Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Regression

The world we live in is full of all kinds of advances, devices, and gadgets. Smart phones are held by the rich and poor alike. Facebook accounts are the main way to stay in touch or communicate. How many times do we pull out our phone just to glance at Facebook, or check our email. We are losing our ability and the skills to communicate with each other face to face. Not only that, but it seems each problem we "fix" creates its own new set of problems. We have so many time saving devices that we've become lazy and have to make time to exersize because we just don't move around like we used to. 

    Now I'm not at all saying advancing is bad. Advances in medicine are amazing! I love my washing machine, too! I don't see me parting with that anytime soon! :-) Yet, I look around at parents and children alike on devices. I do believe that there can be too much of a good thing. I also feel we need to step back and evaluate what these things are really adding to our lives.....as well as what they are taking away. 
        I tell you all of this not to be accusational, as I am as guilty as any. Rather, I tell you because I have decided to regress. I'm not going Amish or anything, but I'm taking small steps to make a big impact. First, I DELETED my Facebook account. Deactivated? No....deleted. It is the most freeing feeling. I was always getting frustrated with things on there or people. I sat on there wasting time reading about other peoples lives. To stay in touch with people now I have an email address, and a phone. When people think about deleting their account they get a sting of panic. How will I keep in touch with these 649 people? What about posting pictures for relatives? What about being encouraging to people who are down? Well, honestly, I don't want to keep in touch with all those people. I mean do we need to be in touch with our high school classmates -x girlfriends -cousins-mom? Um no. I really think our society has become addicted to it or dependent on it. For family, I keep in touch the old fashioned way. The vast majority of your "friends" on FB, really don't care what you have to say about what you are eating or how you slept, or that headache you've got, or the new diet you are trying. 


      Our world is becoming more and more detached from those directly around us. How many of us actually know our neighbors? I think we could do so much more good if we paid attention to our direct environment. 

       It was hard at first. I'd look outside and want to post something witty about how much I hate the snow. I wanted the little bit of attention it would get. I wanted to know how many likes I would get. Admit it, we all want to get those "likes". We want to post a pic of us posed just so, and hope someone will compliment it. We've all done it. I know some of you are thinking, that you can use Facebook to encourage too. I agree, you can, to a degree. But from someone who suffers from depression, and would post about being sad or down....it doesn't really help. What does help? My friends that are physically here. God will guide us to the right people, and he doesn't need Facebook to do it. There are plenty of people hurting around us that we just need to find. 
      For me leaving Facebook has helped me to deal with my complaints instead of putting them out there for people to fuel my fire. It has helped me to actually call people to see how they are doing. It has been amazing. I feel like instead of having hundreds of "friends", I'm actually building relationships. 

    I don't expect you to read this and delete your account. I would be happy if people just stepped back and became aware of what is around them more. 

    I am also considering going back to a flip phone. My smart phone can be helpful, but I need to exersize more restraint and not pull it out every 5 min. Speaking of phones....think you aren't addicted to your phone? Try going 12 hours without it. Try leaving it home while you go out for the day. Studies have shown that we have built a phsycological dependency on our devices and we can actuall display some withdrawal symptoms when our devices are with held from us. It's funny, because I sit here and get a panicked feeling if I think about not having a cell phone at all. How would I get directions? How would I get help if I broke down? Well, both cases are pretty rare, but what did we do BEFORE cell phones? We managed. 
       
       Like I said I'm not being accusational, as I'm guilty. Try remembering life pre tech, go without for a day. It might help you see something new. It's just my thoughts, and nobody gave me a penny for them. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

MIA

It's been a few months. I haven't been absent from this blog for such a stretch....ever. I've been working on myself. I'll admit I've wanted to write on more than one occation, but the motivation wasn't there. The motivation to simply exsist, teach my kids, and keep the laundry and dishes at bay, or at least try. 
       This winter has been relentless. Every winter I struggle. It's more than vitamin d can fix, trust me. People who normally think I should be able to truck through winter, are feeling the winter blues. Hopefully it serves as an eye opener. 

         In December I hit an all time low. I'd never felt so low. Try as I might, there was no motivation to do more than was required of me. I was tired all the time. Felt like I was dying inside, but had no idea what to do. I swallowed my pride long ago and started taking anti-depressants. Well, I ended up speaking with a Dr and even went through some group therapy. My medication had stopped working and I needed to make a switch. 
        I can't tell you how thankful I am for that pill. It doesn't make me a zombie, or emotionless. It lifts the great fog of depression so I can me me and feel my emotions as they should be felt. Why is it that we are so afraid of deppression? Why do we feel the need to hide it? Why do we deny ourselves the freedom treatment can offer? In a word, I think it is summed up as pride. A very wise elderly woman once told me that if everyone knew what everyone else struggled with, the world would be a better place. Can I get an amen?? 
     Think about it. We are afraid of what people will think of us. Or we've convinced ourselves that it's ok for SOME people to need treaemt....but certainly not us. Nope, we like it here in the city of denial in the house of dillusion. 
       I also hear people use the old, "if you had enough faith" bit. Pause for a moment with me while I roll my eyes. Obviously, these people have never read through the psalms. Uh, yes, David had some pretty dark stuff in there. Or what about Job! We look up to Job as a pilar of strength and faith, and yet in the midst of his tragedy he wished he'd never been born! Depression happens! 

          Some don't like the idea, and think...why me? Why do I have to depend on a pill to be "normal"? Because depression is an illness. I'm sure people with diabetes and several other diseases think the same thing. 

       So something I'd like to work on, is breaking down some of these walls. I want to teach others that stigma sucks. That we need to take care of ourselves and be gentle with all people, because we don't know their story. Be more brave with your story, someone out there needs to hear it. I want to show that you can be a faithful Christian, and struggle with depression. 
God is amazing.
 We are never alone. 
Remember this. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Seasons of life

        The change of seasons is upon us. Here we are in the fall season. Today it is cold, grey, and very wet outside. 

        I simply cannot watch the changing of the seasons without reflecting how they are so much like the seasons of our lives. Right now I am in the summer of my life. My children are young, our lives are busy, I'm fully grown and hopefully producing fruit. 

         Spring time. A time of newness, energy, and life. This is my children's season. They are still young and growing. There is still innocence and purity. The springtime is the best time to plant seeds. How true this is of the knowledge  we place in our children. While it can be planted later in life, the ground is most yielding and furtile at this season of life. We must take advantage of it and plans seeds of Gods word, kindness, and truth.  Sadly not all seeds will germinate. Even with careful tending these seeds can die. Yet, they have no chance of growing if they are not planted in the first place. 

      Summer time. I am in the season of summer in my life. Business, fruitfulness, tending gardens, long days, joy and light. Oh, and thunderstorms. :-) Summer is often the season we look back on and long for during the cold days of winter. When there were great days that seemed they would never end. When thunderstorms would come and cause fear and threaten us. But we feel clean and renewed after the storm passes. So true of the storms of life as well. There are times on these summer days when we long for winter. Yet the ones sitting in winter long for just one more day of summer. Children laughing and arguing, places to go, people to see, friends to meet, and battles to fight. 

      The season of Fall. This is the season I see my parents in. They have the joys of seeing the fruits of their labors. Fully grown children and young grandchildren. Life has been long enough to appriciate  the colors changing all around them. Life is quieting down a little. The days are shorter and sometimes they can be gloomy. There is still so much life in autumn. A new kind of life. In a way it is like a second spring. We, summertime people look on at the color, beauty and full maturity of fall with awe. Fall is a time of gathering fruits of the harvest and reflecting on the work of spring and summer as you look on to winter. 

       Winter. I see this in my grandparents. The life of winter is quiet and lonely. There are a few who fight the cold and make us see the beauty in winter. Winter brings sleep, hibernation, and reflection. I see people in their winter longing for the days of spring and summer when so much lay ahead of them. Many of their friends and loved ones have already fallen asleep and await the eternal spring awakening. We summer people can bring warmth to the winter. Let them know you care. Some defy the winter and go out in the cold and show us the little things that there is still much joy to be found in. Winter is a season of wisdom. All the seasons have passed and there is so much knowledge there. Soon the winter ones fall asleep and will be awakened to an eternal spring. Eternal spring. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? 

        Make the most of the season you are in. Plant your seeds, tend them, watch them bloom. And do not fear winter, because winter brings spring. 

         

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why do I home school?

      I have been asked this question a few times. Some asking out of honest curiosity, while others wanting to know why I've chosen to "do this" to my children. Let me start by saying home schooling is not for every family. I have nothing against people who send their kids to the school system. It is each parents responsibility to choose what is best for their family. That being said, I will tell you why I choose to home school my children. 

       It allows us to focus learning on God. The world today is so lacking in basic biblical knowledge that it is sad. It is the foundation of life. I've had people tell me that it is horrible that I keep my kids home to "brainwash" them with religious falsehoods. I choose not to let them be "brainwashed" by the world, thanks. I want my kids to learn what purity is, and that a lot of what goes on in the world is NOT ok. I want them to know that they are more than products of a pile of ooze millions of years ago. No, they need to know that God created them, and every fiber of their being, and that he did so with a purpose, because he loves them. They need to know that no matter how bad this life may get, what awaits them is going to be worth it. 

        I love the freedom of allowing my kids to pursue their interests as school subjects. They learn so much more! I love that we aren't tied to a building. We can go visit family and take school with us. My daughter can pursue her passion for ancient Egypt, fashion design, and animals, and my son can fully explore his love of building, and designing. We are talking history, science and art right there! I guide their learning within their interests so I can be sure they are learning well. 

      We get time to be a family. Life is so busy and people hurry everyplace. My kids don't have to spend their evenings swamped in home work. We get to do things together. I go to work a lot of evenings, but it gives them quality dad time when I'm not there. Dad time and family time are rare things in our world. 

       I homeschool for social reasons. What?? Yes, you read that correctly. I tire of the same question: "What about socialization?" My children get much more positive social interaction with peers and those above and below their age level. I do not think 25 other 7 year olds are who I would like teaching my 7 year old how to act. They do have friends and are both involved in extra curricular sports/activities. Am I sheltering them? Yes, to a degree, I am. I want them to develop into confident, well rooted individuals. I feel they need to know where they stand before they can stand firm. I want them to not be bullied, or picked on for obscure reasons. They know this stuff is out there. I see no constructive reason that them missing out on it everyday will hinder their emotional growth. People have asked me how I can deprive my daughter of going to prom. Seriously? I wasn't aware that prom was such a key factor to my child's education, life, and well being. I guess I missed the memo on that one. Teaching them at home allows us to let them focus on learning, and having fun. Not worrying about being made fun of. 

         I choose to home school because of all these reasons and then some. I have been entrusted with a great responsibility-my children. There are days when I can't imagine doing anything else and there are days when I want to do anything else. There are ups, downs, and corkscrews. I'm far from doing it "right" or perfectly. I can do so much better than I am, I'm sure. Yet, I feel this is the path God wants me on. 

        Homeschooling is a journey, not a destination. For my family it is the best choice. I am thankful for our freedom to do this. I realize that there are people out there who may use this freedom inappropriately, but the good ones far out number the bad. You can't judge the many, by the few. 

          I could go on and on about the many reasons and describing them in great detail. However, I feel that this is sufficient in giving people a good picture. I hope this helps to answer questions and encourages those who already home school. Life is diverse, and so are we. 

            

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Here is your information overload.

      A few posts back I said I would begin answering questions on my blog that were emailed to me. Sarahbeth.sparkle@gmail.com
Well, I did receive a few questions. However, they were so personal in nature I didn't wish to publish the answer. So, keep the questions coming and I'll do my best to answer.  If the person asking wishes me to write an answer publicly I will. 

I received a great response to my last post. In this entry I'd like to tell you all of a few of the resources that I've found. I'm not perfect, and fail at many things, but I try to do my best, and pray Gods mercy will fill up my great lack of...everything. 

I hope that these help you and inspire you to try to learn more and teach more. 

First, there is an amazing blog, hands on bible teacher, that is full of amazing ideas and methods. I HIGHLY recommend this. Another good site is currclick.com. It is full of great print outs (some free, some not) and some lesson plans.  

       I have also had great luck with lap books. If you aren't sure what they are, please "google it". It is a LOT of fun for kids. I google bible themed lap book ideas and get a ton of information. 

      If you are looking for a traditional curriculum, I also have a few recommendations. We have used Christian light publications. It is very thorough and accurate. I learned a lot going through it with my kids. 
       
        Rod and staff publishers also have good stuff. They are very conservative in their views, and most of the illustrations depict Amish and Mennonite if that gives you a gauge. It is good stuff though. Lots of pure bible information, especially Old Testament. 
       
          
       I really really enjoy finding curriculum and putting it together into lessons. If you too, are demented like that, you can find all kids of random information online that you can put together yourself bit by bit. I sadly don't always have the time that I want for it. 

         One of my favorite bibles for kids to use (and even adults if you need to brush up on your bible stories) is the Action bible. It's a giant comic book that is very accurate with its stories, in my opinion. It is great to sit down as a family and go though it story by story. Who doesn't like comics? You, in the back, put your hand down. 

          What I do not recommend doing with kids is reading straight through a bible. I mean, it's all pretty interesting until you get to numbers. Even most adults stall out Numbers. It's like reading the never ending story problem. Don't do it. You as an adult, I believe, should read the Bible cover to cover. When you do this (trudging through the book of numbers) you get a better sense of the completion of the bible and how it is so intricately connected from start to finish. 

       Right now with my own kids, I'm doing something with them together and separately. My 11 yr old is assigned a daily devo to read and write in a prayer journal about. My 7 yr old is working on memorizing the books of the Old Testament and praying. Together we work on memory verses. We are also going through the major stories in the bible right now. They learn  different things from the stories, even though we do the same story. For example, we are going through the story of creation. My son is working on memorizing what was created on what days with little projects and worksheets. My daughter is looking at it from a creation vs evolution prospective and digging deeper. 

        Now, allow me to give a disclaimer here. I want not a soul to think I've got this all figured out and do it perfectly. If you envision us all getting up at dawn with cups of hot tea sitting at desks studying hard as we are all dressed like we are going to church, you are so very very wrong. Allow me to paint you a more accurate picture. It is 11 am and My son, still in his underwear, is crashing matchbox cars on the floor while I try to read the bible lesson. I tell him to focus, and he laments. So I let him continue, as long as he can tell me what I've just said (which he always can and it drives me nuts. But he learns while moving, I think). My daughter is laying sprawled on the couch chewing gum and doodling. We try to say a prayer and the dogs suddenly think its time to play, which cracks the kids up and they start giggling. Some days I feel like they learned nothing and others I feel like they are hanging on my every word. I feel that that is why we do more than just read. We do worksheets and projects too. We also hang charts and draw pictures. For those days when the story seems to float over them like a cloud, it helps the information to stick.

          Finally, don't hold yourself back. If you feel like you need to know more before you teach your kids, don't. Learn together. Let them see you making discoveries in a Gods word, so that they can be eager to make their own. 


           

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A dull blade for battle.

I'm going to start you off in this post with some interesting math figures. 
    The average child in America spends 6 hours a day in school for 180 days per year, for 13 years. So 6 x 180=1080 hours per year. Then 1080 x 13= 14,040 hours per child for k-12. Now this is an estimation. We won't count hours spent on projects, homework, etc.  
Now I will give you a new set of numbers. If your child attends Bible class every Sunday for a year, that is about 52 hours per year. Lets multiply that from the time they are born until they are 18. So 52 x 18=936 hours in 18 years. That friends, is less than the amount of time spent in one year of school. So we wouldn't quite have graduated Kindergarten. 

         Those numbers make you think. I understand that your child may spend more than that per week in the bible and I also understand that I am lumping things together and not dividing learning into subjects when I do the math for a school year. Yet, even with those things it is nothing short of shameful. Would we send our kids into the world with less than a 1st grade education? Certainly not! Then why do we think its ok to do that with their knowledge of the bible? We are sending our children to battle with blunt blades. How effective can this possibly be? 

        I might be argued that the children learn the bible by watching you live it. While that is a noble idea, I wonder if you would let them learn math by you living it. A lot of people use math more often than the bible during the day and would still not find it acceptable. 

        When was the last time your kids saw you sit down just to read the bible? We must practice what we preach! Bible stories used to be common knowledge, even among non church goers. We are relaxing our stance and becoming lazy in our relationship with God. 

         We live in a world where anything and everything you ever wanted to know and learn is at your fingertips.....except things like, compassion, honesty, and common sense. I think that some part of us feels we can look up what we need to know, when we need to know it. This knowledge is different than tucking things away in your heart. We need to be learning them and living them and sharing them. 

          We are also a busy society. We profess to put God as #1, yet we talk to him rarely and know so little of his letter written for us. I wonder how it would go over if we used the same level of "#1" with our spouses. I picture it going over like a pig without wings. We find time for soccer, dance, piano, movies, but not for teaching our children the word of God. Or ourselves for that matter. 

        We are all in this. Our culture doesn't want us to teach our children all this "god stuff".  More importantly, Satan doesn't want it. Satan likes a nice dull blade. We are going to be held accountable for what we do or do not teach our kids. 

       Don't know where to start? There are so many curriculums and programs out there that it's crazy. 


          We need to sharpen the blades of our children and teach them how to keep it sharp.  Don't let them go to battle unarmed. They are our children, nieces, nephews....our future.  In fact, what do OUR blades look like? This is really about Christians, adult and child, isn't it? How can we teach our children to sharpen their swords if we don't even know where ours is?? 

       Do not be deceived into thinking that you know the stories, or know what you "need to know". It is our sword. We need to know it, how it moves, feels in our hands, and exactly how to handle it. There is always more to learn, always. 

Now let's get to work renewing and expanding our knowledge and handing it to the next generation as well. Let no one be unarmed. 

        

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Open my heart.

There is a song we used to sing when I was a teen at camp and it had these words in it;

"Open my heart to what you know, so I can stretch, so I can grow. My feelings toss me to and fro. Open my heart to what you know."

At least that is one verse of it. What do those words mean to you? In my head I can hear voices singing the sad slow tune together. To me they remind me of how our hearts are to be open, though it often causes conflicting emotions.

     Have you ever come to something in Gods word when you are studying, or in a class that just makes you freeze? Right now in our Sunday morning bible class we are doing an in depth study in the book of Romans. We have come to content that has a lot of people at a loss. People are frustrated because what we are seeing in the bible is contradicting our traditional thoughts. I am enjoying it immensely.  People are getting frustrated with it, but I will tell you that I have seen more actual studying going on than I have in a long time. Whether or not people realize it or want to admit it, this class is lighting fires under behinds.

     Honestly, we all need to step back and ask why we believe what we believe and seek the true answers to these things. I personally have asked people in the past why we believe something and the response I have gotten is, "Because it's the way it has always been." Not. Acceptable. Not even a little. How are we to minister to people about the bible, if we don't KNOW the bible. Do not be fooled. Just because you've gone to church for X years or you think you know all the "stories" doesn't mean you know all there is to know. What you think you know may not even be true. May we NEVER get to a point in our lives where we think we have learned all we can from the bible and we no longer need to study it or believe that we know it all.

     With all of this being said, we are to maintain an open heart when we study. If we don't, then there is indeed nothing we can learn. Personally, I like to pray before I study. I pray for God to guard my heart from letting Satan twist the scriptures and for God to open my heart to Him. I think this is important because Satan knows the scriptures very well, as evidenced by all the times he quoted and misused it when tempting Jesus in the wilderness.

      Does this mean we should believe every new thing we hear? Absolutely not. Should we dismiss everything we hear? Nope. We need to search the scriptures to prove that which is true.

1 Thess 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; They received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Many times when we are presented with something that contradicts what we have believed, we become defensive and closed up. It ought not be this way. We should approach these things in love and kindness. The word of God is our sword. We must learn it, inside and out. We cannot defeat Satan without a weapon.

   I'm excited about being challenged. but at the same time, it can be an emotional struggle when we wrestle to find the truth. It is hard to hear things that contradict what we have held to as certain truth. I believe, however, it is good for us to be challenged. It keeps us digging deeper into God's word and brings us closer to him.

God is so good and truth is beyond value. Find the truth. Seek it out and hold fast to it. Keep your heart open, yet guarded. Then ask yourself to prove with scripture why you believe what you believe.