Year in Review ~ 2017

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” ~Colossians 1:15-20

Dear Friends and Family,

This year has been full of the good, the ordinary, and, a few times, the not-so-ordinary.

January: Preaching, teaching, and counseling have continued to be Jason’s focus at church. He started the year with a series on “Biblical Communication.” Then, after 2 ½ years, he finished his series on the book of Acts. He is currently preaching through a series on the “Commitments and Distinctives of Our Local Church.” It has been a blessing to be reminded of what a special and unique place our church is, and how thankful we are to be a part of it. We had the privilege of having an intern from The Master’s Seminary with us this summer…but he decided to stay for a year! He has been such a big help in so many ways, and we will all miss him when he returns to school next year. We also began a new children’s program on Wednesday nights, which Hannah and Titus have both enjoyed. It has been a joy to watch our church grow in so many ways over the year.

IMG_7442February: Titus is now 5, and in 1st grade. This boy loves to learn! He is a great student, and genuinely seems to enjoy each of his subjects. (But, he says Math is his favorite.) He has memorized several Bible verses and passages, in addition to the books of the Bible in Generations of Grace (our church’s new children’s ministry), and is always ready with some great questions for his teachers! He has become a real bookworm, and reads anything and everything he can get his hands on. He got his very own library card this year, and checks out stacks of books each week…mostly on Dinosaurs, his newest passion. He loves teaching his little sisters how to correctly pronounce each of their names, and sharing random facts about them. He is a serious, thoughtful little boy who is growing up so quickly!

IMG_7421March: Rachel turned 2 this year! This is such a fun stage! She is a curious little girl, and loves to explore. And, she is constantly surprising us with her ever-expanding vocabulary and amazing memory! She tries so hard to keep up with her big brother and sisters, and loves do whatever they are doing. So, she has officially joined us for pre-school this year, and absolutely loves being included in our school days! She is still so young, so although she does a great job of listening, and participating in her lessons, we are leaving lots of time for play! This girl just loves life, and brings so much joy to our family. She has the best giggle, and loves to make people laugh! So far, she remains the baby of our family, but she is definitely not a baby anymore!

IMG_7426April: Hannah turned 12, and I am amazed by just how grown up she is. She is my right hand girl, and is a competent and reliable help each day. She loves to be in the kitchen…especially if it involves baking! But, she is also willing to help out with everyday meals, and clean up. She has continued playing the flute this year. She loves to practice, and has shown great ability and improvement over the last year, and has moved up to the Intermediate Band. She is currently busy getting ready for 2 concerts! School has been a big change for her this year. She is officially in junior high, and her classes have definitely become more challenging (for her, and her teacher!), but she is working hard, learning to manage her time, and continues to approach everything with her characteristic joy and sweetness.

IMG_1802May: May was a busy month for our family, and even involved a little bit of travel! At the beginning of the year, I became a consultant with HomeWorks by Precept, which represents BJU Press and other homeschooling resources. In May, I had the opportunity to travel to Arlington, Texas, to work at my first homeschool convention of the year, sharing about the curriculum that we use, and helping other homeschoolers find the best options for their family. Shortly after I returned, Jason left for Washington DC, and spent several days at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, for their “Weekender.” It was a much needed time of refreshment and encouragement. He came home so excited about all he had observed and learned, and ready to apply it in our church!

IMG_3577June: Hannah and Titus took 2 weeks of swimming lessons this summer. Titus went from a fear of getting his face wet, to putting his face in the water, swimming (somewhat) independently, and even willingly jumping off the diving board! Hannah, made a few new friends (of course!), and went from only being able to do the most basic “doggy-paddle” to diving in, and learning several new strokes!

July: Veronica’s parents, sister, and our nephew moved to Texas this summer! After spending our entire married life in a different state than one, or both, sides of our family, it is a special blessing to have all of our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews nearby! (Even if we still don’t get to see everyone as often as we would like.) The kids have greatly enjoyed having all of their grandparents close, and have loved playing with, and getting to know their cousin.

IMG_4179August: Although we weren’t in the path of totality, we enjoyed watching the (partial) solar eclipse from our front yard. We experimented with the supposed gravitational differences caused by the eclipse. And, a friend gave us some eclipse glasses so that we could all watch safely. That was on Monday. By Friday of that week, we were in the path of Hurricane Harvey. We were so thankful for the generosity of so many friends who offered us refuge, should we need it. Thousands of people were displaced due to flooding (including several of our own friends and family), and the state is still very much recovering. But, God was incredibly gracious to us, and our home and church buildings remained safe and dry.

2017-09-05_09-27-54_924wmSeptember: We started our 8th year of homeschooling this Fall. Our “one house schoolroom” is a busy place during the week. I teach 7th grade, 1st grade, Pre-K, and preschool. We rotate through a daily routine of lessons, play time, chores, errands, music practice, and general chaos. It can be exhausting at times, but it is definitely not boring. I think I say this every year, but this really might be my favorite school year yet! At the end of the month, Jason and I had the opportunity to attend his 20th High School Reunion. It was fun to spend some time wandering around his hometown, meeting/reconnecting with some of his high school classmates, and attending his high school’s Homecoming football game.

IMG_7416October: Rebekah turned 4, and started Pre-K this year! She is my high energy girl. She runs, skips, and twirls everywhere. Sitting still and being quiet is not one of her stronger skills. But, she has really surprised me by becoming an eager and enthusiastic student. She is usually the first one ready to start our school days, and often asks for more work when she has finished. She has one volume – loud. But, she has a surprisingly shy, timid side as well, especially when she is faced with new people or new situations. I often describe her as sweet and spunky. She has her own unique style, ideas, and opinions…about everything. But, she is the tender-hearted, encourager, and cheerleader of our family.

November: We became a house divided, as the Houston Astros played the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final game of the World Series! My son even called my hometown team “the bad guys!” And, I found myself alternately cheering for both sides. Ultimately, we were all happy with the outcome…and the victory was especially sweet after all that the city of Houston has been through this year.

December: And, this month already promises to be full. We are looking forward to Christmas concerts, band and choir practices, church fellowships, Bible Studies, and time with family…all celebrating the best, most extraordinary Gift ever given.

So many years ago, in the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem, we were given the “image of the invisible God,” in whom “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” He was, and is, the promise of our hope and our salvation, “making peace by the blood of his cross.”

What an amazing thing to reflect on, and celebrate…this Christmas, and each day of the year to come.

By His Grace,

IMG_7478Jason, Veronica, Hannah, Titus, Rebekah, & Rachel

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Book Review: The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women

Biblical Counseling Guide for WomenIn the forward to The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, Martha Peace says, “John and Janie Street have made it abundantly clear that there is great hope no matter the kinds of problems women struggle with. They have laid out clear, biblical plans of action for issues women face today.” (pg. 9)

I honestly could not say it any better. This is exactly what they have done!

The authors describe the purpose of the book in this way:

“This book is written to assist Christian women who possess a high view of the sufficiency of God’s Word and its ability to adequately address the most serious personal struggles women will face. Women who trust His Word will benefit greatly from its narrative.” (pg. 11, emphasis mine)

A high view of the sufficiency of Scripture, and a desire to understand what God’s Word says about our sin, our struggles, and our suffering is essential to fully appreciate, understand, and benefit from the wisdom this book has to offer.

In this book, John and Janie Street address issues that most women have probably struggled with, to some degree, at one time or another: anger, anxiety, appearance, depression, grief. But, it also deals with much harder, perhaps more “hot button” topics that, by the grace of God, many of us may not have experienced: abuse, chemical dependency, eating disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and transgenderism.

Each topic is introduced with a fictional account of a woman who is struggling with a particular issue…whether as a result of her own sinful choices, or those of someone close to her. Although the scenarios presented are fictional, that can be difficult to remember at times, because they come from years of counseling and pastoral experience, and are written in such a way that they could easily be factual. In my limited counseling experiences, I have rarely seen women, even professing believers, recognize their sin so quickly, or so completely, and respond so humbly to biblical counsel and correction. But, in each case, is assumed that each of these (fictional) women have a high view of God’s Word.

“The truth of God’s Word slices and dices your behavior and peers into the most shameful recesses of your heart (see Hebrews 4:12-13). Our hearts are resistant to this type of spiritual heart surgery. Thus we must pray that God will help us to humbly repent of this sin (Psalm 51:10).” (pg. 30)

This is what makes their quick, humble, repentant responses not only realistic, but a helpful example to follow when we find ourselves in similar situations. Because, without that perspective, many of these issues could easily be, and often are addressed indefinitely, without any sort of real hope or resolution.

“Too often we use the term hope carelessly because it is used to express uncertainty….However, when your concept of hope is anchored in biblical promises, all ambiguity and doubt is removed. Biblical hope is backed up by the very character of God. Unlike ‘I hope so’ hope, it is absolute and full confident assurance.” (pg. 161)

I have taken several biblical counseling classes (in college, at the graduate level, and for “personal enrichment”), I have read numerous books on biblical counseling, and I am currently, albeit slowly, pursuing certification in Biblical Counseling. So, I consider myself to be fairly well-acquainted with the philosophy and procedures behind biblical counseling. And, as a pastor’s wife, I am also familiar with the great need for this type of counseling in the church. And, because of my background, I assumed this would be an “easy read.”

This book is not, nor is it intended to be, a cold, comprehensive, clinical textbook. It is interesting and engaging. And, it accomplishes its stated purpose of pointing the reader to the insightful, practical, and authoritative answers in God’s Word in a compassionate, personal, thought-provoking way.

I am not a naturally empathetic person. But, as the authors unpacked each chapter, I was able to put myself in the place of both the counselor and the counselee. Whether the situation was one that I had personally experienced, or not, there were many characteristics, struggles, and habits that made it surprisingly easy to identify with, and genuinely empathize with both sides of each story.

But, this book goes far beyond these relevant and relatable introductions to each topic.

“When a true Christian goes through such a traumatic event and asks the hard questions….her search for answers should drive her toward greater faithfulness to study God’s Word. It is in the pages of the Bible that she will learn God’s character: that He is good and without sin (Psalm 119:68), that He never tempts His children to sin (James 1:13), and that He is the protector and refuge of all who call upon His name in saving faith (Psalm 125:4-5).” (pgs. 255-256)

After each topic is introduced, the authors then go on to identify the problematic thoughts, patterns, behaviors, and lifestyles, pointing the reader back to the truths of Scripture in a practical, realistic way. I have not personally experienced the pain of a pornography-tainted marriage, or the betrayal of adultery. But, I have experienced the pain of being sinned against in other ways by people I love and care about. I have not struggled through post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, or battled an eating disorder. But, I have reacted to my circumstances in sinful anger, anxiety, pride, and self-sufficiency.

At the very beginning, the authors suggest having a Bible close at hand as you read, to consult the many Scripture references found throughout its pages. So, I found myself taking much longer than I had originally intended to read this book. I took time to reflect on, and answer, the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. And, I tried to implement the authors’ suggestions to write down lists of my own fears, worries, and sinful behaviors or attitudes that needed to be “put off.” At the same time, I created corresponding lists of things to “put on” in place of sinful thoughts and attitudes.

The very first chapter, on Anger, immediately caught my attention. I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. (Who does?) But, as I read, I could see myself in many of the sinful attitudes and (re)actions described. Specifically in this:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission…. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This is difficult for angry people to do, as they are continually engaged in spewing out their opinions and attacks. Oftentimes angry people say they are listening, but at the same time, they persist in defending their viewpoint, often pointing out how another person also perceives the situation as unfair, jaded, or misconstrued – and it is clear that they are not really listening.” (pgs. 31-32)

That was a not-so-pleasant, but much needed, moment of conviction for me. And, it was what caused me to choose to slow down, and read this less as a “textbook” for my dealings with “other people,” and to treat it as more of a personal improvement project.

Elisabeth Elliot often said, “The difference is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” And, this book can help to turn our eyes off of the temporary circumstances and solutions of this world, and back to the lasting hope that can be found only in obedience to God’s Word.

“The goal is not simply a short-sighted attempt to get a woman out of her problems, even though, when a person follows Christ’s admonitions, her problems will often eventually be resolved. However, some problems will not go away, even after you have faithfully obeyed Christ. Some of life’s difficulties may even get worse….How can you, as a godly woman, learn to please God in the midst of your problems? This must be the pursuit of a woman who is a committed Christian.” (pg. 15)

The genuine compassion, biblical wisdom, and practical suggestions presented in this book make it an invaluable resource for the church today. This book is for women who want to live a life of obedience and faith, as they learn to please God in the midst of their struggles and problems. It is for women who wish to grow in their ability to disciple and counsel other women in their church, in the model of Titus 2. It is for mothers who are teaching and training their children to love and serve the Lord in spite of their own sin and failures. And, men, do not be dissuaded by the title! As a pastor’s wife, I can confidently say that this book should be in every pastor’s library as well.

I will add that I have had the privilege of knowing John and Janie Street for close to 18 years. So, I may not be seen as the most unbiased reviewer. But, I do not believe that should be considered a negative. My husband and I have personally benefited from their teaching, their biblical counsel, their godly example, and their faithful ministry in so many ways. And, because of that, I could not be more thrilled that this resource, and the wisdom and experience of its authors, is now available to so many!

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Thanksgiving 2017

IMG_7617wmIt has been 9 years since we got to spend Thanksgiving with my side of our family. My parents hosted the day at their new home…just down the street. We contributed dessert…made mostly by my kids. And, it was so fun to see these cousins playing together and enjoying each other!

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”
~Psalm 107:1 (ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours.

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Happy 4th Birthday, Rebekah!

10My Sweet and Spunky Rebekah!

You are loud, energetic, dramatic, and silly. Sitting still and quietly are not your strengths.  You do nothing halfway.

You have really surprised me this year by pouring that energy and determination into our school days, and becoming an eager and enthusiastic student! You love our Pre-K times, and are flying through the lessons that I have prepared for you each day…and still asking for more!

You adore your siblings. I am so thankful for the sweet friendship I already see between you and Rachel. I love hearing you play and talk together after we have tucked you in for the night, or when you wake up in the morning. And, you love being one of the big girls with your “just me and Hannah” time. You and Titus seem to enjoy tormenting each other more than playing right now…but when push comes to shove (literally!), you’ll also defend and protect each other!

Although you are definitely my loudest child, you have such a sweet, tender heart. You are always so quick to comfort your little sister when she is sad or hurt. And you are quite the little prayer warrior. You are so faithful to pray for your siblings, daddy, or friends from church. And you are our family cheerleader…always encouraging others, with your big smiles and sweet hugs.

It is my constant prayer that the Lord would draw you to Himself, and that He would use your tender heart and fierce determination for His glory.

I love you, my sweet Bekah-Bug! Happy Birthday

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Back to {Home}School

Once upon a time, I said I would never homeschool my children.

IMG_7011awmAnd, yet…here we are, embarking on our 8th year of homeschooling!

This year, I have 4 students…ranging from pre-school to junior high! That should keep me busy and out of trouble…or, not.

Rachel is in Pre-School this year:

IMG_6983wmShe is only 2, but loves being at the school table with her big siblings. I’m not entirely convinced that “pre-school” is an academic necessity. We tend to cover the content of most pre-school curriculum naturally, as we live life. So, while I am hesitant to push my littlest one into too much of an academic experience before she is really ready (something that, I’ve found, is very easy to do in the homeschooling world!), we decided to, cautiously, go ahead with a more formal pre-school time for our youngest this year. We are using Preschool Pathways by BJU Press. (We used this with Rebekah last year.) It can be set up for school time every day, or just a few days a week. It is colorful, fun, and laid back with a big emphasis on learning through play. But, at the same time, it will also give a little bit of structure and direction to her days, and hopefully help to keep her purposefully busy and engaged while I am “doing school” with her older siblings. I love that it gives us some special one-on-one time during our busy school days. And, even though their lessons are different, there are enough similarities that I will be able to combine some of her pre-school time with Rebekah’s!

Rebekah is in Pre-K this year:
IMG_6986wm

I know. I just said that it is very easy for homeschoolers to push our kids academically, or to assume that they are more advanced than they are. But… (There’s always a but.) One of the things I love about homeschooling is the ability to know my children, and to know their needs and abilities, and somewhat customize their education to match. Some of my kids have shown true interest and academic readiness “early.” But, we have generally tried to keep to a more traditionally accepted schedule. But, Rebekah will be 4 in October, which means that, if she were in the public schools here, she wouldn’t be eligible for Pre-K (or “Transitional Kindergarten”) until next year…and not eligible for real Kindergarten until just before she turns 6! This girl spent all of last year begging for more work. (So much so that I almost considered just putting her in Kindergarten alongside Titus!) So, waiting 2 more years would be tough on her. And, probably a little tough on her mommy too. We are going to be using Footsteps for Fours, by BJU Press. We do lots of playing, and coloring, and reading together. And, my goal is to keep things low key for her, and not push her into something she is not really ready for…but, at the same time, I don’t want to hinder a genuine desire to learn right now. So, this is a great fit. It will give us some focused learning time each day, but in a developmentally and age-appropriate way. Yes, she is almost 4…but she is still only 3. So, we are taking a similar approach with her, as we did with Titus, and we will just take it at her pace. Right now, she is all about school! And, I could definitely see her going through this much faster than the year-long plan that I have laid out. Or, her enthusiasm may wane a bit, and we may slow down as things get harder. And, you know, that would be okay too! For now, she says that she is looking forward to school (all of it!) this year!

Titus is in 1st Grade this year:

IMG_6992wm Again, according to our local school district’s calendar, he “should” be only starting Kindergarten this year. I had to put off teaching him to read a little longer than either he or I wanted (due to the demands of a job change for my husband, a new baby, a move, and my own health issues). He deemed this cruel and unusual punishment! So, my original plan to possibly stretch Kindergarten over 2 school years flew out the window before our last school year even started. He was more than up to every challenge I threw at him! Especially reading! Over the past year, he has become the family bookworm. He devours books, and reads above his grade level with incredible inflection and comprehension. Some of this may just be his natural bent…he is serious, analytical, and just loves to learn. But, I also credit a lot of this to how reading and phonics skills were approached in his Kindergarten curriculum.  So, we will be continuing with BJU Press for 1st grade. I pray that this will only continue to increase his knowledge, and strengthen and improve his skills and love of learning.  He said he is looking forward to all of first grade, but thinks that math is going to be his favorite subject this year.

Hannah is in 7th Grade this year:

IMG_7003wmI have a junior higher!! Speaking strictly as her teacher, I’ve dreaded this moment. But, as I looked over her curriculum, and planned out her lessons, I was surprised to find myself looking forward to it all! I am excited about what she will be covering in her different classes this year. Of all of my kids, I think she is facing the biggest changes, academically. After some serious consideration, prayer, and discussion, we decided to take a step back from the somewhat classically-eclectic approach (mixing classical, textbooks, and unit studies) that we’ve used in past years. We decided to go back to a more cohesive, unified curriculum, with a traditional, textbook approach. It just seems to be what works best for our family dynamics and schedule, and for the variety of personalities, learning styles, and abilities represented in my children. So, like her siblings, she will be using BJU Press for 7th grade. On one hand, her classes are still the most intimidating to me, because I have never taught them before. (Poor thing. As the first child, she is our homeschool guinea pig.) But, the school that I attended from 7th-12th grade used a lot of BJU Press materials. So, although they have been updated quite a bit in the past several years, I am actually very familiar with her curriculum from my own experience as a student! So, this year will definitely be a challenge, for both of us, but, I think it will be a very good one! After looking over her new textbooks, she says that she is most excited about her Literature book, and thinks that will be her favorite subject this year.

 Ready…Set…Go!

2017-09-05_09-27-54_924wm

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