2015-2016 Homeschool Curriculum

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Multitasking – eating a snack and working on Science!

This year our daughter is in 6th grade – MIDDLE SCHOOL!  Some days I just can’t believe how fast time has gone by.   Here is the curriculum that we’ve been using this year:

 

BIBLE

Mother – Daughter Devotional” by Secret Keeper Girl (with me),  “The Complete Girls of Grace: Devotional & Bible Study” (her personal quiet time), plus family devotional time, Bible studies at church, and various topical studies we discuss as a family.

SPELLING

The Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing – We really love this program!  It’s a phonics based, auditory learning program.  Each lesson gives a rule, jingle or hint about how to spell certain types of words.  I go over the rule with her, give a little extra information from the teacher’s guide and then it’s 99% independent.  She uses a spelling notebook (just a plain spiral notebook) and each day she numbers her paper from 1-15 and then listens to the track on the CD that corresponds to the lesson she is working on.  The words are read to her, along with a context sentence and she spells the word the best she can.  The next track on the CD gives the corrections and she grades her own paper.  She continues with a lesson until she gets 100% correct 2 days in a row, and then we move to the next lesson.  Some lessons might only take 2 days, others might take a week.  Either way is ok, as long as they learn the words.  She’s already asked if we can use this program again next year.  Yes, we can! I just have to buy the CDs for the next level and we’ll be all set.  I’ll be able to reuse all the other materials from this year.

 

READING

Emily is an avid reader and reads many books each week.  We easily check out 20-30 books every couple weeks from the library.  We try to incorporate something related to our current studies, some other non-fiction and some just-for-fun fiction. 

MATH

We are using Math-U-See Pre-Algebra.  We’ve used Math-U-See for years and we really like their program, however we are seriously considering Teaching Textbooks for next year.   I love that MUS is DVD based – she watches the lesson and then does the practice worksheets.  At the end of the week, she takes a test.  The reason I’m considering switching to TT next year though, is because their lessons go into a lot more detail both for the lecture and the explanation of the problems.  I feel that as she advances in math, this will better suit her needs.

 

HISTORY

We are using Mystery of History Volume 1 this year.  Volume 1 is the time period from Creation to Christ. I really like that it is Christ centered and from a Christian world view.  Each lesson offers activities for younger, middle, and older students so you can customize them to your child or family’s needs. They also create a timeline and work with maps, so those help put events into perspective. MOH has 4 volumes that each cover a specific time period leading up to modern times.

 

SCIENCE

We are using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Physics and Chemistry right now.  We absolutely love Apologia’s science curriculum! We did Astronomy a couple years ago, and then we did part of the Swimming Creatures curriculum before switching to Physics & Chemistry.  We did swimming creatures while we were waiting for Hubby to return from a deployment because he wanted to teach the Chemistry and Physics.  I make sure Emily does the reading and book work during the day, and then on Tue/Thu nights she gets science class with Daddy!  We plan to continue to Apologia in the future.

 

ELECTIVES

Art – drawing, working with polymer clay

Typing – Typing Web online program

Home Ec – learning cooking, sewing and other household chores

 

OTHER

Lots of trips to the local library for all sorts of books!

Written reports on places we go or topics we choose.  Next year we will include a formal writing program.

Tons of field trips – the zoo, historical sites, Washington DC, museums

From Public School Back to Homeschooling

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So many posts to write, so little time! I wanted to give a very belated update on our daughter’s school situation. A year and a half ago, I wrote about our decision to switch her from homeschool to public school. It was my intent to update throughout the year, but time got away from me and here we are much, much later and now we’re back to homeschooling.

Let me explain…

Emily had an amazing year in public school for 5th grade. I could not have asked for better teachers than the ones she had. Absolutely amazing and top notch in every way. She grew in so many ways, especially socially and emotionally. She definitely learned more about patience – because when you are 1 of 28 students in a classroom you don’t get to talk whenever you want. Much different from being homeschooled as an only child!

She excelled as a leader and a student, made straight A’s all year, was inducted into the National Beta Club, and even stepped out of her comfort zone to enter – and win – the school speech contest!  She learned to deal with new frustrations such as working in teams or groups on projects when the other members of the group don’t want to do the work.  Like I said, she experienced a great deal of emotional and social growth.

However, she missed out on some things too.  I truly feel that what she missed out on was no fault of the teachers’, but rather the school system. Her history and science were almost non-existent compared to the curriculum we follow at home.  Recess was a joke, if they even got to have it.  They played structured games, or stayed inside the majority of the time instead of getting the free play that kids so desperately need.  Overall throughout the day, she spent more time sitting and waiting, or standing in line waiting than she did actually learning.

She also found out that socializing and making friends was actually harder than she thought at public school.  They had very little free time to talk, so getting to know each other was a challenge.  Thankfully we found a great Girl Scout group that year that provided amazing friends outside of school, so she still not what she was looking for – just not where she thought she’d find it.

In the end, after what we considered a very successful year overall due to the emotional and social growth, we made the decision to resume homeschooling.  A few main reasons factored into our decision to bring her back home for 6th grade.

1) We wanted control over her curriculum again

2) We were going to be moving to another state halfway through the school year. Middle school is a huge adjustment in the first place, so we really didn’t want her to have to start all over again halfway through the year in a new school.

3) Her Daddy would be coming home in December from a year long Army assignment in Korea and we wanted her to be able to have more time off for family time. Homeschooling gave us the flexibility to do extra school before so that we could take the month of December off for family time and grandparents coming to visit.

Emily is super excited to be learning at home again. She’s really enjoying the curriculum we are using this year.  She also likes getting to chew gum and have snacks during school, going on lots of field trips, and having more time to play outside since school doesn’t take as long. I can’t lie – we both really like not getting up early to catch the bus every morning too!

We have lots of fun things planned for the year!

Want to see what we are learning for 6th grade? Click here to read my 2015-2016 curriculum post.

Preparing for full time RV life

We are now about 6 weeks away from moving into our RV full time!

How does someone prepare to move from a 1600 square foot house (with a garage) into an approximately 250 square foot RV? For starters, we have been purging like crazy around our house! We are selling, donating, & consolidating a LOT of stuff, and then storing the rest.

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It’s truly amazing (and not really in a good way) how much stuff we tend to collect and how little of it we actually use or love. So this is a perfect time for us to “pass it on” and bless someone else!  The 3 of us had a closet full of clothes, but we all tend to wear our favorites over and over. We pulled out all the items that we will likely never wear again and ended up with 4 trash bags full of clothes and shoes to give away.

Next, we tackled the kitchen! I am a lover of coffee and have been collecting coffee cups for years – usually from places we go on vacation or other fun places. I keep telling myself it’s good to have lots of cups for when we have company, but honestly, I couldn’t fit that many people in my house anyway. Hubby and I both tend to go back and forth between a couple of our favorite coffee mugs and the rest just sit in the cabinet taking up space. So out they went!! We kept our favorites – some with a special meaning to us and my Fiesta cups because I love the fun colors and they go with my small collection of Fiesta plates (that will also get stored for a little while) that have been gifts from my Mom. We purged a lot of randomness & gadgets from our kitchen that were taking up space but not getting used, and were able to give many, many things away to other military families. It’s actually fun to get to bless someone else like that, and WAY better than spending all day holding a yard sale just to make $20.

We made a big difference by consolidating our CDs and DVDs by putting all the discs into a large capacity zippered CD holder and throwing away all the cases. Those plastic cases take up a lot of room!! I filled up an entire plastic tote with just the cases, but all the CDs/DVDs fit into a case that will easily fit in a closet or on a shelf.

We also purged our “memory boxes”.  15 years of marriage and 11 years of having a child means LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of cards – birthday cards, anniversary cards, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.  Rob and I came to an agreement that we were both ok getting rid of 90% of them without getting offended.  We know we love each other, and the chances of us going back to re-read most of them isn’t likely.  So we each picked a small stack of the really special ones – a few notes from family members, extra special notes we wrote to each other, or a few super sweet homemade cards from our daughter – and we let the rest go.  No guilt!

I have big plans to work the same magic on our photos. What prints we have in boxes have already been purged, but oh the many photos I have on my computer!! Yes, they are all backed up (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!). The problem is, we aren’t enjoying them as much as we should because they are all digital. So my plan is to get some photo books printed of our favorites, highlights from each year, etc. In the process, many need to be deleted. The problem with digital photos is it’s too easy to take 10 shots of the same thing trying to get the best photo, but then the extra 9 never get deleted. That will be a project to tackle after the move.

We do have a small list of items that we have sold or will be selling before we move. Things that will give us a little pocket money to get some needed items for the RV. But mostly, we decided to give stuff away. We’ve always been extra blessed when we needed things and in the spirit of being thankful, we wanted to do the same for others.

 

After all the donating, consolidating and selling – we will be putting the rest our stuff in storage.

What are we storing?

* Sentimental things that we know for sure we want to keep – A tote of memory items for each of us

* Things that we will need if/when we move back into a house or into a bigger RV and that would be hard/expensive to replace

* Things that won’t it in the RV but that we will want access to. For example, we’ll store our off-season clothes in the storage unit and swap them out as the seasons change. We’ll also keep a box or 2 of holiday/seasonal items and decorations and see what we actually use this first year. I’m sure those will get purged again as we see what we end up using in our new home. We’ll also store some of our daughter’s toys & books that she’s not bringing so that she can rotate them if she wants. For the most part, her main books will come from our weekly trips to the library anyway since she reads so much, but we are storing a few boxes worth of her favorites or ones she wants to keep for her kids one day.

What other preparations are going on?

We’ve made reservations at the RV park where we will be living. We’re actually really excited about this place. Hubby will be closer to work, and we’ll be closer to our favorite library and grocery store. It’s the little things, sometimes! It’s got a beautiful water view, lots of ducks for Emily to feed, and a little store where she can have fun spending her money on snacks. She’s even asked if she can earn bags of duck food for doing well in school!

We’re also preparing the RV for us to live in it full time by making a few modifications. I’ll go into more detail in another post, but so far we’ve painted part of Emily’s area, replaced the master mattress, knocked out some false walls to increase storage, and we’re giving our fridge colorful, magnetic front panels! I’ll also be making curtains to replace the brown ones for Emily’s bunk area and for ours to brighten up the place.

Next, I need to work on purging my sewing supplies and deciding what I’m taking with me. I’ll be taking my sewing/embroidery machine with me so I can continue to do my crafty projects, but with limited space, I’ll have to be very organized and try to only have supplies on hand for the projects I’m currently working on!

We’re making progress! Stay tuned!

We are going to be full time campers!

Yep, we bought an RV and are planning to move into it full time soon!  We’re going to be full time RVers and get to go camping every day!  Our family has always enjoyed camping together.  Rob and I used to camp 1-2 times a month before Emily was born, and after she came along we introduced her to the great outdoors.  If you know anything about Emily, you know she is truly a nature girl!  When we first took her camping, she was still a baby so we took the Pack-N-Play and set it up inside our tent for her to sleep in.   As she grew, she eventually graduated to her own air mattress – first a toddler size and then a twin size.  Through it all, she has always loved being outside in God’s creation.  She loves the dirt, water, mud, birds, creatures, hiking, sticks, rocks – all of it!

The only downside to camping in a tent is the weather.  For a while in the summer, it just got unbearably hot and too uncomfortable to sleep well.  Then there are also the lightening storms.  You do not want to be in a tent with metal poles in a lightening storm.  In the winter, the opposite problem creeps up and it was sometimes way too cold for the camping gear we owned.  We’d go camping as often as we could, but sometimes the weather would force us to cancel some trips.  For many years we’ve looked forward to getting an RV with heat & A/C so we could go camping year-round.  We finally did it! 

We ended up getting a Jayco x213 model.  It has a rear slide for the master bed at one end and bunk beds at the opposite end.  When the slide is out, it really opens up the space and gives us plenty of room.  It’s really a great layout for our little family!  We will use the top bunk area for storage, while Emily gets her own bottom bunk.  She can even fold up her bed and have a good size play area.  She and Hubby are in the process of painting her space now to make it more her style.

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We have a dinette area and a comfy sofa for hanging out

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We did replace the master mattress with a better memory foam one – it is OH SO COMFY!  The space for the mattress is for a King, but we bought a Queen size for our replacement since that’s what we are used to at home anyway, and this gives us room to add more storage.  I love the windows by our bed, too!

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Emily has a twin size bunk bed with a big shelf for her belongings.  She even has her own door to the outside! We’ll be hanging up some more storage for her and she’ll also keep some boxes of toys & books under her bed.  She’s being silly in this picture and it makes it look like she’s crowded up there, but she really has plenty of room – her bed is the same size as the one in our house that she sleeps on.

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When she wants more space inside she can fold up the bed and spread out her toys or crafts.  She’ll even have a folding chair and we’ll have a folding table she can use under there too.  We will be lining the floor with foam mats to make it more comfy and colorful under there.  Right now, she and her Daddy are in the process of painting the underside fun Hello Kitty colors!  I’ll show more pictures when everything is done.

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So why live in it full time? 

Well, why not?  People do this all the time.  There are especially many homeschooling families that travel around living in an RV.  Many with WAY more kids than we have.  I’ve even read about a family with 12 kids living in an RV!  Wow!  Of course, their RV is much bigger than ours, but then again we only have one child.

We did some thinking and realized that we can live in the camper full time at a local RV campground and actually save a lot of money monthly compared to rent or living on post!  We have an old student loan debt that we are determined to get rid of and this will make it happen really soon!  We know it will be an adventure and we’ll have some challenges, but we are used to taking on crazy challenges in this family so we are looking forward to it.  We love family time and getting outside together so that will be easy.  We’ll also be able to just load up our home on the weekends and go visit places that we want to see while we are living in this area.  We have a big list of places we want to visit while we live in the Maryland/DC area!  The next time we move with the Army (which might be later this year), it will be so easy!

We’re planning to sell/donate a lot of stuff that we don’t really need.  Turns out, there’s a lot of stuff we don’t need around here.  Then, we’ll put the rest of it in storage for later.  Hubby will be giving up his woodworking for a while, but he’s spending his extra time on school anyway so he says he’s ok with it.  I’ll have to simplify my sewing hobby a bit, but I am taking it with me and will be like the many ladies out there that sew while living in an RV full time!  Emily will have homeschool and her favorite things – Beanie Babies, arts & crafts, and reading.  Right now she’s really into making things with polymer clay so she’ll be able to do that easily in the RV.

And a BONUS – it will shorten Rob’s commute to work, and we’ll be closer to our favorite grocery store and library! Yay!

 

Will it be hard?

Honestly, we think it will be way more fun than it will be challenging.  We are all really looking forward to living simply for a while and cutting back on the “stuff”.  Rob and I have a goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail together once he retires, so we figure if we can spend 6 months in the woods with only a backpack full for each of us, surely this will be a piece of cake!

Privacy will be the biggest challenge because our bedrooms have curtains and not doors, but we are all committed to making it work and we’ll get creative.  Our plan is to work hard to save money and once we knock the debt out, we will upgrade to a 5th wheel model with more room and a separate bedroom (with a door!) for Emily.

 

I hope you’ll follow along on our latest adventure with us.  I’ll give a more complete tour of the RV once we have it all set up and ready to go.  We look forward to seeing how God grows and uses our family through this. 

Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

The word “abundant” means plentiful, generous, ample, even rich and lavish.  Christ wants us to have an abundant life, but that doesn’t mean more stuff.  That means finding the real JOY in life – in Jesus Christ and in each other.  It’s going to be a great journey!

You are more valuable than the birds

As I sit here this morning having my quiet time, I keep looking out our large front window.  My view is filled with white as we have snow still covering most of the area after the blizzard this past weekend, but in front of the white background I keep seeing little brown birds fluttering around as they search for food.  We have a few patches of grass starting to show through and the birds keep congregating there as they hop around looking for a meal.  As I watch these little birds land on the tree in front of our window and pick at the little berries, I am in awe at how the Lord takes care of us.  If he will provide food and shelter for these little birds, then we can trust him to provide what we need as well. 

 

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Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:26-27, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable that they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

 

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We must put our trust in the One who can provide for our needs.  So often we collect or hold on to “stuff” in an effort to feel secure.  We buy or hold on to way more than we need “just in case” we need it.   Instead, our security should be found in Christ alone.   He loves you dearly, and will provide for your every need, just as he provides for each little bird.   Even in the middle of a storm, he is holding on to you and if you seek him, you will see his great love for you.

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Blizzard 2016

Our family has now been stationed in Maryland for a couple of months, and we’ve just experienced our first blizzard!  We just spent the last few days snowed in due to the Big Blizzard of 2016 that just swept through this area dropping over 29” of snow and resulting in snow drifts and piles that measure much higher.  This is our first experience with such a large amount of snow.  We’re from Texas, where we might get an inch or two on occasion, but even then it normally turns to icy mush pretty quickly.  This time we actually had to buy a snow shovel and clear out our driveway several times.  That snow is heavier than it looks! 

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In our backyard, the wind created a huge snow drift that was easily 3 feet tall.  Even now, there is still a good 2 feet of snow covering the majority of our yard.  (That ruler leaning against the door is 18”)

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Our poor little Texas Truck got her bed completely filled with snow!

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We had some fun outside, but spent most of our time inside where it was warm. 

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We’ve really enjoyed all the extra family time together as we played games, watched Dallas Stars hockey & Mythbusters, and did a little early Spring cleaning.  Unfortunately, Hubby had to go back to work today so our mini-vacation is over.  We’ll still have snow around for quite a while I think, but I’m ready to see it melting so I can look forward to flip-flop weather!

I met a man named George

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Today I met a man named George. I was out running a couple of errands and saw him when I stopped at a red light. He was holding a sign that said, “Homeless. Please pray for me.” I pulled out some money to give him as I do when I feel the Holy Spirit’s nudging like that, but when I handed it to him there was something different in his eyes. He smiled and thanked me as most usually do, but then he said something else that got my attention. He said he knew God would provide. He told me his name and asked me to pray for him and when I told him mine he said he would pray for me. I promised him I would pray for him. I did, and will continue to.

As I drove away, my eyes were filled with tears and I just felt like I needed to do more for George. My heart was humbled as I thought about the joy that was showing through his eyes even in the middle of his circumstances. Here is a man living on the street with nothing but a backpack and he’s going to pray for ME? This isn’t the first time I’ve been awestruck by someone who, by worldly standards, has nothing yet they are obviously filled with the Spirit and therefore have everything. Without a doubt, I know that it is not our worldly possessions that bring great rewards in Heaven.

My Hubby and I have talked about evangelism lately and this meeting today had me thinking – why is it so hard for those of us living a comfortable, Christian lifestyle to talk to others about Jesus? We get so wrapped up in what people will think or what it might cost us that we don’t often enough talk about all that God has done in our lives. Why can someone who seems to have nothing, see so much more clearly all that God has done for them – and be so willing to share that with anyone who will listen? George had my attention for probably less than a minute at the red light, but he didn’t let that moment pass without sharing his trust in God.

God’s word tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Even if you don’t sew, I’m sure you know how tiny the eye of a needle is compared to how enormous a camel is. I don’t want to be that rich man (woman) that cares more about clinging to what I have than about helping those in need.

As I turned the corner at the next light, I knew what I had to do. I stopped by a bookstore and bought George a Bible. Emily picked out a “31 Days of Prayer” book for him too. We grabbed a bottle of water and headed back to George. This time we pulled in and parked so we could walk over and chat with him. Emily gave him the bag of chips I had bought her at our last errand, along with the water. I asked him if he had a copy of the Bible with him and he said he did not. So I gave him the Bible with the “To/From” page in the front filled in. We chatted for a few minutes and he said he had been out on the streets for a few weeks. He said he had made some mistakes in his life and was dealing with some of the consequences. I didn’t ask what he had done because it didn’t matter. We’ve all made mistakes. Then he said, “I know that God will provide what I need. I just have to have patience. I hope…no, I KNOW, that he hasn’t forgotten about me.”

It was all I could do to keep my tears in my eyes until after I left him. I told him that God had most definitely not forgotten about him and that He will provide for him. We talked about how even in our hardest circumstances, God is there with us. He said he was just trusting that God would send someone along to give him some work. He had been to the shelter here, but said it’s always full.

I wish I could have just taken him home with me. In the end, we left him with a hug and a promise to pray for him. I know he has enough money for food, and I do know that God will provide for him, but I still wish I could do more.

As we pulled away, he was looking through his new Bible. I prayed that God would allow him to understand everything he reads. I don’t know how much experience he has with it, and I know some of it can be confusing, but I know that God can allow those words to penetrate his soul and that he will understand what he needs to. I was hoping he wouldn’t just start with Leviticus and get frustrated or confused. After I got home I decided the next time an opportunity like this comes up, I will give out The Jesus Storybook Bible instead. It’s sold as a children’s Bible but it is the best one I have ever read and is written in such a way that is perfect for adults as well. It tells some of the most commonly known stories from the Old and New Testament, and then explains how every single story points to JESUS.

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Just when you think you are blessing someone else in need, he uses that situation to bless us in return. I hope to see George again, and I hope that I never forget him as I strive to live the life I’ve been given and as I look for ways to let Jesus’ light shine through me to others. Jesus tells us over and over (and over and over) again in His Word to help the poor and the needy. This needs to be more than an occasional handout. It needs to be our lifestyle as followers of Christ.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that what we do for others we do for him. That should motivate us to do more. I pray that I see clearly the opportunities that God puts in front of me and that I am obedient to act.  Let us all look for those opportunities to spread the love of Christ.  To HIM be the glory!

Don’t give God yesterday’s goat

The title will make sense in a moment, just hang with me!

This morning our Mother-Daughter devotional was from the book of Malachi and talked about tithing.  I know, most people don’t look forward to “The Tithe Talk” at church because they often feel like the church is just asking for their money. So many people are struggling to make ends meet or are living paycheck to paycheck so one more place asking for their money tends to put people off.

Let me encourage you to hear me out from a different perspective.

I mentioned yesterday how the Lord took my husband and me through a season of learning and some very difficult financial times early in our marriage. Oddly enough, it was during this season….during our hardest financial times…that my husband and I first began to tithe with any sort of real commitment. It was during this time that we learned what it truly means to depend completely on the Lord as our Provider.   Another name for God is Jehovah-Jireh, which means “The Lord will provide”.

God tells us in His word to tithe, which means to give 10% of what you earn back to His kingdom. The word “tithe” literally means 10%, but of course that is the minimum, not the maximum that God wants us to give. He tells us to do this FIRST, not last. BEFORE you pay bills or buy anything for yourself.

He wants our BEST. Not our leftovers. Years ago in a Sunday School class we were discussing this and talking about how bakeries often sell “yesterday’s bread” at a discount. Sometimes it’s still ok, but often it’s old & stale.  Nothing compared to fresh, out of the oven bread.  God asked them to give 10% of their firstfruits – the best of the best. He didn’t want them to give “yesterday’s goat” – their sick, injured, or leftover animals.  We even had t-shirts made up to remind us of this.  They were great conversation starters too!  The “29:11” in the picture refers to Jer 29:11, and was the name of our class at the time. 

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I’m sure many of you are asking, “How can I do that when I don’t even have enough money to pay my bills?”, and I understand. I was there.  Or maybe you are thinking you can’t possibly tithe the whole 10% because you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.   I hear you, I really do.  I say you CAN do this.  You can’t do it by relying on your own strength or ability.  The ONLY way you do this is to TRUST HIM completely. He will provide for you.

In fact, this is the only place in the Bible where God tells us to test him!

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  Malachi 3:10

So, we tested him in this, and you know what we found? God wasn’t kidding!! He threw open the floodgates of heaven and blessed us abundantly! Every time we gave our tithe – and many times I cried as I gave because I was afraid and relying on my own ability to provide – He showed us that He had it covered! So, so many times when I wrote out our budget on paper there wasn’t enough to pay everything. But EVERY SINGLE TIME we were obedient and gave our tithe to the Lord, he blessed us!

It’s not always easy. One of the lines in the song that I mentioned yesterday says, “though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name”. There were many days that there was a lot of pain in my offering. I wanted to be a cheerful giver, but I would cry wondering if I was giving the money to the church, or to God instead of the electric company or instead of providing food for my baby.

Not ONCE in many, many months did we ever end up missing the money we gave as tithe. A surprise check would come in the mail, bills would be less than expected, someone would give us some food…..so many examples of the Lord using other people to provide for our needs.

Notice I said he provided for our needs, not all of our wants. We did without some things, embraced Ramen noodles and found free sources of entertainment.  But we never went hungry, without clothes, or without shelter. We also did not use any debt or government assistance during this time. Credit cards aren’t your savior – Jesus is! It was all God!! He alone provided 100% of our needs.

If you are in a season of financial difficulty, or even if you aren’t – I encourage you to test God in this! Start tithing faithfully, and see what happens! Do it first, at the beginning of the month, before you start paying the bills. Then watch and see what the Lord does for you during that month!  Give Him a chance!

Read Matthew 6 today – the whole chapter. It’s no coincidence that the chapter starts off by talking about taking care of the poor & needy, prayer & fasting, and then finishes with God’s promise to always take care of us. When we are faithful to give to others, God provides for us. When we trust God to provide for our needs, we allow Him to work through others that are able to be obedient in their giving. Each time someone gave us money they were doing so out of obedience to the Lord. He wants us to take care of each other but we have to give him the opportunity to work like that.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6: 25-34)

The greatest parenting book ever

The sheep aren’t in charge – the shepherd is.

This morning in our Mom-Daughter Devo we talked about Saul.  Saul did not obey God, so God took the kingdom if Israel away from him.  In fact, the words the Lord gave to Samuel for Saul in verse 28 say “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else – one who is better than you.

Ouch.

If something that is precious to you gets taken away, that is painful enough, but the Lord didn’t stop there.  He gave it to “one who is better than you”.

My daughter and I talked about her stuffed animal collection and how that would feel if I took them all away.  We also talked about how it would feel if I took them all away and gave them to someone else.  How much more would it sting if I said I was giving them to someone better than her?

We also talked about how this parenting idea of taking things away as a consequence for misbehavior is not a new idea.  God’s been doing it for thousands of years and He is the ultimate example of a parent for us to follow!  See, I’m not the only parent who does this!

But doesn’t God love each of us the same?  How can one person be better than someone else?  Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to love everyone equally?

Yes, God does love us all the same.  However, He was taking the kingdom away from Saul to give it to someone who would take better care of it than he did. Someone who would listen and obey God. God wasn’t rejecting Saul – he could still ask for forgiveness and restore his relationship with God.  It was, however, too late to get his kingdom back.  God is a God of second (and third, and fourth….) chances, but Saul’s heart was hardened and it was time for God to take big action.

Emily said it’s just like if someone hired someone to do a job for them and they didn’t do it well.  They would get fired and the person would hire someone else.  YES! I told her she was exactly right and that happens all the time!  That’s why we work to teach her to have a good work ethic now.

This story makes me think of my own parenting and how sometimes we have to give big consequences to teach a big lesson.  It’s better for me to take away a couple of my daughter’s toys to teach her that she must take care of her things, rather than wait and let her learn that lesson when she doesn’t take care of her car, or her house.  Better to learn the lesson early when the cost is less.  Of course, we are human, so some lessons we have to learn over and over again as we grow.

I also think of the lessons God has taught my husband and me.  Very early in our marriage, we went through a very difficult financial season.  For a while, we both had great jobs and had great salaries.  We also had the wrong attitude about it all.  We acted like we deserved it all, we made some poor choices in how we spent it, and we failed to stop and remember where it came from in the first place and Who it truly belonged to.  We failed to thank the ONE who supplied our money and instead we just valued the money.

Then, we hit some major medical issues and bills came that we couldn’t pay.

Thankfully, the Lord used this to take us through a season of learning.  I can say “thankfully” because even though some of it was incredibly painful, it also opened our eyes to a new way of living – a much better way of living – that wasn’t dependent on money, but rather on HIM.  We lost a lot.  A lot.  A house, a car, and a lifestyle.  But we gained even more.  For months when we were out of work with absolutely no income, the Lord supplied for our every need through amazing ways and incredible people.  We did not go into debt, and we were never homeless.

There are SO VERY MANY stories within that season that I could tell about God’s greatness, but I’ll save those for another time.

 

This story reminds me of one of our favorite songs, “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Let me share the lyrics with you. This song has spoken to my heart through many seasons of my life.

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

CHORUS:

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

(CHORUS)

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

 

No matter what our circumstances may be, it is our choice to bless the Lord and to praise His name.  Will you choose to praise Him no matter what you are going through today?  Will you look for the lesson He is trying to teach you?  Will you see the rose in the thorns?

 

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Choosing Thankfulness

This morning I ran to the grocery store for a few things just because the forecast says the roads might be icy on Wednesday so I wanted to be prepared in case I didn’t want to get out, but still wanted to cook meals.   As I was leaving the store, it was pouring down rain.

Cold, hard rain.

Honestly, my first thought was “Oh great, I’m going to get wet with cold rain and all my bags will get wet!”.

Thankfully, it only took seconds for the Holy Spirit to fill my mind with new thoughts, and I stepped outside talking to God as I went and CHOOSING to be thankful.   I say choosing, because it’s not always a feeling, but we have to make that choice to look for the good.  Much like LOVE – we have to choose to love, even when we don’t feel like it.

“Rejoice always,pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Give thanks in ALL circumstances, it says.  You might not feel like giving thanks FOR all of your circumstances, but no matter what we all have something we can be thankful for.  Most of us have many somethings we can be thankful for.

I didn’t even run to the car.  I chose to walk.  After all, it’s just water.  Sure I got wet and cold, but it was temporary.  Today, as I walked to the car in the rain, I thought about all I had to be thankful for:

 

* The rain.  The ground, plant & animals all need it.  I thought about how many people in parts of the world would be celebrating for rain like this.

* The food that I just purchased.  Fruits & veggies.  Meat.  Healthy, nutritious food that I was able to pick out myself.  I don’t have to worry where my next meal will come from….or my next several meals.  To be honest, I’m not even worried about whether or not I will eat next week.

* The fact that 2 days before payday, I had money to buy food.

* My truck.  I didn’t have to walk to the store, but instead, I could get in the truck and turn on the heat as I drove home.

* My husband’s sweatshirt I was wearing – keeps me warm and reminds me of his love.

* The friends I have at PWOC (Bible Study group for military women/wives) – where I am taking part of this food tomorrow, and the fact that we can not only gather publically to worship God and learn about Him, but we can also post it on Facebook and invite people to come.

 

So much to be thankful for!  I hope you all will join me this year in trying to CHOOSE thankfulness, even when it’s not our first feeling.  Looking at this list, I realize I am RICH beyond measure – maybe not by society’s standards, but I’m ok with that.

Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America are “food insecure”?  That means they don’t know where their next meal will come from.  In North Carolina, it’s 1 in 4 children.   I just read that a couple days ago and I can’t get it out of my head.  I’m not supposed to.  I’m supposed to do something to help.

Do something this week for “the least of these”.  Donate goods, time, or food to those in need.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.