the only way to gain more time on a job is to work there longer!). We have money set aside, but if he doesn't find another job soon we were planning to use that for living expenses. If we use it to repair our vehicle or buy a different one, we'll have no buffer for unemployment. Hmmm, what to do? Thankfully, God knows, and He is in control. The events of this summer, and the timing of them is no surprise to the Lord, and are in fact orchestrated by Him for His divine purposes. We matter to God! The details of our lives are not random occurrences. They have meaning and purpose. Isn't this amazing?

That is the truth, and I choose to live in His truth today.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Preparing for School - Week of July 4

Now that it's already July (how did that happen??) I have begun to plan and prepare for our next school year in earnest. Though I do love planning our school year, I try not to let this take over my whole summer. In order to have focused, uninterrupted prep time, and to help hold me accountable to one day a week, I was able to enlist the help of a high school friend of mine. Ross comes to watch the children for me one day a week for several hours so I can focus on school prep. I love, love, love this!!! It has been working out very well, and I am so thankful for his good care of the children and for all I have been able to accomplish while he is here.

Here is what I did this past week on my "Ross day".

I made "Fix It" grammar notebooks for my three older children. Fix It is another wonderful product made by IEW, the same company that produces our writing curriculum. In it there are 5 different classic stories (for different ages) that have grammar errors imbedded in them. Each day the children try to find the errors in ONE sentence. Yes, just one sentence! As they edit and correct, we discuss the appropriate grammar rules and then they rewrite the sentence correctly. By the end of the school year, they will have edited and rewritten the entire story! I love that it is broken down into very small chunks each day, and I love that the grammar rules will be very relevant because they are tied to writing. A few years ago my daughter used Editor in Chief, which is another error finding and fixing workbook, but neither of us were happy with it for several reasons. Of course we haven't actually used Fix It yet, but it looks far superior to EiC, and I'm excited to give it a try!


I purchased the teacher book, and then downloaded the student pages from the IEW website. I printed out these student pages, they are pictured below on the left. Each page represents a week's worth of work, 1 sentence to correct for each of 4 days. I found some blank lined pages here and printed them on the facing page, so my children can easily re-write the corrected sentences each week. This will also be cursive writing practice for all three of them (bonus!! penmanship practice taken care of too!).

I printed out a few pages that have space at the top for drawing pictures to go along with the story, since all our children love to draw!


By the way, I just want to put in a plug for my friend Debra and her fantastic website, notebooking pages.com. She has several sets of notebooking pages for sale, for all different subjects, and she also has a FREE section where I found the pages for our Fix It notebooks. She also has lots of samples and encouraging articles on how to use notebooking in your homeschool. Click on the button in my right sidebar to visit her website.


I was also able to prepare two more posters for our poster center. Centers are not a new idea to me, but I had never explored ways to make them work for us until last summer when I read about the Workbox System. We don't have tons of room and I just didn't think I could be creative enough to make centers work in our limited space and with our limited budget. However, Sue Patrick explains in her book how centers can be such a great way to reinforce learning in a fun way ~ so much so that children don't even realize they are still learning! They can also break up the day, giving a nice change of pace from bookwork.

I realized that since posters are flat and don't take up much space, that was a "center" I could do pretty easily. We used our poster center this past year and the children loved it! Over the years I had already acquired several posters, so as I was able I bought second posters identical to the first. Sue's point about a poster center, is that it needs to be interactive to be effective. So I followed her guidelines and cut out all the pieces of the second, matching poster.


Then I put velcro on the original poster and on the backs of all the matching pieces. Voila! Last fall I taught the children how to use the poster center. When they stick the matching piece onto the poster, they must either name the piece or say the word on the piece. This way they are seeing the item, saying the name of the item, and hearing themselves say the name of the item, all at the same time. Multi-sensory!

I have been blessed to find posters covering specific topics that I wanted to practice with the children. Here is one of our new ones for this fall:


Here is our poster center collection so far. We will use just 2 or 3 at a time in our poster center (which is the back of a toy bin shelf, which sticks out into the room creating a little "wall").


Each week I plan to post what I get done on my "Ross day", so stay tuned!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Job Interview Today!

UPDATE:

The interview went well, and we should hear by early next week if they want to pursue a face to face interview. Thank you for your prayers!

Original post:

Please pray for my husband who has an interview today at 2:30. Thank you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Updates and Ponderings

With some pictures from last weekend thrown in for the grandparents. :-)

I have been quite sick for the last week with the worst cold I've had in years, so instead of going to the family cottage for the whole weekend we went just for the day last Saturday (big family reunion that day). The pictures were all taken there. I was pretty much catatonic that day, but I think I faked it well with meds and makeup.


Last week we attended the funeral of a dear woman from church who died suddenly. It was a beautiful and very emotional service. She was a quiet woman, very unassuming, genuine, and gracious. She wasn't flamboyant or a woman who sought the spotlight at all, yet she leaves a huge hole that is felt by many. I am so glad she is in heaven with the people she loved most (her Savior Jesus, and her husband who died several years before her), but I really miss her. She was the first person who made me feel welcome at our church, years ago when I was a newlywed and didn't know anyone there. She welcomed me like a member of her own family, and I could tell she meant what she said. I have always been so grateful for that. Through the years her quiet yet confident way often encouraged me.

As I sat at her funeral I found myself wanting to be a better person. Wanting to be content in the roles God has given me to fill. Wanting to be quietly gracious and willing to serve. Lord, help me to be more like her, which was more like You.


My husband has this week and next to work at his current contract job, and then he will be done there. He has been looking hard for a new job and has a few things in the pipeline, but no interviews yet. Please pray with us for a job in God's perfect time, and for the faith we need to trust in God day by day. God knows our needs. He knows we need income to live ~ this is not a news flash for Him! So we can quietly and confidently trust that He *will* provide. But some days are easier than others.


One of the things that was hardest to deal with during our 9 month unemployment last year was feeling "stuck" in so many areas. There were so many ways in which we couldn't move forward because we didn't have the funds to get the one thing that was needed. So we have been pretty intentional the last few weeks in how we have spent our money. Knowing another period of unemployment may be coming up, a part of me has wanted to save every penny. And we have saved. But we've also made purchases that will help us not be "stuck". A new pair of good running shoes for me so I can progress in my 5K training. A huge order of wheat berries so I can bake bread and not have to buy. A new drill so my husband can more easily make home repairs. Filling the pool so the kids have a fun activity for the summer. And we have been able to purchase all the materials needed for next school year, so we won't be stuck in last years' grades! :0)

(cousins, second cousins, and third cousins!)

I am learning that money can be an idol no matter how much or how little you have. If I worship money or if I worry about money, both are drawing my attention away from Jesus. I have been meditating on Matthew 6:25-34 lately. Verse 34 states, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." One translation says, "take no thought for tomorrow". What does this mean for me, a planner by nature? Is planning and preparing bad? Of course not. Proverbs 6 tells us to consider the ant, who stores its provisions during summer when the harvest is good. Obviously preparing for lean times is wise.



But in planning or preparing for tomorrow do I sometimes miss out on the blessings of today?


Can I be so focused on "preparing" that I miss out on "being"? In the moment? Here and now? Lord, help me to live your Word. Help me to focus on what Your Word says, and not what the world says. Even conventional christian wisdom can at times be tradition and not necessarily truth. Help me to live Your Word.


And lastly, our minivan has reached the end of its long and illustrious 14 year lifespan. It let us know in a dramatic fashion that it was no longer safe to drive. We are thankful for God protecting us from a potentially dangerous trip to the cottage, finding out about our minivan the night before our trip (we drove a borrowed van that day instead). Please pray that God would either give us a replacement, or give us the means to get one. Thank you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

(re-printed from a post on July 4, 2009 ~ I think we need to be reminded of this every year!)

I
N CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Visit this website to read the middle section of the Declaration in its entirety.

The closing paragraph of the Declaration:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Continental Congress voted on July 2, 1776 to declare independence from Britain. Thomas Jefferson had been appointed to write the first draft of the declaration, and he presented a lengthy document to Congress on this day. There were several points which congressional delegates objected to, so during a long July 3 the next day it was re-worked, re-worded, and about one fourth of Jefferson's writing was deleted entirely. The words printed above were the final version, being voted on and approved unanimously by Congress on July 4. On this day only John Hancock and the secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson, fixed their signatures. The famous "signing of the declaration", of which there was a famous painting made, actually took place on August 2, with several absent delegates not signing until the fall. The final signature, that of Thomas McKean of Delaware, was not fixed until January 1777.

This is the scene in Philadelphia when the declaration was read aloud in the public square on July 8 (from the book John Adams by David McCullough):

"With drums pounding, five battalions paraded through the city and on the common gave us 13 cannon blasts, notwithstanding the scarcity of powder. Bells rang through the day and into the night. There were bonfires at street corners. Houses were illuminated with candles in their windows. In the Supreme Court Room at the State House, as planned, a half dozen Philadelphians chosen for the honor took the King's Arms down from the wall and carried it off to be thrown on top of a huge fire and consumed in an instant, the blaze lighting the scene for blocks around. There were bonfires, ringing bells, with other great demonstrations of joy upon the unanimity and agreement of the Declaration.

As mounted messengers carried the news beyond Philadelphia, celebrations broke out everywhere. In New York the next day, the Declaration was read aloud to Washington's assembled troops, and it was that night, at the foot of Broadway, that a roaring crowd pulled down the larger than life equestrian statue of George III. As in Philadelphia, drums rolled, bonfires burned, prayers were said, and toasts raised in town after town, North and South. When the news finally reached Savannah, Georgia, in August, it set off a day long celebration during which the Declaration was read four times in four different public places and the largest crowd in the history of the province gathered for a mock burial of King George III."

John Adams himself felt that the vote to declare independence, taken on July 2, was the more noteworthy day, and this is what he wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail that evening:

"The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."

If Adams were to see the fireworks and parades that multitudes of communities presented throughout our country today, I think he would be pleased, don't you? I am so grateful for the thought, debate, wisdom, prayer, and sacrifice of our founding fathers as they drafted the important documents that lay the foundation for our system of government. Thank you founding fathers! And happy birthday America!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The A.D. Chronicles

I have been reading such an incredible series of historical fiction books called The A.D. Chronicles. They are written by historical fiction writing veterans, Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) and are set during the time of Christ. It took me a while to connect with the first book, called First Light, but they have gotten progressively better. Just when I think the Truth of Christ cannot be revealed in a more wondrous way, it is. The Thoene's are masters at crafting stories that capture the imagination, and the way they have woven fictionalized elements into familiar stories from the New Testament has made these stories really come alive for me!

Each book introduces new made up characters as well as including ones more familiar from stories of Jesus' miracles, or from previous books. It is easy for those of us raised on these stories to read them almost by rote. Without passion. But when we stop and think what it must have been like to have been born blind and suddenly see for the first time, or to be Lazarus, who was already enjoying the wonders of heaven, and was called back to live among finite men on earth...WOW. Or to be a leper, living in the valley reserved for lepers, outcast from society and the warmth of family, flesh slowly dying bit by bit. And then to be touched, embraced, by Yeshua. To look in His eyes and be fully known and completely loved. How all those who were healed in some way by Jesus must have thanked God to be living at that time!

I have become fascinated with the Jewish culture and Jewish customs and traditions. I am so excited to be studying Year 1 of Tapestry this coming school year! We will learn much about the ancient Israelites, their covenant(s) with God, their triumphs and failures, and God's longsuffering. I simply cannot wait! (except I do need to finish getting ready!) :-) I know we are going to learn so much that will deepen and make richer my personal relationship with Jesus.

Torn now between wanting to read faster to see what's going to happen next, and wanting to read slower to make it last longer, I am currently reading book 9. There are, so far, two more books in the series, but our church library doesn't have them yet. So I may have to exercise patience! I am so thankful for the ways these books are confirming and building on my understanding of God from Scripture. Something that has really become evident in the last couple of books is the difference between fact and truth. Just because something is a fact (sickness for example) doesn't mean it is ultimately truth (the truth is, Jesus is the resurrection and the life).

Two of the books are prequels and go back to the time that Christ was born. I had a particularly difficult time reading about the slaughter of little Jewish boy babies two years and younger in Bethlehem, after Herod found out that Jesus had been born there and the magi had returned to their countries by a different route. Through the course of the book I had come to know and love the women of Bethlehem and their children. Rachel, the midwife, who had helped to birth Jesus Himself, and was the wife of Zadok, head shepherd of the temple flock, who had witnessed the angel chorus in the sky over Bethlehem the night Jesus was born! How amazing, how miraculous for everyone were the months that Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus lived among them in Bethlehem. And then to read how furious Herod was, how mad and insane he had become, and with what viciousness his guards hunted down and killed all the sweet and innocent boy babies, while Jesus alone survived. What wailing among the women of Bethlehem then! This verse took on new meaning for me after reading about it in Thoene's novel:

Matthew 2:17-18 "Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

I confess, I wept too.

How could God's plan include such suffering for those He loved? These books address that question through stories, and through truth spoken by its characters. The stories have at times encouraged me, challenged me, and comforted me. They have also made me laugh!

If you are a lover of historical fiction, or even if you're not, I highly recommend them!