Adventures in Bible Reading

“I’m not reading my Bible like I want to and like I should, because it’s just easier to watch TV and escape from reality,” is what one young woman told me this weekend through tears and in the midst of grieving a loss.

And I could concur somewhat, though my “easy” mode of escape is typically flipping through the pages of a mindless magazine or walking around in TJ Maxx admiring all of the things I don’t have and can’t really afford. {Talk about heaping on grief!}

I’ve learned, though, that not-reading-the-Bible leads to more not-reading-the-Bible which leads to a dust-collecting-Bible which leads to a grief-collecting soul.  It’s a downward spiral to be sure. I’ve experienced it, and I witness it on a consistent basis.

Thankfully, though, and by His grace, He leads me to His Word daily. And having grown in obedience to actually open and read it, it’s had its promised effect on my heart, mind, and soul.

It does not return empty or without accomplishing His purposes. {Isaiah 55:11}
It delights, strengthens, counsels, and revives. {Psalm 119}
It is profitable for rebuking, correcting, and training. {2 Timothy 3:16}
It equips. {2 Timothy 3:17}
It sustains, brings joy, and affirms hope. {Psalm 119}
It is living and active. {Hebrews 4:12}

A couple of weeks ago I was reading through both 2 Kings and Colossians. {I tend to read 1-2 Old Testament chapters, and 1-2 New Testament chapters a day.}  If I didn’t read these verses on the same exact day, then they only fell a day or two apart…

The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.  For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mt. Zion survivors.  The zeal of the Lord will perform this.  
2 Kings 19:30

and
Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 
Colossians 2:6-7

I continuously marvel at the way His Word is not only living and active but also interactive with itself.  His Word is truly how He speaks to His children.  And I was in need of just what these verses said in unison to me: walk in Him and be perfected in Him just as you received Him = by grace.  And the zeal of the Lord will accomplish this, not my try-really-hard-and give-up-eventually efforts.  Not me; Him.  He is the one who roots me in salvation; He is the one who grows me up and bears fruit in and through me. My justification and my sanctification are both fully His gifts.

I could go on and on about reading these two books in tandem, because there are so many more parallels ~ like how the prophecy in 2 Kings was to Hezekiah and regarding the threat of domination and exile by Assyria.  God is promising to not allow those things to happen to Israel, at least for the time being.  And then in Colossians, Paul talks about the believer in terms of being “rescued from the domain of darkness, and transformed to the kingdom of His beloved Son” {Col. 1:13} and “disarming rulers and authorities” and making a “public display” of them…

“Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?  And against whom have you raised your voice, and haughtily lifted up your eyes?  Against the Holy One of Israel!…Because of your raging against Me, and because of your arrogance has come up to My ears, therefore I will put my hook in your nose, and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came”  
2 Kings 19:22,28

Says the God of Israel to Sennacherib, the King of Assyria!  A disarming and public display of the enemy in BOTH cases ~ in 2 Kings and in Colossians.

And there’s so much more, but those coordinating passages are not the only thing that keep me hungering and thirsting for more of His Word.  My women’s small group exchanged index cards with prayer requests on them last week.  We were to pray for the person and her requests and check in with her during the week to let her know we were praying and to see how things were going.  I was without internet for most of the week, since we were in Cape Cod for a few days, so I only checked in with her via email on Saturday right before our next meeting.  I had prayed for this young woman during the week, based on that wonderful prayer in the first chapter of Colossians {since I’m still reading it over and over}…

We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…
Colossians 1:9-12

She had requested prayer to “do what was necessary” and to “have words to speak to her ex-boyfriend if and when the time arose.”  This Sunday she reported that he had indeed contacted her, and she had to do the difficult task of ending their relationship for good.  She followed through and was emotional yet peaceful. After group she came to me and asked “What did you pray????”  I told her that I prayed the same verses from Colossians that I had prayed for her out loud the Sunday before ~ especially that she would be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might.”  She hugged me, and thanked me profusely.

Painting by C. Michael Dudash that hangs in my bedroom!

We both knew, though, that I really had nothing to do with it!  The Lord had only allowed me, through His beautiful and powerful Word to participate in His transformation in her life, His victory over a temptation she had struggled with for a long time ~ “an era” she called it.  We hugged again and rejoiced together over the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness.

And it left me craving more of Him, more of His Word.  What other adventures await?  I can guarantee there are more.  I can promise He’ll meet you there, too.

Gluten Free Friday ~ The BLT/AC {and other things I neglected to introduce to my kids}

Walking around Disney World this past March, Kayla lamented, “I don’t even know who any of these characters are, Mom.”  We were visiting all four parks in four days as a special way to end our three month sabbatical in Texas.  A trip to Disney World had never been on my top ten list of things to be sure and do with my kids {we live in beautiful, historical New England for goodness’ sake!}, but now it seemed like a nice way to make the journey back to Massachusetts a treat for them.  Not only had they never been to Disney World or seen any of the Disney movies {aside from Mary Poppins and The Absent Minded Professor}, they had never even been to an amusement park of any sort. {They have been to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Maine’s rocky coast, Prince Edward Island, The Bay of Fundy, The St. Louis Gateway Arch, Fort Sumter, Gettsyburg, Fort Ticonderoga, Niagra Falls, and the Erie Canal, though. Poor kids.}

So….
1. No Disney Movies
2. No Disney World
3. No Six Flags, Astroworld, Busch Garden…

I’m not against Disney movies; I just didn’t want them watching TV or movies at all when they were little. It’s a decision I really don’t regret.  {Though they still tease me for not allowing Arthur or Dragon Tales into their occasional PBS viewing.} They learned to play and read and create and imagine and not need a flickering screen to entertain them. But it seems that as they got older, I failed to introduce them to some very prominent cultural icons ~ like Mickey and Minnie, Cinderella, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid.  I’m still not convinced it did them any harm.  They seemed to enjoy Disney World quite thoroughly without the back stories on all of the characters, though I offered her a few quick summaries.  Kayla did enjoy playing the role of a very deprived daughter, however.

This week I discovered another cultural phenomenon about which I had failed to enlighten my charges concerning:

The BLT

I know.  This proves it. No Lion King, no roller coasters, and no BLT’s. I must be a horrible mother. How did this classic never make its way into our weekly menus?  I think it might be because of my love/hate relationship with pork, but this week the uncured bacon at Trader Joe’s was calling out to me, and I knew I had to buy two packages and wow my family with an open faced version of this iconic sandwich with the additions of avocado and cheese.  I could hardly wait!

Here are the steps I used to make BLT/AC’s or…

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, and Cheese 
Open-Faced Sandwiches:
  • 1. Arrange bacon on 2 cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on desired level of crispiness.
  • 2. While bacon cooks, slice 1-2 tomatoes, 1-2 avocados, wash and dry 1 head of lettuce and tear into sandwich sized pieces.
  • 3. Slightly toast 10 slices of GF bread.  Spread cooled slices with mayonnaise.
  • 4. Grate Toscano {or any} cheese {Trader Joe’s Toscano is coated with black pepper = delicious!}
  • 5. Drain bacon on paper towels.
  • 6. Layer lettuce, bacon, tomato, avocado, and cheese on bread slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • 7. Broil on high for one minute or less ~ just to slightly melt the cheese.
Ingredients needed:
Gluten Free bread {We used Udi’s}
2 packages {GF} bacon
1-2 tomatoes
1-2 avocadoes
1 head lettuce
Toscano cheese {or any that you like ~ Asiago is yummy also!}
mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

Sorry to have neglected you, princesses, but more sorry to have neglected BLT’s!

Gluten Free Friday ~ Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

 Kayla gets perfectly giddy over all things fall.  She heats up a mug of cider every morning to go with her breakfast, counts the days until pumpkin and apple-picking outings, and begs me to stop and buy every scarecrow we see.

Last week she got out the leaf-blower, created a pile of leaves, and entertained herself and her friends with all manner of leaf tossing and jumping.  Her Daddy wondered why she didn’t blow and rake ALL of the leaves into a pile and properly compost it.

And she loves creating perfect fall meals and treats in the kitchen, which might just make up for the lack of productive leaf-raking.

Last week she searched for the perfect fall snack and dessert, and found one for pumpkin bread.  She tweaked it a bit and added chocolate chips {because no muffin or quick bread is complete without them}, and produced a perfect pumpkin loaf.  Four loaves to be exact.

Four loaves that lasted about four days.  They were irresistible!

 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 cups GF flour blend {rice, tapioca, potato}
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
4 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 can pumpkin puree {15oz can}
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips {These are optional in some homes, but not mine.}

Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, spices, salt, soda, and xanthan gum.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, orange juice, sugar, and pumpkin.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and blend by hand or electric mixer until smooth.  Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into two 9×5 inch pans and bake for 1 hour, or four small loaf {5×3} pans and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Test with a toothpick or fork before removing from oven.

Cool for 5-10 minutes and then slice and serve with a cup of hot apple cider! And if you REALLY want to complete the ideal fall picture like Kayla, then put on your pj pants and your warm and comfy slippers, pull out a fleece blanket and cuddle up with your pumpkin bread, cider, and the new Rick Riordan book!

Harms of the “No Pizza” Status Quo…

Did you know there really are some harms in NOT having your Challenge I tutor bring you pizza for lunch every Tuesday?  It’s true.  And they would be very convincing, too, if they weren’t completely ridiculous.  But it was the resolution for the first practice debate for my Classical Conversations Challenge I class.  
Resolved: 
Challenge I tutors {that’s me!} should serve their Challenge I class pizza for lunch every week.
Now, if you’re familiar with debate format, then you know that the job of the affirmative team is to give convincing “harms to the status quo” ~ the status quo being that I DO NOT bring them pizza for lunch every week.
It took them a few moments to get the hang of this, but boy, did they finally get the idea!  Here were the “harms” they came up with:
  • Weight Loss ~  We will lose weight and then in a survival/starvation situation be predisposed to DEATH.
  • Stress for Large Families ~ Large families are used to very specific routines.  Remembering to NOT to pack a lunch on Tuesdays may cause them undue stress. {Doubtful…}
  • Cheese Causes Creativity ~ Eating lots of cheese gives you weird dreams. If we don’t get a good dose of cheese each week, then we won’t have weird dreams.  Weird dreams make you more creative, and creativity, of course, helps you in school. {Guess who came up with this one?  My kid, that’s who.}
  • Social Awkwardness/Disadvantages ~ If we don’t eat pizza every week, then we might forget what pizza is, and be unable to relate well to our peers and others in the current culture. {And everybody knows homeschoolers don’t need any more accusations of social awkwardness!}
  • Alaskans Will Freeze ~ It is cold in Alaska.  If the Challenge I kids there don’t eat warm, cheesy pizza every week, they might develop hypothermia and freeze to death. {I think this is my favorite.}
  • Under-Stimulated Imagination/Decision Making Skills ~ If our Challenge I tutor does not ask us what type of pizza we would like each week, then we may lose the ability to use our imaginations and make decisions. {Teenagers have to make THE most difficult daily decisions.}
  • Bacterial Infections ~ Food made in non-commercial, unregulated kitchens is more susceptible to bacteria.  Pizza made at Dominoes, etc, will keep us healthier and disease-free. {Don’t even get me started on this one…}
  • Economic Downturn ~ Money spent each week on pizza will stimulate the economy.  If no pizza is bought, stocks will go down. {They are also competing in a stock market game and REALLY do not want their stocks to go down!}
  • Violence and Possible Murder ~ If pizza is not provided for all Challenge I students, and then one student just happens to bring pizza in their own lunch, violent, jealous feelings may arise.  Murder is a potential outcome. {Oh my! Hopefully the Holy Spirit would prevail here!}

Well, as ludicrous as these “harms” are, I was quite tickled and very impressed with their clever responses.  I was really left with no other choice than to order them pizza at the end of the day.  Thank goodness Dominoes now does gluten free. That meant that even Cooper got delivery pizza that day!
 Since then, they’ve gone on to write an “affirmative constructive” for a death penalty debate, and now they are gearing up for their first team debate in front of an audience and judges.  The topic is euthanasia, which also happens to be a ballot question in Massachusetts next month.  This is a very sharp and passionate group of students, and I can hardly wait to hear their arguments for and against this hot button issue.

Physical Science is another of our weekly “seminars” and includes lots of experiments like sending an electrical current through water and “seeing” water molecules split and bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen gas resulting.  Oh ~ and copper hydroxycarbonate {the blue stuff} forming on one of the wires.
 Below, Cameron is observing a weakening and eventually extinguished flame, because fire can’t exist without oxygen.  We also caught oxygen in a balloon {from a yeast and vinegar reaction} and carefully slipped the opening under the glass jar, released the gas, and watched the flame burn brighter ~ so please don’t smoke in hospitals!
 Ryan {below}is experimenting with what happens when a bottle of cold air{from sitting in ice water} with a balloon attached is then placed in a bowl of hot water.  Wow! Molecules move really fast when they are heated up ~ so fast that they are constantly banging against the sides of the bottle and balloon causing the balloon to inflate. The prior cold air had caused the balloon to collapse on itself and even be sucked into the bottle, so this was quite a visible change!

 Did you know that water has many interesting properties such as polarity and cohesion.  On Tuesday we completed four experiments that demonstrated these properties.  How many drops of water will hold together on the face of a penny?  Cooper got 92 drops to “stick” together on his ~ the highest of all attempts.
It was like a huge bubble sitting on top!

 Jesse is holding secure two test tubes ~ each of which was filled with water and are now filling with hydrogen and oxygen gas over the negative and positive terminals {respectively} of a 9-volt battery submerged in a water and Epsom salt solution. Based on your knowledge of the chemical formula for water, which test tube do you think filled up first? {Hint: H2O means there are TWO hydrogen atoms but only one oxygen…}
Besides Debate and Physical Science, our day is filled with 5 other “seminars” ~ Latin, Algebra 1 and 2 {half do 1 and half do 2}, Economics, American Literature, and Drama/Shakespeare.  After reading either The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain or An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott in American Literature last week, their assignment was to write a similar “familiar” story of their own.  Rachel {above}volunteered to read hers aloud, but could hardly get through it, as it was about a talking, diabetic grapefruit and a professional ventriloquist.  I’m not sure how “familiar” it was, but she gets a lot of points for creativity and humor.
It is a challenge for these students to accomplish the weekly workload required for this class, and it is also a challenge for me to prepare to instruct these very sharp kids! {I have literally had repetitive dreams about 3rd declension i-stems in Latin as well as 3rd declension Latin adjectives ~ which also have i-stems. Sigh.} But it is SUCH a joy to work with these very intelligent, respectful, humble, kind, and fun-loving kids, and I couldn’t be more pleased that Cooper gets to have a full class of such positive peers in this his sophomore year of high school!
Would you believe that he arranged to meet with his debate team today for two hours at a Barnes and Noble equidistant from everyone’s home in order to get some extra work done on the euthanasia debate? {They are scattered all over western MA and NH!}  He even created a Facebook page especially for this purpose.  I’d say that the Classical Conversations Challenge program provides a “harm to the status quo” of complacent, unmotivated teens, and I’m happy to spring for the pizza and lattes in that case!

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ September {And a Senior Son?!}

 Well, here he is with his current set of toys and tools ~ a senior in high school! My heart has been on a bit of a roller coaster lately because of this kid!  Some days I’m super excited for Kory to finish up his homeschool education and spread his wings in the world of college with all of the experiences it will bring, and on other days I grieve the shortness of the coming months and long for more time to be with him.  Yes ~ more time with him even after having him home with me all day almost every single day for the last 17 years!  

And here he was 12 years ago on his first day of homeschool kindergarten with the toys and tools of those days. {I’m threatening a current photo with all of these same items, because, yes, they all still reside in his room!}  I remember that day like it was yesterday with its special breakfast, new pencils and crayons, a blow up globe, and a freshly laminated 100 number chart.  I remember Saxon Phonics and reading the word “log” after a week of “L” and then a week of short vowel “O” and then a week of  “G”.  Teaching my kids to read and opening up the world of books and learning to them is one of the greatest highlights and blessings of my life.  Kory himself is one of the greatest highlights and blessings of my life.
Cute Camo Kindergartner on the left, and a very mature First Grader on the right. ☺
The other thing I remember so clearly was Kory receiving a huge bouquet of colorful helium balloons with this note attached from my dear friend Tamyra and her family in Oklahoma.  {I can NOT find the balloon photo, though!!!} She had also started homeschooling her oldest daughter around that same day.  This gift to Kory was such a boost of encouragement to ME, as I was not sensing that our families necessarily approved of the decision to homeschool, and we had recently moved 2000 miles away from all friends and support systems.  I was super excited to start homeschooling, but a bit “deflated” by circumstances, and so in true Tamyra form she brightened our first day of school with a super special delivery.  An unforgettable gift, really. 

And now with tears of gratitude rolling down my cheeks, I give you September’s list of grace gifts….

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
John 1:16

1. Being outside {of summer}
2. Trips to Maine {of summer}
3. Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt outings {of summer}
4. Watermelon slices {cut}
5. Steak dinner in Maine {cut}
6. Taco Salad {cut}
7. Sunflowers in the fields {yellow}
8. Bananas on my yogurt and granola {yellow}
9. Lemons in my sparkling water {yellow}
10. Iced Coffee {cool}
11. Dominoes gluten free pizza {warm}
12. Beach days in New England {sun-soaked}
13. Mums re-blooming {autumn}
14. Cool morning runs {autumn}
15. Excitement of new students/visitors at church {autumn}
16. Spiritual understanding {growing}
17. Ability to surrender {growing}
18. Love for Christ {growing}
19. Time {given}
20. A pizza {given}
21. A meal home-cooked {given}
22. Fall table runner from Rachel’s mom {made}
23. Donors to Pastor’s retreat {masked}
24. Abundant generosity at retreat {marveled}
25. Amish paintings {framed}
26. My life by the gospel {framed}
27. Kids’ art work {framed}
28. Me ~ always ~ in this full life {moving}
29. Kayla sprinting on the track with Robert {moving}
30. Our church into small group studies this week {moving}
31. 9/11 deaths for His glory {hard eucharisteo}
32. A full calendar {hard eucharisteo}
33. Criticism and opposition {hard eucharisteo}
34. “Your statutes are my songs…of my pilgrimage.” Ps.119:54 {in His Word}
35. “Even the princes sit and talk about me; your servant meditates on your statutes” Ps. 119:23 {in His Word}
36. “I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.” Ps. 119:32
37. Coffee brewing {scented}
38. A handwritten note {scrawled}
39. 5 Aspects of Woman group ~ again! {started}
40. Kayla’s family drawings {drawn}
41. Kory’s 6yr old 9/11 drawing {drawn}
42. Tears in conversation and real heart issues {drawn}
43. Robert and me {paired}
44. New running shoes {paired}
45. Bothers and sisters in my Challenge class {paired}
46. Church {shared}
47. Chili Cook-Off lunch {shared}
48. Iced Coffee in the sun with Robert {shared}
49. Relationship with kids at times {ugly-beautiful}
50. Teenagers {ugly-beautiful}
51. Chaotic pace {ugly-beautiful}
52. Kory’s van scrape {fixed}
53. All of the laundry! {folded}
54. Kayla {freckled}
55. Meaningful conversation with a child {conversation}
56. Revealed prayer requests {conversation}
57. Renewed joy and real friendship {conversation}
58. Freedom from sin {in salvation}
59. Joy {in salvation}
60. His daughter and a co-heir with Christ {in salvation}
61. Catching up with Karla {information}
62. Catching up with Rebecca {information}
63. A grown homeschooler’s perspective ~ Hannah {information}
64. Psalm 119:54 in my heart and head {rattling}
65. Anger and bitterness {receding}
66. A crazy cluttered closet {reclaiming}
67. Hotel room to myself {quiet}
68. 3 hr drive all alone {quiet}
69. 1 hr designated prayer time {quiet}
70. Facebook comics {funny}
71. Time Hawkins {funny}
72. Anita Renfroe {funny}
73. Salvation on the cross {finished}
74. Long day of teaching {finished}
75. Book of 1Kings {finished}
76. Kayla in dance and acrobatics {flourishing}
77. My heart and mind in God’s Word {flourishing}
78. Fall perennials in flower bed {flourishing}
79. Babycakes NYC cupcake! Thanks, Rebecca! {unexpected}
80. Emotions {uneven}
81. Biblical womanhood and femininity {unpopular}
82. Coffee conversations {shy}
83. Gift Giving {shy}
84. Revealing thoughts and heart {shy}
85. New spice racks {shelved}
86. Books all-around {shelved}
87. Remodeled bathroom closet {shelved}
88. Sun on fall leave {shining}
89. Faces and hearts of Challenge students {shining}
90. Kitchen sink! {shining}
Grace upon grace upon grace upon grace…