Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Strength When I Am Weak

Last week I hit a wall.  I found myself feeling a lot of pressure because I had fallen very behind in many responsibilities and some committments that I had made.  Most of these committments had been made before I knew I was pregnant and before I knew that this pregnancy would be more physically and emotionally challenging than any other to date (and I hope more than any other future ones).  Physically I have been more tired and needing more sleep than I expected.  Emotionally I have struggled because I have spent so much of my time sleeping, eating, and making sure my other children and my husband are taken care of that I felt very overwhelmed with other duties.

I got to the point where I was holding it together, but if anything - and I mean any little thing - came up while I was in that state all would be lost.  I was at my breaking point.  Maybe I could have prevented getting there some, but maybe I had to get there in order to get through it and move on.  Maybe all of it was out of my control, and I really could not have prevented it. 

That "any little thing" I mentioned did happen, and I was now done.  It was one of those "I'm fine.  I just need to cry right now," moments.  I was fine.  I did need to cry.  I did cry.  Then I was a lot better.  Though the circumstances were perhaps brought on by the fact that I am pregnant, this was not a pregnancy set of emotions.  This had been building.  I have been here before.

I take very seriously a committment made, so I was unsure what needed to be done.  It had become clear that I could not follow through with everything I had going on.  I needed guidance from the Lord!

After collecting myself again, I resolved to get through the next few things I had going on and spend some time resting and seeking the Lord for the answers I needed.  What a day it was, and by the end of it I was spent.  I continued to ask the Lord for help, and I also remembered that I had not read my children's devotions (small lessons from the Bible meant to be read each day to continue to grow in the knowledge and wisdom to help live a life to serve and love Jesus) for the day to them.  It was time to sit down and focus on the Lord with them.

I have been really, really excited about this new devotional I recently purchased for the kids.  After being mostly disappointed with many children's devotionals that, in my opinion, are pretty shallow and not anywhere near the level of depth and insight I would like my children to be exposed to each day, I was very pleased to find this one.  It's called, Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids, by Sarah Young.  (She has a version for adults entitled, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence and a journaling devotional called, Jesus Calling: A 365 Day Journaling Devotional.  I haven't checked those out enough to comment on them, yet, but I have been enjoying the children's one.) 

One important note is that I think this devotional is written more for older children, but reading it aloud to my younger children and explaining some of the ideas presented that may be more relevant to an older child has worked well for us.  My favorite thing about this devotional is that I think it clearly displays a life that is lived everyday for Christ in a practical way, without sacrificing truth and thought-provoking points of life application (like I feel so many other children's devotionals leave out).  Even my four year old has really grown in her understanding of trusting in Jesus with everyday issues since we have been reading this devotional together. 

You can read the reviews on Amazon and gain more insight from different perspectives, as well.  Some people don't like that it is written as if Jesus were speaking.  The way I handle this is explaining that based on Scripture (and each page begins with at least one verse and ends with several passages to look up in the Bible), this is what Jesus might say if He joined us here right now.  These are the truths that He wants us to know, so we can stand firm in Him and resist the lies that come at us.  As my children get older, we will continue to explain this even more.  It is a very personal and very scriptural devotional.

So, I opened up to the day we were on in this devotional.  The title read, Your Strength, Your Song, and opened with this verse:

"The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise Him." (Exodus 15:2)

The very next line was: "Remember, I am your Strength and your Song."

Wow, did that sound like a good reminder to me!  I needed His strength that day in a big way!  What did it mean that He was my Song?  There are several other verses in the Bible that use this phrasing, as well.

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." (Isaiah 12:2)

"The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." (Psalm 118:14)

The word "song" in these passages literally means "music, melody, song," in the original Hebrew.  Looking at the context of this verse in Exodus, it is important to note that this was part of the song that Moses was singing among the Israelites after the LORD had helped them cross the Red Sea and defeat their enemies.  This was a victorious song! 

Furthermore, pastor, speaker, and author, John MacArthur, mentions in a commentary on the verse above from Isaiah that "the doubling of the personal name of God serves to emphasize His role as the covenant-keeping One."  He keeps His covenant with me no matter what I do or say and no matter how I feel.  He keeps His covenant.  How comforting.  (Maybe we can discuss covenant somtime soon - it's awesome!)

He is my Strength and my Song.  When I rely on Him and His truth, even and especially when I am at my weakest, His strength prevails and carries me through.  When I see His deliverance what other song can I sing than one that praises Him and brings Him glory?  This is a beautiful picture of the intimacy with which He loves us.  I hope that if you don't understand this love or don't realize this love, yet, that you will indeed one day.  It makes life so much sweeter.  Oh, I just love Him!

He did surely refresh me with these words of truth.  I needed that refreshing badly.

Over the next couple of days following this, He continued to guide me and answer the questions I had about my committments.  I am so thankful that I can call on the God who made the universe and actually hear back from Him!  I can only do this because of what Jesus did for me on the cross.  He bridged the gap between me and Himself and made a way for me to enter into the Holy of Holies and commune with the Living and Almighty God.  This gift is available to all who receive it.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8)

I'm so thankful that I don't always have it together - like that is even possible.  It is in my weakness, and my recognition of that weakness, that I realize my need for my Lord.  He is my Strength and my Song, and I will ever praise Him.

Was it a coincidence that on the day I needed to hear this message Sarah Young had put it in a devotional form that I would read aloud to my children?  Haha!  I think not.  God knew that is what I would need on that day, and I am sure that I was not alone.  I can only smile when I think about how perfect His timing is.

He can be trusted.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)


Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Homeschool is Now Open!

Ever since my first child turned two I have been excited about homeschooling.  Before then I didn't really think I could do it.  In fact, I used to joke with my husband saying that he would teach them, and I would be the lunch lady and arts and crafts teacher.  I thought that was all I would be capable to handling, but I didn't want that to be true.

And so I began to do a few things.  I prayed.  I asked other homeschooling parents and children about homeschooling.  I asked my sister-in-law, who I think is really awesome by the way.  She lent me a book called, When You Rise Up; A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling, by R.C. Sproul Jr, and what I read within really made me realize that I could do it!  Even though I had a couple of years until I was actually going to begin to officially teach at home, I had a good start at navigating through the process of getting ready. 

A few homeschooling conferences later, I am really very excited to begin this journey.  I have learned so much and look forward to learning more each year.  I am excited to learn with my children, as well.  I am excited to be able to teach my children Truth and help them apply Truth to their lives.

While I will post much more to come about what has become my approach to our homeschool long-term, I am only going to focus on what we are doing now for this post.

Last week I began preschool with my 4 year old.  She is very excited and very ready to start learning more, and asked me for weeks how much longer she had to wait to start school.  Being that she has known much of what is taught in most preschools for a while (She's pretty smart), we are building on what she already knows and then adding to it.  I am amazed at how well she has already done.  She has been so cute during our school time, which is only about 30 minutes of focused time and then some games and activities to help reinforce what we went over.  In fact, she calls me "Teacher," during school time.  Adorable.

So what are we doing?

For the foundation of our preschool we are using Learn Your Letters... Learn to Serve by Laura Coppinger over at Heavenly Homemakers.  I am really enjoying this curriculum!  Through it she is learning more about the alphabet, but also the beginning of phonics, to pray for people, to memorize scripture, to serve others through activities such as baking banana bread for Bonnie during "B" week.

We are also starting to learn Spanish.  Right now we will be working on basics, but eventually I would like to incorporate the La Clase Divertada curiculum into our homeschooling.  I am really looking forward to learning along with my children.  I love languages!

I have some listening activities and other crafts and fun projects to incorporate with this.  Also I am going to be going further into numbers with her by cooking and baking with her.  I'm going to purchase Teaching Your Kids to Cook, also by Laura Coppinger.  I think I'll learn a thing or two in this department, as well!

I have been wanting to teach my kids more in the kitchen, but most of the time I am in a hurry getting something ready to be eaten soon.  I think this resource will really help me to focus on slowing down and teaching my children.  Plus it will be fun!

In January, I will begin violin as part of her schooling.  I found this really great violin curriculum, The Violin Book, that I am actually using to teach myself to play violin, as well!  It is four to five years worth of curriculum, so it will serve us for a while.  My husband and I love music, and I believe that even if our children decide to pick up another instrument other than violin, this start will be helpful to them.  Another reason I chose violin is pretty practical - a violin is small and easy to store, transport, etc.

All of the resources I mentioned I will preserve to be used again and again for how ever many children the Lord blesses us with as they go through preschool, as well.

We also do quite a bit of reading during the day.  We believe reading aloud will benefit our children greatly.  We read Christian devotionals, Bible stories, age-appropriate literature and story books, and even some coloring books that have words in them.  My daughter always asks me to read what is on the page before she begins coloring. 

As for now we are off to a great start.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a home educator, and I look forward to the many blessings that will follow as a result...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pregnancy Ponderings

Courtesy of Jennifer Cottom Photography
Over the past two weeks I have been mostly not blogging or doing much other than: 1.Eat, 2.Sleep, 3.Make placenta (well God's actually doing that), 4.Feeding my husband and children, and 5.Think about this amazing process we call pregnancy.

I know it is pretty obvious, but I wanted to look up the word pregnant to get the definition - especially because of phrases like, "pregnant with possibility," and "pregnant pause."  So according to here goes:

1.having a child or other offspring developing in the body; with child or young, as a woman or female mammal.
2. fraught, filled, or abounding (usually followed by with ): a silence pregnant with suspense.
3. teeming or fertile; rich (often followed by in ): a mind pregnant in ideas.
4. full of meaning; highly significant: a pregnant utterance.
5. of great importance or potential; momentous: a pregnant moment in the history of the world.
Quite frankly I think that definitions 2-5 also describe definition number 1!  What potential, great importance, richness, significance, etc a pregnancy holds!  Why?  Because this baby growing within is loved by God, is being knit together by God, and has a God-given plan for his/her life even before the first breath taken.  That is huge!
I was also thinking about rest.  I have been doing quite a bit of that, and sometimes much to my frustration.  However today, as I have reached the 8 weeks mark, I realized that it has actually been really nice to rest.  Sure, I am very behind on many things, but what a great reason I have been given to just rest a lot. 
Well, and eat a lot, too.  I am still nursing my so-called-toddler (is she really a toddler already?), and being used by God to create another human being that I also must feed.  It's a lot of food.
But back to rest...
As much as I can take care of things on my end - eating, drinking my supplements, drinking enough water (also a lot), not doing anything crazy like sky diving, etc. - I still must rest and let God continue to work while I do so.  This became a really cool picture to me today.  Sometimes I just need to sit back, or in this case go to sleep, and let God work.  There are many times in the Bible where we see this, but some of my favorites are:
"But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever." (Exodus 14:13 - When they were about to cross the Red Sea.)
"You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you." (2 Chronicles 20:17- Another great story of God protecting His people from their enemies.)
"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
What other areas of my life do I need to just rest in the LORD and trust Him to take care of it?
A lot of needed rest can also provide great opportunity to pray if I let it.  In addition to these ponderings, the LORD has also been faithful to remind me to pray for my friends who are also expecting a child and for those who desperately want to be expecting a child, but have found it difficult to do so.  I've also been praying for friends I know who have lost a child or have miscarried or have a sick child.
I do know what it is like to miscarry.  I did that a couple of years ago.  It was very humbling because somehow I didn't really consider the possibility.  Then it happened, and as hard as it was, I really learned a lot.  Three months later I was pregnant again, and I realize that without that miscarriage I never would have known my second child.  What a loss that would have been!  The baby we lost is in Heaven waiting for us, and there are many cousins, aunts/uncles, and friends who were miscarried that are there with him/her.  This does bring comfort.  I really pray I never have to go through that again, but I do thank God for His comfort during that time and since. 
I wish more people talked about miscarriage.  I never realized how many women I know have miscarried until after we miscarried back in 2009.  I wonder how helpful it would be for everyone if we talked about it more. 
We have always been "early-announcers" when it comes to pregnancy.  We announced to everyone we were pregnant at 4 weeks the first three times and 5 weeks this time (basically as soon as we found out).  My husband and I decided that even after miscarrying the second pregnancy, we would still announce early.  Our reason was that we wanted people to pray for us no matter what.  I was so glad we didn't have to go through that alone.  Plus I really don't think I could keep such exciting news to myself.  I understand why other women struggle with this, though, or decide to wait to share the news. 
All in all, I praise the LORD for this gift, this blessing, this miracle.  I want to do my best to take care of myself, my baby, my family, and let God be God to take care of it all.  He is so kind, so loving, so generous, and I am continually amazed the He knit me together in my mother's womb and continues to carry out His plan for me as He uses my womb to knit together another.  Amazing.
Now, I am going to go eat for the twelth time today...and then go to bed.