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?
8 Ways to show your homeschooler love. Valentine's Day and Beyond

8 Ways to Show Your Homeschooler Love – Valentine’s Day and Beyond!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to focus on LOVE (I want you all to know that I’m writing this article just as much for myself as for you).  Genuine, caring, heart-felt love for our children can be a game-changer in their lives..and in ours as well.

In God’s word He is always calling us to “love one another”…this includes loving our children!

Most homeschooling parents I know deeply care about their kids and want the best for them. However it’s easy to get caught up in the routine and hustle of the everyday, that we sometimes miss displaying that affection to our children.

Here are 8 easy tips you can try today to communicate to your children that they are safe, adored and all is well:

1. Give eye contact with a smile. Connections most definitely come through eye contact and what follows. It sends the message of acceptance and love, or disapproval and rejection. Think about the random smiles you receive from those you love. They definitely create that warm and safe feeling inside. The same will happen for your child(ren). Make a point to look your child(ren) in the eyes and smile.

2. Speak kind words. As parents you most definitely know the difference between your child saying “Yes, Mama” with a loving tone, or “Yes, Mama” with a grunt and eye roll. Speak love into your children’s lives. Be mindful of the way you speak your words and the tone you choose to use.  Even a simple “Good Morning Lexi, How are you today? Did you sleep well?” in the right tone can create the atmosphere of kindness and love you are looking for in your home.

3. Be interested and ask questions. Think about a time when someone has met you several times, yet the questions they ask certainly confirm “You don’t know me”. Get to know your children. Ask them questions about their hobbies, favorite foods, books…them! If you need to, keep a journal with answers they have given you so you can reflect on them later. Throughout the year, ask them questions about the topics earlier discussed (How is your dog’s foot after he stepped on that spur? Did you and your brother ever make up that funny skit you talked about?) Showing a genuine interest in their lives will go extremely far in showing that you truly care.

4. Be present. I feel that as homeschooling parents it can be one of the most difficult challenges to be present with each child (especially if we have multiple children). We are amazing at multi-tasking and are usually thinking of 100 other things while we are teaching each child during the day(Uh oh, Johnny’s out of his seat again…Did I print off Bible for today?… Do we have swim lessons today?…Did I start the crockpot this morning?) It is so important that our children see and know we are present with them.  This means focusing in and staying in the moment when possible.  Everyone knows what it is like to be with someone that seems to want to be somewhere else.  Give your children the gift of being in the moment. Be Present.

5. Have a special routine. Connections are really amplified through three main areas: eye contact, physical touch and fun. Of course we can bestow huge hugs and kisses on our children each morning, and there are other ways to connect through physical touch. There’s nothing like a good ole high-five or the sweet old-fashioned “secret handshakes” of our childhood (we seriously rocked the “Say Say My Playmate” chant in 3rd Grade). Why not come up with a fun “Good Morning Handshake” when your child begins class time or right before you leave. You could really jazz this up with serious knee clapping, finger snapping, spinning around and the whole shebang. Even older children would love to participate in coming up with their own celebration “handshake”.

Check out “I Love You Rituals” by Becky Bailey for more great connection ideas.

6. Find out your child’s “Love Language”. The five love languages of children are: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service; as laid out in Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. Check out the book “The Five Love Languages of Kids” by Gary Chapman for an in-depth look at each love language.  You can even group your children into each category for a quick and easy love check list.  Once you have a list you can check it daily.  Then go through your list and speak words of affirmation to those that need it, spend one-on-one extra time etc. with each child according to their specific need. Intentionality doesn’t equal fake, it means that you are wanting to meet those needs and show love to your kids.

7. Seek the Lord Daily. We absolutely need God’s love in our hearts, to be able to truly love others. Fill yourself up with God’s word every day and seek out specific counsels on love. Post them on sticky notes by your mirror to remind yourself of His perfect example of love.  Some of my favorite verses about how to love like Jesus did are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Luke 12:31 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

8. Love them. Ha! This one is a little bit of a tricky play on words. On a serious note though, sometimes it’s hard to love and care about some children that at times can be…well…a little difficult to love and care about. Can you find one thing today that you like or appreciate about each child? I would suggest making a list to help bring some of those positive things to the front of your mind.  Even if you are struggling with what to write for a particular child, keep in mind that in reality you don’t need a reason.  Each child deserves to be loved, regardless of whether they act like it or not, simply because they are a child of the King!

Looking back I can distinctly remember special moments with my parents when they were kind and showed me genuine love. That love and kindness made more of an impact on me then all of the Math, Language, Science etc. ever could.

P.S. Don’t be surprised if your children start doing some of these same things with each other. When a culture of love and acceptance in cultivated, there’s no telling where it’s impact will end.

Homeschooling the Gifted/Talented Child, Pt. 5

Just How Fast Should He Go?

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that a child can go as fast, or as slow, as needed in order to learn the needed material. With some gifted/talented (G/T) kids, going slow is not the problem. I know some kids who will whip through a year’s worth of math or science in just a couple of months, especially if you are using a curriculum where it is focused on reading and answering questions, followed by testing. Many G/T kids are left-brain learners, and this type of schooling is very easy for them. They can read the material, answer questions, test, and move on to the next topic.

Should they be allowed to? I mean, you’ve seen those TEDx Talks where there are 14-year-olds in college. You’ve heard of kids graduating college at 16. Is this best for the child?

On the other hand, if the child is learning easily, is it right to hold him back so he will be at a level for his same-aged peers? Does this lead to boredom? Acting out? Quitting school?

To be honest, in a public school setting, the second scenario is more than likely to be true. You are more apt to find G/T kids who are held back due to age, who get bored and begin to act out. It is not unusual for them to drop out as soon as they are old enough. I’ve seen it numerous times.

In fact, I believe that many of our behavior issues in schools today, outside of not eating real food, can be traced to boredom due to material being too easy or not being taught in their learning style.

So what does a parent do when their Johnny is speeding through their curriculum so fast he will be done in half the school year? I’m going to share some suggestions.

  1. Make sure that you are using a curriculum that is not just read and fill-in-the-blanks. There are so many choices available today that I would try to provide a learning program that provides a good deal of hands-on projects. Hands-on learning provides all types of opportunities for deeper learning, making mistakes, and making discoveries outside the pages of a textbook.
  2. For subjects of deeper interests, explore library books, documentaries, museums, businesses on the topic, etc. Allow the student to dig deeper, while at the same time making sure that they are not focusing only on the subject of interest. It is not unusual for a child to become so fascinated with a topic they can become walking encyclopedias on that particular topic. Our children need to be well-rounded learners.
  3. When they have taken the normal subjects pretty deep, be sure they have the opportunity for other learning such as music, art, photography, and sports. Each of these can allow the child to continue to learn while broadening their horizons. In today’s technical world, a child can be exposed to all types of museums online.
  4. If they are still speeding through these various topics, then it is time to turn their attention to the world and being of service. I love the Moore Formula in that students are encouraged to study, work, and be of service as part of their education. I used this template with my children. It helps give them a broader view of life. If you have problems finding places to volunteer, check out the United Way.
  5. The last option follows along with Moore’s Formula also. This is allowing them to develop a home business or help a parent in a home business (depending on age). Moore has some wonderful advice in his homeschooling books on the positive learning a child has by developing their own business.

When I was just beginning to homeschool, I met a family who had a 16-year-old son who started a computer consulting business at 14 and was in such demand that the parents had to limit his work hours due to taxes. This so impressed me that I adopted that mindset to help other young people develop ideas for their own self-employment.

When considering how deep to allow to go, it depends on the child’s age and maturity. There is nothing inherently wrong with graduating early and going to college as a pre-teen. Just remember that cognitive development is often not at the same level as emotional development in the G/T child. This is where the advanced graduation can cause some problems.

A child who is 14 and entering college will not be emotionally ready to socially interact with young adults who are experiencing living on their own for the first time and learning to set their own boundaries. Sometimes, even in our Christian schools, the older students are not as accepting of a child who has graduated years early. Life is hard enough to have to wade through teen years and early adult years without adding additional stressors.

I was given an option of placing my daughter several grades ahead. I turned it down. I had too many negative memories of being teased for being the youngest in honor classes and making the highest grades. From this homeschooler’s viewpoint, I chose to branch out to explore the wide variety of topics available rather than going so far ahead. There’s an unending amount of knowledge to learn. By going broad, rather than deep, a child can slow down enough to allow other parts of their development to catch up.

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

Teaching Humility

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How do we teach our children to be humble when we so often miss the point of it?

What is humility? How do we protect our children from the sin of pride, while at the same time teaching them that they are valuable and important?

For too many years, I thought humility was to depreciate myself, to cling to my failings and faults in order to refuse value. I thought humility was always being aware of my failings, my sins — to live in degradation because of the things I do or have done wrong…in other words, to continually pay for the consequences of my sins. I have lived in the shadow of seeking to be perfect because I didn’t believe I had value otherwise. I have struggled with teaching my children to be humble because I did not understand humility myself. I have heard parents say they did not want to praise their children’s accomplishments because they didn’t want to teach them to be prideful. I do not want my children to believe they were less than they are. I want them to know I believe in them and I am pleased with their accomplishments!

God has been working on my heart. I have realized that humility is very much like courage. Courage is strongest in the face of danger. A person who never faces a challenge, who never faces danger, cannot be called courageous; so also, a person who does not believe in their value cannot be called humble.

If we do not have an intrinsic understanding of our value, we cannot truly understand humility.

Let’s look at some Biblical examples. Who does Scripture admonish to be humble? At first, it is the Israelite nation. Why? They have intrinsic, God-given value. God made it abundantly clear to them that He held them in high regard. He literally moved oceans, rivers, and armies to prove how much He cared for them. They KNEW, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were chosen to be God’s special people. What did they do with this knowledge, however? A lot of the time they used it to set themselves apart from the other nations. They set themselves up as more valuable than other people because they had God’s favor. So often, they took the special favor given them by God and decided it was their right rather than their gift. They forgot the source of their value. They sought perfection to hold onto His favor instead of seeking Him. They refused to be humble. In turn, they had to be humbled.

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God doesn’t want proud people. Prideful people treat others with disrespect and abuse. He wants us to understand we are valuable and then show others that they, too, are valuable.

Pride is believing you alone are valuable and have the right to hurt or hold others down so you look more valuable than they are.

Then there is self-degradation. Self-degradation is refusing to believe you have value, focusing only on your failings, and believing that you cannot have value until you have achieved perfection. This is disproved in Scripture time and time again.

Self-degradation, the belief that you have no intrinsic value, is pride, not humility. It stands beside pride in believing that you alone are responsible for achieving value.

Though there are many examples through Scripture, you really only need to look at one character to see this: David. David was a simple shepherd, without value in his family of origin, shrouded in mystery, small in size, without anything to recommend him when Samuel anoints him to be the next king of Israel. Suddenly, his life does a complete turnaround and he is pretty much left reeling from the changes. What David does have to begin with is a deep understanding of his value in God’s eyes.

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David understands that all his accomplishments are because God has provided them and protected him. Even knowing that, even understanding that God was beside him and eager to answer any question he had, David was not perfect. Sometimes he forgot to ask God what to do. Sometimes he blatantly chose to sin, such as when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. Sometimes he made huge errors in judgment because he neglected to check in with God. History, however, tells us that no matter what David did, God continued to show him favor. David didn’t need to be perfect; he needed to maintain his humbleness by remembering where his favor came from, returning to God every time he messed up, and using his favor to help others.

Humility comes from understanding God holds your value; it is a gift meant to be shared. Humility is understanding you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to accomplish it all or be strong enough to sustain life. Humility is remembering where you have come from, what you have survived; it is knowing you have value despite the mistakes and errors made along the way. It is seeing the full journey, recognizing God’s hand in your life and treating others the same way.

This is what humbleness is. Humbleness is knowing intrinsically what your value is and Who it comes from, and helping others to see the same value in themselves.

So, how do I teach my children to be humble? I have to start by teaching them they are valued, that they are loved, that they are important. I need to teach them that their failings and mistakes will never affect their value in my eyes or in God’s. Then, I have to teach them to treat every other person they interact with as valuable also. Only then will they truly understand the meaning of humility.

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