H ... L i B r A r Y ... H
(Below is a book review I wrote for our state's homeschool magazine some time ago. I found it today and thought that some of you might be looking for a fun devotional book to use with your children, so I decided to post it. Enjoy!)
365 Days of Celebration & Praise -
Daily Devotions & Activities for Homeschooling Families
By Julie Lavender
Leave it to a homeschool mom to find a way to highlight the beauty of each day in such a unique way that it provides her family with a daily devotional that incorporates fun educational activities, prayers, scripture memory, discussion questions, crafts, games, cooking and singing - all together in one book.
While tapping into the well-traveled tributary of family devotional books, Julie Lavender has carved out an unparalleled niche with her latest book, 365 Days Of Celebration & Praise – Daily Devotions & Activities for Homeschooling Families. Her fresh approach creatively combines the celebration of each day’s holiday to a Biblical example. For instance, how many of you knew that February 15 was Ferris Wheel Day? George Washington Ferris invented the Ferris wheel and we honor him by celebrating his birthday as a holiday. Now see if you can guess what Biblical example is associated with this holiday. Well, if you guessed the story of Joshua and the children of Israel circling around and around the walls of Jericho you’d be correct. This is just one example. There are 364 more for you to read about in this enlightening resource.
Devotionals are designed to give you something to meditate on throughout the day. This book does that by first, piquing the reader’s interest with a holiday to celebrate. Did you ever stop to think about the fact that every single day, somewhere on this planet, some people group is celebrating something? In fact, there are more official holidays than there are calendar dates to fit them into. Because of this, many holidays must share their date with another. Every day that God blesses us with is worth celebrating, and this book highlights that by singling out 365 official holidays and framing each one to fit around your homeschooling day.
Of course, I must admit, upon receiving this book I didn’t immediately turn to today’s date, nor did I turn to the first entry in the book. That’s too predictable, and this homeschool mom has gotten rather attached to thinking “outside the box” with everything I read now. So naturally, the first day I turned to was my birthday. Unlike G. W. Ferris with his invention of the Ferris wheel, I didn’t find my name at the top of the page in bold. (If only I could invent & patent a secret breakfast shake; one that makes children wake up every school day morning, motivated to learn with the enthusiasm of going to a theme park. I could have a holiday named after me!) I was however, delighted to discover that my birthday is part of National Picnic Month; and relieved that it didn’t read National Save The Camel Cricket Day! I do love a good picnic – minus the bugs of course – and will have my picnic basket packed and ready for next year’s celebration. Ms. Lavender very creatively connects National Picnic Month with the story of Jesus feeding the multitude, as she questions if you’ve ever attended a picnic with 4,000 people. Included are tantalizing ideas for you to incorporate this holiday into your day.
Throughout the book Biblical examples are accompanied by ideas listed under the following five categories: Questions to Discuss, Related Activity, Curriculum Connection, Verse to Memorize, and Prayer Suggestion. You have the option of skimming the surface or digging deeper with this well-organized, simple approach to devotions.
I whole-heartedly recommend this resource to parents of young children. The simple format accommodates everything from a short attention span to the child who loves to research and dig up all the facts that surround the celebration. I have to admit though; the child in me has certainly enjoyed pulling this book off the shelf in search of discovering what special celebration each day holds. “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
365 Days of Celebration & Praise, by Julie Lavender, is available at your local Christian and secular bookstores, and online. H
Dangling With Delight
“Higher, higher! Push me higher Daddy!” Our nine-year-old daughter, Jennifer, didn’t even try to suppress her delight as she soared to the sky on the first ride of her new tree swing. Her father instructed her to straddle the rope as he lifted her up on the board. She bounced around with such enthusiasm as her feet dangled between the swing and the ground. The anticipation of Daddy’s first push sent sounds of giddy laughter echoing through the woods, serving as full compensation for his constructive effort.
This was no wimpy tree swing. Prior to building it my husband assured me that careful consideration was factored into the location of the swing on our property; as well as articulate planning to connect the perfectly sized board to the chosen tree limb with a rope that came with a guaranteed 500 pound weight limit (something our son didn't hesitate to mention (“It’ll hold you!”) when he invited the neighbor lady over for a ride).
Now when my husband build’s something, you can count on two things: 1) It’s going to be secure; and 2) It will outlast any preceding model. For this swing it was important that a rider choosing to mount and careen over the embankment do so completely secure in their method of transportation. A thrill ride without the theme park, this swing has the look and feel of something you might read about in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Twelve years later, our swing continues to thrill each rider, especially those brave enough to attempt it in the dark.
When I reminisce about Jennifer’s first tree swing ride, I am reminded of what the Bible says in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O God.” Many times I’ve found my heart checking itself in an effort to answer the question: Do I delight in doing the will of my Father? Do my feet dangle in anticipation when I’m between the call and the commission? How does one delight during limbo season?
Homeschooling presented these questions each time we transitioned from one grade to the next. We felt the conviction to continue and knew it was God’s direction for our family. But, just about the time I thought I’d gained enough experience to secure my feet to the ground, another year would arrive, the weathered rope shrank, and I’d find myself dangling between conviction and insecurity, desperately crying out for direction.
Anticipation sometimes couples itself with anxiety when we realize that we have no control over the direction of the swing. During that time the adventure can prove itself to be a daunting task that agitates that feeling of limbo as we wait for someone to come along and push us in the right direction. One day I realized that delighting in this stage of the process was something the Lord was trying to teach me, and my evasive approach had to go. I needed that between-grade-limbo time to seek my Father's direction and put my trust in His ability to equip me for the ride.
Dangling with delight is an acquired skill. Mastering it is essential in maintaining a good attitude. Delighting yourself in the Lord and trusting His plan for your homeschool is the rope that secures you to the branch. Jennifer was able to find joy in those moments of dangling before her ride because she delighted and trusted in the security of her father and his ability to equip her with a dependable swing.
Consider what Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” Have you ever jumped on a tree swing, knowing exactly where you wanted to go, and instead of moving forward you found yourself spinning around and around? Well, that’s exactly what happens when we panic and try to control the direction of our homeschool without taking the time to wait on our Father to get behind us and push us in the right direction. Listen for the word behind you.
Your Heavenly Father knows exactly how much pressure you’re under as you attempt to juggle all your responsibilities and provide academic instruction for your children. He knows how unsure your footing feels as you wade through piles of curriculum choices. He knows that without Divine aim and a gentle push in the right direction you’ll be just as confused about Algebra as you were when you wondered how a worm can eat without a head.
Your fellow homeschooler may test earlier, start school earlier, advance earlier, promote earlier, and even graduate earlier. Remind yourself that jumping on her moving swing, in an effort to avoid dangling on your own, will only produce frustration and anxiety. Before you know it comparisons will outweigh any presupposed benefits of trying to catch a ride. Besides, have you forgotten that every swing has its weight limit?
There’s something to be said for waiting on the Lord and seeking His counsel. Take advantage of the limbo season and don’t be so quick to move forward in your own strength. Isaiah 58:14 says, “…delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…”
The dangling process is essential for success. By taking the time to delight in your Father, and seek His plan, you may just find yourself out on a limb crying out, “Higher Daddy! Push me higher!”
© 2006 Lorie Codispoti H
© 2009 Lorie Codispoti
“So, where are you going on vacation this summer?” the store clerk asked me. I barely had time to think of a response before she added, “We’re leaving for the beach tomorrow.” Her entire persona emulated that of a child as I watched her fingers dance in succession with her chipper voice over the cash register keys.
I thought about this encounter as I made the 30-minute drive home from town. Where were we going on vacation? Do I even know what a vacation is anymore? We haven’t been on anything that even resembles our culture’s idea of a vacation in three years. In fact, in our entire married life we’ve only been on a real vacation, two times. Why, when I think about it, our honeymoon only included one moon with my honey, and by today’s standards probably doesn’t even qualify as a real honeymoon. Can you see where this Poor-Pitiful-Me train was taking me? Suddenly I was feeling deprived. As I drove up the driveway I saw a squirrel sitting on the fence and thought, “He has more of a vacation than I do. He builds a nest in my tree one year and then takes his family next door to enjoy the scenery and nuts from another tree the next. They go on the equivalent of a cross-country adventure every year.”
Wait a minute! I realized that I was playing another semantical mind game with myself, and allowing our culture’s influence to play with my psyche. So I came inside and started to remind myself of all the fun our family has had over the years staycationing (the frugal way of having a vacation while staying at home).
While our present economic condition may be fueling the idea for families to capitalize on nearby attractions, and a staycation being one of the newest entries in our cultural dictionary, this portmanteau is far from being a new concept.
For over 20 years our family’s vacations have consisted primarily of local attractions and places we could fit into a day-trip. I can’t tell you how many times “camping” meant setting up the tent on the back deck, or, if it was raining, moving all the furniture in the den, setting up the tent, and filling it with sleeping bags and bodies. These were great times for laughing, story telling, and dreaming out loud. Sure, we probably would have jumped on the vacation jet and traveled the world over if our one-income piggy bank would have been a little larger, but rather than fretting over the fact that it wasn’t we focused on our local resources and discovered the joys of staycationing.
So the next time someone asks you where you plan to take your family on vacation, smile and tell them that you have some of the greatest adventures planned, and that they all start right in your own backyard. Who was it that thought that the nuts tasted better in the neighbors yard anyway? It’s an oak tree, for crying out loud, and my neighbor is an avid squirrel hunter.
Now who wants to staycation with me?
(Consider some of the local ideas we’ve listed for you in Staycation Ideas for the Danville Area below, as you think about what to do with the rest of your summer. Sometimes there really is “no place like home.”) H
H FoYeR H
Jesus Said Come
Someone sent me an email that included the story about Peter walking on the water. My first thought was, “Now there’s a story I know well enough not to have to go and reread.” Well, immediately I heard a familiar voice whisper in my spirit, “You don’t know everything you think you know about that story. Go and read it again.”
(I love digging for treasure and the greatest Treasure of all is the Word of God. My soul delights when I hear, “Dig a little deeper Lorie! There’s something I want to show you, and you won't find it when all you're doing is browsing the Word for the day's fix.”)
Here is what I discovered...
22Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said* to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”
Examine closely the words of Jesus...
"it is I"
"do not be afraid"
"you of little faith"
"why did you doubt"
What is the Lord saying to Peter, and how does it apply to us?
First, he tells him to "take courage." Jesus must have known that Peter was going to need something beyond his own ability to manufacture. Peter needed to receive courage - supernatural, Holy Spirit courage to enable him to take the next step. Jesus knew that Peter needed this courage way before Peter even had a clue of his need. So He told Peter to TAKE it. He was offering courage and Peter needed to take it.
If I put myself in Peter's shoes, in that moment, I think my thoughts might have been, "Yeah, uh huh... 'courage'? Okay, got it! What's next, Lord?" My fixation on the excitement of the moment would cause me to overlook the very thing I need to do... "take courage."
(Hint: If Jesus tells you to "take courage" realize that it's not for the moment you are in, but for the next one.)
I find the next part of the story very interesting...
Jesus identified Himself, in person, with His own voice, "It is I." Yet, Peter wasn't absolutely sure, so he asked Jesus if it was truly Him. This part is mind boggling. I mean, the King of the universe is talking to Peter. He knows that voice. Didn't he recognize it? Peter spent days, months, and years listening to every word Jesus spoke. Why was he asking Jesus if it was truly him? I know there are times when I am so overwhelmed by my circumstance that it affects my ability to discern the voice I'm hearing. The noise of the storm seems to drown out everything familiar to me. Maybe that's what happened to Peter.
Next, Jesus tells Peter, "Do not be afraid." Jesus knew that fear would attack, and it did. He knew it, yet he told him to "come" anyway. Why? Peter needed to know that fear would attack. We need to know that fear will attack, but what we really need to know is that the power Christ has is greater than any fear. God allows fear to attack, partly so that we will see our need, and partly for us to witness the greatness of God's power to prove Himself "mighty in the midst" of every storm. When we realize that, we see fear destroyed and put in it's place, and Christ elevated and residing on the throne of our heart.
I find it interesting that...
It is only after He offers courage, identifies Himself as the enabler, and commands us not to fear, that He bids us "come." Isn't that awesome? Jesus knew that Peter, even then, wouldn't be able to keep his eyes fixed on the Lord and stand above the water. But, that didn't stop Him from calling Peter to come. His power is available, even when we take our eyes off of Him and fall. Peter cried out for the Lord to "save me" and Jesus did just that.
So, today, whatever your circumstance...
Know that it's Jesus who calls you to step out and come.
Don't let fear hinder your obedience.
Realize that even a lack of faith and overwhelming doubt won't stop Him from saving you when cry out to Him.
His love covers a multitude of sin. His love is strong enough to call us, save us, and restore us to Himself. What a great and awesome God we serve. We can step out, knowing that even when fear, doubt and unbelief rear their ugly heads they are no match for a sovereign God who loves His children and will be there to save us. H
H PrAyEr ClOsEt H
In the morning we put our day in the Lord's hands. We make our plans and begin. As the day progresses though, unexpected interruptions seem to sneak in and steal away our time. Before we know it the day is spent and our investment does little for the emotional savings account.
Plans changed (without our permission) and what we are left with are broken fragments of our day. We pray, "Lord, I had hoped to accomplish so much more today. All I have to offer You are the broken pieces and leftover fragments of what might have been."
Read what Jesus did with a few fragments.
"So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments.
It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord takes the broken pieces, which He, by the way, breaks, and somehow manages to make something out of them. Nothing is lost; no amount is wasted. In fact, there are leftovers from the leftovers. (How miraculous is that?) Discouragement flees as He gathers the broken pieces of our day (or our life) and makes them into something that will glorify Him. Only a Mighty God can do that.
I encourage you to offer the fragments of your day to Him. Then watch as He creates more out of it than your plan, perfectly executed, ever could.
Lord, "I surrender all to thee, my blessed Savior. I surrender all."
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?
~ George Eliot ~
Well, I had mentioned, in a previous post, that I would put together a list of things that would assist you in creating a romantic getaway... right in your own bedroom! Well, here goes...
A woman might describe her perfect idea of a romantic rendezvous starting out something like this... My knight-in-shining-armor arranged for the children to spend the night at their grandparents, and for me to take them there while he prepared a surprise gourmet meal (frozen dinners have to count here). I arrived home to find a crayon and play-dough stained dining room tabled covered in a beautiful linen table cloth and set with our wedding china. He lit the candle and escorted me to my chair. He then escaped to the kitchen and returned with my plate filled and being carried on a lovely serving tray. We sat close together, enjoying leisurely conversation, laughing, and eating a hot meal with no interruptions.
After dinner he held my hand and we walked to the bedroom together. To my surprise I found a lovely rose and a box of delicious chocolates laying on our bed. He waltzed me across the floor to the wonderful sound of soft, instrumental music. Into the flickering candle lit bathroom he led me, where a tub filled with hot water and cascading bubbles was calling my name.
I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. - Song of Solomon 7:10
(Don't worry! I'm going to stop here. I'm sure you can put the rest of the story together. ;-) )
How does that sound? Romantic? Well, I think it does.
So what about your bedroom? And what about the part you play in creating an inviting atmosphere? Does it have the look and feel of a romantic escape, or does it look more like a multi-purpose room (computer room, TV room, exercise room, nursery and bedroom)? While I know what it's like to have limited space, and how important it is to make every space in your home functional, this is one place I would suggest you never compromise on. Whether large or small, your bedroom should be an inviting place of quiet, rest, and romance for you and your husband.
I will only choose to think of he that loves, cares for, and craves me. - Alyssa Anne Vitry
Here are a few ideas for you to consider as you focus your efforts to create a romantic bedroom getaway...
Start at the beginning of the day. For a woman, romance begins with that goodbye kiss in the morning, and is fed throughout the day with words, a tone of voice, etc. Communication feeds romance. Romance doesn't just happen on it's own. It needs help. Attention to the details will go a long way to spark the romantic flame in both you and your husband.
The anticipation of touch is one of the most potent sensations on earth. -- Richard J. Finch
One of the things I've always enjoyed doing is writing little notes and tucking them into places for my husband to discover throughout his day. It keeps me on his mind and gives him little surprises. Sometimes they are scripture verses that I want him to know I am praying for him. Other times they are romantic quotes. And sometimes, they consist of one word... a word that would mean nothing to others, but to us it communicates that I'm looking forward to seeing him at the end of the day.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls. -- John Donne
Get rid of the multi-purpose room. In the same way that waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes can make you feel like your day is loaded before it even starts, a bedroom that houses a treadmill will make you feel guilty for skipping those five miles you keep telling yourself you're going to get to "one of these days." A computer in the corner of the room will remind you of the emails you weren't able to get to, and glancing across the room at the TV on your dresser will have you singing the Veggie Tales song that was playing for the kids earlier.
If you want to "be there" emotionally and physically for your husband then I suggest that you begin relocating some of the "stuff" in your bedroom. Or, perhaps this idea... If your bedroom is the best place to house exercise equipment, the computer, or the television, consider moving your bedroom to one of the smaller rooms. Flip it. Take your old master bedroom and repurpose it. Turn it into the multi-purpose room and design a smaller room for your romantic retreat.
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved bring a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring. - Oscar Wilde
Keep the decor simple. Lots of patterns and colors will create a busy atmosphere, not the restful one you're after for a bedroom look. Whether your style is Victorian, modern, old-world European, or shabby chic, you can create a relaxing environment by keeping colors simple, accessories to a minimum, and patterns attractive. Go to the library and browse through some decorating books (or go online) to get ideas. Make a mental note of the ones that make you feel relaxed and then bring the elements you like about it into your bedroom decor.
The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds, and that's what you've given me. That's what I hope to give to you forever. - The Notebook
Keep it clean. No one likes to sleep on sheets that haven't been washed in a while, nor do they like gazing through a window full of fingerprints. Clean bedrooms (and people), that look and smell good have an inviting feel to them.(Try using a subtle smelling, plug in air freshener. I like the "clean linen" scent, and my husband is an anti-perfume man, but this one doesn't give him a headache. It smells, well, CLEAN!)
I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on. - Mr. Darcy
Keep it tidy. Who gets excited about getting up in the middle of the night and tripping over Junior's dump truck, or stepping on Suzie's doll and hearing, "I'm thirsty!" Don't allow yourself to build piles of clutter. Even clean, folded clothes on TOP of your dresser has a messy look. Take the next step and put the clothes in the drawers. Empty overflowing trash cans, and clear the room of clutter.
Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Who likes to go to bed alone? This is a rule that my husband and I made at the beginning of our marriage. We try to always go to bed at the same time. Now, there have been exceptions over the years, but we make it a point to make sure the exception doesn't become the new rule. Having that time together before falling asleep has been a strength in our marriage. We enjoy being together, talking, laughing and closing out our day together in prayer.
I found the one whom my soul loves. - Song of Solomon 3:4
Keep A Journal. Consider an ongoing written dialog. Keep a nice looking journal and pen set in your night stand, some place out of the way, but easy to access. I knew a woman that did this with her daughter when her daughter was a teen and how beautifully it worked to keep them connected and "talking" even when there were tough times. (Only they would write in it and then leave it on the other's pillow in the evenings.) Why not do it with your spouse? No rules. No demands. Just write in it when you feel led. Long letters or short sentences, litte remarks or notes, thanksgivings, etc., comments that will be a blessing to look back on and read (especially during a hard time). It could be things you are thankful for, scriptures prayed for one another, encouragements, questions, anything that works (maybe not to-do lists though - that wouldn't work for us).
This is my beloved and this is my friend. - Song of Solomon 5:16
Don't go to bed exhausted. Sometimes this can't be helped, especially if you have babies and small children. But, if you can order your day in such a way that the children go to bed earlier than you do, then you will find that going to bed, when you're not exhausted, will give you time to relax before falling asleep, and it will make your sleep much more restful.
Candles and soft music are nice for creating a romantic atmosphere. Scented or unscented, a flickering light is very relaxing and soft music will help you leave the cares of the day at the door.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21
Don't talk about weighty things. This is another rule we made for ourselves early on in our marriage. We don't talk about things that get the mind going before falling asleep... money, relational problems (with each other, in-laws or friends), discipline issues with the kids, home improvement needs, etc. Don't bring up subjects that will hinder a good night's sleep. Save those things for another time.
I've looked around enough to know that you're the one I want to go through time with. -- Jim Croce
In our culture, romance is a term used to imply love relationships. But, historically the term "romance" implied more of a state of mind, an "expression of the soul." We also know that biblically, the soul is the mind, will, and emotions, right? So when you think of the word "romance" think of it both in the old world sense of a state of mind, and the love relationship you have with your husband. Putting the two together will help you to prepare your bedroom for both.
Here's a beautifully romantic song that I love .....
I Will be Here (sung by Gary Valenciano)
Heaven is the beginning of an adventure in intimacy, "a world of love," as Jonathan Edwards wrote, "where God is the fountain." The Holy Spirit, through the human authors of Scripture, chose the imagery of a wedding feast for a reason. It's not just any kind of party; its a wedding feast. What sets this special feast apart from all others is the unique intimacy of the wedding night. The Spirit uses the most secret and tender experience on earth- the union of husband and wife- to convey the depth of intimacy that we will partake with our Lord in heaven. He is the Bridegroom and the church is his bride. There we shall receive our new name, known only to our Lover, which he shall give us on a white stone (Rev. 2:17) --The Sacred Romance
On a side note:
Holidays mean more when you know the origin of what you are celebrating, in my opinion.
(For those of you interested in reading the origin of Valentines Day, here is a great article that you might want to share with your family.… http://www.actsweb.org/daily.php?id=587&tpl=daily_template.htm )
I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. H