Thursday, September 23, 2010

Death Does Sting

I know the Bible says, "Where O Death is your sting?" (Isaiah 25:8)

I have to say, I'm feeling a little sting right now. 2 friends have passed away within the last week. For one, death was unexpected; for the other, he was battling cancer. Both were in their 40's. Both served faithfully at our church, both have left beautiful wives and children, both were the nicest guys you could have ever met.

Death is sobering; it shakes you up. It reminds you how short life is. It makes you wonder if you are doing everything you can in every area of your life to the fullest, or if there are things you should change. I'm sure neither of these men predicted that last week was their last time talking with friends, with their wives, with their children, their last meal somewhere.

My kids knew both of these men. They have questions right now. They want to know why God took their friend's daddy when we had prayed for him to get better. It's so tough- I want to know that too.

What do we do when our faith comes under fire through life's pain and misery? How do we view God when He answers our prayers with, "No"? Do we paint a new picture of who He is based on our experience, or do we hold fast to the unchanging, omniscient, ever-loving, and omnipotent God?

I choose to believe that my God is who He says He is, and that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is gracious and compassionate, faithful and just (Psalm 111:4, 7). He is slow to anger, abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). That means I can yell, scream, and cry all I want about how this seem so unfair, and God can take it. He's big enough, and He loves me in my pain because I can't see the perfect tapestry He is weaving on the other side. He is in control (Psalm 103:19), He is eternal, not bound by time (Isaiah 44:6), and He is good (Psalm 119:68). But above all, God is love (1 John 3:16). He loves these 2 guys whom He welcomed into His presence this week, and He loves those who are left behind to wait until it's our turn.

Can I trust God even through pain? I must. I cannot let pain define my beliefs; I must let my beliefs define my pain. It stings, no question. There are so many people hurting right now because of these men who have left so suddenly. But we can hold on to His Word which is "eternal, it stands firm in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89) Let's cling to the lifeline of God's Word, His very love letter to us, the anchor of our souls. I pray for the kids who have lost their dads and wives who have become widows, that they too will anchor themselves in You who never changes, who has numbered our days and knew this was coming even though all of us on earth were surprised.

My cousin just sent me some verses of hope and promises in the Word. May they bring comfort to those who need comfort today.

God will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

God is a shield and the lifter of your head (Ps 3:3)

He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Ps 34:18)

He hears you and will save you (Ps 34:6)

He cares for you (Ps 8:4), he puts your tears in a bottle (Ps 56:8)

He is a stronghold for the oppressed , a stronghold in times of trouble (Ps 9:9)

He is your light and salvation, you have nothing to be afraid of (Ps 27:1)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1)

He is trustworthy. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? (Ps 56:3-4)

He knows you and he knows what you're going through. (Ps 139)

He is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Ps 145:18)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Ps 147:3)

He is sovereign. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (Prov 16:4)

He is true, and His Word is truth. Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Pr 30:5)

You can put your whole weight on Him. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock (Is 26:4)

He does not faint or grow weary, and He will give you strength (Is 40:31)

He will provide for you- if He cares for the sparrows and flowers, how much more will He care for you? You are of more value than them. (Mt 6:25-34, Mt 10:31)

He will give you rest. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mt 11:28-29)

He answers prayer. (Mt 21:22)

You are His child if you have believed in His name (Jn 1:12) and He loves you (Jn 3:16)

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39)

He is good and He has good plans for you. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28)

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13)

He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Cor 1:3-4)

There are better things to come. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

His grace is sufficient for you. (2 Cor 12:9)

He won't leave you hanging. He has given you the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Eph 6:10-18)

Pray and let your request be known to Him, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7)

You can do all things through him who strengthens you (Phil 4:13)

He has been where you are and knows what you are going through. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb 2:18).

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 5:15-16)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. You can trust in Him. (Heb 13:8)

He will give you wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you (James 4:8)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Week 3 in a Nutshell

We actually started 3 new things this week: Sophie's preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Community Bible Study (CBS) for myself and the girls on Wednesday morning, and choir rehearsals at Stonebriar Church on Wednesday evenings.

Sophie was very happy to go back to preschool, and I know it will be great for her to have her own school while I teach Ellie and Chloe. Sophie is very proud of all of her crafts and papers that come home and tells me all about her day. I know she needs that special time away and we need that time too! I plan to do some things that we can't do with her around, like Chemistry, Shakespeare, and an art class that they will join with other homeschoolers next week.

CBS is a national movement of people interested in studying the Bible in-depth, and this year in the Plano location, they have started a homeschool program for the kids that corresponds with what the adults are studying. (We will be studying Daniel, 1 Thessalonians, 1 John, and James.) I have to say that after leading groups for a few years, it's such a blessing to be a participant for a change and have a curriculum laid out for me! I am also impressed with how organized the children's classes are; they each have their own workbook and we all have the same memory verses. Another plus is that they get to meet some new homeschool friends! After the meeting, a group of us plan to go out to lunch to hang out a little more. It is exactly what I need in the middle of my week: meeting with friends and discussing the Word!

Later in the afternoon, we also went to the first choir rehearsal at Stonebriar church in Frisco. They have a Pre-k choir, Grade 2-3, and Grade 4-6 choir, so all my girls can participate. They will be performing at the church and also working on a spring musical. One thing I didn't realize was that many of the kids in the choir are homeschooled! It's a big commitment to be a part of the choir, and it's hard to do that when you have so many other activities and homework to do after school. As a homeschooler, once school is done, it's done with no homework, so the rest of your day is open! This freedom has allowed us to let Ellie participate in cheerleading and tennis, Chloe in dance and gymnastics, and all the girls in choir and Awanas. We definitely won't be able to do all these activities when they return to school, so we are taking full advantage of the extra time. I know it seems that we must be running around like crazy, but honestly, I've never been so relaxed. Our mornings are not rushed, and our evenings are eventful but fun. I truly expected to be moderately happy about homeschooling, or at least report that it was tolerable, but I actually love it! The kids are spending so much time together and I get to be a part of their intellectual, spiritual, and emotional development more than I ever have before. I know it's going to be a year that we'll never forget.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Little by Little

We are slowly adding in a few more elements to our homeschooling. Here's the latest:

FRENCH
We borrowed a few beginning French CD's from the library with songs and a picture dictionary, and now we are all learning French! Sure, it's more practical to learn Spanish, but I know the kids will eventually learn Spanish. I've always wanted to learn French and then take a trip to Paris; lofty goals, but it doesn't hurt to dream, right?

We are going to do a little suitcase project with France. We will explore the cuisine, the customs, the must-see buildings all through books and the internet. We will "pack" our 8 x 10 construction paper suitcase with our own research on these topics and then make the hard sell to daddy that we need to go visit someday!! :)

INDEPENDENT READING
We also added independent reading this week. I have assigned a book to each of the girls to read; you can find wonderful book lists from Amblesideonline.com. I am adapting the list for my girls since I want to ease them into the more formal and complex language of some of the books.

COMPREHENSION
Ellie has a reading journal that she will fill out as she reads; she will identify the genre, title, author, settings, characters, key events, the central question, the solution, her favorite character and why, and new vocabulary words. I hope to have her read many great books this year, including The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Caddie Woodlawn, Pilgrim's Progress, Swiss Family Robinson, and Pollyanna. These books have such rich characters and quality writing; I can't wait for her to get into them! We will explore other genres as well besides realistic fiction, but right now that's her favorite.

For Chloe, her reading will start with simpler books; she has begun reading Stuart Little. Oral narration will be the way I can assess whether she is really understanding what she is reading. Here are some narration questions I will ask her after she reads each chapter on her own:

"Tell me all you know about x, y, z according to what you've read"

"Explain how. . ."

"Describe anything new you just learned from this chapter"

"Tell me five things you learned about. . ."

"Tell back the story (passage, episode, chapter) in your own words

"Draw a picture of. . ."

We will see how it goes with both of them!

HANDWRITING
I found a great website: http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/ that allows you to customize handwriting worksheets! It is awesome since Ellie needs to work on her cursive and Chloe needs to work on her handwriting in general. For Chloe, I am basically turning the handwriting worksheet into a spelling sheet, using words that she consistently has trouble with as she writes during her independent writing time. I will also be taking the spelling lists off the public school's website since they post their grade level spelling lists online! I can use the handwriting worksheets for Sophie too, which is a plus!

NATURE WALK
Today we took our 2nd nature walk, but rather than sketching what we saw, we took a ziploc bag and filled it with different leaves from bushes, trees, and other vegetation as we walked. We went to Taychas Trail which follows West Rowlett Creek in a natural forest area within the Hunter's Creek subdivision of Frisco. The girls loved discovering the variety of plants!

What I love about nature walks is that it teaches the girls to be observers. Normally they would just run past the natural surroundings straight to the swing set at a park, but asking them to look for differences in trees and vegetation suddenly opens up the world right in front of them. We didn't have time today to look up each leaf and classify it as Charlotte Mason would have you do, but we are looking forward to doing that tomorrow.

That's it for tonight. Bonne nuit everyone!