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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spanish for You-A Mosaic Review

(How we put the digital download together on our own, along with using a recipe box for his flashcards-it does not come this way.)

Looking for an interesting, multi-level way to teach Spanish? One that uses files from a native Spanish speaker as well? One that was created to ease concerns for those worried about the 'flow' from elementary level Spanish to the high school level? 
Let me introduce you to Spanish for You, a curriculum recommended for those in grades 3-8. It can, however, be adapted for younger children with some creativity. For example, my 5 year old listened to the speaker along with her 12 year old brother. When he was practicing phrases, she practiced right along with him!  

Spanish for You was created to start children on the road to fluency in speaking, reading, writing and grammar. They learn everyday, useful vocabulary such as cultural words and familiar words; pronunciation by listening over time, verb conjugation, and grammar concepts--some which are found in a first year high school class according to the creator of the curriculum. This program uses the spiral method of learning-repetition and review. The material between books DO NOT spiral however, so they can start anywhere with any book. The spiraling is found within each book.

The 'Nitty Gritty':
  • First, pick a package. Fiestas and Estaciones packages are the only ones currently available for a 'complete' school year. Viajes is available as a 4-week trial with plans to be complete in June of 2013, according to the website for ordering. Each package has a 'theme'. Viajes is Travel, Fiestas is Celebrations, and Estaciones is Seasons.
  • Next, choose your grade level. You can buy the multi-level package to cover full grades 3-8, or split up into grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. Prices vary according to which package you pick. For example, a complete package for grade levels 3-8 is only $64.95. This is available in soft cover-the ebooks are only available for the trial packages at this time. Lesson plans are separate and cost anywhere from $12.95-$14.95 each and are split up by grade, just as the packages are.  At this time, only Fiestas has the lessons plans available for purchase. However, the website does say that Estaciones lesson plans will be available by May 2013 which is just around the corner and in time for the new school year! The lesson plans are PDF downloads.
  • What is included? From the website: A softcover book, 24-30 week lesson guide for the grades that you need (these give you the assignments for each grade broke up into a 4 day week), self-checking worksheets in PDF form, audio files of entire book (with bonus audio of native speaker reading the whole book), and flashcards/activity pictures available as a PDF download.
  • Recommended supplies (not included): colored cardstock, dry erase cards/board/markers, index cards, dice, bingo markers, and board game pieces such as people. This truly is a multidimensional learning experience. Many 'fun' game type suggestions are included, as well as activities for further learning and games on the website.
  • Able to go at child's own pace. The curriculum is set up for 24 actual weeks, but can be spread out to 27-30 depending upon child's level of understanding and ability.

We were given the complete Estaciones Digital Curriculum Package, grades 3-8, for review. I primarily used this with my 12 year old, 6th grade son. However, many times, as you can see below, his 5 year old sister wanted to learn with him! The 4 year old jumped in from time to time, but she is more interested in playing right now! His older brother, in 9th grade, helped him 'review' his phrases as well.

I was pretty overwhelmed with the downloads. I am not a very organized person when it comes to computer files, and probably would have done better with hard copies--including the audio. I ended up with files everywhere in the download section of my computer and 'lost' the non-native speaker file. The native speaker went way too fast for me, but my son has been learning both French and Spanish using other things, so he knew a little of what was going on. As the week progressed, he began to understand almost everything that she was saying. BONUS!! That was awesome-he even had to help mom pronounce stuff which is sad, considering there is a pronunciation guide IN the book! Aye yi yi! The good news is that Debbie has reorganized the audio files and they are now in folders for each lesson, as well as dividing the non-native audio file into 2 parts to make downloading easier. Yay!! I will say that she goes out of her way to accommodate her customers and is a pleasure to work with via email, etc. and answers right away!

As I stated, we received everything as a download, so as you can see in the very first picture, I comb bound EVERYTHING. I even combined the soft cover book and Lesson Guide for ease of use for mom. We used a recipe card box with index cards for his flash cards. Rather than cut out all of the cards included in the download, he created his own. I printed out EVERY LAST worksheet for his age and created a workbook for him.

We had some trouble starting right out of the gate. The very first 'worksheet' was to translate things from Spanish into English and vice versa. However, in the reading and in the audio file, many of the words were not covered yet, that we could find. We had to do quite a bit of flipping back and forth through the books. I had him look through the book and finally let him look at the answer sheet. He was able to pick up many words from the audio file, as well as what he already knows, so that wasn't a major problem. 

Overall, I found this to be a wonderful, very cost-effective product, especially when you compare the price to so many other foreign language curricula. It also reaches a wide variety of ages, provides an excellent foundation in Spanish for high school, and includes multidimensional learning. My son says, "I love it!!". For mama, it was a little difficult to navigate but I appreciated all of the helps--including the pronunciation guide. I can see using this in the future-especially with him.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Resting in Quietness

Isaiah 30:15~This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. 

REST. I can almost hear my spirit exhale when I say that word. Battle wounded and weary for four long years, this word has been the cry of my heart for so long. When we break this verse apart and dig, it holds innumerable treasures for all of us. Certain words I underlined in this verse:

  • Repentance- a turning away from sin, disobedience, or rebellion and a turning back to God. In a more general sense, repentance means a change of mind or a feeling of remorse or regret for past conduct. (Nelson's Bible Dictionary).
How often have I been disobedient and rebellious when the Lord has called me to rest? Piling on more projects and more things on my to do list than humanly possible to do. Turning around to see things either half accomplished or not at all. All the while, pulling me further from far away from Him........Like the gentle Shepherd that He is, He is calling me turn back.....
  • Rest- Cessation of work, exertion or activity. Peace, ease or refreshment resulting from sleep or cessation of an activity. Mental or emotional tranquility. (the free dictionary)
So many things to do, Lord. What is of me and what is of you? What do I put down Lord? Where do I go? Emotional tranquility sounds nice. The response?
 Put down the constant worrying. It's not so much what I need to do or put down, as much as it is to stop worrying about getting it done. Linger in His presence a little longer.......let Him give me the strength to go about the day. Let Him order my steps. But first......linger...........
It goes back to rest again, doesn't it? Peace and relaxation. Little or no motion or activity. Mary instead of Martha--(Luke 10:38-42). My oldest son asked me to please rest after I finished what I was doing today. The wise 14 year old sees his mama ragged and tired. One of the blessings of homeschooling is the relationships that you develop with your children. Every time the song, "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North comes on they yell, "Hey mom! There's your song!" (I am posting the song at the bottom of this post). Not a great way to be remembered, huh?
  • Trust- assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. one in which confidence is placed. (merriam-webster dictionary)
The Bible is FULL of stories of the faithfulness and character of God. Even when the Israelites disobeyed. Even when they rebelled. Even when they did what was wrong-God was trustworthy. He fed them in the wilderness. He protected them from their enemies. He sent Jesus to save us.........Brings me to something I find myself praying often. In Mark, chapter 9, we see a dad with his son. He brought him to the disciples to be healed but they couldn't do it. So-he took him to Jesus. Jesus says to him-"If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." The dad immediately cries out, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" How many times do I find myself believing, only to struggle with disbelief or questioning His timing and His ways? God has proven Himself trustworthy in my life even though I don't deserve it one bit. And here, in these verses, He shows me what to do when I struggle with it. Same with Peter. Jesus didn't leave him in the water--He reached down and pulled him up.
  • Strength- the state, property, or quality of being strong. the power to resist attack. the power to resist strain or stress. (the free dictionary)
This is something that the Lord has really been working on with me. Sure, we all quote Philippians 4:13-I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But have we really searched out other Scriptures that go with this? That tell us exactly who strengthens us, how He strengthens us and why He strengthens us? Last night, I wrote this blog post about that-my weakness, His strength. Doing this study with Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies came at a much needed time. That post was a culmination of all the stress I have been dealing with. Then, He brought back to mind this verse:

2 Corinthians 12:9~ And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (NKJV)

HIS strength. Not mine. Not yours. NO ONE'S. It is His alone. 

Isaiah 40:31~ But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (NKJV)

The last part of our Reflection Verse, really hit me. I swallowed real hard: "but you would have none of it." How many times has God tried to give us His rest? His peace? But we "would have none of it"? We continue on in our own strength, with our own agenda, then wonder where our peace went? Hmmm....the Bible also says that the Lord chastens and corrects those that He loves (see Proverbs 3:11-12). Let us turn to Him today. To seek the peace that passes all understanding. Let us repent--turn around; change our minds. Rest--solely in Him as we are weary and heavy laden. Trust--He is a loving God that has good plans for us. Finally, let us rely on His strength and not our own--and praise Him for it!

The song my sons always play for me:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Weakness--His Strength

The theme song to my life:

I sat in my chair crying. Again. When would this end? This time I was pouring out my heart to my husband. Not long beforehand, I had been to a session with my Biblical Counselor, a Pastor. At the time, I felt it was very unfruitful, as I thought they had been most of the year. It is only in retrospect that I see how much he was trying to point me to the source of my strength--Jesus. He wasn't using fancy lingo, terminology or diagnoses, but rather recognized my problem was that I needed more of Jesus and His Words washing over my soul. That He was THE author of peace. 

John 14:27~Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV 84)

I was running so hard. Trying so hard. Wanting healing so bad. "Why God? Why couldn't I be healed from the anxiety attacks that had woven their way into my everyday life for the last four years?" I believed He could heal me. I prayed about it. I was prayed for about it. I memorized Philippians 4:6-7. Yet peace remained elusive, or so I thought. I was not only dealing with physical symptoms, but had to take medication as well. And now--it was coming full circle again. I wanted to understand, yet I couldn't...........until.........

My sweet, gentle husband spoke some profound words to me that day. He reminded me that some of my most heartfelt writings came during this time. What IF this was where God wanted me right now? What if I accepted it, not as a part of who I am, but as something I had to go through for now. In my heart, I KNEW that I was better able to encourage others going through so much. Growing up in a charismatic church, THIS was hard for me. I was taught to not accept anything but to rebuke or deny it. However......there was a lot more truth to what he said that day than what I wanted to hear or accept.

After all, I claimed Jeremiah 29:11 as my life verse. Not only claimed it, but felt it spoken into my heart from Him four years ago. I also began to see me in 2 Corinthians 1:4 and claimed it as my life verse. May God help even just ONE person with my story, history, trials and redemption of Christ. And oh, how God had comforted me! I could see that when looking back on my whole life. I am currently in a position to comfort and encourage others and I thank Him for that opportunity and for His strength to do so.

Not long after this conversation, He brought more Scriptures to mind. One that He had impressed upon me four years ago~2 Corinthians 12:9:

If you go onto verse 10, it says: "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (NIV 84)

Delight? From the one taught to deny and rebuke any hardships? Oh, wow. Should I? Could I?

The NIV 84 Life Application Bible says this about this verse:
"God does not intend for us to seek to be weak, passive, or ineffective-life provides enough hindrances and setbacks without us creating them. When those obstacles come, we must depend on God. Only His power will make us effective for Him and will help us do work that has lasting value."

His grace IS sufficient. It was during the first round of this battle--it is just as sufficient now. Except I have a history with Him providing that peace that I crave. I am not just 'memorizing' Philippians 4:6-7, I must now APPLY it. Prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving need to be my 'new normal'.

Things look different--brighter. Hope creeps into my heart. Somehow--what was meant for harm, God would use for good. (see Genesis 50:20) I could rely on His strength. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

He Saved Them in Their Distress

What a week! As I sit here typing, my head is nearly spinning. This was our reflection verse this week at our Online Bible Study. Earlier in the week, we were given the assignment to write out Psalm 107:19-21 in our journals and personalize it. I am a Bible study nerd, but this was a FIRST for me. Let me tell you, it spoke such volumes into my heart that day that I am amazed still today. Once again, our gracious Lord knew what Tuesday would hold in store for me, and I am so thankful that I was able to spend much needed and precious time with Him-preparing me even though I wouldn't know it yet.

When I journaled and personalized these verses, the part, "He sent forth His word and healed her" really spoke to me. You see, four years ago we faced some mighty tough battles (story starts here). The prayer that I desperately prayed to the Lord during that time was, "Lord, you can heal my son. With just a Word. All it takes is your Word." Fast forward, as you will see in the series, the Lord in fact did heal my son. The lesion on his brain disappeared. So, for me, His Word holds power. It's why I hold it close to me in the form of the Bible. It's why I quote it often, buy items with it on them, and write verses ALL over the place. Literally. His Word is food to my soul.

However, ONE day later, those verses hold NEW meaning to me. 

Verse 19~ Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. (NIV)

I was awakened at 3:30 Tuesday morning with a phone call. My aunt, whom I wrote about here, finally went home to be with her Lord Jesus. Still reeling over the sudden death of my grandmother a couple weeks ago (Easter), now I was to face this. But not alone. Not only had I read these verses, but the others in the back of Chapter 2 as well. Not just read--studied, prayed and personalized. We were about to get hit from EVERY side on this day.

Verses like:

Matthew 6:31-34~where Jesus tells us not to worry about the things we need. He knows we need them. AND---get this!! "Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it's own." TOMORROW (3:30 am to be exact), would be when I would get the call that my aunt had passed away. I refuse to say that she 'lost her battle with cancer'. Rather, because she accepted the Lord Jesus into her heart, I prefer to look at it as a victory. Her life was fraught with trials, addictions, and more pain inflicted than I have ever seen. Today, Tuesday, death has lost it's sting because JESUS overcame the world. He overcame death. Before her passing, He gave her the GIFT of eternal life through faith in Him.

1 Corinthians 15:54~ When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

Then, John 14:27 and John 16:33. He was giving me His peace. I was not to be troubled or afraid. To take heart, (take courage; be confident; undaunted), because He had overcome the world!

As I went about my day, it was discovered that my aunt was without life insurance. Oh, wow. I started to worry. We haven't even had time to mourn her passing. Time to adjust to life without her. Time to be thankful that she was finally without pain. We were being hard pressed and answers were needed NOW. 

 I remembered the verses about Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves, and the story about the widow's mite. I told the kids to look for whatever money they could find. We came up with seven dollars and some change. I reminded them of those verses. My two sons and I placed our hands on the prayer jar that we had placed the money in. We prayed for God to multiply it just as He had in the past. We were asking Jehovah Jireh to provide our needs. We also asked Him to soften the heart of the funeral directors because they wouldn't do a payment plan with us even though my family has used them for many years. We were CRYING OUT TO THE LORD IN OUR TROUBLE.....

After praying, we suddenly found change and cash everywhere around the house. Even the little girls got into it! Soon, the jar was filling. I called three other members of my family and told them to do the same thing. Knowing it wasn't quite enough yet, I received yet another phone call about a decision that needed to be made. Now. A decision that once started, would require finishing and that we would HAVE to have the money needed ASAP. Knowing how God had provided for us in the past, and the many miracles I have witnessed, I stepped out in faith and told them to go ahead. We would trust God to provide. 

Later that day, I got yet another phone call. The funeral home WOULD accept a payment plan- with cash down and if my grandma would 'stand in the gap' so to speak. She would be responsible for ensuring payment was made as they knew her the best. ANOTHER answered prayer. I am hesitant to put my grandma on the line for anything. That woman means the world to me. We were praying for a certain amount down, half of what they required the last time we had to do this.

Another phone call......wait--I have been on the phone ALL day! It was discovered that almost the EXACT amount needed could possibly be obtained. It would require a large sacrifice on the part of someone so dear to my aunt. Someone who stayed by her side the WHOLE time she was sick and even when she was dying. Would he do it? Would the funeral home let us pay a smaller down payment than what we did for the last funeral MANY years ago?

Here I sit on Wednesday, a day after writing the above, amazed at the goodness of our God. The EXACT amount we prayed for as down payment, was accepted!! We can now rest assured that my beloved aunt will have a proper rest for her earthly body. We rest assured that she is already in a place of WE can rest. We can take the time needed to mourn our loss and celebrate her homecoming. We are trusting God to provide the rest....

Psalm 107:19~ Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. (NIV) 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Waiting on You Lord

  1. to stay in place in expectation of: AWAIT. (transitive verb)
  2. to look forward expectantly. (intransitive verb)

  1. the capacity, habit or fact of being patient. (bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity)
Notice the key words here:
  • STAY
Stay firm in our faith; in our hope; in our belief. Look forward with hope and anticipation. God has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Keep our eyes focused on Jesus. This looking forward isn't plotting, planning, or trying to arrange circumstances in our favor. It is a humble recognition that it is all in God's hands and it is all in His timing. Finally-habit. We can create a 'habit' of being patient. How so? 
James 1:2-4~ My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have it's perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (NKJV)
Later on, James also goes on to tell us that we who lack wisdom, can ask God for that wisdom.
To develop the habit, we can also look back and remember the goodness of God through various other trials, circumstances and unpleasant places in our lives. We can seek Him and praise Him. A heart wrapped in thankfulness, adoration and praise has no room to allow doubt to creep in.
1 Chronicles 16:8-12~Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, (NKJV)

In our fast paced society everything from meals to connecting with friends, (Twitter, Facebook), can be done in an instant. We are a NOW people. Waiting is hard. Waiting is long. It goes against the grain of everything we know or want. Raised in a culture that is so me centered, we even have over 100 brands of toothpaste to choose from--just in case I don't particularly like Brand B's flavor/texture/color of the tube. Never have we had so many choices. With the likes of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and a plethora of books, never have we had so many conflicting voices either. Far more voices that squeeze out the still small voice of our Lord. Voices that tell us to 'act now' or 'buy now' lest we lose the chance or the "deal of a lifetime".

Going through a particularly rough season of life, all I want is to get out of here--QUICKLY! However, when I read God's Word, (our standard for living and THE voice to drown out society's), I am constantly reminded of how often many had to 'wait'. Adam and Eve started it off waiting for the Seed to crush the serpent's head. Abraham and Sarah waiting for the promised heir. Hannah yearning and waiting for a child. Joseph waiting in prison. Moses and the Israelites waiting for the Promised Land. Paul being restrained by the Holy Spirit. Seems there is a theme here and one that is important for us to understand.

Then I remember a verse that once meant so much to me years ago.

2 Corinthians 12:9~ And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

The last four years have been particularly trying for me. Developing post-partum issues, which left me with an anxiety disorder to this day, my newborn ill, my son developing a seizure disorder out of the blue, and then his brother developing high blood sugar (who was healed by the Lord and hasn't had an issue with it since!) took a serious toll to my health and my peace. This year brought a late night ER visit by ambulance with my 3 year old daughter who couldn't breathe, followed by the sudden death of a beloved grandmother. While home for her funeral, it was discovered a massive amount of water entered our home that has been on the market for almost a year and had damaged two rooms and mold was growing. The day before her funeral was spent ripping up carpet, padding, and stick on tiles. Two weeks later? A phone call that my young aunt was being placed in Hospice and may not make it through the day. 

All through this Christ has remained my strength. Though I am weak, He is strong. I may not always "feel" that strength, but when I truly place my focus on Him, He is right there beside me. I may not have it all together, but I serve a God who goes before, behind and beside me. By His grace I am what I am.

So here I stand. Waiting. Waiting on a joyous homecoming with Jesus for my aunt but a heavy heart to lose her. Waiting on healing from the anxiety disorder. Waiting for something to be done about our house. Waiting for the day when my son never has another seizure again. I'm in good company though--

Hebrews 13:5 (b)~ For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (NKJV)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Safe in His Arms

Our reflection verse this week at Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies couldn't have come at a better time and I thank God for it.

First, I saw the commands: "Don't be afraid" and "don't be discouraged". Merriam-Webster defines discourage as, "to deprive of courage or confidence. DISHEARTEN." How often have I been discouraged lately? Either lacking confidence where God has called me, or afraid because I don't know what the future holds. Here lately, that seems to be the norm. However, God in all of His love and mercy, follows these commands up with four promises:
  1. We don't need to be afraid because "I am with you". God is WITH us. The I AM is with us. Immanuel--God with us. His precious Spirit lives inside of us. We are always with Him.
  2. We don't need to be discouraged: "for I am your God." There is no reason to be disheartened. God, again, is with us and for us. He is near to us.
  3. "I will strengthen you and help you." Who? Do we have to do this 'in our own power'? NO! God promises to strengthen us and help us. See Isaiah 40:28-31. HE gives power to the weak. HE renews our strength. Philippians 4:13 assures us that it is CHRIST who strengthens us. 
  4. "I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." HE will hold us up. John 10:27-30 assures us that NO ONE can snatch us out of His hand. NO ONE. Including ourselves. Even when we get discouraged, overwhelmed, anxious or stuck in a comparison trap, we are safe in HIS hands. Always.
We just lost my beloved grandmother two weeks ago today. We spoke daily. She loved Jesus, so much. It was so unexpected and happened so suddenly; I was still reeling from it. ONE hour after I finished up studying the verses for the week, I got a phone call from my cousin in Indiana. My aunt who had been sick for some time with cancer was not doing well. At all. Matter of fact, they weren't sure if she would make it through the day. I was troubled and heartbroken. She hadn't reached out for Jesus....she felt unworthy of His forgiveness and wouldn't ask for it. However, I felt a strange sense of peace. The peace that passes all understanding, as expressed in Philippians 4:6-7

We soon found out later that she cried out to Jesus in that hospital bed. She lovingly opened her heart to Him. She finally accepted forgiveness and began seeking to make amends with those she hurt throughout her life. As I write this, she is still hanging on. However, she is totally dependent upon the oxygen that the hospital is providing her. She is spending precious time surrounded with family. Though I cannot be there right now, and am 500 miles away, I have spoken to her by phone- which is difficult as she has an electronic voice box and has to be translated at times. 

She is in my heart, my dreams and my thoughts. We await her homecoming with Jesus with heavy hearts for the loss of a life so young and as a family member. 
She will pass on from this life fulfilling another verse we were studying:
2 Samuel 22:7~ In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God. He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry entered His ears. (NKJV)

Never hesitate for a moment and think that God doesn't hear your prayers. Maybe they are in a way you wouldn't expect; or maybe don't like. But please don't ever doubt for a moment that He does not hear the cries of His saints; His beloved ones. Don't be afraid or discouraged. Those words are scattered all throughout our Bibles.

  • Deuteronomy 1:29-30~ He goes before us.
  • Jeremiah 1:8~ He is here to deliver us
  • Deuteronomy 31:6~ He will not leave nor forsake you.
  • Joshua 1:9~He is with us WHEREVER we go.
(Remember: you will be safe in His arms~listen to this song:)

Praying the peace of God that passes all understanding guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus~today and always,
Jennifer Newsom
OBS Teaching/Executive Team

Saturday, April 6, 2013

When It All Falls Apart...Slowly

This has been a long season for us. Poor curriculum choices got our school year off to an extremely rough start. Had I known then that it would only be half the battle. Soon we would deal with an ER visit with my 3 year old (story here), issues with tweaking my son's medication, the death of my beloved grandmother, massive water damage to our home, and now--the news that two other family members may lose their battle with cancer, (one week after I lost my grandma), and are being placed in Hospice care. Here we sit in April and I shake my head in amazement as this verse comes to mind:

Hebrews 13:5 (b)~......For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (NKJV)

And this:

Jeremiah 29:11~ For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (NKJV)

One more:
Isaiah 55:11~ So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (NKJV)

You see, I am clinging to these promises, and some other personal ones, from God. I am trying not to grow weary in the wait, but rather to let it produce a perfect work in me. (James 1:2-4)

I am not even sure when to begin. Not even sure WHERE it began. All I know is I am weary. Here I sit, in my bed AGAIN, with my fourth bought of bronchitis this year. Yeah, I have a tendency to get sick and I get bronchitis often but this year has been vicious. Meaning when I get it, it won't let go. It lingers. Meaning my doctor here in Mississippi tells me to get my bottom into bed, rest, and eat lots of healthy food. Yep, we were blessed by finding this doctor here. He goes on Medical Missions as well.

I began to ponder in my heart, "Why is this year different?" I have spent much time seeking God on this issue. The answer? Stress. And poor lifestyle habits. Sound like an easy fix? Wrong answer. You see, I am one of those type-A people; wired to control. Hope came in the form of a Bible Study that I had the pleasure of being involved in. The book? Let. It. Go by Karen Ehman. I learned a lot during that study. It is still a daily struggle, but I was extremely blessed by that study.

Our topic this time? Yep--you guessed it! Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles. Amazing the way God brings things and people into your life when you need them the most. I am at a breaking point. God keeps whispering 'rest' into my heart. What do I do? Pick up something else to do. Here I blog and work on a Review, all the while "resting". Hopeless, I know. Pulling me away to be a Mary, yet I keep wanting to be a Martha. We NEED Martha's, but we also NEED to be Mary once in a while. 

The verse that I hear often?

To be still is to literally cease striving. To me this conjures up an image of resting in God. Remaining still. Standing firm in my faith, as we discussed in this blog post just the other day.

As I sit here typing this, the battle rages on. More phone calls. More bad news. We just lost my grandmother last week, now I hear the news of two more people within the family being placed in Hospice care, about to lose the battle with cancer. One of them needs prayers to reach out to God........and slowly falls apart. And so......I remember the verse from Hebrews. He will never leave nor forsake me. I remember the verse from Jeremiah-He has a plan in all this. And I remember Romans 8:28; all things work together for good. 

So, I wait. And I cry out "Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief", just as the dad did in Mark 9. Lord, strengthen me according to your word. And now, I cling to this:

Isaiah 40:31~ But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (NKJV).

This song always speaks to me as I go through things:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Planners? Yes Please! Apologia Planners~A Mosaic Team Review

Can I tell you just how excited I was to realize that one of the Review Team items was coming from Apologia? We LOVE all things Apologia around here and use a lot of their products in our homeschool! And a planning system? Oh my! 

We were given the opportunity to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens, and The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. They can be combined and used as a complete system, the instructions are in the Users Guide section of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, or any of them can be used alone. Prices vary from $19.00 each for the Student/Teen planners and $28.00 for the 'main' planner. You can check their website for ordering or call 888-524-4724. Other vendors offering the planner include: Christian Book Distributors and Amazon.

I am a wee bit on the obsessed side when it comes to organizing and planning things. Sometimes, I plan too much and end up more lost than I was when I began. I have used many planners in the past and actually had my eye on this one last year.

These planners were created by Debra Bell, and I actually own her book The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens. The first thing I appreciate is the binding of The Ultimate Homeschool Planner book. It is slick, (read: spills roll off), and bound so that it opens fantastically!

(The complete system)

This is no ordinary planner! Inside The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, you will find helps, tips, insights, quotes, goals, records, and guides! The author has went all out to provide you, the teacher, with all of the amazing insights and helps you could need.

Upon opening the Ultimate planner, you find pockets on both the front and back inside covers. A great place where we stored worksheets, quiz papers and test papers. Handy for us--instead of searching, the kiddos could just pull them from there! A two year at a glance page comes next. A handy tool to also record your attendance if required in your state-just circle your school dates! Moving from there is all of the things that I mentioned above. 

Prior to starting your weekly planning, you will see an amazing section with more quotes, a Bible Plan, Battle Plan--complete with 'Fighter Verse', Prayers, Hospitality/Outreach sections, Memorable Moments and Evidences of Grace. I told you--this is no ordinary planner!

The Ultimate Planner itself is undated (LOVE!!) so you can fill in your own information. The sections are blank. You can choose to plan by child, by date, or by subject. I tried a combination of all of the above during my review weeks. The sidebar has room for Notes, Supplies, and Appointments.

(Here is an example of my planner, arranged by subject)

Next, we move onto The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens. Binding similar to the main planner, it is smaller in dimensions. There is a section in here for the students to write "All About Me"-all of their favorite things for the year. While labeled as a Homeschool Planner, these could easily be used by students anywhere. The planner itself is undated, set up by Month and Week, similar to the main planner. It is set-up in a grid format for the week. In the back, there is a place to log grades, activities logs, a credit tracker, handy grammar guide, citation information for papers using the various styles, math chart, periodic table, history timeline, and SO MUCH MORE! Once again, you are NOT getting an ordinary planner here. We used this planner with my 9th grade son. We wrote his subjects in the left column, and I transferred the info from my planner to his. Due to the various curriculum and books we use, his handwriting is too big for him to fit his daily lesson plans in here himself. That is the only drawback we had while using this planner. There wasn't enough room for him to do it himself. So, we let him use it for other things and ran off of the main planner. He just checked off on it when finished.

Finally, we used The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. Similar in style to the Weekly Planner for Teens, the inside is quite different. There is an additional section with "The Future Me I Want to Be" for them to fill out, as well as Personal Goals for the Year. The planning part itself is set up by day of the week with room to write assignments, plus a place to check-off their 'quiet time'. We used this with our 6th grade son. Again, I ran into the same issue of his handwriting and not having the room to write it himself, so I took the info from the main planner and plugged it in for him. This one also has amazing 'helps' in the back, such as maps, timelines, scientific method, greek and latin roots, and more!

We thoroughly enjoyed reviewing these planners! However, as I stated, we had an issue with their handwriting not being small enough to fit in what they needed to and mom had to write out assignments three times. That is the ONLY negative that I could find to this planner and it really isn't a negative at all. We just use the main planner and they can check off their work from there.

Apologia is well known and loved for many things-and for a good reason! They offer Science, History, Language Arts and Worldview Training Curriculum. They also offer on-line courses. We have used and loved a variety of items from them and will continue to for as long as we homeschool.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Let God Slay Your Lions

As we are gearing up for another study at Melissa Taylor's Online Bible Studies, studying Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles, I had to grimace at the attacks that seemed to rage lately. Blessed, humbled and honored by additional opportunities within the group, now the battle is on. You see-we have an enemy. One that doesn't take lightly our work for God, nor does he stand back in awe when we begin to draw closer to the Lord and go out and serve.

1  Peter 5:8 warns us: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV 84)
The Life Application Bible adds this: "Lions attack sick, young or straggling animals; they choose victims who are alone or not alert. ....if you are so focused on your troubles that you forget to watch for danger, those are the times when you are especially vulnerable..."

So, what are we to do? Lions attack pretty quick and pretty ferociously. How do we prepare and battle when the enemy comes near?
Peter goes on to give us more advice, in preceding and following verses.

1 Peter 5:6-7~ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (NIV 84; italics mine).
Notice that it says He will lift you up in due time. Not my time. Not your time. But HIS time. It doesn't say might lift you up either. God is a faithful and compassionate God. As we go on, we see that He wants us to 'cast' our anxieties on Him because He CARES for us. He doesn't want us to carry this alone.
According to the free dictionary, to cast something means "to throw", "to throw with force; hurl". Literally throw them things down that cause you anxiety. Not lightly place them down. Not twirl them around in your hands. THROW THEM THINGS!!!

Here, the Life Application Bible gives more  more insight: "Humbly obey God regardless of present circumstances...." Hmm...regardless of present circumstances. Ouch. This is tough. We have had an extremely trying four years here. Just when things started to mellow out a little bit, ROAR! Out comes the prowling lion. 

Once again, Peter provides more advice that should NOT be taken lightly. You see, Peter knows a little about prowling and devouring. He was warned by our Lord Jesus in Luke 22:31-32 that Satan had asked to "sift him as wheat". However, in verse 32, Jesus assures Peter that He had prayed for him that his faith should not fail. Romans 8:34 assures US that Jesus is interceding for US as well. According to, intercession is "an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person", "a prayer to God on behalf of another". 

Sound familiar? There is another place where we see Jesus praying not only for His disciples, but for all of us believers as well--John chapter 17--also known as the "High Priest prayer".

More advice from Peter? The 'sifted'?
1 Peter 5:9~ Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (NIV 84)

We resist the enemy by standing firm in the faith. The faith in and of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

James also offers us some advice here:

James 4:7~ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (NIV 84). Sound good right about now?

When difficult times arise, and they will, both Peter and James offer us solid, Scriptural advice on how to deal with them. 
We should:

  • Humble and submit ourselves before God. Petition Him in prayer with thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6)
  • Cast (throw, hurl) our worries, anxieties, and troubles upon Him. Once again, go to Him in prayer. Once you do this, leave them there as best as you can. Try not to pick them back up. Sometimes easier said than done, but there is a reason Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden was light. (Matthew 11:30).
  • Stand FIRM in our faith. Don't let the attacks dissuade you. Remember your God. Remember your faith. Don't be like the ground in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18-23) -when persecution arises, they choke out the Word of Hope that was planted within. Put on the WHOLE Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Praying for you and with you my friends. What other verses bring you comfort in times of need? How has God provided for you in the past in the midst of an attack? How was He your lion slayer? Share your thoughts with me!