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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Gift of Presence

What a delight to have had a few days with our Kati!! 

She came to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday (more on that soon), so some of our time together was party prep. But there was also time for relaxing and lingering chats and hanging out and hearing her heart and I am so very grateful!

(Thank you, Andrew, for allowing your bride to come home for a visit on the week that your new semester began!) 

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 décor 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?! 😉

 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? 

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