Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

winterbirdtreecc_edited-1Growing up, I was told that my uncle believed cursing was a lack of vocabulary. I heard it so often, a word seed was planted.

A few years later, sitting at my grandmother’s dining room table, one of my aunt’s oldest daughters home from college the guest of honor, talked to us about her adventure. I was in middle school. She was so beautifully grown up – and I didn’t understand half the words she said. I asked her how she knew all those words – and the vocabulary seed was watered.

It is interesting, how little sentences here and little sentences there, leave an impression, light a fire that drives to excel. As a result, I worked hard, read a lot of classical literature to grow my word stock.

One afternoon, at my grandmother’s house along with my mother, Aunt Joyce, and my first-born who was just learning to sit up, a language mishap occurred. I failed, faltered – and, well, I put my wordsmith reputation on the line.

I’d just got up to go around the corner to the kitchen. There was a little hallway with a telephone desk between the family room and kitchen. Going around the corner, my very not-so-funny bone smacked into the desk – and a very lack-of-vocabulary word flew out of my mouth.

Dead silence replaced the chattering in the family room. I think the blood rushed from my head. I felt dizzy, but knew I needed to face this head on – but not before I peaked around the corner.

My mother and Aunt Joyce sat there, looking at my grandmother, waiting for her verdict. My son sat totally content, not understanding the expected set-down, a reputation-ruining set down. After all, to this group of esteemed women with memories like elephants, if you opened one present early on Christmas and re-wrapped it – and they found out, well, then, you were labeled an early-sneaky-present-opener for the rest of your life.

All eyes were on my grandmother, the matriarchal woman who taught me that if you could stand up to her, you could stand up to anyone. She had what I call “the power of the eye” – where with one look, her green eyes could slay you on the spot.

As the silence stretched, my reputation hung in the family room like an outdoor laundry line hung with ones intimate private unmentionables.

“My mother always said there was a time and a place to curse, and, I believe, you just found it,” she finally said.

Graceful redemption! The chattering picked up, the incident left behind. The lack of vocabulary incident was never mentioned again – while my Christmas-present snafu is bantered about all the time.

I’ve told you these little vignettes about vocabulary, to well, talk about vocabulary – particularly the over-used and potentially definition devolving word – love.

Love should never be diminished – the act or the definition.

It’s true – I might “love” your hair-style, your shoes, your photo you posted in your blog, your cake – even the ideas expressed in an article you wrote. Sadly, the use of love in this way is evidence of my laziness, the vocabulary slacker in me, the wordsmith on holiday. If I weren’t such a literalist, I would be able to write a funny, tongue-in-cheek post about it, but because I’m a literalist – I can’t even fathom how to do that.

As a result, I wrote an “I love” not-quite-a-poem about all the things I love – stretching those wordsmith muscles in a much needed way.

I love
admire, applaud, respect
Jane Austen, Margaret Wise Brown, Charles Dickens,
Jesse Stuart, Tolkien, Frances Hodgson Burnett,
Robert Browning, Joan Walsh Anglund,
and Sam McBratney

I love
Relish, savor, indulge in
orchard vanilla black tea
white hydrangeas – blue and green, too
yellow spring jonquils
fluffy pillows and goose feather blankets

I love
cultivate, treasure, drink in
quiet time looking out my bedroom window
simply watching the burnt red of Dogwood
tree leaves where birds that stay
through the winter stop by for
berry picking

I love
admire, cotton to, still smitten with
my forever man who told me he loved me
over 33 years ago at the red stop light
in his daddy’s red and white truck
at the corner of Lancaster Road and the Eastern By-Pass

I love
Delight in, luxuriate, breath deeply
vanilla and lavender
cloves and oranges, too
making me smile in the easy and hard
moments of the daily

I love
Cherish, marvel, hold dear, safe guard
newborn smells and how
they fit against your heart,
lean against your shoulder
trusting without questioning
like God wants us
to trust him

I love
revel in, feast on, count the awe
the stories – funny moments, sacred sharings,
bed-time chronicles and wedding proposals
hubba-bubba, you’re a cake, and are you man-enough
kitchen counter lectures
loving to God’s beard and back
the journey of prayers sent out come home,
miracles and moments done right

I love
fight for, don’t give up on, believe in God’s plan
my sons beyond the stink
of Sweaty soccer cleats and socks
the quest for becoming their own man
and the uncomfortableness of holding my belief set
under the microscope of independence to
determine the truth and merit of a daddy and mama’s
faith and reasons
before claiming it for

I love
Esteem, glorify, honor, worship, adore, marvel
Shaddai, the might one of Jacob,
Jehovah Shamma, just as He was there in the low, dark part of the challenges, in the emotional cyclone that can sometimes be a part of raising boys to men
Jehovah-Raah,  The Lord My Shepherd, encouraging to love better, forgive better, be his child better
Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that Heals physically, emotionally and spiritually – and He breathed His Holy Spirit into this spent soul
Jehovah Jireh, who reminds me that He will provide, not just the outside stuff needed for growing a family, but the inside stuff I need – like the manna He provided for the Israelites – that He gave them more than enough everyday – His storehouse is open for me – already equipped for everything I need
and in this grace-filled love affair where I learn what true, pure, real God-designed love is . . .

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13: 4-8)

(Note: a well-developed vocabulary does not immunize against foot-in-mouth disease – which is a whole different post)



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Dickens_edited-1Either deep within, wedged like a too chubby Santa in a too skinny chimney, or fall out the top – every stocking should find within itself a book.

Nothing says, “I love you” like either a heart-shaped piece of spinach on a sandwich or the gift of a book.

Books, like love, aren’t always received the way we hope – but sometimes, if we don’t give up – one day, we will discover that the gift was picked up, was absorbed – and hit its mark in the way we intended.

I was helping my oldest son pack up his books when he moved his wife and daughter across town to a new place. I found so many of the books I’d given him – Toqueville’s Democracy in America, Jefferson’s Federalists Papers, Payne’s Common Sense – I’d even found my copy of Hugo’s Les Miserable. 

“Did you every read these?”

He told me he’d read them all in college.

Tolkien, Lewis, Spradlin’s Youngest Templar series, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier, Stephen Ambrose’s books, a huge tome on Merlin, Aesop’s Fables, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (great for developing logic skills), an 1800 book on ethics for children, Mind Your Manners, Dick and Jane – maybe even little black leather journals for their own stories.

A few weeks ago, three of my boys were helping me make an elephantine move. We were moving the upstairs office to a refinished space in the basement. The 20 year old pulled down the framed Lion poster, turned it over and started taking it apart. He saw my astonished look – because, really, a why-are-you-taking-apart-my-picture look?

“Just wait,” he said, with a smug grin on his face. Layer by layer, he pulled the backing apart until he’d found what he wanted: a hostage contract with my signature of agreement from a long ago time when they were much littler. It was a note stating they’d taken hostage Mind Your Manners, Dick and Jane, which would I would never see again if I didn’t agree to never, ever, ever read it to them again. If I agreed, the book would be returned unharmed.

Right around that time in October, that same son was carrying around my very old paperback copy of Oliver Twist – and he was 3/4 of the way through it. I saw him sitting on the porch reading it. . . for enjoyment. Later that day, Oliver Twist sat quietly on my kitchen table like . . . like an old friend glad to be out and about.

Sometimes books become a part of another’s story – in unplanned for, unconventional ways.

This Christmas, one of my boys will find an old, red-and-tan backed Zane Grey book. Another is getting Toqueville’s Democracy in America – and I’m still turning over in my head what to get the others. One by one, I will find the perfect book that fits just right in each stocking !

I’m thinking about what to put in my Daughter-in-Laws stockings – maybe Laura Boggess’s Playdates with God – a book that beautifully encourages us to take time out of our day to go on a date with God. He’s just waiting to steal away with us – and in the stealing away with God, there’s always blessing.

Or  Deidra Riggs’ Every Little Thing – those little things that seem unimportant and ordinary might be how we see ourselves or our life in the daily. Deidra encourages us to see that every little thing has greater impact than we realize. What an encouraging mind-set as we review the end of 2015 and step into 2016.

Maybe Michelle DeRusha’s 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, that she included Therese of Lisieux went straight to my heart. I read her auto-biography in the 5th grade. It was through the outpouring of her heart and her relationship with our Savior that taught me the intimacy and realness of prayer. The women she lists are ordinary, everyday women who through their faithfulness in Christ became women of valor – one day at a time.

I met Laura, Deidra, and Michelle at the Jumping Tandem Retreat this year. It was a blessing to finally get to meet face-to-face women I have been blogging with for quite a few years – ordinary, everyday women living their faith one day at a time – becoming those women of valor Michelle talks about.

I haven’t met Mark Batterson’s, but his book The Circle Maker is another I recommend. It’s a book about praying for those we know and don’t know who are struggling – and even lost. It’s a book that doesn’t slam the door on the lost we come across in the daily – or maybe even across the Christmas table. It’s about not giving up on them – and battle for them through prayer.

My granddaughter’s? I think I’m going classical (Wait Till the Moon is Full and Wynken, Blynken and Nod) with something new and delightful- my friend, Amy Sullivan’s book, Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World: Book One: Gladys Aylward. Sullivan tells Gladys’ story, and in the telling, encourages all of us – little girls and grown up girls, to be who God designed us to be – not Wonder Girl – just God’s Girl – doing ordinary things through love that leave an extraordinary impact. Congratulations Amy on your dream finding its jacket. I am so happy to have it on my shelf!

A book has so much ability to be more than a book.

What is Santa leaving in your stockings?



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My boys, at some time in the scholastic career, have expressed daunting terror of something going on their permanent record.
They believed that this permanent record, in their minds, recorded every mistake – real or imagined – records beyond the ABCs of English, Math and History. . . and that it would negatively impact their future.

To my boys, the purvayors of this permanent record were as omniscient as God, judiciously intolerant and unforgiving resulting in a figuratively wielded stick of punishment that closed doors on opportunties for current peace and future success.

We were never able to totally coax them out of this belief. Today, with young elementary-aged school children being suspended for gun-shaped sandwiches, playing cops and robbers on the playgound – and wielding finger guns, kindergarteners stealing an innocent kiss – tolerance of mistakes has resulted in a system in American that doesn’t forget – or let the individual forget.

Computer systems, despite the IRS inability to keep employee records, support error intolerance. Computer programmers design programs to catch every error possible.

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, wrote to encourage social reform in a country grossly intolerant of the mistakes of its populace – from stealing a loaf of bread to having a child out of wed-lock. Charles Dicken’s novels encouraged much needed social reform, too.

America’s own novelists encouraged social reform.

America, France and Britain have indeed achieved much in the lat 200+ years.

Yet, today one hand preaches tolerance while the other hand wields intolerance – and in the mixed-message of it all, our country risks repeating history.

Ironically, the mythical “permanent record” of students today are becoming a reality. Kindergarten hijinks follow a student through all 12 years.

The records kept are surely as damning to the individual as Jean Valjean’s passport that labeled him a former convict. This passport was required to be shown at every city gate he entered. Though he had served the time(over 20 years) for the crime (stealing a loaf of bread), society begrudged offering the same grace for redemption that was offered to them when Christ became man and died for our sins.

During December, let us, you and I, press in close to the Christmas story.

Let the mercy, grace and forgiveness of it seep into your soul until the very marrow of it is flooded by his Holy Spirit, all the debris of your failures and sins washed away because the magnitude of its power – the very power that raised Jesus from the dead.

God didn’t send his son to save us because our permanent record was  perfect. He sent his son because our humanity cannot achieve perfection without Him in us.

“He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins”(Psalm 103:10).

God gave Moses only 10 Commandments. The children of Israel had a tough time just following 10 Commandments. The U.S. Library of Congress can’t even answer how many laws America has.

Ron Paul said at least 40,000 new laws were added at the beginning of 2012.

Yes, our society is becoming increasingly intolerant of humanity’s failure when small things are treated as big crimes – and the permanent record-keeping of man-kind doesn’t want to forget – or forgive – which is at odds with the salvation heritage of our nation.

Christ came to redeem us – to deliver us from the bondage of sin – our own sin, our own mistakes and failures, our inability to live a perfect record.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)

Christmas is a time to celebrate this priceless gift a loving Father God has given us.

God wants to remove our sins as far from us as the sunrise is to the sunset. He desires to remove that sin burden so we can rise with Him freed, able to soar. Only then can we live and become who he designed us to be.

“But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1)

Do you get that?

Shaddai has redeemed you.

Yahweh has called you to Him by name.

You are mine,” says the God who sees you – really, really sees you – the good, the bad, all of it. He has pursued you all of your life . . . . to give you this gift.

Gloria in excelsis Deo

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

This Christmas season, live redeemed. Live forgiven.

Live the Merry Christmas gift He gave us over 2,000 years ago!

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floridatrees14It is hard when our children learn to deal with the diverse responses of relationships in the classroom. They have their close friends who have their back, then more peripheral friends, and, lastly, conflict peers.

Some of my sons are water-off-a-duck’s back with social conflict. No ruffly feathers here. Some take it to heart and have trouble shaking the continual attempt to establish a pecking-order by conflict peers.

“They don’t like me mom,” one son said of a particular group of boys. Let me qualify that he has awesome friends. When the bully in the bathroom threatened peers in the bathroom, regardless of whether they were his close friends or peers, he had no problem telling the bully to move on.

“Dude, you’re too small to beat him up,”  he told the bully in the bathroom. Instead of a fight ensuing, people laughed and everybody left. The bully in the bathroom was momentarily deflated.

Another time, my son was explaining classroom dynamics with a group of trouble-makers. My son explained, “When they ask me to help with their homework, they’re nice. But then they turn mean again.”

How do you explain to a boy growing into a man that with confidence comes responsibility. Confidence shouldn’t be used for beating down, but for leading into faith. Confidence doesn’t just happen: God put it there for a reason.

“Every time you help, you plant a Jesus seed,” I responded.

He looked at me.

dogwoodlimbs“We all have different bloom times. To a lot of these kids, you have it all. You do great in school, on the soccer field. You have good friends. They don’t see how hard you work at home to do well in school. They just see a confident, well-liked kid. Apparently they respect and trust you to help them.”

He was still paying attention, so I continued, “Maybe right now they don’t feel as great about themselves. Maybe they don’t see the gifts inside them that they see in you – and they feel inadequate.”

“What’s inadequate?” he asked, trying to grab hold of what I was saying.

“If you go to the store and they ring up 22 dollars but you only have 20 – you have inadequate funding,” I explained. “Everybody’s bloom time is different. Gift recognition and development sometimes takes others pointing out your strengths. Right now – these kids see can’t see their strengths. Sometimes it’s easier to see another’s strengths than your own.”

I could identify with the late bloomers – not the bullying part, but not being able to see the good things within. I’d been a late bloomer in school.

This conversation occurred in one of the last bed-time chronicles before my boy outgrew them. I tried to encourage that with great gifts comes great responsibility- and that means your response to these challenges needs to be more intentional and responsible.

IMG_5763_edited-4Last year, I encouraged the boys to find 3 people to pray for every day – not just the easy people, but the bully, the kid who gets on your nerves, the student who tries their best to be unnoticed.  They didn’t do it everyday, but a seed was planted.

We’re starting this year with the same message – but being more intentional, recognizing the mission field they walk through every day, understanding how God doesn’t want a one lost.

God calls us to take risks with the talents He gives us. In the story of the man with the talents, he gave one $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000. Two men took risks of their talents and doubled their investment. One just hid his, fearing failure.

Christ commissioned us to go out into the nations and save souls for Him (Matthew 28: 19-20), to tell others about His father. God has equipped each of us for this task, equipped us like the man equipped his servants with the talents. Early bloomers, late bloomers – each is called to enter the mission field. Our first mission field is our family, the second our schools, then our community – and then the world.

“‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’”Matthew 25: 28-30).

God calls us to be risk-takers. Yes, go out on a limb – take God-risks.   I don’t know if there’s a right age to reach others for Christ; however, our children need to be encouraged to not judge and condemn those who struggle with good choices – but to go out on a limb, be kind, plant a seed: be willing to sit down, really talk, really share, really listen. Don’t use the limb to beat others down. Use it as a leverage to lift them up.


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I remember sitting on the back stoop, in the harsh yellow sun, holding a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tears running down my face. “She hates me. She’s trying to kill me,” I thought as the sandwich stuck to the roof of my mouth and my 4 year old self thought I would choke from it. My brother sat beside me, swallowing contentedly, bite after bite.

A tongue thrust will do that to a child – but we didn’t know about tongue thrusts back then.

Another day, the neighborhood children ran through the house, playing a game of hide and seek. Being the youngest, I was always “it” – not having the gift for hiding. As I stood in the kitchen, not it, my mom lifted me high, to the top of the refrigerator. I sat there, a momentary princess of my universe, undetected, until I couldn’t hold back my laughter any more.

That was before the divorce, before open brokenness changed my life. We moved to grandmother’s house where I would share a room with my mother until I went off to college.

Where my mother worked hard, made hard choices, went with us to mass every Sunday and sent us to Catholic school Monday through Friday. Where God met me in the classrooms, in the corridors – in weekday Mss for 2nd through 8th grade. Where I met a God who loved me in my brokenness, though I didn’t know it then.

I wanted to go to the local high school – where the boys were, where my friends were. But my mom held firm, my mom who was often the good-cop to my grandmother’s bad-cop – I went to the Catholic girls school.

Where I learned I could be smart enough if I worked hard enough. Where teachers taught me how to do Alg I, II and Trig – where I learned to free my voice outside of my house, where I found a place for my writing, where God met me in the classroom, in the corridors.

My mom lifted me out of her brokenness, lifted me high as she could and gave me over to a God who would take me the rest of the way.

IMG_4890Statistics say that children of divorce are more likely to do drugs, not graduate from high school, have multiple marriages. My brother and I graduated college and have been married 29, 28 years. My mama worked minimum wage jobs in hardware stores, department stores, bathroom design stores, cutlery stores.

I never realized we were poverty until my senior year of high school (see story here). My mother taught me being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things. I was rich in tradition, family, a hearty work ethic, love – and faith.

My mom may have given me a peanut butter sandwich to eat on a gray stoop in the harsh sun of a summer day – and, just maybe I hadn’t been designed to eat that sandwich. My littlest had a tongue thrust where he chewed from the back to the front instead of the front to the back. Peanut butter sandwiches are sticky wicket affairs for him, too.

My mom lifted me out of her brokenness, lifted me high as she could and gave me over to a God who would take me the rest of the way.

Thank you, Mom!

On a side note, did you realize that public schools were created to teach the public to read so they could read their bibles and, thus, be in control of their salvation, not at the whim of a minister or a manipulating government. I realize that all children can take God into the classroom with them; yet, it is the ones who do not have knowledge of God at home who have been sacrificed through legislation – broken children walking hallways denied knowledge of God by the very institution that was created to teach them.

EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties. ~ Noah Webster 1828 Dictonary.

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cw13-4Sometimes I think I talk/write too much in my Blue Cotton bloggy home about challenges and giving up. Yet, that’s what motherhood, marriage and child of the One True God is all about – Not giving up – not a walking-out-kind-of-giving-up but a giving up of quality, engaged, intentional relationship reaching and living – not going to give up on that.

We climbed in our car, drove through the still-green mountains, the tree-leaves teasing us with just a yellow and orange flame leaf glimpses of change about to come.

We drove on, when some moments, one or all of us just wanted to turn back. Some journeys are like that: sitting waiting while Dad had a business meeting – the two boys skin just twitching to explode energy, like black-birds cawing-cawing complaints – the boys sounded about a historical holiday trip, a burst tire on a dark interstate, semi-trucks blowing by, shaking us – our boys learning to be men – unpacking the trunk, helping with the wheel – and me praying on the roadside God’s protection – travel day plans run amuck.

Part of me so wanted to just pack up. Would this even work? Be worth while? Sometimes I see the plan – know it will be successful – but the raw nerves saw away at my confidence – and I blink. Yes – I blink just ready to settle, to give up, pack it in. The everyday – sometimes it feels like a flat tire on an inter-state, while life around me explodes – and nobody lets up – including myself.

God gave me two things that have always pulled me through: 1)Faith – and 2)something inside that just won’t let me give up.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes not giving up can get just plain ugly. I wish not-giving-up acted like a smooth, rushing creek or river. It’s so much prettier. Instead not-giving-up reminds me of learning  to drive a stick-shift car: lots of starts and stallings, jerks and gracelessness.

That early Autumn holiday – it gave us about 36 hours of blessing – and history and heart moments.

We disengaged ourselves from the daily – and immersed ourselves in colonial history. Our home? The Market Square Kitchen in Colonial Williamsburg.

I loved my digs:

The boys perked up when they saw their place upstairs – all to their own:

We saw Fife and Drums playing our country’s quest for freedom. How melodious is the music of freedom:

We learned more about the Constitution – and people’s response through re-enactment characters who also took the time to talk to those of us passing through.

“Where are you from?” they’d ask.

“Tennessee by way of Kentucky,” we’d answer. Puzzled, they’d try to figure where that was. There was no Tennessee or Ketncuky in 1775. Finally, through good-hearted determination – we realized we were from Virginia by way of the Carolinas.

Through-enactment we saw more easily that freedom is a journey – and how far we’ve come in that journey

A Governor’s Palace Re-enactment Tour guide told stories of a government that used the show of power as a means of controlling the people:

and the importance of the people to arm themselves against ruffians and a government who errs in its perception of its relationship with the people

that medicine was home-grown, not always reliable and had far to go


Crime and Punishment would make a rousing dinner-table discussion: what kind of crime merits what kind of punishment? I wonder that if Colonial Williamsburg sold stocks along with maps, books and reproduction clothing – would there be one in every backyard? Just for fun and photos, of course. Seriously, though, when is too early to discuss the crime and punishment of a society – and the history of a culture’s crime and punishment?


And that I still would want to own a bookstore. We took home with us the Game of Life: Colonial Time – a book on etiquette, a map and a deck of cards.

I saw re-enforced one of my theories – in a sticky-faith manner – that when people intentionally connect with our youth, they become engaged and enjoy where they are(story to come).

We didn’t settle for a window-shopping experience

We went inside, asked questions, listened, me wanting to learn – and wanting my boys to learn not just history but something more:

The inside maze of my mind, my heart – this parenting, the daily – it’s all about not giving up, pushing through to the goal – isn’t it?cw13-13

These boys moaned, balked and begged – and then said, “This wasn’t so bad after all.”

I’m supposed to be “above all that” – you know what I mean. I’m supposed to be so noble, selfless and strong that I don’t need to hear it. But I’m not so noble as I need to be – nor selfless and strong. I needed to hear, “It wasn’t so bad.” I’m terribly glad I didn’t give up – and not just over the big things like holiday trips – but the little things in the daily – like homework, Saturday morning muffins when I’d rather be in bed, when the dog chews up grandbaby girl’s pup-pup, when unplanned moments shred the schedule – I’m not giving up. Glad to know this mama’s still got game!

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Cor 4: 16-18)

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Thanksgiving – so much more than a turkey!

There is so much more to Thanksgiving than the turkey, the football – even the family gathered around the table. Thanksgiving is about recognizing the roots from which America grew. Not just the patriotic, freedom-fighting roots – though they are as inherently necessary to recognize. It is the faith seed carried over the ocean in uncomfortable, danger-laden ships, planted in soil with hungry cold hands because of a vision of living God faith uninhibited by political agenda.

“The Lord is the Help of My Life”  – William Bradford

The first Pilgrims came to American so they could worship The God of Abraham, read The Gospel of Love and  experience the second Baptism without being drowned in a wine barrel, be burned alive boarded up in your own home, or have your entrails slowly pulled out of you in the town square as government officials attempted to turn you away from practicing your faith in the way you chose. At that time, the government determined how you practiced your faith – and if you disagreed, well, the government became disagreeable.

They came to America to be able to speak God’s name in the town square in the court house, on the public streets, in the school houses – to live and voice their belief without fear of persecution.

That faith seed would grow roots that would reach into our constitution: Article 1:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

(As a matter of fact, public schools were created to teach children to read so they could read the bible)

In America, these early Plymouth settlers discovered the rationing of socialism and the plenty of capitalism through the work of their own hands – not their neighbors. They broke the glass ceiling of class restriction – like the cranberries we eat on Thanksgiving that float to the top in the harvest when water rushes through the cranberry fields, so does hard work, effort, talent – all based on individual gumption – not religion, not class, not government.

“He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream”

Today, the Thanksgiving Holiday is full of irony – a House and Senate have left Washington D.C. to celebrate a holiday founded on the success of Capitalism and faith in God, yet daily they work to strip God out of the very places Pilgrims sought to freely worship their God – the city streets, the court houses, the schools – they wanted God in every part of their lives, their community, and their government.

Some leadership have gone so far today as to remove a cross from outside a base chapel in Afghanistan .  This symbol of faith and hope sustains many of our military soldiers protecting not only us but these leaders.

Just like the flag bearers of old gave the hope, the courage to fight on in difficult situations to their the military men it represented, so too does the symbol of our faith. When these flag bearers fell, so too did the fighting soldiers’ morale, hope and survival statistics. These soldiers live in casualty-real situations, putting their life on the life for an America created and built with hands seeking God.

Yet daily, these government officials attempt to strip the foundations of Capitalism and reduce Americans to the once starving, frustrated, dying, struggling Pilgrims who started out in socialism – who died in socialism – hungry and frustrated.  Until the American Spirit at Plymouth through a capitalist contract  replaced the socialist creed to break the bonds of servitude unleashing individual potential resulting in the American Dream.

While Socialism binds the hands of flourishing enterprise, smothers the seeds of creativity from which inventions spring, and suffocates the very breath of freedom, Capitalism frees the hands of enterprise, allows individual creativity the independence to invent, and  gives freedom breath to speak without recourse.

How ironic that today our government officials celebrate an event so diametrically opposed to their actions. How ironic is it that protestors are calling for a return to the socialism that brought Plymouth settler’s to their knees.

How sad that they celebrate Thanksgiving while chopping at the root of its very creation.

These people calling themselves the 99% are missing a very important factor. A missionary man preached at our church a few weeks ago. He asked, “Do you have an in-door toilet? Do you have running water? Do you have electricity?. . . .If you do, you are in the top 10% of the world.”

Yes, the 99% are in the top 10% of the world.

The top 10% because of faith in God and capitalism.

William Bradford’s biography is sitting on my desk right now.  My sons know the history of our country, but not through classroom textbooks because the full, real history of the birth of our country not taught. Because God is not allowed in the story telling in today’s public school classroom.

Today as you thank God for His blessings, as you pull your family close, spend additional time discussing the start of our country, how we became that top 10%, what enabled us to achieve clean water, medicines that heal and prevent, homes with so much comfort, electricity and internet, a washer and dryer, an abundance of food to keep and share.

And pray for those soldiers whose crosses are being pulled down, who are fighting to keep America safe, to keep America free, to keep God in America.

Graft you, your family to the deep root of faith from which America grew.

~ Written, Thanksgiving 2010
~Revised, Thanksgiving 2011
~Revised again, Thanksgiving 2012

Other related posts:

Congress Shall Make No Law Respecting Tebowing and other such Religious Behavior

Words Make a Difference

The 10 Cannots of Freedom

To Save a City

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deskNote: My boys have been blessed with a lot of wonderful teachers – who have mentored, poured heart, care, and knowledge, who cheered them on, forgave their exuberance – and did what teachers were designed to do – teach holisticly – adding something of value to their souls as well as their minds. However, this is post is a journey out of not only a failing curriculum but administrations failing under the weight of an education program mandating individuals be evaluated by scores instead of in-class performance and work ethic. When knowledge of the individual is taken out of the equation, so, too, is the moral responsibility to the individual. I commend each teacher whose work is done as though it’s a gift to God – I commend you more for doing it in the situation our government has created. I commend each administration who looks past the scores – and looks to the individual, looks into their heart – and sees their potential – not their lack.

Lots of changes at the Blue Cotton House – what came first – the change in the conversation or did the changes cause the changes in the conversation.

Private Catholic School girl married public school boy. After a few years, we jumped on a moving van that took us to the middle of Tennessee where education options initially were public school, home-schooling – and private schools slowly creeping in.

We’d moved when God said, “Go” – and we homeschooled  – when God said, “Do.”

One of the benefits, in my estimation, of having large families, is vision of change. When our oldest son entered first grade (kindergarten wasn’t mandatory – and in 1991, schools really didn’t know what to do with a child who could read. In my kindergarten interview (Yes, I was that mom – I interviewed the schools and their kindergarten) – teachers looked askance – reading in kindergarten wasn’t expected at that time.

In some ways – really might have been a good thing. Some children are late bloomers – some early bloomers. A late bloomer myself, held back in first grade – found myself in second grade in advanced reading – but no way to catch up to my peer group that was a year older.

Today, public school seems intolerant of late bloomers, starting in kindergarten.

I digress, though,

My oldest son benefited from honors classes in middle school. His eighth grade year was the last year they had official honors classes. In his pre-calculus class his senior year, his teacher was a guardsman who was called up suddenly – and the teacher for the remainder of the year didn’t know the subject. She couldn’t explain how to solve many of the problems but they still had to get the right answer on the tests.

Our second son is 6 years younger than our oldest. By the time he got to high school, math tutors were a hot commodity. They were often teachers. I couldn’t figure out how these boys who were so much more capable than me needed math tutors.

Maybe that’s what happens when state curriculum requires teaching to the test instead of teaching the processes, repeatedly building that process.

When we moved to Kentucky, the schools implemented a math program that left engineer parents out in the cold – even they couldn’t help their kids with math.

It left me questioning: if you are teaching math that isn’t used in real world experience, why are you teaching that kind of math?

I wanted an alternative, a solution. I realized that this time around, I needed my husband to be the leader on whether to home school or put in private school. I’m a slow learner, but  in 30 years of marriage, I am learning to let him lead – there’s more blessing in our lives when I do.

So I prayed – over 2 years ago, maybe 3 – that if that’s what God wanted us to do – then He would work on my husband’s heart to be on fire to make any changes God thought we needed.

1)  Our youngest,  one time had a history of advanced math scores (gifted we were told in 2010) but was low reading scores. Because of the low reading scores, he was placed in 6th without our knowledge as a regular student in an inclusion class. He made straight As. At the end of the year, the teacher said, “He doesn’t need to be in here.” Our eyes widened – because we were hands-on parents in school and out – and we didn’t know. We made great efforts to assure he was placed in a regular class.  We had to fight for it. I asked, “How is putting a child who doesn’t like reading in with a classroom of ESL (English as a Second Language) students going to improve his scores. In any classroom, he always rises to the challenge – making As and Bs. As a result, his math scores went down because he wasn’t getting the math he needed. Really, he wasn’t getting the level he needed at all. (Note: In 6th grade, he won the district science fair on a project about series and parallel circuits organized and completed on his own. I loved the mini-engineer talking shop about it with his engineer dad).

The dirty little secret is that students are grouped according to their reading scores until 7th or 8th grade – after which they are placed according to their math scores.

2)  At the beginning of my 4th son’s 8th grade year (last year), we noticed he was placed with a different group of students. Though honors classes had been officially disbanded – students were still ability grouped – and his scores, grades and teacher support always put him in the advanced group. Some years, his reading scores were practically perfect, though his math scores hung just a little below advanced – yet he was a straight A student, a student leader, too.

I asked the principal and the counselor – is he in the same level? They assured me all the classes contained high, medium and low – they did NOT ability group except for math. My son was frustrated all year. Students in his class were sent to inner-school suspension. Class was continually disrupted. Teachers started saying things like, “He doesn’t need to be here.” He was asking the science teacher for the extra work his friends were being given – and sometimes, he was the only one who got the right answer.

After my boys had a repeat bout chicken pox over Spring Break, I went in to collect some work because they missed 2 days. The science teacher informed me that he had 2 advanced classes; my son was in one of his average classes.

When I heard that, I visited the principal. I asked him 2  things:

1) Do you have more right to my son that I do that you can lie to me repeatedly about his placement?

His reply, “We don’t know these students. We just looked at test scores.”

I responded, “You lied to me twice? You assured me he was placed according to test scores, grades and teacher referrals (Note: He was one of 3 students recommended to attend a Congressional Leadership conference for 7th graders).

2) This led to the second question: How is taking a student making straight As in advanced classes  and putting them in an average class going to help them improve their test scores?

The principal responded that the teachers would have recommend he be moved if they thought he was wrongly placed.

Some had told me all year-long, he was in the wrong group. I told the principal I didn’t realize I could advocate the teachers.

When I called the superintendent of curriculum, she said, “You should have called me.” I didn’t realize I could call her either.

Trust in the school system had been irrevocably broken.

And so, though my son was recommended for honors classes at the high school – the straw had broken the proverbial camel’s back.

The math straw, a bunch of math straws for the dad with the physics and engineering degree – and the total disregard of a system focusing more on test scores than ability – created a heart and mind for change.

And God moved my husband to a decision that has changed our conversations. In the last 5 years, a Latin School started growing in our community –the literature is enough to make a mom of boys swoon with delight:

There aren’t saccharine stories of Jose growing a garden in the city or anti-American stories that equates World War II Japanese internment to German Concentration camps.  It is classical literature filled nobleness – shown through battles with ignobleness. It allows the Judeo-Christian values prevalent in American Literature and American history to be discussed, not silenced and ignored.

7th grade – Gilgamesh, The Code of Hammurabi, The Odyssey, Narnia – the entire series – and that was just in the first quarter

9thPilgrim’s Progress, Plymouth Plantation, Pride and Prejudice and A Tale of Two Cities – all in the first quarter.

They are both in the same Latin class for first years – and learning to be successful with harder, more thorough testing methods. They know what the word conjugate means – and I love hearing it done – in Latin.

Science and biology are taught by a veterinarian. Math is taught by an engineer.

My boys are revitalized and building confidence and an educational foundation Noah Webster encouraged:

“The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties”

 And we have peace – still chaos – but peace – knowing that amazing things are happening inside and outside of them.

“The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).

Thank you, Father – for teaching me to come to you, for using my frustration and confusion like written signs beckoning me to come to you, ask you to use your influence to change our circumstances – and change our conversation.

Thank you for giving us choice – for not running rough-shod over our lives – because of that choice, you and I, we have the opportunity for real relationship – not a relationship coerced through frightening, abusive, manipulative power, a love-less relationship– but a relationship where you woo us, walk with us, invite us to know you better, to know you are worthy of our love, virtuous, estimable, a knight in shining armor who protects and saves, a God closer than a brother – a Father who wisely waits to be asked and then moves heaven and earth to answer.

Thank you for leading us into this life-changing decision.

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When “the same things” don’t work, a vigilant parent creates alternative strategies. Yet, what do you do when none of the alternative strategies don’t work.

The professionals might even say words like, “Lazy, Not Paying Attention,” “Stomach pain? It’s in their head.” “Rebellious.”

When lazy doesn’t match up. When the haunted look of pain in their eyes doesn’t match up. When doing the opposite of what you’re asked doesn’t match up? To the child’s heart. . . .

When nothing works. . . nothing . . . when the incentives don’t entice, the discipline – all those squats – don’t move behavior, when in-the-head pain is so bad it limits their abilities – to the point of risking social diminishment . . .

No child wants to be in pain. No child wants to be unsuccessful in school. Every teen wants to drive. To read more, follow me over to The Mom Initiative.

I’m over at The Mom Initiative,  a group of moms and a package of resources to equip, enable and support women as they experience Titus 2 in real life. – won’t you stop by to read further? Not only will you find my post, but you’ll find a group of  women who will encourage and pray for you. Click here or read below:

“You’re not doing the same things,” my husband said when I was working with my second son when he was 2, 3 and 4.

“Yes, I am,” I remember answering, somewhat frustrated. “The same things aren’t working.”

Regardless of the age, sometimes “the same things” don’t work. Developing children requires a diverse strategy arsenal.

For academic development, we used alphabet puzzles, flash cards, animal alphabet cards, Bob Books, Now I’m Reading Books. One learned to spell his name first in sign language. Another chose Garfield over classics – our home library is stuffed with Garfield, Snoopy, the classics, World War II literature, American history books. When two sons had trouble turning in assignments at school, I bought calendars, schedule books – and came up with the Trinity of Success.

For behavioral development, we dug into our arsenal of choices:“No,” corporal punishment, picking up rocks, squats. We even enacted take-aways: social events, media, games, phones, cars and other privileges.

For health and fitness, we’ve provided the right nutrition, the right amount of exercise, followed up with doctor’s visits for complaints that just won’t go away.

When “the same things” don’t work, a vigilant parent creates alternative strategies. Yet, what do you do when none of the alternative strategies don’t work.

The professionals might even say words like, “Lazy, Not Paying Attention,” “Stomach pain? It’s in their head.” “Rebellious.”

When lazy doesn’t match up. When the haunted look of pain in their eyes doesn’t match up. When doing the opposite of what you’re asked doesn’t match up? To the child’s heart. . . .

When nothing works. . . nothing . . . when the incentives don’t entice, the discipline – all those squats – don’t move behavior, when in-the-head pain is so bad it limits their abilities – to the point of risking social diminishment . . .

No child wants to be in pain. No child wants to be unsuccessful in school. Every teen wants to drive.

Behavior must match the child’s heart. The pieces to the puzzle must fit in cause/effect ways.

That’s a sign for out-of-the-box response – a solution revolution.

The solution revolution starts with prayer – hit-the-floor prayer.

Each time, within three days people crossed my path, providing pieces to these puzzles destroying my sons’ lives.

The solution revolution, once prayer is released will take you to the solution – to specialized responses beyond your knowledge and experience.

One son had Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Another son had severe esophagitus. Another son had ADD, not a behavior issue but a focus issue.

CAPD is like dyslexia of the ears. It has the ability to not only affect what you hear (background noise reduced this son’s hearing ability to 24%). He was hearing 2 out of 3 words correctly. It not only affected how he heard but how he learned math and language arts. He had to be taught to recognize the patterns. He also didn’t hear tone.  I don’t like to call it a disorder, though. Different shouldn’t equal disorder.

Another son suffered severe esophagitus from 1st to 6th grade. By 6th grade, he was running like someone’s grandma, unable to focus and concentrate due to the constant pain. The pediatrician said it was in his head. One specialist said it was a fiber issue. The aggressive specialist we eventually found said the pain was not located in an “in-your-head” place and scoped him. We had to totally change his diet. He had to re-develop his foundational muscles, rebuild his 6-pack. It’s hard sitting through a school day with intense stomach pain. He had to re-learn learning.

TrinityWhen turning homework in on time and organizational management – even with sports because long-term challenges. We thought it was rebellion and laziness – so did the teachers. Until an ADD adult described “living and working in a fog,” creating an inability to complete projects – we had no clue. Discipline and incentive couldn’t lead the way out of that fog.

When you’ve tried everything you know. When you’ve tried main-stream solutions.  When you’ve taken everything away or even promised much as incentive. When you’ve implemented punishment – and nothing works.

It’s time to think out of the box. It’s time for a solution revolution.

What has your family experienced that has made you look for a solution revolution?


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7-24-2007-060My illustrator came home from school boasting of how neat he had rewritten a piece of prose for school. Usually, we go round and round about writing, handwriting, that is. “The h’s have to be as tall as the L’s – which need to reach to the top of the line – if not, the h’s will look like n’s, the d’s like a’s and the L’s might just look like an i missing the dot.”

He isn’t bothered by h’s that look like n’s or d’s that look like a’s.

When we got home, he pulled out his prose – and the handwriting was nicely done, though he doesn’t want the L’s, H’s, backs of the d’s and b’s, f’s and L’s (plus all capitals) to reach to the top of the line. It can’t be psycho-symbolic about him being the smallest of the blue cotton brotherhood – because too many of his tall brothers truncate letter size. The letters were neat, even, in-control, filled with pride about the words they made – words my illustrator put together to paint a word picture.

It was written in 5 paragraphs – covering much of the front and back of the blue-lined paper. When he typed it onto the computer screen, he was dismayed that it didn’t fill the page. He also had to turn paragraph poetry into standard prose with complete sentences. Lots of verbs were added and galloping away sentences were reigned in with periods. His ideas were dressed up with suit-and-tie proper capitalization with wing-tip endings.

Thank you size 14 fonts for allowing him to make his ideas be as big as he imagined. He searched the styles, settling happily for Brush Script. He printed one for him and a New Times Roman for his teacher – and turned all of them in – the paragraph poetry, the well-dressed prose – and the well-dressed prose jazzed up with a funky font.

My favorite draft was the original, the paragraph poetry. Poor little poetry in a paragraph – nobody wants to leave it alone. I wanted you to read it as I read it, pause where I paused, tumble along with the cadence he created and I so loved from someone I so love – who turned 12 on the first day of Autumn.

Original “Day in the Woods”

by the little illustrator

“Crackle, Crackle –as I walk into the old, lively forest
I see different types of trees.
I see dead leafs everywhere
Green, orange, red,
Even some orange and red
Some were high up
In the sky
Some were down low
Leafs that are falling Down
Go down slowly like an
Air balloon running out
Of hot air.
I feel the leafs
Like a brick wall
Big leafs
Small leafs
And even torn leafs

As I swat the flies
One by one I see twigs and broken twigs
Like crabs on the floor.
Small trees and tall trees everywhere
I look
I smell the trees
They smelled like dirt.
As I go to sit on the log a lot of lively things
I see
Plants everywhere but the little spot
I see

As I breathe the free air
Chirp Chirp
I hear birds chirping like they are scared
By a beast
I sniff again
I smell dirt like the dirt was rising up
I see
Roots overlapping roots
As if they were fighting
I feel
The log I’m sitting on
It feels like wrinkly clothes

As I walk to another log
I see
Two ants fighting to live.
The black ant trying
To defend
the littler ant tries
To have food to live
By eating the big black ant.
They fight on until
Steps on them.
I see
The ants squashed
Like a pancake
But still I look around

I see
Spiders floating away on its web
I see
Big plants covering seeds
On the ground
I hope
We come back soon
It’s peaceful
I can’t wait till next time

Come back Monday for the Story Behind the Poem: Reading Blessing like Poetry

To read A Birthday Prayer, click here


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The morning starts off with prayer and hope – one leading us in the 23rd psalm, another leading the Lord’s Prayer, and the teen choosing a proverb. I finish off with prayer:

Praising God for either the rain that prepares the crops, or the sun that helps the crops grow, for our home, for our provision – for warm blankets and comfortable beds.

 I ask that our angels encamp about us, protecting us, keeping us from harm.

 I pray that as we come and go between classes, tasks, jobs and activities that we reach for relationship with the Father beyond this moment

 That we let others know about the love of Jesus either through our words or actions. That we find 3 people to pray for either outwardly or inwardly – maybe a bully, maybe the bullied – but someone who needs a bit of the Father in their lives.

 And. . . .I pray that their school work will be their best, a praise offering to God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23)

 Our morning prayer sounds like utopian parenting, doesn’t it. For the duration of that prayer – all is right and hopeful in the world – a perfect moment.

If only the prayer were walked out as easily as spoken.

My teen and I, after the little guys were dropped off, talked about work as praise – because school work just is not always a priority. Right now, he really doesn’t see how reading The Secret Life of Bees, writing an essay or learning the rudiments of statistics will help him in real life (do not get me going about the feminization of education). From my college teaching experience, unless boys see a true need for a skill, they don’t respect it, want it, work for it.

But God wants our work to be as praise for him. . . .

 How do you get a teen to buy into that?

I tried again – I am all for repetitious seed planting into these boys of mine.

“Grow where you are planted. God didn’t drop you in  Uganda where a war-torn people live in huts with a trench for a bathroom beside an outside wall, where little boys are given a gun to kill their parents in order to live. Little boys in Uganda would rather have been dropped where you are,” I urge.

Sleepy blinking is my response. I push on, though, not deterred.

“God dropped you here .  Not somewhere else you’d rather be, doing something else you’d rather be doing. You need to make the best of where you are, the situation you are in – which means going to school, graduating and fitting yourself for useful employment. Not just going to school – but doing your best,” awesome point I’ m thinking that should propel my son into school ready to be the student he is capable of being.

Sleepy blinking. A sigh that really says, “Here we go again” – that’s all the response from my one-on-one, early morning cheerleading.

Instead of backing off, I dig in deeper – I can’t really figure out if that’s counter-productive. Maybe it is. All I know is that I don’t want to give up on someone I love so much.

“Are you a Christian?” I ask. That gets a response.

“Of course ,” he answers, his eyes too tired to roll backwards in his head, so he just shuts them.

“Are you a picking and choosing Christian – meaning you are going to pick and choose what the bible says about being a Christian? Because He wants us to do our best where we are – and for you, that means school.”

He climbs out of the van not so much excited about going to school as to getting away from his mother.

“Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval” (Genesis 4: 3-4)

It is so difficult to use a Cain and Able quote because, well, my boys automatically jump to the fratricide part. Yet, there is so much beyond that to be learned.

Offerings were a new thing, a second-generation thing – each brother brought one, completed the assignment, so to speak. One earned a gleaming report. The other needed work. God, ever the teacher, talked to Cain, encouraged him to do better next time:

“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?If you do well, will you not be accepted?And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it'”(Genesis 4: 5-7)

You must rule over it – meaning take responsibility of your abilities, gifts and responsibilities – do your best! Do your best, God seems to be telling Cain – and I will bless you, praise you, like I praised Able. “Next time, do better,” God coaches to Cain. Even Cain had to practice, to learn – to turn in Praise Work to God.

Do your best, whether it is making hats, doing school work, folding laundry, working in a job that isn’t your dream job

Ever since my first historic trip to Pleasant Hill as a teen with my family, the idea of work a praise gift to God has been a seed growing.

 Shakers … go about their duties in cheerful, happy helpful temper, feeling that “Labor is worship and prayer.” (Leonard, Shaker Manifesto 1871, for quote source, click here)

The results of each Shaker task was a praise offering to the Father:  spinning, weaving, sewing, making baskets, brushes, bonnets, brooms, furniture, growing and harvesting for sale medicinal herbs, garden seeds, apple-sauce, and knitted garments, using the latest scientific methods for farming  and living. In 1835, they had cold showers in bathhouses with water pumped from the Kentucky River.

“Hands to work, hearts to God,”  (Mother Ann Lee).
The work of the hands reflecting the heart to God.

Farm Deacon’s Shop, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrate our 29th anniversary at The Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Thirty hours of together time – celebrating 29 years of marriage – a little bit of history, a lot of good food, quietness in a beautiful place, staying in a historic building all to ourselves – holistically delightful!

To make a chair, with such perfection, such skill, the best you had within you – a worthy chair on which an Angel of God could sit – that was the goal of each Shaker chair maker (Tour Guide, Pleasant Hill, August 2012)

I bet even the Chair Master, when he was an apprentice, had homework. If he had never tried, never improved, never turned in his homework or day work, he would never have become the Chair Master – creating a chair so perfect it was fit for angels.

“God, the master workman, who has made the smallest insect with as much care as the mammoth elephant, sets us the example of good work.  Imitation is the sincerest praise.”  (Shaker Manifesto).

I’ve been re-seeding, watering, trying to grow that idea and instill it in my boys.  Simple Gifts has a bed-time lullaby in our house for over 27 years:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
(Simple Gifts, Shaker Song)

Doing my best as a parent, is that not praise to God also? Not giving up on encouraging these boys “to come down where [they] ought to be.” Sometimes, praise is not easy – especially when you are praising for something you do not see the evidence of.

Shaping, crafting for the company of angels and God – that kind of skill starts in the heart, works its way to the hands and the feet – even if the work of the hands and feet are classroom assignments and teaching moments in a car on the way to school at 7:15 a.m.

Maybe the morning and private prayer time ought to include that God give us each the desire to over-rule the power that would have us sullenly turn away from encouragement, that our desire to do our best flame higher and stronger than the desire to not do where we are planted our best.

Sometimes, a math sheet can be so much more than homework – it can be an I-Love-You Praise gift worthy of angels and God – if it is labored over for God.

For more information on Shaker History, click here and here.

For the Trinity of Success, click here

659) Post-it notes for prayer requests stuck on my desk and bathroom mirror that remind me to pray
660) Paine au chocolates for my daughter-in-law – because my son said she’d like them
661) baklava for my son – because he likes it – and he asked for it.
662) leaves swirling like confetti in dappled sunlight on a quiet street on my way home from work
663) A quiet weekend morning, on the porch with a cup of coffee, listening to a blue jay
664) zinnias that rebloom sherbet colors all summer long
665) a bushel of tomatoes from my garden
666) time to knit 4 rows of a project
667) boys reading in the weekend morning – no t.v., no music, just a silent kind of industriousness that sighs contentment
668) the courage to buy a pink and purple booster seat for baby girl to sit at the table – on the clearance rack – with a mini-booster-seat for a tiny baby doll. My littlest, almost 12, assembled it, secured it – and grandbaby girl and her stuffed animal enjoyed dinner
669) Hearing the following words: “In college I went to the used book store to get some classics to read, like Shakespeare, ‘Much Ado about Nothing. I used to buy books there all the time until the owner offered me a massage.” – Not the massage part, though that definitely adds a little something to the story – but that I instilled a love for reading things like Shakespeare.
670) Previous discussion morphing into a discussion of Chaucer (thank you, “A Knight’s Tale” – and the devolving and evolving of words).
671) Saturday Morning date at the Farmer’s Market
672) Chard, honey, parsley, cucumbers, eggplant and dill at the Farmer’s Market
673) Watch grandbaby girl have one-on-one time with her 14-year-old uncle
674) Sons meeting rising to meet life challenges
675) Sons who still hug
676) Living a hectic schedule one hour at a time – thank you God for helping me through this week – with a schedule that challenged my peace
677) meeting with friends over dinner – friends who laugh with you and don’t mind you being yourself
678) a friend from church, seeing my husband in the grocery store, battling a cold – and she prayed for him
679) Phone calls my mom and aunt every morning  – when I married, long-distance calling was too expensive – now, I can call every day. What an awesome blessing! I love that.
680) weekday morning prayer, no matter how put out any one person is – the littlest leading the Lord’s Prayer, the next leading the 23 Psalm – and seeing my senior’s hands automatically reaching for the bible I leave in the car to find a Proverb – without me reminding.
681) watching green things and blooming things outside my window
682) rain, in sheets, in mists, rumbling and rolling thunder across the sky, lights out as the rain from the hurricane blows its way to Tennessee.
683) sitting with the lights off in the house, on our porch, listening to the boys and husband talk of big and little things, little and big – in the way that boys do – so endearing, so serious, sometimes so silly – all more beautiful in the quiet
684) sitting around the big table, dinner finished, a coffee cup in my hand, listening to the talking, trying to get a word in somewhere – wondering how does a mom’s voice stay relevant when men talk about their world, grateful for Shakespeare and Chaucer moments – yes, it was a double blessing, worthy of a gazillion times ( which reminds me of a 5 minute discussion of dictionaries and the word ginormous).
685) Comfort that during tomorrow and Wednesday and through all the rest of the week, He has blessings along my path to remind me that He is with me, that He never abandons nor forsakes me.

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We went blueberry picking, my boys and I. It was late July, just when the summer heat decided the show itself. We went after the first day of school, a 2 hour day, looking for Hidden Springs Farm beside Hidden Springs Creek.

We drove 6 miles outside of town, winding through curvy roads, past a burned-out store, turning onto a road that spent itself into a one-lane gravel trail that made me wonder how they got to town in the winter.

We turned right onto a road that skirted a huge, dried-out creek-bed called Hidden Springs, moving closer and closer to the blueberry farm, an isolated place where someone could lose the outside world.

“Is there ever any water in the creek?” I asked the blueberry lady, as I handed out buckets to 3 boys and one, very sweet girl friend of The Teen.

In some seasons, it rushes with water, she said.

Hidden Springs Creek was empty. Silent.

“I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory” (Ezekiel 43:2))

No roar. No rushing waters. Just emptiness.

I’d had a dream once, where my family picnicked beside a dried-out creek bed. In my dream, I asked whether it ever flooded– and the guide (for some reason there was a guide) said, “Oh, sometimes it rushes in, over-spilling the creek bank, flooding the family home, washing everything clean.” In my dream, we were talking about the Holy Spirit –that the Holy Spirit had once flowed through my family.

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).

That creek bed, that rushed with water in seasons, it made me thirsty. I felt the dry, dusty, cracked river-bed in my boys – and I wanted that rain, that Holy Spirit Rain for them, too. I wanted that season to be now.

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41: :17).

I thought how cool it would be it would be if  Hidden Springs Creek produced a flash flood of Spirit-filled water – kind of like the water that rushed, morphing into horse-shaped rapids in The Lord of the Rings. Something visual. Something Tangible. Something with a Wow-Factor that washes away any doubts.

But the Holy Spirit, it isn’t contained to river beds, creek beds and oceans.

There is a spring in each of us, a Holy Spirit spring – flowing, gushing with Living Water. For so many of us, though, it is a Hidden Spring. Because we don’t understand, we dam up that living stream available to us. We don’t let it wash through our life.

I’m like that with a lot of things. I didn’t use my kitchen Aid Mixer for years because I really didn’t understand what it could do for me. There are programs on my computer I don’t use because I don’t understand. I avoid what I do not understand.

Until, one day, someone said in a Sunday School class where we were talking about the Holy Spirit, “If God has more for me, I want it.”

That resonated. That loosened the foundation of the dam I’d built.

Paul prayed for people like me, who didn’t quite get the Holy Spirit. He prayed this prayer:

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1: 17-21).

I asked God – is this real? This Holy Spirit Power? The same power you used to raise Jesus from the dead? That’s available for me? In the tool box you gave me when I became your child?

Is it for me? Little me in the big world? The same Holy Spirit Power that fell on the day of Pentecost? That rose Jesus from the dead?

“but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14)

And, if it is for me, can I not only have it. . . but show me how to turn it on in my life, so that the dry, cracked banks of my own Hidden Springs can rush to over-flowering with the Holy Spirit, cleansing me, filling me with energy, conviction, refreshing, helping me pray. . . and yes, praying in the spirit, if that is indeed real, too, for me, too.

I want some of that Living Water Jesus offered; I want that comforter He sent. But I don’t just want it. I want to use it. I want it to flow – not be dammed up behind my lack of understanding, traditions, a watered-down faith. I want my faith watered-up, flash-flooding, over-flowing, covering me, my family, my home.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

I want those Hidden Springs loosed in me. What about you?

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The debate on whether to hold boys back in school for me started in 1991. Because my son was a June baby, the principal at the school where he would eventually be enrolled recommended that he be held back. She told me a story about a child who wasn’t held back, became valedictorian of his graduating class – but because he was the last in his class to get his driver’s license, to this day, she still felt he should have been held back.

My son could already read. When I interviewed the kindergarten teachers about how they would sustain his reading skill, they looked at me like I was a freaky over-achieving mother pushing her child way to0 hard. That was the early ’90s – times have certainly changed.

My response? Iff being the last student in his graduating class to get his driver’s license was going to be the straw that broke him, then I wasn’t a very good mom.

I homeschooled him that year, put him in a social program 2 days a week and he entered first grade the following year. Throughout his high school career, his teacher’s always thought he was the oldest in the class. I was told over and over again “He was born an old man.” In a lot of ways, he was, but he was the youngest in his class.

  • Academics: When it came time for my second son to enter school, he was a lot like his mama. He was a late bloomer. We held him back. In the early years, yes, he needed the time to bloom, but once the reading kicked off, he was ready to fly.  There was no opportunity to regain that lost year, no opportunity to graduate “on-schedule.”
  • Social Maturity: Struggling academically early on seasons the student, adds a little maturity (not responsibility – just maturity). Late bloomers gain  maturity through the struggle, so tire earlier of the drama through the 6tgh, 7th and 8th grade – and the same is true of their junior senior year.
  • Sports: The additional year is amazing – in the 7th and 8th grade. Such an advantage of development ability often gives students varisty opportunities their Freshman year of  high school. I have seen too many players get “the big head” that Freshman year, leading to prima dona behavior leaving the coach with a big attitude, “cruising on reputation” attitude, and reduced team-player attitude. College scouts looking for players, walk away from talent at the first whiff of attitude. The benefits early on are not worth the price at the end.
  • Independence Delayed: Young men chafe from being “Held back” from independence, being on their own, being man of their own life. Oh, I get it, though. If they are so grown up, they should handle the responsibility of staying in school and completing their education. Right? Try that with a teen who desperately wants to exit the nest. That senior year, well, it becomes a battle ground between the parent wanting the student to stay in school and the student wanting to get out.

Ask your sons to define independence (not just American, but how they define being independent). Independence delayed can create a problem for parents and teachers in classrooms full of young men who want nothing more than to “be a man” which really means on their own, in charge of their destiny, out of the nest – and not answerable to teachers and parents. Frustratingly, it often means “no school.” Secondary school teachers do not have the same ability as college students to just tell a student to get out. College students are there by choice; high school students are there by law. As such, the high school becomes like a prison exuding students with prisoner mentality.

In a country that wants desk jobs for everyone via college degrees, they are really missing out on the fact that some young men are not philosophical learners (scholars – i.e. – give me the facts and through those facts I will make an educated decision – meaning college is the way for me). Some are hands-on learners who need to experience the workplace, experience responsibility, experience life to learn the cost and needs of that. Arguments mean nothing. Experience means everything.

Try playing chess or checkers with your son or daughter, regardless of the age.  One player-type thinks ahead; the other just thinks about the move in front of him. That’s the same with life. Some only learn to think ahead through experience.

About a decade ago, I read an article about the “lost year of high school” – the senior year. Schools have tried to correct that by offering college courses for credit. My oldest son left high school with six hours college credit. Those six hours packed a bunch of Freshman confidence. After a discussion with a principal this year about opportunities for high school students held back to regain that year, she talked about a program that will allow seniors to take college courses and even live on campus. That opportunity, though, is for the “coachable” student” – the one content for the moment to be a student.

Yet, what about the “lost year” for the students who ultimately need a few years of independence before they see the need of that additional education? Is there not a way for them to move onward – out of the holding pen? An 18 year old wants to be master of his life, but ownership of that life does not really begin until graduation.

At age 18, a student can check themselves out of high school. Then, if he checks himself out too many times, well, then he doesn’t graduate with the coveted diploma. Parents and principals have no authority to keep them in school.

And as such, a problem is created.  The student held back for various reasons, (whether it is just recommended because he’s a boy, or because he’s a late bloomer, or to gain an extra year for sports) now risks not graduating at all.

I have never seen any statistics about the graduation rate of boys held back. I am sure they are out there. It is just a shame that the first K-4 of education does not find a way for the late bloomer to regain lost time. 

Standing there, looking at your 4, 5 or 6-year-old, wrestling with the decision to hold back another year. Just keep in mind that, 4, 5 and 6 year-olds are more biddable than an 18-year-old.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a wonderful essay called, “The American Scholar” where he defines the 3 types of education: academic, experience and observation. Keep in mind that academic means “scholar” – a lover of books, ideas, theories. However, some excel at experience – skirting scholarly theories creating real innovations. How many life-changing inventions were created by hands-on experience with a side-order of education? Or no college education at all? Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Richard Trevithick and so many more.

“The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing”(Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”)

“Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books”(Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”). – This is one of my very favorite quotes.

Note 3 of my 5 sons started late due to various reasons (one’s birthday literally snuggled up to the cut-off). However, now I know how to better plan for the potential problems this will cause in high school.

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(The following are thought-streams about art, work, needs with an uncurrent about what I see as innate eduational needs of boys prompted by a local Walk with the Arts for elementary school children)

My littlest guy went for a Walk with the Arts. Art – that’s what they called it. But, not so long ago, it was not art. 

Today’s product development engineer was yesterdays blacksmith.

Today’s textile scientists and manufacturing engineers were yesterday’s weaver.

Pixar’s animated cartoons grew out of story-telling and puppeteering.

Thermo Scientific Nalgene Labware and Lab Bottles grew out of the potter’s hands.

And, well, music was not bought, it was either made in the home or visited in the community.

Rubbermaid baskets grew out of hand-woven baskets from backyard grape vine.

A walk with the arts – 100 years ago, these boys would be getting ready to leave the classroom to apprentice, spending years training to become a master.  Working with their hands – creating transportation, furniture, utensils for work and home, planting and harvesting – basic jobs available for everyman – today’s art.  Yesterday’s necessity.

Today, my boys grow frustrated in classrooms where nobody explains how math works in the workplace.  How reading and writing work in the workplace. How understanding different cultures and history allows people to neogitate differnces with more skill.

Today, education is like holding a basket at a Easter Egg Hunt – waiting for the whistle to blow, so egg-hunters can run and find the eggs – students waiting for the whistle to blow, wanting to create, to work their hands, to put to work what they learn.

But they cannot. 

So they wait in the classrooms.

Waiting to live with their hands

Waiting to make life’s necessities that will later become art.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
       that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
       for as many years as we have seen trouble.

 16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
       your splendor to their children.

 17 May the favor [b] of the Lord our God rest upon us;
       establish the work of our hands for us—
       yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:14-17).


 “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecc. 9:9-10)

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10-25-2009 06;08;41PMTrick or Treat

Trick or Treat

Give me Something Good to Eat

Every topic provides a teachable moment about God and, often, politics. Halloween is no different.

Last year, before the election, I was driving my boys somewhere-we are always going somewhere, and we were talking, discussing the difference between presidential candidates.

I explained how our capitalistic country was born out of the failure of socialism. William Bradford, author of Plymouth Plantation led a group of people to settle in America. Their settlement charter required them to form a socialist society. All results of work would be equally shared among their group. The first year was an utter failure. Healthy young men did not work. Why? Because they knew they would get their equal share of the pie whether they worked or not, as the charter stated. Suffering resulted, and, sadly, the ones who worked hard to provide for those who did not work suffered equally. The colony revised their charter the second year into a capitalistic charter: what you made you kept to sell, barter, trade. The colony flourished. Those lazy young men worked when there was profit/rewards to be had.

“Capitalism allows you to keep what you earn and choose where to spend it; socialism “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”(Marx), meaning that it doesn’t matter how much you work or how good you are, the government will take away your earnings to give to fill other peoples’ needs.”

10-25-2009 06;03;09PMMy sons looked at me blankly. Hmmmmm, apparently, I needed to put this into the U-14 venacular.” Passing houses with pumpkins filling door ways, black cat flags, and other ghoulish festivities, I pulled an idea out of the figurative candy basket of my brain.

I assessed my boys through the rear-view mirror.

“What’s your favorite part about Halloween,” I asked.

“Candy,” chimed the unhesitatant chorus.

“What if the Jones wouldn’t allow their children to go Trick or Treating because they didn’t believe in it? The Thompsons were just too lazy? The Smith’s too sick? What would you do when you got home and Dad said you had to give 2/3 of your candy to those families? How would you feel?”

“Not going to happen!” my then 8th grader answered bluntly.

The two younger ones looked appalled, even disgusted.

benI countered my 8th grader, “But he is your Dad, you have to do what he says. Just like the president is the president-you have to do what he says, too. Socialism is like your dad telling you you must share, whether you want to or not. Socialism is when the leader of your country decides how many other people you have to give your hard-earned halloween candy to.”

“Some people don’t believe in trick or treating, some just don’t want to, some people maybe just can’t for real reasons. Despite the reason why others do not have Halloween candy, you cannot call it giving when the government takes it away and chooses who to give your stuff to.”

My 4th grader said, “Well, if they were sick, I’d share.”

“In a Capitalist society, you go out, work hard, and determine what to do with your earnings. The moral choice is yours to make with giving. That is what makes it moral,” I answered. “There’s nobleness and goodness in giving when you make the choice to give-that is capitalism, and that’s why we’re known as the most giving country in the world. There is no moral giving without choice. There is no generosity of spirit without choice.”

Halloween is a sweet-tooth example of the capitalist system thriving in our country. I bet your children share without being told to, or barter the results of their hard work.

Socialism or Capitalism–what’s the real trick or treat?

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I am resposting “Shouldn’t Children be Encouraged to Defend Themselves” today. Sadly, a high school student at my sons’ high school was stabbed during an in-school brawl with a kitchen knife. He was air-lifted in critical condition. Word of mouth discusses one student taunting, both fighting, one evening the odds. The school went into lock-down mode. I firmly believe that a passive approach to bullying and mis-behavior breeds out-of-control violence. I cannot express the saddness in my heart for these two young men and their families. I cannot express the feeling of frustration that makes me feel like sending my sons to school is like playing Russian Roulette with their lives. I am going to make Monday in my home an unofficial Day of Prayer Against Violence in Our Schools. Won’t you join me?

Shouldn’t Children be Encouraged to Defend Themselves

soldiers“The world is governed by the aggressive use of force,” was played out last week with the death of an honor student in Chicago by violent gang members. Aggressive force ruled. There are two types of aggressive force: Aggressive forced used offensively, and Aggressive force used defensively.

In the public school system, Aggressive Force Used Offensively wins. If Johnney, uses aggressive force offensively by kicking, punching, or pulling a knife, and Sam, uses aggressive force defensively to stop the kicking, punching, or pulling a kinife. Both are punished. Equally. Sam gets suspended for defending himself. Johnney gets suspended, too.

The young man-yes, young man, not a child, who was killed would have been suspended for defending himself if that had happened on school grounds.

The system emasculates rule-abiding students, while empowering rule-breaking students

My 3rd grader is being kicked, shoved, and verbally assaulted consistently. The teacher admitted using everthing in his behavior-solution bag, “I don’t know what else to do.” My son’s 3rd grade world is governed by the aggressive use of force-except the governing force is a fellow 3rd grader.

My husband told him that if the child hits him, to hit back twice as hard. However, if that happens, my son risks earning the same rap sheet as the instigator.

fight2One of my sons had a similar, but more threatening experience in 7th grade. As the principal explained to me, it all stareted when the class bully kept throwing tootsie rolls at a girl and hitting her in the eye. My son told him to stop. It was Halloween. After Thanksgiving, this same student pulled a knife on my son and threatened to use that same knife to stab him in the back and kill him the next week.

My son’s middle school world was governed by the aggressive use of force.

I asked the principal, “Is this a kid who is just having a tough day, or is this a kid with a history of issues?”

She couldn’t tell me. She also could not do anything about the student with the knife: even though other students had seen the knife, it didn’t count because a teacher didn’t see the knife.

My son was told to always have a witness with him, whether he went to the bathroom, soccer practice, or changed class.

boxingI was assured that my son had just as fine of privacy rights as the student who pulled the knife. I countered that my son didn’t have anything to hide, so I didn’t need those privacy rights.

This student was in and out of school for the rest of the year. Each time he came back, the threats would increase. We met with the principal again. We told her that we gave our son permission to take 2 hits (understand that in the 7th grade, he was already 6 ft. 2 inches tall with the strength to seriously injure this little guy). If someone didn’t pull the young man off of him, then he had our permission to knock him to the next county. Even though, after taking 2 hits, and finally defending himself would result in a suspension.

“The world is governed by the aggressive use of force.”

Students who are coached and threated not to defend themselves are being subjugated by those using the aggressive use of force.

The public school system is training children and young adults to not fight back, while letting those who use the aggressive use of force freedom to do so. Why? They have simply exhausted their bag of solutions.

They are creating a country of citizens who do not know how to defend themselves, to stand up and face an enemy force, to possibly save their life. Iwant the school sytems to stop tying my son’s hands behind their backs and forcing them to take the aggression.

marinesI want the school system to teach that right is might.

Sometimes the aggressive use of force, when used defensively, stops the bullies, bad guys, and murderers from continuing their reign of terror. Self-defense is an American right, for the adults and the children, too.

Sometimes a strong defense is the solution to the aggressive use of force. Sometimes the defensive aggressive use of force can bring peace to the world. . . and even the 3rd grade.

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soldiers“The world is governed by the aggressive use of force,” was played out last week with the death of an honor student in Chicago by violent gang members. Aggressive force ruled. There are two types of aggressive force: Aggressive forced used offensively, and Aggressive force used defensively.

In the public school system, Aggressive Force Used Offensively wins. If Johnney, uses aggressive force offensively by kicking, punching, or pulling a knife, and Sam, uses aggressive force defensively to stop the kicking, punching, or pulling a kinife.  Both are punished.  Equally.  Sam gets suspended for defending himself.  Johnney gets suspended, too. 

The young man-yes, young man, not a child, who was killed would have been suspended for defending himself if that had happened on school grounds.

The system emasculates rule-abiding students, while empowering rule-breaking students

My 3rd grader is being kicked, shoved, and verbally assaulted consistently. The teacher admitted using everthing in his behavior-solution bag, “I don’t know what else to do.” My son’s 3rd grade world is governed by the aggressive use of force-except the governing force is a fellow 3rd grader.

My husband told him that if the child hits him, to hit back twice as hard.  However, if that happens, my son risks earning the same rap sheet as the instigator.

fight2One of my sons had a similar, but more threatening experience in 7th grade.  As the principal explained to me, it all stareted when the class bully kept throwing tootsie rolls at a girl and hitting her in the eye.  My son told him to stop.  It was Halloween.  After Thanksgiving, this same student pulled a knife on my son and threatened to use that same knife to stab him in the back and kill him the next week.

My son’s middle school world was governed by the aggressive use of force.

I asked the principal, “Is this a kid who is just having a tough day, or is this a kid with a history of issues?”

She couldn’t tell me. She also could not do anything about the student with the knife:  even though other students had seen the knife, it didn’t count because a teacher didn’t see the knife.

My son was told to always have a witness with him, whether he went to the bathroom, soccer practice, or changed class.

boxingI was assured that my son had just as fine of privacy rights as the student who pulled the knife.  I countered that my son didn’t have anything to hide, so I didn’t need those privacy rights.

This student was in and out of school for the rest of the year.  Each time he came back, the threats would increase.  We met with the principal again.  We told her that we gave our son permission to take 2 hits (understand that in the 7th grade, he was already 6 ft. 2 inches tall with the strength to seriously injure this little guy).  If someone didn’t pull the young man off of him, then he had our permission to knock him to the next county.  Even though, after taking 2 hits, and finally defending himself would result in a suspension.

“The world is governed by the aggressive use of force.”

Students who are coached and threated not to defend themselves are being subjugated by those using the aggressive use of force.

The public school system is training children and young adults to not fight back, while letting those who use the aggressive use of force freedom to do so. Why?  They have simply exhausted their bag of solutions.

They are creating a country of citizens who do not know how to defend themselves, to stand up and face an enemy force, to possibly save their life. Iwant the school sytems to stop tying my son’s hands behind their backs and forcing them to take the aggression.

marinesI want the school system to teach that right is might.

Sometimes the aggressive use of force, when used defensively, stops the bullies, bad guys, and murderers from continuing their reign of terror.  Self-defense is an American right, for the adults and the children, too.

Sometimes a strong defense is the solution to the aggressive use of force.  Sometimes the defensive aggressive use of force can bring peace to the world. . . and even the 3rd grade.

Read Full Post »

TrailLast Fall my now 5th grader chose The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail  by Michael Spradlin.  We were at Barnes & Noble having mom/son time.  Mom/son time most often consists of a book and a treat. 

He kept browsing through age appropriate books, bringing them to me, where we’d discuss their merits, and then he, heaving a sigh,  would trudge back to find something more suitable. Chaucer in the movie A Knight’s Tale aptly defines trudge:  “To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.”  That attitude pretty much his walk back, a frustrating quest for a book on which we could both. 

I prefer historically-based books.  You want to learn history?  Read Biographies – at least that’s what someone told me a long time ago. While I am a Lord of the Rings fan for a multitude of reasons, I am not a fantasy fan. Fun reading does not have to exlude eductional opportunities. I want it to be an edifying read, learning but not realizing they are learning because they are totally absorbed in a wonderfully woven tale.

That day he finally settled on The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail . In an interview a few weeks ago, he said, “At first I was mad because I thought it was going to be a boring book.  But once I got into the book, I thought, ‘This is the best book I’ve ever read.’ It has action. I was disappointed when I had to stop reading and go to bed.  I didn’t have time at school to read it either.”

My son  explained his favorite part of the first book:  “When his master told him to take the Grail and go through a cave, his master was left behind and had to fight.  When he was in the cave, he found two men and one man had to leave to go check something.  There was a fire.  He kicked sand into his eyes and I think he killed him.  On the road he met Robard, an archer. Then they are hiding behind the rocks when 5 assassins came.  They help Maryam, an assassin who’s a bad guy.  She helped them because they helped her.  Hugh, he’s a Templar that’s bad.  He doesn’t like Tristam at all.  Tristam is then thrown in jail with Robard. They start a fire and Maryam helps them excape. It’s the best book ever.”

keeperAfter he finished the book, I started avoiding Barnes & Noble for mother/son outings.  Everytime we visited, he’d ask, “Has the author published another one?”  I explained that sometimes it takes a year or two for an author to write and publish a new book.  This book had only come out. Petco was looking pretty good as an alternative Mother/Son outing.

After one visit to the book store, and one very disappointed little boy, my brain clicked into brilliant mode.  My son and I googled the author, clicked on contact, and sent him an e-mail asking the dreaded question: “When will another be coming out?”

Author Michael Spradlin was very gracious. He responded with the following information: “The first Youngest Templar book is doing well, but every bit of support is crucial as there are SO many books out there. I just turned in the third book in the trilogy and I hope I can convince the publisher to continue the series. I have lots more ideas for adventures for Tristan, Robard and Maryam to get themselves into and out of. ”

Spradlin continued, “‘Thanks again for writing.  Notes like this really make a writer’s day.  All the best, and please tell your son I said to ‘Keep Reading’!”Needless to say, my son was so excited, and I was so relieved.  I could go to Barns & Nobles again minus the dialogue full of disappointment, fielding questions that I could not answser.

TrailA lot of excitement brewing in our house:  October 29 heralds the release of the much-anticipated sequel, The Youngest Templar:  Trail of Fate. I have a sneaking suspicision that on Halloween, my guys will be dressed up as Tristan and Robard.

In an interview, Spradlin told me about the sequel:  “The next book is called The Youngest Templar: A Trail of Fate. It starts out at about 100 miles an hour and doesn’t slow down. Tristan is faced with some very difficult decisions as he must choose between his duty to Sir Thomas and the Holy Grail and his burgeoning love for a young woman who is a leader of the Cathar’s, a group that his own church considers heretics. What will Tristan do? With Sir Hugh and some new enemies fast on his trail and his responsiblity to his friends and his knight weighing heavily on his soul, any path he chooses will lead to danger.”

Spradlin answered the BIG unspoken question,  the one I know my son would ask, oh, say, on November 5, “When will the next one come out?”  To my great relief, the third book  The Youngest Templar: Orphan Of Destiny will come out in the Fall of 2010.

Spradlins books are increasingly finding themselves on state AR reading lists. THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR: KEEPER OF THE GRAIL is on the Maine, Vermont and Alabama state lists.

All I can say is “Keep those books coming.”  That would be seconding my son’s thoughts!

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fourfeet4The Mother of Sons gig comes with a bag of issues. Paul Dean has broken the glass ceiling, though. Nobody questions her ability to cook or entertain as the mother of sons. Of course, she doesn’t have 5.

This is a Mary-Poppins-deep bag of issues! Decorating? Moot point. You took ballet? Really! Those are just surface slanders, though. The slander becomes more insidious when they demoralize the integrity of any young men-just because they are male. I cannot tell you how many times mothers of daughters have defamed the male gender–Christian women–who consider any young man a criminal just for being a boy. You would think that the young men in youth groups or Christian college groups might get a character break!

Then there is also the issue of birthing sons. When the first one was born, women encouraged me–“Oh, the next one will be a boy.” By the time I had the third son, the response, too often, was “what a shame.” Yes, I really did have people say that to me-with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

When the ultra-sound identified my fifth child as the fifth boy, I must admit my heart paused. I had a mini-identity crisis. I did not want to be the burley mom sitting on the top of the baseball bleachers, spitting bird seed, and hollering like a sailor. I’d never seen a mom like that, but I just knew that I would morph into that woman. However, sanity slowly crept back into my heart and mind. No, I have never spit bird seed. I have never hollered like a sailor. Yep, I did pack on a few pounds this summer. However, I do avoid the top of the bleachers–just to avoid temptation.

The true shame, though, is the evolving cultural view of men as inferior, idiots, disreputable, unworthy, useless, repugnant, animal-like .  How many of women want a husband like that?  What a miserable marriage! 

If I had a daughter, I would want her surrounded by young men of distinguished courage and ability, nobility of purpose, faithful, a lover of God. Just so you know, those are the traits of a hero. All men have the spiritual mixins to be a hero,whether it is a life-saving hero, a fixing-the- tricycle-wheel hero to a 4 year old, or a hand-holding hero who squeezes encouragement into his wife’s hand, or the 9/11 fire-fighter kind of hero who goes into a building to save someone knowing he might not come out.  Big and little heroes, little and big.

Bless is the man who trusts in the Lord,

and whose hope is in the Lord.  For he shall be like a tree

planted by the waters, which spread out its roots by

the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its

leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year

of drought, nor will ceas from  yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

I have learned this last year, the peace, the beauty of letting my husband lead, letting him be the man, just as God created him to be.  Growing up as a child of divorce, that is a true leap of faith and trust.

However, a culture that doesn’t expect greatness from its boys will not receive greatness when those boys become men.  If society continues to hack away at the natural traits of men, like the roots to a tree seeking the water, then when the heat comes, when trouble comes, like a tree without water, men will fail.

No! Accept it!  Boys are Boys!  Girls are Girls! Boys learn differently than girls.  Boys play differently than girls.  Boys need to be able to defend themselves when someone punches them.  Instead, they are slapped with a suspension because they dared to stop someone from punching them. Boys question, argue, debate.  Boys do not just want to learn.  They want to apply what they learn.

Peter the GreatIn Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie, Peter cannot sit still. He wants to stand and learn. He doesn’t want to learn math, science, history, astronomy; however, he wants Russia to have a navy.  As a result, he learns through unit study where he learns everything there is about a navy: architecture, astronomy, math, history, literature, languge, engineering, science.

I taught composition for years.  The young men in my class hated writing until they realized it would be a tool they used.  Boys and men require purpose in their pursuits. 

God instilled in them the tools needed to lead a family.  Is it not time that our culture recognized those wonderful traits in men and let them be proud to be men?  To embrace the boys growing to men in the schools, the youth groups, the extra-curricular activities? 

Have you ever had a zit on your face that felt like the size of a mountain?  Did you not think everyone could see it?  Even though nobody noticed, that is how you defined yourself. I remember friends wailing, “I am so ugly.”  But they weren’t.   If we study and focus on the weakness of boys and man, then, like that zit, that is all we will see.  Let us, then, focus on the hero traits within. By hearing and thinking about the good and great within, morewill reach to goodness and greatness.  Afterall, we tend to live up to the expectations people have for us.

I am raising my sons to see the goodness and greatness within.  They are handsome blessings from God created for goodness! What a shame, indeed!


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vintage-american-flag-children4Children are so impressionable.  It doesn’t take much appeal to get them on board for a project.  Last year, I had my fill of fundraisings. Some I didn’t mind; however, when they started coming home begging me to give them a dollar to wear a hat for Diabetes or Cancer or some other fundraiser, I hit the limit of my endurance.  I was sick of my little guys’ hearts being manipulated for money.

Let me give another example.  If my husband and I were divorced (which we aren’t), and I asked my children to ask their dad for the child-support payment, I would be taken to task by the government’s Child Services.  I would be chasitised for manipulating my children to achieve an ends.

Which is what I think some of those school fund-raisers do–or rather that is how they go about soliciting funds–by preying on the tractable hearts and minds of my children.

Children are so responsive to cries for help.  They do not see the “man behind the curtain” as in The Wizard of Oz.  They do not doubt that the person asking them for help has ulterior motives.  They are like little birds in the nest, happily opening their mouths to swallow the food their mother bird, or others that the mother bird trusts, drops down their gullets.

constitutionBased on this reasoning, I do not want my little guys listening to Tuesdays speech, beamed into my children’s classrooms, without parental guidance.  How many of those children will think the president is directly talking to their classroom or their school.  Imagine! The president needs their help!  “Gee, Mom, President Obama says I can help him.  He wants me on his side.  Wow-I need 3 ways to help him.  My teacher helped me come up with a plan.”

My malleable, trusting sons will come home telling me we need to help the President of the United States implement his socialist agend.  Then Iwill be the bad guy because I do not believe in his plans.

My high school students are different.  We have discussed politics, our beliefs, and history.  I am a firm believer that you need at leat 3 reasons to believe what you believe.  You just cannot believe because your mama or daddy does.  Understanding why you stand for something is critically important.

Faithful did his sophomore paper on the difference between capitalism and socialism.  Most of the students in his class seemed to think that socialism was the way to go.  “Everybody should get equal pay,” they said.  “After all, not everyone gets the same opportunities.” My son responded, “Well, do you want the garbage man doing brain surgery on you? ”   

Marx’s ideological theory, “From everyone according to his ability to everyone according to his need” is the foundation of exploitation and reducation of freedom.  There is no American Dream in socialism.

U_S_ConstitutionOur forefathers fought to keep the government out of our life, our religion, our dreams, and out of how we raise our children.  A president attempting to beguile each child in America, trying to get little children to promote his agenda, doeson’t seem like the government that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison established.

When President  Obama goes into each classroom, bypassing our own community checkpoints like our school boards, bypassing parents–it sure seems like government is getting pretty personal, pretty intimate with our day-to-day life.

Even more insidious is that he knows those children will go home all pumped up, like they do for those fundraisers, begging their parents to support a president whose plans they cannot even begin to understand.  They just want to help. When their parents do not jump on the bandwagon with them, guess who ends up being the bad guy? The government driving a wedge between parents and children sure doesn’t sound like my America.

On Tuesday, my two youngest sons will be having ice cream with me and their dad while President Obama speaks.  We’re going to be reading the Preamble and Article 2 of the Constitution.  We might even talk about what President James Madison, the 4th president of the United States, thought when he wrote the Federalist Paper 45.

In Matthew 22:21,  Jesus says to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” So far, in American, my children do not belong to our government.  They belong to their parents.  Let us keep it that way!

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Charles Dickens in an author that inspired me.  I wanted to grow up and be the female Charles Dickens.  That is when I was in high school.  I loved the books, but I didn’t realize the political significance of his books.  He wrote with a mission to make social improvements in society. I loved the stories, not really the things that made him great.

I admired him so much, I named a cat after him.  Since then, all our cats are named after authors or literary characters.

My sons loathe Dickens.  “It’s old English,” my oldest son said when he had to read The Christmas Carroll in the 8th grade. 

Exasperated and amused, I replied, “You couldn’t read old English.  It looks like a foreign language.  Dickens in modern English.”  Then we spent a couple of hours alternating the pages, reading together.  It is one of those wonderful mom-son moments is a memory favorite.

My second son had to read A Tale of  Two Cities.  The detail about did him in. I patiently explained that 19th century writing was the television of today.  The authors had to visually create scenes, not with a camera or a paint brush, but with words.

Dickens today is not read like it was delivered to its audience.  It was delivered  in monthly or weekly installments. It was not meant to be read over the weekend. 

Reading Dickens needs to be approached one should appraoched eating a Chocolate Celebrate Cake or a Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake-You don’t eat it all in one day.  Like a rich dessert, Dickens literature, too, is rich.  Too much too soon leaves one feeling woosy and over-whelmed.  Just like too much can turn you away from a particular desert for the rest of your life, so can too much of  Dickens at one time.

It would be wonderful if classrooms today delivered Dickens, Vicgtor Hugo, and Alexander Dumas in installments.  I would truly enjoy a monthly magazine that did just that.  Barnes and Noble has reproduced in comic-book form, early 20th century books of Hugo.  How exciting!  I remember seeing those books in my grandmother’s house as a child.  I loved them.

Dickens seems to have a message for different parts of my life.  In the acknowledgements of my Masters thesis, I used the following quote that is a response to another writer who sent him a manuscript asking, “Do I have any writing ability?” Dickens responded, by demuring: who was he to judge because “for all I know the land is yours by right.”  That was my response to the professor who had said I had no creative ability whatsoever.  If a great, classic author wouldn’t sever the heart of a dream from the person, why should a professor?

Dickens books are classic because they are filled with the wonderfulness of humanity.  The corruption of humanity he shows is the foil to that goodness.  As a result, we can better see the difference between evil and goodness.

My most favorite Dickens quote is from a Mary Englebreit card given to me when one of my sons was born:  “It is no small thing, when they who are so fresh from God, love us”(Dickens). It is on my bathroom mirror.

When my children are “so fresh from God,” they love unconditionally.  Love trumps all!

How they wrap their arms around your neck,

press a kiss against your cheek,

snuggle up for a feel-better moment

or just because they are bursting with love

“Will you marry me, Mom?”

“Sing to me, mom?”

Pray for me, mom?

Make everythign better, mom?

We are born trusting our parents. Why? Because when we are so fresh from God, we only know goodness, hope, and love.  That freshness fades, tarnishing a bit throught the teens, disappears during the college years when they are too intelligent to love without thinking.  They think love more than feel love-at least where the parents are concerned.

I guess that is one of the silver linings to having a bunch of children.  When the oldest is a little too jaded, a little to intellectual to love so unconditionally, you have a little one who loves so freshly, so unconditionally in such an I’m-still-fresh-from-God kind of love!

I still love Dickens, but now I know why! I bought 8 copies of A christmas Carrol for all of us to read before Christmas this year!  Can you hear the boys cheering with excitement?

Yes, I realize the experience will be like pulling a mule into the glue factory; however, I think it will create a memory they will never forget, and they will reluctantly love it, though they would never admit it!



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When life challenges, I tend to submerge myself into books.  These books are like old friends and old places that are comfortable.  I just finished Persuasion by Jane Austin.  The Secret Garden is next on my list–yes, a children’s book.  I read it first in 5th grade.  Everytime I have ever moved, I pull it out and read it.  Even at my advanced age! 

The story, about being left out, then immersed, kicking and screaming, into a new life where friends of the heart are found and finding home where you are loved, accepted, and invited.  Planting people roots takes a lot of work.  So much unfamiliarity!  Old books are like the home of an old friend where you can sit and forget the challenges for an hour or so.

The following poem, by, now don’t click away–William Shakespeare is one of those pieces of literature that grounds me, reminds me about my most important task.   Except, it is more like a one sided conversation with someone who inspires me to think about motherhood.  Shakespeare?  Motherhood?  It reminds me that in the midst of change, in the swirl of finding my place in this new community, that I cannot neglect my children in a quest to find that coffee shop, to unpack that box, to lose myself in that book that feels like home.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  It is my very favorite!

Sonnet 143

Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch

One of her feather’d creatures broke away,

Sets down her babe, and makes all swift dispatch

In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;

Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,

Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent

To follow that which flies before her face,

Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent;

So runn’st thou after that which flies from thee,

Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;

But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,

And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind;

So will I pray that thou mayst have thy ‘Will,’

If thou turn back and my loud crying still.


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When you are the mother of 5 sons, inevitably, the question is asked, “Do you want any more children. . . . maybe a girl?”

The anwer?  I have taught all my sons to read and swim.  If I had one more, he/she would be illiterate and drown. 

Still, school is starting.  My White Board Calendar is expanding its usage this year: the place for my high school students to record their academic assignments.  Hopefully, that will create a more organized, focused work ethic.

The dog days of summer lead to full backpacks, lunchboxes filled with mama’s love, pens, pencils, paper, binders, and homework.  School has the potential to be so much more than the tools of school.

Why is it the addage, “Oh, honey, just do your best,” sounds like “Aw, I realize you really can’t do better, so you don’t have to try so hard.” Listen the next time someone says that.  Are they really promoting someone doing their best work?

I realize different children have different gifts.  I realize not every gift turns into an Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, Steve Jobs, Emeril, Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham.   However, we are called to be all that Christ has called us to be:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.

 15 My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be”(Psalm 139: 14-16)

Each of us arrive in the world with a plan, designed for joy and fulfillment, a job, a tool box with God-designed tools to help us in our journey, and one awesome safety net.  However, a couch-potato-mentality can interfere with God’s plan for our lives and our children’s lives.

Taking God out of education takes holistic purpose out of education.  When your job is just a job, where’s the nobleness, the drive.  When your job is God-inspired, your talent God-given, and your success a result of God Faith, your job becomes more than a job.

An engineer doesn’t just create cars or iPods for entertainment.  An engineer creates jobs that give families the means to feed, clothe, support, and grow secure families.  If you only see yourself as the engineer, you don’t see God’s plan for you.  If you see the effect of a job well done, then you start getting the idea.

Neither me nor my children have to be an Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham to impact others. Someone who helps just one person is just as noble as the one who  helps one thousand. However, we are to fully use the gifts God placed in us to the fullest of our abilities.

Disappointingly, what I have seen in the classroom and, at times, in my own children is a take-for-granted attitude about who they are in Christ and how that affects them in the classroom.  They are willing to talk the talk but not walk the talk.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecc 9:10) is the motto I hope to instill in my children. 

In my college classroom, Christian students enter, itching for an opportunity to evangelize the radical left faculty.  Sadly, their witness leaves them open for derision and tags of hypocrisy.  When a Christian student comes to class habitually late,  comes un-prepared for in-class work, doesn’t spell-check, or follow directions, that behavior erodes the strength of their witness. 

Work ethic is a reflection of Christ in you.  Maybe you don’t have the skill to write an A essay, but you do have the skill to come on time, prepared, and the work ethic to learn.  I would rather have a student with a strong work ethic in my class than a student with tremendous ability.  Work ethic trumps ability any time.

My oldest son struggled with pre-calculus. “I’m just not good at it anymore,” he bemoaned.  The excuse sounded great, but that is what it was–an excuse to back down from the challenge.

God gives us gifts.  In our strength areas, our gift areas, those gifts carry us for a certain amount of time.  For some, math might be easy early on, or reading, or language; however, at some point, the gift no longer carries. In order to take that gift to the next level, work ethic needs to be applied.

Yes, whatever you do, do it with all your might = work ethic for the successful.

Frustration, the spice of motherhood!  Some of the boys chose to work hard.  Some needed to be prodded.  Some needed help learning how to work hard. Frustration is an inward signal, a warning sign that modification needs to be made.  Frustration prompts me to look for alternate solutions to challenges.  We would just sail right on, not realizing our children needed adjustment or that we need to adjust ourselves.

100_2157Seed planting is how I look at it.  Hopefully, those seeds will grow and one day blossom to a healthy harvest.  Healthy Harvests are so incredibily beautiful.

Work Ethic is the key to success.  Work Ethic dedicated to God unlocks blessing, growing good things within our souls.

Blessings on the start of your school year!

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Noah Webster’s 18 28 Dictionary provides the quintessential defintion of education.  Sadly, it probably wouldn’t be allowed reading in public schools today.

“EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties(http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/education).

This is true holistic education!  What do you think?

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Health insurance has changed since my first son was born.  Each year we do pay more and more for services.  When Perceiver of Truth was born, the state of Kentucky paid for all immunizations.  When Faithful was born, I paid a $5 co-pay for each visit and immunization.  When Joyful came around, the co-pay went up.  However, when The Fire and Power of the H.S. was born, my insurance coverage went up 500%.  I was given a yearly allowance of about $200.  The first year’s worth of well-child visits and immunizations was to be over $1,000.  The insurance market and customers should evaluate better ways to insure, but I do not want my government meddling in my health care.

Let me tell you about my mother.  About 4 years ago, at Christmas time, she started smelling things, experiencing a bad taste in her mouth.  Then she’d blink out for a few minutes.  When she ate, food started dribbling down the side of her mouth.  There were 3 second pauses between words when she spoke.

Mighty Doctor, Dr. Stephen Applegate, ordered a series of tests.  They found a brain tumor the size of a golf ball.  In the process of the testing, they found a rare, slow-growing cancer in the bowel. (I say Mighty Doctor because he was.  He took care of all the women in my family until he died from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  He was all about the fight to live).

Surgery for Mom’s brain tumor came first.  She wouldn’t have survived if they did the cancer surgery first.  They suspect the brain tumor had been slowly growing for about a decade.  However, the tumor had not only enlarged enough to cause mini-seizures and affected functioning, but growth had quickened. Surgery needed to be done quickly.

If Mom had been in Canada or Britain, obligated to their health care system, she would have died if she had to wait a month, much leass a year.

The woman who used to have Ginger Bread House Decorating Parties at Christmas,

who makes the most beautiful wreaths


who makes the most beautiful summer quilts, 

100_2362100_1798would not have been here to make my Christmas mantel look so beautiful this year

( I pick out the stuff I like, but she makes it lushly pop),

Attend my son’s wedding,

IMG_6679 copy_0041

See my son twirl me in the mother-son dance!

IMG_7040 copy_0012

Or just be my mom!


There might be glitches in the business of health care right now, but I’d prefer the government stay out of my and my families’ right to the freedom of health care.  It is the best health care in the world!  I’d rather decide if I wanted to fight to live, instead of some government official telling me to throw in the towel.

Why would a government official care whether my mom died before she was “granted” permission to even fight to live?

I’ve always said I wanted to grow old, showing my sons how to grow old loving “The Lord.”  Maybe that means being an inspiration of faith during a health struggle, allowing God to heal me through the hands of a doctor.  Maybe that means my great-grandchildren coming to visit a granny who had an indomitable spirit who wouldn’t give up, who fought the good fight, and they want some of that spirit in them.

The choice, though, is mine. The choice is my mother’s.  It is not some government bureaucrat’s choice.

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kittyWe had some difficulty. . . . keeping our pets out of heaven.

Figaro, a pretty little Beta fish, a birthday gift given to Joyful from a friend died twice. Once when Joyful was away visiting grandparents. We cheated death, though. The fish store had one that looked just like him. Joyful never knew. However, he died one Christmas when we went to visit family for a few days. Figaro had enough food. Sadly, we learned never to turn the heat down below 65 degrees when you have a pet fish.

Cozzette, Copper, Nanna, Figaro, Cleo—all our pets have been named after literary characters. We’ve debated the non-literary name, “Memore” so when the boys ask, “Do you love Memore,” I can say, “Yes.” However, the name never makes it past election day.

We had one cat who kept throwing herself on the driveway when we pulled in. She was an indoor/outdoor cat. She’d rush to the driveway, lay down and stretch, just daring us to not stop. One Sunday, a week after Easter, she flung into her driveway dare, then finally moved when she decided we wouldn’t run over her. Pulling into the garage, we paused, thinking she’d run in like usual.  Apparently she achieved her life long goal of throwing herself under the wheel.

She went to heaven.

However, one Saturday death came to call in a very surreal way.

It was a beautiful, autumn Saturday. We had been searching for Copper since the day before. Our neighbor thought our lassie dog, Copper, had been clipped by a car. We lived out in the country, so we let Copper have the run of the fields behind us. However, anything that drove down our dead-end road became part of Copper’s “herd.” He didn’t want it to leave his “boundaries.” He could run 35 miles an hour.

copperbenYou know how John Wayne was a man’s man? Well, Copper was a boy’s dog. Not only did he keep our yard cleared of snakes, opossums, and unwelcome critters, but he was a great soccer player, too. A constant companion! A bouncing mass of joy that loved nature: the birds, the deer, a butterfly. He just loved!

He taught us humbleness with our neighbors. During his first Christmas, he brought us all our neighbors’ wreaths they had placed on their windows. If he’d just brought two more, we would have had enough for ours! I guess counting wasn’t one of his strengths.

When our children went anywhere, hiking into the woods, visiting a neighbor, he was 4 steps behind them—every time!

Faithful wanted to be a vet he loved him so.

Until that autumn day in Saturday. My husband had left to coach a soccer game. I loaded up the van to take the boys and meet him when I heard this faint cry.

The sun shined through the fiery red, pumpkin orange, and burnt yellow leaves, landing on a carpet of leaves. The floor of the woods was covered in these colors. Copper blended in perfectly. That’s why we’d missed him. He couldn’t move. I couldn’t figure out to move him.

I called the vet’s emergency number. It was a Saturday, so hours were short and time expensive. I was a bundle of stress. Joyful came in, pulling on me, “Mom! Mom! You gotta see this. You gotta see what’s coming out of the woods.”

I put him off. After all, I’d seen every critter in the woods so far—the snakes, oppossums, turkeys, raccoons, flying squirrels, turtles, toads. I needed to handle this crisis.

He just wouldn’t let up, “Mom! Mom!” He was 6 then. I had a baby buckled in the van, another waiting to play a soccer game I was beginning to suspect he might miss, a severely injured pet, and he was wanting me to see some piddly thing outside?

I finished the consult with the vet and took a deep breath. Joyful just wouldn’t give an inch. “Mom! Mom! You gotta see this.”

Finally, I relented. Shaking inside because things didn’t look good for Copper, frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to get him to the van, I stepped outside.

My jaw dropped. Stunned, I lifted the phone, hit redial, calling the vet’s emergency line again,” Hi, I’m the lady who just called with the injured collie. Well, I got an injured owl. What do I do?”

Standing by the open door to the driver’s seat stood a huge owl, mostly black, some white, its feathers all poofed out in disarray. One wing, apparently broken, seemed to be pointing to my driver’s seat, as if to say, “After you! Hurry and take me to the vet, too?”

At that moment, my neighbor’s drove by. I had fought asking them for help. It was their 50th wedding anniversary. They had out-of-town guests. I so didn’t want to be needy.

It was if God sent that owl to break me totally down. Only in the state of total broken-downness would I have asked for help. That’s a message that seared through my soul that day.

My neighbors helped put Copper on a sheet where we tucked him into the back of the van. We popped a tall, round wicker basket over the owl, nestled him next to Joyful. The owl never made a sound until the vet picked up the basket. Then you could hear the very distinct sound of his ivory beak clicking together.

The vet called later that afternoon. The state wildlife department would pay to fix and rehabilitate the owl. Copper wasn’t so lucky. They wanted $1,000 for surgery. They weren’t sure it would work. After much heart-wrenching discussion, my husband made the call to put him down.

copperben2We explained it to the Joyful and Faithful. Faithful wailed. He was nine. He got angry, stomping upstairs in emotional desolation.

Joyful followed, calling out from behind, “Mom and Dad say the vet will put Copper to sleep and then he’ll go to heaven.”

Faithful wailed louder. It was like Joyful was just tearing at his wound. It wasn’t like him to deliberately hurt someone. I called Joyful back. “How can you do that to him? That’s tearing him up.”

Then Joyful started crying. My heart just opened up. Joyful had been mourning. Only he didn’t wail, stomp, and snuffle about. Joyful released his grief through talking.

These two mourners needed to mourn separately, one emotionally pouring out their grief, one logically tackling their grief.

I learned a lot that day—about the differences in the ways people react to crisis, that making the decision to end a life is gut wrenching, and that God wants me to ditch my pride, to not wait until I reach rock bottom to ask for help.

The owl, though, he so puzzles me.

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I got the most beautiful gift hug from Mika today at Not Really Homeschooling, also known as Little Nut Tree.  Mika’s blog provides fun, easy-to-do hands-on activities for children.  She’s definitely the mom I was always trying to be when my guys were littler.  She also does it better! 

Mike has also been such a great encourager to me on this great adventure.   God always sends beautiful encouragers on our dream quests! Stop by and give her some of those  Words of Affirmation hugs that we all need!

blogaward To accept the award, I have to pass it on to 15 blogs that I have newly discovered and enjoy reading. (Oops!  I couldn’t narrow down further-I have 16).  Of course, since I’m new, all of them are newly discovered.  The blogs listed below have encouraged the mom, the girl, the writer, the cook, the home decorator, and the simply maryleigh in me.


  1.  Seasons of My Heart:  A faith blog for moms with children who are getting ready to leave the nest.  Beautiful!  Our job doesn’t end when they graduate from high school.  It’s a blog that makes motherhood seem as fresh and lively as it did when our children were 4, 6, 8, except we get to be all put together, elegant, and fresh again.
  2. It’s Almost Naptime:  Mother stories with positive, uplifting humor.  Anyone who recognizes the value of naptime has my vote any day.
  3. From the Heart: A college student presents ideas that affirm the best in their peers using solid language skills that  reach out in a lovely way!  Isn’t this what we’d like our own children to do?
  4. I Choose Bliss:  Her blog makes me smile.  It reminds me of the Quaker song, “Tis a Gift to be Simple. Tis a Gift to be Free. Tis a Gift to come down where we ought to be.”  It’s like being loved by your grandma, though she’s not a grandma. 
  5. He Gave Me A Dream:   This blog is a hand reaching out to pull you up when you’re down.  Not through humor, but through encouragement.
  6. Crown of Beauty: A Spiritual Mother kind of blog that just hugs ever so gently. 
  7. Let’s Embellish:  Artsy mom uses her art as craft for her children!  I can’t do it, but I love to look at it!
  8. Tutus Bliss:  Visually Beautiful!  Fun content!  The colors just snap, crackle, and pop .
  9. Misty Dowdy Family:  Good old family love raising two boys
  10. Smelling Coffee Today:  A heap of family, a sprinkling of good food, seasoned with Faith
  11. Cinnamon, Spice and Everything Nice:  Beautifully staged recipes that really deliver.
  12. Sunny Brook Tales:  Stories woven by a southern writer 
  13. Seedlings in Stone:  I don’t know if Seedlings in Stone really wants this.  I’ve been to craft blogs where the craft is art.  I’ve been to food blogs where food is art.    This is a blog where writing is art.  
  14. Lemonade Makin’ MamaAll about being a Mama, but, as you probably guessed, has the best lemonade recipe in the world! My boys love it!
  15. A Soft Place to Land:  This so speaks to the girl in me! 
  16. The V Files: This one is particularly close to my heart.  The author  introduced me to blogging, opening a door to make my dream a reality.

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booksThere is a lot I like about the Harry Potter movie and books in a Grimm’s Brother-fairytale-kind-of-way. I love the music, the castle, the special effects. I love how the beaten-down kid sides with good over evil and wins.

Let me be candid, though. My son asked if he could be Harry Potter one year. I told him, “No. There are things in Harry Potter that if you do in real life can curse you.” Then I explained those things to him. Gothic sounding, maybe, but either the Bible is true or it is not. As for me and my house, we believe it is true.

That’s not my beef, here, though. My beef is two-fold, and like a good cake, one part folds into the other.

Harry Potter is a great example of the lack of good book choices for boys today. Students at one middle school could earn Accelerated Reader points for reading Harry Potter, but they couldn’t earn points for reading George Washington, American Boy, Davy Crocket, American Boy, or even Abraham Lincoln, American Boy. The librarian explained that while the school had funding for the tests for girl historical books, they didn’t have the funding for boys’ tests. My sons were free to still read the books; however, with the reading requirements for the AR program, they didn’t have the time. They had to read the AR listed books and take tests.. If studies show that the best way to learn history is through reading histories, then my boys were definitely dumbed down.

books2One of my 5th grader’s favorite books is The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin. It’s a story, historically-based, that instills nobleness, courage, and life is tough, but goodness can prevail ideas. It’s not some kind of cotton-candy book that devolves into silliness but inspires to greatness.

Our public school book shelves are thinned out due to the “Keep-Christianity-Out-Of-Our-Schools'” ideology. A lot of historical books are kept off of school bookshelves because they mention Christianity: G.S. Henty is probably one of them, an adventure writer for boys in the late 1800s.

However, Harry Potter, which tutors about Wicca, a recognized United States religion, is allowed on our shelves. I don’t want Harry pulled off the shelves, though. I want equal time for those books that promote the values I want instilled in my sons—There two thousand years of stories of heroes who shaped Western civilization, shaped by Christian values, whose stories are a) watered down to delete God,  b) They are not stocked because Christian values are blatantly mentioned, or c) Writers just gave up!

It’s a shame that a Judeo-Christian nation lacks writers who can create great adventures of good over evil that inspire, that dazzle. British writers C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, have been the biggest sellers, movies and book reprints, in the 21st century. They are my personal favorites.

Trying to explain purpose to my classroom of college students one day, I asked, “What was Tolkien’s purpose for writing The Lord of the Rings?” One student answered, “To compete with J.K. Rowling.” I must admit, sadly, I had a good laugh at a student’s expense. As I watch the H.P. movies, I’m always amazed at how much she lifted from Tolkien and Lewis.

For a few years, I lived with miniature Legolases and Striders. As a matter of fact, the story line and characters promoted discussions about nobleness, selflessness, and even worthiness. I remember telling one son, who was wrestling with integrity and team-play (in the family), “Would Strider chose you to be in the fellowship? Does your behavior instill the values he needed?”

Where are the great American writers for our sons, writers who weave inspiration with values that are true to the American culture? And make boys eager, hungry to read!

I ask my college students to define their own personal culture. Ultimately, they initially write about what MTV and the media say, “America is materialistic, blah! blah! blah!”

I then ask, “Gee, are your parents materialistic? Do you consider yourselves materialistic?”

Stunned that someone would suggest their parents are materialistic, they say, “No.” Then I prompt them again to describe, define their own personal culture.  Look at your neighborhood, your community, your  family belief system–that’s your culture.  Some eventually produce a wonderful definition of the culture they come from. Some can’t see beyond how the media has defined them, which is a shame.

book4Where are the great American writers for our sons? Writers who don’t sell out to media? Who aren’t afraid of the cultural values of most of America? Writers who inspire young boys to want to become men of great character who won’t go to Congress and ultimately cheat on their wives, take bribes, and sell out to their constituents? Men more like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who stood up for the tough stuff!

I have been searching for 23 years for these types of books! 

*If you have any recommendations, please list them for me!  I’ll share them in a future post!

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