Refocusing vs. Changing: What I Can and Cannot Do

For many years now, I find myself making the same three New Year resolutions: increase the length and depth of my Bible reading, exercise more, and become a vegetarian. Equally, I found myself making excuses as to why I couldn’t meet my goals, especially that last one. I’d start off strong, but it all went downhill by March. In addition, since becoming a mom, I continually resolve to be a better parent — but that is not something I can just shrug off like a slice of tofu.

However, I recently read something that will forever change my future resolutions. It was a simple list with the following: Being vs. Doing, Hearing vs. Listening, Connecting vs. Participating, Knowledge vs. Understanding, and Intentional vs. Habitual. That was it. That is what I was looking for all of these years. It was not necessarily the almost impossible task of changing. It was about refocusing on what was important, and, THAT, I could do.

So what does this look like for me?

Being vs. Doing: Enjoy the moment instead of just seeing it as an activity on a long to-do list.   th

Hearing vs. Listening: Actively communicating helps me focus on what is being said, not just going through the “uh-huh” motions as I continue my own train of thought.  attentive

Connecting vs. Participating: Do any activity because I want to, not because I have to.

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Knowledge vs. Understanding: Don’t just tell about it. Show it.

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Intentional vs. Habitual: Go beyond just the daily routine. Do more than just get by.

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As the school year traditionally comes to a midway point around this time of year, something will always come up. There will always be an excuse. But, if I can’t change, then the least I can do is to start by refocusing. What do you want to accomplish?

Twelve Wishes for a New Year

When my son was born, I received a book titled, “The Twelve Gifts of Birth,” by Charlene Costanzo. As the years go by and a new year begins, here are my wishes for you …

Strength. Counting to 100 by yourself is hard. Remembering which sound goes with which letter is hard. Maneuvering scissors with your tiny hands to cut out shapes and patterns is hard. But, you are learning. You are strong. You can and will be able to do it. I know you will. I believe in you.

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Beauty. Son, you’re a handsome boy. I know that. Your sister, she is beautiful. My heart swells with pride as I gaze into your faces. But, I wish you beauty that lies within. May your easy smile, your kind words, and your generous heart reflect who you truly are and who you are being raised to be.

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Courage. Along life’s path you will meet all sorts of people and encounter all kinds of influences. Be still. Think of what you have been taught. Then speak and act with confidence.

Compassion. You are learning to be kind. Be loving. Be forgiving. As I reflect on my own life’s journey, I encourage you to include yourself in that realm. We all make mistakes. Be gentle.

Hope. No matter in how much trouble you find yourself in or how dark your circumstance may be, it will get better. Never, ever give up.  4x61

Joy. You haven’t fully lived a day if you haven’t laughed. All of my heart’s worries melt away at the sound of your giggles. There will be nights in which you may endure pain, sorrow, anger, but joy — joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). And, tomorrow will be great.

Talent. Oh, where do I even begin. Building block architect. Lego engineer. Play food chef. Crayon artist. Toy doctor. Firefighting cop. Swashbuckling pirate. Crime-fighting superhero. Your possibilities are endless. In the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

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Imagination. Did I mention swashbuckling pirate? (I’d say something about being a crime-fighting superhero, but dad thinks he’s Batman, and your mom and Wonder Woman have never been seen together in the same room, so….)  i-QStJxGs-1324x1655

Reverence. Above all, worship God. But, take the time to appreciate the wonder of nature, the beauty of creation, and the magic that is life. My rainbow babies, you are my miracle.

Wisdom. The fear of God is the beginning of it (Proverbs 9:10). It will be given to those who ask (James 1:5). Its price is worth more than rubies (Job 28:18). While knowledge is acquired, wisdom is experienced. Sometimes it’ll hit ya ‘side the head, other times it’ll come in the form of a still, soft voice. Open your heart and learn from both.

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Love. What it is: patient, kind, supportive, loyal, hopeful, trusting. What it isn’t: jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, quick tempered (1 Corinthians 13). I pray that as you grow you will learn to give it sincerely so that one day you may receive it genuinely.

Faith. It is what makes real the things we hope for, the proof of what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). Abel. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Jochebed. Moses. Rahab. Gideon. Samson. David. Samuel. You are among champions. Believe.  4x62

Though I already see these gifts in you, may you discover and explore them yourself. Find them in other people. Use them to live life and love God to the fullest. It is only then that you will truly live.

Chug Along and Run the Good Race!

This past month we went to visit my parents for a week in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our two main outings were riding a train departing from the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM), and cheering on my parents as they ran the recently renamed annual Seventh-day Adventist Seven Bridges Marathon.

12095307_10154275149284942_4813933854099269392_oAs a five-year-old, my son likes loves trains! The TVRM preserves, operates, and displays railroad artifacts. The passenger train we rode for a one-hour six-mile (9.7 km) round-trip runs on the historic route, which includes Missionary Ridge Tunnel, completed in 1858.

A real conductor comes by to check your ticket! We enjoyed eating the picnic lunch my mom had packed for us as we chugged along, gazing out the window. 11893899_10154275209114942_1250413025989479037_oUpon reaching the end of the tracks, the train steamed onto a kind of “lazy Susan” and spun around to head back to our starting point. Originally, four strong men used to manually push the 221-ton train around, but now they use a 25hp motor!

Train on the Lazy Susan-like contraption to turn it around for the return trip

Once we arrived back to the station, we toured Soule Shops, the full-working locomotive and car repair shop complex.

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I don’t think I’ve ever heard my son “ooohh” and “aahhh”, and “Mommmy, loook!” so many times. Adult Ticket: $17. Child Ticket: $11. Look on his face: Priceless.

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Our Chattanoogan adventure continued on Sunday as my dad ran his 12th full marathon (26.2 mi/42.1 kms) and my mom ran her 6th half (13.1 mi/21 km)! Since becoming sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it is now named the Seventh-day Adventist Seven Bridges Marathon!

12074805_10154275452634942_2832647347678305155_nThe races begin in Coolidge Park with both groups running over three bridges, and the half coming back over the Walnut Street Bridge. Meanwhile, after running those first three bridges, the full-marathon runners keep running over three more bridges before finally making their way through downtown to cross the Walnut Bridge themselves. Having ever only run an 8k, just typing all of that wears me out! Needless to say, I shared my son’s pride in watching my parents cross the finish line! Furthermore, my dad won 1st Place in his age group (60-64), qualifying for Boston three years in a row, and my mom beat her own PR (personal record) by ten minutes!

905902_10154298220384942_6510761042760061591_oNaturally this led me to research what the Bible said about running or races. (Sadly, I couldn’t find anything on locomotives.) Here’s what came up:

“Let us run with endurance the race set before us,” Hebrews 12:1.
“Run in such a way as to get the prize,” 1 Corinthians 9:24.
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly,” 1 Corinthians 9:26.
“I wanted to be sure I … had not been running my race in vain,” Galatians 2:2.

As I go on this homeschooling journey, I can’t help but think of it as my own race to run … except that Heaven is the finish line that I pray to cross into with my children.

Oh, and by the way, I did find something on locomotives, after all!  Well, kind of .… “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6.  And, in the end, isn’t that what homeschooling is really all about?

No Child Left Inside

I recently read the phrase “No Child Left Inside” to describe homeschooling. Brilliant! As a kid there was something I always thought at school we could have had more of: field trips! When I was 14 years old, my parents received a call to move to the Philippines. They gave me a choice: Stay in the U.S. and go to boarding school, or come with us and home school.

During the summer and throughout the school year, my dad was assigned to teach intensive courses every now and then at surrounding Adventist colleges and universities. An added perk of me homeschooling was that I could go with him! When I would hear from friends back in the States tell me how it was too bad I was missing out on prom, graduation, and other school traditions, I reassured them not to worry. I got to witness a Shinto wedding in Japan, browse through the Midnight Market in Hong Kong, climb the Great Wall of China, soak in the thermal mountain waters of Taiwan, clang a bell at the border between South and North Korea, and attend a service at a mosque in Indonesia, just to name a few outings! (Though I have to say that smuggling Bibles into mainland China, and holding on to the door frame several times a day due to earthquakes in Japan are two of my most vivid memories!)

Flash forward years later, and I now sit gazing at the inquisitive eyes of my Kindergartner. “What are we going to do today, Mama?” Now granted, Florida is a world apart from where I grew up, but still filled with its own adventures. There are two kinds of field trips we enjoy taking: visiting local community resources and being tourists.

12032843_10154226365929942_2500267642671189570_oOur first outing was to Publix, our local supermarket. We got a behind-the-scenes look at its various departments: the bakery, the deli, the produce section, etc., with an inside look at their giant freezers and a yummy sample of homegrown fruit, plus a goodie bag to go!

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We’ve gone to an introduction-to-classical-music concert, a police station, and a fire department.

12052580_10154299718839942_3911646753789432927_oWhile these may sound simple, to my 5-year-old, they are his world!

It occurred to me the other day to think like a tourist, so off to a quick browse of visitflorida.com I went! This past week we did the first leg — seeing that I literally have short legs to work with (his and mine!) — of a Downtown Walking Tour of Orlando’s Public Art. We’ve lived here for 10 years and had yet to experience the local beauty that lives within the walls of our own concrete jungle.

12191710_10153394224992701_7247312541584654607_nI figure one day he’ll be sitting behind a desk of some sort, either as a student or a professional of some kind, and I would like to think that his mind will wander off to the “good ol’ days” of fun, adventure, and I-didn’t-even-realize-I-was-learning play that he and his mama did together. Like I said in my first blog, my decision to homeschool was as much for him as it is for me, for I know I will greatly treasure these moments.

So, what are you going to do today?

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Homeschooling 101: Angels are the Only Ones Who Can Wing It

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This past week began our first official homeschooling session! Although I’m an experienced homeschoolee, this is a whole new adventure for me as a parent!

The Good: Oh, to have the energy and enthusiasm of a Kindergartner! My son woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to start his day. He came out of his room, wearing his “My Mom Rules” shirt (okay, so I may have left it out to prompt wearing), a pair of Hawaiian floral print shorts, and barefoot … well, because he can!

Our first item on the day’s agenda? Prayer. What a joy it was to seek God’s blessing on a long-awaited wish come true. To hear my son say, “Thank you, Jesus, that Mami is my teacher,” will forever be engraved in my heart.
Another benefit of homeschooling experience is our flexibility. “Mami, you know what I would like to do?” Of course, being newly-turned-5, some of his requests were no-gos for me, but other queries were actually good ideas. “Why, yes, we can do something like Circle Time like you did in PreK!”

The Bad: Oh, to have the energy and enthusiasm of a Kindergartner, Part 2! For some reason, I had thought that my wiggle worm was just going to “take to” this.

“Carlos, sit down.”

“Carlos, Mommy’s not done.”

“Carlos, please come here.”

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Okay. It was time to turn on the “teacher voice”. Be it with one child or 20, a classroom is a classroom, and structure is a must for me. Even with the benefits of flexibility, boundaries have to be set.

Because of my schedule, it was best to start on a Wednesday. However, come Monday evening, I couldn’t wait to get started! I took the curriculum book and dove right in! After several activities, I thought, “Boy, this sure is a lot!” I picked up the book and realized that I had gone by the Activity List and not the actual schedule. As it turned out, I had done all the week’s activities in one day! Only very few things are done best when rushed … and teaching isn’t one of them.

The Ugly: Yeah, I got nuthin’. And that’s the beauty of homeschooling! There are no screw-ups! So my son first thought it was all one big game. Well, he learned that even games have rules. So what if I did all the activities in one day?! THAT WAS ONE TERRIFIC DAY! I got to then create my own projects and incorporate more of my ideas!

As I read the other blogs, I am impressed by so much natural talent! I often sit back and think, “Wow! I wish I had good ideas to share!” One would assume that from my professional background, I’d be flooding the screen with nuggets of wisdom. But, that’s it. As I begin my own journey, all I can do is pray, “Here I am, God.” I hope that by reading my blogs there are other moms out there who can relate saying, “Oh, good, I’m not the only one who’s just starting out, who’s messing up, who’s asking, ‘Am I even doing this right?'” Because, you are … and it’s going to be great!