Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day

Russ didn't realize that when he was asked to take over the youth group at the FRC that he would be asked if he could "just have the youth group provide 20 minutes of special music for a Reformation Day fellowship."  This is one of those times I truly felt like a "helpmeet".  We are thankful that God has blessed many of the young people at the church with musical abilities and even more grateful that they were willing to share them.    Tonight was a blessing--a reminder of the past, an exhortation for the present, and a hope for the future.  

Reformation Day Service 

Congregational singing:
A Mighty Fortress is our God,  The Church's One Foundation, If We Have Forgotten the Name of Our God

Youth Special Music based on the five solas of the Reformation (our part!):

Sola Scriptura:  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (the kids read the Scripture passages before each musical number)
"How Precious is the Book Divine" vocal solo

Sola  Fide:  Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 "Not What My Hands Have Done"  small vocal group
Sola Gratia:  Ephesians 2:8-9 "By Grace Alone"  Instrumental violins/cello/piano  (This song was written by Martin Luther and I had never seen the words/music before I found it on the internet a few weeks ago.  Love this piece:)

Sola Christus:  1Timothy 2:5 and Acts 4:12  "In Christ Alone"  all youth group sang with flute also accompanying

Soli Deo Gloria:   1 Peter 4:11 and 1 Corinthians10:31 "To God be the Glory"  all youth group sang with violins/cello also accompanying

Dr. Barrett gave a brief message on Jeremiah 6:16 
 "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  But they said, We will not walk therein."

Congregational singing "O God Our Help in Ages Past"

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this evening and I know the kids did too.   Next year if the kids get asked again, we may have to bring out the Reformation Polka!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Mom's Impulsive Shopping Trip

As many know, the kids have been wanting a dog ever since we had to put our dear Mookie to sleep.  Russ and the kids have been actively looking, but we have found that dogs are expensive.    You can't even get a dog from the animal shelter for less than $100.  We have looked on Craig's List.  Either they are asking too much of a rehoming fee for the dog or do not get back to us.  Other dogs that have been offered for free are a breed that just won't work for our family (too big, too mean, too high maintenance,etc).  We needed something smaller, preferably just a mutt, female,  So, several months ago I told Russ that we were working too hard for a dog, and that the dog we were supposed to have will just "fall into our lap".   It will happen when we least expect it.  And that is what happened this morning.  

I made an innocent trip to Meijer to get ONE item.  I was not in the store very long at all, and when I exited (the same door I went in) a lady and her three kids were sitting outside the door with a box of puppies.  (She was not there when I went in!) "Giving them away for free," she said.  They were SO cute.  So I set my purse down and asked what breed they were.  "The mom is Jack Russell and Yorkie and the dad is unknown, so they will be pretty small."  My eyes immediately locked onto the small one.  Before I picked it up I asked if  any were females.  "Yes, the two that are left are both females," she answered while pointing to the cute little one.  I immediately picked her up and fell in love.  Another very well-dressed lady picked up the other female and was eyeing mine.   I knew if I set her down, I wouldn't get her back.  So, I did the most impulsive thing I did in a long time.  I said, "I'll take her."  The now previous owner gave me a card of her breed name, date of birth, and date she had her first puppy shots. 

My first stop was the seminary.  Russ was pretty excited.  He wanted to come home with me to see the kids faces.  As we were pulling out of the seminary lot we noticed that the Northpointe parking lot was clearing out--lunch hour.  So, we took another detour to Northpointe.  Caleb was elated.  Evidently the puppy was too, because it peed all over him.  So, we signed Caleb out of school for a little bit and took him home with us.  The kids were all excited at my impulsive shopping trip, as I knew they would be.  

The kids named her Zoe, and at six weeks old she is really very, very cute.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn Youth Group Outing

Last Saturday we had our second youth group outing.   We went to a corn maze and then all the kids came to our humble abode for snacks, games, and eventually a bonfire with brats/dogs...and more games.  With Russ in charge there will never be a lack of games.  About seventeen kids came out for the afternoon/evening so we had a great turn out and lots of fun. 
This is the corn maze design we went through.  The kids didn't like this corn maze as much as Pumpkinland in OC.  #1 the corn was not very tall so the bigger kids could look over the tops of the corn, #2 they had look-out towers manned to yell at kids who ran or cut through the corn.  For some reason that makes my kids tense even though they weren't doing anything wrong. And the #3 reason was because if you found all the "cornundrum" signs and figured them out you only got to put your name in a drawing for donuts and apple cider--no candy/pop prizes:(

Fresh Peas in October!

I hate to post this knowing that there is snow in NW Iowa, but I can't believe I'm still picking fresh peas October 25!  I know our day is coming--I think the high tomorrow is 48 or something as compared to our 77 degrees today.  The peas are still blooming, but I know their days are numbered:(

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seth Creative Writing

Wuns upon a tim thar wus a boy namd Looc.  He had a mom and dad, the keng and queen.  Wun tim Looc wint out siyd.  He lokt at ol the uthr yrds.  He disided he woud go to the bad gi camp.  Wen he got thar he hard thum tokeng ubout the plans.  He ran bak hom.  He told his mom and dad but thya did it lisin.  He went to the prest.  The prest  lisind.  Thya got ol the solrs redye to utak.  Wen the bad giys caym the goud  gis wun.  The End


Once upon a time there was a boy named Luke.  He had a mom and dad, the king and queen.  One time Luke went outside.  He looked at all the other yards.  He decided he would go to the bad guys camp.  When he got there, he heard them talking about the plans.  He ran back home.  He told his mom and dad but they didn't listen.  He went to the priest.  The priest listened.  They got all the soldiers ready to attack.  When the bad guys came the good guys won.  The End.

Love the creativity/imagination; need lots of work on spelling:)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Soccer Fall 2012

Caleb's soccer season ended a few weeks ago.  He wasn't sure how he felt about playing JV again this year, but when they ended up with only 12 guys on the team and he was able to play almost the entire time each game, he was pretty happy where he ended up.  They finished the season 11-4-2.   Not bad for only having one sub most games (and some games they had none!)  It was fun as parents to watch their coach (new this season) utilize his players to their strengths and correctly assess where each should be for the greatest good of the team.  Last year this never seemed to materialize while this year the coach was able to get the most from his players by having them in positions that played to their strengths.  For Caleb this meant his realizing that his "calling" as a soccer player was as a defender after beginning the season as a mid-fielder.  Here are a few "in action" shots. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Parenting Musings

Other than family blogs, I no longer regularly read blog posts.  I just don't have time.  But I occasionally will click on someone's blog link through Facebook if the post subject looks intriguing.  This was how I ended up at a blog post about making lentil loaf.  (You can read it yourself here).  Andrea wrote about what a messy, frustrating experience making lentil loaf turned out to be as nothing went as planned.  And yet, the lentil loaf turned out great and tasted delicious.   She shared this as an illustration of God being able to taken something fallen and messy (us) and redeem it into something beautiful. 

And it got me thinking...

In the first couple chapters of Haggai the people of Judah were called to rebuild the Lord's house.   God asked them if they noticed that although they had planted much, they harvested little; although they ate, they never had enough; they drank, but never had their fill.  They put on clothes but were never warm, and they earned wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it.  


"Because of my  house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house," says the Lord Almighty.    The people were so busy building their own homes and making a life for themselves that they had neglected the house of God.  So Haggai was sent to give them the message to rebuild God's house along with this encouraging message from the Lord, "I am with you."

So, the people began rebuilding the house of the Lord.   Unfortunately, it didn't look anything like Solomon's temple in all it's glory.  Haggai 2:3 says that in comparison it looked like...nothing.  But the Lord came again to the people through Haggai telling them to continue to "Be strong...and work.  For I am with you...the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house."  God is telling them to be obedient, to work, and he will make it beautiful.  

I find both a warning and a comfort in this scripture passage when it comes to raising my kids.  I need to stop and ask myself how we are doing.   Are we so busy making a comfortable life for ourselves that we don't have time to "build" the little temples that God has entrusted to us (our children for example)?

What are we doing to "build" these little temples?  Are we teaching and showing our kids the gospel message?  Are we instilling in them the importance of the local church?  Are we discussing sermons with them to reinforce the truths and strengthen the roots of what they have heard so the "birds do not carry it away"?  Are we disciplining them faithfully and consistently with grace and truth?   Are we encouraging them in their spiritual walk by providing them with appropriate materials for individual devotional time and encouraging them to read good books?  Do we engage in and show a commitment to family worship?  Are we encouraging opportunities for them to know and grow in God's Word and hide it in their hearts?
We do not do these things perfectly; not even close.  In fact, sometimes things are pretty ugly.  Hearts are hard.  Discipline can be frustrating as sin and anger can get in the way.  A selfish desire to have my own time can interfere with using opportunities to share the gospel or to take a truth one step farther.  Tiredness or busyness can cause me to miss those perfect teachable moments.   And when they argue, fight, talk back, make unwise decisions, or disobey it is so easy to despair and wonder if it all makes any difference at all.   Nothing seems very beautiful.  Where is a basic kindness in dealing with others?  Where are the other fruits of the Spirit?  Where is the Christ-likeness? 

"Just work," says God, "and I will make it beautiful."  So we keep plodding on, attempting to be obedient and do the right things with our kids.   We pray for God to bless all our efforts and plead on his promise to make things beautiful.   This is where the promise, "I am with you" makes all the difference.  Yes, God has called us to a job, but He has not left us to ourselves - He is in the midst of the mess.

And then when I despair of  my own spiritual growth, I can apply it all to myself...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Letting Go

I have always prayed for my kids.  I pray for their salvation, for their spiritual growth, and for specific things that may be going on in their life--a test, an audition, an athletic event, or illness.  But in the last year I have noticed that my prayers for them have changed.   There seems to be more of a sense of necessity or importance in them, a sense of  urgency, if you will

Most of this is because I am beginning to sense more and more my helplessness.  When they are pretty young you can control so many things about their little lives. But now I have one child in high school and another will join him next year.  And I feel my grip loosening (on them, not my sanity, although that is up for debate).   I know in my heart that I can't save my children, I can't protect them from serious illness or freak accidents, and yet I often live as if I can do all these things.

When they were babies and toddlers and even younger elementary I felt in control of their safety.  I "child-proofed" the house.  We bought equipment that had passed safety tests or received good ratings.  We were responsible for buckling them in their car seats.  Before they rode bikes I made sure they had a helmet.   I diligently watched them when they played outside so they didn't wander into the alley or to the road out front of 215 3rd St NE.    But as they grow older I can no longer always be there to set the boundaries, to make sure they are safe.

Now they are getting in cars with 16 year old drivers and I find myself asking questions like, How long have they had their license?  Is he a good driver?  How far away does he live from school?  Will he be taking you home?  Can Dad or I just drive you?  And I see my 15 year old looking at me with a look that tells me he is desperately trying not to roll his eyes at me.   So, I say the only thing left to say, "Please, just make sure you wear your seat belt."   And then I got the eye roll.

Same with technology/media influences.  We controlled the TV shows they watched when they were younger.  "Yes" to Clifford and PBS Kids.  "No" to almost all other channels.  We controlled the movies and DVDs they watched.   My children have been quite sheltered from most of the junk on TV and the stuff that comes out of the movie industry.   Our computer has a filter to prevent them from accidentally (or on purpose) finding a questionable site.

Now we have iPods and iPhones and all kinds of internet access.  The oldest willingly put a control on his device, but should I still check it every week?  What movies is he watching when he goes over to a friends house?  If he gets asked to go to a movie, will he make a good choice?  When other kids at school are talking about TV shows and certain movies does he feel protected or stifled? 

How about friends?  It is no great revelation that parents tend to encourage or even set up friends for their kids based on "good" families.  I am no different.  I encourage friendships with good kids and have no qualms about putting the kibosh on hanging out with certain other kids.   When our kids are young we can (and should!) control who their friends are.

In high school, I am not sure that level of control is appreciated, however.   We certainly should express our opinion, but let's face it, the amount of control we now have over who they hang out with has significantly decreased.   Did he choose the friendship because of popularity?  Did he choose because of dress/style/looks?  Or did he choose the friendship because of who the person is, what he saw inside of them?  Is he choosing friendships based on similarities in biblical worldview and interests, or just because that person is funny or fun to be around?

Also as they grow older they need to make more decisions for themselves.   When they are young we let them have just a little control over pretty non-threatening decisions.  Do you want toast or cereal for breakfast? Do you want to wear the puppy or Cars jammies?  Do you want to ride in the back seat or the middle seat?  Do you want to listen to Jungle Jam or Odyssey?

But now the decisions they need to make are much bigger.  What college will I go to?  What career should I pursue?  Where should I apply for a job?  Should I ask this girl out or not?  And once again although parents can influence and guide, we can't always make these decisions for them even if we really want to. 

How do I know how much I should guide and influence as they get older?

How do I encourage them to use their time wisely without nagging?

How do I motivate them to work to their potential without pressuring them?

Where is the line between being too permissive and being too protective?

When do I hold on and when do I...let go?

So here is what I have realized.  While they were young and I was in charge of all these aspects of their life I developed a sense of security in my control.   I thought I had a mentality of "thy will be done," but in actuality I am hanging on pretty tight.  I didn't realize how much I rested on my strength/control until this last year or so when my grip has been painfully loosened.  I could learn quite a bit from the examples of Jochebed and Hannah in the Bible.  How on earth did Jochebed give up Moses to the court of Pharaoh? I guess if drowning in the Nile is the alternative it may have been a little easier, but I think my human nature would still have protested having to give him up.   How difficult was it for Hannah to let go of Samuel to Eli in the house of God and only visit once a year?  Learning to let go as my kids get older is teaching me to loosen my grip on the younger ones.  Since God has given us a six year old in whom resides a spirit unlike any other of our children this has been an extremely positive lesson to be taught in the school of parenting.  (See you are never too old to learn:) 

And so I find myself leaning more and more on the One who truly is in control, and I am learning how to pray for my kids as I always should have from the day they were born--with urgency, necessity born of my own helplessness and a reliance on Him alone for strength, wisdom, and patience.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Homeschool Weeks 3-6

Here is a little home school update:

In our Rome to the Reformation curriculum we have covered the following topics:  what Roman cities and homes looked like; what life was like in Ancient Rome including art (mosaics and frescos), clothing, drama, social classes; literature, specifically, Virgil and the Aneid; and Roman architecture (arches and aqueducts).  From the historical timeline we covered the time when Antony and Octavian divided lands, Antony and Cleopatra's tragic love story, and Octavian becoming Caesar Augustus.  We also spent some time on Herod as governor of Palestine and the time when he rebuilt the temple.

The emperor with the laurel wreath

Lydia the wealthy lady.  Anna dressed as a slave and I realized I didn't get her picture:(

Very intimidating teaching an emperor

Working with the whole wedge-shaped stones, keystone concept to make our own arch

Our homemade aqueduct

For Roman projects we made a mosaic (from a kit Lydia received on her birthday from the Michigan Bleekers), and also clay pigs which were a typical toy for young children in Rome. 

We continue to learn a few Latin words/roots and have now learned the numbers (1-10 and 100).  We also learned how the months of the year and days of the week were named.

Nicolas has his own physical science curriculum that he does, but the girls are learning about the human body.  We started with the nervous system and most recently have been learning about the five senses and have covered just taste and smell so far.

In Bible we again do our BSF every morning (Genesis).  In our home school curriculum we have been memorizing the books of the the NT and now are learning three verses in Romans:  Romans 3:23, 5:8, 8:28.  Just this week we read through the OT prophecies of Jesus birth/life and the fulfillment in the NT. 

For fine arts we continue to work through art lessons in God and the History of Art.  This is the same book we used last year.  We are also studying composers again this year.  In God's providence we have been learning about Haydn and were assigned to listen to his oratorio, Creation, the same week we were studying the creation in BSF.  I love how God orchestrates all of that.

Our read aloud has been The Bronze Bow, a story about Daniel, a young Jewish man, who hates the Romans and lives during the time of Christ.   Nicolas read it last year for a reading unit so he isn't that excited about it, but the rest of us are thoroughly enjoying it.

Seth continues with his history of the United States.  The first week we read about John Smith and the Jamestown settlement.  The following week we studied the Native Americans reading the book North American Indians.  During this week Seth made his own wigwam and teepee and visited the Blandford Nature Center's wigwam (when Grandpa and Grandma were visiting).  Last week the topic was the Mayflower and the Pilgrims.  We learned all about the Plymouth settlement and did our own experiments with oiled paper for windows and planted corn with pieces of fish.  This week Seth read about the Dutch settling in New Netherland, or New York.  Because the story we read was about bringing cows to the new world and the blessing of having fresh milk, cream and butter we made our own butter.  We melted the butter later that day and put it on our homemade popcorn to eat at Caleb's soccer game!  Somewhere in all of this we watched a DVD from the animated hero series on William Bradford.   We finished our first read aloud,  Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims and have started our second, The Courage of Sarah Noble.

Wigwam at the nature center

Seth's wigwam and canoe he made

Inside the wigwam

Teepee--painted so cute!

Homemade butter

In Bible Seth spent time learning that "Jesus is the Light of the World"  Once again in God's providence we were talking about this in school at the same time we were studying the creation of light in BSF.  Seth made a beautiful sun wall hanging from crayon pieces and waxed paper.  Just this last week he has begun to study "Jesus is the Bread of Life"  So far we have just done a few experiments with yeast.  I think we get to make bread this coming week!

Seth made me laugh during his language arts time last week.  I have been dictating phrases for him to spell and one of them was "get up".  He spelled it "git".  After we were done with the 10-12 phrases I told him that he did a great job, only got one wrong.  "Listen again, 'g-e-e-t', not 'g-i-i-t'."  His response: "That's because you're Dutch, Mom.  You say it 'get' but it really is 'git'."   The "what is he talking about" look from Nicolas just made it even better:)

One of the fun parts of home schooling is the cross-over of subject matter for the kids.  Seth is learning quite a bit about the Romans and the girls are enjoying learning about the Mayflower, etc.  For example, one day they dressed up as Romans and played "Roman school" in the morning, and then in the afternoon they were outside playing Mayflower and Plymouth.   I'm glad we have days like that because we also have times with lots of tears over school work and moments of nagging to finish our work, not to mention the pestering and bickering.    Some days I just want to pack them all off to school.  Most days, however, I am thankful for the privilege of teaching them and thoroughly enjoy having them around all day!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Art Prize Part 2

Isn't this reflection cool?
Last weekend Philip and Pam and family came up from Chicago to experience ArtPrize.  Unfortunately, I had to work all day, but I sent my camera with Russ and these are some other entries that they enjoyed.  Some I saw when we went with Grandpa and Grandma; some were new to me.  This first picture is to show just how busy it was downtown last weekend.  The weather was beautiful, but unfortunately some of the lines were long.


A photograph doesn't do this painting justice.  The butterflies just seemed to fly off the canvas.  Russ thought the hair was a little scary, though:)

Done with spray paint.  This artist gave demonstrations every 15 minutes or so.  Pretty neat to watch.

I think Russ said this was made with jelly beans.

Pencil drawing

We thought it was so providential that ArtPrize was going on at the same time that we are studying the creation story in BSF.  We marvel so at the works of man's hand and the mediums they use to create.  How much more should we stand in awe of the Creator who created all things "ex nihilo"--out of nothing!    As we appreciate and enjoy the creativity of the artists we should be drawn to the Author of all creativity in whose image we are made.  We are truly enjoying His creativity as we delight in the peak fall colors in Western Michigan this week.   

Haven't seen a grasshopper this big in a long time!

As Seth said after we finished our walk around the neighborhood, "I like God's ArtPrize!"