As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Our Last Homeschool Graduation

And just like that . . . Bekah completed thirteen years of (home)school. 

(It really did seem "just like that.") 

I am still catching up here on the blog. Graduation was over two months ago, but it took me so long to finish my wedding posts . . . 

I am probably giving you whiplash with all of this time travel. But my youngest child's graduation is too big a milestone not to record it here in the annals of Thinking About Home!

When the wedding was over, there was no time to waste!

Bekah and her friend Grace were graduating on June 8 (exactly three weeks after wedding day), so planning began in earnest. (Preliminary planning had already begun, but now it was time for action!) On Monday, we ordered graduation announcements.

We finalized the details of the ceremony, planned the menu, and went shopping for decorations. Grace's sister Lydia was creating slide shows for the two graduates, so we also needed to gather and select photos. Bekah and Grace met to design a program. I asked my friend Terri, who also did the flowers for Kati's wedding, to create an arrangement for the graduation. (Not only did she create a lovely arrangement using Bekah's graduation announcement for inspiration, but she gave it to Bekah as a graduation keepsake! Thanks, Terri!) All the while, we were cramming in that last bit of school work required for graduation! Oh yes, it was a busy time!

By God's grace, we got it done. It was all hands on deck as we did the last minute set-up and then dear family and friends began to arrive to celebrate this milestone in the lives of these beautiful girls!

Andrew surprised Bekah by arriving in his full academic regalia, bringing a little pomp and circumstance to the occasion! 

There were congregational hymn: "Be Thou My Vision" and "To God Be the Glory." Bekah's nieces and nephews sang "He Will Hold Me Fast." 

The parents of both graduates spoke about the girls and then presented them with their diplomas. (I have included the text of my talk at the end of this post.)

The slide shows were precious, a tableau of photos from babyhood to the present. Here is Bekah's:

(If it seems to jump right into the middle, it is because I have edited the title frame from the slideshow video due to the fact that I don't share any last names or any identifying information on the blog. Other than that, it's all there!)

Ron and I with our four homeschool graduates!

We took a photo of Bekah with her nieces and nephews!
(Because of the laws regarding foster care, I had to blur the sweet faces of the twin boys.)

It was a whirlwind for sure, but Bekah and her friend Grace, as well as both families, were so pleased with the beautiful graduation service! These girls have worked hard, and both are accomplished young ladies! 

And so after twenty-eight years of homeschooling, that part of my life has come to an end. It is bittersweet. But I am grateful for the years that I have had with my children, to teach, guide, inspire, grow, advise . . . and to just be with them. I wouldn't trade that time for anything in the world! 

My speech . . . 

At age 40, after a period of serious illness, I became pregnant. Although we had hoped for another child for years, this certainly seemed like the “wrong” time. It was a difficult (scary) pregnancy. I was on several medications. There was a crisis day when we believed that the baby was not going to make it. My doctor sent us for an ultrasound which showed the baby alive and well. She was born seven weeks prematurely, and she had some challenges in the first weeks and months of her life.

But here she is today at her high school graduation. God had a plan for Rebekah’s life.

There is a word in the Bible that I love. It is Ebenezer and it means “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Let me give you a little background. After a series of battles with the Philistines, Samuel had called Israel to repentance and they had responded. They gathered at Mizpah...they fasted, they confessed their sin, and repented.  But as they were gathered, word came that the Philistines were again coming against them in battle. They called out to God, and Samuel offered sacrifices. The Lord answered with a "great thunder" that confused the Philistines, and Israel soundly defeated them.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying "Thus far the Lord has helped us."

I see this special day, this ceremony, as an Ebenezer, for as we mark this occasion, we are looking back and acknowledging that He has directed.  "Thus far the Lord has helped us."

Not only did the Lord help Rebekah as a baby, but He helped her as she grew. He planned who she would be and how she would serve Him.

He gave her a love for beauty. She loves great literature and pretty dresses, home dΓ©cor and pretty tables. She went through a phase where she wanted me to make “dear little lunches,” and she cut out pictures of pretty food from the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. She loves poetry and old movies and Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

He gave her an ear for music and a song in her heart. Kati taught her to play a Christmas carol on the piano when she was six, and she has never stopped playing. There was the one day when we went to the local playground and I heard the chimes in the playground ringing out Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and I knew our Rebekah was playing. She learned to play classical music which is beautiful and soul-stirring. Oh, but the hymns. Many is the time when I have asked her to play a hymn and then another and then more as we sang along, hearts moved, tears flowing, souls encouraged.

“Thus far, the Lord has helped us.”

He made her heart tender. Toddler Rebekah was a character and her sin nature was strong. She had temper tantrums and meltdowns and she challenged everything that we thought we knew about parenting. But then we saw glimpses of tenderness . . . towards animals, towards babies, towards others . . . and we knew that the Lord would draw that tender heart to Himself. Now Bekah is for the underdog, she adores her nieces and nephews, and, most importantly, she loves the Lord and seeks to please Him.

“Thus far, the Lord has helped us.”

As a homeschooling mom, I needed the Lord’s help! In some ways, Bekah was the most challenging of my students . . . perhaps because she is the most like me. The two of us struggle with procrastination and time management. We’re both slow. We can dawdle our way through our days. It was not unusual for Ron to come home from work to find us still reading, or to find Bekah working on her math or some other project.

But the Lord did help us. As we sought His help, He guided our steps, helped as we planned our courses, provided opportunities for Bekah to learn and serve in unique ways. In spite of ourselves, Bekah is a young woman who is accomplished and responsible and has deep faith in Jesus.

I really can hardly believe we are here, at the end of this leg of the journey. At the end of your homeschooling years, Bekah.  At the end of my homeschooling years. Oh, how I have treasured these days and all of the time we have spent and learned and grown together.

Bekah, I know that the future is still unsure for you and you still have hard choices and decisions to make. But I am not worried. Our loving Father knows your future and he will continue to help . . . one step at a time.

“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 3:14, 15)

Ron's speech . . . 

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” 

We began our homeschool in September of 1991, and as of yesterday, we completed our 28th year of training our children in the way they should go. 

For us, this has been a great experience. Not only have they learned many things, but we have learned many things as well. 

What does it mean to train up a child? One commentator says that to train up a child refers to the total process of molding a child’s life. The word “train” comes from the root word meaning “to put into the mouth,” which implies the idea of conditioning the palate. Thus, potential training should help children develop a taste for the things of God. “When he is old” simply means “when he is grown up.” The verse stresses the single principle that education in the home forms the person throughout their lifetime.

As we stand here today, we truly feel that Bekah has been trained in the academics as well as the ways of God. We have no regrets and feel that we have prepared her for the rest of her life. Though this is the end of her schooling from us, she has the skills to continue to learn for the rest of her life. 

To us, a child is a wonderful gift. With this gift comes a great responsibility. Who better can teach and train a child than we parents? We thank the Lord for all of His blessings.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Sunday Snapshots: Big Birthday Bash!

Once upon a time, we celebrated three birthdays together each year. Three generations of women: my mom, me, and my daughter. We called it the Triple Birthday Party. Then Ryan and his family moved back to Maryland and the triple birthday party grew. Last year, we combined the July celebration with the August celebration. This year, we have added four more summer birthdays! Baby Judah was born in August last year. Ryan and Sarah have foster babies, twin boys, who had a birthday in July. And our September birthday girl (born on the 1st, she was nearly an August birthday) wanted to be included in the summer celebration. (We've really added five, although we didn't add Andrew to this celebration because we celebrated his birthday when he and Kati were here in June.)

Did you get all that?! No worries, even if you didn't. Suffice it to say that we did a lot of celebrating and singing and blowing out candles!

We had a summer beach theme. Most of our summer birthday people love the beach, and those that don't . . . well . . . they were good sports. 😊

I had purchased some hexagonal plates from Target earlier in the summer because I loved the shape and color. Then I found some beachy napkins at HomeGoods and a theme was born.

I gathered my seaside trinkets and Bekah made these cute little beach cupcakes. 

After enjoying a "beach picnic" for lunch (cold cut subs, chips, watermelon, strawberry pretzel salad), we played a game. The names of all twelve birthday people were written on our papers. First we listed them in order of age, youngest to oldest. Then we put them in order of height, shortest to tallest. Finally we listed them in order of their birth dates in the year, first birthday to last. It was harder than it sounds! Can you see all of that thinking?! πŸ˜‰

 All of the top scorers were able to choose a prize from the basket.

Eve and Maddie
(Missing: foster babies)

Ron, me, Kristin, Judah, Owen, Gammy
(Missing: Ryan)


Happy birthday to all! 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Saturday Graces

Graces . . . things that I do not deserve, but that He has seen fit to give to me. These are joys here on a hot and steamy August Saturday.

~ This sweet boy spent the night here last night. His first ever sleepover! 

We had so much fun . . . pizza, taffy, An American Tail, staying up way past his bedtime, looking at his baby pictures, sleeping in the guest room, donuts for breakfast, puzzles, Tarzan, reading a big stack of books with Gran. 

~ The new guest room. 

Since we have a special room now, we are inviting each one of the grandchildren for their own sleepover. The four grands who are my son's children have had their turns; now we'll start with my daughter's children. It warms my heart to overhear the children planning their special night . . . what carryout meal they will choose, what game they will play or movie they will watch, what candy they will request. Part of the fun is the anticipation, don't you think?

We love having a room for guests! (And we love our guests!) 

~ Cupcakes in the kitchen, 

in preparation for the Big Birthday Bash that we're having tomorrow. We're celebrating TWELVE birthdays tomorrow, people . . . all summer birthdays! So. Many. Birthdays.

We ride the Birthday Train all summer long, but tomorrow we will celebrate all together. I can't wait! 

~ This limelight hydrangea, 

planted on a corner so that we can see it from the kitchen window, 

from the sun room, 

and from the living room.

 So many luscious blooms! 

~ Special days spent with my girl this week. 

During the first part of the summer, we were planning her graduation ceremony (more on that soon), and then recovering and regrouping after all of the BIG changes. In the middle of the summer, we both helped with our church's VBS. 

After that, we panicked! Summer is half over and we haven't done anything on our just-for-fun list!

So we've been having fun. Trying to do All. The. Things. Antique shopping, snow cones, water park, rolled ice cream, a summer movie, crabby fries, lunch with friends. (Not all of it this week, of course, but we did pack a lot into this week!)

~ Grace for the day. 

There have been deep and thoughtful conversations here this week. Thinking ahead, planning for the future. And yet there is so much about the future that we simply do not know. I am so grateful that He does know and that He has promised to be with us. We rely on His grace . . . that amazing grace . . . one day at a time. 

~ This quote.
When I came across this quote, it went right straight to my heart. What truth!

"But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed." ~ Amy Carmichael

Ponder that . . . 

What are some graces in your world today? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Wedding Bliss {Part 4: The Celebration}

We've had some busy days (including some grand sleepovers, some gatherings with friends, a great-nephew's wedding, and a crazy-howeek of VBS), and now I am back with a final wedding post. 

But before I tell you all about the wedding reception, I want to share this photograph of the photographer! Here she is with the bride and groom! As I have told you before, she has taken many photos for our family through the years. About the wedding photos, Frances made this remark, " . . . when you are photographing people you love, it is very easy to see the moments through the lens of your heart." We are so very grateful that she loves us and gave us this gift of beautiful recorded memories!

Andrew and Kati's wedding reception , like the ceremony, had their own personal stamp: a combination of tradition and unique touches that reflected their loves. 

Tables were decorated with vases of hydrangeas, old books, votive candles, succulents, and paper hearts cut from book pages. Each guest received a "library card" bookmark with thanks for being a part of their story. 

There were two guest books. At the church, there was a section in the back of a Bible for guests to sign their names. That same Bible was brought to the reception for guests to highlight verses of Scripture and/or leave a note about those verses to the bride and groom. 

And then there was this guest book ↓, a virtual one in which guests could put on the headset and leave a virtual message. This group looks calm, but there was some rollicking fun as other guests tried to leave their messages!

We had no DJ or live music, simply some beautiful instrumental arrangements of hymns.

Funny story: Kati and Andrew almost missed their own reception! 

Andrew's Uncle Rick was serving as the announcer. He welcomed everyone, introduced the parents and the wedding party, gave a few instructions, and then asked Ron to pray a blessing on the food. Ron questioned, "The bride and groom?" Rick answered, "Yes, the bride and groom," thinking that Ron wanted to pray a blessing on them too. Then . . . "Oh! The bride and groom!"

We all laughed as Kati and Andrew were invited to join the rest of us! 

(This group had a clear view of Kati and Andrew as they waited for their entrance. πŸ˜„)

There were only three dances:

the bride and groom's first dance ("Heaven Knows" by the Hunts),

the father-daughter dance ("The Sunrise of Your Smile" by Michael Card),

and the mother-son dance ("Find Your Wings" by Mark Harris).

Such sweet moments.

Kati and Andrew chose to have not one cake, not two cakes, but TEN cakes for their wedding! The idea sprang from their desire to use lots of cake toppers to represent parts of their courtship. So they asked special people in their lives to bake cakes! The bakers could choose their own flavor, as long as the frosting was white. 

They made a sign with all of the cake toppers and their significance. Guests were asked to vote for their favorite topper. 

The best man, Andrew's brother David, made a toast that was both hilarious (reading an essay he had written about Andrew when he was in grade school, and telling us how little had changed since then!) and tender as he honored his brother and welcomed Kati to the family. 

Matron of Honor Kristin told the story of the bride and groom's courtship from her own viewpoint. (Remember, Kristin is the friend of Andrew's cousin Melinda who introduced them in the first place, so she was there from the beginning. Or before the beginning!) And like a good big sister, she gave the couple some wise advice, reminding them of the Gospel story . . . that we all are sinners who need a Savior, and that we need God's great grace to walk through the difficulties of life. 

As a surprise, our family sang a special song for Andrew. 

I am so thankful that our sweet friend Deanna recorded it! 

After the song, a big group hug happened. πŸ’—

Instead of the bouquet toss, Kati asked all of the single ladies to come to the center as she shared words of encouragement and then prayed for them, that each one would wait for God's perfect timing in their lives. 

Andrew did the same for the single men.

Then we all sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." 

This hymn was sung at Kati's bridal shower. It was also the hymn that played as Andrew entered the church for the wedding ceremony, and that played as Kati walked down the aisle towards her groom. It is a powerful song with a testimony of the goodness and faithfulness of our great God, and it was beautiful and appropriate to sing it together at the wedding reception. 

Ron's brother Michael led our singing.

When the votes were tallied, the octopus cake topper had won! (Are you surprised? Probably not.)

Andrew, as (strongly) requested, carefully directed that bite of wedding cake straight into Kati's mouth. No smeared make-up or sticky hair for his bride! 

~ three generations ~

All too quickly, the evening came to an end. 

Frances relayed this moment to me:
Sarah comes up to hug Kati and then in sudden surprise, she says ... "Is this goodbye?" And Kati says, "This is goodbye." 
(And my own heart catches in my throat as I type the words . . . )

Where typically a bride and groom dash to their car to make their getaway, Kati and Andrew meandered slowly through the crowd and the wedding bubbles, taking time to hug and say their goodbyes. 

Here is the story of Kati and Andrew's wedding . . . 

Wedding Bliss {Part 4: The Celebration}

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