Saturday, October 27, 2012

Organizing the Path...

Upon seeing  the Trail Guide to Learning series and hearing about its unique set up, I knew this would be a great fit for my youngest.  I received my lovely shipment of materials in the spring and couldn't wait to get started!

Over the summer, I spent a day printing out all of the pages for the first semester and organizing them by weeks of the school year. 
                           These weekly folders are stored in the container below

I printed out the first semester, sorted it by week, then by day and then labeled each day's work with a post-it note.  

 I'm SO glad I did this!  

Once we started our school year, I only have to move that week's pages into daily work folders and I'm ready for the week!

                        (my version of workboxes since I don't have room for actual workboxes)

This has been an awesome way for me to cut down on my prep time and I'm so glad I spent some time up front to organize each week's pages.  Of course, I can't take all of the credit!  Paths of Exploration is well-organized and is very user-friendly.  Taking some time in the beginning, though, to familiarize myself with the curriculum and the general flow has paid off tremendously!

Because of this, I was able to prep the games for each unit so I wouldn't be left scrambling the week of or the day when needed.  My Sunday's are not filled with printing off worksheet pages or cutting out bingo pieces because the prep was done during the summer. 

 I highly recommend doing this upfront prepping if you attempt Paths of Exploration.  Not that going week by week would be laborious since I know several bloggers who function successfully in this manner.  For me, I find my Sundays fill up with last minute dinner plans with friends and our church activities, so it has worked to take the stress off by prepping prior to the school year.  Prepping before each unit, could be another way to do the upfront prepping without attempting to concur an entire semester.

Geography Matters' Trail Guide to Learning series has taken the time to put together a well thought-out curriculum that flows together nicely.  I'm so grateful this curriculum is organized so well that I'm able to organize how best it works for me and my family!  I cannot say this for many other curriculums I've tried.  Some seem to leave both the parent and chil suspended from day to day or week to week, tied up in a knot of instructions.  Not so with Paths of Exploration!  I have the freedom to prep as much or as little or as often or infrequently as I want and still arrive at a successful outcome!

Stay tuned for my next post on how our first unit went!

*Disclaimer: I receive a discount on the complete package in exchange for an honest, unbiased opinion on this curriculum.

Friday, October 26, 2012

On being still and knowing He is God...

My Pastor put put a challenge to our church last week to take 5 minutes a day to be still before God and just focus and meditate on Him.  This isn't the first time I've tried this but it had been awhile so I was looking forward to some quiet, concentrated focus on Him.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1) 5 minutes is MUCH longer than it sounds.

2) Despite my overall disposition of being a somewhat focused person,  I am amazed at how distracted I really can be.  For it is the forced quiet moments that reveal how much my mind shifts focus on the multitude of activity that typically surrounds me.

3) I do not believe it is accidental or just for poetic purposes that God states, "Be still and know that I am God."

4) Undivided attention is not only a discipline but a lost one in our fast-paced society.

5) In those moments when my mind quiets and my focus is on Him, I am in awe of what He has done for me.

6) In those same moments, I recognize just how unworthy I am of any kind of relationship with Him.  My pride, my selfishness, My ugliness, my imperfection, my sin. All of it makes me so unclean.

7) Despite my sin and ugliness, there is hope.  By grace, I have been given a gift of a relationship with Him, even though I don't deserve it.

8) God's ways are so, so very different from my own... and I'm so happy about that!  It's hard not to exercise my ideas and my will but when I lay those before Him, He has a far better plan than I could have come up with.

9) To be still is counterintuitive to what the world's mantra is... "Go! Go! Go!". To step off the wheel and out of the rat race is not what the world wants.  To say no to the next activity -no matter how great and worthy it is- goes against our culture's belief. We fill our "free time" with all that we can.  Why?

10) I have discovered I have a long way to go in developing this spiritual discipline of being still and meditating on Him.  Yet, despite my amateur beginnings, I am grateful for these first wobbly steps in re-acquainting myself with this practice.

 I want to make this a lifestyle that leaves enough space for intentional stillness to remember that He is God, instead of the quick whispers of "He is in control" that I tell myself as I rush from commitment to another commitment. This isn't an easy discipline - this being still before the Creator of all. It's hard. But anything worth doing usually is.

Won't you join me in setting aside 5 minutes a day to clear your mind of all that consumes it and turn your eyes to the One who can calm any storm and bring peace to any overscheduled and busy day??

Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


All of my life I was taught that all a man had in this world was his reputation, so I needed to guard and protect mine.  In times of attack, it was my job to defend it and make known the truth in a situation.  My reputation, so I was told, was the only thing I really "owned" in this world.

As it turns out, though, that's not really true.  A reputation is something others create FOR you; not something you create for yourself, necessarily.  Sometimes our actions contribute to a reputation but, I would argue, most of the time, our reputation is created by the talk of others.  Whether the words spoken are true or not.

What I've learned is that people are going to talk.  In spite of what I do or my intentions. There is not one thing I can do about that.  There's not a single action I can take to prevent, convince or otherwise, stop, someone from thinking poorly or speaking poorly about me (of course, there is one thing - NOT give them a reason to do so).  If my conduct has been appropriate and someone is still wanting to openly discuss me in a negative light to others... there isn't one darn-tootin' thing I can do about that.  Sure, my reputation may be tainted by this; yep, others may thing less of me, however, that is out of my hands.  I can't control what other says or think.  More importantly, my reputation isn't worth defending.

Over the past two years, God has opened my eyes to this  false belief that I held as truth for so long.  He has shown me time and again that it is not MY reputation that I am called to defend; it is HIS.  I have had my share of stings come from the false talk and accusations of others - drawing my reputation in a particular situation into question.  It would hurt.  It would upset me.  It would make my blood boil, at times.  And if I'm honest... I still have those reactions today, although, they are short-lived and given over to prayer more readily than in years past.  Time and again, God keeps telling me my reputation is not worth defending.  To take up offense on behalf of myself is actually quite conceded.  Unless the reputation of Jesus is at stake, my reputation is not enough to warrant defense.  It is not enough to climb into the ring with someone who is slinging mud and try to convince them that I am more than what they say I am.

And there is the truth...  WHY?  Why do I feel the need to try to convince someone that I am different than what they claim??  I think in part because I was programmed to "defend my reputation" but I also think it stems from the need to please and be accepted.  God has been working on this area of my life too.  A LOT.

In times of conflict, in the past, I've had this impulsive need to correct the untruth about me but now, I hand it over to God. And you know what??  He takes care of it... EVERY. TIME.  HE defends and protects me.  NOT me.  He reveals the truth about my character and heart in HIS timing, NOT mine.  He comforts and protects me from the slings and arrows of others' words.  I don't try to do this myself anymore. As unnatural as it feels, I'm learning to run to the Lord in times like these and let Him dry my tears and extend forgiveness, even if ever so quietly in my heart, more easily. Without Him, I am an emotional wreak, seeking to lift up my reputation to the point of an idol. With Him, I submit to His will and His way which is far different than mine.

In the end, it is not our reputation that we "own" but it is our reputation that will "own" us if we believe it is our job to defend it.  In the end, I stand behind my God, while slings and arrows that this world throws, fly all around me.  Instead of picking up my bow and arrow, I step into the shadow of  the One who promises protection and who took all the pain and suffering that I should have bore as His own.  He stood in on my behalf once and He continues to do so all the days of my life.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Overlooking offenses...

This concept and I.  We keep crossing paths.  I feel like in some ways it could well become the theme of my life over the past two years.   And please...  Don't read that as "I've got it all together and have this idea of overlooking offenses down pat."  Hardly.

Yet, in these past two years, God has chosen, again and again, to put this concept in front of me. Clearly, this is a concept I need to learn.  It's not something that comes naturally, in all honesty, to humans, though.  We live in a society that encourages and puffs up the idea that we should be offended at EVERYTHING.  And if we don't have a current offense to brew over, we should take up our friend's offense.  You know, become outraged on THEIR behalf.  Our world is quick to offend and slow to forgive.  

That is not how I want to be.

That is not what I was called to be.

God's plan for us believers is to live together in unity; sharing each other's burdens as well as joys; learning from one another; being vulnerable and transparent and being willing to be held accountable to each other and with each other; and overlooking offenses.

After having tasted the sweet, healing of forgiveness how can we not extend that very same forgiveness to others?  God didn't withhold Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for only those who ALREADY had their act together.  No! "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".    And praise God for that, right?  Yet, we tend to look at each other and demand a certain level of behavior; a 'jump-through-my-hoops' kind of expectation before we are willing to extend forgiveness. Yet, that's not forgiveness.

 God wants us to give  TRUE forgiveness.  The kind that can joyfully, humbly pray for the person who hurt you.  The kind that can mourn when the offender mourns and be joyful when they are.  The kind that keeps no record of wrongs.  THAT kind of forgiveness.

For us humans, overlooking an offense, extending forgiveness... the kind that God speaks of and shows time and again to us... That is so, so foreign to us.  It's usually the LAST thing we want to do.  It's much easier for us to dip our toes (sometimes our whole body) into the pools of sin by gossiping; harboring resentment and anger; allowing a root of bitterness grow in our heart; wishing ill-will to our offender.  And this breaks my heart.  Why, oh why do we default to our sinful natures when we have been made new in Him??

Thank God, though, He forgives us, anyway.

Offenses come in all shapes and sizes.. and with all sorts of intents.  Some offenses are unintentional and some carry a malicious overtone that can't be ignored.  So often, though, I see fellow believers in Christ taking up offense over things that, in the end, really don't matter.  They are easily overlooked.  She didn't say 'hi' to me today; His tone was down and negative when he should have been friendly; She gave me an instruction I didn't like; He spoke directly and bluntly to me; She took the last book that I had wanted..



Unnecessary, in the end.

God has called us to seek to understand first and be slow to anger.  Through Christ's sacrifice, we are called to forgive as He forgave us.... and we are to do it over.. and over... and over... again.  70x7.

Overlooking an offense, I'm convinced, cannot be done in MY own power.  It must be through the Holy Spirit working in my life.  It is when I obey the commands of scripture and the tugging in my heart, then I let God work through me as well as let Him mold me.  He is the potter, I am the clay.  I must remember this.

For it is not in my own power that I can overlook an offense and rid my heart of the unfairness of a situation and the hurt; it is only through Him that He can accomplish that through me.  

Over the past two years, and specifically the past few weeks, it is when I have let go and let God work, that I am freed from the bondage of being offended.  It is then that I can let Him purge my heart of the hurt and frustration of a situation and let Him mold me into the person He wants me to be.  

When I submit to Him, I become so free and so joyful, even in the midst of conflict, because only then can He be glorified in my life and through any situation.

I would encourage you.. if you have been offended (I'm not talking physical, sexual or verbal abuse), seek God's help to overlook it.  Seek His wisdom.  Extend true forgiveness and let God do some amazing work in your life.

Here's a great post about overlooking an offense that I read this week -