When you’re still homesick

I’ve lived in this place now since last June, so I’ve been here a year and a quarter. Though now I’m just beginning to find a sense of belonging, I am still homesick.

When I’m homesick I get a little restless. I wonder if I’ll ever have friends like I did in Atlanta. I wonder if I’ll find camaraderie in a group like I had in Rochester.

And then I look at what the Lord is doing and I’m grateful.

Meanwhile, He’s taken me to a place where we might be the most unchurched in America. I heard this Sunday, that this city has the highest percent of people who followed God and then left. Wow.

We all strive for a feeling of belonging. We want to be known and to know others.

Today I was privileged to have a dear woman share with me her plight with cancer and how delicately and intricately God planned her rescue. A year that felt like one hit after another, lined up opportunities and circumstance that allowed for her care. She was so vulnerable. I cried with her, even if only on the inside. She is amazing. She is stronger. God has a future for her. He’s not done crafting the quilt of her life.

I’m completely taken by this God who cares so deeply and perfectly for our needs.

And I know He sees mine.

So while I spend my days trying to be less selfish and focus on learning about others, I remember my own heart cries out to Abba Father, and says “see my need”.

By the way, this post is not a ding on any of my friends here. You’re doing a fine job. It takes time to build intimacy. And one year doesn’t equal 25 years in another city. I’m not comparing you as friends. I’m considering my own sense of belonging. That’s all. And I figure, since I have lots of friends who are new to this town too, that you can probably relate. So, I send my love to you too! It’s okay to be vulnerable.

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Breakfast Club: Scheduling

We are talking all about scheduling today!

I want you to think about how you’re ordering your days, and the heart of what you’re really trying to accomplish. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 So much of orderliness is actually about energy management. As you think about what you can try improving this month, pick one or two experiments you can try. Really try them! Put the excuses aside.

Do this as homework if you can make the time:

  • What are the signs you have scheduling problems?
  • What excuses do you make? How can you overcome them?
  • What’s your life purpose? The purpose you have for this year? What’s your purpose today? 
  • How are your spending your time? How are you assessing how you did each day, week, month, quarter, year?
  • How do you keep track of things? Time, money, physical objects, obligations, promises?
  • What season of life are you in? There’s absolutely seasonality to our lives. Where are you? A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:8

Here are some experiments you can try to use to improve your life. Pick 1 or 2 and work on those with intense focus this month. Ask God for His help. I really mean it. Set your tasks before God and ask Him about it. My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Proverbs 3:1-2

What I’m about to tell you are things I work on in my own life. Curate your time and your life.

A little pain (hard work) up front pays off in spades! This is going to be hard, because you’re changing a habit. That’s hard! Give yourself more time for whatever experiment you choose.

  1. The busier you are, the more time you should spend praying reflecting and planning. Review your schedule once a week with your significant other, or, if you’re single, with an accountability partner. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
  2. Outsource what you can. Think creatively. Recruit and ask for help. Here are some ideas. Record yourself giving lessons to your children! Use a mother’s helper – they can be as young as 8 years old. Train your helpers with great rewards! They can be a reading buddy, a school buddy, a meal prepper, a cleaner, a gardener, a playmate, and more! The more you have at a time, the better you may be. Think in numbers. Like, 2-3 mother’s helpers at a time is better than 1, because 1 can entertain your kids while the others do other work.
  3. Form right habits. Think of 1-2 bad habits your kids have and work diligently at reversing them. Here are some examples. Have kids make beds before they eat breakfast. Clean up meals before they play, even for 2 year olds! Pray before they whine or complain – I need to do this one! Pack the night before. Even set out the clothes if you can. Wake up earlier if you need to in order to accomplish this important feat.
  4. Do the same things on same days of the week at the same time if you can. Your body your mind your spirit getting accustomed to these things. God honors you when you honor Him. Try preparing a menu for the week, and do it the 2nd week as well! See if that helps you. If it does, do it again with a second set of meals for weeks 3 & 4. Then you’ll have variation for the following month, and you can alternate menus A & B. If you’re family wants more variety, do your meal plan again in week 6. Then rotate menus A, B & C. Get the picture? 
  5. Use shortcuts. Here are some examples: Sometimes use paper plates and have a picnic instead of setting the dinner table. Buy a prepared dinner. Use trader joes to buy frozen veggies sometimes. Have your veggies delivered. Carpool. Trade tasks with friends. Maybe a friend would grocery shop for you while you teach kids or do homework with kids. Maybe a friend would cook once a week for you, if you cook for them once a week. Maybe someone is better at a task you despise. Trade! Look up life hacks. Try them! See what helps.
  6. Measure your time.  Find out where your inefficiencies are and manage them better. Figure out how long things take you and budget your time like you do your money. It’s a resource too. Cull out time-killers and priority-killers and budget in 1 or 2 more replacements. Work hard at this! Notice how it’s impacting your energy. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Luke 14:28 
  7. Keep an energy log. Put your high priority activities in this space in your life. Leave the rest for lower energy times. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
  8. Conjoin activities. Do errands with a friend. It may take 10 minutes longer to drive to each other, but then you get to go on a friend date. Walk or clean or make food, and talk on the phone. Work out together. Pray together. Do your Bible study together. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom Psalm 90:12
  9. Have no make up days.
  10. Batch process – do the essentials, but do them bigger. Like pack lunches in bulk. Cook in bulk. Shop in bulk. Season and marinate before you freeze.
  11. Here are some you all thought of: write down your successes each night. Write down your successes. Make a hit list for the day and do those 2-3 must-do’s. Find an accountability partner.

Okay, here are a few book recommendations. If you don’t have time to read these, listen to them in the car or the shower, or in the bathroom… wherever! But don’t be someone who never really tries to change! Force your habits to bend for the better. We’re never really stagnant. We’re always moving forward or backward in life.

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (this is life changing!)
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
  • Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald
  • The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz
  • Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss (maybe my least favorite, but still good… it’s just that the others really are so good!

Finally, just know that you are worth it! Your children are worth it! You will change your life, and their lives by doing your best. And go into the day, knowing you do your best already!! I know you do! “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah” Psalm 39:4-5

Love!!,

Robyn

 

Sensory Games

Sensory Games

GROUP games for review time

  • Musical chairs (place questions/ categories or cards on each chair)
  • Fly swatter (swat the questions/ categories or cards to answer)
  • Bean bag toss / catch (repeat the answer as your tossing the bean bag to a partner)
  • Mother May I (march, baby steps, jump, hop, skip, frog jump, scissor steps, scoot on the booty, duck waddle, crab walk, deer leap, snake slither, pirouette, etc)
  • 4 corners (amy mitby’s game)
  • Draw back (Draw on each others backs with a finger)
  • Snowball fight (get cotton balls for right answers… when all the answers are done, throw cotton balls at each other)
  • Marco Polo (when someone is tagged answer a question, you could say questions and answers instead of Marco Polo “apud, with”)
  • Wall Tag (tag the answer on the wall, answers taped with painters tape throughout room)
  • Freeze Tag, Blob Tag (the ‘it’ person tags someone and they answer a question – they can help each other if needed)
  • Freeze dance (answer a question together when music stops)
  • Twister (colors represent categories)
  • Hopscotch (questions in spaces)
  • Obstacle course (get to go thru when you answer a question)
  • Hot potato (sing history sentence… when it stops you don’t want to be holding the potato… answer a question if you are holding the potato when the music stops)
  • Pretend to be a ____ today (cowboy hands lasso answers, safari with a butterfly net and canteen catching answers, hunter shooting the answer)
  • Pick up items with toes only (items could represent categories or questions)

SOLO  games for review time (some of these can be group games)

  • Silly voices
  • Eyes closed, tongue out, fish lips, opera, king, robot, baby, etc)
  • Hand motions
  • Dress the tutor
  • Metronome movement – say the answers to the beat
  • Hide small items in a sensory bin, each item represents a question or category
  • Blow up a balloon and watch it fly away, or pop it
  • Swing and say
  • Rope Climb and say
  • Mummies in the dark (answer questions while wrapped up)

In-between resetting items

  • Vowel stretch – make body like each vowel, folding and unfolding the body, while deeply inhaling and pronouncing the vowel on the exhale
  • Joint compression
  • Body brushing
  • Swinging
  • Pulling or pushing the wagon
  • Carry something heavy, put something heavy on lap

Sensory play for geography or letters / numbers (add spray-bottle with water for another dimension or toys to run through medium):

  • Shaving cream
  • Sand, dry or wet
  • Lotion
  • Pudding
  • Gelatin
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Grains, cooked or raw
  • Spaghetti, cooked or raw
  • Theraputty / weighted arm or leg bands
  • Cornstarch
  • Tissue and (1 part glue, 2 parts water) to paint on tissue and lift off paper to leave color behind
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Slushie
  • Slurpee
  • Shake
  • Toothpicks and food
  • Custard
  • Gently warm 2 tsp cornflour, 1 tbsp sugar, vanilla extract, 2 cups milk or milk substitute. Let cook before play.
  • Playdough
  • Gently warm until ball forms in pot: 2 c flour, 1 c salt, 4 tsp cream of tartar, 2 c water, 4 tsp veggie oil. Optionally add sand, safe smelly oils, or glitter. Store in airtight container.
  • Ornament dough
  • ½ cup cinnamon, ½ cup applesauce, 1 tsp glue is optional, mix and roll to ½” thick, make a hole with toothpicks, and let dry 10 hours

Non-sensory

Note: could set up review centers that parents help administer

GROUP games

  • Jeopardy
  • War (person who flips the higher card gets to answer the question. If they get it wrong the other person gets to try and answer. Correct answerer gets cards).
  • Headbandz (put clues on your head and try to give the wearer clues or answers to guess what it is)

Group OR solo

  • Number Dice + Color Dice (color indicates subject, # indicates review week)
  • I spy / I see a steamboat coming / Memory detective – give clues to the question or answer… This is all the same game. “I see a steamboat coming and it’s loaded with…”
  • Penny Toss or ping pong toss (into numbered muffin tins or cups)
  • Clothesline cards (clothes pin cards to a string, see how long you can make it)
  • Treasure hunt (hide cards in the room and find and answer them)
  • Bingo
  • Penny for your thoughts (correct answers get a penny)
  • Sports skills (answer so you can try to kick a ball into the goal, etc)
  • Build a tower, shoot it down
  • Make a story
  • Any board game (answer before your turn)
  • Draw a picture
  • Build a lego man
  • Hangman (right answers mean you can go again, wrong answers add a body part. Or you can use actual hangman with a secret code the kids discover as they get to guess a letter with each right answer).

Solo

  • Quiz bowl (cards in a bowl)
  • Banana grams
  • Penny for your thoughts / sweet thoughts (earn a penny or candy for each answer)
  • Draw what you see / hear
  • Math 500 (math review)
  • Make a museum (find items that represent memory work, set up around the home, and explain to dad when he gets home)
  • Target #
  • String beads while listening (make a bracelet for right answers)
  • Make a pasta tower (string pasta on spaghetti, stick spaghetti in putty or play dough to make it stand up, get more pasta for right answers)
  • Marble pictures (marbles rolling around tray through paint) while listening

Happy Mother’s Day!

Here’s something to lift you up on Mother’s Day, a song, a poem, and a little encouragement. Happy Mother’s Day to you all! And hats off for doing the hard and rewarding task of homeschooling! I admire you!

What a beautiful message is in that song (lyrics below)! It’s a song with a serious message isn’t it? As mothers we carry a big load, but God is in our midst. He has already won our battles and paved the way for us and our children. I love this reminder as I am asking the Lord to help me grapple with some things in my own family… all good things though! God is so good!! Can I get an “amen”?! (Is saying that a southern thing? Haha) I also love the broken down acoustic version of that video. 
The following poem just perfectly describes where I am right now in my appreciation of the little ones in my home. I hope you feel blessed by this little sentiment too!
“Oh Precious Little Child of Mine”, a poem by Ashley Plourd in “Above Rubies”, Feb 2017, no 93, page 27

“Oh precious little one of mine,

How can I stop the hands of time?

And forever hold you in my arms,

To keep you safe from worldly harms?
But you’ll grow up one day it’s true,

And then I’ll know not what to do!

So for now I’ll cherish the time,

That you are so completely mine.
You breath smells sweet like mamma’s milk,

Your skin is soft and smooth as silk,

I love to cuddle you against my breasts,

And watch your expressions while you rest.
Your dreamy smiles and flickering frowns,

Your sleepy whimpers and baby sounds,

Your dimples hands and pudgy feet,

Your chunky cheeks are oh, so sweet!
It’s really amazing to think of the way

Your smile can brighten my darkest days,

I love it when you snuggle close,

That’s one of the things I love the most.”
Lyrics to “Overcome”:

“Now the darkness fades

Into new beginnings

As we lift our eyes to a hope beyond
All creation waits

With an expectation

To declare the reign of the Lord our God
We will not be moved

When the earth gives way

For the risen One has overcome
And for every fear

There’s an empty grave

For the risen One has overcome
Now the silence breaks

In the name of Jesus

As the heavens cry let the earth respond
All creation shouts

With a voice of triumph

To declare the reign of the Lord our God
We will not be moved

When the earth gives way

For the risen One has overcome
And for every fear

There’s an empty grave

For the risen One has overcome
He shall reign forever

Strongholds now surrender

For the Lord our God has overcome
Who can be against us?

Jesus our Defender

He is Lord and He has overcome
He shall reign forever

Strongholds now surrender

For the Lord our God has overcome
Who can be against us?

Jesus our Defender

He is Lord and He has overcome!
We will not be moved

When the earth gives way

For the risen One has overcome
And for every fear

There’s an empty grave

For the risen One has overcome
We will not be moved

When the earth gives way

For the risen One has overcome
And for every fear

There’s an empty grave

For the risen One has overcome…”
God calls us to be simple like children. And in my simplicity I can do a better job… in hearing and obeying God, in honoring and respecting my husband, and in caring for and shepherding my children. My desire is to raise world-changers who stand up and are workmen and work-ladies in the Word, rightly dividing truth from post-modern humanistic relativism. I’ve been making the effort to incorporate a family worship time at night. I hope my children will develop a muscle for this over time, and they will learn how to worship God through song and prayer with us, and I’m asking God to cut through some issues for me and provide more wisdom to us. Please pray for us! We need your prayers! Thank you!
I’m using this summer to carefully consume “The Core”, and “Home Education”. Honestly, I commend you for taking up the challenge from God to school your young ones… and your older ones! I’m a bit intimidated by what it takes to teach older ones! Use this summer to be simple, to learn, and above all to enjoy your “arrows”. I know I am!!
I hope you will be blessed by this! Happy Mother’s Day!!

Electric light

The presence of God does so much. It seems to change the quality of the air in the room. It puts an aura over us. It’s like electric light filling a space. It’s feeling emotions heightened in a way you never thought possible. It’s feeling the expanse of creation and at the same size knowing how finite you are. It’s being vulnerable and powerful at the same time. It’s finding clarity where there was none, or finding the arms you’ve needed to hold you. It’s knowing you are known in the ways you don’t even know yourself. 

I wrote this in case you were wondering or curious what God makes possible for His children.

If you’ve never felt God’s presence, you need to. It’s life-changing.

Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!

    Seasons

    We know the physical mimics the spiritual. God set us up this way so we could better understand Him.

    I appreciate the seasons. As I’m getting used to California, I am experiencing two seasons: dry and wet. I have missed the beautiful red-orange-yellow-purple horizons-on-fire that Atlanta boasts, and I’ll probably miss the Atlanta springtime too, even though everything is yellow-green with pollen.

    There are obviously seasons in life too. The Lord has been SO generously good to me, but not all my seasons have been easy. 

    It does “a body good” to ask the Lord to speak to what season you are in right now and then ask Him for some perspective on it.

    I am in a season of rain. The Lord is raining His favor on me in so many ways. My family is healthy. My extended family is becoming healthier. My children are young and vibrant. My marriage is beautiful. The Lord still blesses my body to carry new life into the world, and I love Him for it. And get this: He told me she’d be “radiant like the sun”. How’s that for feedback?! I praise the Lord! (Now, what does that mean, exactly? Haha! I can’t wait to find out!)

    My heart seeks to know my Creator. I want to serve others. This is a time of great productivity for the Kingdom. I’m doing the most important, and most difficult, and potentially the most rewarding, job of my life: training future ones to carry the torch. And it’s a long calling. All you mothers know how long of a calling motherhood is – once you start it never ends. You are and will always be just that: mother.

    I appreciate this season of wellness, possibly more, because I’ve seen the other side. The Lord gives and takes as He pleases, and in His sovereignty, I choose to trust Him. But since I know this seasonality in life, my heart sings a song of gratitude that’s multiplied with the spiritual fruit of joy. 

    As we move closer to much-anticipated Christmas, I am feeling such wonder, in the depth of my being, at the gift He gave us in His Son, who chose to humble Himself because of the depth of His love for us. There’s a mighty heavenly orchestra that must play on the remembrance and celebration of the sacrifice He made for us, the day He became human, even fully knowing beforehand, the smite of mankind would be on Him. And He chose us anyway. In this way, He made it possible for me to be adopted twice in my lifetime.

    I am limited in my understanding and comprehension of His gift, but the seeds of His faithfulness and dedication to us burst open in my heart into flames of fire that burn passionately without containment. 

    The Lord is coming towards us. He told me this a year ago, but He’s still drawing closer. He told me springtime is near. 

    In what season are you? How does your season fit into His overall plan? Are you a good steward of His goodness towards you? How has He provisioned you for such a time as this one? How is your season impacting how you treat others, including the young ones entrusted to your care? Do you deal generously with them in mercy, humility and forgiveness? Do you embrace the small moments? Are you storing these memories in your heart? 

    I believe we can live forever into eternity with our Lord. I believe our memories will stay with us. What will you remember about this season in your life? Did you give Elohim the room He deserves, and the room you need, to make this season a growing, stretching, edifying one for you? 

    I have some friends in very hard places right now. I implore you to seek Him in prayer, and allow Him to do the most transformational permanent things in your hearts for which your soul cries out. You know more than anyone that life is not bonnets and roses. Trust there is still a plan for you, a plan for good and not for ruin. There is a plan for wellness and healing and honest joy through this pain. 

    We see the rainbow as a physical symbol of one covenant God made with mankind. There are always rainbows God has for us in times of fallow hardship, but the fruit and productivity is probably happening deep below the soil. It requires you resting in Him for a time, laying your whole being in His hands for a time of rest because. You. Just. Can’t.

    I am praying for you.