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Education Cubes GIVEAWAY!!!!

>> 9.28.2011

I'm SOOOO excited to bring you all my very first GIVEAWAY!!!  Mama Jenn, over at www {dot} MamaJenn {dot} com, has been an inspiration to me ever since I found her last spring.  I had been using large dice made out of cardstock to reinforce new concepts such as word families and the kids' spelling words.  They happily played games using these dice, but the affects of many happy game times was, unfortunately, broken dice.  Also, I always had to keep a blank copy of the form and then hand write (which I despise my own handwriting so I hate to use it) all the review concepts out on the dice, tape them, etc.  It was a lot of work and it left me wondering if there was a better solution. 


I don't even remember how I found her, but as soon as I saw her product I knew it needed to be added to my small and growing educational recource collection.  Mama Jenn, a homeschooling mother of 5 and fellower blogger (she has several sites) and guest blogger at Totally Tots , had come up with a brilliant (imho) idea: use photo blocks as dice and slide whatever concept being taught into the see-through pockets instead of photos.  She took this idea one step further and offered her growing collection of concepts (language, math, science, Spanish, etc.) to the public for a very reasonable fee.  You can learn more about the education cubes and how others are using them by clicking here.

Mama Jenn has graciously agreed to give away ONE FREE MEMBERSHIP to her site to one of my lucky readers!!  If you already purchased a membership to her site, she's even agreed to let you in on the fun and will refund your membership money should you be the lucky winner!  (hmmm...can I enter my own giveaway? =)  Ladies, this is a GREAT resource for your students.  I've used it for reviewing word families, spelling, and currently in our Spanish and Months studies.  There are many more concepts covered in her collection and she's constantly adding to them.  What is so nice for me is that I can conveniently go to her "members only" page, log-in, find the concept I need, click, and waa-la!  Print them out!  No more taping, no more writing, no more time consuming game-time prep! 

Okay, to enter you must do one of the following:
  1. Subscribe to my blog via the "subscribe" button and comment letting me know you did!
  2. Start following my blog (and, you got it!, comment and let me know you did! =)
The winner will be chosen via the sequence generator from Random.org on Monday, October 24th at 12 noon -- so HURRY!  Subscribe or start following today and make sure you get in on this great offer made possible by MamaJenn.

Mama Jenn

(NOTE: This giveaway is for membership to MamaJenn's Education Cubes site and does not include the photo blocks.  To purchase those separately, click herePhoto Stacking BlocksBaby Stacking Toys) .)

Below are some pics from last week's Education Cubes activities.  I used her Alphabet Movement set to start our day out on the right foot-- er...stomache, as was the case when one of my kiddos rolled "I" and they all had to act like "inchworms."  They loved it-- and so did I b/c they all sat and did their studies really well after getting so many wiggles out!  AND, doing some fun alphabet games in the morning has been a great way for me to involve Little Lady and still have the boys engaged, too!


WORD TILES (for Heart of Dakota Spelling)

>> 9.27.2011

I've been working on a growing number of Word Tile sets to go with my children's  letter tiles.  I actually picked our set of letter tiles up from Meijer when we were shopping there shortly before school started for us, but I can't seem to find that exact set online anyway.  No biggy-- they actually were a bit more expensive, but if you have any set of square letter tiles(as can be found here), they should fit pretty well on these same sets if you'd like to print them out.

I use these sets to help practice their spelling for our Heart of Dakota Curriculum that just happens to (usually;) match up with our regular language lessons.  This week it's words that end in 'y' and next week it's words that have the long 'a' sound made by using a silent 'e' at the end (with a few "exceptions").  Take a peek-- if it's helpful, great!  If not, go on with life as usual=)

I find that using letter tiles helps alleviate the frustration child # 2 has with writing and helps change things up a bit for child # 1.  In the picture below you can see I made a little "tool" with foam to help create a window that they can slide the word stripes through.  This also has made the kids feel more like they are playing some sort of "game" instead of just doing school "work." 

You can find my HOD Spelling printables on my 4shared account.  So far I've only got Unit 8 and Unit 9 done, but will add more if I hear from others that this would be helpful to them.

What are YOU doing that helps make school seem a little more "fun"?  I'd love to hear!


A Unified Philosophy

>> 9.25.2011

I was thinking this past week about the original idea of starting this blog, and I feel a bit like I've gotten lost along the way=)  Never mind, though, as it's all a part of our family and what we are going through.  However, I did have a few ministry thoughts floating around in my mind recently that I thought might be worth sharing. 

When my husband and I last did the "candidating thing" almost ten years ago now (WOW! Could it have been that long ago?!), we didn't have children.  Our questions were different, our answers we looked for were different, and our observations were also very different from our most recent experience. We asked certain questions this time and made certain observations and were obviously pleased with all of the responses, but since moving we've made a few more and I wanted to pass on our lessons learned with anyone who might be in the "same boat" at some point in the future.  The best place to start with this process, I think, is talking about something I'll title "Philosophy of Ministry: His, Hers, & Ours"

Philosophy of Ministry Defined (According to Ma-wah!=)
Jason and I knew going into this new position our personal and familial philosophy of ministry. (If you're not familiar with this terminology you probably haven't done that yet! No worries, if you aren't in ministry yet, great-- you've got time! If you are...um, make a date ASAP and talk this over!) Philosophy of ministry can be defined a couple of ways, but for us mainly means "why we do what we do in ministry" -- our driving beliefs that shape our everyday actions and decisions.

A Unified Philosophy
Having a unified philiosophy of ministry will aleviate so.much.frustration. in a ministry marriage (or highly involved lay ministry marriage) and is necessary for unified familial decision making.  (To see our philosophy click here.)  Coming to this unified philosophy has been done through initial pre-marital discussions about our upbringing and expectations of church life and home life, trial and error during marriage, and some reading and class discussion done along the way.  Some important questions to answer in this area (especially if you have children or are thinking about having them sometime in the future) are:

  • How did you see ministry played out in your upbringing-- how much time was devoted in your home to serving God specifically through various church-related activities (as this will most shape your attitude towards your husband's ministry job).
  • What did you like about your up-bringing, what did you not like about that involvement?  How do these observations about these questions make you feel? 
  • Ideally, how would you like to see ministry-related activities affect the home?  (i.e. "it's your job, don't bring it home," "I'll come too and maybe teach once in awhile," "I'm all in!  Where can I serve with you?!  What?! A call at mid-night-- well, OF COURSE you'd better answer it!")
  • Ideally, how would your husband like to see ministry-related activities affect the home?
  • Do you have other outside responsibilities that may take away time from your avilability?
  • If you have children: how do you want them to see God/church/service?  What might that mean for them at the various stages of growing up. (i.e., it's okay with you, mommy, to take little 1 yr. old Timothy out to the church-wide famiy movie night even though it'll mess his next day schedule up -- OR -- NO WAY! Little Timothy and I are staying home!  No questions about it, dad!)
  • Children's involvement: will they be expected to attend everything whenever the doors are open, or, do you never want them to feel expected to do anything at all?!?
Really, the list could go on and on...everyday I am faced in my home with decisions that are related to ministry-- and my responses to those decisions will come from my philosophy of ministry.  My husband can be confident that when he has to make a last minute decision about a ministry need without my input (and I stress "need"),  since we've talked at length about our philosophy, that I will be supportive of his decision.  That aleviates his concern that I might be unahappy with him when he tells me of his decision-- which sometimes may be after the fact and have caused some iconvenience to me or the kids.

As you are talking all these questions over, please don't forget to seek out what GOD has to say in His Word about ministry.  Full-time vocational ministry, after all, is choosing to serve God and His kingdom as a way to support your family while on this earth.  This allows you more flexibilty and time to devote to those in your communities and congregations, and allows you more time to be in His Word, as described by Paul numerous places in his Epistles. (One that comes to mind is 2 Timothy 2:15 "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." NIV)  After serving several years in "part-time ministry" (aka, working a secular job and trying to rightly full-fill the needs of a full-time congregation), we came to a personal decision that is wasn't feasible for us.  There really is no way to devote the necessary amount of time to people and spending time in God's Word in order to "correctly handle the word" if you have the concerns of spending 40-50 other hours of your week to a "regular" job.  For this very reason, Paul affirms the position of full-time ministry laborers when he says, "...the Lord has connanded that those who preach teh gospel should receive their living from the gospel." (I Cor. 9:14  -- for fuller context, click here.)


Our Philosophy of Ministry

As Christ-followers, we believe that we must be students of the Word, seeking to apply the truths contained in the Bible in ever-increasing measure to our daily lives.  We must be learning to grow in our love for God and for others and this will show itself through the fruits of our lives.  All Christ-followers should seek to do the same as this is part of eternal life: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3 (NIV, 84)

As a full-time vocational ministry family, we believe that

  • Our whole family has been called into ministry-- not just dad
  • The purpose of our family is to grow our children into disciples of Christ (Through His power)
  • We will be "inconvenienced" at times by ministry and church-life -- that's why it's called "service"
  • I, the wife, will seek to serve alongside my husband where I can, thus being an example to our children of serving Him
  • I, the wife, will seek to make my home a resting place from the often times discouragement that can come from working with people -- let's face it, as they say "ministry would be easy if you didn't have to work with people!"
  • I, the husband, will seek to make my family a priority above the demands of the job (i.e. 24/7 meetings) and will seek to make boundaries as discussed between my wife and I
  • We, as a unified front, will seek to present church as not a "thing" of competition between dad and the rest of the family, but as one place that we can all learn to love and serve God more.
  • We, as parents, will seek to present all service for God as ministry-- and not just the work done inside the church walls-- most true ministry happens outside of those walls (when it's not so easily scheduled.)
  • We, as parents, will seek to protect our children from the unnecessary knowledge of inter-personal relational issues, inter-church conflicts, etc. We will do this by being careful with our words and where and what we talk about regarding the church and the people we serve
  • We, as parents, will do our best to demonstrate that a life lived for God's glory can be done in any vocation-- not just through full-time ministry -- but that God is pleased with doing everything as unto the Lord. (I Cor. 10:31, NIV, 84)
Our goal, as it pertains to our children, is to pray-up, train-up, demonstrate-up (I made that up!=) disciples for Christ who willingly and joyfully serve the One True Living God, Jesus Christ!


Unexpected Sancutary

>> 9.19.2011

For so long I've dreaded that machine, you know the one-- the one that has this giant belt that runs along the bottom and causes people to act like little gerbils?  You got it-- the treadmill.  (Shh!  Don't say it too loudly!)  Many people have joined me in my loathing of that great machine...but recently I've begun to change my mind.  You see, since we've moved we no longer have access to a wonderful Y facility like we did in our old town, and this had set both my husband and I on a quest to find a good solution.  Thus, Craigslist...and thus, that great giant machine (aka treadmill), sitting in our already over-crowded home.  So, while it sits there, I thought I might as well try to use it!

Well, I must say, I have been unexpectedly surprised by the benefits it has given me (the whole handful of times I've used it so far).  Last week and this morning I got on it, mid-day (which is great for that awful blood sugar drop that happens to all of us at that time of day), and for 30 UNINTERRUPTED glorious minutes, the Lord and I have walk/jogged together.  Perhaps similar to those that say you should try praying in the shower (I did that once-- too weird for "conservative" me=), I have found that exercising and listening to upbeat praise and worship music has allowed me the opportunity to worship the Lord while treating my body that He has given me, the way in which I should treat it.  When I wanted to give up, I thanked the Lord for creating me "fearfully and wonderfully" (Ps. 139) and that I am able to use my body to glorify Him.  I air drummed (yep! good for the arms, right?), raised my hands when led, and sang (though I'm sure my kids were a little confused since I harmonized most of the way-- when I wasn't puffing, that is=).  It was the highlight of my day and I was glad I was able to have a little "God and me" time-- away from the distractions of my world.

What about you?  Where have YOU found an unexpected sanctuary?


SEE it! COVER it! WRITE it!

>> 9.13.2011

We just finished up week six for school and I'm beginning to figure out what it takes to make my days go as smoothly as possible: "entertain" Little Lady with school stuff-- and LOTS of school stuff! On our best days, I've spent a good 2 hrs. (minimum) preping for the next day. This would be no different than any other normal el. ed teacher-- only they would be preping to teach 28-30 little bodies and, I'm only prepping for ONE! (Yeah. I know, I'm not even getting to the two that really need to be in school yet!=)

Anyway, after downloading LOTS of materials from my sites listed over on the right (thanks, confessions and 1+1+1 ladies) I've begun to realize that there are other materials I already have and other reading programs I want to use and need to create some other documents of my own for this purpose.  If these aid you in someway, great!  If not, maybe they will give you ideas for your own or lead you to sites that help you with your prep for that child(ren) that may need LOTS of hands-on "busy work"! 

We'll be working on the ltr. D this week so this is one activity that I've applied to that letter. It's called "SEE it! COVER it! WRITE it!" (very original, I know, creativity in this way is not my thing) The object is to SEE a word, then COVER it with the dollar store magnetic letters for refrigerators, and then WRITE it in the LARGE space provided, made especially for children who are not yet used to writing in any small space at all. Print out and laminate, or simply print on paper and put in a sheet protector for binders.  (I find sheet protectors are easier to remove expo marker from.  For papers that I won't plan on using over and over, I'll probably just stick with these.)

I will be adding many more of these printables using this activity, so be sure to check back for more!

Here are some examples of SEE it! COVER it! WRITE it!

(Stars are for privacy reasons;)  She wrote her name below the fridge magnets but was a little...um...unsure of using the whole space, so I dotted the next word for her as can be seen below.

Adding the dotted lines for the letters really helped, and I'll probably do this until she's a little better with her writing.  oh, and she liked to cover the TOP letters...I wasn't too picky about that.

If you find yourselves using these print outs, let me know! (And make sure to pass them on.)  I'll be adding many more as we continue to learn.  She LOVED them!!!


Let's "Git R Done"

This saying, "Git r done" (say with a strong southern accent) is a bit old now (Can you imagine?! We call 5 years ago something "old"?!) but still sums up how we as (Northern) Americans often times approach life. We are in such a hurry to fix all things and change them all to how we see fit and AS FAST AS POSSIBLE! This can cause much conflict/frustration in ministry because ministry is defined by working with...well, PEOPLE! And people (and programs) "change" and are "fixed" slowly. It's so easy to stand by and judge what needs changing in someone (or something, if it's a program) and forget to even consult with their Maker-- the Lord.

Most people start into ministry because they love the Lord and want to see others grow in their love for Him. (There are exceptions, I know. We're not talking about them today=) Just like a student fresh outta high school, we think we're going to some how "do great things for God." We're all good-hearted in this adventure and we mean so very well, but we loose sight of the fact that God has called us to live in a sin-filled world shining His love to all and telling people of His offer of forgiveness if they repent and believe. Oh-- and do so unaffected by that sin-filled world. Simple, right?! HA! NEVER! In our eagerness, we boldly plow into a new ministry and start the mental list of all that needs to "go" or "stay" or "change". And, in all honesty, it is usually easier to see necessary changes from a more outsider's perspective than once we've been on the "inside" for awhile when we, too, have gotten used to "the way things are." BUT, we must be careful to asses our motives and approaches honestly before the Lord. We must bring ALL THINGS before Him and offer them up with surrender asking Him for clear guidance as to what to do about either the person in question or the ministry in question. When He clearly guides us, then we may act, and not a moment sooner. He is so much more wise than we'll ever be (or even know we need to be), and He's so much more patient than we are. His timing truly is perfect. (And so is His strength while we wait, right?)

Isaiah 55: 6,8,9 "See the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your way my way, declares the Lord. For as the heaven are higher than the earth, so are my ways, higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (ESV)

Before I go, I wanted to get back to one more thought I brought up just a minute ago. The concept of "doing great things for God"; it's a good concept, but a bit faulty. I understand the idea behind the words, but the words demonstrate a self-centeredness and a self-reliance that is completely incorrect in God's economy. It is only through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit that we, as finite human beings, can affect anyone or anything for good. For our own hearts, at their very core, are filled with sin and "desperately sick." (Jer. 17:9 ESV) If you want to be used mightily by God, then you will have to follow a road of complete reliance upon Christ. I know I am terribly far from this and I am just at the beginning of a journey of surrenderedness in all areas...I'm pretty sure this is going to be a life-long journey, but I hope there are many others who are starting theirs as well and we can trust that God will provide and send to us those that are further along this same journey to encourage us along our way.

Let's get a fresh start "done" and let the Lord renew our spirits. If anything needs "gittin' done," that's certainly a good place to start.

The Promise of a Fresh Start:
Psalm 51: 10 "Create in me a clean heart, oh God. And renew a right spirit within me."
Matthew 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in hearts, for they shall see God."

Thank you, Lord, for cleaning my heart and being patient with me. Help me to extend that same grace and forgiveness to those in my life to whom I have not been merciful.


Christ Giveth and Giveth and Giveth Again

>> 9.07.2011

After talking with a good friend from seminary days who has been struggling with a bit of discouragement, I was reminded today of an sweet hymn that is laced with the most wonderful Truth-filled encouragement that it is GOD Who provides all we need for our earthly journey.  This is for that precious soul, a true friend who loveth at all times and in whom I know I can confide when my soul needs a place to go.  Hope you all enjoy as well.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

(by Anne J. Flint)


Draw-N-Sort, A, B, C

>> 9.04.2011

Hey, ladies!  I've been working with my dd "Little Lady" learning/reviewing letters and their sounds.  So far this school year we've covered A, B, and C.  I thought it'd be fun for her to have an activity to do really working on sorting sounds, etc. so I came up with this printable.  Hope you are able to use it for your family!  Let me know if you do!

Draw-N-Sort, A-C

(Not sure how to post a picture of my docs yet...working on that!=)



Mama's Mission, September

>> 9.02.2011

Hey, fellow Mamas!  So how did you all do?  I think I did pretty good.  Let's see:

* Waking up before kids at consistent time: HALF check (it's the "before kids" and "consistent" part that was a little tricky some days=)

* Daily Time with the Lord: I'd say about 70% of the month I did-- and that's 70% more than in July so, I'm giving myself a CHECK with that one, too!  (Oh, and it was such sweet time I truly missed it when I did not get that done in a day.)

* Kitchen counters cleaned: CHECK!  (sad to say, but this happened like 90% of the time and I don't think that should have happened more than spending time in the Word but...it sure did make every morning go better.)

* Bedroom cleaned before bed: Half Check, and a good one at that.

Overall I feel like I'm in a much better place routine and discipline -wise than i was at the beginning of the month, so although I didn't do all things 100% of the time, I'm giving myself a Mission Accomplished sticker for the month!

Mission Accomplished

I'm feeling a little more routine-like starting to happen around here.  I told several people at my church that we've been schooling for 5 weeks now and I just had the two best days so far=)  At least it's going in the right direction, right?

For this month, I'd like to purpose that I add in exercise to the routine and stick with the three other areas I struggled with and are most important:

1)  Waking up before the kids (if I HAVE to, sigh...)
2)  Daily Quiet Time
3)  Daily exercise (started C 2 5k today=) at least 30 min.

OH-- and one more I find very important to my mental life:

4) get this blog in order! =)

Mission of the Month

What about you!?!  Drop me a comment and let me know what you are hoping to accomplish this month.


D. Bonheoffer, (As Read In Memoirs) in "The Cost of Discipleship"

>> 9.01.2011

“Dietrich Bonheoffer was born in Breslau on February 4th, 1906, the son of a university professor and leading authority on psychiatry and neurology.  His more remote ancestors were theologians, professors, lawyers, artists.” (p. 9)  He had three brothers and four sisters, one of which was his twin.  His parents raised him in an atmosphere of sober-mindedness and are described by G. Liebholz, author of the memoir included in The Cost of Discipleship, as “cultured people and uncompromising in all things which matter in life…From his father…[he] inherited goodness, fairness, self-control and ability; from his mother, his great human understanding and sympathy, his devotion to the cause of the oppressed, and his unshakable steadfastness…Whenever others hesitated to undertake a task that required special courage, Bonheoffer was ready to take the risk.” (p. 9)

Bonheoffer entered the university at age 17 and by the age of 24 he became a lecturer in Systematic Theology in Berlin University.  Nachfolge (the Cost of Discipleship), one of several books written by him, was published when he was 31 in 1934.  Liebholz says, “Bonheoffer was a great realist.  He was one of the few who quickly understood, even before Hitler came to power that National Socialism was a brutal attempt to make history without God…Therefore, in 1933, when Hitler came to power, he abandoned his academic career” and then moved to London where we pastored two congregations. While there, he tried to warn people what the “true character of the German Church struggle” was really like. (p. 11)

Bonheoffer was completely opposed to fighting in the war and so it seemed inevitable that when the time came for war he refused to fight.  He had moved back to Germany by this time and American friends got him out of the country in June of 1939 but he did not feel right about leaving his fellow country-men.  He felt he had no right “to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”  With that, Bonheoffer chose to return to his country and face what may come with a courage that not many of us could even pretend to have today.

On April 5, 1943 Bonheoffer was arrested by the Gestapo along with his sister and her husband.  There are many recorded accounts of the character Bonheoffer continued to exhibit in the face of terrible brutal treatment in the concentration camps.  He wrote many poems and papers while in prison which were then smuggled out by guards of whom he had won their respect.  One such set of words we have recorded from him say, “I am sure of God’s hand and guidance…you must never doubt that I am thankful and glad to go the way which I am being led.  My past life is abundantly full of God’s mercy, and, above all sin, stands the forgiving love of the Crucified.” (p.13)

You must read this book! to find out just how much great, Godly character was contained in one man.  There is no way I could begin to adequately express the absolute love he had for Christ to literally go to his death on behalf of his Lord and master.  Shortly before his death, almost 2 years to the day after being first arrested and imprisoned, Bonheoffer penned these words,

“Come now, solemnest feast on the road to eternal freedom,

Death, and destroy those fetters that bow, those walls that imprison

this our transient life, these souls that linger in darkness,

so that al last we see what is here withheld from our vision.

Love did we seek you, freedom, in discipline, action and suffering.

Now that we die, in the face of God himself we behold you.”

On April 9th, 1945 just a few days before his concentration camp was liberated by the Allies, Bonheoffer was executed by special order.  Liebholz says of him, “from his faith the breadth of vision came which enabled him to separate the gold in life from the dross and to differentiate what was and what was not essential in the life of man.” (p. 17) 

Oh, Lord, that I may seek You so much, so often, in every minute, that You would clearly show me the dross—of which I know I so oft’ settle into all too comfortably and willingly-- and show me Your BEST, Your “essential,” separating it from the “good enough,” “good,” or even “better.”


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