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The Best is Yet to Come

empty chair 2

I talked to a dear mom about her son’s cancer. Three days ago they discovered it is back, aggressively.  I had called to comfort her, but she ended up comforting and inspiring me instead.  “God has everything under control,” says this woman who has faced more in the last few years than most of us face in a lifetime.

I talked to one woman who does not know where she will be living in a few months. As she struggles with uncertainty, she testifies to God’s goodness and his power in her life.  “I know he will do what is best,” she emphasizes.  “I just have to learn to wait and trust.”

I asked another mom about her little fellow after a recent visit to specialists. The doctors have no cure and offer only minimal help with pain management.  Blinking back tears, we hugged and talked about how we deal with overwhelming sadness.

These are only a few women. But everyone has a story, and in this broken world many stories are full of sadness.  Some of us can tell our stories and find comfort in the telling.  Some of us can’t share because the pain is too raw. Others are overwhelmed by sorrows that are not theirs to share.  Some deal with secret pain about the past, or the present, or even the future, unable to say a word.

But for all of us there is this comfort: God has everything under control.  He weaves the past and the present and the future into one beautiful script, along with all the people and events and emotions, and with all our hopes and mistakes and joys and tears.  It may be terribly hard to live our scripts now, but eventually joy will overwhelm us.

For the best is yet to come.

That’s what Haggai had to tell the people of Israel when they were rebuilding the temple after the exile, that sad copy of Solomon’s glorious temple:  Don’t cry; the best is yet to come.  This sorry temple will see true glory, for the Lord himself will walk here, teach here….

For all of us, whether we are sad today or filled with joy, the message is the same: The best is yet to come.  For our Lord will return and we will live with him.  Then, perhaps, we will understand the stories we have lived…but if not, all will still be fine, because we will be with God and he will wipe every tear from our eyes.

In the meantime, God’s message to us is the same as Haggai’s message to the returned exiles: Be strong and work, for I am with you.  Do what I have told you to do, and I will strengthen you.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

So let us keep on trusting, like the mom of the son with cancer. Let us keep on pointing others to God, like the woman with the unknown future address.  Let each of us keep on being a wife, a mom, a believer, struggling but not giving up.  Let’s keep on using the gifts God has given us to bless those around us, whether our hearts are songs of joy, or cries of pain, or both at the same time.

Because, remember, our God has promised, over and over, in many different words throughout the Bible: I am with you, and the best is yet to come.

the best is yet to come

This is the first in a series of sporadic meditations about daily life, Bible readings, and our pastor’s Sunday sermons based, in this case, on Haggai 2:1-9.

Review: Surfing the Net: Science

surfing the net science

These days it is important to know how to search the internet effectively. Surfing the Net: Science is designed to teach this skill early enough to benefit a student’s whole school career.

Aimed at grades 3-6, Surfing the Net: Science teaches science based on standards in most US states, but its primary focus is to teach students how to gather information from the internet.  Each main section (animals, atmosphere, ecosystems and habitats, energy, geology, plants, and space) features fill-in-the-blank pages based on key word searches, as well as links to informative websites, animations, movies, experiments, and more.

This consumable workbook teaches mainly through the links it provides and the more than 180 pages of questions and fill in the blanks. Both the student section and the answer key are well-organized and easy to use.

Surfing the Net: Science contains a huge number of quality links. (For those using a real book, the links are also available online so that they do not need to be typed in.)  Almost all links are from safe websites, although in one case I did notice inappropriate ads below the video despite my K9 safety filter.  I would urge parents to check out links before giving them to their children.  Although I did not check out every link, I noticed only one that no longer worked and I was able to find the video by searching the website that it re-directed to.

This book assumes evolution and global warming, both of which are debated in scientific circles. Of course it is good for children to know the different points of view, but many parents will want to double-check these sections as well as preview the relevant links.  On the other hand, I was struck by the page in which students are encouraged to design their own newly evolved creature.  This reminded me of an activity in my elementary school years that inoculated me against evolution:  we were told to design our own extinct creature using chicken bones!

Surfing the Net: Science is ideally suited to the unit study method of homeschooling because each topic has so many options and links suitable for a range of ages.   Because an enormous amount of science content is involved, this could also be used as a formal science curriculum.  However, for classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, Surfing the Net: Science would work best as an enriching supplement to a more cohesive course.

No matter how it is used, if this study were spread out over several years, students would be able to refine their internet searching skills more than if the course were compressed into one year.

Because my children are beyond the recommended age range, we are planning to use Surfing the Net: Science as a special treat, supplementing Apologia’s General Science with some of the recommended videos.  I will also assign a few of the key word searches to reinforce this essential modern skill.

For more information or to order, visit the Critical Thinking website. If you decide this book would work for your family, do not forget to use the 15% off coupon code described below.

15% Off Any Size Order!

Details: Offer expires 10/31/2013 at Midnight PST.  Use Coupon Code BLOGR814.  Online prepaid orders only.  Valid one per customer.  Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, bundles or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Patter Blocks.  Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers and is not retroactive.  Not valid on wholesale orders.

This review is linked to Finishing Strong , Trivium Tuesdays, Works for Me Wednesdays, and Raising Homemakers.

Disclosure:  I received this ebook from the Critical Thinking Press for the purposes of an honest review.  No compensation is involved.

Ladybug Infestation

In the fall, our home is covered with ladybugs, inside and out.

In the fall, our home is covered with ladybugs, inside and out.

This is outside.  Mr. 19 vacuumed up hundreds of ladybugs inside the house, too.  It seemed as though they were just appearing out of thin air!

We found these in a hidden corner.  Ladybugs love corners.

We found these in a hidden corner. Ladybugs love corners. (And please ignore the dust bunnies; lately I’ve been neglecting hidden corners.)

They are beautiful, but when (not if) they get squashed in a door, they leave bright orange stains and a terrible smell.  They also fly about and get tangled in our long hair.  So, despite their beauty, we try to get rid of them–alive if possible, dead if necessary.

Are these pretty little creatures a pest in your area too?  How do you keep them under control?

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesdays and Raising Homemakers.

Review: A Vine-Ripened Life by Stanley D. Gale

a vine ripened life

We live because of Christ, and we bear fruit by abiding in him. Those are fundamental facts of life for Christians.

But what does ‘bearing fruit’ mean in practical, everyday life? And how, exactly, is that related to abiding in Christ? A Vine-Ripened Life discusses this by exploring Galatians 5:22, 23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Although we must work to develop these fruits, pastor Stanley Gale says there’s a profound difference between artificial fruit, produced by our own efforts with the character qualities themselves as a goal, and real fruit that flows from a relationship with Jesus Christ and has him as its goal.  That is because real fruit comes from the Spirit, not self-effort, and we can produce it only when we abide in Christ.

In this book, Gale shares the experience of years of living and studying about the fruit of the Spirit and relates them to abiding in Christ. Here is a sampling:

Love, the defining characteristic of Christians, is an action, not merely an emotion.

Our joy is rooted in God’s goodness, not our circumstances, and the battleground for joy is the mind where faith and prayer happen.

The peace that passes all understanding comes from returning to God, the source of that peace.  This fruit, too, has the mind as its battleground as we train ourselves to think about the excellent things that draw us more deeply into the arms of our Father God.

Patience is driven by love that denies self and puts others first; it is basic to each of the other qualities mentioned in Galatians 5.

Kindness is sensing and meeting the needs of others in a practical way.

Real goodness comes from obediently following Jesus Christ, and “our imaginary goodness is harder to conquer than our actual sin.”

Faithfulness means that we should be people of our word because we are people of the Word.  We should be faithful to who we are in Christ.

The fruit of gentleness can draw others out. By creating an open, welcoming environment, it invites vulnerability in others and allows them to be real.

Self-control is retraining for a life that has been freed from the bondage of sin and is new in Christ.  It is as much about learning to live in Christ’s freedom as it is learning to restrain our sinful impulses.

Although humility is not mentioned in Galatians 5, Gale includes it because it is basic to abiding in Christ and bearing fruit.

In conclusion, Gale points out that “We need to learn to abide—to rest in, remain, and regard our Lord in all things, at all times. We want to sit at His feet to learn both what He says and the heart by which He says it. ”

Each chapter  of this helpful book ends with review questions which can be answered by looking back at the chapter.  They are not, in the first place, personal application questions, but the whole book is so personal that review questions can easily be applied to life.

In The Vine-Ripened Life a wise and godly man shared his heart with us through the Bible.  Many sentences spoke to me with great clarity, wisdom, and helpfulness, and I’m sure different parts of the book would speak to you.

However, even though the contents of this book are excellent, the writing is not. A Vine-Ripened Life would have been much more compelling and understandable if it had been vigorously edited.  I hope a revised edition will be published, because the book is worth it.

From a homeschooling point of view, this book would not make a good curriculum, but it could be a good Bible study guide for teens and adults.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews,  and Booknificent Thursdays.

Disclosure: A download of this book was provided by Cross-Focused Reviews for the purpose of this review.

Frost Pictures

Last night we had the winter’s first frost, late but severe.  We had picked all we could and covered most other things, except the raspberries.

Petunias, rimmed with frost.

Petunias, rimmed with frost.

Kale can stand frost.

Kale can stand frost.

The raspberries were frozen solid.  Too bad we were not able to pick them.

The raspberries were frozen solid. Too bad we were not able to pick them earlier.

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