Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tapestry on a Tuesday {Myth-buster series - Part 1}

Tapestry of Grace author, Marcia Sommerville, is running a "Myth-Buster" series over on the Tapestry of Grace blog.  I thought it would be worth adding my perspective on the different points she raises, and to share my experiences with the issues she is dealing with.  Unlike Marcia, I will deal with more than one per post!

The first two topics she covered were...

"Don't start Tapestry when your kids are too young"


"Grammar level is "drill and kill" - is this true?"

Both of these topics deal with younger ages, so I think they fit well into one post!

When I started Tapestry of Grace, nearly 5 years ago, my "school-age" children were 8, 6, and one who started school that year, aged 4. During that year they turned 9, 7 and 5.   I start my children with "formal" education (ie, structured, sit down school) when they hit 5 years of age. They were all Grammar level students, so the first level of learning.  It made it all quite simple.  One set of books.  One level of teaching goals. Everyone working on the same material.  I didn't have the youngest child do anything that first year.  I have made the decision that until they are reading more independently, and have completed all the phonics based programme that I use - so, working on the fundamental - they don't join in with TOG.

Now, that's not to say they COULDN'T.  Tapestry of Grace is so wonderfully flexible that my younger ones COULD take part, even in a small way. They could have literature books read aloud to them.  They could do lapbooks, or arts and activities. However, I have chosen to keep things REALLY simple with my beginners. They do maths, phonics, and reading, joining in, at their own level, with science, art and music. They will have PLENTY of opportunity to participate with everything else, once they have mastered the basics.

The plain fact, in answer to the myth about NOT starting when they are too young, is that you can start them whenever it suits YOU! You know your own situation.  You know what will suit the dynamics of your own family, and your own children's capabilities.  When we started some children needed more to be read aloud to them, in order to participate, than others did when they joined in.  It totally depended upon the child.  They could potentially start Tapestry of Grace as early as they can listen and understand! Children are like little sponges, and can soak up things in a wonderful way.  However, if we are talking FORMAL schooling, they can start whenever YOU, as the parent, decide it fits the child, and your own schooling routine.

If you only have younger children, and you want a year of doing TOG at warp speed, you can do Primer, which works through the four years in less detail, and in a shorter period of time, specially aimed at younger aged children.  This programme is less designed for a family with multiple aged children, and more at those starting out on their home education journey, with only younger children.  It's a brilliant way to slide into TOG, in a less detailed way.  Hop on over to the TOG website to learn more about this.

The second question puzzled me, to be quite honest.  It implies that someone, from somewhere, has got the impression that TOG drills information into young children, and kills their love of learning.  It puzzled me because it's so far from the truth, it's just CRAZY!!!

If you want a curriculum that goes over and over information, in a repetitive and mind-numbing way, don't pick Tapestry of Grace! Conversely, it's a curriculum that serves to offer you a multitude of ways in which to soak up fascinating information, which NEVER involves drilling facts, dates and information in general. It gently, beautifully, and joyfully seeks to draw your children into a learning process, utilising stunning book titles, oodles of fun, hands-on suggestions, and a variety of learning styles. You can basically find a mode of learning that suits every type of child.  The "booky" type, the "hands on" type, the "inquisitive" type, the "factual" type, the "active" type, the "writing" type - the list could go on.  Due to the wonderful way that Marcia has written the curriculum, you can even pick and choose, from week to week, where you want to place your emphasis on learning. No drilling in sight!  Well, that's not entirely true - if you WANTED to drill facts into your children, I'm sure you could figure out a way, but it isn't anything obvious!

So, there you have it - my take on those two myths.  Given, they are less detailed than Marcia's responses, but she has way more experience and authority on the matter than I do!

If you want to learn more about Tapestry of Grace, and discover why it's such an awesome curriculum, head on over to their website, or throw me any questions you have in the comments below!

Monday, 20 October 2014

When Western pressures take us away from Eastern promise {how to spend our time}

I was crawling up the stairs last night.

Yes, I do that sometimes.

At least once a week.

Not through utter exhaustion, and a longing for my bed. Crawling up the stairs, vacuuming.

I am always astounded by the amount of random fluff and stuff that makes its way around my home.  I hate the floor being messy, and I certainly don't have it the way I'd like it to be most of the time.

Actually, there are many thing in my house that are not as I would like them to be most of the time. Often, I have to just leave things, undone, and not the way I would like them to be.

The thought struck me, as I crawled up the stairs,

"We don't make life easy for ourselves these days"

What am I talking about? Surely we have many modern machines to make life easier?  Surely life is EASIER?

I was thinking, however, about my spiritual life.  The amount of work I have to do, to keep the place the way it "should" be, often takes more time, by a long stretch, than I spend applying myself to eternal things.

I spend time making my house look a particular "standard", and not the time making sure my children are to a certain "standard".

My house gets more attention than my heart. My devotions get squished into the moments I can get in the morning, but my stairs still get vacuumed...

I worry about what people will think if I don't have my house spotless, and worry less about the fact that I haven't stilled my heart and spent time with the Lord.

I can't imagine, for a minute, that the ladies in Bible times were worrying about the pen marks on the wall, drawn by their children. (Well, obviously, not having pens and all....) Their children were probably busy playing outdoors, whilst they took care about the simple and basic things in life - not worrying about aesthetics and peer pressure.

We are so busy doing all the things that civilised, western society suggest we OUGHT to be doing, in order to be the "perfect" housewife.  We give ourselves guilt complexes when ironing gets left undone, or we haven't dusted lately. Rushing around doing jobs that no-one will notice if they are left undone.  Worrying about things that just aren't necessary.

Quick pause in rambling.....

I'm not saying we should let our house turn into a DUMP.  OHHHHH no.

We need to be clean, and hygenic.  It shouldn't look like a tip.  If it does, then we are either not training our children properly, or have too  much stuff. (Guilty, and guilty....)

That's a whole other blog post...

We DO have a testimony to be an example to others of caring for our family and belongings.

I'm talking the non-essentials.  The things that we can easily obsess about, which simply aren't as important as spending time with our family, instead.

I'm really not convinced that God created us to be worrying so much about the externals of life.

We read, over and over, in the Bible, about seeking. The wise men sought after Jesus. They came, from the East, looking for the promised King.  They put aside their normal business, and travelled from far, far away, for the Promise of a King.

 What do we seek after?  Do we seek after affirmation from those around us that we have the tidiest house, the best behaved children, or the most up-to-date ways of doing things?

Or do we simply seek to serve, to worship - to live life simply, and look to "Jesus only".

We can make life so complicated.  So full of self-imposed pressure and strain.

It can wear us down, instead of lifting us up, with our eyes toward our Master, Saviour, burden-lifter, rest-giver.

"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?"
  Matthew 6

or, "how shall we make our house spotless? or, What can we do to fit in with the world around us? or, How can we squeeze so much into our day, that really doesn't matter, that we squeeze Jesus out?"

The answer?

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

The kingdom of God.

His righteousness.

Pleasing Him.  Things spiritual, not things physical.

Jesus cares less about our vacuumed stairs, and more about our seeking hearts.

Hearts that put His kingdom above our earthly habitation.

This week, I plan to slow down.  To stop worrying about the "untidiness" of life - which will, ohhhh so quickly be a season which ends, when the children grow up - and to slow down and take time with my saviour.  Seeking HIM first.  Searching for the promises in His Word, instead of conforming to the pressures of the world.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Look out for the lion {the devil's always hungry}

One day, in family worship, we were thinking about the devil going about like a roaring lion.   We had all the children (well, almost all of them....Elijah had a "moment"....) roaring like lions.

Simeon wasn't very keen, and dissolved into tears.  *oops*

Robert got them to think about those lions on the Savannah.

How they lurk in the grass.

Slinking around, creeping close to the ground.

Silently, creeping, inching towards their prey.

Seeking for those that are vulnerable.  The ones on the edge of the herd of creatures that the lion wants to gobble  up.   The ones who are weak.  The ones who are young.

What a fearful picture!

But, we are told that WE are to look for the devil in our lives.  HE is like that lion, waiting to see who he can pounce upon, and devour.  He wants to harm us and maim us.  He wants to attack us with temptations to sin.

Oh, how many days I feel like a vulnerable, weak animal.  I'm not in that strong place of protection, and I am out there ready to be pounced upon.

The devil uses our weaknesses, to give him a place to attack us.  Moments when our guard is down, and our armour off.

When I am tired, he gets in there to make me cross, frustrated, and short-tempered.  He uses my vulnerability to tempt me to sin, and in my weakness he gets in there and does harm.  I succumb to his temptations, and those around me suffer.  My patience, long-suffering and love go flying out of the proverbial window.

The devil sneaks around in all sorted of places, though.

He sneaks around in our marriages. Oh, how he wants to devour in that area. He whispers doubts. He initiates discontent. He puts stumbling blocks in our way that make us unhappy and dissatisfied. We don't know he's there until that "roar" of disunity hits, and we know all about it THEN.

He's on the a internet. He LOVES how that place can make us angry, frustrated, and downright nosey and opinionated. He loves for us to read half truths and half facts, leading us to bring judgement and condemnation on others, when we don't even know all the facts. He is loving that there is division, accusation and a general lack of love, patience and compassion for our fellow believers, all because of something we feel entitled to have an opinion about. It's just everywhere right now. The devil is roaring.

He is roaring, seeking to devour us as believers. To "eat up" the fruit of the spirit that we should be displaying in our lives.

Do you know the remedy? What does the Bible say, before warning us about the devil?

"Be sober, be vigilant."

This has nothing to do with being teetotal.

It's to be watchful. Not to "fall asleep at our post". Keeping vigil is to stay awake when we normally sleep.

Don't be complacent. Don't think that you are beyond the reaches of Satan and his devices. Don't allow him to devour you, and keep you from honouring The Lord in your life.

We need to keep close to the Shepherd.
Stay within the protection and safety of the Saviour.
Walking close, and protecting ourselves with His Word, armed to fight off the Evil One.

Especially don't go looking for the roaring lion. Don't go trying to FIND him. Looking for trouble where we don't have any. Keep following hard after the Master, where He has called you to be, and don't go meddling in the affairs of others. It's tempting, but the roaring lion is waiting for you, when you ever away from the place you should be.

Keep watch, every moment of every day, for that skulking, roaring "lion".

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Portion control {satisfied with Christ}

I have children who are food watchers.  Have you got any like that? They do this sneaky look out of the "corner" of their eye, to see what everyone else has on their plate.  Trying to decide whether they think that I have dished up their dinner fairly.  Seeing if they have the right portion size.

Similarly, you hear talk, in the world of food and dieting, about "portion control" - not having too much or too little of certain foods.  Thankfully, the "diet" I am following has not got strict portion sizes, other than "don't eat too little"!!!

What exactly IS a "portion"?

Well, it can be "a part of a whole" - your portion of a pie, or portion of a lasagne.

It can also be your "lot" in life, or your "destiny".

You can also think of it in terms of what you NEED, in order to satisfy you.  If a portion size that was too little, was given to you to eat, you would not feel satisfied, and would perhaps feel hungry.  If a portion that was too LARGE was given, you would struggle to eat it and feel too full!  The person serving it up would need to know you quite well, to give you the right portion.

I know my children, and their needs.  I know which children have a faster metabolism, and the ones who have a more sluggish one.  I know which ones can take higher quantities, and which ones are better with less and more often.  I'm their parent. I KNOW them.  Better than they know themselves. Sometimes I give them MORE of something than they would choose! I KNOW they need more veg than they would perhaps choose for themselves.... it's good for them, even though they don't like it, and don't like how it tastes.  They endure it, because I have put it on their plate.

In the Psalms we find several references as to the Lord being our "portion".

The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. 
Psalm 16:5

"  Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."
Psalm 73:25 &26

Spiritually speaking, what does this mean?

The Lord *IS* everything we need. Just by having Him in our heart and life, He IS our portion.  No matter what life throws at us - no matter where our path leads us - if we are trusting in Him as our Saviour, we HAVE the Lord, and that is everything we need.

Also, BECAUSE He is our portion, He GIVES us everything we need.

As the verses in Psalm 73 say, other things around us will fail us - the things of our heart, and the things of the flesh - temporal things.

Sadly, we are often like my children. We can look around, subtly, so often, at others, and look at what THEY have and think "Why I can't have as much as they have?"

Maybe it's our husband - we look at our "portion", and wonder why it can't be like someone else's. Why can't we have more? Why can't our husband BE more? Different?  Better?  More skilled in some area?

Perhaps it's our children?  Why can't they behave as well as another person's child?  Why can't they look prettier?  Why can't they be as gifted in some area, or do better in the school life?  Why can't their personality be more like another child's, who we perceive to be "better"?

Our homes... bigger, smaller, more modern, better location, better equipped?

How about the circumstances that we experience in our lives? Too many trials, too much illness, too much heartache, too many trying relationships, not enough contact with others, not enough money, not enough holidays, not enough possessions?

If we have the truth of God imprinted on our hearts, that HE is our portion - that we HAVE everything ALREADY - all these other things will take on an entirely different perspective.  He IS our portion, and He DIRECTS our portion - our circumstances and provisions.  It's perfect.  All of it.

Think about Job.  It says he was "perfect" - that can be translated as "complete".  How could he be complete? By understanding that God was His everything, and NOT all the amazing possessions he owned.  And, he owned MUCH.  The true test of his understanding of the Lord alone being everything he needed is clearly shown in the circumstances of his life.  Children - gone; health - poor; belongings - obliterated; unsupportive wife - still there; unhelpful friends - still hanging around.  We can relate to SO much there - imperfect marriage, a lack of "things", friends who just aren't there when we need them.  Yet, where did his hope lie, through it all - where was his focus?  Upon the LORD - His portion.  ALL that He needed.  His body was decaying before his very eyes, and he had little left, in a temporal sense - but His focus was upon His Redeemer - His portion.

I KNOW there are friends of mine out there - right NOW - and the portion of their lives are not what they would have meted out for themselves.  They wouldn't have picked the trials and struggles they are enduring. They would have put their hand over their plate and said "enough", before now.  I wouldn't have chosen many of the experiences I have had to experience, either.

But God, who is merciful, loving, just, PERFECT, knows our portion, and sets it out perfectly.  He simply knows what we need, when we need it, how we need it, even if we can't see it for ourselves.

What are our desires?  Do we desire the things of this life, more than we desire God? Fulfilment in our marriage?  Children who are "perfect"?  All the temporal things we could desire?

Or, is there NOTHING we desire more than the Lord Himself?

If he is our portion, our heart will be strong.  Strong enough to see us through any trial we can face, humanly speaking, because our spiritual strength is in our portion - the Lord - alone.

Marriages, family, circumstances - all important, all God-given, all precious - but HE alone is our portion, FOREVER.

EVERYTHING we have, precious as it is, will one day be gone.  If our portion is Christ alone, and we are resting in Him, we have all we need.

My God, my Portion, and my Love,
My everlasting All,
I’ve none but Thee in heav’n above,
Or on this earthly ball.
What empty things are all the skies,
And this inferior clod!
There’s nothing here deserves my joys,
There’s nothing like my God.

To Thee I owe my wealth, and friends,
And health, and safe abode;
Thanks to Thy name for meaner things,
But they are not my God.
How vain a toy is glittering wealth,
If once compared to Thee!
Or what’s my safety, or my health,
Or all my friends to me.

Were I possessor of the earth,
And called the stars my own,
Without Thy graces and Thyself,
I were a wretch undone.
Let others stretch their arms like seas,
And grasp in all the shore;
Grant me the visits of Thy grace,
And I desire no more.

Isaac Watts

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tots on a Tuesday {stopping, to enjoy the moment}

A few weeks ago, we had a lovely walk together, picking blackberries and enjoying the swiftly retreating warm days.

As always, I picked up my iPod.

It's become my "thing" - rushing about, making sure I pick up my iPod, to take pictures of whichever moments I want to capture.

Madly storing images of my tots, as they rapidly grow up, almost before my very eyes.

That day, as we were returning home, we stopped in a little "park", and there were ga-ZILLIONS of ladybirds all over a bench. The children had them crawling all over their arms, and the older ones were teaching the younger ones all about them.

I scrabbled about in the top of the pram for my iPod, only to get the spinning circle of doom.

My battery was dead.


In that moment, I had a realisation.

All these moments I am trying to take pictures, I am MISSING the moment.

I know these moments are precious, and it's nice to think we can look back at them.  At the same time, we don't even know if we HAVE a future.  We only have the RIGHT NOW.

Having thought about this, I have been reaching for my iPod far less.  Instead, I look at my tots (because, let's face it, these little ones are the ones who have more of those endearing moments!!), and savour the moment. The very moment that God has given, right here, right now.

I'm not dismissing taking photographs. I still LOVE taking pictures.  And, if anything happened to my precious family, I would treasure any photos I had....

I am dismissing the mad, crazy, obsession with taking pictures, over savouring the special moments that God has GIFTED me with.

Stopping what I am doing.

Finding joy in the every day kind of things.

New things they do.

Funny things they say.

Cute faces they make.

Capturing, yes.

Forgetting to stop and savour, no.

I am taking the time to thank God for the moment I find myself in.

Loving it.

Living it.

Rejoicing in it.

Put your photographic device down, and find joy in the moment.

Monday, 6 October 2014

How low can you go? {His arms are there}

My mind has been very drawn, of late, to friends who are in a low place.

Such sadness.

Such heartache.

So many trials and struggles.

Last week, for me, was not my best.  Physically speaking, I felt low. I had one illness on top of another, and I had no strength at all.

Mothers, VERY often, can feel low.

Physically, it's a wearying job.  We go from one job to another, often not even finishing the first before the next beckons.  A long list of the unfinished in past moments, whilst we tend to the never-ending of the present.  Laundry.  Cooking.  Parenting.  It's hard, but ultimately worth it.

Emotionally.  We are tending the needs of the needy.  Children who "need us", and we can't always "fix".  Struggles, disputes, heartaches, rebelliousness, illnesses, general "neediness".

"Mum, I NEED you".

As wives, we can face trials and struggles, too - challenges we may never have envisaged facing when we said "for better, for worse".  When we pictured it always being the "better".

Spiritually.  We are giving out, simply by being a mother.  It's an spiritually draining thing, as we seek to give encouragement, teaching and blessing to our family around us.  We battle to find the time to fit in the spiritual nourishing we need for ourselves.  Yes, battle.  It's a fight.  Never as much so as it is in our marriages. Battling Satan on a daily basis as He seeks to drag our marriages down, and hear us shout out "I've had enough!".

There are  certainly times when everything just piles on top and we feel  low.  We can feel so low that we are hitting rock bottom.

There's the punch.

The all-encompassing truth we need to cling to.

When we belong to the Lord - when we are child of the King - what "rock" is at that "bottom"?

"He is my rock"
Psalm 92:15

We also read

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:"
Deuteronomy 33:27

He is above us, pulling us up out of that low place, yet His arms are underneath us, gently catching us.

When we drop with exhaustion.

When we stumble and fall in our walk.

When we sink down low in our hearts and minds.

We hit that Rock, that is the solid ground, stopping us from sinking.

He is that gentle pair of arms, cradling like a mother cradles her infant child, safe, secure, loved, and underneath us.  The arms of love.

I don't know about you, but that thought cheers my heart no end.

No matter the trials and struggles that I am facing, which pull me down, the Rock is firmly underneath me, and I am IN HIS ARMS.

You know those moments when you pick up your crying, distressed, or weary child, and you feel them just relax into your arms, because they feel safe and secure?

We can do that too.  No matter what our circumstances, we can let go, let out that deep breath of resignation and peace, and rest securely in His arms.

Sometimes, we NEED to hit rock bottom, to truly feel the Rock under our feet.  To know He's there, keeping us up, and being that sure foundation.

But, no matter how low we can go, His arms are underneath.  The Rock is under our feet.

My Joy-Filled Life