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!

A Love of Reading

My children are finally discovering for themselves, at ages 14 and 11, the pleasure of losing themselves in a book. I still read a novel to them at bedtime, as it’s a great family bonding activity, and we still have audio books for the car, but along the way I have also invested in books that peak their interests. TLC has all the books and all the series of 39 Clues, and has recently started to read his own way through them (we’ve previously read through them and listened to them a number of times). It’s such a joy and privilege for me to watch him discover the joy of reading for himself. It’s a new experience for me to need to tell him to put the book away for sleeping, chores, conversation, etc., but I really like it.

I’m an avid reader. Since the earliest I can remember, I have always had my nose in a book. My mom was constantly trying to get me out of my books to participate in activities. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really understand how people cannot enjoy reading; it’s one of my greatest pleasures and passions. I love getting lost in someone else’s story. I used to despair that my children struggled to learn how to read — they both learned how to read late, ages 8 and 9 — yet both have developed a love of books and stories. It turned out they both have reading difficulties, likely dyslexia. In my concern, I shared my love of reading with them. Along the way, I’ve learned it’s not essential for our children to actually read for themselves, they can develop a love of reading and books through us. I am convinced that if I had pushed them to read for reading’s sake earlier, they would not now be discovering the joy of reading for themselves.

Since they were very young, I have read aloud to them, and not just childhood books like Dr. Seuss. (Though there were plenty of those!! They are very fun!) We read the Chronicles of Narnia when they were just 7 and ;, there are many other novels suitable to children. In addition to reading aloud to them, I also invested in audio books, often borrowing them from the library. We traveled the world and explored lives while driving around the city or on road trips to grandparents and/or friends. We have read classics, modern literature, novels, true stories, fictional recreations based on history/Biblical stories, and more. We’ve read and listened to books that were my interests, as well as books of their choosing. We’ve come across books none of us enjoyed, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with books we came to love unexpectedly.

I want to encourage you if you have a late reader. Your children can still discover a love of reading; you can give it to them with patience, determination, and a little creativity. I’ve had my children tell me they don’t like books, and I can remind them they do, just maybe not reading for themselves yet. They love the stories books bring them! There is more than one way to enjoy books. I’m already seeing the fruits of that knowledge. They know they can listen to a book, they know they can read one. They’ve discovered a joy of books as a family activity, and, now, finally, are discovering the pleasure of reading for themselves.

A Tribute to My Grandpa

I want to write a blog that isn’t exactly on the topic I chose. However, I feel that God is impressing me to write about this so-to-speak white elephant in the closet of our denomination.

In February, my husband and I chose to embark on a very challenging ministry. In fact, it’s so complicated most people won’t touch it or address the subject in our denomination. And to be quite honest, I think it’s a huge cause in a lot of the issues in our churches. It seems to be there and yet not, be felt yet not seen, be ever present and yet silent. It makes people uncomfortable, and yet in spite of it all we owe so much to the people who have given their lives for the cause. I think it’s a little sad that our stand as a Church is non-combatant, and there is a huge hole in our ministry for combatant veterans.

Although we also hold the before-mentioned views, we have a lot of people in our circles who have served — either drafted while Adventists; willingly enlisted; or, like my husband, converted after service. So, why is it that we don’t talk about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) when there are so many likely sufferers in our circles? Why is it that life goes quietly on while our own fellow brethren suffer with a silent destroyer of families, a beast that seems to lurk around every corner? It’s one of the most challenging and painful area’s of today’s world, and it’s not even being addressed. Christ in His ministry healed the aches and pains before sharing with others the spiritual gifts He had to offer. We need to heal the aches and pains of many in our families before we can offer spiritual healing to those outside the Church.

Let me give you a few statistics. It is estimated that one in 18 men will develop PTSD. One in every nine women develop PTSD, making them twice as likely to develop it as men. PTSD is just as common if not more common in emergency personnel (police, fire fighters, EMTs, etc.) as it is in the service. About 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to one situation that could trigger PTSD. Out of those 70 percent, 20 percent go on to develop PTSD. Eight percent of the current American population has PTSD at any given time; that’s 24.4 million people in the USA — equivalent to the population of Texas! The story of Desmond Doss has been very well circulated and now that it is known he was an Adventist, we should take the lead in the treatment for PTSD. I personally was touched by the impact Desmond Doss made on our family.

An insider’s look at living with PTSD

Let me tell you my story. Growing up I remember going to spend nights at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa would sit us all down, tallest to smallest, on the couch. He had a very special drill-sergeant type attitude that we all loved and admired in him, and although I was young and don’t remember well, I like to think we all sat up straight like good little soldiers. (Although, I don’t think he ever ranked above an E2. Haha…) Grandpa had served in the Okanawan island chain during WWII. He wasn’t on the same island as Doss, however, and he wasn’t supposed to see active combat. He was a Seabee; Seabees were supposed to follow the Marines in and build the landing strips for the aircraft and bridges for the rigs after the Marines take the beach. He was even an actor in the fighting Seabees with John Wayne. (He only ran down a hill in one scene, but he could show you who he was if you watched it with him.) Grandpa, however, was washed into shore before the Marines, and ended up having to take the beach. My point in all of this is that he saw combat, and not nice combat at that.

Back to sitting on the couch… Grandpa would take his long slender finger and point at each one of us for emphasis. “If you want to come and get into bed with us tonight, you stomp down those stairs, you slam our door and you jump onto the bed. I want to hear you coming.” My dad told me once that he only made the mistake of sneaking into bed with his parents once. It ended with him picking himself up off the floor on the other side of the room. Grandpa cried the rest of the night.

Grandpa seemed to be a short tempered man, always barking orders at Grandma, yet everyone could see how much he loved and adored her. He enjoyed way too much salt on his little bowl of popcorn, and he cross-stitched all day long (and made so many incredible pieces) while watching old TV game shows and munching his way-too-salty popcorn. Occasionally he would make a batch of cookies. Although he would often show me how he did it, mine never turn out like his did. There was something that drew me to this cranky old man, an inner strength that I couldn’t help but see, brokenness, loneliness, struggling all made way for a tender, loving and compassionate person.

(Here’s a little side story: Grandpa was so scared of the dark that, once when the Sergeant insisted he stand on guard duty in the middle of the night during the war, he blew up one whole end of the pallet of runway because of a little tag that was flapping in the wind which refused to identify itself. Haha! It’s amazing he wasn’t court-martialed for that offense.)

Now, years later and being married to a veteran suffering from PTSD, I see the similarities and have a little more light on what was going on and why he was the way that he was. Desmond Doss came to Grandpa’s church one evening to tell his testimony. Grandpa and Grandma decided to go, and I wish I had been there, but Doss sat down for an hour with Grandpa — just the two of them — and I don’t know what he told Grandpa. That went with him to the grave. But, I know from then on, he was a changed man. The nervousness, crankiness, and irritation was gone. He seemed happier and more content.

Fast forward several years past my grandpa’s death to July 2009. I married the man of my dreams. Also, quite interestingly, he is a veteran. (My Grandma told me later Grandpa would have been very proud I married a Navy man.) I didn’t think at that time that Jeremy had PTSD because there were no signs or symptoms. However, before he was converted, he was highly suicidal, and at one point was even held at gunpoint by a SWAT team. Going through some challenges and looking back now, I believe he developed PTSD symptoms about a year and a half after we got married. All of the symptoms he was having in our marriage came to a head in 2015 when he had a flashback and didn’t know who I was. I had playfully woken him up by running my finger up his foot while he was sleeping on the couch. He instantly was on his feet and coming at me like he was going to hurt me. I couldn’t snap him out of it. He didn’t recognize me. Praise the Lord he responded to my gentle touch, though. It took him all night to come out of it, and I actually asked him to sleep in the garage because I wasn’t comfortable sleeping next to him in bed that night. (My grandma would tell me about times when she would wake up being punched or slapped in the face, and would hold my grandpa the rest of the night while he cried.)

Jeremy has struggled with just about every PTSD symptom that is possible during the last three years in particular. Our once happy home is often shadowed by past experiences that we weren’t even a part of. We walk on egg shells as we try not to make him mad and stay away from any trigger that would make him cranky. Often times we dread him coming home because we don’t know what mood he will be in. I don’t worry about him hurting us physically, but I struggle with the mental stress that all of us suffer under the stress of dealing with PTSD. Knowing my husband’s symptoms are only his PTSD can still be very draining. The kids often don’t understand why Daddy gets upset with them. However, and I want to make it clear, we have had several down time and many, many struggles, but Jeremy is still the man of my dreams. You see, within hurting people there are amazing things —jewels that are buried under charcoal that just need to be dug up, cleaned up, and polished. Each one shining in a beauty all it’s own.

In March Jeremy and I founded Survivinghome.org. It originally started as a ministry for veterans with PTSD, and now has transitioned to include emergency response personnel with PTSD. We attended an Oregon Conference event with our ministry’s booth, and while we were there we had several teens request classes on how to help their friends with suicide prevention and domestic violence requests as well. We see how God is guiding Surviving Home into being a ministry that addresses all aspects of home issues. As you can imagine, with all of these requests, it’s a little bit overwhelming as we want to help as many people as possible and show Christ as their one true source of strength through the good times and the bad.

As I have been working through a manual for spouses dealing with PTSD in their other half, this week a burden has been laid upon my heart. I never really realized how much I have changed and how much PTSD has affected my life, thinking, and functioning. Does that mean there is no hope? Does that mean that our lives will always be this way? Does it mean that we will never be able to see the loving, sensitive side of my husband again? No, I am a veteran of living with veterans with PTSD. There is a better side, and there is hope. My husband doesn’t intend or even realize how he comes across often times. So, if any of you are struggling with an environment beyond your control in your home, please know there is hope. There is a life. You may not be able to control the circumstances that come into your home or life, but you can control how you react to them.

“Abraham gladly returned to his tents and his flocks, but his mind was disturbed by harassing thoughts. He had been a man of peace, so far as possible shunning enmity and strife; and with horror he recalled the scene of carnage he had witnessed. But the nations whose forces he had defeated would doubtless renew the invasion of Cannan, and make him the special object of their vengeance. Becoming thus involved in national quarrels, the peaceful quiet of his life would be broken. Furthermore, he had not entered upon the possession of Cannan, nor could he now hope for an heir, to whom the promise might be fulfilled.

“In a vision of the night the divine Voice was again heard. ‘Fear not, Abram,’ were the words of the Prince of princes; ‘I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’ But his mind was so oppressed by foreboadings that he could not now grasp the promise with unquestioning confidence as heretofore,” Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 136.

In Matthew 11:28-30 it says, “Come unto me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.” When they are training a team of oxen, they take a younger animal with less experience and they put the yolk on their shoulders. The older animal is put onto the other side of the yolk and leads the younger animal in the right way. At first in this process the older, more experienced animal does all of the work, but as the younger animal learns each lesson and practices the lessons, the more burden it starts to carry. Eventually, it is carrying half of the burden and “towing their weight.” In a way, that is how it is with Christ. He takes our burdens, and places them on His shoulders to carry our load. He guides us gently through the trials and struggles, and shows us how to navigate the way to success.

Are you the one who needs to be strong in your family, helping take the burden of the suffering spouse? Are you tired of having to always be the strong one and having to hold everything together without getting much help? If so, take your burdens to Jesus. He hears and sees, and He carries them for you. He will guide you through perilous times and through learning how to be strong through everything being thrown at you. If there is concern about abuse potential, please seek help. There are a lot of resources available, and if you need to, please feel free to contact us. We will do everything we can to help.

God is into restoring families, and He has certainly brought ours a long way. I am starting to see occasional glimpses of the man I married shining through. They are not as frequent as I would like, but they are certainly there and becoming more distinct as time goes on. Let’s be strong — be strong for our spouse, be strong for our family, be strong for our friends, be strong for our Lord.

Family Traditions Create a Family Story

My boys love stories. When one of the boys seem more demanding, more whiny, or is asking me to help them with something I know they can do, I know they are wanting my time and attention. So, we take time out together with a story. We do the same at bedtime. My boys have a hard time slowing down and going to sleep. Once again I turn to taking time to read several stories to help them calm down.

Stories are a way to create a cohesive and positive family experience during the holiday season. Stories are also a way to introduce children to the family spiritual belief system, long before they are ready to make a cognitive commitment of belief. Using stories during the holiday season is a way to meet both goals — create a shared family story, and share the parent’s spiritual beliefs. A family story, including spiritual beliefs, is shared among parents and children through family rituals and traditions. “The existence of and the participation in family rituals also seem to contribute to the individual’s identity within the context of the group. Through these rituals an individual may receive affirmation of his/her group membership, while at the same time being esteemed as a unique and special being,” (Smit, 2011). The desired outcome is that, through the experience of these rituals and traditions, each person in the family will experience a sense of belonging, of how precious they are, and will begin to incorporate these rituals and traditions into their life story as well.

During the holiday season we are with my extended family, and we will take the time to have a family game night. This is a way to include grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles in our family story too.

Allowing time during the holiday season for each person to share what traditions they enjoy, and then incorporating them into the family plan, includes each person in the family narrative. To revisit and participate in the traditions each year provides the potential for each family member to continue to experience a sense of belonging. Taking time, like on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, for each person to share their experiences, their story, of what it is like to live in their family, also allows the parents to hear what experiences of being in a family the children remember. This is particularly powerful as it helps address issues regarding belonging and exclusion in the family, and gives the opportunity for parents to make changes in order to increase a sense of belonging in a family.

However, the more frequently the traditions occur, the more likely a child is to remember them and include them in the narrative of their family experience. Finding ways to include daily, or weekly, or monthly traditions is a way to increase family cohesion, even if children are argumentative or don’t want to cooperate. Simple ways to emphasis rituals include the following:

  1. Have specific rituals upon arrival and departure of family members. When families greet each other and bid farewell to each other consistently, with affection and love, in spite of the presence of negative emotions, an increased feeling of belonging is created.  
  2. A family experiencing change or trauma can ensure children feel safe and a part of the family by following an expected daily ritual, such as a bedtime routine that includes time with Mom and Dad before bed.
  3. Traditions and rituals, such as Friday night worship, to welcome the Sabbath and to talk about their week, can be helpful to each family member as they try to find meaning in their shared experience.
  4. Having a weekly event such as the Sabbath — including time together, food, and maybe even other friends and family — is a respite from the mundane, and creates “sparkling moments” that create a shared history among family members that is easier for each person to remember.

Shared rituals help to provide an anchor for the relationship, reminding each family member they belong. “The structured parts of a ritual anchor us to our past, whether that is our personal past or that of our family of origin, community, culture, religion, or humankind,” (Imber-Black, 2009). It’s never too late to start traditions. Even if you have children who are teenagers, you can start new traditions, maybe by asking an adolescent what is important to them. Responding to a child’s idea, by allowing it to change your plans, to include them in your rituals or traditions, is a powerful way to demonstrate a child belongs. By making these changes, parents are providing a safe haven. In fact, through the use of positive and inclusive rituals, the family is able to create a shared narrative and experience transformation, even where chaos or trauma may have occurred.

The simplicity of a shared history allows each person to experience the strengths of the family. As the family experiences a shared narrative, each person has an idea of where they came from, who they are, and what their future may look like.

 

References:

Smit, R. (2011). Maintaining family memories through symbolic action: young adults’ perceptions of family rituals in their families of origin. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, (May), 355-367.

Imber-Black, E. (2009). Rituals and spirituality in family therapy. In F. Walsh (Author), Spiritual resources in family therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press. (Original work published 2009)

White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends. New York: Norton.

Learning Little by Little Each Day

mom-daughter-hugging

My family enjoys spending time together in many simple and wonderful ways. Through the activities we do, I pray that we connect with each other as our kids learn special things they are enthusiastic about.

As well as their parents, my children also have other teachers we trust to help them learn practical and special skills. For instance, every week, I have the opportunity to be with my eldest daughter and be her parent-partner as she learns the violin. Those times are special for both of us, and it has been that way since day one a couple of years back, because she loves to play the violin and she loves her teacher greatly. Lesson days are fun, though I admit learning the violin is difficult because it is very detailed. Instead of saying how hard it is, we always say it is so much fun! Hence, music still remains one of the very best ways we enjoy spending time together.

On our way to her lesson in the afternoon, we always have the chance to see the idyllic scenery of a countryside. Oh, the joy of driving on zigzag, hilly roads — going up the mountain and down the slopes while the sun is shining above, with cool breezes gently kissing our faces! There is also small-ish acre of land keeping watch over budding evergreen trees that will be ready for the holidays. It cheers us passing through this place. We praise God for His beautiful creations and the peace they bring.

For this short time, we savor completely the moment of solitude as we gaze through the beautiful scenery, and at other times, we also have precious conversations about nearly anything under the sun. Perhaps the best thing between us is that she knows that she can talk to me freely about anything she would like to. I do talk to her and encourage her to not be afraid speak her mind.

These moments are so precious to me. There’s nothing I would like to say and do more than to inspire her to learn. At home, we try to tell, demonstrate, and work side by side with her. And, we always look for ways we can inspire her to be what God needs her to be. I was once talking to her with something about learning. I remember telling her that learning the violin is like learning math with the use of the abacus, which we did earlier in the morning and which she has been learning this year.

I told her, “If you can play the violin, you can do math or anything that you would want to do as long as you put your heart to it. You pray, you claim God’s promise and work on it. See? You have done a lot of math in your music, and you are getting so good at it!” Our learning lifestyle flashed through my mind, and I continued, “And, it is okay to make mistakes when we are trying to learn. We learn little by little, every day. We just have to be patient and pay attention. With daily practice, we can be better every day at things we like to learn — just like how you learn the violin.”

By God’s grace and blessings, Nichole is doing wonderfully with her violin. And then, from the back of the car, my daughter’s gentle and soft voice called to me: “Mommy, I love you.”

Silence. Seconds passed.

“I love you, Mommy! Thank you for all the things you do for me. I love being with you. I love going to my lessons with you. I love that it’s fun. I love that you teach me the best way you can. I thank Jesus for you, Mommy.”

I was struck powerfully by those words she spoke. It’s not the first, but this time is special…different. My little girl that has been with me since birth! We are always together, and, thinking back on all the things that we have gone through, good and bad, my heart felt so full. I was empowered.

“Nichole, sweetie, thank you. I love you, too. I love you. I try to do the best that I can. I always pray to Jesus and ask His help. Mommy is not perfect, but I try my best every day. I keep praying. I love you very much…and remember that I am sorry for the times that I hurt your feelings, because Mommy makes mistakes, too. You know that, right? When we make mistakes, we ask for forgiveness, we say we’re sorry, and we forgive. We will be happier that way. God will help us every day to learn together and have fun along the way. I want us to be happy always, to have joy in our hearts.”

“Yes, Mommy. I understand. I remember your words. But Mommy, I want you to know that I always try to do my best, too. In everything. Even though things are hard to learn at the beginning. But, I try.”

“That is one thing I love about you, Nichole. But, no matter what, whatever it is, I love you just as you are, and that will never change.”

When I am bothered by so many things, I remember this moment. “Mommy, I try to do my best, too.” Surely this gives me wisdom to understand, wait, and teach my children kindly. I know that God taught me a great lesson that day, and also answered my prayers. I praise God for whom all blessings flow. God helps bind our children to our hearts. We are a work in progress; nevertheless, this homeschooling journey is worth every minute of our life.

Enjoy, savor, cherish, and celebrate your life, however domestic and simple or luxurious and adventurous your journey may be as you learn with your children. They are the most precious gifts ever given to us. Rest assured, that day when God asks us how we tended to our flock, we will be ready to present our family worthily. For with God, all things are possible, and with His grace, we will live!