Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Have you got your brolly? {how we need to pray}

Elijah is one of my favourite Bible characters. The scene where he confornts the prophets of Baal is both amusing and challenging. So many parts of his life are challenging, but I was reminded of one last Lord's day, in the morning sermon.

It was a concept that brought memories, of my years in Scotland, back to me. You see, Scotland is notoriously rainy. Did you know? It rains a LOT.

It's still beautiful, obviously... 

Who am I kidding, though? It looked more like this, for me, a city girl....

You don't really think about it much if you grow up there. It's just part of life. One thing you DO learn, from a young age, is to be ready for rain at any point, and you carry a brolly everywhere.

Brolly?  An umbrella! (Not sure if that's an American word?)

I have left many a brolly behind on a bus, because the rain can stop as quickly as it started. I can also still smell that "wet brolly" smell, in my sensory memory!

Where I live in England gets far less rain, and because I homeschool, we also go out in the rain less. (No essential walk to school, rain or shine...) So, the handy brolly isn't so necessary.

If you know the life of Elijah well, you know that he was a man of great faith. He is recognised, in the New Testament, as a man of faith, who was fervent in prayer. It's what we think of, when we think of Elijah. He prayed for no rain, and it didn't rain for YEARS! Then, he prayed for rain, and it rained! 

What was noteworthy about it all, was that he prayed with great FAITH. He absolutely believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that God could do what he asked. 

No rain? No problem! 

Rain? You'd better believe it! 

Elijah had such great faith, that when he prayed for rain, he sent his servant running to look for the cloud, and he spotted it when it was still the size of a man's hand. Have you ever thought about how tiny a cloud is, of that size, away up there in the sky?? But he saw it, because he was LOOKING FOR IT. 

My husband had a relative with great faith like that. They were farmers, in a farming community. They had no rain for a long time, and the crops were suffering. They knew that if they had no rain the crops would fail, and they would struggle financially. His great-grandfather (I believe?), went along with some of the other men, to a prayer meeting, specially to pray for rain. They knew they needed to ask The Lord, and made special effort to do so. The thing is, only his great-grandfather came with living faith. He brought a pile of potato sacks, the old, burlap style ones, to the meeting. He BELIEVED that God would answer their prayers, and he would need to take shelter from the rain that would come. Not a single other man came with a brolly or rain covering. Do you know what?? IT RAINED ON THE WAY HOME!! He was able to hand out the sacks to the other men, who hadn't been prepared for such an immediate answer!  Praying, in FAITH.

It got me thinking about my prayer life. I think our small, human minds, can too easily take away from the absolute omnipotence of God. HE IS ABLE to answer our prayers, if we pray according to His will. That simply means not praying for anything sinful, which goes against His Word. He can do "great and mighty things" which we know not, if we but call out to Him in prayer. Praying, in FAITH.... BELIEVING. 

Have you got an unsaved husband, unsaved children, unsaved family members?? Keep calling out to God in prayer... BELIEVING that He can answer!

Are you having problems in your marriage? God, the creator of marriage, longs to hear and answer your prayers. Have faith....He can answer! 

Are you struggling as a mother? Is teaching and training your children tiring you out, and frustrating you? Do you long to see The Lord at work in their hearts and lives?  He can answer prayer! 

Is your health a trial? Do you suffer in physical ways, and struggle to find a remedy? God, the great Jehovah-Rophi, can answer your prayers! 

Work, relationships, health, emotions, attitudes, day to day life situations. Everything. Anything. God can do it!


Are you praying with your brolly in your hand? 

We must not neglect to BELIEVE. To really, truly, with FAITH, call out to God. Waiting, expecting, for the "rain" of answered prayer to fall. 

Before Elijah even went to look for the rain, he told Ahab it was coming. His ears were sensitive, or His eye of faith was 20-20 vison, because he told his there was the "sound of abundance of rain".  He wasn't just expecting a light, English shower. He was expecting "tipping it down" torrents! 

Oh, for faith like Elijah!! I WANT a prayer life like that. I WANT to see God's amazing answer to prayer, in so, so many ways. 

Don't you? 

Get praying, with your brolly in your hand! 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Character over curriculum {a review, and give-aways}

I mentioned to you, last week, about a new idea we were trying out.  I had come to the realisation, or rather, had realised we need to WORK on, character over curriculum.

Heidi St John had made shared this nugget of an observation, and I had agreed heartily.

What we choose to teach our children in an academic sense is always going to be important.  We all have different goals and methods, of course, but we all agree they DO need to learn.  Maths, English, Writing, History, Geography, and myriads of other subjects, are all diligently taught to our children. We delight to see them learn, and  to LOVE to learn.

Unfortunately, I hadn't really implemented the same level of diligence in training their character, as well as I ought to.

No matter what my good intentions were, I was still worrying more about which academic achievements were going on in our home-schooling, and less about the general character of the children.  I knew certain areas of their character needed work, but I hadn't actually got around to INTENTIONALLY working on it.

Along came a bundle sale, which included CHARACTER BADGES!

It's a very simple principle, but BOY have I already had some great results from it.

The principle is based around charts, and badges.  The charts record their behaviour - whether bad, or good - and the badges are given when certain points are reached on the charts.  Then, you can choose to reward them in whatever way will motivate, when they reach higher goals.



All the character traits are based on basic scripture principles, and include a card with a verse, and a Biblical application of the principle.

Then, each trait has a badge to correspond, with the picture symbol on it to tie in with the Bible lesson.

When the child reaches various goals, there are then 6 different award badges they can receive as a result, after marking their progress on a chart.

I have decided to do this in a focussed way, by concentrating on learning about one character trait per week, and building up to monitoring them all, once they fully understand what is expected for each one.

I decided to work on Kindness, first of all.  I read them what was on the character card, and we discussed HOW we could show kindness to each other. It was interesting hearing their different perspectives on that!

Then, I decided to add an extra, more focussed element.  I wrote each of the oldest seven's names, on lollipop sticks.  I then got them to each choose a stick, each day, and THAT was the person they were to particularly show kindness to. It was good to be able to remind them, throughout the day, to specially make an effort to be kind to that sibling.  I emphasised that it didn't mean the rest of them didn't deserve to receive their kindness, more that they were to make SPECIAL effort fort hat one person.  I know Simeon is still quite young, but I figured it was good for him to learn this principle whilst he is young, and also for another sibling to specially care for him each day.   It worked pretty well, although some children needed a bit more prompting that others! *aherm*  They enjoyed choosing their person each day, and I tried to vary it so that they didn't have the same sibling for two days in a row. There was the odd chuckle when someone picked their OWN name, and had to swap it for another! *I* had a chuckle, one day, when a pair of children who had already been "sparring", chose out the person they had been "sparring" with! Good lesson in being kind even when you don't feel like it!

I also chose a Bible verse, which we chose as a "theme" verse. We chose the obvious, but good, one "Be ye kind one to another"! Simple, but direct...

So, that's my plan for each week.  A new emphasis, adding to the already learnt ones, along with a verse to emphasise it.  I also plan to use ideas such as the lollipop sticks, to focus their attention on what they are learning.

I would add, that the lollipop stick idea will only work if there are more than two children.  I had a chuckle with my sister-in-law about that - she has two boys! *grin* "Here, Jasper, who are you to be kind to today? Zak? Wow! What a surprise!!"..... LOL

With my brood, it gives plenty of scope! (Equally, plenty of reasons to do this, as there are plenty of moments where they don't always choose kindness...)

I had one STAR child this week, who truly took on the challenge with great enthusiasm.  She has been VERY kind, and ALSO took on the "helpfulness" trait, as well.  She's already notched up the maximum ticks for that, on the chart, and WILL be getting a prize this week.  Voluntarily, she has been kind and helpful to me, doing jobs and willingly going "beyond the call of duty" to achieve her badges!

Another child has responded well to the concept of NOT wanting ticks on the "disobedience" chart.  He doesn't like to think he hasn't pleased me, but hasn't quite grasped, in equal measure, the concept of DOING the things that he ought to be doing.  He's young, and I trust he will quickly learn.

I would add that this works better with younger children.  My oldest two are not "doing" it, but they DID take part in the kindness pairings, and were also to take part in the principle being taught.  They just didn't have a chart, or wear badges. They ALL need to learn, AS DO I!!!!

So, who would like to win one of these sets?

I am giving away one of the Character Bundle Bundles - you can choose either the set for younger children, the set for older, or the combined bundle.  You will need a computer to download it, a printer to print it, and ideally, a laminator to laminate it all, for durability. It really is a lovely way to encourage your children to build Bible-based character!

Now, this is where it gets better!

Which home-schooler doesn't have financial pressures? Who wouldn't benefit from a cash injection into their home-schooling world?  A group of educators have put together a whopping prize of FIVE-HUNDRED DOLLARS, for one winner! They have called it "Bless a home-schooler", because THAT is the aim of it! Blessing someone who needs that kind of money, will bring much joy to the team.  So, if you also want the chance to win that, you can enter below!  We are really praying that God directs the money to the perfect person. (NB - You need to have a Paypal account to enter/win)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 15 August 2014

Blogging Through the Alphabet {Oh the joy, as Patience I learn}

Ben and Me

I missed my "O".

Did ya' notice?

I had been doing SO well.  I was keeping up, and getting my blog posts out, albeit right at the end of the time I had to link up with Marcy, over at Ben & Me. *aherm*

I had things that I managed to fit in with the letter for each week.

Then last week happened.

We had a tummy bug in our house, and my week kind of turned upside down.  All my plans, for our first week "off" in the summer, were scuppered. Well and truly.

If you know me at all, you know how I loathe tummy bugs.

However, the Lord must be moulding me and shaping me, because I dealt with this one with FAR more patience and FAR less stress, than previously! I didn't get all wazzed up when I realised what had hit the household.  I just patiently got on with it, and it wasn't as bad as I expected!

This week, I have had more opportunities to both learn, and teach, patience.

It breaks my heart that I am such a bad example of being patient.

I often hear the words "You have EIGHT children? You must be so patient!", and CRINGE inwardly, under the conviction that I am *SO* not as patient as I should be.  Patient in the "dealing with things calmly and with a level-head" way, and patient in the "long-suffering" way.

The word "patience", as it is often translated in certain Bible versions, is more accurately "long suffering".  The emphasis there is on the fact that the situation is causing suffering to you - mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually - and that you bear it over time - "long".

In James, it says that "the trial of your faith worketh patience".

If you look at the Greek, it translates as "cheerful endurance"!

THAT is how we are supposed to deal with the trials of life.  To CHEERFULLY endure.

Now, don't let me fool you.  It's NOT easy peasy.  It takes effort.  I certainly haven't mastered it yet - not sure if I ever will! But, it's expected of us, as godly women, nonetheless.

Romans 5 tells us

 "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:"

All of our circumstances shape us, and the Lord intends it to be for our GOOD! So good that we can GLORY in our tribulations and trials (and I've had quite a few of late, in various forms!), because it turns into patience, which becomes experience, which becomes hope.  Not in the vague, "I hope it works out"  kind of way.  Hope, as in "confident in the knowledge that God's ways are perfect, and I am content to be in the centre of God's Will, not matter how humanly "trying" it is", kind of way.

What's more, James tells us that if we

"let patience have her perfect work"

that we will be

"perfect and entire, wanting nothing"


Patience makes me complete, in every part, and teaches me to be content in every circumstance.

If that's the case, we should eagerly be shouting, every day


I *WANT* to be content and complete.  If it takes some trials, to learn patience, it's all worth it.

"Oh the joy", spoken tongue in cheek, becomes JOY, as I learn to patiently accept the circumstances in life, which God, in His grace, love and mercy, allows.

I trust that you will learn alongside me, to turn your "OH NO" into patience!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Brighten the corner, where you are {Intentional illumination}

This week our home has been filled with teaching.


Yes, it's the summer, but as I had mentioned before, there were things that I could see that needed some work.  The summer lends itself to working on such things, because the work that "gets in the way", the rest of the time, is paused.

You see, I realised that my children weren't going to make progress, without me being intentional in those areas. I had often heard women in "blogland", talking about being "intentional", but hadn't reallllly grasped what they were meaning.



What I realised was that it was the opposite of accidental.  It's not something that happens by chance, but something you CHOOSE to do, with the intent of making a change or improvement.

It's been blessing my heart, to see the children making progress, but it's taken effort and focus from me.

It took ME to light the candle and shine it into the "corners" that were dark and dusty in our home.

Not literal darkness and dust - no, that's still there, in many a corner, and I have no great intentions to make that a priority when HEARTS need dusting - but in lives. Darkness caused by sin in the lives of this family that God has given me.  Failings and faults that need a light shone into them, so we can see where improvements need to be made.

It's so easy, isn't it, to look OUTWARD at the faults and failings - the dismal conditions and frightening news - in the world further afield.  We see the "outside world", and perhaps begin to think how we can work on that.  Don't get me wrong - reaching out to help others in need is GOOD.

But, how's the corner where YOU are?

MY corner?

My little, teeny, tiny, but OH so important corner?

My children are my mission field.  God has given them to me, and they need to be taught the gospel, and how God expects them to live.

 Their souls, first and foremost, need to feel the touch of God's quickening power.  It's my earnest plea for their hearts.  Without that, all the rest will only be good living.  Not a bad thing, but nothing without Christ.

Then, they also need to learn how to behave, in a way that is right and good.  That "training up a child", that is my responsibility as a parent.

For both, they need the light of the Word of God, shone brightly into their hearts.  It's our only guide - our only light - to shine and guide.  It's the source of brightness that is our delight, and DUTY, as a mother, to shine.

So, the work we have been doing this week has centred first upon God's Word.  What does the BIBLE teach about how we ought to live, and to treat each other? It's the spark that may set their hearts on fire for God.

It's just not going to happen  on its own.  Our hearts are inclined towards sin, and if I don't set out to INTENTIONALLY guide them and shine that light, it just ain't going to happen.

Missionaries do a sterling job, reaching the lost in far flung nations.

Preachers do a vital job, sharing God's Word with the groups of believers who gather together to serve the Lord.

Mothers, we do an embryonic work, shining that light in the "corners" of our homes, setting the spark in their lives - from before they are even born, as we pray for their souls, to the early moments of life when we talk to them of God and His greatness, into the growing years, when from dawn until dusk we can tell them of God and His Word, and why they need the Saviour most of all.   It's a vital work - nothing greater can we do, than speak words of Truth to the precious souls that God has placed into our life.

The words of a song, penned by a woman a century ago, carry the weight of what our light shining in our homes should be.

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbour you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Our work is the first work in their hearts - that brightening the corner - before ever they hear of anything spiritual outside the home.

We do an important job - let's set out to intentionally illuminate the hearts and lives of our precious children!

Monday, 4 August 2014

The "Musical" Mother {bringing harmony to the home}

Have you ever been to listen to an orchestra play?  I have had the privilege of being to several live concerts, including ones at The Barbican and the Royal Albert Hall, in London.  They were all amazing experiences, and I would love to go again.  At the Royal Albert Hall, we were on a limited budget, so we sat in the choir stalls. It meant that we ended up sitting BEHIND the percussion section, which was AMAZING! We got to see them perform, REALLY close up, and heard the music in a totally different way - and with a totally unique view!

What we also got to see, with more detail, was the conductor.  In essence, we got to see an "orchestra's eye view" of what he was doing. One of the pieces was conducted by the composer - Karl Jenkins! It was pretty amazing to not only hear a piece, but to see the composer, too.

Have you ever PLAYED in an orchestra?

THAT is a totally different experience. I used to play the violin. NOT very well, but well enough to make the cut to enter the school orchestra. I also went on a music camp, once, where I got to play with a better bunch. I loved playing as part of a group.  What I quickly came to realise was the importance of the conductor, and how much of a difference it made to the orchestra, when the conductor changed.  We had two different music teachers who would conduct, and they were both quite different in how they did it.  A piece of music could change change quite markedly, depending on which one of our crazy, but lovely, music teachers was taking the lead.  To the untrained eye, ANYONE could be the conductor.  The reality is quite the opposite. It's not just someone waving a "stick" around, whilst people merrily play their "part" in the orchestra.

I'm no expert, but as a teen I had a friend who trained at music school to be a conductor.  My friend and I went to watch his final exam, and we were told all about what it all entailed.  You need to know the piece of music inside out.  You need to understand how the composer wanted it played.  You need to know how each instrument plays, and what the musician is capable of. You need to have a complete understanding of the whole package. It's no simple task.  Yet, it's VITAL.  If an orchestra attempted to play the music without a conductor - no-one to lead - it would just end up being "noise", not music! They would play at different paces, at different volumes, and it would sound bad at best, horrendous at worst. (On a side note, our school orchestra was pretty awful, despite frantic and frustrating efforts of our conductor! - I can still hear the Radetsky March being played woefully, in my head!)

One day, I took my children through a local town, and there was a play area. It had big "stepping stone" type things, which if you stepped on them, played a kind of whistled "note".  They realised it was musical, and all hopped on one and jumped up and down.  A whole rabble of noise ensued, with the children quickly saying "What are these FOR Mum?  They don't even play a tune!"

Mother, with her musical background, begged to differ.

I lined them up on a "stone" each, and directed who should hop when. After a few practices, this is what we got...

For those foreigners who are not familiar with this, it's called "The Westminster Chimes".  You may have heard it on a clock, and it's what plays on the chimes at The Palace of Westminster, in London (Big Ben plays the chimes for the hour).

When the children realised what we had re-created they were so pleased with themselves! They also thought I was very clever for noticing. ( I love my children!)

Life as a mother is so very like this.  Each of our children makes a different "note" in our family.  Their strengths, weaknesses and personalities can sound just fine on their own, but sometimes when they all get together, it can become an inharmonious jumble.

It's our job as a mother to create harmony in the home. To prevent squabbles.  To help children work together happily, instead of bickering. To encourage children to work on their strengths and eliminate weaknesses. Helping them to have good attitudes, instead of sour ones.  Many, many things that will help bring harmony.

First of all, I need to make sure I understand what "music" I want them to play.  What does God's Word say about how we should all live, and how they should behave?  I need to fully understand that, before anything else can happen.  He is the ultimate "composer", and we all need to follow His lead, and have a life that sings out in harmony with the "tune" of His perfect will.

Then, I need to understand my "Instruments" and how they are "played".  Each child has a unique personality.  They may have traits that are not sinful on their own, but need to be honed to prevent a tendency towards sin. They may simply have personalities that need shaping, encouragement, or guidance, in order to be their best, and have a harmonious relationship within the family.  If I don't know my children properly, I could provoke to wrath, and encourage the wrong traits, if I don't take the time to get to know them properly. If you understand each child's limits and capabilities, you can make sure you don't push them out of their comfort zone, but gently encourage them to improve and develop.

Then, there needs to be opportunity to "practice".  Spending time together as a family, in order to work on areas of weakness.  Maybe a couple of "instruments" need time to practice together? You can't just throw a load of instruments together and hope they'll "perform" at the right moments, without practising first! So, if you want children to behave when you are out, they FIRST need to behave at home!

We can help each "instrument" shine, whilst still blending with all the others. Bring out their best.

I KNOW we need more harmony in my home.  I need to be a better conductor, and by God's grace, work on make my family "sound" beautiful, and not a noisy "racket"!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Blogging Through the Alphabet (New every morning)

It's late. I'm tired.

I have had an extremely busy few days with our Holiday Bible Club (VBS). We have had friends to stay. We have had challenges to surmount. 

Above all else, I think of those verses in Lamentations. 

"It is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. 
His compassions fail not. 
Great is thy faithfulness"

Every day The Lord has shown us great compassion and faithfulness. He has seen fit to answer prayer and bring in more children than  we expected. They listened well. They behaved well. They requested Bibles. Above all else, they heard the gospel. 

Our prayer now, is that The Lord would continue to speak to hearts, and save many, by His grace.

In his compassion, mercy and faithfulness. 

New. EVERY morning. 

I am thankful, too, that a new morning will bring a fresh anointing of His mercy, compassion and faithfulness in my day to day life. I don't need to rely on what I had yesterday, or was given today. It's NEW, every morning. 

Like manna of old, we have fresh supply each day, of every good thing which comes from God, as we need it. 

Need, not greed. 

I go to bed with a thankful heart, a continued prayer for every soul that heard the gospel, and assurance that a new day will bring new compassion. 

New, every morning.