Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Educational Vacations

At HSB, the topic of conversation this week is “educational vacations.” I suspect that’s a bit of a misnomer; unless we turn our brains off, we’re always learning. We never really finish our education. This conviction is so significant to our family that we have named our homeschool “Learners 4 Life Academy” (with a play on the word “Life,” which also refers to our source of life, Christ.)

Yet I think when it comes to formal teaching and direct instruction, most of us take “breaks” at various points in our lives. And summer is a great time to do that!

Our family rarely schedules traditional academic “schooling” during the summer, but we certainly do strive to take advantage of learning opportunities. When we’re blessed to travel somewhere outside of our region, we often visit museums and art galleries – just for the sheer pleasure of it (knowing full well we’re all going to learn something about whatever captures our interests). We also take advantage of local festivals and town fairs; they always provide fun fodder for brains and bodies.

(These pictures are from a recent trip to a shoe museum. Who knew shoes could be so interesting?!?!?)

In addition, we use the looser schedule of July and August to plan out-of-the-ordinary learning opportunities. This summer, for example, three of our children will participate in a VBS program (vacation bible school) with a “Survivor” theme. DD9 will also be attending a dance camp because she loves music and movement, and DS12 will hopefully be attending a robotics camp because it’s one of his interests. He has also recently discovered the wonderful peace that presides at our local library, so he will likely be riding his bike there quite frequently this summer just to sit and read (without his library card, so he is not tempted to do any unauthorized surfing on the internet). In addition to our missions trip to El Salvador, DD13 will be working with children in the neighbourhood because she wants to have a career helping people, and I suspect DS4 will be spending a lot of time online with me following links in our Usborne Beginners series because he has a growing passion for learning about animals. We all love to learn when we’re interested in something, don’t we? Education can be such a delight that we don’t wish to take a vacation from it! J

Because learning outside of the usual way can be so much fun, we are always on the look-out for new opportunities. Just yesterday, DD9 noticed an advertisement at a local grocery store for some cooking classes with a wide variety of themes – offered right in the store. She wants to sign up! I can tell you that I would never have thought to look at the grocery story for a summer learning activity – but there it is!

The break from academics also affords time for entrepreneurial development, which is an important part of educating for life. Even simple things like lemonade stands and yard sales provide fun learning opportunities – about business as well as charity (not demanding payment for every glass of lemonade, donating leftover yard sale items to thrift stores, etc.).

The “free time” can force us all to be creative in coming up with ways to spend our time productively. And of course, it affords us the time to dream about the future . . . to reflect on where we’ve been -- and where we need to go.

What kind of educational vacations do you take? Do you have any creative ways to inspire continued learning throughout the lazier, hazier days of summer?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Collage of Creativity

Just a few of the creative activities going on around here . . . (and my first attempt at a photo collage with Picassa!:)

Journal Updates

Back around Mother's Day, I described a household journal that I created from an altered book. Well, we've been using it, but it hasn't really been working for us because the binder rings that I put through the covers and papers were too bulky and unstable, and it was hard to get pages in and out or even turn them easily.

So, the other night I had a brain wave . . .

I removed the rings I'd originally used and dismantled an old 3-ring binder. Then, genius that I am, I simply glued the binder spine onto the spine of my altered book cover. Voila!

I glued on a few decorative stars to cover the holes I had previously made:

And  I added a few more tabs to divide the book into sections:

I also sliced our calendar down the middle and hole punched it (it had previously been in a booklet form inserted with a magazine holder -- but it didn't lie flat and always slipped around, which was annoying). Now it is much more functional :)

And in other journal news -- I actually finished -- as in filled up -- the journal that I altered last year. LAST YEAR! As in one year ago. That's a record for me!!!Usually I have the best of intentions, but those intentions fade in the reality of life, and I restart the journals with years between the entries. But I have soooooooo been enjoying my prayer/poetry journal! I have another one all ready to alter (I've even started writing in it!) -- and I think I'm going to make another bag to match it (this time a little bigger so I can fit all my reading and writing materials in).

Next I want to think about another art journal  . . .

How have you been using journals lately? Any fun or creative uses?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Hearts in the Home -- Living and Learning about Life

The theme this week at HSB is teaching life skills. Sometimes I find those to be the hardest to teach; they certainly demand the most patience from me. Cleaning up after oneself and others (without complaining), using  money wisely, taking responsibility for one's belongings, developing personal hygiene habits, preparing food (and cleaning up afterwards!!!! But I already mentioned cleaning up, didn't I?! ;), communicating respectfully, taking ownership of wrongful words and actions, dealing honestly with those of whom we can easily take advantage -- these are just some of the life skills that we, as parents, wrestle to work into the lives of our children. Many of them might be labelled "character" matters -- but isn't developing a good character a necessary life skill? 

This may seem like a bit of a rabbit trail, but follow along with me for a moment . . . 

As an artist (did you hear that???? I called myself an artist!), I have become quite fond of collage work, and recently picked up a library book that challenged the reader/artist to develop a series of same-sized pieces of art using a single image or symbol. Now, I'm not particularly a "heart" person -- but that's the symbol I somehow chose to work with (perhaps because I know how to draw a heart!!! LOL). And as I explored the artist's secret for myself, I found myself reflecting on heart issues -- my own, and those of my family.

It struck me that so much of life -- even "life skills" -- comes down to matters of the heart. In our home, children are often reminded to do things with a "happy heart," and we strive to consistently live with a "happy heart" -- no matter what comes our way (Philippians 4:11-13).

The everyday tasks of the mundane mess of life are affected by the state of our hearts -- applying ourselves to our work, being diligent, respecting each other . . . everything is affected by what holds our hearts.

Sometimes -- no, often -- I get discouraged by the fact that I have to say the same things over and over and over again. Please put away your stuff. Please clear up your dishes. Tidy your room. Brush your teeth. Flush the toilet. Please change the way you're speaking. Be kind. Be gentle. Treat others they way you want them to treat you. Please be respectful. Think of others first.

I wonder why my children's hearts seem so careless.  So mean. So disrespectful. So self-centred.

But I wonder -- what's holding my heart when I fuss over these things. (And I do fuss.) 

Am I not bound, stitched through-and-through, by the threads of my own self-centredness? Is there not a big swatch of the fabric of my being that wants my children to do and be what I want for my own sake? (My peace, my sanity, my comfort, my image?)

I can be like a lion with its pride -- only my roaring is out of my own foolish pride that is too often driven by the behaviours of my children rather than their hearts

I am like my children in more ways than I wish to acknowledge. I get frustrated that their life skills just seem so non-existent sometimes in spite of my best efforts to teach them. But the reality is, we're all bound by the flesh, and we all, like the apostle Paul, are prisoners of the law of sin within us (Romans 7:18-25). We all wrestle with the good we want to do, and the wrong we are inclined to do -- in spite of our best intentions. I know it's true of me; it's true of my children, too! (They want to be "good" as much as I do -- and probably as much as I want them to be!)

So I am challenged to change my thinking about life skills. I am inspired to consider the fact that my children need less direction about specific life skills, and more heart connections -- with God, with each other, and with me.

When I have their hearts, I think everything else will fall into place.

The important question is, how do you hold your children's hearts?

Update: Kat's post ties in very nicely with the heart of the matter! I tend to be a "perfect mother" when what I really want to be is a "balanced mother"!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Afternoon Snack

A little treat for a dear one . . . the last corner of the lovin' from the oven for DH earlier in the week:

What simple thing could you dress up to make it just a little bit special?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Just a few days until Father's Day . . . so the theme at HSB Front Porch is, appropriately, just that.

I grew up without a father -- well, an earthly father. I wasn't a super spiritual kid, but I remember being glad that I had a Heavenly Father since I didn't have an in-the-flesh one (that was around much, anyway). It was a conscious awareness of Someone that cared about me, and that was a comfort to me as a young girl. (It just struck me that my dad left my life when I was the age of my youngest daughter. It makes me really sad to imagine her without a dad. But I digress . . .) As a teen, I wrote letters -- lots and lots of letters -- to my Heavenly Father -- in all kinds of journals.

I don't remember learning about God as my Heavenly Father, but obviously I did. And I don't remember anyone telling me what a "good father" is or does, which of course would shape my image of my Heavenly Father -- but I remember having concepts of those things nonetheless. Those concepts of fatherhood shaped not only who I am today, but what I dreamed about for my own future children. In reality, they affected who I chose to marry -- and therefore the generations that will come after me.

I married a man who is a great dad. And through him, I have come to realize how hard it is to be a  great dad. It takes concerted effort and careful consideration and a whole lot of self-sacrifice. Truly, I don't think great dads get enough credit for what they do and give up for the sake of their children.

I know my children love their dad -- but I find myself wondering if they really know how blessed they are. How do you teach your children to recognize how great their dad is? (That's not a rhetorical question! If you have an answer, please share it in the comments.) And what are some concrete ways they can learn to express their appreciation of him? Father's Day crafts are nice and all -- but do they really communicate what should be expressed?

Let's brainstorm some practical ways we (including our children) can communicate to the dads in our lives that we value and appreciate them (every day -- not just on Father's Day), shall we? I'll start, and you can add to the list in the comments . . .
  • Greet him with hugs and kisses when he comes home. Few things say, "You're not important" like carrying on with what we're doing without so much as acknowledging his presence.
  • Bake/cook things he likes -- often. "Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven ;)"
  • Create a calm, peaceful environment when he comes home from work -- so he wants to come home. (And that starts with our own state of mind and heart!)
  • Write notes of love and appreciation to place in his pockets, briefcase, car, lunch . . .
  • Verbally communicate how loved and important he is.
  • Communicate in his love language.
  • Tell other people how awesome he is -- in his presence.
  • Respect his wishes and preferences, as well as his opinions and requests. Everyone. Every one.
  • Pray for him. And be specific. (Kat at Inspired to Action offers a great, free calendar for wives to pray for their husbands. And wouldn't you know it -- the prayer topic for today's date is fatherhood!)
  • Spend one-on-one time with him.
  • Use a pass-it-back journal to communicate with him (if he likes words and writing).
  • Tell him often that he's awesome!
  • Give him space -- time to read, play, or chill in whatever way he likes -- on a regular basis.
  • Respect his stuff -- don't use it without asking, and put it back where it belongs, in good condition.
  • Clean up for and after him -- without complaining. (Servanthood = Greatness in God's kingdom! Mark 9:35)
Do you have any other suggestions?

While we're at it, let's remember to reflect on our Heavenly Father, especially with our children. As wonderful as our earthly fathers can be if they choose, they are not perfect. But what a blessing to know that children of all ages (including those of us in grown-up bodies) have a Perfect Daddy -- Abba Father -- who desires to meet our every need -- but will not force Himself upon us. This Father's Day -- and every other day of the year -- let's honour the Creator God images of the Heavenly Father -- but also the Abba Father Himself.

Future generations depend on it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Candlelight and Moonlight . . .

. . . make for a pleasant soon-to-be-summer evening . . .

How do you enjoy your warmish-weathered evenings?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Re-Purposed Salt/Pepper Shakers and Votive Holders

We recently received some cute little salt and pepper shakers -- probably rather vintage -- but the tops were all broken and discoloured. They were adorable, though -- so I found the perfect new use for them:

And DS4 came into the house bearing this pretty hydrangea bloom that he'd picked for me, so I stuck it in the closest vessel at hand -- a votive holder:

I love having fresh flowers around the house!

Oh -- and if you're wondering about all the folds in the cloth on the table -- I pulled a never-used "bridge set" from its ancient package and put it right on the table because the little embroidered flowers matched nicely with the decor. The four little napkins that accompanied it were folded so uniquely!  I will likely never use the set to play bridge -- but I love it for making my table pretty :) (Though it would look better without those creases ;)

Have you found a new use for anything lately -- something that you don't have to alter in the least, but are able to infuse with new life and purpose?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Vision of the Creator

Maybe it's because I got new glasses and I've also been wearing my contacts lately -- but I find myself thinking a lot about vision these days.

No, really -- it has nothing to do with glasses or contacts -- but I truly have been thinking about how we see things -- and our responses to what we see.

I know people like Kat from Inspired to Action, Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking, and Emily of chatting at the sky have influenced my thinking this week as they've blogged about their Compassion International experiences in the Philippines. (I was already followers of these ladies' blogs, so that's why I mention them specifically, though there are other bloggers who went as well. I have yet to read their perspectives, though I look forward to doing so.) Emily herself talked about vowing to "leap into the story, eyes wide open" -- and when she kept her promise, she was surprised to see Hope -- everywhere. She feared she would only see brokenness and need; instead she saw people being released from poverty. Their poverty did not go away -- but they were released from its power over their lives and futures. I believe she started to get a glimpse of how the Creator envisions an abundant life in the absence of worldly abundance -- even in the presence of abject poverty. It really is a different way of seeing life.

I also found myself listening to Brian Doerksen's "Broken and Beautiful" this week. Just the title suggests an unusual way of looking at things, doesn't it? We don't usually associate brokenness with beauty, and yet often it is that brokenness that brings about wholeness when we truly give thanks for the broken bits, as Ann Voskamp points out. The broken beauty of the cross demonstrates the Creator's vision; He sees things differently than we are inclined to do, wouldn't you say?

And so I find myself wondering how I can make myself more open to viewing the world with the vision of the Creator -- how I can find hope in the horrible and beauty in the brokenness of my own life experiences. Essentially, it'a a question of being better at abiding in Christ.

I can, for example, change my view of my children's negative behaviour. When one of my littles has a fit (and trust me -- they can get ugly), I have a choice: I can lament my poor parenting that would bring me to such a sorry state of affairs (and that, of course, is what Satan and his minions would have me do); or I can recognize the spiritual battle that is going on in my own child's heart and rejoice in the fact that the fallen angel might be desperately trying to claim that child's life (a sign of the fruit that he sees!) -- but Christ has already won the battle. I can see that fit as a sign of Satan's desperate attempt to steal a soul, and steal my joy -- and I can rest in John 10:10:
 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
And suddenly -- that fit becomes a good sign rather than a bad sign! It signifies that Satan feels threatened by my child's spiritual growth, and is fighting extra hard to make us all miserable. But he can only do so if we allow him that power. We already have the victory in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57) -- we just need to claim it. That, I think, is the power of the Creator's vision -- to see the beauty in the brokenness, and the hope in the horrid.

As I wonder how to end this post, my eyes glance at my open bible and land on this verse: "Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?" (John 10:21) Indeed it can't! But Jesus sure can! My prayer is that He will open my eyes and enable me to have the Creator's vision -- and thus enable me to live life more abundantly!

What about you -- are there areas in your life that you know could benefit from having your eyes opened so that you could see as the Creator sees? Do you need the vision of the Creator to free you to live more abundantly?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Compassion Bloggers - What Can I Do?

As DD13 and I prepare for our missions trip to El Salvador, where we will (God willing) meet our sponsored child, Jeanci, I have been keenly interested in reading the posts of the Compassion Bloggers in the Philippines this week. All of the posts have been beautiful, thoughtful, moving . . . and they both inspire me and scare me.  I am excited about what we will be able to do to serve and hopefully bless (even for a short time) the El Salvadorians and Jeanci's family (though chances are good we will get far more out of the experience than they will). But I'm also afraid. I'm not sure exactly of what I'm afraid -- maybe my own ineptness to do or say anything significant (foolishness, I know, since it's all Christ working in me -- nothing of my own strength) -- maybe my own reactions to the things that we will see -- maybe the changes in my own  life that will -- or should -- be inevitable. It's all very daunting taking steps out of one's comfort zone . . .

In the meantime, I'm being challenged to think about what I can do NOW, before I even go to El Salvador and have my eyes opened. For example, I can take more responsibility in encouraging Jeanci -- writing more letters to her myself (instead of leaving that to DD13) -- making special things for her so she knows we care about her and think of her often. I can spend more time teaching my children about what it's like for people just like them in other parts of the world. Sometimes it's all a little overwhelming; but that's OK -- I can still do something even when I can't do anything.

Have you thought about what you can do?

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