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When the Hard Road is the Best Road

The book is closed on another school year. Actually half of the pages are thrown away and the other half is saved carefully in a gigantic notebook to present to our homeschool evaluator. We have to prove that we did indeed complete third grade during the last nine months!

I don’t write about homeschooling often. There are hundreds of articles and entire websites devoted to the art of education and curriculum choices. I don’t have much insight to add to the conversation.

Like most other families, we wrestled with our schooling decision when our oldest was still a toddler. Because we live in a small community, our options are limited. We chose the public school initially as a way to get to know others outside of the church context. My son did well, learned to read quickly, and loved his teachers. During that time, my husband became the only pastor at our church. This brought with it a new complexity with our schedules. Between late-night meetings and hospital visits, he and my son were virtually two ships passing in the night. So we became a homeschooling family.

Homeschooling offers a flexibility to our family calendar that we cherish and it scratches the teaching itch that I have had since leaving the classroom ten years ago. Overall, we have found it to be a good fit for our situation.

So, here I am reflecting on two years of educating my children within the walls of our home (and on family vacations, of course) and I have to say, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. I had visions of my sons sitting with their hands folded, eagerly awaiting the next pearl of wisdom I would offer. I imagined memorizing entire chapters of Scripture to recite as a family. I hoped we would spend our afternoons cuddled on the couch reading the classics.

While there have been some special bonding moments, most of my days are filled with sibling squabbles, a toddler who finds her joy in tearing pages out of library books, and complaints about math worksheets. The laundry pile doesn’t take care of itself and the monotonous cycle of household chores seems to scream at me from every corner of every room! I researched other schooling options at various points throughout the year. Surely there must be an easier road!

It is the hardest, most repetitious, most beautiful, most rewarding thing I have ever done. Homeschooling has knocked me to my knees like nothing else ever has. I have come face to face with my weaknesses and sin on a daily basis. The waves of failure and anger have driven me to my Strong Tower over and over again.

Homeschooling (like motherhood in general) has been both refining and sanctifying in my life. It is more than countries and capitals or multiplication tables. It is an opportunity for the Spirit to reveal areas of self-dependence and pride that I have covered with the illusion of having it all together. Homeschooling makes it obvious that I don’t.

Maybe you have made a different educational choice for your children. Maybe you don’t have any kids yet. Maybe you’re facing waves much higher than third grade spelling lists. Could it be that the hardest thing in your life right now is actually the best thing? The thing that makes you wake up with dread or fills you with fear can leave you weak and vulnerable to depression or can move you closer to the Rock of your salvation.

Someday, I won’t be a homeschooling mom anymore. It could be in the middle of next year or when all of my children are in college. Until then, God has seen fit to conform me to the image of his Son through my own sons. He has proven Himself faithful in my unfaithfulness and offered His power in the most fatiguing of days. As I reflect and rejoice in another completed school year, I give Him all the glory for my survival!
My heart sings with David,

The Lord is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies…………
God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord is pure.
He is a shield to all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is a rock? Only our God.
God—he clothes me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer
and sets me securely on the heights.
He trains my hands for war;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation;
your right hand upholds me,
and your humility exalts me.
You make a spacious place beneath me for my steps,
and my ankles do not give way.

Little Bible Heroes {a giveaway}

You don’t have look at many parenting magazines or websites before you come across the strong recommendation to read to your children from a very early age. Reading can increase literacy and fluency in speech and allows for parent/child bonding. That’s the reason why my pediatrician gives books to my kids at every well-child visit.

Since I’m naturally a multitasker, I want the time I spend reading with my small children to increase not only their language skills, but their knowledge of our God. So I was super excited to discover a new kids series in the bookstore at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference which accomplishes just that.

Each book in the Little Bible Heroes series includes two stories. When the child reaches the end of the first story, they flip the book to read the other. My little girl quickly claimed Ruth & Heroes of Babylon as her book of choice. We read each story over and over again as she pointed out tiny details in the illustrations such a tiny mouse or duck that appears on each page. Although, we haven’t used them yet, each book also includes a Parent Connection in the middle of the two stories. This section would be great for children ready to answer simple questions for comprehension and discussion.

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Often building a children’s library can be expensive, but these books are very affordable. This eases my mind when pages get ripped or chewed. (Please tell me that your children are very rough on their books too!). You could eventually build a library of all of them!

Here are the books in this series:

Creation/Noah Flip-Over Book
Miriam/Daniel Flip-Over Book
Joshua/Rahab Flip-Over Book
Samuel/The Little Maid Flip-Over Book
David/Esther Flip-Over Book
Joseph/The Good Samaritan Flip-Over Book
Christmas/Easter Flip-Over Book
Jesus’ Miracles/Martha Flip-Over Book
Elijah/John the Baptist Flip-Over Book
Heroes of Babylon/Ruth Flip-Over Book
The Little Giver/Zacchaeus Flip-Over Book
Peter/Paul Flip-Over Book

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I want to help you get your own collection started, so I’m giving away one copy of the Miriam/Daniel Flip-over Book. Enter below. U.S. residents only. Winner will be chosen on August 27, 2016 and announced on Facebook. Winner will have 48 hours to email rachel@dishesanddoctrine.com or another participant will be chosen.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Police Shootings & the Average American Mom

Our nation has been rocked again with the news of two men who were fatally shot in altercations with police officers and also multiple officers killed during a protest in Dallas. This kind of news brings deep sadness, outrage, and protests from those in their immediate community as well as the rest of us around the country.

I am not usually one to write pieces immediately after an event. Instead I read reports and reflections from those much wiser than me and pray quiet prayers in my heart for the families and lives involved in tragedies such as these.

Police Shooting&The Average AMerican Mom

Although my kids are young enough that they can be sheltered from stories like this, I couldn’t help but think, however, after hearing the news this week that the #blacklivesmatter movement has real implications for my own life as a stay-at-home mom. You see I think #blacklivesmatter, while an important hashtag, reflects a deeper theological truth that our children must realize as we train them in God’s Word.

The term imago dei is Latin for “the image of God”. Christians use it to succinctly describe the relationship between God and man explained in Genesis 1:27.  All humans reflect their Maker regardless of his or her physical characteristics. Our souls were created by an Almighty God to mirror His glory back to Him. Again various authors have written much more eloquently than I will, but this idea must be a part of the training of our children. In other words, because that other boy in my child’s Sunday School class was made in imago dei, he should be treated with kindness. Because my son’s little sister was made in imago dei, her worth in God’s eyes requires that he treats her with love and respect (even when she steals his favorite toy).

When our children learn the value of human life at a young age, their eyes will be open to the devaluing of human life in their society. Side note: this plays out in many more situations than police brutality. Abortion, abuse, and euthanasia are all sourced in a lack of appreciation of the worth of ALL human life.

I don’t have many solid answers for our nation’s violence issue. Shootings at nightclubs, schools, convenience stores, and even churches all point to the sad brokenness and sickness of a world ensnared by sin.

This is exactly why Jesus came. There was no one else who could begin the process of repair for people so lost and evil. While we don’t yet see complete perfection, it is coming! This our hope in the darkness.

In the meantime, may God burden our hearts as parents to instill in our children a deep love for their fellow human beings and a deep sense of responsibility to protect them when at all possible no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the uniform, no matter the sin.

And may we never become numb to another soul entering eternity. May we pray for our neighbors who live in a very real fear for their lives. May we give them our support, prayers, and ultimately the hope of a soul Rescuer.

The gospel is for everyone. Period.

Can Santa point us to Jesus?

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! It’s that time of year where we’re surrounded by reindeer, magic snowmen, and elves! As families who want to emphasize the beauty of the advent, it can be hard to wade through the surface traditions that Christmastime brings.

Instead of fighting against the mentions of Santa and his midnight delivery of toys to children around the globe, it might be helpful to find references to the gospel even in the familiar traditions of this season. It’s possible that even St. Nick can help us point our kids (and ourselves) to Christ!

Can Santa point us to Jesus-

 

You better watch out! You better think twice! He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice……

The truth is that we are ALL naughty! The fall in the Garden of Eden long ago sealed our fate as depraved, “bad” human beings and our position on the naughty list. Giving money to the Salvation Army bell ringers or showing up for a Christmas Eve service does nothing to move our names to the preferred nice list. In fact, even the most consistently “good” person can never measure up to God’s holy standard. (Romans 3:10). We don’t have to be left on that cursed naughty list though. Jesus Christ covered up his divine nature with our sinful flesh and lived perfectly for us. His record is now ours when we accept His work on our behalf meaning that when the Father sees us, we are no longer “naughty” but perfectly “nice”.

Oh, we are Santa’s elves. We work hard all day….

In order to make enough toys for every boy and girl in the world, those elves have a ton of work to do! I’m sure magic helps a bit, but a lot of effort goes into the process! Jesus completed a task far greater than any Christmas toy as He hung on the cross for us. John 19:30 tells us that he breathed, “It is finished” as he bore the wrath of a holy God in His body. He would be separated from His Father because of our sin, not His. Any work we do would never come close to the effectiveness of His work on our behalf and is only done out of our gratefulness to Him. The work is done!

5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree……

Except for the rings, those gift ideas probably don’t appear on too many Christmas wish lists these days, but the desire for more “stuff” hasn’t disappeared. We spend hour shopping for the perfect present for each person in our family and look forward to early Christmas morning when we enjoy the surprised look on their faces! Unfortunately, even the most expensive of gifts won’t last forever. Toys will break (even as early as Christmas afternoon), cars will be dented, and jewelry will be misplaced. All is not lost, however! The gift of grace earned through Christ will never end. Through it, we receive abundant life which begins when receive it and comes to completeness in eternity! The gift of salvation will last forever!

Enjoy this holiday season! Sing silly carols and make gingerbread houses with your family! Have fun choosing gifts for one another and finding the best place for mistletoe. But, let the joy of the holidays be fueled by the Prince of Peace whose coming provided eternal riches for your soul! Even the Grinch can’t take that away!


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The Fruit of Gratefulness….

“What do you say?” I ask my son as he takes the cookie from the waitress.

“Thank you!” he says with his silly four year old grin.

I pat him on the shoulder with an approving look and secretly feel proud of myself that I’m raising such polite children. Even my one-year-old toddler says something slightly resembling those two words although nobody outside our immediate family would be able to decipher it.

I really swell with pride when our oldest, clearly and loudly responds, “Thank you” on his own accord. I must really be doing this mothering thing right! After all, every parent includes gratefulness in the list of character qualities they want their children to develop by 18 years old.

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As we head into another busy holiday season, though, I wonder if we’re missing the mark with this thing called gratefulness. How can we cultivate this attitude in even our smallest children?

To read the rest of this post, visit Emily Jensen, my writing home for today….

The Ology {A recommendation for your kids}….

Our family LOVES music! It’s not rare for music of some sort to be playing as soon as we start the car. All three kids listen to CD’s as they fall asleep. Sometimes I find my oldest putting on one of their favorites to listen to while they play puzzles and super heroes.

It’s amazing how much sinks into little brains, and even music in the background can play a huge role in their understanding of doctrine, God, and the gospel.

That’s why I’m super excited about the latest kids recording from Sovereign Grace Music! Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.25.49 PM

It covers major themes of Scripture in a fun way for kids! It also pairs perfectly with the new book, The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the basics of theology in a simple way .

The other great news is that the songs are enjoyable for daddies and mommies too! No annoying kids songs here!!!

Here are a couple preview videos for you to enjoy over at the Sovereign Grace FB Page!

Just the Way God Wanted Us to Be

Our Help

Order your copy HERE! 

 

 

 

Naptime Doctrine…..

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the word doctrine often sounds like an extremely boring term. It conjures up images of an old professor in a tweed jacket using big words like propitiation and protoevangelium. It gives the idea of knowledge for knowledge sake. Dry terminology to fill books and commentaries that only get read during a pastor’s sermon preparation.

Let’s take a step back, though, and look at the definition of doctrine:

doctrine: (n) something that is taught; teachings collectively:

Christian doctrine, therefore, would simply be teaching the truths of Scripture. For instance Paul says in I Corinthians 15:3, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,”

Doctrinal teaching is essential to our Christian faith. In fact in 2 Timothy, we are instructed to place a high regard on sound teaching.

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching,with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14

 

In other words, every believer is a theologian! 

You may be thinking at this point, “That sound great, but I can barely teach my 5 year old how to tie his shoes. How in the world can I teach him doctrine?”
The beauty of our Christian faith is that it goes far beyond catechisms and memorized facts. Those can be very helpful, but the doctrine we are passing on to our kids is real-life gospel.
It’s using our knowledge of the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to affect change in our own hearts first which then spills over to our parenting and marriage relationships.
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Here’s a small example….
My middle son is currently struggling with disobedience and the worst time is always naptime. The other day after disciplining him several times, I sat on the edge of his bed and talked with him about Jesus.

 

When Jesus was a little boy, can you believe he ALWAYS obeyed his mommy and daddy? When he was 4 like you he was perfect!! Do you know why? Well, Jesus is God and He became a little boy like you so that He could do what you and I can’t do – live perfectly. He lived his whole life without sinning once and then took the punishment for what we would do as sinners! He loves you so much that He wanted to do that for you! Aren’t you thankful for a Rescuer like Jesus?

 

That, my friends, on a four year old level is the doctrine of incarnation – Jesus becoming man.
I didn’t need to use that term to teach my son an important tenet of the gospel message.  You see, doctrine isn’t dry and boring at all.
Doctrine is the seed that grows into beautiful spiritual fruit in the life of the Christian (even the 4 year old ones).

 

 

*Looking for more resources for kids and the gospel? Check out the book, Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

*I have included an affiliate link above. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Thank you for supporting this site!

*This post is linked to Mommy Moments, Titus 2sDay, and Grace & Truth

Why my kids don’t need a perfect mom….

I can remember holding my oldest son for the 1st time. After months of waiting, I was finally cuddling this precious baby in my arms. It was with anticipation that I studied his little features. What personality would he have? How tall would he be? Would he love me as much as I already love him?

I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, but I had some pretty high expectations for my own new job as mommy.

I knew I couldn’t be perfect (none of us are), but I wanted to be as close to June Cleaver as possible.

I can remember sitting on the floor in his little nursery 3 days after he was born crying and asking “What do I do with him now?” Definitely not the words of a confident mom.

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Over the following 7 years those high standards have failed me time and time again. I’ve lost my temper, made burnt meals, and forgotten promises. The clear slate of motherhood has been marred with many many shortcomings.

Maybe you can relate?

There is hope for us imperfect moms, though, because I believe that even more than a perfect mom, our kids desperately need a mom who understands forgiveness and grace.

When I lose my cool during our math class once again or I put them to bed early because I don’t have enough patience, they have an opportunity to see a mommy who desperately needs Jesus as much as they do! When I apologize for not always being the wife their daddy needs, they see a woman who realizes her need for a daily Rescuer. When I laugh at the meal that flopped, they see someone whose identity isn’t found in gourmet meals, but as a dearly beloved child of God through Christ.

You see, our kids don’t need more perfection instead they need to see the regular process of repentance, forgiveness, and grace that should define our lives as believers.

I hope we as moms can learn to let our children see that the blank slate of motherhood is actually becomes more beautiful when it’s imperfections have been wiped clean by the eraser of the gospel!

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P.S. Want gospel focused teaching and entertainment for your kids? My boys can’t wait for the latest from Buck Denver! Pre-order your copy by clicking below!*



*I have included an affiliate link above. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Thank you for supporting this site!

This post is linked to Mommy Moments