Being a Friend Through Difficult Times

woman-1006100_1280

My best friend is going through one of the worst possible circumstances I’ve ever heard of.  This has happened before with another friend….a life altering circumstance that seems like a black hole of unending depth, sorrow, and muck.  How can you be a friend to someone in such turmoil?  Often times I feel completely helpless for her.  I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to help, and I don’t really even know how to pray.  It’s gut wrenching, my heart hurts (along with hers), and I truly can’t imagine the pain she must have to process minute by minute each day.  It’s the kind of thing that you think can’t get worse, but it does.  The kind of pain that comes in every direction and effects every part of her life.  She is a rock star, though, and is taking one day at a time, trusting the Lord, and trying to thrive through this.  I, on the other hand, feel like I’m failing as a friend, am not handling things well at all, and am sad a lot.  I can’t even really imagine how I’d handle all she’s going through if it were me.  I think I’d just curl up in a ball, cry all the time, and not be able to function.  Yes, I’d try to pray, and try to trust God, but I would be so hurt and angry, I don’t know how well I’d do anything.

I also have a lot of fear.  Because this has happened before, I know that it can devastate a friendship.  It can cause emotional distance because of the major life changes, it can even cause moves across many miles.  I don’t think either side desires the distance, really, but it can occur.  I think I am very cautious with friendships as it is.  I don’t allow myself to get too close to too many people because I’ve been hurt deeply before and, because I’m an introvert and many people don’t understand an introvert.  But, I do love my friends.  I try to be a good friend, and hope that I am.  I’m just very careful who I truly open myself up to.  But, once you’re in my inner circle, I love you.  I would do anything for you.  I hurt, empathize, sympathize, hold accountable, and hope you will feel comfortable enough to do the same for me.  Most do (if they come into that inner circle).  I open up a part of me that few know.  And, I trust that all will be held in confidence.

And, then there’s anger.  I get angry at the people who wrongly judge, who don’t understand what’s been happening, yet cast their opinions or views to my friend.  Christian people who can’t possibly understand what all has happened, who get ugly with and confront her.  People who really have no business doing so because they don’t know and don’t understand.  They think they are trying to help her, or hold her accountable to something that they feel is a standard set for believers, yet who rather should be supporting her, understanding her, believing she is doing the right things, and has been praying and seeking the Lord in and through it all.  This is hard enough for her, after all, she doesn’t need the extra condemnation.

And when these awful life circumstances occur, I get lost.  I don’t know what to do, or how to appropriately respond.  I pray, of course.  I don’t always know HOW to pray, but I do pray.  I try to help however help is needed.  In one of these circumstances, I didn’t know what to do, so I organized a group of ladies to go over to my friend’s home and clean it.  Really clean it.  A good amount of help showed up while the friend was not at home, and we really made a big difference, and I think that my friend greatly appreciated it.  It really wasn’t much, but it was something.  I didn’t have a clue what else I could do!  Another friend, I took a homemade basket of fruit to.  Still, so simple, but it was something that I could do, and that I knew she could use.  Other times I’ve thought of things that I thought would be helpful that my friend was nowhere near ready for, and I end up hurting her further.  Those are really difficult to take, as my intentions were certainly to help, not to hurt.  Being a friend in difficult times can be so hard.

These times are so hard.  You hear more and more unbelievably awful things happening these days.  I can’t help but believe that the end is near.  Jesus will be coming back soon.  I can’t wait until that day when there will be no more pain, hurt, sadness, and heartache.  We will truly be free.  Until that time, we must press on, seek His face, try to be the best person we can despite awful circumstances, and pray continually.

Has anything like this happened to you or someone you love?  What do you do?  How do you show your friendship? I’d love to hear.  Maybe it will help me to better know how to help when my friends are suffering.  That’s really all I want to do…..help.

In Christ,

Dena

prayer-888757_1280

Advertisements

Teaching From Rest Book Review

Right before school started this year, I discovered this little gem of a book called Teaching From Rest:  A Homeschooler’s Guide to UNSHAKEABLE PEACE by Sarah Mackenzie.  It was a quick read, but wonderful!  I also used the Companion Guide to go along with it.

tfr900

I LOVE Homeschooling!  I do!  Even though I’ve been at it for 12 years, I still occasionally feel like I need a renewed spirit, a renewed focus, a change-up of some kind.  I am very confident in my curriculum choices, my methods, and in the way I like to teach and the way my children learn.  But, sometimes I feel like there’s still something more that I’m missing; things have become dull, or I am no longer looking forward to the year.  So, often times, I do more research.  I think maybe I need to change up curriculum, or make a different kind of schedule.  Those things may be needed, but I think deep down, what I’ve really been looking for is REST.  A state of rest.  Over this past summer, I was feeling those feelings again….that need for something different, a renewed focus or goal, a change-up of some sort, when I came across this little book called Teaching From Rest.  It peaked my interest, so I picked it up.  I didn’t read it for some time, though….that happens sometimes when I get a new book.  Finally, at the end of the summer, I decided to take some time and read this little gem.  On the first few pages, I realized that there was also an optional study guide that I could purchase and download.  So, I did that, and printed it out.  I love being able to take a book and make it more into a book study, with notes, and truly feel like I’m growing and changing, so this option seemed like a great plan!

The book is written in three parts.  Part One is: Whose “Well Done” Are You Working For?  Part Two is: Curriculum Is Not Something You Buy.  And, Part Three is: Be Who You Are!  Each of the parts are broken down even further so that you can read in sections, which is nice (especially if you are frequently interrupted).  If you get the Companion Guide, it has a place for you to take notes throughout the chapters, then some application questions following that with ample space to record answers and notes.

Part 2 was very applicable.  Sarah gave clear steps on how to teach from rest and obtain unshakeable peace.  Also in Part 2, she shows you how to break down your busy schedules to see how much time you have, and how much time you need, to homeschool.  We often plan our time around our homeschooling, but she suggests we plan our homeschooling around our lives, around the time we have left.  Sounds like a strange concept, huh?  It makes complete sense to me now, and I am grateful to have read her tips on this!  I did follow her advice, and did simplify our days somewhat, but I think this type of schedule will be a work in process for a while.  In fact, now that we are mid-year, I am going to go back to this book and re-evaluate our schedule, and this time I’m hoping to add in a tea time and a time for rest and reading mid-day (she explains this further in part 2).

The book goes right along with my Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, too!  But, I do believe that whether you use Charlotte Mason’s methods or not, you will still glean a lot of great information from this little book.

After we had been in our school year for a good chunk of time, I realized things weren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped. So, partway through our year, I had to make some changes to curriculum and our schedule.  With just a few tweaks, things did improve, and now that we are at the beginning of a new semester I’m changing a few more things, and I believe things will improve immensely!

One of the things that I haven’t implemented that was suggested in this book was a Quiet Reading Hour.  (I briefly mentioned this above).  I really want to include a time for this beginning with the New Year!  I wish I had added it at the beginning of our school year.  We do read, we read a lot.  However, I don’t get that time to read for me.  And, implementing a Quiet Reading Hour would be great because then we’d all get to enjoy some free reading.  Just a time of reading for fun!  I think we could all use that!  I do have one that is not yet reading, so this could prove a bit difficult, but maybe I could give her some audio books to look through.  And, as long as each of us are in separate spaces and being quiet, it should work out just fine.

This book is truly a little gem that I will have to pick up each year, possibly several times a year, to reevaluate, to get inspired, to refocus.  It brings me back to my goals in homeschooling, a simpler way, a restful and joyful way, full of peace.  I would highly recommend it!  And, I would also recommend the Companion Journal.  Check them out here.

Wishing you a blessed and happy New Year!

Dena

Favorite Jesse Tree & Advent Resources

51do4n599cl-_sx258_bo1204203200_               jesstreefrombook

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean is such a wonderful resource for using during Advent and while working through the stories of the Jesse Tree.  It is written to grab the interest of children!  It is about a carpenter who is carving the Jesse Tree figures for the church.  A young boy comes asking questions each day, to which, the carpenter tells the stories behind each carving he is creating.  There are a couple of downfalls to the book, though.  One is that there are no Scripture passages to go along with the stories.  I was, however, able to locate the stories and link them to the Scriptures so that problem has been solved!  (I plan to send out a chart next year after Thanksgiving with the resources and Scripture passages I’ll be using, so keep an eye out for that next year!)  And, the other downfall is that the carvings don’t go along with other Jesse Tree ornaments or studies that I’ve also used.  So, I have ended up mixing and matching my favorite resources and making it work for our Jesse Tree.  In spite of these downfalls, I absolutely love this book and plan to use it each year!  It is so engaging and enjoyable to read and the stories come to life.  It is definitely a top pick for the advent season!

images             493009c6985ac0b3093fdbc4e423c2e5

Another favorite is found at this blog:  1+1+1=1  There, you can find an e-book on the Jesse Tree, and printable ornaments to go along with the devotions each day.  This goes fairly well with The Jesse Tree book, but I will warn you that this ebook devotional covers 31 days, rather than just the 25 that most do.  I just used the ones that went best along with The Jesse Tree book and weeded out the rest.  I do love that lots of Scripture is used, but the devotions are rather short and colorful.  The ornaments are also colorful!  I like that all you have to do is print, cut, and laminate!  If you like to have a calendar to go along with your advent season, you can make one up and place the ornaments in each slot and work through them once a day.  We did this one year, but because of the way I made my calendar out of paper envelopes, they easily tore and it was more of a pain that it was good, so this past year we ditched the calendar, and just keep the ornaments in a safe place without it.

unwrapping-the-greatest-gift-ann-voskamp

Then, this year I found out about Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.  It is a family devotional that has beautiful artwork throughout.  The stories are kind of flowery, but it does include wonderful thoughts about God’s love for us, and that love is weaved through each story/devotional.  I was also able to print out some ornaments that go right along with the book that I colored and shrunk down to fit our Jesse Tree.  This could be a great activity for kids, or a crafty one for the adults.  It did seem to take forever to color all of the ornaments, though, as they are each very intricate.  I’ve heard about all sorts of ornaments that go along with this that others have made that you can purchase from etsy or on the web, so if you’re not crafty, you could opt to do that.  Below is a sample of what one of the ornaments looks like.

I am still researching about the Jesse Tree as this is only the second year I’ve learned about it.  I hope to add to  my list of favorites each year we do it, and the more I learn about what all is available.

20131203-100253

Another favorite resource for the Advent season is The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel.  This is such a fun book!  It has stories, activities, traditions to create, crafts, recipes, etc. throughout!  We have several favorites that we’ve made traditions through this book.  One of our favorites, that my kids beg for each year, is the red and green candied popcorn!  Lots of great things!  The best part about this book is that I was able to get it personally signed by Lisa Whelchel!  The only book signing I’ve ever been able to be a part of!  She’s a lovely lady!

Then, last, but not least, is the Christmas Angel.  I began hearing a lot about The Elf on the Shelf a few years ago and was very intrigued by it, however, not long after, I heard of The Christmas Angel.  I liked the idea behind the angel so much better.  The focus wasn’t mischief and laughter, but love and service.  The Christmas Angel is a way to give back, to show my children that Christmas isn’t just about getting, but giving.  It shows them the joy in giving, and gives them a heart of service.  The idea is that the Angel leaves messages of service ideas each day for them to do.  The website even has several calendars of ideas if you struggle to come up with ideas on your own.  I found the ideas very helpful in jump starting ideas of my own.  I highly recommend using this Christmas Angel, or finding another way to serve during the Christmas season.  Taking the focus off of oneself, and shining the light of Jesus to others!  Isn’t that really a HUGE part of the season?  I think so!  It’s a representation of the greatest gift of all, the gift of Jesus coming to the earth and walking among us, to live an example before us, and then ultimately to die for our sins, so that someday we could live with Him for eternity.  Even if those we touch get a glimpse of this, how wonderful and powerful it would be!

I hope this gives you a start to some of our favorite resources for the Christmas season.  May the Lord use them in the same ways He’s used them in our family!  I would also LOVE to hear what resources you’ve used and enjoyed so that I can add to my favorites!  Please share in the comments!

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Dena

Mid Year Homeschool Planning

school-73497_640

Sometimes, mid-year, I feel like it’s time to start planning again.  Sometimes for next semester change ups, sometimes for the future of our homeschooling.  That’s exactly what I’ve been up to.  You see, this past summer I graduated my oldest.  I have three more behind him.  One who is only 3.  So, I have many more years of school to do.  And, I’m hoping with each one, school only gets better!  I feel like #1 was a guinea pig.  I tried so many things with him, switching things often, and changing things up.  Poor guy!  He really probably had it rough, as I had NO IDEA what I was doing!  On the upside, I learned to research, study many curricula choices, and I’ve tried many, so I feel like my knowledge on a TON of curriculum has grown and I could probably give a pretty good review on most anything.  And, if it’s something I don’t know about, I can find out pretty quickly!  I feel it has benefitted me a ton to be able to gain as much knowledge as I have.  My next one is a sophomore in high school this year (just a few years behind him).  She has been a bit of a guinea pig as well.  Not as bad, but she was such a different learner, I had to do things so differently.  I feel like she has it better than he did, but I still have changed a lot with her.  With #3, so many NEW things have come out that I’ve wanted to explore and check out!  We are finding some great things, but also struggling to find a fit in other areas.  I have a great plan, though, and I think things are about to improve greatly!  Then, for #4, I hope to have EVERYTHING figured out, and to use only the best all the way through for her!  I’m excited because I feel I’m getting so much closer to what I feel the BEST is.  (I do realize that the BEST is different for each family, but it is nice to know that I am getting closer to our family’s best!)  I plan to update my Scope & Sequence soon to show what I’ve chosen for all grades and subjects.  My biggest goal is making learning fun and natural; a Charlotte Mason style education, and, a focus on Biblical Worldview.  These things are most important to me:  good habits, lifelong learners, and hearts that love and serve the Lord.  I know I can’t ‘make’ my children do any of these things, but I can do my best to lead them in the right direction.  That is my prayer and hope.  I’ve failed a lot along the way, but I hope I’m improving with each kiddo.  Parenting is hard enough!  Add in homeschooling, and it’s almost too much!  But, I know the Lord helps me.  I couldn’t do any of it without His guidance and leading.

Some things I’m planning on changing up for the 2nd half of the school year are:

I have not used any of the Five in a Row products, the Homeschool in the Woods Time Travelers, or Brave Writer before.  I would love to hear some reviews of any or all of them if any of my readers have used them!  And, if you have any tips on HOW to use them, I’m all for those, also!

I am enjoying using Simply Charlotte Mason’s American History (we are ONLY using the American History and the Geography portions as we already have a good Bible program and I’m not doing World History yet with the 4th grader).  But, it’s not enough hands on for my 4th grader.  I’ve come to realize that she learns best by doing.  So, having that component is super important to her.  I’m hoping that adding in Beyond Five in a Row and Time Travelers will give her what she needs in that area.  And, that it will bring back more ‘fun’ into her school days.

Well, that’s what I’ve been working through for our mid-year homeschool review!  Do you do anything to change things up around mid-year?  I’d love to hear!

In Christ,

Dena

Christmas Memory Making

This Christmas, I am planning on incorporating The Jesse Tree, Unwrapping the Greatest GiftThe Christmas Angel, and The ADVENTures of Christmas all into our Christmas season.

For the Jesse Tree, we will be reading a devotional story each day, along with Scripture, from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift then adding an ornament to our Jesse Christmas Tree.  We will also read The Jesse Tree each day.  The Jesse Tree is a living book with a story about an older man who is carving ornaments in a church.  A young boy has lots of questions about what he’s carving and why, and the story of the Jesse Tree and the story of Jesus is wound into it.  It doesn’t have Scriptures, though, that is why I have added Unwrapping the Greatest Gift to go along with it.

The Christmas Angel will be visiting us daily with fun service projects we can do, and family activities.

And, I’m pulling several things from The ADVENTure of Christmas.  Fun things to do as a family, with teachable moments about the traditions of our Christmas season.

I’m hoping to make Christ the central part of our Christmas this year.  We’ve done each of these in part in the past, and each were so much fun.  I think combining them will add a new dimension of fun, focus, and service to our season.

Below is a calendar of our December and what I plan to do each day.  Take what you like and use as you wish!

december-2016-calendar

Have a wonderful Christmas season!

In Christ,

Dena

Stuck Bible Study Review

img_0724

Stuck.  How many of us feel stuck in some way?  This Bible Study by Jennie Allen was another video study with 8 sessions.  It covered the topics:  stuck, broken, mad, discontent, scared, overwhelmed, sad, and unstuck.  This was a simple and quick study to complete each week.  Often times I could complete the entire week’s study in one day.  (But, I like to study for an hour a day, so if you study for less time than that, you could spread it out over several days).  At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought of the study.  I didn’t quite understand what “stuck” meant.  But, as I went on through the study, it became more clear.  This is a women’s study, and so many of the things discussed were issues that we deal with in our personal lives.  It was a lot about being real.  Not putting on a front with others, but being vulnerable and showing who you really are.  That’s tough for many women, so it would take some getting “unstuck” for the vulnerability to take place.  I did this in a group, and so we were able to let some of our walls down with one another and share some of our realness.

My favorite week was the topic mad (week 2).  God really spoke to me that week.  I struggle a lot with anger.  The passage for this week was James 1:19-27.  I did not remember ever reading James 1:26 before (though I know I have).  It says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”  WOW!  I know when I get angry, I have a really hard time keeping a tight reign on my tongue.  I say things I regret, a lot!  My voice becomes loud, discouraging, nagging, and hurtful.  I hurt those I love the most.  And, worst of all, my faith becomes worthless!  That is not how I desire to be.  I learned that I had to die to what I felt my rights were….things like being understood, the right to move quickly, a good reputation, my family’s approval, my right to have respect, obedience, and happiness.  When we die to our rights, we find freedom.  We get “unstuck.”  That’s what this study is all about.  Each of us have our own “stuck” places.  We each struggle with some kind of sin.  We each can let some walls down, and become real with these struggles.  We all struggle, and we know we all struggle, so why is it so hard to be real about those struggles?

The study is laid out as follows:  At the beginning of each session, there is a short reading on the topic for the week (usually just a couple of pages).  It’s kind of an introduction to the week.  Then, comes several pages of the Scripture to study with questions, charts, and space for responses.  At the end of each study week is a who are you, Lord? what do you want from me? response page.  Following that are four projects to be completed each week.  The projects include titles such as:  discover, measure, imagine, respond, compare, list, consider, act, answer, identity, question, and commit.  They include charts, drawings, and different types of application.  Then, to close out the week, there are a couple pages entitled wrapping up.

Though I was unsure of the study to begin with, it ended up being a really great study that I enjoyed very much.  It helped me get past some “stuck” places, and to learn ways to work through those places if they come up again in my life (which, they probably will, because sin is sin, and we all do it)!  It also showed me the importance of being real.  People need to see that we are real in this world….that we’re not perfect, that we’re approachable and we care because more often than not, we are struggling in the same ways that other people are.  And, if we’re real, we can help one another, be an encouragement, and an accountability partner during those “stuck” times.  You can find this study here.  I hope you will take a look for yourselves.  Find your “stuck” places and get “unstuck” by dying to self and allowing Christ to live through you!

In Christ,

Dena

Autumn and Thankfulness

autumn-1072827_1920

I love autumn!  The changing of the seasons,  the new scents, the cooler weather, the colors, the new beginnings and better routines.  I love to light candles, decorate, and make goodies that include pumpkin and spices!  It’s a time to reflect on all we can be thankful for; a time of thanksgiving and praise; a time for abundance from harvest, to look back on the first Thanksgiving, and remember how our country began.  Simple beginnings with Indians, like Squanto, helping the newcomers to this land to survive, to be able to spread the gospel of Jesus.  May we strive to be a light like Squanto was so long ago.  May we help our neighbors, help them grow, walk along side them and teach them how to survive a world of chaos.  It’s so easy to see the ugliness of our world.  We need to be the light in this dark place.  We need to be encouraging words, a smiling face, to have a twinkle in the eye, the hope that draws people to Jesus.  May this season be a time of refreshment and renewal.  May we be hospitable and invite others to share in a time of thanksgiving, encouragement, and renewal with us.  May we see the goodness of Jesus together.  May we see His beauty in the changing seasons of creation around us.  May we breathe deeply, find rest and peace, and be that rest and peace that others need to find.

Last year, I did a daily Scripture Writing Plan from the blog Sweet Blessings.  She even has blank pages that you can write the Scripture onto, and it just makes it look so nice and festive!  Last year the verses focused on Gratitude for November, and then I continued with the December plan.  I would encourage you to use this plan or another like it to help get you in a mindset of Thankfulness.  It certainly kept me focused last year, and I plan to do it again this year.

I hope and pray that you will find gratitude in your heart this autumn, that you will take joy in the beauty before you, the smells, the opportunities, and the abundance the Lord grants each of us.  I pray also, that you will spread thankfulness to those you’re around.  I pray that joy will overflow from you onto others that may feel without hope.  We are so blessed!  May we be a blessing to others!

In Christ,

Dena

road-1072823_1280