Finding Hope and Purpose in the 'Ordinary Life'

Monday, December 28, 2015


Can I whisper something to you?





Yep.  
There truly is no greater calling than the one God has already put you right in the middle of.  I’ve learned this the hard way.   We seek the big time before we’ve mastered little league.  I’ve sought the big time, and boy have I sucked at little league.
I’ve quested for the big dreams, the big calling, the BIG MINISTRY, the big business, you name it – I’ve lusted for it.  It took me a long time to figure out what I thought I wanted wasn’t what I needed.  God already has me right where He wants me.
When you’re a stay-at-home Mom turned Homeschool Mom,  in your head your life is literally the definition of ordinary.  You are largely unnoticed.  Most people don’t understand you or what you do.  You do much of the same thing every single day with the same little people.  Yes, I’m there with you, and I understand if you feel you live the painfully ordinary life....


To keep reading, join me at Hip Homeschool Moms.









Three Ways to Choose Joy in the Everyday Homeschool

Wednesday, December 23, 2015



As homeschool Moms, most of us juggle about a hundred tasks every day (every hour?).  With the feeling that there is just so much ‘to do’, there is also the struggle to maintain the atmosphere of peace and joy we all long for in our homes.
We’ve had those days.  Those blissful, wonderful, happy, joyful days.  The sun in shining, the breeze is warm and all is well in this happy little home.
And then, there’s the normal days.  The ones where we’re happy most of the time but there is just that hint of argument between siblings or that lack of patience from Mom or that whiny, “HOW many letters to I have to write?” attitude.  And it doesn’t take much for joy to flee from us.  I know the battle.
So, I wanted to share with you three ways I have found really help our family maintain a peaceful atmosphere in our homeschool.  Hopefully, they will offer some encouragement to your heart today.



Suggestions for some Wonderful Winter Nature Studies {Charlotte Mason Monday}

Monday, December 14, 2015





I absolutely LOVE the Nature Study units from Our Journey Westward . And I am more than happy to share these wonderful resources with friends (like you!).

There is SO much in these amazing studies, I felt like I won the lottery when I found them!  I honestly feel like if I didn't share them, I'd be keeping a too-good-to-keep secret!

These are lovely Charlotte Mason-style Nature Studies. 

Cindy has packed the pages full of incredible ideas and inspirations to jump start all kinds of nature study as well as notebooking and nature journaling.  The guides are easy to use and very well laid out.   They are also good for quite the age range, with ideas to carry you from preschool to even high school depending on how you use the information and how you direct your student.



Some of the elements include:


Getting Started - Literature Launch gives a list of recommended children's literature to inspire and introduce the concepts of the study (love this so much!), Inspiration Point and A Bit of Background offer the 'teacher' a chance to gain quick and easy basic understanding of the motivation behind the study and some background knowledge before heading into nature study both in and out of doors.


Getting Outside - Nature Walks and Outside Activities (the core of the curriculum) is the section where Cindy has written so many great topic-related ideas for getting outside!  This is exactly what I was looking for since the simple, "Hey let's go for a walk," doesn't always captivate my kids anymore.  

Branching Out - This section goes more in depth and, well, branches out on the topic of study.  There are many ideas for hands-on science experiments and activities, vocabulary and scientific concepts (this one includes a look at Allen's Rule, Bergmann's Rule, The Egg Rule, and Gloger's rule, along with discussions and activities for the concepts of adaptation, camouflage, how to make your yard animal and bird friends, and much more.)

In the Branching Out section, you will also find a ton (really!) of ideas for research, study and creative writing.  The ideas are so many and so varied that I mentioned to my husband that I would surely keep these units for years to come and pull them out during the applicable seasons to use as a launching pad for Nature Study over and over again.  Cindy gives hundreds of ideas that could serve as a very engaging springboard for all ages.

Bible, Poetry, Artist and Picture Study, and Composer and Music Study:


I love the Bible Lessons from His Creation section.  This highlights multiple verses and chunks of scripture that relate to the topic of study.  We used Matthew 6:28-30 as our copywork in our Nature Journals.

Poetry Place includes several titles of theme-related poems and suggested books of poetry.  For this unit, we printed off all the poems and read them aloud.  We used Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field as a nature journal page and learned more about the Canada Geese from Handbook of Nature Study. when we used Coping with the Cold this winter.

I was so excited to discover the Artist and Picture Study References included as well.  What a wonderful addition to any Nature Study!  Cindy gives great suggestions for kid-friendly picture study with artists and artwork related to the topic.  We really gravitated towards studying works by Robert Bateman for our Coping with the Cold unit and it was wonderful.  

Composer and Music References offers some lovely ideas for music study related to the specific theme of the given Nature Study unit.

There are also many notebooking pages to use within your home and homeschool for each unit - so many I couldn't list them all!  Each page pairs easily with the content within the unit study and can be printed off as needed!

Seriously, amazing resources!


Let's look at some of the Winter Nature Studies:



Coping with the Cold



We absolutely LOVED doing the Coping with the Cold unit last year.  There was SO much in it that I think we will still pull from it this year.  


I did a very detailed review of the unit right here: Winter Nature Study and a Review of Coping with the Cold.  I won't write more about it on this page, because I cover it in detail in the review, so check it out!



Constant Conifers


This is the unit we are starting this month (December) and I'm sure we will enjoy throughout the Winter season.  I have already printed out the sheets for a Conifer Scavenger Hunt, and a Conifer Comparison guide. 

The study includes tons of great ideas for identifying and studying these beautiful trees God has created.  Some ideas include:  In-depth observations of specific Conifers, starting a cone collection, dissecting various cones and observing seeds, attempt planting your own Conifer seeds, measure and sort cones based on various variables, make Conifer needle sachets, birds feeders, and various other handi-crafts with cones... and so much more! 




Snow and Ice 

As soon as we get some snow in this part of our little world, we will launch into the Snow and Ice unit.  I had plans to cover this unit last year but we enjoyed Coping with the Cold so much that we never got to Snow and Ice!  

The Literature Launch for this unit includes one of our favourite living books about snow - Snowflake Bentley.  With this unit, we explore the beauty and wonder of God's Winter Creations - snow and ice.  Some ideas include: study the shapes and uniqueness of snowflakes, measure snowfall in your area, use a snowflake guide to identify various types of snowflakes, observe and record your findings about interesting icicles, sketch a 'Frosty Find',  look for signs of winter animals and research and record what you learn, learn about the properties of snow and ice, make a snow gauge, make crystals, make snowflake models using Lego or K'Nex, make a simple mountain landscape in Winter using beginner cross-stitch designs... and tons more.

Captivating Clouds


I think Captivating Clouds could truly be done at any time of the year.  I think we might launch into this in late Winter this year.

Here are just some of the ideas from Captivating Clouds: learn to identify different types of clouds, observe and journal clouds on a nature walk using an identification chart, keep a log of the cloud types you see every day, use a compass to identify the direction clouds are moving, learn about water vapour,  identify shapes in clouds, observe and journal about colours found in clouds, write Haiku, sculpt clouds using clay, learn the five main cloud components, learn about condensation, evaporation, and precipitation, make 'fruit in a cloud' for a snack, and so much more! 


For writing ideas, suggestions include: make a chart showing cloud levels and altitudes, create an accordion book about fog types,  research, illustrate, and write a paragraph about Interesting Cloud Names, and several more engaging writing topics.


Multiple biblical references and readings are provided along with poetry suggestions.  Art and Picture Study includes Van Gogh, Monet and Norman Rockwell, among others.  Also has composer suggestions and numerous suggested fiction and non-fiction titles to work with the study of clouds.





Nature By the Season - Winter



This is especially for preschoolers and kindergarten aged children.

Cindy is wonderfully talented at making Nature Study engaging and easy to implement for moms.

This is bound to be full of lovely suggestion for bringing Winter Nature Study to life for young children.  Includes Notebooking pages and print-outs too!











I hope this gives you some ideas for engaging in meaningful Nature Study this chilly Winter (although it isn't very cold here yet!).






Winter NaturExplorers 1080x1080 (Instagram)



*This post contains affiliate links.

Embracing the Biblical Feasts and Celebrations (our family's journey...)

Friday, December 4, 2015







It's Christmas time again and many people are wondering why some Christians are lighting Menorahs instead of putting up Christmas Trees.  



And - wow- I've been getting so many messages from sweet Moms asking if I could share our journey towards the Biblical Feasts and Celebrations.  There is no possible way I can personally respond to each friend with the love, care, and detail they deserve, so, I thought I would do one big response right here.

*Big breath*  Um, I don't feel at all qualified to write this post, but... here goes.

Our journey is ours, and I in no way want my thoughts/beliefs to offend or upset anyone else.  This is simply one girl sharing the journey God has taken her and her family on... flawed, imperfect, and struggling to live and love God in the only way we can, by Christ's grace...

So...

In our home we have been led to embrace the Biblical Feasts and Celebrations in place of traditional holidays. 


 It has been a whirlwind, crazy, wonderful journey that we are still figuring out every day.  It hasn't been easy and we are still struggling through what it looks like to walk this out in the midst of our culture, with family, friends, grace, love, and obedience to what we feel the Lord is asking of us.

When you talk 'Biblical Holidays' what many people think about is giving up Christmas and Easter.  WHAT?  Christians that feel led to let go of CHRISTMAS and EASTER? Yes.  Stay with me.

It's no surprise to hear that Christmas is the biggest holiday for Christians in North America.  

So, when you are a follower of Christ and don't do Advent, set up a Christmas Tree, display a nativity scene, hang a wreath, or talk about Baby Jesus in the Manger with your kids this time of year... you know, embrace the stuff that our culture says is 'Christmas'... well, people really wonder why.  (There's a run-on sentence for you!)

And if you simply suggest that Christmas might not be all we think it is and you start asking what the roots of holidays like Easter might actually be?  

Some people get really mad.  Some are very confused.  Most give you really weird looks.  But then some?  Some are ready and willing (craving?) to hear more about this different path that stirs their soul.  

*smile*

There is definitely something very special happening - a movement of believers towards the Biblical Holidays is growing every year.


 I think more and more of us are being led by the Spirit to seek truth about what we celebrate and why.  We have a deep-rooted desire to get back to the very roots of our faith - to explore and understand the Hebrew beginnings, the Jewish Yeshua (Jesus), and the truth of who we are as children of God, grafted in to a holy, Hebrew family. 

My husband and I never set out on a journey to reject the traditions we grew up with - not in the slightest.  I was (and still am) the biggest sucker for all things Christmas, so I get it!  

So, how did a Christmas-tree loving girl end up throwing the tree in the trash and lighting a Menorah instead?  Well...

It started with a simple comment from a blogging friend who casually mentioned her family doesn't celebrate Christmas.  


I was shocked - especially since they were bible believing Christians.  I (honestly) chalked it up as her being super weird or maybe part of a strange sect or church and I almost forgot about her comment completely.  That is, until another woman of God (now a dear and trusted friend) told me the SAME thing a year later.

This is when I knew the Spirit of God was whispering something to me.  

The first comment had planted a seed, even though my reaction was of fear and ignorance (Oh, how I'm thankful for grace!).  I immediately remembered the other lady's comment and something clicked.  I knew I needed to listen and my heart was instantly open to hearing.  The second friend's comment a year later met a softened heart, even though I had done NOTHING to soften it myself!  By this, I mean, I wasn't praying about this topic, reading about it, or ever thinking about it!  I was just following God and living every day life.  Praise God, He is always working in us...

 So, my good friend Faith and I chatted for a few HOURS one afternoon about how God had led her and her family to the Biblical Feasts many years ago.    She shared with a spirit of grace, humbleness, and love.  Never once did I feel judged.  I was in awe, shock, and a bit scared to be honest.  I didn't know what to think.  I didn't really want to let go of Christmas.  So, I prayed.  And I asked for wisdom and clarity.  And I spent countless hours reading and searching God's word, researching the roots and origins of Christmas, Easter, and many of the traditions that have become the norm in modern churches.   I think my husband thought I was slowly going crazy.

To say I was absolutely bewildered about my discoveries of the roots of "Christian" traditions is an understatement.  Everything I thought I knew about the things I celebrated as a Christian was challenged and uprooted in a few short weeks.


And although it wasn't easy, my husband and I started praying and seeking God's word for truth about what He calls us to celebrate and embrace.  And we also committed to learning about the things he warns us about and commands us to stay away from.  We committed further to learning more about our Hebrew roots and the things Christ Himself would have celebrated and honoured. We truly wanted to serve and obey Him and His Word.  As we looked closer at the incredibly pagan roots of holidays like Christmas and  Easter we could no longer doubt what God was showing us, and His Spirit was confirming for us. 

He was leading us away from the traditions we knew (and loved!) and towards what He had for us.  Which, of course, is so much better, more rich, more meaningful, more wonderful than we could have ever imagined!  Because, well, that's who God is, isn't it?

And that's the thing about letting go of man-made traditions.  It's not really that big of a deal when you realize that something SO MUCH BETTER is waiting for you!   The appointed Feasts and Holy-days God gives us are far more powerful, prophetic, beautiful.  Also, we are filled with joy because we stand firm in the truth that what we are celebrating honours God and follows what He has asked of us.




 



So, that's where we are today.  Still learning and growing and trying to navigate all the 'newness' of establishing completely different traditions in our home.  Our extended family all celebrate the traditional holidays, so it is a challenging balance.  We understand that to reject traditional celebrations and instead embrace the Biblical Feasts is a very unusual stand for most Christians.  So, we are desperately trying to walk humbly and tread lightly.  We love our families and desire above all the honour and respect them.

We continue to pray for open hearts and for the Spirit of God to move and His truth to be revealed.

The best way to describe it is this - as for us and our home, we will serve the Lord how we feel called to.  We do, however, spend time at family celebrations because we love our families and feel that being present is much more important than making a statement.  (You know what I mean.)

Over the past couple years, we've been moved to the core by so many new, God-honouring traditions.  We enjoyed the beautiful and deeply spiritual celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.  This is when we celebrate the birth of Christ!

We've also embraced Passover instead of Easter.  This rocked my world the first time I fully studied and grasped onto the overwhelming prophetic truth and power wrapped up in Passover!  WOW.

We've celebrated Purim and we've embraced Hanukkah.  Purim and Hanukkah are not appointed Feasts but I believe they are honouring to God.  Purim is outlined in the book of Esther.  Hanukkah is a beautiful, powerful celebration of God's power and Christ as the Light of the World. There is so much information available about the history and prophetic significance of Hanukkah for Messianic believers.  If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to keep seeking.  Many theologians believe Christ Himself celebrated Hanukkah.  (It will be referred to as the Feast of Dedication in your bible.)

So, this post is not filled with scriptural references or links to all the 'roots of Christmas/Easter' videos  and articles because I truly believe these are things you can and will seek out yourself if the Lord is stirring your heart.  All I can say is, if your heart is open and you are wanting to know the truth - start searching.  Pray.  Seek truth in your bible.  Look into the roots of traditional holidays from a historical perspective.  Look into the meaning and importance of God's Feasts and Celebrations.

I know that as you do, the Lord will move in your life just as He's done in ours.

And if you just think I'm absolutely crazy? That's okay.  Three years ago, I would have thought I was absolutely crazy too.  I have nothing but love and peace for every one of you, my brothers and sisters.


And in the words of Paul from the Letter to the Philippians:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.








Links my past posts about the Biblical Holidays:


Ideas for Embracing The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Ideas for Embracing a Christ-centered Hanukkah

Ideas for Embracing a Christ-centered Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

Ideas for Embracing a Christ-centered Passover (Pasach)

For Such a Time As This - Whispers for Purim (Feast of Lots)

Reflections from a Christ-centered Hanukkah

Embracing the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah)

Whispers from our First Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Whispers for the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)





Peace and love to you.





Ideas for Celebrating a Christ-Centered Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication/Festival of Lights)

Thursday, December 3, 2015






If you are wondering why a Christian might celebrate Hanukkah, I'm working on a post that answers that very question.  Also, can I humbly suggest you might read my two other posts about Hanukkah? In them I go into more detail about Hanukkah and the deep, wonderful meaning behind this beautiful celebration:


Embracing a Christ-centered Hanukkah
Reflections from Hanukkah

I also highly recommend A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays by Robin Sampson.


Below are some fun and meaningful Ideas for Celebrating a Christ-Centered Hanukkah:


Celebrate by lighting the Menorah and reading God's Word together as a family every night of Hanukkah- 


We light a candle every night of Hanukkah.  I write the daily 'theme' and scripture readings on tags and place them in envelops on the wall.  Every night we take out the corresponding tags and do the readings.  We light the candle(s) for that day and then we hang the tags on our scripture/truth tree (a Mason jar full of branches).  This is a lovely tradition to embrace because it fills us with God's truth and reminds us of the true reason for celebrating. 

The themes all have to do with LIGHT since this is the Festival of Lights!  We also read about God's miracles and sometimes share the story of the Hanukkah miracle in the temple.


Day 1:
Theme - God is Light
Scripture - Rev. 21:22-23, 1 John 1:5

Day 2:
Theme -  Lord is our Light
Scripture - Isaiah 2:5, Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 60:19

Day 3:
Theme -  The Word is Light
Scripture - Psalm 119:105, Psalm 119:130 

Day 4:
Theme - The Messiah is the Light of the world
Scripture - John 8:12

Day 5:
Theme - When Christ is Your light, you are transformed
Scripture - 2 Cor. 4:6, Acts 26:18, 1 John 2:9

Day 6:
Theme - The Light overcomes the darkness
Scripture - Prov. 13:9, John 1:4-5, John 12:46

Day 7:
Theme - We are to be a Light in this world
Scripture - Matt. 5:14-16, Eph. 5:8, Phil. 2:14-16

Day 8:
Theme -  Let your light shine!
Scripture - Luke 11:33-36, John 12:35-36, John 13:34-35







Make A Menorah!


The Menorah is a central part of the Hanukkah celebrations.  The Menorah reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world as well as symbolizes God's miracles.  We use a Menorah which replicates the one found in the original Temple.  We light a candle every night of Hanukkah and do bible readings as well.  We chose to purchase a Menorah, but I understand not every family can or will.  So, I thought I'd share  some ideas for DIY Menorahs!


Not all the ideas for DIY Menorahs are amazing (or even appropriate, in my opinion...) but I thought it's be worth sharing a few of the better links anyways...

Alphabet Block Menorah
Simple Votive Menorah
Modern Menorah Using Tea Candles
Toddler Friendly Menorahs
Homemade Menorahs (Crafting Jewish Style)
Various Creative/Contemporary Ideas
DIY Upcycled Menorah








Decorate your Home for Hanukkah:


For Hanukkah, we decorate with lots of lights, candles, blues, whites, silvers, and all things sparkly!  It is so fun to still embrace decorating and making the house feel warm, cozy, and full of joy and cheer.  We don't miss the 'Christmas Tree' in the slightest. We feel so much happier embracing these God-honouring ways to remember Him and His glorious power!  There are so many beautiful ways to decorate for Hanukkah, but I put together a little photo collage for inspiration!

PS.  This year we'll be making these.






Play Dreidel and give your children chocolate "gelt":


Dreidel is so much fun to play.  There are tons of instructions available online, this is a good description.  

Something neat about Dreidel is it actually has a pretty cool story you can tell along with it.  The story has not been confirmed as solid 'history' but ranks up there with worthwhile tales.  According to 'legend' (so to speak), not only do the words/symbols remind us of the miracle God did in the temple, the game also reminds us of another interesting idea.  

Many stories are told of how the Jewish people, at the time of great persecution by the Greeks, would pretend to 'gamble' in order to hide the fact that they were actually talking about Torah.  They had to be clever and sneaky in order to continue to learn, worship, and share God's truths. The symbols on the dreidels would have letters, symbols, parts of Torah, etc. on them.  This story leads to discussions of how blessed we are to have the ability to openly worship God, read our bibles, pray, and openly meet together.  Also, we can use this as a tool to encourage praying for the persecuted Christians in the world and also our Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as the nation of Israel.






Make Hanukkah Gingerbread Houses/Cookies:


I have never thought of this before, but what about a Hanukkah Gingerbread house?  We'll hopefully be doing this this year and I'll be using THIS RECIPE.  Check out these neat ideas:



Consider following my Hanukkah board on Pinterest for more ideas!








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