Finish Strong

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Who doesn’t love a hero?

I just watched Avengers:, Infinity War with my family for the second time.  MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

To say the least, I did not like the ending.  I sort of agree with Charlotte, who simply had tears streaming down her cheeks as Groot faded into oblivion.  There is something about a summer blockbuster movie that is supposed to leave us satisfied. We expect to leave the theater pumped up, ready to don our cloaks and hammers and take on the world.

But, if you didn’t believe it before, just watch Infinity War… not all movies end well.

Fortunately for us, Scripture does end well! God tells us His ending from the very beginning.  In fact, He reveals it right in the garden when He proclaims Jesus will crush Satan’s head!  Yet somehow we live day by day, defeated, as if our favorite hero has vanished like dust in the wind.  We walk mundanely through this life as if the enemy is victorious and we are enslaved.  We lie and cheat. We fuss and bicker. We are jealous and bitter. And we are neglecting the true identity Christ has bestowed upon us: we are His brotherhood.  We are heirs with Him! We are of royal blood, carefully chosen for wondrous works if we will just accept the assignment. Power is ours and victory is guaranteed.  Yes, there will be battles, and with that, scars. There will be set backs and frightening days ahead. But we know the outcome; we are aware of God’s grace toward us and His sovereign rule that is working good things in our lives, even on days that seem bad.

And we should walk with our heads held high.  We should aim in all endeavors to finish well, whatever the task. My daughters and I just completed our third year of homeschool.  We finished well. We worked until the end. We struggled some days, and others we soared.  But if we did only a few things right, one is that we persevered until the end. And that is how we shall do all things.

Finish well.  It is the best way to guarantee you will start well the next time. And the next. And the next.

Oh, and Marvel, please bring the dead to life!

Because of Caleb

 

aircraft-1362586_1920A set of sky blue eyes looked down at this mother and large muscled arms reached out to offer her a true hug of gratitude and goodbye. The nineteen-year-old was dressed in blue jeans and a plain hoodie, an army-issued backpack tightened behind him. He said a stoic goodbye to the others around him: his dad, his brothers, his sweet, young girlfriend. And then he proudly turned and held his head high as he walked the shiny tiled hall to his gate. He was leaving for basic training, and he was already filled with a sense of duty and military pride.

Those left behind were devastated. Their son, so young with a bright baseball career ahead had surprised the family over the holidays with his plans to leave college and join the ranks of those defending American freedom. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t fabricate grand plans, but he spoke plainly: “It has been in my heart a long time.” “I want to serve my country.” “This is where I belong.” And in just weeks, he was shipped off.

With a courage unknown to most of us, he left the comfort of a nice home, strong family, tight community and certain future to live for something greater. His desire was simply to be a part of the fabric that holds our country together. And there are many others, just like him, who refuse to talk about doing hard things, but instead set off and do them. Missionaries, pastors, service corps, aid/relief workers, and many community servants put their lives on the back burner because they simply desire to make sure the rest of us can live freely.

Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I am able to worship in small Baptist church each week where we sing “Amazing Grace” and “There’s Power in the Blood” with great conviction.

Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I am able to homeschool my children where we may create galaxy cookies and clay models of the human body, or spend afternoons reading The Hobbit or visiting a museum.

Because of Caleb, and the many other young men and women just like him, I can participate in 5K color run or attempt a triathlon or a Spartan race, even though I am far from an elite athlete.

Because of Caleb and the many other young men and women like him, I can binge on Netflix or go nuts over March Madness. I can create a fantasy football team and join a league with my sons. I can watch the Cardinals live in St. Louis or the Razorbacks on the Hill. I can ride in a hot air balloon in California or soak in the sunset in Miami.

I can plant a garden, host a swim party, plan a summer wedding, color my hair, re-decorate my living room, or wait until February to take down Christmas lights. I can quit my job, quit my diet, max out a credit card, or sell all my possessions in a garage sale. I can write my thoughts and publish them on the world wide web, with no fear of persecution or pain.

How comfortable my life can be! How enjoyable my days with family and friends! And this idealistic American dream did not come without a price, nor is it maintained without the sacrifice of men and women, like Caleb.

To all our servicemen and women, I thank you. Sincerely and deeply, and I ask your forgiveness when I fail to honor you as I should. And to Caleb, I can’t wait to see you again!

No Turning Back

No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God, Luke 10:62

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God wants us all in. He needs laborers who are dedicated to the work, eyes forward, focused, and set on the kingdom ahead. Yet so many of us are like a plowman who keeps looking behind, distracted by the mess and the worries of the world.

My husband is a farmer and he takes great pride in straight rows and well-planted fields. Irrigation, as well as weed and pest control are much more effective when the rows are lined up so all equipment can pass through easily. Some of the success of the crop begins with a sharp focus at the beginning of spring. If he is distracted, looking behind, its much harder to keep the tractor lined up perfectly.

As a busy mom, wife, and teacher, I, too, can allow the distractions around me to keep me from doing my best work. How many times a day do I let my mind wander into what should have been or what could possibly be instead of focusing right on the relationships and work in front of me? How many times do I use my phone or computer as a distraction to avoid dealing with a problem staring me in the face? And how many opportunities for Kingdom work do I miss because I am peering into the past, mulling over regrets instead of peering forward, seeking God’s next assignment?

Christ’s words are are urgent because God’s work is urgent, and discipleship comes at great cost. Yet there is no greater joy than laboring for eternity. But only the unwavering worker, who has set his face forward, is worthy of the Master’s praise.

So as we move into spring, a season of plowing and planting and creating beautiful straight rows, let us reflect not on what is behind, but on what is ahead.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15

Travel and Books

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page,” -Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Man, I love a good book. I am currently reading April Morning by Howard Fast which follows the life of a young teen caught in the fray of his family and politics during that first Revolutionary War battle in Lexington. It is an old book I have read before, but I am finding it fascinating as I read with adult eyes.

hot air balloon

A hot air balloon ride offers a chance to see a new destination with fresh perspective.

My reading tastes are wild and varied… I like mysteries, romance, poetry, and nonfiction too. (Next on my list is Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life.)
Reading is an amazing feat. In just a few seconds I am literally transformed into a world full of suspense and drama. Lives are in danger, relationships are explosive, dialogue is poetic and daring, and the characters become my fast friends or loathed enemies within just a chapter or two.

And the great part about it— as soon as I close the cover, I let it go. I can return to the dirty kitchen or head off to a volleyball game and not give those book folks another thought or fret. I can get involved, and then I can move on. I think that exercise of releasing someone else’s stress is good for the soul. That’s why I love a good book.

For the same reasons I love to travel. I absolutely enjoy breathing in the air of a new city; I love hiking new terrain; I am even excited about trying new food or fashion. I like meeting strangers, from all cultures and creeds, in hotel lobbies or airport gateways and engaging in soulful conversions, knowing I will probably never see them again.

I recently met a man on a plane who was on his way to Patagonia, South America for a three week hike through rough mountains and unchartered lands. He was almost seven feet tall, so I switched seats with him to give him more leg room. I met a couple in California on a hot air balloon ride. They were young and smiling and explained that they worked together in a paper company in Oklahoma. (I couldn’t help but think of Jim Halpert and Pam Beasley and wonder if their office was as fun as Dunder Mifflin.) I’ve met an up-and-coming artist from Chicago and an author from Mississippi. Fun, simple folks with big dreams and great stories.

Travel, like a good book, is an adventure. And, like a good book, it changes my perspective, reminds me that life is pretty good, and that others worldwide are struggling through the same journey that I am. Most people, in any culture, want to be listened to and respected. And the more I travel, the more impressed with people I become. And I gain a new optimism about the future.

Running With God

Proverbs 4:12
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.

This week I attended a wonderful Christian writers’ conference in Orlando. I gladly left the wet, cold Arkansas fog to embrace 80 degree days in the Florida sunshine. After a long day of travel I was anxious to unpack the bags, adjust the room temperature, and wash the travel grime off my face. To settle my mind, and my stomach, I pulled on my Nikes, tied back my hair and decided to take a quick jog around the beautiful facility to learn the lay of the land. It was late in the evening when I landed, and the time difference left me hungry for lunch at 9:30 P.M. But I knew some late night exercise would settle me before bed. The only problem was the lack of light. With the sun long gone, I was jogging through a path lit with sporadic street lights and the dim moon. I had to turn on the flashlight of my phone and hold it out in front of me to ensure I didn’t stumble on the uneven path, or worse, surprise an alligator or snake slithering back home to the nearby swamps. Needless to say, I ran slowly and was never fully relaxed until I made it back to my room safely.
Scripture tells us that the wise man will not stumble when he runs. A wise man listens to his father’s instructions, he discerns right from wrong, and he walks in the well-lit path of virtue and character. It is not easy to always do the right thing; it is certainly more natural to let anger surface or to let jealousy breed. It may even seem momentarily satisfying to lash out at others to get ahead by scheming and conniving. But choosing the way of the foolish is similar to running in the dark— it’s unsteady. The runner who cheats or lies or lives by any code other than the word of God might as well be running a darkened path riddled with potholes and splayed with rocks. It is a race that guarantees no winner; it is a run that does not satisfy. Wisdom leads the runner to the light.

Homeschooling, Round 2

As I settle into the first week of June, I am already excited about round 2 of homeschooling.  We had such a great year using a mostly “classical” approach, that now we are ready to add-to and take-away and make it even greater.

I absolutely loved using ancient history as our guiding light throughout the past year.  We started with Story of the World volume 1 and even though my daughters were in grades 4 and 5, it worked beautifully.  Being an avid reader and writer myself, I enjoyed creating my own worksheets, reading comprehension pages, and tests for my girls.  I have recently made some of these page available for download through the Teachers pay Teachers site!  (Please email me if interested!)

We started with the dawn of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, and we didn’t rest until we had memorized the first 15 emperors of the Roman Empire.  Yes, our history spanned 5,000 years and a massive amount of geography, but through it all we stayed focused and streamlined, creating artwork, writing assignments, watching films, and reading books that fit in with our time period and culture.

Our science followed suit: we studied biology with an emphasis on animal life the first semester, anatomy the 3rd quarter, and plant life the final stretch of the year.  We memorized early scientists who made great contributions to biology; we constructed lap books and foldables; we created powerpoint and poster presentations; we read lots of encyclopedia entries and library books.  And above all, we enjoyed learning!

Of course, grammar work, writing, math, Bible, piano lessons, keyboarding and playtime permeated every single day. But the true highlight was our afternoon time spent diving into ancient history and science.  We decided we didn’t really agree with most of Hammurabi’s law code, and we loved Carl Linnaeus for giving us such an organized system for learning animals.  We thought many of the ancient rulers were unusually cruel, but we admired Hatshepsut for her graceful, productive reign.  We discovered frogs that were no bigger than our pencil eraser, witnessed the anger of the kiwi bird, and were frightened by the angler fish’s smile.  We greatly admired Alexander, and we fully respected Julius Caesar.  My girls were particularly sad to hear how his life ended and that Rome wound up ruled by a tyrant after all.

And we’re ready to move on!  We will take a short break this summer, with plans to read Little Women and Bridge to Terabithia together.  The girls will attend a few summer camps and work on crafts to enter in the fall fair. And I, hopefully, will reflect and refuel.  I will nourish my soul so that in just a few short months I will be fully ecstatic to start it all again!

Lammers Farms Academy

So, turns out homeschooling my 2 daughters is a great source of joy and wonderment.  AND, I am learning so much… ancient Pharaohs, components of blood, Hebrew words, converting the metric system, and how to figure elapsed time.  Who knew 4th and 5th grade content is so AMAZING? and useful.

While the big boys are away at high school every day, my home becomes a haven of learning… a den of activities and experiments and inquiries.  There are laughs over failed experiments and tears over Old Yeller.  There are frantic moments of brushing hair just so we can take a picture late in the day and not look like homeschool kids.  There are lunches of hot dogs or last night’s leftovers. There are recesses on the trampoline that might last 20 minutes or 2 hours, depending on the weather.  We’ve spilled paint on the hardwood.  We’ve struggled over origami projects. We’ve started videos that were too boring to finish.  We sketch and read outside.  And we take fields trips…. lots and lots of field trips. We’ve been to the zoo, to an art museum, to a pumpkin patch, and to Disney World. So yeah, our homeschool takes us far away, while keeping us close at home.

And our Principal oversees it all.  Like any good principal, he keeps his distance and doesn’t interfere because when something is working why mess it up?  But he pops in unexpectedly and takes us to lunch or to visit a cotton gin or the bank.  And every once is awhile, he helps with a project or teaches a lesson.  But mostly he is here in spirit.. the one we can’t wait to impress late in the day with our masterpieces, our written stories, and our powerpoint presentations that need to be seen one more time.

As autumn has turned to winter and is now looking forward to spring, our school year is solid.  The routine is familiar and comfortable but the schedule is just flexible enough to allow for spontaneity and surprises.  This homeschooling stint is definitely here to stay.