A Different Christmas

Matthew 5:4 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 This year has been a big one for my family, actually come to think of it the last couple of years has been a challenge. Nevertheless, I know that I am not the only one who has lost a loved one and has experienced the birth of a new sort of Christmas holiday. The sort of holiday where our loved one is no longer around.

I won’t make this a lengthy post, other than I wish to pray for all of you who are mourning the loss of someone you love.

Dear Father,

I pray for these women, these mothers, these daughters, these wives, these sisters, these aunts, these grandmothers, these cousins, and these friends. I pray a special blanket of protection over them this year, that You might comfort them during this special holiday, that You guide them with Your staff of righteousness and that You lead them through a dark valley.

I pray that You hold them safely in Your arms as they take a moment to let the walls down, whether that’s having a good cry in the shower, or in the arms of a loved one, or finally giving in to whatever emotion that they have been holding in to appear strong. You know each and every one of their hearts, I know this….and I know that You are a God of amazing comfort. That You have knit each of these people together and You know their deepest desires and their deepest pains Father, and that by Your Holy Spirit, they can be strengthened to endure. That they can be wrapped in Your abiding love, and that You will accept them if they are hurting, if they have anger that they’ve been holding on to, or if they feel that You have long forgotten them. I pray Father, that Your love become a tangible experience for these women this year. That You inspire people to speak into their lives with words of comfort, or that Your Holy Word, just jump off the pages and speak directly to their hearts. Most of all, I thank you Jesus, for dying so that we might live.

I pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen

 

Psalm 73:26

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Love, D

 

my_first_christmas_in_heaven_posters-re7f0d533ad304abd9a224f37582bef61_wi4_8byvr_512

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Homeschooling Part 1-Capturing Hearts at Home.

An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

Proverbs 18:15

I can’t remember how it all started. I think it started in grade one. Call it Mother’s Separation anxiety, but I remember being very sad when I sent my oldest child off to full time school. I missed her desperately during the day, and then again in grade two I continued to feel the same way. All year I had this discomfort about the sort of things she would unintentionally bring home. These things would come home in the form of dirty songs, silly phrases, bad words, unkind behaviour, and lastly unwelcome head knowledge that a seven year old girl shouldn’t be aware of yet. These are the things that led me on my journey to homeschool.

I remember the final day she attended school. It was the day before March break and I watched her trudge out to the bus which would arrive outside of our house, dressed in the full snowsuit get up. She looked so small and little to me when she quickly barged through the back door, exasperated that the latch on the back gate had frozen shut. The two of us ran out to the gate to get it unstuck, me in a housecoat, she pulling her backpack behind her. As I watched her run toward the school bus, I immediately wished the gate had stayed frozen just a little longer so that I could hang out with her there in the cold for just another minute.

That day when she arrived home, I felt better. I felt better because I knew that her bulging backpack was full of her school supplies, inside shoes and all of the other little tid bits that were part of her life inside of the classroom. Now her classroom was home, and I would be her teacher.

Originally when we started schooling it was nearing the end of the school year, and therefore we didn’t qualify for any funding in Alberta whatsoever, so all of the expenses that need to be spent to do the initial start-up, had to come straight from our pocket. Thankfully it was tax time and the expenses for the math book, the English and literature curriculum and some extras for myself and my younger preschool children came to around 600 dollars total. I imagine Avery’s portion of the cost was around 300. We were also blessed to have a lovely woman in Spruce Grove who operated a used homeschool store out of her home and she helped us out tremendously while choosing curriculum.

In the beginning I noticed how my daughter liked to work around the clock. She noticed when it was 10 am, because that was her old “snack time/recess time” at school, and she made it very evident to me that she was ready for lunch right at 12 o’clock! Timeliness was so normal and routine for her that it was difficult for me to adjust. I will be the first to admit that I struggle in the area of time management.

Initially we began by breaking this habit, albeit it wasn’t really a bad habit at all, but rather it just didn’t work for us as a family. This began by figuring out how to start our own new routine and new habits. After careful reading and research, I began to notice how a lot of homeschool families began their day with chores, so that is what I began to do. I made “Chore packs” out of laminated picture cards, hung them on a key ring and she and her brother began each morning with doing chores independently according to their card packs. The little girls of course just tagged along with me and did what I did. Afterwards, we would all sit around and have breakfast together. Following chores, and breakfast we would begin our homeschool day.

I won’t mention too much about what curriculum we chose, other than we decided on easy workbooks in the beginning. Nothing too full of extra planning and extra booklets because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. The other children would play in the playroom while I did one on one work with Avery in the kitchen, and somewhere around 1130 we would break and have lunch. If anything were left over for our daily learning outcomes, we would wrap up after lunch, just in time for quiet time and naps.

Now fast forward a few years, and here we are again, except now it is three children instead of one. This year has been a challenge for me. I am not used to schooling multiple children, and I am regretting the idea of accepting government funding to aide me in my homeschooling. It adds to the pressure to complete tasks for sure, and not in a good way. I will also be the first to admit that I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, however it’s still enjoyable, just less organized.

From the first day I started homeschooling, to now, I would say that it has been a very flexible and enjoyable blessing for our family. We are able to enjoy quality time together and to really forge and strengthen our bonds as family members. I used to be so worried about being able to effectively train my children and through this experience I have been able to do a lot of training and teaching. I also recall feeling immense fear about pulling my daughter out of public school. I almost viewed public school as an authority over me and that if I were to take my child out that somehow I was doing something bad, and I harboured feelings of guilt. I had convinced myself that my children needed to be socialized and that the only way for them to develop effective communication skills and playground mindset was to immerse them in it and hope they survived. It occurred to me that if I wanted my children to learn how to behave well, and to respect other people and handle themselves appropriately, then who better to teach them those skills than me? After all, I am their mother, and I know them each individually like no one else, for now anyways. As far as playground antics, I’m not certain it’s necessary to subject a child to the possibility of being bullied, or to give them opportunity to become the bully when I am not around to correct that behaviour how I see fit.

And lastly, I do not wish to plant the idea that public schools are the worst possible choice. For some families they work wonderfully! And the children thrive and do well, and turn out just fine. Or perhaps it is not an option to be able to homeschool for a variety of reasons and that is okay too. The Bible tells us that we should train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. This is so vital and important to remember, because ultimately capturing the child’s heart for the Lord starts at home and through us the parents. We are the models for Christ, and we are the teachers no matter if we do it on a homeschool basis, or if our children are out of our homes for 6 hours a day. When it really boils down to it, teaching our children biblical principles and shining light on Jesus Christ, we must ourselves be growing in our faith. Learning and living The Word go hand in hand. We cannot expect our children to follow and keep the faith if we are not doing all that we can to show them the way.

Love, D

Please be sure to click the links in the post, they will direct you to some great resources to get started.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am Not Defined by My Suffering- a Message of Hope From Mary

 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   Romans 5: 3-5

As a woman I often marvel at the high calling on Mary’s life. I think about what it must have been like to have been asked to carry her Savior in her. To be asked to be a mother to him. It seems unfathomable and almost dreamy. And yet, I probably don’t have that anywhere near what it actually was like for Mary while she was going through it all.

She was a young unwed expectant mother. Her fiancé, by all rights in that culture, had the right to not only call off the wedding, but to have her stoned to death. Fortunately, he did neither, which I’m sure raised more than one set of eyebrows in their community. But, for the sake of this post, let’s keep to Mary. Remember a few posts back when I talked about “would we know it was a miracle if God showed up”? Well, I’m not sure many believed her when she started sharing about Gabriel showing up and telling her that she was going to carry the coming King of kings. She would have faced disgust from family and friends. She would’ve been ostracized for her “predicament”, and yet we see in Luke 1 that she responds with “I am the Lord’s servant”. She readily takes on the calling despite knowing the way it would appear outwardly.

I think about Mary and her character and what she said and did. I think about how often I have allowed my circumstances to define me. We experience something difficult and suddenly we are the product of that hardship. We become victims so to speak. We become the barren women, the abused, the product of a divorce, the addict, the mother who can’t get it right, the workaholic, the person with “that” disease…I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s those “things” that cause people to treat you differently and not necessarily in a good way.

Mary could have allowed herself to be the unwed, unfaithful young woman that others were seeing her for, but she didn’t. She could have allowed her attitude and behaviour to be changed to play into what others were saying, but she didn’t do that either. She knew undoubtably, despite what others were saying, that she carried Christ in her. She knew who she was not because of how others defined her, not because of how the external circumstances appeared to define her, but because she knew her role in God’s Kingdom was much larger than the way it appeared initially. She took on a role of a servant to her Heavenly Father instead of falling victim to the way others were defining who she was.

Just like Mary, we are not defined by our sufferings. They will most definitely alter our character and change who we are either temporarily, or permanently, but we were not meant to dwell on them and become the victim of our suffering. Just like Mary we can see through the initial circumstance and carry the same hope that she carried in her, the hope of our Savior. This hope is what defines us, not our pain and suffering. We are not defined by our external circumstances. We are defined by our faith in God as we become His humble servants walking WITH our Father as he guides us and builds us. In fact, we are being carefully moulded through ALL circumstance to have the character God needs us to be to be able to carry out his work on earth. No matter your situation, your suffering, your trial or triumph, it comes with the hope that God sees us as more than our circumstance. What freedom Mary must have found in knowing that she was free of what others told she was. What freedom can we also have knowing that we do not have to feed into or play the role that others have pegged on us based on a circumstance. Rather, we are God’s humble servant living to please him, living to bring him glory.

Know that your suffering isn’t the definition of who you are, but instead it is a pothole meant to slow you down and cause a few cracks so the Potter can rebuild you better than before. Remember 1 John 4:4 and the council it provides in times of trouble:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

As we get closer to the new year, I challenge you to think about how you see yourself. Are you a victim of your suffering? Have you allowed your circumstances and the way you are seen by others dictate your attitude and the way you see yourself? Or, are you a Mary, a servant, who sees past the way it must look to others and know undoubtably, with confidence, that you too carry the hope of Jesus with you.

Love,

Sarah

 

PS- if you get a chance to listen, here’s my most favourite song about Mary. When she said “I am the Lord’s servant” I wonder if she fully understood. By the way, this version is by the original writer of the song:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharper than a two edged sword

PPDiscernment

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Acts 17:10-12

 It feels really good to be back behind the computer. I haven’t had a lot of time lately, or rather I haven’t made a lot of time these past few months because of other commitments and what have you, but now…now I have more time and therefore I will write. This topic is one that has been on my mind for a long time. I haven’t really known how to get it down on paper though and therefore it has sat stagnantly in my brain collecting dust. Now is the time to dust this idea off and put it out there. I hope that it will be something for all of you to relate to as you go through this passage with me.

Okay, let’s get started. The most important piece for me in this little snippet of Acts, was the part that I italicized. In it we read about the Berean Jews, and how they were noble, and received Paul’s gospel message with zeal and yet they did something very important. The Berean Jews examined the scriptures so often that they tested Paul’s message to see whether or not it was true. Upon discovering that the message being told was not conflicting to God’s Holy Scripture, they believed him and came to faith in Jesus Christ. Yay Berean Jews!

So what does that mean for us? Well let’s think about it for a minute. In my own life, I know that there are some obvious things that I do not partake in because they contradict God’s word, like yoga, and probably Halloween. But what about the other things? The things that come around in ways that we least expect. This is a dangerous age to live in because there are a lot of different avenues to be led astray such as: Reading books by “Christian” authors or participating in bible studies that are mediated by the authors thoughts about scripture and how they feel about it vs what scripture actually says about said bible study topic, listening to certain podcasts, or sermons, listening to certain preachers and teachers of God’s word. There are things being said in the name of Christ on television, when there are obvious flaws in the doctrine, or we may even attend churches where the very person who is teaching us, may not necessarily be teaching us the truth, or perhaps that person is encouraging us to participate in practices that are unbiblical or perhaps even demonic. These are the sneaky things that I am worried about, the things we as followers of Christ need to be concerned about. These are the sorts of things that the Bereans were checking for, and what were they using as the tool of measurement? That’s right…the scriptures.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

 

Is it really important to know our bibles in depth? Or is that just for pastors and leaders in the church? We need to know what God’s word says because if we don’t, we will be the people who were led astray. I don’t want to be led astray, I want to be like the Jews of Berea, I want to be able to test the spirits like the book of John advises, so that I will be able to discern whether they are from God, and what they are telling me is truth. I want to know that if I get a chance to share my faith in the future, that I will do it from a place of truth, and not just experiential truth. Experience and testimony are powerful and can do wonderful things in God’s kingdom, but truthfully unless it is gauged by God’s word and NOTHING maligns the word of God in the testimony or experience, then can it only be credited to the Lord, and to our faith.

So where do we begin if we don’t have a lot of discernment when it comes to what we allow into our hearts and minds? My suggestion, open the bible, and have a look inside. It is never too late to begin building a strong spiritual foundation built on the word of God. The difficult thing that I had to learn, was to not just focus on the books are Psalms, Proverbs and the Gospels. Albeit they are all very good books, and those are particularly good for training and teaching good character building things, but the rest of the bible shouldn’t be omitted because it is hard to understand, or difficult to get into. One important thing to understand is that the bible is broken up into several different writing styles; and unless we fully grasp the context to which the books is written as it can sometimes lead to confusion or perhaps even misunderstanding if we don’t know the context, or perhaps the historical setting.

A final lesson for myself that I know has helped me along, was to get in the habit of making friends with people who were more spiritually mature than me and who were clearly growing in their faith. These people encouraged me, and helped me when I needed clarification, and also helped me discern my actions through prayer and accountability.

God’s word is meant to strengthen us and guide us. It will transform us from the inside out, it will peel away layers that we didn’t even know we had, and it will cut away things that we didn’t know needed to be removed. It is wonderful and that is why I love sharing what I have learned with all of you. Remember God’s word never changes, so be on your guard my friends, and sharpen your swords by getting into His word and do not let those ears be tickled!

2 Timothy 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

Need your sword sharpened? Check out these links I have compiled to help you along. Enjoy and God Bless!

D

 

Scripture passages that help and encourage:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+7%3A7-8&version=NIV

https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Hebrews%204%3A12

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+John+4&version=NIV

Helpful Links To Find Bibles, and Other Resources For Growth:

Bibles:

http://www.amazon.ca/Esv-Study-Bible-Crossway-Books/dp/1433502410/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417801776&sr=8-1&keywords=ESV+study+bible

http://www.amazon.ca/NIV-Study-Bible-Zondervan-ebook/dp/B004PYDKY0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417801827&sr=8-1&keywords=NIV+Study+Bible

http://www.amazon.ca/Family-Reading-Bible-Zondervan/dp/0310941962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417801859&sr=8-1&keywords=Family+Reading+Bible

Concordance:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/strongs-exhaustive-concordance/

Software:

https://www.logos.com/

Youtube Videos, and Other Online Videos and Bible Studies:

Studies:

Dr. David Platt’s “How to Study the Bible” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyl1wc9EpCY

Dr. David Platt’s “Old Testament Survey” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLUR0GizUVo

Dr. David Platt’s “New Testament Survey” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osZVf_u7WJY

http://www.radical.net/secretchurch/resources.html

Inductive Bible Studies: http://precept.org/ *****

http://soapstudy.com/

Other Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl-neivQh3Y&list=UUkbl7jYIPjneSbn_m5fszKQ

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments