Thursday, August 30, 2007

Middle Name Meme

I've been tagged by my friend at Where the Rubber Meets the Road for the middle name meme. So, in an effort to be a good sport (especially since she is always a good sport when I tag her), here goes.

The Rules:
You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name.
If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.
At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

P--political. I try not to be too political in my blog, but irl I have always had a tremendous interest in politics and what makes our government work. I always planned to run for office someday--then I grew up and realized I really don't want that responsibility. I try to steer away from party politics in discussions, I'm much more interested in issue discussions.

A--academic. I love learning new things. I love digging into word meanings and cultural background when studying Scripture. I love teaching what God has shown me to others. And I love being my children's primary teacher as well.

U--unassuming. I strive to be unassuming. I don't like to put people out or off. Sometimes this means I totally fade into the background or get taken advantage of, but mostly it works out. :-)

L--leaves. Specifically autumn leaves. I love, love, love autumn. I love the crispness in the air. I adore the sights and the colors. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And ever since I did the study, Living in Love with Jesus by Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli, the symbolism of the leaf dying for the beautiful colors to emerge is one of my life symbols.

I--introvert. Through and through. Too many people and I start to feel suffocated. I need lots of space and lots of down/alone time.

N--needlearts. I love them. Especially cross stitch and quilting. But I appreciate all needle art.

E--Expat. I love being an expat. I love traveling, and experiencing new cultures. It has changed my perspectives in many ways on issues I was once passionate about. This doesn't mean I don't love being an American--I do. And I appreciate being American so much more for my travels elsewhere.

I'm choosing not to tag anyone, because most of the people I would tag already have been. (btw thanks V for being a good sport because I would have tagged you just for you to laugh and say no). If you haven't done the meme and would like to, consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chapter 4, Lesson 13--I AM Your Portion

Lisa has created another great installment of the I AM Bible Study based on Genesis 15:1, Leviticus 26:6-13, Exodus 34:6, Genesis 22:18 and Galatians 3:8. Here are my answers to the study questions.

1. Do you struggle with a sense of self-worth? How do you perceive this has affected the way you are able to 'keep your head upright'? If not, do you know someone who suffers in this area?

Not anymore. I was once totally convinced that my only worth was in academic performance and no one cared at all for the person I was outside of that. That lack of self-confidence, coupled with natural shyness, made me totally afraid to speak out. Since my spiritual gifts are speaking gifts (predominantly teaching) I was totally ineffective in the things that God called me to do. Which led me to beat myself up for not following God's lead that made me even more ineffective. It really is a vicious cycle. When I finally 'got it' that my worth is in Christ alone, then I was able to 'keep my head upright' and allow Him to shine through my gifts.

2. What are you most afraid of? Does this fear affect the way you move through life? (Ex. Are you overprotective with children? Afraid to take risks?)

I am most afraid of disappointing those I care about the most. It has, in the past, led to a fear of trying anything and a paralysis. Now it is more healthy--it causes me to evaluate how my actions may or may not impact others but it does not keep me from moving forward (because my desire to not disappoint God outweighs my fear of disappointing man--most of the time, lol).

3. What is one of the most marvelous ways God has provided a need? I can't wait to hear your stories on this one!

When German left his job last year, we also lost the home we were living in because it was leased by his employer (typical arrangement for expats). We found a house that we wanted and God paved the way for us to be able to rent it, with no income to list on the application! Then, He provided the job offer we were believing would come. As it turned out, German ended one job on Friday and began the new job on Monday. We never missed a paycheck--which was totally the blessing of God providing for us.

4. Steve Brown, a Moody Broadcasting Bible Teacher, is one of the first people I ever heard teach the concept that God was not mad at me. I grew up in a denomination that led me to believe He was in a continuous state of disappointment over my failures. How about you? Though in your heart you know God says He loves you, does Satan in your mind ever try to convince you otherwise?

Being a parent has helped me understand how God can demand and expect obedience and holiness, but does not stay in a state of anger toward me. Even when I am the most frustrated with the girls' behavior, I never am in a state of not loving them or being too disappointed to move forward. And since God is the perfect parent, He can look past the failures to see the heart even more. Satan, of course, tries to disuade me on God's love--but he can only succeed on those days that I choose to walk my own path rather than remain in God's love and protection.

5. How close are you to your own Promised Land? Not at all, 1/2 way, almost there? By this I mean the place of abundant living and effectiveness here on earth, not the ultimate fulfillment in Glory! Though I hope you are going to heaven, I don't want it to be today! :)

There are days that I am definitely in the promised land, living the abundant life that God has called me to. Other days, I'm on the banks looking in--I totally get that God has a life of abundance for me but I just don't always walk in it. The glorious thing about the promise land is that it is always abundant and is not stagnant. When I live in His abundance He is able to give me more and more and more. Glory!

Thanks Lisa for another great installment! Hope you, my readers, are being blessed by this study the way I am. If you are blessed by it, and would like to participate, Lisa is starting the study over again beginning tomorrow 29 August. I'd love to read your answers as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jewel's birthday

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Here is my sweetheart with her princess cake. Please understand, cake decorating is NOT my thing at all. But it is my policy to try and give the girls a cake that is special for them. So, I took Jewel to the party store and told her she could choose any tin she wanted (they rent them for 2 pounds so we can get a different design each birthday for little cost and no storage issues). She immediately chose this one--with its fine detail that I knew I would struggle in trying to frost it and decorate it. *sigh* She had chosen lemon for her cake. I went home and made the cake which came out of the tin surprisingly well. Then I started basting it in lemon juice and icing sugar. Did that all evening long. Friday was decorating time. I was actually pleased with how it turned out--and she was thrilled, which is all that really matters. That, and it tasted good too!

We had a BBQ for her birthday. A dozen friends came. German grilled polish sausage and pork steaks. I made broccoli salad, green salad, and German potato salad. Plus we had chips and dips and bread. Dessert was, of course, cake and ice cream but I also made an apple pie and a fruit salad. Another one of the guest's birthday was Friday so his wife brought him a birthday cake as well. We had a blast. The weather was good enough to be outside most of the evening. The kids played football/soccer and hide-n-seek. Everyone laughed and had a good time. Almost everyone at the party has celebrated every single one of Jewel's birthdays with her. We joked that they would still have to come whereever in the world we end up--right through to her 21st. God has been so good to us to give us friends and church family that love us like their own.

Dear Father, thank you for blessing us with Jewel as our daughter. Thank you for giving me glimpses of your love in her. Thank you for the blessings of a church family that love us, care for us and celebrate with us. Pour down your blessings on the beautiful families who graced our home last Friday evening. May we always see your hand in the joining of our lives with one another. Amen.

Looking for Silver Linings

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Last Thursday (Jewel's birthday) was given the task of finding the silver lining throughout the day. Luckily, she never saw the *issues* as problems, but I could have fretted all day.

The day was to be a fun day out shopping at Costco with a friend. Costco is an hour away, so it does take some coordination. I checked the website, saw the hours of 10-6, printed the directions (or address for SatNav) and we set off just after 9. My friend had to be home by 3 so we had plenty of time. Took us a few attempts to get into the right lanes to be able to turn down the right road (it is across from a major shopping centre in Manchester and traffic is fun...not). Got to the the almost empty parking lot and got worried. Turns out 10 is opening time for trade, not individual members. *ugh* Walked to Walmart and did some browsing. Fed the girls lunch at McD's a little after 11 and then were able to get in.
Silver lining? The 3 little girls were much more amiable after eating so shopping was more pleasant.

Started home. The highway going opposite us was bumper to bumper for 20 miles due to a lorry accident.
Silver lining? We were going the other direction. AND, if we had planned to be at Costco at noon instead of 10, guess where we would have been? News said it didn't clear for over an hour--we would have never had time to shop and be home at 3.

Jewel had chosen for daddy to bbq sausage for her birthday dinner. German got home from work, started the grill and went to change out of his suit. The grill ran out of propane at that moment. He had 25 minutes to get to the store to replace it before they closed. He made it.
Silver lining? It ran out on Thursday night for the family meal and not Friday night for the big Birthday BBQ with our friends waiting.

Sometimes we only see the irritations in life. But if we trust God, He will often reveal the silver linings behind our frustrations. What is frustrating you today? Why don't you ask God to show you the beauty in it? Blessings on your day....

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Turn Around Twice

and, this....

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becomes this.

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How'd that happen?

Happy Fifth Birthday Jewel!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In Other Words--Wilderness Blessings and Mercy

"Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name..."
~ Matt Redman ~
Lyrics from "Blessed be Your Name"

When I saw the quote that Iris had chosen for this week's In Other Words, I knew I had to write. Matt Redman is one of the most gifted songwriter's of this generation. And this is one of my favorite of his songs. It resonates with the ebb and flow of easy faith versus chosen faith in my life.

Easy faith is when everything is going well. I have no issues with serving Christ when my life is smooth. When the bills are paid, the sun is shining, German is happy at work, the girls are well and/or listening to my guidance I can happily serve God. When I'm standing in the congregation and the praises of His people are so clearly soaring to heaven, I can praise Him. During times of easy faith, it is well, easy, to say that God's Name is blessed.

But then there are the other times. There are the times that things are not going as smoothly. The days when no matter what approach I take, the girls are not listening or obeying. The days when German is struggling with leading with integrity in a business world that doesn't honor it. The days when outgo is exceeding inflow and it is all *necessities*. You know the days...they are just hard. They are wilderness days. And those are the days of chosen faith. When things aren't easy and yet we still choose to honor God and His Name. When we can't see the end, but we choose to say that God is still Faithful. The days of chosen faith are so sweet.

I want to be able to say that I would always choose faith. But the truth is, without the wilderness times, the ability and desire to choose faith is not developed. We cannot develop the perseverence to choose faith when it is easy. I've learned that the past two or three years in the wilderness of shallow friendship that I have found myself. A few years ago, I had a deep, accountability laden friend. But God allowed that friendship to be systematically taken away through her bitterness, my unwillingness to overlook the condition of her heart, other circumstances and finally her leaving England. Soon after, God gave me another dear, dear friend--and then moved her half-way around the world. (She and I are still wonderful friends and if you are reading this sweetie we will chat about Believing God soon!) And since she left, there has been nothing. I have *friends*, but not share-the-depths friends. I have yearned for a deep friendship where my heart can be shared. Having had that in the past, I know the value of it. Yet, I have found myself having to choose to believe that God is my friend. It is so much easier to believe that when I can see Him shining in the life of a tangible-in-front-of-me friend. Yet He shows me evidences everyday that He cares about the little things in my life (like finding the same *strangers* in London again and again). In this wilderness, He is teaching me to choose Him. I trust He will bring me another friend in His timing. But today, I choose to trust Him and Bless His Name.

"You give and take away.
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say,
'Lord Blessed be Your Name."
~Matt Redman, Blessed be Your Name~

Or in the words of Steve Camp, a songwriter for a previous generation,
"Every day that I walk with You
You break me down and You make me new,
Though my faith is tried, this I know is true
There is Mercy in the Wilderness."
~Steve Camp/Rob Frazier, Mercy in the Wilderness~

What wilderness has God led you into? If He hasn't yet led you out, are you choosing to trust Him? If He has led you out, are you able to share the stories of the wilderness to encourage others? I pray that you have found Him faithful and merciful in your wilderness times.

Father, You know my heart's desire for a God-based, local and physical friendship. I cannot pretend to understand why you have chosen to take that away. But I do know that in the absence of people You lead me to trust You more. Lord, teach me in this wilderness to trust and to believe. Mold me into the woman You intend for me to be. May I be patient as I wait. And when You choose to lead me out of the wilderness, Lord I pray that You will not allow me to forget the pain and the mercy, so that I may share that with others. I love You and want to trust You more. Amen.

Iris at Sting My Heart is our hostess this week. Go visit her and see what others are saying about this awesome quote. You will be blessed!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sometimes, we can't imagine how God will work

I had a God-thing happen this weekend, that I have no idea how He is going to use it, but I'm going to share it anyway because it is just so cool.

German has been working in London. The girls and I don't do so well at the single parent household thing. So, Saturday we took the train down to spend Sunday with him and came back today. Saturday at the train station, we walked past two couples visiting. One of the gentleman spoke to Flower. There was one of those kindling moments in my spirit where God said "he's family." I don't know why, but I asked if that was a Texas accent I heard (remember we are in the NW of England). He said Arkansas and we chatted a couple of minutes. Turns out they were heading down to London for a quilt tour. I got excited to meet a fellow quilter and she pulled out what she had brought for show-n-tell. Then, she introduced me to her friends who they had been visiting with--a missionary couple who lead a global mission and have spoken in our church a few times. We spoke of God being good and wished each other blessings.

On the train, I felt like I needed to give them my email address. Except they were in the first car and we were in the last and that is not a trip I'd make with two little ones in tow. So, I wrote it down and placed it in the outside pocket of my bag and prayed that if God intended me to give it to them, He'd arrange it. Two and half hours later we arrive in London and head to the taxi. The couple from Arkansas are getting into the taxi ahead of me! I hand them my address and wish them a good trip then get into my taxi and marvel at God's goodness. (I almost never take a taxi in London but I was too tired to deal with the Tube and it was too hot to walk the 3/4 mile to the hotel.) I told German about the encounter and we laughed about it.

On Sunday, we got up and had breakfast and began our day. As we wandered down toward the Thames from the hotel, I prayed, "I know it is a big city full of tourists, but I'd like our paths to cross again." We walked to St. Paul's, crossed the Milennium Bridge, walked along the Thames, walked across Tower Bridge and ended up at the Tower of London. After a couple of hours of exploring the tower and seeing the Crown Jewels, we were ready to leave. I suggested we head to Ben & Jerry's for ice cream (outside the tower) and German said, let's just have ice cream here--so we did. As we left the Tower of London at 4pm who do you think we met on the steps as they were coming into the tower? The couple from Arkansas! How *God* is that! We chatted some more. I implored her to *really* email me. We hugged and left them to sight-see. We headed to Covent Garden and Leicester Square and had dinner at Rainforest Cafe. We had a marvelous day. But I will always remember God bringing them across our path again--at a busy monument at the end of the day.

As I said, I don't know if God will kindle a friendship, or if there is a reason for our meeting. But it so encouraged me. I hope it encouraged them as well. And maybe the story made you smile as well.

Blessings on your day!

Friday, August 10, 2007

How Easy are You to Know?

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Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.
1 Thessalonians 4:11

Tuesday, the girls and I joined three other moms and their kids for a picnic. It was impromptu and great fun. Two of the moms are good friends of mine who are a part of the Bible Study I lead. The third lady, N, is fairly new to the church. She is a neighbor, but I do not know her very well. She was unable to attend my neighborhood BBQ and a few minutes on a Sunday morning really does not assure that you can *know* someone. N and I were the first ones to arrive. The initial conversation flowed like this:
N: "I don't know you so well and I'm sorry that we not able to come to you BBQ but it was lovely for you invite us but J (the host for the picnic) says that I won't know you too quickly." (said rapid-fire, as one sentence and in slightly broken English as written)
me: (slightly unnerved by the last part, laughing): I guess I'm known to be an introvert. I'm sorry you couldn't come. There will be others I'm sure.
N: "Well, it is good to keep things private." Then she proceeds to tell me her life story. In fact, I know, among other things:
*her age
*her kids' ages
*previous places she has lived
*names of at least 5 friends in those previous homes
*how long she has been married
*some rather intimate reasons why her marriage is ending
*her concerns for her future regarding home and children
*three things she plans to accomplish this week
*how much she loves our host
The conversation lasted less than ten minutes. I was wondering what "things" were good to keep private, lol.

But it also really made me think. I don't believe I am that difficult to know, but I don't give people my life history in a nutshell. I've struggled this week with how do I keep the balance between "won't know you quickly" and "whole story in 10 minutes" for myself. I've come up with 4 questions which seem to govern how much I share. I'm interested to know how you keep the balance in your own lives.

My first question is "Will it hurt or help the listener's faith walk if I share this?" Sometimes I find myself sharing things I would normally consider private because of where the other person is struggling and I feel sharing will encourage them. But more often, I find myself believing that I am just muddying their waters with my junk, so I keep quiet. In the case of N, she is a seeker from another faith tradition and culture. She very much wants faith to be neatly wrapped and handed to her. She struggles with the simplicity of just accepting Jesus. If I were to really share the things that God is challenging me in my life through circumstances, the messiness of my life of faith would only confuse her. I'm actually enjoying a place in my life where I experience that God and faith are so much more than I can neatly wrap up--that it is wild and vibrant and surprising and growing. But that would not benefit her where she is right now.

My second test is, "Will it lead to dissension among believers if I share this?" Beth Moore, in Believing God, encourages us to know the difference between issues of faith and our personal stands. There are some things that are stands for us, things that the Holy Spirit has led us to do or not do, that may be different from other believers. I am thinking about things such as modes of worship, ways of clothing ourselves, books we read, movies we see---I am NOT thinking about things such as whether Jesus is the Son of God. My freedom in Christ is expressed different than yours. I may be more free or more limited depending on the Spirit's direction for my life. So, wildly broadcasting what I am led to do or not do, may at times lead to dissension. That, for me, is the essence of Paul's message in 1 Timothy 2:8-9: we are called to be discreet. Discreet because telling too much or showing too much may lead to too much dissension then worship is impeded.

The third test is "Is this something between me and God?" Matthew 6:6 commands us to pray in secret, not calling attention to ourselves. Sometimes I need to be just dealing with God, and not seeking just anyone and every one's input.

Finally, "Does it dishonor someone else?" As N was telling me about her husband, whom I have never met, and sharing things I did not need to know this was the pain in my heart. I could not discern if she was sharing out of vindictiveness or if she was asking for someone to normalize and validate it by saying "everyone thinks that way." But ultimately she simply clouded my ability to make my own evaluation should I ever meet him. When I consider sharing things about my husband and my children, I frequently ask myself if it dishonors them. Does it tear them down or build them up? If it is the former, then I shouldn't say it. So, more often than not, family stuff remains totally private. Good stuff and bad stuff--because I am not going to dishonor them by telling their stories.

Using these four tests, I find that often things are just better left unsaid. But I still struggle with the balance at times. If I keep everything private then I become isolated, selfish, self-righteous, stand-offish and my growth is stunted. How do I prevent that? I'm a strong (some people would say fanatical) advocate that every believer needs at least one person other than their spouse to whom they are accountable; someone who knows the secrets and sin struggles and has permission to ask the hard questions. I base this in part on Titus 2:3-5, Galatians 6:1-2, 1 Corinthians 12, Hebrews 10:24 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. But accountability is a post for another day. Also, I am an advocate that we need to be in a faith community of some kind. We need to be around other believers who sharpen us and challenge us and teach us. Finally (actually firstly) we need to be developing an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer and Bible Study. He will never lead us to live in isolation. It is amazing how often God frees me to share something because He has already dealt with me on it.

So, how about you? How easy are you to know? How do you keep the balance? I can't wait to read your input.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

I AM--Lesson Twelve, A Face With The Name

What a blessing it is every week to work through the questions that Lisa at The Preacher's Wife proposes in this awesome Bible Study. God is opening my eyes to things I can't even put into words. I pray that you will be blessed by the lesson as well. The background passages are Exodus 33 and John 14. I have long loved Moses' plea for God not to send them forward without His presence. But this week it is John 14:8-9 that is teaching me the most:
Philip said, "Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us". Jesus answered, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

Praying that you recognize the Father this week as He reveals Himself.

Burning Questions

1. We discussed how we are God's fame and He is ours. Have you ever been in a situation where you are applauded for your ministry and had to fight back the idol of pride? Ever been tempted to believe your own press? It's okay to admit it! Your testimony will help others in their resolve!
(warning, this answer is an epistle!)
I'm a Bible teacher. I love teaching Scripture. I love doing the word studies and the background work and knowing the little tidbits to help bring the lesson to life. And I often get comments on the work that I do. Notice that phrase, that I do. *sigh* I believe that Satan uses this as a common temptation to make Bible teachers ineffective. He wants us to believe that we are doing the studying and doing the teaching and effecting lives. He wants us to believe our own press. And I have totally been guilty of it--and then found myself bewildered that the class was not being blessed for my efforts. God continually teaches me that He has Bible study groups--and He graciously allows me to be the physical teacher. It is His class, not mine.
Two or three years ago, He reminded me in a big way that He was the leader and He held the group together not me and my winsome personality. There was a discussion about world religions and that "everyone prayed to the same God so surely everyone would go to heaven." When I definitively and not so tactfully stated that I did NOT pray to the same god as other world religions (that little g is purposeful) and that the ONLY way to heaven was Jesus, my dear friend who had made the original statement said that she could no longer be in my group if that is what I truly believed. I do not regret what I said--God's truth is a non-negotiable. And although I might could have been more diplomatic in my choice of words, I don't believe in sugar-coating truth. What I regretted for a long time is that she didn't trust *me* enough to come *my* study, when I needed to be praying about whether or not she trusted *God* enough to hear *His* truth. Our friendship mended, but I could never be her teacher again. God clearly broke my heart in showing me that only He is the teacher, I'm just a vessel. I hope that is a lesson I never have to repeat.

2. Did it ever occur to you in the 3-way drama of God, Job, and Satan that Satan was the only one outside the loop as far as Job's reactions would be? Does this encourage you in resolving to make a fool of him when he attempts to use you to defame the Name?
This is a new way of thinking about this passage for me. I do think that it is encouraging that God can already see the outcome, and He knows my heart desire to serve Him; only Satan underestimates how much I want to be faithful.

3. Are you in a situation now where you feel you are being overcome? Better yet, are you in a situation where you should have been overcome but are not?
I have a family history of depression. I have, by God's grace, escaped that for the most part. But the last few weeks I have been pulled down and felt that this time I might be overcome by it all. I wasn't, but the experience reminded me that we can be overcome so easily if we let our guard down. I must be continually seeking God's face in order to not be overwhelmed by life's circumstances. Only by seeking Him can He help me overcome.
4. Have you failed in a Satan-designed trial? Can you recognize God intends for this failure to refine and resolve you for next time? God is not out for your destruction but your perfection!
I don't think I failed the Satan-designed trial of recent memory, but I certainly didn't pass with flying colors either. I stayed focused on God's truth in the matter, but I allowed my ego to dictate how I responded. I totally see how God has used that (and uses that) to make me into someone who will respond more like Him the next trial.

5. Can you describe yourself as a Wonders Junkie? Found yourself in spiritual highs and lows depending on whether you perceived God was doing wondrous things or not?
No. Don't get me wrong, I love to see the wonders. But I really delight in seeing God in the mundane, the normal and with the things I more readily relate.

6. Have you ever been like Philip and had God right in your face and not recognized Him?
Oh yes! Often I look back and think, "well...duh?" Why is it so much easier to see God after the fact. (And is there some imagery in there that Moses saw God's back not full-face glory?...)
7. Journal a brief prayer asking God for His Glory. Let it be the thing we all desire above all else.....
Oh, God how I desire to know Your goodness. I want Your Character to seep into the pores of my whole being. I know that You show yourself all. the. time. Give me eyes that recognize Your glory and a life that reflects it. Amen.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Homeschool Site

I have updated my long neglected home school blog, if you are interested.

You can find it here.

Thank you

Thank you for letting me take a little respite (like I gave you much choice). I found myself in a down place for a few weeks--can't even pinpoint how or why. But creative juices totally dried up. Coupling that with a changing routine with summer, new classes for Jewel for home ed, and German's killer work/travel schedule I just needed to back off. But the past week has been much better. And the sun came out, so I'm back. (hmmmm...maybe a month without sunshine is the real culprit here).

While I was away, my dear friend Danielle bestowed upon me this:

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You can read about the "award" and rules regarding it here. In essence, the award says:
"For those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping others bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others."

I am blown away. One, because Danielle is one of the people who make me think on a daily basis. Two, she is so much better than I am at commenting right away and emailing encouragement. I tend to star a site to return to, and then decide it is way to long past the original post to comment. *sigh* And third, she gave it to me when I wasn't writing. (hmmm....maybe I was being *thoughtful* by not imposing my thoughts on you). I am truly honored. Thank you, my friend.

The award allows you to bestow it (or one of the others from the website) onto five other people. I read 100+ blogs a day. And everyone I read is because they make me think, encourage me, or intimidate me with their creativity. Narrowing down to five is impossible. And many of the ones I read have already been awarded this. But here are the ones I am going to honor.

Tami at The Next Step. She makes me think. She makes me cry. She makes me laugh. Not only is her blog a place of encouragement, but her comments in my blog stretch me and challenge me.

Grafted Branch at Restoring The Years. She challenges me as I raise daughters, as I homeschool those girls and I seek to grow them into women of God. If I can glean .05% of the grace she demonstrates with her girls, I'll be successful.

Maria at Pixilated Palace. She was one of the first home education blogs I read. And I read a long time before I started commenting. She is gracious, and encouraging, and funny and I desperately wish I could sit down with a cup of coffee and let her make me think in person.

Renee at Where the Rubber Meets the Road. We have been *friends* for a long time--way before blogging, even though we have yet to meet in real life. Her scrapbook pages intimidate me. Her cards make me jealous. Her love for her children and joy in home schooling encourage me. And her love for God is palpable. She doesn't post nearly often enough, but she always makes me smile when she does.

I reserve the right to award a fifth recipient down the road.