Sunday, August 31, 2014

Monday's Quote: Are Our Children Really Interruptions or Are They God's Plan for Us?

With four children, I feel like I am constantly being interrupted.  Even if I'm just thinking about what we'll have for supper, every single interruption distracts me from what I'm trying to accomplish.  And I must admit that I'm not always pleasant when interrupted, especially in the morning when I'm trying to read my Bible and pray.  But I've been reading Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full by Gloria Furman, and here are some of her thoughts:
When we feel that our environment must be "just so" in order to have fellowship with God, any wild-card elements inherit the name "Interruption." A toddler's plea for help with a game is an interruption.  The children's early bedtime is an interruption.  The baby who refuses to settle down is an interruption.

What if God wants to fellowship with us right where we are -- even in the commotion of ordinary life?   Most assuredly, He does.  Consider how the triune God is working to ensure that you behold His glory throughout your days and nights.

Your heavily Father is sovereign over all things.  A sparrow drops its feather on the ground, escaping the clutches of a curious little boy.  A car battery dies in the parking lot after a playdate at the same moment your overtired childen reach their limit.  A pacifier falls out of a baby's mouth just before the baby nods off to sleep.  Nothing -- nothing happens without the sovereign Lord's ordaining it.  He is trustworthy and praiseworthy in every moment in every circumstance.  (p. 74)
God has a purpose even in the myriad of interruptions that we mothers face every day, and He wants to use these "interruptions" to draw us closer to Him.  What a great God we serve, Who meets us in our every day, mundane lives!

How do you view your interruptions?

Friday, August 29, 2014

August Review of Goals

August has been a busy month with returning from our beach trip, starting school, and suffering a miscarriage.  So I did not get quite a few things done, but I'm not at all concerned about it.  Life happens, and goals can wait.  Maybe I'll catch up in September and maybe not.

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I only read one book from my book list, but I did get several other good books read.  I'm halfway done with my book list, but the year is more than half over.  Hmmm.
  • Continue walking on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  Finally this week, I felt ready.  I was able to walk twice.
  • Look for a job.  Didn't even think about it this month.
  • Go through every room in the house, one a month, to clean out unwanted and unneeded items.  I'm sick of the clutter!  In July, I looked around the house to figure out where I wanted to work in August, and I couldn't think of anywhere that I hadn't already tackled.  Now, I don't want you to think that my house is clutter-free because it's not.  But it's certainly a lot better than it was.  
  • Write one letter or note a month.  Fail.
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 went to the Health Museum with some friends and had a great time!
  • Continue having one fun day in school a month.  I didn't even think about it, although we tried to make the first day of school a little special.
  • Continue taking my children on one field trip a month.  Done!
  • Do a service project with my children every month.  Fail.
  • Teach my children to do more around the house, like mopping and folding clothes.  What a great way to build their self-esteem.   My children have discovered Legos on Amazon, and they're money is burning holes in their pockets.  They volunteer for (paying) chores and look for ways to earn money.  It's very nice!  Sarah Beth is the most help, since she's the oldest.  She can fold entire loads of clothes by herself, freeing me to do other things.
Goals as a Wife:
  • Continue monthly date nights for John and me.  It didn't work out this month.
  • Do something weekly to make John feel special.  (I got this goal from Tracey at Girls to Grow.)  It was a hard month for this goal.
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  We tried, but one of their children got sick on the way to our house.
  • Start having Game Night once a month.  Fail.  But we have been playing a lot of games lately:  Go Fish and Old Maid, mostly.  And Daniel beat me bad at chess again yesterday.  Maybe I should spend some time with the tutorial he's been using.
  • Continue our family devotional time.  It's been a hard month for this, too.
How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August Reading

Once again, I read quite a few books this month.  Several of them were relatively short and therefore quick to read.  Also, I spent a week at the beach, and one of my goals was to get some reading done...which I did.  Only one of these books is from my "to read" list*, but most of the rest of them were worthwhile reads.  I'll let you pick out the ones that weren't.  ;)
  • Surprised by Joy* by C.S. Lewis.  This book wasn't what I expected, and honestly, it was very hard to read because it was full of references to books, poems, places, and people that I'm not familiar with at all.  But I enjoyed reading about how the Lord brought Lewis to Himself.
  • The Strength of His Hand by Lynn Austin.  In the third book of this series about Hezekiah, the king has to decide once and for all whether he will trust God to protect him from the Assyrians or try to do it himself.
  • Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry.  I read The Giver several years ago and had no idea that the story continued.  In this second book which has a completely different setting than The Giver, Kira has to make her own way when her mother dies.  Then, when her talent for creating beautiful pictures with thread, is discovered, she is brought to a special place where her sewing is supposed to be used for the good of all, but instead it's being exploited.
  • The Messenger by Lois Lowry.  In this third book in the Giver Quartet, Matty makes his way to and from Kira and another settlement which is a refuge for people who have left harsh places and people.  But evil has come to the refuge, and it must be stopped.
  • Son by Lois Lowry.  In this last book of the Giver Quartet, loose ends are tied up...eventually.  Claire's function in the society is to produce a "product."  When her "product" is taken from her, as all babies are from their birth mothers, Claire has to travel a long and very difficult journey to find him again.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I enjoyed this dystopian novel, but when I peeked at reviews for the rest of the series (yes, I look ahead), I won't read any more of the trilogy.  
  • If God is Good by Randy Alcorn.  This book is a treatise on how suffering and pain go together with God's goodness.  I cannot recommend this book enough.  You can read my full review here.
  • Revolutionary by Krista McGee.  In this third book of the Anomaly trilogy, Thalli has to figure out how to keep the Scientists from wreaking havoc on the world which is recovering from nuclear devastation along with saving those she loves.  You can read my full review here.
I've read nine of the seventeen books I wanted to read this year*, so I've still got a good bit to do.  What have you been reading lately?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday's Quote: Keeping an Eternal Perspective in Motherhood

As a mother, I tend to get caught up in the daily grind of fixing three meals a day, schooling and disciplining my children, and keeping the house clean.  I forget that this season will end, that one day I won't have little ones anymore, and then when I blink again, I won't have any children at home.  If I forget these things so easily, no wonder I can't remember that my children have eternal souls that need to be nourished.  From Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full by Gloria Furman:
Being a mother is wildly fun, yet because of eternity it is a serious joy at the same time. 
As mother, we can so easily become fixated on the immaturity of these little image bearers, who show people their boogers, that we neglect to treasure them as reflections of God's glory.  In our noble efforts to practically raise our children to grow up to be adults, we often miss something.  We miss the rising sun that signals another day of grace in which God has entrusted us with nurturing His little image bearers to love and honor Him first and foremost and forever.   
When the mundane looms larger than eternal life, we forget who God is, who we are, and who our children are. 
We tend to forget about tomorrow and eternity when our day is filled with the tyranny of the urgent.  Do you ever feel like that ball in the arcade game that ricochets off the walls?  We supervise homework while diverting toddlers from swishing their arms in the toilet.  We hand down verdicts in Mother's Court about whose toy it really is.  We try not to forget to switch out the laundry to the dryer so we can have clean clothes to wear tomorrow.  No wonder we struggle to remember what we did this morning, much less keep an eternal perspective.
Do you have trouble keeping an eternal perspective when dealing with your children?  How do you deal with it?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thankful Thursday: School Starting Back Part 2

Rachel was very excited to start CC for the first time this year now that she's four.  Mary just wanted to be in the picture, too.

This week, I have several things for which to be thankful:

  • We started our new Classical Conversations group... 
  • that is right here in our town!  It only takes us five minutes to get there instead of the fifty from last year.
  • In that CC group, there are women with whom I feel like I might connect and make friends, and my children have already made some new friends.
  • Friends who don't live very close but who make the effort to keep in touch.
  • A sweet husband who is trying to lighten my load during this hard time and who shows me grace when I fall behind on things.
  • A field trip today with good friends.
  • A leftover piece of cake waiting for me in the freezer.
  • And, of course, my Lord and Savior without Whom I would receive none of these gifts because "every good and perfect gift is from above."
For what are you thankful this week?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: If God is Good by Randy Alcorn

When I received If God is Good:  Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn, I was surprised by the length of this book.  At almost five hundred pages, Alcorn deals with almost every aspect of suffering and evil and how it all fits with God's sovereignty.  This book is long, but it is worth reading.  However, I do not recommend that you give this book to someone who is going through suffering; rather, you should read it now before suffering comes...because we know that it is coming; Jesus promised.  Being prepared before suffering comes makes the suffering that much more bearable because the truth is already stored in your heart and mind.

I have to admit that I thought it would take me a very long time to read this book, but I was amazed at how quickly I read it.  I couldn't get enough of the truth contained in this book; it nourished my soul like water to a dry and thirsty land.  I cannot recommend this book enough and that you read it now before you need it.

For more of my thoughts on this book, you can go here and here.

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

Suffering: What God Wants vs. What He Knows We Need

I wonder if you wish that God were a genie in a bottle as much as I do sometimes, that He would give me what I want when I want it, so that my life would go just the way I desire.  But He isn't, and He doesn't.  He has a better purpose for my life than my ease and comfort.  As Randy Alcorn says in If God is Good:
We want deliverance from suffering.  We don't want our loved ones to die.  We don't want economic crises, job losses, car accidents, or cancer.  Our prayers and often our expectations boil down to this:  Jesus should make our lives go smoothly.  That's what we want in a Messiah. 
But it is not what God wants.  Jesus is not our personal assistant charged with granting our wishes.  While He sometimes does not give us what we want, He always gives us what we need. 
Only when we regard suffering servanthood as our calling, as Jesus did, will we have the ability to face it as He did:  "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart"  (Hebrews 12:3).  "To this [suffering] you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps"  (1 Peter 2:21).  (p. 443)
This is how I can say, "Losing my baby was better for me than having him," even though I don't understand why, cannot fathom why.  But God knows, and that's enough, again while tears pour from my eyes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review: Revolutionary by Krista McGee

In the third installment of the Anomaly trilogy, Dr. Loudin has taken Thalli back to the underground State where he is attempting to recreate the world, which was destroyed by nuclear weapons, according to his own designs.  Not only does Thalli have to figure out out to save her friends from the evil genius, but she also needs to figure out why God doesn't seem to be answering her prayers.

Having read Hunger Games and Divergent, this dystopian series is better by far.  (You can read my review of Anomaly here and Luminary here.)  Since it takes in the near future (about forty years), the world McGee creates is much more believable.  And the fact that the author takes pains to make sure to preserve a Christian remnant reminds us that God will always, always, do the same.  Thalli makes a wonderful protagonist in that she just tries to do what is best for her friends and the world.  Sometimes, she makes mistakes, loses her temper, and things like that, but the author does not make her into some kind of extraordinary person in order to save the world.  Thalli does what she can and follows the direction of her Designer which is something that we should all strive for.

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

Back to School

We started back to school on Monday.  With everything that happened last week and being away at the beach the week before, I wasn't mentally prepared.  I felt like I needed to start, though, because we begin Classical Conversations next week, and I wanted to get a good week of school in first before adding that on top.

I wasn't physically prepared, either, considering that we ran out of printer ink on Sunday and Daniel's math workbook still hasn't come in.  (So much for two day shipping with Amazon Prime!  :) )

But one of the beauties of homeschooling is being able to take it slow when needed, and that's what we did this week.  We eased our way back into school on Monday and Tuesday, and we're still enjoying the review that comes at the beginning of the school year.

My children and I have all gone from not wanting to do school to looking forward to it.  As a matter of fact, when Sarah Beth gets bored, she pulls out one of her math worksheets and works the problems I didn't require of her during school time.  That's my girl!

Have you started school yet?  When will you?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thankful Thursday: An Unexpected Blessing...Taken Away

A few weeks ago, I discovered that I was pregnant.  It was a complete surprise, but we were thrilled by the addition to our family.  Since we were meeting my parents and siblings at the beach, we decided to wait and tell them in person.

We drove home on Saturday, and I lost the baby on Sunday.

I was devastated; I am devastated.  But I was in the middle of reading If God is Good by Randy Alcorn, and I know that isn't a coincidence.  No matter what I think or feel, my mind is filled with the truth contained in that book which, of course, all comes from Scripture.

So, what is there to be thankful for in this situation, in losing a baby?  Here are a few small ones:
  • The trip home on Saturday took almost thirteen and a half hours because of an errand that we had to run on the way.  Since I had to drive, I'm so glad that I wasn't dealing with a miscarriage.  I couldn't have done it.
  • I felt amazingly good for this pregnancy.  Usually, I'm almost incapacitated with nausea.
  • We hadn't started telling everyone yet, so there aren't a lot of people to un-tell.
  • Lots of people (friends and family) are praying for us.
  • Last week was unusually busy for me with social engagements to help take my mind off things.
And now for the big things:  
  • God is sovereign; He knew this would happen.  This miscarriage is a reminder of that.
  • God has a plan for this situation.  As a matter of fact, what He has planned is better than my having this baby.  How is that?  I don't know.  How can anything be better than having a baby?  I don't know.  I may not know until Heaven, but I do know that it's true.  "For we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)  Somehow what will come from my losing this baby is better than my having this baby.  I may not find out how until Heaven, but I trust God that it is.  
Having said all of this, it's still extremely hard to lose a baby, even one that was only seven weeks old.  As the tears stream down my face, I can say with Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."  (Job 1:21b)

Have you experienced God's goodness in the midst of suffering?  How?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Trip to the Beach

We took a trip to the beach a couple of weeks ago.  My parents, my younger brother with his family, and my sister with two of her children met us at Ono Island in Alabama.  Several people have asked me about Rachel, and you see how covered up she is.  We think she did fine with the sun.

Mary loved being at the beach, playing in the sand and in the water.  The house we rented also had a boat dock.  I just knew that Mary was going to fall in at some point.  But she didn't!  That's when I realized that, while she is fearless, she isn't foolish.

All of the cousins. 

Daniel catching a ride from John who was pulling him along from another kayak.

Sarah Beth got to paddle her own kayak, but it was securely tied to her daddy's...just in case.

We played so many games and had so much fun!!  All of the other cousins are older than my children, but they were very sweet with them.  We're looking forward to doing this again!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears: God Shows the Way

The Berenstain Bears:  God Shows the Way by Stan and Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain contains three books in this one volume.  The first two stories deal with fear and the unknown, and the last one deals with money.

Since we enjoy (most of) the Berenstain Bears books, I was excited about reviewing this one, and my children were very excited when it arrived in the mail.  Once we started reading the books, our appreciation rose because the stories are well told and filled with Scripture verses.  I'm careful about the books I read my children that deal with fears because I don't want them to develop new ones, e.g. they are not afraid of the dark so I don't want to read books that deal with that.  The fears in this book are not ones that children will assume.  What I enjoyed most about these books were all of the Scriptures they contained.  It seemed like almost every page had one bear or another quoting Bible verses, and it was wonderful!  I definitely recommend this book for young readers.

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday's Quote: Our Understanding of Our Suffering vs. God's Understanding

When suffering comes, we often ask God, "Why?"  Why did this happen to me?  Why did it happen at all?  Why did You allow it?  This quote by Randy Alcorn in If God is Good, deals with these questions and reminds us how we fit into God's plan.
We lack God's omniscience, omnipotence, wisdom, holiness, justice, and goodness.  If we insist we have the right, or even assume we have the capacity, to understand the hidden purposes of God, we forfeit the comfort and perspective we could have had in kneeling before His vastly superior wisdom. 
He is infinite; we are finite.  He is the Creator; we're the creatures.  Shouldn't that say it all? 
While this doesn't answer the question of evil and suffering, it does suggest God's answer is beyond our understanding.  One day we'll know far better than now, but even in eternity, God will still be infinite and we'll still be finite.  (p.342-3)
As Job discovered when he dared to question Him, God won't usually answer our questions of "why?"  But He will remind us of Who He is, who we are, and that He is with us through our pain and suffering.  If God did try to explain to us, we probably wouldn't be able to grasp it with our limited understanding; so we need to learn to trust Him no matter what suffering comes into our lives.