Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sometimes You Just Celebrate

Sometimes I am drowning in laundry. Like...drowning.

Many days I can't lay anything made of paper on the counters for fear it will stick and be ripped to shreds.

Often I step over errant toys and rogue Legos.

I kid you not...there is usually fur on the fan blades in every room. And mildew in crevices in the bathrooms. And unknown substances that I pretend I don't see.

I always spy things that need done, and often feel like I do nothing.

But yesterday? Yesterday I must have been vicariously nesting for some preggo friends because I was a freak when it came to cleaning. I mean, I scrubbed areas of the bathrooms that I never even knew existed before. 

My tub (which I LOVE to soak in) is actually shining! (Related: I am totally grossed out that I used to soak in it in its previous condition.)

The shower?

Who knew it's actually white and not beige??

The kids' bathroom? That horrid smell I couldn't quite place? Yeah...I placed it. Who knew the trajectory of a little boy's urine can miss the pot completely and instead travel to the left, around the corner and find its way into the tiniest of cracks behind the toilet? That or they are hanging from the ceiling when they pee and now that I think of it, that isn't so far-fetched....

That funky odor that wafted from the fridge every time we opened it, nearly knocking you to your knees? Um, yeah, that would be water that was trapped beneath the crisper drawers. (Did you know that can happen? More importantly, did you know that when that happens, it freezes and smells like you're hiding a dead carcass in there??)

So, on this otherwise ordinary Wednesday I scrubbed and cleaned and wiped until things were sparkly clean. Who cares that it was only 2 rooms and the fridge. I'm celebrating!

So what that you don't have an immaculate home!

Who cares that your living room today looks more like a scene from "Hoarders" than it does a page out of Better Homes & Gardens. 

You wiped down the kitchen table? Own it!

You swept and mopped the floors? You hang a banner and break out the bubbly!

You, like me, braved your Hazmat suit and cleaned areas you will never, ever speak of again? Girl, you go ahead and put up a billboard on Main Street.

I'm cheering you on!

Some days I have it together. In fact, sometimes there are a string of days that I feel like I've got a handle on it. And then other times...I squeal with delight over the tiniest of things:

  • Scraping the nasty, congealed toothpaste off the toothbrush.

  • Wiping down the toilet in the main bathroom (Seriously, were these kids raised by wolves?)

  • Finally wiping the 10,000 hand and nose prints off the patio doors.

  • Getting a shower 2 days in a row.

So today...I am giving you permission, lady, to own it too.

Sure, sure, we all agree that we want bathed kids and clean underwear and a house that doesn't humiliate us when company drops by, but we also realize the reality of the situation is that every day isn't like that. Some days it's all we can do to piece together a meal that passes for healthy and wipe up the 7th glass of spilled milk before it hardens into a smelly, flaky crust and we lose our stuff on the kids, the husband, the dog and random-neighbor-kids-who-don't-live-here-but-it-sure-seems-like-they-do....

But I digress.

My point, friends, and I do have one, is that sometimes we just need to celebrate the little things. 

We won't always have a spotless living room. We won't always prepare a fabulous meal or scrub the floor tile to perfection. Sometimes we won't accomplish a freaking thing in the day. 

But on those days when you feel like you're running in mud, find one thing...just one..and sound the trumpet. Take out an ad in the paper. Call up a friend and brag a little. 

Last night I stepped over clean laundry that still needed put away to soak in that newly, glistening tub. I relished how the flames from the candles flickered off the now-magnificently clean surround. 

Sure, there was plenty that I didn't get done, but I made a point to acknowledge the things that I did

And instead of the usual self-deprecating list of "failures" from my day, I went ahead and gave myself a nod for the things I did well. And today, I woke up a new person. Is it life-changing? I'm not sure. But I do know that I got out of bed this morning ready to see what more I can accomplish.

Try it. 

Feel free to comment with something you got done that you're celebrating today!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Laid-Back Method of Home Schooling & a CASH Giveaway!

I don't often blog about the way we home school, but I think with it being Back-To-School time for most of us, it may be nice for those who are interested to see the very laid-back approach we take. 
Our oldest started kindergarten in the fall of 2010. His brother started kindergarten the year after.
We chose traditional public schooling for them until our oldest was in 2nd grade. My heart had always felt pulled to Home School, but it was a foreign concept to my husband, so we spent 2 1/2 years talking about it until he felt comfortable pulling them out of school and educating them at home. 

I scoured website after website, I joined countless Home Schooling Facebook groups, and I messaged many of my homeschooling friends to ask for their insight. 

What I got was a LOT of (good!) information. And overload and an overwhelmed, sinking feeling that this was going to be too much for me. 

And then I took a step back, a deep breath, and I told myself that in our state (Pennsylvania), children are not required to begin school until the age of 8, so since our oldest was not yet 8, we had some wiggle room should we decided to send them back to school. 

I checked into some of the popular curriculum (like A Beka, My Father's World, Sonlight, and Timberdoodle), but the price was not cost-effective for our family. 

I stumbled across some Brain Quest workbooks in Target one day, and fell in love with the colorful pages and the variety of subjects. 

The cover said that it contained a "whole year of curriculum-based exercises and activities," but we quickly discovered that if you do each subject concurrently, you run out of curriculum way before a school year is over. 

So...I Googled some more workbooks and I discovered Scholastic has some really great workbooks and they are in line with State Standards. 

These workbooks are awesome! The back also details what workbooks/subjects are available for each grade. It makes my job very easy. 

For Spelling, I added these workbooks last year. They are wonderful! They provide a spelling list for each week, activities for each day of the week to reinforce the words, and a test for the last day of the week. We photocopy these pages so that we can reuse the workbooks each year. That helps cut down on expenses. 

In addition to these workbooks, I like to supplement with things from our children's Bible and from websites that offer free downloads. There are a TON of websites...many websites offer entire curriculum for FREE! (Check out My Joy-Filled Life for many!)

Our routine has changed up a bit over the past 2 years and as we find our groove. This year (school starts for us at the end of August/beginning of September) I'd like to have the 3 oldest children (grades 1, 3 &4) start their day by reading a section of their children's Bible (pre-determined) and write in their journal about what they've read. I'd also like to start working with them on memorizing age-appropriate verses. 

The rest of our day is handled by when the littler ones are in nap. Since our youngest two are 2 & 3 years old, it's much easier to wait until they are in nap to do lessons. Since we have 4 in school this year, that may need to be tweaked a bit. We shall see...

We usually start at the page where we left off in each workbook and do 1 page per day. We do Social Studies and Science/health about once or twice a week and that is in conjunction with  "teaching moments" as we are "living life". We have lots of conversations about Math and Science just in our everyday activities. We also like to go to local places such as the Children's Museum, the Science Center and local farms. 

I'm not sure how long we will Home School. We are taking it one year at a time. Our state requires that our children test in grades 3, 5, 8 and high school (ACT or SAT). So far, our oldest is the only who has reached the mandatory testing age and he did very well. That bolstered my confidence enough to continue on. This year, our second oldest tests and we will evaluate where we are going with him for next year based on that. It has been a tremendous blessing to home school. I am able to be present for those "a-ha!" moments and to address issues and correct on-the-spot as necessary. 

I was very nervous in the beginning, but as we have been feeling our way through, I have gained confidence. The sense of accomplishment is second to none! Our oldest daughter finished kindergarten last year and she is now reading! She went from not reading at all at the beginning of the year last year to reading everything in sight! That is an amazing feeling knowing that I was instrumental in that!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me: mandypmommyof4 {at} yahoo {dot} com. 

Homeschooling is not for everyone, but it is definitely working out well for us. If it's your desire  to home school, but you're on the fence or have concerns, I'd love to chat with you further!



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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wearing A Sword At My Side As I Work

If you couldn't tell from my last post: I am ruined over the persecution in Iraq, Israel and All around the world.

I am fasting today as the only means I truly have to sacrifice for these beautiful people who are facing unspeakable acts of horror. 

I turned to Nehemiah today to pray during the time I would normally be eating breakfast and I was won over at the description of "Why read this book?" offered by the publishers of my Bible.

It says this book is for you if you have ever felt inadequate or overwhelmed by a task or a challenge.

Hello, overwhelmed!

I am BEYOND overwhelmed. I'm afraid I've stepped over compassion and jumped, feet-first right into empathy. 

But while reading Nehemiah, I had to stop and look out the window while processing what I'd just read. 

How could it be that a chapter in a book of the Bible I've never read before could speak so perfectly to what I'm feeling today?

Well, that's just one of God's specialties.

While Nehemiah was working with others to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, there were those who made fun of the Jews and even threatened to slaughter them and destroy the wall again. Catching wind of this, Nehemiah chapter 4, verses 16-18a says:

"From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and arrows. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked" (emphasis mine).

 Doing God's work sometimes requires that we work one-handed while carrying a sword in the other. We are to be vigilant, focused, and ever-ready to take up the sword to protect what is God's.

At times, we must act as the officers standing behind the people of Judah, watching and protecting.

Today, I am taking up a sword in one hand as I go about my daily routine with the other hand. I am caring for my family and my home while praying the Word of God in intercession for those who are being persecuted around the world.

Nehemiah had families join him in rebuilding the wall...will you join me?

Will you be in prayer with me today?

I posted this prayer on my Facebook wall:

My prayer today for those suffering persecution in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere:
"O Lord, God of Heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel." Nehemiah 1:5-6b.

Father, today we lift up to You those who are being persecuted because of their refusal to turn away from You. We ask that You end the killing, kidnapping, torture and abuses that are happening all around the world. 

We pray specifically for those in Iraq who are being driven away from their homes, beaten, raped and murdered. We pray for the innocent children who are being torn from their mothers' arms and brutally murdered. We pray for the men who are being tied and shot. We pray for the women who are being raped and murdered. We pray for the sick and elderly who are dying of starvation because they are running for their lives. We pray that ISIS is stopped in their tracks, by whatever means possible, and that they will be disbanded. we pray for salvation for their souls so that. like Paul, they can meet Jesus and realize they are grievously wrong. We pray that those families who have suffered unspeakable loss will find comfort and peace in You and in knowing they will see their loved ones again one day...

We bring to Your Throne the people of Israel who are running to bomb shelters and fearful for their lives because of the attacks by Hamas. Israel is Your people, God, and we know that You will call them back to Yourself. We pray for the bombing to stop, the rebuilding to begin and the healing to take place in their hearts. We pray for all the injured--especially the children who rely on their parents to shield and protect them. Please heal that nation, Lord. We pray Your hedge of protection around Israel.
And Father, we bring before You Pastor Saeed Abedini. He has been in an Iranian prison for almost 2 years because of his Christian faith. We pray that he will be released and able to be reunited with his family and seek medical care before he dies of internal bleeding. We pray that you will protect him while he is in prison from further beatings. We pray that he will continue to be a light in this dark world and that his courage won't wane. 

Father, we know You are capable of doing anything. We ask that You save these people from their enemies. We pray that they will cling to You during this time of unimaginable suffering. 

And we know that one day, Jesus will save us from it all...

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in[a] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." 
Revelation 19:11-16
 In Jesus' name, AMEN!

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It's Time

Editorial Note: A sentence of this post referencing a celebrity death has been edited to change the tone from an {unintended) offensive tone.
I'm a mess tonight.

I cannot get past the images that are seared into my mind: Babies being held by evil men, ready to be buried alive. Mothers sobbing as they cradle their children in their arms, fearful that it will be the last time. Angry men holding weapons in one hand and severed heads in another.

I can't seem to stop crying tonight, even though my own children lie in bed, sleeping peacefully; their chief worry of whether or not their iPod will be charged for them in the morning. 

I weep as if I am the mother in Iraq who watched her child be cut in half. I mourn as a daughter who watched my elderly parents starve to death; too weak to seek refuge from the evil incarnate known as ISIS.

I'm angry. Angry at an evil that can hold innocent, beautiful children in their hands and not so much as flinch when they behead them. Angry at my newsfeed that is full of "news" but almost nothing for these people who have watched their children be gruesomely murdered before their very eyes; the children who depended on their parents to protect them. Who were probably so filled with fear as they called out to their mother to save them. And their mother wept and screamed; helpless and impotent to save her child. 

I am broken. 

Yes, I am sitting on the patio of my enormous home, surrounded by the inane sounds of HGTV and the occasional noise of the AC kicking on. 

My husband and children sleep soundly upstairs. My dog rests comfortably at my feet.
The horrors and atrocities I described are happening thousands of miles away from  me...yet I feel like I am right there. I grieve like I knew those babies handed over to slaughter. 

From the time that I was a child, I would wake in the night and cry. I would cry for no reason. I would think of children who were abused. Of children whose lives were ended before they had a chance. I would cry for the evil in the world and for the innocents who would have to suffer under it. 

I didn't know it at the time, but the tears that flowed so easily from my eyes--which seemed to me then and even now as a curse-- are one of the Spiritual gifts God has given me.
One of my Spiritual Gifts (as I recently discovered) is Mercy.


Mercy is defined by Merriam-Websters online as kindness or help given to those who are in a very bad or desperate situation. 

There is no better living example of that definition than the Iraqi people today.

It's surreal as I watch my Facebook newsfeed: a post about a tragic celebrity death. A post about wine. A post about someone's vacation. A post about someone's business. A post about a yoga class...

And I goes on. 

Not everyone is cut to the quick with what is happening like I am. 

And you know what?

My own husband looks at me with mild concern while I cry tears that don't make sense over people I've never met in a land I've never visited. 

And that's ok. 

It really is. 

Because we won't all be at the same place in our journeys...or even on the same others...even those close to us. 

BUT...but if what I am saying to you tonight makes sense...if you have felt the same weight on your shoulders as I have...please join me. 

Join me in throwing myself to the ground--on  my face--before God to pray for these people. 
I believe--with everything in me--that because I feel so drawn to these people and their dire situation--that I am CALLED to be in prayer for them. I am CALLED to be on my knees--literally--not just poetic license for the sake of making a point in this post--before God. 

I believe I have been called and commissioned to act in intercession for these people. 

If you feel the same, join me tomorrow for a fast in honor of the people of Iraq and the people of Israel who are being persecuted because they love God. I will be fasting from morning until dinner. I will break the fast with dinner. During  the day, I will pray as I'm moved for the persecuted individuals: The Iraqis, the Israelites, Pastor Saeed-who is being held prisoner in Iran for His Christian faith. I will also pray at breakfast and lunch time in lieu of eating.

Usually I would hesitate to announce a fast because I believe that God calls us to act in secret when we do such things, but I am looking for numbers. Join me. Let's storm the gates of Heaven with our pleas for these people. Let's show God we mean business by sacrificing 2 meals in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Let's not let another mother's tears for her murdered baby be in vain. Let's go before the Throne for her, when she is too weak to do so herself. 

And let's remember who wins the battle in the end: God does.

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