Well, about that e-card...

(I'm probably going to lose some of you with this one.  My first inclination is to lead off with "I'm sorry," but I'm learning that's not always appropriate.  At any rate, carry on.)

I spend entirely too much time on social media, I confess. It's not good for me. I realize this. However, in an effort to justify my behavior (don't scoff, we all do it), I feel like this is one small corner of my ministry as a stay-at-home mom.

Probably a few months ago now, this popped up in my newsfeed.


I read it a few times to make sure I wasn't making a mountain out of a mole hill, but it didn't sit right with me.  I texted a friend to bounce my crazies off of her.  I called my dad and told him about it.  I thought about it some more.  

It still doesn't sit right with me.

Surely, the creator of this clever e-card intended this message for the Pharisees; the legalistic, holier-than-thou types who condemn everyone short of perfection without so much as a nod toward grace.  

But...what if they didn't?  What if there is something a little more subtle, but oh-so-off-track about this seemingly innocuous e-card?  

Subtlety is one of Satan's specialties.  I bet he is eating this thing right up.

Remember Genesis 3?  The serpent didn't tell Eve to taste the fruit.  He merely suggested that what God had told her was surely not right.  
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
You see, all it takes is a little seed of doubt to cause us to stray from what God's words clearly tell us.  

So what's this have to do with the e-card?  I am so glad you asked.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'  (Matthew 22: 36-39)
We are commanded to love God and love others. 

Well, let's tackle the second part first.  How do I love others (aka "treat people")?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"  Matthew 5:43-47
Loving others with Christian love should look different from the world's perspective.  We are ambassadors of Christ.  We are called to love those who are unlovely, hateful, different, frightening, cold-hearted, uncomfortable.  This kind of love is a gift from God, shining through us.  This is what should be setting Christians apart from the world.  There are a million plus one ways to show love - here are ten:

1.  Pray for the person in your life who most causes your blood pressure to skyrocket.
2.  Buy a homeless woman a meal and a cold (non-alcoholic) beverage (because this is Georgia and I'm sure she's hot).
3.  Give someone your jacket on a cold day.
4.  Smile.  All the time.  At anyone and everyone.  People will think you're crazy, but that's okay.  You will stand out.
5.  Hold the door for the sketchy dude behind you.
6.  Help someone with 19 kids push their groceries to the car.
7.  When something you want is 50% off, buy two and donate one.
8.  Make and deliver cookies to a neighbor you've never met.  Wait...you have neighbors you've never met?  Shame on you! ;)
9.  Exhibit grace.  A good way to do this is to take your four kids grocery shopping.  Guarantee an opportunity will arise at some point during the trip.
10.  Take your kids to a nursing home and just hang out with old people.  Some of them will be grumpy, but so many of them will delight in you.

Alright, so let's get to the first part...the Love God part.  That one can be a little harder to wrap our finite brains around.  You see, I can say, "I love God!" all day long, but that doesn't make it true.  So, what does?  How do I love God?  How can I know how to love God?

Ahhhh, see, that's where those pesky Bible verses come into play.  

I sincerely doubt that there's a chalkboard with tally marks beside the names of scripture memorizers.  That's not what this is about.

Let's back up...what does God want from us?  Relationship (aka "love").
I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. Proverbs 8:17
How do I seek God diligently?  This psalmist had a pretty good idea...
I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:10-11
Hidden your word in my heart.  Boom.  How do we do that?  We read it.  And we commit to learning it.  Dare I say memorize it?  We spend time in the word.  We need to know what it says!

We are engaged in spiritual warfare.  Daily.  As mere humans, we have no idea what is going on in the heavenlies right over top of our heads between the angels and princes of darkness, and yet we do catch glimpses of what it is like to combat those who would persecute Christ and his followers.  When we are questioned about our faith, do we know what to say?  What we believe?  Why we believe?  What sets us apart?  We're supposed to!
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  1 Peter 3:15-16
God's Word is our weapon.  It is our sword in the battle against principalities.  It is part of the full armor of God.  We cannot be equipped with God's Word if we do not know it.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:10-17
Christians, I implore you.  Spend time in God's word.  Know what it says so that you can be prepared, always, to give an answer.  Hide these words in your heart.  Memorize them.  Jesus cares about how you treat people, but he also cares about how you treat Him.  He wants you to know Him and in seeking Him, you won't be able to help but love Him.

Then Jesus said to them, "If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad."  Oh no.  Wait.  That was Sheryl Crow.  That's actually not in the Bible.  Anywhere.  We just want it to be.  See, I think we ought to find out for sure instead of pretending we know.

Let God's word show us how to love Him and love others.  It's all in there.  You should totally check it out.

Thy word is lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105


That's a Wrap, Folks!

On July 30, 2012, we began this "little adventure" of homeschooling.  In this family, I've come to dub most everything an adventure, but especially those things that feel like they need a little more talking up or extra enthusiasm.  You see, I wasn't sure how exciting it would be for the kids to be home with mean, old, not fun mom all day, every. single. day.  So we slapped a more exciting label on homeschooling like "Our Next Adventure!"  And off we went.

I was a totally nerve-wracking mix of excited and terrified.  At the risk of sounding like a self-righteous, know-it-all, I was completely unafraid of teaching the subject matter to my kids.  And, at the risk of sounding like the worst mother ever, I was afraid of simply being with my kids (like I said already, all day, every. single. day.).

On May 23, 2013, we tied a pretty little bow on our core subjects, vowing to see history and astronomy to completion over the summertime, and called it our last day of school.  Just for the sake of a clean ending that will give way to a new beginning - that is fourth grade, first grade, and pre-k next year.

People routinely ask me how homeschooling is going.  And I routinely reply, "So much better than I anticipated."  Maybe it's because I'm the eternal pessimist.  Maybe it's because a little part of me sincerely expected some sort of mutinous overthrow midway through the year that would lead to a march of two children back to public school and a defeated Jennie.  Or, more realistically, maybe I just thought each and every day would be a drudge...for all of us.

I'm so glad that the scenes I come up with in my overactive imagination are almost always wrong.  And I'm further glad that I'm finally starting to realize this.

At the risk of turning this into a never-ending-blog-post (as much as I know you love them), I'm going to default to a list here (you're welcome). 

Top 8 Lessons from Our Inaugural Homeschool Year

1.  There's nothing to be afraid of.  I was born with thin-skin, with a desire to please everyone else, avoid conflict, be comfortable, play it safe.  Turns out, making the decision to homeschool and spending a year actually doing it helps to cure some of those things.  I'm no longer afraid of what people will think when I'm out at the grocery store with my four kids at 11am on a Tuesday.  I'm no longer afraid of telling people that we homeschool and why we decided to take our kids out of the top notch school system here when we didn't have any glaringly obvious reason that would prompt such a move.  I'm no longer afraid of coming up with the right answer to the (1,415,130) questions my kids will ask me per day.  But most of all, I'm no longer afraid of just being with my kids.  Or maybe that's just being with my kids.  Either way.  I'm not afraid.  They're not scary little people.  They're my best allies.  They're the future.  And it's my privilege...and my calling...to be investing in them. 
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  Deuteronomy 6:4-7
2.  It's important to finish what we start.   This has always been important to me.  Sometimes it's not fun, but it's worth it to say, "I did it!" at the end.  I know that not everyone agrees with me on this one.  Sometimes things don't work, and you scrap it and move on.  That's one super-appealing homeschooling benefit.  However, when your teacher's name is Jennie and she has closure issues, you will finish what you started.  I want my kids to know the fulfillment of tallying up the remaining number of lessons and the sense of accomplishment that comes with erasing that final tick mark. 

I want them to dig deeper and desire to finish even when the race has been long and they're worn out and ready to quit.  I want them to find the motivation to work through extra lessons each day because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and they cannot wait to get there.  In fact, this is how we were able to finish Latin on Wednesday.  Ben completed  four lessons each day this week.  You should have seen the smile on that kid's face.  Worth it.

3.  Sometimes you have to cry "Uncle!"  This means knowing when we have all reached the end of our collective ropes and we need a BREAK.  Breaks come in many shapes and sizes...ranging from a trip through the drive-thru,  a romp at the playground, a long bike ride, a hike, 30 minutes in the back yard, a stroll around Target with some popcorn, 30 minutes of mind-numbing cartoons.  Sometimes is a quick break, sometimes it's the whole day.  What's awesome is being able to take a breather when the going gets tough.

4.  The hardest lessons have everything to do with character and nothing to do with curriculum.  So maybe the Latin book prompted a few meltdowns, arguments, tears, what have you...believe me, the lessons we carried away after those things happened couldn't have had less to do with Latin.  Homeschooling is not easy.  Let me repeat that.  Homeschooling is not easy.  I'd be lying straight to your face if I said that.  But the hardest parts have nothing to do with academia and everything to do with hearts.  We shed so many tears this year...good and bad.  But, we grew so many bonds and strengthened others.  We had deep discussions we might never have had otherwise.  My kids saw my flaws, and I learned to apologize, profusely.  When my kids presented obvious heart issues, I attempted, feebly at times, to train them in the way God would have their hearts be molded.  This is a lifelong commitment...for all parents.  I think it just hit me in the face like a 2x4 this year. 

5.  There is no substitute for this time we have together.  Was it sunshine and roses every day?  Not even close.  In fact, I'd venture to say we struggled through a lot more and deeper conflicts than we ever would have if they'd have been in school.  The best part though is that we did it.  We got through them, and we grew from them.  And we grew together as a family in a way I never would have guessed.  Are my kids best friends with each other?  Probably only Sarah would say yes, but in all honesty, I have witnessed them grow closer, and that is something I pray will continue for the rest of their lives.  When they are old and gray I want them to have each other to lean on, because they want to out of love for their brother and sisters who are more like best friends and not because they have to because they are family.  We are a lot closer than we were a year ago.  (Of course they still fight.  They are, after all, still brothers and sisters.)

6.  Offseason rocks.  We rank money savings and the absence of crowds pretty highly in this family.  We're a couple of practical introverts, Sam and me.  So, when we have the chance to go to the beach at a
fraction of the cost and have the place to ourselves, sign us up.

7.  I get to be here for the triumphs and the defeats.  I have always been proud of my kids, but I don't really think I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor until I brought them home.  Seeing the lightbulb click in Abby's brain as she took off reading, watching Ben challenge himself on time tests and shatter his previous records, witnessing Abby as she taught Sarah everything she knew, consoling Ben when he beat himself up over getting an answer wrong or struggling to understand a concept...these are things I didn't get to personally witness until this year.  These are the things I have delegated in the past.  I didn't even know what I was missing.

(And to share a random triumph we just had here, Sarah - the fresh four year old - begged us to take the training wheels off her little 12" bike.  She nailed it on the first attempt.  Evel Knieval, the female version...for real.)

8.  It's not about me.  I think we all learned this lesson in some capacity.  It's not about me because I can't do it myself...some days the only thing that got me through to the next was the promise of renewed mercies in the morning and grace.  We have all been receivers and givers of grace this year.  And that, perhaps, has been a most unexpected, most important blessing.

Now that we are out of school mode,  maybe I'll have some more time for blogging.  Maybe not.  I just want to shout from the rooftops,

"We all survived our first year of homeschooling!!!!"

Maybe I'll have it made into a t-shirt.

Thanks for bearing with me in this transitional season of life (and all of my other transitional seasons as well).  Hope you all have a blessed Memorial Day weekend - take some time to reflect on and remember those who died in service to our country, so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy (and, yes, take for granted) every day.  

Freedoms like...the ability to homeschool  kids.

The Tale of the Missing Blogger-Lady (it's far less exciting than the title, let me tell you)

Weeks have come and weeks have gone.  It seems I have missed penning posts on the list of pressing topics that were burning in my writer's soul.  What was I busy doing?  That's just it.  The only answer I can come up with is


Just this week, I missed writing about two of my most favorite times of the year.

Mother's Day

 Sarah's 4th Birthday

Life has been in the way of blogging. And while I do miss the outlet, it's going to be alright.  Because it's given me time to do other things, like capture 5-10 minutes here and there to read a book, and to watch my impish second-born scale lampposts,

 (No, literally, she was halfway up the lamppost)

and take some much-needed first trimester naps.  With that pesky tiredness hopefully behind me (as of this post I am 12.5 weeks pregnant), maybe I'll find some more time to write.  I do still have so many things to say.  And whether or not anyone reads this garble, it is my outlet.

I'm back today, however, with a particularly heartwarming memory that I wanted to get down before I forgot it.  On Monday morning, the day started just like every other day.  Sarah was the first one awake, and she crawled not-so-quietly into my bed and snuggled up next to me.  I looked at her and said, "Sarah!  Happy Birthday!!!"  She looked back at me and said, "It's my birthday?!"  I guess we'd been building it up for so long she couldn't believe it had finally arrived.  It was her day.  One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that birthdays are school holidays (for the birthday child anyway, most of the other kids get a serious break on their schoolwork as well).  She picked what she wanted for breakfast (a trip to the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru), what she wanted to do for her birthday adventure (go to Monkey's Joe's, the local indoor inflatable playground), and what she wanted to do in between (ride scooters with Ben, while we waited for Monkey Joes to open).  Because Ben is the oldest, with the most responsibilities, and has the most work yet to complete for the school year, I tasked him with a single Latin assignment before we left.

He, of course, couldn't find his book.  He's like that...about finding things.

In my efforts to help him find it, so as not to waste anymore time, I perused the bookshelf in our playroom where the schools books should be, and as I bent over...


I felt like I'd been tasered in the lower back.  It's a wonder I didn't fall down on the ground.  Pretty sure I scared the daylight out of poor Ben.  I upright-ed myself and tried to carry on.  It hurt, but it was manageable.

To make an already long story shorter by a little, against my better judgment and determined to give Sarah the birthday she so desired, we loaded up the minivan with the four kids and an unfinished Latin assignment and headed to Monkey Joes.  To make the rest of the story even shorter, as I carried Leah across the floor, I tripped on a mat, jarred my back, and nearly dropped my precious 14-month old.  The damage that point was done.  I could stand.  That was it.  Luckily, against all odds, this happened in the stroller a little while later:

We left Monkey Joe's after a couple of hours of play, went to the McDonald's drive-thru for some McNuggets because I could not even fathom attempting to prepare lunch at home (don't judge), and arrived home to my Prince Charming who had just gotten back from work.  I collapsed in the bed in tears, unable to take any decent pain medication because I'm pregnant, trying to remain perfectly still, devastated that I was ruining yet another of precious Sarah's birthdays (last year, it was the year of the Kidney Stone - yeah, that's right, I made it a proper noun because that's the kind of respect those things deserve).  As I cried and cried because I could not physically get out of the bed to pee (a serious dilemma for a pregnant girl, especially a fifth-time pregnant girl whose bladder is not what it used to be), Sam took the three girls to Abby's soccer game, took them out for a birthday dinner, came home and cared for his ailing wife, made a cake for Sarah, wait - no, out of eggs, took a trip to the grocery store, then made a cake for Sarah, and proceeded to do some laundry for bonus points.

[After seven long hours, I managed to get to the bathroom with the help of a rolling desk chair as a walker.  Isn't it amazing the things we take for granted?]

Then, so I could be included in the singing of "Happy Birthday!", we threw the no-food-in-Mommy-and-Daddy's bedroom rule out the door, and we sang to that sweet girl.

This was the only shot I got of my precious Sarah on her fourth birthday.  With my crummy phone, lying prostrate in my bed.  It's worth more to me than any in-focus shot with my fancy camera.  It's unbridled joy.  In spite of me.  As Sam put her down for bed that evening, she told him this was "the best birthday ever!"  Of course, I cried.  I'm just so glad she enjoyed her day.

The next morning, I woke up slightly better, but in no condition to care for four kids.  I was able to make to the bathroom, but that was the extent of my mobility.  Sam was ready to come home at any time, but my pride, as usual, got in the way.  I made it to lunchtime thanks to the unbelievable strength of character my three eldest kids exhibited.

This is why I am writing this post.

It's still fresh on my mind (duh, it happened yesterday), but I don't ever want to forget how incredible they were to me.  They are just children.  Nine, six, and barely four, but they were mature beyond their years, capable beyond all expectations, and while I've always been proud of them, I could not possibly feel more blessed to be their mother in this moment. 

It's when life hands us the worst of times, we tend to recognize our biggest blessings.

And I am so blessed.

From bringing me drinks, freezing and refreezing ice packs, checking in at random with "Need anything, Mommy?", fetching remote controls, pulling up covers, picking things up off the floor, following around their perpetually-moving one-year-old sister, fixing their own breakfast and snacks, and beyond, they rose to the task.  Poor Sarah had the worst of all jobs.  After deciding I was well enough to take a shower (I wasn't), I fell onto the bed wrapped in a towel, unable to move.  She shimmied some undies up to my thighs where I was able to grab them and pull them the rest of the way up.  My four year old put my underwear on for me.  That's love.  (And it was also a huge lesson in humility...for me.)  Abby got me a shirt that I was able to put on a few hours later.  I finally understand the reaches of back pain.  I promise never to scoff again.

But the point is, in these tough times, people have a chance to serve and to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  And I am so blessed with a family, both of the genetic kind and the in-Christ kind that has cared for me these past few days, including random texts, phone calls, drop-ins, and even a surprise Zesty Italian Casserole because some friends are just awesome like that.  (It was delicious and oh-so-appreciated...thanks for ignoring the fact that I don't know how to accept help.  Sincerely, you rock.)

To Sam, I love you, and I appreciate everything you've done and sacrificed this week (especially sleep) to take care of me and our family.  You are clearly the unsung hero of this family.

To my kids, I'm so proud of you and the people, however small you still are, that you've become.  Before I brought you home from school, one of the things on my list of "cons" against homeschooling was that in the event of me being ill (or, in this case, injured) I'd have four of you to take care of instead of the youngest two.  Turns out, I don't know how I would have done it without you all.  You took care of me.  And you are amazing.

To Sarah, Happy Birthday my precious angel.  I cannot even imagine this family with you.

To everyone who prayed for me, I am absolutely certain I would not be where I am two short days later without your intercession.  Thank you.  From the bottom of my...back. 

To everyone else, take time to thank God for your blessings - just in case they are snatched from you while you peruse your bookshelf one day.

Out.  (Finally.)

Back to Top