I’m Playing Chess With Life

I’ll form a plan and see it through,
Make my move on timely cue,
Take stock of assets, route my path,
Prepare to challenge my rival’s craft–
For I’m playing chess with life.

Marble statues, checkered floor,
I know I’ve seen these patterns before–
Black and white like day and night;
I won’t go down without a fight
When I’m playing chess with life.

Checkmate or a draw,
It’s not my opponent’s call,
Not when answers I can find,
Diving in the labyrinth of the mind
While I’m playing chess with life.

Inside out and upside down,
I scan it all from top to ground.
The answer’s here I have no doubt,
I’ll find it quick before I’m out–
‘Cause I’m playing chess with life.

The smart and clever can pull the lever,
Outwit opponent’s sly endeavor.
Just give me data–it’s all I need;
I’ll take control with facile speed–
For I’m playing chess with life.

It all makes sense, it all connects;
Facts and gen esoterically intersect.
Life’s an equation–just work out the figures;
With numbers and logic compute, configure–
I’m playing chess with life.

Clock is ticking, time is twirling,
This blitz has got my mind a’whirling.
Queen takes bishop, pawn, then knight,
All I need is shrewd insight–
While I’m playing chess with life.

Wait! What happened? I didn’t see
The move that swiftly cornered me.
Was sure I’d think my way through this;
“Mind over matter” can never miss–
Not when I’m playing chess with life.

I move my pawn, my desperado;
I can’t fail here in victory’s shadow!
With reasoned logic I’m on the beam;
The match is close now it would seem–
As I’m playing chess with life.

But facts and logic, plans and schemes
Can fall apart like shattered dreams.
I’ve learned a lesson here today:
I’m not the master of my way–
I thought I could play chess with life.

But I’m not the sovereign One who rules it,
Planned it, made it, orders, keeps it.
I must trust the wisdom of this Lord;
So on bended knee I yield my sword…
To the Good King of my life.

*****

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

“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)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

Alive With Jesus

“I’m alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic!”

If anyone ever asked my grandpa how he was, this was his usual response.

Grandpa loved life. Passionately. He was one of the most happy, optimistic, spunky, energetic, and fun-loving people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. A very warm, gregarious person, he did not let any bad experiences in life make him bitter. He always rose above his circumstances to flourish and positively impact his family, church, and community with a lasting legacy.

Donald Lee Willis was born on December 22, 1931. As a young man, he served in the Navy during the Korean War. He would later tell us he was seasick every minute of his time onboard.

When he returned to the States he met a beautiful girl, Shirley Waltmire, and fell in love with her. During the time he was dating her, a friend witnessed to him one day. Grandpa ended up talking to this friend’s pastor, who led him to Christ.

Later that evening when he met up with his date, she noticed something was different about him. She asked him about it. Grandpa told her what had happened and asked her to come to church with him.

Two weeks later, Grandma was led to the Lord.

A wedding date was set and plans begun for the marriage. But Grandpa, always full of the unexpected, suddenly suggested to Grandma one day that they elope. In those days, there was a three-day waiting period before you could elope, but Grandpa had heard there was a place in New Mexico where you didn’t have to wait.

They hopped in the car at about 8 o’clock that evening and drove all night from Kansas to New Mexico. When they got back, they had less than a dollar between them on which to begin their married life…and a very shocked mother-in-law waiting on the front porch.

Another example of his mischievous and spontaneous personality would be found in one of my favorite stories Grandma told me. Shortly after they were married they were both lying in bed one night, playfully arguing over who would turn out the lights. Neither wanted to get out of bed. Grandpa suddenly picked up a shoe and hurled it at the light bulb, shattering it.

Lights out. Problem solved. And there was snickering in the dark.

Four years into marriage, children began to enter the scene: Stuart (my dad), Jana, Mark, Jennifer.

One day Grandpa came home from his work at a printing company and declared to Grandma, “I can do what they do and do it better.”

He was quite sure of this. There was only one problem: money. The bank wouldn’t loan them any because they were far too poor. Grandpa and Grandma made up a list of wealthy people in their town and applied to each one for a loan.

Every last one turned them down.

Undeterred, Grandpa finally found help in his step-father, who agreed to co-sign a loan if he would make him a partner.

The thing was done, and with two other partners the four went into business in 1964.

Grandpa was right. He knew how to do the work—and how to do it better. The business was soon thriving; his step-father bought out the other two partners. They began hiring more and more employees. The building grew into a large facility that printed business forms and shipped them all over the U.S., and at its height had 112 employees at one time.

Though Grandpa only had a 10th-grade education, he was an extremely smart guy. He designed and built a lot of his own equipment and machines. Grandma remembers how he would have engineering books spread all over the place as he came up with his own designs.

Everyone in town wanted to work for Don and Shirley. They were kind and generous employers who treated their employees well and paid the best wages around. They implemented a four-day work week and introduced profit-sharing to their employees. Positions with them were coveted.

And God blessed them with great success. They sold the booming business in 1986 and retired to spoil their grandchildren. There were ten of us, and we all hold some of the best memories of our grandparents that any grandchildren ever will.

Though a highly successful businessman, Grandpa always remained humble and gave all the glory to God. Grandpa was no respecter of persons; he treated everyone with equal respect and kindness. I remember walking into our local grocery store one day as a teenager and running into a stranger who said he knew my grandparents (everyone seemed to know them).

“Don and Shirley are great people,” he told me. “Even though they live in that nice house and they’re so well-off, they treat everyone as an equal, and don’t act like they’re any better than anybody else.”

Their name was widely known and respected. Just to tell someone I was the granddaughter of Don and Shirley Willis raised me in their estimation. Grandpa was known as a man of kindness, generosity, honesty, and integrity. He hated the very shadow of a lie. He was honest to a fault, and would say, “If I would lie for you, I would lie to you.”

Grandpa seemed to love everyone. And he wanted everyone to know Christ, whom he shared every time he had the opportunity.

Even with people the rest of society looked down on.

Every time Grandpa would see a certain man in his town who struggled with alcoholism, he would go toward him and warmly embrace him in a hug and share Jesus with him…again.

Two years ago, out of the blue, this man called Grandpa.

Christ had changed his life. He was now a believer walking with God. He heartily thanked my Grandpa for having been the influence that brought him to Christ.

Grandma and Grandpa set the example for practicing generosity and hospitality. Any traveling preacher or evangelist was warmly welcomed into their home and given more than a bed and meals; he was royally treated like family. My grandparents gave generously to Christian work and missions—and pretty much to anyone in need. There was no way you were leaving their house without having your known needs met, regardless of who you were.

One of Grandpa’s pastors remembers a time when a bunch of men came into a Bible study without Bibles. Grandpa came up to the pastor afterwards, pressed something into his hand, and told him, “You get those men some Bibles. It’s important.”

He’d left the pastor with a wad of money.

They were never loud and flashy about their giving, never trying to draw attention to themselves for it. They did it discreetly—but freely, joyfully, hilariously. It made them happy.

After retiring Grandpa took up wood-working as a hobby (he was self-taught). His work was very good and he began to make cabinets and pieces of furniture for family and friends. There are many, many homes—and even churches—that still have the gifts of his handiwork adorning them. In our home, two beds, a hope chest, two chest-of-drawers, a wardrobe, a buffet table, all our cabinet doors, and miscellaneous other things attest to Grandpa’s skill and generosity.

I have so many wonderful memories of this amazing man there’s no way I could tell them all. Big family get-togethers with lots of food and fun. Swimming together on hot summer days—Grandpa taught me to swim. Special birthday outings for dinner and shopping—just Grandma and Grandpa and I. The time Grandpa came and got me for the day so we could build a birdhouse together, one-on-one (he did this with each one of us grandkids). Rides in his convertible when we would yell “punch it!” and Grandpa would floor it, laughing with as much delight as the youngest of us (Grandpa loved his old classic cars, which won prizes at shows). The wonderful smell of Grandpa’s woodshop, from which all manner of wonderful gifts came. Staying up till midnight laughing and playing card games together.

Christmas every year was a big deal and a grand time. In the midst of all the food and fun, Grandpa always read us the story of Christ’s birth from Scripture, followed by a heartfelt plea to trust in the Lord and follow Him with all our lives. He exhorted his grandchildren to “seek ye first the kingdom of God” so many times, one grandson said he would dream about this Scripture verse.

Everything he did, he did with all his heart and soul. He lived his 87 years with a contagious passion and love for life and God.

Today, we said our goodbyes to him. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, employer, neighbor, friend. But his ultimate identity was in Christ, whom he longed to see. Towards the very end, because of Alzheimer’s, he would sometimes forget who we were.

But there was One Person he never forgot. Even in his confusion and forgetfulness he always remembered Christ and called on the name of the Lord throughout each day, praying to Him, asking for His help and wisdom.

Grandpa loved life. But he loved The Life even more. For him, it was not death to die. He’s more alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic today than he’s ever been before.

Got Hobbies?

Art. Writing. Photography. Reading. Research. Scrapbooking/journaling. Music.

Borrowing a line from a song in The Sound of Music, cheerfully sung by Julie Andrews, “these are a few of my favorite things.” Among many others, of course. 🙂 I have many enjoyable hobbies, but it seems like there is never enough time to do everything.

How about you? Do you have things you love doing, but hardly seem to find any time for as a wife and mommy?

Not long ago my own mother, who homeschooled my four siblings and I, gave me a little piece of wisdom. She told me that during the years she was schooling us, she put all her own hobbies and interests aside. Almost completely.

But she was wrong, she said.

Today she regrets that she did not carve out a little time for doing the things she took an interest in. Her advice was to make time for some of those things, even as we take care of our children, our husbands, and our household duties.

But how do we do that?

It will look different for every person and every household. For me, I have found that an afternoon “siesta” works beautifully. Every day at 1:30 in the afternoon, the house practices “quiet time” for awhile. During this time, the children can play, read, or do homework quietly in their own rooms. This is the time I use to work on my projects and hobbies.

This is not merely beneficial to me. Studies show that having a silent, disengaged period of time actually helps build brain cells (okay, we’re talking kids here so achieving “silence” may be a stretch). But at least by having a quieter period during the afternoon the children have time to disengage from all the noise and excitement of life, relax while they engage in quiet, productive activities, and then return, rested and refreshed, to the bustle of life later in the afternoon.

Everyone wins.

It’s also possible that we could include our children in some of our interests. Do you love preparing gourmet meals or baking fancy desserts? Maybe the kids could help. Do you love reading? Share that love with them.

When I started a travel journal I gave both my older two kids their own book to record stuff in. When I sat at the table working in mine, Brianna sat with me, using my stickers and decorations as she drew and worked in hers. It even became an educational project, as we researched facts about the state and drew pictures of state symbols.

One of the best ways to encourage our children to develop skills and creativity is to model an interest in and love for these things ourselves. When we love learning and doing new things and we share that excitement with them they will love learning and doing new things, too.

Everyone wins.

We certainly do not want to neglect our household duties or the care of our family. Then everyone loses. Priorities must be examined and time managed well. But perhaps there are still ways to work in time for gaining and developing Christ-honoring skills, knowledge, and creativity as we practice good stewardship with the life He has given us.

How would this look for you and your family?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

“Art of Homeschooling” Part 2

This is the second post in a two-part series “Art of Homeschooling.” These notes represent ideas I had for implementing the principles taught in Mystie Winckler’s e-course. You can read the first part here.

Connecting with my Children/Starting the Day Off Right

Our daily schedule looks something like this: We get up, we eat, we do chores, then if I am still busy with chores the kids play or do other activities till it’s time for school. After school they may play. In the afternoons they have quiet time and work on school assignments; after supper in the evening they
play, we read together, etc.

GOALS:

I think I need to stay on top of their time between eating breakfast and starting school; they could be more productive and efficient except that I am distracted and not doing as much directing.

Make sure they are staying busy with chores and not piddling.

If they have free time, channel it properly (suggest exercise outdoors, take a nature walk, or give them an assignment indoors—puzzle, coloring, art, reading, etc.). Help them to see that this time in the morning is already planned and we are just to work through it steadily together.

Teach them to come to me after they complete each assignment. Their day is not their own till after school.

The daily habit I can practice in order to affectionately connect with my children each day is to greet them warmly in the morning with a smile and a hug, and (if I have time the evening before) to write them a “love letter” in their journal.

Laughter throughout the day is another good connection. And when there is time for it, extra fun, games, crafts, and reading. School should not be the only time I spend with them intentionally and meaningfully.

In order to help us be on the same team, working toward the same goals, we can start our day by hugging, holding hands, discussing the plan, and cheerfully encouraging one another to complete it
well. Make eye contact and commend them for something. Notice when they are working together and working well and commend them.

Motivation and Responsibility

I discourage the children’s responsibility by not staying on top of what is happening. If it’s okay for them to just putter out and off and do their own thing while I am busy, I am not requiring responsibility. I’m making it too easy for them to be irresponsible.

The kids are most prone to dawdling in the morning before school, and then sometimes during school (if distracted by something else going on). I don’t detect any specific motivation other than wanting to do whatever is “fun” or “interesting” at the moment.

I am most prone to dawdling in the morning before chores, and in the evening after supper (when I should be doing chores or could be spending time with the kids).

GOALS:

For me, first steps in our home will mean I must have them give an accounting regularly. If I give a directive, I must come back and see that it is followed. I must check their progress and their work. There will have to be a lot of hand-holding at the beginning.

If there is something to do that can be done by one of them, rather than shouldering the brunt of the work myself I should mete out more to to them in age-appropriate segments. I should not clean up after them, or let responsibilities I have assigned to them “slide.”

I tell them being an adult is a lot of work and responsibility. I should also express to them that there is joy/reward attached to that responsibility when carried out well.

I “check out” too often with Facebook or something else I can use as a distraction when I’m feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed. Rather than catch me doing this, they should see me cheerfully plugging along with a song, fulfilling my responsibilities without complaint or irritation. Limit internet
time in morning to a few minutes. NO internet in evening till kids are in their room.

When Cliff asks me to do something I need to be sure I fulfill it right away, setting an example for those under my authority.

Talk about the results of dawdling versus diligence. The natural consequences that result from
dawdling include not getting to have time later to do things we enjoy doing because our tardiness put us
behind and wasted our time that could have later been spent at (guilt-free) leisure. Dawdling goes against what we know is right, and so we sin against our conscience. It steals our leisure time, makes our chores and responsibilities more difficult, and makes us less appreciative of our free time.

Dawdling/laziness does not glorify God. Diligence gives us a good conscience. It permits us to have leisure time when the work is done. And that time can be fully enjoyed, guilt-free.

Persistence and Faithfulness

The feelings most likely to drive me off course are feelings of frustration with how the day is going, and anger and irritability when the kids (or circumstances) aren’t cooperating. Bickering kids, unexpected interruptions, extra work, etc. trigger these feelings.

I am most critical of myself when I am lazy or angry. I am most critical of my children when they are lazy, angry, or rowdy.

GOALS:

How can I respond? Remind myself of what a successful day really looks like: faithfulness. Fruitfulness, rather than perfection.

Attending to the needs of my children in all areas—physical, spiritual, in admonition, discipline, love, training, laughter and good will—is more important than completing a to-do checklist like math, spelling, and laundry. Seeking to worship Christ when a curveball is thrown in my day is worth more than dusted furniture and completed math pages.

I need persistence when the day doesn’t go as planned and I get thrown a lot of extra stuff. Then I’m tempted to give up because I’ve been set back. It was like having the goal in sight and then having someone move the marker while you’re running on the track. I can choose a calm, intentional response by examining my list to see if everything really must be done or if I’m being a perfectionist, then choosing to do the things that are truly a priority with a good attitude—even if it cuts into my “free time.”

I need to learn to have greater flexibility—and that comes by relinquishing control to God rather
than trying to keep a tight fist on it myself.

The feelings most likely to disturb Brianna and Marcus: anger, boredom, frustration. Anger, when they have a conflict together, or when they have been disobedient and require correction. Boredom, when they are confronted with the daily grind of school and chores. Frustration, when they feel overwhelmed by their work or feel like they can’t do a good job with it.

I can help them calm down and learn self-discipline by:

• Learning to stay calm, be cheerful, and be self-disciplined myself

• Teaching them truths about God, themselves, and life (motivate in proper ways; teach Scripture and life truths; give admonition and correction when needed)

• Doing what I can to help them avoid/redirect them from unnecessarily tense and frustrating situations (oversee their work together instead of leaving them alone; designate responsibilities when I am busy and cannot help them; give the right amount of help and encouragement at the right time)

I can trade harshness for humor by bringing the kids to the couch for a talk, ending with tickling/joking so we may leave in good humor.

One specific area the kids and I can practice persistence in together is Bible time. We will start there. We will try to be faithful with devotions every day, not just school days.

*   *   *

What habits have helped you motivate yourself and children, Mamas?

“Art of Homeschooling” Part 1

I stumbled across some notes I had made from Mystie Winckler’s “Art of Homeschooling” course last year while searching for something else the other day. I read them again, and was again reminded of areas of personal growth that I need to persevere in.

Mystie’s course helped me pinpoint and troubleshoot “problem” areas in my life and our school/family life. Her questions were penetrating and her insights illuminating. I would definitely recommend her course! (She conducts the online 5-week course periodically.)

Presented here as abbreviated, edited, reorganized, and otherwise condensed notes, I made these for myself during my brainstorm sessions while working through Mystie’s assignments/reading material. The goals I identified are still that—worthy goals I want to work on, but am far from having consistently attained. 🙂

* * *

Fostering a Love of Learning

I love to learn. I am curious about many things. I spend hours reading, researching, and trying new skills and projects. While teaching school I will sometimes get curious and interested in something and pursue rabbit trails trying to learn more about it. After hours I work on new skills and gaining new knowledge.

My problem is not that I do not model a love of learning. My problem is that I become impatient and ignore the kids when I’m wanting to get my work done precisely so I may pursue my many interests. In such times I selfishly fail to foster their curiosity, questioning, and interest because it’s not convenient for me.

GOALS:

When I notice that they are taking a delight and interest in something, I need to encourage it. To get excited with them. To ask questions together.
When they ask me all their “why?” questions, I will try not to shut them down, but instead listen, engage, and encourage further independent research. I don’t need to have all the answers to their questions. I do need to encourage them to keep looking for answers, and not throw water on their fire of curiosity with hasty, blank dismissals.

If I am truly busy and truly cannot help, I can either suggest we talk about it at a more opportune time, or give them some materials they can use to start researching independently. If I am busy but simply not wanting to be helpful because I’m in a hurry, I need to repent, give a thoughtful reply and/or encourage them to research.

I need to take the time to teach them skills. When Marcus wants to crack an egg. When Bri wants to tie her shoe. When Marcus wants to know how to spell a word. When Bri wants to help cook dinner.

When we go places and as we go about our work for the day, I try to notice more and help them notice more and tie it into whatever we are learning. We wonder. We ask questions.

When possible/appropriate I should include them in my interests and let them help/watch me.

Modeling (and Requiring) Diligence

My biggest temptation toward laziness during the day is to “cop out” for awhile and browse social media. The kids’ biggest temptation during our mornings is to grumble and complain about their schoolwork and chores.

GOALS:

Limit my time on social media and the internet in general. Do not look at my phone when the children are up/around except for necessary uses or quick checks (responding to certain texts, phone calls, calculator/bills, library orders, other orders, etc.). Spend more of my time in the afternoon on profitable things like reading and writing rather than internet browsing.

Guide the children into paths of faithfulness:

• Scriptural admonition (obedience/diligence/doing all we do for the glory of God)

• Common sense reasoning/big picture perspective (sound mind)

• Teach them to learn to enjoy work

• Fun has its place, but cannot usurp more important things

• Helping them recognize there are rewards to work (reaping and sowing)

• Delayed gratification

• Community/Family/Household dynamics (everyone is needed; we must all work together)

• Projects to encourage them to see and believe truth. Eventually they can keep Heart Journals, do word/Bible studies, etc.

• Discipline/Correction for whining, complaining, and laziness when appropriate

• Modeling faithfulness myself by not grumbling about my own responsibilities, and seeking repentance before God and them when I do.

• Being a present and loving mom. I need to give them my full attention when they are speaking to me or we are doing something together, to communicate that I love each one, to show no favoritism or partiality, and to spend time with them beyond school and chores.

Dealing with Irritations and Bad Attitudes

I am most likely to get irritable or shut down when I feel like my responsibilities just keep piling on me and I can’t complete them in my goal time. This is even more pronounced when the kids are whiny, rowdy, or needy simultaneously. Sometimes I complain when I’m tired.

GOALS:

When tempted to be irritable or complain I need to step back and assess things:

• Am I doing what I need to be doing RIGHT now?

• Can some things wait?

• Do other things need priority?

• Is everything on my agenda for the day even necessary?

• Is it possible to multi-task on some hings, get the kids’ help, etc.? (Work smarter and not harder?)

• Am I practicing good stewardship of my body? (Getting enough sleep and eating well so I don’t become moody/emotional?)

If everything absolutely must be done and I am still overwhelmed at the moment, I can back off, go into the bedroom for a few moments, pray, realign my focus, ask for grace, and consider the big picture.

When I feel the conviction of the Spirit, I can turn my heart to obedience rather than stubborness by taking a moment away. Acknowledge the struggle. Seek repentance before the Lord if I have complained or become irritable/angry (and before my children if needed). Go outside. Take a few moments for giving thanks.

If the kids’ attitudes and behaviors need tending to, I can first readjust mine, then help them with theirs. If I am unable to do that immediately I can send them off to do something for a little bit so I can regain composure and good attitude before trying to deal with theirs. It would be better to deal with their issues “late” than to deal with them in the heat of the moment while angry. Send them to complete a responsibility or to room but do not try to address the issues while I am angry.

I can help my children when they feel stubborn and want their own way by helping them to stop and see the big picture. By reminding them of truth. By helping them see that the good is desirable and right, and evil comes with consequences. I can give them time and space to think. To freely make a choice of obedience. When they fail to I can administer discipline if it is truly required.

Remember to determine if there may be underlying causes to the complaining that may need addressed first: Are they tired? Hungry? Not feeling well? Truly overwhelmed? Deal with each of these issues first.

Continued here

2018 Book List

Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to the books we’ll get to read in 2019! Here’s my annual recap of books read this last year (I split the post into two sections: the books I read on my own, and the books I read aloud to the kids).

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Orwell was a socialist in the 1930’s who grew disillusioned with communism after he saw its effects when implemented. He wrote Animal Farm as a sort of dark satire of Russia’s embrace of collectivism: animals on a farm decide they don’t need Farmer Jones anymore and they run him off, determined to survive together as a socialist collective. When Napoleon the pig sets himself as the leader of the collective, things begin to take a sinister turn.

The copy I borrowed from the library also included related readings (short stories, poems, and essays): “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; “The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union,” by Michael Kort; “The Birds,” by Daphne du Maurier, etc. (I admit that for a book with readings related to socialism/collectivism I did not see the connection between this theme and “The Birds.”)

And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. One of the best books I’ve read. Bridges traces the goodness, wisdom, and sovereignty of God through the pages of Scripture, applying the comfort found in these truths to circumstances in the life of the believer—from sickness and adversity to everyday decision-making. Very heartening and encouraging. Highly recommend!

God’s infinite wisdom then is displayed in bringing good out of evil, beauty out of ashes. It is displayed in turning all the forces of evil that rage against His children into good for them. But the good that He brings about is often different from the good we envision.

The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari. This book was gifted to me from a family member. Hari is a food activist who has diligently researched foods and food additives, and successfully petitioned many different food companies and restaurants to change the unhealthy ingredients in their foods. She breaks down the labeling on foods, explaining each questionable ingredient, what it is, where it comes from, and the potential health risks associated with it, and outlines a plan for changing one’s diet to avoid all the junk and poisons in the typical American diet. She also discusses a number of different popular diets (Atkins, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan, etc.), highlighting the pros and cons of each and concluding that the best diet is one which includes all of the food groups (if possible), in proper balance and from clean, quality sources. Very informative.

My own chronic health problems led me to make the connection to food, a link that made sense once I started researching the effects of certain chemicals on the body. I learned how to detoxify my very poisoned body, and when I did, all my health problems started to vanish. I lost thirty pounds. My so-called incurable eczema totally healed, and my skin glowed. My asthma and allergies became ancient history. My stomach issues vanished. My anxiety was gone; I no longer had to take any drugs, prescription or over-the-counter.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. Standing as (possibly) the oldest surviving long poem in Old English, Beowulf recounts the story of a brave Scandinavian warrior who battles monsters and a dragon. Little is known about the background of this story, or even who wrote it or why. The interweaving of Christian and pagan influences adds further curious layers to this mysterious drama.

In off the moors, down through the mist bands

God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.

The bane of the race of men roamed forth,

hunting for prey in the high hall.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Years ago I had read Babywise before my first child was born. While implementing the ideas found in that book did seem to help both my first two kids sleep through the night (5+ hours) at an early age (at six to eight weeks or so), I wondered if a somewhat more moderate and less extreme approach than rigid schedules and lengthy, stressful, cry-it-out sessions was out there (besides being told to just live without sleep for the next couple of years!). I found Pantley’s book at a library sale and bought it for a few cents before Rachelle was born. While I don’t think any one method has all the answers (I pick and choose what I find helpful in books) I did plan to use her store of tips and techniques to help Rachelle learn to sleep through the night…as peacefully as possible for both of us.

But as it turns out, this baby started (mostly) sleeping through the night on her own very quickly. I hardly had the chance to try any of Pantley’s sleep solutions. So I can’t tell you whether or not they work.

And that’s okay with me, lol.

[This book] will explain the exact steps you can take to gently help your baby sleep through the night. So, prop your eyelids open, grab a cup of coffee, and let me explain how you can help your baby sleep—so that you can get some sleep, too.

In Quest of Gold: The Jim Ryun Story by Jim Ryun with Mike Phillips. Rummaging through an old antiques store in Wichita one day, I came across an autographed copy of this book and purchased it for my husband who, as a runner himself, had always been a fan of Jim Ryun’s (a Kansan himself). This autobiography is an up-close and personal look at this world record-setting champion’s life, from his exciting achievements on the track to the way God used the disappointments and frustrations of his running career to ultimately bring Ryun to Christ. 

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Since running had been my one and only god, in order to give me something far better and more enduring, [Christ] had to take my substitute god away. Thus I grew to a point of genuine thankfulness for what happened that day on the Munich track in 1972. For out of the dust of defeat blossomed the new life that came to flourish in my heart.

Physician Assistant’s Guide to Research and Medical Literature by J. Dennis Blessing. Written to PA’s, this book discusses study methods, study designs, threats to validity, limitations, presentation, analysis and interpretation, ethics considerations, etc. Even as a lay-person I found the information helpful, since I research and read a good bit of medical literature. I made many pages of notes from the book.

The only way health care can advance is by research and application of the results. Even if we are not actively involved in research, we must possess a basic understanding of the process and what it means.

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. This is the children’s Newberry Award-winning fantasy story about a chivalrous little mouse named Despereaux. I read it in one sitting in the car while traveling to see family for Christmas (previewing it for Brianna). Loved it (and so did Bri). 20190103_132236

Picture a kingdom where soup is outlawed. Where mice may never speak to men, and rats may never embrace light. Where kings suffer from broken hearts and servant girls dream of being princesses. A kingdom where perfidy stands out in stark contrast to empathy and honor, as revenge to forgiveness, darkness to light, and despair to hope.

This is The Tale of Despereaux.

Have I mentioned that beneath the castle there was a dungeon? In the dungeon, there were rats. Large rats. Mean rats.

Despereaux was destined to meet those rats.

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

True Grit by Charles Portis.

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen everyday. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and one hundred and fifty dollars in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

Thus begins the story of Mattie Ross, the plucky young girl from Arkansas who teams up with a couple of lawmen with rough-as-40-grit-sandpaper personalities and equally gritty courage to track down her father’s murderer and bring him to justice. (Some language.) 

READ-ALOUDS WITH THE KIDS:

Godliness is Great Gain by unknown authors. This is a collection of stories from the 19th century. Most are fictional stories of faithfulness and obedience in the lives of ordinary people and the rewards that come with righteousness. (This book and The Little Medicine Carrier are part of a series of books for children from the 19th century—a set I read as a child. I’ve since found this collection—and more in the series—at Grace and Truth Books. Dennis Gunderson has also written a study guide to accompany this series).

When used properly, expectations are good and valuable. When they cause a person to throw away dependability, faithfulness and humility, they are ill-used…Only those who “set their affections on things above,” can be truly happy. True happiness can only be found through true repentance, and forgiveness by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Little Medicine Carrier. A little boy named “George” is hired by a doctor to deliver medicine for him. Though he faces many temptations, George learns to be faithful, honest, and kind. When he befriends a young girl who is very ill, he witnesses her faith in Jesus as she nears death.

“Miss Beatrice must be very good not to mind dying.”

“No, George. The dear, young lady knows that she is a sinner. She has learned to trust her Savior who died so she could live. She knows she can do nothing for herself and that Jesus has done everything for her. As a result of this, she holds on to Him with so much joy and peace.”

Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons by Vance Nelson. This is a stunningly gorgeous book about dinosaurs from a young earth, creationist perspective. In this unique work, Nelson explores findings and artifacts from all over the world that give evidence for the co-existence of man and dragons/dinosaurs. The information is organized by country, the findings from the United States, Mexico, Peru, England, Wales, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Mali, Ethiopia, and China explored. I’m including this here as a book the kids listened to, but in this case I didn’t read it to them—Daddy did. 🙂

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If dinosaurs lived alongside people, then surely somewhere on planet earth the evidence of such an extraordinary coexistence would be found…The evidence presented in this book has become the answer to that question.

Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs by Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch. If you were to guess that we really enjoy dinosaur/dragon books, you’d be right. 😉 I picked this fun book up at a homeschool conference. Every page contains new delights to discover: pockets to open, minibooks to flip through, papers to pull out. With much the same theme as Dire Dragons, the book focuses on ancient stories, tales, and writings that support the evidence that man and dragon (dinosaur) once lived together.

Since the mid-1930s, speculation has run rampant over a sea monster purported to live in Loch Ness, known simply as Nessie. Debate has raged while numerous expeditions have sought to solve this modern mystery. But it may not be as modern as some think. There are written reports of a mysterious creature in the loch, able to kill swimmers, back to the 6th century.

I Heard Good News Today by Cornelia Lehn. This book was included in the Adventures in Obedience course (which I had previously mentioned in this post). It recounts 92 stories of virtue and missionary endeavor, the stories being sorted by country/continent. A few of these missionaries were quite familiar (Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Gladys Aylward, etc.); most were new to us.

Far away in a village in the rugged mountains of Taiwan there lived a little girl called Gau Fu-Mei. One night Fu-Mei had a strange dream. It was so clear and so real that when she woke up she knew exactly what she had dreamed. In her dream she was told that there was a God who loved her.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is the third book in the series that we’ve read and it tells the story of the Ingalls’ brief time in Kansas, when they homesteaded near Independence. After we finished this book we got to actually go see the homestead where Laura had lived. The original house did not survive, so a replica was constructed on site. But the old well that Pa and his friend dug is there, and other old buildings (like a post office and school, etc.) have been moved to or constructed on the site. Since we visited during Prairie Days the kids got to do hands-on activities, listen to a history lesson in the one-room school-house, participate in a costume contest, and meet Wendi Lee (who played “Baby Grace” on the Little House on the Prairie TV series), and several descendants of people (or relatives of people) who were mentioned in Laura’s books, including a Mr. Wilder.

Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers’ rasping quivered up from the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.

The Tuttle Twins Series by Connor Boyack. This series has grown since the time I purchased it, but we’ve read six of these books for kids on Austrian economics, free market principles, and classical liberalism. It’s a great series! I wrote about these books in a post on homeschooling books/materials last year.

“True laws protect people and their property from plunder,” Fred explained. “When true laws exist and are respected, people work hard to improve their lives and they work peacefully with others. Everyone prospers together and is happier.”

“…But when the law lets people plunder, it turns everyone against each other,” Fred said.

Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. This short, generously illustrated biography of Columbus by a Newbery Honor-winning author gave us a glimpse into the life and achievements (as well as the failures) of this famous man. In tongue-in-cheek style both his strengths and his weaknesses were portrayed. (We read this one for school since we were studying Columbus in our history lessons.)

It was lucky that Christopher Columbus was born where he was, or he might never have gone to sea.

Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd. I had always thought of Leonardo as an amazing genius, but I didn’t know the breadth and depth of his curiosity and creativity in so many different areas! This book shared many little known facts about Leonardo and his ideas and inventions. Did you know he liked to create an upbeat atmosphere while he worked, so he would employ musicians, singers, and entertainers to perform while he was painting? Or that he had a predilection for playing practical jokes? In one instance he attached a sheep’s intestine to large bellows, hid from sight, then pumped the bellows, inflating the intestine till it filled the room and flattened people against the walls! Did you know he invented an alarm clock that jerked the sleeper’s feet out of bed at a set time? You will find these and many other interesting stories in this lavishly illustrated book.

Leonardo was said to be tall and handsome, charming and fashionably dressed, and so strong he could impress people with seemingly superhuman feats, like bending iron horseshoes with his bare hands.

Renegade: Martin Luther (The Graphic Biography) by Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino. The artwork in this book is gorgeous. It represents a brief look at the highlights of this Reformer’s life—graphic novel style. This book is targeted more towards young adults than children but I read it aloud to the kids. Be forewarned there are a couple of swear/cuss words (which I “edited” out as I read aloud), and as this is a graphic novel some of the illustrations were just that: graphic (a few were a bit on the gory side).

By the way, the most excellent documentary (docu-drama actually) I’ve seen on his life was done by PBS: Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World. Borrowed it from the library, watched it with the kids for school and loved it. Highly recommend! (Watch the trailer for it here; also note that this is the 2017 documentary, not the older PBS documentary.)

“So, Martinus! Do you retract your writings? Yes or no.”

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scipture or clear reason, I am bound by the biblical texts I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Therefore, I cannot and I will not recant anything. I cannot act contrary to my conscience. So help me God! Amen!”

A Dragon in the Sky: The Story of a Green Darner Dragonfly by Laurence Pringle. Lovely paintings by Bob Marstall illustrate this story of the life cycle of a dragonfly named “Anax.” In style and content it reminds me a bit of Holling Clancy Holling books; it was an enjoyable living book read.

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Wait…wait…wait…Now! Anax unleashed his deadly lower lip. It shot out and seized the damselfly nymph with sharp grasping claws. Then the lip swiftly folded partway, bringing the nymph into Anax’s waiting jaws.

Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thomson. This work of historical fiction revolves around the life of John Wycliffe and his “Lollards.” Wycliffe wanted every man and woman to be able to read the Bible in his or her own language. He challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, and was an inspiration to Luther and others of the Reformation who followed in his steps a century later. (The book is a little mature reading for the age of my kids, delving into theological disscusions and being more targeted for young teens, but I read it to them anyway since we had studied Wycliffe in history this school year.)

John said softly, “Why do we fear death, Giles? You in your heart and I in mine believe the same thing.”

Giles glanced up. “What is that?”

“Come. You have read St. Paul. The saving of the soul comes from God, not the Church. Indeed, He foreknew His people before they were born, Giles. It is a matter between man and God. The Church has no say in it.”

What have you read this last year? What was your favorite read of 2018?

Rachelle

I think I felt the urge to push this time.”

I was leaning over the birth ball, trying to focus on deep breathing through a painful contraction when I felt that familiar sensation that signals the beginning of the end.

This was exactly what Cliff did not want to hear. He glanced out the window into the darkness, nervously scanning the driveway for the expected car lights.

Nothing.

Holding onto my hands, he began his own deep breathing as I entered another contraction…

* * * * *

I had given birth to two children at home with a midwife. This was my third, and though I had a history of quick labors (at least from the point that the contractions actually became painful enough I felt I was in serious labor), and though the midwife lived an hour and a half away, I was determined to have another homebirth.

I had had a good pregnancy. Having struggled with some health issues after my second child, I had taken the time afterwards to try to rebuild my health. Eventually I had gotten the “green light” from my doctor. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, this had been my best pregnancy.

Of course with a due date at the beginning of September (Labor Day, coincidentally), July and August were extremely uncomfortable months to be carrying a third trimester baby. As the time drew near I grew more anxious to meet her—and to have my hot, tired, bloated blimp of a body return to normal. 🙂

One night I awoke in a cold sweat, shaking and feeling nauseated. Having had something similar happen a few days before labor with my second pregnancy, I knew this time what was going on. My midwife then had explained that I was having an unusual hormone surge in preparation for labor. She assured me that though it was rare, it was okay.

This time I moved to the couch.

And promptly puked all over it.

After this I knew it would not be long. As the hormones began to change toward the end I felt emotional and weepy, and as the reality that it was really near sank in I began to struggle with the typical mommy doubts and fears: Would the baby be healthy? Would the midwife make it on time? Would my labor go smoothly? Would I be able to handle the pain again? Would everything work out alright? Would I be able to remain healthy after birth?

It was at this time that God began to comfort me from the Scriptures with the image of the Lord as our Shepherd. Passage after passage seemed to leap off the page at me or come to my mind as I turned to Him for peace in the midst of the mommy hormone storm. Isaiah 40:11 had been particularly relevant and comforting:

He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

He shall gently lead those that are with young. I clung to this picture of His tender care, and when my anxious thoughts multiplied within me, His consolations delighted my soul (this verse from Psalm 94:19 had been sent me by a friend).

On Friday the 24th of August I began to have fairly frequent (though mild) contractions. I called the midwife and she was soon on her way.

But after six hours of very mild labor, my contractions weren’t getting much stronger and I wasn’t dilating very fast. In fact, it all just seemed to fizzle out around midnight. The midwife didn’t think the baby was ready yet; she would not engage and stay down in the cervix. The midwife left shortly after that.

Frustrated and disappointed, I knew I would just have to wait a little longer.

Nothing happened the next day until 4:00 in the afternoon. Mild contractions began again—a little stronger than the day before (and some of them actually rather painful), but not strong enough or consistent enough I could be sure I was in labor.

And around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. they seemed to be getting ready to fizzle out again. I was tired, weepy, sore from the many contractions, and feeling anxious at this point. It was then a friend messaged me, letting me know she was praying for me. I messaged her back and admitted to feeling anxious and discouraged. It so happened that she was with my sister-in-law at church that night and she showed her the message.

Soon I got a text message from Robyn who wanted to check up on me. Instead of responding with a text message, I called her.

“Would you come over and pray with me?”

“Yes, I can do that.”

By the time she got there sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. the contractions were becoming more painful, but I still didn’t think I was in labor yet. I thought I was “done” for the night. Robyn saw my distress and gently massaged my back through these contractions. Cliff was asleep in the bedroom.

But the contractions didn’t go away. They became stronger, closer together, and lasted longer. After Robyn had timed them for awhile we decided it was time to call the midwife again. She woke Cliff and together they took turns massaging my back through the contractions while we waited for the midwife to arrive.

When she was still about 20 or 30 minutes away I first felt the urge to push. For Cliff this was deja vu—my first labor had been fast and furious and I had been ready to birth long before the midwife arrived (fortunately I had been able to hold off and slow it down by pant-breathing till she got there). He tried to remain calm as he and Robyn continued to work my back. My contractions were extremely painful at this point, and I began to pant-breathe (as per the midwife’s hurried instructions to Cliff). Robyn assured me everything was okay—if the baby came we would just deal with it, lol.

At long last the midwife walked through the door at 11:48 p.m.

The baby was born at 11:50 p.m.

Two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds. That was it. But we’d made it!

I found out later that my midwife had been stopped by the police for speeding to make it to my birth, lol. But everything about the birth had worked out so perfectly. Robyn had been there when I needed her (even though neither of us knew I was going to need her that night!). She had been able to stay and witness the birth, and she told me later that had been a very special thing for her. It was for me, too. Then the midwife was able to make it in time—by the skin of her teeth!, but in time.

 I got to hold Rachelle Adrienne Alloway in my arms for the first time that Saturday night.

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It only occurred to me later how fitting her name was, as the picture of the Lord as our Shepherd was a continuing comfort to me in the days leading up to her birth.

Rachelle means “little lamb.”

Know ye that the Lord He is God; it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3

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