Wholehearted Homeschooling

I am so thankful that Mark and I see eye to eye on so much! One of those things is homeschooling. Homeschooling our children has always been our plan – I think we even discussed it before we were married! We had no desire to trust our children’s education to someone else, or to send them off to spend the bulk of their time away from us. We want to enjoy our kids to the fullest!

So almost as soon as Eliza was born, I was researching methods and curriculums. I came upon the Charlotte Mason approach, which I really liked, and a curriculum called Heart of Wisdom which used a unit study based 4-year cycle and honored the Biblical Feasts and Hebrew way of thought (vs. Greek).

One of my all-time favorite authors is Sally Clarkson. She has authored many books on motherhood and homeschooling, and her husband Clay wrote the book that was the most instrumental for us in deciding how to parent our children (more on that in a later post). We bought her and Clay’s book, Educating the Wholehearted Child, a couple of years ago. I enjoyed it then, but now our first year of homeschooling is coming to a close, and I just reread much of it in preparation for next year. It is such a good book, and so inspiring! They break down the areas of study into these categories:

Discipleship Studies (character and Bible study)
Disciplined Studies (math, reading, writing)
Discussion Studies (literature, history, fine arts)
Discovery Studies (science, creative arts)
Discretionary Studies (additional things important to your child/family)

I really like the way each area of study is explained. Discipleship, Discussion, Discovery – these are words that get to the core of how these subjects are best learned, and makes it easier for me to look at our school plans and keep us on task. Am I encouraging my children in their relationship with HaShem (or just telling them stories)? Are we discussing enough (or just reading)? Are we discovering the world around us (or just doing worksheets)?

I am re-energized and excited about the new school year ahead of us, and can’t wait to see how my children (and I) grow in this upcoming year!

~ Judy

Free To Be Me

I was chatting with my friend last week about how things have changed for me since moving here. Prior to our move, I had lived in Washington for 9 1/2 years. It is where I feel I really became an adult, where I got married, and where I became a mother. I developed a lot of my self-identity in those things, as well as things that went along with them, such as being a home-birther (and childbirth educator), lactation advocate and peer educator, and an attachment parent.

And while these things are still really important to me, I also feel like there’s a part of me that has woken up since being here. It’s the part of me that is just Judy. There’s such freedom in not knowing anyone and getting to start over. I get to decide who I want to be without any outside influence. I don’t really have any social life, which frees me up to focus on my relationships with HaShem and my family.

And that is what I’ve been doing. Reinventing myself. Being who I want to be. Figuring out what is important to me and making those things my focus. Praying more about everything. Cherishing the life that I have been given – it is a gift!

~ Judy

Letting Go and Holding On

Although in most ways, we have settled into our new life in Idaho, we miss our friends in Washington something fierce. Before we left, my friend Lindsey decided to plan a road trip to visit us. In my lonely moments over the past month, I have held on by looking forward to her arrival.

For the past week since I last blogged, we have been blessed by their company. Our eight combined children are perfectly staggered at ages 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and <1 and played together fantastically, bringing endless delight to their mamas and making beautiful memories.

Sprinkler time!
Shabbat morning breakfast for 11!

At the zoo!

Now that they’ve gone, I’m faced with the reality that my life in Washington has come to a close, and it’s time to move on. Despite my sadness, it’s time to allow myself to get plugged in here, to build relationships, find a doctor, and get an Idaho drivers license!

But at the same time as realizing all of this, I’m also realizing that the relationships I have don’t have to end. I know, this sounds ridiculous, but I think there’s a part of me that has really feared letting go of my life in Washington because I was afraid of what might happen to those relationships I cherish. Would they remember me after I left? Would they slowly fade away? When it comes down to it, though, I am thankful for the relationships I have built, and have I to trust that they are strong enough to withstand the distance.

So now, I am working on letting go while hanging on. Letting go of the temporal while hanging onto the eternal. And leaning on my Father’s arms through it all.

~ Judy

Our One Month Anniversary

Today we celebrate one month in our new home in Idaho! As I reflect on the last month, I’m struck by how much things are the same and different at the same time. The foundations of my life – my relationship with God, my family, our values – are my constant rock. But there are so many little things that are new and different! Trying to get used to a new town, remembering roads and landmarks, finding new resources (doctors, groceries, entertainment, etc.) can feel overwhelming some days! Those days I am especially thankful for the solid family that we have and for the undeniable Word of God that brought us here.

In the book One Thousand Gifts (see my post a couple of days ago), we are challenged to practice gratitude for all those little things that are so often overlooked. So, here are a few “Idaho-Gifts”:

Wide open spaces
Blue skies & sunshine
Farmland scenery on every drive
The park behind our house
A more-accessible yard
Eggs from a friend’s “backyard” chickens
Raw milk, less expensive
A smaller house to keep clean
Carpet that isn’t white!
Everything in closer proximity
Reciprocal zoo membership
Being close to Mark’s parents and brother/sister-in-law

Now, on that note, we’re headed to Mark’s parents to celebrate Memorial Day! Blessings to you.

~ Judy

Shavuot – Delighting in God’s Gifts of Torah and Spirit

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he propers.
Psalm 1:1-3 NASB

Today is Shavuot – the Feast Of Weeks – that is celebrated 50 days after Passover. Today is the day that we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai as well as the giving of the Spirit in Jerusalem. Today we celebrate that God loved us so much that He gave us His divine instruction for how we should live our lives, and He gave us His Spirit so that His Words would be written on our hearts and we would have more power to live a holy life.

The passage above is one that our family holds dear; the last sentence of that verse is on our living room wall. We stand on that promise: that we will be strong, fruitful and blessed as long as we delight in and meditate on God’s law – teachings – Torah.

Does that seem like a dichotomy to you – delight and law? God never intended for that to be so. His Torah was given as part of His relationship of love with Israel. And He gave His Spirit to His people to help empower them to keep that same Torah. Yeshua taught a love for the Torah (see Matthew 5:17-20); the apostles cherished the Torah. And I love the passage in John 14 (vs. 15-31) where Yeshua explains to his disciples his reason for sending his Spirit. His Spirit was to be a helper to them – to keep God’s commandments – and a source of God’s power within them.

As modern-day believers, we are called to celebrate the Torah as “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” (Heb. 4:12) and also cherish the Spirit, the “Helper to be with you forever.” (John 14:16) Through these two gifts to us, God speaks, and through them, our lives are changed! But in keeping with my heart’s song of late, sometimes it’s really hard to see these gifts. If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I’ve gone through seasons when God’s Word and Spirit have been far from my words and spirit. But the grace of God is truly amazing, and patient, and forgiving! He longs to draw us to Himself over and over again, and He never gives up on us!

Praise be to our God, who in His infinite love gave us His Word and His Spirit! May we recognize these gifts that He has given us and delight in Him!

~ Judy

Choosing To See

“Because this is how you begin to spend your one life well –
receiving each moment for what it really is: holy, ordinary, amazing grace. A gift.”
– Selections From One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

As a busy mom, there are days – a lot of days, if I’m honest with myself – that I get lost in the mundaneness of it all. It’s the same thing over and over – cooking, cleaning, teaching, correcting. I know that what I’m doing as a mom is the most important job on earth, but there are so many days that come to a close with the thoughts of “Isn’t there more to life than this? This plain repetition?”

A year and a half ago, I came upon the book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. The book shook me to the core, brought me to tears and gave me hope. The answer to my struggle? Choosing gratitude. And more – choosing to see God’s hand in the little things, to see His blessings in those mundane things that I had grown so tired of.

And even though it has been a year and a half since then, I still struggle. Struggle to be thankful for those mundane things that fill most of my days.

Earlier I was thinking about my recent striving to set apart alone time at the start of each day. For the past couple of days I haven’t had that time. My two youngest have woken up with me, turning my devotional time into a juggling act and leaving all of us frustrated. I found myself being resentful of the time they took away from my morning “me time.”

Then I caught myself – “me time”? Wasn’t this supposed to be “God time”?

And how am I supposed to meet with God if I can’t even see the biggest blessings He has given me as just that? This life that God had given me is an amazing gift that I am to treasure and cherish – even those everyday aspects of it. And as I choose to see God in the everyday-ness of it all, I believe that it will change my outlook on life and in turn my relationships with my children and my God.

So this is my personal challenge for this week: to choose again to see blessings in the mundane, choosing to see the annoyances as opportunities. To try to find balance between my need for alone time and my children’s need for me.

This is my challenge.

~ Judy

An Early Bird Stuck in a Night Owl’s Body

I’m convinced – I am an early bird who is stuck in a night owl’s body! If left to itself, my body will naturally wake up around 8-9am and go to bed between 12-1am. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember.

For years, I have wished that I could wake up earlier without extreme effort. In high school, I had to put my alarm clock on the other side if the room AND cover the snooze button with cotton to keep myself from turning it off in my mostly-asleep state and going back to bed. In college, I got the worst grades in my earliest classes, often because I just couldn’t get myself there. And now, as a mom, it means I wake up with my kids and get my alone time late at night.

This might work out fine for me except for one *small* detail – those rare days when I wake up early are amazing! I love them. I love waking before my family and spending time alone in prayer and thought in a quiet house. Being the introvert that I am, I get my energy from those alone times, and starting my day that way gives me such a better perspective and attitude about the rest of the day.

Back when I was pregnant with Avigail, for the first time as a parent, I was able to get into a routine that enabled me to wake up early. For a couple of blissful months, I woke up around 7am, got ready, and went downstairs to read, pray, and think before the kids woke up for the day. The trick for me at that time was buying a new coffeemaker that I could set the night before. Knowing that I would get my fix, hot and fresh, as soon as I got downstairs was enough to coax me out of bed most mornings. Well, that and the fact that if I waited too long it would be burnt! It was still hard, but so worth it. And with each day my resolve grew stronger.

But eventually Avigail was born, and my time was no longer my own. Sleeping through the night became a faint memory, and I returned to my former pattern of late nights and late mornings. Even on the mornings when my babe didn’t allow me to sleep in, I was still living in a constant state of new mom sleep deprivation.

So, that brings me to today. It’s been over 9 months since our little girl entered our lives, and while sleeping through the night is still an elusive escape artist who I’m pretty sure won’t be returning anytime soon, I’m ready to put my game face back on! Life is flying by at a dizzying speed, and I desperately want to be at a place in myself where I be present in and can cherish every moment. And for me, I know that will include bringing out the early bird in me!

And so it is with great trepidation that I share my morning routine!

– Bedtime (with a clean house, preferably): 10:30-11:00pm | First of all, an early morning has to start with an early bedtime. This has been a major struggle for me, but Mark and I are on the same page, so we’re trying to encourage each other in that area.

– Wake up, shower, get dressed: 7:00am | My ultimate goal is 6:30 so that I have a half-hour to work out, but for now this is where I am.

– Head downstairs for tea, Bible reading, and prayer time: 7:30am | I recently gave up coffee in favor of the less-intense effects of tea. I quit cold-turkey and felt like a rock star. 😀

– Kids & Breakfast: 8:00am | This is when the kids typically start making their way downstairs. I’m working on making a habit of spending a few minutes focused on each child as they wake up (inspired by a friend of mine). Then I start breakfast and do dishes, and on goes our morning!

My morning isn’t complete without these two things.  Well, and the iPod.  🙂

Is there anyone else out there trying to become more self-disciplined about their personal time?  Anyone other early birds stuck in night owl bodies?  Leave a comment and let’s encourage each other!

~ Judy

Life Begins Anew (part three)

Yesterday, I left you behind our big yellow truck as we closed it up just after sunset. We were drained physically, mentally and emotionally. Throughout the day, as it became clear that we wouldn’t make it to Idaho before nightfall, we made adjustments to our plans and prepared ourselves for a night of driving. As it happened, I believe it was a huge blessing in disguise.

We packed the kids up into the van and Debbie drove them around the block while Mark and I said our goodbyes to the house that had been our home for the past year and the place where our daughter was born. We went our separate ways inside, and when I got to our bedroom – to the place where A was born – I finally broke down and sobbed. I felt like part of me was dying. It was heart-wrenching sadness and grief. Life was passing so quickly and I was afraid of forgetting all of the precious memories that I held so dear. It’s easy to remember when you see the place those memories were made every day. It’s much harder when you have to close your eyes and picture everything in your mind.

We finally tore ourselves away. I got into the van with Debbie and we left Mark to put a few things into the cab of the truck and head out. We made it 5 minutes down the road when we got a phone call. It was Mark – he couldn’t find the key to the truck! We turned around and headed back. After another 10 minutes of searching by flashlight, Mark broke back into the house to check there. No luck. The key was gone. Thankfully, he called the rental company and they were able to make him a new key right away. He drove up and got it, leaving Debbie and I to rest and relax a bit. When we returned and we finally got on the road for real, it was 11:30pm.

The road trip to Idaho couldn’t have gone any smoother, especially considering the conditions! Mark picked up his brother and ran a couple of errands, leaving Seattle at 12:30am and arriving at Mark’s parents’ at 8:30am. Debbie and I took turns driving, making only one major stop at 3:30am. We fueled up, took the kids to the bathroom, fed them each a peanut butter sandwich, nursed A, and headed back out without incident. The kids slept until 6:30am. It was a perfect car ride, and despite our exhaustion we were able to make it through safely. I really appreciated all of the quiet time to think and process through everything that happened. It was very therapeutic for me (did I just say that?!?), crazy as that sounds!

We arrived at Mark’s parents’ house at 7:30am, had a delicious breakfast, and crashed on the couch while the kids played with their grandpa. 🙂 Around noon, we headed out to see our new home for the first time (Mark saw it a couple of weeks prior when he visited and signed the lease).

When we got off the freeway to the road that led to our house, I was speechless. In fact, I almost started to cry – the drive was so beautiful! Farmland all around, wide open spaces, mountains in the distance, blue skies and green pastures. Just stunning! One of the things I had lamented was losing the “green” of Washington – in the Seattle area, there are trees and flowers everywhere you look, and mountains in the distance. Seeing what a beautiful drive I would get to enjoy every day, I felt like God was smiling down on me, assuring me that He loved me and delighted in seeing me happy.

And with that, I’m going to wrap up my little story. Our life has turned in a whole new direction, and we are excited to see what God has in store for us as we continue on this journey!

~ Judy

Life Begins Anew (part two)

So, you know that heavy weight I mentioned? The idea of moving was much harder for me to come to grips with than it was for Mark. After all, he was moving back home, where he still had friends, not to mention his parents and brother/sister-in-law. For me, the thought of starting over was scary and depressing – I had worked for years developing the relationships I had in Washington. For an introvert like me, the thought of doing that again was exhausting – besides, I really liked the friends I already had! But on that Shabbat, Mark said something to a friend that spoke to me heart and gave me the strength to keep pressing on over the weeks to come. He said that the last time he heard God’s voice so clearly was when he was in Costa Rica and God told him to change churches (another story for a another time). His obedience to that difficult directive was the main event that made us who we are today. Not only did it bring us to our congregation and the Messianic walk of faith, but through relationships that formed there we learned about attachment parenting, natural birth, and all sorts of other things that have had a big role in our family’s formation. Anyway, it occurred to me that just as that act of obedience brought about all of those blessings, this act of obedience would as well.

And so, clinging for dear life into this promise, I began to plan our relocation! Mark found a job – he actually found it the day he had the dream/vision, but interviewed and got it a couple of weeks later. I scoured craigslist for a week in search of a home, and found one. I started a moving journal to keep all of my lists and notes – that little book and I were inseparable for weeks! We stopped doing school so that I could focus on all I had to do. We worked hard to find balance in our lives those last weeks – we knew we needed to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time, but we also had a deep and almost desperate need to spend as much time as possible with our friends we were leaving behind. Plus, we knew that all of the busyness was going to take its toll on our children and we wanted to spend as much time together as a family as possible. So we planned, packed, AND played! We went to Jump Planet, took a ferry ride to get ice cream, and went to the zoo. We savored every Shabbat at BT and celebrated Passover with friends.From the time we received Mark’s job offer to our moving day was only three weeks, and wow, did the time pass quickly! We gratefully accepted every offer of help and had several friends come play with our kids or help me pack.

On the ferry!

All too quickly, our last week in Washington was upon us. Our congregation prayed over us and sent us off with a blessing. We spent time with our most cherished friends. We packed up the rest of our stuff and purged a ton. (I love throwing things away, but that’s another post too… 😉 Mark’s mom came to help us those last few days, which was a godsend! I kept very busy, not really taking any time to process through the intense flood of emotions that I carried with me throughout the days. I wanted to, but I just didn’t feel free to – there was so much to be done and I had no idea how we’d pull it off.

On Thursday afternoon, we picked up the truck and started packing it. Our plan was to pack the truck on Thursday and leave Friday morning. Debbie (my mother-in-law) and I worked to do as much as we could, as Mark was still working (albiet, from home). That evening, a couple of men from our congregation and Mark’s brother came over to help Mark load up the truck, and it soon became apparent that our truck was too small. So there I was, desperately trying to hold it together, frantically trying to get the last-minute packing and cleaning done, and suddenly faced with the fact that I’m going to have to choose some of my possessions to leave behind at the last minute! I had been praying for the Lord to help me simplify our lives, but this wasn’t what I had in mind! 😀 We packed until around 11pm when our amazing and selfless friends had to head home and we had to collapse into bed. The lack of space made packing so much harder, and the truck was only half done. We spent our last night in our home on the living room floor, and awoke early to finish the packing.

In the morning, the three of us got off to a slow start due to our frazzled brains from the day before. A friend of mine came around lunchtime and brought with her energy and a fresh perspective that proved invaluable! With her help, we worked the afternoon away, stopping only for our walk-through, at which point all of our belongings were on our front lawn. When she had to leave, it quickly became apparent that we couldn’t do the rest of it on our own, so I called a close family friend and her wonderful husband came and helped Mark finally finish the job. We had to leave behind our tv and beautiful tv armoire, a few storage items, our lawn mower, our garage freezer, our sukkah (so sad!), and many other little things. But the job was done. We were packed – everything our family owned was in a big yellow moving truck. We closed that big back door around 9:30pm, after the sun had set on Friday night. What a way to begin Shabbat!

(To be continued…)

Life Begins Anew (part one)

Two and half months ago, my husband received the news that would change our family’s life in a major way: he was losing his job. It wasn’t a big surprise; his workload had been steadily shrinking for the past year as his company went through structural changes including outsourcing oversees. But the timing of it was very coincidental – the lease on our house was about to be up as well, leaving us completely footloose and fancy-free for the first time in our married life… or at least as much as we could be with four young kids running around!

For years – since shortly after Eliza was born – we’ve talked about moving to Idaho. We were mostly alone in Seattle, at least as far as family went. Mark had a brother and sister-in-law living there, but that was it. His parents lived in Idaho and mine in Colorado, and the rest of our siblings were scattered around the country from California to Minnesota to Oklahoma. We didn’t like raising our children away from their grandparents – we felt like this was depriving them both of something very special and important. Plus, raising four kids is a lot of work, for which we had no help, practically speaking. People weren’t designed to raise families as islands – we were made for community and for family!

Anyway, we realized quickly that this opportunity to move was open to us, and began thinking and praying seriously about what we should do. And it wasn’t an easy thing to think about! There were so many pros and cons! Despite the fact that we had talked about moving for a good five years, in those years we had built up many relationships that we cherished. The idea of leaving them was heart-wrenching! Plus, we enjoyed the culture of Seattle and what it had to offer in terms of enjoyment and family fun. But the prospect of being close to Mark’s parents was very appealing, as well as the slower pace and wide open spaces that Idaho could offer.

About a week into our decision-making process, our rabbi caught wind of our situation (Have I mentioned that we are so blessed to have an amazing rabbi/pastor? But that’s another post…) and left the following comment on my Facebook wall:

“Remember, God speaks to us by his Holy Spirit through the word, prayer, people, circumstances, dreams and visions. May you hear a clear word from Him.” 

That night we went to bed full of hope and expectation that the Lord would reveal His will for us in due time. In the early morning, Mark had a dream/vision that replayed in his head over and over for the next few hours. In it, we were returning to Washington from Idaho, and encountered some major problems. In his mind, he kept thinking, “We should’ve stayed in Idaho, we should’ve stayed in Idaho.” The content in the dream was compelling on its own, but the fact that it kept replaying in Mark’s mind all morning was even more so. Then, a bit after breakfast, I found out that a couple we know had woken up early and prayed for us, probably right before Mark had his dream. It seemed quite clear that the Lord was speaking to us. So, for the next few days we pondered this.

And I’ll be honest, it wasn’t this joyful excitement over God’s revelation – it was more like a heavy weight, at least for me. Relocating is no easy thing, especially with four kids! And remember how I mentioned how attached we had grown to our life in Washington? That was all I could think about some days. Then, Shabbat came, and with it it further confirmation, through both His Word and people. At this point, we had received God’s direction in every way that our rabbi had mentioned, and we knew for certain. We were moving to Idaho.

(To be continued…)

My boys, enjoying a snack on our back deck!