Monthly Archives: August 2006

With New Challenges Come New Blessings


Being the mother at home to four little toddlers (well, three toddlers and one baby) is hard work.  I certainly won't pretend otherwise.  But it is good work, and I am thankful for it.  As my oldest daughter nears her fourth birthday, I have been watching the many ways she is seeming older to me – much more like a “child” than a toddler.  Most pronouncedly I've been letting her skip a nap about half of the week (she's not needing it as much as she used to) so I have a lot more one on one time with her.  I enjoy her little personality, and her budding independence.  She loves to play “mistress of the kitchen” and unload the dishes by herself.  She's been “writing” her own letters to grandmas lately, including sealing them in an envelope, writing an “address”, and putting a sticker “stamp” in just the right spot (so grandmas, I have no idea what these letters consist of, as she usually brings them to me sealed!)  She has her quiet reading time while I have some, too, or while I'm getting some other projects done.  She bustles about doing so many important little things, and I know she enjoys being more “grown up”.  But I've realized there are new challenges that come with her growing older also.  Toddlers may be more “work” in the sense that they can't dress themselves, etc.  But training and discipline is pretty straightforward with these small munchkins, fairly black and white in most cases: obey mommy and daddy quickly, no temper fits/complaining, etc . . . I'm noticing more and more situations with my eldest that are just a bit more complex and challenging.  I'm starting to see character qualities emerge more clearly – both good and not so good.  I see more situations that aren't quite so clear to me – they're not defiance, but just don't seem to come from a kind heart, if that makes sense.  This week I've felt a bit at a loss, wanting to correct improper heart attitudes, yet finding it not so simple to address as clear disobedience.  I've been perusing over my favorite child training books again, and have relearned much.  But really I've just come to be quite humbled, realizing that motherhood is not a formula; there's no three step method to children with hearts after God.  It is a process of relying constantly upon His grace, forgiveness, help and guidance.  And as usual, in seeking to train my daughter well, God has brought the spotlight back to my own heart in many areas (I maintain that one of the best methods of sanctification is raising children!) Here are some of the things I've been convicted of this week:


* Example is SO key in training.  Even if I am struggling with an “inward” attitude, without fail I see a part of it in my children.  I don't want to be the “whitewashed tomb” or the cup that's clean on the outside only – honoring God with my lips while my heart is far from Him.  Neither do I want to be speaking all the correct words to teach my daughter when my heart is not living them. 

*  The Bible contains all we need for life and godliness.  I tend to be somewhat cyclical in my struggles, and in the past have found myself seeking wisdom from many books while neglecting the most important one (of course there is much wisdom in many of these books, but I must learn to seek God's Word first).  If I do not LOVE God's Word with all my heart, I can have little hope that my children will.  I desire them to learn (by example) to run to God's Word in all situations: for comfort, for guidance, for instruction, for wisdom in all things.

*  I need to be upon my knees for my childrens' hearts far more than I am.  I can get so busy that when a difficulty creeps in it is too easy to start looking for a “quick answer” while forgetting to seek the wisdom God has promised to those who ask for it.  Not to mention the fact that prayer is one of the greatest effectual means God has provided for our help.  Without fail when I am consistently praying for and with my girls, I see such sweet fruit. 

*  I need to teach my girls to seek God's strength and help in their areas of weakness.  After I discipline my girls, I've always had them seek forgiveness, and I try to pray for them.  But lately I've been leading them in their own little prayers and helping them to seek God's forgiveness, to thank Him for it, and to ask His help in this area of struggle. We've also been trying to pray for our specific struggles at various time throughout the day, like at meals and such.  This is really seeming to help my oldest to understand what things she personally struggles with, and reminding her to ask God for help.

* The way I correct my girls is so much more important than that I simply do it.  Prov. 31:26 says “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”  Prov. 16:21 says “The wise in heart will be called prudent, and sweetness of the lips increases learning” When my words of correction are sweet, kind, and wise, it will “increase learning” – my girls will learn more!  I need to pray for God to work in me the fruit of the Spirit, notably self-control, so that I will be able to correct in this way.

* I must not lower the standard God has set.  If I make a set of “house rules” that's more easily followed by a little one, rather than upholding the “law of love” that God has set before us, I am not teaching my girls to rely upon the grace of Christ.  Yes, it is impossible for us to obey God perfectly – that is exactly why we must do all in His strength.  It is much harder to learn to put one another's interests before our own than it is to simply set the timer and take turns with a coveted toy, but what does it teach? I would much rather have my little girls seeking His strength than proudly following the letter of a lesser law (like little pharisees in pink dresses!)

*  I'm getting long winded again, so the last thing I will share tonight that I've been convicted by is the need to simplify. I think again of Martha who was worried and bothered by so many things, when only one thing was necessary.  I also think of the verse which says “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” I Cor. 10:23. There are so many things which take my time throughout the day – a minute here and a few seconds there add up rather quickly.  So I've been convicted of the need to simply take things out which may not currently be beneficial (even if they're things I enjoy).  Meaning I need to actually keep the computer turned off when it's not my proper time to be on it (to avoid looking something little up, “really quickly”); I need to not be on the telephone (even to someone I may dearly love) when I ought to be “fully with” my girls.  I need to be careful to go with my children to ensure that they follow through with the directions I gave, in order not to allow sin to go undetected.  I need to be willing to let laundry take twice as long, in order to bring my little ones with me, instead of leaving them to themselves in a playroom (even a minute or so of this can be provoking them with temptation to fight, be selfish, etc).  In short, I need to love and rejoice in the work God has set before me enough to give up the little things I might rather be doing here and there.  The beauty of it is, though, that His yoke is easy, His burden light.  And He came that I might have life more abundantly, and that my joy may be full! As I learn the self-discipline to spend my time properly, giving up little indulgences (otherwise known as time or attention-stealers!), He will bless me, though I am so undeserving of it! 


Couple more fun pictures:

More of Naomi in the horsey-riding-hat


Isabelle hiding behind the rocking chair


Matt rocking Hannah, who says “I'm terrible today, could you please pray for my sickness?” (Meaning she has a tiny cold, so she sounds terrible)


More of Hannah and Daddy


Juliette grooving with daddy


Juliette trying to play guitar with daddy


Carnival Of Beauty


I'm posting this a couple of hours early so I don't forget in the morning . . . just wanted to let you all know that today is the “Beauty of Learning” Carnival.  If you'd like to visit, here's the linky to Scribblings By Blair, where said carnival will be hosted.  Enjoy!

Some Silly Pictures


OK Grandmas, this one's for you (and everyone else who likes to see a million pictures!)




Isabelle Sweeping


What I found when I walked into the bathroom.  Naomi was standing with Alyssa-doll, patting her head while she “went potty”.  Poor dolly – I guess I'll have to teach Naomi to have the dollies sit down first!


Isabelle with these fabulous puzzle/word/cards that her Grandma Karen sent – you make the puzzle, then read the word – she LOVES them!


One of my favorites at the car show


Isabelle built this “city” of blocks and Lincoln Logs, and she was rather proud of it.


The girls got to cool off in the downtown fountain at the car show.


My birthday flowers and “wine”


My biggest little ballerina (can you tell she picked her own socks and shoes?)


My second biggest little ballerina


Hannah's showing us how long and pretty her hair is getting – I think I even see a curl!


Hannah (otherwise known as Penny Pannah Penae)


Aren't I cute in pink?


Isabelle wanted me to take a picture of how she stands up in her chair.


We tried the baby pack on Isabelle today.  Isabelle was thrilled – Juliette not so much; methinks we'll wait a few more years 🙂


Hanging out and watching the ice cream mix


Hannah got these dollies all cloth diapered up and is snuggling them to sleep.


Then she saw me with the camera and hammed it up


We had some lovely silly time tonight – pillows on the floor under the couch, jumping, bouncing, and flying off all played a part


More silly time


Yet more silly time with flying


And more still . .. .


Then it turned into dress-up silly time:


And dolly-dancing, dress-up silly time:


If you're wondering why Juliette's not in any of these silly pix, it's because she was safely crawling and drooling all over me the whole time:


One last picture: good morning sunshine!

The Never Ending Adventure (or The Beauty of Learning)


I recently discovered The Carnival Of Beauty and wanted to join in for this week's topic “The Beauty Of Learning.”

The lovely thing about learning is that it's always there.  It's not something I'll ever be able to cross off of my to-do list.  It's nothing I will ever fully “accomplish”.  But this is good. If throughout my life I continue to learn, it means that throughout my life I will continue to grow, to discover, to enjoy that feeling of “wow, I never knew that!”  I had one of these moments yesterday when I (finally) realized that my good old Strong's concordance also contains a Hebrew and Greek dictionary.  I was so excited to discover that I can look up ANY word in the Bible, learn its root word and definition, and also see where else in the Bible the same root word is used. This was a HUGE encouragement to me as I was able to sit down and figure out why something that I had read in a book that day just didn't sit right.  I'd been discouraged about it all day, feeling like I should just take this author's word for it that “this is what it meant in the original languages”, when what he was saying just didn't seem Biblical.  Well, thanks to that dictionary, I was able to figure out exactly why it didn't sit right – because it wasn't right!  The Word of God became all the more clear as I was able to learn which word was actually used, and where else it was used, to get an idea of context.  It was SUCH a good feeling!  I feel silly that it took me so long to figure out it was there . . . .

Another delightful thing about learning is the way it draws people togther.  It's something I can always do with my little ladies. Here I shall admit my ulterior motive to homeschooling – I want to get a great education myself!  I'm so excited every time we get a new book, because even if it's written for children, I usually learn just as much as my girlies.   When one of my daughters asks me the endless question of “why”, I often have to stop and learn “why” myself in order to answer them.  Learning is one thing that provides for communion between people of all ages and walks of life- whether it is simply because we all have things to learn, or because we can each learn from one another.  It is one of the beautiful things about our precious elders – the crown of wisdom God has bestowed upon them is a seemingly endless source of learning for us “youngers”.

I suppose the most beautiful thing about learning is that true learning always brings us to God.  Not only this, but He has given us a life-long source of learning in His Word.  We could read nothing but His Word all of our days, and we would never lack for learning.  I've joined the BasicallyBluedorn discussion group which is reading through and discussing the wonderful book “Teaching The Trivium” (if you're interested in joining, there's a link to the group at the bottom right of this page).  One thing I was reading this weekend in the first chapter is “No true education can take place without reference to God.  Education is for a purpose.  If the purpose does not have God in view, then it is godless education, and it will eventually produce godless results. . . Everything can be taught from a beginning place in the Word of God. . .This establishes the authority for all of education. Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  The Word of God contains, in seed form, everything necessary to completely educate a man: all true principles, all worthy values, all proper goals.”  Anything that is worthy of learning, is something that should allow us to better glorify God. After all, even in eternity I think we shall always be learning.  More and more of His glory will continue to be revealed to us, so I suppose that means we shall always be learning more of the Beauty of our Lord!

From Matt: Mild Musings….


Why does life seem so difficult sometimes? Why does God tell us to run a mile and, after we start running, He authorizes someone to poke us with a sharp stick while trying to trip us every few feet?

We have our doctrines. We can tell people what we believe. We have a tendency to tuck our beliefs in our head and understand them “abstractly”.

“It's adversity, it's hostility, it's crisis that enables us to put into practice the things that we claim that we know.” Doug Wilson.

Trials are where the rubber meets the road. God likes them and sends them our way so that we have to rely upon His grace. Trials keep us honest and they put us in our place. Not only that, but God being the complex, suspenseful, Divine Author, likes to vindicate/save His people at the last minute…..But be of good cheer, on His mountain, “the LORD will provide” whether it is a ram instead of Isaac or it is our Beloved Savior hanging on a cross….it was the same mountain, and it was the same God providing grace to His people for our benifit and His glory.


Seven Habits Of Highly Effective New School Years


Thanks so much for all the happy birthday wishes, everyone.  I had a lovely day of rest and celebration with my family!  Matt let me sleep in as long as I wanted (I think that was the biggest highlight in some ways!), then pampered me with flowers, made me breakfast, and did all the dishes.  We took a little jaunt around town to my favorite antique store (where I found two lovely, well-priced antique books – I'm such a sucker for pretty old books!), the ice-cream parlor, a car show (it happened to fall on the same day), then grabbed some Chinese food for a relaxing dinner.  After all of this, Matt brought me a glass of wine to enjoy with him.  This was a perfect ending to the day, and I must tell you why:  I've been trying to acquire a taste for wine, so I can enjoy a glass with Matt on our fifth anniversary in a few weeks.  Let's just say this is a sloooooow process for me, being totally unaccostomed to the taste until fairly recently.  I've worked up to being able to *enjoy* about a half glass at the most.  So when he brought me a full glass, I had to smile of course, but I just didn't think I could do it.  He said just to trust him.  So we sat down to read (simple, I know, but I've just been wanting to have a relaxing evening of reading and haven't had the time recently) and I took a sip – Oh, it was so yummy!  Matt sneakily went and got some Martinelli's Apple-Grape sparkling cider to make sure I actually enjoyed every minute of my birthday – ain't he a sweetie?


Although I'm a bit late, I thought I'd join in Maureen's Seven Habits Of Highly Effective New School Years.  I'm still pretty new at all this, but I thought I'd take a stab at it, just for fun.


1.  I'm sure this is a common one amongst the other lists, but I think it's so important to have a plan. Choose whatever type works best for you: a specific schedule with all the gaps filled in, page numbers written down, etc; a basic flowchart of the week; or something in between.  I like to have a basic schedule/routine for my whole day (based off of the Managers Of Their Homes ideas), and then I tailor it each day to suit the uniqueness thereof.  For my school plans, I have each book written down that I want to read from, but not page numbers, as our weeks are always changing a bit.  I just keep a little list of “approximately” how many pages we try to read through from each book (unless it's just a little storybook – then we read it all).  As a caviat to this, though, remember it's just as important to know when to (and be content to) skip the plan for the day!


2.  Enjoy your unique family culture.  Being the impressionable person I am, I've struggled plenty of times over the years with trying to do things just like someone else I admire.  This has often caused frustration and discouragement, and I'm glad God has been showing us how beautiful diversity amongst families really is (as long as the principles each family is following are firmly established in God's Word, of course).  We are blessed to live in a community of many, many like-minded people – many of whom are fellow homeschoolers.  I think when we moved here, I subconsciously assumed everyone kind of did things the same, but I was amazed to realize it just isn't true!  I've become so thankful for the way our family is, while being able to appreciate all the more how other families run.  Realize that what works best for one family's schooling (schooling styles, curriculum, schedules, which books they choose, etc) may be totally different than what is best for yours, and enjoy that!


3.  Seek and appreciate the advice of your husband (in addition to other wise people.)  I love to ask people questions!  I love to glean from the wisdom others have accumulated, and sometimes I wonder where I would be without the wise counsel of faithful followers of Christ.  But I try to remember that in all of these things, I need to seek my husband's counsel first (as well as seeking the Word, of course).  Sometimes I forget to just ask him what he thinks I ought to do.  I know he is the head of our home, but since much of our daily schooling falls into my role as part of helping him, I sometimes just try to figure it all out on my own.  Even in simple things, I love to go over all of it together with Matt (and I do mean *all* of it, being the overcommunicative sort!).  Sometimes his fresh eyes will provide just the perfect answer.  Here's a little example:  I told him I was feeling flustered in the mornings while I got Naomi and Hannah dressed, because since Isabelle dresses and finishes her beds so quickly she has a bunch of time to get a bit goofy.  He just suggested I have her start filling up water sippy cups for everyone and get all of the bibs snapped and ready.  It solved it perfectly – she's kept happily busy and the morning runs so much more smoothly! Even when he's not sure what's best to do, the responsibilty for making a diffulty decision is taken off of my shoulders and I can rest in his leadership.


4.  Remember what is most important in schooling our children.  I know we all have different reasons for homeschooling, but for many of us a very important reason is that we are best able to bring them up teaching them of our Lord through all we do(Deut. 6 & Eph. 6:4).  For years I've looked into curriculums, choosing things I did and didn't like, but last year I read the book “When You Rise Up” by RC Sproul Jr. and was SO blessed and encouraged.  It was a wonderful reminder of what is truly important as we seek to teach our kids.  I especially liked it because I know RC Sproul Jr is anything but light on the academics, yet he was reminding us of the most important part.  I have to remind myself about what Christ said “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Luke 10:41-42.


5.  If Nothing Else, Read Aloud – As I said, I'm still new at this, but I've already become so convinced of the great benefits of reading aloud.  My girls are still so little, but they have excellent vocabularies, and they tend to use words pretty well.  I can't take credit for this, as I'm still learning to use words well myself, but I know they must pick much up from the myriad of books we've read to them.  What a fun way it is to teach so many sorts of things: grammar, vocabulary, morals, etc, etc, etc.  Even if I was still unsure of what I wanted to do for school times, I know I could start just by choosing some wonderful books and beginning to read through them aloud with my girls.


6.  Try to finish up random projects before you start – I am the sort of person who gets very distracted by unfinished projects.  I think I'd rather start my school year a week or two later, if it meant I could start it having finished any projects that would weigh on my mind.  For examply, I've FINALLY finished sorting out every piece of little girls' clothing in this house.  That project was almost overwhelming, and it's such a relief to have it done.  I know I could not have started any schooling if I had something like that hanging over my head.


7.  Trust Christ to be your sufficiency – It can be so easy to feel overwhelmed in my tasks, and all the more so if/when I forget the many promises throughout God's word. His Word says “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . .I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4);  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6); “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).


In Grateful Appreciation Of My Beloved Companion.


Melissa, I wish you the happiest of birthdays.

This post is being written for my dearest sweet wife on her 27th birthday. I hope that all of you in this little blog-sphere have obtained, if nothing else, a glimpse of the wonderfully wise and caring woman that God has blessed me and my little ones with. I must say that it’s only a glimpse that you’ve seen and I assure you she is by far a richer and deeper treasure than even I know and appreciate. Her love, joy and selfless sacrifice to be my ever faithful helpmeet often goes un-thanked and un-appreciated, much to my folly. I have difficulty expressing in words the great love that I have for my wife and it is my tendency to neglect the daily thanks and appreciation for all she does for us.
Over the past 7 years that I have known my wife, I have fallen more and more in love with her as I realize that God’s providence has provided me with a true lady.  I can say with full confidence and assurance that I would not be the man I am today without the loving help and support that I’ve received from my beloved. I couldn’t have done any of this (being a faithful husband, raising a Godly family, going to church, diligently studying, survive dealing with all the ugliness at work, etc.) without her full sacrifice of self by giving all that she is completely over to diligently laboring before the Lord in ways that often blow me away. God knew exactly what I needed to help me accomplish His will for our family and He gave me the greatest gift I ever could have asked for.
To provide a poignant example of one very tangible way she polishes me up and makes me look good is through her tireless efforts of editing my blog posts. I had to keep this post a secret from her and, in doing so she was not able to help me edit it (as she normally does). I always realize after she edits my posts how woefully unintelligent, insensitive, and ignorant I sound, but she polishes me up rather nicely and helps me to adequately articulate the points that I am trying to make. So I am confident that you will find many infelicities within this post and you will realize how much my beloved helps me be an articulate man (with proper punctuation, spelling and grammar).
All in all this is my small tribute to my Beloved Wife Melissa on her 27th birthday. Thank you is not enough. I love you is not enough, but alas those words expressed with heartfelt gratitude are better than the silence of a fool. Please help me congratulate Melissa on this her birthday…….

Here’s lookin’ at you kid!

Your ever faithful husband,
Matthew Thomas

This tribute comes a day early as I have to work tomorrow and we are celebrating Melissa’s Birthday today.