Awed by God’s Ways

He was sitting alone, eating a sandwich when we drove up. I wouldn’t have noticed him, except that I guess something about the little plastic tub of potato salad, pudding, or pimento cheese made me curious about what he was eating. So I took a longer look, while he eagerly sunk his teeth into his generous Reuben sandwich. Typical country person’s lunch—hearty sandwich, big bottle of Gatorade, and that container of mystery food. He looked like a working man, was 30-something, and he looked like he was enjoying his meal.

This took place at Yoder’s—a Mennonite store where we had placed our rescue jar for our mission project. We stop in every so often to collect the funds that have been contributed, and today was the day. Andrew was in charge of the collection today. Just dump the money from the jars inside the store into our collection canister—really just an oatmeal canister that we covered with flyers about our project. It looked like people had been generous these last few weeks, because the jars were full. What a blessing!

As we left the store, Adam didn’t see the hanging plant, and whacked his head on the underside of it. No harm, but I consciously had to avoid looking at that young man who sat there, because I knew he saw it, and might be embarrassed if I caught him chuckling at my boy’s misfortune. We were almost at the car when Andrew tripped and the contents of that collection canister went flying! I immediately assumed he’d been tossing it in the air, and a little reprimand was on my tongue, and I noticed that Austin also had a comment on his tongue, probably not unlike mine! So instead of the chiding I said a quick prayer, and suggested that we help get it picked up.

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Money had spilled all around, under the car, behind the car, and beside it. The wind was picking up a few of the bills, so we had to crawl under the car for some, and chase other dollars. Once we’d retrieved all of the spilled money, the boys started putting it back into the container, and started loading up to leave.

Well…remember the sandwich guy? He’d been watching the whole thing. He called Andrew over and asked him what he was saving for. Andrew explained that we were collecting money to rescue girls out of trafficking in India. I was in the car and saw the man hand Andrew a dollar. I thought that was really neat that he wanted to contribute!

When Andrew got into the car, he said, “Mom! Look!” He opened the money that the man had handed him—not a dollar, but a twenty—no—five twenties all folded together!
We were stunned! Gratitude swelled up inside us as we saw the generosity of this stranger.

We immediately wanted to thank him properly, but how? My eyes fell on the one wooden scripture plaque that I’d picked up to give another donor. Our last one that the kids had made! (We’d held those plaques in the Jr room for about two months, and not touched them, but today, I’d picked one up, for “some reason”) I knew we had it for him! I told Andrew to go over and see if he’d accept it as a token of our thanks. He looked at it and did accept it. The verse said “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3. When Andrew got into the car, we just prayed prayer of thankfulness—not even so much for the money itself, but the the spirit of giving that we had been shown, in so unexpected a way! We prayed that somehow in God’s way, that the message on that plaque would touch that man’s heart and speak to him in the way that only God can arrange.

Thank God for using our blunders for His glory!
🙂

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Trillium & Other Surprises

img_9217-1My third-born son and I are becoming Nature Nerds.  I wear that title with pride, and I think he kind of just gets roped into these outdoor adventures.  But he does take it with a nice attitude, and is learning all the way, even if he doesn’t quite gush enthusiasm for flowers, if you know what I mean!  After all, he’s eleven!  That might not be cool to be too interested in flowers.  But, remember Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver, Elliot Coleman, and other fine men who appreciate wild things, and you will see that flowers and plants are for everyone!

Well, we took an excursion yesterday to see the wildflowers.  We hooked up with two dear old friends (old friends, not OLD friends, as in old ladies) who happened to know bunches about all things wild! You never know what you will stumble across out on the trail–I just figure you have to get out there and start looking, because the flowers are there, whether anyone sees them or not.  When you do come across little patches of beauty, it is such a treat for the eyes and for the soul!  If I miss these beauties, it’s kind of my own fault, because there they are, just blooming for all they are worth!

We came across some neat finds!  Some stumped us, which led us to scour the field guides and good old Google when we came back to the cars, but, as the Good Teacher said, “Seek, and ye shall find.”

We discovered that what we initially thought was the Little Brown Jug plant was actually another in its family, the Southern Heartleaf plant.  I looked up pictures on the internet when I got home, but the photos I saw still look like they are mottled a bit differently.  Naturally, I think that the ones we saw are prettier, but that’s because they are ours.  Much like your baby always looks nicer to you than other people’s, and I think that’s just fine!  I think they are just neat-looking flowers.

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Southern Heartleaf Flower

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Aren’t they cute?

We were hiking around Hot Springs, NC, and explored three trails with our friends.  The Jack’s Branch Trail, which a friend had heard about for its wildflowers, we found overgrown, and a definite rugged walk!  Over logs, under logs, across the creek, through fallen trees and over mossy logs.  We didn’t quite find the official trail’s end, but knew we found the correct beginning point, at least an old point of entry.  Later on, we did find a new connection into this trail, which was plainly marked.  So, that will be an adventure for another day!

Along the rugged trail we spotted some lovely Silver Bells, which grow on a tree.  I had never seen this type of tree before.  We almost stepped onto a patch of Dwarf Crested Irises, in both light and dark purple!  They are quite lovely!  We found Yellow Bellwort flowers growing along the way, although I’m not sure what variety they were, as my pictures turned out fuzzy.  We saw many other Spring wildflowers that were so nice–the Fire Pinks bloomed abundantly, Blue Phlox, Star Chickweed, Wood Anemone, and lots of violets!  I learned more new names–The Purple and White Phacelia, and Bishop’s cap were among them.

All in all, we had a good experience–great company and and lovely day!

My son and I decided to take the scenic short-cut back home, and are we ever glad that we did!  We didn’t know that The Lord had surprises waiting for us!  As we drove the back road back along the French Broad River, we kind of started to relax.  We put an audio story on to listen to, and just sort of drove along slowly, enjoying the scenery.  Suddenly, a striped cat leaped across our path!  Wait, no–he was a Bobcat!  He sprang across the road, looking just like our tabby house cat without the tail.  Yes, he was a bit larger, but not considerably!  We stayed there in the road until he disappeared into the woods, but we felt excited to see one of God’s creatures that prefer to remain hidden.

The next surprise greeted us as we entered into the Paint Creek Corridor.  A banquet of white trillium flowers spread out before us, lining the road!  I was amazed!  I’d been hoping to see trilliums all week, and now, without really looking for them at all, there they were!  I couldn’t resist the urge to take pictures of them, and after snapping a few, I realized there were at least two varieties, although they do look similar.  We saw the Bent Trillium, I believe, and the Sweet White Trillium, which has the burgundy/dark center.  I thought we found another variety, the pink streaked one, but I think that is what they start to look like when they get older.  Honestly, I could be wrong about that, but I could not find any other trilliums that look similar to these streaked ones.  I personally think they are very beautiful flowers with the colored streaks!  I took a picture of the buds of some, and almost thought they were the Bent Trillium.  I believe they are all the Sweet Whites in the group that I saw.

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Sweet White Trillium

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Sweet White

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Bent Trillium

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Sweet White

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Sweet White Trillium

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Sweet White

We had just one more trail to check out, since a nature-savvy friend of mine had told me about a certain trail that often had Trailing Arbutus growing on it at very specific times of the year.  We were literally driving by the trail, so I thought we’d better try to see those!  If I hadn’t known what to look for, we’d have overlooked them for sure, because you have to lift leaves–dry and live to try to see the little pink flowers.  Imagine our disappointment to see that they had just bloomed and lost their flowers!  I said a little prayer for our hike, and whispered that maybe we could be permitted to see some of these flowers that we’d heard about.

Later along the path, we did find a patch, and with some poking around, found blossoms that were still fresh!  I made sure to bend down to take a sniff, and had my son do the same, for the fragrance was like nothing else!  Reminded me of a nice perfume!  Thanks to our Kind Father for allowing us to experience these little jewels.

Just after leaving the flower patch, we began to head down the trail.  As we hiked along, we both stopped short at a rather loud rustling sound just to our right, and down the ravine.  “A bear, my son gasped!  Yikes, I thought, and tried to follow the dark form with my eyes.  It scrambled up the other side of the ravine, across from us.  I felt tense as it didn’t move away, and blended into the shadows.

I whispered a prayer that God would help this crazy mama and her boy, seeings that we were hiking all alone in the park, no cell service, and no one knowing where we were!  I wondered how far to the end of the trail (I knew it wasn’t a long trail, but long can be relative, depending on whether you are being chased by a bear or not)!

We couldn’t exactly see how big the bear was, which made me nervous.  I knew it didn’t look huge, but all the trees made it difficult to see if it was a cub or grown-up.  If it was a cub, I knew Mama Bear was somewhere, and I did not want to meet her!  The bear ended up moving along and away, and we decided that we would be wise to do the same!

Our day in the Wilds ended, we came home refreshed!  We stopped along the driveway to take a shot of the Pink Lady’s Slipper bud that we’ve been watching.  I am trying to be patient for the flower to open, but it is taking its own sweet time about it!  It will be worth the wait, I am sure!

Homebound

One sick boy and the Sabbath day.  That’s how it all started.  My boy was not sick enough to stay in bed all day, but not well enough to go mingle at church.  Although we hated to miss the fellowship of our church family, we decided to take the day at home, and a beautiful day it proved to be!

Sunshine and invigorating breezes beckoned to us, and we followed!  I think that the out of doors is a balm for our tired bodies and minds, and we need to slow down more often in order to stay really fit.  We buzz around day to day like busy bees, yet what we really need is to take a rest so that we can appreciate the wonderful things that God has blessed us with!  If all we do is buzz by, then we miss so much!  Today, we slowed down, we tromped through the woods, and we looked.  Deliberately looked.  We suspected that God had placed hidden treasures for us out there, but we would not see them unless we searched.  So, I handed my son a camera, picked up my own, and we plunged into the woods.

The photo gallery is a sample of some of the hidden treasures we found, mostly captured at the hand of an eleven year-old little chap.  Each little flower raises its head to the Maker whether any human eye ever walks by and stops to enjoy its beauty or not.  Isn’t that how we should be too?  Just blooming cheerily wherever we find ourselves, not worrying whether anyone is watching our work or not; just doing our best for the Master?

So…some day soon, I recommend that you do as we did today.  Slow down.  Look around.  Push back the branches and step off the trail.  So much awaits you!  What you will see, feel, hear, smell, and even taste, if you’re brave enough, will delight you in a way that our Creator planned.  You will not regret such “wasted” time, for every part of your body and mind will swell in thankfulness and awe at the hidden gems scattered about amongst dry leaves and broken sticks.

Aren’t God’s ways amazing?

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Young Dogwood

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Squirmy tadpoles

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Capturing the treasures

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Just us!

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Carpenter bees and Blueberry blossoms

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Cherry blossoms

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Ground Ivy

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Apple blossoms

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Pink Spring Beauty

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Blueberry blossoms in abundance!

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White version of Spring Beauty

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Praying Mantis egg case

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We hope it’s a Pink Lady’s Slipper shoot

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Dogwood

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Fiddleheads of ferns

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Big dandelion

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Spotted Wintergreen

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Little dandelion

 

Little Print Shop

http://www.sdahomeschools.org/little-print-shop/

I let go today.

It’s a good thing! I needed to trust my boys and see what they could do! I needed to, but always before I had assumed only was careful enough, so I took on tasks that required precision, and did it all myself, while they looked on, wishing they could help.

But, a little voice (you know the One) whispered that I would run myself ragged trying to do it alone, between school subjects. Many hands make light work!

It took me time, but I did listen. Here’s what we’re up to!

Our Sabbath School chose a noble project this year of trying to raise enough money to rescue a girl from trafficking in India. We were told this would cost somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000! We have 12 kids. How could we accomplish this great task? Of course we began to brainstorm about a project.

Among the ideas, one that somehow popped into my brain was the idea to print and sell the prayer cards that I had just made for myself, after listening to a neat talk on 3ABN. Here’s the talk. I had no idea if anyone would want them, but since I was excited about my own cards, I thought that maybe someone else would like them too!

After contacting the speaker and getting permission to print and sell her cards for our mission project, we kind of waited to see if anyone would want them. Well, we didn’t wait too long before we received a couple of requests. Then a couple more. When one lady ordered seven sets, though, and then several more requests came in, we knew we had more than something we could squeeze in the cracks of time between math and science. We suddenly had our own little ministry!

It’s funny, because from time to time, I have wished for something that we could do together, but could never really think of anything concrete. Now we can all be a part of the team; indeed, we all need to do our part, to make the thing work! Before we really knew what happened, we had requests for 20 sets of cards, plus what we needed to make for the Juniors to show people. So, 20 sets times 100 cards equals 2,000 cards, and that’s just the orders so far! It gets a little overwhelming thinking about that!

After thinking about it some, I realized that this would be a very good learning experience. We made a little assembly process, and each boy had a part to learn. At the beginning of the chain, my 11-year-old helped feed the colored paper into the printer to print the sheets out. Before long he was printing front and back sheets independently, and he loved his role! We had to choose 10 different colors of paper for the 10 different topics, which was easy enough; then a lady wanted pastels. We decided we would offer two options —brights or pastels — and soon noticed that the demand was about equal for both kinds.

Next came the laminating process, which my 14-year-old oversaw. He kept the sheets running through as fast as he could, which wasn’t exactly quick, just because our little laminator is rather pokey. Once laminated, the sheets had to be cut! My 12-year-old took this job over from me. This was a difficult thing for me to hand over, but he soon proved that he was competent and careful. Once the sets were bundled up into groups, my 11-year-old and 14-yr-old took turns punching holes, and then we put them onto rings.

This whole process sounds like it happens quickly, but, for us anyway, it takes quite a bit of time! Even with us working diligently, the enormity of the task just required a heavy time commitment.

But, I have learned a few things along the way, which is the whole point of our little business endeavor. One thing is that many hands on the job is a good thing. It was not difficult to interest my boys in the work, because it was hands-on, and they were an integral part of it! Contrast this with regular school work. The usefulness of the task just made it more agreeable. We still have to do school work, but the skills just in this project are very important. Categorizing, printing, planning and coordinating colors, precision in several areas, and staying on task were some that I noticed. In fact, staying on task with this was the biggest surprise to me, because I have a certain young’un who really has a hard time with focusing. I looked on amazed as he turned out to be the most focused of all, and didn’t want to quit!

Just to be more “schoolish,” I assigned the boys to write up a paper describing the whole process of the card-printing job. Again, I looked on in surprise when the boys cranked out decently detailed papers on the subject, when just last week and the week before and so on, their writing assignments practically had to be dragged out of them! It’s another testimony to relate-able and practical. It’s much easier to write about something you are interested in and know something about, as opposed to the last paper we tried to write!

So, long story coming to an end, I found that, once again, if we have something interesting and that allows our boys to “do something,” we just learn so much better! Frankly, I wonder if the boys even knew they were learning anything. But, if they are going to run their own businesses some day, or function at a job under someone else, learning skills like this will be a real benefit to them. The fact that through our work we are tangibly making strides to rescue a child from trafficking  makes it all the more practical and important!

If we can do a little home ministry/business, so can you!

As an update: this project got rolling, and before long, the kids REALLY HAD raised enough money to rescue a child from trafficking! Now, 3 months later, they are well on their way to a second rescue! What a victory for persevering!

FIND ME A GOOD BOOK!

I am slowly, then in big bursts, like today, working on moving some of my blog articles to this site for my own record of what I’ve written. I blog on a SDA homeschooling site, and this is another of the articles I wrote for them a couple of months ago.  I must say that we keep adding to this list of excellent reading material! So, I have added a couple more to this list!

http://www.sdahomeschools.org/find-me-a-good-book/

What homeschooling family doesn’t love to gather ’round and snuggle down with a good book? Every family I have come across, especially ours, loves the family reading hour. For us, evening worship time is our best time to relax with an uplifting story. Loving good books is certainly not limited to homeschoolers! When I was growing up, I remember many cozy evenings gathered in the living room, listening to Mom read. It is one of my most cherished family memories.

In our home, we have chosen to follow the counsel given us in Philippians 4:8…

Whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

With that in mind, we have an easier time choosing books than we used to. If we have a question about a book, if it first passes the “Is it true?” question, then that helps us right away to know if it should stay in our stack. Not all true books are uplifting, though, so we have to judge the story by the other criteria as well. Noble, of good report, praiseworthy…all of these are goals for reading material that will help to put good thoughts into our minds.

Our family is not the authority on good books, but because we have read so many wonderful stories, I thought it might be nice to share some of our all-time favorites, so that you may expand your libraries or remember an old favorite that we also enjoyed.

Here are some of the stories we have enjoyed that we have given ten thumbs up! These are listed in no particular order.

(When I share a source, it’s just one place where you can get these books, not necessarily the best. I only linked sites that either had several of the series, or that had reviews and a description of the books for you to see. I normally buy books off of amazon.com if I can, just because it’s easy, and we get free shipping. But, I normally look around for the best price. The links I provided are not always the best price. We get some books on Kindle, and listen to many on audio.)

Paula the Waldensian, by Eva Lecomte, available here. This is my husband’s favorite. It is a wonderful story of a young girl who ends up witnessing for her faith within her extended family after her father dies. Her character is what makes this book so inviting. Good for everyone, all ages. Our boys liked it. I think a girl would really enjoy it.

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Tip Lewis and His Lamp, by Pansy,  available here. This is the one book on this list that we read upon recommendation of someone that I trust, and then I found out that it is maybe fictional. I don’t put this in the category of most fiction, and maybe I’m just rationalizing things, but I still put this book up among our recommended ones. It really has deep themes and comes from the point of view of a young boy-turning-youth who struggles with anger, conversion, and his walk with the Lord. We read it every couple of years, and it is very good for contrasting the eternal realities from the trivial things we commonly focus on.

Dare to Stand Alone, by Bradley Booth, available here. This book will amaze you! It is the story of a young man (18 yrs old) who stands for Jesus in the Russian army, amidst pressures to conform. If you want to see how God honors those who honor Him, read this book! Every youth should read this one!

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The Seventh-Day Ox, by Bradley Booth, Kindle version here. This is another one of how God shows His power. A Russian pastor is imprisoned for his faith, and God uses him as a witness, and also uses an ox to teach about the Sabbath. This book does relate how the man was made to suffer beatings, so keep that in mind before you hand it over to your child. It’s good to read these kinds together so that you may discuss it as a family. The book does not overly focus on this, but it is just something to keep in mind.

The Unlikliest Hero, Desmond Doss, available under a different title here. Almost everyone has now heard of the story of Desmond Doss. If not, Desmond was a soldier who served as a medic during WWII, where he held to his convictions on the Sabbath and not carrying a weapon. This is a good book that tells about his life, as told by his second wife, Frances. It’s good to hear about real heroes.

Jungle Doctor Series (19 in all), by Paul White, full set available here. (This series is much cheaper if you buy it through Library and Ed.; see below) We really love this set. You can buy them one at a time off amazon.com or similar, or get the whole set for a good discount. Paul White was a medical missionary (non-SDA) who worked in Africa in the 1960s. He shares insight into the culture and how to reach the local people. That aside, these books are just plain FUN! We laugh so much, but learn so much at the same time! Don’t let the funny covers fool you — this series has depth. These books are different than any I’ve read before, and it takes a little bit to understand them, but then you’ll be hooked! The doctor takes a medical diagnosis and describes it in the beginning of the book. Each book focuses on one particular tropical disease, like malaria. Then, through the story you begin to understand much more about the disease by seeing how it affects people. Also woven into the story line (and these books are taken from his experiences in clinical practice) is a moral/spiritual lesson that is really impressive. The characters in the books learn through their own mistakes/trials lessons that help them to see God’s character more clearly. I highly recommend these books.

Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Everyone knows about the Little House books, and they are classics! Our favorite is probably Farmer Boy, as we have a household of boys, but we really enjoyed them all. There is just something within us all that resonates with the simple life that these books portray.

One Miracle After Another, by Pavel Goia, available here. If you have not read this book, GET IT! If you want to see how God answers prayer, read this book! You will be amazed and awed at our wonderful God! And you will be challenged to trust Him more as you see how one man had his faith rewarded over and over again! This book will engage all ages, not just older folks!  (The very first chapter mentions a scene that he witnessed that you may want to skim over and skip if you think your kids aren’t ready for it. It’s not inappropriate, just more mature.)

One Miracle After Another

Guide’s Greatest Series, various authors, available here and amazon.com. These books contain short stories that are really great for a short worship. They are easy reading in my opinion, so if your kids are just getting into chapter books, these would be a good choice. There are so many to choose from — angel stories, mission stories, animal stories, rescue, Christmas, escape from crime, and just many topics! Our kids love them! We don’t currently read the Guide, but these are classic stories from the early years.

Christian Heroes, Then and Now Series, by Janet and Geoff Benge (favorites within this series are Nate Saint, Jim Eliot, Amy Carmichael, and Jacob DeShazer), available here on YWAM website. The list of famous Christians in this series is quite impressive, and these are kid-friendly biographies that make good read-alouds. These also are good for kids who enjoy chapter books, although I consider them to be more advanced. These are probably good for fifth- to eighth-graders, I’d say, but that’s just judging from my own boys, who don’t whip through books in one night. We sometimes listen to these on an audiobook, because many of the books have been made into audio format. This helps us on long car trips, or just while running around town, to learn some history. I don’t know if it’s just me, but once I listen to or read a bunch of these, I start getting bored with the style of writing in them. That’s not saying they are boring to listen to per se, but I have a hard time, because the format is similar in many of the books, and I find that I drift off mentally toward the final chapters in some. The solution is to pick stories that you know have an exciting ending, if you know anything about the lives of the people! My kids do enjoy these books, and we have read many.

A Song for Your Honor, by Kay Evans, available here. We are just finishing up with this one! I bought the book after reading the description, and I believe this book addresses a fear many homeschoolers have — that of someone reporting them to the authorities. I sped through this book myself; then we sat down to read it as a family. My family didn’t want me to stop, but that happens when you get a good book! I will say that this story has excitement and adventure, but the element that makes it stand out for me is the solid faith and closeness that this family demonstrated through their heavy trials. This book is one that I thoroughly recommend, as does my whole family. Be prepared to see God’s hand in the affairs of the fatherless and widows.

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Anything by Norma Youngburg — Singer on the Sand, Jungle Thorn, Miracle on the Mountain, Nyla and the White Crocodile, Taught by a Tiger,  available here. All are missionary stories appropriate for all ages. These are especially interesting for Primary aged children, but, honestly, we all love these stories!

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Evidence Not Seen, by Darlene Deibler Rose, available here.

Peace Child, by Don Richardson, available here. *Warning!* This book is rather graphic in the first few chapters, and I would only recommend this as a read-together book for older children, as it describes how a cannibalistic tribe operated before learning about Christianity. But, it is an excellent example of how one missionary related to his local culture group.

Robby the Robin, by Velma Craven Meyer, available here. A wonderful story about a friendship between a baby robin and his adopted family. We really love this book!

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The Sam Campbell books, available here as well as many other places, used or new. These are classic stories of a naturalist who lives in the North Woods and befriends all kinds of wild animals. Funny and endearing stories that everyone loves! I probably got ours from the ABC, but you can find many used copies. Interestingly, I’ve heard there are an “Adventistized” set, and a standard set. From what I’ve heard, maybe the SDA-ized set skips references to smoking and coffee. I don’t know how to verify this, but it’s just what I’ve heard in the homeschooling circles.

A Thousand Shall Fall, by Susi Hasel Mundi, available here. This is a very good book, taken from WWII, about a Adventist father who was drafted to serve in the German army. He stayed true to his convictions on the Sabbath and would not kill nor carry a gun. God tremendously blessed him and his family for their faith. We listened to this on the audio CD set available at the ABC. It is a real page-turner, and very inspirational! (There are references to where women and girls were raped by the enemy soldiers, stated matter-of-factly, and, again, demonstrating how God preserved His faithful.)

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, available here in many formats. We listened to the Audible audiobook of this, and I highly recommend it — highly! This is one of those books that will move you to tears and challenge your faith, as you see a family truly seeking to follow God, no matter the cost. And, it did cost them dearly. If you don’t know the story, it is about a family from Holland who hid Jews in their home during WWII, and ultimately got caught and put into concentration camps. The story follows Corrie and her sister, Betsy. This is heavy material, but we listened as a family and discussed everything together, and I totally believe that it is appropriate for children above maybe 10, if you feel they are prepared to handle the stark realities of war.

No Heil Hitler, by Paul Cieslar, available at the ABC. Here is a review from the Adventist Review. This is another WWII era book, about a boy from Poland and his family’s faith. As with all books in this was era, I recommend parental reading of this book together, so you can discuss questions your child may have. We did enjoy this one as well.

Saving My Assassin, by Virginia Prodan, available here.  Wow. Just WOW. I can’t spoil the surprise, but we could not stop listening to this one. We got the Audible audio book, and it was done nicely. The power of God is shown so clearly through this woman’s testimony.

Ten Peas in a Pod, available here. This is an excellent book about a family some years ago, who lived a very unusual life of traveling around the country, singing, preaching, and witnessing as a family. This book really will inspire you to read and memorize scripture more faithfully, as the children in this family were encouraged to memorize large portions of the Bible. This is a very good book.

Brother Andrew — God’s Smuggler, available here. This is another must-read! Brother Andrew risked his life time and time again to get the Bible into countries where it was illegal. His faith, and God’s provision for him, is amazing!

Mary Jones and Her Bible, available for free PDF download heremany versions available here. We printed and read the PDF from Temkit, so I’m not sure which book on amazon.com is the official version, but I’d say that they all would be inspiring to read. This book tells the story of a Welsh girl who saved and saved until she could get enough money to buy a Bible in her language, which was a very rare thing in those days. It also tells about how her life was changed after having obtained it. This is an old story, but well-worth the time to read it!

Tiger and Tom/The King’s Daughter, available here, and if you scroll down, you will see more in the Character Classics Series, which are all excellent. These are written toward boys and girls, respectfully, but both books contain excellent older stories that I think are great for boys and girls both.

The Miller Series, available here. This series is about a sweet Mennonite family, and each story has a character or moral lesson. I find that these simple stories are refreshing.

There are almost endless places to find good books! So, me listing a few here is just a starting point. I just wanted to mention a few that maybe some people have not heard of. A quick Google search will bring rewarding results, if you just know where to get started.

Some sources:

Library and Educational Services — If you are not aware of this resource,you might want to check into it. This site offers reduced-priced books to libraries, schools, and educators. You have to create an account, and choose homeschool as your category, then you may browse the catalog. Particularly complete sets of books are much cheaper here than most places I’ve seen for new books. The Blue Bible Story books, and My Bible Friends, Jungle Doctor series, Sam Campbell, and many others are offered at very good prices. They also have audio CDs.

Temkit — This is a website with tons of treasures! You could let you child log onto it and they could stay busy for hours (not that you’re going to let them) but would find everything uplifting. This site has many PDF stories and old classic reprints that you can read. It is conservative Adventist. We have find many gems here.

Stories for Childrenwebsite. This site has a ton of stories that are old classics with moral lessons. Very good stories here.

Rod and Staff/Milestone books — storybooks here  The books you find here are very rural oriented and maybe somewhat old-fashioned. Maybe that’s why I like them. There are many to choose from for all ages, and the websites are organized by age to make it easier to navigate.

And I almost forgot to mention the obvious places. The Adventist Book Center, LMN Recources, Orion Publishing, and I’m sure many others, have wonderful selections of books to read!

So…with so many to choose from, the only problem now is where to begin! Grab a good book and get started!

Homeschool Seasons, and Why Sometimes you have to “Fake it til you make it!”

I wrote this post for another homeschool site that I blog on. I ran across it again today and decided to share it here, as a record of my journey, and of God’s faithfulness through trials and times that appear dark. The following was my experience with homeschooling at the end of 2017.

As a blog writer for this group, and for my personal blog, I have never before experienced the writer’s block that I am currently going through.

I am a week late on my deadline, and not for unconcern. I do not take my commitment to this group lightly. Through the past month, I have frequently had ideas for blog articles buzzing around in my mind, but when the time came for me to harness them, they just didn’t seem to fit. So, I am going to write from my heart, and pray that what I share will connect with someone out there.

Sometimes on a homeschool page like this one, we present information, and it seems like we are some sort of experts on the homeschooling process. Just forget about that portrayal. I can assure you that when we share anything, it is because we have tried many ideas and finally found one that has worked, or that we hope will work out. We might not share the umpteen flops, failures, and moments of sheer desperation that led us to our “instant successes.”

This school year I prayed for opportunities for our boys to learn practical skills. I meant that prayer. But, I had no idea how that would play out. Even that is an understatement. My husband and I made plans for apprenticeship opportunities, in controlled settings, at predictable times, in mind for learning skills. I would drop off our eldest for a couple of hours with a mechanic, and go pick him up, or something like that. The details hadn’t materialized, but we had plans. Beware of plans. Of course, we have to make plans, but just be careful about holding too tightly to them.

You see, we had other plans too, plans which involved property, dabbling in homesteading, and clearing land. We had plans to ease into a “build-as-you-can” project, and slowly work our way into our off-grid Home-Sweet-Home. Through some unanticipated life turns, we suddenly realized that we would need to crank up the schedule of land preparation, and that “easing into it” would change to “get it in gear!”

The high-gear stage began when we needed to rent a piece of heavy machinery to help with the clearing. When you’re paying for a big machine, everything begins to revolve around efficiency so that you don’t waste rental hours. That’s sort of when homeschool began also to revolve around whatever we needed to do to “get ‘er done!”  Early hours, late nights, and a picnic every day became the norm, since the property is about an hour away from our home. We all got a sudden immersion into the ins and outs of putting in septic lines, rock characteristics, soil types, and so on.

This process has been exciting in many ways. After all, we prayed that God would lead us to a piece of country property, and He did. When we chose this property, we knew full well that to make it work, we would have to put in lots of work, and even that seemed like part of the romantic charm of carving out our own homestead, like in the olden days. We were all on board, eager, and gung-ho! Every day was a new challenge, but we knew that we would figure it out. Our boys suddenly had the chance to jump in and learn some practical skills as the oldest two ran the transit for the leveling of the septic lines, and everyone got to help install the field line components. Progress was clicking along pretty well, considering all of the rock we encountered. We got our garden and greenhouse site prepared, and holes dug for our orchard — 3x3x3 so we can plant them the Ellen White Method, that the angel showed her in a dream.  I remember standing up at the top of our property in the future garden, and thrilling as I looked over the wooded hills, just feeling blessed. It was my mountaintop time, when faith was easy.

Life is not all mountaintops, though, and as my husband had to go out of town for work, the full responsibility suddenly rested on me. This was fine, with what we initially had planned to accomplish. Then, additional projects popped up that needed immediate decisions.  Every day another challenge came that eventually left my head spinning, as I tried to make important decisions on the fly, figure out yet another DIY project, purchase supplies, and just keep life running. Let me say that I totally get the fast food concept now. I’m afraid Taco Bell became a more regular part of our lives, and home-cooked meals have become more a rarity than our regular fare.

This season has honestly been the most stressful season of homeschool that we have gone through, and are currently involved in. When I have more projects on my plate than I know how to deal with, I short circuit, and then we certainly experience the trickle-down effect through the ranks. As challenge after challenge has hit, I have seen myself at close to my worst. I have analyzed what we should and could be doing differently, but just keep coming back to the fact that life right now is not our ideal situation, but we have to keep plugging away. I have cried many times, overwhelmed with what new thing we must handle. And, I am finding that it is not always the biggest challenges that I crumble under, but the little annoyances — the loud noises when my mind screams for some silence, and the mental load of trying to understand multiple projects simultaneously.

In the last months, we have stacked up the projects, leaving little time for quiet reflection. As the mental pressures pile up, I found myself unable to process much more mentally, so I have been so grateful that my boys know how to cook. When I hear, “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” before I even have a chance to get the cobwebs out of my head, I am thankful when they just make it happen so that I don’t have to make another decision. My mind has been stuffed with septic line assembly, dump truck rental, fruit tree placement, hole size, distance and diameter, house site clearing, basement excavation, footer dimensions, root cellar placement and size, finances, sick child, phone that quit making calls, floor plans, mud and rain, driveway excavation, packing, and employee coordination. Then our sink and countertop failed us, and we found out just how poor we are at “figuring out” DIY.  Did I mention school? Allll this without Dad! Literally, when our month of focused excavation was completed, our eldest asked me what we were going to do the next day. I replied, “School.” “Only school?” he asked. “Yes.” He let out an audible sigh of relief at “only school,” and I realized that we all were just completely exhausted, physically and mentally.

The more overwhelmed I felt, the more time I noticed myself turning to Facebook. I realized it was/is an escape for me, and a natural way to “interact” while my husband and I have had decreased communication because of distance. I enjoy catching up, but I realized that my already overwhelmed mind didn’t need more material to think about. I have consciously been watching my time on FB this last week or more, and I see that it helps me. My mind can only take on so much before it reaches saturation. And then, when things are already challenging, the temptation to compare your life to the lives portrayed by others is quite high. This can compound feelings of inadequacy and frustration. But, what we need to realize is that on any journey, there are shadows and rainbows. Facebook posts tend to showcase the rainbows, and maybe it’s because we all need to cling to those moments where something actually does happen right. We as homeschoolers especially need to keep this in mind.

During this time, I have admittedly fallen behind in reading other blogs in our group. The other day, I randomly (I thought), while weary, feeling knocked down and dragged under the bus, stumbled upon this post on our blog. It’s the only blog post I have read in over a month. I don’t even know how I got through it, I was that tired, but somehow, some bells started to go off in my head. I particularly appreciated the links that were shared to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s materials. I began to listen to some of the messages, and I saw so clearly how, even though I legitimately have real challenges in our situation right now, I don’t have to drown under them. Jesus offers help, and it is with my cooperation, especially in my thought life. Wow. There is abundant material about the brain and how our thoughts form connections that contribute to our health, both mentally and physically. Truly, we are what we think. I haven’t read part two of the blog about our thoughts, but I will soon be doing so.

I feel like that reminder about choosing my thoughts has helped me. It has made me more aware of what I say since it reacts on me and others, like my children, reinforcing the positive or negative. And, I have seen how much the Lord really wants to help me to have a victory, not a defeat.

I will say that old habits are those that surface without our effort, and so much so in this area of what we say. I am literally praying often that God will give me a kind word, because when I feel overwhelmed, my natural reaction is negativity. Barbara O’Neill, a favorite speaker of mine, says that we must “fake it ’til we make it,” and that this indeed is a spiritual principle. This is a very helpful talk about the laws that govern our minds. I highly recommend it, and I need to go back and re-listen to it too!

Don’t misunderstand the Fake It ‘Til You Make It outlook. This does not mean to pretend your worries away, expecting that they will just vanish. Instead, it means choosing what we tell ourselves about what we are going through, and choosing to turn to beneficial sources like Bible promises to get our mental dialogue pointed in a positive direction. The Bible says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in Thee,” Isaiah 26:3. This strongly suggests a partnership between us and the Lord. He promises us peace, but first we choose to train our minds on Him, His power, His ability, His goodness towards us. He is able to help us in every emergency.

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Another talk that I appreciated is this talk by Maria Neblett, called The Language of Encouragement. She speaks so honestly about her struggles, and I really can relate to what she shared. But, she also shows us how to strive for victory and change the course of our homes. This talk I have listened to a couple of times, but really need to go back over it until I can truly make it my experience.

I hope that my ramblings have not been too random. God is good. He is real, and He is here for us. Satan wants to weigh us down and defeat us in any way that he can. We do have a part to play to cooperate with our Saviour, even if we have to “Fake it ’til we make it!”