Noise

I have the privilege of teaching a 7th grade class every Monday.  12 and 13 year olds are a lot of fun.  They are in the stage of asking lots of questions and trying to figure out what they believe about all kinds of ideas.

Recently, we discussed the book “A Gathering of Days”.  The initial response from the students was that it was boring, written in a format that they didn’t enjoy, and a poor selection because it didn’t entertain them.  We spent some time discussing the main characters and thinking about what was happening during the time period of the early 1800’s.

What followed that beginning assessment of the book was fantastic.  One student mentioned they thought no books should be written if they were boring.  We began to discuss why they thought it was boring.  It wasn’t fast paced.  It was written like a diary, so some of the entries say things like “it snowed today”.  There wasn’t a lot of action or intrigue.

We dove into the history of the 1800’s.  We talked about how long our country had been a nation at this point in history.  We talked about slavery.  We talked about what would have been entertainment to the characters in the book.

The question was asked – how would you feel if this was your great, great, great, great, great. . . grandmother’s diary?  Would it intrigue you more to know what her life was like all those years ago?

Ultimately, our conversation led us to the discussion of our need for everything to entertain us.  We discussed at length if it is a disservice to expect every book we read, every activity we do, or every event to be entertaining.  What happens when we sit down to read the Bible – a book full of depth and truth – and we aren’t entertained?  Do we begin to stop reading it because it’s not fast paced enough?  Do we begin to focus only on the exciting parts while missing the depth?  Do we begin to change the truth to make it more entertaining?

We discussed the idea of being still and wondered have we forgotten how?  It takes practice to remove ourselves from all of the noise and to think deep.  Noise is all around us every day – phones, iPads, iPods, movies, computers, music, and the list goes on and on.

These 12 & 13 year olds have grown up in this culture – it is their norm.

As those that have gone before them are we taking time to teach them what it looks like to be still?  To ask good questions?  To think deep?  Do we need to be reminded how?  All of the things that create noise can be used to accomplish great things, but they can also be a distraction.  I hope that we’ll take the time to be still and shut out the noise, for a little while each day, to allow ourselves time to see the truth, goodness, and beauty surrounding us.

 

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When Comparison Becomes a Competition..

We do it every day. We think about all kinds of things from the perspective of comparison. Should I wear the blue shirt or the green shirt? Should we have salad or pizza for dinner? Is this the best sunscreen or is there one that might be safer? What is the benefit of one brand of car over another?

Comparison is in us. It empowers us to learn more about different topics and it often shapes our decisions. Yet, comparison can become a competition. When we begin to compare ourselves to each other we are trading the measuring stick that God intended for one that is man made.

In hoping to be as good as so and so down the street, or next door, or wherever; we are comparing man to man. We are measuring accomplishments. Our measure of success begins to be based on if we are keeping up. Are we doing enough, involved enough, giving enough? Are our kids smart enough, cool enough, athletic enough? Is our church fancy enough, big enough, good enough? The list goes on and on.

However, we should ask is God pleased with our lives? Do we represent him well? Do our comparisons bring him honor or do they put us in competition with one another?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.  Matthew 22:37-40

Using the tool of comparison to make wise choices is healthy, yet when we begin to compare ourselves competitively we are either saying we are better or you aren’t good enough. Let’s instead choose to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Let’s celebrate the successes of those around us and let’s help each other when there are failures.

We could all use more grace and less competition.

Thank You, Mo Willems

I am sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face.  A while ago I noticed a new Mo Willems book was coming out in May.  I had planned to order it for my son because Elephant and Piggie have been his pals through his reading struggles. Dyslexia is hard and Elephant and Piggie made it less hard.  But I hadn’t gotten around to ordering it yet.

I realized today that this new book is, in fact, the LAST book of 25.  I get it.  Mr. Willems is ready for a new adventure.  But man, when I heard that news it made me sad and thankful at the same time.  These books will forever hold a dear place in my heart because they brought joy to a reader who was struggling.

Thanks for 25 hilarious adventures with Elephant and Piggie.  Thanks for making reading fun for a kid who didn’t think it fun at all.  Enjoy your new adventure!

Our new book will be here Monday!

 

Foundations to Challenge

We are well into our 6th year of Classical Conversations.  We started when our oldest was 7, just beginning second grade.  I had known since beginning to research models of education that the classical approach was for us.  We jumped in with both feet and started Kindergarten following a classical model in all areas.  Micah loved school.  There was just one down side.  All of his friends were now attending school and we rarely saw them as their schedules became increasingly busier.

My cousin had mentioned Classical Conversations so I decided to check it out.  My initial plan was to join this community once a week in hope of meeting some other families on the same journey as us.  So, we began CC and we loved it.  Community with other families who homeschool sprang up.  It was just what we needed.

That first year my plan was to continue doing all of the work we’d been doing the previous 2 years and just add CC on the side.  To be honest I wasn’t sure if the memory work, math and grammar would really be enough to accomplish all of my big education goals.  My 7 year old worked hard that year.  He did spelling, phonics, grammar, math, science, history, and CC.

I began to realize that we were doing too much.  SO, we cut back.  You know what I realized – my goals were mixed up.  I was hoping to raise up geniuses instead of Godly men.  God began to shift my thinking and began to show me that my traditional picture of a classroom wasn’t what was needed at home.  We didn’t really need weather charts, or wall calendars, or fancy wall decorations.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with these, they just weren’t necessary for us.) What we really needed was to make God the center of what we were doing and see the connections to Him in all things.  Yes, we still needed to be faithful in our school work, but character development, compassion, friendship, and flexibility, along with other things also needed to be priority.

Our 3rd grade year looked a lot different.  We worked on CC, we did math, we did grammar, and we read out loud.  It was a joy.  We had time to explore anything my son was interested in and we soaked it all up.  The next year our younger son started Foundations and our older son added Essentials.

I’m not going to lie.  Essentials terrified me the first year.  My grammar background was shabby at best.  I had heard Essentials was a 3 year program and that each year covered the same grammar content.  I wish I’d understood my first year that we didn’t need to conquer the world.  It was in our 3rd year of Essentials I looked back and saw the beauty of 3 years.  The first year we got our feet wet.  We retained as much as we could and did the best we could.  We asked TONS of questions and learned a lot too.  The second year the basics were familiar.  We’d come to understand that nouns have different jobs.  We knew the jobs of transitive, intransitive, linking and helping verbs.  Diagramming made sense.  The third year I became an Essentials tutor.  By the end of year 3 we’d mastered a great deal of the grammar.  What was once so complex felt simple.  It had taken 3 years of repetition to get to a place of mastery.

This year we made the leap to Challenge.  Micah is in 7th grade.  A friend asked the other day how it was going.  I told her that it is beautiful.  After 5 years of doing Foundations and Essentials the transition to Challenge has been astounding.  All of the years of memory work, grammar work, and writing work are exemplified in the Challenge A classroom.  Students who are now cognitively ready to engage in deep conversation have this beautiful framework of knowledge to pull from.  Their time in Foundations and Essentials has prepared them to be diligent and to work hard.  They didn’t even know they were learning these skills, but now they begin to see that the years of repetition have begun to develop in them the ability to learn anything.

It is possible to succeed in Challenge without doing Foundations or Essentials, but if you have the option to get started while your kids are younger the benefits are great.  As I tutor Challenge A this year I see that Latin, which is tough, is coming quickly to those students who have an understanding of English.  They aren’t having to learn 2 languages – they already know English and how it works.  They are just learning Latin.  They are again beginning a 3 year cycle of mastery.  By the time they complete 9th grade they will have covered the same Latin content 3 times.  If they stick with it they will understand Latin just as they understand English.

The conversations this year are jovial and deep.  These kids are digging in and wrestling with their beliefs.  They are also hilarious because they are middle schoolers.

Having tutored Foundations, Essentials, and now Challenge A, I am blown away as I watch the kids who have been in the program through all of these transitions come into their own.  I am blown away as I see my son sit down and make his own schedule for the week and diligently complete his 5-6 hours of work each day.  I am blown away at the depth of discussion and the depth of friendship.  It is amazing to see the connections from Foundations and Essentials to Challenge.  So many dots are being connected and every connection allows Jesus to shine brighter.

I know CC isn’t for everyone.  And I know that not everyone who starts will finish. But I hope that you’ll see that each piece fits together beautifully and that each piece is doable.  Yes, it is hard work, but it is good for us to do hard things.

#FORTHELOVE of Community

-Show Up. Be Seen. Tell the Truth. Be Free.-

What is community?  I think it’s people surrounding other people living in a way that supports, uplifts, and points people to Jesus.  It’s about being real, sharing the good and the bad, laughing together, weeping together, being still together and just being in each other’s lives.

This year I’ve thought a lot about community.  Sometimes we try to create a formula to fit all the people into a specific group and call it community, but I’ve seen more often than not this just doesn’t jive for most folks.  We are all unique individuals who click with some and not with others.

Over the course of several months I’ve had the honor of being a part of an unexpected community.  It formed overnight, literally, and involved 500 people. How can this be community you ask?  How can you connect with 500 people?  I’ve wondered about this mystery myself.

It all started with Jen Hatmakers new book “For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards”. I saw on Facebook one night that Jen was looking for a Launch Team to read her new book before it came out and share their thoughts about it with whomever would listen.   On a whim I applied to be on the team and somehow out of 5000 applications was chosen to be one of the 500 on the team.   I honestly couldn’t believe it, but it came at a time when I needed something out of the norm.  I needed something for me.

The day we got the email letting us know we were part of the team there was a link to join a private Facebook group just for these members.  My newsfeed blew up with messages from people I had never met.  There was this common thread – Jen’s book.  This common bond overrode the not knowing each other and propelled conversations, prayers, encouragement, and hilarity.

In For the Love, Jen talks often of community.  She says “I meet women all over the country, and I look so many in the eyes and see loneliness. People crave what they have always craved: to be known and loved, to belong somewhere. Community is such a basic human need.  It helps us weather virtually every storm. If Jesus’ basic marching orders were 1.) to love God and 2.) to love people, then the fruit of that obedience includes being loved by God and loved by people.  We give and get here. According to Jesus, the love of God and people is the substance of life.”

Are you involved in community?  Do you have a group of people who know you and you know them?  Do you have people that you trust?  A tribe you can laugh with and cry with?  If not, why not take the first step?  Find some people around you that you’d like to get to know better and make a plan.

It has been a breath of fresh air to participate in this diverse community these many months.  I will likely never meet all of these lovely people in person, yet I feel connected to them.

“We are called to this work, and it might not seem like much, but if you play your one note and I play mine and she plays hers, together it will create a beautiful song that sounds like freedom for the captives and good news to the poor.  May the broken hearted be healed and ashes turned to beauty in our generation.” Jen Hatmaker

Each of us is playing our note, together we are a symphony – may the music we make last for eternity.

Today is launch day.  If you pre-ordered, your books should be coming soon and check your email b/c your info on your freebies just might be there today.  If you haven’t bought the book yet, now is a great time.  It’s just half price on Amazon today.  Here is the link to the book’s webpage – forthelovebook.  Enjoy!

Parenting is Hard.

Today we wrapped up our 4th day of swim lessons for the year.  It was a tough day. Our 8 year old is a joy and a delight. He is also strong-willed, an asthmatic, and dyslexic. I don’t often talk about these challenges because I don’t want them to be what define him. Regardless of these things he is a child of God who is wholly loved and adored. Some days are just harder than others.

The first 3 days of class were great. But on day 3 they jumped from the diving board. He was nervous but conquered his fear and jumped. He didn’t love it but he was proud he did it. However, this morning on day 4 he woke up saying he was nervous to jump today. He wasn’t sure he would pop up and make it to the wall all on his own. I prayed for him and we talked about it for a bit.  He was doing better.

When it was time for his group to jump they were needing to go quickly because others were waiting. This child does few things quickly. We’ve learned to honor his time table when we can. He ended up being first in line with his class and just needed a minute to think clearly. But he wasn’t given that minute and was pushed from the diving board by another instructor. This is their practice – if you can’t jump they drop you in. They don’t do it to be cruel, but to get you past the fear of jumping. I knew this going in, and if this had been the end of his struggle today we probably would have been ok.

After the diving board it was time to dive from the wall. This was super scary for him and resulted in his teacher pushing him in twice because he wouldn’t dive. It was dramatic because he’s big and was resisting. At this point I can see him struggling to breathe. I knew if he didn’t calm down he was going to have a full blown asthma attack. I went and got him and had him sit with me and calm down. We cried, we prayed, and he agreed to finish up with his class today.

When rejoining the class his teacher told him he was going to have to move to a younger class because he wasn’t able to do what he needed to do in the deep end. I mentioned my son is dyslexic. This results in him processing things differently. Some times when you ask him to do something it doesn’t click right away. Sometimes it takes him time to gather his composure and realize he’ll be ok doing this new thing. Here’s the thing though – he’s really bright. So when you tell him he’s going to need to be with kids that are younger because that will be easier what he hears is I’m not good enough or smart enough.

I was able to talk with the woman in charge before we left and I think we’ve made a plan that everyone can get on board with for tomorrow. A ton of thoughts were swirling in my head as we drove home today. Did I do the right thing? Should I have just let him struggle? Should I have rescued him sooner? Is his heart broken? Does he feel like I didn’t care he was upset?

Ugh. Being a mom is hard. Seeing our kids suffer is hard. Deciding when to step in and when to butt out is hard. But ultimately I know my kid best. Today he needed to be rescued.

Christmas Happenings

The season of Christmas is by far my most favorite time of the year.  It is a time to reflect on the coming of our Savior, it is a time to fellowship with family and friends, it is a time for hot drinks and sweet treats, it is a time for Christmas plays, it is a time for parties, and it is a time for beautiful lights.   These are just some of my favorite things.

We are in our third week of Advent and have been reflecting on the word JOY.  As we light our pink candle each night we are reading through scripture looking at moments of joy.  Joy can be seen even in the darkness; it fills our hearts with strength.  Jesus, born a baby, brought joy to a dark world over 2,000 years ago. His joy, the only true joy, remains with us today.

I keep thinking of these lyrics this week:  Joy unspeakable that wont go away, just enough strength to live for today, so I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring, cause my faith is on solid rock, I’m counting on God!

As we celebrate Advent and look to the coming of our Savior we have also had opportunity to share Jesus’ love in different ways.  We had a fabulous time delivering homemade cinnamon rolls to our neighbors.  We also had a memorable time doing secret acts of kindness for those needing a little love this Christmas season!  It is exciting to see our boys heart’s full of JOY as they shared God’s love in tangible ways.

Just for fun I thought I’d share some Christmas poems that Micah wrote for school a few weeks ago.  Enjoy!

Cinquain:

Jesus

In a manger

Came to save us from sin

Grateful for the Holy Child

Savior

Acronym:

Sledding down the slopes

Noisily skiing

Old ice skates

When we’re done it’s cocoa time!

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