Being a Friend Through Difficult Times

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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

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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.

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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

Stuck Bible Study Review

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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

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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

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Nature Journal Entries

My Nature Journal is a simple spiral bound sketch book that I added paper and then magazine pictures to to make it pretty.

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Nature Drawing and Journaling is something that I’ve been interested in for a while.  I don’t take the time often to work on my Nature Journal, but I do enjoy really looking at God’s beauty in creation and trying to recreate it in my drawings.  This past school year, we began going through Barry Stebbings Nature Drawing and Journaling in book and DVD form.  The DVD is probably my favorite as I am a visual learner, and he actually shows you exactly how to draw borders, and gives examples of his many Nature Journals.  It’s been fun creating the borders and then later filling in the pages with more drawings taken from nature and then adding poems, Scriptures, or some kind of writing to compliment the artwork.  Unfortunately, my children aren’t as interested in this kind of art and journaling, so though they do some Nature Study, they don’t normally make a Nature Journal.  This past year, for Nature Study we used NaturExplorers from Shining Dawn Books for studying nature.  They have some great ideas on how to study nature in some creative ways, and also some great living book options on the topics covered.  This fall, we will be using the Creation Illustrated magazine.  It has phenominal photos of nature, with nature stories from a Creation viewpoint.  And, it also has some lesson plan ideas to cover the nature topics covered in the magazine.  I’m looking forward to it!  Below are some of the drawings and journaling I’ve done in my Nature Journal.  Maybe it will inspire you to try it for yourself!

I enjoy adding poems to my drawings.  I use Favorite Poems Old and New as a resource when I do add them.  I also will add quotes I find that I like, as well as Scriptures.

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I actually drew the picture below while visiting the Anita B. Gorman Nature Center.  Then, later (a couple years later…lol) I added the mixed colored leaves border around the side and bottom using Barry Stebbing’s Nature Journaling and Drawing.

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This is one of my favorites!!  I LOVE Powell Gardens.  It is a beautiful place to visit.  There is always plenty of beautiful things to draw.  I began experimenting more with shading in this drawing, and I think it makes a world of difference.  I never said I was good at drawing, but I sure do enjoy it!

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This was done from one of Barry Stebbing’s recommendations.  It’s done in marker, and then at the end, I used blue marker on paper, dipped a paintbrush in water, and lightly “painted” around the tree.

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This is how I typically start my pages now…with some sort of border.  This comes from Barry Stebbing’s courses, also.  He does nice borders in his journals and then fills in with other drawings, and journaling.  I like to do that now, also.  This is unfinished, because I’ve not yet filled in the rest of the page.

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I hope this gives some of you some inspiration so that you will try Nature Journaling and Drawing for yourself.  It’s relaxing and fun!

I have been super busy getting ready for the upcoming school year.  Lots of Lesson Planning has been taking place, a partial basement purge occurred, and I hope to get more done soon, and then lots of summer fun is happening, too!  I hope to be finishing up the majority of my school planning soon, and then I’ll share what all we are doing.  It is going to be a fun and exciting year, I think!

 

This Year’s Art Projects

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Major homeschool planning is underway, so in the mean time, I thought I’d share some of our art projects from this past school year.  We had fun working on them, and most turned out really great.  In fact, I didn’t realize how much I enjoy drawing and painting and using different mediums until I started doing it with my children during our school days.  But, when I did, I felt relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I am still learning a lot, and have a long way to go, but it’s been fun, and hopefully we all will continue to improve.  For art, we used Creating a Masterpiece.  And, this summer, the kids are taking some fun art classes from a local high school teacher who has just put together some art days for free.  They are having a blast with it.  This same art teacher won 1st prize at our Country Fair last year, and I loved what she did.  I’m trying to convince her to teach me how she did it!  (If you’re reading this….hint!  hint!  Hahaha!)  Below are some of the projects that we did!

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This is called The Lighthouse and was done in acrylics.

These were done in pastels.  The one on the right is called Baby Blue Bird.

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This was done in colored pencil.  It’s called Clown Fish.  The above pictures were done by me.  Below will be my two daughters…oldest (15) to youngest (9).

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The 15 year old claims she’s no good at art, but I think she did pretty well.  And, she definitely has an artistic knack for painting nails, and doing hair!  My 9 year old loves art, but gets frustrated when she doesn’t think her work is turning out well.  She stopped working on the clownfish for that reason.  However, I think she’s definitely a budding artist, and she’s definitely the crafty one in our house.

What keeps you busy in the summer months?

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July weekend!

 

Summer Projects

Since we homeschool, projects usually have to wait until summer break.  Things like painting, huge decluttering sessions, home improvements, etc.

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A couple of summer’s ago, I refinished my oak dining room table.  Last summer I began the Kon Mari Method of decluttering and simplifying.  This summer is no different.  I have several things on my project list!  Here are some of those things, and I don’t know if I’ll even be able to complete them all!

  • Major Basement Declutter…this in and of itself is a HUGE job.  Our basement has become a catch all…and is really in bad shape.  I can’t wait to get it cleared out!
  • Move the toddler out of our bedroom and into her sister’s.  This means a new bed (hopefully a trundle) for them to share, and some rearranging of dressers and chest of drawers.
  • Potty training the toddler completely.  (Since the toddler was just mentioned, I figured I’d add this one in!  She is close to being finished, but still not 100%).
  • Kitchen Declutter, paint, and fix some minor cabinet issues.
  • Bathroom remodel (this one is mostly being hired out).
  • New Entry Doors.
  • Landscaping has been framed already, but now plants need to go in.
  • Make a head board for our bed.

Those are JUST the house projects!  Other projects include:

  • Sell baby items.
  • Price, list and sell old curriculum.  I also have a curriculum sale I’m going to that will help with this.
  • Purchase the rest of the curriculum for next year.
  • Write up lesson plans for our homeschool next year.
  • Make a working schedule for our school year.
  • Create a better chore system with earned money.
  • Create a better bedtime routine for the youngest children.

Something that I MUST do in the midst of all these projects is to remember to HAVE FUN on the summer break….things like swimming, going to the zoo, weekend getaways, summer camps, a family vacation, Royals games, and art days are planned.  Sometimes in the busyness of the summer projects, I can forget to stop the work, and have fun with the kids.  This year, I want to be different.  Memories are waiting to be made, relationships are longing to be built, joy is ready to be had.

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What are your summer plans?  Projects you’d like to complete?  FUN you want to do?