Be Still and Be Present: Week 4

James 1:17

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James 1:17 probably is not the first verse that comes to mind when you think of the Christmas season. Most people thing of the story of the birth of Jesus as told by Luke or Matthew.  However, during this time of gift giving and receiving it can be so easy to lose sight of the true gift of the season. Sure we know that Jesus is the reason we celebrate, but do we really live that out both in our hearts and our actions?

I want to spend the next week really focusing on all of the gifts and blessings that are in my life. We celebrate not just because Jesus was born but because he died for our salvation. No matter the stresses and frustrations of today, the gifts not yet wrapped, the child who is sick, the dinner that isn’t going to cook itself, the house that still needs to be cleaned; we celebrate because Jesus became flesh and was born to a virgin in order to die for our sins. When I put things into proper perspective there is so much for which to be thankful and joyful.

For many of us the next few days will be busy and it may seem that we do not have time to ‘be still’ but I encourage you to try very hard to carve out a bit of time each day to focus on Him. Sing hymns as you travel to visit family, read the story of the birth of Christ together on Christmas morning before you open gifts, pray over each person with whom you exchange gifts.  You may not be able to hide away and have thirty minutes of uninterrupted time but you can still take a few minutes to focus on the reason that we celebrate.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 (NIV)

 

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Sometimes our best laid plans just don’t happen. We had some fun times and did some great things this week, but other things did not go according to plan.  On Friday my four year old woke up with a fever. This is never a good thing but was made worse by the fact that Friday was supposed to be a fun day out with friends.  After much deliberation on my part, he stayed home with my husband and I took the other three to meet up with our friends.  This time of year can be hectic and it was nice to spend an afternoon hanging out with friends and enjoying fellowship with no obligations. We tried a new burger place, had some yummy cupcakes, and then spent a couple of hours at the aquarium where most of us have memberships.

It would have been very easy to decide not to spend the day with our friends due to all the things on my to-do list. I could have said that I was too busy to go and no one would have argued with me, but sometimes we need to put the lists aside and just spend time with our people. My first priority in ‘be present’ is my family, but I also need to take the time to pour into my friendships as well. Friday we were able to ‘be present’ not only as a family but with our friends.

We have not yet done our graham cracker nativity scenes because I want to wait until my son feels better so that we can do them together. We did do some more puppets because he has decided he is really into the puppets. Another activity that we did this week with our 4H club was a five senses activity with these blooming tea balls. It was fun for all ages and simple to do. It is also easy to adapt for one child or a group of children. I simply unwrapped one of the tea balls and had them look at it, feel it, smell it, and listen to it. Then we dropped it into a pitcher of very hot water and they watched it bloom. Once it had steeped they were able to taste it.  It would make for a nice low key activity this week after the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

If you didn’t finish all the fun crafts and activities that you wanted to do, do not despair Tuesday is only the first day of Christmas. I have found that the days following Christmas often bring a slower more relaxed pace and we can enjoy those activities without the pressure of long to-do lists hanging over our heads.

Take some time this week and ‘be present’ with your immediate family and if you can with extended family. If you are not close enough to visit for the holidays maybe you can spend time with neighbors or use technology to virtually visit those that live far away. Take the time to bake the cookies, get on the floor and play with the new toys, read the book, or just sit and chat.

How are doing with this challenge? I pray that it has blessed you and brought you closer to God and your family. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. While this challenge may be wrapping up, it is my hope that you will continue the habits of ‘being still and being present‘ into the New Year.

 

Be Present Resources:

Blooming Tea

Free Printable Nativity Coloring Pages

Hands on As We Grow (If you have young kids and struggle to come up with easy activities to do with them, this maybe a great resource for you. She has some free challenges, e-books, and a membership plan full of great activities that are easy to implement.)

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

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Be Still and Be Present: Week 3

Joy

 

Some weeks ‘Be Still’ is much harder than others. It felt like last week was a lot of ‘go, go, go’.  It was a really busy week for us as a family, with our business, and our church volunteer obligations. However, I’m pleased to say that my goal of being still didn’t just ‘disappear’ out the window as it has in the past when things got too busy. Using the app on my phone to do my devotional and spare minutes here and there to be intentional about prayer meant that I was able to spend some time focused on Jesus each day.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

Sometimes I think God uses a variety of ways to reinforce that which he is teaching us. This week he used the lesson I was teaching to our middle school students to reinforce that focuses on Jesus in this season is the key to true joy. When I focus on myself and what I want or need it is easy to be disappointed. Maybe we didn’t get to do some fun activity I wanted to do, maybe I’m not going on a cool vacation like my friends, maybe money is tight and I don’t put everything under the tree that I would have wanted. If I am focused on me those things are disappointing and frustrating, but if I turn my focus to Jesus it is much easier to be joyful over what I do have, eternal life, because he came as a baby to grow up and die for my sins. When our focus is on what we have because of Jesus the joy flows naturally. It may not erase all of our problems but it will bring joy to our hearts.

Over the past couple of weeks we have focused on peace but this week I want to focus on joy! John 15:11 tells is that our joy may be full in Him and I want us to hold on to that promise this week and focus on Jesus and the joy he brings. You may still have sadness or grief in your life, there still may be stress and frustration, but if we focus on Him there will also be great joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:11

 

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We had a lot of fun this week as I was intentional about ‘being present’. Some things were small and some a bit more time consuming but all time well spent. We had the privilege of stopping at two large light displays this week on our way home from a field trip. The first one we rode though and enjoyed but the second one you can get out and walk through. The baby was asleep so it was just me and my three older children. We all enjoyed it, but the excitement that my four year old had for the experience was amazing. I have seen these lights every year for the past 12 years and while I always enjoy them I had forgotten just how amazing they are to those that are not familiar with them. My four year old had forgotten being able to walk through them last year and was absolutely enthralled, running for display to display squealing with joy. Looking at those lights through his eyes brought me to a new appreciation of that great display and I loved making those memories with the children.

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I mentioned last week that my four year old wanted to do a puppet show. I had planned on printing out puppets and doing a show with him. I found these cute printable Christmas puppets and we colored them but then he and his siblings decided to change things up a bit. They ended up using some nativity masks that we have and doing a show together depicting the nativity story. It was cute and hilarious.

Another fun and easy project that we did this week was making Christmas tree garland out of noodles and paint. It was so easy because we simply put noodles and paint into ziploc bags to cover them, let the paint dry on the noodles, and then the children could put them onto a long string to make a garland. Check the blog later this week for a quick tutorial of this fun activity.

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I used to have grand plans and dreams of us baking and creating our own gingerbread house.  I’ve come to realize that in this stage of our lives that just is not going to happen. My oldest has an intolerance for food dye and so we cannot use most commercial kits. Some years I get a chance to go to Trader Joe’s and pick up a kit that he can eat but with the closest one being two hours away that does not always happen. Luckily I have found a variety of tutorials for cute little graham cracker nativity scenes that are lots of fun, easy to make, and I can accommodate his food restrictions. This is one of the family activities that I hope to do this week. I will link to a couple of different ideas for these in the resources below.

We are also going to spend some time this week making cards together to give to friends and neighbors. I have already sent out our ‘official’ Christmas cards but I know it will be fun for us to share homemade cards with some people that are close to us and a good time for us to spend crafting together. We can all work on them and spend some time talking and listening to Christmas music while we work.

How are doing with this challenge? I would love to hear about the progress you are making or the challenges that you are having so that I can try to help you overcome those. I pray that this challenge is bringing you closer to God and your family.

 

Be Present Resources:

Edible Nativity Scene

Another Simple Version

Gingerbread Nativity

Hands on As We Grow (If you have young kids and struggle to come up with easy activities to do with them, this maybe a great resource for you. She has some free challenges, e-books, and a membership plan full of great activities that are easy to implement.)

 

 

Sign-Up Here For Be Still and Be Present Weekly Emails

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

Motivation Monday: A Letter to the Overwhelmed Mom

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Dear Overwhelmed Mom,

You are tired and overwhelmed, it feels like you can’t keep up and you aren’t sure what to do next. Maybe you have a baby and you were up last night, maybe it is a busy time of year and you are spinning lots of plates, maybe you are new to homeschooling or in a new season of your homeschooling. I don’t have a magic wand and I can’t make it all go away, but do want to encourage you and give you a few tips that I’ve learned along the way. These tips and tricks won’t make the baby sleep or all of your problems go away but they can help you feel less overwhelmed and more ready to press on!

First, even though it feels like you don’t have time take the time to bring it all to God. This does not have to be an hour of solitude and quiet ( I know that can be impossible to come by). But by simply taking a few minutes in prayer and Bible reading. This can be while the children are sleeping, while you nurse the baby, or even while you watch them play outside. The Bible tells us to, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11: 28-30

Once you have taken the time to pray about your situation, I recommend stepping back from the busy and making a plan. It may feel like you do not have 10 minutes to make a plan but taking those few minutes will reap big dividends. Once you put it all on paper (or computer screen if you’d rather) it will free up space in your mind to start working through your plan. I like to start by listing out everything I need to do and then make a plan for what order of completion works best. Simply having that plan and knowing you do not have to remember it all because it is on paper can make a big difference in calming the overwhelm. Another component to this that is helpful to me is to get a lot of small things done and marked off my list. Sometimes I have multiple 1 or 2 minutes jobs that need to get done (e-mails sent, bill paid, respond to a text, etc). Taking a few minutes and being able to cross those things off the list is powerful.

Next, do one thing at a time and remember the most important things. There are many things calling for your attention and it is easy to focus on the urgent things or to feel like you can not get it all done and freezing up and not knowing where to start. When you feel that way simply start with the most important thing on your list and focus on that, then move onto the next thing. Always remembering that time spent with your children is important and it is okay to prioritize that time.

Finally, streamline where you can and know that there are different seasons in life. I love to cook big meals and make homemade bread. However, some days or weeks I know that what is best for everyone is a quick meal thrown into the crockpot and a loaf of La Brea from the grocery store. Some days we can spend an hour reading and doing science and some days I need to play the audio CD that accompanies our text in the car while we travel to events or appointments. Think about what is most important in this day, this week, or this year and give yourself grace when you can’t do all the things that you want to do. The days are long but the years are short and soon enough you will be in a different season.

I am praying for each person who reads this post that you may have find and peace in the middle of whatever overwhelming season you find yourself. Take this verse to heart and remember that raising and homeschooling your children is hard work but it is good and worth the effort.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6: 9

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

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You Are An Artist Clubhouse Memberships are now Open for enrollment!!

Apologia Digital Back to School Sale!!

Alice in Wonderland on Audible for less than $1!!

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$0.99 for 3 Months of Kindle Unlimted (limited time offer)

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The Importance of Truth Beyond Textbooks

Motherchild-sunsetI’m a Christian parent, as well as a homeschooler. Some posts will reflect how faith influences what we do in educating our children. This is one of them. 🙂  These ideas are applicable to any Christian parent, though…regardless of the schooling methodology they have chosen for their children.

I attended a Christian University for my Bachelor’s degree. In the bookstore, you could open any volume, whether written by a “tried and true” theologian like Spurgeon, or a new contemporary author, and you’d find the same thing on the inside cover. A disclaimer. A brief blurb with words like:

“The fact that a product is being sold by [this store] does not constitute an endorsement…of the contents or of any entity associated with the product…”

Why?

Because people are human. People make mistakes and can be mistaken. People are sometimes wrong about one thing, but not about another. People are fallible.

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17

Truth. Pay attention to your children, that they are using biblical truth as their standard, and not social norms, the standards of another family or friend, or the world’s idea of morality. God’s Word is an unchangeable standard. In a changeable world where it seems every ounce of truth is “up for grabs” and material for debate, it is so important for us to provide this solid, predictable, consistent foundation for our kids.

God always means what He says. He always keeps His promises. He never changes, and is not fickle. His promises hold weight, simply because He made them. They are backed by His attributes–He is holy, infinite, all-powerful, everywhere-present, unchangeable, eternal, all-wise, all-knowing, self-existent, self-sufficient, good, gracious, merciful, just, and so much more. Always.

Sanctifying. We are so prone to look around us, and compare ourselves with people (and we can always find someone we feel is “worse off” than we are, and so easily justify ourselves according to their standard). Teach by word and example that it is what God says, and choosing to live by His words, which sanctifies us.

The word sanctify means “to set apart” for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred. And that job is God’s, for He is Jehovah Mekoddishkem, “the Lord who sanctifies” (Ex. 31:13).

We must continually caution ourselves as moms, who discipline and try to shape the character of our children every day. Our efforts do not sanctify. We must never communicate to our kids that good behavior is synonymous with sanctification. It may be associated. It may not be. Very wicked people can behave well. Teach them the truth of James, that our faith is proven by our works…works are the healthy and natural outgrowth of faith, not the basis of it.

Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Obedience which springs from love, (not fear, self righteousness, or mere duty) is the ultimate goal. We help our kids attain this by deepening their walk with God.

Comparison. Remember the story of the publican and the Pharisee? By what standard was the publican measuring his life?

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

How about the other man (and remember, publicans (or tax collectors) were viewed among the worst in their society for being untruthful scoundrels!), who found himself “justified” and “exalted” at the end of that story?

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:2

We moms can play the comparison game too well. Comparing one child’s behavior to another sibling’s, comparing our kids with another family’s, comparing our parenting to that of another mom…the list goes on.

Guard your heart. Compare *vertically* (what God has to say) rather than horizontally (what fallible, frail, fallen human beings have to say).

You’ll find it is a very freeing thing.

September 11th—What Am I Doing About It?

World-Trade-Center-Cross-620x410Doing a lot of thinking, this September 11th. I could reminisce about what I recall from that morning, but it doesn’t really matter.  There are bigger things to discuss.

I wonder if it has occurred to many of us that our “Christian” nation has become a vast mission field. I wonder if it has occurred to those of us who are Christian parents that our children will very likely be called upon to stand and look such atrocities square in the eye. I wonder if I am doing my best to build the kind of character in our children that will enable them to do it.

American culture teaches our kids to aspire to fame and riches. I’m not a “Doomsday Prepper”, but I completely believe there will come a day when fame and possessions won’t matter to anyone any more. When life is reduced to the questions of survival and faith, there are precious few possessions that seem important. There will be no status symbols…the only status differentiation will be “Are you a Christian?” or “Are you not?” And the cost faith will once again be high. Paul the apostle, who stood for his faith many times, wrote:

“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

So I ask myself today, how will I teach our children to stand? How will I instill courage? How will I inspire them not to cower, but to endure…not to be paralyzed by fear when hateful, horrible, unjust and unspeakable things happen? They have to have their anchor planted in something bigger than politics and military might. I have to point them to something much bigger…a firm foundation, the only solid Rock, the Mighty Fortress.

“Remembering” is only the first step. Being mindful of the past needs to change the future. It must be a catalyst, or all it accomplishes is to make us remorseful. I may never have political influence, beyond my votes in elections; but I have a daunting responsibility to the children in our home, to teach them what patriotism is (and what it isn’t), what it looks like to stand faithful for right and truth, and to remind them that above all principalities and powers, our hope is Jesus.

Before I focus on the sacrifices made by prominent patriots for our independence and freedom, I plan to teach more about the heroes of the faith. I want to grab all the missionary biographies I can, so these humble, courageous giants of the gospel can inspire our homeschool (using this free resource to create a missionary biography notebook) and show them what it looks like to be unflinchingly, unshakably committed, and to grasp truth tightly, while also extending a loving hand in decided confidence to others.

We need this next generation to be resolute…a word which has come to be very weak in meaning today.

It starts today. We have stood upon the shoulders of great ones who have gone before. Now it is time for us to provide a firm footing for our children.

“It is wonderful what great strides can be made, when there is a resolute purpose behind them.” ~Winston Churchill