Looking Forward to Change — A Message to Those Heading to Academy or College

It’s that time again! Summer break has already started or is just around the corner, and for some of you going back to school in the fall will mean transitioning out of homeschooling and off into to academy or college. My topic today is geared toward you specifically, although your parents are welcome to read along.

1. Even though you don’t know me, I’m proud of you and your hard work, and your dedication to your studies, family, and friends. Nothing worth having comes easily, and you’ve proved yourself through hours of study, outreach events, and kindnesses to those around you. Heading off to a new school and environment requires continued courage, determination, and the perseverance not to give up when deadlines loom; and, class requirements take more out of you than you ever thought possible. Keep up the good work!

2. All that character you and your parents have focused on building? It’s going to be proven in a big way once you’re out on your own. Decisions to continue to take your education seriously, or to avoid spending time with those friends who have suddenly begun making poor choices regarding drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc., are going to make a huge impact in your future. In the moment it can be hard to see how certain things will affect you positively or negatively five, 10, or 15 years down the line, but take it from someone who has lived a little longer than you: poor decisions can haunt you for years afterward. By that same token, wise ones can benefit you, and be a source of reassurance and strength in the years to come.


3. Know that you’re not alone. You have these intense feelings, emotions, and thoughts (about the big project that is due tomorrow, or significant others, for instance) that you’re absolutely certain no one has felt before. Ever. Especially not your parents? Think again. There are a lot of similarities between you and your parents. You do share 50% of your DNA with each of them after all. They might understand more than you’d think. They also raised you since you were born, and understand you better than anyone alive on this earth (It took me years into adulthood, and having several children of my own to realize the truth of this!) Your parents have wisdom and insight into many situations that you are facing. They’ve probably spent countless days and sleepless nights praying over you that you were unaware of — and you know how important sleep is now, right? They love you, and want your best.

4. Know that you’re not alone (part 2). As much as a parent loves their child, nothing can compare to the love that God has for us. He knows you on a molecular level! He knows your family history farther back than even your grandparents can remember. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows and understands the very essence of who you are, and He wants to fight for you. Your heart is precious to Him. So, why not spend time talking to him about the next big test, a failed relationship, or future job plans? (You wouldn’t be the first person to change their major in the middle of the year).

5. And finally, work hard on your studies, but don’t forget to make time for fun events with friends who will uplift and encourage you. The friendships and memories you make here will most likely last for years to come. Sometimes former homeschoolers can seem like the “odd man out” to uninformed persons. Use the social opportunities to reach out to others and show them you’re anything but “awkward” and “unsocialized.” 😉

I pray the coming year brings growth and wisdom, and helps you discover more about who you were created to be. While this journey into independence may be a little scary at first, I have confidence that you will soon adjust, and even thrive! And, if you do make mistakes or fall flat on your face, know that God is always there to help lift you up. So are your parents, teachers, and school counselors. They love you and are in your corner.

Here’s to new adventures in the coming year!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

See also Psalm 27:1, Psalm 56:3-4, Proverbs 3:5-6, and 2 Timothy 1:7.

Inspiration: Finding Your “Treasure” and Your Purpose

This past week I was filling in the “About me” section on a crafting site I run, and one of the questions that was proposed was, “What inspires you to come up with original designs?” This got me to thinking more about inspiration and motive. What is it? Why/how do I use it? And ultimately, what does it reveal about God’s heart?

I invite you on this journey today, and believe this is something that will not only benefit us as parents, but can also be a good tool for teens who are just starting to grapple with the bigger questions of life, such as purpose, and how inspiration/motivation can lead to finding our purpose, especially when we keep God at the center. I would highly recommend taking the time to write the questions in this article down in a journal, and prayerfully answer them for yourself.

Inspiration

It should be noted that inspiration (or motivation), in the sense that I’m writing about today, means taking an idea or emotion, and expanding on it, either mentally or physically. And, not only expanding on it, but applying the results to my life in a broader perspective — that is to somehow be a clearer reflection of God’s character, and heart, as mother/wife/daughter/business woman/teacher. Inspiration put toward a higher purpose, if you will. This is different than perfectionism, and should not be used to compare yourself to others.

What inspires you? When you find that out, you will find where your heart is.

Personally, I’m inspired by beauty in many forms, both the physical — such as flowers, sunrises, family, lace, ruffles, cozy pajamas, and clean sheets (I can almost hear angels sing when climbing into a clean bed); and intangible — like kindness, love, confidence, and selflessness.

I can either look at these things in a passive/dismissive way, or dig deeper and find some truths that may not be so initially obvious about God, and how He designed me. But, not just me; rather, the whole of humanity. You can also think of inspiration as being where your treasure is.

Now it’s your turn: What inspires you? What breathes life into your heart? What makes “birds sing and flowers bloom” in your soul? What is the “treasure” that draws you to a place so lovely, and sweet that you wish everyone knew about it, and could experience it for themselves?

But why?

Once you’ve discovered what it is that inspires you, look deeper. Why does this inspire or motivate me? What place does this touch in my heart? Take some time and write these down in a journal and answer them for yourself. The way I answer (based on the previous paragraph) is because beauty is comforting, it is healing. It reminds me that there are good things in this world. That there are things worth believing in. That all I have dreamed for and of is not in vain, and that one day, all that is ugly and miserable and sad will be removed. That one day I will behold Him face to face — the One who first dreamed of us, and then created the world and everything in it — purposely. Notice how inspiration came before creation, even for God.

What do the things that inspire me say about God’s heart? How does this reveal a greater plan or purpose? And finally… How can I pass that inspiration on to others?

For one, I need to stay connected to the ultimate source of inspiration, blessings, and love. When I seek to know and understand God’s will through prayer and Bible study, the desire for competition ends. I don’t harbor hate, bitterness, and anger, because perfect love drives out fear (fear being the root cause of anger, hate, negativity). I am free to let the peace that passes all understanding take up residence in my heart. I am free to be the person God made me to be, and He becomes my ultimate inspiration.

It is He who inspires me with grace to become a more effective and focused teacher, He inspires me with patience when my children are having a difficult day, and He inspires me with mercy when a friend says something unintentionally hurtful. He shows me that my purpose is to glorify Him in all things. That by seeking His will, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, I will bear the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). I can’t think of anything more beautiful or inspirational than that.

“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things,” Philippians 4:8 (NIV).

Below, I’m including the questions asked in this article in one easy-to-see area to make this study more simple.

Questions to Ask Yourself

What inspires or motivates me?

  • What breathes life into my heart?What makes “birds sing and flowers bloom” in my soul? What is the “treasure” that draws me to a place so lovely, and sweet that I wish everyone knew about it, and could experience it for themselves?

Why does this inspire or motivate me?

  • What place does this touch in my heart? Why do I believe in it?

What do the things that inspire me say about God’s heart?

  • How does this reveal a greater plan or purpose? How can I pass that inspiration on to others?

Planting Seeds of Joy

It’s that time of year again. For many of you the presents have been opened, Christmas dinner preparations are old news, family have returned to their homes, New Year’s resolutions have been made (or at least considered, right?), and life is starting to get back to the “pre-holiday” routine. This can be a relief for some, a letdown for others. So, what now? We often idealize the holidays as the stuff dreams are made of, and we regularly go to great lengths to make sure our family members and friends feel that extra bit of love. How can we continue to encourage our families to live the joy, thanksgiving, and dream-like utopia that we aimed for only days ago, throughout the rest of this year?

seedlings

Today, I have a few suggestions for helping to maintain the “Christmas spirit,” and plant those seeds of joy for the other 11 months of the year. Because, really, whether you celebrate Christmas officially or not, it’s the spirit of giving, goodwill, and hope that makes this world a better place, and I strongly believe those are concepts that come directly from the heart of God.

1. Continue the tradition of saying what you are thankful for at mealtimes, family worships, or bedtimes. Thanks begets more thanks. Let your family know what blessings you have experienced during the day, even if it’s as simple as finding a toy that has been misplaced, or making it to a doctor’s appointment on time (in my home, these are actually huge). “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth,” Isaiah 12:4-5.

2. Look for ways to reach out to others. It may take extra effort, but making someone smile always brings one to my face. Drawing pictures, writing encouraging notes, delivering homemade goodies — it may sound clichéd, but it works! “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed,” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

3. Spend time connecting with your spouse. One of my favorite memories with Josh is sitting on the couch sipping hot chocolate, and looking at the lights on our tree, while he read stories from a book we both enjoyed. It was spontaneous and simple. A date doesn’t have to mean going somewhere expensive. Talk about what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

4. Take time to make your children feel extra special, whether it’s a “date” night once a month, or a surprise “break” day to go do something fun. Tell them what you most admire in them. Discover their love language if you don’t already know it.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. The world will not end if the toys are not picked up, or laundry isn’t folded and put away. I say this to myself as much as to you. Order and cleanliness are near the top of my list, because I generally feel more relaxed looking at a clean house, but there are times when it’s ok to let that stuff go. In general, your family is not going to remember you for your spotless livingroom, perfect kitchen, or whether your children’s rooms look like something out of Good Homes Magazine. They’re going to remember you for your warmth, interest, and caring; it’s the memories of being together that will leave warm fuzzies in their hearts.

6. Last, and most important on this list, take time out to restore your soul. We as parents don’t always do a good job of taking care of ourselves. With 948 other things calling our names (along with the children and spouse of course), the struggle to take care of our hearts is real. I, for one, need a lot more time to recharge than my husband does. It is crucial that recharging time happens because without it, the energy to do the other five things on this list won’t be there. When the primary caretaker (whether husband or wife) is running on empty, the whole family suffers.

My prayer, as usual, is that you will continue to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18), that you will lack no good thing (Psalms 34:9), and that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Many blessings and blossoms of joy for the new year ahead!

~Kirsten

A Different Kind of Superhero

wonder-woman-552109_1920

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak,” Isaiah 40:29.

I’m a control freak. There I said it. I like things to be predictable, well-ordered, and consistent in my life. If I could find a way to keep my house spotless, turn the children into skillful masters in their preferred fields, and save the world at the same time, I would. More often than not, though, the living room is a convention center for cars, airplanes, and Legos; my children sometimes struggle with the three R’s; and, to top it off, my Super Mom uniform shrunk three sizes the first time I washed it, and hasn’t fit since.

My shortcomings become even more obvious as I scroll through my Facebook news feed, and see updates telling about how much my friends accomplished that morning. They finished their shopping, home improvement, gardening, and laundry, all in 20 minutes! WOW! (Okay, maybe not 20 minutes, but close, right?) I cast a weary glance at my half wilted plants, while tripping over clothes/toys/shoes on the floor on my way to the pantry (which is still unfinished), just to find shelves full of nothing I want to prepare or eat. Why did I sign up for this job again? My sink is still full of dishes, and it’s 4:30 in the afternoon. Order is hardly reigning in my house.

Of course there are also other days that I can get the kids’ schooling done, dishes washed, laundry run through, house picked up in a couple of hours, AND have a nice meal cooked and waiting when my husband comes through the door. Martha, eat your heart out!* I have even been known to post my accomplishments for the world (all 200-some of my Facebook friends) to see. But, my reasoning, and I’m sure most other mom’s as well, is more to show myself that I am capable and competent — not to make others feel like they have no chance at a “Mom of the Year” award.

Oftentimes there are more important moments and interactions that are not shared publicly. These consist of siblings playing and sharing nicely, an encouraging word said to a family member, or listening to my children sing a favorite song they heard on our Christian radio station. They may not seem as outwardly impressive as having a sparkling bathroom, but they are significant because they reflect the character training that goes on here. The character training that is being blessed, despite my own character still being a work in progress. Praise God for his mercy towards us!

Looking again to the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus told Martha that some things could wait, and others couldn’t. When I see my house as a disaster area, it’s usually because I took extra time to read to the children, go over a difficult lesson, or fix them a nutritious meal. And, by spending time with my children, educating them, doing social activities, and providing moral, and spiritual guidance, I am a “superhero” saving the world — their world. No, I can’t control their decisions or the ultimate outcome of their lives, but I can give them a solid platform from which to launch. I can infuse their hearts and minds with the building blocks to lead fulfilling, God-centered lives. I can’t guarantee that my life will be predictable, well-ordered, or even consistent, but when I put my trust in God to provide the strength and grace I overwhelmingly lack, He gives it ever so abundantly. That’s exactly the kind of superhero I need.

*Luke 10:38-41

Seeking After God: Seven Topics to Pray About Daily

In today’s world it is more important than ever to be vigilant so that we are not deceived by Satan. We are living in a time where tensions are high, the news is becoming more and more disturbing, and uncertainty plagues the hearts of people both small and great. We know from reading Daniel and Revelation, and from Jesus’ prophecies in the Gospels, that things will only get worse before His return. However, this doesn’t mean we have been abandoned, or that God no longer cares. We do not need to fear, because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). This is the time to strengthen our faith in the One whose Salvation we are sure of! This is also the time to pray earnestly for our children, spouses, friends, and family. Especially as a mother and teacher, I believe warfare prayers are included in my responsibility to God and my children.

praying-614374_640

On that note, I want to challenge and encourage you on the subject of prayer for our children and families. The following is a short list of seven topics that I pray about frequently. It changes from time to time, as some issues need more focus, but in general, these are the matters that weigh heaviest on my heart. It is my prayer that this will strengthen and embolden you this school year as you raise and educate your children in the fear of the Lord.

1. Prayers for God to reveal to me what I don’t know that I don’t know. In plain English, these are the areas where I am ignorant, that I am unknowingly blind about. This is an important one since it is my intense desire to know and understand God’s plan for me and my family. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Following closely in this topic are prayers for wisdom and discernment (Proverbs 2:6, Romans 12:2, Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:12-13).

2. Prayers for safety — physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally (Psalm 91). We are fighting a spiritual battle against an enemy that has no scruples, and will cunningly attack us in any way possible to shake our faith in God (Ephesians 6:12).

3. Prayers for strength of character: that we will be quick to forgive (Ephesians 4:31-32), slow to judge (Matthew 7:1-6, Luke 6:37), and graciously show love and mercy to others (Luke 6:35-36). This also includes praying for the character of Christ and the Gifts of the Spirit to be manifested in/through us (Matthew 5:16).

4. Prayers against generational sins and weakness/temptations that may be difficult to overcome. I pray that God reveals what needs changing in order to break the cycle (Exodus 20:5-6). It’s important to note that we often relate to God in the way that we relate/related to our earthly parents. Praying for healing from these types of issues in our family lines can often be beneficial to growing our relationship with God. These will be different for each family:
– Fear
– Anger/hate
– Abandonment/distrust
– Jealousy
– Sexual sin
– Dishonesty/Denial

5. Prayers for the future: jobs, homes, spouses, children. It is my deepest desire that my children delight themselves in the Lord, so that they too may partake of the blessing in Psalms 37:4-5 (Psalms 37:4-5, Matthew 7:11).

6. Prayers for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In order to effectively reach out to our family, friends, and community, we need the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). No matter what our age or where we go, when we give the Holy Spirit permission to work in us, much can be accomplished. There have been times where I have been amazed at the ministering God was giving me the ability to do, and then I realized it was all because of those prayers, begging God to fill me so that I could let His light shine out to others (Matthew 5:16, again, because it’s the result of this request).

7. Prayers for our will to match God’s will; for Q ualities such as compassion, and love for others, as well as for the truth; for understanding our life’s purpose, and trusting that He knows what’s best for us and our families, even if it doesn’t appear to be (Luke 22:42, Romans 8:28-39).

There are many, many more topics, and I could fill pages with Bible verses further referencing these thoughts, but hopefully this list has triggered some ideas. I’d like to close with a blessing from Deuteronomy 28:3-13, that is my prayer for you this year:

“Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.”