Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Homeschooler Panic - Don't Worry!

I'm absolutely thrilled to join the community over at Homeschool Survival as one of Sarah's staff writers.

This month, our emphasis is, as you can probably guess, back to school advice. My column addresses the common issues that bring on panic among newbie homeschoolers.  

I've got 10 tips to help you avoid breathing into a paper bag! Join me there, won't you? To do so, click the link below.

A Note to New Homeschoolers - Don't Panic!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All You Need to Know to Succeed in Life

A young mom, barely out of her teens, sits with three babies under the age of six. She wilts beneath the withering control of her second baby daddy. It is obvious which ones are his because the little girl cannot escape his soul-killing tirades. Inwardly, I weep.

I watch him and know that he is doing all he knows to do – the pitiful best he can against even more pitiful odds.

They wander near me. I say, “Shush. Shush,” in my most newborn-soothing tone. “You are working so hard to be a good daddy. She is such a sweet little girl. Relax. She is fine. She hasn’t made a peep. Let her breathe. You take a breath too. How long has it been since you simply took a breath?”

Behind him, I see Baby Mamma’s eyes fill and glisten with tears she’s fighting to hold back. “Thank you,” she mouths without a sound.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The pleading in her eyes says volumes more. All these months later, her desperate, pleading gaze haunts my dreams. And, I wonder, who is telling her what it takes to succeed?

I wish. I wish I could gather them under my wing and listen to their stories. How have they found themselves in this hard pressed life they are living? Who gave them the map that said this way of life was the road to success?

I look around and ponder images of success: the rock and movie stars, YouTube sensations, and techno-wizards. I think of the infamous living life out loud, Kardashian, Honey-Boo-Boo, and 16 and Pregnant style. Is this what success looks like?

Courtesy B. Creasy
If I saw Baby Mamma and Daddy again, I would gather them under my wing and tell them what success really looks like.

1) Success is rarely lived out loud in the pages of tabloids or on the television screen. It happens in the quiet moments of life when no one anywhere is watching.

Micah 6:8 (Message) But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.

2) Know that you have value beyond anything you can imagine. You are not here by accident. A creator God gave you purpose before he made the world.

c. 1997
Psalm 139: 15-16 (Message) You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

3) You have a purpose to fulfill. In the history of all mankind, only you can fulfill that mission. You are not a mistake.

Ephesians 2:10 (NET) For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

4) Even if no one in your life has ever been trustworthy, there is someone you can trust. Be trustworthy because he is trustworthy.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 
Psalm 37: 3-5 (NRSV) Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

5) Embrace hard work knowing others will respect you for it. Laziness brings dishonor and robs you of self-respect.

Ephesians 4:28 (Amplified) Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. 

Proverbs 6: 6-8 (Message) You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 
6) If you won’t do it for someone else, don’t expect it to be done for you. Treat others the way you expect to be treated.

Matthew 7:12 (Message) Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.

7) Love fearlessly and know that if you are fearful, your love is not real.

1 John 4:18 (NASB) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

8) Do not be selfish. Recognize selfishness when you see it, and run like your hair is on fire when you do.

Proverbs 23: 6-8 (NASB) Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments.

Courtesy A. Squires
9) Know that God gave you the ability to recognize right and wrong. Do what you know is right even if no one else will.

(Amplified Bible) Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.

10) Be gracious, respectful, and mannerly toward total strangers. Hold doors for young women, mothers, and the elderly. Say thank you. Let the other driver go first in traffic just because. Pay it forward.

Philippians 2:3 (NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
I will always wonder about that young, struggling, not-quite-couple in the doctor’s office. What would you tell them success looks like? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Living Broken in a World Dying for Authentic Faith

The cry was long, slow, and mournful. It was the kind you hear when a soul is watching and waiting for authenticity it cannot find.

The thread long since faded from Facebook. Yet, it echoes in my heart. A Christian left his sprinkler system running despite a prohibitive county ordinance. He was a serial offender. I winced.

The post dripped with righteous and justifiable sarcasm. And, as Facebook does, one comment invited another.

It was like a train wreck I couldn’t stop watching. I didn’t want to keep reading and being embarrassed by ‘my kind’, but I couldn’t look away.

I watched the stories unfold. I read as far as the one about a high powered, fancy car driving, preacher-man who routinely ran a four-way stop in his community.

Courtesy A. Squires
I smiled wryly thinking about mobsters who got away with murder – until tiny little numbers did them in. It was racketeering, not murder, which unraveled their empires.

I wondered how the offenders would have reacted had they known they were on Facebook display. Would they have been chastened and repentant? Would they have been arrogant and entitled?

What’s the use of living a big, public faith if the Devil is in the details? You see what I mean, right? I wonder how I measure up when others are reconciling my faith.

When I offer up my tattered faith, will it resonate as true and trustworthy? Will I only provide more Facebook fodder for those
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
who are waiting and watching for authenticity? If perfection is required, I’m lost in the noise of failure.

We’ve stitched up the broken places of our life until all that’s left is a rag tag survival quilt. I pull the tatters close like a mother relishing shreds of the last baby blanket left in the house.

There is no sweet smell in which to bury my nose. No corner remains to rub against the weary cheeks of my soul. I look in the mirror, and mocking thoughts echo back.

You. You and your broken life. The legacy of your brokenness will last long after you are gone. Why do you keep trying? Who is this God before whom you weep? Where is he now? Who’s gonna buy the authenticity of your faith? Loser.

The chiding voice says my faith must be spit-polished to shiny perfection for authenticity’s sake. No one in this Photoshopped magazine spread, Pinterest happy world wants to hear about a broken down, weary, sweaty, hard fought for, tenacious faith. N.o.b.o.d.y.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Yet, I look around me at the bloody landscape of a dying world. A world that is clamoring and gasping for spiritual authenticity. Watching so closely they know when we run a four way or leave a sprinkler churning and spinning day after illegal day.

I try to think of someone I know whose life is without pain or crisis. Someone whose life is Pinterest or Kardashian beautiful.

The truth is sobering. I am not alone. Every single Christian I know who is living a life of authentic faith is hurting for one reason or another. None of the wounds are easy fixes. We are all living out our faith in the trenches. Trench warfare is neither easy nor pretty. Nor pinnable.

I wonder who is watching when I am unaware. When the Devil creeps into the details of my life, will a soul gasping for authenticity cry out, “A-ha! I gotcha!” and sit back smug and self-satisfied because I have lived down to his or her lowest expectations?
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

When I tell the truth that faith is work and often yields no immediate reward, will the words resonate in a life giving way? Will the authenticity of my faith take root and grow in someone else’s life?

I am living a broken and imperfect life and faith in the midst of world that is dying for authenticity. If you think you are too broken to be fixed, you are not alone. Walk with me?

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Could Do This All Night (Guest Post - Beth Pensinger)

My dog Daisy has a stubborn streak. You can see it in the defiant lift of her head.

Image Credit - B. Pensinger

Within the confines of our backyard fence, I am boss. She is completely obedient. But when we step out into the wide world, Daisy likes to tune me out.

There was a time when I used to walk her around the neighborhood without a leash. I’m not sure what happened, but the hound in her mutt blood must’ve won out and she started chasing anything with four legs and fur. Needless to say, she’s back under leash arrest. This doesn’t make me happy. I like it when she’s obedient so she can trot freely beside me, sniffing recycle bins and cat poop to her hearts content.

Image Credit - Beth Pensinger
If she takes a #2 while I have her on the leash, I make her sit before I bend down to clean it up. Poo patrol is a nasty business made only worse by Daisy potentially jeopardizing my already klutzy center of gravity. So the other night after she took care of business, I told her to sit.


I tried to imitate a man’s deep voice and barked the command a few more times.

Nada. So I grabbed her by the snout and forced her to lock eyes with mine.

“Sit.” I said through clenched teeth.

The only movement she made was to try to wrestle her face out of my iron grip. I was ahead in the staring competition, but that was about it. Suddenly, I laughed. This was a battle of wills, and I was going to win.

“Oh girl,” I said. “I could do this all night.” Thankfully not long after, she waved her white flag.

I was consumed with the showdown for the remainder of our walk. I am often made aware of scary parallels between me and my dog and me and God. Only I’m Daisy and God takes my place.

Image Credit - Beth Pensinger
In this particular parallel, I think God is happy when I’m obedient so I can trot freely beside Him. He takes no pleasure in placing me under leash arrest. But when I consistently tune Him out, what else can I expect? He knows if I chase the cat, I’ll end up at a very busy and dangerous highway that’s not to be trifled with.

Yet I continue to be stubborn once on the leash. He tells me to do something and I refuse. He locks eyes with mine and we engage in a battle of wills. He repeats His command—hopefully not through clenched teeth—and I look away.

“Oh daughter,” He says. “I could do this all night.”

He’s so right.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
                                                                                         - Hebrews 12:5-6
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Image Credit - Beth Pensinger
I am so thankful for Beth's friendship, inspiration, and encouragement since meeting her in May of 2012 at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. 

It was my pleasure to help critique her newly published book, Let Me Fall.  She is certainly no dimwit. The story of her journey with God is an engrossing one. 

She has a passion for young women who will identify with the struggles she unravels in this insightful offering. If you or someone you know loves a good Romance novel, this book is probably for you - and not for the reasons you think!  
To visit her blog: click here.

To find her on Facebook: click here.

You'll find her on Twitter: by clicking here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What if Disaster Came to Visit?

I was going about my complicated life thinking complicated thoughts when the
Courtesy D. Horrocks
Moore, Oklahoma tornado hit. In an instant, my life seemed much less  complicated. How about you?

I cannot wrap my head around recreating life from rubble that looks like a box of spilled matchsticks.

My community of bloggers and I began to wonder what we could do and how. My friend, Tabitha, suggested a campaign to highlight the work of Samaritan’s Purse which quickly moved into the area to assist in recovery.

Samaritan’s Purse is the parent organization for Operation Christmas Child. Many of you have probably packed shoe boxes at Christmas bound for children overseas.

I enjoyed three wonderful years working with OCC training volunteers who were preparing the boxes for overseas shipping. Knowing the organization like I do, I quickly signed on for the suggested campaign. 

The news cycle is shifting. The recovery has only begun. I wonder how quickly I'd feel forgotten after the satellite trucks move on to the next big story.

Today, my blogging community and I would like to invite you to reach out and touch Oklahoma from where ever you are. Every dollar contributed goes to the two organizations linked below. You choose your recipient organization.
Won't you share this post with everyone you know? 

Inspired to Help

The devastation in the United State's Midwest region breaks our hearts, and the Inspired Bloggers Network desires to use our influence and the power of our blogs to make a difference.

How Can We Help?

Volunteer One of the charities we are choosing to feature, Samaritan's Purse, is currently enlisting volunteers. So, if you are close to the areas affected, please visit the Samaritan's Purse website to see how you can serve those in need. (Click here to see an on the ground report.)
“Our prayers are with all of those who are suffering because of this massive storm. We are going to stand by them and do everything we can to help them recover physically, emotionally and spiritually.” - Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham
Volunteers are already in action and more help is needed. Please consider donating your time to Samaritan's Purse and if you are not available to serve physically, keep those who are working in your prayers. Contribute If you are Inspired to Help, please make a donation to either Samaritan's Purse or the American Red Cross to support their relief efforts in Texas and Oklahoma and help us track our impact by marking the amount you donated in the form below. If you would like, you can let us know you joined our effort by commenting on one of our blogs listed below.
samaritans purse donation button american red cross donate button
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The following bloggers are all participating in the Inspired to Help campaign by posting a call to give on their blogs on Memorial Day... Monday, May 27th.
Please visit one or all of these blogs for their personal thoughts on the Inspired to Help campaign.

What is the Inspired Bloggers Network?

The Inspired Bloggers Network is a group of over 250 women bloggers of various niches, backgrounds, and experiences but all are united as they seek to support and encourage one another while growing their blogs in order to impact the world in a positive way.

How to join the InspiredBN

To join the Inspired Bloggers Network, you must be 1) female and 2) a blogger. Ask to join our Facebook group HERE. For questions or media inquiries, please contact Tabitha.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Homeschool Conferences: What's in it for You?

Are you are pumped over the early arrival of next year’s curriculum? Maybe you are wondering if you’ll finish this year’s work in time to start again next fall.

Homeschool conventions are an invaluable resource for both the confident and struggling homeschool family. The return on investment of time, energy, and cost to attend a conference is exponential.

Wondering what a conference has to offer?

1) Conventions are like huge family reunions. Whether your family is large with lots of littles or small with only a couple of teens, you will know you’ve found your tribe. Everyone gets you. There is nothing to explain. It’s fun to catch up with old friends and to make new ones.

2) Vendor halls provide direct communication with curriculum experts. There’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation with curriculum providers while you peruse their products. You’ll have the chance to talk to other families who’ve used what you’re salivating over. Between the two, you will feel empowered to make better curriculum decisions for the year ahead.

3) Workshops offer a variety of topics meaning you will be encouraged and reassured in a variety of ways. Conferences release schedules ahead of time. Take the time to look them over, and define the types of workshops offered. Map out a preliminary plan of the ones that seem to resonate with you. Be flexible as sessions sometimes fill up, or speaker line ups change at the last minute.

4) Sessions topics vary widely but typically include information about the following subjects: vendor product lines, parenting/marriage enrichment, special needs concerns, practical ‘how to’ ideas, entrepreneurial opportunities, budgeting/financial support, time management, transcript prep, College Board testing, and tracks specifically for teens and children.

In addition to mapping out your session interest list, there are other things you can do to prepare for a successful conference.

1) Expect to be overwhelmed if it is your first conference. Plan    crockpot or make ahead casserole meals for your return home.    Make two days before and after the conference teacher work    days. Use the ones before to get your house in order. Use the    ones after to rest up, refocus, regroup and, of course, do    laundry.

2) Invite a few friends to go along. We always feel less    overwhelmed if we know there will be a friendly face in the    crowd. 

3) Check the website for food/snack policies and providers before you go. Some conferences are more flexible than others about   bringing outside food in to the venue. Knowing the policies and  vendors represented, you can make a plan that works for your  family.

4) Check the website vendor list and research curriculum you    want to see when you arrive. Have your list of questions ready   because reps will be eager to answer them. 

5) Don’t be shy. Speak to strangers. The mom next to you at the vendor booth may have the information you need. The mom seated next to you may live in your community and have children the same ages as yours. Can you say, “Park day!”

6) It’s o.k. to take a breather when information overload hits.   Most conferences record sessions and offer copies for a minimal fee.

7) If you travel, plan your packing to include room for purchases   made while at the convention.  Plan your budget before you   arrive lest you get carried away and overspend. After all, homeschoolers never meet a book they didn’t love, right?

8) Expect to return home energized and equipped for new challenges ahead. Don’t forget to share your new found enthusiasm with friends who didn’t get to attend.

9) Consult your state’s homeschool organization for a list of conferences in your area. Most states have multiple listings of local and state wide conferences and book sales, and many will take place in the next couple of months.

If you are looking for a great regional conference, consider Teach
Source: Kathy Ulrich Balman
Them Diligently. In addition to conferences in Nashville and Omaha, TTD is hosting a variety of upcoming ‘marketplace’ place events. There is sure to be one near you. 

To check out TTD’s upcoming conferences, click the link below. 

To check out the TTD market place events, click the following link:

To find TTD on Facebook, click here:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday Meet Up for the Desperate who Need to Breathe

I am desperate and cannot breathe. I am not alone.

Perhaps you have many little feet pattering around your home while taking care of an aging grandfather in end stage Alzheimer’s.

Did your child walk in, drop a bombshell, and blow the ground out from under you?

Has a family court judge stared down at you and declared your husband free to choose sinful selfishness over you today?

Have you made the harder choices in life believing one day the tipping point would come? It has come and tipped you into the depths of an abyss you could never imagine.

Maybe you have cancer, and your employer said you no longer have a job.

The depth of human misery represented in my community of friends alone is staggering.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Is chaos crouching at the door? Are you weary? Can you breathe?

Do you hear the voice of the accuser echoing in your heart? He’s good. He’s had time to refine his act. He’s been practicing his craft since he and creation’s Eve sized up that infamous, history changing tree together.

He whispers just loud enough that you must strain to hear him, but that’s part of his plan too. He’s reeling you in, closer. He mocks.

Who do you think you are? What right do you have to call yourself a person of faith? Look at your life. That dude on television said you could have your best life now. Is this your best? Really? Faker!

He stalks off leaving you to lick your wounds knowing if he can defeat you now, his job just got easier. He knows we live in a world filled with desperate folks who cannot breathe.

He looks over his shoulder snickering as he departs. If he shuts you up, how many will remain oxygen deprived?  
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 

He uses your faith against you because that is your tender spot. He tells you only perfect faith, all spiffed up and television shiny, is the real deal.

Your faith is messy. Your life is messier. You are no match for him. Sit down. Be quiet. Hide. Under your blanket. It’ll be better that way.

The icy wind whipping down off the snowy mountain was no match for the icy wind blowing over my soul today.

I reached out from under my soul-hiding blanket to answer a text. Not long after, the phone rang. “Are you really o.k.? You aren’t, are you?”

One messy soul-faith sister reached out to another. A hint of air seeped into my lungs.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Strengthened by the call, I started to pay it forward. Before I could hit send, an incoming text popped up.

“Just checking in. I love you, and I am praying.”

“Weird,” I answer back. “I was just texting you to ask about you.”

“God,” she says. No further explanation needed.  

Emboldened, I text a friend I met a year ago. I did not expect to be forever friends. I never knew I would need her the way I did today – as desperately as I did today.

She lives on the other side of the continent. In this flat world, she is instantly available. “Pray?” I pour out my heart in 140 character bursts.

Before I can blink, her answer pours out of my text screen into my heart:

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
You have not failed your God. Listen to the Lover of your soul. He’ll whisper truth. He is at work in your life and in the life of your family. The truth: when God sees you, he sees Jesus.

Big ugly gasping breaths fill my lungs as tears pour down my cheeks. I can breathe.

I do not know who you are nor the cause and depth of the pain you bear. I do know that hiding under a blanket of protection  only serves to suffocate you.

It takes a while before you notice, but without warning there is no air. In those desperately, lonely moments when we cannot breathe, friends are God’s gift of CPR.

Our society makes it difficult to cultivate friends. I’ve said so often, the more interconnected we are, the less connected we are.

If you are looking for air, please consider joining the in(RL) community for a celebration of relationships on April 26th and
Join us? 
27th. Almost 500 groups are registered in 437 cities across the globe. So far, over 1,000 women are planning to participate.

Won’t you be the next one to join us? You never know when you may need a friend to help you breathe.
To see the trailer and register, c
lick here

If you are gasping for breath, Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe is chock full of wisdom and advice. To learn more: click here