Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Accept My Full Heart's Thanks" and "The Arrow and the Song": Two Poems about Encouragement

Accept My Full Heart's Thanks
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Your words came just when needed. Like a breeze,
Blowing and bringing from the wide salt sea
Some cooling spray, to meadow scorched with heat
And choked with dust and clouds of sifted sand,
That hateful whirlwinds, envious of its bloom,
Had tossed upon it. But the cool sea breeze
Came laden with the odors of the sea
And damp with spray, that laid the dust and sand
And brought new life and strength to blade and bloom.
So words of thine came over miles to me,
Fresh from the mighty sea, a true friend's heart,
And brought me hope, and strength, and swept away
The dusty webs that human spiders spun
Across my path. Friend-and the word means much-
So few there are who reach like thee, a hand
Up over all the barking curs of spite,
And give the clasp, when most its need is felt,
Friend, newly found, accept my full heart's thanks.

I discovered this poem yesterday in the book Treasured Poems that Touch the Heart which was compiled by Mary Sanford Laurence.  Read it over again and reflect on it to get the full effect!  This poem particularly stuck out to me because I had just received an e-mail from a friend, which in a mere two sentences and less than 50 words sent from a cell phone, encouraged me beyond measure just when I needed it. It also reminded me of a favorite Longfellow poem, "The Arrow and the Song," which I was happy to see included in this poetry anthology. When I mentioned this to my 19 year old daughter Rachel, she quoted it word for word from memory.  I guess you could say it must have made an impression on her a while back!

The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

I share these two poems as a simple reminder for each of us to take the time to encourage and uplift a husband, child, relative, or friend. If you think of a kind word, offer it right away when the time is ripe. You may never get that golden opportunity again, and even a few words can make a huge difference. It may not be a literal song as in Longfellow's poem, but kind words are always music to the ears!

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11

Virginia Knowles

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tips for Your Trips: Planning a Vacation to Enjoy Rather than Endure

Tips for Your Trips: Planning a Vacation to Enjoy Rather than Endure

by Virginia Knowles

Do you get totally frazzled even thinking of taking a trip? Does your brain buzz and boil with all of the details you need to plan? That word PLAN is the key since it makes trips much smoother and hassle-free.

Like many families, we are planning a road trip this summer with several of our children. We're heading up to Maryland to see my family, and tucking in several educational field trips in the Virginia, D.C. and Pennsylvania area. Though we aren't leaving for several more weeks, I'm already well into the planning and preparation. I don't like to leave everything for last minute!

Here are some of the things I work on before a vacation…

  • Where do you want to go? Whom do you want to visit? Take into account the desires and age levels of each member of your traveling party. One person might want to relax, while another wants to pack adventure into every possible moment.
  • There may even be a time to split up if an activity is not suitable for everyone. For example, one parent could plan a relaxing afternoon at the hotel pool or at Grandma's house with the younger children while the other parent goes river rafting with the older ones.  This can keep your teens from feeling held back to the activity level of your toddlers who need more rest. 
  • Feel free to brainstorm, with the understanding that you might not get to do everything.
  • I try to leave some rest time scheduled in each day, and if there is a big activity one day, plan for a "down day" or at least a light activity day the next.
  • I also try to alternate activities to give us a good variety. We plan to visit Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's estate in Charlottesville, Virginia), the Shenandoah National Forest, the National Zoo, Philadelphia (Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, etc.), Valley Forge (where the patriot army wintered during the Revolutionary War), and Amish country to see a farm. Along the way, we will enjoy visiting with our relatives from both sides of the family. (They are all extremely hospitable to let 10 of us stay with them, too!)  We visited many of these locations 10 years ago with our older children, so this will be especially good for our younger ones.  You can read a little about our 2000 trip, with thoughts on their historical significance, here: A Tour Through Liberty
  • The Internet is a huge help in planning an agenda. If you know what main city you plan to stay in, you can look up what attractions are in that area. Or if you already know what attraction you want to visit, you can study the web site to find out hours, costs, etc. I try to save all of the information for each place on a page in a Word document I create for our vacation plans. For example, you can enter Independence Hall on a walk-in basis, but you may have to wait a while in line. However, for $1.50 per person, you can reserve times on the Internet.  
  • Let your children research ahead of time about the places you plan to visit.  This will help them understand more while you are there. 
  • If you are bringing a young child in a stroller, check to be sure you can bring it in to the buildings.  If not, consider bringing a baby or toddler backpack to carry your child.   If a historical building has stairs but no elevator, you can be pretty sure you won't be able to use a stroller in it.
Daily Itinerary
  • After you have agreed on what places you want to visit, take out your calendar and figure out when you will go to each place and where you will stay each night.
  • I created a Word table with the columns Day#, Date, Activity Description, Activity Costs, Lodging, Mileage, and Driving Hours.
  • is a big help. You can type in the addresses of each destination, and have it tell you exactly how to get from one place to another, how many miles, and how much driving times. (We always budget extra driving time for stops, especially since we have a large family with young children.) You can save your itinerary on-line and come back to it later. To make it a little less confusing, I split our trip into two sections for MapQuest. 
  • Using your tentative itinerary, you can contact the people you plan to visit to make sure it is a good time for them, too. (For example, we have planned a rest day at my parents' house for Sunday, when my dad is home.) You can also make hotel or airline reservations.  If things just don't look like they are working out, make adjustments as needed.  

Prepare a spreadsheet or at least a penciled list of expenses you expect, including:
  • Gas -- MapQuest will estimate this for you based on mileage
  • Oil and other car supplies
  • Tolls -- should be able to find the amounts on the Internet
  • Air, train, bus and/or taxi fare
  • Lodging -- if you have a large family, you might need two rooms or a suite
  • Groceries -- packing your own breakfast and lunch in a cooler saves money, plus you may want to pitch in on groceries if you eating several meals at the home of a friend or relative
  • Restaurants -- including tips (hint: many hotels offer a free breakfast)
  • Admission Tickets -- find amounts out on the web site, and calculate based on number of adults and children
  • Souvenirs -- may give each child a certain vacation allowance, or have them earn their own money ahead of time
  • Pay for someone who is performing services (pet sitting, etc.) for you while you are gone.
  • Items you need to buy to bring along with you
  • Miscellaneous expenses
If expenses are adding up too fast, think of where you can trim the budget. 

  • I keep a master packing list on the computer with the items that we usually take on any trip. Then I save it under a different name for each trip to adjust it for the specific needs. This helps me make a shopping list of things I need to buy before we go.
  • Zip lock bags are your friend!  Store groups of small items in quart or gallon size bags to keep them together in your suitcase, or to keep toiletries from leaking all over everything.
  • The kids pack their own suitcases, using the lists I have printed out for them. However, I check the suitcases before we go to make sure that the clothes are clean, in good repair, in matching outfits, and suitable for the situation. (One time, one of the kids forget to pack underwear and we had to buy some along the way. I learned my lesson!)
  • I also keep an "emergency bag" with a change of clothes for each of the younger children in case they mess up what they are wearing with a spill or a potty accident. (We don't have many of those anymore!)
  • Some of our younger children share suitcases. If we are staying in a hotel or a relative's house along the way, I try to pack one suitcase with toiletries, pajamas, and one daytime outfit each for several people, so not everyone has to lug all of their stuff in. There have been times that I've packed a complete outfit for a child in a gallon-sized zip lock plastic bag -- shirt, shorts, underwear, socks, etc. This makes it easy to "grab and go" in the morning when we're trying to get back on the road.
  • Each of my kids packs a car bag or bin with books, small toys, and basic art supplies for drawing. The dollar store is a great place to find fresh items to amuse them -- as long as they don't smuggle in a can of silly string! One year I bought a whole bunch of $5 portable cassette players for the kids, along with a box of story and music tapes. Now some of them have MP3 players, which is a lot easier. They also bring a small pillow for resting in the car.   When they aren't using them, they can stash their stuff under the seat.  This is when it helps if they use a back pack with zippers or a plastic bin with a lid instead of an open tote bag.
  • Since we are taking historical field trips and counting some of our vacation days as home school days, I am bringing a notebook for each child so they can write and draw pictures about the day's adventures.  They can store informational brochures about historical sites we visit.  They like to keep lists of the states they spot on license plates, too.  I may also photocopy simple maps of our vacation route so they can follow along as we go. 
  • I pack a medium sized plastic bin with things I want handy up in the front of the van, such as a first aid kit, prescription medicines, flashlight, my own notebook, the camera & extra batteries, baby wipes, a hair brush, sun screen or bug repellent, sun glasses, cell phone charger, permanent marker, blunt scissors, pencils and pens, trash bags for the van, etc.
  • An ice chest and/or food box in the back of the van holds what we need for our picnic lunch.  It's the last thing put in the van so we can get it out easily. We always try to remember paper plates, disposable cups, and plenty of napkins. (We might put a Frisbee in it too, if we're stopping at a rest area.)
  • We also stash a food box up front so I can pass out tidy snacks, juice boxes or water bottles, and napkins. You can pack homemade goodies into individual zip bags for each child if you don't want to buy prepackaged snacks.  I even let the kids pack their own custom designed trail mix ahead of time.  I set out big bowls of peanuts, almonds, raisins, sunflower seeds, lightly sweetened cereal, and M&M's and other ingredients, and they scoop them into their own bags.  This is a fun way to get them involved in trip preparation.
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, and other bulky items go in large plastic storage bin with a lid. These bins can be stacked in the back of our van. If you run short on suitcases, you can pack clothes in these plastic bins, too.   Or use a laundry basket.  (This is especially good for a beach trip, to hold boogie boards, buckets, etc.)
  • My husband packs a bin with car maintenance supplies and tools.
Safety & Sanity Considerations
  • Be sure your car is in good working order.  Check the tires, belts, and other systems before you hit the road. 
  • Make sure all of your safety belts and car seats are in good working order, and that everyone uses them at all times.
  • Talk to your kids about proper behavior in the car, such as staying reasonably quiet, not pestering others, keeping their stuff organized, etc.  It is especially important not to distract a driver in heavy traffic, at night, or when they are already stressed out.  That's when accidents are most likely to happen!
  • Brainstorm ways to prevent petty conflicts in the car.  For example, arrange the seating so kids aren't fighting about who sits where, and so that siblings who don't get along well are not sitting near each other.  Plan frequent stops so everyone can get out, stretch, and use the restrooms.
  • Remind your kids to keep their hands away from car doors (so they won't get squished when someone slams them) and to keep their hands inside the car instead of waving them out the windows.   At every stop, take the time to tidy up the car so people don't trip over things when they get back in.
  • Teach your child a routine for what to do if they get lost. For example, they should ask for help from either an employee in a uniform, or a mom with children.  Then role play the situations until you are sure they understand.  (We lost Rachel at Valley Forge when she was nine. She had gone to the bathroom, and I assumed she had walked ahead to the Visitor Center with her siblings and cousins. It was quite traumatic for her, but she had the presence of mind to ask a park ranger for help!)
  • Buy matching bright-colored t-shirts for your kids so you can spot them easily in a crowd. This also makes for cute photographs.
  • Make sure your kids know your cell phone number so they can call you if you get separated. Attach a younger child's name and your cell number onto the inside of their clothing in case someone needs to locate you.
  • Talk about "stranger danger" in a way that equips your children instead of unnecessarily frightening them.  We can be friendly and prudent at the same time.
  • Remind your younger kids to hold your hand when you are in a crowd or crossing traffic.  If necessary, use a harness/strap system for a toddler.
  • Assign "buddies" if you have older and younger children.  This doesn't mean you can ignore what is going on -- you are still the ultimate supervisor -- but it does give an extra layer of care to the little ones if someone extra is looking out for them.
  • Check to be sure that each activity is age-appropriate and safe for your family members. You may need to buy or rent appropriate safety equipment, such as a life vest.
  • Be especially careful around water! Do your kids know how to swim yet? You might want to schedule some lessons before you go if you know you will be at the beach, pool, or lake.
  • Speaking of water, be careful what you drink! If you are concerned about the water quality in a place you are visiting, bring along some bottled water or water purifying tablets.
  • Keep a small first aid kit (bandaids and antibacterial wipe packets) in your purse and a more complete kit in the car.  You can buy the little kits in any dollar store.
Caring for Stuff Back at Home 
  • Let a trusted neighbor know where you are going, how long you will be gone, and how to get a hold of you. Make sure they have a house key in case of an emergency.   (Our church once arranged for someone to deliver a large bag of Thanksgiving food to our doorstep one year -- not knowing we were out of town.  Our neighbor spotted it and stored it safely for us until we came home.)
  • Have someone check in on your elderly or handicapped relatives.
  • Plan for someone to care for your pets, houseplants, and/or landscaping.   Many families we know ask a college age friend to come "house sit" for them while they are gone.  Ask around to determine what reasonable pay rates are for these services.
  • Arrange for your mail to be held or a neighbor to pick it up for you.
  • Hide or lock up any valuables.
  • Put lights or a radio on a timer to make it appear someone is home.
  • If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, make sure you "batten down the hatches" in case a storm hits while you are gone.  

Did I forget anything from these lists?  If so, let me know, so I won't miss out on planning them for MY trip!

Bon voyage!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nurturing Naomi: How to Help Yourself or Someone Else Overcome Discouragement

Naomi and Virginia, 2013

Dear friends,

I wrote this in 2001 after the birth of my daughter Naomi.  It  is the basic text of a half hour speech I gave for the Northland Home Educators support group in Longwood, Florida.   NHE has since changed its name to NearHim Home Educators.


As you know, Thad and I have a beautiful baby daughter named Naomi Faith. When I was in the hospital after her birth, I spent several hours studying the book of Ruth to get to know my baby’s namesake. I found that Naomi’s story taught me so much about how to handle upheaval, discouragement and bitterness. Here is the first part of it in a nutshell:

There is a famine in Bethlehem, so Naomi and her family leave their homeland to live as foreigners in Moab, where her two sons marry heathen women. Then her husband and sons die, supposedly ending her family line. She decides to go back to Israel, and along the way, has to say goodbye to her daughter-in-law Orpah. Naomi and her other daughter-in-law Ruth must make the long journey around the Dead Sea, which is a symbol of her experience at this point -- bitter and empty of any life. Fortunately, things start to improve for Naomi at this point, and the story ends happily, as we will see in a little bit.

I think that the keys to her comfort and recovery are ones that will help any home school mom who is feeling the pressures of life, or those who are trying to help other moms overcome discouragement. Let me ask you: What are you going through? Have you lost a family member through death, divorce or a child leaving home? Have you had to move? Are you under financial stress? Has there been a major conflict or illness in your family? Have you recently had a baby, or are you pregnant? Do you have a child with learning disabilities? Are you confused about how to teach or discipline your child? Is life just too chaotic with so many activities and responsibilities?

Our family has gone through periods of time when we’ve had almost every imaginable stress factor in our lives. If you’ve ever seen those little stress profile quizzes in magazines, let me tell you that we’ve been off the charts with death, illnesses, unemployment, career changes, new babies, and all that stuff. By God’s grace, we have survived! This last pregnancy in particular was pretty tough for my entire family since I had health problems, and was so tired and sore. It made me reconsider how I want to live my life according to the principles I will share this evening from the story of Naomi.

The first key is this:

When Naomi heard that God had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she sets out for Bethlehem. When she and Ruth get there and are greeted by her old friends, she tells them, “Don't call me Naomi. Call me Marah, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

The name Marah means bitter, while Naomi means pleasant or delightful. The other place we find a reference to Marah in the Bible is in Exodus 15, when the children of Israel, wandering around in the dry old desert, come to a place with bitter water. The Lord does a miracle with a piece of wood and makes the water sweet.

Perhaps Naomi is hoping that God will intervene and make her life sweet from now on. She knows it’s the hand of God that allows each circumstance, bad or good. She doesn’t always like it, but she accepts it! She knows her life is not ruled by chance, but by a sovereign Lord.

As it turns out, in God’s gracious plan, Ruth ends up gleaning for barley in the field of Boaz. He’s a good man who admires her devotion to Naomi, so he makes sure that his workers treat Ruth respectfully and that they leave lots of grain on the ground for her to gather. It isn’t “luck” that lands Ruth in the right place at the right time. God sees all things, and blesses people for what they have done and how they trust him. Naomi acknowledges this when she says, “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.”

How we react to the hard knocks of life is a powerful example for our children. Do you have a child who is easily discouraged when the picnic gets rained out or Dad misses his ball game because of a business trip? Have you taught him that God is still in control of everything, or do you fuss and fume when your preschooler throws the whole box of math manipulatives all over the floor, or pout because you have to stay home from a home school meeting when your second grader has the tummy flu?

If the little things like this throw you, how will you ever be able to deal with a MAJOR crisis in life?

One way that I try to help my children get ready to face discouragement is through reading good literature about people who go through tough circumstances. Lately we have been reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. It is told from the perspective of a nine year old black girl living in Mississippi in the 1930s as her family wrestles with the issue of racism and how to respond to injustice.

It’s true that God allows us to go through tough times. It may seem like he is not taking care of us, but he is. Psalm 66:8-12 declares, “Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

When I am going through a tough time, I often find that I’m motivated to keep trusting and keep trying because of the gentle testimony of someone else who has gone through in a similar situation. And when I know someone else who needs this kind of support, I also try to BE part of the kindness of God by serving and giving as I am able. Our hands are the ones he can use.

Yes, we need to see God’s providence and sovereignty in each situation.
The second key from Naomi’s story is....

Over the years, Naomi has to let go of her home and her family. She doesn’t try to cling tightly to Orpah or Ruth, but gives them the freedom to choose whether they want to go with her or stay in Moab. In Bethlehem, she continues to hold Ruth loosely, letting her go out to glean and even arranging for her to get married. That’s not the sign of a jealous heart. Naomi never does “lose” Ruth, who has pledged lifetime loyalty to her because Naomi possesses godly faith and character that is worth following, not because she is domineering and controlling. Naomi even gives up her legal claim to her own land so that Ruth can marry Boaz according to kinsman-redeemer customs of Israel.

Likewise, when Job lost all of his possessions and his ten children, he still said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job and Naomi knew that things and people are a blessing, but they won’t bring you ultimate happiness. If you try to hold on to them, you will always be insecure. Relax your grip!

How can home school moms apply this concept?

First, about THINGS, you don’t have to grab up all the newest curriculum and educational stuff that is on the market! The most important curriculum resource you have is your Bible. Everything else is an “elective.” Don’t worry if you can’t afford expensive books and gadgets. God will provide what you need when you need it. One way he does this is through generosity. It’s a real blessing to see home school moms share their resources with each other. This is a modern example of the principle of gleaning. Do you have extra curriculum or a good book that you could lend or give to another mom? Matthew 10:8 says, “Freely you have received, freely give.” So hold things loosely! God will bless you for it!

Second, about PEOPLE, don’t be a control freak!

When you are ministering to another mom, you can offer advice, but give her the dignity to make her own decisions.

Being a control freak really hits home when we’re talking about our own children! Can you trust that God will lead your children and work in their hearts? Our goal in life is not to make our children dependent on us forever, but to launch them toward independence bit by bit. Yes, we have a great influence over children, and we need to hold them accountable for their attitudes and behavior, but we can’t live their lives for them. If we try to dictate every detail of their destiny, we will get very uptight and feel guilty for every mistake they make. A bossy or grumpy Mom makes everyone tense, and won’t motivate her children to do what is right. James 1:20 warns use that “... man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Our children will leave the nest someday. Will they have memories of a warm relationship with their mother, or will they be in a hurry to get out from under your thumb?

Learn to hold things and people loosely. Let go and let God!

The third key is...


When Naomi comes back to Bethlehem, she is greeted by the dear women in the community of faith that she had left so many years ago. After years in a spiritually dry country, this must be like sweet water to a parched soul. But Naomi is still having a hard time adjusting. She feels like the odd one out, the only one to have suffered. Has she forgotten that these women have gone through a famine in Bethlehem? They have faced their own challenges in life, so they can compassionately reach out to their hurting friend. Fortunately, by the end of our story, Naomi is very happily reconnected with this circle of friends who are rejoicing with her.

How about you? Are you plugged into a support network? What “human resources” do you have? 
  • Your immediate family
  • Your extended family
  • Your church
  • Your home school support group
  • Your Christian friends
  • Even books, magazines and internet resources are great sources of encouragement!
Northland Home Educators devotes most meetings to encouraging home school parents to raise their children for God’s glory. Small group discussions help us connect with each other on a more personal level. I really thank God for the women of NHE. For the past seven years, you have been here for me! You have offered me sweet fellowship. You have prayed for me in times of discouragement. You have shared teaching tips and advice. When I’ve been tempted to wander from my convictions about education and family life, you have kept me focused on what is truly important. What a blessing you are to me and to each other!
 When someone new comes to our meetings or maybe someone we just haven’t seen in a long while, we need to make them feel welcome! Take a little time to chat, get her phone number, introduce her to the other ladies, maybe even invite her to your house or offer to show her around at the home school convention. Help her connect with our little community of faith and values!

Do you feel alone in your struggles? You might be tempted to think no one else is going through anything like you are, but if you are willing to share about it -- even a teeny tiny bit -- you might find someone who can help you. We don’t always know when other people have been through the same problem until we ask around! Last month, a mom told me that she was able to get a diagnosis for her son’s learning disability after describing the symptoms to another mom in her NHE discussion group whose son had the same problems! That’s such a good example of networking!

It’s important to seek our spiritual comfort and advice from mature Christian believers! The world out there is full of bad opinions. We need discernment to see whether advice matches up with Scripture.

Proverbs 13:20 says that “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Who are your companions?

Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.” Do you have someone to give you earnest counsel, or just someone who tells you what you want to hear?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 say, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Do you know someone like this who is struggling or discouraged? It is easy to avoid her because we don’t feel like we have all the answers for her. But just BEING there is a ministry in itself! Think back to what helped you most when you were having a hard time. It wasn’t a lecture, but LOVE. We must communicate: “I’m here for you. Let me know how I can help.” But don’t just wait for her to tell you what you can do. She might be too timid to ask. So go ahead and bring her a plate of chocolate chip cookies, send her a sweet card, give her a hug, call her on the phone. You don’t need to say much at all or pretend that you understand everything. Just let her know you care.

Let’s reconnect with others to build each other up in our common faith and values!

Here’s the fourth key:

Not much is said about what Naomi did in Bethelehem, but is appears that she adopted a fairly calm and settled lifestyle, staying home to keep house while Ruth went out to work. During or after a period of upheaval, sometimes what we need most is peace and quiet. We need to settle down and keep the chaos to a minimum.

When we are busy running here and there from one activity to another, our home life suffers. The schedule gets all out of whack, clutter takes over, we don’t eat right, we don’t get enough sleep, our husbands start feeling the burden of extra stuff to do when they get home, and the children start acting up. Does your family get the “leftovers” of your energy, or are you being “busy at home” and “loving your husband and children” as we are told to do in Titus 2:4-5. If your life seems out of control, reevaluate your priorities. Work on developing a basic routine. Then, as you wish, you can add in one other extra thing at a time.

I find that when my house is messy, it’s pretty hard to stay focused on school work. Clutter is so distracting! It steals your time, your space, and, and if you can’t find what you are looking for, it robs you of the use of your possessions too! An organized home brings a sense of peace and rest, and it gives you the freedom to show hospitality to others.

Another major household task is fixing meals! The way to a man’s heart is still through his stomach! The same goes for our children who get struck with a case of the hungry munchies around 10 o’clock in the morning and can’t seem to concentrate on school work! There will be much less stress is your home if you serve lots of good healthy food at regular times.  Speaking of food, the NHE meals ministry is a GREAT way to encourage another mom who has been sick or had a baby. From recent experience, I can tell you what a HELP it is during a time of upheaval! 

It’s crucial to get our children involved in caring for the home. As we learn to delegate, they will learn the life skills they need, and we will get more done! Actually though, with this last pregnancy, I found I was depending too much on my older children. One of my biggest recent goals -- now that I’m able to bend over again -- is to take back some of my own duties and restore order to my home. This means I have to cut back on some of my more sedentary pursuits like writing. I haven’t given this up entirely, because I depend on it for my own sanity, and it ministers to others. However, I have made more effort to keep this one area of life in its proper place. 

Homemaking is one of our primary roles. It can do wonders for the atmosphere of our home school.

The noble Proverbs 31 woman “sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks... She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."

I just got a copy of Teri Maxwell’s new book Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, and in one chapter she talks about how when we decide to home school our children, we are basically signing up for a lifestyle of HARD WORK. We aren’t going to have a whole lot of free time left over after we take care of our assorted responsibilities. The question is: Can you do this with a smile on your face?

I have a confession to make about this. On Saturday, after spending most of my day grocery shopping, taking care of sick children, typing business reports for my husband, and doing miscellaneous housework, I looked forward to sitting quietly at the computer and finishing up the notes for this speech.

But when I got interrupted -- several times -- I got really resentful and stormed out of the house in tears. Unfortunately, I didn’t have money in the budget for a good old shopping spree to calm my nerves, so after driving around the neighborhood for a few minutes, I went home and made dinner. I felt guilty for my poor reactions. I didn’t deserve for anyone to rise up and call me blessed that afternoon!

Like other moms, I need to learn to work cheerfully as unto the Lord, without expecting a lot in return. I need to learn to develop that quiet routine of homemaking that creates a haven of peace and joy for my family.

And the final key is...

Naomi doesn’t just think of the “here and now” of putting food on the table, but looks ahead to the future. She isn’t selfish. She really wants the best for Ruth, so one day she sits Ruth down and says, “Honey, we need to find you a MAN! How ‘bout that guy Boaz?” Well, maybe she doesn’t say it like THAT, but you get the picture. She gives Ruth a few quick courtship hints, and pretty soon wedding bells are ringing. But the story doesn’t stop there!

In the last chapter of Ruth, Scripture reminds us three times that it is the Lord who causes each child to be conceived. Sure enough, in due time, Ruth and Boaz have a baby named Obed who is the joy of Naomi’s heart. But this cozy little story did not just affect these three generations. It totally transformed the history of the world! You see, Obed was the grandfather of King David, who wrote the Psalms. The Messiah, Jesus, was born in Bethlehem because he was “of the house and lineage of David.” In other words, the Savior of the World was the fruit of this marriage!

Each and every child that we have is a gift from God. Though you may have had a baby who was “unexpected” -- at least by you -- God does not make any accidents! He forms each child in the womb for a purpose! You may feel like you have a child that you can’t handle -- one who stretches you way past your utmost limits of patience and wisdom -- but God knows exactly what your child needs. He knows your child’s past, and he knows your child’s future -- every day of your child’s future!

In Psalm 139:13-16, Ruth’s great grandson David extols God with these words: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Raising these bundles of joy to be wholehearted for God requires sacrifice on the part of the parents. We are investing our lives in our children through home schooling. Sometimes this may seem overwhelming, and we wonder why we bother. But we need to look beyond the short term, and see the ripple effect of our actions. If we equip our children with godly character and a desire to serve and glorify God, then their ministry will affect nations and generations! We must keep this in focus, or we will be tempted to settle for second best of just getting through the spelling test and the math lessons.

And let’s not forget our toddlers and preschoolers! Are you just trying to keep them out of trouble and wishing for the day when they are potty trained? They need just as much active attention as your school age children, if not more! Are you taking the time to cuddle them, discipline them, help them learn their numbers and colors and read them Bible stories?
 It seems like a blink of an eye from the time a child is doing those ABCs to when they turn into teenagers, but it happens! I actually have a daughter who is starting high school this fall. With eight children at home, it would be really easy to try to get by with the minimum for home school high school. But we have to think seriously about her future, about her life after she leaves our home. We want to send her off with the very best we can give her, even when it requires hard work and financial sacrifice.  [Note in 2010: My daughter Mary graduated from UCF with a journalism degree in May 2008, married Ryan Tindall a week later, works as a writer for Wycliffe Bible Translators, and is expecting their first baby Jacob this month.]

As we make these decisions about how to spend our time and money, we need to make sure our own children’s needs are met before we fill up our schedule with other things. Then as we are able, we can invest in the lives of other children. For you, this might mean organizing a field trip or teaching Sunday School. This year, I really appreciate Mike and Cheryl Bastian for investing in NHE children by setting up a private school enrollment option for us. For me, investing in other children means writing and publishing books and newsletters to equip their moms to home school them. They were all written to encourage you in the high call of home educating your children. They were all written as an investment in future generations for eternity.

As I close this little speech, let me ask you: Are you feeling empty? Bitter? Dried up? Let’s go to the Lord for “filling”! A home school friend named Melony writes:

The word "empty" is so descriptive of discouragement. God often speaks in His word of "fullness" and “overflowing abundance.” When I am discouraged I realize I have to allow myself to be filled, and that's when I gobble up every good thing I can get my hands, and ears, and eyes on. That is when I keep my Christian radio on soaking up all the good music and great sermons. That is when I make myself go outside and fill up on the beauty of God's creation, and I’m always amazed at how my hands want to follow along... in planting flowers, preparing a special meal, turning the pages of God's Word or a new good book, or even better, doing something for someone else even if I don't "feel" like it. Before long, I feel full again, and usually more satisfied than before, because I have feasted on the things of God instead of my own misery.

And that’s a good word for all of us....

DIGGING DEEPER: Scriptures to Accompany “Nurturing Naomi” Article

SEE GOD’S PROVIDENCE AND SOVEREIGNTY IN EACH SITUATION: Ruth 1:6; Ruth 1:20-21; Ruth 2:12; Ruth 2:20; Isaiah 61:1-3; Exodus 15:22-25; Psalm 66:8-12; Romans 8:28

HOLD THINGS AND PEOPLE LOOSELY: Ruth 1:8; Ruth 2:2; Ruth 3:1; Ruth 4:3; Matthew 5:38-42; Matthew 10:8; Matthew 16:25-26; Job 1:20; James 1:20

CONNECT WITH KINDRED MINDS: Ruth 1:9; Ruth 2:22; Ruth 4:11&17; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 19:20; Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 27:9; Hebrews 10:24-25; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

DEVELOP A QUIET ROUTINE OF HOMEMAKING: Titus 2:4-5; Proverbs 14:1; Proverbs 31; 1 Samuel 30:15; 1 Samuel 32:17; Psalm 84:3

INVEST IN FUTURE GENERATIONS: Ruth 3:1-2; Ruth 4:11-17; Psalm 78:4-6; Psalm 139:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9; Mark 10:13-16

"Covering Your Coquina" -- How to Withstand an Enemy Attack

My daughter Julia and her boyfriend Alex drove up to St. Augustine yesterday for a daytrip.  I haven't talked to her about how their trip went, but I was talking to them at Sunday dinner and told them something I had learned on a visit many years ago to the fort there. 

One thing that interested me about the Castillo de San Marcos was when the guide related that during a bombardment, the British attackers, situated on an island across the river, had to aim their cannons continuously at the same spot to have any hope of breaking through the tough plaster-covered coquina. Once they broke through the white plaster, the darker bare spot became their visible target. Fortunately for the Spanish, the British would cease firing at night so they could rest. Then the Spanish, under cover of darkness, would scale their own fort’s walls and apply new plaster, making the weak spot disappear. The British eventually gave up! It struck me (pardon the pun) that we all have weak spots spiritually. Those who have received forgiveness from God, through trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus, are covered with his righteousness. But sometimes it seems that a hypocritical hole is blown right through our faith. Rather than wallow in guilt and let Satan keep taking fire at our vulnerable areas, we need to daily be re-covered and hidden in Christ’s protecting grace.

Virginia Knowles