Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Confirmation

Since I’m catching up here, I must share Lilah’s Confirmation which she shared with her cousin Courtney.



Back in September 2015, when I was the volunteer coordinator of the religious education program, Courtney asked if she could be confirmed at our church with her cousin.  Since she lives out of state, she was able to complete the curriculum, Decision Point at home using a free phone app and a journal.  She met several times with the Priest and emailed photos of her completed work.  

In some ways it was a long year.  Lilah was never connected with her class.  She homeschooled religious ed for 7th grade after a cell phone incident involving a picture happened and her teacher would not assist in helping her resolve it with the students and parents.  She lost trust, but thankfully did not lose faith.  She returned for 8th grade but it never got any better.  There was a huge disconnect between what the students were learning in class and how they lived their daily lives.  Just one example -- during the Living Stations of the Cross there were selfies taken on the alter.   Truly unbelievable behavior from teens about to experience a mature sacrament.    Anyway, Lilah learned a lesson about perseverance and judgement and patience and working with others whom you might not like very much.  

Her journal was a shared effort.  We worked on it together.  It became a scrapbook of the year, with every event included (like Living Stations, the Christmas Event at Knight’s of Columbus Musuem, Hashim Garret’s presentation at The Peabody Museum and the many Christian movies we watched).  Because we encountered so much sickness last year, we watched many movies and rather than watch mindless movies, I decided to explore the genre of Christian movies.  Our list grew and grew and still grows.  It includes:
  • Saving Christmas
  • Grace Unplugged
  • War Room
  • Finding Normal
  • Touched By Grace
  • When the Game Stands Tall
  • Brother White
  • Once I was A Beehive
  • Miracles From Heaven
  • God’s Not Dead
  • Is Heaven for Real



We decided to throw a party for Courtney and Lilah.  Invitations were printed and mailed.  Cakes were ordered, both regular and gluten free!  Presents were purchased.  Names were chosen.





Lilah chose the name Olive.  It may be legend, but Saint Olive is known to be a 13 year old Italian girl who was kidnaped and taken to Tunesia by invading Muslims.  When she was found to perform miracles she was imprisoned and tortured.  While imprisoned, she converted many of her captors before she was beheaded.  Her sprit rose from her body in the shape of a dove.  I happen to have a necklace of my Grandmother’s of a dove stamped on a disc of silver.  Lilah wore that necklace during Confirmation and it warmed my heart.  

Courtney chose the name Shiphrah, an Old Testament name of a midwife who helped prevent the genocide of Hebrew children by the Egyptians.  She wanted a bold name and I am honored to have helped her find this one.  I am also honored to have been her sponsor and hope to continue to lead her to a deeper relationship with Christ.  My gift to her was a screwdriver, a very cool screwdriver made by Snap On Tools with multiple heads for various jobs.  My Dad gave me one years ago and I use it often.  In her card I wrote a specific verse and told her while the screwdriver is a tool, the real tool for life is her Bible.  I love the decal I purchased from SaltyBiscut’s Etsy site to customize her Bible. 



While our paths in religion may be changing, our faith is stronger than ever.  I am so proud of these two young women and hope they use their faith to guide them as they mature and hope that they are defined not by what they do, but by who they are, daughters of the Lord.



Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Church




My blog has become quiet again but last night I had a dream that I was able to publish my Instagram as a book that contained these long, detailed posts about each picture.  When I woke, I had this compelling feeling that I need to return to posting on my blog.  Time is moving so quickly and while I don’t feel compelled to share everything, I do want to share the highlights of what our life is like and what homeschooling high school is like for us.  

One thing I have not shared here is the shift my family has undertaking with where we are worshipping God.  In order to share the whole story I have to back up, way up, to July of 2015, when Karen took us to Epic Church in Decatur, Alabama.  This was the first time I can honestly say I understood what the Holy Spirit is.  I felt it come alive in me.  I’m not sure if it was the sense of community I felt, the welcoming I was given, the incredible worship music or the message through the sermon, I just knew I wanted to attend church here again.  The only problem is logistics.  Connecticut sure is a long way from Alabama!  We had the opportunity to attend Epic again, in November of 2015 and we still talk about the sermon given about being a giant slayer (David).  At this service the girls looked at me and told me they want to experience church this way every week.  There exact words were “THIS is what we want church to be like.”  I told them I did not know if that was possible for so many reasons, but I would look into it.

When we returned home from our epic Alabama road trip I did look into it and I rediscovered a church two towns over from us.  I always knew of this church, one of my brother in laws attended it years ago but because it carried the Congregational name, I never knew it was in fact, a non-denominational church.   



One week I attended a service alone and felt like I was back in Alabama.  The same welcome, the same community, the same worship style through music, the same type of   study through the Word of God.  The church was packed.  At least a dozen volunteers guide traffic through the parking lot.  A police officer directs traffic into the church.  Teens.  Oh how many teens.  And Bible study.  At the service, people took out their Bibles and learned the details behind many of the verses we know, or thought we knew.   In addition to the weekly service, there is an active youth program, teen program, community groups that meet weekly, Bible studies that meet weekly, mission opportunities both local and overseas, retreats, conferences, prayer groups, and more.  




I attended, then I brought Greg.  We left the girls at home because a decision like this is ultimately a parental one and had to be made in advance of involving children.  There was also the fact that I was still teaching 4th grade at our old church and Lilah was in her final year, her Confirmation Year, of religious education.  

We decided to attend, thinking we would split our time between churches.  However we immediately felt connected to this new church.  Grace joined the teen youth group and worked her behind off to connect with the girls there and make friendships.  I joined a community group that meets weekly.  I attended a Mom’s in Prayer statewide event and fell in love with this organization.  In addition to my weekly community group meeting, I met weekly with the Mom’s in Prayer group.  Grace considered attending her first retreat, but felt her friendships were not strong enough yet and she was not quite ready yet to journey away from home for the winter retreat.  Lilah decided to wait until she was a freshman and join the youth group for highschoolers after finding the junior high group just a bit too much like “junior high”.   If we want to change back to attending a Catholic Mass, we can do that at any time but it will be a Saturday evening mass so that I can still attend the Sunday service.  




Snippets of my journey were shared on Instagram.  I told my parents of this switch.  They understood and were not upset by our decision.  I finished out my obligation to teach 4th grade, dashing to our Catholic church for 9:30a.m and dashing out the door to make it to the 11:30 service at the other church.  Lilah finished her studies.  She had a beautiful Confirmation and she has some of her own faith stories to share, especially how Philipians 4:13 came to be her life verse this year.






We are settling in to a new way of worship and our family has changed in some beautiful and profound ways.  We listen to worship music.  I love it.  I love knowing that most of these songs are directly inspired by certain verses and now that I am well into my reading of the Bible, I can identify many of them!  Grace is also reading her Bible.  In fact many books we have read together.  My favorite was 2Corinthians, which we read aloud after her youth group leader texted the group and suggested it.  The girls are working on a 1/2 credit for language arts: Christian Writers.  We are listening to Joni Eareckson Tada’s biography and completing a study guide produced by 7sistershomeschool.com.  Lilah and I have read the Selection Series by Kiera Cass inspired by the Book of Esther.  I am half way through the Yada Yada Prayer Group series by Neta Jackson.  Grace and I enjoy Bible journaling and Lilah loves looking up verses in a book that my Aunt gave her that provides four translations for each verse.  It is so cool.  Grace has now signed up for her first retreat, a small group get away for teens involved in student leadership.  Since she is going to be part of the teen worship band in the fall this is great timing for her.  I attended my very first retreat earlier this month at the same retreat center she will attend later this summer.  I think she will love it.  Lilah is now assisting with 4th grade in the Sunday kids programming and although I was so looking forward to taking some time for myself, I was approached to help out with first grade, and I agreed for the summer.  We attended a Missions Conference and learned why missions are so vital to spreading the word of God.  We attended a concert by Kutless and 7th Time Down.  Greg and I attended a Christian comedy event focused on strengthening marriages.  We are busy.  So very busy but in such a good way.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Answered Prayer

It is so hard to believe that in just a few days I will have a high school freshman and a high school junior!  They were so little when we began this journey and now one is signed up for her driver’s permit and the other has her first official high school class beginning in July.  She already has a high school credit in language arts for OYAN and a partial credit for US History.  

It is time to put 2015-2016 to bed.  I am tired of dwelling on the year of sickness and injury.  We did not finish everything and frankly, it is what it is.  What we did, we did well, and what we did not finish, we will circle back to.  

We have some super exciting things planned for 2016-2017.  Things that I know will be great simply because they came to me through the grace of God.  I prayed hard for some changes, like a group to belong to.  The pain of losing so many friendships over the years has taken a toll on us.  We had some hard conversations about returning to school to be connected with more kids, more opportunities, and more social events.  Since the girls were adamant that they did not want to choose this route, I prayed that God would put us in touch with the right people and open doors for our family.  I know God will not answer every prayer.  However, when I intentionally chose to give it up to him, I met some people who led us to opportunity.

Back at our marsh walk, I met a mother from my town who used to teach at a Christian school near us.  She told us of a Christian coop that meets ever other week with lots of teens.  In addition to the bi-monthly meets, there is an extension of the coop, just for teens, that meets weekly and focuses on core credit classes.  We visited and went on the wait list.  I resisted every temptation to call or email, just to check in on our placement and when I was at my very first retreat (still have to blog about that) I received an email of acceptance!  Through this coop, the girls will have:
  • 1.0 credit in US history (in addition to the work we did this year with the Dave Raymond curriculum)
  • 1.0 credit in foreign language (French)
  • Lilah will either have 1/2 or 1.0 credit in English, as she already has one credit from OYAN and will have 1/2 credit this summer with a creative writing class taught by Gail Carson Levine.
  • Grace will have a 1/2 credit in guitar to add to her credits of piano instruction
  • They each will have 1/2 credit in fine arts which Grace was reluctant to take but we realized if she is considering art school for photography she needs to build a portfolio across art mediums.



I am excited for this opportunity.  Grace will take a portrait photography class and Lilah is going to be a part of the worship band (at coop) as a singer!  (assuming they get their first choice picks).  Academics aside, I am mostly grateful for the chance to be connected again.  Homeschooling solo can be lonely, even when you are busy going from class to class.  We are constantly out and about, but we have not been anchored down by anything that is binding.  We need it in our life.  I am so very grateful for this answered prayer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lilah's Bookshelf


Lilah has always been a reader, an avid one at that.  She began reading at age 4 and her love has grown continuously, just as she has.  At times it is hard to find books that appeal to her, yet are age appropriate, and well written.  She abhors plots that are similar to others and feels like the current YA trends in reading are bogus.  She can take hours to choose books.  Put her in a bookstore and she is in heaven.

Here are some of her recent reads and her "to be read" books:






And here is her new “thing”, her new blog, Lilah’s Bookshelf.  She recently expressed interest in being a blogger.  Not a blogger like me, for family record keeping and posterity, but a money making, brand creating blogger.  She will begin to explore how to blow up a blog into something bigger, something sustainable and marketable.  She has poured hours and hours into this project and she has made some lovely connections with other girls who share her interests. 

Here is the link: Lilah's Bookshelf (click to visit)






Monday, May 9, 2016

Ding Darling

Another thing that will be added to Biology is the guided tour we took through Ding Darling Nature Reserve when we were in Sanibel in April.  The highlight of this excursion was coming very close to the resident alligator!  We also saw some manatee frolicking but they were too far away to capture on film.  We learned about tree crabs, the mangrove forest ecosystem, natural fish hatcheries, osprey nesting habits, and of course, alligators.  





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