RE:FOCUS – The Armored Home

 

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

I wrote this a few years ago and realized this morning that it is an extension of last Monday’s post, so it’s time to share again. This is an area in which I (and I’m sure we all) need to revisit often. Satan is attacking our marriages and families HARD! Let’s keep each other accountable to protect the very gift that God has given each one of us.

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Armored cars amaze me. How they make those vehicles to withstand bullets, explosions, accidents, etc. is beyond my realm of understanding. These specialized cars serve a purpose… to protect what’s inside.

Our homes need to be built with specialized armor, as well, to protect the marriages inside. We live in a fallen, stressful world. Kids, money struggles, out-of-whack priorities, stress, and so many other day-to-day things distract us from ensuring that our Ephesians 6 armor is in place in our homes. But when we put that armor in place, it will change us. It will change our marriages. It will change our children. It will change our lives.

So how can we establish this armor in our homes? Here are some practical tools for protection:

  • Pray “without ceasing” for your marriage.
  • Choose your words to each other carefully. Words hurt and can cause permanent damage.
  • Date nights are a must, but so is “couch time” everyday. Carving out some time for each other everyday, just to talk, is imperative for a protected marriage… an armored home.
  • Ask each other regularly, “What can I do to be a better wife/husband?” This opens up communication and gives more opportunities to meet each other’s needs.
  • Keep your private thought life pure and positive. Don’t let impure, negative thoughts stay in your mind. Have scriptures ready to fight attacks on your mind… and cut out ANYTHING that is affecting you in a destructive way.
  • Avoid close male-female friendships. They are dangerous. When you have a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex, you are allowing someone else to fill a role that only your husband should fill.
  • Most importantly, remind yourself that it’s not about you. Marriage is about self-sacrifice and give-and-take.

Marriage is hard. But when we do it God’s way, we realize that it is a gift like no other. The fact that God chose a life companion for each of us is such a blessing. And by taking measures everyday to protect our homes with armor, we can experience marriages full of joy… God’s deep kind of joy.

Challenge for this week: Start putting your armor in place. Communicate with your husband. Honor him. Protect him. Be selfless. Pray for him and memorize scripture about being a Godly wife. Be careful with your thought life and your words. I believe you will see a big difference in your most important earthly relationship.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” – Ephesians 6:12-13

Prayer: Dear Jesus, please make me the woman, wife, and mother you want me to be. I ask You to guide me to establish permanent armor in our home, so that nothing can destroy it. Your word gives us all the tools we need. Thank you for that. Father, I pray that my marriage will become the companionship that you created it to be… that we will keep You first in everything and that we will love each other the way you have called us to.

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RE:FOCUS – Just Call Me Clarkette

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

I am the light person in the family. It’s always Mommy’s job to “hurry up” and get the lights on the tree so the rest of the family can jump in and decorate it. Just call me Clarkette Griswold.

Well… last night turned into not an easy, calm stringing of the lights… but instead a wrestling match between the bulbs and me! It was just one of those whatever-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong type situations. First, as I walked around the tree stringing up the lights, somehow the plug got caught under the stand and twisted. Okay, back up and un-string. Let’s start again. Then it happened AGAIN! Seriously, I don’t think this has ever happened before. So after the screaming and falling on the floor trying to get the tangles undone, finally the lights were on the tree! Yay! Time to plug them in!

So here’s where it got really interesting. The star at the top lit up, but not one of the 400 or so bulbs on the tree came on. But wait. I KNOW I TESTED THESE THINGS! From there, you know what I had to do. I checked each bulb, twisted some in tighter, tested other outlets, and finally got to a point where HALF of each of the two strands were lit. This is still a mystery to me. 🙂

Now, if you were on Facebook last night, you probably saw my post about this craziness. But, as always, our lives on Facebook don’t tell the whole story. We paint ourselves to look pretty and perfect on social media. So you didn’t see the yelling I did, or the many times I threw the lights down and kicked them. You didn’t see how angry and frustrated I got with my precious kids who were just waiting patiently for me to finish the lights… the tears from my daughter who didn’t understand why I yelled.

So many times, we let our emotions control our reactions. Instead of putting on the armor of God and trusting Him to give us strength and patience, we allow our flesh to rule. That was me last night. So this morning, our RE:FOCUS time is on this passage from Ephesians. As we start this week, let’s put on the full armor of God and let His weapons destroy the fleshly emotions that so often take over our hearts and minds…

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. – Ephesians 6:10-18

And when we truly let these truths sink in and take control of our lives, we find God’s peace.

Have a great, Christ-centered week!

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RE:FOCUS – Clear the Mechanism

>RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism

Several years ago, we did an every-Monday blog series called RE:FOCUS that only lasted for about 5 weeks. I must have gotten sidetracked with something else, regrettably. So guess what? It’s time to start up again. As I grow older, I’m realizing more and more that going to church and having a regular quiet time are not the ONLY things that we need to be conscious of doing. Important, yes. But there is more. Life hits hard on Monday morning. When we hit the pavement, it’s essential that we have our focus correctly centered on Christ… and that we keep it there.

Focus is a hard concept to master. One of my favorite expressions is “clear the mechanism.”  I love baseball and I love movies, so when the two of them meet, it is pretty incredible!  In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner is a pitcher who has the ability and discipline to get to a place where everything around him is completely blocked out.  Anytime the voices, people, criticism, noise, or even OUTSIDE thoughts get in the way, he reminds himself to “clear the mechanism.”  In this movie, you even see visually how he truly gets to a place of complete tunnel vision. Check out the short scene:

 

In our lives, there are so many distractions.  Our jobs can be difficult and stressful.  Relationships with co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, etc. can be hard.  Even “good” things in our lives can distract us from the true main thing… Our spouses & kids can distract us.  Housework can distract us.  “Church” can even distract us.  TV, facebook, internet, sports, music…. Must I go on?  Anything tangible in our lives can take the place of the One who should be our true focus.  Anything can become an idol.

My challenge to you and to me this week is to “clear the mechanism.”  Really take time every day to spend with God.  Not out of habit… or guilt… or as a chore.  Spend some real time developing the relationship between you and your Creator.  God is so good and He wants a relationship with us.  Not a relationship that is built from “what we have been taught all of our lives,” but a real, growing, thriving relationship with 2-way communication.  And remember, you don’t have to do all of the talking.  In your human relationships, if you do all of the talking, do you ever really get to know the other person?  Get to know Him.  Let Him talk to you.  And when those distractions come…. clear the mechanism.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:2-3

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Rediscovering Who I Am

You know the moment. You suddenly feel the world crumbling in on you and you feel completely alone. What do you do in that moment? Who hears from you?

God has surrounded me with amazing friends and family who are there when I need them. But those wonderful people all too often become a crutch for me. A place to lean. Friends I can see. I can hear. I can touch. This causes me to often turn to them, not to God.

The past few years have been a tough period for my family… filled with transition, pain, and working through thick strongholds that have felt smothering at times. In some of these times, I have felt completely alone. Many of the friends who so eagerly surrounded us before “seemed” to be non-existent.

In this darkness, I’ve pushed away the very tools God has given me to express worship. I’ve left my guitar in its case, even with music being the gift that draws me to Him like no other. I’ve been inconsistent with running, the world where my head gets clear and I can focus on His strength in me. And my fingers have not been striking the keys on this macbook like they have in the past. The writing has been put on the back burner… the very thing that allows me to process life.

I’ve been so distracted trying to fill the ache. Chasing after things that are just distracting me from the true calling in my life. The one I’ve known for a long time. Just feeling these words come off of my fingers and seeing them on the page makes my heart beat faster and makes me desire to feel alive in His presence again.

But God. Two of my favorite words in the Bible.

But God was trying to teach me something through the strange pain and loneliness. No matter how many times I’ve been told to “turn to Him, not others,” I needed to EXPERIENCE the feeling of having no one to turn to when I was hurting.

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. – Psalm 62:1-2

God has been wanting me to stop looking out, and instead to look up. For once, to realize that when it feels no one else is here… HE. IS. So this morning I get it. This morning I accept. This morning I open my hands and my heart and ask Him to fill me with love and trust in Him ALONE.

With open hands & heart, silently hoping in Him… this is where I rediscover who I am.

So although we have a long way to go, I believe things are looking up because we’re looking up. I’m diving into God’s word, truly seeking to learn more about Him, and to learn more about who He wants me to be. And remember the ways I mentioned that I express worship? Music, running, and writing? They will not be kept on the back burner anymore. This girl has finally realized that turning to God is not just the “only thing left to do”…. it is the BEST thing to do.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8

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A Little About Me

I am a wife and mother who is passionate about Jesus and about simplifying things so that others may see Him in this crazy world we live in. God is teaching me what it means to grow where I am planted… to really live for Him. This blog is just a collection of my ramblings along the way.

We all struggle. We all have weaknesses. My desire is that this will be a place of transparency in a world that makes us think we need to be perfect. We all have a story. Here is a little of mine…

After 37 years, I finally came to the realization that God has given me a story to tell. Although I have made my own choices down the path of life, He has always known what those choices were going to be. My testimony is a GIFT that He wants to use as a blessing and encouragement to others. The place where I am “planted” is a true miracle, a clear example of what God can do in a life.

Why “grow where you’re planted”? God does not want us to run to try and find greener grass. If we are living for Him, within His will, we are to allow Him to use us right where we are. There was a time in my life when I thought I could find greener grass, and God set me straight. The goal for this blog is to be a continuous story of how we can grow and be used exactly where we are at any given time.

1 Timothy 1:16 says, “…I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”

Now for the FUN stuff about me. I love spending time with my family and friends. With 3 kids 10 and under, I stay pretty busy! When I’m not busy wiping noses and trying to survive the hurricane that is our home, I love to get down to my artistic & athletic roots. Writing, designing, doing anything creative, playing the guitar, singing, running, golfing, watching baseball and college basketball… all of these things bring out the best in me (and the competitive side of me). One of my fun goals in life is to see a baseball game in EVERY stadium in America. I’m now at 7. 🙂 Oh! And did I mention that I love coffee??

So now that my serious stuff and fun stuff is out there for you all to read… let me sum it up by saying this: My life is very blessed. Not perfect… not by a long shot. But very blessed. And it would not be what it is without Jesus. If you do not know Him, I so desire for you to find Him here on these pages.

Fun-Time Phonics! – A Review

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For my last project for the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family was given the opportunity to review Fun-Time Phonics!, a systematic phonics and comprehension reading program by The Critical Thinking Co. It is a 320-page book for grades K-2, full of colorful pages that help children learn to read in a fun way.

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This program ensures complete phonemic awareness mastery because it focuses on vowel isolation – their individual sounds. Before a student can become a proficient reader, this very basic and important piece must be mastered. Because my daughter has recently been diagnosed with Dyslexia, I was excited about trying this fun curriculum with her. She specifically struggles with phonemic awareness/vowel isolation, so this was the perfect type of stimulating program to try with her. The emphasis of Fun-Time Phonics! is on patterns, not rule memorization.

Here is a listing of the components and strategies that are extremely effective with all levels of readers:

  • Builds from students’ natural speaking abilities, developing their auditory awareness of vowel sounds;
  • Incorporates multisensory instruction for introducing the alphabet and short vowels;
  • Provides cognitively-engaging connected text for practice;
  • Utilizes co-articulation to introduce consonant sounds, eliminating traditional stumbling blocks and ensuring a successful reading start;
  • Involves multiple regions of the brain – analytical as well as artistic and language-providing various pathways to long-term memory and automatic word recall.

Fun-Time Phonics! is literally an open-and-go program. You sit down with your student, open the book, and easily teach the concepts without any prep work at all. Since we are no longer homeschooling, it is helpful to have a curriculum like this that we can add to our homework routine in the afternoons. It’s not just a supplement, however. Despite its simple, easy-to-use design, it is still a very comprehensive program.

Here is the Table of Contents:

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Here are a couple of sample pages:

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So what do we think of Fun-Time Phonics!?

We love Fun-Time Phonics! Katherine evens smiles at the cute pictures and enjoys the format, which changes things up and doesn’t give her the same routine-based learning everyday. If you have a struggling reader, or an early reader that you want to get started on the right foot, I highly recommend this wonderful, reasonably priced curriculum. The 320-page paperback book is only $39.99 and they are getting ready to introduce a Windows-based program that will only be $19.99.

Social Media:

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Reading Kingdom – A Review

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As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family was given the opportunity to review Reading Kingdom Online, a complete computer-based reading curriculum for ages 4-10 by Reading Kingdom. This program is fun and colorful, and teaches children to read and write up to a 3rd grade level.

According to the Department of Education, 2 out of 3 children fail to become proficient readers. Reading Kingdom has taken a step to help children enjoy learning to read through their beautifully-designed interface. 

This program is also specially designed to work well for children who have been diagnosed with various learning disabilities. Children with Dyslexia, ADD, and Autism thrive in this learning environment. The visual stimulation improves their ability to retain information as they learn it.

Reading Kingdom Online is broken up into these segments:

  • Sequencing – the process that allows us to read the same letter combinations as different words by changing their order;
  • Writing – using the keyboard to physically type in the spelling of words;
  • Sounds – phonics, creating words from sounds/sets of letters;
  • Meaning – developing an understanding what words mean in their contexts;
  • Grammar – how words and phrases go together in the English language;
  • Comprehension – developing a complete understanding of what the kids read.

Benefits of using this program are:

  • Research based and incredibly effective.
  • The program adapts to every child and provides individualized instruction.
  • Kids can use the program on their own.
  • It’s fun so children think they’re playing a game and want to use it.
  • It was created by Dr. Marion Blank, one of the world’s top experts in reading.
  • It works as a standalone curriculum or a supple-ment.
  • Works on any device with an internet connection (including Windows, Mac, iPad, Android, Chromebooks, etc.)

Here are a few screen shots of how the program works:


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You can watch a video explaining the entire program here: Six Skill Integrated Method. You can also download sample lessons here: Reading Kingdom Sample Lessons. You can get a 30-day trial here: Reading Kingdom Online Trial.

After your 30-day trial, the pricing is very reasonable. It’s only $19.99 per month per student, BUT if you go ahead and purchase without doing the trial the price is only $14.99 per month per student. Each additional student is $9.99 per month (or $7.49 if you skip the trial).

So what do we think of Reading Kingdom Online?

This is a very comprehensive online program for young and struggling readers. All children ages 4-10 will probably enjoy this format, but it is specifically helpful if you have children who have been diagnosed with Dyslexia, ADD, or Autism. It’s so hard to keep kids focused at this age; but this visually stimulating, highly interactive program will keep them entertained and learning. Make sure to check out the resources, testimonials, and tons of other information on Reading Kingdom’s website.

Social Media:

  • Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/readingkingdom
  • Twitter – https://twitter.com/readingkingdom
  • Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/readingkingdom

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Review of Middlebury Interactive Languages

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As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family was given the opportunity to review a semester of Elementary Spanish 1: Grades K-2, a completely online curriculum by Middlebury Interactive Languages. This program is very fun and interactive, and geared to younger students. Each unit takes a story from Spanish culture and uses various types of games and activities to help students learn the language AND the culture at the same time.

Each unit is broken into several lessons, and there is a lot of review of the small pieces of information that are given. It is definitely not overwhelming for young students, but instead helps them to really grasp phrases before moving on. The curriculum also includes quizzes and tests that help them see how much they are learning along the way.

As someone who learned sign language while immersed in Deaf culture, I know the value of being “thrown in” to the culture in order to learn. In the old days, we learned Spanish by copying words, repeating after the teacher, and we never used many visually stimulating and immersive techniques. Needless to say, I don’t remember a lot about Spanish. However, while in college, I became fluent in sign language by being thrown in and having to learn the language to survive. This curriculum reminds me of that (in as much as an online program can do that). The students watch and listen to stories in Spanish. While focusing on certain phrases, they pick up other words/phrases through context clues and pictures. It is awesome!

Here are a few screen shots of how the program works:

Here the students listen to the numbers 1-10 in Spanish as they click on fishbowls: 
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Here the students click on each family member, which changes them from black and white to color. As they click, they hear the family members’ titles in Spanish (mother, father, sister, brother, etc.):
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Here the students drag and drop the number words into the pictures that match:Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.27.07 AM

This is the Speaking Lab. Here the students record themselves saying the phrases, then listens back to see how closely they pronounced the words to the examples:Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.29.38 AM

Here is a shot of the welcome screen, along with the table of contents:Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 10.55.48 AM

As you can see, the students learn Spanish vocabulary for greetings, numbers, family, colors, school, the body, animals, calendar, food, and descriptions. It is a very comprehensive (yet again… not overwhelming) program for young learners. Even an older preschooler can follow along and pick up some vocabulary and culture.

So what do we think of Middlebury Interactive Language’s Elementary Spanish: K-2?

It is awesome! If you have children ages 4-8 and are looking for a Spanish curriculum that will hold their interest, I highly recommend this curriculum. It’s so hard to keep kids at this age interested in learning things that do not come naturally, but this visually stimulating, highly interactive program will keep them entertained and learning. As the kids get older, there are other more advanced programs, so they can continue on with the same program.

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