Monday, February 28, 2011

New Job Starts Today!

Please pray with me that my husband's first day at his new job will go well, and that this will be a smooth and pleasant transition. Thank you!

I am so excited for him. :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!!

This past weekend I celebrated a birthday. How thankful I am to have been born! (thanks mom and dad!) Little man was sick and all he wanted was me, so I spent most of my birthday sleeping next to him, or reclining on the couch with him on me. Not a bad way to spend a birthday! (for me, pretty miserable for him) I received many well wishes and felt very loved. In the evening we went to my in-laws for dinner.



We brought Little Man's pillow and blanket, and he mostly slept on the couch while at their house. He did not have the vomiting kind of sickness, but whenever he gets sick he likes to hold a vomit bowl as a "security blanket". Isn't this a pathetic, sweet, and sad picture?


Daughter G decorated my cake!





With gifts from my parents and sisters. (love, love, love the book and plate mom and dad!! Thank you so much! Gayle, the shirt fits great and is really cute! And Debbie, your letter wrapped me in a warm blanket of love. All of you give the best gifts...)


I am so blessed to have spent another year with 6 of my favorite people!


Son L wanted to dance with me after dinner. After awhile, others got in on the act, and before long my 92 year old father-in-law was dancing with daughter G too! That was very fun.

video

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More about the New Job

When I shared the exciting news about my husband's job offer last week, it was a pretty brief announcement. I wanted to share just a little bit more about the circumstances leading up to this offer, and let everyone know what an incredible God thing this is!

If you read my blog regularly you know that my husband has been unemployed off and on for two years, with short term contract jobs here and there (he is a software developer). These last two years have been a hard road, and I won't lie, sometimes I have felt discouragement and even despair. As a believer, I KNOW that God is sovereign and always in control, and I also know that He loves me and His plans are for my good, but I wondered more than once why He didn't just swoop in and "rescue" us, when it was so within His power to do so.

He allowed us to come as close as possible to losing our home without actually losing it, to go hungry a few times, to have to say "no" very frequently to the children, to stay home because we had no gas in the vehicles and no money to buy more, to wrestle futilely with the bills, and cry and pray and experience extreme stress.

Yet I have learned, and am still learning, so many lessons from this experience. People would always say to me, "God always provides". Those are true words, and He always did, but hardly ever in the way I expected Him to. Sometimes He chose not to provide the funds for a certain bill, but instead He gave me the grace to make the phone call and explain why it was going to be late. Sometimes He chose not to provide grocery money when I thought we really needed it, but He provided the creativity and resourcefulness to make meals out of what we had. He allowed our children to see my husband and I cry, to overhear snippets of "desperate" conversations, but in the process He helped them see what it looks like to cling to God in the midst of pain, when I felt as though my faith were hanging in shreds. GOD DOESN'T WASTE TRIAL AND PAIN. Isn't that just absolutely amazing?

Through all of the hardships of the last two years, God has been so constant. My heart is so full of praise to God for WHO HE IS, and how unchanging He is! I feel so humbled that He loves me enough to invest this much "lesson" in me, but there have been many times I wished the lesson didn't have to be so painful.

So, fast forward two years. Last week, out of the blue, my husband got a call from the man who had been his immediate boss at his former job. The job he got laid off from two years ago, and hasn't had a direct hire job since then. The job whose layoff started us on this difficult journey. (just want to be clear which job we're talking about here! ;-)

This man and my husband met together, and he proceeded to offer my husband his old job back. Direct hire, non-contract, with benefits, no need to interview again. ISN'T THAT AMAZING!!!!!!???!!! It sort-of feels like we have come full circle.

So what was the point of the last two years you might ask? Why did God choose to take us on this particular journey? I don't know the complete answer to that, but I honestly would not trade it. I learned more about God and His relationship to me during these two years than I did during any year of plenty. My viewpoint on money has changed dramatically (and I thought it was fine before!). I will be able to look back on these years when the next trial comes, and know without a doubt that it is God's nature to be faithful. He cannot be unfaithful.

To those of you who have prayed faithfully for my family, thank you. Two years ago, God was good. A year ago God was good. And today, God is good. As you feel led, please pray that we will continue to cling to God with as much ferocity now as we have during unemployment. It is so easy to put our trust in a paycheck, and not in the Lord. Yet He knows that we need income to live in this world, and He has chosen to provide that for us in a unique way. We are glad, and we thank Him!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Father - Daughter Dance

My husband and our daughter had a special date last night. They went to the annual homeschool father-daughter dance!

Here they were, right before setting out:



At the dance there were some instructors who taught them certain ballroom and country style dances. When they got home, they demonstrated the waltz for me (notice how hard they are both concentrating!).

video

Then my husband put on some rumba music and they had fun just free-forming it! They did NOT learn the rumba at the dance, they want me to tell you that. :-) This was close to midnight by now, and I think they were both a little punchy!


video


And just for reference, because I'm a mom and can't believe how fast our daughter is growing up, here is last year's picture: (there is about a 5" difference in height!)


Next year, Lord willing, I think my husband needs to wear a different tie. ;-)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday's Thankful Things - it's a good one!

My husband got a job!!!! A direct hire, non-contract job! With benefits!!!!! And it literally fell into his lap ~ he didn't even know about it, didn't apply for it, and doesn't have to interview for it. How's that for an answer to prayer?! (it's a place he's worked at before, so they knew about HIM) He will start in two weeks and we are so thrilled and thankful!!!

I had a wonderful session today with my tutor student. He is the sweetest 6th grade boy you could ever hope to meet, other than my own of course. We are working on writing, and he is really engaged with it.

The snow is melting and I SAW GRASS TODAY!

The children and I got to watch a falcon (or possibly hawk, not sure) slowly pick apart a small bird it had caught. It was in a tree not 6 feet away from our dining room window, facing us. Sort of gross, but amazingly fascinating at the same time. The children were glued to the window the whole time, and then we watched the falcon spread its wings and fly off. God's creativity is just so..... creative!

My husband got a new job!!!!!

A lady in my REAL moms group safely delivered her first baby a couple weeks ago and I was able to cook her two meals today, and pray for her as I worked.

We had a great school day.

When I went out this afternoon I did not wear a coat. I've told the children this is what's known as a "spring tease" ~ it will get cold again and it will most certainly snow again. But we know that spring IS coming!

My husband got a new job!!!!

I have amazing friends.

God loves me.

And did I mention my husband got a new job?!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Our Week in Review - The Divided Kingdom

Last week I mentioned that God divided the kingdom of Israel in two after only three kings had ruled. This was God's judgment on the Hebrews for not following after Him and obeying His laws. We spent two weeks going through the history of both nations ~ the larger Kingdom of Israel to the north, which was ruled by men other than descendants of David, and the smaller Kingdom of Judah in the south, where a descendant of David always sat on the throne.

We also studied the prophets in the context of which nation and king they coincided with. For example, did you know that the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Judah during the reigns of King Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh? Or that Elijah and Elisha came several decades after Isaiah, prophesying to the northern Kingdom of Israel?

It has been fascinating for me to put the prophets in the proper historical context, and to learn about the nations that existed at that time from both a secular perspective and a biblical one. We read in one of our history books, for instance, that the Assyrian Empire was quite advanced in certain ways, and is credited with inventing paved roads and the shielded battering ram, for besieging walled cities. This sounds quite impressive, doesn't it? Yet from a biblical perspective, the Assyrians were a hated and feared enemy of the Israelites, worshipping the false god Baal. God used them to bring judgment on the Israelites. (fyi, this is the same Baal mentioned in I Kings 18, when the prophet Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice, while the priests of Baal were unsuccessful in getting their god to hear them and consume their sacrifice).

We are just making so many connections between familiar Bible stories!

Daughter G and son G made special timelines in their history notebooks just for this period of the divided kingdom. Each day after we read from the Bible, I would fill in parts of the following chart on our white board, and they would copy this onto their timeline (provided by our Tapestry of Grace history curriculum, not something I made!) This was a great visual to help us see which prophets went with which kings, and to see the succession of kings in each kingdom.



We put smiley faces beside those kings who followed after God, and frown faces next to those who didn't. Unfortunately, the vast majority of kings in both nations "did evil in the eyes of the Lord" and got a frown face.



This was too abstract for my younger boys, so we did something a little more hands on with them. I wrote all the names of the kings of Judah on one sheet of paper, and all the names of the kings of Israel on another. We added the smiley faces and frown faces to the kings of Judah. Little Man kept the one I had written, but not before sons C and L copied down all the names onto their own pieces of paper.



We made little "pockets" for each kingdom, cut the names apart.....


....and inserted them into the correct pocket.


We learned there were a lot of kings whose names began with "J". :0)

The northern kingdom of Israel collapsed first, in the year 722 B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted another 125 years before being conquered by the Babylonians and dispersed throughout the Babylonian Empire (the children learned the word "diaspora", which I was excited to teach them because I didn't learn what that word meant until I was an adult!). At that time, the city of Jerusalem and the beautiful Temple of the Lord were utterly and completely destroyed. I actually shed tears when we read about that.

(Insert my boys rolling their eyes and saying, "mo-o-o-o-om!" here. They constantly tease me over how easily I cry!)

Here's a teaser for next week ~ Daniel, of "Daniel and the Lion's Den" fame, gets inserted into this time period! The children were amazed to make that connection and in their minds, put him where he belongs in history.

I know my history posts are long.....I find it difficult to convey in a few words all that we are/I am learning this year from our history and Old Testament studies! How thankful I am for God's Word, and for the work that the authors of Tapestry have done to make our study of the ancients both fun and relevant. And how privileged I feel to be able to teach this to my children and learn together with them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

What's in a Valentine?

Do you know the origin of Valentines Day? Contrary to the complaints of some, it is not a holiday created by Hallmark just so they could make more money selling cards. For hundreds of years Valentines Day has been celebrated as a feast day in the Catholic Church. I am not catholic, and certainly do not claim to be an expert, but I do know that St. Valentine was a real person who was martyred for his faith. There were several "Valentines", but the one commonly referred to was a Roman priest who was executed by Claudius II around the year 270 A.D. Claudius was at that time persecuting christians, and Valentine provided assistance to them. Claudius considered this a crime and ordered his execution. He is said to have penned the jailer's daughter a farewell before his death, signing it "from your Valentine."


So, what should Valentine's Day stand for? Doing the honorable thing, the right thing, even when it's unpopular. Serving God wholeheartedly. Trusting Him in the face of death. Loving others from a pure heart.


The modern American trappings of Valentine's Day bear little resemblance to the devotion and sacrifice that started this holiday. We've made it into something else.


But it's good to remember the beginning.


Is my heart set on following God no matter what? Trusting him when life falls apart? Praising Him in the midst of trial and storm?



If it is, then my life is a valentine. A love letter to God. One that He delights in.



We love because He first loved us. ~ I John 4:19

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our Week in Review - King David

I've fallen behind in posting "our week in review" posts, and this was actually several weeks ago, but I wanted to share some pictures from the children's bible journals. I *wish* you could see these pictures up close. Truly, Bible time is my favorite part of our school day, and the children's journals, in which they draw while I read, are amazing visuals of our journey through the Old Testament this year. Together we have read Genesis, Exodus, most of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, all of Joshua and Judges, most of I and II Samuel, and most recently, most of I and II Kings.

At the beginning of unit 3 (Tapestry of Grace Year 1) the Hebrews asked God for a king to rule over them so they could "be like the nations around them." Their experiment with kingship went wrong almost right away, and God divided the kingdom in two after only three kings had ruled. One of those three, however, was David. Throughout the rest of Scripture we read prophecy after prophecy of God showing compassion to a remnant of Hebrews "because of my servant David". He was called "a man after God's own heart." After the kingdom was divided, the southern kingdom of Judah continued to have a descendant of King David sitting on the throne.

We talked a lot about David's strengths, and his failings. His response to his sin (repentance), and his yearning for closeness with God. We read some of the Psalms which he wrote. I love reading the Bible and talking about these things with my children!

This is son G's depiction of David's lusting after Bathsheba (top picture - he looks down from his palace and sees her bathing on the roof of her house - if you could see the picture up close it's really cute because he drew her shadow through a screen in an effort to be discreet! Click on picture to enlarge.) And the bottom picture shows Bathsheba's husband being placed at the front lines of a besieged city they were fighting, to insure that he would be killed.



Daughter G drew a set of four pictures to tell the same story. First was David spotting the beautiful Bathsheba.


Next was David trying to convince Uriah to to go home for a few days and spend time with his wife (which, as a good commander of troops, he refused).


Then in desperation, King David had Uriah placed at the front lines of battle.


And lastly the prophet Nathan comes and confronts David with his sin, telling David a story about a rich man with many sheep and a poor man with only one. The rich man takes the one sheep that the poor man had. David is infuriated with the rich man in this story, until he realizes that he himself has done the same thing with Uriah's wife. He repents of his sin, but must still suffer God's punishment (death of his firstborn son by Bathsheba) and the consequences of his actions (infighting among his family members, and his wives being given to others ~ see 2 Samuel 12).


The most incredible thing about this story is not David's sin, or even his repentance, but God's forgiveness! One of David's and Bathsheba's other sons, Solomon, became the next king, and it is said of him that "there has been no-one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you." (I Kings 3:12) God's forgiveness and restoration is so complete.

As we've been reading through the O. T. this year, it has seemed so fresh to me, almost as if I were reading it for the first time. I think this is because God is answering the prayer that we pray together every morning - that He would "open my eyes that I may see wondrous things out of thy law." ~ Psalm 119:18

A Kindergarten Day

Little Man and I have found a good morning routine that allows me to give him some undivided attention (mostly) to work on math and phonics before he goes to his play mat for the always anticipated "activity time". We start our day with prayer and Bible reading, which also serves as history reading some of the time since we are learning about the ancients this year. After that I work with daughter G for about 15 minutes while Little Man finishes the picture in his Bible journal that goes along with what we read (he's almost always the last one done! That boy loves to draw!). And then it's "our" time.

We work on phonics and math together, and learn Bible verses from his Awana Sparks book. We used to practice writing his name every day, but he has that down really well now.



And then he gets "activity time" while I cycle through working with each of his brothers. The activities change daily. One day a couple weeks ago his activity time was building shapes out of pattern blocks. I gave him about 5 or 6 pictures on heavy cardstock to copy, and then he went to town building his own creations. He asked for the camera, and took some pictures all by himself.






Activity time and play time round out his morning. After lunch and recess we have book time ~ he looks at books for 30 minutes and I read aloud for 30 minutes (to everyone). And then his kindergarten day is done!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Weekend Update

We had a fun "boy" weekend while daughter G was gone. It happened to be the weekend of the annual Pinewood Derby that our boys who are in Stockade participate in (boys club at church). So off we went to church early Saturday morning. Stockade is just for boys in 3rd through 5th grade, but our other two boys jointly made a car to race in the open class. They helped with the shaping, using power tools with daddy's supervision, and did all the power sanding themselves!

Here is son C with his car, patterned after one of his favorite hotwheels. He came in third in his age division!


Son L with his car. His age division had a LOT of racers, and his car was solidly in the middle of the pack.


Son G and Little Man worked on a car together that was shaped like a shark! Doesn't it look cool? It came in last during every heat of the open class, but it looked awesome and that's what they were going for. ;-)



By the time Little Man completes fifth grade, we will have made cars for the Pinewood Derby for nine consecutive years!


Saturday evening Uncle B came over and we played a 3.5 hour game of "Settlers of Catan." Uncle B is the one who gave us this game for Christmas. We had a lot of fun! Everyone participated. Little Man mostly built villages on the table with the extra pieces. :-)


Sunday evening, after daughter G got home, we had our own family Super Bowl party! We had decided as a family to cheer for the Packers. So while I worked on the food, I sent my husband to the dollar store to buy green plates and yellow napkins. He, being color blind, came home with black plates, so I teased him that he had secretly wanted to cheer for the Steelers all along! (he says he thought the plates were dark green.....)


I'm so thankful for every opportunity we have as a family to enjoy one another and build a memory together.

GO PACKERS!!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Milestones

Can you see the milestone in this picture?




No?



Can't quite see it??



How about this??





Yes, Little Man's second front tooth fell out last week, leaving him an extra wide space! He was very excited, and I am in love with his toothless look. :0)

So cute. And it only happens once in your whole life (usually). We can't see the adult teeth yet, but we know they're coming!

Meanwhile, our daughter G went on her first weekend retreat. It was her first time to ever be away from us without another relative present. She was ready for it, but nervous. It was the middle school youth group winter retreat, and since she is in eighth grade and will be moving up to the high school youth group next year, this was her last chance to go.

It was a lesson in "letting go" for me, and I think I passed with high marks. I really wanted her to have this experience and was truly more excited for her than anything else. But I did miss her a lot! It felt strange to be the only female in the house! She came home Sunday afternoon, happy but veeeeeeery tired. She seemed a little older.

Funny how milestones can do that.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

For my Friends Who Are Grieving

"Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands - dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream has ended: this is the morning." And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I can not write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world, and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.

~ Ending of The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis


"We do not grieve as those who have no hope." ~ I Thessalonians 4:13

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn." ~ Romans 12:15




Mourning with you,

And rejoicing with you in the hope we have in Christ.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

Well, the promised storm DID arrive. The snow blew in just about the time it got dark last evening, and lasted through the night. For much of the night it was blowing sideways, and it was hard to tell this morning exactly how many inches we had gotten.


We took the day off school, like our public school counterparts. It took us several hours to dig out the driveway, working in shifts. We played in between. :-)




Parts of our yard had very little snow, and other parts had huge drifts. The pictures really don't do it justice!



The depth beside the whole length of our front sidewalk was a pretty consistent 10-11 inches.


Front of driveway, before shoveling. Notice the car tires? Almost completely visible! Yet off to the left was a huge drift up against our garage door.


After shoveling.


Sidewalk up to our porch, before shoveling. You can barely tell anything is supposed to be there.


And after shoveling.


It was a bitter storm, but sure looked beautiful today! We all enjoyed it immensely, and then came inside and enjoyed our nice warm house immensely too!