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Serving Others – A Call to Action

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Tonight I attended the memorial service for my dear friend’s mother.  She lost a hard-fought battle with cancer, and praise the Lord, she is now in the arms of her Jesus!

But as I came home, I kept mulling over the testimonies of her life that her family and friends gave, and the one thing that stuck out to me was the stories told about her attitude of service.  It was repeated over and over again by each person that stood up and spoke.  And it was true.  She was the kind of person who never met a stranger – her home was a haven to all and she went out of her way to make everyone feel like family.

Two stories in particular were really challenging to me.  Her daughter told a story about a time they were eating in a restaurant and the waitress mentioned how much she liked her mother’s purse.  So before the meal was over, her mother got a brown sack, emptied her contents into it, and gave the server her handbag.  She told the lady, “It seems like you like it much more than I do.”  Now I don’t know about you, but I like my purses, and it has never crossed my mind to just give one away to someone who has complimented me on one!

The second story was even more telling about this precious lady’s heart.  The pastor said just two weeks before she passed (and she was already in Hospice care), she called him inquiring about how she could help a family in need in their church.  Even on her (literal) death-bed, she was wanting to know how she could be a blessing to others.  This lady didn’t just serve others, she served sacrificially.  What a Biblical example of service!

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Acts 20:35 states, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

We mothers are usually good at sacrificing for our children.  If we have to choose between us getting what we need or our children, it’s a no-brainer.  Same thing for our husbands.  But do we serve sacrificially outside of our home?

I have to admit, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in this area just by making a meal for someone or giving a homeless person on the corner some money every once in a while.  Sometimes I send out a card of encouragement.  Those things are all well and good, but they certainly didn’t cause any amount of sacrifice on my part.

I wonder what our giving and our service would look like if it really cost us something? Imagine the blessings we could bestow on others – what we could teach our children! What would you be willing to sacrifice?

– would you give up vacation $ to pay for another couple to have a much-needed weekend away?

– would you give up the chance to go to this years home school convention so another mom could go?

– would you not eat out for a month so you could give someone else grocery money?

I just can’t help much imagine what an impact we could have on the world for Jesus if we really loved and served the way the He did.  In a way that actually cost us something.  What will they remember about you at your funeral?

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What Our Children Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them

We don’t have cable TV in our home.  The only shows we watch are when we have family movies nights, or very occasional PBS cartoons during lunchtime.

So I was appalled this week when Son I. came home from school with this Time “for Kids” Magazine with Malala Yousafzai on the cover.  In case you are not familiar with her, Malala is a young woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban on the way to school in 2012.

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The article talks about how her friends sold her out to the Taliban fighters before they shot her in the head.  According to the article, Malala was voted person of the year over Taylor Swift and Peyton Manning.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather my children vote for a singer or football player and not have any idea about a girl on the other side of the world being shot in the head on the way to school.

Another article in the same magazine talked about the terrorist attacks in France.  It said, “The week before the rallies, gunmen had shot and killed 17 innocent people in three separate attacks.  The victims included eight journalists and three police officers.  The gunmen are believed to have had ties to the terrorist groups of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.”

Son I. is in third grade.  He is nine years old.  Does he really need to know about al-Qaeda and ISIS? More than that, with Common Core, my children can barely figure out multiplication and division, much less write a cohesive paragraph, but they are spending time on this?!?

I know some of you will just tell us if we don’t like public schools to pull them out.  We already homeschool Daughter P, but due to the nature of Andy’s divorce, we have no choice but to keep our other children in the school where they are.

Secondly, I don’t advocate keeping your child naïve of all the wrongs in the world.  We strongly support missionaries in Ghana and our children understand that there are people all over the world who suffer in various ways and don’t have as much as we do in America.

But do our children need to know about terrorists and school shootings and other adult issues? And then we wonder about why childhood anxiety is on the rise.  Time magazine itself had an article suggesting up to 25% of children have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.  From scary dreams to being unable to sleep to general worry – why are we forcing our children to deal with issues that terrify us as adults?

Let our kids be kids!

Dawn

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Why MLK Day Meant So Much to Us This Year

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I grew up in Indiana, literally surrounded by cornfields.  It’s a great place to grow up, but not the most culturally diverse play(especially in the 80’s and in the rural areas).  My entire elementary school had 100 kids in it.  I grew up and went to a Christian college that had maybe a total of 10 African-Americans enrolled (and to say “African-American” is probably not accurate, because many of those students were probably foreign students actually from Africa).  I say all of that to point out that although my parents taught us to be accepting of all races, my experience and knowledge of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was relegated, like most white American children, to that one day in January when we would do some sort of craft or read one book about him.

Once I graduated with my teaching degree, I began teaching in Florida with a more diverse student population and really began focusing on incorporating more African-American history into my lesson plans and book selections.  I purposefully carried that over once I started homeschooling Daughter P, but since she was only in Pre-K last year, the books on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were a little over her head, and I didn’t feel like they made much of an impact.  But I was so wrong.

Last year we decided to go to Atlanta for our family vacation.  Mainly it was because it was only a day’s drive and there were lots of great Groupons available.  We had planned on going to the Aquarium and the Zoo, but Daughter H had recently been bringing home lots of books from the school library on famous African-Americans, so I suggested that we also go to the Martin Luther King Jr. historical sites.

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I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how we would be received – a white family with four kids walking through these historical sites that are so sacred to the African-American community, but everywhere we went, our family was warmly received and we were complimented on how well our children behaved.  But seriously, it was because they were engaged.  Without really lecturing them too much, they just got how very important it was to be where we were.  I will never forget sitting in the empty pews of the Ebenezer Baptist Church with just my family and listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preaching over the loudspeakers.  Or how we stood to leave when the sermon was over and the singing began and Daughter P said, “Can we just wait until this song is over?”

It was a scorching hot day, but we walked to each site, ending with the MLK homesite.  We had missed all the tours for the day, but the kids stood on the porch for a picture.  We walked around to the back of the house and were shocked to find the backyard was unfenced and wide open.  My husband and I stood in awe as we watched our four precious young children play in the same backyard that the great Martin Luther King Jr. had once played in as child himself.

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On the way back to the car we talked to the kids and told them maybe someday our home would become a historical site because of something great they do.  What an awesome thought! That visit became their favorite part of the trip, and they are already asking when we can go back to go inside the house.

So, this year for MLK Day, I really want to incorporate some neat activities into Daughter P’s school day.  She’s only in Kindergarten, but I found these great age-appropriate activities online, and they introduced some great discussion (I have included the links when appropriate).

We began the day by watching the “I Have a Dream Speech” on YouTube.  (Yes, Rosie the puppy dog watched too.)

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Next, we read the book “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport and completed this “I Have a Dream” worksheet.

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Lastly, we used this “I Have a Dream” form to examine two differently colored eggs and make some observations.

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We still live in a mostly Caucasian suburb in Indiana.  And no, I don’t believe for one second that such simple activities mean that racism won’t ever be a part of my children’s thoughts or behaviors.  But it’s a start.  Are the race problems in our country solved? Absolutely not.  But I am proud that we have come so far.  I am proud that my children can’t imagine a time in our country when white children and black children weren’t allowed to go to the same school or site together in a movie theater.  I am glad that they don’t pick friends based on the color of their skin, but based on how much they get along with them.  And I pray that I can teach them how to fight injustice, so they will teach their children, and one day perhaps we will live in such a nation that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of.

Dawn

  (p.s. Although MLK day has passed for 2015, these would be great activities to use for Black History Month as well!)

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When the Marriage is Over, but the Wedding Dress Remains

When I got married the first time, I had one of those pretty big, fancy weddings most brides have these days.  I was never really one of those “it’s my day – I must have my way” kind of brides, but I was pretty insistent on my dress.  As soon as I got engaged (like, that night), I went to Wal-Mart, bought a magazine, and picked it out.  The dress.  A few months later I went with my mom and Grandma to David’s Bridal, tried it on, and it fit perfectly.  I did not need a single alteration.  It was meant to be.  I seriously loved that dress.  But alas, a wedding lasts only a day, and all to soon the day was over and the dress was put into storage.  I thought for a while like most moms that maybe I would save it for Daughter P to wear, but once my first marriage ended in divorce, I just felt weird keeping it around.  It wasn’t really the symbol of marriage that I want for her to wear on her wedding day.  It doesn’t represent what it should.  And, let’s be honest, styles will be totally different by then, and she will probably hate it.

So I opted to keep my “crown” that I wore for her instead, but I could never figure out what do with the dress.  I tried to sell it at a few garage sales, but no one bought it.  I thought about having it turned into a quilt, but I never had it done.  I just couldn’t bear to give it to Goodwill, so it’s sat in my garage for almost 9 years.

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Today, a friend of mine shared a local newspaper article on Facebook about two infants without any family buried in a joint ceremony given by members of the community (source The Indy Star).  As a mother of four, I was deeply affected, as a always am, not only by the deaths of these precious babies, but by the fact that they died and were buried without any loved ones around them.  Although I know they now rest in the arms of their Heavenly Father, the world is just so cruel and unfair sometimes.

And yet in the midst of these tragedies, my old wedding gown, with it’s own reminders of betrayals and sin, I find can now be repurposed for good.  Little Angel Gowns is a non-profit organization takes donations of not only wedding gowns, but all formal dresses (hello hideous bridesmaid gowns!) and first communion dresses, and makes them into burial gowns for infants who either have no family or whose families cannot afford to bury them.  They then work with other local companies to provide all the components for a complete burial for these children.

I looked up their website (they are also on Facebook), and I will be donating my dress this week at a drop-off center in my town.  Although I live in Indiana, they have sites in Alabama, California and Iowa as well.  If there is not a location in your state, perhaps there is a similar organization.

I am overwhelmed once again at how God continues to take the dirt and sin and mistakes from my first marriage and provides the grace to transform them into something redeemable and useful for something else. Truly nothing is too broken for Him!

Dawn

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“Olaf is Melting!” – Teaching The States of Matter to Kindergartners

We use Memoria Press for our home school curriculum.  I hope one day very soon to write a full blog post on why I love it so much, but for now let me just say…I. LOVE. IT.  It is a Classical Approach to learning and it suits Daughter P very well.  One of the things that I love most about the curriculum is that it uses real books to teach all of the subjects (as opposed to texts).  And I can find these books through my local library, which saves us a ton of money.

This week for Science we were to read the book “What Is the World Made Of: All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and talk about the states of matter.  I found this fabulous science experiment at The Frugal Teacher, and we were off.

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So, admittedly, science is not one of my strongest subjects, and this is the first real experiment we’ve done this year.  As a result, I’d really been building it up to Daughter P.  Like, for DAYS.  It takes a full day at home to complete the observations, so I had to pick a day where we had nowhere to go, which is tough for us.  The night before I put water in the balloons to freeze and make our “snowman.”  And then I put the balloons in the refrigerator.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The refrigerator.  Not the freezer, as intended.  So, we woke up to not-frozen water balloons which equaled no snowman for our much-anticipated experiment.

“No problem,” I thought, “It’s like 4 degrees outside.  They should freeze in no time.”  And I set the balloons outside.  Daughter P and I finished the rest of our schoolwork.  Balloons still not frozen.  Hours later and a hundred times of Daughter P asking, “Can we check the balloons?”  Two of the balloons were frozen, but not all three.  (Side note – blue balloons freeze slower than other colors).

So, long story short – we ended up with a snowman that only had two parts, not three and our experiment lasted two days instead of one.  Here are our photos:

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“Olaf” as a Solid

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“Olaf” as a Liquid

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“Olaf” as a Gas

If you decide to do this, you must check out the printable that I linked to above.  Daughter P had a great time recording her observations (Thank you, Sid the Science Kid!). And most of all, she really seemed to get and retain the concept of changing states of matter.  What more could a homeschooling Mama ask for?

Dawn

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How the “Mommy Wars” Are Destroying the Christian Church

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“Please don’t judge me.” Her words caught me off guard, as judging her was the last thing on my mind.  Here was my new friend, tears fresh on her cheeks, sick baby on her hip, 4-year-old at her side, rushing her daughter into acting class early on Saturday.  She’d obviously had a rough morning.  She repeated the phrase often that morning while we entertained her boys and waited for our daughters to finish their play practice.  “I’m not judging you.  I think you’re doing a great job.  You’re boys aren’t bothering anyone.  Let them run around.”  I pulled out paper for them to draw on, then my phone, then finally walked around with them as we waited for the time to pass.  Anything to help her de-stress. But I just kept thinking, this is my friend.  Why is she so worried about me judging her?

The answer’s really not that hard is it? That’s what we women do to each other.  ALL. THE. TIME.  Even to our “friends.”  Oh, we’d rarely admit it.  But there’s pretty much a non-stop commentary going on in our heads of what other women are doing (or saying or wearing) that’s wrong.  Even in us Christians.  Maybe especially in us Christians.

Although they officially started way back in 1986, the “Mommy Wars” are alive and well.  And they are destroying us.  Destroying our friendships, destroying our families, and destroying the Church as a whole.  Think about how many friends you have.  True friends.  Friends that you never judge and who you never worry about judging you.  Up until this year, I had maybe one.  My divorce pretty much ruined friendships for me.  I lost ALL of my friends from my previous church in one fell swoop.  I tried out moms groups in my new town after I married Andy, but it seemed like it was just a big competition of who’s kid was smartest or who had the most expensive outfit or purse.  It was exhausting.  I never fit in.

We judge each other on whether we work or stay home.  On whether our kids go to school or are homeschooled.  We judge each other on the types of snacks our kids eat and the brand of clothes they wear.  We judge each other on the cleanliness of our homes and the kinds of birthday parties we throw for our children.  The list is exhaustive.  And exhausting.

So what’s the result? We now live in a society where we was women never truly connect with one another, because we don’t feel we can ever trust each other.  Instead, we are constantly evaluating how the women around us are judging us.  We don’t trust their words, because we believe they are just covering up negative thoughts they are thinking about us.  We have no real friends.

What are the implications for the Church?

  1. It hinders our worship – We are too focused on how others are viewing us to focus on God.  Your mind is not prepared to praise the Lord or learn from His Word when you are worried about how other women in the Sunday School or Sanctuary are viewing you or your children.
  2. We are not fulfilling the command given to women in Titus 2:4- “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children…” How can we teach one another when we can’t form trusting relationships?
  3. We are not reaching other women for Christ.  If we are too busy judging or worrying about being judged to reach out to new women, we will never be able to share the Gospel with women who desperately need it.

It wasn’t until this year that I finally found a core group of homeschool friends that I can honestly say I never feel judged by.  And it’s amazing.  It’s something that I wish I could give to all of you and a peaceful place I pray you can all find for yourself.

Dawn

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I Asked My Abusive Ex-Husband to Forgive Me

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Oh, my heart is so full of things I want to say, that I feel I don’t know where to begin.  Please bear with me as my heart is heavy with these words.

Abuse is wrong.  Abuse in ALL forms is wrong.  I don’t care if it’s physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, etc.  And I don’t believe being a submissive wife means that you allow your husband to abuse you.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:25-28, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives…”  (emphasis mine).  If a husband is abusing his wife, in any way, he is certainly not leaving her spotless or without blemish, and thus not loving her in a Biblical manner.

It’s something that on the whole, the church is just ignoring, and from the stories I’ve heard, it’s a rampant problem.  My ex and I sought various types of counseling for years before our divorce.  For many years, I never labeled what he did as abuse.  He said and did things that “weren’t nice,” but he never beat me, so he wasn’t abusive.  But he tore me down year after year until I was just a ghost of my former self.  I literally ended up in the hospital with my organs shutting down before I realized how bad things were, and how desperately things needed to change.  And yet, I stayed.  I stayed another year or so until I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I firmly believed I was going to end up dead (from sickness) or in a mental health facility.

Originally I wanted a trial separation, but my ex refused.  He wanted all or nothing.  When I went to talk to my pastor, he said (and I quote), that since I had never been “hit in the face” that I didn’t have a Biblical reason for divorce.  He acknowledged my husband treated me poorly, that he had a raging addiction to pornography, but apparently he wasn’t the right kind of abusive for the church.

I left the meeting and filed for divorce.

Eventually, I met and married Andy and joined his church.  The Lord convicted me for some things regarding my divorce, and I confessed my sins to Him and moved on.  Except I couldn’t.  My spiritual life was stagnant.  I was going to church faithfully, reading my Bible, listening to godly music, but I was so distant from the Lord.  I began to earnestly cry out to Him, “Show me what I’ve done!”  “I NEED you, Lord!” “Bring me back to you!”

The Scripture says in Number 32:23 to “…be sure your sin will find you out.” And boy did they ever.  Over and over and over again.  The Lord brought to mind time after time that I was not the wife that I should have been to my Ex.  You see, I started out as every young Christian bride, planning on being the submissive loving wife, but as he let me down, I stopped trying.  I gave up on him.  And honestly, I became a hateful, vile wife.  I said and did just hateful things that I am deeply ashamed of.  Things that there is no excuse for, as I have the Holy Spirit living inside me.  And as the Lord brought those things to mind, it became clear what I needed to do.  Not just confess them to the Lord, but seek forgiveness from my Ex.

I talked it over with Andy, and he graciously listened and prayed with me.  I set up the meeting with my Ex for the next day.  I met with him, and with tears in my eyes, apologized for not being the wife that God had called me to be.  You see Ephesians has some words for us wives too.  It says in 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  It doesn’t say if they’re nice.  It doesn’t say if they deserve it.  It just says if they’re your husband.

Now, again, I’m not saying anyone should stay in an abusive marriage.  That’s between you and the Lord.  But I chose to stay for 6 years.  And during that time, I should have done my best as a wife to follow the instructions given to me by the Lord.  And I didn’t.  Who knows the changes that could have been made in my Ex if I had.  I never gave him that opportunity.  Maybe it would have all ended the same.  I’ll never know.

I also felt God calling me to apologize to that pastor who gave me the terrible advice.  He was my pastor, and I had placed myself under his authority.  To be honest, apologizing to him was WAY harder than talking with my Ex.  Not that what he said was right AT ALL, but I should have been willing to sit under counseling with him and my Ex for a period of time, and I wasn’t.  I simply wanted his stamp of approval on my actions, and when I didn’t get it, I stomped out.

But here’s the deal.  The only reason the Lord blessed is because I truly humbled myself and truly sought forgiveness only.  Because you know what? Neither one of them apologized back.  My Ex has always blamed me for the divorce, so I imagine he felt pretty validated.  And that pastor? His response was pretty smug.  But, I got my clear and full relationship with Jesus back.

As 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

It may not be your Ex.  I may be your parents or a sibling or a friend who has wronged you that you may need to ask forgiveness of  It’s not easy, but peace with God and yourself is SO very worth it.

Dawn