Memorize More Scripture!

In our home we are resurrecting our memorizing muscles! They have atrophied with disuse lately, I am ashamed to say. Life goes that way. Important things get squeezed into the background by other duties that scream louder for our attention.

But, quietly, the Holy Spirit keeps whispering, “You need to hide God’s word in your heart. You need to teach your children to do this too.” And, I am determined to listen and work little by little on fortifying the fortresses of our minds with Bible verses.

Why bother, in this age of instant apps, smartphones that hold the entire Bible in our pockets, and every imaginable tool to study the Bible? The only answer is BY FAITH. We are so lazy. We would rather click our phones than unzip our Bible cover and find a page. We’d rather search any app than search for a topic in the Word. And, our minds are shrinking with all this instant access to everything. I think that it makes us lazy spiritually. We just shrink from any hard work. But, by faith we have to override all of this ease, and remember that one day we are quite likely to have our Bibles taken away from us. What about when we lose power permanently for standing strong for God’s law? If we have only made the habit of clicking on the EGW app or the Bible app and not downloaded them into our permanent memory banks, we will be empty in many ways. We need the Bible to help us fight against temptation, so that we can meet Satan with “It is written,” and not just our own strength.

So, we must make the habit of memorizing the Bible. One verse at a time. We are told that our minds will strengthen as we put forth our efforts.

In light of all of this, I thought I would share a few resources that have been helpful to our family as we have worked on Scripture memorization. Currently, we are working together on Matthew 4:1-11, or how Jesus met temptation. I chose this one because we want to know how we can follow His example and succeed in our areas of weakness.

Listen to this talk first! 

The talk above is by Chad Kruezer, and it has been a real inspiration to me. I’d also recommend reading the chapter in Great Controversy about the Waldenses if you want to get inspired. Check out how many chapters Fanny Crosby had memorized — five chapters per WEEK!! She could recite the entire Pentateuch, all four Gospels, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many Psalms chapter and verse. All this being blind! Makes me wonder what’s wrong with my memory! Disuse is the only excuse.

Another resource we have found inspiring is the book, Ten Peas in a Pod, by Arnold Pent. It tells the amazing story of a family who homeschooled before it was called that, and who made Bible reading and memorization such a part of their everyday life that several of the children memorized many whole chapters and books of the Bible. It is a great read-aloud for your family and it will entertain as well as inspire!

If you need another inspiring account of a family who got their children into memorizing, here is one. The author/mom shows how she helped her children to successfully memorize the book of James.

This is a good book about scripture memorization that will give you tips, reasons, and stories to inspire you. The book is on sale for only $3. I paid more several years ago, but I think they just want to get them out to people!

If you have a Kindle, or any device where you can install the Kindle app, then there is a book that we have found to be quite helpful. You can find it in the Kindle Store. The reason this particular book is helpful is because it contains the entire Bible, divided by book, which is not so rare; many online Bibles offer this, I know. But, this book has the advantage for memorizes of offering an option where, once you have your verses on the screen, you can may either read the typed out verses, or click on the number of the verse to change the text into first letter only (see the photo below). This way you can jog your memory of the verse or passage without seeing the whole words, which gives your mind a chance to remember what’s coming next.

Here is the option of first letter only verses.

It works similarly to the way I memorize without the book. I write my verses on one side of an index card, and on the other side I just write the first letters. Then when I review them, I have cues, but not answers.

Scripturetyper.com This app is such a wonderful resource!  You can use the website online or download the app. You can add verses/chapters and join groups if you want. It saves your verses and gives you a reminder to review them at intervals. This is good for everyone! Our boys like to practice their verses often when we get into memorizing! You have several options for how to memorize and review your verses. You can just type the whole verse out, you can type using just the first letters, or you can have certain words blanked out on your screen so that you have to remember those words, while the words typed in will help you as you go along. It remembers your speed, and you can challenge yourself to keep improving your speed and accuracy. PSST…don’t tell your kids, but this also sneaks in a little typing along with the Bible memorization! We have the Scripture Typer Pro, which allows us to install it on five devices, so we can all be using it at the same time, wherever we are! It is well worth the price.

Thy Word Creations produces nice books that help you to memorize whole portions of scripture or whole chapters. They have well-known chapters set to music with a CD. These have been invaluable in our home. Every song that we have learned in this way we still have memorized years later! I am including the product webpage, and an amazon.com link, since it looks like many are not in stock on the webpage.

Thy Word Creations website—children’s projects

Teen and adult products

Amazon link

The following website offers a phone number to obtain Bible memory verse songs that go along with the My Bible First Kindergarten and Primary lessons.

My Bible First

This link is a resource for memorizing the entire chapter of Psalm 119. I do not have it yet, but have listened to the samples and they are very nice! This is my next project! Our son started memorizing Psalm 119 and almost had it down, with no ”help” like this CD, until he got sick. With a little brushing up, I know he will have it mastered. You can download the album or purchase the audio CD. I am always amazed at the talent that some people have to be able to set these passages to nice music.

There is an app that last I knew was free, and used to be available for both iOS and Android. Now I am not seeing it updated on the App Store, which makes me sad. I am including it here, on the chance that they will decide to update it, since it is a wonderful app. This app is put out by Fountainview Academy, and has hundreds of songs from the KVJ Bible put to music. Lovely music. The app is Scripture Singer. I really enjoy it and still have it downloaded onto my old phone.

There are probably hundreds of resources and tips for memorizing the Bible. I have just listed ones we have used with success from time to time. One of the best ways to have success is to join with friends who also want to memorize, because then you have accountability. Our best times memorizing have been when we had a little group who met weekly and memorized together. So much easier than when you feel like no one will know whether you succeed or not!

Feel free to share any ideas you have as well, because we are all here to help each other!

Find Me a Good Book!

What homeschooling family doesn’t love to gather ’round and snuggle down with a good book? Every family I have come across, especially ours, loves the family reading hour. For us, evening worship time is our best time to relax with an uplifting story. Loving good books is certainly not limited to homeschoolers! When I was growing up, I remember many cozy evenings gathered in the living room, listening to Mom read. It is one of my most cherished family memories.

In our home, we have chosen to follow the counsel given us in Philippians 4:8…

Whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

With that in mind, we have an easier time choosing books than we used to. If we have a question about a book, if it first passes the “Is it true?” question, then that helps us right away to know if it should stay in our stack. Not all true books are uplifting, though, so we have to judge the story by the other criteria as well. Noble, of good report, praiseworthy…all of these are goals for reading material that will help to put good thoughts into our minds.

Our family is not the authority on good books, but because we have read so many wonderful stories, I thought it might be nice to share some of our all-time favorites, so that you may expand your libraries or remember an old favorite that we also enjoyed.

Here are some of the stories we have enjoyed that we have given ten thumbs up! These are listed in no particular order.

(When I share a source, it’s just one place where you can get these books, not necessarily the best. I only linked sites that either had several of the series, or that had reviews and a description of the books for you to see. I normally buy books off of amazon.com if I can, just because it’s easy, and we get free shipping. But, I normally look around for the best price. The links I provided are not always the best price. We get some books on Kindle, and listen to many on audio.)

Paula the Waldensian, by Eva Lecomte, available here. This is my husband’s favorite. It is a wonderful story of a young girl who ends up witnessing for her faith within her extended family after her father dies. Her character is what makes this book so inviting. Good for everyone, all ages. Our boys liked it. I think a girl would really enjoy it.

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Tip Lewis and His Lamp, by Pansy,  available here. This is the one book on this list that we read upon recommendation of someone that I trust, and then I found out that it is maybe fictional. I don’t put this in the category of most fiction, and maybe I’m just rationalizing things, but I still put this book up among our recommended ones. It really has deep themes and comes from the point of view of a young boy-turning-youth who struggles with anger, conversion, and his walk with the Lord. We read it every couple of years, and it is very good for contrasting the eternal realities from the trivial things we commonly focus on.

Dare to Stand Alone, by Bradley Booth, available here. This book will amaze you! It is the story of a young man (18 yrs old) who stands for Jesus in the Russian army, amidst pressures to conform. If you want to see how God honors those who honor Him, read this book! Every youth should read this one!

Front Cover

The Seventh-Day Ox, by Bradley Booth, Kindle version here. This is another one of how God shows His power. A Russian pastor is imprisoned for his faith, and God uses him as a witness, and also uses an ox to teach about the Sabbath. This book does relate how the man was made to suffer beatings, so keep that in mind before you hand it over to your child. It’s good to read these kinds together so that you may discuss it as a family. The book does not overly focus on this, but it is just something to keep in mind.

The Unlikliest Hero, Desmond Doss, available under a different title here. Almost everyone has now heard of the story of Desmond Doss. If not, Desmond was a soldier who served as a medic during WWII, where he held to his convictions on the Sabbath and not carrying a weapon. This is a good book that tells about his life, as told by his second wife, Frances. It’s good to hear about real heroes.

Jungle Doctor Series (19 in all), by Paul White, full set available here. (This series is much cheaper if you buy it through Library and Ed.; see below) We really love this set. You can buy them one at a time off amazon.com or similar, or get the whole set for a good discount. Paul White was a medical missionary (non-SDA) who worked in Africa in the 1960s. He shares insight into the culture and how to reach the local people. That aside, these books are just plain FUN! We laugh so much, but learn so much at the same time! Don’t let the funny covers fool you — this series has depth. These books are different than any I’ve read before, and it takes a little bit to understand them, but then you’ll be hooked! The doctor takes a medical diagnosis and describes it in the beginning of the book. Each book focuses on one particular tropical disease, like malaria. Then, through the story you begin to understand much more about the disease by seeing how it affects people. Also woven into the story line (and these books are taken from his experiences in clinical practice) is a moral/spiritual lesson that is really impressive. The characters in the books learn through their own mistakes/trials lessons that help them to see God’s character more clearly. I highly recommend these books.

Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Everyone knows about the Little House books, and they are classics! Our favorite is probably Farmer Boy, as we have a household of boys, but we really enjoyed them all. There is just something within us all that resonates with the simple life that these books portray.

One Miracle After Another, by Pavel Goia, available here. If you have not read this book, GET IT! If you want to see how God answers prayer, read this book! You will be amazed and awed at our wonderful God! And you will be challenged to trust Him more as you see how one man had his faith rewarded over and over again! This book will engage all ages, not just older folks!  (The very first chapter mentions a scene that he witnessed that you may want to skim over and skip if you think your kids aren’t ready for it. It’s not inappropriate, just more mature.)

One Miracle After Another

Guide’s Greatest Series, various authors, available here and amazon.com. These books contain short stories that are really great for a short worship. They are easy reading in my opinion, so if your kids are just getting into chapter books, these would be a good choice. There are so many to choose from — angel stories, mission stories, animal stories, rescue, Christmas, escape from crime, and just many topics! Our kids love them! We don’t currently read the Guide, but these are classic stories from the early years.

Christian Heroes, Then and Now Series, by Janet and Geoff Benge (favorites within this series are Nate Saint, Jim Eliot, Amy Carmichael, and Jacob DeShazer), available here on YWAM website. The list of famous Christians in this series is quite impressive, and these are kid-friendly biographies that make good read-alouds. These also are good for kids who enjoy chapter books, although I consider them to be more advanced. These are probably good for fifth- to eighth-graders, I’d say, but that’s just judging from my own boys, who don’t whip through books in one night. We sometimes listen to these on an audiobook, because many of the books have been made into audio format. This helps us on long car trips, or just while running around town, to learn some history. I don’t know if it’s just me, but once I listen to or read a bunch of these, I start getting bored with the style of writing in them. That’s not saying they are boring to listen to per se, but I have a hard time, because the format is similar in many of the books, and I find that I drift off mentally toward the final chapters in some. The solution is to pick stories that you know have an exciting ending, if you know anything about the lives of the people! My kids do enjoy these books, and we have read many.

A Song for Your Honor, by Kay Evans, available here. We are just finishing up with this one! I bought the book after reading the description, and I believe this book addresses a fear many homeschoolers have — that of someone reporting them to the authorities. I sped through this book myself; then we sat down to read it as a family. My family didn’t want me to stop, but that happens when you get a good book! I will say that this story has excitement and adventure, but the element that makes it stand out for me is the solid faith and closeness that this family demonstrated through their heavy trials. This book is one that I thoroughly recommend, as does my whole family. Be prepared to see God’s hand in the affairs of the fatherless and widows.

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Anything by Norma Youngburg — Singer on the Sand, Jungle Thorn, Miracle on the Mountain, Nyla and the White Crocodile, Taught by a Tiger,  available here. All are missionary stories appropriate for all ages. These are especially interesting for Primary aged children, but, honestly, we all love these stories!

Front Cover

Evidence Not Seen, by Darlene Deibler Rose, available here.

Peace Child, by Don Richardson, available here. *Warning!* This book is rather graphic in the first few chapters, and I would only recommend this as a read-together book for older children, as it describes how a cannibalistic tribe operated before learning about Christianity. But, it is an excellent example of how one missionary related to his local culture group.

Robby the Robin, by Velma Craven Meyer, available here. A wonderful story about a friendship between a baby robin and his adopted family. We really love this book!

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The Sam Campbell books, available here as well as many other places, used or new. These are classic stories of a naturalist who lives in the North Woods and befriends all kinds of wild animals. Funny and endearing stories that everyone loves! I probably got ours from the ABC, but you can find many used copies. Interestingly, I’ve heard there are an “Adventistized” set, and a standard set. From what I’ve heard, maybe the SDA-ized set skips references to smoking and coffee. I don’t know how to verify this, but it’s just what I’ve heard in the homeschooling circles.

A Thousand Shall Fall, by Susi Hasel Mundi, available here. This is a very good book, taken from WWII, about a Adventist father who was drafted to serve in the German army. He stayed true to his convictions on the Sabbath and would not kill nor carry a gun. God tremendously blessed him and his family for their faith. We listened to this on the audio CD set available at the ABC. It is a real page-turner, and very inspirational! (There are references to where women and girls were raped by the enemy soldiers, stated matter-of-factly, and, again, demonstrating how God preserved His faithful.)

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, available here in many formats. We listened to the Audible audiobook of this, and I highly recommend it — highly! This is one of those books that will move you to tears and challenge your faith, as you see a family truly seeking to follow God, no matter the cost. And, it did cost them dearly. If you don’t know the story, it is about a family from Holland who hid Jews in their home during WWII, and ultimately got caught and put into concentration camps. The story follows Corrie and her sister, Betsy. This is heavy material, but we listened as a family and discussed everything together, and I totally believe that it is appropriate for children above maybe 10, if you feel they are prepared to handle the stark realities of war.

No Heil Hitler, by Paul Cieslar, available at the ABC. Here is a review from the Adventist Review. This is another WWII era book, about a boy from Poland and his family’s faith. As with all books in this was era, I recommend parental reading of this book together, so you can discuss questions your child may have. We did enjoy this one as well.

Ten Peas in a Pod, available here. This is an excellent book about a family some years ago, who lived a very unusual life of traveling around the country, singing, preaching, and witnessing as a family. This book really will inspire you to read and memorize scripture more faithfully, as the children in this family were encouraged to memorize large portions of the Bible. This is a very good book.

Brother Andrew — God’s Smuggler, available here. This is another must-read! Brother Andrew risked his life time and time again to get the Bible into countries where it was illegal. His faith, and God’s provision for him, is amazing!

Mary Jones and Her Bible, available for free PDF download heremany versions available here. We printed and read the PDF from Temkit, so I’m not sure which book on amazon.com is the official version, but I’d say that they all would be inspiring to read. This book tells the story of a Welsh girl who saved and saved until she could get enough money to buy a Bible in her language, which was a very rare thing in those days. It also tells about how her life was changed after having obtained it. This is an old story, but well-worth the time to read it!

Tiger and Tom/The King’s Daughter, available here, and if you scroll down, you will see more in the Character Classics Series, which are all excellent. These are written toward boys and girls, respectfully, but both books contain excellent older stories that I think are great for boys and girls both.

The Miller Series, available here. This series is about a sweet Mennonite family, and each story has a character or moral lesson. I find that these simple stories are refreshing.

There are almost endless places to find good books! So, me listing a few here is just a starting point. I just wanted to mention a few that maybe some people have not heard of. A quick Google search will bring rewarding results, if you just know where to get started.

Some sources:

Library and Educational Services — If you are not aware of this resource,you might want to check into it. This site offers reduced-priced books to libraries, schools, and educators. You have to create an account, and choose homeschool as your category, then you may browse the catalog. Particularly complete sets of books are much cheaper here than most places I’ve seen for new books. The Blue Bible Story books, and My Bible Friends, Jungle Doctor series, Sam Campbell, and many others are offered at very good prices. They also have audio CDs.

Temkit — This is a website with tons of treasures! You could let you child log onto it and they could stay busy for hours (not that you’re going to let them) but would find everything uplifting. This site has many PDF stories and old classic reprints that you can read. It is conservative Adventist. We have find many gems here.

Stories for Childrenwebsite. This site has a ton of stories that are old classics with moral lessons. Very good stories here.

Rod and Staff/Milestone books — storybooks here  The books you find here are very rural oriented and maybe somewhat old-fashioned. Maybe that’s why I like them. There are many to choose from for all ages, and the websites are organized by age to make it easier to navigate.

And I almost forgot to mention the obvious places. The Adventist Book Center, LMN Recources, Orion Publishing, and I’m sure many others, have wonderful selections of books to read!

So…with so many to choose from, the only problem now is where to begin! Grab a good book and get started!

Homeschool Seasons and Why We Sometimes Need to Fake It ’til We Make It!

As a blog writer for this group, and for my personal blog, I have never before experienced the writer’s block that I am currently going through.

I am a week late on my deadline, and not for unconcern. I do not take my commitment to this group lightly. Through the past month, I have frequently had ideas for blog articles buzzing around in my mind, but when the time came for me to harness them, they just didn’t seem to fit. So, I am going to write from my heart, and pray that what I share will connect with someone out there.

Sometimes on a homeschool page like this one, we present information, and it seems like we are some sort of experts on the homeschooling process. Just forget about that portrayal. I can assure you that when we share anything, it is because we have tried many ideas and finally found one that has worked, or that we hope will work out. We might not share the umpteen flops, failures, and moments of sheer desperation that led us to our “instant successes.”

This school year I prayed for opportunities for our boys to learn practical skills. I meant that prayer. But, I had no idea how that would play out. Even that is an understatement. My husband and I made plans for apprenticeship opportunities, in controlled settings, at predictable times, in mind for learning skills. I would drop off our eldest for a couple of hours with a mechanic, and go pick him up, or something like that. The details hadn’t materialized, but we had plans. Beware of plans. Of course, we have to make plans, but just be careful about holding too tightly to them.

You see, we had other plans too, plans which involved property, dabbling in homesteading, and clearing land. We had plans to ease into a “build-as-you-can” project, and slowly work our way into our off-grid Home-Sweet-Home. Through some unanticipated life turns, we suddenly realized that we would need to crank up the schedule of land preparation, and that “easing into it” would change to “get it in gear!”

The high-gear stage began when we needed to rent a piece of heavy machinery to help with the clearing. When you’re paying for a big machine, everything begins to revolve around efficiency so that you don’t waste rental hours. That’s sort of when homeschool began also to revolve around whatever we needed to do to “get ‘er done!”  Early hours, late nights, and a picnic every day became the norm, since the property is about an hour away from our home. We all got a sudden immersion into the ins and outs of putting in septic lines, rock characteristics, soil types, and so on.

This process has been exciting in many ways. After all, we prayed that God would lead us to a piece of country property, and He did. When we chose this property, we knew full well that to make it work, we would have to put in lots of work, and even that seemed like part of the romantic charm of carving out our own homestead, like in the olden days. We were all on board, eager, and gung-ho! Every day was a new challenge, but we knew that we would figure it out. Our boys suddenly had the chance to jump in and learn some practical skills as the oldest two ran the transit for the leveling of the septic lines, and everyone got to help install the field line components. Progress was clicking along pretty well, considering all of the rock we encountered. We got our garden and greenhouse site prepared, and holes dug for our orchard — 3x3x3 so we can plant them the Ellen White Method, that the angel showed her in a dream.  I remember standing up at the top of our property in the future garden, and thrilling as I looked over the wooded hills, just feeling blessed. It was my mountaintop time, when faith was easy.

Life is not all mountaintops, though, and as my husband had to go out of town for work, the full responsibility suddenly rested on me. This was fine, with what we initially had planned to accomplish. Then, additional projects popped up that needed immediate decisions.  Every day another challenge came that eventually left my head spinning, as I tried to make important decisions on the fly, figure out yet another DIY project, purchase supplies, and just keep life running. Let me say that I totally get the fast food concept now. I’m afraid Taco Bell became a more regular part of our lives, and home-cooked meals have become more a rarity than our regular fare.

This season has honestly been the most stressful season of homeschool that we have gone through, and are currently involved in. When I have more projects on my plate than I know how to deal with, I short circuit, and then we certainly experience the trickle-down effect through the ranks. As challenge after challenge has hit, I have seen myself at close to my worst. I have analyzed what we should and could be doing differently, but just keep coming back to the fact that life right now is not our ideal situation, but we have to keep plugging away. I have cried many times, overwhelmed with what new thing we must handle. And, I am finding that it is not always the biggest challenges that I crumble under, but the little annoyances — the loud noises when my mind screams for some silence, and the mental load of trying to understand multiple projects simultaneously.

In the last months, we have stacked up the projects, leaving little time for quiet reflection. As the mental pressures pile up, I found myself unable to process much more mentally, so I have been so grateful that my boys know how to cook. When I hear, “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” before I even have a chance to get the cobwebs out of my head, I am thankful when they just make it happen so that I don’t have to make another decision. My mind has been stuffed with septic line assembly, dump truck rental, fruit tree placement, hole size, distance and diameter, house site clearing, basement excavation, footer dimensions, root cellar placement and size, finances, sick child, phone that quit making calls, floor plans, mud and rain, driveway excavation, packing, and employee coordination. Then our sink and countertop failed us, and we found out just how poor we are at “figuring out” DIY.  Did I mention school? Allll this without Dad! Literally, when our month of focused excavation was completed, our eldest asked me what we were going to do the next day. I replied, “School.” “Only school?” he asked. “Yes.” He let out an audible sigh of relief at “only school,” and I realized that we all were just completely exhausted, physically and mentally.

The more overwhelmed I felt, the more time I noticed myself turning to Facebook. I realized it was/is an escape for me, and a natural way to “interact” while my husband and I have had decreased communication because of distance. I enjoy catching up, but I realized that my already overwhelmed mind didn’t need more material to think about. I have consciously been watching my time on FB this last week or more, and I see that it helps me. My mind can only take on so much before it reaches saturation. And then, when things are already challenging, the temptation to compare your life to the lives portrayed by others is quite high. This can compound feelings of inadequacy and frustration. But, what we need to realize is that on any journey, there are shadows and rainbows. Facebook posts tend to showcase the rainbows, and maybe it’s because we all need to cling to those moments where something actually does happen right. We as homeschoolers especially need to keep this in mind.

During this time, I have admittedly fallen behind in reading other blogs in our group. The other day, I randomly (I thought), while weary, feeling knocked down and dragged under the bus, stumbled upon this post on our blog. It’s the only blog post I have read in over a month. I don’t even know how I got through it, I was that tired, but somehow, some bells started to go off in my head. I particularly appreciated the links that were shared to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s materials. I began to listen to some of the messages, and I saw so clearly how, even though I legitimately have real challenges in our situation right now, I don’t have to drown under them. Jesus offers help, and it is with my cooperation, especially in my thought life. Wow. There is abundant material about the brain and how our thoughts form connections that contribute to our health, both mentally and physically. Truly, we are what we think. I haven’t read part two of the blog about our thoughts, but I will soon be doing so.

I feel like that reminder about choosing my thoughts has helped me. It has made me more aware of what I say since it reacts on me and others, like my children, reinforcing the positive or negative. And, I have seen how much the Lord really wants to help me to have a victory, not a defeat.

I will say that old habits are those that surface without our effort, and so much so in this area of what we say. I am literally praying often that God will give me a kind word, because when I feel overwhelmed, my natural reaction is negativity. Barbara O’Neill, a favorite speaker of mine, says that we must “fake it ’til we make it,” and that this indeed is a spiritual principle. This is a very helpful talk about the laws that govern our minds. I highly recommend it, and I need to go back and re-listen to it too!

Don’t misunderstand the Fake It ‘Til You Make It outlook. This does not mean to pretend your worries away, expecting that they will just vanish. Instead, it means choosing what we tell ourselves about what we are going through, and choosing to turn to beneficial sources like Bible promises to get our mental dialogue pointed in a positive direction. The Bible says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in Thee,” Isaiah 26:3. This strongly suggests a partnership between us and the Lord. He promises us peace, but first we choose to train our minds on Him, His power, His ability, His goodness towards us. He is able to help us in every emergency.

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Another talk that I appreciated is this talk by Maria Neblett, called The Language of Encouragement. She speaks so honestly about her struggles, and I really can relate to what she shared. But, she also shows us how to strive for victory and change the course of our homes. This talk I have listened to a couple of times, but really need to go back over it until I can truly make it my experience.

I hope that my ramblings have not been too random. God is good. He is real, and He is here for us. Satan wants to weigh us down and defeat us in any way that he can. We do have a part to play to cooperate with our Saviour, even if we have to “Fake it ’til we make it!”

Seven Ways to Count Our Blessings

Thanksgiving!

It’s just six days away, for those of us in the United States!

I decided to share seven fun ways to record blessings, that we’ve enjoyed over the years. You can do many of these activities at any time of the year, but, like making applesauce seems to go hand-in-hand with autumn, so do many of these ideas.

For those readers elsewhere, you can participate too, because this is really a year-round attitude — this giving of thanks!

If we count today, we could use one of these suggestions per day for a Countdown to Thanksgiving, to help us gear up for the big day! Even as I say this, though, I realize that practically, these ideas are more pick and choose, to be done as a habit instead of trying to cram all of them into a busy week. If you want to try them all, go for it, but if you even find one idea that works for you, then that is what is going to matter the most in your family!

Idea One: The Blessings Tree

The first and favorite way for us to cultivate a grateful attitude is our Blessings Tree. Below is a sample, because, in our packing for a move, I can’t seem to find a copy of ones we have made.

The idea is very simple, as simple as you’d like it to be. I usually use a huge sheet of paper taped to the wall, or a poster board if I want it smaller. I draw a brown tree trunk — I like it REALLY BIG, because we want lots of blessings to hang on it!

I then make lots of leaves out of colorful construction paper. In years past, I’ve mostly done the simple oval-shaped leaves, or sometimes maple or oak leaves, but those get tedious to cut out. Oval really works just fine! Last year we did something similar for Sabbath School and I ran out of leaves. I found a great solution at the Dollar Tree. They sell bags of pretend leaves made of cloth for $1/100. They are shaded and some are even glittery — no work for you, Mom!

Every night, or morning, or whatever you decide, everyone in the family gets to pick a leaf or two and say what they are thankful for. We put answered prayers, kind things people have done for us, and just all kinds of random things that we think of. This is a wonderful way to bring the family together and change the attitude of the home! And, it’s so fun to see those leaves add up. Don’t you think Jesus and and angels are happy to see us count our blessings in this way?

Thankful Tree Clipart #1

Idea Two: Blessings on a Roll

That’s not on a roll of toilet paper! You can get little rolls of printer paper for not much, and following the same idea as above, you can have each family write something each day that they are thankful for. The lady who shared this idea with me has four kids. She had each family member write in their own handwriting each day, so over the years, she had a nice memory of how they grew up in penmanship and in spiritual experience. You can hang the roll somewhere, and when it gets too long, wrap the loose end up around a stick and roll it up like a scroll. Unlike the Blessings Tree, which most likely will get removed come December, this project spans the seasons and doesn’t take up much room.

Idea Three: ABC Prayer Time in the Family Circle

This is the idea we are currently working on in our family. It is probably the simplest, because the only tools and supplies needed are your brain and your family members. When you have your family circle for prayer, you go A..B..C… and so on, every day/night, and say what you’re thankful for. For instance, the first night, everyone says something he/she is thankful (in his prayer) for that begins with A: Apples, Aviaries, Aardvarks, Anne, whatever. Next night, you advance a letter. This really helps us in our family to think, and many times one or more of us gets stumped over the letter for that night. So far, we are to S. We had a hard time with Q, but even some ordinary letters that you would think would be easy create a brain block when it comes to your turn to share. Nevertheless, we are all enjoying this exercise in naming more blessings than we normally think of while praying.

Variations on this are saying a fruit, vegetable, animal, person, missionary, relative, flower, or whatever topic you choose — and everyone must think of one thing in that category to thank God for. In our family, and probably in yours, we easily get into a rut with our prayers, and sometimes the same people mumble the same prayer night after night. This just helps to wake up our brains!

Idea Four: Laminated Blessings Placemats

Okay — all kids like to weave. This is a simple one for all ages, and I’d say especially for the littles, with some help. You can make these in a morning. All you need is two or more colors of construction paper. Cut the one color in strips about an inch wide. You can actually have as many colored strips as you’d like. Two to three would be the max I’d recommend, but I know children love to get creative! The other color will be the solid “background.” You take this paper and fold it in half, either way. Then cut strips with it still folded up to one inch of the edge, all the way down. When done cutting, you should have an unfolded piece of construction paper that has cut lines, so that the strips you cut from other colored paper can be woven between. This sounds more complicated than it is.

Have the children weave in and out their strips, then arrange the edges so everything’s even. You can tape or glue the edged down, but we just laminate them, so I don’t bother.

We did this one year at Thanksgiving. Our children made a place mat for each guest, then before eating, we wrote things we were thankful for on the place mats, then laminated them for future years. It’s fun to look back and see what we wrote!

I am having difficulty getting my photos to cooperate, so here is a link that someone else made, showing the same thing. Only, we added things we were thankful for on the squares.

Idea Five: Bible Promises

This idea I am still working on. My plan is to have times (Sabbath afternoon would be good, or during Bible time) when we take a Bible promise book or a concordance and find specific promises that have meaning for our own children’s needs. I don’t plan to make this a “Thus saith Mom,” but verses that my boys need that they find. Faith verses will be green, verses about God’s love for me with be red, etc. We can all sit down for 20-30 minutes with our pens and Bible promise books, and find meaningful verses that will help us when we are thoughtfully flipping through the pages of our Bibles. The verses we have marked will pop out and bless us, so this is an ongoing blessing idea.

Idea Six: Prayer Wheel

This is a simple device, where you write down people or topics to pray for on each day. As you spin your wheel every day, a new person appears in the sliced out section, and you pray specifically for that person. We can include a prayer of thanks for each person! All you need is two index cards, cut into circles. Divide the circle into how ever many wedges you need for the number of people you will be praying for. Cut out a wedge for a window, and laminate if you want. Fasten with a brad fastener. Spin every day.

Idea Seven: Songs of Thanks

There are plenty of songs I can think of that mention being thankful or blessings. The one most obvious is Count Your Blessings. You can hear it and get a nice flip book here with the printed song at My Bible First.

Other songs about blessings:

  • We Gather Together
  • Come, Ye Thankful People
  • This is My Father’s World

Many Scripture songs are about thankful themes such as God’s goodness, and you can think up your own tunes if your verse doesn’t have a song already!

Idea Eight: The Blessing Jar

You got a bonus! I was just going to list seven ideas, then remembered this one. This idea can be done yearly, like Blessings of 2017, or just for a season, or for a whole lifetime! Just get a mason jar, or find a cute jam jar, and add a nice label and ribbon. Record daily or weekly blessings, answers to prayers, and things that have made you smile. Use little slips of paper. You could use a different color for each family member, or all the same. We’ve used old business cards that no longer serve. The key is to periodically take the cards out and read them together, to see how many rainbows have appeared in your life. If you Google Blessing Jar or Memory Jar/Thankful Jar, you will find a plethora of ideas to glean from. Here’s just one example. These make nice gifts that anyone can make and use. No big expense, and no calories! This is not my original idea, I have only used someone else’s idea. You can go as artsy and coordinated or as simple as you have time for. That’s what I like about this project.

I hope that these ideas will spark some interest in you in this week leading up to Thanksgiving, and beyond! Such simple ideas are really the glue that helps to hold our families together, and provide much happiness as we look back on the ways that God has blessed us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tools Trump Toys!

A few weeks ago, my then-ten-year-old son sent me this email:

(I purposely did not correct his grammar and punctuation errors so that you could know it is authentic. We can work on those later.)

Hi, how are you doing? I am doing good. I want a bird (chickadee) cake for my birthday and strawberry ice cream. I  want to go swimming and roast hot dogs on the fire and have watermelon for lunch on my birthday.

Here is a list of present’s:
Drill
Drill bits
Saw
Nails
Screws
Garden tools
Clippers
Love, AJ

Well, my heart smiled, and I immediately sent it to Grandma so that she could share my enjoyment, as well as have a list of birthday suggestions. Then, I studied the list more and began to wonder, “Are these gifts normal?” Do most soon-to-be-11-year-olds wish for clippers, drills, and garden tools?

We have boys. Pretty much from the time they were able to recognize a saw, they used sticks to make pretend ones. You know how it goes: a simple stick can transform into a chainsaw, a sword, or a violin bow, just as quick as the imagination changes gears. I don’t say that this is unique to boys; they are just what I have to observe. I’ve known little girls to turn a cell phone into a pretend ultrasound probe and scan their daddy’s belly. Kids just make up pretend tools according to what they are exposed to, because they want to do “real things.” In fact, if you stop to watch little people, many of their games are attempts to copy what their adults do frequently.It’s no wonder, then, that in our family, when our oldest boy turned nine (a few years ago), he scrimped and saved his dollars to purchase a used lawnmower, so that he could be just like his daddy, who ran a lawn service. Sure, he liked playing with Legos like most boys, but he mostly saved those for the winter months, when he had to be cooped up inside anyway. He always had a desire to do something useful — build something, make something, or try to figure out how something worked. He led the way in the “Tools over Toys” philosophy that we have preferred since we began our family.

We have never been opposed to toys, but as children grow and multiply, so do their toys! I began to inwardly groan whenever holidays and birthdays rolled around, because really, children don’t need as many toys as they generally have. They are hard to keep organized, and easy to lose. Thankfully, our extended family has been very respectful in the types of toys shared. As time has gone on, and especially since we are gearing up for a move into smaller living quarters, I have seen our boys begin to evaluate more closely their possessions. Suddenly, we all have to prioritize, and only the most important items get to go along with us! I’ve seen many toys go out, and we have shifted to the new era of Big Boy Toys.

Big Boy Toys are those that men and boys alike appreciate: power tools, ratchet sets, etc. Once every three weeks or so, my boys will convince me to take them to Harbor Freight Tool Store. I’m afraid I go into that store like my husband would enter a Hobby Lobby — dragging my feet and groaning to myself. I set a timer; otherwise, we’d stay for hours! One reason I go is the very reason I hate to go — I know that a good percentage of what’s sold, or given away for free, in that store is going to be a disappointment. I hate to see good money used up on trifles, but once I’ve stated my opinion of the necessity of some of the freebies, I hold my tongue. Time does teach lessons here — those “free batteries” let you down just when you are getting ready to take that great shot of the eclipse; the “free” headlight really doesn’t provide enough light for your trail; and you can only use so many amazing grabbers! So, the lessons learned by purchasing or acquiring cheap stuff is a good one, better taught by experience than by parental advice. Our sons are slowly learning that there is quality to be found, but they may have to wait, pay more, or both, in order to find it.

Transitioning to real tools instead of toys will likely happen naturally, if the conditions in the home provide opportunities to learn to use them. A girl won’t desire her own rolling pin and apron if she never gets a chance to try out making cookies or looking through cookbooks. Boys who never get to see under a hood of a car will learn to assume someone else should fix the car instead of jumping right in there to see what’s wrong. But, I was very glad last week with my just-turned-11-year old! We were in town, and my father asked us to drive a homeless man to my parent’s house where we would eat together. Dad and our other son jumped into Dad’s truck and took off! Well, my car would not start, and the man in our car was elderly and had crippled hands, so I knew he was dependent on us. Our youngest hopped out, flipped open the hood, and proceeded to tap the battery; then when that didn’t work, he dug out the jumper cables from the trunk and helped the other man who stopped to help us. I felt very proud that our sons had learned some basic lessons (informally) under the hood. It’s because Daddy has allowed them to watch and help that they feel confident to at least try some basic repairs.

In our homeschools, one goal is to graduate our children with the knowledge they will need to do practical work once they leave our supervision. So, practical training is vital to their success in life. There are many recommendations in the Spirit of Prophecy about practical training. We have been reading through the book Education, and the chapter on “Manual Training” is very useful for this topic. A few nuggets that I dug up are these:

“When children reach a suitable age, they should be provided with tools. If their work is made interesting, they will be found apt pupils in the use of tools. If the father is a carpenter, he should give his boys lessons in house building, ever bringing into his instruction lessons from the Bible, the words of Scripture in which the Lord compares human beings to His building,” Child Guidance, p. 356.

“Your means could not be used to better advantage than in providing a workshop furnished with tools for your boys, and equal facilities for your girls. They can be taught to love labor,” Healthful Living, p.137.1.

“While attending school the youth should have an opportunity for learning the use of tools. Under the guidance of experienced workmen, carpenters who are apt to teach, patient, and kind, the students themselves should erect buildings on the school grounds and make needed improvements, thus by practical lessons learning how to build economically. The students should also be trained to manage all the different kinds of work connected with printing, such as typesetting, presswork, and book binding, together with tentmaking and other useful lines of work. Small fruits should be planted, and vegetables and flowers cultivated, and this work the lady students may be called out of doors to do. Thus, while exercising brain, bone, and muscle, they will also be gaining a knowledge of practical life,” 6 Testimonies, p.176.

This sentiment is voiced from several individuals that have experience in educating children. One is Dr. Raymond Moore. He recommends a balanced approach to education, with three areas comprising most of the student’s education: work, service, and study, in equal proportions. Here is his counsel on what will help a child to learn practical skills:

“Instead of toys, give them tools (kitchen, shop, yard or desk), encyclopedias, magazines; use libraries, etc. Don’t be shocked at their interests, even if they are guns or motorcycles! From these they can learn chemistry and physics (internal combustion motors), economics, math, history, geography, languages, cultures, and manual skills (at local repair shops or in home businesses). Girls are usually a year or so ahead of boys, at least until late teens.

“The ‘antennae’ sprouting from the brains of most students are blocked by mass-education’s cookie-cutter substitutes for life that destroy creativity. Kids come out uniform-sized cookies, or sausages.”

You may read more about this tried and true approach to education at the Moore Foundation.

As I was gathering my thoughts about this post, I stumbled across an excellent article here (No Greater Joy).  It has been years since I have read any of the material from No Greater Joy, but in this article, Michael Pearl shares his perspective on why many young people, boys in particular, drift away to an aimless life. He believes that, “Boys have a greater need to explore, invent, achieve something objective, conquer, and compete. They have a need to be meaningfully engaged in pursuits that yield objective results, like rebuilding automobiles, painting a house, cutting firewood, building something that others will admire. They are little kings looking to build a kingdom and furnish it. Idleness (including entertainment) breeds self-loathing and wanderlust.” And also, “The child who is not needed as part of the team will gravitate toward loyalties outside the family.” In other words, our children absolutely need to not just feel needed, they need to know they are needed! It reminds me of another page from Child Guidance that says we need to “let children feel that they are part of the family firm” (p. 126).

A couple of years ago now, my husband did a mulch job for some neighbors. The boys sometimes go along to help out, but this time they didn’t. But, for some reason the gentleman gave my husband a little extra money, designated for the boys, so that they could each purchase a little something. The funny thing was that, when we trekked out to Wal-Mart to buy their gift, they each chose a garden tool! I drove them by the neighbor’s house for them to show him what they had chosen with their money, and imagine his surprise when three young boys marched up to the front door with rake and shovels! He exclaimed, “What’s this? Are you coming to dig a hole?” They simply told him that the tools were what they had chosen with his money. He really did scratch his head over that one, but several years later, when he needed someone to cover his lawn for a few weeks, he gave the job to the boys with the garden tools!

So…we can encourage our kids in the areas that they have an interest, and if we help them to build up their stash of tools appropriate for the task, they will not only be better equipped, but they will also sense that they have our support.

For (not just) boys, the list is almost endless:

  • Garden tools
  • Saws, clippers, and pruners, pocket knives
  • Toolbox tools: hammers,wrenches, screwdrivers, tape measures, drills
  • Power tools
  • Photography equipment
  • Science tools: microscopes, telescopes, magnifying glasses, ID books
  • Rock tumblers, gold pans, metal detectors
  • Knot trying and climbing books, rope
  • Bike fixing supplies: tubes, wrenches, tire tools

For (not just) girls, all of the above, plus:

  • Kitchen essentials: small baking pans, smaller sized oven mitts, aprons, kid cookbooks
  • Knitting needles, crochet hooks, and yarn (Knitting looms are fun and an easy way to make hats and scarves.)
  • Sewing machine and fabric, simple patterns (Boys like this too! My husband always wanted a sewing machine until someone told him they were for girls. But…what about tailors?)
  • Hair cutting supplies
  • Books on wild edibles, compass

The list really could go on and on! I think the point is to get ourselves and our children into a mindset of learning useful skills, and to provide equipment and training so that they gain the confidence to pursue their interests.

Happy learning, and go find some tools!

p.s. The Lord tested me on this on the very next day after I wrote this article. We planned our “first day of school” for that day, only to find that my husband needed help on a project. I struggled, but realized we could be inside “doing school” with him needing help, or I could let the boys go help. I chose the latter, and what a blessing it was to see them working alongside Daddy — with their own tools! We can still maintain the balance of work/study/service. Some days are almost all books, and some are more heavy on the service or work. But, I would not trade the experience that they had working with Daddy — it’s real life, and he really did need them!

Resources:

  1. White, E.G. (1954) Child Guidance. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald.
  2. White, E.G. (1897) Healthful Living. Battle Creek, MI: Medical Missionary Board.
  3. White, E.G. (1901) Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press.