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Lessons from a Long Marriage

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Thirty years ago this weekend we were engaged and in a few months we will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary.  Even after all these years it is good for us to look at others who have walked this path before, whose long marriages have been a living testimony of God’s goodness.

Recently I attended the funeral of a man who had been married 73 years.  His children, grandchildren, and all those who knew him were inspired by this couple’s marriage, their devotion to each other, their love, and their enjoyment of each other.

Every time I went to visit them I noticed one thing about this man.  At 98, with an enormous family of his own and many other acquaintances, he always remembered to ask about my family by name and to discuss gardening with me.  He always made the effort to really connect.  Even though he loved so many others, he cared about me, too.

In fact, at the funeral it was said repeatedly that his life was characterized by love for God and for others, and I think those qualities shone through in his marriage.

Considering that, perhaps much of the current thinking about marriage has its emphasis slightly wrong.  Perhaps the basis for a God-honoring marriage, even after 73 years, is simply what Jesus said:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  When Jesus told the people this, he said that all of the Bible up to that day depended on these two commandments (Matthew 22). Perhaps all of the Bible of today does, too.  Perhaps, then, the indignant fuss in many quarters about marriage, how it works and should work, the relationships between men and women, and so much else, could simply be resolved by this two-fold commandment.

On the other hand, perhaps not.

Be that as it may, in practical terms we should always aim to serve God with our whole being and to be kind to our spouse and those around us.  We should praise God for blessing us with these people and gratefully acknowledge that he put each one of them into our lives for our good and his glory.

But how can anyone possibly do this?  I think the answer is in that couple’s wedding text which hung on their wall and formed the basis of their 73 years together:

‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.’  (Ps 146:5)

This is the answer.  With this confidence in our hearts we, too, can praise God in our lives, our marriages, and our other relationships.  And our praise is not only singing and talking; it is also, and perhaps even more deeply, simply trusting God enough to obey him.

With God, it is possible, although not necessarily easy, and we will be blessed if we obey him.

To help make it all practical, here are four encouraging resources.  All are based on research that clearly shows that God’s plan for lifelong marriage is not only good but also truly possible, even in our society. (Most links are to my reviews; there are no affiliate links.)

May God bless us as we seek to praise him in all our relationships.  May he keep us from temptation, forgive our failures and sins, and give us everything we need to repent and continue on, always thankful to him.

If you want to read more about marriage, here is an annotated list of Nine Helpful Marriage Books  (updated to include one more) and here are links to other posts I have written for Valentine’s Day.  Some of them I still find helpful and I pray that you may as well.

This post is adapted in part from a funeral message by Rev. G. Van Popta.  He has also written Pure Love (reviewed here and available free online here), a series of sonnets on Solomon’s Song of Songs, which is obviously related to this topic.      

 Creative commons image from nyphotographic

Disclosure:  I am not compensated for recommending any of the resources mentioned.

Review: No Little Women by Aimee Byrd

No Little Women

Aimee Byrd says bad theology is entering doctrinally sound churches via women’s ministries.  Others agree.

If true, this is an incredibly serious matter, since theology is the study of who God is.   No Little Women discusses the problem and suggests the solution, Equipping All Women in the Household of God

This book is written primarily for women, elders, and pastors, with many sections and discussion questions addressed separately to these groups.  This unique approach is necessary because women need to know what is said to the church leadership, and the office bearers need to know what is being said to women.

In a world littered with conflict and disagreement about the role of women, Byrd actively attempts to avoid such discussions, focusing rather on a few indisputable points:

  • Women have influence in their families, in the church, and wherever else they are.
  • Women were created to be necessary allies of their husbands.
  • Women need to know the Word of God and be transformed by it, arriving at the truth, not merely searching for it.
  • False teachers want to make disciples in the church, but we are forbidden to welcome them into our homes.

Although Christian women are a valuable commodity to the publishing and speaking industries, they need the same theological standards as men.  Yes, there are many gifted women with popular women’s ministries, but some of them attack or denigrate the basics of Christianity:  the authority of the Bible, the Trinity, Jesus’ incarnation, justification by faith.  Because these teachers can be appealing, compassionate, understanding, and relevant, we sometimes need to be reminded to notice deviations from the truth.  Byrd gives an array of ideas to watch out for.  She also urges pastors and elders to read some of the titles being studied by the women in their church.

Byrd identifies three problems commonly encountered in Christian best sellers for women

  • Ecumenicalism at the expense of doctrine
  • Claiming direct revelations from God
  • Reading one’s own meanings into the text

The author is careful not to attack any author or teacher, which is wise.  Instead, she gives excerpts from various popular books for the reader to practice finding problem issues.  I have read some of the authors she discusses and, while it is possible to criticize them, it is also possible to learn from them if one is careful, as Byrd also says.

At one point the character of the book changed, or perhaps my perception of it did.  In any case, suddenly the author and I were joyfully engaged in a discussion of how to read carefully (using How to Read a Book, link to my review) and how and why to review what we read.

No Little Women ends with a chapter written to pastors about how to preach to women as well as men.  That chapter concludes with an excellent encouragement to women about how and why to listen to sermons, a section that applies to all.

In No Little Women, Aimee Byrd does the church a great service by discussing a problem that is so explosive most people avoid it.  She offers solutions that seem obvious to some but perhaps not to others, the most important being that the preaching should be based on the Word of God, listened to diligently, and addressed to the entire congregation.

There is an interesting omission in this book.  In the Bible women are instructed to ask their husbands about things they do not understand.  Byrd emphasizes going to the elders or the pastor instead.  Now, it is true that some husbands are not Christians, but many are.  It is also true that if the husband is away or busy, for whatever reason, he will have no time to consider his wife’s questions, and this is a serious matter.   The important point, though, is that by God’s design husbands are the heads of their families and no one should try to bypass or undermine them.  Looking at things this way, the words Byrd wrote to church leaders should also be read by husbands.

In conclusion, many of the things Aimee Byrd says are true.  Some of them may seem a bit off although it is hard to pin that down, but the important thing is this: she bravely and carefully opens a conversation that has long been needed.  All Christians who value the truth about God, i.e. true theology, should read this book and it should be in every church library.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from P&R publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Canadian History Celebration

canada 150

Since 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday, we aim to celebrate that in our homeschool.  Some say Canadian history is boring because it has no impressive royalty, revolutions, or invasions, although it does have its own version of each of these.  Indeed, its history is a whole lot less dramatic than that of many other countries but it is fascinating in a more subtle way.  There are many heroes, from courageous explorers to thousands of unsung settlers, from world famous scientists to authors who continue to inspire, from soldiers to politicians and grassroots influencers.  Everywhere, the land and the climate shape us, and always our past influences who we are.  That, in fact, may be part of our Canadian identity.

My goal this year is to increase our knowledge of Canadian history’s facts, stories, and personalities and to understand how ideas and international events influenced it and continue to have an impact.  Practically, we want to be able to use that knowledge to contribute to our country, both politically and otherwise. Of course, there is also the matter of completing a Canadian history credit for high school.

How will we go about this?  First of all, we will intensify our literature-based Canadian history studies, focusing on that in our reading.  We also hope to go on at least 12 history-based outings, watch relevant movies, and look at the current Canadian scene from a Christian point of view.

To intensify our teen girls’ multi-year literature-based Canadian history course we will start with a broad outline of the history and geography of Canada learned in the earlier years, just as our older children did.  Together we will determine a handful of major dates and topics to focus on, probably from a review skimming of our much-loved Story of Canada and the excellent Canadian history series by Robert Livesey.  We will also study a more in-depth, age-appropriate history of Canada.

With this background, we will branch out to interesting rabbit trails and read both fiction and non-fiction about those topics.   Current areas of interest include the history of Canadian hockey, science, and country music.  We will also, however, read about people and events that the girls are not currently interested in such as the development and influence of the RCMP, various prime ministers, settlers, industries, the underground railway, immigration experiences, local history, the world wars, and whatever else catches our fancy.  Ideally, we would locate our readings and movies on maps and a timeline, but we have never yet been successful at this so it may not happen.

One thing about a literature-based study is that the best learning comes from a variety of books: academic tomes, primary source documents, award-winning picture books, exciting novels (both teen and adult), sober biographies, historical photography, poetry, and current activism. Therefore I’m looking at authors such as Pierre Berton and Barbara Greenwood; scholarly sites like Early Canadiana Online;  series such as the Touchwood Classics West Collection and The Canadians; visual books ranging from children’s picture books to studies of the Group of Seven and Karsh; and much more. Individual titles I’m considering include Everyday Life in the Wilds of North America by Ballantyne (a bit gruesome, but with lots of geography and history), some of the books by Catharine Parr Traill or her sister Susannah Moodie, Severin’s The Brendan Voyage, or  North For Adventure, the story of Samuel Hearne.  As long as the quality of the book is high, there is nothing ‘too easy’ or ‘too advanced’ to learn from, and I suppose that is one of the definitions of a living book.

A few of these books I will read aloud, many of them I will leave lying around, and some I will assign.

Canada is full of museums and many of them are celebrating our country’s 150th birthday.  We hope to visit or revisit many of those within driving distance.  Some people recommend writing reports on museum visits; I prefer discussions and narrations, but if a report is necessary for learning to happen, we will do that.  Of course, we can also do living-museum activities at home, looking at heritage recipes, skills, crafts, and more, and I suspect we may end up with heirloom chickens and pots of herbal concoctions.

Relevant movies are legion and I expect to discover many new treasures this year.  Movies to re-watch include John Robson’s documentary on the Magna Carta, Two Sisters in the Wilderness, Summer on Ross FarmQueen and Skipper about The Bluenose and the 1948 thriller about the start of the cold war, The Iron Curtain.

As citizens of Canada, we also want to look at the current Canadian scene from a Christian point of view.  Some resources we use for this include ARPA Canada, which provides both information and practical ways to become involved, and  CARDUS, which is a Christian public policy think tank.  This year we also plan to study Michael Wagner’s book, The Christian Citizenship Guide. Two other books, The Culture War by Jonathan van Maren and Power in Service by Ouweneel, look helpful but may not meet our needs for this course, so I will need to pre-read them.

Canadian History Resources:

I find many of my Canadian history resources at our public library, but I also search

Please, if you have any resource recommendations for Canada’s 150th birthday, do let me know in the comments.

Disclosure:  As always, I am not compensated for recommending any of these resources

Review: Fly Boy by Eric Walters

Flyboy

At seventeen, Robbie McWilliams had enough of waiting to fight the Nazis.  His pilot father had been prisoner of war for a few years now, and it was time to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and help end the war.  With a great deal of ingenuity and with the support of his friend Chip, he fooled his mother, his boarding school, and the RCAF, and entered training to become a pilot.

It was a tough world for a seventeen year old, but he aced his classes and was chosen to become a navigator, not a pilot. He was sent immediately to England to complete his training on frightening missions.  Not only his skills as a navigator were tested….

This fast-paced story for 11 and up is a favorite at our house, even for older teens and their mother.  Despite the subject matter, it is upbeat, funny, and encouraging, a hero story that warms one’s heart and leaves one refreshed and motivated.

School teacher/author Eric Walters slips in worthwhile little tidbits about the stupidity of gambling and drinking, about the value of learning and putting in the effort, about courage, bullying, and getting along with people, about loyalty, and, of course, about death.

We recommend Fly Boy as a good read as well as an excellent supplement to Canadian history studies.

This book forms part of our multi-year, literature-based Canadian History course . This review is linked to Finishing Strong , Trivium TuesdaysSaturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.

Disclosure: We borrowed this book from the library and I am not compensated for this review.

Halfway Through the Homeschool High School Year

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Geography read aloud after lunch

As we approach the halfway mark in our homeschool year, I look at what we have accomplished and panic.  We are so far behind where I had hoped we would be! 

It’s very stressful, this being behind, and years ago I used to pass that stress on to the kids.  Let’s work harder, let’s do a bit more every day.  We can do it!

When this situation occurred a few years ago, I really stopped to think about it.  Obviously my stressed approach had been all wrong, and I wrote about what we should do instead of panicking.  One thing that jumps out at me from three years ago is to be thankful for what we have been able to accomplish.  So now I’m trying to calmly assess where we are and just continue on, grateful for God’s blessing on our learning so far.  For he has blessed it, but I had forgotten that when I got discouraged.

So, with thankfulness and hope, here is what Miss 16 and Miss 14 have accomplished so far this year, (most links are to my reviews):

Bible:  The three of us have read the Bible from Daniel to Luke, as well as Revelations, John, Acts, and Romans with my husband.  Some Bible reports have been written although not as many as I had planned.   Also, we constantly review and learn Bible texts and Psalms and hymns, and the girls study the Heidelberg Catechism at a church class. I had planned to spend the year studying the gospels in depth, but haven’t found a suitable resource for our homeschool Bible study.  Instead, during the holidays I saw Growing in the Gospel, a book of practical doctrine that looks promising.  It just arrived this week and I hope to decide by next week whether or not it will be suitable for our homeschool.  So, actually, except for the Bible book reports, we have accomplished a lot in Bible.  That is the most important thing, and I am thankful.

MathKey to Algebra, level 7 and level 2.  We switch between these booklets and Singapore Math’s NEM series but are far, far behind where I had hoped to be.  Even so, what the girls learn they do seem to learn solidly, and they have (re)gained confidence in their ability to tackle new concepts.

English Lit:  We’ve gone formal this year and are studying the Bob Jones literature guides for grades 9 and 10.  They are good (although I skip everything by Poe) and thorough, and our progress is steady although slow.  This is more organized than Omnibus or novel studies, both for the girls and for me, and that sort of organization is something we need right now.

English Grammar:  We’re following Rod and Staff, except we haven’t gotten very far this year.  I keep on reminding myself that many university students (and profs) don’t even know the parts of speech.  Still, I wish we were moving along more quickly.

English Composition:  We have not done as much writing as I had hoped, and I hadn’t hoped for much.  Still, note-taking, reports, and letters are nothing to sneeze at, and Format Writing is a good guide.  Formal and informal narration count as well, of course.

Spelling:  Some people spell easily, but some need instruction for the rest of their lives.  We’re using How to Increase Your Word Power by Reader’s Digest, focusing on lists of frequently misspelled words.  This makes it more relevant to the girls, as do the 5 problem words they get to add to the list each week.

French:  Progress is slow and somewhat steady, using French is Fun 1.  This is review for both girls, but sometimes review is reassuring and one can never review a language too much.  They know French is important but cannot find the spark that successful language learning needs.  This subject requires more discipline from me in the future—I need to insist on a little bit of work every day no matter what.  That is hard when there are health issues but a little bit of review is manageable even on bad days, and it gives a sense of accomplishment rather than failure to the whole enterprise.

Dutch:  Miss 16 is doing marvellously well.  We’re using Dutch in Three Months, Rosetta Stone, and various read alouds, and in each case we focus on oral work (although we now do have a Dutch spelling list as well).  We’ve discovered the power of foreign language narration, and I hope to write about that soon.  It’s amazing! As for Miss 14, well, she’s not too interested but seems to understand her sister’s readings anyhow.  I’m so thankful that I am able to teach Dutch in such an informal way.  It makes it much easier for the girls to learn.

Science:  We are still plodding through Apologia’s Biology and Physical Science.  They say learning something well takes time.  Perhaps, then, we are learning it well.  This biology text emphasizes memorization, but we are concentrating on learning the most important sections (the cell, the chemistry of life, genetics, etc.) thoroughly and taking a more relaxed approach to the rest of the book.  As for physical science, well, that is not going well at all.  Perhaps we are doing too many extra-curricular activities.  Perhaps it’s the headaches.  Perhaps I just need to be more insistent.  Or, and this is the most likely, perhaps both the book (first edition) and I explain things unclearly and I need to figure out a better way of explaining gravity.  (I’ve been looking at Physics Classroom.)

Geography:  The goal here was to quickly do the first 5 chapters of the BJUP world geography course for a thorough grounding in the topic from a Christian perspective and then to switch to a Canadian geography text.  Well, we’re still in the world geography book….  On the other hand, our read aloud focus has been travelling.  The Swiss Family Robinson of last summer is full of descriptions of different flora and fauna in different geographical areas.  We read a story about New Zealand and its deserted beaches.  We started Two Years Before the Mast and finally gave up (as the protagonist wanted to do, too) in the middle of months of preparing hides for shipping.  And now we are reading The Northern Magic, a modern story of sailing around the world, while the girls color relevant maps.  We also watch geography documentaries including the amazing BBC nature films.

Logic:  Miss 14 is doing Building Thinking Skills 2 and Miss 16 is studying the James Madison Critical Thinking Course.  In both cases, we do a little bit every day.  It’s not hard and requires no memorization, but it just needs to be done, so the little by little principle works beautifully.

Reading:  The goal is an hour of reading a day.  My older children read so much that I had to drag them away from their books, but once screens enter a home, things change.  Books are no longer the activity of choice and reading needs to be assigned, even if there are screen limits.  It is so rewarding when the girls pick up a book on their own, or when a book absorbs them so much that they cannot put it down!

Where we shine this year is in extra-curricular activitiesTherapeutic riding volunteer work, horseback riding, part time job, and homeschool co-op (debate, drama, finance, sports).  Each of those provides an enormous amount of learning and I need to remind myself of that regularly.  Public schools in our province even award high school credits for the hands-on learning.

So, that is where we are so far this year.  We have not gotten as far as I would want and are not even using the curriculum I would prefer, but we are doing what we can given our circumstances.  I am grateful for the opportunity to homeschool, the ability to learn and teach despite health challenges, and the beautiful world God has given us to learn about.  Especially, I am grateful that the basis of our homeschool is God’s Word, not humanism, the marketplace, or feminism with its many radical offshoots.  We can learn the truth about God and about mankind.  We can strive for excellence, truth, beauty, and goodness, not homogeneity, political correctness, or consumerism.  For this freedom, I am grateful.

So, onward we go into the second half of the homeschool year, trying to be faithful every day in the little things so that we will be able to equip our children to love the Lord their God with their whole being and their neighbors as themselves.  This is a huge calling, but it can often seem so mundane.  Both its enormity and its daily-ness are so overwhelming and obviously we cannot do this without God’s blessings.

May God give us all the dedication, creativity, organizational skills, energy, and joy that we need to teach our children.  And may he give us what we need to notice and be grateful for his good gifts in this part of our lives too.

Have you had a moment to think about how your homeschool year is going?

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