Friday, January 31, 2014

January Review of Goals

I feel like I've done fairly well overall this month with my goals.  I haven't met everything, but usually I had a good reason if I didn't.  I like having goals, even if I don't achieve every single one every single month, because they give me something to work for, something to aim at.

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I will read many other books, as well, I'm sure.  I only read one book from my list but several other good ones.  Here is everything I did read this month.
  • Continue walking on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  Other than the first week, I've met this goal.
  • Look for a job...assuming I passed the law test.  I passed the test, so I am a licensed pharmacist in the state of Texas.  I've talked to a couple of people about jobs and filled out an application.
  • Go through every room in the house, one a month, to clean out unwanted and unneeded items.  I'm sick of the clutter!  I started with a relatively easy room, the laundry room.  We store a lot of the kids' stuff in there, things that they use at the kitchen table like coloring stuff, puzzles, and things for Rachel and Mary while Daniel, Sarah Beth, and I do school.  It needed some organizing and tossing, and it's much easier to keep neat now!  Go figure!  Then I started on the older girls' closet which is actually my goal for February.
  • Write one letter or note a month.  Done.
Goals as a Mother:
  • Do something (like a playdate) with someone (and her children) once a month, whether it's having someone over for lunch, going to someone else's house, or heading out for a field trip together.  We were supposed to meet another family for an outing at the zoo, but the weather was too bad.
  • Continue having one fun day in school a month.  We didn't do this.  I had great plans for Puzzle Day (the 29th) ...but it just didn't happen.  
  • Continue taking my children on one field trip a month.  There is so much to do in the Houston area!  We went again to the planetarium.
  • Do a service project with my children every month.  I didn't get to this one, either.
  • Teach my children to do more around the house, like mopping and folding clothes.  What a great way to build their self-esteem.  I had Sarah Beth and Daniel mop once, but they hated it and had a hard time with it.  Do you have any experience with a seven year old and almost six year old mopping?  Are they capable?  Am I demanding too much?  Or did I give up too easily?
Goals as a Wife:
  • Continue monthly date nights for John and me.  Failed this one, too.
  • Do something weekly to make John feel special.  (I got this goal from Tracey at Girls to Grow.)  But I think I did okay with this.  I made muffins specially for him a couple of times, and I rented a movie for him.  
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  We were just too busy this month.
  • Start having Game Night once a month.  Didn't start this.
  • Continue our family devotional time.  Fail.
How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Counting My Blessings: A Wonderful Weekend

This past weekend, I attended a wonderful retreat, the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit.  There are so many blessings wrapped up in this one weekend that I felt the need to write some of them down.
  • A husband who was willing to keep four young children so I could be gone for two days.
  • Clear roads even though the weather was cold and wet.  (I was afraid I would have to miss it.)
  • Buc-ee's which are everywhere in our area and always clean and stocked with what I need (a map!).
  • A retreat leader who noticed me sitting by myself and found me a group of women to sit with...
  • Who brought me into their group and really made me feel welcome.
  • The encouraging talks because everyone there knows how hard it is to be a homeschool mom.
  • The informative talks which helped us, if we were willing, learn how to be better mothers and wives.
  • A safe trip home before it got dark.
  • A house that wasn't too messy when I returned, and the dishes being done.
I wrote more about my weekend here, and I hope that, if you live in Texas, you will look into this retreat next year.  

How has God blessed you this week?  Have you gone away for the weekend like I did?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January Reading

I read some good books this month, ones that I'm very glad that I read and ones that were worth my time to read.  I started a couple of them in December, so I just finished them this month.
  • My Emily by Matt Patterson.  A sad, but true, story of a child born with Down Syndrome and later diagnosed with leukemia, it also tells how a father's faith grew throughout the process.
  • Goddess Tithe by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  This short story takes place in the middle of the rest of her books, although it's a great story in and of itself.  I love how her books tie in together without being dependent on each other.  Anyway, this book is about Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage.  When a stowaway is discovered on board, everyone knows that he (the stowaway) should be thrown to the sea goddess...except the captain allows Leonard to remain on the ship.  Munny and Leonard find a friendship despite their circumstances and lack of any commonality.  
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.  I enjoy reading books about forgotten aspects of our history, and this book fits the bill.  Orphan trains carried hundreds of thousands of children from eastern cities out to the Midwest where they hopefully would find a new family.  This novel follows the stories of Vivian, who rode the Orphan Train, and Molly, who is a present day foster child, and shows how they were able to help each other.
  • The Duck Commander Family:  How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty by Willie and Korie Robertson with Mark Schlabach.  Who doesn't know about the Robertsons?  But there is so much more to the family than what is shown on the television series.  This book details the beginnings of the family business with Phil and Kay and how Willie and Korie took it and made it the success it is today.  Mostly, this book is about faith and family and how important they both are.
  • Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austin.  This story is a great one about four generations of women, starting with German immigrants in the 1890's.  It tells the story of women loving their husbands and sticking with them through the hard times and how their love impacts the next generation.  I really enjoyed this book.
What have you read lately?  Anything you would like to recommend?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Attention, Texas Ladies, This Post is For You!

...not that other ladies and even men can't read this one; it's just not applicable if you're not a Texas homeschooling mom.

This weekend was the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit in San Marcos, and it was wonderful!  The stated purpose was to "renew your vision, refresh your heart, and restore your strength," and it did that.  For me specifically, it was a time for encouragement because our jobs as homeschooling mothers is hard.  And since everyone there was a homeschooling mother, we could let our hair down, so to speak, and talk realistically about the difficulties, even laughing at some of them.

As I told one of my friends here about the retreat afterwards, she asked what my favorite part was.  If I had gone with some friends, the best part would have been fellowshipping with them.  As it was, since I went by myself, I did enjoy meeting other women, although I didn't have the time I desired to really get to know them.

My second favorite part, honestly, were the talks.  They spoke right to my heart, right to my situation.  How to catch my children's hearts in order to influence them, how to speak to my husband (or not, as the case may be) were two of the talks I especially enjoyed.

And the skits!  It was worth going just for those!  They were hilarious because there was so much truth in them.

In summary, you missed out by not going this year, and you don't want to miss out again, believe me!  Tell your husband that you are going next year and keep it in the back of your mind so you can plan for it.

My goals with this post are two-fold.  One, it was hard going to this retreat by myself, so I really want to go with friends next year...and to be on the lookout for anyone there by herself so that we can incorporate her into our group as others did for me.  Secondly, I don't want you to miss out again!  If you go, I'm sure that you will be glad you did.  Your husband and children will probably also be glad that you went, too.

So join me next year, and we'll have a grand ole time at the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit!

Monday, January 27, 2014

God's Goodness and My Wandering

We sang "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" at church yesterday, and the third verse, as always, spoke to my heart.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Daily, I need God's grace.  I have to have it because of my sinfulness, my wandering:  every time I snap at one of my children or speak critically to John, I wander from God's will.  Every time I seek something selfish instead of sacrificing myself, I'm wandering.  Oh, it's a constant battle!  But I am bound to God.  What binds me?  God's goodness which serves as a fetter to keep me close to Him.  What wonder of wonders!  And He has taken my heart and sealed it for Heaven.  Heaven is waiting for me!  What glorious thought!

Does God use hymns to speak to your heart?  Which ones?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy Fourth Birthday to Rachel!

Rachel loves birthdays.  At random times, she will wish one of her siblings or me a hearty "happy birthday!"  I've learned not to correct her (because she doesn't really care that it's not our birthdays) and just wish her a "happy birthday" back.  She's been interested in her birthday since at least the summer.  How do you explain to a three year old when her birthday is?  So I told her that first it would be Mary's birthday, then Christmas, then her birthday.  The day after Christmas, she started asking how many days until her birthday!

Rachel has such a vibrant personality.  When she's happy, everyone around her is happy.  Her giggles are infectious and she loves to laugh.  She does silly things just to get the people around her to laugh.

Rachel surprises us sometimes with her sweet disposition.  She will think to include one of her siblings when it hasn't even occurred to John and me.

You never know what Rachel is going to say.  She's always making up words and calling us by nicknames she's just made up.  The other night, she called me "Mesopotamia and Sumer."

Every night when I tell Rachel good night, she tells me to dream about being a queen.  She loves princesses and queens right now, and since we have three girls, there's a lot of that in our house!

It's hard to believe that Rachel is four years old today!  It's been fun watching her grow so far, and it will be even more fun to watch her continue to develop.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Counting Your Blessings after a Tragedy

Mr. Tumnus

...and I realize that our "tragedy" wasn't much of one.  On a scale of one to ten, it's probably about a two or three.  But was still a tragedy, even if a small one.

After my update last week on how our chickens were doing so well and enjoying their hour of free ranging every night, disaster struck.  We went out to eat Friday night to celebrate passing my test so that I am now a licensed pharmacist in Texas.  I turned the chickens out before we left because I knew we weren't going to be gone long.  When we returned, I sent Sarah Beth out to shut the coop door to lock the chickens in for the night.  She came back inside sobbing.  When she calmed down enough to tell us what was wrong, she said there were only three (out of the eight) chickens in the coop.  John went out to investigate and found feathers all over the yard.  In short, it appeared that a dog or a pack of dogs killed half of my chickens.  And Sarah Beth was the one to discover it, although she did not see any feathers or bodies.  The remaining chickens were one laying adult and two pullets.

Immediately, I started compiling the blessings in the midst of this tragedy:
  • Sarah Beth didn't see anything disturbing, like the carcass in the treeline or the one in the front yard that John disposed of early Saturday morning.
  • Not all of the chickens were killed.  We still had three....
  • Meg was spared.  She lays blue eggs, and if we're only going to get one egg (or less) a day for the next couple of months, at least it will be blue.
  • Mr. Tumnus was apparently a rooster, and he must have put up some kind of fight.  His feathers are strewn all over the yard.  As a matter of fact, his feathers are the only ones in our yard.  We were probably going to have to get rid of him anyway, so that saves us something.
  • And I figure his fighting gave the other chickens time to escape.  
  • The next morning, Lucy was waiting outside the coop, apparently unhurt.  One more chicken!  From three to four...
  • On Sunday morning, Alice was waiting to be let in the coop.  Since she's one of my laying hens, not only do I now have five of my eight hens, but two of them are producing eggs.  Hooray!
This "tragedy" could have much worse, and I feel so blessed by God that it wasn't.  I started this post when I thought I only had three chickens left, and He increased His blessings to me in returning two more of my chickens when I thought there was no way.  Mostly, I feel blessed that my children have taken it all in stride.  After Sarah Beth's initial tears, they've been fine.  And that is a tremendous blessing!

In case you're wondering, we lost our Barred Rock pullet (Myrtle), a White Plymoth Rock (Mr. Tumnus), and our laying Buff Orpington (Clover).  We still have one White Plymoth Rock (Lucy) and both Light Brown Leghorns (Susan and Brownie), along with our laying Barred Rock (Alice) and Easter Egger (Meg).  

What blessings have you discovered amidst your difficulties and tragedies?

This post is linked with Aurie at Welcome to Our Good Life.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday's Quote: What Sin Does to Our Marriages

I've been reading What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp, and I find that it cuts to the center of things without wasting time on the periphery.  In this quote, which is admittedly a little long, Tripp writes about sin and how it hurts our marriages by making us think only of ourselves.
The apostle Paul summarizes here [2 Corinthians 5:14-15] what sin does to all of us.  Sin turns us in on ourselves.  Sin makes us shrink our lives to the narrow confines of our little self-defined world.  Sin causes us to shrink our focus, motivation, and concern to the size of our own wants, needs, and feelings.  Sin causes us to be offended most by offenses against us and to be concerned most for what concerns us.  Sin causes us to dream selfish dreams and to plan self-oriented plans.  Because of sin, we really do love us, and we have a wonderful plan for our own lives! 
What all this means is that sin is essentially antisocial.  We don't really have time to love our spouse, in the purest sense of what that means, because we are too busy loving ourselves.  What we actually want is for our spouse to love us as much as we love ourselves, and if our spouse is willing to do that, we will have  a wonderful relationship.  So we try to co-opt our spouse into a willing submission to the plans and purposes of our claustrophobic kingdom of one. 
But there is more.  Because sin is antisocial, it tends to dehumanize the people in our lives.  No longer are they objects of our willing affection.  No, they quit being the people we find joy in loving.  Rather, they get reduced to one of two things.  They are either  vehicles to help us get what we want or obstacles in the way of what we want.  When your wife is meeting the demands of your wants, needs, and feelings, you are quite excited about her, and you treat her with affection.  But when she becomes an obstacle in the way of your wants, needs, and feelings, you have a hard time hiding your disappointment, impatience, and irritation.  (page 47)
Without the saving power of Jesus Christ, we are stuck living a selfish, sin-filled life which will ruin our marriages.  We need the Holy Spirit living inside of us to make our marriages be what God intends them to be.

What do you think?  Have you seen the selfishness of sin crop up in your marriage?  I know I have!  Mine!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Counting My Blessings: A Good, Busy Week

This week has been a little busier than usual which isn't a bad thing; it's just made it harder to get things done around the house.  The activities have been fun, so I'm not complaining.  And it's good to have a nice, busy week occasionally so that I can really appreciate the slower weeks at home.

With all of that said, here are the ways God has blessed me this week:
  • children who (usually) enjoy playing together
  • a new friend who invited me to a Bible study this morning.  
  • our local library which offers "homeschool" story time.  
  • a sweet husband who came home early the other night so I could go to a knit/crochet class.
  • one of my chickens, who took a month off from laying, has decided to start giving eggs again.
  • we can take Rachel to the beach this summer with my whole family.  Since sunlight can trigger her JDM, we weren't sure we could or should go, but Dr. R gave us the green light...with lots of precautions.
  • Sarah Beth who can read through a chapter book in a day.
  • Rachel who is so excited about her upcoming fourth birthday.
  • I just found out last night, that I passed the test, so I am now a registered pharmacist in Texas!  Whoohoo!
Of course, God has blessed me so much more than this list.  But these are the ones that are particular to this week.  How has He blessed you this week?

This post is linked with Aurie at Welcome to Our Good Life.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Overdo Chicken Update

Since I haven't told you anything about my chickens since the chicks came in the mail, I thought it was time for an update.  These three are my original hens, and they are doing great!  I'm getting about two eggs a day because the decreased daylight means decreased egg production.  The ugly one on the right is Meg, and she lays the blue eggs.

It's not a very good picture (sorry!), but here are my new "chicks."  Obviously, they're not chicks anymore.  Rather, they are pullets which are kind of like teenagers.  There are two Light Brown Leghorns, two White Plymoth Rocks, and one Barred Plymoth Rock.  They're almost four months old which means they will probably start laying in about two more months.  I can't wait!!

 Here is Mr. Tumnus.  We think he's a rooster; I know what you're thinking:  we thought Bob Tomato was a rooster, too, but he, I mean she, turned out to be a hen.  But Mr. Tumnus is much bigger than Lucy, my other White Rock, and his comb and waddle are much more pronounced, and he's starting to get spurs.  We haven't heard him crow yet, but I think it's just a matter of time.

I included this picture just to show you the difference in the two White Rocks.  Mr. Tumnus is on the left, and Lucy is on the right.We don't let them free range anymore after the massacre unfortunate loss of three of my chickens this summer, but we do let them out for an hour or so before sunset.  They enjoy getting out, and I can tell a difference in their eggs from when they were cooped up all the time.

This is Brownie, and I think he may be a rooster, too, but it may be a Bob Tomato situation.  He doesn't look too much different from Susan except that his comb and waddle are more developed.  We'll just have to wait and see.  

So, have you ever thought about getting chickens?

Can you tell which book we were reading when the pullets were finally named?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Personality Types and What They Mean

Addendum:  My mother called this morning to let me know that I'm nurturing, maybe even a little too nurturing.  It was a surprise to me!  But I also know where my heart is, and sometimes, it's not pretty.

Last week, one of my facebook friends had as her status her personality test results.  Since she has the same "letters" (INTJ) that I do, I was intrigued, especially since I had never really read much about my personality-type.

As I read, I felt like someone had shone a search light into my soul and written about what they had found.  Some things that I didn't understand about myself were explained, like how I want my children to "shake it off" instead of tenderly soothing them when they get hurt.  Some of my weaknesses were brought into the light to be examined, like appearing arrogant when I meet people for the first time.

And I thought, "Wow!  Now I have an excuse for such and such.  It's just the way that God made me."  But He pricked my conscience, reminding me that knowing where my sin comes from does not excuse it.

And while I have a better understanding of myself, does it really matter?  Personality tests are not the determining factors of why we do what we do.  Even though they are interesting, we shouldn't put too much faith in them.

God made us who we are, and He has a plan for us.  He uses our strengths and our weaknesses to bring about His purpose.  That is what is important.  I can learn to be more nurturing and more humble, both of which, I know, are part of His plans for me.

Have you taken one of these personality tests before?  What are your "letters"?  Did you find your results to be as accurate as I found mine?

(If you haven't done this before, and you're curious about it, you can take the test here.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Counting My Blessings: Family and Friends

God has blessed me with so many things that it's hard to narrow them down to just a few, so I'm going to focus on a few things that have happened lately.

My sister and her daughter came for a visit this past weekend, and we had a wonderful time.  Once again, I forgot to take any pictures, but I can see with my mind's eye very clearly:  my niece sitting in our oversized chair with Mary in her lap and Rachel next to her, and Daniel and Sarah Beth hanging over the arms of the chair as she reads them books.  

I met a new friend, a friend of a friend, and got plugged into a local homeschooling group.  While I'm not sure exactly what this group does, it's nice to know it's there and that I'm a part of it.  And there is a monthly Mom's Night Out which will be nice, and hopefully I'll make more new friends.

John took two weeks off for the Christmas break, and it was wonderful having him home with us.  He went back to work on Tuesday, and we have also enjoyed getting back into our routine.

How has God blessed you lately?

This post is linked with Aurie at Welcome to Our Good Life.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Luminary by Krista McGee

In this sequel to Anomaly, Thalli has escaped from the State, an underground city where Scientists have engineered a new civilization after a nuclear war devastated the whole world.  But Thalli and her friends were lied to; there are pockets of survivors above ground, and Thalli and three others who escaped with her are headed to one of them.  At New Hope, they find a new life, a life of freedom which they had never had before.  But the neighboring city Athens is hostile and wants to annex New Hope.  Thalli is caught in the middle as she tries to negotiate a settlement between the two cities, while fearing that the Scientists will find her and take her back to the State.  Meanwhile, she learns more about the Designer and what it means to trust Him.

While I enjoyed this book, it wasn't as good as the first one.  I'm sure part of that is because this book is the second in a trilogy which typically means that things get worse before coming to a climax in the third book and getting better.  But it was still good.  I have to admit, though, that I wish I hadn't read this book quite yet; it ends with a cliffhanger, and now I have to wait until this summer to find out what happens to Thalli.  Oh, the waiting!  :)

I want to thank BookSneeze for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book List for 2014

Once again, I've made a list of books that I would like to read this year.  While I really would like to read all of these books this year, it won't bother me too much if I don't get to them all, especially since some of these books are carry-overs from last year.  Things come up, my interests change, better books are offered.  The purpose of this list is to guide me and to keep me focused on good reading.  Of course, I will read many (I hope!) other books this year depending on what comes into my hands.  But here is my list:
What's on your list of books to read this year?

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Goals for 2014

I'm following Crystal from Money Saving Mom this year in making a few, simple goals, and several of my goals are even the same as they were last year.  They were good things to strive for then, and they still are.

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list which I will publish later in the week.  I will read many other books, as well, I'm sure.
  • Continue walking on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.
  • Look for a job...assuming I passed the law test.
  • Go through every room in the house, one a month, to clean out unwanted and unneeded items.  I'm sick of the clutter!
  • Write one letter or note a month.
Goals as a Mother:
  • Do something (like a playdate) with someone (and her children) once a month, whether it's having someone over for lunch, going to someone else's house, or heading out for a field trip together.
  • Continue having one fun day in school a month.
  • Continue taking my children on one field trip a month.  There is so much to do in the Houston area!
  • Do a service project with my children every month.  
  • Teach my children to do more around the house, like mopping and folding clothes.  What a great way to build their self-esteem.
Goals as a Wife:
  • Continue monthly date nights for John and me.
  • Do something weekly to make John feel special.  (I got this goal from Tracey at Girls to Grow.)
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.
  • Start having Game Night once a month.  
  • Continue our family devotional time.
What are your goals for the year?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell

In Miss Brenda and the Loveladies:  A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell, Brenda Spahn feels like God is calling her to open a "whole-way" house for women leaving prison.  When women leave prison, they end up back in their old neighborhoods, doing the same things that got them in prison the first time, and Spahn wanted to stop the cycle.  Despite almost no one believing in her idea, she made it work, even when found in violation of zoning laws.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book, but I really enjoyed it.  The courage and gumption the author had to have to work with hardened criminals is amazing, and the changes she was able to bring about in their lives is even more amazing.  Of course, she didn't bring about the changes; God did.  Some of the women's stories are heartbreaking and hard to read, but they show how little hope some people have even from childhood.

This book should change your perspective of women in prison and the choices they made to get there (not that they don't deserve what they get), and it may even make you want to help them.

I want to thank WaterBrook Multnomah for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.