Christian Non-fiction Read in 2019

Part 3 of my series of posts with micro-reviews of books read in 2019. Part 1 here, Part 2 here.

Run Today’s Race by Oswald Chambers. This small book, consisting of pithy sayings or “seed thoughts” (as Chambers liked to call them), was compiled by his family after his death. There is one such thought for each day of the calendar year; you could think of this as My Utmost for His HighestLite.”

August 20

There is nothing so secure as the salvation of God; it is as eternal as the mountains, and it is our trust in God that brings us the conscious realisation of this.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards’ fiery sermon, delivered in a calm, monotone voice and resulting in many conversions and a great revival in a church that had previously been dead to God and His Word, is the most famous sermon ever preached on American soil. He didn’t mince words as he warned men to flee from the wrath to come—and fly to the arms of Christ, open in mercy. I had assigned this booklet to Brianna for reading, so I read it too. 😉

Your wickedness makes you as heavy as lead; it drives you down, with great weight and pressure, toward hell. And if God were to let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf. At that moment, you will see that your health, your own care and prudence, your best contrivance, and all your righteousness, have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web has to stop a falling rock.

Alone in Majesty: The Attributes of a Holy God by William MacDonald. Short, worshipful and thought-provoking chapters explore different attributes of God’s character—both unique, and shared. Includes study guide. I used this during my morning prayer times.

How grateful we should be that God has given us minds that are able to consider His knowledge, holiness, love, power, and wisdom. True, we see through a glass darkly. But never mind! It is still a tremendous privilege to stretch our minds to the limit in contemplating His divine attributes.

What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. In eight concise little chapters, Gilbert defines and explains the gospel. It’s a good read for the Christian, and also an excellent evangelistic tool. In a nutshell, he sums up the gospel in this way:

We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.

God. Man. Christ. Response.

Christ Loved the Church by William MacDonald. My husband really liked this book and asked me to read it. Barely over a 100 pages, it deals with the teachings of the epistles on the body of Christ—who it is comprised of, its functions, leadership, unity, purpose, ordinances, etc. MacDonald encourages us to pursue love and unity as we seek to restore the simplicity of the church gathering.

“Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” (Eph. 5:25). We, too, should love the church…We should sacrificially and devotedly give ourselves in loving, glad service in order that the church on earth might progress, prosper and triumph.

Classics and Novels Read in 2019

Continuing the series of posts on my 2019 book list, these are the novels I read. 🙂

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I remember watching the movie (with Gregory Peck) as a child, but I had never read the book. The movie was good but the book—even better. The story is set in the south during the Great Depression and brings to light the racial tensions of that era.

Scout is a young girl whose father is a lawyer. When a young black man is accused of raping a white girl, her father agrees to take the unpopular case. Tension in the town escalates and Scout finds herself in the middle of all the drama, coming to terms with growing up and learning what it means to stand on principles without compromise.

Lee’s novel is a lesson on how to write a novel. I sat down and analyzed her writing style, picking it apart into little pieces and taking notes in order to better my own writing.

The Sea Wolf by Jack London. Wolves seem to figure prominently in London’s action-filled novels. In The Sea Wolf, the savage beast of prey takes a human form. Wolf Larsen is the cruel, feared, and hated captain of the Ghost, a sealing schooner. When by a freak turn of events a bookish intellectual named Humphrey Van Weyden winds up aboard the schooner, two men, two worlds, and two life philosophies collide sharply in exaggerated contrast to one another. Both fists and philosophical quips fly between them as each seeks to discover what the other is made of.

The theme of this book is philosophically existential in nature: What is the purpose or meaning of life? Is there life after death? What of God? Darwinism and natural selection?

Jack London was a self-proclaimed atheist. But what is most interesting is that he endued both his protagonist and his antagonist with pieces of his own life philosophy—then pitted them against each other in crude juxtaposition. Van Weyden (or “Hump” as he comes to be referred to) is an idealist, an altruist; one who believes in immortality, in God, in the goodness of life.

Wolf Larsen is the atheist, the materialist, prominently exalting a selfish individualism and hedonism as his virtues and seeing life in every form as a Darwinian, crawling “yeast,” agreeing with “the Preacher” (whom he loves to quote) that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” He compares himself to Lucifer and proudly defies his Maker.

London himself embodied the idealism and altruism of “Hump,” and the atheism of the Wolf. The book almost seems to read like an inner argument of the author with himself. Perhaps the most telling scene is when Wolf Larsen, while imbibing a breathtaking scene of nature, reveals his own inner struggle when he says with deep, wistful longing:

“I am filled with a strange uplift; I feel as if all time were echoing through me, as though all powers were mine. I know truth, divine good from evil, right from wrong. My vision is clear and far. I could almost believe in God.”

In his antagonist, London essentially admitted that if there was no God and no immortality, London’s own morality, altruism and idealism were schizophrenic—utterly pointless. He had no answers for this irreconcilable paradox. In the story Wolf Larsen gives expression to his secret desire to be able to see life as his opponent does, but feels there is no hope for him to do so. Did this mirror a conflict in London’s own soul? It seems to read to me as a searching, rather than a declaration; a question rather than a statement.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Wow. This was not your typical hearts-and-flowers romance novel (though what am I talking about? I’ve never read romance novels, lol). This book had some meat to it: the contrast of sense/wisdom and folly, the elevation of virtue, the condemnation of bad character and unsound judgment.

Elinor, the eldest of the three young Dashwood sisters, is a girl with a good heart and good sense. Marianne, the second, though a sweet, wonderful person, is forcefully driven by her changing feelings and emotions—and loves to have it so. She fully gives herself up to whatever emotion she is feeling without checking it or demonstrating self-restraint if appropriate.

The girls fall in love with two very different men. When all their dreams come crashing down, they have two very different responses to their heartbreak.

A thoroughly satisfying novel with lots of food for thought.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I loved this novel. The sarcasm, humor, wit, the playful banter, the unforgettable characters. I can see why this has endured as a popular classic.

Miss Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters are in want of husbands in 19th century England—or rather, ahem, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” When two high-society—and so wonderfully single!—young men move in “next door,” the whole neighborhood is in a flutter.

But when Eliza meets the daunting Mr. Darcy for the first time, she is hardly charmed. His rude, arrogant, and offputting behavior make her quickly decide he is the last man on earth she would ever be prevailed upon to marry.

And so begins this surprising, humorous romance with its many twists and turns.

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”

“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”

“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is wilfully to misunderstand them.”

Emma by Jane Austen. Jane Austen said of the book’s title character, “I am going to take a heroine who no one but myself will much like.”

She was wrong. For all her foibles and follies, many readers have come to love Emma since the book was first published in 1815.

Emma grows up in a well-to-do family as an intelligent, talented, independent, and attractive young lady with bright prospects. But she has a tendency to trust too much to her own judgment and to meddle in the affairs of others. This well-intentioned meddling soon sets Highbury in a spin as things completely unexpected and beyond her control begin to happen. What will come of it all? Can the confusing web be untangled?

Austen knew how to create living characters—and develop them well. Her characters display good or evil character, and because they are so human, even the heros and heroines are allotted their faults. But the difference between the wise and the foolish in her stories is pronounced: the wise learn from their mistakes, are teachable, and repent; the foolish don’t even recognize their own folly, much less take a course of action to turn from it.

I think her books have endured and are so loved because her characters (while sometimes caricaturized) are highly relatable, because she deftly deals satire and wit, and because the deeper theme of a man or woman’s character—how their actions and attitudes affect themselves and those around them—runs through every page of her novels.

By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner. A friend had recommended this author to me, so I went to the library and chose one of her books at random. 🙂 This story is told in sections from the perspective of four different female characters, each one facing the rough stuff life brings with varying responses.

A theme running through it is the wonder of how God uses our everyday interactions with others to bring people to Himself—and why we should trust Him and believe He will work for good in those around us as we strive to faithfully share Jesus. Those who turn many to righteousness will “shine as the stars forever.”

The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr.

This is an allegory of the battle between good and evil. Chauntecleer the rooster and the other barnyard animals go about their daily lives with no idea that they are keepers of Wyrm, the great evil locked in the center of the earth. It is their job to keep him there.

When a rooster from another farm listens to the wily temptations of Wyrm, Cockatrice is hatched–and all hell breaks loose. Rich in symbolism, this was a great read. (Some language.)

The earth had a face, then: smiling blue and green and gold and gentle, or frowning in furious gouts of black thunder. But it was a face, and that’s where the animals lived, on the surface of it. But under that surface, in its guts, the earth was a prison. Only one creature lived inside of the earth, then, because God had damned him there. He was the evil the animals kept. His name was Wyrm.

Paradise Lost and Other Poems by John Milton. This epic poem by the 17th century Christian writer was the first English poem to be sold by subscription and to be made the subject of a detailed critical study. Milton addresses the problem of evil in the world: the fall of Satan, the sin of Adam and Eve, and the justice and mercy of God the Creator. (My edition also included various early poems, sonnets, etc.)

I enjoyed it, highlighting many of my favorite parts. I realized that in order to get the most out of his works one needs to be well-versed in Greek mythology (which I am not). His many allusions and metaphors draw heavily on this and ancient history. The breadth and scope of the man’s education is itself incredible.

I would have a difficult time choosing my very favorite from the books above, but Sense and Sensibility would definitely be among those I most enjoyed. Favorite novels read in 2019–what are yours?

Family Read-Alouds for 2019

The last several years my end-of-year book posts with micro-reviews of everything we’ve read for the year have grown longer and longer. I made it through 33 books in 2019, so this year I’m going to split them up by categories, starting with the books the kids and I read aloud together (or in a few cases, that I previewed for them to read on their own). 🙂

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. This was a favorite of mine as a child and I finally shared it with my kids this year. When the Herdmans—the “worst kids in the history of the world”—show up asking to participate in a church pageant, the story of the birth of Christ is about to become very touching and real for them and for those who come to see the play.

This story will have you laughing…and possibly crying. We started and finished this 80-page book in one sitting then watched the movie based on it.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. Speare’s Newberry award-winning children’s novel was published in 1961. It tells the tale of a young Jewish man named Daniel who seeks revenge on the hated Romans who have conquered his land. He and a band of other Jewish boys eagerly await the return of the promised Messiah, hoping He will rid them of their enemies.

When a Teacher from Galilee shows up and multitudes begin to follow Him Daniel is intrigued, but hesitant. Will this man wreck vengeance on their enemies? Or has He come for some other purpose? Is He the answer to their longings? Or just another distraction?

The Hedge of Thorns, Lamplighter Rare Collection Series. Years ago my husband read this short little book. He was very impressed and decided that one day he would have his children read it.

That day came—this year. I ordered a copy from Grace and Truth Books and shared this little gem with the kids. Originally written in 1611, its language has been updated to better convey its timeless truths to young people of modern day. It tells the story of a brother and his little sister who learn that God sometimes puts “thorns” in our path to protect us from greater spiritual dangers.

A brief ten chapters, it’s a great little read—I recommend!

Poems of Robert Louis Stevenson, selected by Helen Plotz. I picked this up at a used book store one day and decided to use it as a read-aloud with the kids. The beginning of the book contains a short biography of Stevenson’s life. This Scottish author of classic favorites such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped was quite a character himself!

The collection was quite varied; some of the featured poems were written for children, while some dealt with more mature themes like death and loss (there were even several I chose to skip when reading them to the kids, due to his sometimes irreverent way of expressing his opinions on religion).

Paddington’s Storybook. I have always loved A. A. Milne’s classic characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. But after reading Paddington I realized I was finding a place in my heart for the loveable, innocent, silly bear who turns every situation into a disaster—and yet manages to save it all in the end.

With the story set in London, my kids (and even husband) were going around making little exclamations like “Crikey!” after reading this book (English authors/books are so fun!).

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Another sequel in the Little House series, Laura tells the story of her family’s settlement in Minnesota, the good times and the challenges they faced as they started life again after they had to leave Kansas.

Wild Light by Erik Stensland. This is not a children’s book.  It’s not even fiction. I had bought this in anticipation of visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during a family trip. We wanted to learn what we could about it. Stunning photography combined with scant but informative text about the history, wildlife, and original peoples of the Rocky Mountains make this a great coffee table book.

Sarah, Plain and Tall and Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan. I remember watching the movie series based on these children’s books years ago, but I’d never actually read the books.

In Sarah, Plain and Tall, a woman from Maine answers a mail-order bride advertisement to meet a widower and his two young children in Kansas. Caleb’s Story continues the tale, in which a stranger with a dark secret shows up on their farm when Caleb is a teenager (there’s actually another book between these two, but the library didn’t have it so I haven’t read it yet).

These are sweet stories about family, love, fortitude, and forgiveness. They’re easy reads for young ones, too—Sarah, Plain and Tall was just 58 pages, and Caleb’s Story 116.

White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan. In search of more books for Brianna, I turned to Ambleside Online for suggestions. The Sarah, Plain and Tall series were on that list. When I found them at the library I also swiped several other titles by the same author off the shelf to preview.

In White Fur Flying, a dog-loving family becomes curious about their mysterious new neighbors. The little boy doesn’t speak, and the woman and her husband keep to themselves. It takes the special love of a dog to bring all of them out of their shell so hurts can heal.

Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan. This may have been my favorite of the MacLachlan titles. A family goes to help their aunt with her farm during a flooding. The eldest child loves writing poetry and wishes she could sing. She has a secret she keeps to herself: her baby brother, Teddy, can sing beautifully. He sings to her every night, and they have a special bond. When Teddy suddenly disappears during the flood, family comes together and secrets are revealed.

Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan. Family love figures prominently as a theme in MacLachlan’s stories and this book is no exception. A boy and his grandfather share a tight bond together. To surprise Billy, the grandfather, the family comes together and builds him a sod house, just like he used to have. As Billy’s health deteriorates, a dog comes into his life and stays with him, keeping him happy.

There was one thing in this book I had to discuss with Bri. In the story, the dog shows up and then after the grandfather’s death it disappears. It is implied/suggested at the end that the dog was an angel. I explained to Bri that the Bible does not say that angels take the form of animals. Might not be the biggest deal, but was something we talked about.

52 Spurgeon Stories for Children Book 1: How a Spider Saved a Man’s Life by Tony Hutter. We finished the first book in this 5-volume series and we’re hooked! These are great, simple devotional readings (two short pages each) that are very interesting and entertaining. He uses each illustration to teach a biblical truth.

We really enjoyed the story about the monster—when Spurgeon is walking home from preaching one night he sees a ghostly apparition.

What does he do?

He attacks it!

Usually Spurgeon wasn’t scared of anything, but this particular evening he really was frightened. He suddenly saw something awful, horrible, terrible! It was like a giant, a monster, with great outstretched arms! Whatever was it?

To find out, you’ll have to read the story for yourself… 😉

What books has your family enjoyed reading aloud together?

 

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.

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