A Few Words of Thanks

Looking over the pictures on my phone, I began to smile at all the ways that God has blessed our family this Fall. He is so good to us, and we do not return thanks as often as I would like. Here are a few of the things for which I am thankful, this morning:

Seven new windows on the ground floor of our home make it much less drafty and cold.

Seven new windows on the ground floor of our home make it much less drafty and cold.

No longer do we sit on the living room couch and feel a cold breeze. Thank you, God, for giving us the resources to afford new windows, and a good friend who was willing to install them for a great price!

Lunch together (sans Joshua and Rachel, away at college) at our favorite Thai restaurant for my birthday.  A little more than a year ago, I was facing kidney cancer, and didn't know if I would HAVE another birthday.  Thank you, God, for another year of life!

Lunch together (sans Joshua and Rachel, away at college) at our favorite Thai restaurant for my birthday.

A little more than a year ago, I was facing kidney cancer, and I didn’t know if I would HAVE another birthday. Thank you, God, for letting me discover the cancer in time, for a successful surgery, and for another year of life!

Our backyard fence fell apart, and I promised Kathy I would repair it 'this summer'.  As the November rains set in, it is still only about 2/3 finished.  But I'm thankful for the cheerful and willing help of my youngest son, who blesses us with his willing service.

Our backyard fence fell apart, and I promised Kathy I would repair it ‘this summer’.

As the November rains set in, it is still only about 2/3 finished. But I’m thankful for the cheerful and willing help of my youngest son, who blesses us with his diligent service. Thank you, God, for the character and wisdom you have given David, so that he almost always volunteers when work needs to be done!

A recent 'Redwall Feast' for David and Sarah's English class through Potter's School.  Thank you, God, for homeschooling friends to encourage us, and for a State in which we are allowed to homeschool our children!

A recent ‘Redwall Feast’ for David and Sarah’s English class through Potter’s School.

Thank you, God, for homeschooling friends to encourage us, and for a State in which we are allowed to homeschool our children!

Three days a week, I am allowed to work from home, in spite of the fact that the VP of our organization is firmly against any kind of telecommuting.  Thank you, God, for a boss who graciously allows me to work from home so much!

This IS my actual building; in fact, if I stood on top of my desk, you could probably see my head through one of the fifth-floor windows.

Three days a week, I am allowed to work from home, instead of commuting 2 hours (each way) to work at this campus. Thank you, God, for a boss who graciously allows me to work from home so much, even though the bosses above him are firmly against any kind of telecommuting.

Sarah helped me dig this trench in the pouring rain.

Sarah and David helped me dig this trench in the pouring rain.

For what seems like years, I’ve been trying to get reliable internet service working in the main lodge of The Refuge. Finally, we bought 500′ of Cat 6 network cable and routed it across the ground (with a switch in the middle to avoid loss of signal). This meant crossing two roads, so I dug trenches and laid the cable in conduit, with the help of my two youngest. Thank you, God, that we finally got the internet service working!

Daniel chooses good friends, and shares them generously with his brother.

Daniel chooses good friends, and shares them generously with his brother.

We’ve seen a lot of Daniel’s friend, James, this year, even though he lives 30 minutes away. Thank you, God, for answering our prayers and giving Daniel a loyal friend, and for making Daniel into a good friend himself.

Even though they are both kind of weird, these cats are a lot of fun.

Even though they are both kind of weird, these cats are a lot of fun.

Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch and Marco (pictured above, left, the fuzzier of the two cats) came and sat on my lap in an unusual display of friendliness. Misty and Marco are not the most affectionate of cats, but they do actually bring a lot of joy into our lives. Thank you, God, for these two rascally cats!

Union University (where Joshua and Rachel are, this Fall) has been very kind and generous to both my kids.

Union University (where Joshua and Rachel are, this Fall) has been very kind and generous to both my kids.

In August, I had the chance to finally visit the UU campus, and meet some of the professors. I was astounded by the way that the faculty and staff have created a college that strives for academic excellence while also fostering a warm, spiritual atmosphere. I am so proud of Joshua and Rachel for their hard work and for choosing a university that so effectively honors Jesus and puts Him first. Thank you, God, for my wise oldest children, and for Union University’s generosity to our family.

My heart is full of thanks, today, as I look forward to a holiday season that sometimes forgets God.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man! Psalm 107:8

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When Rachel Was Small

Rachel is a very passionate and emphatic person, with a very strong personality. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her now, that she was a remarkable little girl.

As a baby, she delighted her parents by sleeping through the night when she was only six or eight weeks old, and (once she graduated out of the cradle and bassinet) she quickly fell in love with her crib. When she would wake up (in the morning, or after a nap) she would babble or sing happily to herself for at least fifteen or twenty minutes (unlike those somewhat-challenging children who loudly demand to be released immediately upon awakening).

Rachel learned to speak at an early age, and was using complete sentences by the time she was 18 months old. She loved to talk to anyone about anything and everything. By the time she was two, we began to dread picking her up from the church nursery, because of the knowing, amused and sometimes appalled looks we would receive from the volunteer nursery and toddler-room workers.

Rachel was usually at the center of the action.

Rachel was usually at the center of the action.

We used to have a small group Bible study meet in our home, and Rachel would usually spend the evening, playing with her older brother in his room. One night, we were gathered around the table with several other couples in the middle of a serious discussion, when Rachel suddenly appeared in the dining room. We all turned and stared at the tiny blond figure, wearing a pink nightie.

Rachel’s eyes were wide, as she announced, “I saw a Big Back Bug.” Sometimes, in moments of stress, Rachel forgot to enunciate the letter ‘L’.

Sometimes she wore these pajamas, instead of a pink nightie.

Sometimes she wore these pajamas, instead of a pink nightie.

Mom: “What, sweetie? What did you see?”

Rachel: (Insistently, and a touch angrily.) “A Big Back Bug!”

Our guests tried to hide their amusement, and failed. I tried to conciliate her.

Dad: “OK, Rachel, thank you for telling us. We’ll take care of it later.”

Rachel: (Even more outraged.) “No, there’s a Big Back Bug!” She gestured imperiously in the direction of Joshua’s bedroom.

We all trooped off to Joshua’s room, where Rachel pointed indignantly at the offending insect. Sure enough, there was a black bug about a quarter-inch long on the outside of the screen in Joshua’s window. I flicked the screen, and the bug was dismissed. Our guests spent the next half hour taking turns, imitating Rachel’s squeaky outrage.

Whenever there was something that seemed wrong or improper to Rachel’s worldview, she was very offended and upset about it. Where other children might accept such an incident with a certain amount of philosophical equanimity, Rachel took it as a personal affront.

This was sometime around when Rachel turned four.

This was sometime around when Rachel turned four.

One day when Rachel was about 3 1/2, she and I were picking blackberries at the edge of our back yard, which backed onto a ravine. Rachel had recently given her heart to Jesus, and she had begun praying about the things that concerned her little heart. Just a few minutes before, she prayed to God to ask Him to protect her from being hurt by the thorns, but despite her best efforts (she always was a very careful child) she was almost immediately pricked by a sharp blackberry briar.

Rachel was very upset, and cried bitterly. “Why didn’t God protect me from the thorns?” she sobbed, more disappointed than angry. Of course, many adults grapple for years with the age-old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to His people?”

I was a bit stunned to be having this discussion with a 3-year-old, but I decided to treat the question seriously. I explained to her about how God did not promise to shield us from every bad thing, but that He promised to be with us in everything, and that some things happened as a result of the general sin of man. Thorns, in particular, are a direct result of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden, and are a good reminder to us of how serious sin is, in terms of its painful consequences for everyone. I went on at some length, while Rachel sniffled.

Amazingly, Rachel seemed to understand, and was apparently able to process the gist of what I was saying. I later heard her explaining it to Joshua, who listened gravely (does he listen any other way?). He learned early-on, that it was a good idea to listen to Rachel.

Rachel dressed for Halloween, as a cat (of course).

Rachel dressed for Halloween, as a cat (of course).

Well, it was nearly always a good idea to listen to Rachel. One day, not too many months later, Rachel and Joshua were alone in her room, and they got to talking about light bulbs. Noticing her bedside lamp, they speculated at some length about whether the bulb was hot when it was lit, and if so, how quickly (and how hot)? Before Joshua knew quite what had happened, Rachel had persuaded him that it was a good idea to touch the bulb with his finger. Much pain ensued, and bitter were the recriminations, when Joshua recovered from the initial shock and pain. Rachel was dismissive. “You probably shouldn’t have listened to me,” she told him, rather smugly.

Rachel’s younger brother, Daniel, was often the unwilling recipient of her instruction. Always very small of stature, Rachel could lecture with the authority of a seasoned school mistress. Daniel learned to go along with whatever she said, since she could talk circles around him (and pretty much everyone else). One day, when Rachel was not much older than five, she and Daniel were playing in the forest around our home with some of their friends. For some reason, Rachel threw a caterpillar at Daniel, and it broke in half, spilling some of its guts both inside and outside his shirt. The other kids all laughed, which only increased his fury and tears.

“I’m going to tell Mom,” he shouted, and headed for home.

Rachel was very fleet of foot, and managed to run home before Daniel could get there. Calmly, she reported the situation to Mom, in a way that seemed to put Daniel in the wrong, and completely pulling the rug out from under Daniel’s tattling. When Daniel arrived, beside himself with anger, embarrassment and bug-gut revulsion, he found that Mom was less-than-sympathetic to his plight, and Rachel dodged her punishment entirely.

In all this, I paint Rachel as some kind of preschool mastermind, yet she was actually a very kind-hearted, compassionate and loving sister and daughter. Often dressed in rain boots and a colorful raincoat, I used to take her with me whenever I had errands to run, because I enjoyed her company and I got such a favorable response from shop owners and members of the public. Rachel was a delightful ray of cute blond sunshine wherever she went, prattling non-stop all the way.

I miss this little cutie.

I miss this little cutie.

Now she is off at college in Tennessee, and we miss her greatly. She often calls or writes to us; today, back at school after Fall Break, she fired off an email:.

“I need funny stories about me when I was 3-5 years old,” she told us. It must be for her Psychology class, since I doubt they want that kind of material in Microbiology or Old Testament.

“When do you need them?” we responded.

“Tomorrow. Sorry, I forgot about this assignment,” she texted back.

Ah, the joys of college life. So we racked our brains and came up with this blog post.

Tim

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Dan the Working Man

Today is a glorious day, and I’m not just talking about the weather (although it is in the low 70′s with clear blue skies).

My middle son, Daniel, got a job today. He’s been hired by a local small business owner to organize and clean his shop. I’ve been literally dancing and jumping with joy (sorry for that mental picture) since I got home — Kathy and I are so pleased that Dan has been afforded this opportunity.

Dan wore a tie to the interview, but brought working clothes in a knapsack.

Dan wore a tie to the interview, but brought working clothes in a knapsack.

The business owner (and presumably Daniel’s boss) is a Christian man; we couldn’t be more delighted for Daniel to have his first job working for a godly man. The job is right down Dan’s alley, requiring organization and diligence (two of Daniel’s great strengths).

This job opens up many possibilities for Daniel, since I made it a requirement before he could get his Driver’s License. Like many young men, Daniel thrives when given a challenge and he is no stranger to hard work — but he needed a chance to apply himself on a larger scale. Today God gave him that opportunity, and we are deeply thankful.

School Planning

This is my 15th or 16th year homeschooling. You would think I surely know what I’m doing by now. Ha! In some ways I do feel confident about things (I’ve settled on some curriculum choices that have fit our family well and prepared us for higher education), and in other areas I continually feel inadequate and ill-equipped to educate these precious children.

David and Sarah - the last of my homeschooling kiddos!

David and Sarah – the last of my homeschooling kiddos!

Thank goodness for the Lord’s guidance, equipping, presence and wisdom! Not to mention the amazing friends I’ve met and known over the years who gladly share their ideas and input.

Right now I’m in the midst of finishing up our school schedule for September. I’ve found a system that works for us, and I LOVE planning things out for a month at a time. I only have 2 children that I’m homeschooling this year. Gasp! Two in college and one in a full time program at the local technical school – crazy!

After much trial and effort, this is what I’ve developed for our school scheduling.

This oversize tablet is what I prefer to use:

Handwriting Chart

Handwriting Chart

Years ago I found this handwriting tablet at a school supply store. I used it for our science curriculum – I wrote notes on it and had the children copy them down in their own folders. After that it sat for a long time behind our piano (the storage place for random poster paper). When I decided to work on a large chart for the kids, this came to mind and I realized it would be perfect.

Originally I used it like this and hung it in the wall of our dining room:

Handwritten Chart

Handwritten Chart

I loved picking different colors for the kids’ school subjects and writing everything down. They liked being able to see at a glance what work they had to do each day and being able to check them off as they completed work.

At some point I realized the individual sections were exactly the size of our mailing labels from our holiday letters. A brilliant idea came to mind – I could use the template in Word to type out the kids’ schedules and then print them off. This would still allow me to color code things for each child, but would save me a huge amount of time in writing and re-writing each thing.

Copy and Paste is a wonderful thing!

Now the charts look something like this:

February's chart

February’s chart

I try to pick cute graphics for each month, and it still takes me a little time to draw the lines for the calendar, but the overall project is so worthwhile! I get to adjust our schedules easily and each child knows exactly what the month holds. Fridays we have co-op, so we don’t have much scheduled for that day.

A closer look of Sarah's chart.

A closer look of Sarah’s chart.

How do you organize your monthly school schedules?

Kathy

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The musings and ravings of a bloggart family