Friday, August 29, 2008

From Clutter to Clarity

Clutter--got it? Want to get rid of it? This problem seems to be one that many people deal with. In fact, I wrote a post today on my homeschooling blog that is part of the Heart of the Matter's meme about how to control clutter.

Nancy Twigg has written a book that cuts right to the heart of clutter. In fact, she sees clutter as an outward symptom of a heart issue. From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out creates "a new definition of clutter: anything that complicates your life and prevents you from living in peace as you live out your purpose."

Nancy's book is innovative in that it deals with clutter, not just as the physical things that crowd our spaces, but as the attitudes and mindsets that prompt us to collect these items. In addition, Nancy states that clutter for Christians is even more problematic than for other people. She says, "We simply cannot make room for him [Jesus] when so many other things are in the way." Wow, that's convicting, isn't it?

The structure of the book makes it easy to read. Its 17 chapters are divided into three distinct sections: "From Cluttered Thoughts and Attitudes to Inner Clarity," "From Cluttered Lifestyle to Outer Clarity," and "From Cluttered Money Matters to Financial Clarity." Although Nancy includes many Bible verses throughout the book, the touchstone verse for the book is Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

When I had read this verse before, I concentrated simply on the race metaphor. I had not thought of this verse through the lens of simplification, but this view is so liberating!
Nancy's personal stories and those from others which she includes at the end of each chapter are inspiring. I lack the innate gift of clutter control--physical, emotional, or spiritual--and it was encouraging to read accounts of others' success in purging their clutter.
Although all the chapters contained wisdom, the one that made the biggest impact on me was "Letting Go of the Untrustables." Seeing misplaced trust as clutter that gets in the way of our One True Source of trust has been transforming for me.
Beginning a new school year seems to bring out the need to organize. Why not read Nancy's book and get to the root of our clutter?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

He Shall Bring It To Pass

Joel and I attended a wedding this past weekend in Blowing Rock. The weather was much cooler there, the views were beautiful, the town was charming, and the stone church was straight out of Mitford. The bride was a childhood friend, and the experience of seeing her and other old friends prompted much nostalgia. The bride looked elegant, attired in a satin and lace sheath originally worn by her mother on her wedding day. The sit-down dinner at the country club was delicious, and dancing to the band was great fun. Among all of these delights of the weekend, though, there was something more.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

Dwell in the land,

and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the LORD,

And He shall give you

the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,

Trust also in Him,

And He shall bring it to pass.

--Psalm 37:3-5, NKJV

Verse 4 was printed on the wedding invitations, and these verses in their entirety were printed in the Order of Service and figured prominently in the homily. It was obvious that Mimi & Steve's wedding and marriage would be a testimony of their faith in God.
You see, the bride is 37 and the groom is 43, and this was the first marriage for each. After watching most of their friends marry and have children over many years, they never wavered in their belief that God would eventually lead them to the one that He had planned for them. They never settled for less than God's best out of impatience, they never tried to force their own agendas, they never gave up on their desire for a Godly spouse.
Over the years they did continue to ask their friends to pray for a Christian partner for them. They did continue to commit their single lives to God, and to delight in the ways that God showed them that He cared about them. They recognized God's hand in their lives and sustained themselves with His faithfulness.
Thank you, Mimi and Steve, for allowing us to celebrate with you on the day that God have you the desire of your hearts!
As I have meditated on these verses this week, the words "feed on His faithfulness" have lodged themselves in my mind. My sister's ministry is sponsoring a 40-day fast, and I'm taking this opportunity to commit my way to God. Although I'm not sure what form this fast will take, I look forward to the adventure of deepening my relationship with Him.
So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What We're Using

The Heart of the Matter is hosting an online meme today about what you're using this year for homeschooling. Here's our list:
  • Bible: A Child Story's Bible, by Catherine Vos--We're reading a small section each day and then doing a related craft. We're also doing memory verses.
  • Math: Saxon 1--Emily Anne is doing first grade math because her 4K preschool class last year used the 5K Saxon math curriculum. The first two weeks have been review, and the daily meeting time is a little too repetitive for us. However, we are getting into adding and subtracting, and EA loves acting out the "some, more, less" stories.
  • Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting, 1--The first section of this workbook includes many review lessons. EA needs them, but they are quite long. This subject is our struggle, as EA requires continual prompting to stay on task with these long review lessons. Once the actual lessons begin with the shorter practice and the incentive of mailing out a finished Bible verse, I'm hoping the struggle will end.
  • Phonics: An Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, by Jessie Wise--I love, love this book! We had started last spring to supplement the phonics she was receiving in 4K but used it only sproradically. Now that we've been using it every day for about three weeks now, Emily Anne's reading has really taken off. We just started the section on consonant blends yesterday.
  • Science: From Mudpies to Magnets--We actually haven't used a lesson from this book yet. I think I'll choose one to do per week.

Check out what other home educators are using at The Heart of the Matter.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Memory Verse

Since we've begun homeschool, we have been memorizing a verse a week. So far we've memorized Genesis 1:1, John 3:16, and this verse:

It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him. Deuteronomy 13:4

I have been thinking about this verse so much, partly because it is not as familiar to me as some of the others, and also because it happened to be the Old Testament scripture read last Sunday in church. I leaned over to Emily Anne and whispered, "That's our memory verse!", and she had recognized it.

As I've been meditating on this verse, I've broken it down into parts and have decided that these are excellent spiritual goals for my children (and for me!)

  • Follow God. So often it is too easy to run ahead of God. When we do so, we miss out on God's best for us. Instead, we should follow God as Abraham did, not always sure where we're going but confident in our Leader.
  • Revere God. Being reverent is something that seems to be lacking in our society today. So much is casual and geared to our comfort. We should never forget how awesome God really is. Holding God in awe checks our own too prevalent pride.
  • Keep God's commands. To keep God's commands, we must know them. God has given us the Holy Spirit to impress His Word on our hearts, but we must make the first effort to open the Bible and read with the intent of applying it to our lives.
  • Obey God. Once we know God's laws, we should intentionally fulfill them. We should obey, not just the ones that are easy for us or the ones that are socially acceptable, but all of them, even those hardest for us. Of course, with our sinful natures, we will miss the mark, but with true repentance comes forgiveness.
  • Serve God. God has made each of us with special gifts, personalities, experiences, and specific purposes. We should be aware of those to better work for His glory.
  • Hold fast to God. We should cling to God. We should hold fast to Him during crises, but we should also not loosen our grasp when the going is good, lest we open ourselves up to our own sinful natures and attacks by the enemy.

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

She Makes Coverings for Her Bed (and Walls and Windows . . .)

I have had a fun couple of days looking at the blogs on Nester's Mister Linky for mistreatment posts. I don't think I'm even halfway through with the list! If you don't know Nester or her definition of mistreatments, check out her blog.

My earlier post on homemaking got me thinking: is putting so much thought into decorating your home frivolous? Isn't there something else that I should be doing (like cleaning?!), as busy at home as I am?
Is decorating something that the Proverbs 31 woman would do? Apparently, so. This section states that "a wife of noble character" makes coverings for her bed (and we can assume, her windows, and walls). Making a home comfortable is something that God wants us to do. Granted, a home consists much more of the atmosphere created by loving words and actions rather than that created by paint and fabric, but the physical atmosphere is important, too.
This weekend we finally moved over the rest of our furniture to our new house. Although our old house is not yet sold, we have had an offer to lease it for eighteen months. This arrangement should help to relieve some of the stress of attempting to keep up two homes and paying for them! We should sign the contract this weekend, and we would covet your prayers that all goes smoothly.
It has been an interesting nine months or so living without most of our furniture. I am so happy to have it back and to see the potential of this home and be able to truly make it our own.
You can see the before pictures of the empty living room and dining room here. Here are pics of the living room now, in progress.

Here is the far wall of the living room looking in from the foyer. Those needlepoint pillows, which were a gift from my sister, are two of my favorite things. I love blue-and-white china, and they are just perfect! The two pictures are actually French tapestries. The one on the left I brought back for my grandmother, and the one on the left is mine. They were framed and matted separately, so they're not exactly the same size, but I figure that one day I'll eventually get mine reframed to match my grandmother's. The lamp is one that my parents picked up at an estate sale; I need to get a longer lamp shade for it. It rests on a drum table that we were able to salvage when my paternal grandmother's house burned. As I write this post, it occurs to me that much of my furniture is "please and thank you."

Moving counter-clockwise in this room, is this wall. On either side of the sofa is a pocket door into the den. That lamp on the small chest is not staying; I don't think it even still works. It was just something to see how the chest works with accessories. That chest is just a little high for the sofa, but I think I'll still use it there. I haven't accessorized the coffee table yet but will probably add some books on tea and a tea cup and saucer. The portrait above the sofa is my wedding portrait; the small pictures on either side were large postcards of Florence, Italy that I had framed. They're a little too small to flank the portrait; I just added them on a whim. I'll probably eventually replace them with some blue-and-white china.

Continuing to move counter-clockwise in the room, you see this wall leading into the foyer. Above the painting is my favorite print, called "Charleston Rooftops." It's not the ubiquitous Charleston prints you see of Rainbow Row, but is still evocative of that city's charm and history. I need to find a pretty needlepoint pillow for the dark blue wingback chair and a print for that corner. Excuse the teal green carpet by the front door; that is the same carpet that we have upstairs and can't wait to replace (although it will probably be a while!).
Here is the last wall, the one that looks out into the front yard. I nestled my secretary between these two windows, but other than that, this wall is pretty bare. I think the windows are ripe for a mistreatment; some fabric would definitely cozy up this wall. Does anyone have any fabric suggestions? That tassel on the secretary is a luscious mix of rose, yellow, blue, peach, and light teal, and I would love to find some silk buffalo check fabric in those colors. Do you think buffalo checks would clash with the plaid sofa?

Here's another solicitation for advice: What color would you paint the walls in this room? They definitely need cozying up with the beige paint and beige carpeting!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Homeschool Co-op: The Agony & the Ecstasy

Today was our first day of our local homeschool group's co-op. Emily Anne was enrolled in Opening Assembly (public speaking in a show & tell type format), Chemistry, Election Fun, Historic Artists, and Creative Math. Will was enrolled in a general Preschool class, Bible Time, Zoo Animals, and Rest and Relaxation.

As a part of the co-op, parents who are not teaching a class are teacher helpers. I volunteered to help in Will's preschool class and the R & R class. I thought that Emily Anne would be fine without Mama nearby and that Will might need some help adjusting to a schedule, especially at the beginning and end of the day. It turns out, I was right!

Throughout the day, whenever I had a chance to see or speak with Emily Anne, she was smiling and telling me how much she enjoyed co-op. She made fast friends with another girl just her age. Several teachers and parents told me in passing how smart and polite she was and that she had told them all about finding fossils in Tennessee. Who doesn't love to be complimented on their children? I was positively beaming!

Of course, at the time that I received these accolades, I was chasing after my other child. Will had a hard day. He is 2 1/2, which is too old for the nursery but not quite ready for the 3-year-old classes in which he is enrolled.

To top it off, Will was up at 6:15 this morning. We had to be at co-op at 8:00 to register and get EA to opening assembly. By the time his first class started, he was already asking about snack. He was great in this first class; he listened to the story, identified shapes and made a collage with them, and participated in the music. After this class, there was a snack, with time to play on the gym floor with basketballs. Will did not want to leave the basketballs to go to Bible Time. I finally convinced him to go to class (with me, even though I was not a volunteer), and he was okay in this class--not perfectly behaved, but not unmanageable either.

It was a great ordeal to get him to get to his next class; the basketballs were still beckoning. He enjoyed the zoo animal puppets that he colored when we finally got there, though. Next on the schedule was lunch, with the Rest & Relaxation class after that. We had brought his sleeping bag, with which he was delighted. My hopes were high, but, unfortunately, I was too soon hopeful. By the time the class actually started, he was tired of his sleeping bag and over-tired and over-stimulated. With my best efforts, I got him settled down, and I looked up to see Joel peeking in the window. Will and I went out to see him, and I learned that he had had to put our older cat to sleep (Booker had a fast-growing facial tumor). Joel wanted to confirm what time we would be home so that he could arrange to be there to explain to the children. After seeing Daddy, Will's efforts at communal naptime were exhausted (pun intended) After struggling with him, I finally went out to the car, brought in a few books and read to him. In ten minutes he was asleep in a noisy gym.

I learned a good lesson today. One of the reasons homeschooling seemed so appealing was the flexibility of time and learning experiences it offered. Co-op is a great fit for Emily Anne at her age. The number of classes are too overwhelming for Will right now. Rather than try to fit to the schedule, I should adapt it to fit to our needs.

Check in later in the week for a post about moving my longed-for furniture and a book review.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Golden Anniversary: The Key to Lasting 50 Years

"[L]ove covers all transgressions."
Proverbs 10:12

Last week my husband's parents commemorated their golden anniversary in the presence of their four children, three in-laws, and six grandchildren by reaffirming the vows they made fifty years ago. It was not a pretentious event; the ceremony took place on the steps of a lovely country church that was scouted out the day before. There were no flowers and no music. This celebration was pared down to its essentials, and was all the more meaningful for it.

My husband's brother-in-law performed the ceremony, and in his short sermon, he distilled great marital advice down to its core. He made the point that Nancy and Eugene had lived out Proverbs 10:12: "Love covers all transgressions." Through five decades of want and abundance, tragedy and triumph, they were able to overlook the other's transgressions because of their love. Putting aside their own pride and selfishness, they let their love for one another blanket any shortcomings.

The message struck my heart. Yes, I want to be able to celebrate fifty years of marriage one day with my own husband. Do I, however, allow my love to cover my husband's transgressions? Am I able to put my wants and hurts on the backburner for the good of our marriage? Am I easily offended, quick to mistake an innocent remark for a caustic one, or do I allow love to cloak my husband's words?

No spouse is perfect, especially me. I want Joel's love for me to put me in the best possible light. In turn, I want to view him through rose-colored glasses, putting a positive spin on every word and action. Now, I don't want to ignore any possible trouble spots, as we are to "rebuke and exhort," but we are to do so with "great patience" (2 Timothy 4:2). I just want Joel and I to love one another so that we can overlook the imperfections and encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Nancy & Eugene, congratulations on your Golden Anniversary! Thank you for the example of Christian marriage that you have given your family.

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Monday, August 11, 2008

We Are Family!

We're back! We got back around 9 pm last night from a great trip to Tennessee. The impetus for the trip was the celebration of Joel's parents golden anniversary. Their request for a celebration was simply to have all their children and grandchildren around them for a week of vacation. As the family is spread from the Near East to South Carolina to Tenneessee to Oregon, this gathering was no easy feat! Seventeen of us gathered in the Great Smoky Mountains to reconnect with one another.

It was wonderful, in particular, to see Emily Anne and Will get to know and play with their cousins and aunts and uncles who live so far from us but are close in our hearts.

Here Emily Anne and Will are playing with their cousin Aiden. Aiden and Will are only a few months apart in age.

Here are the three older cousins each holding a younger cousin above their heads. If you enlarge the picture, you can see the delight in the little ones' faces!

This time together showed me that no matter how far-flung we may be, when we come together, the miles melt away. Our spiritual family, too, is connected by bonds that hold us together despite our physical distance and differences (Ephesians 3:15).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Spiritual Pedicure

Edited to say: I extended this post and presented it as a breakout session at my church's Women's Retreat.
"How Lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"
Isaiah 52:7
Yesterday, we spent the day at Dollywood. Yes, that's right, the whole day, from about ten in the morning to six at night. By the time we got home, my feet had seen better days. "Lovely" was not the word I thought of when I freed them from sweaty socks and overheated tennis shoes. A
spa pedicure would have been welcome! That's why this word stood out when I was catching up on my Bible reading last night.
When this verse was first written, the good news and salvation referred to the Israelite's return to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. Paul, however, alludes to these verses in the context of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ:
"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!'"
Romans 10:14-15
Of course, these verses echo Jesus's Great Commission (Mark 16:15), but I wasn't sure why the feet of those who spread the gospel are considered lovely. Why not the mouths of those who spread the gospel? After all, the mouth utters the words of our testimonies.
As I re-read the verses in Romans, I began to see the importance of the word sent. Yes, our words are important, but without God's intended audience, our words are just emptiness on the air. Those who need to hear the Word won't come flocking to us; we must go to them. Our feet take us there.
This week we have been blessed to spend time with Joel's extended family in Tennessee to celebrate his parents' fiftieth anniversary. We haven't seen many of these family members in a while. One of his sisters lives in Oregon. Another, along with her husband and three children, serve as missionaries abroad. About nine years ago, they pulled up roots and left their comfort zone to spread the gospel to those who had not heard and had not had the opportunity to believe.
I think that their feet were far lovelier than mine last night, pedicure or no pedicure.
So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.