No Fool

“A man’s greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore eternity should be his scope.” – Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

Eternity was the scope of Jim Elliot.

Sixty-six years ago this month, Elliot and four other men, including pilot Nate Saint, were martyred in an effort to bring the Gospel to the Waodani (Auca) people of Ecuador.

Elliot died at age 28, and many might say his life was wasted, dying so young and leaving behind a wife and daughter. And he was doing what many would consider foolish — trying to befriend a tribe of savage killers.

But eternity was the scope of Jim Elliot.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot (1927-1956)

Elliot gave his life on earth — a life that he could not keep. And he gained what he cannot lose — accruing friends for eternity by bringing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Elliot’s death, and the deaths of the men with him, paved the way for the Gospel to spread to the Waodani people. Many lives were changed because of their ultimate sacrifices, and many who were inspired by these martyrs became missionaries themselves, further spreading the Gospel.

Sometimes Jesus’ followers have to lose their lives in service and witness so that many come to faith.

Jesus says in John 12:23-26:

“…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

Eternity was the scope of Jim Elliot.

Elisabeth Elliot, his widow, wrote two books about her late husband: Through the Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. Elliot’s story is also featured in Torchlighters: The Jim Elliot Story, an animated movie for kids ages 8 to 12, and in Hero Tales Volume 2 by Dave and Neta Jackson. His story along with Nate Saint’s story is also featured in the 2006 movie The End of the Spear.

“Not” Back to School — Curriculum Week

It’s August! Whew! I just spent a big chunk of July — and a big chunk of money, it seems — selecting and purchasing books for the upcoming school year.

Since I am the type of person who is motivated by themes, I really do best with unit studies. This year’s theme is “Let the Nations Be Glad” from Psalm 67:4, with a strong world geography undertone.

We are using some parts of the My Father’s World Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum — and some things that I’ve added in — to go around the globe. We’ll “visit” one or more countries in each continent. For each country, we’ll learn about and pray for the people groups who live there, learn about the ecosystems, and learn about one or two missionaries who served there and the biblical virtues they each exemplify. The girls each have passports and flag stickers, and the rumor is they are going to travel hither and yon in an airplane made out of a large cardboard box.

I am most excited to read all the missionary stories — they fascinate me — and to tie in lessons about the biblical virtues these people demonstrated in their lives. And I am eager to learn alongside my children as we peer at various countries with the perspective of a compassionate, biblical worldview.

We will continue to use the NIrV Discoverer’s Bible for Early Readers and some other books that have been on our shelves for a while, but here’s what’s new (or mostly new) to our shelves:


RightStart Math Level D (for 3rd grader)

RightStart Math Level A (for Kindergartener)


Story of the Orchestra : Listen While You Learn about the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! by Robert Levine

Wee Sing Around the World

Language Arts:

A Reason for Handwriting K (for Kindergartener)

Spelling Workout Level C Pupil Edition by Phil Trocki  (for 3rd grader)

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 3 Instructor Guide by Jessie Wise (for 3rd grader)

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1 by Jessie Wise (for Kindergartener; we used Level 2 last year with my second grader)

Writing Strands Level 3  (for 3rd grader)


Hero Tales book series by Dave and Neta Jackson (read aloud)

Pathway Readers Days Go By and More Days Go By (for Kindergartener)

Little Lights (a series of books about missionaries) by Catherine Mackenzie (for Kindergartener)

Ten Girls Who… (a series of books about missionaries and other great women of faith) by Irene Howat (for 3rd grader)

Christian Liberty Nature Readers (book #3 and #4 for 3rd grader)

Foreign Language:

Rosetta Stone Spanish (for 3rd grader)


The Usborne Book of Wild Places: Mountains, Jungles and Deserts  (for both)

Properties of Ecosystems by Answers in Genesis

A Child’s Geography: Explore His Earth by Ann Voskamp (for 3rd grader)

My Father’s World from A to Z Kindergarten (just the units we didn’t tackle last year in pre-K)

Geography Read-Alouds, References and Tools:

Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett with Jill Johnstone

The Illustrated World Atlas by Dr. Alisdair Rogers

A Trip Around the World and Another Trip Around the World (from Carson Dellosa Publishing)

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation

Maps & Globes by Jack Knowlton and Harriet Barton

Geography from A to Z by Jack Knowlton and Harriet Barton

Rand McNally World Atlas

Rand McNally Children’s Illustrated Atlas of the World

Flags of the World: DK Ultimate Sticker Book

Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney


Be sure to check out other homeschoolers’ curriculum plans in the “Not” Back to School Blog Hop going on this month at Heart of the Matter.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

10 People Who Inspired Me in 2010

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24 NIV

About a year ago, I shared in this post how friends of ours had spurred me on toward love and good deeds. As I reflect on 2010 and continue to thank God for their friendship and encouragement, I thought it’d be fun to share some other sources of encouragement and inspiration that might just inspire and encourage you, too.

1. My husband, Michael, always inspires me, and for so many reasons. In August I blogged about 15 reasons why I love Michael. I should also note that in the first three months of 2010 Michael lost 65 lbs., and he has kept them off! Yay! But of more significance than his weight loss are his spiritual gains in 2010. He has clearly grown closer to the Lord  — through prayer, Bible study, and Scripture memory — and that truly inspires me! What a blessing to have a strong spiritual leader in our household.

2. Our pastor, Steve Anderson, is a wonderful, encouraging pastor, as well as leader of the small group in which my husband and I participate. In November while he was serving as a short-term missionary in Nicaragua, I blogged here about how thankful I am for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are truly wonderful people who bless us each week. When he returned from Nicaragua, Pastor Steve told us an amazing story about handing out baseballs and Beanie Babies to the children there. God performed a miracle that day! You can listen to him tell the story if you click here. It starts at 19 minutes into his sermon “Whose Stuff is All This Anyway?” By the way, you can find out more about short-term missions and adopt-a-pastor opportunities in Nicaragua by visiting Repairers of Broken Walls.

3. Andreas Custer is the Student Ministries Director at our church. He’s a great guy, and while our family doesn’t yet have any students in his ministry, his contagious passion for the Lord and inspiring manner spills over and touches our family regularly. After visiting Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields this fall, Pastor Andi preached this really dynamite sermon about fixing our eyes on Jesus in the same way soldiers fix their eyes on their battle flag. The key Scripture passage he used was Philippians 3:7-21, and he explains that those who have their eyes set on earthly things, in contrast, are enemies of the cross.

4. Karen Wistrom at Family from Afar is a working mom with four children, two biological and two adopted, and is a child sponsorship coordinator for Children’s HopeChest. Besides raising money for all sorts of orphan-care projects, she traveled to Ethiopia this fall — for the third year in a row — to minister to orphans at Kind Hearts, where our sweet Dawit is. Thanks to Karen, we were able to put together this little care package for Dawit in August, and then a couple of months later Karen sent us pictures of Dawit receiving it. Yay, Karen! 

5. Samantha at Little Goody 2 Shoes is an 11-year-old who is selling bottle cap necklaces to raise money to buy shoes for orphans in Ethiopia. We bought a few of them that say Kind Hearts, and they are so adorable! To date, Samantha sold 314 necklaces and raised enough money to buy 103 pairs of new, custom-made shoes for orphans at Kind Hearts and two other orphanages in Ethiopia. Way to go, Samantha!

6. My own daughter, Linnea, at the ripe old age of 7, decided to donate 11 inches of her hair to Locks of Love in February. She was so brave and so passionate about giving to a little girl in need. That was a lot of hair!  

7. Author Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience is a farmer’s wife, homeschool mother of six, and an amazingly gifted writer. She faithfully uses her gift for God’s glory. I am so eager to read her latest book, 1,000 Gifts, which will be released Jan. 25.

8. Writer Holley Gerth at Heart to Heart with Holley is another writer whose words transcend into the spiritually inspiring realm. She also faithfully uses this gift to point others toward God.

9. My beautiful and sunshiny friend Alice, who recently moved to our little town, totally inspires me to be a better mom and to more intentionally play with my kids, especially while they are still willing to play with me! Alice is outgoing, full of life, and truly a fantastic cook and baker. All those traits come in handy as a stay-at-home mom to three handsome and energetic boys, all under the age of 5! While the girls and I were over for a visit last week, Alice gave us all flashlights, turned off the lights, and asked us to hunt for stuffed animals that had been hidden around her kitchen and living room. This “jungle-safari” version of hide-and-seek was great fun! Thanks for being so wonderful, Alice!

10. And last, but certainly not least, is Jodi, another beautiful friend of mine who inspires me to be a better mom and not neglect my creative side.  Jodi is a tea-drinking homeschool mom of five children, ranging in age from 1 to 13. She also teaches art, jazz, and tap dance lessons. My daughter is in one of Jodi’s art classes and adores every moment of it. If I were to write a biography about Jodi, I’d entitle it Everybody Loves Jodi. She is creative, encouraging, sweeter than pie, and everybody loves her! Last I checked she wasn’t sporting a red cape, but she is truly a super woman, empowered by God. 

Now I’m shutting my laptop and heading off to play Little People with my 5-year-old, so it’s your turn to share.

Who has inspired you in 2010? Do tell!

Pray. Thank. Repeat.

Pray. Thank. Repeat.

I read that somewhere recently — probably over at A Holy Experience — and those simple words have encouraged me to use my blog to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings. And what better time to start than right now?

One person in my life who I am especially thankful for is our senior pastor.

Pastor Steve shepherds his flock like no other pastor I’ve met. God has given him amazing gifts for encouraging and teaching, and Pastor Steve faithfully uses them for God’s glory. He’s a genuinely friendly, gentle, humble and wise man who is constantly striving for holiness. He deeply loves the Lord, studies diligently, and preaches heartfelt messages straight from God’s Word.

My simple words will never do this man justice, but I assure you he will have many rewards in Heaven!

Pastor Steve is on a mission trip, which is probably why he came to mind when I set out to write this. He’s spending the week in Nicaragua, leading a conference for pastors and their wives. He’s also visiting some remote churches very near and dear to my husband, who also traveled to Nicaragua two years ago on a mission trip.

Please join me in praying for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are wonderful, wonderful people, and I thank God for them.

What are you thankful for today?

I think of the lost language of thanks and I wonder what will happen to the culture of Christians if we don’t speak the tongue taught by the Father… He gives grace and we speak the language of Christians when we give thanks. This is who I am. Gratitude is the culture of the sinners made saints.” -Ann Voskamp

Not Back-to-School: Part 1

As a homeschool family, our “back to school” is obviously a little non-traditional. Nobody regularly loads onto a big yellow bus with her backpack and lunchbox in tow, although 4-year-old Laurel did finally get to ride a big yellow bus this summer on a family field trip to a local dairy farm.

She was thrilled! And even without a big yellow bus to catch daily, we have many little thrills to enjoy when school begins!

Our daily routine and pace change once September arrives and activities like dance and art class start up again. And we do have new fall clothes to wear and new school supplies to unwrap. I seriously love buying school supplies. But — best of all — we have new books and curriculum! Some are still arriving in packages on our front doorstep. How thrilling to unwrap it all, crack open those books, and dig in!

In light of that impending excitement and this being “Curriculum Week” for Heart of the Matter’s Not Back-to-School Blog Hop, I’d like to share what books and curriculum we are planning to use this fall. (By the way, if you read this post, I am happy to announce that some of this has just been decided in the last 48 hours. Yippee!)



PRE-SCHOOLER (turning 5 this fall):

To read the curriculum plans of other homeschool families, click the button below and enjoy the Blog Hop!

What to use, what to do?

“What to use, what to do?” That’s the deep question I’ve been asking myself and God lately in regard to homeschool curriculum this fall. I thought I’d have all this settled by now, but I don’t!

A fellow homeschooling friend recently asked me what I’d be using to teach religion/Bible to my 7-year-old second grader. That was a tough one to answer because I haven’t yet figured that out.

The previous two years we have used the materials and Bible lesson plans provided in My Father’s World since Bible study is a big chunk of their curriculum packages. I do not think I’ll be using MFW again until 3rd grade; we used their 2nd grade curriculum this past year so we’ve created a little gap. So now the problem seems to be too many options! And which combination of options is right?

Here’s a list of some the options I’m prayerfully weighing at this point:

  • Reading Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland. It’s for ages 4-8. We’ve had this book for a while, and I think it will work fine for both my 4-year-old and my 7-year-old. But it has only 86 lessons, which will get us just part-way through the year.
  • Reading the Bible in 90 days challenge using the Kids’ Devotional Bible. We may just do the reading part and not stress out about the 90-day part. The handy reading plan for 6 to 10 year olds is pretty nifty.
  • Enrolling in Awana at a nearby church (our home church doesn’t offer it yet).
  • Reading this new family Bible called the Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade. Here’s a fantastic review of it.

On another note, Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite bloggers, just posted this comprehensive list of 29 well-loved picture books for children. And “well-loved” might downplay it a bit. She literally just duct taped many of these back together for her home library! I’ll be studying this list further to see which books might make good birthday and Christmas gifts. 

Ann also happens to be the author of another book I just received in the mail a few days ago. It’s called A Child’s Geography, and I am so thrilled about working through it this fall. 

The “Reaching out to His World” segment is what sold me on the book.

“Knowledge without love is an empty, heartbreaking gong. It would be a very sad state if our young geographers knew much of His world…but had hearts that were indifferent to the people with whom we share our home. What are we without love? Each chapter includes a “Reaching Out” segment that takes the information of  the chapter and places it into a practical context, encouraging geographers to  do something to show His love to His  world.  We are called to be Christ’s hands and heart to a hurting world. Let’s not fail Him!”   -Ann Voskamp, author of A Child’s Geography

Ann’s words were fresh in my mind yesterday when I stumbled upon the site of an organization I had never before heard about: The White Cross, which provides support for missions work in the U.S. and overseas. They offer a downloadable 56-page book of Mission Service Project opportunities, which I’ll be checking into further to see how what service opportunities might be a good fit for our homeschool and perhaps even our church’s children’s ministry.

Nicaragua Story Published in BGC World

This month’s issue of The BGC World, a magazine published by the Baptist General Convention, features a shortened version of my story about the mission trip to Nicaragua as well as a photo of the team (which included my husband!) Here’s a link to the PDF of the page:

Building Hope and Friendship in Nicaragua

Hand-mixing cement and carrying it in buckets without handles in 90-degree weather thousands of miles from home is certainly a strange way to build friendships with people who don’t speak your language. But that’s exactly what my husband and five other men from our church did earlier this month.

The guys spent the first week of 2008 helping our adopted church in Asedades, Nicaragua, construct a new building to better accommodate its growing congregation.

To complete the building – adding a floor, a porch, steps and a roof – the men worked with nearly a dozen local volunteers as well as the local pastor and his family, Pastor Cesar and Celina Alvarez and their 13 children. The new building is three times the size of the old building, which was so over-crowded that only the women and children fit inside. All the men had to stand outside, often in the rain because the average annual rainfall in that region is about 80 inches.

A nearly four-hour drive from the capital city of Managua, Asedades is a poor, remote, mountainous village of fewer than 1,500 people. Very few cars travel the rocky path through the village, mostly just cattle, horses, donkeys and people.

Alvarez and many other pastors in rural Nicaragua have great difficulty providing for their families because they often receive less than $35 a month from their congregations. That’s according to a ministry called Repairers of Broken Walls (

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Central America; its economy is severely depressed. Civil war, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, mud slides, tornados and economic collapse have caused devastating poverty in many parts of the country. The under-employment rate is 46%, and 48% of the population is below the poverty line, according to The World Factbook. What’s more, many Nicaraguan children don’t attend school because they lack money for shoes, uniforms, books, and lunches.

Although the primary focus of this trip was the construction work, the mission team ministered in other ways as well. Pastor Steve spoke on a nationally broadcast Christian radio program twice, and he led a seminary training conference for about 37 Nicaraguan pastors and their wives, most of whom have never had the opportunity for any formal education. The National Association of Evangelical Pastors of Nicaragua coordinated the conference.

“I spent three to four hours speaking through a translator,” Pastor Steve says. “I shared things that the Lord has taught me, and we encouraged one another. We all understood that pastors are not immune to struggles, and we committed to pray for one another.”

 The men all say they fell in love with the people of Nicaragua, especially the children. They gave away children’s books, Frisbees, play dough and a suitcase full of Beanie Babies, which Oakwood’s children’s ministry had collected. They also distributed a suitcase full of medical supplies to the evangelical association’s clinic in Managua and a suitcase full of books to the pastors at the conference.

Repairers of Broken Walls was pivotal in preparing the men for this mission. Enrique and Carol Acosta serve as the directors of this ministry, and they accompanied the men on this trip. They assisted the team by translating, cooking, offering first aid and helping with the construction work. The Acostas have coordinated more than 35 mission trips to Nicaragua and Mexico over the last several years. Their goal is to facilitate Christ-centered, international relationships that serve, encourage and disciple.

For the past several months, the mission team met regularly to discuss logistics and participate in a missions-oriented Bible study. Through donations and fundraisers – which included clearing tables and washing dishes at Pizza Ranch, serving food at various church gatherings, and selling Oakwood sweatshirts – the team raised $15,000 for the construction costs and travel expenses.

The team returned to Minnesota on Jan. 8, but this trip is just the beginning, Pastor Steve says. The church intends to become more than one-time visitors to Nicaragua. Lord willing, Oakwood plans to unite with Alvarez’s church through on-going team trips, correspondence, reciprocal prayer initiatives, and sharing of their God-given gifts with each other.  

The Acostas say this partnership can be more than one church helping out another, poorer congregation. “It can be the Body of Christ working together to complete God’s purposes and to show the world that Christ was who He said He was because His people really do love one another,” they say.