One of my favorite poems is one by Matthew Arnold called Morality. I don’t remember where I first heard or read it, but the first stanza has been etched in my mind for years:

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides;
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides.
       But tasks in hours of insight will’d
       Can be through hours of gloom fulfill’d.
These words have often compelled me to put all of my energy into the task at hand, especially when I am feeling thoughtful or creative, because undoubtedly just around the corner are awaiting moments of “gloom” in which I will be unable to complete such tasks. So whether it’s lesson planning, writing, composing a song, planning a dinner menu, organizing a family outing, or any of a multitude of activities, I try to make the most of the moments when I have an idea or inspiration. Because if I let my creative juices flow into diligent efforts in those moments, then we will all reap the benefits of those hours of labor in the moments when I feel uninspired and drained. Instead of presuming upon the future, let’s make the most of the “hours of insight,” redeeming the time in every way possible!

In doing some research for Phase 3 of the first unit of our Ancient Civilizations and the Bible curriculum (which we are loving), I came across a couple of helpful sites:

The Thoughts of Bezalel Blog – some interesting thoughts related to Christianity and the arts, particularly with references to Francis Schaeffer (one of my favorite authors) and his writing/speaking on the subject. – my search specifically led me to this step-by-step guide on how to make a hardware store copper bracelet, but it looks like a treasure trove of ideas for just about any project you or your kids might want to try!

We’ve been using Calculadders with all of our kids this year to make sure that they have a solid foundation in fundamental math skills. I really like the philosophy behind the development of Calculadders, that encourages mastery – both speed-wise and accuracy-wise – in order to prepare students for success with more advanced math. It’s a great approach that we can use with all levels simultaneously and get done in a relatively short amount of time each day (or whatever days we are focusing on math). It’s also easy to time everyone, track their errors, and generate reports with their overall performance.

When any of the kids run into difficulty with a level and end up stuck there, it’s an indication that they need additional practice on that skill. I was really excited to find a resource today where you can enter your own parameters and generate endless worksheets as pdfs that can be quickly printed and distributed to students to give them ample reinforcement in the area where they are struggling. For example, just click Multiplication Worksheets and it takes you to a page where you can specify what to include on the worksheet. I know I’ll be visiting this site often!

Living for Jesus-
what does that mean?
Can’t I still play
on my basketball team?

Living for Jesus-
how do I know?
Can’t I still watch
my favorite show?

Living for Jesus-
how will it end?
Can’t I still keep
my very best friend?

Living for Jesus-
will it be fair?
Can’t I still dress
with cute clothes and hair?

Living for Jesus-
what will I find?
Can’t I still own
what’s rightfully mine?

Living for Jesus-
how is it done?
Can’t I still have
a life that is fun?

Living for Jesus-
what is the key?
Can’t I be blessed
while living for me?

The Cost of Discipleship According to Jesus
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

How do we convey to our children the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ compared to anything and everything in this world? How do we lead them to the truth that if they will lose their life for the sake of the gospel, then – and only then – they will truly find it?

Years ago I purchased the Ancient Civilizations and the Bible curriculum by Diana Waring. I must have started going through it at one point because once I dug through the layer of dust it had accumulated I discovered a few of my pencil underlinings and notes in the margins. The memory escapes me, though, so I’m reading it afresh in preparation for a course we’re hoping to do this year. Julian and I recently had the opportunity to visit a number of ancient Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, so our curiosity was piqued and we came home desirous of learning more about such ancient civilizations. We found the Moody Institute Empty Cities production from 1961 at our library and watched it with the kids a few days after giving them the virtual tour of our own Mayan adventure. Here’s the full film on YouTube:

Even though Diana Waring’s curriculum deals with different civilizations, I am excited to use it as a springboard for studying a variety of areas this year. I was especially encouraged by this portion of the Introduction:

“As dearly beloved followers of Jesus Christ, we who are teachers need to understand this: the essential truth at the very foundation of education is that God is the True Teacher, the Master Teacher, the Actively-Changing-Lives Teacher. To teach as a “student teacher” under His authority and His leading will transform our hearts and attitudes, it will dramatically affect our students’ experience, and, in the final analysis, it will reflect the heart of God.

Instead of a mere dispenser of facts, requiring our students to regurgitate the same facts back to us, we can teach with anticipation and a sense of wonder, expecting God to show us new insights, new connections, and new understandings we never had before. We can enthusiastically and humbly share with our students what and how God has taught us, eagerly encouraging them to watch for His involvement in their own lives.”

I realize that I’ve tended to “play it safe” – studying and learning things about which I was already relatively familiar. Perhaps subconsciously I’ve felt like in order to teach my children I had to be the expert on the material in their eyes. But I appreciate this reminder and challenge to keep being a learner myself, even in front of my children. If I am excited to learn and grow as we study new areas, perhaps that excitement will prove contagious and they will learn to love learning as well!

One thing I’m really excited about this year is a little journal I picked up the other day called, Living Well One Line a Day. I was inspired last Sunday when we sang one of my favorite songs, 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. I’ve dwelt on the first verse quite a bit, but was especially struck by the second verse this time:

You’re rich in love,
and You’re slow to anger.
Your name is great,
and Your heart is kind.
For all your goodness
I will keep on singing –
Ten thousand reasons
for my heart to find.”

One of the greatest challenges every day is to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). It’s easy to wallow in discouragement, self-pity, frustration, and more. But those fruits are a result of walking in the flesh and being driven by my circumstances rather than by what I know is right and true. So one way that I’m hoping to more actively combat that this year is by looking for the goodness of God expressed in every moment and then documenting it in a brief sentence at the end of each day. I hope that this will prove to be a useful tool to help me keep my thoughts more centered on God throughout the day and less centered on how I’m feeling (or how the day seems to be falling apart!).

I’ve been tossing around the idea for a few days of reviving this blog as a way to share my journey and the things I’m learning in my new adventures as a wife and mom. For anyone who’s still here who has no idea why the blog has been silent for the last year and a half, you can read up on part of the scoop here: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder…? And then if you’re interested in a little more, you can check out the following videos:

Julian and Natalie’s Testimony from Positive Motion Studios on Vimeo.

Julian and Natalie’s Wedding (Short Version) from IanGregory on Vimeo.

Julian and Natalie-Wedding Ceremony (Full Version) from IanGregory on Vimeo.

Anyway, as you can imagine, this past year has been spent adjusting to and focusing on my new role. I love being a wife and mother, and I’m so grateful that God has given me this honor! Even though it was our desire to homeschool, because Julian was a single dad getting re-established and re-integrating with his children, they were enrolled in the local public schools up through this past spring. We (along with some family and friends) were praying that God would provide the finances and schedule changes to make homeschooling possible. Through an unexpected job offer from a wonderful company, God answered both of these prayers and we were able to begin our homeschool journey last June!

As much as I wish I could say I was the perfect homeschool mom from the get-go, that was not the case. Many of my ideals went unrealized and many days were shot with other issues that took precedence over what I had planned. But I praise God that He continues to strip me of self-reliance and selfish ambition to propel me constantly back to His loving arms where He upholds me and reminds me that He is everything, and apart from Him I can do nothing.

I have no idea how much I’ll be able to post, but I am looking forward to having a place where I can record some of the things that I find inspirational and instructive as I learn and grow. In particular, this year I am trying to keep in mind that homeschooling, like everything in life, is to be done “as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

post Category: Poems post Comments (0) postJune 26, 2013

When a friend and I were talking a few weeks ago, the subject of Haiku came up. I was intrigued, so did a bit of research on them. After learning more about their history, the traditional structure of 17 sounds divided into three phrases of 5-7-5, and reading some samples, I was inspired to experiment with this Japanese form of poetry. I especially love the juxtaposition of two ideas represented through vivid imagery. Although most Haiku are nature-centric, I tend to be more inspired to express ideas or truths gleaned from Scripture, so that’s what I ended up using for my first several attempts at writing Haiku.

I enjoyed the challenge of condensing something rich and meaningful into so few syllables; it seems like a good exercise for anyone who would like to hone their thinking and writing skills to communicate more effectively with others. Here are my first three Haiku, the last one being essentially a restructuring of a striking quote by Lorne Sanny in this brief devotional:

heart within battling
united in truth against
deception lurking.

whispers to heaven
through world’s chatter, confusion
God hears. He listens.

unselfish concern
freely accepts another
seeks his good – that’s love.

I look forward to experimenting more with this art form in the coming days and perhaps even branching out into some less familiar territory to tap into observations of nature and more imaginative distinctions between independent ideas.

In doing some research for Adventures In Character this year I came across the Torchlighters website. Wow! I love the vision of this ministry, especially because of how much my own life has been impacted by the stories of men and women who gave their lives to serve God and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. In addition to the animated films, there is a leader and student guide for each episode that is extensive and excellent. This would make a fabulous curriculum for a homeschool family, church children’s ministry, VBS, etc. Just trying to come up with a way I can use it myself! :-)

Here’s an informative and inspiring interview with the Torchlighters producer, Robert Fernandez:

Robert Fernandez Interview from Vision Video on Vimeo.

post Category: Personal,Poems post Comments (0) postMay 2, 2013

Linked as one
we’d never guess
that suffering by design
should attend success;
But God ordained
and then did show
for whom He calls
that it is so.

Inspired by the following verses and the reality that success and suffering are not mutually exclusive.

“The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man.” Genesis 39:3

“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Genesis 39:21

“And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.” 1 Samuel 18:14