Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cloudy, a bit gloomy, chilly, but also refreshing. We are cleaning up Christmas stuff so we can rearrange pretty much the entire downstairs area. So excited!

Something about the Week

It’s that strange week between Christmas and New Year’s. And it’s a full week since the two holidays fall on Sunday this year. On the one hand, I still want to be in vacation mode. On the other hand, it’s nice to have a whole week to slowly roll back into routine instead of having to jump back in quickly.

Something I Have Observed

It’s much easier to waste time than to use it productively.

Something I Have Read or Heard

“We are worshiping the God of the universe, and kicking back like we’re listening to a boring lecture or watching a Sunday afternoon golf match simply won’t do.” – Dr. J. Scott Duvall in Heart of Revelation

Something on My Mind

First, the above quote. I’m realizing that my attitude of worship is narrow and minimal right now. It needs to change.

Second, structure for the rest of the week. I still have a good bit to do to be ready to get back to full-fledged reality on Monday, but I am determined to maintain peace and not allow that overwhelmed, stressed feeling to return. So, it’s not just that the to-do list is on my mind…I am truly trying to enter 2017 with a different attitude about my schedule and list.

Something I’m Thankful for

The Choates made it safely back to Honiara after some crazy last-minute scrambles to find transportation when their normal ship canceled its post-Christmas trip.

Something about My Children

I’m not sure they are as enthusiastic about household rearranging as we are. Poor kids. They are doomed to live with parents who like to change things up every few months, just because it’s time.

It all makes me realize, though, that the stability of five years in one place (Almyra) has impacted them more than the several moves we experienced when they were little. Those were pretty formative years. We did mention, though, that rearranging is easier than moving. They agreed and are now more comfortable with the idea of a rearrange!

And yes, Doug and I are crazy. I’m sure you’re not just now figuring that out, though.

Something I’m Working on

I can show you the sewing project from last week now! Most of our Christmas decor is meaningful and Christ-centered. But, this idea was just too fun to pass up. The kids loved them!

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Something from Hibbard Academy

The two weeks off have worked wonders. This week I’ve already made the tweaks and updates necessary for the new semester, and I’m more enthusiastic about getting back to it next week. None of us are super enthusiastic about the grading “party” we need to have this afternoon to catch up on what we didn’t get grade before Christmas break. But, it won’t be too much.

Something that Makes Me Smile

Steven got ahold of my camera the other day. Or we were playing together – I can’t remember which. He’s such a goofball!

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Something Coming

Other than the Last Great Rearrange of 2016, we still have extended family get-togethers coming up. The Hibbard side will be a couple of informal meet-ups, then we’ll have the Browning gathering next weekend.

Beyond that, finishing up last minute projects and clean-ups to be ready for a new week, month, and year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It’s cold. Saturday got up to nearly 80° before plummeting to the 20’s, then on into the teens. It has barely risen above freezing since then. I love the cold. But, I don’t really have the clothes for this kind of cold! Haha!

Something about the Week

It’s hard to wrap my head around the realization that it’s the week before Christmas. It’s not a stressful feeling – I still have things to do, but I’m mostly relaxed this week. But, still. Five more days? That seems unreal!

Something I Have Observed

My days go so much more smoothly when I’m intentional. I’ve gone back and forth with that. Some days I’ve been diligent to use my timer to walk through my day. Other days I haven’t. I don’t know that the words effective, efficient, or productive fit what I am on the days I do follow through with the timer, because it doesn’t always mean that I get the to-do list accomplished. So, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is. The word “intentional” just keeps coming to mind. Oddly enough, I think I listen to the Holy Spirit better throughout the day when I use the timer. It helps me to focus on what is in front of me, then it makes me stop and really pay attention to the next step. So, yes, I am more intentional about everything.

Something I Have Read or Heard

Always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily. – Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest, December 15

Something on My Mind

A man who has poured life into my husband in so many ways said an earthly goodbye to his wife early yesterday morning. She had been battling cancer, and they knew the battle was coming to and end. But expecting a hard thing does not make it easier. Praying for him, their two sons, and their grandchildren.

Something I’m Thankful for

The calmness that we have been able to enjoy this season, even on the busy days. It’s such a gift!

Something about My Kids

For some reason, when Olivia tells Steven that something looks “bleh” and needs to not look “bleh,” he’s not quite sure what to do with that! Fortunately, she doesn’t mind just taking care of it.

Something I’m Working on

Still Christmas surprises!

Something from Hibbard Academy

Wait, that exists?

Oh, yeah, I guess it does. But I’m ignoring it until next week.

Something to Make You Smile!

Santa Cow is apparently getting some sleigh practice in before Saturday night.

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Meanwhile, he’s supposedly letting the mischievous cow twins, Fred and George, catch their ride now in hopes that they will not create mischief on Christmas Eve. I don’t think Santa Cow knows Fred and George as well as he might like to think. No amount of permission curbs their mischievousness! We find them in all sorts of interesting places doing all sorts of goofy things. So, they just might still be hitching a ride on Christmas Eve!

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Something Coming

Christmas! Oh, wait, that one’s obvious. So is the new year.

But, the things that happen in the new year are a little more open to speculation. I’m looking forward to a couple of different devotionals, a new Bible reading plan, and a new focus on writing. That intentionality thing – yeah, it’s one thing to make resolutions or even goals for a year. But, if I don’t actually take intentional action to change what I am doing to make room for the new goals, they will never get met. So, what’s coming? Cleaning out some habits and activities to make room for the goals.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review: Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Several years ago, we discovered Simonetta Carr's Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. These mini biographies are beautiful, appealing to children of all ages (and their parents, too!), and quite varied in the individuals covered - including both well known and not so well known names.

The most recent addition to the series is Martin Luther, who obviously fits into the "well known" category. But, our history books often gloss over the biography of this influential man. Simonetta Carr digs just a little deeper, even in a children's book, to provide some background to the familiar information most of us know about Martin Luther.

Several of my favorite things about this book actually line up with my favorite things about the whole series:

  • The book itself is beautiful and of high quality. Although it appeals to children, it is also the type of book you would want to display on your coffee table, in a book basket, or on a prominent shelf in your home.
  • The illustrations are delightful. Using a combination of historical images and the artwork of illustrator Troy Howell, the illustrations give children a solid grasp of the story and the genuine history of Martin Luther and the times in which he lived.
  • Martin Luther digs back a little further than most history books and child-friendly biographies, giving a glimpse into Luther's childhood.
  • This book gives a personal feel to Martin Luther, showing a glimpse into his tender, sometimes light-hearted nature instead of simply depicting him as a bold church hero.
  • There is a good balance of the heroic and the humanity of Martin Luther, allowing a glimpse into some of his faults as well as his strengths. I love this reminder to children that God uses real people.
  • In addition to the well-flowing story, the author includes a "Did You Know?" section that adds some additional information. Some of these facts enhance the story already told, facts that would not have fit into the smooth flow of the story or information that parents may want to share at their discretion. Others are additional facts that move beyond the story. They also include additional information about Luther's wife Katherina.
  • The book ends with a brief timeline and a portion of Luther's Small Catechism.

I appreciate that Carr included details about Luther's later-in-life anti-Semitism, but put that in the notes rather than in the midst of the story. That leaves parents free to discuss such things in their own way and time. It also introduces the reality that Luther was not always right in his beliefs. Again, he was a human, just as we are. And, we can take his strengths and be thankful for his bold actions while also evaluating his beliefs through our own studies of Scripture. This is, in fact, the greatest portion of Luther's legacy: the freedom and drive to explore the Word of God for ourselves.

I love timelines, so I would love to have seen a little more depth to Carr's timeline at the end of the book, especially after his marriage to Katherina von Bora. Also, it is hinted that the nailing of the 95 theses is not a definite historical fact. I would like to have seen this discussed a little more in the facts or in a historical note to parents, especially since this is heavily taught as fact in many resources.

Overall, I enjoy this book's approach to exploring both well- and lesser-known information about Luther and his story. I'm delighted to add Martin Luther to our collection of Christian Biographies for Young Readers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Real Break

Something dawned on me just this week. I don’t ever really take a break from homeschooling. And, honestly, it’s starting to show.

In January, I will start my eleventh year of homeschooling. It’s really not that long, if you think about it. So many people have been at it for so much longer. But right now it feels like it’s been forever.

For many years, we went year round, taking a week-long break after every six weeks of school, plus some additional time at Christmas or in the summer or during moves. A couple of years ago, the year-round schedule had to stop, as our summers just got too full. Learning was so sporadic that it was better to just go ahead and take six to eight weeks off than try to jump in and out.

What I have realized is that, even during those break times, I never really took a break from school. Oh, there have been stretches where I didn’t do school stuff, but that was because I was filling other obligations or we were travelling. Most of my at-home “no school” days have been filled with preparing for a new school year, semester, month, or week.

We intended to take two weeks off for Christmas this year, just like the local schools. But, last week we realized just how much everyone was dealing with burn-out. So, we snagged an additional week.

I fully intended to use the time to do prep work. A little every day to stretch it out.

I’ve changed my mind.

You see, I’m not enjoying homeschooling right now. I still like the idea of it. I still like that we do it as a family. But, I’m struggling with the day-in, day-out process. I just don’t want to do it anymore. I have been praying for a while – and asking trusted friends to pray with  me – about this problem, especially since I have had no sense that God is redirecting us from homeschooling. My prayer has been for God to grant me wisdom and endurance and a submissive heart to continue walking in obedience to Him in this area – and to be able to do it joyfully. And last week, He spoke to my heart through my husband, urging a break.

So, I’m taking a break! Not my typically “get caught up while we’re not doing school” kind of break. A real break.

I have no school related work planned until after Christmas! I won’t touch it. No grading. No scheduling. No thinking about prepping orders for next fall. Nothing.

It’s strange.

And liberating.

And, strangely enough, I’m already starting to feel more excited about the new semester than I have felt in a while. It’s almost as if the decision to take a break is as refreshing as the break itself.

I still intend to be productive. But, my productivity will be focused on writing and editing and actually enjoying the process of finishing Christmas gifts instead of cramming that task into corners left behind after my homeschool job. (Because that’s what it is – one of my jobs. One that I pretty much don’t take a vacation from.)

So, here’s to two weeks!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It’s another cloudy, rather gloomy day. But, I’m still feeling a bit motivated because yesterday actually seemed productive. Like I was on top of the day instead of it being on top of me. I like that feeling! So, I’m prayerfully progressing into today in similar fashion.

Something about the Week

I’m not sure that there is anything unique about this week. In fact, weather-wise it’s a very typical December week. Up and down and up and down. Sunny and cloudy. Humid and dry. Yep, very typical!

Something I Have Observed

I really was in the mood to find a funny observation for today, but instead I have a serious one.

Some people who have great talent discover it when they are part of a team. At some point, they strike out on their own, expecting their talent to hold them. But, it doesn’t. They missed the fact that their talent is dulled by solitude and independence. It isn’t so much that they lack talent on their own. It is more that combined talent makes everyone shine more brightly.

I have this nagging suspicion that all of the commands of Scripture to love one another and work together in the body relate to this. We all have a tendency to be pretty dull when we insist on striking out on our own.

Something I Have Read or Heard

I read this quote in My Utmost for His Highest today:

“We do the things that can be tabulated but we will not intercede. Intercession is the one thing that has no snares, because it keeps our relationship with God completely open.”

I so often fall into that trap. I like tangible, measurable activity. Prayer is not tangible. But I desire that it be my priority!

Something on My Mind

The implementation of Christmas projects! I’ve had some issues to resolve. One of them is resolved. Another is in the process.

Something I’m Thankful for

The way that my children have worked in school this year, allowing us to take an extended Christmas break!

Friends who are as energized by us as we are by them. That’s a rare kind of friendship.

Something about My Kids

Those three pick on each other like crazy. But, they also like to encourage one another. I love it!

Meanwhile, here’s a picture. Yep, a pet again. But, this is too cute to not share.

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Something I’m Working on

Still a secret! But I can show you one of Angie’s projects because her brother won’t see this post. This is the Christmas present she made for him – a wolf hat. He loves wolves and big dogs, and he loves fun winter hats. He is not ashamed to wear something like this!

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Something from Hibbard Academy

Actually, nothing!!! No school work. No grading. No planning. No nuttin’!

Something to Make You Smile!

At least, it makes me smile.

We taught the kids how to play spades last weekend. Now, Steven wants to play it all the time. In fact, right this moment, he is playing by himself while his sisters work on chores and some Christmas projects – managing all four hands. I love that boy!

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Fun Bit of Music to Start Your Day

We first discovered The Piano Guys about three years ago and have become huge fans. This Christmas video was actually our first exposure. It’s hard to not get hooked when you see four people working together to do this:

We quickly discovered that this sort of performance around the piano was the exception, not the rule. But, the “rule” is always pretty awesome, too, whether on video or CD. One of my favorite recent videos is one shot in Jordan! It’s their take on the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade theme music, filmed as part of their “7 Wonders of the World Quest” to shoot music videos at each of the seven wonders. I love the Petra scenes, but the shots of Steven Sharp Nelson playing his cello in the busy suq in Amman are my favorite – especially the looks from passersby! So perfect!

You might be tired of watching, and if so, feel free to move right along. But, if you’re having fun, check out this one additional “take the piano cover off” video. I’ve heard this song many times, but I saw the video for the first time last weekend – I didn’t realize this was how they did this one!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

2016 Christmas Decorating

There are so many things we’ve done that I haven’t blogged about and wish I had. I love looking back years later and reading the posts. Pictures alone don’t always help me remember. One of my goals is to remedy that by posting something when I have a few minutes here or there.

I had a few minutes this morning, so I decided to look at recent pictures and randomly decide what to blog about. Brilliant method, don’t you think?

So, that’s  how you get this year’s decorating extravaganza!

Okay, so I was a little too busy helping to get pictures. But here are a few!

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We have never been a designer tree kind of family. We love lights and personal ornaments.

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Each child – well, really, each family member – has a stack of ornaments collected through the years.

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Some are personalized, and therefore truly belonging to each person.

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Others are just chosen favorites. Then we have our family collection of Calliope dough ornaments, mostly made up of a penguin family selection for each year.

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Between ornaments collected as Doug and I were growing up and ornaments collected in our 18 years of marriage, we have too many for one tree. In Almyra, we enjoyed setting up two trees, one in the living room and the other in our office/school room. When we moved here last year, we just set up one tree and didn’t hang all of the ornaments. This year, though, Doug and I have a slightly different arrangement in our bedroom – different enough to fit a tree up there!

We’ve always talked about a tree in our room, just because we love Christmas trees, and this year we were able to do it! So, we put most of our childhood and personal favorite ornaments up there.

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Throw in stockings, Christmas books, and few stuffied, and our various nativities (these are just a few – my favorites are the international nativities not in these pictures), plus a few select favorites in each bedroom, and we’re all decorated! At least inside…the next weekend, we moved outside.

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Doug and James headed up to the roof to hang lights. Remember those huge house lights that used to adorn every house? Doug and I grew up with those, and we were excited when we found new and improved LED versions of those same lights! No more little tangley twinkles around here!

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Once James finished on the roof, he helped Angela with some greenery on the front steps.

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We needed some shrubbery trimmed and carted away, so Olivia dove into that while I finished setting up the wood nativity Dad made for us a few years ago.

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Angie & Steven pitched in as soon as she and James were done with the porch.

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Poor Cookie did NOT like being in the back yard by himself while the rest of us were in the front yard. (Oh, and he really wasn’t happy with the idea of Doug on the roof!) He dashed for the gate every time it was opened for a load of sticks to be taken back to the burn pile. So, I put the halter and leash on him and brought him out from to join the fun. He definitely gave me my workout for the day!!

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Of course, he was always happiest when Steven stopped to say hi!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Quite Ordinary Observations

Something about Today…Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It’s Pearl Harbor Day. The 75th anniversary.

Something about the Week

The fall-turning-into-winter feel seems to be hitting this week. Temperatures haven’t dropped dramatically (although they are supposed to in the next couple of days), but there’s that feel of chill now. The cloudiness probably has something to do with it, too!

Otherwise, it’s another strangely routine week. It has been nice for early December to be calm! I am thankful! I still have a good bit to do gift-wise to get ready for Christmas, but I feel much less harried than normal. Yes, I am definitely thankful.

Something I Have Observed

I get caught in ruts. I get tired of the ruts, but getting out of them takes time and energy, so I tend to stay put. If you’ve read my “Not Quite Ordinary Observations” posts for a while, you are probably noticing that I’m breaking out of one rut today! I look forward to playing with this post a bit in the coming months – and, yes, creating a new rut! Haha!

Something I Have Read or Heard

Actually, this week it’s going to be something I have seen. This video is beautiful to me. Some investors visited the village where our dear friends the Choates minister and are working on a Bible translation. They created a short video of the village. This drone view gives such a beautiful pictures of where our precious friends live. (Here’s the link just in case the video below doesn’t work:

Something on My Mind

Thoughts about things I want to write. But also about the need to buckle down and make myself write those things.

I’m a task-oriented person, and I often battle against doing things that will not have practical, purposeful results. Even my writing – something I love to do – tends to fit into that box. If I don’t know for certain people are going to read what I write (and my insecurity always assumes the negative), then I need another reason to write.

For this blog, it’s about remembering. An online scrapbook of sorts (because I enjoy that MUCH more than the paper scrapbooking!). On my other blog – Not Quite Ordinary – I write because it helps me process and keeps my writing skills up, making it easier to keep up with work writing. Both are productive reasons in my mind.

But some of my ideas don’t fit either spot. My insecurity and practicality and the feeling that I am robbing time from other more important things all keep me from writing just for the fun of it. I want to get past that.

Something I’m Thankful for

The rain we’ve gotten lately. The aforementioned peaceful start to December. The friendships that encourage me so greatly. My amazing family.

Something about My Kids

I love to hear their questions during daily Bible reading or after church on Sundays. One day this week, Steven’s question was, “When we get to heaven, will we still fear God?”

Something I’m Working on

Christmas surprises, when I have moments here and there to sneak them in! It’s hard with big kids who are observant and who are constantly in and out of the room where I work.

I’m also working on fundraiser ideas. Things we as a family can slip into normal life to create, offer, sell, whatever. We’re feeling more and more that the time might be finally right to grow our family, but no matter what avenue we pursue, there will be expenses that don’t fit into our budget. So, we’re praying through that.

Something from Hibbard Academy

It’s our last week before Christmas break! We were going to go one more week, but we have just felt the need so strongly this year for a longer, real break – not just one that gives us enough time to manage all of the immediate Christmas plans.

I was nervous about cutting off a week, because we have a pretty hard end date for school next summer, thanks to the fact that our summer calendar is already full! But, when I sat down yesterday to look at everything, I realized that my hard-working kids have been so diligent, and this extra week won’t hurt the schedule a bit! What a blessing AND confirmation!

Something to Make You Smile!

At least, it makes ME smile. Angie setting up the cow family for their annual Christmas picture.

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