Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Rebekah - A Woman of Service

Another study in the Proverbs 31 series. First published in Keepers at Home magazine Spring 2019.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. Proverbs 31:19

For thousands of years, providing clothing for the family wasn't as easy as walking into the nearest store. You couldn't choose a new robe, tunic, or pair of sandals off a rack. Your next garment was running around the pasture or growing in the field. Women invested hours into preparing wool, cotton, and linen for the clothing needs of their family.

A drop spindle could be carried in a pocket to spin wool into yarn while waiting your turn at the well. Socks could be knitted while chatting with friends. Flax was woven while watching the cooking pot. Out of necessity, women's hands were not idle.

Rebekah, like many young women through the centuries, carried water to her home each day from the village well. This was one of those endless tasks like sewing, laundry, and dish washing.

We don't know if Rebekah wearied of the task of carrying water. Maybe she was in a hurry to get back to her house to prepare the evening meal. When Abraham's servant stopped her and asked for a drink, we know that she willingly offered, not only a drink, but to draw water for ten parched camels.

She had no obligation to this stranger. By his obvious wealth, she could have assumed he could afford to hire help. In fact, he had men servants traveling with him, and maybe he could have ordered them to draw water for the camels. Yet she served in the most basic human way possible; she gave a drink of water.

If people share your house, especially little people, many tasks, such as dish washing and laundry are never completed for more than a few minutes. I often feel unappreciated and grumpy when faced with the monotony of unending, unappreciated tasks. My desire to multitask and use my minutes wisely sometimes drives me to push people and their needs out of my life.

Sometimes I want to choose the way I serve. I desire to do something important with eternal value. Sharing a Bible lesson at the detention center seems like a higher, more godly form of service than making breakfast or mopping the floor. But we will never know the result of our faithful performance of mundane tasks. Watering camels was the step that put Rebekah in Christ's earthly lineage. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” (Colossians 3:23)

Rebekah carried only a water pot. And God used it. God often uses our gifts, interests, and skills to bless others. What is in your hand? A whisk, a dishcloth, a pen, a needle? You might not have the same gifts as your sister but never underestimate the power of a prayer, an encouraging word, a short note, or a simple meal. 

We may think we don't have much to offer, but we all have ways to serve if we are not worried who gets the credit, who could do it better, or whether it is important.

Serving requires joy, or it will feel like slavery. When I drag myself out of bed for the third time in the same night, I don't feel like singing. When I sew a dress for my daughter, and she rips the hem the first time she wears it, I show my displeasure. Rebekah willingly drew many gallons of water for a stranger’s camels, and they didn't smile sweetly and say “thank you.” Service given grudgingly or with expectation of appreciation robs me of the blessing of serving.

The reward for our busy hands does not often show up in valuable jewelry as it did for Rebekah. But God gives recognition for our diligence in His time. 

“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Three World War 2 Books

I've read quite a few books that are set in World War 2, but there are always new books being published. This time period has a perennial appeal to many readers.

I don't read a lot of fiction, but occasionally enjoy immersing myself in a well-written story. Each of these gives a different view of World War 2, and I considered the time living in their pages as well-spent.

This post contains affiliate links.

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Gerta has survived the Holocaust and is now trying to begin a new life. I never considered the courage it took for young people to choose to love, marry, and begin families after having their childhood stolen by the Nazis. The book is lovely in its spare prose and poignant illustrations.

I picked up this book to preread it for my children, but decided it is better read by adults because of the few marriage details. The length of the book makes it perfect for an adult who wants a quick, but unforgettable, read.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Travel with a blind girl from Paris, a priceless diamond, a German orphan with a brilliant mind, and a cancer-stricken German officer until they meet in a small town along the sea. The gorgeous writing in the book makes it obvious why it has won so many awards.

I listened to this book on audio and wished I was reading a physical book so I could slow down and reread favorite lines. When I mentioned this on my blog a few months ago, a reader mailed me my own copy. I loved rereading it, but discovered that the audio had enhanced this book's pleasure, especially all the foreign words.

It took me several years of hearing rave reviews of this book before I finally read it. Now I'm the one recommending it to everyone. I now have two copies of the book, but often they are both lent out.  (The only thing I like better than reading a book is sharing it, so if you live close by, please come raid my shelves.)

Some have said that this book was too sad for them. I get that. But to me a book set during war has to be sad. I don't want books that glorify war and paint an unrealistic picture of the devastation it causes. But I also can't read books that are graphic or too dark. I found this book, though sad, was hopeful and somewhat redemptive. But if you want a happy-ever-after ending, this book might not be for you.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

The author of this book discovered some women's magazines from World War 2 in England and was fascinated by the help column and the problems that women were facing at that time. She wrote a story about Emmy who wants to be a war corespondent but lands a job at a women's magazine where she secretly answers the letters that the editor considers Unpleasantness.

I laughed and cried following Emmy and her friend Bunty through London where even a date at the nicest restaurant in town might end in a tragic bombing. They try to cheerfully "do their bit" while looking for love and surviving misunderstandings in their friendship. I enjoyed the great English accent on the audio book. There is a small bit of swearing, but the romance doesn't go further than a kiss on the doorstep.

Do you have a favorite book set in World War 2?

Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: Sew Basic Ladies' Pattern

For years I have been asked how to make a cape dress. I wrote a series on sewing cape dresses but continue to be asked where to find a good cape dress pattern.

Sew Basic Patterns designed a line of girls patterns a few years ago. I reviewed both their small girls' and larger girls' sized patterns. I've used these patterns dozens of times in the last couple years, and it is the only patterns I use for my girls.

Right now my oldest daughter and I are on a sewing spree. In the past week I have cut out seven dresses for my girls using three sizes of the girls' Sew Basic pattern. They always live up to their name of being simple to sew.

Ladies' Cape Dress Patterns image 0

I kept hoping that Sew Basic would extend their pattern line to ladies' sizes. And now they did.

I was given an adult size pattern from Sew Basic to try, and now I think I found my new favorite pattern. I made the dress exactly according to the pattern. The only change I made was to extend the sleeve length and add a cuff. I chose the size by my measurements, and it fits perfectly.

The pattern includes directions though some sewing experience would be helpful. The pattern includes several options for sleeve and skirt styles.

Since women come in all shapes, the pattern includes an extra sheet of information on making pattern adjustments for various shapes such as narrow or sloped shoulders.

You can find all the Sew Basic pattern sizes on Etsy. Or email Michelle at sewbasicdresses @ gmail.com for more information.

I received a free pattern to review, but all opinions in this post are my own.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Biographies of People Who Love to Learn

I think that a visit to the library is the perfect cure for the February slump. 

And I love taking a book list to the library to increase my chances of bringing home great books. I hope this list will give you some great books to enjoy with your children.

I love the explosion of wonderful picture-book biographies that have hit the shelves of my library. I have learned about so many little-known people - so don't think these picture books are just for young children. 

Prejudice, disabilities, and discouragement didn’t keep these people from learning about their world. These picture books might help you out of your winter slump.

This post contains affiliate links.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu
Ada loved numbers and wrote about machines which would do jobs that no one else imagined possible. Today we call them computers. Realistic paintings show us Ada’s world.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Jacques loved the sea and wanted to learn its secrets and share them with the world. Through his inventions, explorations, and photographs, he helped protect the creatures of the sea.

Caroline’s Comets by Emily Arnold McCully
Caroline Herschel joined her brother in the studying the stars and became the first woman to discover a comet. With bold water-colors and excerpts from Caroline’s diary, this book brings her story to life.
Blockhead: the Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese, illustrated by John O’Brien
Leonardo thought about numbers night and day, which got him into trouble. But as an adult, Leonardo traveled the world and discovered what is now known as the Fibonacci Sequence. Whimsical illustrations tell the story of this mostly unknown mathematician.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
A misfit in school, Paul loved to play with numbers, especially prime numbers. He spent his life studying numbers and sharing what he learned with others.

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala
Lizards, turtles, and even crocodiles were Joan’s friends when she was a girl. Joan’s passion for reptiles took her to the London Zoo, where she designed a new Reptile House.

Nothing Stopped Sophie by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Life was hard for all girls growing up in Paris during the French Revolution, but the challenges increased for a girl who loved numbers. As an adult Sophie would tackle math problems that experts said were impossible to solve. The water-color illustrations show the jubilation of Sophie’s endeavors.

Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Raul Colonial
How would you teach a wild child who could neither hear nor see? This is a lovely picture book depicts the relationship between Helen Keller and her teacher and includes excerpts from Annie’s letters.
Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colonial
Henrietta knew only a few girls were allowed to study astronomy in college but she was determined to learn how to measure the solar system.

Marie Curie, written and illustrated by Demi
Marie's quiet beginning in Poland did not give hint to the great scientist she would become. Sparkling illustrations tell the life story of this amazing woman.

Two brothers from Yorkshire became the first to photograph all the bird nests and eggs of England in their natural habitat.

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Katherine went to San Diego to teach school, but the barren landscape drove her to try something radical—plant trees. A short biography that shows that even one person can make a difference.

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jordi Solano
The first person to study sharks in their native habitat, Genie helped change what we know about sharks.

ToFly: The Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie Old, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
Two brothers, bicycle parts, and a homemade engine – humble beginnings for the first controlled, motorized aircraft. This book gives fun details about the Wright brothers and their first airplanes.

If you want more book lists, check this lists of lists.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Goals and Routines: What DIDN'T Work for Linette

Today is the last day of January and the final installment in the series on goals and routines. Thanks to each of the ladies for sharing.

When Linette announced in her Christmas letter that she was making the goal of cutting out all extras in 2020, I applauded her transparency and asked if she'd share about it on Home Joys.

I am a goal-oriented person. I love lists and crossing things off. Sometimes I add things to my lists that I’ve already done just for the thrill of making a line through it.

I am a visionary person. Life will never be long enough for me to meet all the goals that I want to achieve. There is always one more place I’d love to visit, one more book to read, one more craft or sewing project I’d like to finish, or one more new recipe to try.

I also have entrepreneur tendencies. My brain has dreamed up multiple projects. My love of learning has sent me spiraling in many diverse directions. I have tried to conjure the energy, time, and resources of any interested persons (and some not-so-interested, particularly children) to pull off many strategies and schemes.

But this year I am resolved to change my goals and routines. As much as I love gardening and flowers and baking and crafting and everything else in between, I am determined to scale way back on all those things that don’t have to be done. 

These changes are backed by a goal to focus on rest and relationships. What is the most important anyway?

I had a conversation with an older woman who spoke wisdom to my heart. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities that had been placed on my shoulders. She simply suggested that maybe God didn’t intend for me to do all the things that I thought needed done and that, most importantly, it was essential to recognize and prioritize the work that God had specifically given to me. Her words leaked into my heart in ways beyond the situation we were talking about and gave me courage to lay down the non-essentials…at least for a season of time.

Honesty has called me to realize that busyness has been a hindrance in my life. I have been so busy with trying to manage and achieve all my goals, projects, and activities that other areas of my life were suffering. I am hoping that with the cutting out of extra-curricular things I will have more time and energy for occasions like tea parties with my three-year-old, taking a walk out the back lane, or intentionally making memories with a friend.

Most of all, I regret the moments I’ve lost with God. My goal this year is to rest in the Lord and renew my relationship with Him and others. This may mean that I need to get to bed in good time so that I can get up to pray before my children awake. It might take the giving up of a project that I wanted to finish. It could be making time to do things that nurture and revive my soul. 

At times it is going to take a decisive choice. But at the end of my life I want to be able to say like Jesus in John 17:4. “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”
- Linette Horst - Maryland

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Goals and Routines: What Works for Flo

Flo shares a practical way that she balances all her mom tasks.

What I Can Do Well

If you are a mom with all young children, you know how overwhelming all the responsibilities resting on you can feel.
Chief cook and pastry chef
Nurse, pharmacist, and medical adviser
Flowerbed and garden planter, water and fertilizer supervisor
Birthday rememberer (my friends, and all the children’s friends)
Executive housekeeping officer
Mail and bookkeeping master
The above items list only physical obligations, not even touching the abstract responsibilities that come with the role of wife and mom: teacher, nurturer, friend, neighbor, and more. How can I meet the demands required for this life I’m blessed to live?

I run from defrosting the freezer—frost up to here!—to creating a bank deposit to emptying my son’s too-full clothes drawer, berating myself for not taking the outgrown clothes to the attic two months ago. Taking clothes to the attic makes me cross, because I see all the coats, clothes, and camping gear swirled together. Should I tackle the mess in the attic for a few minutes since I’m up here anyway? Or ignore the wreck and continue deep cleaning the boys’ room?

I hate working as hard as possible and still feeling perpetually behind. Attempting varied tasks in as many directions leaves me feeling scattered and exhausted, not to mention inefficient and unproductive.

I’m not a good mom when I feel too busy to enjoy the children. And this is the life I dreamed of: taking care of little people and raising them with the man I love. If I don’t enjoy the moment now, when will I? Certainly not when the children are grown and gone, no longer requesting to be read The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

And then I found this advice, words that gave me permission to say no to necessary work without guilt: Of all the work you are responsible for, do well at one thing today

One thing? One feels far easier than everything. One allows me to say no to many things and focus on what is most important today. This is how I have narrowed my everyday household responsibilities to 4 items:
  1. Cooking and baking
  2. General cleaning and laundry
  3. Deep cleaning and organizing
  4. Office work—anything at my desk
I can choose to work on one thing and not stress about the myriad other tasks waiting. When I return books to the bookshelves in the office and see the mail on my desk needing to be processed, I don’t need to drop everything and clean off my desk. Deskwork waits for Tuesday, which I try keep free of errands and appointments so I can give my full attention to mail and writing projects and books.

Deep cleaning is not assigned to a particular day of the week, but tackled on a specific day of my choice. When I am deep cleaning the living room, supper will likely be a simple chicken and rice casserole; it’s not the day for a four-course meal. Laundry and cleaning are most likely to get done Monday and Friday. Saturday I like to prepare food for Sunday, choosing kitchen work above any other responsibilities.

Two things I chose not to put on my responsibilities list are “wife” and “mom.” Regardless of what other responsibilities I fill, I want to give my husband and children priority every day—it’s the ultimate accomplishment if I may do it well.  
-Florence Fox - Michigan

Monday, January 27, 2020

Goals and Routines: What Works for Dorcas

Dorcas shares about her homeschooling routines.

I never thought I would homeschool, but along with our move to southern Chile, came the need for me to school our children who were then in kindergarten, second, and third grade. My personality tends to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants, and yet, that does not produce an atmosphere to thrive.

I have tried schedules, but then feel like I fail them so soon. For me, schedules do not allow time for things that are most important in my life. Things like reading and pondering Scripture longer this morning than yesterday morning or a friend dropping by for coffee when math is scheduled.

I liked to make schedules that if I managed follow would give a temporary feeling of success. But, I didn’t know when I made the schedule if a child is going to be struggling or when something else would come up. When I failed the schedule, I would feel like I was failing homeschooling. I needed to learn, that in my life, timed schedules are great for a school, but they do not bring rest and the results I was wanting in our home.

When summer arrived, we were still not finished our school books. Thus began  year-round homeschooling, and I came up with rhythms instead of schedules. About every three to six months I have needed to change our rhythms, as seasons of life change, or we need a little change so our life is not just methodically ticking off math, history.

After reading Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, I have worked very hard to shape the children’s attitudes about school books, writing, and reading to be as much a part of our daily living as breakfast and cooking and laundry. I want folding laundry neatly, cleaning the house well, and playing peaceably to be just as important as doing their best in math and spelling and language.

We are on our fourth year of homeschooling, and in this current season in life these are our rhythms. First things. (Make bed, get dressed, comb hair, feed the dog, brush teeth). Bible. (They are all going through the Bible. Our oldest daughter reads on her own. Our son listens to the audio Bible while following along in his Bible, and our nine-year-old daughter sits beside her brother and listens to the audio.) Then they read or play until breakfast. (This gives me time to keep reading my Bible, start a load of laundry, or mix up bread.)
After breakfast in which, after I have finished eating, I read something out of the Bible, a poem or two or five, we work on our current poem or Scripture we are memorizing and review several past ones, plus usually fit in something else we are working at learning. (That has been oceans and continents, reviewing parts of speech, skip counting, and currently teaching the children how to read music.)

Next is dishes. (For breakfast and supper dishes, I have a rotating schedule by weeks.) After dishes we spend about an hour and a half to two hours of study. Math always comes first.

Then they help with jobs and play until lunch time. After lunch is rest time for one or two hours. Most afternoons, we have a period where we do geography, history, or science, and they read the next chapter in the books they are reading aloud.

Throughout the times of work and play in the mornings and afternoons, I may work with one of the children individually on something they are struggling with in one of the subjects. 

If a friend stops for coffee, or we go to a friend’s house, the children know we take up with the next thing in our rhythm of First Things, Bible, Breakfast, Math, Lunch, Rest time, Afternoon study. If something comes up before we do Math and it is lunchtime, then Math comes between lunch and rest time. (When our children were younger, rest time would probably have needed to come before math.) Then we continue on through our rhythms of the day.

I try to keep the time after supper free from school work so we can spend time playing games as a family and just enjoying being with my husband.

By schooling year round, we are able to not do school books when traveling, sick, or on a day that a friend comes all day to learn to sew. Also there is no forgetting of math facts and fraction concepts in the summer months, and no dreading the getting back into school schedule. It allows for those harder when all we get done is math in the morning and read alouds with tea in the afternoon.

I have three mottos that I use to guide my days. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” “Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean, and the pleasant land.” (I repeat this one to myself on the days when I just want to go back to bed. Each little step we take does begin to add up to math facts remembered and concepts learned.) “Don’t count each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

Among the day after day of teaching and training and guiding, I have learned to truly love to homeschool our children. I have learned to be open to God’s leading in my days, to take the time to listen to and instruct a struggling child instead of just getting a math lesson checked off the day’s list.

Jesus promised that He came so we can have abundant life. Today I am so grateful that in those early days of homeschooling when I was struggling, I clung to that promise of abundant life, and refused to settle for mediocre. I want to run this race of life well, and so I have learned that I need to set rhythms for my life that will help us to become more excellent in every area, even though they may look different from my friends. I also know that our lives will keep changing, and our rhythms may need to change too, but I choose to believe that God will lead me as I seek to live my life for His glory and to be faithful even in the little things.
-  Dorcas Showalter - Chili


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