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All Good Things Come to an End

Sunset Over Patricia Lake Marlin and Laura Hum

It’s hard to believe, but after 25 years of homeschooling, this season of my life has come to a close. What a journey it’s been! So much fun, yet so difficult. So time consuming, yet so relaxed. So enlightening, yet so humbling. So rewarding, yet so disappointing at times. Seemingly endless, yet now a thing of the past. My feelings are just as mixed: happy, sad, proud, doubting, hopeful, wistful, outward-looking, reflective, etc. They are prone to change from one minute to the next. I guess that’s all part of the transition from homeschooling for so long to being…..retired.

Can I use that word? It has been defined as “to leave one’s job and cease to work, typically upon reaching the normal age for leaving employment.” Its origin is from the French verb retirer, meaning “to withdraw to a place of safety or seclusion”. Well, I didn’t get paid to homeschool; I still have plenty of work to do; and I’m not ready yet to become a hermit! I’ve come to the conclusion that I am being repurposed for God’s glory. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the lessons that the Lord has taught me during my homeschooling days, and I know that he will continue to lead me and give me his grace for whatever I will have to face in the future. If there’s one thing that this homeschooling journey has taught me, it’s that I have a loving heavenly Father that I can trust. It’s his faithfulness that has kept me steady all these years, and his faithfulness is the rock that I will continue to build my life upon.

Let me take this opportunity to wish my readers a very blessed Christmas season with your loved ones. If you are a homeschooling mom or know one, my devotional book Stress-free Homeschooling is available online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble in ebook format, or if you prefer to flip pages, I still have some copies in softcover format. (Fill out contact form on this blog to order). I wrote it to encourage other homeschooling moms. It would make a great Christmas gift for yourself or a friend!

Life Out of Death: Easter 2019

I’m looking forward to my flowers blooming outside. Meanwhile, I will content myself with indoor flowers, like this hibiscus. I wasn’t sure if my plant would bloom again, after being dormant for so long and having problems with buds dropping and not looking so healthy. But it seems to have come to life recently and is budding and blooming. It reminds me of that Easter long ago, when things looked pretty bleak for Jesus and his disciples. All their dreams seemed to come crashing down on that cross. The future looked pretty hopeless. Yet Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, in triumph over death, sin, and Satan. From death came life…resurrection life, abundant life, eternal life. We see this principle of life out of death played out in our world, not just in spring when new plants spring forth after the deadness of winter, but in our lives as well. We die a million mini-deaths in our lifetime: deaths to our hopes, dreams, expectations. Yet out of each loss, each death, Jesus is at work to bring life to us, to create something new and beautiful in our lives. Things may look dead and hopeless for a season, but Resurrection morning is coming! Thank you, Lord, that you are risen! Happy Easter!

God’s plan or ours?

Our pastor preached about Mary the mother of Jesus about a month ago and I’ve been thinking about that message ever since. He spoke about the difference between asking God to bless what I am doing and stepping into what God is doing. When the angel appeared to Mary with the news that she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and become pregnant with a son, she had a choice to make: whether she would step into God’s plan for her or not. God was inviting Mary into His story. He was sending His son as the savior of the world, and he wanted him to be born through the virgin Mary. That was his plan, but I want you to think about it from Mary’s perspective. Although the scriptures don’t say a lot about what Mary thought or felt, I think her life was quite a roller coaster ride. It probably did not follow the script she would have written and prayed for. I think her life illustrates the reality that God’s plan is often quite different than the one we envision and want him to bless, but his plan is best and will accomplish his eternal purposes. Our prayers are often our attempt to convince God to bless our plans, but I believe that he wants us to align ourselves in prayer with what he is doing in and around us.

Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a few minutes. Here was this Jewish girl, probably a teenager, engaged to be married to Joseph. What might her dreams have been? Probably to be happily married to Joseph, have many babies, live comfortably, and enjoy old age with Joseph and her grandchildren. She may also have longed for a deliverer to break the Jewish people free from their Roman oppressors. Perhaps Mary prayed for God to bless her upcoming marriage, family, and nation. She probably did not realize the adventure she was about to participate in.

It started when she was engaged to Joseph, and an angel shows up to give her the life-changing announcement that she has found favor with God and  will give birth to  Jesus (Luke 1:26-56). So Mary is basically freaking out when the angel first greets her. Then when she’s told that she’s going to give birth to a son, she’s totally confused. Like, how is this going to happen when I’m still a virgin? The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and reassures her that God still does miraculous things by telling her that her barren older cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant. Then in v. 38, Mary submits to God’s plan and accepts that this crazy circumstance is God’s will for her. She then visits Elizabeth and gets confirmation and encouragement from Elizabeth. A song of praise comes from Mary’s mouth and heart as she declares her gratefulness and trust in the Lord and exalts his character.

So as God breaks into Mary’s life with His story, Mary goes from shock to confusion to surrender to praise. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been through that sequence a few times. Shock, confusion, surrender, praise. We have our nice little ideas about how we’d like God to work in our lives and bless us, but then God answers our prayer with a crisis that we didn’t ask for. He has something different in mind; something that is going to further His eternal purposes, not just make us happy and comfortable.

I’m sure that Mary’s adjustment to God’s will was a process that involved many peaks and valleys. How many of the people in Mary’s town would have believed that she was a pregnant virgin? I’m sure that some looked down on her. Think of what it must have been like to raise a perfect child as your firstborn. Pretty cool. But Mary had at least 7 more children, who weren’t perfect. That probably generated some interesting sibling rivalry that Mary had to manage. There was the time that the family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and on the way home realized that they had lost Jesus, who was about 12 years old at the time. Time to freak out again! But when she and Joseph found Jesus in the temple, teaching the teachers, they were amazed. Who is this special child?

He learned his father’s carpentry trade and then began at the age of 30 to preach, teach, and heal people. How proud of her son she must have been. Then, when Jesus was only 33 years old, she had to watch him suffer and be brutally killed. Her husband, Joseph, had probably died by then, judging by Jesus’ instruction to John to take care of Mary in his stead. So she lost her husband, and now her firstborn son is hanging on the cross. That was probably not what she had prayed for. It was probably not what she expected as a faithful woman of God. Then came the amazement of the resurrection and outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Wow! This is incredible! Between those two events, Jesus leaves her again…to ascend to heaven.

What can we learn from Mary’s life? That God has a plan, and he invites us to be part of it. It’s going to be an adventure! And it’s probably not what we would have planned or prayed for! And when we hit a crisis, once we’ve recovered from the shock of it and the confusion of wondering what we did to deserve this, we can accept that this is God’s will for us, and we can surrender to him and pray for *His* plan to prosper. And God will put a song of praise in our hearts!

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38

 

Annunciation 39

 

 

Why Jesus is Better Than Santa Claus

Santa lives at the North Pole…
     JESUS is everywhere.

Santa rides in a sleigh…
JESUS rides on the wind and walks on the water.

Santa comes but once a year…
JESUS is an ever present help.

Santa fills your stockings with goodies…
JESUS supplies all your needs.

Santa comes down your chimney uninvited…
JESUS stands at your door and knocks, and then enters your heart when invited.

You have to wait in line to see Santa…
JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.

Santa lets you sit on his lap…
JESUS lets you rest in His arms.

Santa doesn’t know your name, all he can say is “Hi little boy or girl, what’s your name?”…
JESUS knew our name before we were born.  Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too. He knows our history and future and He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.

Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly…
JESUS has a heart full of love

All Santa can offer is HO HO HO…
JESUS offers health, help and hope.

Santa says “You better not cry”…
JESUS says “Cast all your cares on me for I care for you.”

Santa’s little helpers make toys…
JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and builds mansions.

Santa may make you chuckle but…
JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.

While Santa puts gifts under your tree…
JESUS became our gift and died on a tree…the cross.

We need to put Christ back in CHRISTmas, Jesus is still the reason for the season.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
~~~~~

Would you like to know Jesus?
You can have peace and find hope and know forgiveness through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to You and ask You to come in as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Bring peace to my world this Christmas. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, pray it right now and Christ will come into your life as He promised. If you invited Jesus Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life.

(Author unknown)

This is a reposting of a message I came across several years ago. Let me take this opportunity to wish my readers and followers a blessed Christmas, filled with our Saviour’s love, joy, and peace.

 

Encourage a Homeschooling Mom Today

Homeschooling can be a very rewarding journey, but at times, the mothers who invest in their children’s education can feel discouraged, inadequate, or anxious about their children. May I suggest something to encourage them?

  1. Tell them that you appreciate what they are doing for their children.
  2. Treat them to some self-care time (a spa gift certificate; watching their children for an afternoon while they do something they enjoy; arrange with hubby a surprise girls’ getaway)
  3. Pray for them regularly. Ask what their specific prayer requests are and pray with them.
  4. Make yourself available to listen to them and be a friend.
  5. If she is struggling with negative thought patterns, consider buying my devotional book  Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking. It will help her to focus on the truths of God’s Word instead of the lies that she is being tempted to believe.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

A Prayer for the New School Year

 

Dear Lord,

As a new school year begins, we acknowledge our need for your wisdom, grace, and guidance in our lives and those of our students. We thank you that you love us, have a wonderful plan for our lives, and are working all things together for our good. Thank you for the new things we will learn this year. I pray for both students and teachers, that you will open our eyes to the marvelous things you have created, bring us to a greater realization of how precious we are to you, and help us develop our God-given abilities to serve this world that you love dearly. Let us know your direction when we are confused, your comfort when we are grieving loss, your power in our weakness, and your reassuring presence when we are feeling anxious. We love you, praise you, and pray that you will be glorified in our lives. Amen.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, And he will direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5,6)

There is Hope (Thoughts on Ecclesiastes Part II)

fuschia tears resized 1600 x 1067 for blogIn “Why is there so much despair in the world?”, I wrote that in the first 2 chapters of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon showed how empty life can be when you live from a temporal perspective. Solomon described the restlessness in a person’s soul that can only be relieved in a relationship with God. As I shared in that blogpost, “no accomplishment, experience, possession or relationship can satisfy our deepest needs. Only God can.”

In Ecclesiastes 3, we read a well-quoted passage about there being a time or season for everything. “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…” This passage teaches the seasons, or cycles of life. There is a time for everything, and God is ultimately in control of these seasons or cycles. They include both happy and sad occasions. This is the reality of life: it is a tapestry of both good and evil; joy and suffering.

What does the writer tell us about God in the light of this reality?

    1. He has made everything beautiful in its time. In other words, even in the most tragic circumstances, the Lord will bring out beauty. As we read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Mercy and brotherly compassion shine the brightest in the darkest of trials.

     

    1. He has put eternity into man’s heart. Deep within the human heart is the understanding that there is more to life than just living a materialistic existence. There is an awareness of a creator, an afterlife, morality, and a desire for meaning and purpose beyond the temporal. We have needs for security, love, and significance that cause us to desire and seek the Lover of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who created us with those needs and can uniquely satisfy them. During times of joy or difficulty, we can depend on God’s love for us.

     

    1. Whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. This tells us that God’s work is eternal, complete, and secure. Faith in Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross guarantees us eternal life. Nothing can be added to it (eg. our good works) and nothing can be taken from it (“It is finished” Jesus declared when he had paid the penalty for our sins). No one can snatch us out of the Father’s hands (John 10:28,29). We may go through difficulties in this life, but if we have placed our trust in Jesus, our salvation is secure.

     

    1. God will judge the righteous and the wicked in his time. Although we see injustice and corruption on earth now, we can be assured that God also sees, and one day justice will prevail.

     

    1. He has gifted us with the privilege of eating and drinking and enjoying the fruits of our labor while on this earth. Although these are not our purpose in life, they are blessings from God to be appreciated.

     

    These truths give us hope, not despair. We can enjoy the blessings of God and his presence while we are on this earth and look forward to living eternally with Him where there will be no more sin, evil, oppression, suffering, or death. Now that’s something to rejoice in!

Why is there so much despair in the world?

despairEcclesiastes is a strange book. King Solomon, son of David, the wisest and richest man in the world wrote it. But it reads like such a tale of woe and despair, for a man who had everything and knew the Lord. How are we to understand it?

The first couple of chapters sound like a familiar song to those prone to depression. What is the meaning of life, anyway? What does all my labor get me? Nothing, I tell you; nothing. It’s all vanity (a waste of time). Solomon didn’t deny himself any pleasure. I mean, he delighted in wine, women, and song to his heart’s content, but strangely, he found that…. his heart was not content. There was temporary pleasure, but it left him lacking. He pursued riches, beauty, and accomplishments, but despite all he did and how hard he worked, it gave him no satisfaction or meaning. Over and over, he complained how meaningless it all was. “But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” Ecclesiastes 2:11

King Solomon was the wisest person alive, but as he contemplated that, he realized that both the wise and the foolish eventually die. As he wrote in Ecclesiastes 2:16-23,

“For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten. So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless–like chasing the wind. I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.”

Solomon’s tirade exposes the thinking of someone who lives in the temporal, not the eternal. If there is no such thing as eternity; if there is not a loving, personal God who fills our life with purpose and meaning; then, yes, there is much reason to despair. As Solomon declared in Ecc.1:14,15, “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered.”

This is the logical conclusion of living “under the sun”. When our lives are limited to what we can see, the here and now, then life loses its meaning. The best we can do is work hard, try to do good, have fun, and hope that we get lucky. This is essentially the conclusion that Solomon came to in Ecclesiastes 2:24. “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”

Solomon was declaring that without the Lord, this is the best attitude one can have towards life. And that is the prevailing worldview, I’d say. Work hard, try to do good, have fun, and hope that you get lucky. Many people resign themselves to the thought that there’s nothing more to life than this.

But others, perhaps the thinkers in society, know that there is more. They are aware of the emptiness in their soul. Perhaps like Solomon, they’ve had wealth, notoriety, and pleasures, but they have left that person unsatisfied. Why are so many famous, accomplished, well-liked people committing suicide these days? What causes someone like Robin Williams or Anthony Bourdain to end their life? Is it because they are disillusioned? Did they buy into the fantasy that if you work hard, do good, enjoy yourself, and gain wealth and experiences, that the hunger in your soul will be satisfied by those things? Perhaps after doing all those things, they felt just as empty as before. Perhaps they never understood what Augustine of Hippo discovered 16 centuries prior: that “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you”. Only a relationship with the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ, can satisfy that restlessness in our soul. Only He can love us unconditionally, and provide us with the meaning, purpose, security, and peace that our hearts long for. No accomplishment, experience, possession or relationship can satisfy our deepest needs. Only God can.

What about you? Are you living an “under the sun” existence, or are you living “in the Son”?

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:9,10

“Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.” 2 John 1:3

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Easter

Bunnies are cute; chocolate is yummy; but the best thing about Easter is the new life we can have in Christ. Woven in all of creation is the truth that out of death, comes life. A seed falls into the ground and is buried, then after some time a new shoot proceeds forth. The trees lie leafless and dormant through the winter, then miraculously new buds form in the spring that will open to produce a vibrant green-leafed tree once again.

Similarly, Jesus’ death and burial were the precursor to resurrection life. Without his death on the cross, there would be no resurrection, for him or for us. But thankfully, he submitted to suffering and death out of love for us, so we could experience new life in Him. His death brings us life.

The moment I trusted that Jesus’ work on the cross was sufficient to pay for my sins and I asked him to come into my life, he graciously saved me. That was quite a few years ago, and every day I experience the joy of knowing that I am alive in Christ and his Spirit lives within me. I know that he loves me unconditionally, and his love and goodness is a stable foundation to build my life upon. I know that there is no condemnation for me, for Christ has forgiven me of all I have done wrong. My life in Christ is my happy place, where outside pressures cannot intrude. When stress threatens to overwhelm me, I take refuge in the Lord and am comforted. I know that my troubles are temporary, and that one day I will be swept away into the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus in heaven. Thank you, Lord, for resurrection life. Thank you for Easter.

Resurrection and Life

 

Homeschooling and the Winter Blahs

evergreen for blog

I’m planning a kitchen reno and my writing time is limited these days, so here is a reblog of last winter’s post. I hope these suggestions are helpful to you!

As a homeschooling mom, late winter is the time of year I dread the most. I’m usually okay until mid-January, then I often descend into this tired, touchy, wanting-to-hibernate state until the end of March. Then when spring arrives, I get that second wind to go on. It’s very predictable. It doesn’t help to be living in the Great White North where cold, snow, and gray skies wreak havoc with your emotional well-being!

Fortunately, the last several years have been considerably better for me. As I reflect on why that is, I’d like to share some things I have done that may help you as well.

  1. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be living in some warm, sunny location, you could probably benefit from Vitamin D supplements, especially during the winter. The ideal source of Vitamin D is through regular exposure to sunlight, but if that is impossible for you because of where you live, you will probably need supplements.
  2. Winter would be a good time to have a more relaxed schooling schedule. Let the children sleep in (within reason). Sleep in yourself if it makes you feel better. A rested mom is going to be a nicer mom 🙂 Plan your academics so that the more intensive study times happen earlier in the school year when you have more energy and enthusiasm. Leave more room for fun learning activities, reading books, or watching movies together.
  3. Take a walk outside every morning. If I can do it with the nasty weather we get here at times, you can, too! Enjoy the scenery; listen to the birds; take time to commune with God. It’s amazing how a short walk outside can lift your spirits! If you have little ones, take them with you, or plan some other outdoor activity with them such as tobogganing, playing in the snow, or going to the park.
  4. Plan for more days or weeks off in the winter. We start our academic year mid to late August, but then take time off throughout the school year. This is especially important in winter, when a break is needed the most!
  5. Start a fun personal project in January eg. learn to paint; start a blog; plan your summer vacation. Do something just for you, that you will enjoy. Carve out a time slot for this activity every day.
  6. If you’re living in a cold place, this would be a great time to take a vacation to somewhere warm if finances permit. It’s low travel season, so flights are not so expensive. You could plan your family vacation for the winter instead of the summer; better yet, plan a getaway for you and hubby if there is someone who can watch your children.
  7. Refrain from making any life-changing decisions if you are more emotionally vulnerable at this time of year. There have been many February’s in which I have wanted to give up homeschooling, but by April I had changed my mind 🙂
  8. Last but not least, take time to read your Bible and inspiring devotionals. Pray through the Psalms, read Streams in the Desert, or read the devotional book I wrote especially with homeschooling moms in mind (Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking.)Win the battle against those negative thoughts by building yourself up with the Word of God!

What about you? Have you struggled with the winter blues? Has anything helped you cope?

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