Summer Beach Camp

We left the house before 7am this morning to drop the girls off at church.  They are headed to Student Life Camp at Daytona Beach, FL. My girls were so excited. I am happy for them; I loved, loved, loved summer youth camp.  I usually went to IMPACT and Super WOW every summer! I am praying that the girls will hear from the Lord very personally this week AND have a great time strengthening friendships.

We had some funny talks over the last few weeks leading up to camp. I am reminding them of so many things—mostly about manners and making sure you take care of your own stuff and to not leave clothes on the floor or forget to hang up your towel like you do at home! And I may have mentioned that I did not pay $$$ for you to go to camp and hang out with boys. 😐 We also talked about humility yesterday at lunch.  I asked them how they can show humility on the trip, and they didn’t want to answer with specifics.  They just said, “You know, be nice to everyone.” Ummm, not exactly, though that is a good place to start. We reminded them (and ourselves!) that you aren’t learning much of anything if you’re always talking. We challenged them to ask other girls about their families or what their favorite thing to do is or anything that might open the door for our girls to learn something about another girl. We also suggested that they let other girls shower before them and to not be overly concerned with their outer appearance. They shook their heads in agreement and told us they would do that. And all I can do at this point is hope and pray that they do! Finding people who are interested in other people, who ask good questions and listen to answers, who truly put others before themselves is extremely rare.  I want to be that kind of person, and I want my kids to be that kind of person. It’s a process, for sure!

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Mack and I left and went to Eddie’s Place for some breakfast! He is such a cute date.

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Thankful for all the time I have gotten with him lately while the girls are off on mission trips and camps! He is a fun one that loves me unashamedly still. I have no idea what our week will look like exactly, but I am pretty sure it will involve sno-cones and Chick-fil-A and throwing the football. And words.  Lots and lots of words.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pray for my girls when they come to mind! Thank you!

To spend and be spent

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The church is having VBS this week for the elementary kids and the youth are having “Uptown Showdown.” There are teams and games and fun and sweat! Lots of sweat!  It’s kind of neat being in the city for church!

My kids are enjoying every minute of their time with friends and are learning more about Jesus, too. I am so thankful for the leaders that give of their time and energy…in particular, the youth leaders. These kids are competing in games each night AND being taught from God’s Word.  The energy needed to motivate and keep these youth engaged and having a blast is far beyond my capacity.  I am so thankful that there are leaders that love this age group and are pouring themselves out for my kids.

I was reading in 2 Corinthians this morning and came to chapter 12, verse 15.  Paul loved the Corinthian church despite the challenges they brought into his life. Here is the verse that struck a chord in my heart….

” I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls….”

Personally, I prayed that the Lord would help me to spend my money and my time for others….specifically my three kids as we are together day in and day out.  It is easy to buy them what they need or want.  It is harder to give them undivided attention to listen to their ramblings about whatever they want to talk about.  Harder to give of myself for someone else’s soul, but that is what Jesus did for me.

Then, I prayed for the youth leaders and interns and VBS teachers that are gladly expending their time and energy for all those kids.  It is a blessing to my family!

Coping Skills

The Lord graciously allowed me to meet a counselor while we were visiting the first church we tried here in our new city.  She has been such a help to me in so many ways, and I don’t want to forget what she has taught me.

Two main coping skills rise to the top when I think of the most helpful things I have learned and practiced—1) floating cloud that I let pass right on by and 2) a purple house.

Let me explain.

First of all, I am an intuitive feeler.  I am extremely aware of my feelings, and I am very sensitive to my surroundings.  I pick up on what might be coming before others do.  Josh might feel the wind from a hurricane, but I feel the wind from a butterfly flapping its wings. The positive of this is that I can sense when something is up with someone in our family or I might have a check in my spirit about someone that Josh doesn’t, and in the past I have proven to be a pretty good read on people. Thankfully, Josh values my input and doesn’t just think I am crazy when I tell him my thoughts. As far as my feelings go, I can really share and share and share some more and sometimes sharing feelings is great and sometimes sharing feelings gets me nowhere except more sad or more distraught.

Enter the cloud.

My counselor said that when I have these feelings of sadness or loneliness or whatever the feeling might be, I could picture it like a cloud floating by.  I notice it.  I observe it and can even say to myself, “I know you are there, cloud of sadness. I see you, but I am not going to do anything with you…you can just float right on by.”  And I can visualize the cloud floating by.  I might pray, turn on praise music, or go do laundry or read a book.  What I don’t do is rehearse that sadness, make a list of why I am sad, plan my conversation with Josh about what I should do about my sadness, etc. You get the point.  And it may sound silly to you. That’s ok.  It totally has worked for me many times.  I’ve realized that after a few times of doing that with my floating cloud of sadness (or whatever else I may be feeling), it doesn’t grow into this big conversation with no solution or answer.  It stays between God and me, and I build up some resiliency. Not everything that goes on in my mind must be shared verbally.  I know, crazy, right???!??

On another visit, she told me that she could sense I had done some growing and maturing over our time together.  She called it radical acceptance.  There were some things in my life that I could not change…and I had gotten to the point that I had surrendered more than ever to the fact that God has a much better plan for me than I could ever dream up on my own.  Praying looked more like sitting before the Lord than asking for anything in particular.  Just sitting in His presence, trusting Him more and more.  Instead of wringing my hands before Him, they were open and laying in my lap. Nothing to do. Nothing to ask for. She gave an illustration about a purple house.

Suppose you find a house that is perfect for you and your family.  Exactly what you would want in all ways….except for the fact that it is purple.  You tell your real estate agent that you will buy this house as long as it is painted a different color for you.  You go to the closing, you sign the contract and get the keys to your new house.  You drive over with excitement in your heart, only to find that the house is still purple (forget the whole contract should have said it would be painted business….Josh couldn’t quite get past this part…but just go with me). Sooooo, you have choices.  You can go crazy-mad and call your agent and bless her out for not taking care of this.  You can cry and sulk and whine as you look at the purple house you just bought.  You can sue the previous owners.

Or you can get the house painted.

Radical acceptance. It helps us move forward.  We have to be mature enough to reign in our emotions (let the clouds float on by) and deal with reality.

So there you have it, two coping skills that have been a help to me.  Maybe they’ll be a help to you as well!

End of the year in mind

I have been planning for the new school year.  There is no set time that I start planning; I just write down ideas all year long… curriculum I would like to check out, books I want my kids to read, as well as what hasn’t worked well for our family so that I won’t try it again.

The most recent planning session included a list of ideas that would be great to implement to let me know, as the mom/teacher, that we are indeed making progress and learning!  Here are some things on that list:

1 -Keep a binder for all math tests and grades. That is pretty straight forward and boring, but the tests and numbers don’t lie when it comes to math.

2 -Make a paper chain of all the books read throughout the year.  Each child could have their own color assigned to the chain.  Ruby books- purple, Molly books- green, Mack books- blue and family read aloud books- yellow.  I think it would be encouraging to watch it grow and keep us challenged.

3 -Possibly have each child start their own private blog on wordpress where they can make entries of written narrations from books they are reading, explain a newly mastered math concept in words, and include “golden quotes” from their books, etc.  Lots of possibilities with this idea! Videos can even be posted from piano recitals, choir performances or when Molly plays guitar with the youth group. Field trip and vacation pictures and favorite assignments could also be posted.

4 -History Timeline kept up by the kids

5-Geography maps posted in the school room and completed!

6 -Woodcock-Johnson end-of-the-year test results, of course.

So planning while keeping these things in mind is very helpful for me. I enjoyed receiving our chat books in the mail and seeing all the documentation of our schooling.  There are so many things we do and learn, and yet at times I feel like we aren’t doing much at all, but having tangible things to look at and read help encourage me along the way. And I think it helps the kids, too.

The one area I am a bit stumped on is Ruby’s 8th grade science. Apologia is the science curriculum we have been using as a family, and I want to let Ruby take an online course for General Science with an Apologia teacher…but it is about $400.  Maybe that is totally worth it…I am just not quite ready to jump all-in on that one yet.  I welcome any input from friends who may be reading this. I think I have the rest figured out and hope to share more about our curriculum soon!

book recommendation and apology

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I don’t just sort of recommend this book.  I strongly recommend this book–like in a click on over to amazon.com and get this book to your door asap kind of way.

I know I am not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with their phone! It holds our calendars, our workouts, our GPS, our precious photographs, our close friends’ numbers, our libraries, and endless access to “news” feeds that keep us entertained and distracted.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You was an amazing read, full of challenging thoughts and questions.  This isn’t a book that makes you feel like a loser for wasting so much of your life on your phone, but rather asks bigger questions about God and how glorifying Him is so much greater, and reminding us that HE is so much more worthy of our time and attention. But that we won’t be disciplined and godly by accident or chance. It will take work.  Intentionality.  Throwing off those things that so easily encumber.

We had a discussion about this at the dinner table last night.  Josh asked a question to the kids that he has asked me often….”What is good about social media, The Facebook and The Instagram?”  (my kids know how to get on my Instagram and can with my permission)

We get to see what everyone else is doing.

We see funny memes.

We stay “in the know” with our Georgia friends.

I added that I run across interesting articles, read news, and get inspired by what other homeschool families are doing.  And in that same vein, I run across stupid articles, am overwhelmed with the horrible news of the day, and get overwhelmed at all the neat stuff every other homeschool family is doing and all that we are not doing.

So, basically, for our family, we are a nosey bunch and like to see what others are doing. Nothing really GOOD comes from it, per se. Or at least the overwhelming majority of the reasons we are on social media aren’t ones that are amazingly godly and useful. It’s like Tony Reinke says in the book.  We have FOMO.  Fear of missing out.  “FOMO was Satan’s first tactic to sabotage our relationship with God, and it worked. And it still does.” Rienke writes (page 158).

That quote took me back to my quiet time this morning from 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”  This was Paul writing to the church at Corinth many, many years before the iPhone arrived on the scene.  So the phone isn’t evil, of course, but as humans, we have evil tendencies. The Corinthian church was being distracted by false teachers. I get distracted by social media. It isn’t so much what we get distracted BY, but what we are being led astray FROM that is so sad.  “…the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

As I read, I was convicted and inspired to live for more. I have posted at times in order to not be forgotten by my “friends” on social media. We moved away from our city of 15 years of living, so will people still think of us? remember our family? Maybe I will just post and post and post some more to make sure they don’t. So silly, really.  I think our move here to Charlotte has social media leaving me more lonely than ever.  I see pictures of what old friends in GA are doing, but I no longer see them regularly.  I’m no longer an active part of their routines.  Then, here in Charlotte, I haven’t really found community yet.  I’ve met lovely people, and I am sure that community is being built in ways I can’t see even now through our interactions.  However, the Lord has allowed me to see and feel the loneliness and its connection to this cyber world. I am thankful for the loneliness.  It’s drawn me closer to my ever-present Friend, Jesus.  He never leaves me. What a comfort. He is the only one worthy of my unhindered devotion. So what does that look like for me? This 40 year old woman, married for over 16 years, raising and home schooling a 13, 11 and 10 year old in this new place and season of life?

What I don’t want to do is stare into the glowing rectangle in hopes of not missing out and in hopes of keeping everyone “in the know” with my family happenings. Obviously, I would miss out on so much going on in my own home with those I love the most. Being obsessed with maintaining a social media presence would dim my ability to see and enjoy God’s creation. Reinke says, “We inevitably grow blind to creation’s wonders when our attention is fixed on our attempt to craft the next scene in our ‘incessant autobiography.’ ” YIKES.

By the end of the book, Tony Reinke knew many people would be wondering what it looks like to live lives of devotion to Jesus amid so many distractions at our fingertips. What exactly do I do with all of this information?  What should I do with my phone?

He doesn’t tell you what to do, but I promise you that this book inspires you to think long and hard about your phone usage. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“So what sort of freaks of self-control must we become to resist the well-engineered marshmallow of distraction? Freaks who believe in 2 Corinthians 4:18, who ‘look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ “

What his wife said as she reached 9 months of “social media sobriety” rang in my heart with great conviction– “Compulsive social-media habits are a bad trade: your present moment in exchange for an endless series of someone else’s past moments.”

So I would like to end my review of this book with an apology.  I am sorry for the shallow, self-exalting posts I have posted before on Instagram or Facebook.  For every time I have posted out of self-pity or low self-esteem, I am sorry.  I don’t want to waste any more of your time.  I want The Lord to refine any of my future use on my phone or any screen, for His great glory.  That’s what is so amazing about Him.  He can redeem broken lives, wasted time and resources, missed opportunities, or anything else you humbly bring to Him.  THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBABLE GIFT!

Now go order this book. 🙂

Freedom

Yesterday we spent the day celebrating the birth of our nation and the freedom we have here in the USA. I thought it was appropriate that one of the themes of my study of 2 Corinthians yesterday morning was true freedom in Christ– particularly freedom from comparison.

Paul was writing to the members of the church in Corinth who were measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves with themselves (2 Cor. 10:12). This topic wasn’t hard for me to relate to!  I am guilty of looking around to see what standard others are aiming for and trying to reach for those OR determining if I am a success based on these worldly values.

It takes time in the Word with the Lord to reconcile my heart’s desires and goals with His desires and goals for my life.  Quiet, consistent, prioritized time to lean in and listen to what The Lord has purposed for me.  Not an easy task in our fast-paced world. Add in social media, which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and we all have plenty of opportunities to compare. We catch glimpses of the best snapshots of someone’s life and put down the glowing rectangle feeling like somehow we aren’t measuring up.

Measuring up to what though??

The HCSB version of 2 Corinthians 10:13 brought some freedom to my heart yesterday, and I thought I would share it.

“We, however, will not boast beyond measure but according to the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned to us, which reaches even to you.”

Did you catch it?  “according to the measure of the area of ministry that God has assigned…” God gives me my assignments.  He sets the standards. He knows what success looks like in my life, and I am pretty sure it looks quite different than what the world defines as success. Even different than what my fellow Believers think success looks like in my life.  My purpose and ministry is given by God, assigned to me for HIS glory.  And that is what I should boast in! “For it is not who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends (2 Cor. 10:18).

Like I tell my children when they are tempted to get into other people’s business or respond to someone based on what that person did instead of responding based on what is right or when they want to do something just because someone else is doing it—-Draw a circle around yourself— I need that reminder when it comes to freedom from comparison. The Lord sees me and knows me and has plans and purposes for me to walk in!  I don’t want to miss out on those by measuring myself against others or comparing myself with others.

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesian 2:10