Monday, April 28, 2008

Women's Retreat - Bible Reading Excuses

I just returned from my church's Women's Retreat. It was great. I left Friday afternoon and returned Sunday afternoon, so I basically had 48 hours of me/women time. I heard some great sermons from the speaker, participated in great worship and fellowship and even got an afternoon of free time in which I was able to completely catch-up on my family scrapbook!! (Now I only have to fix and finish Treyton's one year album and start on his next one!!) Anyhow....

The speaker that we heard was Karol Ladd who is the author of many books - two of which I have actually had the privilege of reading through a small group study "Power of a Positive Wife" and "Power of a Positive Woman". One of the sessions that we heard touched/focused on the importance of the Word of God, and I was once again reminded of what a gift the Bible really is to us.
To be completely honest, I am probably somewhere in the middle of "being an okay Bible reader" I definetly don't do it every day (like I should), but I would say I do it 3-4 times a week. However, I along with most of you struggle with reading as much as I should and I truly wish that I was more disciplined to do it everyday.... I am honestly working on it.

So, let's be honest. Why don't we read the Bible more?

1. Time - we use time as our number one excuse as why we don't read the Bible, yet in reality it doesn't have to take that long to read a chapter (or even more) a day, and the difference that it can make in your day is well worth the sacrifice. Somehow, there is always more important things to do. For me, I often think "after I finish this, I'll go read my Bible" and then one thing leads to another and it's the end of the day!!

This excuse is primarily a matter of discipline and will-power, we MUST make the steps to create time. No one is going to do this for you. How can we expect to live a fruit-filled, Spirit-guided life when we're not using our reference manual? Reading the Bible isn't an option, we NEED what this book has between it's pages - it is essential!!

2. Intimidation/Fear - many of us feel like the Word of God is worded in such a way that it's hard to understand or we're fearful of misinterpretting such a powerful tool. It isn't always easy for us to understand so when we hit passages that we don't understand, we often give up or become overwhelmed.
* No one that I know is above this particular excuse, NO ONE (at least that I have ever heard of) understands the entire Bible, and we have before and we will again misinterpret some of the passages. However, the fear and the doubt are a direct lie from Satan, which he is using in an attempt to keep us from reading the very book that can paralyze his lies in our lives. I recommend that anytime that you start reading the Bible, say a quick (easy) prayer just asking the Holy Spirit to direct your reading and to open your heart and mind to what He is saying. When you do hit passages you don't understand or that confuses you, write them down, research them, deeper study of a passage is GREAT. You can also e-mail or call a close friend or pastor asking for their opinions on the matter. Don't think of yourself as stupid or a hassle; like I mentioned before, we all have passages we don't understand and most of the time (at least for me) it's an honor and a breath of fresh air to talk to a fellow christian about the Word of God, and if it is a passage that I have come to understand, it is just as good for me to go over that passage as it is for the person that is asking the question. If it isn't a passage I understand, I usually am just as interested to find an answer, and I LOVE digging deeper to find it.
Some passages have remained baffling to me even after a little research and for these passages I just have to let go... it's not that I disregard them completely, I do take what I can, but what I don't understand I have to not worry about - with my personality, questions of meaning can get me all "bound up" and distracted so.... I do what I have to do to move on and not get stumbled up on a particuler portion of the Word.

If you are coming to the Word of God looking for direct guidance for a situation in your life (which is a GREAT thing to do by the way), be sure to come without prejudice, looking for a certain answer, open your heart and mind to receive WHATEVER it is that He wants to say to you. If you follow the Word of God with an honest heart with the best of intentions, even if you are making a mistake, I truly believe you will be rewarded for your faithfulness.

3. Fear of Conviction & Lifestyle- Being fearful to open the Word because we don't want to be challenged in our lifestyle or we're worried that maybe we will have to change a couple things in our lives, is an honest and very real reason why some are not opening up the Word. Along with this comes the excuse of "I'm not where I should be so I might as well not even try"
* To be honest conviction and pressure from God is something that will happen without a doubt if you open up your Bible. However, conviction and a little "toe stepping" really isn't as bad as you think, the Bible and guidelines that God gave us to live by were never given with a judgemental "power-trip" type intention, like parents do, God gave us guidelines as a means for safety, health, blessings and joy and every command He has given us has been out of love. John 15:9-11 tells us "Just as my Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." It isn't always easy, but God could have just demanded obedience without there being anything in it for us - but our God is a good God - and He gave us commandments with the intentions and design to give us joy and a fuller life. Obedience is so important for a healthy, fruitful, blessing-filled life here on earth, bu how can we obey if we don't give Him the opportunity to show us the way in which we are to live.

As far as not living right, none of us our perfect, the writers of the Bible weren't even perfect. God has, throughout history used messed up people to do extraordinary works. If we waited to come to Him when we were perfect, why would we need Him in the first place? Something you need to keep in mind is that Yes, the Bible is full of commandments and ways to live our life, but it is also a love letter from our creator written to us!! No, don't wait, you will never be perfect, but you can allow Him to love you through His word in spite of your inperfection.

4. Just don't do it - It's easy not too
To be honest, I got this excuse directly from the mouth of my husband, when I asked him to help me come up with some honest "excuses" and he said "I don't really come up with excuses why I don't read it like I should, it's just easy not to read it. When my faith isn't being attacked it's easy to put off."

I truly appreciate the honesty of this answer and I think their are so many others in this situation (I know that I can relate), so all I can really say to this one is again, this is a matter of self-discipline and will-power. We can all come up with reasons why we SHOULD read the Bible: we're commanded to, we've seen or even experienced the blessings from it, it's a direct love-letter from our savior, it's full of the guidance we need, etc. So it becomes a matter of "just doing it"!! It's true it's "easier" not to, but it's better too read it.

The Word is our most concrete life-line to our Lord, our Savior, our creator and God. It is a gift, and left un-opened can do us no good - We NEED to open it up we need to read it's words and allow them to penetrate our heart and lives!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Trip to the Zoo & Our Birds


This past Wednesday we went to the zoo for the first time this year. We had yet to visit the NEW Zoo in Green Bay and we really enjoyed it - it's a nicely taken care of zoo. Treyton talked for days before we went about seeing the monkey's and the bears... we thought we had missed the monkey's but finally saw them as the last thing before we left, and the bear was "hiding" but Treyton still had a really good time, ecspecially feeding the sheep and llamas, as well as the monkeys. It was a beautiful day and a nice time together as a family.

As some of you know we had a bird build a nest in our wreath (yes from Christmas), and lay 4 eggs. It was really awesome because the nest is actually located directly in front of our window opening at the top of the door so we get to watch them all day every day - very cool!! I had meant to take pictures of the eggs but never got to it, however, yesterday the birds started to hatch!! We're really excited to watch them grow - hopefully I will stay faithful with keeping a photo journal of the whole thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Recommended Books

I have been reading (or have read) some books that I think are worth recommending, hopefully later I will have the chance to maybe review a couple of them for you - but as of right now I will just give you the titles and authors.

Parenting/Homeschooling
Boundaries with Kids by Drs John Townsend and Henry Cloud
Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp
Don't make me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman




Marriage Realtionship
Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus









Bible Study
Walking with God by John Eldredge

Beloved Disciple: Following John to the Heart of Jesus by Beth Moore










Like Sheep we NEED a Good Shepherd


The Bible without a doubt is one of the most intriguing, powerful, inspiring books of the Bible. It is a book that can just be picked up and read, but it is also written with metaphors, hidden meanings, figurative interpretation and relevance on much deeper levels than just surface reading. I LOVE reading my Bible in any form, but my favorite form of Bible reading is the deeper meaning study (this is probably because I’m typically a fast/shallow reader and miss so much when I’m just reading over the pages).

Psalm 23, talks about the Lord being our shepherd (and us being like sheep), and while this is one of the most quoted and favorite sections of scripture in our Bible, because of the difference in our culture and the culture(and time) in which this was written, much of the meaning and effectiveness has been lost. So what exactly does it mean for us to be referred to as sheep?
To be completely honest, typically, sheep are considered extremely dumb animals. I am going to list a few of the known characteristics of sheep – as you are reading through them, see if you can find any correlation between us (as humans) and sheep.

1. Sheep are virtually defenseless: they are one of the most timid, feeble and helpless of all the animals.
2. Sheep require constant supervision, attention and care: left on their own they would wander & overgraze. “Sheep are creatures of habit. If left to themselves, they would follow the same trails until they became ruts, graze on the same hills until they turned to desert wastes, and pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with pests and parasites. In fact, some of the world's finest sheep ranges have been ruined beyond repair by over-grazing, poor management and indifferent or ignorant sheep owners. A wise shepherd is responsible for ensuring that his sheep do not over-graze a pasture but are moved on, from area to area.” (http://www.ccg.org/english/s/p018.html) They become cast down (tip over) and in that state they can easily panic and die. When a sheep does wander, they do not possess the instinct to find their way back home.
3. Sheep are very social animals: they live, eat and survive in a flock. Sheep have been known to become downcast when they are isolated and lonely.

Now I want to dig deeper into the passage of scripture found in Psalm 23. Once we learn what each line is saying to us (literally and figuratively) we will be able to take much more from this popular passage of scripture and in the end it will mean even more to us.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” In order for a sheep to be able to lie down to rest there are four areas of need that need to be met (1) They cannot be hungry (2) They must be free from bugs/parasites (3) There must not be friction between the sheep (4) They must be free from fear. (I found these four items in an article on-line, but I also found direct reference to Phillip Keller in his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23)
Fear: Because sheep are so defenseless their only method of defense is to run, they can’t quickly stand up and move, so if there is any sense of fear in them, they will not lie down to rest. Isn’t that just like us? It is the fear of the unknown that most deeply affects and paralyzes us – however, the Bible tells us (Phil 4:7) that we can have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
Friction between the sheep: There is a known hierarchy among the sheep; the fatter/higher up sheep will display their dominance by pushing the other sheep around sometimes even while they are grazing. Once again, can you see the correlation to the society in which we live?

“He leads me beside the still waters”… “leads me in paths of righteousness” when we think about Israel most of us are at least slightly aware of the sandy, dessert area in which it is located. Not only are rivers, water and creeks hard to come by but the sheep require a slow water flow as a fast current is too scary for them and they will refuse to drink. Still streams in which the sheep can drink from are few and far between, and sometimes shepherds and sheep would have to walk long distances just to get to the water for them to drink.
When leading sheep a shepherd had to be careful and intentional of which paths he took, he couldn’t take the same path over-and-over because it would cause ruts and overgrazing, or if he went along a path that was too treacherous some of the sheep may not be able to make it through, or get injured in the process. However, despite the best intentions, there are times that the right path may be through dark valleys and ravines, where there is little sunlight and steep slopes, but because the presence of the shepherd is such a comfort for the sheep, they will follow him through these hard/dark places.

“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” The rod was a stick with a club type ending often having nails driven into the end to use as a weapon against beasts and predators – the rod was a symbol of protection. The staff was the stick that you typically see portrayed in artwork, it was a long stick with a curved end, it was used to guide the sheep, to pull a sheep to the shepherd for closer examination (this was typically used with the more timid sheep), and it was also used to lift and direct the baby lambs to their mothers so the shepherd wouldn’t have to touch them with his human hands possibly passing along a human scent which may deter the mother ewe from bonding with her infant. The staff was a symbol of kindness and guidance to the sheep.

“You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over” At the end of the day, the shepherd would lead the sheep into their pen (or fold) the sheep would enter one-by-one and as they would enter, the shepherd would use his rod to lift up the fleece and check the sheep for any wounds or bruises they may have received throughout the day. In the event that there was an injury or if a sheep was overly exhausted from the days journeys he would take the sheep aside and cover their wounds with olive oil, or if it was an open wound he would apply cedar-tar. For the exhausted or worn sheep he would take their face and head and bathe them with olive oil and then give them a large drink of water from a drinking cup.

Using sheep to describe us (as people) has a much deeper meaning to me now that I find awesomely powerful. There are many areas of scripture where we are referred to as sheep, I encourage you to read a few of these passages with your deeper understanding of the symbolism and glean from these passages as much as you can – there is so much more to learn.

John 10:1-17, 26-33
Isaiah 40:11, 53:6
Ezekial 20:37
Luke 15:2-7
Psalm 79:13, 95:7

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Preschooling Resources

Lately, I have been researching tons of preschooling books, websites, and parents because I want to start “preschooling” Treyton at home in the fall. I wanted to start now (before the baby comes) so that I can get everything pretty much set and ready so that once September rolls around we could get into the groove of things without too much prep work then. I have found TONS of useful wesbites, books and advice, and I am taking this opportunity to spread some of this new-found “knowledge” around.

1. How to Teach your Preschooler
I have to start out by saying, I have found many resources supporting the fact that we (as parents) should not force or expect our preschoolers (3-4, sometimes 5 year olds) to learn through traditional academic methods. They are not mentally, emotionally or even physically ready to learn in a “classroom” style setting with workbooks and lessons. It has been shown that children at the preschool age learn most effectively through daily play and activities. Now, as you have heard before for others & myself, ALL kids are so different and learn so differently, so there is no one right way to teach during the preschool years, you have to find what works best for you and your little one. (NOTE: To read more on preschoolers learning through play go to
http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/pdf_files/BAECF_Play_in_the_Early_Years_May07.pdf )

I believe, regardless of whether or not you send your child to a traditional preschool or not, you as the parent, need to be working at home to take advantage and the MANY teachable moments that we are given every day. Since I have put on my “teacher” shoes in the last few months, I have been AMAZED at how often the opportunity presents itself to teach or (try to teach) my son something. I have been taking these opportunities much more than I was before and I can see a difference in both of us (and my husband for that matter J).

2. Specific Methods to Use in Teaching Your Preschooler
Some excellent teaching/play ideas to do with your child(ren) are:
~ Play-Doh: You can cut out shapes, or create animals, talk about colors, and so much more
~ Reading: reading books to your young preschooler has long been a recommended activity for all parents and teachers. To begin to illustrate the left-to-right concept, trace the words as you read over them.
~ Singing: Kids LOVE songs especially ones with motions and an upbeat tune. Songs are a great opportunity to teach through asking questions. (Do you like bumblebees? Do you know what some bees do? They make honey!)
~ Workbook sheets/Coloring: Like I mentioned before some kids cannot and will not learn from the workbook approach, however there are many kids who LOVE to sit down with mom or dad and work on worksheets for hours!
~ Puzzles: develops matching and fine motor skills
~ Blocks: building & stacking (obviously), but you can also match colors together, talk about the big and small sizes and begin size sequencing concepts.
~ Get a bowl of beads or beans and have your preschooler practice moving the beads (with the tweezers) from one bowl to another: a great way to improve fine motor skills
~ Cut out shapes from cardboard and have your preschooler trace them
~ Sensory Tables: Kids are very much “hands on” at this age (as I am sure you are well aware). A sensory table which can be made from a long shallow Rubbermaid container is a great way to encourage touching and learning concepts with less mess and a little more control. Some of the ideas I’ve seen and read about (besides the traditional sand or water) includes: beans, corn, noodles, ice cream, cooked spaghetti, and jell-o. There are so many ideas truly the possibilities are endless!! (for some more ideas go to
http://childfun.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=147

3. What to Teach
What to teach is going to vary greatly from child to child, and I have heard very different expectations and developmental requirements for different schools and parents – my first recommendation would be if you are close to kindergarten age, you should check with your local school on what is required of your child to enter kindergarten.
I have picked up the following objectives/goals regarding preschool development from several resources – some of which I agree with and some not – however I thought I would include them, so you can make up your own mind:
· Learn the Alphabet
· Share with family and friends (more or less)
· Get dressed by themselves
· Recite simple rhymes, songs and finger-plays
· Follow one-to-two step directions
· Hand-eye-coordination should include: building block towers, string big beads
· Count to at least 7
· Know the names of colors
· Know shapes
· Can throw and catch a ball
· Basic Fine Motor Skills: includes the smaller muscles (gripping a pencil, using scissors, etc.)
· Size sequencing (big, bigger, biggest)
· Matching & opposites
· Basic Gross Motor Skills (balance/jump on one foot, walk on a tape line, etc.)
Now I personally disagree with the alphabet part – though I think it’s fine to try to teach the alphabet and for preschoolers to know the alphabet song, however, I don’t think that parents or teachers should make learning the alphabet a primary objective at this age (but maybe that’s just me).

4. Resources:

In this day in age there is no shortage of information – in fact – your biggest problem will probably be information overload!!
For me, I started out on-line (where I normally start), I picked up a few books that have been helpful but they are mostly on home schooling in general with sections on preschool education. I will include a list of those below.

~ Libraries: Not only can you pick up many preschool craft and activity books here, many libraries offer some sort of assistance to teachers. I know for sure that the Kaukauna Library offer to put together “teacher packs”. All you have to do is give them a subject and an age group and they will search for books, videos and other resources – they will collect them (from throughout their entire network of libraries) and call you in a week when it’s ready. Then you get to check it out for 6 weeks instead of the traditional 4. (I also know for a fact that there is at LEAST one other library in the area that does this). So don’t be afraid to ask what is available at your library – you may be surprised.

~ Other Moms: One of your best resources, even if you don’t know many other moms with kids your age, you can always talk to moms who have “been there, done that” including your own mother, I was amazed at how many good ideas were happening at my closest friends houses that I had no idea about (side note to my mom friends: you should be sharing some of your good ideas with the rest of us!!)

~ Websites:
http://www.christian-parent.com/ this website is actually much more inclusive than just preschool (or even homeschool for that matter), it has sections for different age groups of children, homeschooling, budget planning, family activities and more.
http://www.everythingpreschool.com/ includes over 30,000 early childhood education ideas separated into themes, the alphabet and lesson plans.
http://www.dltk-teach.com/ or http://www.dltk-kids.com/ these websites are highly recommended and known for their surplus of kids crafts and teaching plans, worksheets and much more (there are also Bible lessons on this site)
http://www.preschooleducation.com/ this site has letter themes, arts & crafts, book reviews, games, music & songs and much more
http://www.scribd.com/ is actually a website where you upload and share your documents with everyone; however, if you search within scribd you can find preschool development checklists, ideas, activities, lesson plans, and articles from every day people like yourself!
There are soooo many more websites that I have that I haven’t even had the chance to look at to describe to you – so if you are at all interested in more information e-mail me and let me know!

~ Books:
The Busy Mom’s Book of Preschool Activities by Jamie Kyle McGillian and Tracey Wood --- I actually just bought this book and haven’t had a chance to look at it – but I obviously thought it looked good enough to buy.
The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp
The First year of Homeschooling your Child by Linda Dobson

Like I mentioned before, there is more than enough information to keep any parent/teacher busy. This is something that I will continue to research and learn more about, so I will try to continue to organize and communicate what I am learning to you all.
If you have any tips or information to add please post, I would LOVE to hear it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Heartbeat at a Time

So I heard for the first time today the song by Steven Curtis Chapman called "One Heartbeat at a Time". I'm not sure if it was the hormones or the song, but by the middle of the song I was in tears. It is an amazing song.
As a mother, I know that for me, there are many days that I climb into bed, exhausted from the day and I think "Did I do anything productive today?" "Did I do anything WORTH doing?"
I love what I do and even on the bad days I'm wise enough to appreciate this gift to stay at home with my son - making him my number one priority. So it's not to say that I'm complaining, I'm not, but for all moms (not just stay-at-home mom's) this job is hard - it's exhausting; and I need to be reminded, sometimes daily, of why what I do is so important and that I really am making a difference when it feels like I'm not. I need to be reminded that I need to ALWAYS watch what I say and do, because it DOES matter. We (all parents) need to be consistent in our discipline and morals, even when it seems like they aren't working, because they ARE working.
This song is a reminder of why we (as parents, ecspecially mothers) do what we do. I am going to try to somehow link the song to the website or have a place that you can click on to hear it... though I'm not sure if I can, if not, I really hope you will take the time to listen to it yourself if you haven't already.

Amber