Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shabbat Shalom

"Shabbat Shalom!"
"Shabbat Shalom!"
After hearing the words a few times, I was able to return the greeting with a measure of confidence.  "Shabbat Shalom!"  "Sabbath Peace!"
Tears filled my eyes as I looked around the room.  I was standing in the presence of God's people - the Jews.  I, a Gentile by birth, along with my Beloved and my 3 Treasures, had the honor and privilege of breaking Sabbath bread with the Jewish Congregation of Iquitos, Peru.  What joy filled my heart to know that while I am not Jewish by physical birth, I am Jewish by Spiritual birth!  My Saviour lived and walked among these precious people.  He was a Jew.  Most of the early Christians were Jews.  What a rich heritage I have as a Christian!
One of the reasons I love homeschooling is what my children learn in the classroom, we learn as a family!  So, as a family, we are studying World Geography this year - continuing from last year.  We typically spend 1 week (sometimes 2 - depending on how hectic our schedule is that week) studying a country.  We take time to learn about the culture of the countries we are studying, and even try to cook a traditional meal from that country.  I love seeing how much the kids are learning and remembering.
Last year, we started a new family tradition.  We started celebrating Passover.  We want our children to understand that as Christians we are the spiritual seed of Abraham.  We want them to know that without the Passover, we wouldn't have salvation - for CHRIST is our Passover!  Even though I grew up in church, I never realized what a beautiful, precious picture the Passover is of Salvation - every part of the Passover points to Christ!  How exceedingly precious that should be to those of us who are saved!  How extremely heart-breaking it is to see how the Jews miss it completely!
This year, I planned our geography lessons so that we could study the country of Israel during the time of Passover.  We knew when we moved to Iquitos that there had been a Jewish community here. We weren't sure if there was still Jews here or not.  I started searching the Internet (a great tool when used properly), and found that there is still a Jewish community here.  We used one of our Family Days to see if we could meet the President of the Jewish Community.  God graciously allowed us to meet Señor Jorge.  He showed us the Synagogue and the Torah.  He even showed the kids the pointer that is used when the Torah is read.  They use the pointer to keep their place while reading, as they are not allowed to touch the Torah.  And speaking of the Torah, only the Rabbi is allowed to read it.  Aren't you thankful that we can read our Bible whenever we please?  We don't have to wait for the Rabbi or the Preacher to read it to us!  He was so kind and gracious to answer all our questions.  We learned that most of the Jews here are descendants of Moroccan Jews who emigrated here to Iquitos during the Rubber Boom.  There are about 80 Jews here in Iquitos.  Señor Jorge has 3 children, who are all in Israel, serving in the military.  The Congregation here doesn't have their own Rabbi (sometimes the Rabbi from Lima comes to visit), but they still gather for a Sabbath service on Fridays.  We asked if we could join them for a Sabbath service sometime after Passover.  He agreed.  That same day, we also went to the main cemetery here in Iquitos and found the section that is the Jewish Cemetery.
On Friday, May 6, we went to the Synagogue and joined the Jewish community for their "Shabbat" (Sabbath) service.  Can I be perfectly frank?  I don't think I have ever been to a more peaceful service in my entire life.  The fact that they love God was so evident!  They sang in Hebrew - and we tried!  We kept getting lost in their song book - you know their books are "backwards" from ours - they go from back to front - so we kept turning our pages the wrong way!  At the end of the service, all the chairs were pushed against the wall and everyone stood in a big circle, each person's hand resting on the shoulder or arm of the person next to them.  They included us...can you realize how incredibly special that was - to be included?  They sang another beautiful song, then had a blessing for the sons, followed by a blessing for the daughters, which was followed by a blessing for everyone there.  Then they sang once more.  I couldn't help but think about Heaven and how wonderful it will be to join Christians from all over the world and sing praises to our Heavenly Father and our Saviour Jesus Christ!
At the end, everyone greeted each other with "Shabbat Shalom!"  Once again we were included.  Maybe they thought it was strange that a white, Gentile family had joined them for that service, but they didn't show it.  They included us as though we had grown up with them!  Everyone shared bread, and orange soda - some of the Jews had wine instead of the orange soda.
As people left to go home, they went around the room and bid each person "Shabbat Shalom!" "Sabbath Peace!"  Peace.  Peace in knowing I am saved.  Peace in having the privilege to be a friend to God's chosen people.  It was an experience I will remember and treasure all my life, and in the stillness of my mind and heart the words still echo....  
"Shabbat Shalom!"  

Monday, May 9, 2016

What Works for Us

Recently I shared with you how the Lord has changed my way of thinking when it comes to educating my children.  Today I would like to share exactly what our homeschooling day looks like, along with what materials we use.  No, this is not an "infomercial". Yes, I realize each family is different.  What works for us may not work for everyone - and that is okay! We homeschooling moms are unique, our children and their needs are unique, and our family situations are unique.  Some of us live in the U.S., some of us live on foreign soil, but we all have one unifying factor (besides the fact that we homeschool), and that is we have the same Heavenly Father who gives us the strength and courage to live this journey we call "Homeschooling."
Homeschooling, quite honestly, is a subject very dear to my heart.  I was homeschooled from 7th grade all the way through to graduation from high school.  My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be homeschooled, and I have always looked at being homeschooled as a privilege!  I never felt inferior to my peers, and now that I am a homeschooling mom, I look back and truly understand how much my mom sacrificed for my sake - and I am grateful.  I am also grateful that I have the privilege of passing that heritage on to my own children!  There weren't many homeschool curriculums around when I was in school - not like today.  My parents chose to use the ABeka videos with me.  I learned a lot and I can still remember some of the teachers I had.  I had my favorites the same as if I had really been sitting in their classes!
Before the Lord blessed us with our 3 treasures, my Beloved and I made the decision to homeschool our children.  There were so many choices of homeschool curriculum, and it was overwhelming to me when I started looking into all the options.  God has always graciously provided what we have needed for homeschooling.  It was while we were visiting my cousin and his family (who have homeschooled their children), that Matt and I were first introduced to Christian Light Education (CLE).  My cousin's wife had one of their readers, and as we looked through the book, we were struck by the fact that godly character was the emphasis in each story.  We were decided - and that was before we had children!
So what do we use now?  Well, we use a mixture of different things.  Some families choose to use one curriculum all the way through.  I started Martha and Ian both with the "ABC Readiness Books" from Christian Light...they loved those workbooks and learned so much!  It really was great for their K-4/K-5 year.  Since we had already settled on the Christian Light Reading, we decided to use their Language Arts as well.  This has worked well because the Language Arts reinforced what they were learning in "Learning to Read."  The plan right now is to continue with CLE Reading and Language Arts until 8th grade.  For High School, I am planning (unless God changes the plan!) to use ABeka for English and continue with CLE for Reading.
We started having some bumps in the road last year in phonics and reading.  One of my treasures started struggling and I began to consider the possibility of having a dyslexic child.  I started doing some research, and I started asking a dear sister some questions.  I just didn't know which way to turn, and Matt kept encouraging me to try a more "hands-on" approach.  We had just switched to Math-U-See, and my treasures were loving it!  It is hands-on math, taught outside of the traditional methods, and it is just what my children need and love!  The CLE Language Arts has spelling included, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the bumps in the road turned into mountains. A dear sister friend recommended trying All About Spelling.  It is also "hands-on" and once again we had found something that the kids loved!  Now my treasures not only can spell words, but they understand WHY they are spelled that way - it isn't just a bunch of word lists.
For Science we use AIG (Answers In Genesis).  My Beloved is the Bible and Science Professor for our school.  I love that the kids get to have that time with Daddy, that he gets to be involved in their schooling, and that it gives me some "wiggle room" in my schedule.  Some of that "wiggle room" is spent with Phebe, and some in keeping up with daily duties!  I like AIG - it is a multi-level curriculum, with application activities for each level - it keeps Science fun!  We also have the History Curriculum from AIG.  We haven't started that yet.  We spent last year on U.S. Geography and World Geography.  We are continuing with World Geography this year, then we will dive into History.
We have an Art Curriculum from CLE that we really like - "Art With a Purpose."  It is more than just coloring, cutting, and pasting.  It teaches different techniques like drawing, shading, outlining, etc.  
Towards the end of last year, I decided to try something new...it is called "Lapbooking".  Lapbooks are 2 file folders glued together with all kinds of information on a certain topic inside.  The kids make little booklets or fold-outs to put in their lapbook to go with  the topic.  Since I added music class to our schedule for this year, we have a Lapbook just for Music Class.  More fun and hands-on learning!  This year, we are "testing the waters" in the area of Notebooking.  I have been using this method for Geography and the kids love it! So we are going to apply Notebooking to Science this year and at the end of the day (or school year) they will each have their own book to look back at and enjoy for years to come.  It is kind of like scrapbooking for children!  We love it!  
There are all kinds of online resources that I use as many of them have free printable pages.  One of my favorite homeschooling websites is www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com.  In fact that is where I got my geography curriculum from!  Erica (the lady who has that blog) also has an e-book called "Homeschooling 101" - it has been a great resource and encouragement to me!  I also recently subscribed (free) to The Old Schoolhouse (www.theoldschoolhouse.com) - another source of encouragement to me!  Of course I don't necessarily agree with everything from these websites, but I use what I can and skip the rest!
So that is what our homeschooling life looks like right now.  It could change in the future, but God will show us what we need when we need it!  In the meantime, we are learning to keep learning fun....and that's what works for us!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When Our Lives Touch

On April 14, 2016, I starting reading/studying my way through Joshua.  The words "Be strong and of good courage" struck me full force.  I read how God Himself spoke those words to  Joshua, and then at the end of the chapter the people themselves were telling Joshua to "be strong and of good courage."  Wow! "Was Joshua that fearful?  Did the great 'Captain Joshua' (spoken in great announcer super hero tones....) really need that much encouragement?" I wondered....then I did what I always do...I started trying to figure out WHY the Lord was showing me those words SO emphatically.  I even received a message from a dear sister friend with those same words!  Hmm....but God was silent.  Every day, I kept waiting and wondering, "Why those words?  What is it that I am going to need to "be strong and of good courage" about in my life? Some great tragedy? Some dire emergency? (My mind often runs to the extreme!) Still God was silent....until yesterday.
Sunday afternoon a couple of our Deaf men came by the house.  Nestor had come to ask if Matt would go visit his girlfriend, Mary Luz.  She has been sick, and she was asking for Pastor to come visit. While Matt was there, he called and asked if I would be willing to interpret for Mary Luz for her doctor's appointment the next day...he said it was serious.  I agreed.
We got to the hospital before they did, and while we were waiting for them, two ladies came bursting through the front door! The younger woman fell sobbing uncontrollably to the ground in front of some seats by the door.  Those with her tried to comfort her, but they too were crying.  People walked by and stared.  One lady even came and asked me what had happened.  I had no answer.  Matt went over and talked to the older lady, gave them a tract, and found out that a family member had just passed away.  What do you do? What do you say? How can you help? You can't. You feel helpless.  As we got up to meet Nestor and Mary Luz, I went over and gave this woman - a perfect stranger - a hug and told her I am praying for her and her family.  What do you do - when your life touches another - even for just a moment in time?
Mary Luz's appointment was at 1 pm.  Her sister turned in Mary Luz's paperwork and we waited....and waited....and waited.  Matt called about 3pm to see if we were done, to see how things were going...we hadn't even seen the doctor yet.  By 5pm I started wondering if we would see the doctor or have to come back the next day.  I felt SO impatient, but poor Mary Luz - having to sit there all afternoon in such pain, wondering, waiting for answers.
Finally it was our turn.  We went in and I stepped from my role as friend and Pastor's wife to Interpreter.  I prayed hard for wisdom, and I know others were praying as well.  The doctor was curious about who I was and why I, an American, was here in Iquitos....so I explained.  He graciously complemented my Spanish. Then we got to the business at hand....
He asked if Mary Luz fully understood the gravity of the situation.  She didn't. Not really.  How do you look someone in the eyes and tell them "You have cancer - a malignant tumor - and without an operation, you will die."  How do you explain that "you have until Christmas to live."  As interpreter you are blunt - direct - to the point.  As friend and Pastor's wife, the tears spring into your eyes and you choke on a sob.
That's when God shows you why you should "be strong and of good courage."  That's when you realize it isn't just for your own sake, but for the sake of others - whose lives you touch - that you must "be strong and of good courage."  While we were waiting to see the doctor, the Lord opened the door for me to share the Gospel with her and Nestor once again.
Please pray for them both.  They have so much that they are facing right now - things I can't even explain, but God knows.  God knows and loves Mary Luz and Nestor so much.  As I explained to them yesterday, He is waiting, longing for them to be able to enter His house (Heaven), and live with Him forever, but they must have permission - they must ask Jesus to save them. He died to save them, not only so they can live in Heaven one day, but that while God gives them life here on earth, they too, can "be strong and of good courage."