Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling - The Adventure Edition

Here is this week's link to the Carnival of Homeschooling: The Adventure Edition. A wide array of posts to educate, inspire, challenge, and entertain you! http://www.tiffanyblitz.com/blog/archives/651

Monday, January 26, 2009

Too Fearful to Enter the Land

Recently, I was reading the story of Joshua and Caleb in the book of Numbers. They were on the brink of entering the Promised Land and sent in ten spies to do some reconnaissance. The spies came back showing off the plentiful fruit and claiming that the land “flowed with milk and honey”. Then they followed this good news with a big “but”… “But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there!” They fearfully claimed that there was no way they could possibly take this land and that compared to these giants, they were but grasshoppers. These people had just been led by God out of slavery, seen the Red Sea parted by God’s hand and had their every need met by the Lord Himself. Yet, now they were so afraid that they wouldn’t go up to take the land that God had promised would be their possession. So what was the result? Forty years of wandering in the desert, until all of that generation had died and then their children could take the Promised Land. This generation of Israelites completely missed out on God’s amazing blessing for them because they were too fearful to act.

As I was pondering this story, I began thinking about the numerous people who have told me the many reasons why they “can’t” homeschool. I’ve heard everything from “I wasn’t a good student” to “I couldn’t teach my own children” to the oft-repeated “but what about socialization?” When God first put homeschooling on our hearts, we had many fears and questions, too (to read more about our story, click here). We wondered exactly how it would work. We wondered how our children would have any friends. We wondered if we were capable of providing all that our academically gifted children needed. And then we prayed. And God answered those prayers with people sent to encourage us, to teach us, to inspire us. He answered with peace in our hearts about His calling to homeschool. He answered with abundant joy at the prospect of bringing our children home. And now, five years later, we are reaping the bountiful blessings of educating our children at home. If we had let those fears consume us and keep us from answering God’s calling, we would have missed out on so much, just like the Israelites. And those blessings would have skipped this generation of our family and had to wait (not quite forty years, but close!) for the next generation to be called and to courageously step up in faith.

How about you? Could God be calling you to homeschool your children? Maybe you’re feeling frustrated with the secular education they are receiving, or the worldly attitudes that are rubbing off on your children. Maybe you feel that you are losing their hearts and having too little time to teach them the things that you know God wants you to impart to them. If so, I encourage you to at least give God a chance to speak to your heart. Pray and ask Him if homeschooling is what He wants for your family. Although I don’t believe homeschooling is the only way, I know it has profoundly impacted our family for the better. If this is an idea that is tugging at your heart, don’t let fear keep you from stepping out in faith. If God calls you to this wonderful journey, He will bountifully provide all that you need to be successful. All He asks is for you to go forward in obedience and trust. The blessing is waiting for you, just like it was for the Israelites. Don’t let fear keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you and your children…the land is bountiful, and it’s yours for the taking.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling

Just wanted to let you know that the new Carnival of Homeschooling is now posted at http://homeschooling.about.com/b/2009/01/20/carnival-of-homeschooling-the-mystery-hat.htm

Alan, Molly and I all have posts included in this carnival. Check it out for some interesting reading!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Myth of Character Education

It seems that every time I pick up a newspaper lately, there is an article about teenagers and character (or their lack thereof). A recent study put out by the Josephson Institute, titled “Ethics of American Youth” seems to have ignited a rash of writings discussing their findings. This survey questioned 30,000 teenagers about the subject of honesty and the results were very alarming. At least one out of four teens confessed to stealing from a store or friend; one-third admitted to lying; and over half have cheated on a test. Over 25 percent admitted to lying on the survey itself! The articles go on to say how the numbers of teens who lie and cheat have risen dramatically in the past few years.

Another topic of concern to me is the articles I am seeing stating that the latest survey shows that abstinence education is failing. They claim that not only are teens who are educated in abstinence-only programs almost as likely to participate in teen sex (although they do delay sexual activity by several years), they are also less likely to use birth control, thus leading to higher risk of pregnancy and disease.

What I find ironic about these findings is that the “new” trend in public schools the past few years has been the idea of focusing on “character education”. When my children were still in the public school system, our school was very passionate about teaching character. Each week, a different character quality was introduced and discussed and kids were rewarded for showing “good character”. There are many organizations that attempt to instill character in our children, yet it seems to be failing. How can we equate the efforts of public schools to teach character and the seeming decline in the integrity of our children?

As a Christian, the answer seems obvious to me. The Bible teaches that “every inclination of (man’s) heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). It also teaches that it is only through Christ’s saving grace that we can become a new creation with the power to vanquish sin in our lives. We will never succeed in teaching our children “good character”…we can only teach them how to have “Godly character”. Yet, we are not allowed to teach that in our public schools. They have removed all reference to God and have become convinced that we are capable of being “good” on our own. The results from this false premise are devastating. We pat ourselves on the back, thinking we are instilling integrity in our children, yet our failure is becoming obvious in our society. We have corrupt politicians, immoral role models, and teenagers who think it is acceptable to lie or cheat in order to succeed (40%, according to the Josephson study).

We have become deluded into thinking that character education is enough. We have handed over the responsibility of training our children in godliness to a school system that mocks our faith. No matter what your choice regarding how you educate your children, you are still the one responsible for teaching them right and wrong. Don’t think that putting them in a “good” school which teaches “character” is enough. It is not, and never has been, the responsibility of the government to shape our children’s character. Removing God from the equation has obviously failed. Teaching children to be kind, or honest, because it is “the right thing to do” is not enough. They need to understand that good character comes from understanding God’s holiness and desiring to please Him. If abstinence educators were allowed to teach teenagers the real reasons for purity (and I don’t mean avoiding pregnancy or disease), I am certain the numbers would be different. If teens were instilled with a desire to please God and an understanding of the rewards reaped by doing so, abstinence would be seen as a worthy commitment, and not an impossible choice.

We, as parents, need to take back the responsibility of instilling character in our children. We need to recognize that this can never be accomplished apart from the God who created them and knows their every thought (Psalm 139). Even more frightening than the numbers of teens who lie, cheat or steal, are the results showing what teens think of their own character. An overwhelming 93% said that they are “satisfied with their personal ethics and character”, and 77 percent said that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know”. The Bible teaches us that our standard is to be God’s word, not the standards of the world around us. Unless we are faithfully instilling His word into our children’s hearts, they will be led down a path of corruption, even by “good” programs such as character education.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” II Peter 1:3-4

If you’d like to think more about this subject, I highly recommend the movie “Time Changer” from Christiano Film Group.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Far Enough Ahead

The calendar page is barely turned, and already it seems this is shaping up to be a hard year for a lot of people. In the last few days, we have had friends experience the death of a loved one, the loss of a beloved pet, terrible illness and hospitalization, health scares, worry about finances and losing their home and many other difficult circumstances. Our family prayer time has grown longer each night as we try to cover all those we love in prayer, asking God’s mercies and comfort on each of them.

Quite honestly, this time of year is one I often face with dread. Although I tend much more toward the optimistic side and rarely feel truly depressed, the months between January and March are ones that can be a struggle for me. It seems that most of the really hard things that have happened in my life have fallen in or around these months. There have been loved ones lost, injuries and illness experienced, and disappointments faced. My first experience with death (the loss of my beloved grandfather during my high school years) happened in March. My adored grandmother died two years ago this month. We lost my husband’s little brother to a brain tumor at age 21 in January six years ago. Two years ago, in the midst of losing my grandmother and deciding to move our family to Kansas, I fell and broke my tailbone…twice in two weeks. Even my much-loved dog was put to sleep in January many years ago. I think you get the picture. On top of all this, I was made for tropical climates. I put on layers starting about October and don’t thaw out until June. I despise cold weather and live for those sunny Colorado days we are blessed with in the midst of winter.

So, now that I’ve depressed you, where am I going with this? First, let me tell you a story, shared by our minister a few months ago. It is about a little boy, anxiously anticipating a day of fishing with his father, only to wake that morning to a terrible rainstorm. While his father tried to explain to the boy how desperately they needed this rain, and that there would be other days to fish, the boy grumbled and complained throughout the day. Later that afternoon, the sun broke through and the rain ceased. There was still plenty of time to fish, so the boy and his father headed out to the stream. After the rain, the fish were biting unusually well and they came home with a huge string of fish. When the boy offered the prayer at supper that evening, he told God, “I’m sorry if I sounded grumpy earlier today…I just couldn’t see far enough ahead.”

I loved that story when I heard it…how profound. If he had known the rain would cease, he would have enjoyed the day instead of grumbling. How often do we spend our days complaining, only because we can’t see far enough ahead? If I had known that God would heal my mom’s cancer, would I have spent so much time grieving and worrying and being angry? If I had known we wouldn’t end up moving to Kansas after all, would I have wasted so much time being miserable? If I had known that homeschooling would dramatically change our family for the better, would it have been such a difficult decision to start?

Ah, the famous what-ifs. We can never see what lies ahead, but we do have an advantage. We serve the God who knows every what-if, who sees every moment of our future. He has carefully planned our lives and knows exactly what lies ahead, and gives us exactly what we need in order to endure every trial that comes our way. He promises that at the end of that road lies the end to all suffering, the reward for all our seeking after Him. He knows exactly how each moment of suffering refines our character to be more like His. And even better…He loves us with an unfailing love and wants only the best for our lives. If we can cling to these promises, we can face the future with the confidence of the psalmist who penned “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” (Psalm 112:7) So, if, like me, you are having a “grumpy” spell, rest easy. After all, GOD can see “far enough ahead”, even if we can’t.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Miracle

Fifteen years ago today, I experienced a miracle. After a month of bed rest, weeks of dangerously high blood pressure, and 21 long hours of intense labor (without pain medication), our first child was born. I held her in my arms and studied each little finger and toe, filled with awe at the answer to our prayers. My whole life, I knew I wanted nothing more than to be a mommy, yet that didn’t come easily to me. As the months went by, bringing many anguished tears and desperate prayers, despair filled my heart. Questions tormented me, wondering what my life would hold if I could not be a mother. Thoughtless words spoken in jest by people cut me to the heart every Sunday at church, as one after another asked me why we weren’t having any babies, when my brother and his wife already had two. Finally, the joyful news was given to us that we would indeed…finally…be parents. I think it took days to really sink in and accept that motherhood really was in my future, that God had chosen to bless us with a child.

Just about the time that I grew used to the idea, miscarriage threatened. I couldn’t believe God would let us finally conceive, only to take this child from us. Again, desperate prayers and tears were sent up to heaven. Again, God listened and spared our precious child. After a rocky pregnancy, and a miserable labor, Molly Michele joined our family. I am still filled with an incredible joy when I remember that day, and remember what it felt like to finally hold in my arms the desire of my heart. She was so tiny, and perfect as she looked up at me with eyes full of trust. Alan and I looked at each other as we got ready to take her home from the hospital, thinking, “That’s it? Now we’re supposed to know what to do?” I remember a few days after she was born, I was sitting on the couch holding Molly and talking to my mother when the emotions (and the after-birth hormones!) overwhelmed me. I began weeping and looked at my mother and said with awe, “You really love me, don’t you?” I suddenly understood that mysterious thing called mother-love. She just smiled patiently at me and dried my tears, as she has done for so many years.

And now, seemingly in the blink of an eye, my baby is fifteen and a lovely young lady. I am still in awe of the miracle that has made me her mother, and I delight in watching who she is becoming. When I look at her, I see something beautiful…Jesus, shining in her eyes and in her life. She loves her Lord and follows him unashamedly. I have seen her stand up for her faith, unwavering in her beliefs. At an age where so many young girls are consumed with boys or makeup or texting on their cell phones, I see a quiet maturity. She is comfortable in her own skin, preferring dresses to blue jeans and anything vintage to modern. She cares deeply about the hurting and the lost, and it wounds her to see the world’s expectations of a teen. She refuses to lower her standards in order to fit in, and is resigned to being different than the average teen (see her blog at http://www.molly-nyat.blogspot.com/). When I see her solid convictions and faith, I am filled with joy.

Molly also makes me laugh. For such a serious girl, she has a remarkable sense of humor. While those who don’t know her well would be surprised to hear this (very few people see this side of her), she is one of the funniest people I know. She knows just what to do to make me laugh on a gloomy day, and I absolutely love spending time with her. She may seem quiet and reserved on the outside, but she inherited her father’s sense of humor!

When Molly was a little girl, people often commented that she never walked anywhere…she danced. We joked that she came out dancing! She dreamed of being a ballerina from the time she was barely walking, and I’ve watched her work with determination to reach her goal. This year, she auditioned and was accepted to dance en pointe, fulfilling her dream. When I watch her dance, she absolutely takes my breath away. Watching my precious girl express herself through ballet is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I am convinced that God created this girl to dance.

The biggest reason I wanted to have a daughter someday was so I could carry on the kind of relationship with her that I have always had with my sweet mother. Now that Molly is older, I am experiencing the delightful fruit of that relationship. She is someone I am proud to know, blessed to love, and honored to call my friend. Happy 15th Birthday, sweetheart. I love you and thank God for the privilege of being your mom. Keep dancing, stand strong, and know that I will always love you.

The Dancer

…written for Molly on her 13th birthday, with love from Mom

It doesn’t matter if anyone’s watching,
She dances not for praise
She spins and twirls and bows her head
As the beautiful music plays.

Her hands are clasped in worship
Adoration’s on her face
Her feet have wings to make her fly
Up to a holy place.

This dancer knows the One who sees
Is the Lover of her soul
He gave her life, love, joy and peace
His blood has made her whole.

So now she dances, full of grace
For this One her soul does praise
She’ll bring Him joy with the gift of her heart
As she worships Him all of her days.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Choose This Day

Every year seems to fly by faster and faster. Here we are once again, beginning a new year and setting new goals and commitments, and it feels like just yesterday that we were beginning 2008. New Year’s always feels like a time of reflection to me, considering the past months and their ups and downs and looking to the future months and what I wish to change.

This morning, I was reading in I Kings 18 about Elijah and the prophets of Baal and one verse in particular really stood out to me. In verse 21, Elijah challenges the people of Israel by saying, "How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it's Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!" The Israelites were wavering in their faith in the one true God, and turning to follow Baal, a foreign god. A test ensued, where the God of Israel put to shame the prophets and followers of Baal, proving in a dramatic way that there is only one God. (You can read the story in I Kings 18.) The people were overcome, and fell on their faces in worship, shouting, “God is the true God!” Their hearts returned to following the Lord (at least for awhile!) and they realized that they had to make a choice.

What does this have to do with New Year’s Day, you ask? In one word…everything. I believe God is calling us to make this same choice, today. We are so conflicted between following the Lord and being part of this world we live in. I see so many examples of this every single day, in our parenting, our choices, and the way we live our daily lives. We sit around and complain about the state of the world and how hard it is to raise our children to follow God, yet we participate in the very things that we claim to despise. We refuse to stand up and be different, to say “No” to ungodliness in its many forms, and to proclaim that we choose to follow Jesus.

This Christmas, I was blessed to have my entire family at my house for Christmas. I was watching my children and their two cousins, who are all devoted to the Lord. I was thinking about how we have more than replaced ourselves (the four parents) with a generation who loves God and desires to serve Him, and wondering what the next generation will be like. What would change in our world if we parents declared our total commitment to following God and raised our children to do the same? What if we jumped off the fence we straddle (between God and the world) and refused to be drawn in to our culture? What if we refused to participate in entertainment that profanes our Lord and instead spent that time training our children in righteousness? What if we took back our children’s education and taught them not only reading and arithmetic, but God’s word and holy living?

We seem to give up so easily and be drawn into this world that we reside in, but don’t belong to. We need to take courage and stand firm, knowing that the rewards we reap for following God wholeheartedly will far outweigh the cost. My prayer for 2009 is that my family will choose, today, to serve the Lord, to dare to be different (even if others mock us for that choice) and to step firmly down from that fence and walk assuredly toward the path that leads to life everlasting. As Joshua said, "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:14-15