2021 Comes To An End

I can hardly believe that it’s been a year and a half since I last blogged. Like with many things in life there are seasons. Seasons of certain activities, traditions, hobbies and blogging! I hope to blog more in 2022 but for now I’ll just recap our 2021!

Natasha turned 18 in March, graduated in May and started working full time at the bakery. She continues to write and made a decision to join an author conservatory program developed by Brett Harris. It’s a three year commitment that will focus on everything related to becoming a published author. It’s quite amazing to watch her spread her wings, so to speak, and make these types of important life decisions. Because of the time commitment required for the author conservatory she had to let go of a few piano students but held on to her two favorite.

Mikayla turned 16 in May and is currently in her junior year of high school. She was blessed with an opportunity to spend two weeks with her dear friend, Miranda and her family, visiting The Ark Encounter, Creation Museum and other interesting places. In July, Mikayla auditioned for a part in a local Christmas play production and was offered the part of Martha Cratchit in A Christmas Carol. This was an amazing production with rehearsals starting in August and continuing through early December where they had six performances at The King Opera House in Van Buren. She absolutely loved being a part of this and looks forward to the next production.

Alex turned 13 in August and is currently in 8th grade. She has quite a school load as she’s working on combining her 7th and 8th grade years to be on track with others her age. She is very diligent at school and, of course, still has her nose buried in a book any time she can sneak away to a quiet corner. She started taking piano again in the summer and was part of the Christmas piano recital in December.

Jonathan turned 11 in September and is in the 5th grade. He, too, started taking piano in the summer and spends quite a bit of time practicing the songs assigned to him from his piano teacher but also learning all kinds of songs that he finds on YouTube. You should hear him play the theme song to Pirates of the Caribbean! Jonathan is also part of the local Trail Life group and continues to thrive in that environment.

Katherine turned 7 in March and is in the 2nd grade. She loves reading, crafting, roller blading, and her American Girl doll collection. She loves taking piano lessons and practices nearly every day. In January of 2021 she started taking ballet lessons and absolutely loves it. Her ballet school performed a shortened rendition of The Nutcracker, also at The King Opera House, and she’s excited to continue ballet lessons in 2022.

Maga continues to bless us with good food, sewing projects and dog sitting.

Phil continues to work at the post office. During the holiday season of 2021 he was working 6, sometimes 7 days a week, 12 hour days. Needless to say we are happy that busy season is over. He has had to miss several Sundays for work but it looks like he’ll be able to join the family for church more often now that life at the post office has slowed down. He also fixes all the things the kids and I break around the house but he’s usually passing that knowledge onto Jonathan at the same time. Truly, we have the best husband and father we could ever ask for!

I am working from home for good friends who own a small real estate investment type company out of Florida. I keep asking my boss when she’s going to require in-person training but that doesn’t seem to be a requirement for this position ;-). Most importantly, I continue to homeschool. While I’m not a huge fan of homeschooling in high school as it can be daunting to figure out how to get all of the boxes checked and make sure they are prepared to graduate, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. There are so many resources, co-ops, curriculum choices, and support that, really, high school is less hands on for me. It’s more of an overseer role.

Ultimately, my number one job as a parent is pointing my kids to Christ. It doesn’t matter what GPA they have, college scholarships, amazing careers, or wealth if their soul is lost. Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

Now, before I get hate mail, NO homeschooling does not ensure my kiddos will go to heaven. If only, our kids came with manuals and formulas right?!!?!? However, I am able to bring God into every single school subject, all throughout the day, in hopes of drawing them closer to Christ. Helping them see the grace, mercy, kindness and redemption that is Jesus.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with Psalm 62, a Psalm I’ve been studying quite a bit this new year.

To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. 
3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah 
5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 
6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah 
9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 
10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. 
11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 
12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.

Belle is 15!

So, as with most of my posts I’m doing this a little late… what’s new huh?

Anyway, our sweet Belle turned 15 way back on May 22nd.  What a joy watching this young adventurous lady grow in her walk with Christ, learn new skills, do quite well in school and be a wonderful sister to her siblings.  I’m so blessed to be her mom!

 

Barn Party in Winslow, AR July 2020

First horse ride! Winslow, AR July 2020

A day at the pool. July 2020

Volunteering for the Walk for Life pro-life walk in Fort Smith. July 2020

Volunteering for the Walk for Life Organization July 2020

4th of July Winslow, AR 2020

Winslow, AR July 2020

A quick trip back to CO and we got to hang out MK! June 2020

Volunteering at the Voice of the Martyrs headquarters in OK. Nov 2019

Giving her life to Christ! September 2019

Her first birthday in AR. May 2019

Time Flies

On May 10, 2019, at around 9:30 at night, I pulled into the driveway of our new house in Arkansas with our 5 tired but very excited kids.  We left Lakewood, Colorado around 7 that morning, drove by the home we lived in as a family for the last 12 years and hopped on the highway heading southeast.  All of us had tears running down our cheeks as we said good bye to the Button family who helped us pack and load moving trailers, fed us and housed us for 10 days after our home closed on April 30th.

Our truck stuffed inside and out as we headed to our new home in Arkansas.

I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I was very excited to see Phil, my mom and our dogs but I was quite nervous to be leaving the only state I’ve called home.  I had (and fortunately still have) an amazing support system in Colorado.  Saying goodbye to my dearest friends Laura and June was incredibly difficult.  I was preparing myself for a very lonely few months or more once arriving in Fort Smith.   As an introvert, developing deep friendships can take a long time for me.  I’m not very good at chit chat and it’s difficult for me to think of things to ask people.  I generally try to think of what Phil would ask someone… he’s great at talking to anybody!

I can honestly say however, that in the year we’ve been here I’ve only felt lonely a couple of different times and it only lasted for a day or two.  We have been blessed to get connected to an amazing church in Alma,  we are part of a thriving homeschool community and all of us are building some wonderful, God honoring friendships.

I think there were some people back in Colorado who thought it would be incredibly difficult for me to connect to anyone here.  I think it was generally thought that I would regret our decision to move to Arkansas.  Yet, I LOVE it here… truly!  The seasons are beautiful.  Our kids can play in the rain and get soaked and not be cold… so different from Colorado.  Flowers start blooming here in April and everything gets green fast.  I really enjoy living in a much smaller city.  I miss Sprouts and Vitamin Cottage but am able to find most things at a variety of stores.  The storms can be intense but people have lived here for hundreds of years so really, if God is ready to take me home than all is well!

Friends, I am so blessed to be here.  I have no regrets in our decision to move.  My first morning waking up in Arkansas was on my 48th birthday.  What a gift!

Now… we just needs more out of state friends and family to visit… or better yet… move here!

Sunset in Rudy, Arkansas May 2020

Sunset in Rudy, Arkansas May 2020

He Is Risen!

Here we are 3 days after Resurrection Sunday and I’m just now posting that Christ Has Risen!  In truth, we started our Resurrection garden late so I was waiting for the grass around the tomb to grow a little.  In reality, the grass is not important to what Jesus accomplished the day the tomb was discovered empty.

Christmas and Easter are my two favorite holidays and yes I’ve read all the articles both supporting and advising against Christians celebrating these two days.  Each year I examine my motives and I attempt to bring a little more holiness to the activities we participate in.  I’m not a fan of easter baskets, bunnies and eggs.  My mom is sweet enough to color eggs with the kids each year and our kids love doing it… I think I’ve only done it once when Natasha and Mikayla were little and I decided that if I never dyed eggs again in my life that would be okay!  A few years ago I actually wood burned 9 large wooden eggs with the Resurrection message and that’s how we typically would go through the events with our kids.  However, I have been unable to locate them since we moved but I’m sure they are here somewhere!

This year, instead of Easter baskets we put together Easter boots.  Now that we live in Arkansas rain boots are needed several times a week… literally.  So, we purchased new rain boots for each of our kids and I filled them with a small bible journal, bible highlighters, colored pencils or fun colored pens, a new book (fiction), a glow in the dark cross zipper pull with a verse on it, and one large candy bar.

But the highlight of our Resurrection Sunday is our Resurrection garden.  It’s quite simple to do and it helps us to see the significance of the day.  Resurrection Sunday is NOT about bunnies, rebirth, eggs, candy and toys.  It is about prophecies being fulfilled.  It is about a God who loves the people He created so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins.  If you don’t understand the depths of the meaning of Jesus Christ rising from the dead I urge you to read the bible, seek out wise and Godly men and women who can help you understand the Scriptures.  Your place in eternity depends on it!

Yes, I know the tomb of Jesus was not red… I couldn’t find a small stone colored cup or pot!

The tomb is EMPTY… HE IS RISEN!

Katherine Turns 6!

Yes, I’m over a month late on this post!  But… at least I’m posting right?

Our dear Katherine Anya turned 6 on March 6th.  While I love and enjoy the birthdays of all our kids, Katherine’s always brings to mind memories of trauma that we experienced a year and half before she was born.  And yet, her birth is a reminder of God’s amazing grace, love and faithfulness after such a trying and emotional time for our family.

We love this little girl that God entrusted to us to raise in the love and admonition of the Lord.  She’s feisty, smart, loves learning (says her favorite subject is math) and adventurous.  She’s learning to ride her bike and roller blade before her siblings learned.  Katherine enjoys our church fellowship, reading along in her bible during our daily bible time and making gifts to give to others.

Happy Birthday sweet girl!  We love you!

Katherine got into the chalk!

Katherine’s first ride in the bike trailer.

Hiking in Elk Meadow in Evergreen. Katherine fell asleep as daddy was carrying her. August 2016

After swimming, playing the playground on a windy day!

How Can She Be 17 Already?

Yesterday we celebrated Natasha!  This fun-loving, kind, hard working and God fearing young lady is 17!

She’s gone from this….

to this….

She loves working at Harvest Moon Bakery.  She has learned so much in the last 7 months!

She and Mikayla volunteered at A Night To Shine in February this year. The picture on the right is the group from our church who also volunteered.

 

She also enjoyed going on a back packing trip with the teens from church also in February.

She continues to do well with her school studies in addition to working 3 full days at the bakery.  She really enjoys spending time with all of our church families and has some wonderful friends here in Arkansas.  She has also spent a lot of time writing her first book.  I’ve been blessed to read parts of it and she’s done really well creating her story.

Natasha is joyful and so much fun to be around.  She helps around the house with cooking and cleaning and helping take care of her younger siblings.  Truly, she’s a blessing to us!

Idolatry

I love our church… truly it is exactly what we were looking for when we moved here and God blessed us with a very short search!  Along with the singing, the teaching has been encouraging, convicting and biblical.  This past Sunday the teaching was so thought provoking that I thought I’d blog about it.  To be fair, much of the following words were spoken by Mr. Brian Hutton who taught this valuable lesson.  I’ve added some of my own thoughts to it but kudos to him for such a well thought out, prayed about and shared teaching.

In God’s Word, Exodus 20:3 says You shall have no other gods before Me.  Idolatry is the opposite!  Brian pointed out that it is no coincidence that when God gave the ten commandments, the first thing on His mind was to tell us to have no other gods before Him.  The Hebrew word elohiym used here is the same exact word Satan used in Gen 3:5 when he was tempting Eve and saying ‘ye shall be as gods.’

The Merriam-Webster definition of idolatry is 1: the worship of a physical object as a god, 2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something.  However, Brian shared this definition… Idolatry is loving more than God what ought to be loved less than God and only for the sake of God.  Now, I had to read and re-read that statement a few times to make sense of it and let it sink in.  As a believer, the definition Brian shared has much more meaning.

Joshua 24:15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

When you hear idolatry what do you think of?  A big golden statue such as a cow or bull?  A giant chocolate bunny – think Veggie Tales?  Someone steeped deep in sin?  Brian discussed 5 examples of idolatry and I have been guilty of all of them at various points throughout my Christian walk.

Idolatry of Time
Ephesians 5:15-17 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Christopher Hitchens once said “I have no time to waste on this planet being told what to do by those who think that God has given them instructions.”  That is how the world manages their time, with no thought to God and His word.  THEIR time is precious compared to the perspective of ‘the time the Lord has given me is precious and I desire to spend it serving Him.’ This is an idol that I struggle with!

Idolatry of Misplaced Affections
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Matthew 10:37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
The verse in Matthew is hard for me!  I love my children but I constantly remind myself that God loves them more and I am called to love God more.  He is the one who gave me children in the first place, even if only for a time!  As for 1 John, it is a fine line to live IN the world but not be OF the world.  The world and all that it offers can be very tempting, especially to new believers or believers who arrogantly feel they are above sin and can’t be trapped by it.  As said by Martin Luther “Whatever you love most, that is your god.”

Idolatry of Discouragement
Matthew 14:24-32 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.  Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out of fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out fo the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
As Brian started his lesson I never expected to learn about the idolatry of discouragement.  Discouragement can be an idol?  Really?  But as he was speaking and discussing the above verse in Matthew as well as Daniel 6:19-24 I realized that YES, discouragement can be an idol and I was guilty of making it one.  It’s been eye opening for me to see how I can let discouragement be my focus instead of keeping my focus on the Lord.  I’ve let it bring me down, WAY down and made sure that those around me knew it.  By keeping my focus on my discouragement I neglected the truth of God is my protector, my strong provider, my security and my hope!

Idolatry of Abundance
1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
The idolatry of Abundance is the belief that resources drive this world, not God.  We freely pursue money to please the flesh (capitalism) or we try to control the money of others, because we want the power they wield (socialism).  Either way we idolize the power of money and demand the control over how it affects our lives.  We put money on the throne rather than God.

Idolatry of Sins
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
DL Moody once said “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”  That is so true! We try to get in the Word every day by ourselves and with our kids.  They will be faced with many temptations and trials throughout their lives and the best way to turn from temptation and weather the storms is to be grounded in God’s Word.  Our sins can absolutely, become idols to us.  We tell God, I will give up all my sin except…. fill in the blank.  Lord, I just can’t turn from this one!  It’s time to repent!

Really, what it all boils down to is idolatry of self.  Satan understood mankind’s greatest weakness as stated in Genesis 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  Brian notes of all the angles Satan could have taken to trip mankind up, he chose to appeal to our own sense of superiority.  Satan wants us to consider ourselves as gods, in direct opposition to the first commandment.

What is in your life that you’ve made an idol?  Homeschooling?  I have a wise friend who reminded me that as a homeschool mom it’s easy to make it an idol.  Exercise?  Career?  Looks/Image?  Knowledge?  A certain affiliation or membership to a particular organization?   I challenge you to reflect on your life, your priorities, your passions and test them against Scripture.  Ask the Lord to show you if there is anything in your life that you have or are close to making an idol.

I’ll end with two Scriptures… By the grace of God we can destroy idols in our lives!

Matthew 6:24  No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.

Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

 

Our First Christmas in Arkansas

Our first Christmas in Arkansas was enjoyable and a bit odd all at the same time.  We did not spend Christmas Eve or Christmas with extended family like usual – that was the odd part!  After spending the morning opening a few gifts and eating homemade cinnamon rolls we decided to go on a hike because the weather was stunning!  It was 72 beautiful degrees and bright warm sun-filled skies.  We drove about an hour, maybe less, to Devil’s Den State Park.  We had such a wonderful time!

This was our fourth year reading through an advent book.  Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide.  His advent books are so well written and we look forward to this tradition every year!  We think that Jesus was not actually born on December 25th and as a family we want to make sure we are worshipping Jesus coming in the flesh *1  as the Reason *2 for this Holiday.

(1. Possibly around BC 4-5) (2. And to actually die in our place for forgiveness of our sins about AD 30)

A Podcast and God’s Promises

Hello Friends!  This is a quick post to share a podcast I recently listened to and a wonderful article about God’s promises.

First, the podcast was posted by Generations Radio and host Kevin Swanson.  He talks about the ‘American Boy Disease’ and how our society tries to put boys in the same box as girls.  While I only have 1 son, I am fully aware that he is so amazingly different than my girls.  Our standards are the same for Jonathan as far as respect for authority, behavior, attitude, strength of character and such but the path we take to meet those standards are different.  Just like each child learns differently and I’m able to adjust my teaching to best fit their learning style, Jonathan learns differently just by the very fact he’s a boy.  He has a much better day when it’s structured, scheduled and lots of variety.  Side note – we are not ruled by our schedule; it’s a tool!

Anyway, this podcast talks about the difference between boys and girls and how to take a different approach in parenting boys.  He also talks about screen time which can obviously apply to ALL of us!  Take a listen at Generations Radio!

Secondly, I read this blog post about God’s Promises by Michelle Lesley and just had to share this wonderful article!  Will only take about 5 minutes to read and is so worth it.  Michelle is a wealth of information (her special focus is discernment for women) and encouragement.

Rejoice in the Lord!

Gaylene

Our Summer Bible Study

Here it is November and the kids and I have finally finished our summer bible study!  It’s a very in-depth study and completing it in 8 weeks just wasn’t an option for us.  It took us about 4 months after we started it in late June but it was such a good study that it was well worth the extra time.

Have you ever heard of the National Bible Bee?  Several years back in Colorado, we joined the National Bible Bee summer study program.  Several of our friends started a bible bee club where each we would would gather and play games with the intent of helping us remember what we studied during the week.  I remember that first year the study was on Jonah.  We also helped each other study our memory verses because at the end of the summer our local chapter held a huge competition with a written test and recitation of memory verses to see who would qualify to go on to the national championship in November.

This past summer NBB’s study was on the book of James so the kids and I spent weeks pouring over James, learning many greek words, memorizing scripture, singing, praying and being immersed in God’s word.

I love how you can study the same Scripture multiple times and learn something new.  Our workbook gave a summary of James…

…James was written by James to scattered Jewish believers.  It exhorts Christians for all time to live in such a way that their saving faith is vibrant and alive, not anemic or dead.  James gives practical, obligatory maxims that, when put into practice, produce a joyful, Christian lifestyle that is thriving and maturing in God.  We are not told our lives are free of trials, yet our key verse, James 1:2, admonishes us to be joyful in the midst of tests.

Some things that stood out to me from this study…

  • Enduring trials builds our faith and helps us be steadfast.
  • In James it says to ask for wisdom we need to pray in earnest without doubt.
  • The result of a faithless prayer is to be double-minded with little faith.
  • Temptations come from our own desires and lusts.
  • Following the enticements of my own heart ultimately leads to death.
  • James spoke strongly about temptation leads to sin, which leads to death.
  • By remaining steadfast in trials we will become mature in our walk.
  • Those that endure and persevere receive the crown of life.
  • James 1:2 Consider it all joy my beloved brethren when you encounter various trials.
  • We must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.
  • Prove myself doer of the Word.
  • Moral filth in our life is an impediment to our ability to receive with meekness the Word implanted.
  • The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
  • Our tongue can bless and curse… all in the same sentence.
  • God’s grace is sufficient, rejoice in my trials and the power of Christ will rest upon me.

My kids were able to memorize many passages over the last 4 months and they all said this was one of their favorite studies.  Can’t wait for next summer’s National Bible Bee study.

Next up, we are going to go through the DVD series call How Do We Know the Bible is True? by British theologian Brian Edwards.