"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8

Friday, September 30, 2011


I have gotten entirely TOO serious in my old age. 
Part II of the post on law vs. grace will have to wait for another time! 

In the meantime... my focus this weekend is to have fun! Here is some proof that there was a reason my nickname was "Silly Jilly." In college, we used to dress up in crazy costumes and go around to all our friends houses and ring the doorbell. At the time I thought it was hilarious! Amazing that I convinced Darin to join in my shenanigans! 
I guess some people will do anything when they are in love. :) 

So it's time to stop focusing on everything on my to do list and smile a little. :) 
 Is this the face my boys see all the time?? I sure hope not. 
No one was harmed in this photo! :)
I know three little boys who would love to join in my laughter. 

If your doorbell rings this weekend, you never know 
who might be there waiting to make you laugh!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Law vs. Grace Part I

I have always been someone who likes to follow the rules. Just ask my brothers. ;) Maybe I'm even a little legalistic, hypocritical and much like the Pharisees?! In 1997,  I went on a summer mission trip with Cru to Northern Africa. It was a life changing experience as we were missionaries to many who did not know about Jesus. It was humbling and exciting to adjust to the cultural differences. I learned quickly that the best way to tell these people about Jesus was to love them just where they were and live a life that reflected Him. Judging them or giving them a set of rules was NOT going to get me anywhere. It really changed my thinking for a period of time. Unfortunately,  I forgot too quickly and my rule following instincts kicked in again. My heart was too judgmental of those around me not doing things as I thought they should. 

Fast forward to 1999. As a newlywed,  I participated in a Sonship Bible Study with our small group at church. It rocked my world. Many thanks to my small group (Hoppe's, Kirks, Philhowers, and Pitts!!) for putting up with my regular tears!   One thing that stands out from my memory is the quote, "You're much worse then you think you are." I think I had begun convincing myself (even though I knew better) that somehow I had some good in me for which I deserved all the credit. But it's not true. I am an even worse sinner then I realize. Thankfully that's not all! I also learned that God's grace covers ALL my gross sin. That I am loved beyond comprehension and that there is NOTHING I can do to earn this love. It is a free gift. And, (can you believe there is more?!?) that when I believe Jesus is my Savior, the Holy Spirit begins the work of making me more like Him. I will never perfectly follow all His laws this side of heaven. However, my love for my Savior should compel me from my heart to desire to obey the laws outlined in scripture. It is by God's grace that I am able to do anything right. (I'm preaching to myself here! I need to hear this and soak it in.) This is such good news. Shouldn't it change the way I live my life?

Fast forward to 2004, 2006 and 2008. Sweet bambinos #1, 2, and 3 arrive on the scene. In record speed the years zip by and as parents we are faced with the challenges of parenting. Our parenting issues change from dealing with tossed milk cups, to dealing with much deeper heart issues (obedience, disrespect, anger, etc.). Parenting has never seemed easy, but somehow it keeps getting harder. And here is where the rubber meets the road... how do you teach someone who is so wired to be a rule follower (me) to parent in a way that is full of grace? How does a mom take the truths of the second paragraph above (God's unconditional love and GRACE!) and intersect them with the need to train children in the importance of obeying God's laws. AND, how do you teach children to want to obey these laws from their heart -- not just because mom says so or to gain her approval. 

The answer is simply that I don't know. I have been more challenged then ever to really figure this out. I can't figure it out on my own, but I am praying these verses. 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

"Can't you relate? Isn't parenting a thorn?! My word, it most certainly is! I know I've pleaded with God to come quickly, time and time again, and resolve matters in my own life and in the lives of my children; to remove me from this stretched place. Yet He tells me EVERY time, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weak parenting. Therefore, boast all the more gladly that you haven't figured it out and that you struggle daily to know your right from your left, the law from the Gospel, for it is there the power of God will most grandly rest. And in response to that truth we ask God for contentment through these parenting years, which do indeed include much weakness, insult and hardship. FOR WHEN WE ARE WEAK, WE ARE STRONG! Hallelujah!"

I found the quote above here. It is by Tambra Murphy. I have no idea who she is, but I like it! Stay tuned  for more musings on law vs. grace in parenting. I definitely don't have the answers, but I'm muddling through in weakness praying the Lord would lead me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lego Creativity

In the midst of the all the sibling conflict, crazy shenanigans, screaming and all around boy wildness here, I have so much enjoyed seeing the boys creativity with Legos.  Although we have many of the little legos for kids 5+, I would say that we get the most collaborative enjoyment from the Lego Duplos. The little legos are wonderful for building, following directions and "setting up scenes," but they are too fragile for all three boys to play with together.

If you are trying to come up with Christmas ideas for any little boys in your life, I HIGHLY recommend Lego Duplos. Having lots of different sets has allowed so much creativity.

Check out some of their creations over the past couple weeks. 
I did not assist at all with any of their building. :)

mobile truck

big boat

cruise boat

exploring boat

These are a little tricky to see... but there is a banjo and guitar.
See the rubber band strings?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eyes Fixed

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." 
Hebrews 12:1-3

Totally need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. 
I need to live and breathe this passage today (and every day!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

20 days complete

It feels good to know we have 20 days of lessons under our belt. Yahoo! 
Here are 8 reflections/observations from our school time this week. 

1) Aaron is less interested in all the activities I put in his workboxes. The novelty has worn off. He can be encouraged to work on his boxes, but is very happy listening to a book on tape, playing with Lego duplos or pushing cars. I'm thankful for his imagination and ability to play independently! You know what they say about the best laid plans...  :)

2) I've changed around our "Circle Time" routine this year and it's working! I hadn't stopped to realize this until right now. This was a challenging time for us last year. The boys are enjoying singing our school theme song, "This is My Father's World."

3) Ethan has really flourished in his fine motor skills and handwriting. For now, he seems to like most of the lessons we do. It's amazing to me how distractible he can be at times and how focused he can be at other times. His favorite school assignments are: math and explode the code (phonics). I need to remember this blessing.

4) We are all really enjoying the hands on history lessons we are doing with Luke.  This week we made a wigwam, teepees and the Jamestown settlement with Lincoln Logs and Jenga pieces. 

5) It was so fun to pull out this leaf mosaic craft to do with Aaron. I did the same craft with Luke and Ethan when they were 3 or 4. I was really pleased with Aaron's focus in laying his dried beans in the glue. (We did this project while L & E were at their homeschool co-op art class.)

6) On Wednesday's due to our morning Community Bible Study commitment, we do our lessons in the afternoon. I was nervous about lots of resistance to do school at a different time of day, but so far Ethan is being a great leader in this. We have had our moments and will probably have many more, but Wednesday afternoon school was mostly successful this week. (It helped that it was raining and dreary outside and the boys didn't feel like they were missing anything!)

7) Love to see the coloring this boy does. He has a gift!

8) I treasure these smiles. :) 

Sometimes you just have to look for the rainbows! :) 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Speedy Racers

This was my view last Thursday mid-day. 

Two speedy racers out in the lead. 

One sweet little boy begging me to run faster so I could catch his brothers. 
This Momma could only run so fast pushing a heavy 3 year old, 
but I loved every minute of it!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gumnazo Principle

Let's suppose I own a small company that builds boats. And, let's say I hire some unexperienced workers to be my apprentices. Every day, I show these apprentices one new step in crafting the boat. I teach them only what they are able to learn, before showing them a new step. I show them the design manual I created so that they can see the big picture, but I take it one step at a time. When they make mistakes, I lovingly correct their mistakes and encourage them to try again. It's important that the boat is built well and meets my exact specifications so I invest in my apprentices. I want them to learn how to do their jobs well so that one day they won't need me alongside them

middle boy at 4 months and 1 year

I wouldn't just show them how to do it once and walk away and expect them to do it perfectly. I wouldn't expect them to learn it all in one day. I wouldn't yell at them when they made mistakes, or they might become discouraged and disheartened. I would come alongside my apprentices and together we would LEARN. Together I would GUIDE them. Together I would gently CORRECT their mistakes
 and TEACH them the proper way to do things. 

 youngest boy at 3 months and 1 year

You see... God has entrusted me with three little apprentices. Somehow, I've forgotten how important it is that I not only recognize their mistakes and discipline those mistakes, but I ALSO teach them the correct way to do things. I have been reading in Lou Priolo's book "The Heart of Anger" this week and I have been convicted, challenged and encouraged. Let me just say, I'm not sure I have many tears left and I might need to buy more tissues! As a parent, it is my God given job to "bring [my children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4) 

"But discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." (1Tim 4:7) Isn't that what I'm getting at when I train my children? I don't want them to just be nice people. My purpose shouldn't be that they make me look good. Instead, what I should want is for them to develop Christ-like character. In this book I have learned that the word discipline means to exercise or to train. In Greek, the word is gumnazo. Mr. Priolo asserts this Gumnazo Principle: "biblical discipline involves correcting wrong behavior by practicing right behavior, with the right attitude, for the right reason, until the right behavior becomes habitual. "

 7 years, 5 years and 3 years

So today, I've been really aware of treating them like the precious apprentices that they are. Asking for the Holy Spirit's help and guidance. I've been praying and repenting for my impatience with their mistakes and sins. It has been a day of "instant replay's."  They weren't all successful, but some were... I'm still learning too. I have failed my children in so many ways as a result of my own sin and selfishness, but here is the good news. God redeems. He forgives me. He forgives my children as they muddle through and He offers us all so much grace. Thank you Jesus for dying for my sins!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This morning I had a friend serve me in a way that made me sing praises to God. She came to my house in the early morning, fed my children breakfast, supervised their morning jobs, cleaned up the remaining breakfast dishes and got them ready to go out the door for our Wednesday morning Community Bible Study. All so I could go for a run. You see... she knew that when my husband travels I'm not able to keep to my regular running routine. She knew that my time running is a great stress reliever and put her friendship into action, to serve me! And to top it all off, the boys were cooperative and joyful. Thank you Jesus.

This challenges me. How can I put my love into action? Who can I serve? In what ways can I let Jesus' light shine out from me?

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16


I'm needing reminders this week of God's faithfulness. 
I want to hide His word in my heart so I don't believe the father of lies 
and so that I'm not swept into discouragement... 
or truthfully, to pull me out of discouragement. 
"For the word of God is living and active." Hebrews 4:12

I hope you will also be encouraged as you read along with me about God's faithfulness!
Do you have any encouraging passages you can share?

"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth." Psalm 57:10-11

"But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, 
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Psalm 86:15

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD'S great love 
we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; 
therefore I will wait for him.'" Lamentations 3:21-24

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted 
beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, 
he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 
1 Corinthians 10:13

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, 
for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:24

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins 
and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ribbon Organization

I'm in the slow process of reorganizing our closet. It is quite large, so it has become a space for school files, craft storage, sewing, and clothes storage. I've really wanted to tackle this space for over a year, but there has always been something more important to work on. I've decided to be content with working on it in small chunks.

First step: reorganize those ribbons!

BEFORE: As you can see the ribbons are a disaster and 
really tricky to find something when I need it. 

AFTER: Here is my quick fix. My 5 year old was thrilled to 
help me wind the longer pieces of ribbon onto spools. 
We fit all the spools into this photo storage box. 

For all the short pieces of ribbon, I folded them and attached
them to a binder clip. Then I strung them on a scrap ribbon and 
hung them in the closet. It's not perfect, but so much improved!

Do you have any ribbon organization ideas? 
Happy organizing!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homeschool Day at the Mariner's Museum

Here are a few pictures of our day at the Mariner's Museum last Friday. We wore our Smith Academy t-shirts and got an early start. I'm thankful for the red shirts that made it easy to keep track of the boys!
Some very serious students waiting for our class on Christopher Columbus.
I must admit I was a little disappointed in this class, as were the boys.
It was not particularly captivating or interactive. 

Playing with the pulley systems found on sail boats.

The boys LOVED all the very intricate model ships. 

Learning how ships were built with steel and rivets. 

It was just that kind of day... not everyone wanted to be photographed.  :)

Another highlight... steering the wheel on board a mock ship. 

Cozy seats on board a submarine. 

Ironically, the true highlight for all the boys was our 1 mile hike around part of Lake Maury.
(Which is situated right next to the museum.) It was a cool, crisp, sunny and beautiful day.
They even got to see a giant excavator working in the lake. Awesome!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

School Week in Review #3

If you've been reading my blog, you know that we had a very challenging day on Monday. Tuesday was also challenging, but I felt much encouragement from the Lord in spite of the difficulties. I'm realizing that a lot of the difficulty is not necessarily related to the actual school work and learning we are doing, but instead related to new parenting challenges as the boys each enter new developmental stages. When you put them all together... POW! It often feels explosive! I need to be ON every minute of every day prepared to teach, train and redirect with patience. In the morning, during school, after school, at supper, and bedtime...phew! Makes me tired just thinking about it all. The Lord will give me strength. In fact, I am reminded every second that I simply cannot do this without Him holding me up.  

So we come to our week in pictures. Back in August, I said one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to have "a record of the positive experiences as a testimony to God being at work." It is by His grace alone that we finished up our week strong and are following through with our commitment to homeschool. Hope you enjoy the photos and find a few reasons to chuckle as you take a peek. :)

Let's start with our silly little 3 year old. Some of these pictures absolutely capture his personality.
Finishing up our letter Ss work with gluing sand to the letter S.
Silly boy cutting strips of paper.
Matching the colored pieces to the color on the stars.
Moving on to letter Mm and stamping on the mouse.
Do-a-dot letter Mm

Here he is being productive under the VT blanket. His brothers didn't notice him hiding there. 
He decided to make a helmet out of a full tissue box. Where did the tissues go?
Of course, he emptied them onto the floor. Yes, of course it looks like "snow" to jump in!
Let's move onto the 5 year old kindergartner. We LOVE the curriculum we are using. (My Father's World) The Bible and science themes are wonderful. The phonics however is getting off to a slow start. A little easier then we need, but I think it is good to lay a solid foundation since E is a young kindergartner. There is no rush and he's not bothered by the easiness. I also realized that I don't have any photos of the core math and reading work since I'm working with him during that time, but we're doing it! :)
Cuisenaire Rods

A little bit of flopping around 

Making a lowercase m with pom poms

More cuisenaire rods

uppercase M with sticks

Phases of the moon drawings for letter Mm week
Ahh... 2nd grade. We are having lots of fun, but also working hard on writing, reading comprehension, grammar, spelling, math and United States history. Less exciting photos to be taken.
This is a wonderful moment I'm so glad I caught on camera. He is actually having a great
time and laughing while we work on math together.  I have to remember this moment!! 
Snuggled up beside A reading his book.

I love the precision. He has a picture he is gluing to the center of this poster and measured
to find the exact center. Then he got out Daddy's level to make sure we hung it straight on the wall.
Hmmm... I would say he gets this from his Daddy (but maybe his Mommy too!)

Group activities:

La Classe Divertida - The boys up close watching and participating with our spanish lesson DVD.
Running and jumping while listening to Tchaikovsky's Russian Dance from the Nutcracker.
Grinding up crayons in pencil sharpeners for our window poster
Adding the crayon shavings to the wax paper poster before Mom irons it. 
The finished product.
Our nature walk at Deep Run Park. 
Of course we are climbing!
Tomorrow we have our first field trip to the Mariner's Museum in Newport News!