Discipleship · Education · Motherhood · Parenting

Educating Our Children & Gospel Freedom

As I drove past the magnolia tree in our community yesterday, I pointed out to the kids that soon there will be flowers on the tree. It gave me great delight that soon the sun will be daily radiating its light in a clear blue sky, and the air will be warm with the smell of blossoms in the early morning. Spring is almost here, boxes are being packed and a season of change is about to blossom. With that change, for many of us in the  community where we live, we are thinking of next steps for us, our jobs, and our childrens’ education. So many factors play into this including income, location, educational options, and the unique needs of our children. We commit these things to prayer and ask God for wisdom, which He will indeed honor.

Over a year ago, I wrote a post about educating our children with grace. I believe so strongly in this that as Christians we need to bring all these factors to the Lord and ask for His wisdom in the path He wants us to take. It will look different for everyone. The following resources from Risen Motherhood are beautifully done and very helpful to me as we consider what this next school year will look like for our children. Since many parents are in the process of considering their options for the next year, I hope these resources can give rest, peace, and a reminder of the freedom we have in Christ, the faith that we can trust God to guide each one of us, and the joy in knowing that our Father God is with us in whatever direction He takes us.

Listen to the Education Series that is currently airing on Risen Motherhood:

Freedom in Education – Choosing an Education Option for your Child

Featured topics and speakers:

How Should I Educate My Children? The Case for Freedom In School Choice, Part 1

Freedom In School Choice: Melissa Kruger – Private School, Part 2 – COMING 3.14.18

Freedom In School Choice: Irene Sun – Homeschool, Part 3 – COMING 3.21.18

Freedom In School Choice: Jen Wilkin – Public School, Part 4 – COMING 3.28.18

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Books · Discipleship · Holidays · Parenting

The Old Wooden Frame – The Center of Our Advent Season

Over the years of having children, we have used the same old wooden window frame to display our homemade family advent calendar. What started out as a piece of junk sitting outside of a friend’s garage, has become a discipleship tool in our home as we share, year after year, the coming of the Christ-child, the prophecy fulfilled. Something discarded and abandoned has become something set apart. Curiously, I wonder, whose house did this window frame once belong, who lived there and what was their story? And did they ever know that their old window pane would one day become a family heirloom that would, year after year, become something almost sacred as it housed the story of a baby’s birth from creation to His visitation? What wonder!

Back in the days when we lived in our first and only purchased home, on a half acre lot with chickens and a garden that was overwhelmingly large for what we could manage, I had painted this frame snow white and hung soft red ribbon. With folded pockets made of fancy Christmas paper and a library stamp for the dates, I enjoyed creating our own family advent tradition. And when its not an Advent calendar, that dear old wooden frame holds pages of our favorite hymns. Through the years I have used different family devotions for the readings and this year I’m doing something a little bit different.

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A year ago, I was trying to find a set of readings that would connect more easily with our kids. When I saw that Sally Lloyd Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible had a set of printable cards and matching stories and reading set up for an Advent devotional of sorts, I thought this would fit us so well. Our children have heard these stories since our eldest was a year old, its been used in all their Sunday school classes and we still read it to them to this day. Doing Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible would be such a familiar way to continue to reach the hearts of our children with the gospel story through the advent season (there’s a series of readings for Lent too!)

One of the reasons why we love to do Advent readings as a family is because it is an intentional time of discipleship for our kids. Its a unique season of the year and the kids can’t wait for the frame to be transformed. Taking turns, the children pull out a reading to share with the family. And if I’m super organized (which I’m not always), I may have an activity in the pocket for each day to do as well (making a gingerbread house, christmas play doh, watching a Christmas movie, reading a Christmas book, drinking hot cocoa, driving around to see Christmas lights, etc). Its Dec 1, the first day of our readings and I don’t have activities on the board… yet. Real life in the midst of great ideals! I may or may not get to that list this year, and its okay.

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The daily reading through the gospel story is an intentional way of focusing our children’s eyes on the gospel, that their Creator loved them so much that He set in motion a rescue plan for their own souls. This is one way parents can be intentional this season in creating their own family traditions that mean so much to them and their children as they grow up. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it won’t be. Most years, we have missed many of the readings, sometimes opening up 2 or 3 of them at once or skipping ahead to the day we are on. The point is not to be perfect at it, but to be intentional.

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Today I set up the Advent calendar with my littlest excitedly bouncing around me wanting me to take a picture of the gingerbread house. As he settled down for his nap, I sat down with my Kindergartner to read library books by our hobbit-sized Christmas tree, filled with special ornaments we carry through the years, many now broken so its a little more sparse and enjoying the cozy Christmas quiet while the older two were finishing up at school. Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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My encouragement is to find your own Advent tradition for your family that will become a special heirloom and memory for your children through the years. If you are not the creative type, there are many on Etsy and other markets that you can easily purchase. Your kids will not remember the days that you missed some readings, and they will not remember that it wasn’t perfect. They will just know that it was theirs and they learned about Jesus, and family, and tradition, and love. And by God’s grace, they will take that same message with them into their families when they are older. From generation to generation, let the mighty acts of God be proclaimed!

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Psalm 145:4-13

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Christmas books are being pulled out of the library book basket daily while Mama recovers from a cold…

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Our real live hobbit-sized Christmas tree is up, and just perfect for this Tolkien-loving family. Decorated with our favorite decorations… the ones that haven’t broken yet, plus the homemade ones which I cherish!

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One of my favorite ornaments each year is this little guy…

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And a nativity scene that is just perfect for my littlest hobbit…

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Blessed Advent to you!
~Jen

Motherhood · Parenting · Rooted in Christ

Prayer for a New School Year

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In a couple short weeks, we will be returning home from an incredible summer back in the Pacific Northwest. The sand will be removed from all our shoes, our summer tans will be fading but still visible, freshly pressed uniforms will be donned and pencils sharpened for a new school year. How exciting to start anew!

Whatever educational model your children receive (and there are a bazillion models, so pray, pick one, and carry on!), you have the opportunity to give them, this year, a covering of prayer that God is ready and willing to bless as you lay before your Good Shepherd your children’s school year. There are unique things to pray for in any educational context, whether it be a public school, a Christian private school, a homeschool, a co-op, a fine arts school, a traditional school, a charter school, and the list goes on. Christians are in every one of these types of educational settings and parents need to cover their children in prayer.

Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street. Lamentations 2:19 ESV

Growing up, when our mom or dad dropped us off at school, they would pray for us and our day. And on the occasion that they forgot to pray, we would remind them. It became so second nature to us that we needed that knowledge that our parents had prayed over us for the day. My mother-in-law has been a part of a mom’s prayer group for over 30 years. Even to this day, though all her children are grown and grandchildren abound, she still prays once a week with these women and continue to pray for their adult children. What a gift and legacy it is to give the gift of prayer, a daily bringing our children to the Lord and requesting His work in their lives on their behalf.

A year ago, I was asked to send out weekly prayer emails for our children’s school. It is a joy to know that many of the parents are reading through the list of students and teachers for that week, and praying for each of them by name. Prayer groups like this have lasted for generations. Let’s be “torchbearers” of light for this generation.

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“Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer.”
― Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

If you are interested in starting a Christian prayer group for your educational context, school, or network of moms, Moms In Prayer International has great resources, tips, and assistance in getting a group started in your area!

IMG_5284“Mothers around the world come together to passionately pray before God for the lives of their children in more than 140 countries. Imagine the impact of God answering prayers for a generation of children throughout the world.”
Moms In Prayer International

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homemaking · Marriage · Motherhood · Parenting · Rooted in Christ

The Slackline and The Myth of Balance

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The waves lapped calmly toward the shore as the young man hovered above the water, putting one foot in front of the other on the slackline. Captivated by curiosity, onlookers paused in their stroll along the boardwalk that hugged the shoreline of the bay. As we watched from a distance, hoping for his successful crossing, yet humorously knowing a short fall and a refreshing splash could be the outcome, we watched as he artfully traversed the line, swaying in the air, and at long last, the pull of gravity, a slight wind, and a misplaced step brought him into the salty ocean water.

Balance is something we strive for in our fast-paced society. Self-help books line the shelves of shops and offer us hope for finding the perfect way to schedule and orient our daily activities so we can accomplish more, utilize our time more efficiently, and help us to produce maximum output at minimal stress, the perfect balance of work, play and rest. But balance never seems to come, as if it were some illusory and unattainable goal.

One of my husband’s seminary professors recently challenged his students that perhaps balance is a myth. It is widely held that balance is something we can achieve and is necessary for our health and well-being. But could it be that if we are always seeking this and never finding it, that perhaps it is a false idea. It is so ingrained in our society, that to think of not pursuing balance seems ludicrous. Perhaps we are not meant to pursue balance, but instead to pursue faithfulness.

When the young man was attempting to cross the slackline, he was seeking balance, yet never finding it. He was teetering to the left and to the right the entire way. Trying to resist a sudden gust of wind, or pulling away from the gravity that sought to bring him down, he shook and swayed and kept moving forward because to stop would cause a certain fall. And fall, he did, never achieving balance if but for half a second. Though he inevitably fell off the line, he seemed to enjoy the water in the cool of the summer evening, cheers went up and he got right back on the line to try again. His commitment to practicing and moving forward was what got him across and accomplishing his goal.

As I plan out the various aspects of my role as a Christian, wife, mother, church worker, homemaker, birth doula, writer, and whatever other roles I take on, I am realizing that balance might just be a myth. As we try to order and prioritize our responsibilities, we need to seek faithfulness instead of balance.

When I have a sick child at home, I may not be able to serve in Sunday School that day, but care for my child at home. When a client calls me to a birth, I may need to stop cooking a meal, call a friend to watch my kids while I run to assist a woman in labor. If my child is successfully taking a nap, and all is well in my home, I may be able to carve out 30 minutes to write an article for a non-profit ministry that I serve. But if my child wakes up early and my plans are interrupted, I need to close my computer, put down my book, stop writing my grocery list, or leave a bathroom half cleaned, and pull that little one onto my lap for a story, and refocus my attention on this dear one.

Often I feel the gravity pulling me in more than one direction. In that moment, I need to set my eyes on Christ, take a deep breath and ask the Lord how to put one foot in front of the other, allowing myself the freedom to sway and shake, but faithfully moving forward, putting the most important things first, and letting everything else fall into place in their time. At times, I may take a misstep, and fall unabashedly into the water below. But hopefully, I will surface with a laugh, a shake of the head and keep moving forward with one foot steadily in front of the other, seeking not balance, but faithfulness.

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Books · Motherhood · Parenting · Rooted in Christ

Planting Seeds of Wisdom {Deeply Rooted Magazine}

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Stepping off the weary airplane that had been my cocoon for the twelve-hour flight from Glasgow to Vancouver, I scrambled through the immigration line with overstuffed luggage and declaration card in hand. My eyes scanned the bustling airport for the customs booth where I could declare the precious item I was bringing back. I told the officers that I had one package of sunflower seeds from Scotland, but it would take a while for me to find them in my luggage. I knew my parents would be waiting for me just through the double doors. It was hard to leave my home away from home that I had grown to love, but I was eager to see them and settle back into the familiar. At long last, the officers said I could keep my small package of seeds. I was thrilled. I heaved my backpack onto my shoulders. And after five months of serving a church on the Ayrshire coast where the sea waves meet the heather that grows wild across rolling green hills, I was finally home. And I had brought seeds for planting.

I still remember one of the first songs I wrote as a young child… it had something to do with rainbows and a suitcase, I think. Stories about Ricky Raccoon and his woodland friends are still tucked away in a box somewhere. With a love for words, story, poetry and song, I have always loved to write.

This past winter, one of my friends who also loves words and language and is by far, in my opinion, one of the greatest writers I have personally ever read and who inspires me with every piece she composes, asked me if I’d like to contribute a piece to the magazine for which she is editor. Now if that’s not a run-on sentence, I don’t know what is. So I’d like to introduce those who are so gracious to read my essays (blog posts), to my dear friend, Thea at Little Book, Big Story. She is also my personal editor!

It was a joy to receive her invitation and I may have done a happy dance, as we writers like to call it! I set to work this past winter to write a piece on planting seeds of wisdom in our children’s hearts. My husband helped me to carve time into our winter break here at seminary. With my favorite chocolate and wine in hand, candles lit, and a soundtrack of ocean waves to get me into the mindset of preparing this little article, I set to work.

When we talk about planting “seeds” of wisdom in children, we are dealing with beginnings, a genesis of sorts. Seeds simply have the potential and the capacity for growth. They are not the end result. These seeds need to be given an environment in which to thrive so that they can grow into maturity.

I am not a perfect parent, and I am not at all the wisest amongst women. I am faced by my brokenness and need for Jesus every day. It is why I pray for new mercy every morning, that I may live a life that is faithful and honoring to Christ, that gives Him glory and brings Him delight.

But God does not wait for His children to arrive at a super-spiritual, incredibly wise point in our lives before He starts to use us. He simply desires for us to be willing to be used and He takes us as we are in our weakness, and then uses us the way He desires. He touches the lives He wants to touch with our willingness to serve Him, and then gives us sheer joy in being used by Him, every day, in big ways and small ways.

Undergirding all our efforts to be faithful to God’s command to train up our children in his holy ways, we must de- pend upon the Holy Spirit and be diligent in prayer. It is on our knees in prayer where the most work is done. Years ago, when our children were babies and toddlers, a friend told me of how there were many nights when she would stay awake in prayer, interceding for the souls of her children. That has stayed with me all these years and through many sleepless nights, I have asked the Lord to work mightily in the hearts of my children. Just like the man in Luke 11:5–8 who persistently knocks on his friend’s door in the middle of the night, asking for bread, God wants us to be persistent in prayer.

It was a joy to write this piece and to share a bit of what I’ve learned in these early years of parenting, things I’ve learned from God’s Word, from my parents, from friends, and  authors of long ago.

To read the rest of the article, you can pick up a copy of Deeply Rooted Magazine in two ways, either a hard copy of the magazine which reads like a coffee table book with beautifully designed layouts on thick matte paper, a collection of readings and inspiration to point you and others to Christ, or you can purchase the digital copy.

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Deeply Rooted Magazine exists to glorify God in womanhood. Thank you, Thea Rosenburg and Dianne Jago for this opportunity!

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

 

Books · Education · Motherhood · Parenting

For the Children’s Sake ~ Our Philosophy of Educating with Grace

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There seems to be a Schaeffer theme threading its way through our story. In 2007, my husband and I spent six weeks at the Swiss L’Abri where we lived, worked and studied with a small group of students from around the world. Our days were divided into work and study. Study took place at the Farel House which was a chalet that served as a library containing many books and lectures on tape. Yes, in fact the first time I heard Tim Keller preaching on marriage was spent listening to a tape of a lecture he had given in the 80’s on marriage. The work portion of our day included gardening, cutting down thorn bushes, making meals in one of the staff chalet’s, vacuuming and ironing clothes in the home of the Schaeffer’s granddaughter, chopping vegetables in Edith’s kitchen, and other ordinary tasks that needed to get done in the L’abri community. Edith, herself, was living nearby up the mountainside from L’Abri, and being cared for by family in her old age and frail health. And finally, the work portion always included a short pause for high tea and biscuits. I had heard of Francis and Edith Schaeffer but had never read any of their books. Lounging in their former living room and perusing books in their sunroom was my first introduction to the Schaeffer family.

dscn2356~The home of Francis and Edith Schaeffer at L’Abri in Huemoz, Switzerland~

We did not have children at that time, so the topic of education was not something that we thought a lot about when we were starting out together, discovering Scottish islands, German castles, and the romantic streets of France. I was busy learning how to knit my first baby blanket, but I wasn’t quite ready to jump ahead and figure out what kind of education we’d be able to give them.

As our family grew, our personal education philosophies were birthed and began to take shape. We read a slew of books and articles, talked to friends and searched our hearts for how we wanted to shape our own family culture. Our convictions went through many stages of discovery, development, and transformation. Eventually, I came across a book called For The Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, written by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. Our philosophy of education has been fine-tuned through these early years. As I have read Macaulay’s book, I have embraced it as my own philosophy of education and the model to which I wish to aspire to as we educate our children. For the Children’s Sake is largely based upon the ideas of renowned educator, Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of educating children as born persons using living ideas. Her book does not promote just one place of education, but goes deeper to the foundational aspects that begin within the family, and will underly any good, wholesome, holistic path of education with a Christian worldview.

“When a baby is picked up, spoken to, and loved, he is starting his education as God planned it. For all our lives we are human beings, in an active state of learning, responding, understanding. Education extends to all of life… The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened. He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything through fully.”

-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School is a book for all Christian parents and teachers whether your children attend a public school, a charter school, a Fine Arts school, a Christian private school, or are homeschooled and the many varieties of wonderful co-ops that exist. This is the wisdom I see in Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. She humbly acknowledges that God doesn’t have the same plan for each family, but that God is so much bigger than our little boxes and labels that we try to fit Him and everyone else into. She sees beyond the methods, and environments available to different families, communities and parts of the world, and gets to the heart of the foundation of education; an education that can be implemented by parents in whatever environment you are in. I know many parents in different educational contexts who naturally implement these ideas already.

Based largely on Charlotte Mason’s ideas, this masterpiece gives both parents and teachers a vision for what education can be, a joy filled journey of learning, discovery, and preparation for life. The Christian truths and practical ideas can be applied in every educational context, and wherever your child’s learning takes place.

The foundations of this living education focus on the child as a born person with a unique personality and a responsibility to serve the child for who he or she is. Respecting and honoring this young human as made in the image of God and allowing the child to play and explore the world around him or her. Teaching habits of virtue, showing children living ideas of the world outside of themselves and that they have a place in time and space in this universe. Giving children the opportunity to learn excellence in music and art, exploring nature and being outdoors. Giving children the opportunity to participate in household chores, and balancing that with creative play and free time, from which the fruit of creativity will ultimately produce their own great works.

“We have to look long and hard at the individual child, our home, school, and outside influences. Just because a home or school is ‘Christian’ does not mean that the child is being properly helped, grounded, educated as a whole person. We accept that nothing is perfect, but we try to get our priorities right. We are ready to take time and trouble to see that our children aren’t swept off in a roaring tide. But we want more than that. We pray for a person who is like the individual mentioned in Psalm 1. He has grown like an ad tree by a stream. Storms may roar, a branch or two may snap, but the oak stands firmly grounded – so much so that small creatures seek shelter therein. There is no one method to achieve such a mature person. There is no perfect or complete situation. We must pray for the individual, pray for wisdom, open our eyes, choose priorities.”

-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Recently, I have chosen the term “grace-schooling” as our educational philosophy. It leans in full dependence on Christ and His grace to lead, shepherd and sustain us in the choosing of educational methods appropriate for each individual child, each season of our family life, and based on the needs of our children and us as parents. This type of philosophy is not a stagnant, one size fits all, forever and ever, type of philosophy. It sees the family as a team unit. When something is not working for one member of the family, the whole family needs to make adjustments to help that individual so that the whole family can move forward and thrive together as a family unit.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:26

Grace schooling is fluid, capable of continuously moving forward and transforming if and as the need arises. This is grace, not law. It is freedom to assess your family culture, family size, family limitations and preferences. It is freedom to see a need arise in your family whether it is health, financial, or behavioral and to have the space and willingness to make a change that will move the family forward together, as a team, in the most beneficial way possible. Because of this, For the Children’s Sake is a vision of consistency in the underlying principles of what we want our children’s education to look like even though we may have to change the method from time to time.

Some families may never need to make a change. For some, it may mean choosing to homeschool one or more children. For some, it may mean, putting the children into a good public school and getting involved as a parent there. For some, your unique situation might mean finding a Christian private school or a Fine Arts school where drama and music are a main focus, and for some it may mean finding a special needs school that will more strongly support your special needs child. For others, like us, it may mean a mix, according to the various unique needs that are present in your family at the time. No one can make this decision for you, and no one has the right to judge your decision. As a Christian, you have the Lord to watch over your coming and going, who sees your needs, cares more deeply for your family than anyone else could, and who has promised to be your Provider, your Comforter, and your Covenant-keeping Father.

As a new school year begins, may you find that His grace is sufficient for you in the path He has led you to and may you hold it lightly with open hands for He may yet change it and lead you in a different direction, and yet the foundation will remain the same. You’ve been given a task to raise children to follow God, and it is for their sakes that you lay an unchanging foundation that will be the constancy in the midst of unknowns and variables in the future. Pray, research, study, and then lay your decisions at the Lord’s feet asking Him to open and close doors as He sees fit, for His glory, purpose, and for the children’s sake.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message