Category Archives: Home and Family

More Than Enough

Our homeschooling has been largely Charlotte Mason based (albeit Karen Andreola style), so we have enjoyed a great deal of nature study, picture study, music, narrations, character training, and  especially stacks of living books.  Reading has been so important in our homeschool.

We taught our children to read early (using phonics) and have worked diligently to find a good variety of excellent, wholesome material for them to profit from.   Some favorites we have shared together over the years include the various Five in a Row and Friends for Life picture books, books for young children by Jenny Bishop, Johannah Bluedorn, Jim and Elisabeth George, Gary and Jan Bower, the original Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter stories, the Little House series, the Fairchild Family books, Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, the Whatsoever Things novels, poets such as Longfellow, Frost, and Dickinson, Christian biographies, and a wide range of books on practical Christian living (When a Nation Forgets God, Live Not by Lies, Financial Freedom by Sammons, The Hidden Art of Homemaking . . . ).

But in all our years of home educating, we have always begun the day by opening up the standard for all other books—the Bible.   I think the two most important keys to reading and learning to rightly divide the Word are these:

            # 1:  Be consistent even if you don’t always feel like it.  And,

# 2: Keep it simple.  [Choose a book of the Bible, read a chapter aloud and talk about it together, memorize and review some Scripture as a family, sing together, pray together; then go live it!  Next day, go to the next chapter and do the routine all over again.  In time it becomes a habit—the best kind.  It will form a solid foundation for you and your children to build your futures upon.]

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” II Corinthians 4:6-7

I chose this passage to share because we need to be honest, vulnerable with one another.  It’s not right to other mothers or fathers if we say, “If you just homeschool, everything will always be picture perfect.  Everybody in your home will be sinless.”  No, we are all earthen vessels. We all know some form of brokenness, hurt, trial, or trouble—including our children.

We live in a fallen world, but we must not let our “earthliness” keep us from having thriving families.  Scripture says, “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)  And the II Corinthians passage above reiterates, “the excellency of the power is of God.”  He is the One who will keep us, sustain us, strengthen us, guide us.  So in the end, He deserves the glory.

Spend time with your children.  Read with them, play with them, eat with them, work with them, travel with them, worship with them.  Make the most of the years you have been given to shape their lives.  Childhood is fleeting. Don’t see how much of this experience you can outsource.  See how much of it you can do together in God’s power.

Satan wants to divide your family, but God wants to knit your hearts together and make you and your children a strong force for truth and righteousness.  Don’t let somebody else’s curriculum be your master.  Don’t allow somebody else’s program to cause you to stumble under its weight.  Don’t take your eyes of the most important goal (seeking first the Kingdom of God) and then become overwhelmed or give up in despair because you can’t keep up with what relatives, friends, neighbors, fans, critics, or the world at large expect of you.  God gave you your children, and He will equip you to raise them.

One of my mother’s favorite passages in the Bible says this:  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6   If I heard it once growing up, I heard it a thousand times.  And because of that faithful repetition—and because I could see my parents’ testimonies walked out in their daily lives—it became a part of who I am.  As an adult I now share these same words and many other life-giving Scriptures with my children, and I pray they will pass them along to their own children someday, who will pass them on to their children, and so on, down the generations until the Lord returns. 

Jesus said, “Occupy till I come.”  It is enough, mothers and fathers, that you occupy with the first work and calling He has given you:  marriage and child raising.  As you concentrate on these, you will build strong homes.  As you build strong homes, you will learn together how to encourage the brethren and reach out to the lost around you.  Actually, that is more than enough.  It is obedience, and it will be blessed. 

Copyright © 2022

P.S. For family reading selections developed to encourage and inspire, try the following links on our store site: Whatsoever Things, Other Literature, and Friends for Life.

All About Changes

We were hosting friends recently when the husband in the family remarked how getting older seems to be all about changes – people you love pass away, you and your friends age, your children grow up, and you discover there are things you used to do that you just can’t do anymore. His statement got me thinking—no wonder older folks get discouraged at times. There will always be changes in life, that’s true; but it shouldn’t be that all of them are only negative!

People we love may have gone on before us, but there are others still here we can strive to love better. Our children do grow up, but we can learn to delight in them as adults as well. Then, too, there is the opportunity of growing the family a different way—through marriages and grandbabies. We may have to slow down, but God still has a purpose for our lives; we just need to ask Him to help us find it. There may be things we can’t do anymore, but each day should still bring new experiences—a call, a letter, a new book or article to read or something new to think about, a visit, a plant or animal to tend, a song to hear or to learn, a project to continue, some work only we can do. Health challenges may multiply, but help and comfort from those nearby should abound as well.

Those of us who are younger have a responsibility to family and friends (and any others God brings to our attention) who are now older and who may be feeling forgotten or overwhelmed. What if we took it upon ourselves as a serious duty to make sure the elderly in our circle have more positive than negative experiences? What if we tried to ensure that they continually have something to look forward to? This would mean committing to writing the letters, making the calls, planning the activities, hosting the meals (or delivering them), cheerfully listening to the same stories, pitching in with whatever they have that needs doing, inviting them along on outings or bringing them into our homes, and coming alongside in prayer.

It’s not so much to ask when you think about it. It’s only what we would want someone else to do for us someday. Take time to talk together as a family about the older men and women God has placed in your life. Seek what He would have you to do to that might make their lives richer, fuller, more meaningful, and happier – more like waiting for the call on the cool and pleasant riverbanks of Beulah and less like trudging through the miry Slough of Despond. And don’t be surprised when in seeking to uplift others, you find yourselves encouraged as well.

For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.
Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.
Psalm 71:5,9

Copyright © 2022

* Note: The picture book Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco could serve as a good introduction to this topic for children.

What Makes a Home a Haven?

Our family was talking one morning during devotions about what makes a home a haven, what family members can do to create a sanctuary for themselves set apart from the craziness of the world.  Here are some of the things that we’ve found important over the years:

  1. Stability – parents dedicated to one another, forsaking all others.
  2. Focus on the Word – daily personal reading by each family member and time all together reading, memorizing and rehearsing, discussing, and learning to apply its principles.
  3. An atmosphere of love, acceptance, respect for one another, encouragement – never acceptance of sin, but acceptance of each family member as a work in progress because we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and the refining work of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Strong dikes – absence of television and worldly influences (secular films, books, and magazines, ungodly friends, unfiltered/unsupervised use of internet and social media, etc.), the building of a breakwater to keep the cares of the world from streaming in continually.
  5. Good things to think on – excellent books, articles, messages; music and art which glorify God.
  6. Togetherness – daily meals around the table, attending worship together, home educating (including read-alouds and conversation), being involved in family projects.
  7. Outreach – a united purpose of sharing the Lord’s light in one’s community and beyond
  8. Hospitality – the extension of temporary shelter to others (whether for a meal and fellowship or for longer), inspiring them to recreate the same for their own families and friends.
  9. A schedule – a daily pattern of consistency and steadiness (not rigidity), knowing what is expected when.
  10.  Trust – knowledge that your words are safe, loyalty among family members.
  11. Orderliness and simplicity – a constant battle for the modern American family but something to strive for!
  12. Prayer – at any time and at all times, individually and hand in hand.
  13. JOY – smiles, kind words, hugs, times of laughter—serving the Lord and one another cheerfully.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

Copyright © 2021

Lost Hours and Missed Opportunities

Claude Renoir, Peintre by Renoir, 1907 Two Young Girls at the Piano by Renoir, 1892

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”  Ecclesiastes 9:10

I was reviewing some of Renoir’s images yesterday in connection with a project when I happened upon Claude Renoir, Peintre after having just been regarding Two Young Girls at the Piano.  Immediately I was struck by the fact that these children were happily pursuing cultural activities without the use of electronic devices, screens, or pre-programmed content.  I am blessed to live in a home with creative children like these. 

On any given day, their father and I may hear strains of piano, violin, harp, or mandolin wafting from various rooms.  Or we may walk by a table to see busy heads bent over colored pencils, watercolor sets, sketch books, craft supplies, and blank cards.   Or we may be drawn to the kitchen by the odor of delicious cooking experiments such as new breads, casseroles, and candies underway.  Or we may step out to the car only to find that the walkway has been neatly lined with small rocks, the front lawn is decorated with a village comprised of scrap lumber and acorns, and there are new seedlings growing in the small flower bed.  Or, upon returning to the house, we may find a child or young adult settled into the corner of a couch reading a good book or scribbling song lyrics, poems, journal entries, or short stories in an open notebook—dictionary, thesaurus, and concordance close at hand. 

Are our children unusual?  Maybe by today’s standards.  But in Renoir’s day, children were expected to be accomplished.  They learned languages, painted pictures, filled nature journals, played instruments, cared for animals, knit scarves, built scientific models, conducted experiments, harvested crops, wrote letters, and learned a thousand different hands-on skills because they were in training to become adults who were expected to preserve all that was good and worthy in civilization and pass it on to their own children, who would learn to do the same.  

It is not that our children never use a computer or other electronic device, because they do – especially those who are now grown.  But the younger our children were, the less time we allowed them to spend in front of a screen (and when we did make allowance for it, the screen time was largely limited to productive time – learning to type or use an image editing program, for example, as opposed to watching hours of cartoons).  If we can teach the next generation to produce rather than to consume, to think rather than to be amused, to create rather than to mimic their peers, and to give rather than to take, we will have equipped them to thrive in whatever work and outreach God has for them to do.

If your children are still living under your roof, you have a tremendous opportunity (not to mention duty) to encourage them to grow their minds and their abilities for the Lord’s service—now and in the future.  If they are among the many children spending too much time playing computer games, streaming movies, or following social media, do all in your power to redirect their attention now while there’s still time to save them a lifetime of lost hours and missed opportunities.  Introduce them to the wide world God made and the multitude of interests they can pursue in it.  Read books together, plant a garden, visit a museum, find a widow who needs a friend, take a walk together, purchase a gently used instrument and encourage your child to play around with it, set aside a place for mess making with paints, clay, and building blocks, listen to some beautiful music, put out birdseed and keep track of any little visitors, bake a meal and invite friends to share it, or start some new family endeavor together. 

Above all, teach your children to approach each new day with this thought, “This is the day that the Lord hath made—what does He want me to do with it?”

Copyright © 2021

Have You Thought About Your Children Lately?

A special word of exhortation for mothers this month; I want to remind each of you of the serious responsibility you have (alongside your husbands) to guard the doors of your homes.

I was reading an article early this morning about a young girl who completely lost her way in adolescence and strayed further and further from God’s design for her life.  She was lamenting that nobody approached her to tell her she was on the wrong path until years into her waywardness.  Finally, one day her grandfather sat her down and, with tears streaming down his face, spoke truth into her life and begged her to turn from the destructive path she was on.  That was the beginning of healing for this young woman.  Pray for this precious lady (her first name is Sydney) that she would come to know Jesus and fully embrace God’s best for her future.

This article disturbed me greatly on several fronts.  First, it troubled me that so many adults (including counselors and medical professionals) could watch a young person head down a path of destruction and not only refuse to offer a word of correction but even go so far as to encourage a young woman to continue in sinful and hurtful behaviors.  Oh, that the Lord would help us to be different!  If a young person in our lives needs to hear truth, may we be bold to speak it.

Second, it reminded me how we need to be so vigilant.  Satan wants our children.  He will use whatever means he can to get at them, be it books, magazines, television programs, movies, video games, i-phones, Internet sites, or poorly chosen friends.   Please take time this weekend to look to the state of your flocks, mothers.  Use the following questions as discussion starters or as food for thought so that you and your husband can make sure the hedge fences around your children are all in good repair.   

  • Do we hold the Word in high esteem in our home—reading it, memorizing it, discussing God’s precepts, lifting up the Bible as our final authority and our standard for all decisions?
  • Do our children spend the bulk of their time with us?  Do we know what they are doing?
  • Do we know what our children are reading?  Are there books that have crept in that are worldly or would be otherwise displeasing to the Lord?
  • Do we know what our children are watching and how often?  Are there better things they could be doing with their time?
  • Do we know our children’s friends?  Do we spend time together as families or are the children often alone unsupervised with other young people?  What kinds of games are we playing / allowing?
  • Do we have concerns about certain friends that we’ve been shrugging off rather than addressing?
  • Do our children have access to i-phones, texting, e-mail, Internet?  Why? 
  • Are we mindful of the content of our children’s conversations and correspondences with those outside the home?
  • Are there any magazines, newspapers, or other reading material coming into our home that we might need to cancel?
  • Are there things about our children’s appearance and moral / spiritual development that we should be keeping a better handle on?  (dress, manners, tone, responsibilities, etc.)
  • Are there things in our lives that make us inconsistent models of godliness?  How can we change that?
  • Have we made sure lately that our children know they can come to us anytime with questions and concerns?
  • Have we been taking seriously the duty we have to protect our children?  We make sure they have food to keep them from hunger, clothes to keep them from cold, medicines to keep them from illness . . . what have we been doing to keep them from loving the world?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start a conversation.  I’m not going to tell you which books, magazines, programs, activities, and technologies you should or shouldn’t allow; those are choices each couple must make for their own home, but I am going to encourage you to hold everything up to the Word and evaluate it again.  And I am going to urge you to guard the innocence of your children as long as you can.  Allow them to be children—to know stability, to know familial love, to know all that is good and lovely and pure, to know that Dad and Mom make decisions they believe to be best for the family—not just for today but to ensure (inasmuch as anyone is able to) a godly progeny as well.  Pray for your children, mothers.  Build hedge fences around them with Scripture’s precepts.  And tell them over and over again that God loves them, that He has a plan and a purpose for their lives, and that if they will only humble themselves and follow Him, they will be blessed.

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold,
Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
Luke 22:31-32a

Copyright © 2020

* Note of explanation for those who might misunderstand my meaning in saying we should keep our children from “loving the world.”  I am not referring to the people in the world.  God gave His only begotten Son to save people; and He wants us to love them every one.  But the world itself and the things that are in it are not to become stumbling blocks to Christians.  Rather we are called to pursue righteousness.  God says in I Peter 1:16, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  The fact that we can’t do that perfectly is no excuse for not trying!

The Church and the World

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

In the book Frost in Summer by Mrs. Samuel Huber, the character of Grandfather Miller is thinking about the state of Christ’s church at large:

“Grant will have little appreciation for the idea that perhaps the church is losing her vision of the Way.  That she has become too earthbound.  Too nearsighted.  Too wedded to the material things of life.  In the midst of today’s society, many members are coming too close to losing a grasp of the meaning of sacrifice.”

Is it really true that we as Christians might be becoming wedded to the world and the things of this world?  Unfortunately, it is only too true.  Many who profess to know Christ are discontent to live quiet lives simply following God.  Perhaps we feel that we must have everything that everyone else has and are unsatisfied until we have all the world has to offer.  We don’t want people to look down on us or think we might actually be different, so we talk, act, dress, and live just the same as unbelievers.  We are afraid of the world’s looks, comments, and attitudes, and rather than take a stand, we give in to what they want to see.  Instead of caring about what God says, we worry about what the rest of the world expects.

We began to let down our guard on the really important issues and have gone along with the world’s philosophy in life and death areas.  Just in the past few decades, parts of the church have accepted several of the sins of the day, being tolerant of any choice that others make, rather than offering godly counsel in love.  We have become ashamed that the Word of God does not allow for the immorality, sinful lifestyles, and destructive habits that are all around us today. 

We begin to ignore what the Bible has to say about these truly important topics.  We care less and less, until we have a heathy disrespect for the truth and often begin to fall into these sins ourselves.  We no longer know how to make these important decisions and understand Scriptural precepts ourselves.  Is divorce wrong?  Or marriage outside of God’s design of one man and one woman for life?  How about abortion?  Is it wrong, and should we protect the unborn?  We don’t know anymore, because we have shut our eyes to the truth.  The decisions and beliefs that we hold on these matters will not only affect us but our children and future generations.  In general, people have forgotten to seek the old paths. 

Jeremiah 6:16 and 19 say, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.”

When a nation forgets God, He will bring judgement.  When the Christian forgets his duty as a Christian, God will bring punishment.  “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten:  be zealous therefore, and repent.”  (Revelation 3:19) Get on your knees, Christian, and call out to God for His forgiveness.  He is faithful and just to forgive our iniquities.  If we as Christians will not stand up and show our light, how will others know? 

What is it that the Lord has for us, His Church, to be doing?  What did He leave his disciples to do here on earth once He had ascended up into Heaven? 

He left his disciples to spread the good news of the gospel all over the world, teaching men God’s laws and leading them in the path of righteousness.  God’s will for the Christian has not changed.  We are commanded to shine for Him.  And there is work for each one of us to do right where we live.  God does not expect or call us all to move elsewhere or go overseas to shine for Him in a foreign country.  He wants us to start right where He has placed us.  We are to be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, as stated in 1 Timothy 4:12.  The world will know that we are Christians by our actions.  They will wonder why we reject worldly standards, opinions, and philosophies.  They will see in us a willingness to stand up and be different.  And with the Lord’s help, they will see the higher, holier standard that we are called to and the Holy Spirit living within us.  The world needs this example.  In a world filled with darkness, our little light may shine forth more than we will ever know.  We simply need to obey and let the Lord use us.

As we are willing to share our faith, to speak boldly and accept the criticism we will receive for it, we will be seen as a shining beacon of light for our Heavenly Father.  People will have to know us as God’s children, for by our lives, it will be more than evident.  May we be a living, walking testimony of His amazing grace and love!

Rise up, O Church of God!
by William P. Merrill

Rise up, O Church of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O Church of God!
His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O sons of God!
The Church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task,
Rise up, and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod;
As followers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O Church of God!

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
(2 Timothy 1:8a and 4:2)

Copyright © 2019

Give Your Children the World!

At the end of the gospel of Matthew, we have the words of the Lord, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations . . . to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  How do we teach our children to be world changers while spending the bulk of our time at home?  And how do we encourage them to be interested in the peoples and cultures of the world God has made without fostering worldliness?  Here are a few ways that we have found to constructively bring the world home:

1. Invest in maps, a globe, and an atlas. – Since our children were very young, we have always had a country map and a world map prominently displayed in the kitchen, a globe within reach in the living room, and a couple of atlases on the reference shelf (one a modern atlas of countries of the world, the other a historical atlas showing Bible lands).  When your children are young and you are talking about a people group, an event, a war, or a landmark, make it a habit to get up and point out the region you are talking about.  When they are old enough to read and have a little familiarity with the maps and globe, ask them to get up and locate a particular country or body of water and point it out to the rest of the family.  God has given children the gift of curiosity.  If you establish the habit of “looking it up” as a family, most children will assume this habit on their own in time.     

2.  Keep a current missions board. – This will cost you nothing but space and time (unless you choose to purchase a bulletin board or whiteboard for it, which would cost up front but would also last for years. We’ve had the same bulletin board and whiteboard in constant use for over twenty years actually!).  But it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Any space you can set aside for the purpose will work.  As you read news stories about missions work or world events or as you’re going through fundraising letters from various organizations or as you come across prayer needs overseas, keep an eye out for things that are particularly appropriate for and of interest to the age group of children that you have.  Print or clip these articles (with pictures when possible) and display them.  The key to keeping them interested in the missions board is to keep it fresh—as new things come in, post them.  From time to time, look over the board and take down things that have been hanging too long.  I like to put anything that I’m taking down with my Bible so that we can make sure to pray for those people or needs again before throwing the articles away or passing them on.        

3.  Travel or seek out local but “exotic” experiences. – Not everybody will be able to travel far.  We happen to live in a state that borders another country, so we’ve been blessed to be able to travel internationally just by spending a few hours in the car.  But even in a rural area, opportunities abound for coming into contact with other people groups and cultures if you are willing to look for them.  For example, within the last two years, we were able to visit another church to hear a missionary speak on Chinese culture and return another evening to hear a different missionary speak about life in the Netherlands; we hosted a language night for our homeschool group, where everyone was invited to come share something in a foreign language that they know or are learning; we invited missionaries from Ireland over for a meal, and they brought pictures and stories of their work in the UK; we tried a traditional Jewish dish (shakshuka) made by our eldest daughter from a recipe shared by her Hebrew tutor; we met retired missionaries at a church dinner and were able to hear a little about their previous work in South America and enjoy some handbell music they shared with the children; and we attended a community “Christmas Around the World” event. 

4.  Build a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. – This has been and continues to be one of my favorite ways to teach our children to be world disciple makers.  Your family can pack a shoebox that has the potential to impact a child and family on the other side of the world.  Every child that receives a shoebox receives an introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ (and where possible, the invitation is also given to enroll in The Greatest Journey discipleship program).   If you choose to get a tracking number for your box, Samaritan’s Purse will let you know what country your box was sent to, and your family can find out more about that country as you pray for that child and the needs of his or her community.

5.  Support a missionary. – If you are able, support a missionary or a mission work overseas.  Don’t just give money once a month, but undergird the family or work with your prayers.  Keep abreast of their needs and see how the Lord might be willing to use you to help them.  Some missionaries love to have short-term help from time to time (this can even be in the form of something done from home, such as stuffing envelopes with updates, helping them make other contacts locally for fundraising, etc.); others might be able to use specific supplies; all can use consistent support, prayer, and encouragement.  There is a Christian wife and mother we know whose children are grown and who has begun going to Kenya on short-term medical mission trips a couple times a year.  In her last newsletter she mentioned how they love to take pencils and stickers to give out to the children there.  This caught my attention, and I was able to write and ask if we could send her a few pencils and stickers for her next trip.   Will it be a large savings to her financially?  No—but it says, “Hey, somebody read my update and cares for these people like I do!  Somebody’s interested in the work the Lord has called me to do and will be praying for me!”  Another way to encourage your missionary is to have the children make cards.  Overseas postage can be significant for a package, but if what you are shipping is flat and fits in a standard envelope or a card-sized envelope, it is generally more reasonable.

6.  Keep a running prayer map. – Every month or two we print out a simple one-page outline of the world and use it to keep track of prayer needs.  When someone calls us for prayer or we learn about a request at church or from friends, we place it on the map.  Then every morning when we pray, we either assign requests from the map or let the children each choose a couple needs to pray for.  It’s a simple way to keep track of prayer requests, but it’s also a continual visual reminder that their prayers have the potential to literally change the world!

7.  Look for puzzles, games, coloring books, and projects with a world focus. – We’ve never used a formal geography curriculum but rather have explored geography through map puzzles, card and trivia games, coloring pages, and occasional mapwork printouts.  If you are willing to preview media, you can also find slideshows or documentaries that will add to your study of geography.  We recently enjoyed a slideshow together that featured beautiful landmarks of Africa, giving a short description of each and detailing in which country it is located.  A special geography project the children undertook this past year was to cover the walls of our fellowship room with maps and pictures representing each continent.   While their hands were busy coloring in borders and landmarks, I was reading aloud good literature so their minds would be occupied as well.  Some of the stories we read were from specific regions to go along with the continent we were currently studying, but much of the time, we just continued with the literature I had already planned to read this year.  The mind will make its own connections—we don’t have to stress as mothers about always having one subject “line up” with another.

8.  Read excellent biographies. – Biographies are exceptional tools for introducing your children to various lands and peoples in the world!  Not only does a child have opportunity to learn about another time, place, and culture, but (if you choose your person wisely) there will also be a compelling figure for them to associate this newfound knowledge with and be able to remember it better.  Investing in a series of individual country books designed for children (or borrowing a few at a time from the local library) can also be a way to discover some of the most important historical events, landmarks, customs, and holidays of another country.  These often include full-color photographs, which help to hold interest and bring the text to life.

9.  Learn a new language. – Learning a new language can give you the opportunity to meet new people, to speak into their lives and allow them to speak into yours, and to discover a culture different from your own.  I’ve been studying French for years myself, and we’ve also had times of studying it as a family.  God has allowed some amazing connections to stem from that.  My older girls have a sweet friend in Québec, our whole family has become friends with several families in an Acadian region of New Brunswick and has been allowed the opportunity to pray for and encourage the work God is doing to build an evangelical French-speaking church there, and I’ve had the opportunity in language-learning sessions to speak about faithful marriage, child training, and homeschooling with dozens of European tutors over time.   Even if your children don’t choose to pursue the same language that interests you (when they’re older), you will have given them the foundational skills for acquiring another language on their own.

10.  Sponsor a child in another country. – Over time we have had the privilege of sponsoring different children from places as diverse as Guatemala, India, and South Sudan.  While this is an obvious help to the child being sponsored, it is also an opportunity for spiritual growth in our children.  The fact that it is another child that is being sponsored can open your children’s eyes to the reality that not everybody has the benefits and blessings they take for granted.  One of our older sons has been particularly drawn to the child we are currently sponsoring and remembers consistently to pray for him and for his country.  It is a good thing when a child learns to look outside of himself and his own needs and wants and participates in bearing another’s burden.  For us, the most important things to know before beginning a sponsorship are these:  Is the agency that is running a program both Christ-centered and reputable?  How often will I receive updates on the child?  What contact will I be allowed with the child, if any?  and How long a commitment am I making? 

I hope you come away from this article with the spark of a new idea about how to raise your children to reach the world for Christ.  At its heart, homeschooling is not about academics—it’s about discipleship.  And well-trained disciples have the potential to become disciple makers in their own community and around the world.

© 2019

  recent missions board and map display

The Ten Commandments:  Applications for Authors, Part 1

I have enjoyed writing stories and poems over the years and am thankful for Christian parents who have trained and directed me in using this ability for God’s glory.  Following are some thoughts on how the Ten Commandments apply in the area of writing.  While I am still learning myself, I hope these considerations will prove a blessing to other writers aspiring to use their gifts in a way that honors the Giver.  The quotes from the Ten Commandments are taken from Exodus 20, and I chose another key Scripture for each command as well.

  1. “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:  this is the first commandment.”  [Mark 12:30]

Does my writing draw me closer to the one true God?  Does it point others to Him?  I am commanded to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Let me especially think about the mind in regards to writing.  God designed the human brain in a fearful and wonderful way (see Psalm 139:14), and He expects it to be used for His glory.  In the words of Frances Ridley Havergal’s timeless hymn of consecration, “Take my intellect and use / Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.”  And Elvina M. Hall wrote, “Jesus paid it all; / All to Him I owe.”  Am I writing for myself, or am I truly writing for the Lord?  Work done for God’s glory will be done heartily—to the best of my ability with His help (see Colossians 3:23-24).

Charles Sheldon’s classic In His Steps challenges believers to judge every action with the question “What would Jesus do?”  One of the characters in the novel is a young woman named Rachel Winslow, who loves to sing, is gifted with an exceptional voice, and receives an offer to join a concert company and make a substantial salary.  In evaluating this decision according to Jesus’ probable action in the same circumstance, she says to her mother, “Mother, I have made up my mind to use my voice in some way so as to satisfy my own soul that I am doing something better than pleasing fashionable audiences, or making money, or even gratifying my own love of singing.  I am going to do something that will satisfy me when I ask:  ‘What would Jesus do?’ ”  [p. 55, Charles Sheldon, In His Steps, Barbour & Company, Inc., 1993]

I love to write, but my work must do more than gratify my own love of writing.  To be worthwhile, it must glorify God and direct others to Him.  When Jesus was on earth, He ever sought the Father’s will and the Father’s glory.  I must follow His example.

  1. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:  for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.”

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God, and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen.”  [I John 5:20-21]

My work or any part of it must not come between my Lord and me, or it has become an idol.  Am I careful to worship only the true God and not the work of my hands or my mind?  I may come to be fond of characters in a novel, for example, but it would be foolish to idolize them.  They are not alive and cannot do anything for me.  Worshiping and serving “the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever,” is condemned in Romans 1:25.

Jesus, my Creator and Redeemer, must be my first priority, for anything I can do is only because of Him.  He said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches:  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing.”  And in Revelation 2:2-5 He rebuked the church in Ephesus and commanded them to repent because—although they had zeal, patience, and perseverance—they had left their first love for Him.  I must not become so caught up in my projects that I neglect my relationship with my Savior.

  1. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.”  [Psalm 89:7]

For a Christian author, it should be obvious that God’s name must be used reverently.  Do I also vigilantly guard against writing anything else that would dishonor Him?  Swear words are not the only form of disrespect.  Jokes about sacred topics, for instance, should not be found in a Christian’s writing.

Even in the lines of antagonists or those of erring protagonists, do I, as the author and narrator, exercise godly discretion?  A good example of this is found in Matthew 26:73-74a, the account of Peter’s third denial:  “And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.  Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man.”  Matthew, writing under God’s inspiration, honestly tells us that Peter used ungodly language, but he does not spell out exactly what Peter said and thus defile the minds of the readers.  The psalmist praised God in Psalm 119:140, saying, “Thy word is very pure:  therefore thy servant loveth it.”  Are my words pure and reverent?

  1. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God.”

“Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest:  in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.”  [Exodus 34:21]

Even when deadlines are closing in, even when pressure is great, do I still set apart the Sabbath for rest and worship?  Putting aside for-profit projects on Sundays is an acknowledgement that I trust God to supply the time, strength, energy, and inspiration I need, realizing that they come solely from Him.

God instituted a weekly day of rest for our benefit.  Jesus said in Mark 2:27b, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  In the context we see that He was reproving the Pharisees for their legalism and devotion to man-made regulations.  He was defending His disciples’ right to pluck and eat a few ears of corn.  In the next chapter He demonstrated His own authority to heal on this holy day, asking in Mark 3:4b, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?”

Whether Christians are required to keep the Sabbath is a controversial question in some circles.  Here is my view, which I hope is supported by Scripture:  Have any of the other nine commandments been annulled?  Is it now permissible to serve idols, to swear, or to steal?  Jesus has indeed given us liberty, having kept the whole Law for us when He was on earth.  We do not need to offer animal sacrifices or follow the rituals of the Tabernacle.  But God’s moral law and standards did not change after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  In addition, the Sabbath far predates Moses; God set the pattern of six days of work, one day of rest in Creation Week.  And the early Christians set apart the first day of the week, the day of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).  In his entry on the Sabbath in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, William Smith, L.L.D., observed, “Christ’s words do not remit the duty of keeping the Sabbath, but only deliver it from the false methods of keeping which prevented it from bestowing upon men the spiritual blessings it was ordained to confer.”  [p. 575, William Smith, L.L.D., Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Hendrickson Publishers, 1999]

As an example of lawfully doing good on the Sabbath, let me consider an incident from the life of William Carey, a pioneer missionary to India.  He generally set apart Sundays for preaching, worship, and rest and would not have gone about his regular labors.  At one point, however, on or just before a Sunday, a long-awaited order came from the government, putting an end to the cruel practice of suttee; and Carey was supposed to translate the document into the Bengali language.  He decided that translating and distributing this order was a completely acceptable use of the Sabbath, for many innocent lives could have been lost by a delay of only twenty-four hours.  [p. 50, J.J. Ellis, William Carey:  The Cobbler Who Became the Mighty Pioneer in India, Keepers of the Faith, 2003]

  1. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”

“A wise son maketh a glad father:  but a foolish man despiseth his mother.”  [Proverbs 15:20]

Does my work honor my parents and the godly training they have given me?  I can look at this from two different angles.

First, does what I write reflect God’s pattern for families and revere the authority systems He established?  According to Philippians 2:15b-16a, believers are called to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life.”  Strong, functional families who strive to serve the Lord together can be a good testimony, and my writing should reflect and promote Scriptural norms and principles.

Just how important are family relationships?  They are, in fact, foundational.  Family is an important theme throughout Scripture.  The marriage of a faithful husband and wife is a picture of Christ, who loved the church enough to lay down His life, and His bride, who is loyal and obedient to Him.  The parent-child relationship is to be a picture of our relationship with God—of our honor, obedience, gratitude, and love for our Heavenly Father and of His justice, kindness, protection, provision, and love for us.  Psalm 128 presents a picture of rich familial blessing for “every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways,” and David exclaimed in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

How do I apply these Biblical principles as an author?  If I am writing a story, do the children in it respect their parents in thought, word, and deed?  Do siblings or spouses live in unity, or are they constantly fighting?  While showing a bad example is sometimes instructive to illustrate the consequences of acting in a particular way, I should not allow my characters to get away with sin, and I should not introduce unnecessary temptation to readers.

What do I mean by that?  I Corinthians 15:33 warns, “Be not deceived:  evil communications corrupt good manners.”  If children spend time with peers who are mouthy and disobedient, they are liable to pick up those habits.  If adults consistently associate with friends who gossip and complain about their spouses or children, they are apt to find themselves battling similar thoughts and probably falling into those temptations.  Friends met in books can have the same type of influence, and favorite books are likely to be reread.  Over the course of my childhood and youth, I read a couple of novels I liked nine or ten times each.  And it would be difficult to calculate how much time I have spent with Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and various adaptations of it!  To summarize this point, how are readers’ family relationships apt to be affected by reading and rereading my story?

Second, do my habits as an author respect my own family members?  Or do I allow myself to be wrapped up in writing when God would have me doing other things, such as caring for my loved ones?  Am I willing to put writing “on the back burner” when He presents more pressing responsibilities at home?  As a youth, according to Luke 2:51, Jesus was subject to His earthly parents.  As an adult He honored His mother and always obeyed His Heavenly Father.  In Matthew 15:3-6, He strongly reproved those who neglected their parents under the pretense of giving all to God.  Jesus is serious about the fifth commandment.

In addition, in II Timothy 3:2, Paul warned Timothy that in the last days men would be “lovers of their own selves.”  It is human nature to think first of oneself before family, others, and the Lord, but may God help Christlike selflessness to have the victory in my life!

Continue with The Ten Commandments: Applications for Authors, Part 2

Copyright © 2018

Twelve Special Stories for the Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas stories have been an important part of our family’s celebration of the holidays for the past two decades. Some of these are stories I read and reread as a child and have now had the privilege to read as a mother as well; others are stories we discovered when our children were younger and have continued to enjoy together over the years. Any or all of these are worth finding and sharing with your own children or grandchildren. May you take time this Christmas to have some quiet moments as family with nothing more than some good books and one another’s company, making memories that cost little but will last a lifetime. And when Christmas Day dawns, don’t forget to read the Story of Stories found in Luke 2 and Matthew 2 about the shepherds, angels, wise men, two humble servants of God, and a Baby that would change the world.

Here’s my list, in no particular order. If the same version or a similar version of the book is still available whether new or used, I have linked the cover image to be able to purchase it at CBD or Amazon (with the exception of the one we carry, in which case I link to us!). If a book is unavailable at the moment or the used price was showing up as more than $20, rolling over the cover image will pop up a tool tip that says OOP. You may still be able to find the OOP selections at your local library, through inter-library loan, on other used book sites, or in the library of a friend.

1. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch, copyright 1995. Beautiful illustrations and a story both boys and girls will love about a gruff woodcarver and the widow woman and her son who finally win his heart.
2. An Orange for Frankie written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, copyright 2004. Large families will particularly enjoy this story about a boy who was one of nine siblings. A great story for reminding children that at its heart Christmas is about Christ, family, special traditions, and sharing what we have with others.
3. Christmas Carols selected and arranged by Karl Schulte, copyright 1957. While not a read-aloud, it includes the words and simple piano scores for the kind of music our children and grandchildren need to have tucked away in their hearts and minds. I like this particular collection because it offers only a couple songs that are more modern (Jingle Bells, for example), while featuring mostly traditional Christmas hymns of the faith: Away in a Manger, Silent Night, What Child is This?, Joy to the World, I Heard the Bells, and more. However, the particular collection is not so important as that you find ways to make meaningful Christmas music a part of your family’s spiritual heritage.
4. The Christmas Secret (or José’s Christmas Secret) written by Joan Lexau and illustrated by Don Bolognese, copyright 1969 (Scholastic version). A favorite from my childhood. Super for boys as it features two brothers and the surprise they work to give their mother on Christmas. [Please note: there is a line on page 42 which uses God’s name inappropriately in a Spanish expression. Eliminate that and you have an otherwise excellent story.]
5. Lassie: A Christmas Story written by Earl Hamner and Don Sipes, illustrated by Kevin Burke, copyright unlisted. I am not particularly a dog lover, but even I enjoy this simple Christmas story about a boy, his family, his dog, and their Christmas adventure!
6. Christmas Tapestry written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, copyright 2002. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a read-aloud of this book without crying. Based on a true story, but adapted to take place in the author’s home state of Michigan. Follow a pastor’s family as they move and must begin a work all over. In making new friends they are amazed at the weaving together of time and place and people that only God could orchestrate.
7. The Christmas Guest as retold by Helen Steiner Rice, name of illustrator not given, copyright 1972. A rhyming narrative about a man named Conrad who waits to meet the Lord on Christmas Day, but the “wrong” visitors keep coming to the door.
8. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening written by Robert Frost and illustrated by Susan Jeffers, copyright 1978. While more of a winter story than a Christmas story, I love the imaginative work the illustrator did to make this well-loved poem into a children’s book. Don’t stop with the one poem though! While you have your children gathered around, make sure to read other favorites from Frost as well as poems from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Louis Stevenson. You can find the others in a good anthology or by searching online.
9. Christmas for 10 written and illustrated by Cathryn Falwell, copyright 1998. This is a simple counting book for younger children, but the real story is told in the colorful, collage-style illustrations. A large, happy family gathers to celebrate Christmas with music, crafts, gifts for others, story time, and old-fashioned hospitality.
10. Miracle in a Shoebox: A Christmas Gift of Wonder written by Franklin Graham with Estelle Condra and illustrated by Dilleen Marsh, copyright 1995. The story of a brother and sister in Bosnia who receive shoeboxes through Operation Christmas Child and find the Peace that passes all understanding. If your family is not familiar with this outreach of Samaritan’s Purse, you can learn more about it here. Our family considers shoebox collection week the start of the Christmas season.
11. Silent Night: The Song and Its Story written by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Tim Ladwig, copyright 1997. The true history of how this well-loved Christmas carol came to be written in Austria and known around the world. Accompanied by warm illustrations.
12. The Birds’ Christmas Carol written by Kate Douglas Wiggin and edited by myself, original work now in the public domain, this edition copyright 2017. Another favorite from my childhood and one of the books outside the Bible that has had a lasting impact on my life. This edition also includes poems and other Christmas stories (such as O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi) that will touch your heart and encourage your family to look for ways to bless others and to keep Christ at the center of Christmas.

Bonus Advent ideas:

#1 Once you’ve been collecting Christmas books and stories for years and have a good assortment, place 24 of them in a large gift bag on the first day of December and cover the top with tissue paper. Invite one of your children to reach in the bag each morning (no peeking) and grab one for you to read aloud. On the final day, read the Christmas story from the Bible – perhaps while setting up a nativity as a Christmas centerpiece. (Don’t forget to involve Dad in reading aloud, too!)

#2 Purchase an advent calendar for a few dollars and pair it with some CDs (newly purchased or already owned) of peaceful Christmas music. Enjoy a new song or an old favorite together each morning of December as another advent window is uncovered. On Christmas Day encourage the whole family to sing praises to the King together.

Copyright © 2017

A Few Thoughts on Picture Study

Our family began picture study years ago when our oldest was just starting homeschooling. Much of what I know of picture study I learned from Karen Andreola in her book A Charlotte Mason Companion, so I cannot take credit for the idea in any way.   If you have never read A Charlotte Mason Companion, please take time to do so. You will find so many ideas to enliven your homeschool. It is a book I have come back to over and over again.

Some of the first artists that we started studying were Mary Cassatt and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Another early favorite of ours was John James Audubon, because he depicted not only the birds we can see at our backyard feeders, but also those we may never have opportunity to see in the flesh. In later years we studied others whose names and works were less familiar to me, including Berthe Morisot and Hiroshige (but they are familiar to me now).

Charlotte Mason suggested that students study six prints of an artist’s work over the span of a twelve-week semester. The Picture Study Packs we are producing will have ten prints in them, so that a mother may choose among them. Having ten prints available also allows a family doing nine-week quarters to use a different print each week, if desired. The reason to study one artist in the span of a quarter or semester is so a child will become familiar with the style of a particular artist. He is not seeing Peale this week and Millet the next, but seeing Cassatt, followed by Cassatt, followed by Cassatt. Just as an author has a voice, an artist has a style which is recognizable, able to be distinguished from that of another artist.

Picture Study is very simple to implement (especially if someone has already done the work of compiling worthwhile prints for you! ). 🙂  Just do the following:

Choose an artist that you and your children would like to study for the quarter or semester.

  1. Prominently display one of his works for one to two weeks.
  2. At some point that first week, give your child a brief introduction to the artist (such as when and where he lived) and share the title and medium (whether it was oil, watercolor, etc.) of the work you are featuring.
  3. At the end of the one to two weeks, replace the first image with another. Continue replacing works until you have covered at least half a dozen works by the same artist. (There have been times we have not been able to find enough quality prints by the same artist, in which case we have combined artists arranged around a time period or theme. There will be some sets like this in the Picture Study Packs, because even when an artist was prolific, only certain of his works may be available or useable.)
  4. You may wish to occasionally draw the child’s attention to something in particular you know or appreciate about a print, but you can also allow the child to be forming some connections of his own and encourage any observations he may make about a picture (Mom, the way the little girl is sitting for that portrait is just like the pose of the lady in the one we studied two weeks ago!).
  5. At the end of your semester or quarter, allow each child to choose a favorite picture to narrate for you. He may describe the picture in detail or replicate the work on paper to the best of his ability. Save these narrations and drawings! Your children will love to look back on them in years to come and see how their descriptive and artistic abilities have grown. And, if your child or family has a timeline book, this is an excellent time to add a page on the new artist.

That’s picture study in a nutshell (at least that’s the way we’ve implement it – for more detail and additional suggestions, please see CM Companion mentioned above).   We’ve found it profitable over the years. The children have favorite works of art that we’ve never seen in a museum, but that they’ve enjoyed seeing in our kitchen. One of my daughters mentioned to me just lately that her interest in the hand spindle actually came about from the picture study of Millet’s The Young Shepherdess many years ago.

One thing I do want to stress about picture study is the point of teaching a child to recognize and think on that which is good and beautiful. If we teach our children to be familiar with (may I even say “befriend”) that which is lovely when they are young, we will be setting their feet in the right path to appreciate and seek out appropriate pieces of art when they are grown.   Even some of my favorite artists created pieces I have seen in passing that I would not be comfortable sharing with my children or dwelling on myself. Sometimes the artists have past sins or worldviews that are problematic, as well. When I do picture study, I am careful to let my children know that even the best of artists was only a fallible human, as are we, and that we are going to focus on what he got right. I don’t share much for details on an artist’s personal life or worldview (unless I know the example set to have been a worthy one), because that’s not why we’re studying art. We’re studying art so our children will learn to appreciate beauty and be inspired themselves to create that which is pleasing to God and edifying to others (whether that be with paintbrush and palette, with pen and paper, with an instrument, or with a hammer and nails).

If you are interested in implementing picture study with your family, please check out the Picture Study Packs on our website. They have been created to save Mother the time of searching out appropriate prints. The works of a given artist have been specifically selected to feature only those works which are worthwhile to think on. You will not find nudes or extraneous violence or perversion included here. The prints are done on letter size, lightweight cardstock, so they are sturdy enough not to wrinkle too easily, but light enough to hang with a tack or magnet.   They are approximately three times larger than the postcard size prints that are readily available (and which is all that was available for many years, short of purchasing individual giclée prints from art sites, which would be cost prohibitive for most families).

Enjoy learning alongside your children. Even if you never studied art in school, you can begin to teach your child to appreciate “whatsoever things are lovely”.   Then, as your interest (and theirs) grows, begin to study some art terms together (introducing one here and there, perhaps alongside a picture that demonstrates it). This will enable you to understand more fully and speak more precisely about the pictures you study.   If you are very courageous, you can even encourage your children to try out new art terms. I will never forget the day I decided to teach the children about pointillism with Q-tips for paintbrushes and paper plates for palettes. In addition to the older children, there were three toddlers in the house at the time and I didn’t see why they shouldn’t learn about pointillism, too (ah, the folly of youth) … suffice it to say they all ended up in the bathtub! Our children still remember that art lesson though. 🙂

Copyright © 2015