The Book and Testimony of Richard Wumberland

As part of our daily lessons, I teach my children church history. We often read about martyrs and theologians of the early church, but this past term, I decided a more modern perspective would be important as well.

So, as part of my daughter’s sixth grade study in church history, I have been reading the book: Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. It is the story of the persecution that took place in Romania during the communist regime. Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor during the 1950’s-1960’s when Romanian Christians were being persecuted by the Communist party. He writes not only bits of his years of being tortured in prison, but also of those believers he heard about or knew personally.

As the book reaches the second half, Pastor Wurmbrand discusses the lies of atheists and communists and points to various testimonies of those who have taken a public stand against those lies. Pastor Wurmbrand also speaks passionately about the need for Christian brothers and sisters in free countries to support their fellow believers who are being persecuted.

I have told several people, that even though I have read multitude of books throughout my lifetime, there are a few that change a person forever. The books, Tortured for Christ has done just that for me.

One of my favorite parts of the book is on pages 44-49 when Pastor Wurmbrand states that:

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners, as it is in captive nations today. It was understood that whoever was caught doing received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us–so everyone was happy” (Wurmbrand, 2013 p.44).

As I read on, Pastor Wurbrand tells that often a Christian man would be interrrupetd as he was telling the prisoners about Christ, He would be severely beaten and brought back. When the damaged preacher was returned to the cell, he would adjust himself and ask his listeners, “‘Now, brethern, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?’ He continued his gospel messgae!” (Wurmbrand, 2013, p.45).

I find that ongoing event most convicting as I ask myself… how am I being persecuted for my Savior? How am I being beaten and bruised for Him? What sacrifices must I make on His behalf? The answer is a line with an empty space above it.

Yet, as I look at my comfortable recliner, with my Bible and prayer journal beside it, I am reminded that the disciplines of every-day must be my sacrifice. To be diligent to pray…pray…pray, to be faithful to God’s Word, to raise my children to also love their Savior, to sacrificially love my husband, to live at every cost to myself, to silence my prideful tongue, to discern truth and lies, to walk in grace and tenderness to others…this is my sacrifice. And though I may not be tormented by other people for my faith, I can strive to hold fast to my faith in a world where everything is created to pull me from it.

My cross, is to live out faith in a world of comfort, which is no less a challenging place to live out my faith in Christ than rotting in the basement of dirty prison cell. I may venture to add, that perhaps, crucifying myself is a far more difficult task in a free, wealthy, comfortable world than it might be if I bore the literal stripes upon my back from another’s whip.

I will muse again at another lesson I have learned from the book about how petty believers in the free-world can be. Richard Wurmbrand explains that the persecuted church makes churches in the free world seem void and meaningless. In his discussion of that topic, Wurmbrand states that:

“The Bible verses are not well known in many countries, because Bibles are not permitted. Besides, the preacher had most likely been in prison for years without a Bible…They are like Job who said that he would believe in God even if He would slay him. They are like Jesus who called God “Father,’ even when He was seemingly forsaken on the cross” (Yurmbrand, 2013, p. 89).

As an American Christian, with stacks of Bible’s on my shelves, apps on my phone bursting with biblical podcasts, and stacks of books written by believers from today back to hundreds of years ago, one would think, I have been blessed with much more opportunity to follow Christ. Yet, I find myself feeling like a very small believer in the light of a man with no Bible, no church, no Christian books or podcasts, laying on the floor of his prison cell for His beloved Savior.

I have been given so much perspective about what is and isn’t important. Believers in persecuted countries do not have the luxury to disagree with fellow Christians about worship styles, Bible versions, or whether or not a woman should hold the office of a deacon. Every cause we consider important in our Christian churches today, is something that is more of a distraction to the cause of Christ than a help to the precious gospel. I see so many believers self-promoting.

Believers agree on Christ and His grace poured out on their souls to save them. They hunger for fellowship with other believers and will meet together faithfully at the cost of imprisonment or death. Believers in the persecuted church make every American Christian look like a fake.

And truth be told, if I did not rest completely in Christ’s atonement on my behalf, despite the world of ease and sin where I live, I would seriously question the status of my own soul’s security in Christ. It is not by my work…but His, or I would be tempted to run to a country where I could suffer the most on His behalf and honor Him by my suffering.

It is here that my heart is pointed to the center of the matter. It is all about Him. And with every sweet testimony I read from Pastor Wurmbrand’s book, I can see the worthiness of Christ. Yes, He is worthy of every sufferer’s pain and every martyr’s death. Jesus is so insurmountably precious, and dear to us who love Him, that we cannot help, but pick up our cross daily and follow Him. Whether that cross be a chain in prison, or the chain of comfort. Both seek to drive our hearts further from Him, but may they only serve as something we bear to honor Him better.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.  -Isaac Watts

Nursing Little Ones Back To Health

When there is someone sick in our home, I have learned that there are multiple types of illness and multiple types of treatments. I keep an assortment of things on hand to help speed healing and ease discomfort.

Foods for healing:

Bone broth: I always cook down my poultry bones and safe the stock. I freeze it in flat in plastic freezer bags, or pressure can it. When a child is sick, I can just warm up the broth with a little salt and garlic powder, or turn it into a more hearty soup by adding chicken meat and veggies.

Crackers: I don’t always have crackers on hand, but I will run out and get a box if I have a child who is suffering with a stomach bug. Crackers are a bland food that are gentle to add as a first food to a recovering stomach. I choose cracker brands that are whole-grain and low sugar. Rice cakes or dry wholesome cereals can also work for this.

Raw Honey: I put honey in tea if my children are struggling with a sore throat or cough. Honey is a natural cough suppressant. I was even told by a pediatrician that it is more effective than cough medicine and has no frightening side effects. In fact, raw honey is full of antioxidants that may speed up healing in the body. It is not good for children under one, so other methods have to be used to help babies recover from coughs and sore throats.

Yogurt and Kiefer: Probiotics are very helpful to combat bacterial infections. Most ear and sinus infections are bacteria related. Stomach bugs can be too. If my child is able to eat food, I may try to get a little yogurt or Kiefer in their tummies. If they need an antibiotic, they have no choice, but to boost up the probiotics. Antibiotics are always taken with probiotics in our home.

Tea: I use various teas for various ailments as well. Chamomile tea is wonderful to calm a child and help him or her sleep. Peppermint or ginger tea helps settle upset stomachs. Sienna tea helps with constipation. A licorice root tea, such as Throat Coat from Traditional Medicinal is wonderful to sooth a sore throat. Milk Thistle is a tea that I drank during nursing to help build my milk supply. Echinacea based teas help boost the immune system and can be used if I or my children have been exposed to other sick family members.

Herbs: I keep baobab powder on hand. I use it for smoothies and drinks. Baobab is a huge antioxidant and a lot of vitamin C. The benefits of baobab are far too unpublished, but it is an excellent plant to boost the body in healing. I also keep matcha tea powder for its healing benefits. I will mix matcha in a smoothie, cold drink, or warm tea for myself or children.

Supplements: Vitamin C powder is a staple in my home. I will mix a small bit of it with some stevia and natural flavoring extracts like cherry, pineapple, and coconut. I often will put in matcha tea powder or baobab powder too. It is an excellent immunity booster and healing supplement for sick little ones to sip on throughout the day.

Medicine: I am not against the use of medicines, but only use them as needed. I will give my children a dose of acetaminophen without dyes and fillers. The Genexa brand is usually one that is available in my area. I will also use a dye free ibuprofen if needed. Acetaminophen is good for relieving pain, whereas ibuprofen relieves pain, but also reduces inflammation. Both medications are my last resort if a fever is creeping up too high for comfort, or a child is in noticeable pain.

Essential Oil: I am very careful with the use of essential oils in our home. Generally, I do not use them unless there is a specific need. I was told by a doctor that even lavender oil can mimic estrogen in the human body, similar to soy products and BPA, and feel the side effects and long-term results of essential oils are not tested or understood at this point. I love essential oils, but treat them with caution, like I do medicine. I will use a diffuser during allergy season with a blend of oils like eucalyptus that help open up the lungs. I will also purchase a gentle eucalyptus chest rub. I will use it if there is severe chest congestion, sometimes topped with hot towels or a heating pad. I have read mixed thoughts on this, but Eucalyptus has been around a long time, and it does seem to be very effective to open up lungs, so I am personally comfortable with its use on occasion. I am not apposed to using thieves or a blend of oils to help kill airborne germs if we have stuff going around in our house. I use tea-tree oil to heal skin blemishes. And I do use a dab of lavender oil on bug bites. I also will use peppermint oil on my son’s feet to help ease his stomach when we travel. It helps reduce nausea.

Fluids: Keeping a person hydrated while sick is something most mothers know is crucial. I have been known to treat a child with a bottle of Gatorade, but a little mineral salt in some water is just as effective and without the dyes and sugar. I do the plain old water too…it can be chilled or warm. Lemons are wonderful detoxifiers and have good vitamin C. I sometimes will make lemonade with a squeezed lemon and a bit of Stevia. Warm lemon water can also be a soothing drink for sick children. I am not against all juice either. Sometimes, a little can benefit a sick child in providing a little nutrients such as vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as energy from the natural sugars. Cranberry and Grape are the richest, but Apple and Orange Juice can be watered down a little to lessen the sugar load and still give some flavor and vitamin C.

Frozen Hydration: Chopped ice can be a good way to keep little ones hydrated when there is a lot of vomiting or diarrhea. I also will sometimes get natural fruit popsicles. They can provide cooling, and slow hydration to children who are recovering from upset stomachs or fevers.

Non-Food Treatments: A humidifier is the greatest enemy of cold viruses. It is also wonderful to sooth sore throats during the night. I own a couple, so each room can have one if there are multiple sick children. I also have been known to let my children take shower after shower. The steam is so good to sooth those sinuses, loosen up junk in lungs, and ease pain of sore throats. When I had babies suffering with congestion, I would take a long shower, and just hold them in the shower. They got lots of skin to skin time and the benefit of the steam from the shower. Baths are also a wonderful comfort. Baths are very soothing if a child has a fever. I put Epsom salt in the bath to help their bodies detoxify, absorb magnesium, and calm body aches. A bath will also calm the fever chills. Rest of course is extremely important for healing. I do make my children take a nap and go to bed early when they are sick. The more severe the illness of a child, the more time in bed he or she will get.

What is not allowed for sick children in our home: I do my best to avoid sugar when my children are sick. Sugar lowers the immune system and feeds bacteria and viruses (cancer too). Sugar also kills vitamins. It is not a friend. To speed recovery, I know sugar will not be helpful. However, in some cases it is unavoidable. I do use raw honey for sore throats and coughs, and that is high in fructose. But I think the benefit outweighs the risk in that case. I also do occasionally use medicine which sometimes contains a sweetener. Or I will allow crackers, natural unsweetened juice, or a bit of Gatorade (if there has been severe dehydration). All of those things do have sugars in them. Again, it is something I judge on a case by case basis and consider if the immediate benefits outweigh the concerns of added sugar. I also avoid milk, unless it is breastmilk for a baby who is still breastfeeding. Milk does not hydrate the body well. It can increase fevers. It contains lactose, a form of sugar. Milk contains nothing that will aid in the speedy healing of a body. Heavy foods and meals are something that are off limits for sick people in our home. I will invite children to eat with the family for a meal, if the child is well enough to sit. However, I do not insist that he or she eats what everyone else eats. I will allow my child to sip on tea, just have crackers, and be picky until I feel he or she should try to eat something more.

 

 

 

 

Comforting Sick Children

It is that season again…the one when it seems everyone is getting sick. I find from Christmas until March, it is not at all uncommon for little ones to get sick a lot. And so it began for us last week with one of my daughters getting a cold, now my youngest is sporting a fever and headache.

As I nurse my little ones back into health, I recall what it was like for me when I was sick as a child. Honestly, I kind of liked being sick as a child, not because I enjoyed feeling fevered or congested, but because my mother would treat me so tenderly. I could stay the entire day in bed and be served food on a tray. I would get checked on in the night. There were no electronics when I was a child, and our family did not own a television, but my mother had a special bag she kept aside for her children when they were sick. It had coloring books, puzzles, and some interesting toys we didn’t see any other time. Mom kept an old school bell in that bag too, that she would give us to ring if we needed her day or night while we were sick. When my Daddy would get home from work he would come check us and tell us how sorry he was that we felt bad.

The comfort and care I received as a child during the times I was sick, have endured as sweetness in my heart. I felt loved and cared for all the time, but those times I was sick, I was able to feel it a bit more.

When I hit college, and ended up in the college medical facility with a fever, I quickly found that being sick was not so warm and fuzzy. I had a nurse check on me on occasion and that was it. There was nothing to do but sleep and get well. The people around me were doing there jobs, but really did not care about me in any tender sort of way. I really grieved the loss off pampering when I was sick as an adult. Growing up is a good thing, but it comes with its losses and griefs as well. The warmth of loving memories as a child, is certainly something I will never cease to be grateful for.

As much as I was sad to receive grown-up care from that time on, until now, the tenderness and concern of how my parents treated me when I was sick lives through me to my children.

I was also surprised to learn that not every parent coddles their sick children. I know books have probably been written about toughening up children and such, but I believe the toughest child is the child who knows and feels loved unconditionally. And I don’t want calloused, unfeeling children. I want to raise children who are inwardly strong, confident, and resilient. This takes wisdom I know, but it also takes a lot of gentle loving.

Having a sick child (or even husband) is an opportunity to give snuggles, slow down, fix off-menu food like cereal for dinner, and show the deep seeded compassion for a person in discomfort.

Nothing will bring more healing and joy to a soul who knows and feels deeply loved and cared for while he or she is not well.

As I throw my heart into nursing my children or spouse back to health, I feel as though the affection of what my parents poured into me still pours out of me toward my children.

I wake up multiple times a night to feel fevered foreheads and make sure my little ones drink some sips of water. I let them take showers or baths several times in one day to let the steam sooth their sore throats or Epsom salt clam their fevered muscles. I take them soup and crackers to their beds. They are allowed a tablet or Nintendo Switch to play games, but are also given a good long nap in the afternoon. Chopped ice can be given for them to suck on, warm honey tea for healing and calming, cold washcloths to wipe their sweaty heads, and I rush to their sides to tell them it will be okay when they are holding a trash can with an upset stomach.

There is absolutely no scolding of a sick child, and certainly I do my best to keep them happy.

One might say I overdue the pampering, but I know from experience, it is a fantastic time to pour into my children affection and love. I also know, time will come soon enough when there will be no one to fix their tea or wipe their sweaty heads when they are sick. And perhaps the love and affection they feel now, will come to mind in those days, and they will be able to find comfort in knowing how much they are loved. So, for a season, I get time to love on my sick little ones and give their not only their bodies, but their hearts the much needed care as they recover.

Homeschooling Will Not Save Them

 

On our walk today, we chanced upon some other home-schooling friends and I had a most interesting, yet troubling conversation with one of the mothers.

As we chatted, I learned that my new friend moved into the area a few months ago. In that time, she and her husband had been looking for a church. She sweetly stated that they were not faithful at attending church, but were hoping to find a home church soon and become more faithful. I quickly encouraged her aspiration. And our conversation turned to the subject of modern health-care, then laws, then our deeply broken culture.

She commented how grateful she was to be able to home-school as health-care and culture around her crumbled. The more we talked, the more distance my heart grew from her, as I realized our purpose in life was not the same. Even though she was a believer, she did not rest in God’s sovereignty for her children’s future. She was hoping home-schooling would protect them from the evils within and without.

Growing up as a home-schooler, my new friend was not believing any new lie. It was the same old philosophy I heard from home-schoolers throughout my entire life. The flaw was in parents trusting in home-schooling (basically themselves), rather than trusting in God for the spiritual well-being of their children.

No, it is not new at all that parents rely on how their children are raised and educated to be the redeeming factor in their children’s lives. Even if it is not home-schooling, many parents enroll their children in public or Christian schools for terribly wrong reasons. When I was in Christian college, there were a lot of students there, who were forced to go their as a last resort of their parents to fix the souls of their children. Christian schools are no different today. And I would venture to say that home-schooling is equally at fault. It is the belief in something other than God, to “fix” a child.

I have had many interactions with other home-schoolers throughout my life.  And can personally attest, there are great majority of homeschool parents who home-school out of a heart of fear. In fact, my heart was once in such a place of fearful control. So I completely get the underlying fear of the secular world. Home-schooling can be seen as simply a way for parents to have complete control of their children’s lives. For some parents, that is not the purpose of home-schooling, but for others, that absolutely is. Much more could be said on that account, but a discussion on a person’s need to “control” is another subject for another time.

Homeschooling is a way parents can control input into their children’s lives. Homeschool is a way parents can limit their children’s exposure to the secular world. Homeschooling becomes a way parents can indoctrinate their children with their faith. Homeschooling becomes the way parents protect their children from sin and the influences of the world and help them be good Christians.

Is any of that wrong? We could quibble that those home-schooling parents certainly are well intentioned and not unloving in their pursuit for what is best for their children, but Scripture says that: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6.

Christ is the ONLY source of hope for our children’s souls. That goal must be our first pursuit as parents. When I say our primary pursuit, it is most important that it is our personal pursuit. We must pray for our children as we strive to walk with God ourselves. Nothing is of more value for our children than our relationship with God. We must be faithful in studying and memorizing Scripture. We must seek out a church that is also faithful to God’s Word (not one that has a bunch of home-schoolers with the same life values as us). We must be faithful to Christ who sacrificed his precious blood for us: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25.

The trouble lies, when parents put their trust in for their children’s future in home-education and do not prioritize the church (not just “like-minded” homeschoolers). My new friend, was so comforted to know her children were being home-schooled and not pressured to be in the system of the world. Yet, she forsook the biblical command of fellowshipping with other believers. I cannot reconcile that thinking with Scripture. My new friend, could not possibly attempt to lead her children to Christ, if she herself did not lean into Him herself. Other home-schoolers and home-school groups are not the church. They may be believers, but being under the biblical direction and ministry of Elders at a local church is biblical. Home-schooling (dare I say it) is not. Homeschooling is a method of education, not our faith.

Homeschooling families often find safety, security, and hope in their home-schooling. Honestly, nothing could be more dangerous in my mind. I was home-schooled. A lot of my friends were home-schooled too. The vast majority of them are no longer followers of Christ. In fact, we have seen the results of a few home-school Christian leaders such as Joshua Harris who were home-educated and then choose not to follow Christ.

I would be the first to shout out from the mountain tops that home-schooling does not a soul save!

I would rather my children attended the worst, most liberal, public school in the land and had a heart for God, than were educated at my wonderful, safe, God-centered dining room table, and neglected Christ. God is just as capable to save a soul of a child in public school as He can save a home-schooled child’s soul.

Ok, Time-Out: I love home-schooling. I love being a part of my children’s education. I love watching them learn. I love answering their questions about God, life, and why the sky is blue. I love seeing them develop and grow. I love the flexibility we have as we learn. I love being able to talk about our wonderful Creator, our precious Savior and great God as we walk through our subjects in school or pound a loaf of bread. I love guiding my children into acts of kindness and hospitality. It is truly a great gift and privilege that I have to be able to home-school.

But I do choose a church because there are a lot of home-school families in it. I choose a church because it is founded on the truth of God’s Word. I fellowship with others because they are believers, not because they home-school. I want my children to be around a variety of believers…not just home-schoolers. As believers, we all need each others differences. We will not grow, and think well if we only surround ourselves with people who are just like us. My world is not about home-schooling. It is about Christ.

The church is a biblical institution….home-schooling is not. The church is whom we are called to fellowship with. Some of the church will home-school their children like me, and others will not. We are called to live a life of self-sacrifice. That means even building relationships with people who are very different from us. It is the easy thing to limit our children’s exposure and control their input and friendships. And I will be the first to say, that I am the guardian of what and who comes in to the lives of my children. That is wise parenting. However, I choose to walk with my children and help them think through how to get along with children who are unsaved or raised differently than themselves. It is a good teaching tool. I do not send them to public school to let them deal with it on their own. The day they enter the world will come soon enough, but until then, I have the privilege of walking with them as they are exposed and learn about different thoughts and life philosophies.

For instance, our walk with my new home-school friend a few weeks ago, was an incredibly interesting conversation with my older girls who were present to hear it. We could talk about how too many home-schoolers do not value the church, want to submit to its leadership, are critical of any believer who has different values than their own, or control fellowship to only those who are the same. My children and I were able to have a meaningful and vibrant conversation as a result of talking with someone who home-schooled like us, but for very different reasons than us. We have had so many conversations about thing our unsaved neighbor children have said or done, friends in youth group, or even comments from family members that are on a different page.

My goal, is not to point my children to MY standards or beliefs, but always point them to Scripture for their source of truth. I say over and over….”what does Scripture say about this?” Sometimes, I Scripture has no straightforward answer, and I must leave the choice open. and say, it is a matter of personal conviction.

Like how we choose too or not too celebrate Halloween. I let them know that when they grow up, they will have to pray about it and decide for themselves how and what to do about such things that are not doctrinal issues. But preference and areas of personal conviction; someday, that may even include whether or not they will home-school their children.

Subtle Signs of Pride

I re-wrote a text twenty times yesterday as I found myself constantly convicted about my message. It oozed of pride, no matter how I worded it. Finally, I just deleted the message, and let my friend know that I looked forward to a future conversation in person with her. But now, I will need to guard my words during that conversation when the day comes.

Ok, so what is my problem? Pride of course. It was showing up in my need to promote and prove myself to a new acquaintance. I was subtly trying to better her and try to build a respect in her for me, by letting her know things about myself, that simply were not necessary.

Self-promotion is a sinful habit of mine of which I am more recently and acutely aware. Whether it is name-dropping, discussing my background or levels of education, talking about experiences, letting people know my gifts or talents, making sure people know that I already know something…pride creeps into my text messages and conversations, because it is clearly in my heart!

Pride is an acceptable sin. Since everyone is prideful, it is easy to overlook as one of those sins that we cannot overcome and that the blood of Christ has no power to make is victorious. Self-promotion is so widely accepted, that we expect it to be a large part of conversation.

I am still learning the ways that my heart revels in its pride. Whenever I tell someone about my children’s achievements or disabilities (preventing them from achieving). Even sharing the deepest, hardest events of my life can become a source of pride, if my motive in sharing that with someone else is self-serving. If I feel have suffered more than those around me, it can be a temptation to be prideful, and in a a way, one-up people. If I have experienced something others have not, such as travel or special experience that can be cause for pride for me. What we do for a living, our family values, the food we eat or don’t eat, the way we raise our children, the way we look, what we are good at doing and what we are terrible at doing, can all blossom into pride in our hearts.

Sometimes pride seeps out of our mouths as a prayer-request for something, we really want everyone to know we are doing. Sometimes pride comes out when we can’t resist saying how much we understand, just so we can tell our story. Pride oozes out of cracks of our hearts when we comment negatively speak of someone else (or negatively think of someone else)…all that is is thinking I am better than “so and so”.

In fact, anything in my heart or mind, that I do not see as a complete and utter gift of God, is pride. 

Paul spoke directly about this in Galatians 6:14 when we proclaimed “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”

All that I am, have, have done…even my faith in Christ and my sanctification in Him is a complete result of His grace.

So what do I do when I am tempted to say a word that will promote myself instead of Christ? Well…first…I am learning to deeply consider that since those experiences and those gifts do not define me, they often do not need to be said. So yes….delete….delete…delete….

I am learning to ask myself when I talk….does this increase the cause of Christ? or does this increase the cause of me?

What defines me is Christ. And His work in me is what must increase. John the Baptist is a beautiful example of a life so focused on Christ. In John 3:25-30 we read:

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

What more can I say to improve upon that testimony? Only may it be the story of my heart as well.

Sharing a Cup of Tea

In her more recent book, Teatime Discipleship: Sharing Faith One Cup at a Time Sally, Clarkson goes into great detail concerning the joys and benefits of sharing a cup of tea with someone. For insight and perspective into building relationships with others at home, I highly recommend Sally’s book, paired with Rosaria Butterfield’s best-seller: The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World.

Both books discuss ways we can use our home to invite others in. We can create a resting place for our family, other believers, and unbelievers, simply by utilizing our home well. I have always been a proponent of ministering to others through my home. But last year, inviting people for tea became a highlight of how we shared hospitality.

I know each person is in a certain season of life, and there once was a time, I could only manage one hospitality endeavor a week. Now, that my children are older, I find it very easy to invite anyone over for tea, short notice, or someone we just met. My children love to chip in and set the table, brew the tea, and lay out snacks.

Tea is fun and un-intimidating for most people. Inviting people over for tea also allows me to have guests over during the day. Daytime visits, keep my evenings more free for my family, and yet allows me opportunity to open my home to others and get to know them.

Why tea?

Tea is child friendly. Unlike coffee, which can be high in caffeine and bitter to taste, there are a lot of choices when providing tea. I can offer an assortment of options, with or without caffeine. My children all have a personal favorite, and if we have other children join us for tea, most mothers are comfortable with their children enjoying a cup or two.

Tea is cheap. Even though there may be initial expense in a container of good tea, overall, it stores well and only takes a few bags or Tablespoons to make a medium pot of tea.

I can use items I have already for tea snacks. I do not aim for a proper British tea when serving tea. My goal is fellowship, and that can be had around anything I have in the house. I can fill celery with peanut butter, make a few mini muffins, cut some apple slices, dip dates in chocolate, put cream cheese and finely sliced cucumbers on a tortilla and roll it up, make deviled eggs, melt chocolate over nuts…I rarely buy anything special at the store for our teas. I simply utilize the foods we have at home for savory or sweet. I keep sugar cubes on hand, just for tea, and we usually have milk, cream and/or half-and-half in the fridge. Of course, we always have tea.

People with food sensitivities can eat obligation free. Unlike sitting down for a meal, guests at tea are expected to pick a few items and not eat a bite of everything. Tea allows my guests to have a certain freedom with what he or she eats. Sometimes, a guest will just drink tea and not eat at all, other times, there is much festive indulgence. It is all up to the guest what is put on his or her plate.

Sharing Tea is a fun way to get to know people. Everyone I have ever invited is very excited to come for tea. I have had women who are very feminine minded dress up to the nines in fancy tea attire. I have had women enjoy a cup of tea in jeans and a t-shirt. No matter the kind of lady we have, each one has been thrilled to join me and my children for a cup of tea.

Having Tea is unintimidating. Sharing a cup of tea (especially if children are present), puts people at ease. Tea is a strange mix of formal and casual. Since it is not a sit-down dinner, people see tea as more relaxed and simple than a meal. It is also formal enough, for everyone who sits at the table to feel special.

Setting up and hosting friends for tea is training my children in an art of hospitality. My children are working on character traits of kindness, gentleness, and thinking of others. Tea provides them with the opportunity to focus on all of those things as they help me prepare and show love to our special guest(s).

Ok, those are a multitude of reasons I enjoy sharing a cup of tea with people, and I have a lot of other reasons too, but those are the main ones that come to my mind. I am truly grateful for the Lord’s provision of little things like tea, that we can use to connect hearts and bless others.

We Built This Nest

As has become our custom, I took a walk with my children yesterday. We went to a nearby park where we had heard sightings of amazing birds, including Bald Eagles. We began our journey walking around the lake, scrutinizing the nearby woods and trees for anything of interest.

The park, being a popular walking trail in our town, was scattered with many other pedestrians doing the same. Several paces in front of us, an older couple was squinting through binoculars into the nearby trees.

It was that couple who pointed out the nest to us. It was the largest, most breathtaking bird’s nest I have ever seen. My snapshot, did it little justice.

“It is a Bald Eagle’s Nest.” The sweet lady commented as we came close. My children gasped in awe of the magnificent nest towering in the tree beyond us. I had never seen a nest so big. According to my Audubon Bird book, Bald Eagles’ build the largest nest in the entire world! It really was breathtaking.

We watched carefully for a bit to see if we could catch a glimpse of the creatures inside the nest, but never saw the eagles.

As we admired the home of the eagles, the sweet older fellow beside her, commented:

“He built his lady a nice nest.”

Without missing a beat, his wife corrected him.

“I think they build it together.”

I smiled at those comments as they unknowingly sunk in my mind. Later, as I pondered our afternoon walk, that image of the amazing Bald Eagle’s nest brought a sense of deep awe, combined with the words of the sweet older lady that “they built it together.”

Eagle’s Nests are Built to be Permanent

Back at home, I looked up the facts of Bald Eagles and their nests in our Audubon Bird book and learned that, yes, indeed, both birds gather sticks to make their nest together. But the female eagle is the one who weaves the sticks together to form a sturdy home.

The nest is not built for a season and abandoned forever. Mr. and Mrs. Eagle build their nest with the intent that it will be the primary place for them to raise their young throughout the years. The nest is built with thought and care, catered to the needs of the eagle family. The nest is build to weather not storms for one season, but storms and seasons for many years.

Both Eagles Build the Nest

I let a sigh escape my lungs. What a beautiful example of teamwork. But even more, the fact that both eagles were needed to build a secure home.

Both eagles gather sticks. That does not mean that mama eagle would choose the same sticks as papa eagle. Or that he would choose the same as her. But both gather the sticks that they perceive will be suitable for the formation of a large, sturdy nest. Not only teamwork, but both eagles have the same goal of building a strong nest. My Audubon book tells me, that the female eagle is the weaver. She will use both the sticks she and her mate have gathered to form a sturdy home for their growing family. The male is more of the protector and provider. One might say that they have a very traditional family life.

Eagle’s Nest Building is Never Done

As the Eagles spend time in their nest, and bring up little ones, the nest needs constant upkeep. Leftover food and droppings are covered with forest leaves, ferns, or moss. The eagles are constantly perfecting and moving the nest sticks around to keep their home in good condition and comfortable. Sometimes, an Eagle will build more than one nest, so there is another place to live when the first nest becomes to dirty. They will move back to the first once nature has cleaned it.

I leaned back to ponder these magnificent creatures that God created. And then then looked around me at the nest my husband and I built together. I see many similarities to my Bald Eagle friends. Both my husband and I are different people. We both have different ideas about what it takes to create a strong, lasting nest. But it takes both our thoughts and opinions, woven together to do the job. Both my husband and I have the same goal, and we both take responsibility for the various necessary jobs in the building of home and raising of family. Teamwork, support, using our gifts, and striving toward the same goal are essential in the making of a strong, lasting home.

But one more thought grasps my mind when I think of the great birds. One more personal, and needful.

That the existence and sustenance of a Bald Eagle would be impossible if that bird had not been created with intent and purpose to work out their God-given nature.

Each bird is also completely dependent on a Greater Provider for life, as seasons come and go and food must also be replenished.

In the reliance on my Creator, is the real lesson for my heart. Without God creating me to be the exact person I was meant to be, I could not do what He has given me to do in life. And without His ongoing provision of all I need to thrive in body and spirit, I could not exists.

“Consider the birds of the air, how they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much greater value than they are?” Matthew 6:26

3 Ways I used Chat GPT this Week for Homeschool

AI

I recently began using Chat GPT to help in my homeschooling journey with my children. I am still discovering ways technology can be useful to me as a Charlotte Mason Home Educator, but as the new year begins, the tool of Chat GPT has already proven itself a wonderful tool.

One of the benefits of home-education is the ability to tailor methods and materials to each students’  ability and need. I have two students with learning challenges. One of my Daughters is on the Spectrum and has several learning struggles, including what we currently know as auditory and visual processing disorders. My other daughter is dyslexic.

Never has education ever had the ability to be so adaptive. I can create a spelling lesson for my autistic child and ask Chat GPT to make it for a child with auditory and visual processing disorders, as well as dyslexia with a focus on memory retention. Chat GPT can do it…and not just one…many different ones!

  1. So one of the things I did this week was I create my girls’ spelling lessons on Chat GPT. I asked Chat GPT to create Spelling Games, Lessons, Evaluations using the Orton-Gillingham Method, taking into account my daughter’s specific learning needs. I use the standard list from Spelling Plus by Susan C. Anthony. That is the book we have been going through, so I am just keeping on course with it. Originally, I had to come up with all the spelling lessons and aids. Now, I as use those word lists, I can ask Chat GPT to create games for the girls to play together to learn their spelling words! It is such a time-saver.
  2. Generate booklists and ideas to inspire reading. I really emphasize reading in our home. We have a large home-library and go to the library weekly to exchange books. I can ask Chat GPT to find books similar to the ones my children already love. I can ask it to level up or level down the list. I even asked it to give me a list of 200 living books for a dyslexic child in sixth grade. Or I have asked it to recommend heavily illustrated chapter books to inspire my budding readers.
  3. Chat GPT has also served to educate me as an educator. I have asked it to give me the best methods to help a dyslexic child learn to love reading. I have asked it how to help an autistic child, with auditory processing, learn to narrate what has been read to her. I just ask what I want to know and get basic info in a simple summary from Chat GPT.

I am looking forward to incorporating this marvelous tool in our home-schooling process. Yes, technology changes things, and I am sure it will have its detriments in the future of some educational journeys. I am praying how to use it wisely, and look forward to how it can benefit me and my children as we learn together.

 

Book Reflections from The Modern Miss Mason

I read a LOT of books. I usually have several going at a time. Since we are getting back into the rhythm of our lessons and books next week, I have been letting my soul be inspired by reading Leah Boden’s book, The Modern Miss Mason.

Leah Boden is an inspiring author, and most certainly a kindred spirit to me. I found myself underlining, line after line in her book.

Charlotte Mason can be a daunting educational method for a lot of home-schooling mothers. I think a lot of home-teachers would agree with Charlotte Mason on many accounts, but the six volume set is a plateful of educational methods and philosophies.

I do believe a mother, whether she home-schools or not, should be educating herself on how to best inspire her children to learn, cultivate good habits, and create a home-environment that cultivates godliness and good discipline. Charlotte Mason’s books are extremally pertinent for any parent in my opinion. But it is understandable that time is a huge deterrent for many a mother with good intentions. The other deterrent from reading Miss Mason’s books is simply that they are written in small print with an older style of writing than we use today. Some of the terms or methods are simply not applicable for our time. The last reason I have found is that women often have difficulty understanding the language of the books written by Charlotte Mason. It can be overwhelming and is not light reading at all.

What Leah Boden has done, is a great service to all who are interested in living education. I love that Leah Boden, takes all of Miss Mason’s educational philosophies and methods, and breaks them down simply. Leah shows the reader what the Charlotte Mason Method looks like in a typical home-schooling household.

One of my take-away quotes from Leah Boden’s book is in her chapter on Living Books, p. 92 when Leah writes that: “Charlotte often stressed that these texts have one dedicated writer, as opposed to a group of editors assembling facts alongside appealing photography.” I love that statement because it summarizes the flaw of textbooks with inferring that textbooks are dead books. Textbooks do not have inspired, passionate authors. Textbooks have limits, borders, and fit into the box of what a child ought to know, instead of laying out a feast of beautiful worded stories of information for a child to taste everything the author lays out.

That is just one example of the many that Leah discusses in her book about the Charlotte Mason Method. In one book, a mother can get the general idea of what Charlotte Mason is about.

The book also is a wonderful source of inspiration for the steadfast believers in the Charlotte Mason Method. Now, I don’t believe it is a book that takes the place of the six volume set, but it certainly is a great start for a general overview, or a quick pep talk as to why someone like me is doing what she is doing.

 

 

 

 

Azure Standard: What I Buy

This past year, I started purchasing bulk items from a company called Azure Standard. Azure standard is an online based company. Once a month, a customer can place an order and then go pick up the order when it arrives by truck about a week later. Azure standard has truck, drop-off locations throughout the United States, so I picked one that is closest to me. Azure is not a club, so there are no membership fees. But there is shipping tacked on to each order. Sometimes a costumer can build up enough Azure Cash (Pointes earned from purchases that can be used toward other purchases) to negate the shipping costs. I have not made the right purchases for that to benefit me, but I still find the items I buy with shipping is much cheaper than trying to purchase through other means.

I typically buy items in bulk from Azure, but on occasion, I am unable, or just want to try something without the cost of a bulk purchase, so I don’t always make a bulk purchase.

The products from Azure come beautifully packaged in brown paper or bulk tubs and Azure sells most grocery items from produce, dairy, canned goods, dry goods, cleaners, supplements, animal food, and some household items like cleaning cloths or water filters.

So, what do I buy?

My staples are:

MCT Oil, which runs around $23 for a large 32oz bottle

Coconut sugar in fine or crystal form for about $17 for 5#

Flame Raisins for about $14 for 5#

Raw, wildflower honey: a steal at $33 for 12lbs

Canned Salmon cans for about $4-$5 per can (It is really nice salmon and just a little more than Sams)

Coconut Oil for $15 for a gallon (it is cold expeller pressed and good for high temp. cooking)

Organic Canned Peaches without sugar at $32 for 12

Pink Himalayan salt for $7 for 5#

Gluten Free Rolled Oats at $28 for a 25# bag (We don’t eat gluten free, but I do a lot of baking for friends and some of them are gluten free, so it is nice to know my oats are safe)

Frozen blueberries for $13 for 5#

Brown, Organic Jasmine rice from Thailand at $39 for 25# (I am not as happy with the quality of this rice as Lundberg, since there are often husks that need to be picked out before cooking, but for the price it is fair for what it is)

Organic Canned Green Beans for $32 for 12

Carpet Cleaner is about $11 for 64floz

Dish Soap runs about $7 for 32floz

Treats-not money savers-I have purchased would include beeswax candles, Dr. Bronner’s chocolate bars, A2 Cheese, and apple juice infused cranberries (yum!)

Items I have purchased and will not purchase again through Azure are:

Organic White Wheat Bread Flour-it is a good runner up to my favorite Prairie Gold -86, but it just isn’t quite as good, so as long as I can get Prairie Gold, I won’t get Azure’s flour.

Organic Einkorn Flour (unfine)-this was a disappointment since so many other costumers rave about it. It is hard to find a whole grain Einkorn flour at a reasonable price, but Azure’s is a bit too course for all kinds of baking. If one is just making bread, it is perfectly fine, but I do not like the husks in pie crusts or cookies. I will pay a little more for Jovial Whole Wheat Einkorn Flour from Vitacost.

Organic, Lite Coconut Milk is a fair price, but I have had lite coconut milk that it much more smooth than the Natural Value brand sold by Azure. I often use coconut milk as a cream substitute in my tea or coffee, and found in order to make Azure’s lite coconut milk smooth, it had to be blended because it didn’t melt into the coffee well.

Overall, I love my purchases from Azure Standard and am grateful for a place I can get healthy, bulk items at a reasonable price. I expect to be purchasing them for many years.

(I am not paid by Azure for this post, or advertising for them for compensation in any way)