ugly // magnificent

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For every evil and ugly moment in this lifetime, there is a flash of magnificence. I believe these sparks to be much more potent, simply because they are in front of us, almost waiting to come alive. Waiting for when we desire goodness and mercy the most. We wish to be separated completely from the graveyard of heinous forces that surrounds us. Oh, the goodness and simplicity of each day, right in front of us, and so easily ignored. But in the midst of tragedy, chaos, everything sharpens into crystal-clear snapshots of beauty. Flash! We are asleep to the artistry at our fingertips and there it is, glowing and warm and it saves us, at times.

While mourning continues and tears are flowing. While our country bleeds and experiences the fracturing and breaking that has been happening for so so long. While fathers and mothers go home to quiet houses and find no voice on the other side of the phone call. While communities are wrecked with emptiness and loss and hunger. While children wait for parents and adults lay in streets, full of poison and pain and loneliness. While a young girl goes home, emptied from the inside, once again alone. While a small child runs to his room, scared. While a couple says goodbye.

While a nation loses its footing. Loses its sight.

While everything is being stripped away, day by day….

I see

A group of six grey-haired woman, sitting in a living room laughing.

Eight girls kicking a soccer ball, while the sun fades to pink.

A little toddler watching ants crawl into cracks and out of sandy holes.

An elderly couple take their morning walk, hand in hand.

The same gardener seen each morning, giving a wave to a child.

The waitress bringing an unmerited cookie to a young child, knowing the mother just needs a second of quiet.

Two kids sharing a lunch sack at the local park, laughing at what shapes the crackers make.

Local business owners come outside to fly their flag at half-staff.

Lights on at every church on the corner, bodies walking in for weekly communing.

 

The world around us is dying and at the same time so many moments are bursting to life.

 

days // recalling good

When things seem cloudy and my brain is far off, I look at photos.

I recall all of the small, wondrous moments that I often overlook as mundane. I see them happening in real life but for some strange reason, looking at them through a lens makes me realize just how blessed they are. Perhaps because I pause to see the details, colors and subjects. Real life has me scurrying table to sink to dishwasher to minivan. No time for blinking, let alone pondering. I’m working to change that, diligently.

These photos are like tiny, captured bouquets of flowers. Instantly making me grateful and full of joy.

 

dwelling // comfort

“God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” – C.S. Lewis

I’m finding that I can fill our home with all of the comfort and light, warmth and softness that this world may offer, but if I am not dwelling on the Lord, our family dwelling will be quite dim.

May each square inch of our home be a balm from the outside world and a respite from its darkness.

May we rest here.

short thought // long marathon

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Hebrews 12:1

“Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Joshua 1:8

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

***

I’ve heard it said that the Christian journey is similar to a marathon. The older I become, the more I accept this as a very accurate analogy. You begin excited and ready to implement your training. It’s new and (of course) difficult but your ambitious. Halfway in (mile 12 or so), you feel fatigue but find encouragement from small truth-tellers (those handing out water and oranges). Enough to sustain you. You catch second-winds occasionally and are motivated by others at the same pace.

However, you inevitably approach the dreaded “wall” around mile 20. Your legs cramp; you can’t do it. You’re weary and exhaustion has taken over, and while the end is somewhat in site, you have much farther to go – over six miles to be exact.

I’ve begun to realize that while I’m not at the end of my life (Lord willing) I’m no longer at the beginning of my Christian journey, either – wearing rose-colored glasses and being able to find strength through self-help evangelical jargon or sermon podcasts has come to an end.

I’m nearer to mile 20. I’m tired and exhausted and also more experienced and wise than when I began. I have miles to go before I’m complete but I can also see the finish line – where I end, desiring to devote my life to thoughtfulness, faithfulness and courage in the service of the Lord and His Kingdom. Mile 20 can be gruesome – marked with pain and suffering and truth that you had willingly set aside during the earlier miles.

But! Mile 20 is also a sanctifying marker in the race. You are ready for what is coming. You possess abounding faith. You laugh at the days to come because you have been there and you know who owns the clock.

A marathon is a good analogy for the journey which all Christ-believers find themselves on. May we run with diligence, perseverance and undaunted joy.

home // swept away

We are currently in the throws of some home reconstruction, which is wonderful and also chaotic. (see also: the reason I haven’t been writing regularly)

Sleeping on mattresses in empty rooms, our entire house packed. Only finding one shoe and never quite locating that piece of clothing you need. Six weeks of eating out and splinters in my heel from all the sanding, painting and work work work.

My daughter looked at me, with tears in her eyes, the other night. We were at her favorite restaurant and she said plainly, “I want to leave mommy. I just want to go home.”

But we don’t have a “home” right now. Not in the sense that she means. With candles lit, couch fluffed, and comfort waiting. We have walls but not the things that make you feel at ease. Our house is empty.

It’s been within the past few weeks, watching the outcome of hurricanes and wildfires, that my heart truly breaks for those who will always have that longing which my daughter expressed.

We have a home we will soon return to. They do not. I can not imagine their heartache.

May God give them peace and may He give us abundant gratefulness for all we have.

(please consider giving generously here)

Rome // America // Victory

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I just finished my second course in my Masters program. During the course I researched the decline of the Roman Empire, and boy if it didn’t ring some bells and set off some alarms.

From Edward Gibbons book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon’s observed, “The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.”

I will spare you the numerous thoughts I have about the current state of our nation – I’m sure that you, much like myself, don’t need another voice in your ear. We all have too many. And I think that’s one of the problems. Our society has grown so accustomed to being told what to think, believe, advocate for, stand on and yell about, that we aren’t sure the truth anymore. We’ve descended into a people that argues to argue, hates simply because we disagree and shuts other opinions down because we no longer have the ability to properly frame an argument. Additionally, I truly believe that most people don’t have contextual historical understanding so they are blind leading blind. Like the quote regarding Rome – there are so many things to worship and everyone wants their way to be the truth.

If this sounds very judgemental, I might have apologized in the past, but I’m not certain I’m stating anything other than fact. In my humble assertion, it seems we might all do better to step back, learn a bit more and THEN choose our platforms a bit more carefully. I see many people jumping on bandwagon social movements without any research into the backgrounds of these organizations……wait. I’m going down a rabbit hole.

That was not the intention of this post. I will stop before I hit the “Rachel point of no return” and write for six hours about all of the woes of American culture in 2017.

The real reason I wrote this post is because my heart is heavy each day for our country and the hate, anger and ignorance that seems to be on full display.

My prayer is that before we lock arms with any social justice campaign, politician, church or leader, we first set our eyes on the only victor in this fight.

Jesus Christ. He and He alone are the only way that we will feel vindicated, satisfied, loved, cherished, whole and valued.

He is the only chance for national restoration and peace.

this season // learning.

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This particular season of life I find myself chin-deep in learning.

Learning about myself, learning about others, and learning with my children. There has been no other period in my 37 years where I have been so forced to face clear realities – both carefree and dismal – as much as I have in this past year.

Things I had once tried ardently (often to a fault) to adjust or change, I learned were not pliable and I needed to allow them to be.

Things I had routinely worked hard to hold on to, I learned would always be there for me, even if I let go.

Things I assumed would be lifelong bedrocks, I learned aren’t always going to be steady.

Things I thought might never become reality, I learned can occur overnight, and without my provocation.

I’m learning very much and it’s astonishing (in a good way, I’m thankful to grow) that God is allowing all of this learning to occur. I know I’ve alluded to the current time in my life as a bizarre circus of emotions. This isn’t to be intentionally vague, I simply don’t have enough time to adequately share it all. Additionally, in the interest of some things remaining private in a very public world, I’ll keep much to myself. But yes, It’s been a year of learning and stretching and growing and I desire for this to continue.

Of course, during all of these sizable changes that are happening for Sean and I, there are normal seasons we are passing through, just like every other adult.

Parenting seasons – our youngest child, out of diapers and weening her from pacifiers. Our middle child, learning to read and developing her own intense interests. Our eldest daughter becoming more sensitive to life cycles and cultural occurrences. Her mind maturing, but her heart strongly desiring to stay little. Us watching her feel these things and giving her all the space in the world to play, discover and feel peace in the aging.

Personal seasons – watching dreams deferred become possible life changes and movements. Celebrating 15 years married and hugging goodbye as he walks out the door to work each day – becoming more and more in demand at a job we once questioned even saw his worth. Growing with friends and community. Growing in wisdom but laughing at our immaturity. With one another, more each day.

School seasons – starting school for myself. Trying to champion education for my girls and seeing that I learn more teaching them than I ever will in a college class. Filling our days with reading, answering questions and struggling with new concepts, hard concepts, exciting concepts. Teaching them that character counts more than grades ever will.

I feel like I’ve aged 25 years in the past 12 months. The weight of everything can often leave me wanting to go collapse into bed and not get up for 3 days. But you soldier on, just like every other person.

Life is good and change is coming. There is hope in the seasons.

Not simply hope that they will end quickly, but rather hope that you will leave them stronger and more equipped for what God has next.

words from Bert // slipping like sand

I’ve often been questioned why my favorite movie is Mary Poppins. People have bizarrely given reasons why it’s not as fantastic as I believe it to be.

For starters, it’s a childrens movie (or is it?)

It’s old (how is that even a reason to disqualify a film?)

The storyline is too simplistic and predictable (no.)

They mix barnyard animal cartoons and real life people in that one scene (I kinda get that one…)

In the end, I believe the profound bits of PL Travers unique tale wait for those who seek it out. Read any of her books, (or her biography) and you’ll find there’s much more than meets the eye.

Every time I see the following scene, it’s like a gut punch. As easily as Mr. Banks might be criticized for having his priorities out of line, if you’ve seen the film, we might all agree there are moments we are a bit too much like him.

There’s no time for that.

Childhood, like sand, is slipping.

old school // new school

Take a trip with me.


We’re headed down memory lane….back, back, back to the old days of blogging. When people had blog rolls and commented. They lingered long enough (on one page) to actually read the entire post. We learned about one another and made cross-continent friends. We enjoyed checking in on the daily activities of others and attended blogging conferences to finally meet someone in real life. It sounds similar to modern-day Instagram or FaceBook, but it was so much different.

I’m not sure why it was, but it was. And I enjoyed that sort of sharing. I miss it. I miss reading the thoughts of others without all of the monetization and blinking ads. All those sponsored posts make it hard to know what someone is really thinking.

I’m waxing nostalgic, I know. There’s always an element of forgetfulness when we look backwards but I still maintain that the purity of that old school platform and I suppose I’m doing my part to usher it back.

Let’s bring back the golden age of blogging, shall we?

 

igniting our minds // homeschool curriculum

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When it comes to the subject of education, my favorite quote is the following, attributed to William Butler Yeats:

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

As a homeschooling mother of three daughters, I often refer back to this quote. It seems to be in direct opposition to the educational philosophies, paradigms and structures, presented in most modern day educational settings. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say that you could flip that quote and it would be much more appropriate when describing a majority of school settings, in our country.

I’m not saying anything revolutionary, actually. It’s simple fact that schools are tasked with teaching a set of standards and “filling a pail”, so that upon graduation, students have acquired a uniform amount of information. It’s been this way for decades. It won’t change unless there is significant educational reform, and many would argue there is no need for it to be changed. That’s why school choice In America is such a lovely freedom – because we don’t all view education, and its importance, through the same lens or worldview.

Along with the mentioned quote, I also have a educational mantra I repeat to myself almost daily. It keeps me going when I feel the fatigue of non-existant alone time and mounting lists of tasks to accomplish. I was once sent a note, from a much wiser mother and home-educating veteran. She told me, “Rachel, think with the end in mind.” That one quote has sustained me through the last three years of homeschooling, and hopefully many more years to come.

You see, we have a vision of what we would like our children to be equipped with, once they fly the nest. The knowledge, empathy, compassion, respect, love for all things beautiful, virtuous and good. When I’ve written this list down, the aspects that pertain to character far outweigh what textbooks can teach them. Obviously, I care deeply about them obtaining a robust and (at times) rigorous academic backdrop. After all, they will be students, sent into the world to light it on fire with both wit and wisdom (hopefully), all to the glory of Christ.

However, as much as I want them to excel in Latin, literature and liturgy, I also desire something much deeper, which is why I struggled with the idea of sending them to someone else, for the majority of their days. We desire to mold, shape and carefully guide them as small Christ-followers. Am I guaranteed that all of my children will accept the gift of salvation, freely, and hand over their life to the Lord, to be used however He calls? No, I am not. If I’m honest, that lack of control is difficult for me, (see previous post for background on several of my control-issues) but I’m certainly not going to ignore this call from the Lord. Homeschooling is total-life education, in my estimation. I don’t want to simply fill up a their “pail” with information, that is void of context. I want to ignite my children’s minds and hearts, to be attuned to the colorful world we have been gifted, and inspire them to learn because they love learning. To learn with a Christian worldview so they understand the importance of learning.

With all that being said, I’m often asked what we use for curriculum. Again, the above sentiments should certainly not give the impression that I’m not strict with our curriculum selections. Ask any of my close friends and they’ll tell you I’m a bit of a drill sergeant. I’ve definitely become more flexible in the past few years (a necessity if you’re going into this line of work) but I do have high educational expectations for my girls, as well as myself. While I do not believe there is one specific way that all home educators can best teach, I do subscribe to an educational philosophy that works best for our family and for which I have extensively researched. The Classical style of education is such a beautiful form for learning and offers your children many gifts – academic, personal, emotional and spiritual. I’m not here to talk you into it but if you would like to learn more about Classical education, I would start here, here and here. After you buy one of those wonderful overviews, this website has been such a gift to me, along with other websites that are too many to share here. Perhaps that’s another post, altogether!

At any rate, the photo above shows the books we are currently working through. My eldest daughter is now in 4th grade (although I think grade levels are rather arbitrary and somewhat pointless), my youngest is in 1st and I also have a toddler who is almost three.

I will link to all of the curriculum resources below, and several which are not pictured. Almost all of these texts have been used by our family for over two years – when I find a quality curriculum I like, I stick with it! You’ll see an art book that we use, but that is only for images which can be printed for home use. I write my own art curriculum, as well as my own science/nature study. Of course, I couldn’t include all of the many read-alouds our family has enjoyed of the free-reads my eldest daughter has worked through, so I just included our current one (which we love but have yet to finish. There are follow up books as well, and I can already tell that Jackson’s writings will go down as a family favorite!) We also have a daily communal meeting called, “Fireside”, where we light a candle and cover the following subjects: Bible, Catechism, Poetry, Shakespeare, Read-Alouds, Scripture memorization and composer study. Our daily meeting was inspired by this lovely lady – her podcast and website have been very helpful and if you are lost with where to begin with a daily ritual, she has pre-made plans ready to go!

I hope this short list might send you on some exciting rabbit hold adventures – finding what resources work best for you and your children. I’d love to do some posts in the near future with our favorite family books, art supplies (we do art projects almost daily and that was never my intention – God works in mysterious ways!) and my favorite choices for encouraging adult books. Let me know which you would most like to see and feel free to pass this post along to anyone who might need a homeschool hug from a fellow mom-in-the-trenches.

Where God has called us, He will equip us!

Curriculum 2017/2018:

The Story of the World

A four year program that covers Ancient Times-Modern Day. As a history lover, I’m critical of almost every curriculum I’ve come across but I truly believe this program is second to none. It is extensive, chronological and offers a huge selection of crafts, additional reading and ideas. It’s my favorite part of the day. Even if you love to read your history lessons, please buy the Audio CDs with Jim Weiss. He’s amazing.

Rod & Staff

We have used Rod & Staff for a variety of subjects but If I had to recommend one, it would be their “English Series”. We also use it for Spelling work. The information it covers for English is comprehensive and complete. It’s a Christian curriculum and it’s goodness and innocence is perfect. We plan to use the English series all the way through the girls education.

How to Teach Your Child Shakespeare

This year we are learning the Bard. It’s been such fun and we owe much of our excitement (at least I do) to Ken Ludwig. Get this book and look up his great website.

Math U See

Our favorite math curriculum. We’ve also tried Saxon Math and Horizons but this has worked the best for our family. It is perfect for my learners who like to see/touch. You use manipulative and watch a video and then do your lesson. They both enjoy it greatly.

Now We Are Six (our current poetry book, but we also love this and this and this book)

We are currently working our way through several poetry books. We adore so many and would recommend starting small and working your way up. We love E.E Cummings, Frost, Alingham, Longfellow, Silverstein, and Carrol. One of the first poems we ever learned together was, “Maggie and Milly and Molly and May” but Cummings. It will always have a special place in my heart.

The Child’s Story Bible

We read a chapter a day. The girls each have a spiral notebook that they use to depict what they are hearing. They color it in, label it and it serves as a sweet memento of our Bible learning.

120 Great Impressionists

This includes downloadable images to use during your art study. We study one artist a week and this year we are focusing on the Impressionists.

Westminster Catechism

We learn and recite these questions daily – storing the truths of Christ, His kingdom and His love in our hearts.

Handwriting Without Tears

We use HWOT for cursive (my eldest) and writing practice (for my middle daughter).

Latin For Children

Following in the Classical tradition, we are going to begin our study of the Latin language, this year. Stay tuned for an update on how that goes. I’m nervous!

Maestro Classics

A engaging way to introduce your children classical music, while also exposing them to poetry, theatre and more. Our favorites are “Casey at the Bat”, “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”.

I hope this list has proved helpful – please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. I’d love to connect with you!