Look Straight Ahead

It’s been a bit of a rough week. We finished our second back to school week (after a long week & even some Saturday school), with more complaints and lectures than I would like for week 2. We haven’t settled into our schedule for this year yet, and its a rough transition from playing all day at the lake to sitting around doing spelling and math!

View East from Camp Skyland

Our Summertime Lakeside view

Week one went ok, but week two, ugh! Let’s just say I have high hopes for weeks 3 & 4! I’m looking forward to trying again, getting in the rhythm, and resetting after the bumpy week we just finished.

I am working hard at placing God in the forefront of our school. Beginning our day with Bible study time and stories has helped. We all start with some God time (and Mom gets a little mom time), and we just seem to start with a better frame of mind.

Honestly, we/I missed Bible time on Thursday because we decided to do a homeschool day at the local heritage museum somewhat last minute. Our day began a bit earlier than usual, and since we were in a rush, I didn’t take time to sit with God. Then I didn’t on Friday, or Saturday.

It makes a difference, y’all! 

I have felt a bit out of sorts. A bit lost. A bit unsure of where I was headed & why.

Now, to be fair it’s been a bit of a rough week emotionally. Friends of ours are watching their son fight through the last phase of an aggressive cancer. As a mom who has lost and grieves a child, my heart hurts. Hurts for them, for their other son, for their friends, for their son’s many many online followers. I hurt for their future, short term and long.

And this week, I’ve been led to read through Job, of all books. (Revisiting the themes of: Our days and months are determined, All life is in His hands, How do we even begin to ask for healing, and How does He destroy someone He has created?)  I’ve been a bit of an emotional mess, trying to maintain normalcy. That might have something to do with our rocky school week, I suppose. I guess maybe I need to have some grace days for mommy’s moods. Add in a few ‘Give myself a break and just feel’ days.

Cayden & Mom, Mother's Day 2005I just so miss my child, and hate for any other family to have to endure that burden. It weighs on my soul. This child is about the same age that Cayden would be if he were still with us. But this child was happy, healthy, normal… until the rare form of cancer attached itself to his neck. His parents have been fighting hard to keep his life more or less normal, to fight the good fight, but sometimes, God has other plans. Not that the end has been written for us to see yet, but it unfortunately seems that the cancer is winning.

From my perspective, I see that they have been blessed with time to share with their son. Time to say a long goodbye. Time to make and do a bucket list. Time to enjoy him one more day. Time that we were not given. It’s a two-sided sword, sudden vs. drawn-out ends.

At C's Balloon release, Miss Jackie shares the meaning of the Heaven Pillow

At C’s Balloon release, Miss Jackie shares the meaning of the Heaven Pillow

We were saved the choices, the mess, the seeing our child get sicker; we were given instead a sudden and unexpected end. No chance to say goodbye. No chance for a bucket list. No holding his hand at the end. Just an end.

Yes, read the bitterness in my voice. It plain out sucks. No one wants to outlive their child. To miss them day-to-day, everyday. I feel for them and their journey. It won’t be easy or smooth, that I know.

Still, I have chosen, in these past 8 years, in the day-to-day of missing my son, to make a  perspective change, and to look straight ahead. To look ahead to our Heavenly reunion, one that will last for an eternity. I hope to have a few more years before I get to that golden city, but that short wait will be nothing compared to the blessing of an eternity to spend with Cayden and our other children who are waiting there for us.

Straight Path in the woodsLooking straight ahead means keeping God’s words in the midst of my heart, for they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. (Prov. 4: 21-22).

Life and health I need, because grief can overwhelm. I know I still have a job to do here. I’m in the process of figuring it out what exactly it is, but the one thing I know is that I need to keep His Word in the forefront of my days, and in the midst of my heart.

Proverbs 4: 25 – 27 says,

Let your eyes look directly ahead

And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. 

Watch the path of your feet

And all your ways will be established;

Do not turn to the right nor to the left; 

Turn your foot from evil. 

Following the path

Looking straight ahead keeps us on the path God has established for us. To watch the path, to follow His ways, we can’t make a wrong turn.

He tells us in Proverbs 3:21-23 that if we

Keep sound wisdom & discretion, 

They will be life to your soul

And adornment to your neck. 

Then you will walk in your way securely

And your foot will not stumble. 

When you lie down, you will not be afraid;

When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 

I’m writing this at 1:20 in the morning. I was not able to have sweet sleep tonight, and felt a pull to come and open my Bible, since I hadn’t this morning. This post is the result. When I’m walking in the way, my feet stay on the path of their own, His own, I should say, and I have a serenity I can’t explain. When I step off the path, I have rocky days, I stumble, I fall, I can’t sleep.

Keep the path. Look ahead, straight ahead. Eternity is not that far away. Make each day count, because you never know when will be the last day you have with someone you love. Make each day count for eternity’s sake.

Keep your eyes lifted to Him, straight ahead, to His heart.

Shira

 

 

As I wrote this post, my iTunes  was playing in the background. Somehow it was left on from when the kids were watching apple tv this afternoon. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, so I just left it playing. As I was typing Proverbs 4:25-27, this song began to play… Amy Grant, Straight Ahead

Straight ahead, I can see your light

Straight ahead, through the dark

Straight ahead, there’s no left or right

Straight ahead, to Your heart. 

Straight ahead. 

I think this is something God wants me to say!

 

 

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Back to Nature, Back to God

My kids have been at nature camps all week. When I was planning this week in April I thought it would be a great time to get SO. MUCH. STUFF. DONE! A week of a quiet house with no kids! However, I didn’t take into account the travel time, the short day for my little one & how if I left & went home, that left me only 2 chunks of 2 hours each day. Really not much time to accomplish much of anything besides an empty gas tank.

Cowan's FordAs a result, I decided to have my own nature camp! I stay at the park, walk a while, sit in a quiet spot with my Bible & enjoy studying with the sounds of nature as my background music. Right now I’m hearing birds, wind in the trees, crickets (& some distant traffic & airplane noise to round it out). My to-do list really isn’t getting any shorter, but this time spent in nature has been a much needed repite from the hustle of my never-ending list of daily household and homeschool chores.

My mini nature camp has given me some much needed time to reassess my priorities & remember what I’m trying to do and why. To remember for whom I run ragged & what needs to be done to rebalance my life, renew my heart & refresh my reasons for being.

I’ve been spending some quality time in my Bible, wading through some things as I’ve been studying. I’ll eventually share what I’ve been learning with you, after I process it and focus it a bit more. But the main thing I’ve learned, or perhaps re-discovered, or maybe been reminded of, is simply to put God first. Not just first in my life… no idols, no one above Him… but more importantly to NOT make excuses, to NOT just give Him the leftovers at the end of the day by a quick sleepy nighttime prayer, or a short pre-packaged devotion.

Just as we are robbing God if we choose not to bring the tithe to the storehouse, we are robbing God when we place Him after everything else on our schedule. We are robbing Him of our time, and robbing ourselves of time spent with the Creator! What a waste!

We need to give Him the morning glory, the first fruits of our days, then do our chores or schooling or whatever else comes next.

Psalm 119:97-104 reminds us:

O how I love Your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever mine.

I have more insight than all my teachers,

For Your testimonies are my meditation.

I understand more than the aged,

Because I have observed Your precepts.

I have restrained my feet from every evil way,

That I may keep Your word

I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,

For You Yourself have taught me.

How sweet are Your words to my taste!

Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

From Your precepts I get understanding;

Therefore I hate every false way.

 

By giving God the morning time, the open Bible at breakfast, we are actually giving ourselves a gift. It puts His word, His law, His commandments in our hearts where we can ponder it all day. How can we meditate on His word all day if we only open our Bibles in the evening? How can we truly understand it if we only think of it for a few minutes before we fall asleep?

If we only pray before a meal, we aren’t praying continuously. If we only read when we have a few spare quiet moments, we aren’t meditating, we aren’t gaining wisdom or insight or understanding that comes from thinking the Word throughout the day.

I have been motivated, inspired, and filled with a new hope and a new joy these days as I have fed myself God’s honey each morning. I’ve found a new direction that I truly believe is His plan for my future. I am full of anticipation and excitement as I start along this path, knowing it is where He wants me to go.

 

I hope you will join me as I eagerly take the next step,

Shira

 

 

 

Staying on Course…

Wow! I thought I would enjoy blogging and started off strong. Then I came to a screeching halt as I got overwhelmed with the reality of homeschooling, planning, learning, teaching, scheduling and trying not to sink!

I have been wanting to get back at it, and have decided it is not so much about the quantity of the writings but the content, getting my thoughts out and not worrying about what others think. I was putting too much pressure on myself to ‘be godly’ and evangelize in a way obviously not comfortable to me. Instead, I am now choosing to just write, hope that something I say matters to someone, even if that someone is just myself!
So here goes!
In yesterday’s conversation with God, He made clear to me that I needed to not worry about being judged, instead to just think about the message He wanted for me. I was reminded that He had earlier told me to study Psalm 119 this year (which I must admit has been seriously underlooked by me.) I have recently bought a bible in The Message format, to perhaps enlighten my study in a new way, so I am choosing to begin my blog today with Psalm 119 alpha (vs 1).
He says:
     “You’re blessed when you stay on course, 
          walking steadily on the road revealed by God. 
     You’re blessed when you follow his directions, 
          doing your best to find him.” 
WOW!
How pertinent is that passage to this blog! I don’t know why, but I am still amazed at just how clearly God can speak to us through his word. I feel that I HAVE been working to “stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God,” in our homeschooling journey. I have been steady in this oh-so-hard learning curve. This so challenging beginning phase where our whole lives have been changed and turned around in a whole new way.
A few times in these past 6 months I have really had to THINK about whether or not this is what we need to be doing. Tempted to just call and send her back to school on the bus. To throw in the towel and return to the old public school life!  But my initial desire to homeschool, was not by my choice, but by God’s nudging. Or maybe not nudging, but pushing, or even shoving us to do it. He ‘revealed the road’ to me, about a year  ago, during our then study of Revolutionary Parenting. It was clearly said to me that I needed to work on the relationship with my children, particularly Skylar, and the way to do that was by homeschooling her. I could not get the idea out of my head or my heart, could not find any reason NOT to, so we researched and learned and here I am, working hard to ‘stay on course!’ We committed to trying it for 2 years at the beginning, so 2 years I need to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love it, but it is SO hard!
I started by creating my own curriculum, focusing on a sort of unit study based on the days of creation. I planned and re-planned, researched and worked. I thought I had it figured out! I was pleased with the plan, feeling strongly that it was shown to me by God several times in the planning process. But in the day to day reality, the plan was just not getting followed thru. We were behind before we really got started, things were thrown in, and I never seemed to have the time to really get it together. We would skip things, postpone things and all around drop things. I wanted to make it work, but we were both getting frustrated by the length of our days and the lack of continuity.
After a particularly horrific day in January, I felt a change needed to be made. One big reason I felt drawn to homeschool was to NOT be constantly fighting with Skylar. I felt that our relationship in public school was a rotation of reprimands and hurry-up we gotta go’s! Go to the bus, go do homework, go to the activities, go to bed. No time for cuddles or loving or enjoying each other. And here we were, fighting non-stop all day! Do your math! Do your spelling! Do your writing! It was worse than before.
Now, as an mature Christian, I know that this was the work of the enemy. Trying to get us to quit. Trying to make us more miserable at home than we were before. Trying to tell me I was incompetent, we were failing, I was doing her a dis-service by teaching her myself.
I named that discouragement as the work of the enemy and sent it packing! I don’t have time to be discouraged! I need to be encouraged! To be filled with hope and peace, not despair and rejection. When that down in the dumps feeling hits, I remind myself to remember where each of these come from and immediately turn back to the Word!
So, after that awful day, I retraced my steps back to the original path. I found my pile of brochures from the homeschool conference last year, and started looking through it. I had honestly not even looked at it since I got home last March, and was wanting to just go thru to get rid of the junk. But this one program really got to me. I started looking, researching and learning about it. After about a week of late nights, comparing info, reading blogs and praying, I made the choice to try Heart of Dakota. I closely compared Sonlight, My Father’s World and Heart of Dakota, and really, I just liked the heart (no pun intended) of HOD, the reading list really appealed to me, and I thought it would for my daughter as well. It is full of classics like the Little House Books, Helen Keller’s biography, The LittlesMisty of ChinoteagueGinger Pye; a lot of books we already had on our shelf, waiting and wanting to be read. And best of all, it gives me a framework within which to read them, discuss them and apply them to our schooling. It was just what I needed to breathe some life into our classroom day!
I am hoping we have taken a good turn with this program. After about a month of researching, decision making, searching for books, we have just begun the new HOD curriculum for both Skylar and Devin. We’re using Little Hands to Heaven for Devin, a light pre-school program that begins to teach letters, numbers, counting with a healthy dose of Bible reading. One baby Bible story (or part of one) daily, enough to begin to get those stories into his consciousness, to get a familiarity with the Words of God! Both kids listen, sing the songs and do the action verses, so it has been a fun time for us.
For Skylar, I chose Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, a package geared toward 6-8 year olds. It also has a strong bible component, great integrated history lessons (beginning with the Discovery of America) and light science. Choose your own math and phonics programs, so we can continue with our Singapore Math which is a good fit for Sky, and a reading program focusing on good classic (living) books. We are one week in, and enjoying it so far, maybe a little behind, but I think but we will be able to shake it out.
I hope to continue to plug away at my original science plan, using creation as our units. We are beginning Day 4 this week, Planets, Sun and Moon. We are quite a bit behind, but I think we can continue along and just spend less time on the animal units than I had originally planned, hoping to go more in depth on them in the next several years using Apologia science to beef up the HOD science (really because Skylar LOVES animals and currently wants to be a vet, so exploring that in depth will be great for her.)
So as we begin this week, I pray that I am “walking steadily on the road revealed by God.” As in the past, I have looked to Him in times of trouble and discouragement and am graciously rewarded by His revelation of exactly where He wants us to walk and how. I don’t think that we were straying, because I had His conviction that we were beginning correctly for us. I think that we needed to get some of the rough edges smoothed, the initial growth pains eased, the transition completed before we could really open our hearts to this program. I needed to know that I did not have to do it all alone, that I could not do it on my own, that others with more knowledge and experience have good material I can rely on to help me teach my children. Now our school room is finally that, a school room, it is (mostly) organized, calm and hopefully a place for fun and learning and loving. A place to love learning, love each other and love God!
My prayer for today is that we will be blessed in this new phase of our homeschool journey, as Psalm 119 promises.
     You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
          doing your best to find him.

I am re-dedicated to “doing my best” to find Him in our homeschooling, following His directions and walking along His Path. We are, after all, called God’s Path School!

Now, to hit those great books!
Shira