Considering it all JOY!

If I didn’t, I would surely be “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”.  (James 1:6)

The last six months since my last blog entry have been nothing but a blur. 

We had a very fast summer filled with little else than swim practice.  Every day it was 6:30 am practice, get home around 9:15, eat, sleep, get up, eat, head back to practice at 6:00, then home to eat, shower, and sleep.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  DAY. 

Except Sunday, of course.

Sundays, as always, were a respite for me.  I was able to rest my body and my mind, and nurture my soul.  I love Sunday {happy sigh}.

Doug, as usual, traveled for work the whole summer.  We missed him – not only is he a bright spot in our day when he comes home at night, but he is such a huge help to ME on a daily basis!

Wednesday nights were a crazy race getting Katherine to practice and myself to church to teach my children’s discipleship class.  As exhausting as Wednesdays could be, I sure loved seeing “my” Kindergarten through second grade kiddos on those nights!  Every single one of ‘em is a huge blessing to me.

Our finances have become shaky and there has been some stress in trying to make ends meet, but Doug and I are always amazed at how God comes through for us.  We are by no means out of the woods, but we are definitely seeing the bright light of the clearing!  It is a daily struggle for Doug to keep it all in balance, but, with God’s help, he’s going to claim victory!

Before I knew it, it was time for school to start…

At the end of August, we started our third year of homeschooling – hard for me to believe Katherine is in 7th grade.  What a tremendous, wonderful opportunity for us!  We are so thankful!

So, as we eased back into our routine of school, swim, church, and Doug’s work travel, we started to relax thinking things would be on an even keel for at least a little bit… 

 HAHAHAHA!”, said God from above…

Last Friday, September 7, Doug’s Dad suffered his third and most severe stroke.  After a week, he continues to be in ICU.  Today he was moved to a long term acute care center.  The prognosis is disappointing – the stoke was so severe it is a day-by-day, wait-and-see, touch-and-go situation.  My heart is hurting, Doug is depressed, and Katherine is afraid.

How does one count it all joy when you haven’t had a summer, an insane schedule, a traveling husband, financial worries and a traumatic health event in the family?

For me, it’s pretty easy.

1)  Little sleep for me and intense training for Katherine gave her the chance to make some amazing personal records in the pool and allowed her to place well in her USA Swimming Elite meets.  It also gave her the opportunity to witness to her swimming peers and others she encountered at meets.  It gave her the strength to do what the Lord wants her to do with her gifts, and that fills me with JOY!

2)  Though I have a husband who travels quite a bit for work, he has a job!  And that job allows me to stay home to homeschool our daughter!  You bet I will count it all JOY even when I’m tired, lonely and sick of hauling the recycling to the curb, watering the yard and maintaining the above ground pool!  I am filled with thanksgiving that my husband has a job!

3)  Having financial worries stinks.  But I know God will provide for us.  It may not be in the way we want, but it will – and always has – been in the way we need.  My family and I have a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, gas in our cars.  Yes, we really want to take a vacation, or even go out to dinner every once in awhile.  But that’s okay.  Doug informed me today that we hit a financial milestone in our “recovery” and he was doing the happy dance.  So what if we have to put off vacation another year – it will mean we are financially solid again and my husband isn’t stressing at warp speed anymore!  Heck, yeah – I’m counting that all JOY! 

4) And my father-in-law suffering a stroke.  That one’s trickier for me, but I really have been able to gain a peace about it that I don’t think the rest of the family has just yet.  You see, he really is the only Dad I’ve ever had; mine left our family when I was young, never to be heard from again.  Doug’s Dad (and his sweet Mom) has been loving, kind, and generous.  He has been teacher, administrator, and guidance counselor.  He has treated me like one of his own since pretty much the first day I met him.  It breaks my heart that he has suffered this third stroke, but I know that if he never fully recovers, or if God calls him home, I will always be grateful for all the years he let me call him Dad.  And THAT, my friends, goes beyond pure JOY for this girl.
Blessings to you and yours,

Crafty Teacher Gifts

Even though I home school, the greatest majority of my friends and neighbors have children in traditional school.  Many of those friends are kind enough to occasionally support me financially by placing custom orders for teacher gifts and smaller gifts for birthday or holiday parties.  With the end of the school year upon us, I'm happy to be working on some projects for a few of my friends.  Take a look at my recent orders -- enjoy!

Personalized Teacher Shelf Sitter
{hand painted}

Teacher Shelf Sitter
{hand painted}

Shelf Sitter

Small Ornament / Magnet
{hand painted}

Small Ornament / Shelf Sitter / Magnet
{hand painted}

Small Ornament / Shelf Sitter / Magnet
{hand painted}

Key hook

I also have a few frames and name boards that I'll be finishing soon.  I will post them as well.

Have a wonderul weekend, my friends!


Hurry Up & Wait...A Mother's Conflicted Heart

I hope you can muddle your way through this long post – perhaps you have some good advice for me, or can relate to where I am at this stage of motherhood.  Either way, I hope you leave this blog with a hopeful, happy heart!
Today was a very interesting home school day.  Katherine and I are only two days away from completing a world history study of ancient times through the rise of the European Renaissance.  It has been – by far – her favorite subject again this year.  And I have (re-) learned SO MUCH!  It has been wonderful to work through this curriculum together, and I LOVE watching her continued love of history grow into a real passion. 

Our history study is wrapping up with the discovery of the Americas and Queen Elizabeth’s desire to beat Spain in the race to colonize North America.  For those of you who know Katherine, early American history has been her passion since first grade (thank you American Girl and the Felicity series).  Kat has always been intrigued by the “lost colony” of Roanoke, and this event is where we are ending our studies. 

So, today, Katherine spent about three hours doing her own research (in her pajamas) on what could have happened to these first English settlers.  (Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of home school so that she can do these kinds of spontaneous things!)  The girl took notes and has her own personal opinion about what happened.  She whipped out maps, encyclopedias, world atlases, and watched goo-gobs of videos on archeological digs of the Outer Banks. 
So, what’s all of this about hurry up and wait?

Well, this line of inquiry led Katherine onto the subject of attending her dream college – The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  On the cusp of starting junior high, she’s already beginning to focus on her high school courses and making the grades to get into William and Mary.  While as a “teacher”, this excites me beyond belief, but as a mother, I want to turn back the clock to where we played in her Little Tykes playhouse and took care of her babydolls.

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t want to hold back my daughter – MY ONLY CHILD.  J  I’m REALLY excited that she has the desire, motivation and determination to go for what she wants.  I’m excited for her to grow up, go away to college, to learn new things, experience life on her own, and to find her way in the world.  I know that God has GREAT things in store for my girl, and I know that He will help her make good choices and lead her to make a positive difference for this world.  I totally trust Him, and her.

But the reality is:  I am SO not ready for all of that awesomeness.  And to see how quickly it is approaching makes me feel faint.  And how excited she is about it.

I don’t think I will ever be ready. 

However, as her teacher my job is to help her reach her academic goals by helping her make tough academic choices, challenging her, reinforcing concepts in areas where she is weak, encouraging her to power through the harder courses.  As her parent, I have to support her goals and encourage her dreams – even if that means she moves far away to go to college.  (Hold on, the room has started to spin!)

She was excited today to learn that William and Mary has a Chi Alpha ministry (a Pentecostal ministry funded by the Assemblies of God).  This might have been a deal breaker for her because she has recently considered a few Christian colleges.

This revelation further cements my belief that God has some really big plans for Katherine.

And lastly, the big bonus for Katherine is that William and Mary has a Division 1 women’s swim team.  If she continues to make the time cuts she’s been making, she may have a shot of both an academic and a swim scholarship. 

All of these things have stirred up in both of us the excitement of growing up and of what is to come.  Today I’ve had to face the fact that there are lots of things that need to come together over the next few years and we have to HURRY to start planning for those things NOW.  Decisions about high school seemed so far away, but the reality is that it is only 2 years away and those decisions will affect her collegiate dreams.

All I want to do is WAIT – that way she can’t grow up on me, right…?

Blessings to you,

The Cross & the Crown

I had a slightly daunting task last Wednesday -- I had to try to explain Luke 9:60 to a class of Kindergarten, first and second graders:

                     Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead,
                    but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

It was a used in the curriculum as a rather difficult example of how to be a leader.  Certainly not the right verse to illustrate the point for five to seven year olds.  But my co-teacher Tina and I work with what we’re given and we were able {thankfully!} to drive the point home with some more obvious object lessons.  Whew!

What’s most interesting to me is that while I was preparing to teach this lesson to the little sweethearts in my church class, I began to realize that God was really trying to get MY attention regarding a very important detail of this particular scripture.  

 In a way, it really is the last half of the Christmas story.

The verse is from a part of Luke’s writing that talks about Jesus’ ministry on the way to Jerusalem and the cost of following Him.  Along his journey from northern Israel to the city of Jerusalem, Jesus has people coming up to him saying that they want to follow him – both literally and figuratively follow him.  So Jesus says to each of them, “Follow me.”  But each person has some excuse for not immediately following him.  One man says he must go bury his father first – thus Jesus’ response is cited in Luke 9:60.  Another man says he wants to go say goodbye to his family.  To that man, Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Now, Jesus’ responses to these men seemed kind of harsh at first glance.  Kinda hardcore.  But I realized that Jesus was testing them to see if they were really committed to being a Christ follower.  From that very day to today, there is a cost to following Jesus.  When we are called to serve Him, we must be ready – even if it requires sacrifice.  And it surely will involve sacrifice. 

As my life application Bible states, we can’t follow the Lord half-heartedly or selectively.  We must commit ourselves to him COMPLETELY.  If you choose to accept the crown through his divine conception and birth, then you have to accept the cross of his sacrifice and death.  The crown and the cross – you can’t have one without the other.  You must accept His judgment as well as His mercy.

In this world, that cross can sometimes seem too big a burden for us to bear.  It may be too inconvenient, too irrational to our modern day ‘sensibilities’, or too confusing to understand.  I know.  I’ve been there.  Haven't we all been there?!?

But I believe that God sent a small baby to become the king of my heart and the king of ALL kings.  I believe that perfect baby grew into a perfect man who loved us all so much that he was willing to walk the roads from northern Israel into the town of Jerusalem knowing he was to be persecuted and put to death.  For me.  For you.  For all of us.

Any cross I carry is far lighter than the one Jesus carried for me.  I will always be a work in progress, and I am certain that it will be worth the sacrifice.

So at this special time of year, honor that baby boy who came to this earth for each of us.

Happy Birthday, Jesus and Merry CHRISTmas to all of you!


Swimming for Her Savior

For a few months now, our daughter Katherine has been telling me that she has been praying and asking God to show her how to use her competitive swimming to glorify Him.  It has really started weighing on her heart that she has to make choices between church and swimming.  At the tender age of eleven, she is already starting to see how quickly the world gets in the way of leading a Christ-centered life. 

Seriously.  This kid of mine has such a mature relationship with the Lord – probably more mature than my own relationship with Him.  It’s the one blessing for which I am most grateful!

 As many of you know, Katherine is a competitive swimmer for a USA swim team.  She does well at her sport and has advanced more rapidly than we could have ever guessed was possible.  She swims her heart out whether at practice or in a race, and she absolutely loves every single minute she’s in the water.  She is dedicated, focused and determined to do her absolute best – and a truly loyal teammate.  She’s at it five days a week, two solid hours or more each of those days.  And 8am practice every Saturday morning.  Then there’s the summer 5am practices and two-a-days.  Very committed.

As much as she loves swimming, she loves the Lord more.  Way more.  And it has been a struggle for her to balance her church life with swimming.  She misses out on Wednesday night fellowship in order to attend practice.  She misses church at least one Sunday morning each month to compete in meets.  It has not been easy for her to make these choices.  God has blessed her with a talent, and she knows in her heart that He wants her to use her talent to reach others for Him. 

But she’s been waiting on a word from Him.  And waiting.  And waiting.

Until now.

Inspired by a few news articles and a photo of Tim Tebow’s eye black {quarterback, Denver Broncos}, Katherine is now determined to spread the gospel in much the same way:  instead of eye black {just wouldn’t look right on a swimmer J}, Katherine will have scripture written across her back at every meet she attends.  As she walks the pool deck, stands at the blocks, or is warming up between events, hundreds of people of all ages will be able to see where her heart truly lies. 

While her method may not trigger the 93 million Google hits for a particular scripture as did Tim Tebow’s, it is a way for her to possibly reach many others and share God’s word.  And maybe even lead an unsaved soul to Christ. 

At her meet this weekend, Katherine said several people asked her about the scripture on her back.  One was an adult that was timing at the blocks, the others were all kids aged 9-14. 

Katherine told us that she will continue to pray about how she can use swimming to honor the Lord.  She is prepared to do more, and wholeheartedly knows she can.

And why not?  After all, “nothing is impossible with God.”

Blessings to one and all,

C28 Christian Stores Giveaway!

Click the link below to enter the C28 Christian Stores Giveaway!

Home Educating Family Publishing


1 Corinthians 13

The very first scripture Katherine ever memorized was
1 Corinthians 13. 

The whole chapter. 

Not only did she memorize it, but she fully understands the importantce of those 13 verses that make up the entire chapter. 

To hear her recite 1 Corinthians 13 brings tears to my eyes; she speaks with her heart and I can see in her face her willingness to learn to love like Jesus wants us to love.  I believe we should all live having this piece of scripture hidden away in our hearts.  1 Corinthians 13 means something real to my daughter; it is alive within her.

When we were browsing at our church's craft market earlier in October, we were both beyond excited to find that a new friend and fellow church member had a booth showcasing her amazing creative talent as a photographer and artist.  And boy did she have something special on display:

My photography skills stink and this photo does not do the artwork justice.  Hannah B. made this set of 1 Corinthians 13 canvases and there was no way we could leave without them!  In fact, the original set was the same color as the walls of Katherine's bedroom, so she custom made these for her.  The background of each canvas is pages from the Bible with the lettering hand painted over layered paint.  They are lovely and are going to be perfect in Kat's room.  {Hannah delivered them to us after church today and Katherine is currently pulling stuff off of her walls and rearranging her artwork to showcase her new Faith * Hope * Love canvases!}

Get to know Hannah B. at her blog Everything Sunny Always.  You can click on her silly blog button at the top right of my home page and it will take you directly to her site.  Hannah is also working on creating an Etsy shop, which is still in it's early stages.  But when she gets it up and running, you need to check it out because she has some wonderful talent that she will be showcasing.  Her photography is even more beautiful than her art pieces -- and she's available for booking!

The really special thing about Hannah B. is not her talent.  It's her trust in God and her willingness to be obedient to His will.  Hannah B. is a young woman with an amazing story of faith.  If you head over to her blog, you will be blessed, I promise.  I know she has blessed me tremendously in the very short time I've made her aquaintance.

I wish each and every one of you a week filled with faith, hope and love!