Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Rahab - A Woman of Faith

A continuing look at Proverbs 31 and women from Scripture. This article was first published in Fall 2018 in Keepers at Home magazine.

Rahab – A Woman of Faith

She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet. Proverbs 31:21

Even behind impenetrable walls, the king tossed on his bed. He had heard rumors for years of a great crowd of people marching across the wilderness. Some said their leader stood on a mountain and held up his hands and his army won battles. Others spoke of food appearing on the desert sand and water pouring out of barren rocks.

The king thought he had a few weeks at least; no one would attempt to cross the Jordan River at flood stage. But he had heard tales of the Red Sea parting and he wasn't taking chances. He commanded his guards to be on high alert.

Rahab, too, had heard the stories, but when two Israelite spies appeared at her door, she chose to hide them. (Joshua 2) Rahab told the spies that because of their God's power, she knew that He was the true God. While her fellow townspeople were terrified of these people, her belief drove her to she beg the spies to reward her kindness by protecting her family.

The spies told Rahab to gather her family into her house and to place a scarlet cord in her window. A red thread may have seemed like a meager protection against an army, but she obeyed. 

Through the opening of the Jordan River and the strange week-long march around Jericho's walls, Rahab's faith stayed strong. Hebrews 11 and James 2 both mention Rahab as an example of faith in action, one whose beliefs caused her to obey. Her faith rescued her entire family and placed Rahab in the family line of Christ.

We all face fear. We lay awake worrying about the future whether it is the next day or the next year. We know winter is coming, and our household must be prepared. Even if our lives are relatively pleasant and comfortable, we and are loved ones will all someday die. Statistics tell us that about half of us will face cancer, and most women will someday become widows. While no one escapes sin's curse, through Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, God has given us a scarlet cord.

When my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer in 2017, 1 Peter 1:3-5 became precious. 
“His abundant mercy hath [given]... us... a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." (1 Peter 1:3-5)  
When the future looks scary and uncertain, I need an eternal perspective to trust God.

But some days our future death seems easier than living faithfully today.

World events and the corruption in our land terrifies us like the people of Jericho. We watch addictions proliferate in our communities and fear for our children's future. We see the sin in our own hearts and become discouraged. Our enemy's goal is to make us faint and give up. If we don't guard our minds, he can build huge walls and raging rivers that only a faith like Rahab's will overcome.

Fear shows itself in numerous ways. I see the results of fear during sleepless nights when my mind imagines the worst. I'm giving in to fear when I'm reluctant to serve others because I might be misunderstood. Fear tempts me to avoid surrendering my will to God or submitting to my husband. Fear holds me back from opening my heart to love lest I be hurt.

Worry comes more naturally than trust. When cancer marched into my world, I asked if God was trustworthy. But then I glimpsed the power and love of God and wondered why I failed to trust Him. God gave me the peace of restful sleep even though armies marched outside my window.

We can't protect our loved ones, or ourselves, against all the dangers in this world. We can call on human power like Jericho's king. 

But like Rahab I want to obey God's commands, offer my family the Scarlet Cord, and trust the only One big enough to rescue us.

I'd love to hear how you build your faith and defeat worry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Books for Imaginative Children

A friend asked me recently for book recommendations for her son who enjoys fantasy books. I find the fantasy genre to be difficult since I want to avoid any books that hint at the occult. But I have found that most children have active imaginations and enjoy books with talking animals, secret wishes, and magical feats. I don't think my children have a problem discerning between truth and make believe. They know that spiders don't write letters in their webs to save their friend the pig. 

This list of books is for my friend Becky and anyone who want books for the imaginative child. Not all of them would be considered fantasy, but all definitely stretch realism and will require some imagination.

As always, these are books that I personally enjoyed when prereading for my children. If I start a book and find it hard to pick it up again, I assume that the book probably isn't worth my children's time either. I enjoy finding books that will delight their imagination while still meeting my personal book standards. If your standards differ from mine, then skip this list.

This post contains affiliate links. 

The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers
Imagine the story of David and Goliath mixed with Tom Sawyer and some American Tall Tales and dumped into a Georgia swamp. Only a skilled author with a great imagination could pull off this story. Don't expect a Bible story retelling, or even a "Christian" book. This is great story telling depicting some truth. Even my reluctant reader was drawn into this story of alligators, caves, and, of course, giants. The violence isn't graphic though still may be too much for a sensitive child.

The Bark of the Bog Owl begins the Wilderking Trilogy. I didn't think the sequel could be better than the first, but The Secret of the Swamp King managed to excel the first, in my opinion. The third book, The Way of the Wilderking wasn't my favorite of the three but gave a satisfying conclusion.

Half Magic by Edward Eager
On a boring summer day Jane finds a coin on the sidewalk and wishes something exciting would happen. Jane and her siblings soon find their wishes granted. Almost. Only half their wish comes true which makes some crazy escapades for the whole family. I love books like these with solid family relationships that were written in the 1950's. Eager's books have been delighting children for half a century. I've only read this one, but you might want to try his others books if you like Half Magic.

A lonely girl, an evil nanny, and a talking rat – all the ingredients needed for a delightful tale. Both boys and girls will enjoy in imagining what it would be like to be a few inches tall on a mission to save their parents. Don't miss the fun drawings across the top of the page. If you like Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, you'll like this story of super-smart rodents.

Recipe for Adventure: Naples by Giada De Laurentii

Alfie's aunt insists homemade pizza is better than take-out, and Alfie and his sister soon discover real pizza in Naples, Italy. These are short chapter books perfect for food loving children who are just beginning to read chapter books. Look for other books in the series for more food discoveries in other parts of the world as this chef/author cooks up a food adventure story. Note: the children do sometimes lie to keep from being found out on their make-believe adventure.

Eddie’s aunt is missing. He might only be a small green bug, but he is willing to brave the long school halls to find his aunt. Maybe he can even save the school library from the evil librarian. A fun easy chapter book for anyone who loves books.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
This is a story that proves that nothing is like it appears at first glance. Four twelve-year-olds are competing in the national candy making competition. Logan is expected to have an advantage since he lives in a candy factory. As the story switches to the perspectives of each of the other contestants, surprising secrets are uncovered and soon the children are in a contest to save the candy factory itself. I loved this story combining yummy treats and suspense. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Four gifted children respond to an unusual ad in the newspaper and are chosen to infiltrate a secret school. They find riddles, danger, tunnels, and an evil man who wants to rule the world. My children loved this book though it is a little darker and scarier than the other books on this list. You might want to discuss the Whisperer and telepathy with your children if they read this book. Don't be surprised if they fall in love with this creative bunch and want to read more books about the Benedict Society.

If you want more stories to build the imagination, check out my other list of fantasy books.

I'd love to hear about your favorites.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Camping with Children - without Losing Your Mind

Any mom who has vacationed with several small children knows that moms don't get a vacation on vacation. In fact, with a lack of routine (i.e. naps), a mom's life can be crazier on vacation than at home.

Early in our marriage, Ed and I did a lot of tent camping. We canoed down a quiet river, set up a tent in a pine-carpeted woods, and watched the campfire flicker. Ahhh...camping memories.

When children joined our family, we tried to keep camping. Our oldest slept in a tent by the creek when she was one-month old. We spent another memorable night by the creek with a three-year-old, not-quite-two-year-old, and one-month-old. Maybe that was the night we decided to put the tent in retirement and turn to cabin camping. We spent the next few years enjoying the rustic cabins at various state parks. Three years ago we tried setting up the tents on the Fourth of July at a state park, but a torrential rain flooded the tents and sent us home early.

This summer we thought we'd like to try tenting again. Our youngest is now two and out of the crib. Our older children can set up tents and other camp chores. Ed gets tired quickly and can't bike or hike, but camping is an activity that he can still enjoy.

But this summer, every time we'd have a free weekend, I'd look at the weather predictions and decide that tenting was not a good plan. Our area has been deluged with rain for months. When finally we decided to head to Chincoteague Island in October, I wasn't sure I even remembered how to pack for camping anymore.

That is when I had a pleasant surprise.

I pulled out our camping box from the basement. Back when we regularly went camping, we had stocked this box with some extra kitchen tools. I didn't remember what it contained but found that on the lid was two lists. One listed the items in the box. The other listed the supplies that needed added.

I'm good at making lists - but not keeping lists. I knew I had made camping lists in the past but had no idea where I may have put them. I felt like I had been given a huge gift with these two lists taped to the box. In a few minutes I was able to add the needed items (such as dish towels, charcoal, frying pan, and hot dog sticks). Over the years we had bought some items to keep with our camping gear, such as some cheap plastic bowls and plates and a small dustpan and brush, which made packing even easier.

We used to have a large tent, but the tent poles have broken over the years. We've picked up three smaller tents at yard sales and thrift stores - one for the girls, boys, and Ed and I. We found that several small tents are more convenient than one large one.

We stayed at Pine Grove Campground on Chincoteague Island. This is an small, older, family-owned campground. There are other campgrounds that have more amenities, but they charge more for larger families. One would have made us rent two campsites for our family of eight. At Pine Grove we found a quiet corner by a pond near the bathhouse and were able to spread out over several tent sites. The bathhouse was old, but the freshly-scrubbed toilets help me ignore the cracked cement. We would definitely go back to Pine Grove Campground.

I learned to always bring twice as many trash bags as you think you can possibly ever need  - especially if you'll be near water. There is always something sandy, wet, or muddy that needs contained. I had thrown in a small bucket which we found endlessly useful. At the beach the children's feet were sandy just walking from the restroom to the van. We filled the bucket with water so the children could wash their feet before climbing into the van. 

Food is a highlight of camping, but I kept our meals super simple. Each meal contained a simple protein (hamburgers, hotdogs, or chicken). I added a big bag of fresh veggies to the table as well as some sliced apples. Cookies or toasted marshmallows were dessert. With this menu, Ed could keep on his keto diet without any problem. He just added some mayo to his protein, used a low-carb roll, and enjoyed low-carb veggies with dip. I also picked up a bunch of snacks. Since I almost never buy processed snack foods like potato chips, they were a treat for my children and fun camp munching.

For clothing packing I tried a technique I learned from a mom with many children. My children are not convinced it made a big difference, but I think it tamed the chaos of everyone hauling their duffle bags full of clothing into the bathhouse. 

When we packed up our clothes at home, I had everyone carry their stack of clothes to my bed. I then made a stack containing a set of clothing for each person and placed them in a small duffle bag and marked the duffle with a date. For example, one bag was marked Girls - Saturday and contained a set of clothing for myself and each of my girls. I did the same for Ed and the boys. I had a bag for each day plus and bag with an extra set of clothes. I also had a tent bag which contained pjs, flashlights, and stuffed animals for the little ones. Another bag contained all the beach clothes and towels. 

The result was a LOT of bags with labels. But I could (usually) find what I needed. At camp we placed the tent bags in each tent. At night when we went to the shower house, we brought the one bag of clothing for the next day. The children changed into their clean set of clothes after their shower.

Another time-saver I found in our camping gear in the basement was our towel bag. Several years ago I pulled out some of our towels that were getting ragged. My daughter stitched initials for each family member onto a wash cloth and a bath towel. I keep these folded in a large bag. Anytime we go anywhere that requires us to bring our own towels, I grab the bag and we are packed. We keep a clothes line in our camping gear and strung a line between some trees.  After showers, each person hung up their towel to dry for use the next day. No confusion on using the wrong towel.

I think that this may have been the most stress-free camping trip we've ever had. I think this may have more to do with having older children to help and no babies than any other aspect. Or maybe it is the fact that our normal life is so stressful that it can't get worse when camping. Or maybe over the years we've learned a few things to help camping go smoother. 

But at the end of the weekend, we piled everything in the van  and closed the door quickly before something fell out. The stinky mess of wet clothes, the crusty remains in the bottom of the ice chest, the sand embedded into every fiber of clothing and van carpet - it all reminded me that camping with children (at the beach!) will never be a neat and tidy production. 

But it will be worthwhile.

Friday, October 19, 2018

God of Our Strength, Enthroned Above

A month has flit by and this week was again our appointment week for both my daughter and husband. I dealt with the hours on the road to appointments better than last month. Maybe because I was more prepared. Perhaps because I expected to get nothing done at home this week. Maybe because of good, uplifting messages on cd to listen to for those hours in the van.

Or maybe because of your prayers.

Our daughter's arm x-rays looked great and she is now free of her brace. Thanking the Lord for healing.

Ed's MRI is less conclusive. It is often hard to tell in the months after radiation whether an increase in size seen on the MRI is tumor growth or scar tissue. Often doctors don't even give MRIs for several months after radiation. Certainly they wouldn't give an MRI every month. But Ed is getting lots of extra tests since he is part of a research study. Brain cancer has not been well-researched, possibly because it is rare compared to many other types of cancers or maybe because of the inability to easily see inside a skull. Even the technology advances of MRIs are limited in their effectiveness.

But more tests give me more opportunities for testing anxiety. Or maybe more chances to practice trusting God.

Great view from the 13th floor at neuro-oncology.

The doctors think that the swelling seen on Ed's MRI is the result of scar tissue from radiation. Since Ed doesn't have symptoms such as headaches or weakness on one side, we are choosing to give it more time to heal before beginning more treatment. Ed continues to experience fatigue and sometimes struggles to concentrate, but he is still able to go to work part time. At 17 months since his GBM diagnosis, we appreciate every day we can get out of bed in the morning.

We recently sang this hymn at church, and it has been echoing through my mind this past week. Without a God on the throne of heaven pouring out His strength, I couldn't handle weeks like this. 
God of Our Strength, Enthroned Above
By Fanny Crosby
Hymns of the Church #81
God of our strength, enthroned above,
The source of life, the fount of love;
O let devotion’s sacred flame
Our souls awake to praise Thy name.
God of our strength, we wait on Thee,
Our sure defense forever be.
To Thee we lift our joyful eyes,
To Thee on wings of faith we rise;
Come Thou, and let Thy courts on earth
Ring out Thy praise in days of mirth. 
God of our strength, from day to day
Direct our thoughts and guide our way;
O may our hearts united be
In sweet communion, Lord, with Thee. 
God of our strength, on Thee we call;
God of our hope, our light, our all,
Thy name we praise, Thy love adore,
Our Rock, our Shield, forevermore. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bookmarks: Children's Books on Civil Rights

The Civil Rights movement in the mid-1900’s is a difficult topic to teach children since there was so much hatred shown. It is never enjoyable to read about people being treated unkindly.  But I think it is an important era of history for children to understand, even though I may not agree with all the actions of those who fought for civil rights

Here is some carefully selected books to share with your children to help start a discussion about God’s love for all people and the danger of prejudice.

This post contains affiliate links. Your purchase through these links helps support this site.

by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Slavery has ended, and education is now available for southern blacks. Virgie wants to go to school with her brothers, but they say that it is too far for her to walk. And, besides, girls don’t need school. But Virgie knows that everyone needs to learn. Based on a true story from Tennessee.

by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
Before computers, inventors and scientists had to do the math figures needed. Learn about four amazing math whizzes and their impact on the U.S. space program despite the prejudice that surrounded them.

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Learn about the impact that one pastor had on America. Comic-style illustrations combine into a great short biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Ruby Bridges
When little Ruby walked into a New Orleans school surrounded by U.S. marshals in 1960, she didn't know that she was making history. Years later, Ruby recalls that momental event and the challenges that faced her community. Photographs and quotes from others help tell Ruby's story. Highly recommended.

by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford
Ruby was the first child to go to an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Despite threats and danger, Ruby's courage and faith in God is shown through this picture book.

by Deborah Wiles, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
A law has been passed in 1964 to end segregation. Finally best friends Joe and John Henry can enjoy swimming together at the pool. But they soon find that a law doesn’t change hearts. Colorful paintings share the story of southern racism, and the friendship that can surmount it.

by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Mama says to never climb over the fence when you play, but when the white girl comes and sits on the fence, Clover and Annie find a way to overcome the barrier. Don’t miss this sweet story.

by Sharon M. Draper
This is the only chapter length book on this list. I was searching for historical fiction books on civil rights for older elementary students and rejected numerous books before finding this gem. Stella knows that she lives in the segregated south of North Carolina, but when Stella see the Klan's fire by the pond, she feels danger for the first time. A view of the civil rights struggle through a close-knit community during the Great Depression.

Do you have any recommendations for books on civil rights?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

10 Free Things to do at Chincoteague Island

Our family has wanted to visit Chincoteague Island for a long time. Last fall, a few days before our planned vacation, our son had his accident, and we had to cancel. This summer between rain and Ed's health, we wondered if we should attempt a vacation. 

Last week we looked at the weather forecast and decided to try camping. We knew Ed's fatigue would curtail activities we formerly enjoyed such as kayaking, biking, and hiking. But we still found many activities that we could all enjoy. And the added benefit was that they were free. 

First a little background. Chincoteague Island is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It is a popular vacation destination with all the typical tourist traps like ice cream shops and mini-golf. A short bridge allows you to travel from Chinoteague Island to Assateague Island. Assateague is a wildlife refuge and no camping, stores, or homes are allowed on the island. 

1. Travel with a Fourth Grader
It costs $20 for a pass to enter Assateague Island. I think the pass is good for one week. (A year's pass is $40.) But because it is a national park, you can use a Every Kid In A Park pass if you have a fourth grader (or homeschool equivalent.) Just ask the park ranger or print off a voucher online. All your child needs is to sign their name. 

This pass allows the fourth grader - and everyone in their vehicle - to enter the park free. A great benefit for large families who frequently have a fourth grader. Just choose the year your family visits national parks to coincide with your fourth graders.

2. Climb a lighthouse. 
It is a short walk to the Assateague Lighthouse. (Bring bug spray because the mosquitoes are bad. We didn't not have bug problems anywhere else on the island.) 

The lighthouse was beautifully restored a few years ago.

We all made it to the top, even the two year old (and no, she wasn't carried.) The views are stunning.

3. Walk a wildlife trail.
There are many trails which allow you to see the waterfowl and wildflowers up close. We walked the Marsh Trail, which was one of the shortest. If you bring bikes, you can cover more ground. I would have enjoyed spending far more hours with a camera and binoculars on these trails.

4. Learn at a Visitor's Center
Both the Herbert Bateman Education Center and the Toms Cove Visitor's Center have displays to learn about the wildlife on the island. We happened to hit the Refuge Celebration Day, and they had lots of extra displays and crafts for the children.

5. Fly a kite.
The first day we were there it was very windy. It only took minutes to put our kite high in the sky.

6. Have a picnic on the beach.
Food always tastes better in the fresh air, except when it is full of sand. The wind that was great for kite flying wasn't the best for our lunch. But we had picked the windiest day of our stay for our picnic. You can pick up a fire permit at the visitor's center to have a campfire right on the beach.

7. Watch the ponies.
After reading Misty of Chincoteague, our children were eager to see the wild  ponies. I told them not to have their hopes too high, but we saw a whole herd of wild ponies soon after arriving on the island. Since the wild ponies never got very close to the road, we stopped at McDonalds where there is a pen of ponies to observe up close. 

8. Go to Memorial Park.
At the famous Pony Swim each summer, this park is teeming with people. But when we were there it was a quiet place for the children to play. There is a great view of the lighthouse across the cove. 

9. Gather Shells.
Our little girls spent hours searching for shells then washing and sorting them back at our campsite. We finally persuaded them to leave most of them there for "another little girl to find."

10. Visit Wallops Visitor Center.
Back on the mainland, just a few miles from Chincoteague is the Wallops Flight Facility. We stopped by the visitor's center only 20 minutes before their closing, but we were able to learn a lot about their rocket launches and research balloons. Maybe it was good we only had a few minutes because some of our family could have enjoyed being here for hours longer than others.

There are many more things to do on the island. Museums, seafood restaurants, bikes and boats to rent. I didn't mention the obvious of playing in the waves. We didn't find it difficult to keep busy for a few days with very inexpensive options.

Those of you who have enjoyed Chincoteague, did I miss anything?


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