Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Math Facts

     By this point every spring, we're itching for summer.  We're wishing we could just call the work we've done good enough, but we can't.  To motivate myself to persevere, I let myself start planning next year, and get excited about school all over again.  Inevitably, some one else gets excited with me, it's contagious.  
     I've been reading about Ray's Arithmetic over at Large Family Mothering.  Realizing Arden is an entirely different child than any of our other three, we're trying a new course with his kindergarten math next year.  We think holding a pencil and filling in those work sheets might tax Arden to his limit, and therefore Bryan and I to our limit as well.  Bryan is the math teacher here, but he's given me permission to create a math "program" Arden can do that will be hands on and fun, and still teach everything a little guy needs to know.  Yes, and nearly free.  We're not investing in an expensive new curriculum.  My mom and I are talking through some Montessori at home ideas, and we'll do lots of real life math, too.  Then I read the posts about Ray's Arithmetic and I'm thinking I might follow that book as I teach math facts to Arden.  I plan to buy the "Math Flashcards and Helps," but started out making my own flashcards for numbers 1-10 because we don't have a color printer.  Armed with paper packs, number stickers and wild animal stickers from Hobby Lobby we (yes, you know I had help!) made the cards and used them this morning.  I knew we had hit on at least one right idea, Arden smiled just seeing those wild animals.
     But math takes a back seat to courtship rituals and the cardinals were at their finest right outside the dining room window.  We all crowded around, watching the males strut their stuff and fight and the females feign disinterest.  Then Sam spotted woodpeckers about the same business.  This is what I love about homeschooling, this togetherness.  When there's something amazing to appreciate, we can all take the time to enjoy God's creation, then reluctantly turn back to math again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Choosing Simplicity

     Choosing simplicity stretches my resolve.  I say I want to leave a little extra room in every drawer, and in every closet, not room to add more, only room to breathe.  I say I want our family to lower our desires, just a bit, and learn contentment.  That's my abstract goal.  However, in the particulars it's hard to choose less.
     This is Ally's shirt drawer, one part of our task yesterday.  We emptied them all out on the floor and purged the old, the out grown, the stained, the shirts less modest than they seemed in the fitting room, and the few that Ally just didn't care for.  Whew!  That alone is a lot, but that is the easy part.  Then we assessed what she needs for this summer.  One pair of jeans, we always buy these used, and one shirt to match a picky skirt.  That's it?  Well...wouldn't it be fun to pick out one or two other things?  We have the money, we have the space. have less.  Remind me in the store.
     Taking advantage of the rainy afternoon, we emptied out all the boys' clothes today.  Here I am stretched indeed.  I have decided Arden only needs five tee-shirts and two church shirts because we have a washing machine and dryer and they work.  Oh, but the hand-me-down box has ten nice short sleeve tees.  Free!  This simplicity I think I want isn't just about money, it's about less crowding, less effort, less stuff.  Less.  I fold and stack, fold and stack my piles, because for some reason this is hard for me.  I put away nice tees for later in the summer when this first batch is stained.  Arden's little closet area is still crowded, these in between spring days require both long and short sleeve.  But soon we'll pare down again and resolve to keep it that way.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Geographica: US Rivers

     The Geo Quiz on Monday rolls around again.  The State Geo Bee is this Friday and Ally is giddy with excitement and studying hard.  Do I even need to mention Bryan and I are giddy with excitement too?  My mom maintains a perennially calm exterior, a gift of God, so I never realized as a mother my heart would be so wrapped around my children's that I'd be as nervous, happy or disappointed as they feel in the ups and downs of life.  I often find myself vacillating between a crazy pride in all they do and a pressing discouragement that we don't do any of this discipleship and home education well enough.  I'd love to stay in that middle ground where I'd be in neither sin nor doubt.  It's like a roller coaster ride, and I hate real life roller coasters, but I can't opt out of this one.  I'm on the ride - for life.  Next Monday I'll tell you how she did, and as usual, you'll find yet another Geo Quiz.  I'll repeat it again, this girl loves geography.

Quiz:  US Rivers
1.   The Connecticut River begins in northern New Hampshire and flows down the western border through Massachusetts and then through Connecticut into Long Island Sound.  The Connecticut River forms the border between New Hampshire and what other state?
 2.  The Wabash River, on the border with Illinois, and the Maumee River, that flows through Fort Wayne, are in what state?
3.  The Snake River begins at Heart Lake in Yellowstone National Park, before traveling across what state to form Hell's Canyon on the border with Oregon?
4.  The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is on what river that joins the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park, Utah?
5.  The Missouri River begins in what state that also has the Little Bighorn River and most of the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri River?


1.  Vermont
2.  Indiana
3.  Idaho
4.  Green River
5.  Montana

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Little Bit of Saturday

It's a quiet Saturday afternoon of...

a game of Risk with Dad....

one player is on a team of three, one girl, two bears....

girlish dreams of writing a novel, sustained by a cup of tea...

and geography stacked on the widow sill, only one more week...

printing out Ray's Arithmetic and Arthur Scott Bailey for next week's school... 

 This week I've been thinking again and again of Exodus 33:13,
...let me know Your ways that I may know You ...
 These words stood out to me this week, and I've been praying them back to God.  When I know His ways He gives His presence and His favor.  He teaches His ways, Micah 4:2,
...Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths...
Then He asks me to walk in His ways and I think it's an almost impossible calling from Ephesians 5:1 to imitators of God...

I attempt the impossible only because the rest of Ephesians makes clear there are not words enough to describe the ways of God.  Paul resorts to speaking of the surpassing greatness of His power, great love, surpassing riches of grace, unfathomable riches of Christ, and the love which surpasses knowledge, filled up to all fullness.  God gives that which surpasses, fills and is unfathomable.  He gives Himself.

Friday, March 25, 2011

John Owen and Self-Examination

     In January I wrote a post about my goal to read one Puritan classic each month.  An older woman at church, a great reader, gave me What Every Christian Needs to Know which is a modern adaptation of John Owen's books Temptation and Putting Sin To Death.  I chose it as my third book and now that March is almost over I've finally begun.  I should have started sooner, I should have known it would be rich in wisdom.  I've yet to be disappointed by the Puritans, though I have sometimes been surprised by the seriousness with which they approach holiness in believers and the church. 
     I came to the section on communal temptation, temptation put before the church body, and I knew these words are applicable today.  I often fall into the trap of romanticizing the past, and believing man's sin has only intensified as the centuries progressed (maybe because our chronological study of history at the elementary level is carefully whitewashed).  I just finished reading another book, 1700: Scenes from London Life, (Owen's church was in London) that is so full of sin and vice I wouldn't let my children read those accounts of real life.  Owen knew sin, and sin in the church, and I think it's safe to say, he knew it just as well as any modern pastor.
      Matthew 24:12, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold,” etc. The abounding of iniquity in some will insensibly cast water on the zeal and love of others, that by little and little it shall wax cold. Some begin to grow negligent, careless, worldly, wanton. They break the ice towards the pleasing of the flesh. At first their love also waxes cold; and the brunt being over, they also conform to them, and are cast into the same mould with them. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Paul repeats this saying twice, 1 Cor. 5:6, and Gal. 5:9. He would have us take notice of it; and it is of the danger of the infection of the whole body, from the ill examples of some, whereof he speaks....If one little piece of leaven...may endanger the whole, how much more when...much leaven is scattered abroad!
     In two recent conversations, with two unrelated people, I have heard woeful stories of two separate churches.  Has the Church at large been so leavened by sin I no longer recognize the sin of my own heart?  Have my standards of holiness been affected more by people around me or the careful consideration of God's Word and my husband's opinion?  A godly example, whether at church, in a book or online is a gift, but only so long as she remains faithful to the Word of God.  As Owen said, "It is easy following a multitude to do evil."  On my own, though I may flatter myself otherwise, I have no strength or power to withstand and am wholly dependent on the power of God.  The more difficult path is one of watching and praying that I do not enter into temptation.  I don't want to be a careless believer, with my imagination fixed on temptations and my affections entangled in the world.  I need to pray, with greater earnestness, the line from the Lord's prayer, "and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."  This is a request I ought to earnestly cast before the throne of Grace day after day, always needy for the power of God to work His will in me.

*Although the abridged version is helpful, I suspected it lacked something of the original.  I hunted up Owen's own words online.  The original requires slow and thoughtful reading, (I have quoted it above) but the text is rich in words and ideas.  This quote is from Chapter 3 of Owen's book Of Temptation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Compliments to the Boys

     I adore my boys.  I'm not sure if they've been changing, or I have new eyes to see all the wonderful things they think to do for me.  Either way, I am treasuring up all these days in my heart.  I find it easy to get along with my little ladies, they're subdued, helpful, and eager to please.  But the boys?  Oh, they're singing rowdy songs, at top volume, while loading the dishwasher and I'm yelling, "Please, quiet down."  They are idea factories for making any job less work.  The boys beg for computer games all day, though they know the rules full well.  The boys are all about leaving socks in every nook and cranny of the house and yard.  They love a floor strewn with Legos.  Is there a noise they want to make once?  Well, a thousand times might be better.  They're good, but they're boys.  I have one grown boy here, my husband, and when I sigh in despair, he reminds me, "He's just being a boy."  (Well, not every time, but you know, sometimes.  Occasionally the situation calls for something else.)  But lately?
     I see all this sweetness coming out in them, all this thoughtful consideration.  Lately, Sam likes to make my coffee in the morning, and I walk in the dining room to see him beaming with pleasure.  Today, he jumped up and volunteered to make me breakfast.  "One bagel, lots of butter, right?"  I'm suddenly amazed by a boy who does his chore without being asked.  After ten years of direct commands, standing over him to supervise, then graduating to not so subtle hints, then subtler hints, I think maybe, just maybe, we have made progress.
     Arden is not about to be left out.  Sure, at five we're at an entirely different stage in the training process.  But this boy, this one who at two left me in tears at the end of every single day, is suddenly obeying right away.  Not every time, but sometimes.  This boy is anxious to help.  He listens so thoughtfully to his Bible stories.  He picks flowers and brings them to his mom.  I've had one bouquet of tired spring blooms today, plus a hearty violet that I dared to set down, and Arden brought it to me again.
     I'm hopeful.  For years I've despaired because we don't live on a farm showered by rain and sun, with free flowing air, fields to plow and work for these boys.  The farm seems the panacea to all boyhood ills.  Instead God has set us here, on our little city lot.  So I focus on being faithful where we are, we'll begin small and trust God with those greater goals of forming these boys into men.  They have the best of examples in their father, which is a richness beyond measure.  We have prayer and God's guide book for boys, Proverbs.  Think how many times Solomon says, "Listen my son,..."  (I am indebted to Kevin Swanson and his CD series Vision for Generations for that idea.)  We employ perseverance and lots of encouragement.  I love to brag about their latest good action, right in front of them, when Dad comes home.  Bet you can't guess what Sam just did?  They flourish in the pleasure of their father, and I trust in time, in the pleasure of God the Father as well.
     As I typed Arden came past and wondered where I had put my pretty flowers.  In the kitchen?  Much too far away.  He gathered them and brought them to the couch, sorting them by kind.  He realized I needed more and disappeared into the sunshine to gather more, flowers so dry they crinkle while he pulls them from his fist.  His voice squeaking with pleasure he announces a new kind, a common weed, laid out beside the others.  Even a weed can be token of love.

A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish son is a grief to his mother. 
Proverbs 10:1


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From the Singer

     The little Singer was whirring, after half an hour of back and forth about how we ought to design the bag.  At first we considered genuine patchwork, little two inch squares, but we were daunted by the amount of time they would take to stitch together.  Instead we chose strips of fabric, fabric we had "in stock," sewn together in varying lengths, and we were so pleased with the result.  We lined the inside of the bag with the yellow polk-a-dot.  We wrapped it up and tied it with a bow and gave it to a friend for her birthday.  I was pleased because we didn't even have to run to the store.  Ally was so pleased with the bag, she says she's going to make one for herself.  And her Daddy thrilled her heart by walking in and saying she ought to sell bags like that on Etsy.  Best of all, her friend liked it.  It was a good morning of sewing on the trusty Singer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Geographica: Central America and the Caribbean

     This home is ringing with the sound of geography questions, asked and answered.  We're Googling pronunciations for strange place names, and seeing country shapes in clouds.  We're on the countdown to the State Bee, and one of us is so excited she's giddy.  Or is that stress?  Either way, it's fun.  Here's the quiz for today:

1.  On the Island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles, are what two large countries?
2.  Dragon's Mouth Strait and the Gulf of Paria separate Trinidad and Tobago from what South American country?
3.  The Motagua River flows into the Gulf of Honduras in what country that also has the Mayan ruin of Tikal?
4.  Name the island country that does not belong and explain why:  Turks and Caicos Island, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, and Grenada.
5.  Andras Island, New Providence Island, Long Island and Great Inagua Island all belong to what island country?

Here's your bonus spelling lesson for today, I looked this up, just to be sure.  Straight  is a word for a straight line, as in not curved.  Strait is the geographical term.  As with most other English homophones, it's just meant to confuse, both students and spell-check, right?  And the answers:

1.  Haiti and Dominican Republic
2.  Venezuela
3.  Guatemala
4.  Turks and Caicos Island does not belong because it is not in the Lesser Antilles.
5.  Bahamas

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Luther on Saturday

God delights in our temptations, and yet hates them; he delights in them when they drive us to prayer:  he hates them when they drive us to despair.  The Psalm says: An humble and contrite heart is an acceptable sacrifice to God, &c.  Therefore, when it goes well with you, sing and praise God with a hymn: goes it evil, that is, does temptation come, then pray:  "For the Lord has pleasure in those that fear him;' and that which follows is better: "and in them that hope in his goodness:" for God helps the lowly and humble seeing he says: "Thinkest thou my hand is shortened, that I cannot help?"  He that feels himself weak in faith, let him always have a desire to be strong therein, for that is a nourishment which God relishes in us.

Martin Luther, Tabletalk

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Full, Ready and Exact

Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
Francis Bacon 

     Do I read Francis Bacon?  As much as I would love to tell you that I do, I will instead admit the truth.  I read this quote in a Dorothy Sayers mystery, Busman's Honeymoon.  Mystery  novels are my secret vice.  I choose them carefully, I want them well written and thoughtful, and without too much gore or bad language or trendy sins.  Agatha Christie always has a good story line and a quick wit.  I adore reading Brother Cadfael, a sleuth who is a Benedictine monk and says that capture is for the good of the murderer's soul.  And, of course, Dorothy Sayers, who is too intellectual for me, but I try to keep up.  In the midst of Lord Peter's  repartee of literate quotes, I stop and want to co-opt this one for my own use.
     Reading makes a full man...I could fill a whole paragraph with the cliches of what reading can accomplish.  I'll spare you, you know.  I love the feeling of having a mind that is full.
     Conference a ready man...Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines conference as, "The act of conversing on a serious subject; a discoursing between two or more, for the purpose of instruction, consultation, or deliberation; formal discourse..."  There's a lack of conference in my days.  Though Arden and I may converse on the subject of My Father's Dragon (the book of the week, meaning we read the last chapter and cycle right back to the first), when I finish by calling him Elmer Elevator I know it can't be a serious subject.  Sometimes I see glimpses of hope.  Ally could give me an educated discourse on Queen Elizabeth.  Bryan patiently listens to my ramblings about 17th century England.  Maybe in a few more years you will find me truly a ready woman.
     And writing an exact man...and now, at last, I have come to my point.  This is what I love about blogging.  I like writing, drawing together words, forming sentences, but what writing these blog posts has forced me to do is think about an idea all the way through to a conclusion.  I have lived days half finished thoughts, but who would want to read a blog of half written posts?  Writing requires me to be exact.  I know I could improve (a lot), but I am already improved.  I have thought an idea through to the end.
     And doesn't that quote have a good deal to say about home educating our kids?  This is what we're intentionally doing here at our home.  We have them read a lot of good books, all kinds of books.  We try to engage them in conversation.  The easiest way is at the dinner table, simply by asking one thing they learned that day.  Finally, I want them to write, to be exact, and notice my tense changed there...we haven't finished the task, but we're inching along, one word at a time.

Repudiate the Worthless

     We have a ludicrous love affair with stuff.  God admonishes us to store our treasures up in heaven, and as if deaf, we pile stuff high in every closet, on every shelf, and behind the cupboard doors.  For two weeks I thought I was out of printer paper, then discovered I had reorganized and moved it to a convenient shelf promptly forgetting about it.  The paper was hidden behind a deluge of stuff and was only found because we were tidying up the more time.  Do you ask yourself, as you clean house, how much time is genuine cleaning and how much time is stuff management?  I spend a lot of time managing our stuff.
     Yesterday I walked in the girls' room, and I wilted.  Kara had her stuff, which she assiduously organizes and reorganizes, strewn around the room.  With all of her assiduous work, I still call her "disaster woman," and laugh when she announces yet one more stuff management session.  Yesterday, I wilted then worked, I promised myself just fifteen short minutes of dealing with Kara's room.  I put the books on the shelf, all the Bobbsey Twins together.  I cleared off the top of the dresser.  I re-stacked Kara's seven notebooks in her top drawer (to Kara's credit, she is a busy woman, never bored, and all that activity requires an astonishing amount of paper products).  I bent low and pulled pens and pencils and paper scraps and scissors and sticks (why?) and a candy out from under her dresser.  I hauled out a load of laundry.  Fifteen minutes, not to finish the job, just to start.  Do we consider these our treasures?  Even when I am wearied by my stacks, I have a running list of new things I need to simplify.  To organize.  To educate.  Always more.
     This week is Spring Clean Up Week here in town.  Piles of junk line the streets.  While I am all for hand-me-downs, salvaging and re-purposing (ask me how much of our furniture we've bought new!), there are limits.  The limits have been reached, they've been passed, by the kind of junk left curbside here.  And still, people circle the neighborhood with their pick-ups and trailers, chock full of someone's cast offs.  We laugh, feeling immune because we still have more space in our closet to squeeze in some really nice stuff, but it's a hollow, hypocritical laughter.
     What if we loved something better than stuff?  What if we loved something that didn't sap us dry, something that filled us up, life over-flowing?  What if we loved something that won't end up on the curb one day, hauled off by a back hoe and two dump trucks?  What if I loved the church, orphans, children, refugees, the least of these, the hurting, the wounded,  the hungry?  What if I were to make Christ my chief treasure and engaged in a ludicrous love affair with God?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happiness Doubled by Wonder

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.  
The world is crowded with Him.

He walks everywhere incognito.  And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate.
The real labor is to remember to attend.  In fact to come awake.
Still more to remain awake.
C.S. Lewis

     God says, I am understood through what I have made.  And so an ordinary noon-time walk leaves me without excuse.  I must honor Him and give thanks.  G. K. Chesterton wrote, "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

O LORD, how many are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all;
The earth is full of Your possession.

You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good.
Psalm 104: 24, 28

Monday, March 14, 2011

Geographica: Canada

     Well, here I am on Monday with Ally's geography quiz.  Today she's going to test your knowledge of Canada.  Although I have told my fair share of jokes at the expense of my Canadian friend, I do love Canada.  What's not to love, eh?

Quiz:  Canada
1.  The town of Whitehorse is in the Yukon Territory on the Yukon River;  the Mackenzie Mountains form the border between the Yukon Territory and what other province?
2.  Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands are part of which Canadian province that has the Rocky Mountains in the east?
3.  The author L.M. Montgomery set her classic Ann of Green Gables on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, with the capital of Charlottetown.  What is the name of this island?
4.  The Parry Channel lies between Baffin Island and Devon Island as you travel from the Arctic Ocean to Baffin Bay.  The Parry Channel is in what Canadian province?
5.  Point Pelee and Georgian Bay on Lake Huron is in which Canadian province with the capital city of Toronto?


1.  Northwest Territories
2.  British Columbia
3.  Prince Edward Island
4.  Nunavut
5.  Ontario

Saturday, March 12, 2011

By the Light of My Lamp

     I am saving my Lenten reading, Scriptures and the words of men of God, for late at night, the last words I see before I sleep.  While all the house is quiet around me, and even Bryan has closed his eyes beside me, I cherish those words, read by the dim light of the lamp.  God speaks in those quiet, dark hours.

"...what mercy could be greater, so far as we poor wretches are concerned, than that which drew the Creator of the heavens down from heaven, clothed the Maker of the earth with earthly vesture, made Him, who in eternity remains equal to His Father, equal to us in mortality, and imposed on the Lord of the universe the form of a servant, so that He, our Bread, might hunger; that He, our Fulfillment, might thirst; that He, our Strength, might be weakened; that He, our Health, might be injured; that He, our Life, might die?"
~ Augustine, Sermon 207

Friday, March 11, 2011

Something Lovely: Friday Afternoon

     A quiet Friday afternoon at home, and you can find us in the yard, digging in the dirt, pulling weeds.  While Kara is riding her scooter and hiding from passing cars, Sam begins to collect worms.  He digs a hole, with his bare hands, his bare hands mind you.  I am bent over the Antique Hollyhocks and am quick to provide the appropriate recognition for this feat of strength.  He moves worms from all over the bed, to tangle in his pit.  We begin to call them Pit Vipers, although with Colorado family we know full well the true identity of a Pit Viper.  Family lore is replete with tales of Rattlesnakes, where they've been seen, and how many have been killed in the yard each summer.  In renaming a common worm a Pit Viper, we've added an element of excitement to this mundane afternoon.  When Arden joins the game, he soon wonders if worms like sunshine, and becomes their Protector, their Shade Provider.  The first canopy design was rejected because it covered the hole entirely, and while the worms may have been happy, the Tamer of these wild garden creatures could not see his work.  You see before you the second design that worked with the angle of the sun and allowed for access to the shade sheltered worms (who were no where in sight when I wandered back out with my camera, ingrates).
     Thinking back over the whole day, this product of imagination and concern for living creatures was one of the sweetest moments.  I'll bet you know the recipe for these moments, and engineering projects, as well as I do:  time, quiet, one engaged mom, and a couple kids.  Optional: add dirt.  Dirt never disappoints.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Coming to the Well

    "An answered prayer," and I begin with just the title of the nightly Bible story.  This night little Arden lays his head down quietly, an aching finger, the wound from the brothers' wrestle-fest, cradled close.  I stop and ask if he's ever prayed and had God answer his prayer.  No.  We turn to Sam, high in the bunk bed, and, yes, Sam remembers once asking for help from God with math and he found God faithful.  Tonight we'll pray, I tell Arden, after the story we'll pray for that sore finger, and Arden's eyes are wet with tears.  He's five and he's tough, but hearing of his mom's love and the compassion of the Living God, he knows he's needy.
     So we read of Abraham burying his wife of years, and desiring a wife for Isaac.  We read of water drawn from ancient wells and women who carry pitchers on their head.  And Arden wonders why they would do that and not just use their hands.  We read of a faithful servant believing his master's God will help in a strange land, and bowing down in prayer, and God brings Rebekah.  Rebekah pours out water from her pitcher and the servant praises God.  God who hears prayer.
     Are you like me?  Do you have those creeping moments of doubt when you wonder if your small concerns really matter to God?  I always know the biggies matter, though some people doubt even that.  But I have these nagging doubts that a sore finger and bad dreams are too small for the notice of such a big God.
     I pray in faith, He says He counts every hair, knows every sparrow, and names all the stars.  He's waiting for me, for us, as our Father holding good gifts in His hands.  We come, with eyes closed and a little hand in mine.  We pray for healing overnight, a protected heart and mind, and the coming of a Rebekah for each of these boys.  I trust God to provide water from the ancient wells, living water, bubbling over to eternal life.

This is the Bible story book we love:  Child's Story Bible: Genesis-Ruth is volume one of three volumes by Catherine Vos.  These old blue volumes don't have any pictures of Christ, but the few pictures they do have leave something to be desired aesthetically.  If a painting of Jesus doesn't bother you, the same Bible stories are here in one volume: The Child's Story Bible.  I sometimes find Catherine Vos' Bible stories double as a devotional for mom, they're very thoughtful and well told.  Her husband, Geerhardus Vos, was a noted Reformed Old Testament theologian, so while she sometimes embellishes the Bible stories, it's always in a trustworthy manner.  One of her own sons also went into ministry,  and I love to imagine her telling these to him and the fruit that these stories bore in his life.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


     Today marks the beginning of Lent.  The churches we've attended don't celebrate Lent, yet it's often been recommended for our personal observance as an opportunity for reflection on sin and sacrifice and redemption.  It is an opportunity to turn our face toward Jerusalem, as Christ did with the cross before Him.  Some years I have chosen a fast from some little pleasure of mine, but this year, here I am on Wednesday and still haven't settled on anything.  However, yesterday in the library I found a book of Augustine's sermons, with some for Lent, and if nothing else, at least I can read.  I want to hear God speak to my heart concerning the seriousness of my sin, His costly sacrifice, and I want to rejoice, rejoice, rejoice over His resurrection.  Here are a few other ideas I have gathered:

The Relinquished Life by Oswald Chambers
The Eleventh and Twelfth Chapters of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, we have it on our shelf but it's also available online.
Poetry of George Herbert.  I'm going to read The Altar, Redemption and Easter Wings.
Luther's Sermons for Lent, there are many at this site.
Augustine on Psalm 51 or Psalm 22
Spurgeon Pride Cannot Live Beneath the Cross
John and Noel Piper have written Biblical devotions for Lent that I'm hoping to read with our family.  Since it's only Wednesday I should still have time to buy the candles and create a centerpiece for the table before Sunday.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

-Thomas Kelly

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not a Drab Life

     In the seventeenth century you could use the word drab as a noun in a sentence.  You could have said, "His companions were drabs."  It wouldn't have been a very nice thing to say.  Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary lists this meaning as the first definitions of the word, a low sluttish woman.  The etymology of the word suggests it came into English from Gaelic "drabog" meaning "a dirty woman."
     Our modern meaning of drab, simply a dull color, used to imply the color of undyed cloth and came into English from the French word "drap," meaning a piece of cloth.  Think of the word "drape," it has the same roots.  Clearly they're two entirely unconnected words,except that they share the misfortune of being constructed of the same phonemes.  There's nothing wrong with a drab color, I often wear clothing of drab colors, preferring them to colors bold and attention grabbing.
     But just for fun, for a moment, take a liberty with the language, and let them be connected in your mind.  As a stay at home mom I often have nothing of interest to chat about on the phone with family.  My days seem boring, and sometimes I am bored living out my day from morning til night.  (I know, too, plenty of working women could say a lot about how dull the job is day after day after day.)  I listen to the lies that any woman can run a vacuum cleaner, as if that is what my life is all about.  I wonder if my husband might find a career woman fascinating, full of goals and ambition and a lot to talk about.  I ask him, and he faithfully reassures me that's not the case.  I know I'm not alone in this.  I know other women, thoroughly convicted that they've chosen important work, family work, feel the same way, and it affects our feeling of worth.  We know the objective truth about the value of children and the importance of loving your husband, but to let that truth genuinely direct our feelings is a difficult task.  Our life feels drab, an undyed life, lacking in color or beauty.
     A faithful wife is not drab, or a drab, to bring in the earlier meaning of the word.  Proverbs tells us an excellent, noble wife is worth far more than rubies.  An excellent wife is a jewel her husband will proudly admire and display as his greatest treasure.  Our life as a wife and mother is rich in color and beauty, with facets that reflect back the light of the Savior.  The noble in scripture wore cloth of Tyrian purple.  The family of the Proverbs 31 woman wore cloth of scarlet.  The wedding garments of Christ's bride are of a brilliant white.  Christ's calling is not to an undyed life and a drab existence, but to something much more, a life of richness beyond measure.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Geographica: Sahel or Western Africa

      We've been sick here this week, runny noses, sore throats and fevers.  Today a week of sitting around is taking its toll and we are at odds with each other.  This too is family.  Days at home are all about read alouds, games, cooking and cuddles.  Still, family life is just as much about patience, forgiveness and working through boredom.  And I am going to remind myself of that over and over again today.  This, too, is important work.    
      Ally has been taking advantage of these quiet days and spending extra time pouring over her atlas.  Her stack of materials never seems to be farther away from her than the kleenex box.  Creating this quiz was easy after the kind of week she has had.

The Quiz:  Sahel
1.  Lake Volta and Digya National Park are in which country, that used to be called Gold Coast and has the capital city of Accra?
2.  The swamps of Macina and the states of Mopti, Sikassa and Tomboutou are in what Saharan country with the capital city of Bamako?  Bamako is currently estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa.
3.  The Sakoto Plains, the Jos Plateau and the Niger Delta are in what country, where the official language is French?
4.  Ouagadougou, the capital, and Bobo Dioulasso, a large city in the Masi Highlands, are in what country formerly known as Upper Volta?
5.  With the Senegal River and the city of St. Louis in the north, the country of Gambia in the middle and the countries of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south, what is this country?


1.  Ghana
2.  Mali
3.  Nigeria
4.  Burkina Faso
5.  Senegal

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Penny Pinching

     These are days to be a penny pincher.  I can't write a long post on "101 Ways to Save" because I have a lot to learn and a few items that "discerning taste," or maybe just stubbornness, hasn't yet let me compromise.  But I am trying, because we have braces to pay off and three more kids with crooked teeth, and I could go on.  You know, you have your own list of financial woes, I'm sure.  So I clip some coupons, turn the heat a little lower, and use the Duggar's laundry soap recipe.  And that laundry detergent is what I want to tell you about, because it works and it's cheap and made with old-fashioned ingredients I like.
     I am now into my "free" bottle of laundry detergent.  I have kept track of the costs for the first bucket of detergent, and added up my usual laundry detergent costs.  I have faithfully refilled my used bottles, and now I'm pouring out "free" soap.  I might be able to wash for about six months using free soap, and that's not a savings that I'll turn up my nose at.  I can't argue my clothes look as bright as they would if I bought top of the line detergent, but they're clean, and, did I mention, it's free.  I'm relying a little more on the stain removers, but I know I still come out ahead.
     Then I dry my laundry on the line, if it's sunny, pop a load in the dryer for ten minutes to soften it up, and fold and put away those clothes thinking of the pennies we're saving.  I do love line dried clothes.  I've sometimes thought I'm too busy to hang laundry out, but I'm not, I just needed to slow down a little.  I love the sunshine on tee-shirts, and the sweet fresh smell of the air.  Does anyone know why sun and fresh air give clothes a sweet smell, yet I never notice the smell when I walk out the door?
     I'm so very thankful for a way to save money that works, that really saves money, without sapping my time dry.  I'm so very thankful to be home with my kids, reading stories, playing games, drinking tea, watching them work, and none of it could be if I weren't pinching pennies.  So I'll pinch toward our goals, rejoice in simple things, and savor the morning sun when I'm out hanging laundry up to dry.

*The Duggar Liquid Laundry Soap
*I ordered supplies from Amazon at first (free shipping), Washing Soda, Fels Naptha, and found Borax locally.  However, if you live somewhere with more shopping options you can probably find them close to home.  Over Christmas I bought a couple more bars of Fels Naptha at a grocery store in Colorado.  If you want to feel trendy, note that years ago Restoration Hardware sold Fels Naptha, that's when I first learned of it, but never as cheap as the grocery store.  Of course.
*One more hint:  You only need one box of Washing Soda and Borax to several bars of Fels Naptha.  I rushed boldly ahead and later discovered I might have a lifetime supply of Washing Soda.  Hmmm...math skills.