Let This Be Written

A few years ago our family had the privilege of seeing an amazing exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at our local science museum. How incredible to see those ancient words of God – words that He miraculously preserved in jars inside of caves for two thousand years! What a mighty act of God! Preserving words on paper for two thousand years would be impossible for man, but it was possible with God.

Seeing those scrolls reminded me of Psalm 102:18, which says, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” I am indeed thankful for those men of long ago who obediently and diligently wrote those precious words down on scrolls so that my generation and my children could see them and praise God.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit also reminded me of Psalm 145:4. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” What a great verse this is for homeschool moms – and all parents and grandparents for that matter. If we could only teach one subject as homeschoolers this year, I think this should be it.

In her story book Bible The Mighty Acts of God, author Starr Meade explains that the purpose of telling stories of God’s mighty acts isn’t for entertainment value or good moral examples. The purpose is to make known the wonder of God’s great character.

Likewise, John Piper of Desiring God says we want the next generation to have not just heads full of right facts about the works of God, but also “hearts that burn with the fire of love for the God of those facts – hearts that will sell everything to follow Jesus into the hardest places of the world.”

That’s quite a vision for our students! And as this new school year begins, Psalm 102:18 and Psalm 145 are great encouragements to pass on to my children not just what I know about the one true God from reading the Bible, but also to pass on – heart to heart – what I personally love about God and how I have witnessed Him at work in my life. He has revealed specific attributes of His character – like His faithfulness, compassion, and unfailing love – in specific moments and seasons throughout my life. Knowing by heart those personal faith stories and marveling at God’s great character will fuel my children’s love for Him and better equip them to pass the faith on to their own children someday.

When I take time to recall how God has acted mightily in my own personal history, God is magnified and I am encouraged and comforted. But in order to recall these little faith stories and declare them to my children, I must first record them somehow. That involves watching for God’s grace in daily life, taking lots of pictures, making lists of specific things I am thankful for, writing down prayer requests, keeping a blog, and scrapbooking when I can. These practices take time and no, I don’t keep up with all of them regularly. But these practices are quite meaningful to me because together they build the history book of our lives.

Puritan Pastor John Flavel says, “There is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what evidences and outbreakings of his mercy, faithfulness, and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through.”

So what does praising God and declaring His greatness in the bits and pieces of my personal history look like? Some days it’s telling a story about my childhood as we eat lunch or reading aloud a passage from an old blog post or an old baby journal. Other days it’s looking at photos in a family scrapbook, reading an old letter from a grandparent, or clicking through a digital photo album of last week’s field trip.

In looking back at these records through the lens of God’s goodness, I see things I did not see before. I see ways He has cared for us, provided for us, comforted us, strengthened us, encouraged us, healed us and equipped us. I see how He has brought us through trials and sorrows. I remember joyous moments I would forget otherwise. And as I share all those insights with my children, I praise God.

Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God says the most essential detail to look for in our personal history is God’s mercy to us through Jesus.

“Every detail of God’s goodness to you has come through the blood of Jesus,” he says. “Look back on these providences and remember that you’ve earned none of them. They come by Jesus, or they don’t come at all. His cross is the most vivid demonstration of God’s love for us, and every little good we’ve seen has flowed from that glorious fountain. It did yesterday, and it will tomorrow.”

Parnell also suggests several other details to look for, such as God’s care for you, wisdom for you, grace for you and humility for you, as well as His goal in all your provisions and His goodness in comfortable stuff like socks. He explains each of these ideas thoroughly in an article online entitled “Seven Details to See in Your Past.”

This school year, I pray that teaching the next generation about God’s mighty acts and sharing stories of His goodness and mercy will be a higher priority each day. I pray that we keep pre-algebra and science lessons in the right perspective. I thank God for the fresh encouragement given by Asaph in Psalm 78, a passage which the ESV Bible titles “Tell the Coming Generation.” And I pray that we may arise and tell our children truths about God so that they set their hope in God, keep His commandments, and never ever forget the works of God.

 

One Plus One Equals Three

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“There are three kinds of people in this world. Those who are good at math and those who aren’t.”

My friend once posted that quote on Facebook, and it made me laugh because I’m a journalist married to a mechanical engineer. Math certainly isn’t my favorite subject – but it sure gets discussed plenty in this homeschool family.

And while I chuckle because that quote just doesn’t add up, it reminds me of another quote that doesn’t seem to add up either.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

This story continues over at The End in Mind.

 

A Hard Road Paved with Grace

At a crossroads. That’s where our homeschool journey began. By God’s grace, we felt peace that the public school path was not an option for our soon-to-be Kindergartner. But still two paths remained: private school and homeschool.

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The private school option seemed like the most obvious route, especially since our oldest daughter was already attending preschool at the local private Christian school and enjoying it.

Click here to continue reading “A Hard Road Paved with Grace” over at The End in Mind.

This Day is Golden

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The warm October sun shines vibrantly through our maple tree’s leafy red flags, cautioning me that winter is just a few miles ahead. The season is changing quickly, but I want to play traffic cop. I want to make it park right here next to this red octagon at the end of the street. Stop. Just s-t-o-p. Stop the clock already.

But so many of the other maples are waving their brilliant, glowing yellow flags at me as I drive by. “Slow down!” They cry. “Slow down, pull over, look up and enjoy this beautiful day.”

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The earth keeps spinning, and I suppose time is still going as fast as it always has, from one season to the next.

So why do I feel dizzy? Why do I feel like we are spinning and speeding from one week to the next in a racing blur of activity? In my dizziness, it seems I forget where we are going and why.

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I study my young dancers. These dancers, they spin and twirl and they don’t get dizzy because they fix their eyes on something that isn’t moving. A focal point.

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Yes, Hebrews 12:2. I need to stop spinning in distraction and fix my eyes on Jesus. He’s the steady, immovable One, and His love for me never changes. Colossians 3 says Jesus is seated above at the right hand of God, and that’s where I need to set my heart and mind — on things above.

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Looking up I see that’s where every good and perfect gift comes from. The Father of Lights, He sends these gifts down to us, and unlike the golden leaves on the maple trees, He never changes and He never leaves us.

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So yeah, dancers don’t get dizzy because they know where to focus. And dancers know where they are going because they count. They count the time in each measure of music so they can move with the music. Not way out ahead of it. Not far behind it. With it. To stay with it, they must count.

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So when did I stop counting each day’s gifts? Because counting the gifts from above, the joys, the ways God loves me, that’s what helps me keep in step with Him. That’s what helps me remember where I am going and why. That’s what slows me down.

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Ann Voskamp’s wise words taught me the only way to slow down time.

“Life is not an emergency.

And this, this is the only way to slow down time:

When I fully enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.

Weigh down this moment in time with attention full, and the whole of time’s river slows, slows, slows.

In this space of time and sphere, I am attentive. I am aware. I am accepting the whole of the moment, weighing it down with me all here. This giving thanks for one thousand things, it’s that too, an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention.” -Ann Voskamp

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Lord, the leaves glow a golden yellow and this day is beautifully golden! Thank You for making this day. Thank You for reminding me that this day is frail and fleeting. Help me slow down. Help me give this day the weight of my full attention and help me love those around me with my full attention.

Thank You for the vibrant fall colors that reflect Your glory. Thank You for these memorable moments with my lively little girls playing in the leaves, dancing in the autumn sunshine and strolling off to their piano lessons. Thank You for Your steadfast love and great faithfulness. Amen.

 

 “This day we’re given is golden; let us show love. This day is ours for one moment; let us sow love. This day is frail – it will pass by. So before it’s too late to recapture the time, let us share love, let us share God, before this day is gone.”  — from Point of Grace’s song “This Day”

 

Honoring My Mother

In honor of my beloved Mama this Mother’s Day, I am re-posting this letter I wrote to her last October — 7,670 days after her death.

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Dear Mama,

Oh, how I miss you. It’s been 21 years today since we said goodbye. Exactly 7,670 days. A small part of me feels like that tragic day was a hundred years ago and happened to someone else entirely, and another small part of me feels like that tragic day was not long ago at all, and I am still a grief-struck teenager wondering how I’ll ever carry on without you to guide me.

I remember a bedtime story you used to tell about a lost traveler. Actually, I don’t remember any details about the main character. Maybe it was a donkey? But I remember the moral of the story was to always know who you are and where you are going.

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Becoming a motherless daughter as a teen made me question who I was and wonder where I was going. God, in His faithfulness, drew me in close to Him and taught me that life’s really more about knowing Who you belong to and where you are going. I am so thankful that I belong to Him and am on my way to heaven. What peace, joy and hope I have in knowing this truth.

Yet the grief of mother-loss still comes in waves. Usually they are small, gentle waves, but even now sometimes the waves of grief can be surprisingly overwhelming. I long ago realized the grief won’t end this side of heaven. But by the grace of God, I am carrying on. Or actually, He is carrying me as I trust in Him to guide my steps.

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Being the mother of two little girls requires lots of guidance and wisdom, and so often I hear the lie that being a motherless daughter somehow makes me unqualified to be a mother. My new verse for fighting that lie is 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I already have all I need to do this job! And being a wife and mothering these girls is a lot of work. It’s good work, but work indeed. I cannot imagine anyone else I’d rather spend my days with.

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And I am thankful that you met and loved Michael, even if you didn’t know back then that he would become my husband. He still re-tells the blonde jokes and OSU jokes you told him, and he laughingly recounts the time you told him sailboats only move by continental drift. He’s a wonderful husband and a great daddy.

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One of my deepest longings is for you to come to our house and meet our sweet little girls. These two lovely granddaughters of yours, each is her own dear and special person.

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But oh, how they both remind me so very much of you with their piano-playing, book-consuming, chocolate-loving passions.

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The oldest daughter is almost 11. I remember you always said that was the perfect age, and now I understand why. She’s so helpful and sweet. She has your big, dancing-blue eyes, beautiful, mile-long smile and slender little legs. She looks so much like the pictures we have of you as a little girl, and she fills our house with the snip-snip of scissors and the low steady hum of the sewing machine. I remember those sounds filling up your bedroom when you were sewing me a new dress or teaching me how to make a pillow. How I wish you could spend a day sewing doll clothes with this daughter. For the longest time it was too painful for me to sew with her because that was something you and I did together and I just didn’t feel confident without you. But this girl, she is a fearless seamstress with such nimble little fingers. Just a few weeks ago, she encouraged me to help her make her little sister a doll for her birthday.

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What fun we had picking fabric, stitching things together and being sneaky about the entire project so her sister wouldn’t find out.

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The youngest daughter just turned 8 and she has your big, dancing-blue eyes, too. Her hair is the same beautiful caramel-strawberry blonde as yours, and you’d be delighted to know that hers is naturally curly, as you always so desperately wished yours was. Like you, this girl is quick with numbers – and she especially likes double-checking her math worksheets on her new adding machine. Give her a little more time with that thing, and I can just imagine the rolls of adding machine paper cascading like a waterfall across our schoolroom table, just like the rolls of paper flooded the floor of your office on busy days. This daughter’s sense of humor reminds me of yours; she loves telling jokes and has a quick wit that catches me and her daddy off guard sometimes. At church the other day, when our pastor was talking about us becoming more like Jesus spiritually but not physically, she grinned and quipped, “That means we don’t have to grow beards.”

I guess that’s the sum of what all these 21 years of motherless days adds up to – your own little girl growing up to be a wife and mother and, by the grace of God, becoming confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

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I love you, Mama, and I can’t wait to see you on that glorious day.

Hugs and kisses,

Diana

The Sun of Righteousness Arose

“Ay, but when we go down, down, down, is it not a blessed thing that Jesus Christ of the seed of David died, and was raised from the dead? If I sink right down among the dead men yet will I hold to this blessed hope, that as Jesus rose again from the dead, so also shall my joy, my usefulness, my hope, my spirit rise.” -Charles Spurgeon

I walk down to the dock just after 6 a.m. on Easter to find a thin blanket of fog shrouding the lake.

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All is calm. No wind. No waves. The water is a glassy mirror, a perfect reflection of the sky above.

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The only movements are the ripples the ducks make gliding across the water.

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A red-winged blackbird perches atop a new birdhouse built for the wood ducks. He stands tall and attentively, singing his happy, trilling song. Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing in praise right along with him.

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But in the stillness, in the waiting for a glimpse of glory, I catch a whiff of something downright rotten. Floating among the cattails are dozens of dead carp — fish that didn’t survive being down, down, down below the thick ice of this deeply frozen lake.

Up they have come now with the thaw, and this stench of death is foul. Charles Wesley’s words keep coming to mind.

“His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.”

I was once dead in my sins and stinking something awful, worse even than the rotten stench of these dead fish.

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4 

Oh, the triumphs of His grace this Easter morning!

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The light fog starts to lift a bit. And the sun rises, and all I can think of is the glory of how the Son rises, too. The Son rises, too. The Light of the World.

I see all the glory of it above me and the perfect reflection of that glory here below.

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“On this glad day the glorious Sun of Righteousness arose…”

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“Glory to God, and praise and love be ever, ever given, by saints below and saints above, the church in earth and heaven.” Charles Wesley 

The Story of Two Little Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

On March 23, 2003, we dedicated to the LORD our firstborn. During the ceremony that Sunday morning, just before her daddy played Jeff Deyo’s song “These Hands” on acoustic guitar, I read a letter to her. Here is part of that letter.

Today is your dedication day, and we praise God for what a blessing you are to our family. You are three months old and just figured out that you have HANDS! You bat them at toys, try to hold your bottle with them, and just love to put them in your mouth and slobber all over them. Most of time, though, you clasp them together and just stare at them as if to say, “What are these for?”

Before too long, these hands of yours will be coloring and tying shoes and learning to do lots of things. But our hope today is that someday your hands will point to God’s greatness and praise Him.

You see, God’s hands created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. And not too long ago, His hands created you. God loves you and cares for you and has a specific plan for your life.

We praise God for you. Always remember how much we love you, and that the ultimate purpose of your hands is to praise God.

In the meantime, don’t eat those hands! You’ll need them for later!

Those two little hands, she didn’t eat them after all. And since that day I’ve so often held them in my own. I’ve washed them. I’ve dried them. I’ve clipped the fingernails and polished those all shades of pink. I’ve squeezed one or both into my own warm pocket when little mittens were forgotten. I’ve kissed them. I’ve helped them fold together in prayer. I’ve showed them how to turn book pages gently. I’ve taught them to hold a crayon, a pencil.

I’ve watched them reach way up to pick apples from trees.

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And I’ve watched them reach way down to pick up sand dollars and seashells from Atlantic and Pacific beaches.

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I’ve taught them how to fold towels and t-shirts. I’ve taught them how to button buttons and zip zippers. I’ve seen them work puzzles, dress baby dolls, fill tea cups, and dribble basketballs. I’ve watched them write the alphabet in print. And then I’ve watched them learn the alphabet all over again in cursive. I’ve held the left one delicately as the right was wrapped up tightly in a cast for a broken arm. I’ve watched them paint flowers and stitch doll clothes and knit scarves.

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I’ve watched them kindly hold her little sister’s hand in the backseat of the minivan. I’ve taught them to wash dishes and wipe down countertops. I’ve watched them gently behold the wonders of God’s creation.

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I’ve watched them clasped together and dripping with lake water on baptism day.

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And I’ve watched them gracefully glide across the ivories day after day…

Week after week…

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For more than five years now those hands have made music.

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Oh, those sweet little hands and I have been ever so busy together. And God has lovingly and faithfully held these little hands and mine in His mighty hands. He held each and every moment. He held us by grace.

And yesterday — 11 years and seven days after her dedication day — He called those little hands to bravely do what I never imagined them doing when I wrote that dedication letter so many years ago.

Yesterday those little hands went to church and played “Glorious” right along with the worship band. And then the band left those little hands all alone at the keyboard, left my firstborn perched high on a barstool, like a songbird ready to sing. And those beautiful little hands played “Amazing Grace” for the offertory.

And even when her foot struggled to reach the pedal below and those slender fingers pulsed with frustration and momentarily lost their way across the keyboard. Even that moment was all grace. Those sweet little hands just stopped and played it again from the top — “Amazing Grace.”

How sweet was the sound as the little fingers met the keys, the notes sang out beautifully, and the joyful noise of it all filled the whole room.

An answered prayer, a moment of grace, an offering and a gift.

Oh little hands, may you continue pointing to God’s greatness, may you continue praising the One whose hands made you!

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17