Thursday, October 3, 2013

I'm Moving!

I have a new home!  Well, Meaningful Home Life does!  Please come visit and poke around the new place!  It's still a work in progress, so you will see some tweaks here and there, but this address will be my permanent home.  Won't you come by and visit?

If you subscribe to this blog, I would love for you to move over and subscribe at my new home.  This will make sure you'll receive any new posts at Meaningful Home Life.  Look for the subscribe box on the right.

If you haven't signed up to receive my posts in your email, won't you consider joining me?

My 31 days posts will be resumed over at, starting with today's post.  Go check it out!

I look forward to seeing you over at my new place!

In Him,

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

31 Days of Letting Go: Let Go of the Past (day 2)

I slammed the door, with tears burning in my eyes.  I didn't want to hurt anymore.  My life.  My family.. the way of life and the people I had known, all flipped around.  In a stressful season of my family's business falling apart, my family had become strangers to me; hurtful, lashing out kind of people that couldn't contain their hurt.  I had dodged cutting words and flying objects aimed at me.

And my heart.

The physical would heal.  The slashing words... lingered.

I didn't recognize my parents or my brothers anymore.  All that I had known of what a family was and the love between members had disintegrated. Yet, it hadn't always been this way.  My childhood had been happy, relatively. At this point in my life, my family equaled violatile.  And all I wanted was either peace... or escape.  A chance to recover from the slings and arrows.  As down-trodden as I was, I promised myself, at that young age, that my own family would be different.  The first half of my life, up to this point, had been much more secure than my teen and college years.  In my 16th year of life, my family seemed to implode.. and they would continue to self-destruct over and over and over until I left that home when I was 22.
These years changed me. Scars ran deep and insecurities crept up into the recesses of my mind.

The past can haunt.  It can keep you mulling over the woulda, shoulda, and couldas.  It can replay memories best left alone.  It can taunt and ridicule.  The past, if given too much attention, can whisper in our ear all of our failures, our worst moments, and our hurts.  In fact, it has the ability to take a once scabbed over wound and make it come to life - bleeding, throbbing and raw as though the injury had just occurred.

I remember moments in my past that I'd gladly like to forget.  Times when I wish I could have a do-over.  I certainly can remember times when pain had been inflicted on me by others who were hurting.

Of course, not all of our past is bad (I hope).  For some, the only happiness they find in the present is by re-living good moments from the past.  Replaying good moments when life was happy and everything seemed to just click together.

There is danger in both mindsets.

One mind doesn't let go of the hurt, and is wounded over and over.  With each replay of a past hurt - done to us or a regret - a wall is built - stone upon stone - between ourselves and others.  Ourselves and God.  With each rewind, we deny God's power and ability to forgive the past.  With each stone laid, we CHOOSE to let the past reign in our hearts; we let that somehow, in some twisted way, be our comfort and companion.

Logically, we know it's ridiculous to cling to pain.  But, we do it.  We cling to the anger it stirs and let the roots of bitterness grow so deeply that it becomes the only life we know.  You know what I mean...

Hurt first... before someone else hurts you.  Always on the defensive.  Always thinking that someone is out to get you; that when another brings hurt to your doorstep... it's intentional.

But isn't this exhausting?  Aren't you tired of crouching in a defensive posture?  It takes so much more energy to hold on to the anger, the bitterness, the hurt... that it clouds our ability to see our present.  This weed of bitterness...this plant chokes out the good God is sowing in your heart.

The other mindset is so distracted by the "glory days" - when our marriage was sweeter - when our children were tender - when our family functioned well - when finances were in order - when we were happier - more popular - confident, that we are robbed.

You see, comparison is the robber of joy. Living in the past is comparing your present life with your old one - and the present has been found wanting.  And God has a lot to say about looking to the past...

* “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:18-19

* "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Cor. 5:17

* "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." - Phil. 3:13-14

* "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Eph. 4:31-32

 We were not called to live our life in the past - reliving moments that make us blind to the God-given blessings, opportunities and challenges of today.

Let it go, my friend.  Hand over your past - the good, the bad and the ugly to the One who promises a full life, now.  Forgive where forgiveness is needed.  Let go of the things that really don't matter, in the end.

Release the grip that past hurts have on you.  For the final time - today - drag that heavy burden that you've been carrying around to the foot of the cross, give it to Him... AND LEAVE IT THERE.

Don't reach for it again.  Aren't you tired?  Heavy-laden, with all of the past hurts and regrets weighing on your shoulders?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." - Matt. 11:28

He gives you rest.  Peel back your hands that are firmly laid on the past and give it to Him.  Don't let one more day's joy be stolen.  Don't let the burden of the past rob you or destroy you.  

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. " - John 10:10 

Only 2 short years after that season of tumultuous family life, my mom passed away unexpectedly.  My dad followed two years after her.  In those months before both went on, forgiveness flowed freely.  Wounds were healed and while that time of my life will always be marked with pain, I am no longer a slave to the pain and hurt.

And when thoughts, insecurities creep up in my mind, I try to hand them over to God.  He battles the thief on my behalf.  For me, I let go of the past so that I may receive the joy, the blessings and the new opportunities that God has set aside for me.. today.  Now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Days of Letting Go: What does that mean, anyway?

Letting Go. The act of releasing one's grip on something; to pry our fingers off of an object/person/idea. It seems so simple. So natural that it would come to us as easily as breathing or blinking.

However, letting go of something usually conjures up thoughts of pain. For many of us, "letting go" means ripping apart. Separated from something you want.

For some, we have been the one that was let go of. Someone walked away. Betrayed. Strayed. Rejected us and let go of us making us feel unloved. Sometimes, we just don't. want. to let go of someone or thing that makes us happy. Or loved. Or makes us feel important or relevant. But we need to. And, sometimes, we must let go of ideals. Of dreams. Of loved ones. Even, though, it's painful.

Letting Go doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, often times, it is the more beneficial/safe/healthier/obedient thing to do.

Sometimes, we have to let go of those we love. Sometimes, we let go of our past and the pain inflicted on us there. Sometimes, we let go of people who hurt us. We let go of habits that hold us back and people who hold us down. We let go of thoughts that beat us up and ideals that discourage.

Because, often times...

we have to let go of one thing to receive the next thing God has in store for us.

Letting go of people, objects and ideas tend to have a lot of emotions wrapped around it. Lots of opinions too. There are plenty of people around us that will tell us what they think of our letting go plan. However, those are not the voices we are to listen to.

Over these next 31 days, join me as we learn to let go and tune our ears to the one, True Voice. Join me, won't you?

This is one in a series. If you'd like to read about the other 30 days of this journey, perhaps you'd like to sign up to receive them by email to the right?

Join the #31days journey over at

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Wounded By God's People: Discovering How God's Love Heals Our Hearts by Anne Graham Lotz

Once I received and started reading, "Wounded By God's People" by Anne Graham Lotz, my first thought was, "Where was this book a few years ago?!?!".   I found myself in several hurtful situations with other Christians and this would have been a perfect resource.  Yet, God worked it out all in His timing.  I'm grateful this book is here now, though, and I have plans to refer back to it over and over in future years.  I also have plans for my sons to both read it in preparing their hearts for the inevitable time of pruning that will come in their lives.

Weaving her own stories of having been hurt and hurting others with the stories of hurt in the Bible (primarily through Hagar's story), Anne does an amazing job of walking alongside the reader during a time when emotions are raw and our natural bend is to retaliate or pick up and leave.  Anne points our eyes to our Father in heaven in tough times when we have been hurt by another Christian.

I would love to say that you will never, ever be hurt by other Christians but... I can't.  It WILL happen.  Unfortunately, lots of times.   "Wounded By God's People" puts perspective on where responsibility lies, our response to hurts of others (as well as being confronted with the hurt we've inflicted), and encourages not to walk away from God when other hurt us but lean in hard to the One who has already experienced rejection and hurt on our behalf.

The chapter topics are thorough and Anne doesn't leave the reader hanging or left wondering, "well, my situation is different", because she addresses all possible perspectives.  With chapter titles such as -

1. Healing Is a Journey - He was wounded too
2. The Biblical Story of Hagar
3. Loved by a God on the Periphery (God is Not An Elitist)
4. Life is Hard (Everyone is Wounded)
5. The Cycle of Pain (The Wounded Become Wounders)
6. The Believer in Exile (Running from the Wounders)
7. God Cares (You Can't Outrun God)
8. Spiritual Blind Spots (You are Missing the Obvious)
9. Wounding Hurts (Doing the Right Thing Can Be Painful to the Wounder)
10. Rejected By Them (But Not by Him)
11. Wandering in the Wilderness (God Is Still There)
12. The Silence Is Broken (God Is A Prayer-Hearing, Prayer Answering, Miracle Working God)
13. God Stands By (He Hears Our Cry for Help)
14. A Stubborn Spirit (Exile from Him is Self-Imposed)
15. The Turning Point (That Was Then, This Is Now)
16. I Can See! (Your Valley May Be The Place of Vision)
17. Don't Look Back (You Can't Move Forward by Looking in the Rearview Mirror)
18. It's Time To Move On (You Can Be Reconciled)
19. Conclusion: The End of the Healing Journey (It's Time to Come Home)

Be forewarned!  Anne doesn't always tell you what you might want to hear but she does tell you what you NEED to hear in times of hurting.  She does so in a gentle, close friend kind of way - you know the one that is honest enough to tell you when you are out of line but does it without damaging your friendship??  Anne doesn't cottle the role of victim nor does she brush away the very real hurt that we get stung by from time to time (and she herself has experienced).  As she acknowledges, for some reason, Christian wounds tend to heal slowly.   Perhaps it is because we feel that "they should know better" or because we feel that a Christians shouldn't eat their own.  Logically, I would agree with these thoughts, however, Anne points out that we are all hurting on some level and we are all imperfect.  Ultimately, God doesn't promise us a life of ease and friendliness.  Life is, indeed, hard, at times.  All the more reason to lean into Him.

I believe this is a MUST-READ for all Christians - regardless of your age or stage in life.  I plan on keeping this as the amazing salve that it is in times of being wounded.   I heartily recommend this book!

DISCLOSURE: I received this book free from the publisher through the® <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Review: Downside Up

            The truth is rejection is a part of our life but it's not often that we are taught how to deal with it in a healthy way.  Enter "Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity.  Tracey Mitchell has given us a new, godly, perspective on dealing with rejection.  Too often when stung by rejection, we are frozen, locked in with the pain and never move passed this phase.  We insulate ourselves, keep people at arm's length and make a promise to our heart that we won't let anyone hurt us like that again.  Then, we become stuck.  Paralyzed by fear that someone may reject our idea, our suggestion, or worse, us.

Mitchell gives us strategies for a variety of scenarios and dealing with different personality types.  She gently reminds us of our worth in Christ but speaks to the practical in giving concrete action plans at the end of each chapter.

Some may think that Mitchell makes overcoming rejection too easy but she does not.  She acknowledges the deep pain it can cause but she challenges us to move beyond that to see the motivation we can gain from it.  Yes, her words are easy to read but the hard work comes from us: to change our perspective and mindset and to let go of the pain and negative thoughts we take on as truth.  A book will not do the work for you but she definitely lays a great action plan down.

I highly recommend this book for those struggling to overcome the pain of rejection and to move past it in thought and deed.

Disclosure:   I received this book free from the publisher through the® .  <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book Review: Accidental Pharisee

The title of this book attracted me immediately and, because of events going on in my life, I knew this would be a book I'd want to review.  Immediately, I was drawn into this book by Osborne's easy writing style.  Without it's own tone of judgment, Larry Osborne leads his readers into an introspective journey about how we all have a pharisee living inside of us; the voice that wants to judge another's decisions or actions, even though those decisions or actions do not fall out of line with God's word.

In Accidental Pharisees, we look at a variety of biblical people that didn't "fit the bill" of a devout Christian, yet, in the end, God accepts them, welcomes them and calls them His own.

Osborne gets right to the heart of the matter with defining the actions of a Pharisee, " they pile on heavy burdens (by way of extra rules) and lots of guilt.  But they don't lift a finger to make things easier."  These are Jesus' words (parahprased, of course) from Matthew.  Further, Osborne addresses the "extra biblical" rules that we desire to place on other people because they don't measure up to our definitions, our personal convictions or our spiritual comparisons.  He states, "My kids' T-ball teams taught me how powerful our innate urge to compare is and how quickly we categorize people as winners or losers, based on the flimsiest of reasons."  And this doesn't just happen on t-ball fields.  He's talking about our churches.

Speaking the truth in love, Osborne shows us areas where we may take information we know about our fellow Christians and use it to justify looking down on them.  He tackles the touchy subjects of Pride, Exclusivity, Legalism, the need for uniformity around you, money police and gift projection (you know, when MY calling becomes ((or should)) everyone else's calling).

The Accidental Pharisee is a must-read book for all church attendees, in my opinion. This is a wake-up call to the Christian church about how we treat each other; how we inaccurately and inappropriately judge others we call brothers and sisters in Christ.  Osborne does an excellent job of treading this tender subject without adopting a tone that is condescending or patronizing.  We'd do well to learn from Osborne's heedings and turn our focus back onto Jesus instead of it being on those sitting down the pew from us.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the® <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The life and death of a good girl..

I was talking with someone the other day... lamenting that I didn't have a dramatic conversion.  After all, I was  a "good girl".  I wasn't a wild child.  I wasn't a rebel (at least, not outwardly).  I wasn't a rule breaker.  At least, not too much.

I was brought up to believe in God.  After all, it was the right thing to do.

Until one day.

That day. I read the simplistic yet beautiful words in a Billy Graham book.  All of it I agreed with.  All of it made sense.  The views in the book were views I already held.  Then, I got to the page with the prayer.

Words so unfamiliar to me.  Words so distant and strange.  I had never talked to God about my faith in Him.  I had never told God that I believed in Him and His son. In fact, I had never talked to God at all before that day. I had never attended church either, for that matter.  That's when I realized it.   I realized  that I didn't have a relationship with God.  But I wanted one. 

I read the words on the page again while at the same time scanning my memory for some moment when I had accepted Christ to be my Lord and Savior.  Nope.  I got nothin'.

In that moment, with the decision to talk to God about this... my life changed.  Forever.

I don't have a Saul to Paul, on-the-road conversion story.  I don't have a "saved from a life of drugs" testimony.  And, in my early years at the first church I attended, I always felt less because of this.  I always felt ineffective.  I even had a Sunday School teach question my salvation and reject my experience because I couldn't remember the exact date and because she believed no one could come to Christ through a book (shows how small her God was).  Testimonies were supposed to be strong.  Drastic.  Dare I say, dramatic??  At least, in the church I started to attend after that day with Billy Graham, a book and a prayer.  

I've long since left that church in an attempt to free myself from man-made laws.  14 years ago, to be exact.

Apparently, some things have remained, though.

 In the midst of this conversation a few weeks back, I heard it.  I heard Him.

"That's a lie."

"That is pride."

"That is to your glory.  Not Mine." 


I had to switch topics in the conversation because the supernatural one going on in my head was too loud.

If you've ever had an "A-Ha!" moment or, in my case, a "DUH!" moment, then, my friend, you'd know exactly how I felt a weeks ago.

"I was a good girl."

"I didn't do anything wrong, really, before I accepted Christ."

Um... Hello?  Is anyone in there, Sheri?

What a bunch of lies I had believed!  I had walked on this earth harboring these thoughts... along with a dose  of guilt for not having a "gritty" enough testimony.  Really?

The truth penetrated my heart like the sharpest of swords.  

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23

Last time I looked, all means ALL.  Duh.

Despite reading this and other verses on THAT day with the book and prayer.. as well as all the days that have followed on this faith journey, my head knew this truth but my heart didn't.

Somewhere in my head, man's truth became bigger, false-truth, over God's truth.  

Because the truth is...

The truth is... 

No matter how "good" of a girl I classified myself or the world classified me, I was still (and still am) a sinner in need of a Savior.  That's Truth.

No matter how much I compared my testimony to others - each time not measuring up in drama or drastic change - I was just as broken.

Just as deserving of punishment.

Just as UN-deserving of grace and mercy....

as the drug addict.  the prostitute. the murderer.  the thief.  the liar.  the adulterer.  the abuser. 

This "good girl" was equal to those I had  unwittingly classified as in more need of grace than me.  I knew this wasn't true logically but my real beliefs - the one that could lament not having a dramatic conversion - they revealed what I was thinking somewhere in this brain of mine. 

You see, by saying "I was a good girl", I implied that I didn't need that much saving.  I didn't need that much grace.  At least, not as much grace as others.  

In believing that I was a good girl, I was saying, somewhere in my head and heart, that I. was. good. enough.  I was good enough for God's grace.  I had earned it.  

All pride.  
Shameful pride is all that was. I see that now. 

 Unwittingly, I was clinging to a little bit of the glory that was rightly meant for God.  I say unwittingly because had you asked me I would have said I wasn't good enough for God's grace.  I would have said I cannot earn my salvation.  My brain lived with these two opposing beliefs.

 The funny thing is I'm quite certain I'm not the only one that holds these beliefs.  In fact, I see this idea - 

the idea that "at least I was never a _________ (fill in the blank)" ...

a lot amongst believers.  It is the elephant in the room.  No one calls it out but it's there.  It's spoken in round about ways.  In knowing eyes and coded words.  
"At least, I'm not...".  
 "I'm a good person.."  
"I've got my life together"
"I follow the rules"
"I contribute _____ (time, money, insert your word here)"

All of this screams out... I'm good enough.  I am presentable enough to enter God's kingdom.  I am good.

The truth is I never was a "good enough" girl for God's amazing grace.  You and I, friend, we're not good enough. 

 For if we were, there'd be no need for Jesus.  

We can never be good enough... or follow the rules enough.. or have our life together, enough... to be worthy of entering into God's presence, let alone a relationship.   I cannot earn my way to heaven.

No amount of good behavior, good deeds, or thoughts can move me one step closer to earning a relationship with Christ.

And.. amen to that.


Isn't that exhausting??  

Trying to earn someone's approval?  
Trying to earn someone's friendship??  
Trying to be good enough??

It's down-right, bone-aching exhausting.  And it's wrapped in failure.  Every. Time. 

And Praise Him for His simple, releasing way of coming to Him.  

He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" - Matthew 11:28

The truth is God isn't a God of complication.  He is a God of clarity and simplicity.  

He is a God of Grace. And freely gives that Grace when we are so, so undeserving of it. 

Let's put the "good girl" myth to death.  I know I have in my own life since my epiphany several weeks ago.  I am very aware of my daily failures... and I know I was never a "good girl" to earn God's grace by my own efforts.  It is most definitely a gift - freely given to all who seek it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lessons in simplicity...

Called to.  Called out of.  Called.

Before 2013 even started, I felt God calling me to simplicity.  Before the calendar turned its page, I felt called out of chaos and of stretching myself thin.  Out of too much.  

Too much stuff.  
Too much activity. 

 It had all become too much.

As I seek to live out this call to the simple, I find that this word, "Simple" or to "Simplify" or live a life of "Simplicity" sounds easy.  It sounds embarrassingly weak.  At least to my ears.... as I've told others of this call to and call out of.  To simplify one's life.  I'm here to say it's not as easy as it sounds.

Yet, I am grateful.  Because of the margins I've built into our life and schedule through the practice of simplicity, new opportunities have occurred that would never have been able to happen, otherwise.  Opportunities, that take a bit of that margin time away, but in the end moves me closer to a dream and goal I've had for a very long time.

By taking a step back and creating space and QUIET into our life, I can see just how crazy my schedule and life has been.  So much so, that it's warped my thinking.

I asked my husband today if he felt I was "nuts" for feeling guilty for not signing up to help at VBS this summer.   After all, I've helped with a VBS (minus two summers after Josh was born) for 23 years!  I've ALWAYS helped.  It's just what. I. do.  

His answer?

A wholehearted "yes".

Yes, Sheri.  You are nuts for feeling guilty for giving myself a break. Yes, you are nuts for feeling guilty for answering a much-needed call from the Lord to simplify.

See, the quiet can do funny things to my head.  In the quiet, I gain peace but not before fighting for it.  I gain peace when I've won the battle with the voices that beckon me to one more thing.  I gain peace when the guilt and the fear of missing out is squelched.

Sure, I can begin to rest in His arms but then scramble out of them when I hear of a need or a gap that needs to be filled. I scramble out of them when... 

And that is the problem.

I scramble and tug away from the One who has gently called me to rest.  When the panic and guilt start to rise as more activities come my way that I usually participate in but am passing up to simplify my life, I must not scramble out of His arms.  I must stay confidently there until He assures me to go.

I'm not missing out on anything if I'm in the center of His will for my life.  In this season.  In this time.

As I enter my fourth month of simplifying, I see just how much this word encompasses.

To be simple isn't about going without, it is about choosing more space.  More space on my calendar.  More space in my home.  More space for the ones I love and whom I'm called to care for.  

To be simple isn't about giving up.  It's about gaining.

To be simple isn't about walking away.  It's about leaning in to the One who holds me close and desires for stillness from me.

To be simple isn't about impressing others and being the center of attention.  It's about stepping back into the shadows for awhile where it is quiet and less about me and more about Him.

To be simple is a choice.  Daily picked up or daily ignored.  

To be simple is to choose less to have more.

I am learning. Sometimes painfully.  Sometimes joyfully.  Always grateful for the lessons, though.

This word, "simplify".  It has turned my life upside down.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,  I will be exalted in the earth.” - Psalm 46:10

Friday, March 22, 2013


We had the opportunity to use's site in exchange for honest feedback on this service.

To begin with, you have a parent section, with a separate log-in, that allows you to create lists, create assignments for each individual child, look over test results and even assign writing assignments.

  • thejoycefamily
  • Premium Parent Toolbox

Creating and managing spelling lists is easy.  I didn't do it here but Spelling City allows you to create a list for each of your children.  You can see below that both of my boys' spelling lists are mixed together - they are "not in groups".   In the parent section, I can add, edit, delete, print spelling lists.  I can even decide if I'd like to make them public to to other users.  I also can import spelling lists to this database which is a lovely timesaver.

List Management

List Management is the place to create, edit, publish/unpublish and delete your saved and imported word lists. Premium Members have the added ability to group lists. Click here for more information.
Search Lists by Name
Create A New List | Create A New Group of Lists | Delete All Lists
NameGrade LevelPublished?What do you want to do?
List(s) Not in Groups
          5th GradeYesEdit | Play A Game | Print | Delete | Group
          8th GradeYesEdit | Play A Game | Print | Delete | Group
          8th GradeYesEdit | Play A Game | Print | Delete | Group
          5th GradeYesEdit | Play A Game | Print | Delete | Group
          8th GradeYesEdit | Play A Game | Print | Delete | Group

Students see the screen below when they log in to their individual section.

Sheri Joyce's Vocabulary and Spelling Online Resources

A message to my students and parents
Hi Guys!

Make sure you do spend at least 15 minutes playing some spelling and vocabulary games, so you are ready for your test on Friday! Do your best!

Vocabulary and Spelling Lists
List(s) Not in Groups
S-Test | V-Test | Teach | Games | Import
S-Test | V-Test | Teach | Games | Import
S-Test | V-Test | Teach | Games | Import
S-Test | V-Test | Teach | Games | Import
S-Test | V-Test | Teach | Games | Import
I'm able to create a unique message for them and if I had them in groups, they wouldn't have to dig through each other's lists to find their own.  My bad!

The "S-test" is their spelling test for that list and their "V-test" is their vocabulary test for that list.  

You can assign them lots of variations such as going through the "teach" portion before playing games or just play the games or use the online test for their practice test   and still carry out an in-person, verbal test as we do.

Overall, both my boys and I really enjoyed this site!  I had been wanting a way for both boys to get more practice time with their spelling/vocabulary words before testing them and this has provided a perfect solution!  

I was able to see an increase in familiarity with their words throughout the week because they had played word games that challenged them to remember proper spelling and the words' meanings.  

Both my 5th grader AND 8th grader consistently asked to do Spelling city, a first in our spelling/vocabulary teachings!  

This site definitely beats out the traditional, old school practice of writing the words three times or write each letter of the word in different colors.  While those activities provide a purpose, offers a 21st century way for kids to increase their vocabulary and more so in a way that engages and interests the child! offers a "free" membership to all who wish to use their site, however, I highly recommend the Premium membership.  For a family of up to five children, the cost is only $29.99 for the year!  That is an excellent deal for the return!

Notice the premium membership benefits vs. the free membership benefits below:
VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership Features

Lastly, has a FREE app for your iPad or iPhone!  Free and Premium memberships can be accessed with this app and it is an extra perk of this site.  Now you can take your spelling/vocabulary practice on the go without need to lug around books, paper and pencils!

Bottom line, I recommend to enhance and support your spelling program.  If you don't have one, you can access others' public list for your child's grade level and be assured your child's vocabulary is growing!

** For Trail Guide to Learning Paths to series users, while you may need to do a bit more work in entering words as they come up in your weekly lessons, it is doable.  When I was able to enter a chunk of spelling words for a week at a time, it allowed my son an extra way to learn these words - while traveling in the car or hanging around the house.  But because POE doesn't give you a set list at the beginning of each unit or even lesson but introduces words here and there as the unit progresses, you'll need to do a bit more legwork at gathering those words AND entering them into a weekly format (so that you don't overwhelm your child with the entire unit's vocabulary words in one sitting).  I hope that helps!

***** In exchange for a honest review that is of my own opinion, without influence, I received access to a premium membership for my family, in order to provide accurate feedback on how the membership works. The opinions listed above are solely my own.*****

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Should a Christian Give?

I've been wondering lately how often I can't see the needs of others over my excess? Do you ever wonder that? Americans suffer from the disease of excess. Where once abundance was a blessing - to be shared with all around - now, it has become a curse that blinds and lulls us into complacency. Our large homes overflow with things and we surround ourselves with stuff. In the end, worthless, meaningless stuff. When I stop to think about how much stuff surrounds me and I begin to peel the blinders off, it makes me want to hyperventilate. It just too much.

 Our ancestors lived on far less, with much less, and survived this life. Somewhat content too, I might add.  I'm pretty sure that I can go without that extra coat that's on sale. I can't help but ponder how our excess affects our giving? Can I see over the mound of stuff accumulating in my garage to see my neighbors' needs? More to the point, had I denied myself one (or all) of those purchases that now sit in the garage, how could that money have helped another family live? Eat?? Build a home that is not made of scraps from the dump??? If we had taken one less trip or vacation, how could that money have benefited another instead of it always being about me??

 My church has been talking a lot about giving as of late, specifically in the form of tithing. A great topic yet one that has a potential squirm factor to it. As we've been digging into this worshipful act, it got me thinking, though. Is tithing the only way we are called to give? We are commanded to give a tithe, no doubt. That is a spiritual discipline each Christian ought to be practicing. Our tithe helps support the church, both locally and globally through the mission work they support. But is that it?? We are called to be cheerful givers but this is usually tied into a tithe sermon. Should we not be cheerful givers in all things? All areas of our life?? and in all circumstances? In accepting God's amazing, wondrous gift of salvation and grace, neither of which we deserve, a joyous transformation should occur that must remain our ever-present focus. Christians have cause to celebrate! We have cause to be happy and joyous, despite our circumstances, because He has done great things for us! Out of this joy and desire for others to know it too, comes a heart wanting to give. If we are nothing else, we should we should be liberal givers! With the good news; with our tithe; and with our resources. We should never be stingy with the overabundance we have been blessed with!

 If we have an abundance of food, and have needs directly around us, share it. If we have excess clothing, knowing there are those in need of clothing near us, give it. Don't withhold it. Don't store it up for yourself later. Don't be stingy!

  "…the righteous gives and does not hold back." - Proverbs 21:26

I've said this quote from the book "7" before but it bares repeating... "How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4 percent. $50,000? Top 1 percent.). Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We're tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand time that amount? Fifty thousand times that amount? It says we have too much, and it is ruining us." - from "7: an experimental mutiny against excess"

 I know where I need to make changes and I look at the church, as a whole, and wonder when will our leaders and the body of Christ make changes too? I've attended mission trips and outreach events over the last 15 years of being a Christian and have watched the church hold on to their supplies and resources with a white-knuckled grasp that is downright disturbing. I mean think about it. We invite the community into our digs, or even better, we travel to them, with lots of supplies, food and resources to help carry out said mission trip or event, and then become stingy. No, that child can't have an extra craft to make. No, we should keep the extra food for ourselves, for later. No, we can't allow teens to have more pizza than what we allowed (not knowing there may be a need there).

  "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" - James 2:15-16

"If you have two coats, give one away (or to the poor, in some translations) and anyone who has food, should do the same." - Luke 3:11.

 I love that this verse starts with an already simplified number - two. Yet, for most Americans, we tend to have four, five, six, ten coats. And that's not per family, folks. Often times, that amount is for one person in the family! Also, I think it's pretty safe to say that we could insert other words where coat is and we'd be hitting the nail on the head with where our giving should be. If you have two pizzas, give one away. If you have two VBS craft supplies, give one away. If you have two blankets, give one away. If you have two cans of green beans, give one away. With this verse alone, we get both an example of giving (basically, cutting in half our excess or our abundance to share with others) but also it speaks to how much we should have to begin with. It didn't start with 10 coats; it's stating that if we have TWO then we must be living well and in abundance so give one away to another who needs it more than you.

 I totally agree that Christians need to remain faithful to the discipline of tithe and give to the church in this way. Yet, I truly believe the discipline of giving is so much more than giving of our tithe. It is giving of our belongings. It is giving not only out of our excess but from a place of sacrifice as well. For it is much easier to give out of excess than sacrificially, as Jesus points out -

  "And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” - Mark 12:41-44

 Sure, we could save the extra food or extra clothing for a time when we might need it in the future but where is our faith in God's provision for that future, if we're already providing for ourselves if that hour of need comes??

 "He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses." - Proverbs 28:27

Giving is so much more than about tithing. It is a lifestyle. An act that is breathed in - from the ultimate gift we were given by Him. Then, breathed out to our fellow man as a witness of what He has done in our life. Giving should come flowing out of every portion of my life and yours. I want to be aware of the needs around me and remember that I live in a culture that encourages excess and is distracted by possessions. I want to live differently. I want to live more like Jesus - Giving freely and walking through this world without being consumed or distracted by possessions.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Spelling City review coming up!

I've been given a Premium Membership to for a candid, personal, online review. I'll share my thoughts on what we liked and didn't soon. With our love of POE, I'm curious to see how this program might enhance (or take away) from it. I plan on using it for the spelling/vocabulary words from POE (NOTHING in addition to) and also have my 8th grader use it with his spelling/vocabulary words. To give you more information, VocabularySpellingCity helps students study word lists using 25 different learning activities such as Unscramble, Hangman, WordFind, and Crossword Puzzle. Parents can create their own spelling lists, find published lists already available on the site, or use any of dozens of free teaching resources on topics such as Multiple Meaning Words and Possessive Nouns . Be sure to come back in three weeks to read about my experience. I'll let you know how it goes! DISCLOSURE: * I've been given a Premium Membership to for a candid, personal, online review.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Trail Guide to Learning - Paths of Exploration

It's time! Time to share my thoughts on the uses and functions of the Paths of Exploration curriculum, part of the Trail Guide to Learning series.  I shared my excitement with you when receiving the box of curriculum in the mail here and I also shared how I organized our "path" here.

I am going to start with the end... which is to say... I. LOVE. THIS. CURRICULUM!  There. I said it.  I do, I truly love this curriculum.  It fits my son SO perfectly and has resolved so many struggles that he's previously experienced in other curriculums.   "Oh sure!", you might say.  I know what you're thinking... how can ONE curriculum be the answer?  Well, let me tell you how.

First, let me give you a little background, though.  I am using this curriculum for my 10 year old (turns 11 tomorrow) ALL boy, boy.  When I say he's "all boy" what I mean is he is a rough n tumble, can't sit for very long because I need to move, kind of kid.  He is easily distracted and enjoys DOING rather than sitting.  He is not one that is thrilled to sit with a book for hours on end and he will certainly slump into a puddle of human goo at the thought of being handed a dry textbook to read.  I love this boy to death but he is a very different learner from my 13 year old son who is content to be handed a stack of books and a checklist and sit for hours reading to learn.

I'll be honest... I took a chance with Trail Guide to Learning. It was a departure from the style of learning I'd been using before and what I was used to.  It was scary to spend money on a curriculum I wasn't sure would work and I was fearful that if POE DIDN'T work, I'd be left scrambling mid-year to find something else.    But, I'm so glad I did take that chance!

We started school after Labor Day and my son actually ENJOYED the first few weeks of school with POE (Paths of Exploration).  Insert BIG MISTAKE here.  I got panicky and thought maybe we weren't doing enough since he was finishing earlier in the day than we were used to, so... I added more curriculum.  Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.  Within a week, the boy that was beginning to take an interest in learning, now was back to his old ways of dragging his feet at doing anything remotely to do with learning, complaining and miserable.  We both were.  What was I thinking??  So, the beginning of October, I scrapped all "extra" curriculum and have been flying solo with POE ever since!  It's been enjoyable... for both of us now!

So here are my seven reasons that the Trail Guide to Learning series is the answer to our curriculum needs for my second born:

* IT HAS BUILT-IN HANDS- ON ACTIVITIES.   POE provides a perfect balance of hands on activities to keep the "active" part of my son engaged. I was always left scrambling to come up with hands on activities that would fit our lessons before OR they would be dropped by the end of the day because we'd finish too late to start one (often because he would drag and resist moving from subject to subject; he was miserable!) Now, instead of feeling like the hands on activities compete for our time, they are built into our days!  Most importantly, this engages my son's learning style!

* IT'S ORGANIZED WELL.  POE is organized very well.  It takes a great load off of my plate having curriculum so well laid out.  I even did the printing in advance of all the units, organized them into weekly file folders and then moved the daily sheets into daily folders for his each week.  I do some quick skimming of what supplies, if any, I need for that week and that's it!

* THE THEMES FLOW TOGETHER.  I'll be honest, at first this bugged the history major in me.  I like my history chronological.  While POE seems to "jump" around through US History, it is actually connecting themes together.  For Paths of Exploration the theme is, well, exploration.  Yet, so much more is discussed and learned than just exploration.  My son has walked away from the first 3 Units with a solid grasp of Christopher Columbus and his era, Jamestown and their struggles, and the Pilgrims and their struggles to survive and make a new start.

*GEOGRAPHY IS INCORPORATED.  This is a topic we never got around too, so my husband and I are amazed by my son's knowledge of the areas he has studied thus far and his ease with reading a map!  All thanks to POE!

* IT IGNITES INTEREST IN LEARNING.  Yes, this is a big claim but it is true for our household.  While I always admired the Charlotte Mason approach, I never could nail down the timing of moving from subject to subject.  The teacher in me felt that more time meant more learning and no matter how hard I tried, I would slip back into that mentality.  Prior to POE, I was a Charlotte Mason failure.  POE has brought this style of learning into our home successfully and my son has benefited greatly from it.  POE does an excellent job of dividing up the information into short, manageable chunks (something that made me panic in the beginning because it felt too short).  They are just right for my son's style of learning.  However, for me, I was sold once I saw that he was RETAINING the information, shattering the myth that long amounts of time needed to be grasp a concept.  POE provides short bursts of concepts that are reinforced throughout each unit which has led to success for my son!

* IT INCREASES RETENTION.  I can't claim this for every child but for mine, POE has been a lifesaver.  Due to lack of interest and a growing resentment to learning in prior years, my son didn't retain information presented to him. Now, he is blossoming!  He is remembering information which allows him to taste success and confidence in his knowledge base.  He no longer feels like a failure in education.  This, to me, is top on my list of why POE is the perfect curriculum.

* IT BRINGS IMPROVEMENT IN WRITING AND SPELLING.  My son struggled with his handwriting and with spelling.  He still does but we have seen great improvement over the past few months in both areas. I give POE credit for this because of the daily copy work and spelling words he is exposed to.  I will say that we have had my son tested for Dyslexia.  He still shows some evidence of this, even if mild, so we may add a program next year to give him greater support.

I know this review was long but there is so much I could speak on regarding this curriculum.  I can't answer what this curriculum will do to revolutionize the learning in your own children, I can say that it has definitely revolutionized and ignited an interest in learning in a child that was otherwise fed-up with school, at the ripe ol age of 9.   He still has areas of struggle but, through POE, he has been given a taste of success and has improved his confidence, his interest and his desire to learn more!  We can't wait to start Paths of Settlement next year!  Please feel free to leave a comment with questions you may have that I didn't cover here.

** In exchange for an honest review of my independent thoughts, I was given a discount on the Paths of Exploration curriculum.**

Friday, January 25, 2013

14,049 days...

That's how long I've been alive on this earth today.  Seeing our lives as days numbered really drives home how short our time is here and encourages us not to waste our days and time on frivolity.

There's something about putting our time into days that takes my breath away.  On one hand, I think, "what have I done with 14,049 days??" and on the other I think, "Wow, God willing if I live to be 70 (neither of my parents did) that would be (from birth to death), 25, 568 days.  That means I would only have 11, 527 days left, God providing, I live to be 70 years old.  That means that half of my life is most likely over.

Psalm 90:12 says, "Teach us to number our days, so we may gain a heart of wisdom".    After having reviewed the book, "20,000 days and counting" by Robert D. Smith recently, I decided I convert my years into days.  WOW!  Was that eye opening!

Putting my life into days made me more aware of how I've spent my time and, from this point forward, how I SHOULD be spending my time.  My heart has gained wisdom from this one small act and it longs to rectify my misuse and mismanagement of time.  Sadly, I can't do that.  I mourn for the days that I squandered away on a whole lotta nothin'!  Ouch!  I'm not talking days where restorative rest was needed and taken or days spent consoling wounded hearts and frustrations in my children.  No.  I'm talking the wasted time with computers, phones and t.v.  Wasted time that wasn't accomplishing anything - including restoring and refreshing my soul.  Wisdom has been gained here; now, I pray, I use it and make appropriate changes in my life.

What I can do, though, is look forward - to the days ahead and align my time more and more with how God would have me use it.

 Now more than ever, my one little word for 2013 is taking new meaning about how I should approach my next 329 days of 2013.

Seeing my life through days instead of years has been eye opening and makes me appreciate my life lived so far (minus those silly days) and it is making me think about the upcoming days God would bless me with; if He blesses me with them.

I encourage you, as the writer of Psalm 90 does, to calculate your life into days.  Know how many days you've been on earth and wonder how many days you may (or may not) have left.  Put your life into perspective and gain a heart of wisdom.

If you want to see how many days you've been around, go here and marvel at both the days that have floated away and how very short life can be.

Let me live my days well, not according to man's standards, but by God's standards.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book review: Live Second

Prior to reviewing the devotional book, "Live Second"; 365 to Make Jesus First", I had never heard of this "movement" which many have associated themselves.  I was intrigued by this extra subtitle, "an I Am Second daily reader".  Although leery at the thought of reviewing a devotional, I am so glad I was able to review this one!  to start with, I am impressed with its organization and layout.  It's structure is a weekly theme, broken out over the days of the week, throughout the whole year.  i enjoyed seeing the upcoming topics as well as the unity of its purpose.  However, I am most impressed with its delivery and message.

This devotional is for those daring to live second and let Jesus be first.  The topics covered are vast yet not too broad to have a scattered feel.  They are each week's theme and each day's devotion challenges us and encourages us to live putting our wants and desires second (or even third or fourth).    This is a huge departure from today's culture that encourages looking out for me only.

The "Live Second" devotional is written to anyone, regardless of where you are on your faith journey or even if you don't have a relationship with Jesus as well.  I admired this statement at the beginning of the book,

"This book is for anyone looking to discover meaning in life, your mission on this planet, or the cure to life’s difficulties. You do not need to believe in Jesus to start this journey, but I think you will be challenged by his message before you trek too far. I believe the power of his love, the vastness of his forgiveness, and the strength of his presence will inspire you to rethink your relationship with God.”

I received the Kindle version of this devotional for review and it included links to videos of those part of  "Live Second" at the start of each week.  That was a nice bonus!

I would highly recommend this devotional to anyone looking to be challenged in living your life differently than how you currently are and for those seeking to live out the idea of " More of Him, Less of Me".

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: 20,000 Days and Counting

The book, "20,000 Days and Counting" by Robert D. Smith is a short read and one that I would recommend, but with a word of caution.

The premise is the author realized, at the time of writing, that he'd been alive for 20,000 days. Always aware of our limited days on this earth, he has spent his life trying to make the most of the time given to him.  Through this short book, Smith encourages his readers with practical instructions for living purposefully, with whatever time we're given on this earth.

I enjoyed this read.  It took me less than an hour to read it and I liked that the author got me thinking about how I carry out my days.  Am I aware and fully present in each moment?  Do I have a plan for the time I have before me, however short or long that is?

At his 20,000th day mark, he took a personal retreat to a hotel and planned out, what he hoped, would be his next 20,000 days.  Based on a personal mission statement he created for himself, Smith chooses to live each of his days, making sure he completes areas of his mission statement.

Like I said, I did enjoy reading this book and was excited to learn more through a Biblical lens since this was a Christian publisher and Smith himself talks about his relationship with Christ in the beginning of the book.  However, I found myself disappointed mid-way through as more and more of the instructions (if not all, really) are SELF-based, that is, they are written from the viewpoint that I am in control of all aspects of my life (short of the day I will die).  There is no leaning in on God and his encouragements of making plans do not come with the caveat of holding them loosely in your hands.  As a planner personality myself, I have learned over the years to hold my plans loosely to allow God room to tweak or even roll out a new set of plans.  Yet, we aren't encouraged in that way.  In fact, as the book goes on and on, it becomes more psychological and somewhat New-Age in philosophy and I found myself yearning to have had more Biblical input and encouragement.  Yes, the Bible does say to "Teach us to number our days" - and we should!  We should be aware of our inevitable death so that we might fully live.  However, we should be looking at the One who would "Teach us" not only to ourselves.

Overall, I did like the perspective Robert Smith lives with and there are a few thoughts that I have taken away from this read that I will apply to my life, in different ways.

*** Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from in return for an honest, unbiased review. ***

Monday, January 14, 2013

My One Little Word for 2013

Even though the word was upon my lips and tugging at my heart for weeks, I resisted.  It seemed too glib; too overused.  Yet, it stayed, pressing into my brain as the days drew closer to January 1.   This is meant to be my theme for 2013.  Within this word contains untold lessons that God is wanting to teach me.  I am ready, Lord.


That is my one little word for 2013. I breathe lighter when I whisper it.  That is how I know it is right.  It resonates within and I know simplifying, as simple as it sounds, isn't so much for me.

The other word that came to me was Be.  However, for me, for  this year, Be, is encompassed in Simplify.

I'm being called to simplify my life. All of it. All.

My schedule.

My cabinets and drawers.

My school supplies.

My activities and commitments.

My relationships.

My past.

My future.

My present.

I am being called to Be present, in the moment of motherhood; in my responsibilities at home and with my family. I can only Be present when life has simplified.  When technology and emails, demands and commitments have all been examined and  put in their proper context;  When my drawers and closets and garage no longer scream at me every time I open them;  When I no longer have to clammer over the piles of unresolved junk in my physical, emotional and spiritual life.  When these areas are approached with simplicity, I can Be with Him.




Most Definitely!

What is your one little word for 2013?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: I Am A Follower: The Way,Truth, And Life of Following Jesus

Leonard Sweet's book, "I Am A Follower; The Way, Truth and Life of Following Jesus" was written for any Christian that is looking for effective leadership models.  In an era when churches tend to follow the world's business structure, Sweet reminds us that leaders, in any shape and form, are to be followers of Christ first and foremost.

In Sweet's own words, he describes the layout of his book in this way:

Following Jesus' lead, this book is organized into three parts to reflect Jesus' three-part story: the way, the truth and the life. 

Sweet goes on to say that when we try to emulate the world's view of leadership, it becomes about ME and not Him.

When we focus on the world's view of leadership, being a Christian becomes more about blazing our own trail than tracking another's footsteps, more about being happy than knowing truth, more about creating a guide to living than accepting the gift of life. 
So often, church leaders look to the world for examples of leadership when we've had the perfect model of leadership in Jesus all along.  Instead of looking for the next "10 steps to being a better leader", those who are called to a leader role should be looking at how Jesus served.  

I enjoyed stretching my definition of leadership and while I've always held the opinion that leaders need to exercise discipline of serving above anything else, I have to say I agree that, above anything else, a leader should be wholly relying on Jesus' example and pointing the way for others to follow as well, as Leonard Sweet argues.  

I encourage you to check out "I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth And Life of Following Jesus.  You'll think about leadership for Christian a little differently.

** Disclaimer:  I received this book, free of charge from Thomas Nelson, for an honest, unbiased review.