So Many Roads.

My husband came to bed quite late the other night.

I was still reading, when I should have slept.  But I could hardly help myself.  The book, which I am still carefully reading with a pencil in hand, is a wondrous true tale.  It is a humble, elegantly written and engrossing work by a woman who lived and worked in Afghanistan for five years entitled In the Land of Blue Burqas.  I picked up the volume while we were in the states.  I was curious of the format. I wanted to understand how the author weaved together her international experience so someday soon, I might weave my own.

I am surprisingly blessed once again with the re-orientation of my mind in terms of contextualizing the gospel with gentle grace and loving my neighbor.  It will be worth a second and third read to me as a tool and an inspiration.  To anyone who wishes to be a better minister in a foreign culture and/or understand Islam, read this book.

As I was saying, my husband came home late. He sat down on the edge of the bed, looking satisfied but tired. We began to swap stories about our day.  Mine were about our children, that our cistern was empty, my conversation with a woman at a market store, an inquiry into what certain words were on yet another announcement our daughter brought home from school and my thoughts.

His were more of the same from what I had heard so many other nights before.  His words piled up in front of me like a tumble of bricks that the writer’s mind in me began placing in a neat and coherent pile.  After his reporting, he rose to go brush his teeth and come to bed, without a shower.  But he turned and sat back down, abruptly and with those tired, but clear blue eyes looked at me and spoke again, “Angel, tell me the truth.  Am I making any difference here or am I spinning my wheels?”

It is not good for a man or woman to be alone.  It is good to turn our souls inside out for one another and voice the questions that sometimes haunt us in our most vulnerable moments.

I put down my book and looked at him. I was quiet for a moment as I thought on a response that would be a good word fitly spoken.

I went over the stories in my mind from just the last three weeks, the snapshots of how he has numbered his days.

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There is the small group in the village of Trinidad he works with weekly, driving 45 minutes to sit with them on over-turned buckets in a small tienda.  He takes them through a basic course for new believers.  He will be the first to confess he is not a gifted teacher nor communicator.  Words don’t come off his tongue, even his fluent Spanish tongue, like melted butter.  He’d rather let his hands speak through the strings of his guitar or the pounding of his hammer.  But he loves, sincerely loves people, especially Mexican villagers.   The people have come to love him too and more than that, to trust him.  Which is big in this culture.  The questions they ask him are enough to break your heart or bring you to your knees.

Then there is Pedro, who Ben has explained the gospel to several times.  He does believe.  And he wants to grow.  But how do you feel the love of the Father when you are rejected by your family of origin, again and again? How do you have time to think of things other than 60-hour work week in the local cement factory where you work so you can support your wife and two daughters who live in a house the size of our dining room?  Ben meets with Pedro, every time he calls.  He sits down in their house-room and shares their beans and tortillas and counsels him in simple, yet challenging ways.  He teaches him how to pray, for Pedro has no idea what it means to talk to God.

I could not forget Victor either.  He came to church just weeks ago, with his brother who trusted Jesus just weeks before that.  He limped on crutches, looking broken in both body and soul.  Ben, drawn to anything that hurts, sat down with him after the service.  He lay hands on his twisted ankle and we both prayed for healing.  They exchanged cell numbers.  Ben called him the next day and picked him up.  He took him on his errands he had to run to pick up supplies to fix a water pump and work on setting up a new water project.  Ben listened to Victor’s story and ached for him.  He prayed for him in the car for 30 minutes straight as they drove.  Then he took him out for tacos and prayed some more.  But Victor still needs so much more healing and his wife still served him divorce papers.

Now it was a pastor in another nearby town whom he shared dinner with.  Ben had led in a team months ago to the town where this pastor works and they broke ground on where a church is to be constructed and built a cistern for their bathrooms.  They continued a friendship and now were meeting to discuss more projects.  This pastor has been hurt by so many sources and his work in shepherding his flock in challenging.  He found Ben a safe place and told his stories.  Of course, my husband responded not with articulate and lofty words nor a litany of scriptures. He response was”let me pray for you”. The taco place was all of a sudden a holy place where Ben was carrying his brother to Jesus.  “Listen, I have a team coming down in June, our church from Florida.  Tell us how for one day we can serve you, your church and town the best.  We want to bless you, we want to come along you. You tell us how.”  The pastor looked at Ben and starting laughing with joy and then wept. No agenda pushed on him, no stress to receive help he hadn’t asked for, just a wish to come and serve.

There are so many other stories. So many. Big and small.

I looked out the window at the full moon and heard the radio playing outside next door.  It belonged to the three workers, building a house next to us.  They sleep on the cement floor at nights and then get up the next morning and start working again. Ben invited them over last week for supper.  We bought a kilo of taco meat with the fixings and the boys and I made a giant fruit salad.  We welcomed them in our home and sat down to a meal together, inquiring about their work, their families and like all good Mexicans, talked about food.  They had never been invited — dirty, rough-handed and from the “lower”class– into a gringo’s house for a meal.  They relaxed soon enough and we stayed up far too late playing games.  I sent them out with a bag of food and plenty of fresh fruit, for I knew they had not been getting a balanced diet.  Ben sent them out with a bible in each of their hands. He spoke with them about the love of God as he walked them back.  He has visited them several times since then.  They are gone now.  The house is still unfinished and we don’t know if they will return.

I knew why my husband asked me this question.  I knew he felt that all of his encounters don’t seem to be producing anything.  He can hardly see that God is working and that transformation is happening.  It is slow.  It is hard.  It is tiring. Is it all enough?

I finally answered him.  “The question is not if you are making a difference, the question is if you are obeying Jesus.  I see that you are and this is all He asks.  You are making disciples and we are commanded to make disciples, not converts.  You are taking the time to love and esteem others.  I know you don’t feel like the super-missionary.  I don’t either.  We are not hip, we are not the most gifted or trained, we are not great evangelists, we would not win “parent of the year” awards, we don’t seem to have a lot of dramatic stories of deliverance or healing or mass salvation to report to our supporters, we probably will never start some huge ministry…we are pretty average and a little crazy.”  Ben smiled.

“But, let me tell you a story your older brother once told me:

When you were little and lived in Guatemala, your dad taught at a seminary.   He would drive home and go down a long dirt-road to get to your house.  At the start of that dirt road a poor family lived.  There was a little boy always playing in the dirt yard.  Your dad, no fail, would stop and greet the boy.  Sometimes he would bring him a treat, sometimes he would tussle his hair, sometimes he would tell him Jesus loved him.  It was not much, but your dad was faithful.  Well, that little boy grew up and trusted Jesus.  He went on to study God’s word.  He went on to become a pastor.  He leads a church now and feeds many with eternal words and hope.  He is making disciples and those disciples are multiplying.

You too, are the one that stops by the side of the road. So many roads.  It may not seem like much, but you are obeying in love.  God did not call us to be successful, but rather to be faithful. I am so proud of you.  So, keep on my love, keep on.”

My husband grabbed my hand.  He had never heard this story.  It meant something to him.  A little misty-eyed, he thanked me.  Then he went to brush his teeth.

I turned off my light.  When I awoke in the early morning, he was gone.  Off to another village for a meeting he had that morning.  The kids needed breakfast.  A girl needed to be taken to school and two boys needed to be homeschooled.  The laundry and dishes were piled up, again.  Ben left me a note, saying he had called a pipa (water truck).  I was still a mom, a wife, a woman in a foreign land.

And I had my own disciples to make.

 

A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus. – Dallas Willard

Maintain Your Desire, Your Delight and Your Defense.

What is it that you desire?

What is it that brings you delight?

What or who do you depend to be your defense when you are being threatened?

Go ahead, jot down your gut-reactions to these questions.  We’ll come back to them.


One August, when I was between the ages of 9-11, my mother introduced me to the Psalms.  I was outside playing and she was on the edge of the driveway sitting on a blue-painted metal rocker snapping beans.  Her bible was beside her and she beckoned me to pick it up and open to the Psalms.  “You can start reading yourself now and use Grandma’s old bible”.

From that day on I would read aloud in my bed every evening from the Psalms, much to the irritation of my older sister who wanted some quiet.  It was in this Hebrew poetic book that my love affair with words began and not just any words, living words and words I could personalize.

The Psalms may be the most read book of the Old Testament and are well loved for many reasons.  Their substance resonates with our lives and experiences.  They may be scenes of rejoicing, despair, confident hope, uncertainty, or solemn moments of profound musings.  The words become our expressions and as the psalmist’s words embody our feelings and sentiments, they also lead us to a better understanding of God and a deeper encounter with Him.

The Psalms come to us today, not in musical scores as many originated, but in the form of one book made up of smaller books (Pss. 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-16, 107-150).  Psalm 1 acts as an introduction to the whole book.  In addition, the beginning and ending psalm of each of the five books are often considered key thematic transitions [taken from my copy of this wonderful companion that sits on my nightstand]. A

Among God’s gifts to us, the Psalms is one of the most desperately human yet breath-takingly divine ones, a more than necessary walking partner as we journey Home.

It was as a young reader of the Psalms, I found a certain resting place, a theme for my life and the deepest parts of my soul in Psalm 63.   The declariative and yearnful themes in Psalm 63 are all-encompasing. Indeed, some scholars have said that all of the Psalms could fit under just this one cry.  I don’t doubt it.

What is the setting of these words?  David is a fugitive of some kind.  Even though he is King (don’t expect God’s anointing on you to be without threats to your position), he is being forced to flee to the desert.  His own son, Absalom rebelled and tried to overthrow his father’s throne. According to 2 Samuel 15:23 David fled the city, crossed the brook Kidron, and went into the wilderness. This is probably the experience behind the psalm. Now listen:

1 You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
2 I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

 I have seen you in the sanctuary

    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

GOD MY DESIRE (vs. 1-4)

David begins by acknowledging the covenant that exists between he and God. O God, you are my God!  It stands, our restored relationship with God. We will endure because He endures eternal. Our allegiance is to no other; He is our King and we are His loyal servants and friends.  Sometimes in the swirl of life, when it seems like we are going under, all we can do is make this cry and scramble up upon this rock.

David then speaks of desire, of an earnest pursuing of God with diligence and intensity.   Yes, desire is thirst, an unfulfilled longing.  Have you ever been thirsty, truly thirsty where water was the only thing your mind could focus on is finding water?

On one of our family trips, we ran out of water in our water bottles.  The kids had just eaten a salty snack against the advice of their parents.  We were miles from no where.  They thought they were going to die.   It was an hour later that we came upon a gas station. They all bolted out of the car as fast as they could and ran for the cold fridge in the station.  They gulped down the water before we even paid for it.  And when we resumed our trip, it was like they had never been thirsty and their desire moved to something else besides what their bodies needed to survive.

Ironically enough, Jesus in the New Testament blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (for the salvation of all) for they will be filled.  He will come to them like a gas station in the middle of nowhere.  There is a power in fainting for Him.  In knowing that even though we know and declare He is our God, He sometimes feels far away.

Desperation means we have need and without sensing our need, we cannot know God. Thirst is a gift.   It causes us to seek more.  And if we seek, we will keep finding there is always more. He satisfies our thirst with even more good thirst.

Of all the people I have met in my life, it is those who have gone through intense seasons of near-dying, fainting thirst for more of God who are people of strength and stability, wisdom and inner resources to meet every crisis.  That rock of God being their God is always under their feet.

A.W. Tozer wrote “Complacency is a deadly foe of spiritual growth.”

David remembered seeing and experiencing the presence of God in the past.  His power and His glory.  His being, not simply His beneficial acts.  His thirst, his desire and his experience caused him to sing out there alone in the desert as a fugitive from his own son, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you!  I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.” 

What do you desire?   Have you asked God to make you thirsty?

GOD MY DELIGHT (vs. 5-8)

It is after the times of dead thirst when God comes near again and fills us.  It is feasting time.  We live in the tension between fainting and feasting.  Can you see that rhythm in your own life?

We are not poor and unblessed when we are in the fainting phase, we are being prepped to fully enjoy when the feast is set before us as our souls are made full and satisfied. In those gracious times of filling, we find a rest.  We find a peace and a fulfillment, an easy satisfaction in Christ.  We need these times just as we need the times of desperation.

Thanksgiving is a day that is precious to me.  I plan the menu weeks before, we set out my grandmother’s china and silver (brought all the way to Mexico), place a bouquet of flowers on our long table and candlesticks on the side.  The children make place cards and decorations to adorn the table and we invite friends over. The table is spread with good foods and the main event is feasting, remembering that one day we will all feast together at the marriage feast of the Lamb. Our small gathering is a foreshadowing of a day that is coming.  The day feels lifted out of the normal calendar and it brings a filling that enables us to go forward with a new thankfulness and joy.

How much our God wants to give us these times and how non-chalantly we don’t even discern He is wanting to fill us.

David said that he remembered and thought of God and His ability to fill and satisfy, even out there in the stony and cold wilderness through the watches of the night.  In David’s time, the night was divided up into three “watches”, each watch representing a period in which soldiers would be alert and on post.  These would last respectively from sunset to 10 P.M.; from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.; and from 2 A.M. to sunrise. A person aware of all the watches would be having a sleepless night. It seemed David did, due to his situation, but he did not spend the time in fretful anxiety.  He remembered God. He purposefully chose to reflect and sing.  He announced that his help was God and he clung to Him.

Has God delighted you and satisfied you to the point that even when you cannot sleep, your thoughts turn to Him and all He has done to fill you, like a lovesick man turns to dreaming about the woman he can’t wait to marry?  Do you sing in the watches of the night?  Do you reflect on Him? God, let us not be so willy-nilly we never come to this point and live in this habit!

What delights you?  Have you asked God to fill you?

Oh how I believe that God is jealous for us, that He wants to be both our desire and our delight.  When this happens, a spirit of worship  is unleashed in our lives and in our churches in a way that causes us to lift our hands in joy!  There is deadness in our lives and in our corporate gatherings if there is not desire and delight for God.

GOD MY DEFENSE (vs. 9-11)

David has no qualms about calling on God’s justice and even rejoicing in His justice, even if that means the death of his pursuing enemies (which he views as enemies of God). He is not feeling sorry for evil here, nor excusing it–he is asking for their removal.  He knows his God-given position, he is secure in his relationship with God.

I appreciate his black-and-white matter of factness here.  It is as if he is saying:  God, You are my desire and You are my delight.  Those that distract me from enjoying Your presence while I am in the position You ordained for me, as I cling to You, will be done away with.  I will go on to rejoice in You, as will all those who pledge their allegiance to You, the one true King. 

There have been many times in my life that I have encountered circumstances comprised of difficult people or issues which have so distracted me that my desire and delight in God diminished considerably.  Can you relate?  Perhaps you find yourself in such a place in this moment. Our flesh and our enemy loves to use this strategy against us, true enough? Perhaps you need to take the discerning and no-nonsense approach of David and wage your war in the same manner, echoing the truths of David in these verses and getting back to your focus of desiring and delighting in God.  That is where the peace is found.

What or who do you depend on to be your defense when you are being threatened? Have you maintained your “position” with a determination that nothing disrupt your desire, your desire and your confidence in God? 

Psalm 63:

What do you desire?  

Have you asked God to make you thirsty?

What delights you? 

Have you asked God to fill you?

What or who do you depend to be your defense when you are being threatened? 

Have you maintained your “position” with a determination that nothing disrupt your desire, your delight and your confidence in God?

Our God, make us thirsty so we know what it is to faint for you, to be in need and finally to be filled.  Do this again and again in us so we are delivered from complacency.  And when You ordain Your callings in our lives, let nothing move us. Rather, may we sing in worship in the watches of the night.  Let us discern and identify the threats against us, Your beloved children, and may You be our defense even as our souls cling to You.  Be our desire.  Be our delight  Be our confidence.  Be our lives.  AMEN.

*notes from sermon on Psalm 63 I preached on 1.18.15 in Mexico 

A Scroll of Remembrance.

After the birth of our now 14-year old Larsen, I experienced several years of secondary infertility.  Losing our first babe and then the miracle of our oldest son, we wondered if perhaps we would have only one biological child.  I remember those years.  Lars would lay his little hands on my tummy and pray, with that breath-taking faith of a child, that a brother would come forth.  It got to be so the sight of a pregnant women would cause a pain in me that would start in my chest and radiate out to my fingertips.  I wanted to hold a baby of mine again; I wanted our family to grow.  My husband and I both had the feeling, when we sat at our tiny supper table, that someone was missing.

Every month became a let-down with our desire on the tip of our minds.  It is strange to feel a loss for something you have never had, but the grief was real.

I poured myself into nurturing Lars and to finishing my BA degree.  We believed (and still do) orphans are very near the heart of God, the idea of adopting out of US foster care appealing to us both.  We decided we wanted a Latino boy, not much younger than our son.  Through the mom of one of my husband’s music student’s at the time who worked for an agency, we began to fill out paperwork for our home study.  A little boy we saw online, through the foster care system in Texas, caught our hearts.  The two of us began to pray for Joseph every evening after we tucked in Larsen.  We prayed around the world for this little boy, into his past, his present and future as we laid hands on the computer screen.

One weekend, in the early spring, we visited Wheaton College, past Chicago where we had met back in 1995.  I gathered up information and spoke with professors about attending the next year and earning my masters.  We had it all figured out:  Lars and hopefully Joseph would attend a little school together, Ben would work for the college and I would take classes.  We had a plan!  Our family would move forward!

Ten years later, I chuckle.  Sometimes it is a good thing we cannot hear the chuckles of God.  I’d rather hear His patience and see Him in the circumstances He weaves together.

We came home from the weekend (our old car broke down twice on the road and we hobbled home to Michigan) and that week found out Benjamin had lost his job.  And our medical insurance.  Our home study was scheduled for the next week.

A few days later it was April Fool’s Day.  I went to a dollar store and bought five pregnancy tests.  Driving to the house that some friends had just purchased where Ben was helping with the trim work, I handed him the bag. He grinned, the ever-optimistic man now without a job.  I took them all and, as has been our custom for I cannot stand to look myself at such things, he did.  All five of them were positive.  I looked at them all lined up and did not know whether to laugh or cry.

We had made a plan.  Now, this was not a part of that plan.  I had relinquished pregnancy.  And it was April Fool’s Day of all days!  Now what?

We canceled our home study.  We prayed another month or so for Joseph, but now felt we were to pray  for his future, apart from us.  Prayers are never in vain and sometimes God has an unusual way of calling us into an intercessory assignment and just as quickly bringing us out.

That May I walked the isle in Chicago to receive my diploma.  A 4 1/2 year old boy raised his arms up in victory when he saw me look up at him in the balcony.  Six-week old Anders was nestled and growing, like a wonderful secret in my womb, as I walked with tears in my eyes (this had been a ten-year journey, but that is another story).   I remember having a vision of the long arms of the Lord, rolling up His sleeves and hearing the words, “Oh my child, I have just begun!”

Indeed.

The end of that summer found us riding our 1973 classic tandem bicycle we had purchased on our honeymoon (we had to sell it to move here to Mexico), pulling 5-year old Larsen in our bike trailer.  He held in his hand a sealed enveloped containing a card which the ultrasound technician had indicated if our baby was a boy or a girl.  We stopped at our favorite little Mexican restaurant and sat down to order.  None of us could wait much longer.

Ben opened the enveloped, read it and announced with pride, “Our baby is a boy!”.  Larsen instinctively stood up on his chair, held out his arms wide and exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!” It was a celebration I have never forgotten.  Dear reader, that is how God feels about your life, about your birth.

I would hold a baby boy again.  My son would have a brother.  My husband would get to yell “C’mon boys” when it was time to go.

Larsen started school in the fall.  My baby went off to kindergarten while a new one continued to grow within me.  I had heard the Spirit instruct me, shortly after I graduated, to start writing a book.  So every morning while Larsen was in school, I drove to a little coffee shop and wrote.  It seemed crazy to write a book when I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was to obey.  So I prayed more than I wrote, listening in to the Father’s direction.

Most of my life I had not known what I am doing, only to listen, to trust and to obey.

We kept our baby’s name a secret, promising Larsen he would be the first one to learn his brother’s name.  And he was, though it took him weeks to remember it.  We had to pin it to his shirt so every time people at school would ask him, he could point to the note and smile.

Anders was due the week of Thanksgiving, the week of my father’s birthday, but he was a week late. We had some help putting up a wall upstairs to make him a little room and to pass the time of the waiting, I had painted bluish-colored fish around the top border of the wall and carefully folded and re-folded every tiny article of clothing that had been given to us.   I remember sitting quietly in that room, in that little house on the edge of the highway that Saturday morning, praying for our new son.  I had not felt him move in a few days.  I sensed the Spirit whispering, “It is time to go to the hospital, go now.”

Strange.  I was not in labor.  I called Ben who was working a job and told him what I believed I had heard from the Lord.  He came home and we drove immediately to the hospital, which was 45 minutes away.  As soon as I stepped through the doors, labor began.  An hour later and a snowstorm hit the area, so bad that no car could have safely driven the distance we had come.

Anders Ezekiel Blycker was born after midnight.  The lights were dimmed in the darkness and snow fell outside the window next to my bed like bits of white confetti celebrating something wonderful.  My amniotic fluid was quite low and the cord was wrapped around Anders’ neck three times.  His heart rate was irregular and falling, so they monitored it with three wires in his little head.  He will never grow hair in those spots.  Benjamin cut the cord and handed me our son.  I remember holding him up and we looked at each other eye to eye.

Love at first sight is more than possible.

When he was cleaned and we were left to ourselves, Benjamin took out his guitar and sat on the bed and quietly sang worship songs over us.  He then took out a small vial of oil, made a sign of the cross on Anders’ forehead and anointed him, telling him what his name means, “Courageous disciple of Christ, strengthened by God” and then bestowed on him his life verse:

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not their measure.

 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.             -Psalm 71: 14-18 

The doctor that delivered him came in shortly after, she also a follower of Jesus.  “I came to pray over this little guy, may I?  I believe the Lord has a special calling on his life.”  I wish I could remember her words, for the blessing moved me and confirmed in me what I had felt I already knew about our son.

So, our Zeker, the only one of us born in the winter, in a snowstorm.  He moved to Florida when he was just one and to Mexico when he was seven; he does not have any memories of snow that falls from the sky and piles up in great cold mounds.  One of his longest and dearest hopes is that he can go back to the place of his birth, where his grandparents and aunt still live, in the winter to make snowballs, taste snow and go sledding.

He told me just today when we were studying the story of Joseph in school together, “Yes Mom, God does work all things for His glory and our good.  Could it be for His glory and my good that someday when I am still a boy I can go to Michigan in the winter, even maybe have a white Christmas?”

Yes, my son.  You just might have to wait a bit.

But it’s all for His glory and our good.

Anders turned nine years old last Thursday.  Meet my Master’s Degree:

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What I’ve Learned About the First Year of Home Education…

I am still learning and this has been a heck of a year.  More than I ever anticipated for sure.    Here is a short list of what I have learned and heard and seen to be true. And hope to finally implement….

1.  Discipline, structure and consistency starts with the mother.  Every day. Inside of that truth is more than enough room for grace. Still trying to find the dance moves to those two truths.

2.  Academics are second place to instilling within your children the love and knowledge of God, the walking with him. Especially in these early, foundational years.  Study, in Jesus’ day, was considered the highest form of worship.  Post this.  And a day started without prayer and joy and even a walk or bike ride will be a total ruin.

3.  Getting through the books is not as important as making sure the knowledge is understood and transformational. Release some academic expectations.  You are not living abnormally and you are not anti-world as a lot of people will make you feel both indirectly and not. Blow it off .  As a friend just told me, “If you get math and language arts done strong every day and can get them to love reading, count the elementary years as a sucess!  In ninth grade you start keeping detailed records for transcripts, before that loosen up just a bit.”

4.  A designated “schoolroom” is crucial.  At least for us. Away from the never-ending slew of laundry and dishes.

5.  Curriculum is important, but not as important as attitude and relationship and having sheer delight in learning. You don’t have to spend a lot and be tempted and overwhelmed by the vast array of options and supplies out there. Use the library and the Internet more.  Homeschooling can be a rather odd sub-culture. You usually cannot afford to do it. We can’t, but it works out.  We’ll take it a year at a time.

6.  Pencils will disappear by multitudes.  And boys do need to move often.  A lot.

7.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue.  Take a time-out when you need it.  Every teacher needs this.

8.  Stick to a routine as far as what you study each day and in what order. Start the school year on time and lay out how many pages of what need to be done daily.  Plan when breaks will be and stick to it.

9.  Honor your investment and see it as “I am at work”. Don’t make the school hours so long you are exhausted by Friday.   And have the children work together in the same room so you can keep both on task.

10.  Read to them, an hour a day.  Talk about what you are reading. Dream, imagine, wonder, meditate,  investigate. Focus and shut out all other voices.

11.  Do the chores, except the breakfast dishes and a quick sweep, after school hours.  Have it be the end of your school day for everyone to do their chores and then be free. Okay so I write this pre-baby!

12.  Besides sports club and co-op, pick one extra-curricular activity  to be involved in that Dad takes them to.  Don’t wear yourself out with running around! I can’t stand running around.

13.  Read about educational philisophy and theories and come up with what you align yourself with so you know what your goals and approach are for the year.  Don’t start haphazard and merely see it as getting through the books and taking tests. I like the word intentional, if you have not gathered thus far.

14.  Have a good friend for your child over 1x a week and vice-versa.  Have it in the schedule. Anders doesn’t care about this yet, but this is huge to Lars.

15.  Get a family computer with a filter on it.  Use Brain Pop and other educational CDS and games and typing tutors and research  We are working on this. My little laptop, faithful through a degree and a book is all we have at this point.  Never was important before, but is it becoming as Lars gets older.

16.  Find a homeschool community and find your own style to home education.  What you emphasize will be different than what another family does.  Your reason for doing it will be different. Your philosophy will. Your learning environment will.  Boys will be wilder than girls.  Every child learns differently.

17.  Think global, act local.  I am passionate about this for my children, though at times limited in the acting part at this stage in the game.

I am sure there is more, the year is not done…I want to delight in my boys. They will be old enough, soon enough…

Vision for Our Boys.

Ben and I heard Alex and Brett’s father speak at a convention this past spring in Orlando. We walked away resonating with his insights of competence with character and such. We have no desire to raise our boys to live in a comfortable Christian sub-culture, but to GO out, equipped and educated to intelligently and with great compassion engage the greater world. These years we have with them are our opportunity to help shape who they were born to become with God’s worldview and yes, the teen years are a launching pad into their adult years.  I longed for such thinking in my teen years and can do no better than to immerse my boys in such as they grow older. We must have vision for our children and  take steps now towards it.

Week Seven: Let The Good Times Roll

It started rough, it ended well.  I don’t know if it was my ephiphany and attitude adjustment and loosening or the Attentive Child supplements (amazing), 2 glasses of water before school, 2 GNC mult-vitamins, 1 teaspoon of DHA fish oil, and 2 teaspoons of lechithen in Larsen’s oatmeal. Yes, I am a big believer in nutrition and supplements. And water, tons of pure water. 

We did not get as much done as usual, but what we did accomplish was rich.  We continued our geography studies, poring over maps and pictures and globes. We spent all day Tuesday on the elections, making a little booklet and reading websites and looking at various platform issues. I brought to Lars each issue and he gave his take on each, completely without my input and we deduced he is a conservative, even more than I am!  It was intriguing to discuss and look up topics such as national healthcare, immigration and drilling.  We looked at a map of the electoral college and talked about what it all means. We prayed and rode our bikes 4 miles in order to vote. He was proud of being on a patriotic mission.  I stayed up most of the night to follow the election. He woke me up the next morning to ask who won. His first response was to grab my hand and drop to his knees and pray for Obama. Such a mighty prayer rose out of him that I felt conviction. And hope that a wild boy is made up of something more than sticks and marbles as important and needed as those things are for him, for now.

We attacked math, writing, a spellling test, a bit of ancient history and botany and I also let him do lots of personal reading so I could write.  I am seeing how I need to find, check-out and invest in some more books of stories,–chapter books that lean into his natural interest of history, cultures, government and science.  Not to mention mystery and adventure! He seems to really enjoy writers from older time periods. The Elson early readers from the 1930’s are his favorites! He and Ben are almost finished with G.A. Henty’s Cat of Bubastas, a tale of ancient Egypt.  Henty has two other books of historical fiction based in ancient times they’ll move onto.  I was looking at getting some Lamplighter books for him, as well as some early readers of classic literature and perhaps some Sugar-Creek Gang and such. 

I am getting to the point where I am seeing which curriculum will be purchased next year for third grade and what changes I will make.  Our grammar at this point is oral and I find myself printing out work to enforce it. Next year I will go more textbook style. Also, the Writing With Easeis good for this year, but next year I think I want something that will start directing him in the craft of writing or get something to supplement.  Lars seems to enjoy straight forward textbook learning with not too many bells and whistles, a wide variety of reading, both orally and personally and some hands-on projects. The key is to keep it simple and interesting.  I am trying to save up for a years subscription to www.BrainPop.com as I know he will like this to end each day with.

Anders announced to me that is ready to learn to read, so we are working through the alphabet sounds and simple flashcards. He mainly sat and listened this week and played while I wrote snatches here and there. He said he wants to be the next president and that since God did such a god job making him, we should give God five gummy bears. And, oh yes, he flushed 2 bananas down the toilet and caught a dishtowel on fire as well as kept his underwear dry for two days straight. Did I mention the craziness?

The boys had co-op today and enjoyed their astronomy, election and camping classes.  A friend of mine sent me a good email of encouragement last week urging me to accept my limitations and not neglect myself in the area of sleep, eating, delighting in my husband, exercising, communing with Christ, communicating with friends and such. We are multi-faceted people and though there are rythms to life (balance is elusive I think) we must tend to ourselves. Must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first if we are to place them on our own children. Philippians 2 speaks of looking out not only for our own interests, but the interests of others. This implies we do both, for this is Christ-mindedness.  I pass on that admonition…

An Un-Defense of the Choice to Home Educate

I believe we all have prejudices to some degree regarding the educational choices of others and even the overall lifestyle of other families.  Perhaps these prejudices and sensitivities to such are the greatest among those of us who would call ourselves followers and learners of the person and ways of Jesus.  We who have come face to face with grace often take it as if it is a personal present from God, instead of a communal gift we are to both receive and dispense. I have been guilty of such.  And have been proven wrong, again and again. 

In light of this, some of us are afraid to reveal ourselves as “home-education moms” because of the the varying degrees of connotations this definition elicits.  We do not want to be pegged, rather we want to be affirmed in our intentional decision made in partnership with the good King who formed both us and our children!  We cannot seek this seal of approval from man, only from our audience of One.  The accusations of our choice and our beliefs within that choice are quite audacious, really.  We have little time to justify our actions; there are bigger fish to fry. Namely the education in body and spirit of our children.  Myths abound regarding home-educated children such as ‘what about their socialization?’ and ‘is it healthy for children to be around their parents so much?’ and ‘how are you teaching them to be a part of the greater society and function within its norms?’ and ‘don’t you feel guilty about the religious abuse of indoctrination you are forcing upon your innocent children?’  I could spend time countering these and believe I could make strong cases, and I will if you dear readers really feel you need it, but at the end of the day, anything that comes between my mind and the goal set before me, is nothing but a stumbling block, a distraction.

“Get behind me Satan!” said Jesus when Peter suggested He bring His kingdom forth in another way but His atoning death.  And silence, there was silence when all of his accusers demand that He prove himself.  His actions did and He’ll be sure to prove our calling firm and its results solid.

So, get on with it! You will stumble and fall on your way, but keep going further up and further in.