Monday, December 17, 2012

Confessions of a Reformed Homeschooler

Today is 3 days after the attack that left children and teachers dead in a public school in CT. Eww, public school. Except, that is what we (or where we) are now, and frankly, we are loving it. The kids have EXCELLENT teachers (Kristi's helped her gain 1.5 YEARS in reading in 3 months), the school is very cooperative and friendly and my kids like the "routine." That said, Saturday night, I seriously considered pulling them out and re-starting the homeschool. Yes, they love their friends and teachers. Yes, they enjoy what they are doing. Yes, I am enjoying watching them. But, what if something like this happened at Bethel?????

 Then, Sunday morning, as Preacher Dude Dean expounded on peace and what TRUE peace was, I remembered my prayer last year when we were deciding to send Kristi to public school. (We had already crossed this bridge with Travis a year before). God, I trust YOU to take care of her and protect her. I trust YOU to put people in her path to help her grow. And I trust YOU to give what is best for her. Every morning, I pray with my kids on the way to school. If something big is happening, we pray about it, but every day, I say at least two things -- God, keep them safe and help them to have fun.

 Friday morning, I walked in with them because I was volunteering that day. As we walked in, I bent down and prayed in Kristi's ear -- Please be with them and keep them safe today. That afternoon, after being with some of the most wonderful kids on Earth, and some of the most fun parents, I heard the tragic news. We didn't dwell on it at our house -- we talked some about it, we prayed about it and answered a few questions. Over the weekend, they heard more, saw more and learned more. My sweet little children had to be exposed to the big, bad world. But, it's okay. My God is bigger than the bad.

 So, today, Monday morning, the week before Christmas, I find myself praying the following --
 God, be with Mrs. (Jill) Barker. Give her and Mr. Conner the wisdom and insight to deal with and lead the children and faculty at Bethel Elementary.

 Be with Mr. (Kevin) Drury and Mrs. (Brittany) Pless. Thank you for the positive influence they have in my children's life this year and continue to show them how to best teach the young people in their class. Give them wisdom. Encourage them. Protect them. Let them have a love for the students in their class that can only come from you. Thank you for Mrs. (Karen) Hopkins and the love and support she gave Trav last year in his transition from home to school. 

 Surround Bethel Elementary and guide it with your protecting hand. Be with the staff and parents. Help them pull together for the good of the children in this community. Help them to stand strong and be an example of some of the good that is still in this world. 

God, ultimately, prevent anything like the Sandy Hook attack from happening. Help us to have peace in you and trust you with the lives and fate of (Y)our children. Amen.

Does this mean that my children's school is immune from the the violence that seems rampant in society? Absolutely not. It does mean that God's grace is sufficient and I will stand on that and rest in that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks

This book is quintessential cute. As we read we are introduced to life as April Grace sees and lives it. There is nothing super deep or life changing, but it is real. There is a story line, but it isn't a complex plot, as such, but more of a "day in the life of" (or months in . . ) type story. April Grace is completely likable because she is innocent and naive enough to be a little sister type, and hasn't quite become with the teenage angst that seems to pervade so many young adult novels.

Overall, I enjoyed it immensely. I found it a fun and easy read, and I'm sure younger teens, or tweens, would also enjoy it. As I read it, the main character and story style reminded me of the Junie B. Jones series that younger children seem to enjoy.

If you are looking for deep philosophical truths, or life changing revelations for you or a younger reader, this book probably isn't it. However, if you are looking for a fun, easy read, and a chuckle, definitely give this a try.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It Could Have Been Me

Life, In Spite of Me
by Kristen Jane Anderson

This is the story of a young girl, hopeless and despondent, unsure of the future, and carrying a load of grief and anxiety that decides on a cold and chilly night to end it all. She survives the suicide attempt, and this story is the story of her struggle to come to grips with what happened, and what God had in plan for her.

Through this book, we have a clear glimpse of what it is like to be depressed to the point of wanting to end it all. We can have a better understanding of what the teenagers of today may be thinking and really feeling behind their responses of, "whatever." and how to get to them before it is too late.

This book, to me, was especially poignant, because it could have been me when I was 21. Also similar was the struggle to overcome depression and learn to lean on God rather than myself, and a struggle it was.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a teenager or works with teenagers. Also, I would recommend it for anyone that has never suffered from depression, but perhaps is close to someone who is. Until you have been in that vast ocean with a tiny boat and a single oar, it is almost incomprehensible to know how far away hope seems.

An easy read with a great message.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Seraph Seal

An apocalyptic story that reminds me strongly of the DaVinci Code book and movie. The book begins in the present with the "doomsday" date of December 21, 2012 then jumps 30 some odd years to the future. From there the reader is introduced to a barrage of characters and events that try to develop and build to the end.

I often felt, as I was reading, that the authors were contriving the story to meet a certain event, rather than letting the plot develop on its own. In other words, they knew the ending and had to write backwards to get it all to fit. As a result, it "fits" but it is jumpy in places and leaves the reader going, "Where did THAT come from?" Also, some of the events that were obviously "supernatural" left me wanting at least *some* explanation. There were times when the symbolism seemed obvious enough to be foreshadowing, but was "non sequitur" enough to make it just seem downright odd.

Overall, it is well written (the dialogue is natural, the breaks in paragraphs are logical, etc.), but it just seemed that the authors were trying too hard to make it feel like non-fiction instead of writing a good fiction story. I suspect a great many people will like this book, especially those that like to focus on the end of times, but for me, I just couldn't get into it and was glad to move on to another book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I Didn't Want to Like it, but. . .

Restless in Carolina
by Tamara Leigh

When I got this book, I thought it might or might not be interesting, because I figured it would be "fluffy."

Well, it *was* fluffy, but it was a very enjoyable fluffy, and an easy read.

Admittedly, reading about the characters going to Asheville, and naming landmarks in and around the town (like Mellow Mushroom -- YUM) was fun for me because they were all "local" and it made it a little easier to "see" what was going on in the story.

Everyone loves a happy ending, and this was no exception. The author did manage to throw in a couple of surprises, and that was nice, but all of the characters were likeable and it was a fun read.

Overall, it is a pleasant book, but not very deep. If you are looking for quick, vacation reading this will be an excellent choice. Likewise, if your reading time is made up of short intervals, scattered around your day, this book is good because it is easy to pick back up on the action and keep going.

I would give it 4 out of 5 stars because it was enjoyable, but not very deep.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving -- Day 24

Today, I'm thankful for family and extended family and the relationships within both. One meal, many beliefs, yet we get along and have a good time. (The football game with the nieces and nephews has caused a little, well, a lot of soreness, but oh, the fun.)

Thanksgiving -- Day 23

I am thankful that the cliche is true -- When God allows a door to shut, He opens a window.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving -- 22

Today, I am thankful for all the people of "my past." The youth leaders, the Sunday School teachers, the coaches, the teachers. All of those that believed in me and gave me the confidence to be me and strive for the highest. I had a tremendous support network, and as I consider re-entering public education, I pray I will also be that support to some student who needs it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving -- Day 21

I am thankful for social networking sites like facebook. I know that sound cheesy, and flies in the face of all who say face to face friendships are "better," but let me explain.

I am basically a very shy person, and am very uncomfortable talking to someone just for the sake of talking Silence does not bother me in the least; I rather enjoy it (to the point that many times I have "an air" of being snobby or snooty, but that's really not the case).

Through the Internet, I have been able to deal with people as I am able. It gives me time to think about a response and then respond.

I have been able to re-establish old friendships and keep up with them, even if just peripherally.

I have been able to get to know other "real world" people better so that meeting them and talking to them isn't so big and scary to me.

AND, I have a whole group of friends that I have never met, and really aren't more than a few pixels on a monitor, but yet, they are real in their own way.

And in these ways, my life has been enhanced and bettered.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving -- Day 20

I am thankful for a future with potential. I don't know what the future holds, but I do know WHO holds the future for me.

Thanksgiving -- Day 19

I am thankful that God will never leave me nor forsake me. Ever. For any reason, or at any time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving -- day 18

Today I am thankful for doctors. My family has been blessed with some very good ones -- doctors who take the time when we need it and actually listen to us - or at the very least listen to my "mother's intuition."

In the 14+ years Bernard and I have been married, there was only one doctor (a heart surgeon) that was snarky, snide, and snotty, but he was good (probably saved my husband's life or at least extended it a few years) and we only had to deal with him once, so it was tolerable. :P

Thanksgiving -- Day 17

Today, I am thankful for music.

I have always loved music, and though I'm not all that great, I guess by virtue of being a music major in college I know a bit more than the average Joe. But it is not the academic side of music that appeals to me. While there was one point in my life where I could spout off music "facts" about just about anything, nowdays, I have to think about it before I give an answer.

But, the one thing that still sticks with me is the emotion behind it. It sets the tone; it heals the soul. Without words, it speaks to our hearts.

Bach gave us God's word,
Beethoven gave us God's fire,
Mozart gave us God's laughter.
God gave us music that we might pray without words.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thankfulness -- Day 16

Today, I am thankful for the little people in my life. Not just my two kiddos (definitely those, but not *just* those), but others that I get to be around.

Last Spring, I coached some of the absolutely cutest kids on the face of the Earth in peewee baseball. I don't know how much about the sport they learned, but we had a good time.

Now, I am helping coach the Princess's basketball team. THAT is a hoot. 14 girls -- 6, 7, and 8 years old (10 of them have never been on a basketball team before) and it is just so much fun to be around them. I have a feeling that when the season ends in February, I'm going to have 14 favorite little girls.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thankfulness -- Day 15

Today I am thankful for my coworkers. We are a motley bunch - different beliefs, philosophies and life-styles, but generally, a good bunch. My supervisors have always been supportive of me and my peers treat me with respect. I am truly greatful that I have a positive work environment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thankfulness -- Day 14

Today I am thankful that God is the Great Physician. After receiving news that someone near and dear to my little boy is going to "be okay," I am rejoicing and thanking Him. :)

Thankfulness -- Day 13

In January, 2000, I had the privilege to travel with a group to Moscow. While on the trip, we visited hospitals, schools, and orphanages/boarding schools. I remember well standing in the lobby of one of the hospitals talking to the patients on the geriatric ward. As the group leader got to discussing Christ and his love, a couple of men left and some of the women looked absolutely terrified while looking up and down the hall.

Unsure what was happening, we stopped and just asked if everything was okay. One lady explained that they grew up under communism, and the way were talking could have gotten all of us arrested.

Though they were no longer communist, they still couldn't believe they were free.

So, for day 13, I am thankful that I am free to worship, and beyond that, I am FREE in Christ.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thankfulness - Day 12

Today, I am thankful for God's provision. He is never late; He is never early, and He always gives me exactly what I need.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thankfulness -- Day 11

Today is a day we set aside to remember those who have given of their time, and even life, to protect our country.

If I started making a list, I am afraid I would miss someone, because there are many young men and women that I want to say "Thank you" to.

However, there are a few that stick in my mind today.

Papaw Shuford -- WWII veteran.
My FIL, Randall Shuford - Vietnam

Thanks you, gentlemen, not only for your service, but for the heritage you have established for my children.

And one that is near and dear to my heart -- my former student Stephen Hall who is currently deployed.

But, then, my mind goes back over the years, and I remember standing in the cemetery trumpet in hand, waiting for the salute. Some of the families I knew well -- the father of a college friend; the grandfather of a lifelong friend, but others were complete strangers -- the 19 year old that died for his country in active duty. But one thing united them all -- the pain on their face of losing their loved one, for the briefest of moments when the flag was handed to them, evaporated and became something else -- they were comforted with the knowledge and pride that their loved one had done something that mattered.

So today, I say, "Thank you!" However you served, wherever you served, THANK YOU!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankfulness - Day 10

Today's thankfulness is short and sweet. I am thankful that my kids have clothes. Lots of clothes. So many that even when we bag up several bags full to sell or give away, they are not lacking and do not miss anything.

Furthermore, we are blessed in that we have bought very little for our children. My mom works at a larger clothing department store and gets phenomenal discounts which she uses to buy their clothes for Christmas and birthdays.

So, not only do they have clothes, they have nice clothes, cheap. :)