Category Archives: Home schooling

Which School and The School for Scandal

So, this week I have kids and grand kids working hard at schools in Greece, Italy, Germany, California, and Michigan…home schools, public schools and private! And, guess what? Even Alan, Joel and I went to school! That’s right; we attended The School for Scandal in Canada. Sounds rather scandalous, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe I should backtrack a little. Jonathan is teaching in Athens, Mike and Grace are homeschooling in Italy, Jon and Gerlinde’s girls are in public school in Germany, Aaron and Carleen’s boys are involved in a private-homeschooling combination called Classical Conversations in California, and my daughter’s daughter has started school here in Michigan. So far, so good, as far as I know, and I hear they’re all settling in nicely at their very different venues. However, I wasn’t nearly as settled about attending The School for Scandal when Alan, Joel, and I went to Stratford for a weekend of plays. In fact, the name turned me off so much that if we hadn’t made a deal that each of us could choose one play, I would have balked big time.  Alan and I both wanted to attend Twelfth Night for sure, which we’ve seen and enjoyed for many years. It has a clever plot, lots of humorous lines, and a happy ending, where all’s well that ends well.  This year’s Stratford Festival (in Ontario, not England…if you look online for tickets, make sure you buy them for the right country! I almost didn’t!) marked Canada’s 150th anniversary, and according to artistic director, Antoni Cimolino, all the theatrical productions were chosen to explore identity issues…how “we prepare our face to the world, deal with our hidden desires or balance our self interests with the environment around us.”  Without a doubt, the humorous confusions of Shakespeare’s comedic Twelfth Night fit the bill perfectly.  Our second choice was Tartuffe, considered by some to be the French playwright, Molière’s, most brilliant creation. The play was a comedic exposé on hypocrisy, specifically showcasing the evil intentions of a self-effacing Catholic cleric. I’m not french, and I’m no expert in what the original language was, but I was woefully disappointed by the script, which had been translated from seventeenth-century French into contemporary English rhymes. I was sitting next to a young playwright from Toronto, who beamed over the cleverly adept translations, but some of them made me cringe. What I thought was going to be light-hearted humor turned out to be pretty distressing and distasteful. On the other hand, our third play, written by Irish playwright, Sheridan (The School for Scandal), which I was most wary of seeing, turned out to be mostly light-hearted fun but with a powerful lesson for all of us pupils: Stop gossiping and start learning true discernment of character! Great lesson! Long thought process short: It’s nigh unto impossible to know what’s really going on inside the brain and heart of someone else. Similarly, it’s nigh unto impossible to know what decisions someone else should make concerning how to school their children.  It’s more than enough challenge attempting to live transparent and wise lives personally. Let’s pray for others and support them, trusting they will make wise choices for themselves and their families. It’s something I learned (yet again) in a very unlikely place: The School for Scandal!

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
(John 7:24).

Making Jams: Fun for Profit

Well, perhaps not for commercial profit, but certainly for personal profit, since you can make jam for a lot less than it costs to buy it (if you buy the fruit on sale at peak season), and you can be sure that homemade is fresher and more wholesome, particularly when contrasted with jams that contain preservatives or a lot of sugar.  For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve caught a sale on raspberries for $.77 for 6 oz., another on 6 oz. packages of blackberries at 2 for $1.00, and quarts of strawberries at 3 for $5 (all nicely under $2 per pound). Without much work, I now have a winter’s supply of berry jams—some “canned,” some stored in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer—with enough to give away too. I don’t take a very conventional approach, and I used three different methods, but let me tell you what I did, and if you don’t already have a tried-and-true method, I hope it will inspire you to experiment!  I always keep one shelf in one cupboard for a stash of glass bottles with lids, which I use for food storage (on the theory that glass is better for my family than plastic, and—of course—the jars are free, since I just wash up empty glass jars left over from foods I’ve bought from the grocery store). Actually, canning jars with lids are my favorite (since they usually seal nicely without much effort), but you can use any jar with a lid that seals securely. I’m going to tell you what I did (and like), but I’m hoping this just inspires you to try making up your own recipes to get just the right tang, sweetness, and consistency for your own personal taste!

First, start by washing and drying 4-6 small jars and lids. Make sure you have the right tops and that they fit snugly, with no dents or flaws. Set them on top of a cutting board (or other surface that can take a lot of heat).

Mouth-watering Blackberry Jam

48 oz. fresh blackberries
1/3 cup water (just enough to keep anything from burning before the berries and sugar break down and melt)
1.5 cups sugar
1 package (1.75 oz or 49 g) fruit pectin (for making jam)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring faithfully and pretty often until all the berries break down (which takes quite a while for blackberries), the sugar and jello totally dissolve, and the jam starts to thicken slightly. It took me half an hour on medium-low heat, but I’m quite sure it will depend on how hot your stove is, the type of pan you use, and how juicy your berries are, so go by the changing consistency rather than just time. It’s a pretty subtle but distinct difference, but it’s not “thick” at all, just no longer watery.  Once the jam is done, ladle it out immediately into the dry glass jars, almost to the top. When you actually can jams, you have to leave a little head room (like 1/2  inch), but I fill the jars almost to the top, which makes them more likely to self-seal. Make sure there are no traces of jam that will keep the jars from sealing properly, and then screw on the lids as tight as you can. Afterward, give the tiniest turn to the left just so air can escape if need be. When I do this with canning jars, almost all of them seal on their own within an hour, just left on the kitchen counter.  Any jars that don’t seal must be kept in the refrigerator to preserve them, or else you can open the tops and add a layer of sealing wax, but I’ve stopped doing either the official canning (which darkens the jams and I suspect causes loss of nutrients) or the wax. Suit yourself but please don’t sue me if you get sick. In my experience, you’ll see mold if anything is amiss, so you’ll know there’s a problem. Of course, if you’re willing to give up some refrigerator space and share with your friends, you won’t have any problem finishing it all off before it goes bad.   🙂

Rich, Ruby-red Raspberry Jam:

48 oz. fresh raspberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 large package (6 oz) raspberry jello

An alternate method for making jam is to use flavored jello (gelatin) instead of pectin, and I actually prefer it. I’ve found that one large package of jello replaces one package of fruit pectin, tastes a bit brighter (without needing to add lemon juice), and is less expensive (particularly if you catch it on sale!).  Follow the same instructions as for blackberry jam. However (of course), take particular care not to let it cook too long, or the jam will darken! If you do it just right, your jam will continue to be bright red, even after it’s finished and on your bread!

There are many recipes for making jam, but in the end, it depends on your taste. I started out with equal amounts of berries and sugar, reduced the sugar, switched from pectin to jello, stopped canning…etc! My theory is that cooking should be a growing, learning process whereby we develop our tastes and improve our nutrition as we go!

Unbelievably Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

If you haven’t already discovered this world-class jam, try making freezer jam:

Step One: Clean and mash 4 quarts strawberries. Place in large mixing bowl.  Step Two: Pour 1 cup boiling water in a separate bowl, to which you add:
1 large package of strawberry jello
1 large package of orange jello
Stir faithfully until all the jello has dissolved in the boiling water. Set it aside to cool a little. Step Three: Combine 1 package fruit pectin for freezer jam (1.59 oz) and
1.5 cups sugar. Mix the pectin and sugar together, add to the mashed berries, stir thoroughly, and allow to rest on the counter for 15 minutes

Step Four: Add the tepid (not hot or cold) jello solution to the freezer jam mash. Pour immediately into bottles or plastic containers for the freezer. (If you’re using glass jars, make sure you do give at least 1/2 inch head room so the bottles don’t break when the jam freezes. Actually, I don’t think there’s an issue with plastic for freezing; the problems come with heating plastics. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any problem with freezing jam in plastic containers.)

Step Five: let the jam rest on the counter for half an hour before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. This jam is quite a bit softer than regular jam, and if you don’t like the consistency, try adding another 1.59 oz. of freezer jam pectin. Also, some people like more sugar, so you could try adding another package of jello. If you don’t like the results…try, try, and try again!!

(P.S.—The recipe for cooked jam also works well with blueberries or any other type of berry. Whatever you happen to have on hand and like to eat!)

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 

What’s the Aqueduct Project?

Thank you to my many Facebook friends who hit the “Like” button in support of Aqueduct Project’s new Facebook page. I also got a number of messages and questions asking about both the Aqueduct Project and my son, Jonathan, so this morning I want to share just a little bit about what’s going on.  Jonathan (Dr. Armstrong) accepted a new position with Moody Bible Institute, who are very graciously allowing him to develop a “Center for Global Christian Theological Education” (which he refers to as C-GATE).   This center will be based in Chicago, so they sold their home in Washington State and have moved back to the Midwest. Jonathan has also been given a sabbatical for research and writing, so after a wonderful visit with us this summer, Jon and his family have gone to Germany for the fall semester (which is his wife, Gerlinde’s, homeland). They will rejoin us for Christmas and then go on to Chicago to look for a place to live. The new center will open at the beginning of January, 2018.

Last night, I got a wonderfully encouraging call from one of my Facebook friends, who directs a Bible school in New Delhi and is interested in materials from this new program (which will be a coordinated effort on Jon’s part, orchestrated both through Moody and the Aqueduct Project). Right now, the program is in the developmental stages, but the goal is to be able to provide high-quality evangelical Christian training wherever around the world there is a desire to learn about the Bible. Jon has been producing lectures and developing a network of resources for several years now, so a limited amount of training is already available, but this should exponentially increase in the next few years.

From this mother’s viewpoint, I think Jon’s passion started as a young teenager, when we visited China together and he saw the great need for teaching in the churches there. Back in the 1990’s, I believe the Chinese Christian church had become the largest in the world, with thousands of people coming to Christ each day but precious little scripture to read. Beyond that, there is the challenge of reaching the global Church, many of whom live in countries where financial constraints make college-level courses an impossible dream even if they are available in some of the largest cities.

Moody Bible Institute is enabling Jonathan to partner with them in trying to meet this overwhelming need!  Here’s a note from his last adventure two weeks ago: “I attended on Saturday the graduation ceremony of 281 Ghanaian pastors who completed Moody Bible Institute’s experimental certificate program. This is an experimental program for which audio recordings of Moody theology classes have been translated into the local language by a Ghanaian ministry partner. These translated courses are then uploaded onto solar-powered audio-players and distributed for free to students. This system allows us to conduct a form of theological education in extremely remote locations (where there is no electricity or internet, and perhaps most amazingly, even where there is no literacy!).”  As a believer with a heart to “go into all the world” with the joyful gospel of redemption, peace and good will that God desires for all men, this thrills my soul no end! If you’re a Christian, would you please pray with us for wisdom and grace as Jon moves forward with the development of resources for the global church community? If you have a lifetime of study and experience in the ministry and would consider contributing study materials that you’ve generated over the years, would you please let me know? If you’re interested in participating in learning yourself, or in helping develop a study group in your area for fellowship and learning (since education is much more enjoyable when there are real, live people with whom to discuss issues and think about things), please let me know that too! Or, go directly to The Aqueduct Project Facebook page, or connect directly with the Aqueduct Project through their website: https://aqueductproject.org/

Sometime after January 1, there will also be more ways to connect via C-GATE (Center for Global Theological Education) at Moody in Chicago, IL (America).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

 

Can You Trump this Gettysburg Address from October 22, 2016?

I would like to ask everyone who thinks Trump is unacceptable as a candidate to listen to his speech and let me know where you think he’s “crazy” or totally wrong. He takes a hard line on the issues, and he stands against corruption everywhere, not just abroad but within our own government and borders, but I  don’t personally think he’s “wrong.” If we’re going to recover as a nation, we’re going to have to stop the internal bleeding and take some time out to heal.

If you don’t want to take time to listen to the whole thing but are willing to consider what he said, I took copious notes but then discovered that his entire plan was neatly laid out on his website, so here it is:

“I am asking the American people to rise above the noise and the clutter of our broken politics, and to embrace that great faith and optimism that has always been the central ingredient in the American character. I am asking you to dream big.

 

“What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter – and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington,” he concluded.

 

DONALD J. TRUMP CONTRACT WITH THE AMERICAN VOTER

“Therefore, on the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:

  • FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;
  • SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);
  • THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;
  • FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;
  • FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
  • SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.

On the same day, I will begin taking the following seven actions to protect American workers:

  • FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205
  • SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • THIRD, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator
  • FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately
  • FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
  • SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward
  • SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure

Additionally, on the first day, I will take the following five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law:

  • FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama
  • SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States
  • THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities
  • FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back
  • FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration:

1. Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.

2. End The Offshoring Act Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.

3. American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.

4. School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to gives parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.

5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.

6. Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.

7. End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

8. Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.

9. Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values

10. Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.

On November 8th, Americans will be voting for this 100-day plan to restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities, and honesty to our government.

This is my pledge to you.

And if we follow these steps, we will once more have a government of, by and for the people.”

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding” (Proverbs 3:13. I typically end my posts with a scripture verse, so this is not part of Trump’s statement, but rather my own benediction. May we all seek and find wisdom for ourselves and our countries, wherever we live around the world!)

Abraham Lincoln’s Old Kentucky Home

Abraham Lincoln Memorial.Washington DCTo me, Abraham Lincoln is perhaps America’s most inspirational president. Abraham_Lincoln_by_Byers,_1858_-_cropHe grew up in poverty, was almost entirely self-educated,
was considered unattractive and socially awkward,Steps Leading to Memorial ai Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park and yet rose from obscurity to the highest office in our country. Assasination of Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkHe didn’t even survive one term, and yet I don’t know of any president
who is held more dear in the hearts of American people. Abraham Lincoln QuoteLincoln’s life serves as the perfect encouragement for each of us: Regardless of our background or heritage, we can lead a life of noble service if we’re willing. Redbuds in bloom at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkWhile Alan and I were down in the hills of Kentucky last week,Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Parkwe stopped by the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park Memorial at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Parkto pay homage to his great American hero—our sixteenth president Gettysburg Addressand the man who successfully led our nation
beyond civil war toward the possibility of civil peaceSpringtime and Redbuds Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park(although I don’t think we’ll ever have true peace until Jesus returns). Abraham Lincoln on his grandparents. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkI was inspired by studying again his humble background and austere childhood.Sinking Spring Farm. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park Lincoln was born at Sinking Spring Farm, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809.Pioneer Cabin. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkIt was a simple one-room log cabin, as was common in those days.Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkHis mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died when he was only nine, Painting depicting Abraham and Sarah Lincoln's childhood home Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Parkand the family had to move many times because of land disputes.  Log cabin. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkHow did a child with such limited upbringing and experience Pillars at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Parkbecome one of the greatest pillars of our nation?Quote of value of Bible by Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkI believe with all my heart it was due to his reverence for the Bible.Family Bible Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkAbraham Lincoln believed, read, absorbed, Information about Abraham Lincoln's Family Bibleand ordered his life according to the precepts found in the Bible. Pioneer Family.Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkAnd, what about you and me? It doesn’t matter what our background has been. Black and White Barn. Kentucky HillsIt doesn’t matter if  we’re plain and simple. Rundown Barn in Indiana hillsIt doesn’t even matter if you’re feeling old and run down as you read this post.Sinking Spring Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical ParkGod has promised that all those who come to him in faith
and drink in the truth found in his Word (just as Abe Lincoln did)Redbuds blooming in spring near Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Parkwill become beautiful and fruitful! Memorial at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park 1We might not be among the world’s greatest leaders…or maybe we will…Cemetery in IndianaBut, we can all live such that our memory is blessed by those who knew us
and approved by God with a  “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Psalm 1)

(The first two photographs of Lincoln are from Wikipedia, but I took the rest of the photos on our trip last week to Kentucky and Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.)

Homespun Fun and Homemade Lemonade

Family DinnerWhen our third bouncing baby boy was born, Alan and I were encouraged by friends who playfully posited that heaven holds a special prize for parents of three sons. Small children sitting on cousin's feetIf that’s true, I’m pretty sure there might be an even bigger prize awaiting my firstborn son, Aaron, and his wife Carleen, who are now hard at work rearing their brood of four energizer bunny boys!

Folding LaundryWhen you have little boys, there are always mountains of laundry to do, Mother making dinnerand mountains of food to prepare, Mother reading bedtime storiesWith little ones, there are endless books to read, Child practicing pianolessons to teach, Father Son Chess gameand games to play. Small Boy helping Mother in KitchenEvery child needs his turn being mama’s little helper,Making Chocolate Chip Cookiesand—of course—even sons need to know the crucial aspects of survival,
such as how to bake chocolate chip cookies.    🙂  Playing with cousinWhen we visited last week,
I’m not sure if the kids ever held still except when they were asleep, Grandpa and Grandson playing chessand it kept us all totally occupied having fun with them. Little LeagueWe enjoyed Little League on Saturday morning, Family Hike in Californiaand hiking on Saturday afternoon.Sandlot hockeySunday morning we went to church.
(Well, there were a few minutes to spare before we had to leave.)Mother rounding up kids for church(And, when you have boys…
it’s especially hard to keep them clean until it’s time to leave for church!) Mother having tea breakI think there’s something to that old adage: “A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” At least, that’s the way I remember it.Older cousin playing with kidsSunday afternoon we went out for dinner with my brother’s family,
and we were all thankful for Jack, whose boundless teenage energy and expertise in high school wrestling was more than a match for his 4 little cousins!
(Thank you, Jack!) Lemon TreeOne of the special pleasures of living in California now is that Aaron and Carleen have intensely fragrant lemon and orange trees in their yard, Ripe lemon on treeso Alan wondered if he could have some fresh lemonade on Sunday afternoon. Picking LemonsThe two youngest boys helped me pick the ripest lemons, Making fresh lemonadeand then Aaron supervised making lemonade for his dad (and all of us). Squeezing lemonsMost all the boys took a turn squeezing out the tart juice.  Father making lemonade with kidsand it occurred to me that although each event was very memorable and fun…Little boy squeezing lemonsas a mother (and grandmother)… Making juice for lemonadeI was most touched by those activities where the family all worked together.Blue Potato Bush FlowerSince returning home, I’ve thought a lot about our wonderful visit White Calla Lilyand the purity and simplicity of homespun fun. Home Spun FunThank you, A+C, for all the love and energy you pour into making your home life such an abundant experience for your children!

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

(P.S.—Lemonade can be made lots of ways, but perhaps the easiest is to squeeze out whatever lemon juice you can get, add sugar until it’s sweet/tart to taste, and then add water and ice until it’s dilute enough. You really don’t even need to boil water and sugar to make syrup!)

Bless Your Baby: (Ideas for Baby’s Twelfth Month, Week 52)

Dad reading Bible with Baby358. Establishing a Devotional Habit

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” 1 Timothy 2:8

PRAYER: Oh, Father, please build up our family so that we are steadfast in praying.

THOUGHT: Someone has said that familiarity breeds comfort rather than contempt, and there’s definitely some truth in that. The more positive experiences Baby has at a young age, the more likely she is to enjoy new experiences as she grows up. Also, the more good habits you can establish with Baby in the first year, the better chance she has for establishing and maintaining good habits as an adult. Some of the most important habits you can establish for Baby are regular eating and sleeping patterns, daily cleansing, a sincere faith and trust in God, and regular social outlets. Are you developing all these things in Baby’s life? If so, then rejoice! Your child has great hope for a happy life. If not, please consider evaluating what you need to change in order to make this happen, and pray that God will provide the grace for you to meet this challenge.

Devotional TimeACTIVITY: Are you reading God’s Word and praying with Baby every day? Even if you read her the Scripture verses that come with this devotional and lead him in a short prayer, you are establishing the basis for one of the best habits Baby could ever have! Prayer is an exercise of the soul and spirit and can have a calming effect on the youngest child. In the Christian psychiatric hospital where my husband works, I have seen severely mentally handicapped people become wonderfully peaceful during times of prayer, which convinces me that the Holy Spirit can be powerfully active in the lives of even very young children also.

Puzzle359. Puzzling Prowess

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4:8

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to always remember that you always very near to us, even when we can’t perceive you. Help us to draw near to you and seek you with our whole hearts. When we feel distant, please help us to be quick to repent. May your Spirit search our hearts and bring our sins to mind so that we can confess them and ask your forgiveness. Thank you for your promise that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

THOUGHT: Jigsaw puzzles are absolutely great for understanding spatial relationships and solving problems, and they are a significant help in preparing for future mathematical prowess. I’m a firm believer in keeping kids in books and puzzles. Has Baby shown any interest in trying a puzzle yet? If he hasn’t been interested on a day when he’s feeling chipper, try him on a day when he’s tired and just wants to be a lap baby!

Puzzle 2ACTIVITY: Invest in a sturdy wooden board puzzle that has only one or two large shapes with big handles on them so that Baby can pick them up and put them right back in place. Show him how, and if he doesn’t understand, help him! When Baby’s already tired, it might be a great time to do something very simple and obvious which he can learn to do and that will make him feel good about his accomplishment. If you have some extra cash, favorite photos can be made into beautiful keepsake cardboard puzzles (although that’s usually more appropriate when Baby is two or three.) Or, you can make your own simple puzzles by gluing a picture from a magazine or computer onto cardboard and cutting the picture into 2-4 pieces. Let your little puzzler dazzle you!

12-months360. “The Good Life”

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Proverbs 13:22

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help us lead very productive, integrated, varied, and social lives. (This was my father’s sincere desire for his kids, and all people, and I definitely think these are good values to embrace!)

THOUGHT: The last book my father, Great Grandpa Lou, ever wanted to write was going to be on The Good Life, and it was to have four chapters based on this thought: “The good life is productive, integrated, varied, and social.” So, as part of his inheritance to you, I am passing down the kernel of his book with a prayer for blessing on you, that you will meditate on the ideas and make them realities in your lives. May you practice adding these values into your life so that you and Baby learn to be productive and fulfilled. May your lives be integrated and blessed with variety and a rich social tapestry.

ACTIVITY: Do you remember my telling you about our friend who wanted us to be teaching our baby the alphabet from his first month? We laughed at the time, but by the time Baby is getting to be a year old, you might be able to start exposing him to letters and numbers (although most children are two before they get very far into being able to recite letters and numbers in order). There are all kinds of ways of highlighting letters. For example, you could have a “Letter of the Week,” and over the course of the coming months, you could introduce Baby to each letter of the alphabet. Take an 8×11 paper and draw a large, simple “A” on it, attaching it to a wall near his crib or high chair. Arrange bits of puffed rice into an A shape on his high chair tray, or make him pancakes in the shape of the letter A. You could use refrigerator magnets to help him recognize the shape, or build an A out of dominoes, legos, or wooden blocks. Draw A’s in the sand or with crayons. Shape the letter A from clay or play dough. Find the “A” wooden block and point it out to him. Most importantly, in all your play, have fun!

Family holding Baby361. Building Love for Your Church

“But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.” Psalm 103:17

PRAYER: Dear LORD, thank you for your everlasting mercy to all who fear you. May I always fear to disobey you, knowing that you will chasten me because you love me, but may I experience that perfect love that casts out fear (I John 4:10) so that I never fear your rejection. Please bless my baby too, Lord. Bless him with your righteousness, and please bless with salvation and goodness all the generations of our family down through the ages until you come again.

THOUGHT: How is your fellowship life coming? Are you securely established in a spiritual family? May you and your family be blessed with a strong bond to your church!

ACTIVITY: Here’s a song that my first-born, Aaron, loved. I used to sing it to him a lot, even when I would rock him to sleep at night. Once after visiting in Sault Ste. Marie, on a return trip to Detroit when Aaron was three, he saw the tall spire of a large, brown-brick, inner city church from the freeway. “Look, Mama!” he pointed excitedly, “Is that the little brown church in the wildwood?”

The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood

“There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood, no lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale.

Refrain:
“Oh, come to the church in the wildwood, oh, come to the church in the dale.
No spot is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale.

“How sweet on a clear, Sabbath morning, to list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling, oh, come to the church in the vale.

“From the church in the valley by the wildwood, when day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood wing my way to the mansions of light.” (—Words & Music by William S. Pitts, 1857)

Baby Feet362. Embracing Your Lifelong Challenge

“Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25

PRAYER: Dear Lord of Hosts, our “Jehovah-Sabbaoth,” I worship you for being the Lord of all. You are the one who provides our daily strength and orders our times of rest. May I be as meticulous as Moses in following your guidance. Please be like a cloud by day and a fire by night to show our family the way in which you want us to walk.

THOUGHT: One of the joys and weights of motherhood is understanding what my pastor’s wife told me about children almost 40 years ago: “You can pick them up, but you can’t put them down.” Once you have a baby, embrace the lifelong challenge of loving and caring for another human being. Sometimes it will seem overwhelming, but know that God will provide the strength as you “commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). Know that we have a “merciful and faithful high priest” (Jesus) who was tempted and tested in every way. He understands our trials, but he will also provide a “way of escape” for us to face and overcome the trial without sinning and without giving up (I Corinthians 10:13).

ACTIVITY: Here’s a little jingle you can use to practice getting Baby used to numbers:

One, two, buckle my shoe. Three four, close the door. Five six, pick up sticks, Seven, eight, close the gate, Nine, ten, start again.” You can play this counting game with Baby on your lap using her fingers or toes, with a set of dominoes, as you’re climbing up and down stairs, counting slats on a fence or boards on a hardwood floor, or as you’re dishing out cheerios, raisins, or some other tasty treat for an afternoon snack. Whenever you have ten or more of something, you can repeat this jingle as you count together!

Playing Ball 1363. Teaching Contrasts

“I have showed you new things from this time, even hidden things,
and you did not know them.” Isaiah 48:6

PRAYER: Oh Father, help me to keep learning and to keep teaching!

THOUGHT: Many times when Baby is cranky, there will be no discernible reason for it, but start asking him questions to see if you can get him to figure out what’s wrong anyway! “Are you dirty?” “Are you hungry?” “Are you tired?” “Are you thirsty?” “Do you want to be held?” As you ask, try to get Baby to respond by gesturing…especially by nodding or shaking his head.

ACTIVITY: If there’s nothing wrong, and you’re not too exhausted yourself, one way to distract Baby and get him to think about something besides his own tiredness or boredom is to practice the concept of contrasts:

“Hi!” (come towards him) “Bye!” (walk away)

“Up!” (pick him up or stand up yourself) “Down” (put him down or sit down yourself)

“In” (place a toy in something, like a cup) “Out” (take the toy out).

“Big” (make huge circle with arms) “Small” (make little circle with hands close to face)

“Wet” (put warm water on baby’s fingers) “Dry” (take cloth and wipe dry)

“Come!” (draw Baby close to you) “Go!” (point away or toss ball away)

“Give to Baby” (put something in his hand) “Give to Mama” (hold out hand to receive object back)

Playing Ball 2“Catch!” (roll the ball to Baby) “Throw” (encourage Baby to roll the ball to you)

Other contrasts you might try are: Stand/Sit; Hot/Cold (not too hot or cold!); Open/Close; Smile/Frown.

Looking at himself in the mirror364. Delighting in God and Life

“For then you will have your delight in the Almighty,
and lift up your face to God.” Job 22:26 (NKJV)

PRAYER: Indeed, oh God, you are the Almighty! I delight in you and lift up my face to you: “So our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2). Lord, I wait for you! I cling to the promise in Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Oh, Lord, I desire to live a life of love and goodness. I desire for you to bless Baby and our family with great faith and all the blessings of your Spirit. May we walk in the light of your Word and enjoy sweet peace and fellowship with you and with one another all the days of our lives.

THOUGHT: Delighting in our almighty God will bring you great joy. If you’re struggling, try this: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Matching Hat and DressACTIVITY: If you have a soft baby brush, how about going to the Beauty Shop or Barber Shop for a few minutes today? Arrange your gear ahead of time so the whole process can happen in just 5-10 minutes, and set up Baby’s highchair in front of a mirror and so she can see what’s happening. Start by combing and brushing her hair. Comb it backwards and forwards…so that it looks its best and its worst! If Baby is a little girl and lucky enough to have some hair, try putting in a barrette or some tiny pigtails. If you have any bonnets or caps, either for Baby or that belong to you or your husband, try those on for style too! If Baby wants to get in the act, let her try to comb her own hair. If it’s staticy and dry, see if you can get any of her hair to stick straight up, or add a bit of mousse or hair gel to get it to look unusual. Have lots of fun, and take some pictures!Eye of Baby