Friday, February 27, 2015

What I Learned in February (2015 edition)

Isn't there something beautiful about fresh, fallen snow?  Maybe it is how clean everything looks, or how it transforms this dusty city into something much better to look at.  I should have been disappointed with the snow since I was really enjoying our warmer, spring-like days, but I wasn't.  I was just too happy that my husband finally made it home before it all started, and our city needs the precipitation.  The snow is also less messy than rain, at least at first.   

January seemed like it dragged on forever, but this month went by fast.  I know February has two less days, but the days seemed to fly by twice as fast.   It has been a quiet month which was much needed. Once again, I am linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky and others in what they have learned this month.  Without further ado, here are my lessons for the month.

1. Big D is officially going to boarding school.

Big D received his acceptance to a boarding school in Germany.   He is super excited.  I am too but not because I am trying to get rid of him.  The academics will be a good challenge for him.  He will be around other teens that are also TCKs.  In many ways, he is ready.  I just wasn't quite expecting him to leave the nest quite so soon.   I will miss him a lot but am not going to dwell on that now.  Big D is the one I hang out with the most.  He will walk with me to the office telling me all about his day.  When I am sick, he usually ends up being the one taking care of me.   We both like to play games even though sometimes our choices differ.  Each day, he takes the time to tell me he loves me.  I will miss these daily interactions but believe that boarding school is the best option for this next season.  

2. I do better with a routine or a to do list.

Our homeschool is set up like a university style school with three days on and then two days off to work on HW and self study.  Setting a routine for  the three days "on" is easy.  I have a schedule and for the most part we stick with it.   When my students have break time or are all independently working, I usually take care of a few household chores.  The two days "off" are a bit more challenging.  I am tempted to sleep late and just goof off all day.  It is good to have the balance of these slower days, but I still need to be intentional with how I use my time.  If I don't,  I am not ready for the next "on" day, or I am not able to do some fun projects that are on my  to do list.  One thing that helps keep me focused is a to-do list.  I have tried two different to-do lists that I like.  One is from Ann Voscamp at A Holy Experience (here) and the other is from The Art of Simple (here).  I find the second fits my personality better.  Sometimes I will actually use  to-do list for two days instead of one by adding to the original list a few new items on the second day.   

3. Natural cleaners actually work, and I like the smell better.

While my honey was gone, I mixed up some natural cleaners.  I tried a bathroom cleaner, a fabric softener, and a tile cleaner.  My recipes for the bathroom cleaner and fabric softener came from the book, Homemade Green Cleaners and the grout cleaner from this post from Gathered in the Kitchen.  The tile cleaner made a big difference on my bathroom floor.  The grout is much whiter even though it could use another deep scrubbing.  Sorry, I forgot to take before and after pictures.    The fabric softener is mostly vinegar and hair conditioner.  I had some half empty bottle of hair conditioner that people had given me when they left here.  Since I didn't really care for these brands to be used on my hair, it was a great way to use them up.   The tile cleaner uses vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.   The baking soda was actually hard for me to find here in our city so I am hoping to find a better source soon.   

4. I hate grading essays.

Essays are so subjective.  Math is easy to grade.  It is pretty much right or wrong.  I know you can have some partial credit, but it is a little more cut and dried.  For the essays, I use a rubric or writing guideline but still feel unsure about the final grade.  I even have a friend do a second read.  Sometimes we come up with the same grade and sometimes not.   I do enjoy reading my students thoughts on music, the book we are reading, or some government topic.   Their perspective is fun to see.

5. I do better emotionally and spiritually when I stay connected with others.

Staying connected to others doesn't even have to be in person all of the time but is vital to my sanity.  While Noel was in the states, we spent at least three meals with friends talking, eating, and playing games together.   One night I even had the team wives over to watch Bride and Prejudice.  I am not a person who naturally reaches out to other people, but I need to do it more often.   

This past month, I have been blessed with friends reaching out to me through email and Facebook.   It has been a blessing to see where they are right now, and also to know that even though we no longer live in the same place, our friendship is still important.  It has encouraged me to be more sensitive to God leading me to connect with others.  This week I have scheduled in some time to both connect with others in person and via the internet.

What have you learned this month?   I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quotes-February 2015

This month I have found just a bit more time to read and reflect.  In fact,  I have started a bible study I found online at Thrive Connection on the book of Revelation.  It has been a nice change to settle on one book and just soak up what God has to teach me through His word.   I am only halfway through but a constant theme besides worship that I am seeing is the need to have patient endurance.   The bible study is by LaWanda Neel and is found here.   Here are two of my favorite quotes so far.

From Week Two Day Four: "The church and believer often shine brightest in the darkest of places."

From Week Four Day Five: "The depth of our worship depends on the depth of our understanding of God and His purpose."
It seems most of my quotes this month have to do with endurance in one way or another. The first comes from  Jon Bloom in his guest post here at A Holy Experience. 
"God is calling you not to indulgence but endurance." 

In Pearl in the Sand p. 54 by Tessa Afshar, Joshua gives these words of wisdom about the battle ahead to his men.  
"Let me tell you something, every one of you.  Human wisdom won't win us these battles.  It will be God alone, as it has been since the day Moses led us out of the bondage of Egypt.  We aren't called to be men of war as other nations understand warfare.  We are called to be a people of faith.  Our shield is God's law.  Our sword is His Word.  He is our strong tower and He alone will give us victory.  Otherwise we might as well dig our graves now. "
A reminder of why we should choose to endure and grow from Bittersweet p. 233 by Shauna Niequist.  
"Sometimes in the moments of the most searing pain, we think we don't have a choice.  But we do.  It's in those moments that we make the most important choice: grow or give up.  It's easy to want to give up under the weight of what we're carrying.  It seems sometimes like the only possible choice.  But there's always, always, always another choice, and transformation is waiting for us beyond that choice.  This is what I know: God can make something beautiful out of anything, out of darkness and trash and broken bones.  He can shine light into even the blackest night, and he leaves glimpses of hope all around us."
Words on hard times from How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
p. 131 When we are in the middle of Heat, you haven't somehow gotten yourself outside of the circle of God's love and care.  God is simply taking you where you do not want to go to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own."
 p.134 Suffering is meant to wake us up from spiritual complacency.  It is God's workroom, where he sculpts into his image.  Thus, it is time for action, discipline, and perseverance.  It is a time to experience in new ways all of the truths we have professed are our hope."
Thanks for dropping in to see what I have been learning.  For me, these posts are way for me to go back and remember what God has been teaching me.  Hope one of these quotes helped you too.  What has God been teaching you this month?

Dear God, Help me in each circumstance to trust and obey.  May I seek you in the good times and bad.  When suffering or hard times come, may I endure and grow in grace.  May my life glorify you.  Amen.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Geranium Musing

Geraniums always make me think of my Grandma who had geraniums in pots as part of her flower beds.  They seemed so grandmotherly which is probably why when we lived in the states, I avoided having them in my flower beds.  When we moved to Central Asia, I was pleasantly surprised to find geraniums here.  Not only do they grow here, they grow well here.  So I decided our back patio needed some potted plants which included geraniums, a cactus and some other flower that I killed off way to quickly.  I have enjoyed these flowers over the past few years even if they are a bit grandmotherly.   Because they don't like the cold, I bring the geraniums inside during the cold months so they will hopefully survive the winter.  The problem is that they will have to survive me remembering to water them.  Thankfully it is February, and they are all alive-some of them more than others.  Here is a picture of two of them.

One is thriving and the other is still alive but struggling a bit.  Both plants have the same soil and received the same amount of water.  The only difference is that the one on the right may had less sunlight due to the curtain not being pulled back all the way. One of the geraniums is full of life and ready for spring.  The other one is barely holding on.  

It has been a long winter but spring is in the air.  I want to be the geranium on the right ready for spring not just barely hanging on.  Some days I am there, and other days not so much.  Like the plant on the right, just a little more sunlight makes a difference.  I often go a day or two without leaving my house. On those days when I step outside even just to walk around the yard for a few minutes or hang out the laundry, I feel a big difference in my mood and disposition.  Physically and emotionally I feel better.  Spiritually, there are days I need a little more sonlight.  I need a few more minutes sitting at my savior's feet to worship, to hear his voice, and reconnect.   I need life that only the Son can give me. 

Sometimes we think everything is all or nothing.  We have to go big or go home.  Our quiet time needs to be an hour or we need to spend thirty minutes in prayer.  Those things are good I am sure.  Maybe though it is not as complicated as we think.  Maybe we just need a little more.  Just like the one geranium needing a little more sunlight, I need a little more of the Son.  A little more is doable and a good place to start.   A little more is attainable yet can still make a difference.    Maybe it will be reading through a prayer in a book or reviewing a memory verse on my fighter verse app.  Maybe it will be taking a few minutes to pray with my kids before school starts or listening to worship music or a podcast while cooking supper.   Any time, even a little time, spent with Jesus is time well spent and life giving.