Draw Me a Map that Leads me Back to You: Eliminating the Fantasy

This is post two in a series entitled: "Draw Me a Map That Leads Me Back to You."  As I shared in the last post, when the reality of what my marriage started to become began settling in, I decided to solve it by going into fantasy land.

As I've talked with other women, I realize that my "solution" is a common solution women have to solving marriage issues.  We find that it is so much easier to dream of a different and better life than to invest in the life that we actually live.  While I wasn't having an affair, the fruit of my thoughts was just as dangerous and deadly.  It caused me to withdraw my heart from my husband and my marriage.  It made me dream and pray for God to create for me a better life - one that didn't include my husband.  I am so thankful that God doesn't answer every prayer that we pray - because we often times have no idea what is best for us.

I cannot pinpoint an exact moment when I woke up to the reality that this had to stop and that it wasn't okay but there came a point when I eventually "resigned" myself to the fact that this truly was the man that I had chosen to marry (sigh) and decided to accept him for who he was.  I began to stop all my "fantasies."  I had made the choice to marry this man, not another, and I needed to learn how to love him.

As I did this, I also began to see some of the dangerous lies that our society speaks over "love" and to realize these lies truly do provide a trap for us.  It might surprise you but the Bible does not talk about us having a "soul mate" nor does it talk about God having a pre-planned "perfect spouse" out there for you.  When I was living in fantasy land I began to cling to these ideas and I gotten myself so caught up in the idea that I had "missed God's will" that I was trying to figure out ways to get myself back in "His will" - apart from my spouse.  My husband, ever the practicalist, believes that we actually should be able to marry anyone and make it work.  While this idea, for me, rids all romance, I think it speaks more to the truth of marriage than the other ideas listed above.  God doesn't have a mapped out "plan" for you nor is He watching and tapping His toes waiting for you to get things right.  He has told us to love Him and to love others and He has equipped us with the ability to do those very things.  God's true will for me was to invest in my marriage and He could and would show me how to love my husband.

So no matter who you marry, whether you regret it or not, through Christ you have the ability to love that person well.  The spouse you married is your spouse, period. "Becoming one flesh" is an act that occurs after "I do." The act of marriage itself is what seals the fact that you are with the "right person" for you.  The cherry on top, however, is that marriage doesn't have to remain in the place of duty.  Even as I write this, I realize that the Lord was probably smiling as I complained about my "whoa is me marriage."  Yes, I had married a man exactly opposite of me, but when I woke back up to reality I realized my "one flesh" man completes me in so many ways.

As I realized that he was part of me, even if it was a part I didn't really like at the moment, he was none the less a part of me.  It was time for me to embrace my flesh, accept him and learn to love him.

Below is a thought that was given to me during that period that brought life to my mind and my marriage as I encountered situations where I thought my ways would be way better than working with my spouse:

God does not need to circumvent His design
to make His will happen.

In Christ,

Photo courtesy Melanie Guest Photography

PS March 31, 2012 is the last day to participate in my survey, thanks: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BJVSMTS

Draw Me a Map that Leads Me Back to you: I Married the Perfect Man and found out he wasn't and then that he was

This is the first post in a series called "Draw me a map that leads me back to you." Yes, the title is inspired by country song "Draw me a Map". 

This series will be about marriage.  I've been married to my wonderful husband for almost 11 years now and we are a beautiful place in our marriage.  However, we had about a two year season that was very tough, difficult and long.  As I've been in conversation with other women about their marriages, I've realized that some of the negative thought patterns that led my marriage off-track also exist in their marriages.  I want to share pieces of my story because I know that the thought patterns and lies I believed almost destroyed the beauty of my marriage and I know that it is worth fighting for what is right and true.  I'm praying that pieces of my story will provide hope and inspiration one may need to keep fighting for beauty and deep love in your own marriage.

I married the perfect man, found out he wasn't perfect, and then that he was:

My husband and I are high school sweethearts (actually 8th grade sweethearts).  We dated for 8 years before we got married.  As you can imagine, we were thrilled to finally get married and let the fun times begin!  Since we started dating so young we were only 22 when we got married.  All throughout our relationship we always heard, "You will never make it."  "People change when they get older."  "This is young love; it will never last."  While I understand the intentions of these statements and I  understand the rarity of a relationships like ours, those words ended up planting seeds of doubt in my heart that eventually started to sprout.

The first seven years of our marriage were beautiful and exciting.  I realized that I had married the perfect man.  We enjoyed being able to experience the full measures of our love and it brought two precious children into the world.  Then real life began to set in: sleepless nights, work, stress, anger and religion.

I had the opportunity to be a stay-at home mom and one of the beauties that blossomed from that place was a ministry to women.  I began investing fully in ministry and opportunity after opportunity began to open up.  I began saying yes to all of them.  God made many phenomenal changes in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.  I also began seeing how God brought freedom to other people's hearts through speaking truth.  As I was seeing freedom all around me, there was one place where freedom was quickly disappearing and that was in the heart of my husband.

You can imagine my frustration, as I am falling more and more in love with God and His freedom, I am watching my husband struggle in his faith.  I didn't know how to stop it or reverse it. I knew how to pray for others but I didn't know how to pray for him and frankly I didn't want to pray for him.  In my mind I thought he should know better.  When we said our vows, I had married a Christian, we were going to raise our children up in the Lord.  A husband with a growing temper and who doesn't know what he believes - this is not what I had signed up for when I said my vows and so I began to detach my heart from our marriage.

Remember those seeds I discussed above?  Comments like, "You'll never make it,"  "People change when they get older?"  They began to find fertile soil in my heart.  I began to make agreements with those little seeds.  "Everyone was right, I was too young to know how to pick a man worthy of marrying.  We had not experienced enough life to see each other's true colors.  I should of held out longer."  I began to imagine the "better life" that God had actually "willed" for me.  "I should have married a pastor, I would make a perfect pastor's wife.  Imagine what a great strength I would be for the kingdom, if I had just taken the time to wait for someone better."  I call this first lie, "the fantasy mind" and I have come to realize that this is a very dangerous place to live.  The life in my mind, without the man that I had married,  I thought was oh, so much better.

Secondly, I started a "holier than thou" mindset.  Because he was struggling with loving God, I thought I would show him how it should be done and I left him in the dust.  I began attending all the prayer meetings at church, doing all the ministry that I could.  I felt "good" because at least one person in our family would be "living the way we should."  I suppose from a reader's perspective it is easy to see how my husband would continue to be drawn away from the Lord, instead of to the Lord as I left him in the dust to struggle with his doubts.  I had no tolerance for where he was at; I wanted him to be the "spiritual leader" of our home but I had no hope that he could ever be that person, and so I took over.

A third mistake I made was letting my husband's negative characterstic, which happened to be a temper, define him.  Our household began walking on eggshells to try and prevent his temper from going off, but all without fail.  It didn't matter how neat I tried to make the house, how well I planned dinner, etc.  It was never enough to "please" him.  So in my mind he was no longer my lover or my friend, he soon became defined as an angry jerk.

All these things played into the unraveling of my heart.  As I withdrew my heart, he wanted it all the more desperately and the more he wanted it, the farther I took it from him.  We are not in any of those places anymore.  The fact that we are together and he has my heart more than he has ever had it before, is a testament of the grace of God and the reality that He works in our lives in real and lasting ways.  The next posts will look a little more closely at the mistakes that I made and the ways we were redeemed from our mess.

In conclusion,though, I can say without any doubt that although my husband is an imperfect person I know that I have married the perfect man for me. 

In Christ,

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A Story to Embody: Lent & The Annuciation of Our Lord

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Look, the time is coming," says the Lord,
"when I will make a new agreement
with the people of Israel
and the people of Judah.
It will not be like the agreement
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to bring them out of Egypt.
I was a husband to them,
but they broke that agreement," says the Lord.
"This is the agreement I will make
with the people of Israel at that time," says the Lord:
"I will put my teachings in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
People will no longer have to teach their neighbors and relatives
to know the Lord,
because all people will know me,
from the least to the most important," says the Lord.
"I will forgive them for the wicked things they did,
and I will not remember their sins anymore."

Psalm 119:9-16
How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I'm single-minded in pursuit of you;
don't let me miss the road signs you've posted.
I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won't sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in your ways of wise living.
I'll transfer to my lips
all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living
than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
I attentively watch how you've done it.
I relish everything you've told me of life,
I won't forget a word of it.

Hebrews 5:5-10
4-6No one elects himself to this honored position. He's called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, "You're my Son; today I celebrate you!" In another place God declares, "You're a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek."
7-10While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God's Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.

John 12:20-33
There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: "Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?"
22-23Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, "Time's up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24-25"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.
26"If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you'll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.
27-28"Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? 'Father, get me out of this'? No, this is why I came in the first place. I'll say, 'Father, put your glory on display.'"
A voice came out of the sky: "I have glorified it, and I'll glorify it again."
29The listening crowd said, "Thunder!"
Others said, "An angel spoke to him!"
30-33Jesus said, "The voice didn't come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me." He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.

The Annunciation of Our Lord

Isaiah 7:10-14
Then the Lord spoke to Ahaz again, saying,11 "Ask for a sign from the Lord your God to prove to yourself that these things are true. It may be a sign from as deep as the place of the dead or as high as the heavens."
12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask for a sign or test the Lord."
13 Then Isaiah said, "Ahaz, descendant of David, listen carefully! Isn't it bad enough that you wear out the patience of people? Do you also have to wear out the patience of my God?14 The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and she will name him Immanuel.

Psalm 45

My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
shaping the river into words:

2-4 "You're the handsomest of men;
every word from your lips is sheer grace,
and God has blessed you, blessed you so much.
Strap your sword to your side, warrior!
Accept praise! Accept due honor!
Ride majestically! Ride triumphantly!
Ride on the side of truth!
Ride for the righteous meek!

4-5 "Your instructions are glow-in-the-dark;
you shoot sharp arrows
Into enemy hearts; the king's
foes lie down in the dust, beaten.

6-7 "Your throne is God's throne,
ever and always;
The scepter of your royal rule
measures right living.
You love the right
and hate the wrong.
And that is why God, your very own God,
poured fragrant oil on your head,
Marking you out as king
from among your dear companions.

8-9 "Your ozone-drenched garments
are fragrant with mountain breeze.
Chamber music—from the throne room—
makes you want to dance.
Kings' daughters are maids in your court,
the Bride glittering with golden jewelry.
10-12 "Now listen, daughter, don't miss a word:
forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
Since he's your lord, adore him.
Wedding gifts pour in from Tyre;
rich guests shower you with presents."

13-15 (Her wedding dress is dazzling,
lined with gold by the weavers;
All her dresses and robes
are woven with gold.
She is led to the king,
followed by her virgin companions.
A procession of joy and laughter!
a grand entrance to the king's palace!)

16-17 "Set your mind now on sons—
don't dote on father and grandfather.
You'll set your sons up as princes
all over the earth.
I'll make you famous for generations;
you'll be the talk of the town
for a long, long time."

Photo courtesy of Melanie Guest Photography

For more on why I include these weekly readings see A Story to Embody.

Psalm 85

I am working on a 5-part series right now that is pretty intense and it will hopefully get to see the light of day. However, since it is still in the works and it is taking up my spiritual brain power I'm heading back to the archives and pulling out a post that I thought went well with one of Melanie's beautiful pictures. I've been loving her photos!   Also, please don't forget about my survey; it literally only takes one minute and it would make my day!

Meditation on Psalm 85

The biggest thing I took away from reading about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the importance of reading and literally praying the Psalms EVERYDAY. It really struck me as I read the book and it is something I have been doing since then.

For the last week and a half, I've been meditating on Psalm 85. I wanted to share it with you. I've read it in several different versions so I'm going to share the passage with two different versions combined.

Psalm 85:8-13 (NCV & Amplified)

I will listen [with expectancy] to God the Lord.

He has ordered peace for those who worship him.

Don't let them go back to [self-confident] folly.

God will soon save those who respect him,

and his glory will be seen in our land.

Love and truth belong to God's people;

goodness and peace will be theirs.

On earth people will be loyal to God,

and God's goodness will shine down from heaven.

The Lord will give his goodness,

and the land will give its crops.

Righteousness shall go before God

and shall make His footsteps a way in which to walk.

I will share the things that stood out to me in these verses; first of all, the listening with expectancy to hear the Lord. The last 8 years of my Christianity has brought the reality of this verse to a daily expectation.  The LORD does speak over us, and sing over us (Zephaniah 3:17).  It is okay to listen with eager expectation to hear His voice.

God has ordered peace for those who worship Him. This is a powerful thought. I want to be on the receiving end of something that God has ORDERED, especially when the order is for peace. This verse shows the safest place to be is in the place of worship. I am often tempted to do what the next verse warns us not to do: return to self-confident folly to fix my problems. These two verses remind me to go back to the place of worshipping the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and to wait on His plans instead of doing it my own way.

Love and truth belong to God's people. This concept has blown me away too. My husband and I watch American Pickers a show where two guys travel around America going into people's barns and buying their treasures from them. It is astounding to see the treasures people own in their homes and you would never believe it by looking at the outside. Often times, these people live in small run down houses and they appear to be very poor but when you open up their garages you see they have treasures worth thousands upon thousands of dollars stuffed in their garages. They will literally have garbage and treasure sitting side by side. This verse showed me that I own two treasures in my life: love and truth belong to me. Yet so often I walk around like I don't even possess them. I allow the garbage in my life to overwhelm and hide the fact that I own these two treasures. The beauty of American Pickers is that it shows the value of an item is still there even if it is hidden beneath garbage. It just needs to be pulled out and shown for what it is worth. If people would look at your life would they know you posses these two great treasures or would they only see the junk? It is time to go pull out what you own and display it for people to see.

Righteousness shall go before God and make HIS footsteps a path to walk in. The final part on my series about grace talked about how we have been given the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ. This verse states that concept of Christ's righteousness in one incredible sentence. Jesus says I AM THE WAY (John 14:6). He goes before us showing us the way to walk in. The question is, are we looking to follow?

My prayer is that you too will be blessed through meditating on Psalm 85. It is a beautiful reminder that God wants to lead and guide you in your life and that Love, Truth, peace and goodness are all part of the package.

In Christ,

Here is the link for the survey:

A Story to Embody: Fourth Sunday in Lent

I love the connectedness between the verses shared in this week's readings!  I pray you enjoy:

Numbers 21:4-9
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Thank the Lord because he is good.

His love continues forever.

That is what those whom the Lord has saved should say.

He has saved them from the enemy

and has gathered them from other lands,

from east and west, north and south.

Some fools turned against God

and suffered for the evil they did.

 They refused to eat anything,

so they almost died.

 In their misery they cried out to the Lord,

and he saved them from their troubles.

 God gave the command and healed them,

so they were saved from dying.

 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his love

and for the miracles he does for people.

Let them offer sacrifices to thank him.

With joy they should tell what he has done.

Ephesians 2:1-10
In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God. Yes, in the past you lived the way the world lives, following the ruler of the evil powers that are above the earth. That same spirit is now working in those who refuse to obey God.  In the past all of us lived like them, trying to please our sinful selves and doing all the things our bodies and minds wanted. We should have suffered God's anger because we were sinful by nature. We were the same as all other people.

But God's mercy is great, and he loved us very much. Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God's grace. And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.

John 3:14-21
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, the Son of Man must also be lifted up.  So that everyone who believes can have eternal life in him.

"God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. People who believe in God's Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God's one and only Son. They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things. All who do evil hate the light and will not come to the light, because it will show all the evil things they do.  But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God."

For more information on why I include the weekly Lectionary readings you can read my post: A Story to Embody.

In Christ,


Homeschooling: Science Update

Hello All,

I know I said I only try to talk about homeschooling once a year but my last post left one subject hanging: science.  I was reading my friend Amber's blog the other day and she off-handily mentioned the science curriculum she was using: R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey.  I decided to check it out and I am super-pleased!  This is the perfect curriculum for my personality type and to satisfy the unquenchable desire of my daughter to learn science.

So far I've been impressed with everything I saw.  The website is well-designed and does a great job explaining the curriculum.  They also have a generous section of "try before you buy" samples.  We already did two lessons this week and all of us enjoyed ourselves!  This is a HUGE thing because I normally dread doing science.  The beginning of the curriculum lists all the materials you will need to conduct the labs.  I looked at the LIFE Science curriculum and we already have 90% of what we need.  I love that.  But it also makes it easy to plan ahead and be prepared, which I also need.

The best part of all is that they have e-books!!!!!!!  I am so impressed by this, especially in this day in age.  The e-books are 25% off this month, which makes this curriculum very affordable - which I also love!!!

I was so excited, I had to share.

In Christ,

Disclaimer: This is just a personal review of stuff I came across on my own.  There is nothing in it for me.

Intertwined: Justice and Mercy

I recently listened to a sermon by Ian DiOrio entitled Justice (10/13/10).  This sermon gave me a greater understanding of justice and how mercy and justice are intertwined together.  You see, I am a person of mercy; I have great compassion for people in the moment of their need.  My husband, however, is a man of great justice.  There have often been conversations in our marriage where he has driven me completely nuts;  I will be discussing a person's need and he will begin talking about bigger issues - looking at what caused the problem.  I get frustrated because I start to think he doesn't care about the person and why should we worry about the bigger problem because it won't help that person right now.  It has seemed like we have been opposed to one another but after listening to this sermon I've realized that if we work together, both in our strengths, we can accomplish more.

You see my former thoughts were that mercy and justice were on opposite ends of a teeter-totter.   Both were needed but there had to be a sort of balance between them.  However, the following visual Ian shared struck a cord within me and gave me a different perspective on how justice and mercy work together:
Pretend you are on a river camping and see you a baby come floating down the river.  You would wade into the river and get the baby out and take care of its needs.  That is an act of compassion, it is an act of mercy.  But lets say, that a few minutes later another baby comes floating down the river, and then another baby and another baby.  Mercy is the act that keeps getting the babies out of the river but justice is the act that stops and asks the question, "Who's upstream throwing babies down the river?  How can we go upstream and stop the person who is throwing babies in the river?"

This visual not only rocked my heart but I could totally envision my husband and I in the scenario.  Initially, we would both be in the river.  But eventually my husband would talk about getting out of the river and walking upstream to see what was causing the problem.  I would be so consumed in the immediate problem that I would probably end up getting irritated thinking he didn't care about the babies, when in fact, he cared so much that he wanted to eliminate the source of the problem.  As this direct quote will show, both of our gifts would be needed to solve the problem:
"Some of you are mercy people, compassion people, you are people who will always put bandages on broken souls and you will do that without any sense of duty or obligation, it's who God created you to be and you will always do that.  And some of you are justice people.  Some of us ask the question, 'Is there a way to stop the perpetuation of broken people?  Is there a way to stop children from being thrown into the river?  Is there a way to stop communities that are broken and desperate from continuing violence and tragedy?  As Micah shows us we are to do both:"

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

While I know this understanding will be beneficial to future conversations in my marriage, I think that this message is applicable to conversations that occur within the church, especially in America.  When you are engaging in coversation with fellow believers I think it is important for you to stop and think about where they are coming from in their conversation - a place of mercy or a place of justice?  Often times conversations get stunted because we think we are oppossed to one another.  But mercy and justice are not opposed; they are intertwined together and Scripture tells us that we are to do both. However, sometimes the way to accomplish "both" is by working together with people who see things differently than us. My prayer for the church is that we can have a greater understanding of the relationship between mercy and justice and begin to walk together to accomplish our goals.  Greater success depends on our ability to operate in the strength of both.

In Christ,

Photo courtesy of Melanie Guest Photography

A Story to Embody: Third Sunday in Lent

Exodus 20:1-17
 And God spoke all these words:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Psalm 19
   The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the skies announce what his hands have made. 

  Day after day they tell the story;
night after night they tell it again.
 They have no speech or words;
they have no voice to be heard.
  But their message goes out through all the world;
their words go everywhere on earth.

    The sky is like a home for the sun.
The sun comes out like a bridegroom from his bedroom.
It rejoices like an athlete eager to run a race.
  The sun rises at one end of the sky
and follows its path to the other end.
Nothing hides from its heat. 


 The teachings of the Lord are perfect;
they give new strength.
The rules of the Lord can be trusted;
they make plain people wise.
  The orders of the Lord are right;
they make people happy.
The commands of the Lord are pure;
they light up the way.
 Respect for the Lord is good;
it will last forever.
The judgments of the Lord are true;
they are completely right.
  They are worth more than gold,
even the purest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even the finest honey.
  By them your servant is warned.
Keeping them brings great reward.

  People cannot see their own mistakes.
Forgive me for my secret sins.
  Keep me from the sins of pride;
don't let them rule me.
Then I can be pure
and innocent of the greatest of sins.

  I hope my words and thoughts please you.
Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
 The teaching about the cross is foolishness to those who are being lost, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. It is written in the Scriptures:
"I will cause the wise to lose their wisdom;
I will make the wise unable to understand." — Isaiah 29:14
Where is the wise person? Where is the educated person? Where is the skilled talker of this world? God has made the wisdom of the world foolish. In the wisdom of God the world did not know God through its own wisdom. So God chose to use the message that sounds foolish to save those who believe.The Jews ask for miracles, and the Greeks want wisdom.  But we preach a crucified Christ. This causes the Jews to stumble and is foolishness to non-Jews.  But Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those people God has called—Jews and Greeks. Even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22
 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover Feast, Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves. He saw others sitting at tables, exchanging different kinds of money. Jesus made a whip out of cords and forced all of them, both the sheep and cattle, to leave the Temple. He turned over the tables and scattered the money of those who were exchanging it.  Then he said to those who were selling pigeons, "Take these things out of here! Don't make my Father's house a place for buying and selling!"
When this happened, the followers remembered what was written in the Scriptures: "My strong love for your Temple completely controls me."
Some of his people said to Jesus, "Show us a miracle to prove you have the right to do these things."
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will build it again in three days."
They answered, "It took forty-six years to build this Temple! Do you really believe you can build it again in three days?"
(But the temple Jesus meant was his own body. After Jesus was raised from the dead, his followers remembered that Jesus had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the words Jesus had said.)
When Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, many people believed in him because they saw the miracles he did. Jesus did not believe in them because he knew them all.  He did not need anyone to tell him about people, because he knew what was in people's minds.

For more information on why I include weekly Lectionary readings you can read: A Story to Embody.

Photos courtesy Melanie Guest Photography.

In Christ,

A Story to Embody: Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty. Obey me and do what is right. I will make an agreement between us, and I will make you the ancestor of many people."

Then Abram bowed facedown on the ground. God said to him, "I am making my agreement with you: I will make you the father of many nations. I am changing your name from Abram to Abraham because I am making you a father of many nations. I will give you many descendants. New nations will be born from you, and kings will come from you. And I will make an agreement between me and you and all your descendants from now on: I will be your God and the God of all your descendants.

God said to Abraham, "I will change the name of Sarai, your wife, to Sarah. I will bless her and give her a son, and you will be the father. She will be the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will come from her."

Psalm 22:23-31

 Praise the Lord, all you who respect him.
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him;
fear him, all you Israelites.
He does not ignore those in trouble.
He doesn't hide from them
but listens when they call out to him.
 Lord, I praise you in the great meeting of your people;
these worshipers will see me do what I promised.
 Poor people will eat until they are full;
those who look to the Lord will praise him.
May your hearts live forever!

 People everywhere will remember
and will turn to the Lord.
All the families of the nations
will worship him
 because the Lord is King,
and he rules the nations.

 All the powerful people on earth will eat and worship.
Everyone will bow down to him,
all who will one day die.
 The people in the future will serve him;
they will always be told about the Lord.
 They will tell that he does what is right.
People who are not yet born
will hear what God has done.

Romans 4:13-25

Abraham and his descendants received the promise that they would get the whole world. He did not receive that promise through the law, but through being right with God by his faith. If people could receive what God promised by following the law, then faith is worthless. And God's promise to Abraham is worthless, because the law can only bring God's anger. But if there is no law, there is nothing to disobey.

So people receive God's promise by having faith. This happens so the promise can be a free gift. Then all of Abraham's children can have that promise. It is not only for those who live under the law of Moses but for anyone who lives with faith like that of Abraham, who is the father of us all. As it is written in the Scriptures: "I am making you a father of many nations." This is true before God, the God Abraham believed, the God who gives life to the dead and who creates something out of nothing.

There was no hope that Abraham would have children. But Abraham believed God and continued hoping, and so he became the father of many nations. As God told him, "Your descendants also will be too many to count." Abraham was almost a hundred years old, much past the age for having children, and Sarah could not have children. Abraham thought about all this, but his faith in God did not become weak. He never doubted that God would keep his promise, and he never stopped believing. He grew stronger in his faith and gave praise to God. Abraham felt sure that God was able to do what he had promised. So, "God accepted Abraham's faith, and that faith made him right with God." Those words ("God accepted Abraham's faith") were written not only for Abraham but also for us. God will accept us also because we believe in the One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.

Mark 8:31-38
Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and that he would be rejected by the Jewish elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the law. He told them that the Son of Man must be killed and then rise from the dead after three days. Jesus told them plainly what would happen. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to tell him not to talk like that. But Jesus turned and looked at his followers. Then he told Peter not to talk that way. He said, "Go away from me, Satan! You don't care about the things of God, but only about things people think are important."

Then Jesus called the crowd to him, along with his followers. He said, "If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me.  Those who want to save their lives will give up true life. But those who give up their lives for me and for the Good News will have true life.  It is worthless to have the whole world if they lose their souls.  They could never pay enough to buy back their souls.  The people who live now are living in a sinful and evil time. If people are ashamed of me and my teaching, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes with his Father's glory and with the holy angels."

For more information of why in include these readings, read my post A Story to Embody.
In Christ, 

Photo courtesy of Melanie Guest Photography

Homeschooling: Questions and Answers

Photo courtesy Melanie Guest Photography
It's the time of the year when, as a homeschooling Mom, I start getting excited about next school year!  I think it helps me to not get too overwhelmed trying to finish off this year.  Just this week I've had 3 people ask me about what curriculum I use; when that starts to happen on a regular basis I know it is time to write a post.  I know this post won't relate to all of my readers but at least finish this paragraph before you hit delete.  I've split the post up into parts so that you can read the parts that might relate to you.  The first part is "Common questions and answers about homeschooling."  Whether you home school or not, I would recommend reading this part because homeschooling seems to be on a growing trend and there still are some misunderstandings concerning homeschooling.  Chances are you will meet someone who home schools and it might give you a better understanding as to why and how they do it.  So here we go!

Common questions and answers about homeschooling
Several years ago I wrote a post, Why I home school and it provides a more in-depth post than I will write here.  Feel free to read it too if you want more information.

Do you believe homeschooling is for everyone?
I don't believe homeschooling is for every family.  I believe it is a personal decision that people should take seriously and only proceed in doing it if they feel that it is what they are supposed to do.  If you do decide to home school it is helpful to have a list of reasons why you are doing because there will be difficult times and if you don't know why you are homeschooling you will quit.

What about socialization?
This question is one of the most common questions I have been asked.  People believe that home schooled child(ren) have very little opportunities for socialization.  Our problem is quite the opposite.  We are blessed to be in a community that is very supportive of homeschooling and we have a plethora of options for socialization.  In fact, we have so many opportunities to socialize it is hard to balance and make sure we are actually doing school work.

What has been the biggest plus of your homeschooling experience?
One of the biggest blessings of our homeschooling experience has been watching the personalities of our kids grow and develop.  They are as unique as can be (as you will see when I start talking about curriculum) but have become each other's best friends.  It is a beautiful blessing to see your children be each other's best friends.

How long do you plan on homeschooling?
We take it one year at a time.  We love homeschooling and at this stage in our lives it is beneficial to our kids.  We never know where life is going to take us, or what will be our children's interests.  One of the primary reasons we home school is because we want our children to excel in who they are as children of God.  Right now I am able to provide the best environment for that to take place, but that may not always be the case. While I can "see" the reality of doing it all the way through, I don't feel the need to make a decision that is the way it has to be.

Is homeschooling hard?
There definitely are challenges to homeschooling but it does get easier as each year goes by.  I would say the first year or two of homeschooling is the hardest.  You often are second guessing yourself as you are learning about your kids' learning styles and your ability to teach them.  You are also learning how to balance doing grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning the house all while teaching children at different learning levels.  As time goes by, however, you and your kids will figure out a rhythm that works for your family life.  I think the most important key is to have a support system of other families to talk to and get advice from.

Our Core

Sonlight is our core curriculum.  We love it more and more each year.  It is a literature-based curriculum, which simply means there are a lot of books.  This year we studied the beginning of American History.  It was a very interesting study and we (and that includes me) learned a lot this year!  I thought Sonlight did a good job balancing the reality of the hard and sad things that have happened in American history while still capturing the excitement and the uniqueness of the development of America.  While we absolutely love the books Sonlight provides and the flexibilty of the 4-day schedule there are some aspects of their program we don't use. 

We don't use their English program.  It is too in-depth for me and there doesn't seem to be a flow that I am able to follow.  I also don't care for their organization of their curriculum guides.  While I've learned how to use it for us and our needs, it still remains a pain to do.  You get a humongous binder, and you have to sort and organize things each week.  Supposedly, they changed it up a bit this upcoming year - but we usually buy used so those changes won't trickle down to us for a few more years.  However, it is quite tempting to bite the bullet and buy it new if they truly have organized the curriculum guide better.  We are finishing part 1 of a 2 year unit on American History and we truly did love all the books we read this year, so for another year we will continue to use Sonlight as our core curriculum. 
Sonlight does not include a math program.  A couple of years ago, I ran across Christian Light Publications and decided to try out their math program.  I ABSOLUTELY love it.  It is very cheap and it is very well-written.  They only introduce one new concept a day, and the concepts are reinforced over and over and over and over again until the students have it down.  It also builds on top of previous concepts so once the students have a firm foundation then they can easily add the next step.  Every day since first grade they have had a story problem, which I think is a great way for kid's to think about math in a real day to day understanding.  They also have speed drills everyday which helps the math facts become rote.  They deal with both the U.S. and the metric system of mathematics which I think helps the kids to be well-rounded. 

James did the 3rd grade math program this year.  It said in the beginning of the year, he should primarily be able to do it on his own and may need help from time to time.  This has truly been the case.  Every lesson starts out with a brief description he reads it, does a few sample problems and then moves on to the review of previously learned ideas.  I literally have only had to help him 3-5 times this entire year.  I think there is a lot to be said about a curriculum where a third grader can teach himself math.  I did buy the teacher's guide (because everything is so inexpensive) and I'm glad I did.  There have been a few times I've need to pull it out and check the answers because he is getting into stuff I'm not so clear on anymore.  Mercea is using the 1st grade program and enjoys it.  You definitely need the teacher's guide for first grade because there are a lot of teacher dictation moments and you won't know what to say without the book.

Each grade comes with 10 booklets.  Each booklet contains lessons, 2 quizzes and one tests.  The kids get so excited when they finish a booklet and get a new one.  It is a great way to keep them excited about their math program.

We are using two different English curriculum with the kids.

James is doing the 3rd grade Rod and Staff English program Beginning Wisely .  It started out with a unit on nouns, then there was a unit on verbs.  I think it does a thorough job explaining everything and then building upon concepts step by step.  It does have him diagramming sentences, which I don't remember how to do, so I've been learning right along with him.  It is just about the right amount of work for him, not too much not too little.  The one thing it is missing thus far is opportunities for creative writing.  I don't know if it is coming down the line, but if not, I will need to find a way to supplement it next year.

Mercea is using First Language Lessons for the Well-trained mind.  This is an easy oral, teacher-directed way of teaching language.  We used it with James and really enjoyed it.  It is going well, but we are taking it a little bit slower than we did with James because we are needing to reinforce concepts visually since she isn't primarily an oral learner.

James uses the advanced readers for the Sonlight core we use.  Sonlight usually provides two different reading levels.  He loves to read and is a fast reader so I was glad that they had an advanced reading list.  It challenges him enough that it takes him time to read, but it is not too overwhelming for him.

Mercea has been an interesting person to teach reading too.  We've actually been working on learning how to read for almost 2 years now.  We finally have down 3, 4 and 5 letter short-vowel sound words.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, my children are two completely different learning styles.  I've had to realize this and adjust, adjust and adjust again!  I no longer assume that what worked for James will work for Mercea, which is why you will probably always see different types of materials for a lot of our subjects. 

Our first year we tried Abeka phonics.  She was having heavy dyslexia issues last year so I took the time to read The Gift of Dyslexia.  I learned that dyslexia isn't diagnosed until third grade so it wasn't time to say she had dyslexia but I did learn some tips on how to teach her and maybe understand a little better on how she was viewing things.  He discouraged phonics for individuals with dyslexia which is why we dropped Abeka.  In the beginning of this year, we tried to use Sonlight's early reading program.  It started off fairly well but again began moving way too quickly for her.  So in December, when I was about to give up, All About Reading released their level 1 reading program.  I decided to buy it because it had a money back guarantee.  I knew that we would be starting from scratch again but that ended up being okay.  Mercea and I both enjoy the hands-on worksheets and games that accompany this reading program.  It also takes everything 1 step at a time, allows for reinforcement and then builds on previous concepts without skipping any steps.  For the most part it has been a smooth transition for us.  We've hit a few rough patches but All about Spelling allows you to e-mail them to ask questions and they get back to you right away!!!  This was very helpful for me and it helped keep me from losing my sanity.  So yes, homeschooling has its challenges and as a teacher I am in no way perfect but I am so thankful for the many different resources out there to help you through the bumps.


We are using Spelling Power with James.  This is a spelling system which is supposed to last through 12th grade.  You don't have a spelling list each week.  The "simple explanation" of what you do instead is that you spend 5 minutes a day reading spelling words to your kids.  After they write each word, you spell it aloud for them.  If they get it wrong they immediately rewrite the word correctly.  You do that for a total of 5 minutes.  When the time is up they indepedently work through a ten-step method of reviewing and learning how to spell the incorrect words correctly.  The next day you start the 5 minute spelling time with the words they got wrong the day before and then add the new words.  Each list has a rule that goes with it, that the kids write down.  At the end of each section there is a list of review words from the whole past unit and a list with the most misspelled words in the English language.  This system works well with James' personality.  He as a natural spelling ability so we've moved through the book fairly quickly.

Mercea is using All About Spelling Level 1.  We started it at the beginning of the school year and we were around lesson 20 when we switched to their reading program.  We then put spelling on hold since it correlates with their reading program.  It has been easy to do spelling after reading and Mercea appears to be a good speller.  Again instead of having a weekly spelling list, they teach concepts and then you work on words that fall into those concepts.  I've incorporated the Spelling Power method with the words that we use for Mercea, but for now we will continue to use All About Spelling because the hands on aspect goes well with Mercea's learning style.

Science has been my weak point thus far.  We try to tackle it once a week.  My daughter would love to do it everyday all day long, so I need to be more serious about finding something for next year.  In the meantime, we purchased Magic Tree House Chemistry Lab.  It had lots of hands on science projects and it came with many of the needed items and it uses common household items.  It has been fun.  We built a volcano, made slime, a bouncy ball and a milk rainbow so far.

As you can see, there is a lot to choose from when it comes to homeschooling.  I hope this gave you a little taste of why I home school and perhaps some new resources for you to look into.  It is a challenging but rewarding experience.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.  Feel free to pass this post on to others you know who are looking into homeschooling.

If you made it this far, thank you!  Here is a funny video about the myths of homeschooling.  Enjoy:

In Christ,

More Going on than Meets the Eye

I was reading in the book of Acts the other day and I became fascinated by the following passage:

Acts 18:1-11
4 Every Sabbath Paul reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

In this passage, Paul is frustrated with the Jews and shakes off the dust saying he is going to the Greeks only and not the Jews.  How far does he end up moving? Right next door!  What is the result of his declaration? The synagogue leader of the Jews and his entire family ends up becoming believers.

Paul is allowed to be frustrated and make changes according to his frustration, but in the midst of it all there is a surrender to the ways of God.  The result of him declaring that he is done with the Jews is to have the chief leader of the Jewish synagogue become a Christian.  I hope the irony of it all doesn't escape you.

This amazing situation is followed by a vision from God in which God says, "Do not be afraid; I am with you! I have many people in this city!"  Despite the salvation of these people, God recognizes the frustration, the fear and perhaps the idea that Paul is about to lose heart.  God steps in and encourages Paul and states - "do not be afraid; I am with you!  Not only that but that there are many people in this city that belong to me!"  The words of encouragement from God work!  Paul is so energized that he remains in the city for another year and a half.

Paul is not the only person in the Bible to almost lose heart and need encouragement from the Lord.  It also happened with Elijah.  In Elijah's story, Elijah is also coming off of a big moment, where God came through and proved himself above all other "gods" (you can read about it in I Kings 18).   But afterwards, Elijah loses heart and runs away because he feels like he is all alone in his battle.  The Lord comes to him and also encourages him with similar words to what He told Paul:
 I Kings 19:18
"Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him." 

In this story the Lord confirms that Elijah is not alone, God is with him but there are also others that Elijah hasn't even seen who are walking purely.

There are several things that I see as I reflect on these two passages:
  • Our hope and confidence cannot come from our "spiritual highs."  In both of these passages, great things have just happened - the head leader of the Jews in this city just became saved and in the case of Elijah, God has manifested Himself in a way that cannot be denied.  But those incidences were not enough to keep Paul and Elijah encouraged.  If our confidence and the way we measure what we are doing comes from "our success" then we too will find ourselves losing heart.
  • We are not alone!  It is nice to see that at times, even men of great faith  feel like they are all alone.  The LORD reminds both of those men that only He sees people's hearts and only He knows what is truly going on in a city.  Instead of feeling all alone, we can rest in the fact that there is a bigger story going on than we can see and that the LORD knows those who belong to Him. 
  • Keeping our eyes fixed on God is the way to succeed.  After God's encouragement - do not be afraid I am with you - Paul continues ministering for a year and a half in that city.  Elijah gets back up and returns to the people.  They both realize they are doing what they are doing because of who God is, not only to them but to the people He has put in their sphere of influence.
It is nice to see that God understands that at times His people get discouraged.  It is also encouraging to see that God takes the time to lovingly pick us up and remind us that we are not alone in this journey.  There are others out there that love Him with their whole hearts; our job is to keep our eyes fixed on Him and to walk confidently in the areas of the kingdom that He has placed us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 sums up these reflections:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In Christ,

Photo courtesy of Melanie Guest Photography

Daily Prayer

Disqus for For His Glory Alone


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