Officially Not a Newbie Anymore!

My newest reader. (He can read easy books.)

My newest reader. (He can read easy books.)

Okay, he's just pretending to read. :)

Okay, he’s just pretending to read. :)

I’m so excited to announce the end of our school year! I have officially completed three years of homeschooling my children. And they’re actually reading! :) I figure three years is a respectable amount of time to say you’ve been homeschooling, so I don’t think I’m a newbie anymore. Not that I won’t have questions every year about expectations or hurdles I’m facing, but I’m out of the “I have no idea what I’m doing–will someone please give me a script?” stage.

That also means I’m in the “this can be a drag at times” stage, and I’m ready for a rest. Caleb still needs one more week to finish his math curriculum. (He’s actually ahead, finishing the equivalent of a third grade curriculum; but he’s only two lessons away from the end of the level, so I agreed with him to finish the level for the year.)

Congratulations, kindergartner!

Congratulations, kindergartner!

Colin finished kindergarten, and since we can’t have a cap and gown ceremony, nor even a party with extended family, we settled for a cake and ice cream celebration. We don’t normally splurge on both cake and ice cream at once, so that was special. He surprised me Thursday while I was listening to Caleb recite his memory work: he popped his head in the door and began quoting with surprisingly good expression, a section from Macbeth that Caleb is memorizing. I’d had no idea that he was listening so closely to Caleb!

This week in history we learned how the English trounced the Spanish Armada in 1588; and I’m glad, since otherwise we might be speaking Spanish in America now! Last week, we learned about early exploration in North America by Cabot, Cartier, and Sir Walter Raleigh. We had finished a section of our art book, and not wanting to get into a new section, I combined several subjects into one project–history, art, and nature study. I love multi-tasking in school!

The beginning of his map.

The beginning of his map.

Caleb was a cartographer, as in the days of Raleigh and exploration. He made a map of our yard, including plant life, using symbols organized with a map key. (That’s the nature study part–I told him that at the end of this year I wanted him to draw our whole yard and hopefully know all the names of the plants in our yard. He certainly doesn’t know all of the names, but he knows several.) The art part included getting the parts of the yard, including the house, in correct proportion, and coloring the map as beautifully as possible. The maps in those times were works of art. He spent two weeks on it, and then added a script explaining why this map is special to him (it’s his home) and a family crest symbol on the map.

At the end, almost completed map.

At the end, almost completed map.

When Sir Francis Drake heard that the Spanish Armada was approaching, he was playing a game of lawn bowling with Sir Howard. He told Howard, “Time enough to finish our game and beat the Spaniards too!” So for fun we played a game of lawn bowling today. It’s basically the same as bocce ball, if you’ve ever played that.

Lawn bowling

Lawn bowling

The Middle Ages timeline cards in order

The Middle Ages timeline cards in order

Caleb finished reading a biography called Who Was William Shakespeare? and a funny, informative book called You Wouldn’t Want to Sail in the Spanish Armada! this week. Then today I mixed up all the timeline cards for the Middle Ages from Veritas Press and asked him to put them in the correct order. I wasn’t sure that he could do it and reminded him to sing the accompanying memory song to himself when he got stuck. I couldn’t have done it, but he got them all in the right order! I was encouraged to see that memory work put to song can stick and have practical uses. Then I played a little game with the boys calling out two different events or persons from the Middle Ages and asking which came first? Whoever answered correctly got a piece of candy.

Making an "S" with her body.

Making an “S” with her body.

Our break will be about six weeks long, and I can already tell that my to-do list exceeds my time! Oh, well. I have lots of planning to do for next year, in lots of categories, not just homeschool, though that is a big category. I would like to do some light math or reading review with the kids some days during the break. There are several different house projects I’d like to get done and holiday church events to plan. My teammate is expecting another baby around Christmas as well. We are hoping to get our kids together for an “end of the school year party” sometime next month. Christmas break in the village can be a very loud, interruptive time of the year. So I expect to be quite busy during the break, busy enough to maybe enjoy getting back to a homeschool routine in January!

May you have a happy week counting your blessings from God!

Last sentence of dictation in 2nd grade phonics.

Last sentence of dictation in 2nd grade phonics.

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Dune Fun

The kids loved sliding down sand dunes made from the tide.

The kids loved sliding down sand dunes made from the tide.

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The Grass Is Greener on the Other Side of the Ocean

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We all tend to think that everyone else has it easier and better than we have. We’ve noticed this sentiment in some of our church members.

  • One young man says he wants to start a church (a noble idea), but not here in the village. He’s going to plant a church in __ (some village near a city several hours away–that doesn’t speak his mother tongue.) Why not a village closer to home that speaks Tsonga? Because there’s such a need there, or it would just be better in some way.
  • Another young man decides to take a similar job with similar pay (to the current one) in another city. Why not stay close to his family, his village, and his home church? Oh, that job will be better somehow.
  • Another young man says that an internship with a church in the city will better prepare him for rural ministry than the local Bible college started specifically to prepare men for rural ministry. Why? The city has so many more attractions, including preaching in English, etc.
  • Young ladies think that getting a cleaning job in the city would be better than staying home and mothering their children.

DSC_0043The grass is always greener on the other side. Change and newness help to make a different position seem better, and sometimes there is some truth to that. Sometimes the other situation genuinely is better.

I remember going back to America for a quick visit in 2011 during America’s summertime. The grass was so green, the flowers so colorful! I kept exclaiming, “It’s so beautiful! It’s so beautiful!” Africa has a beauty of its own, but it is rugged, wild, and untamed; in the parts filled with bush grass and thorny overgrowth, you really have to search for the beauty.

Searching for a bird's nest

Searching for a bird’s nest

Beauty in thorns

Beauty in thorns

This temptation comes often to missionaries. Perhaps it comes to everyone in the ministry, but I can only speak for the missionary. I got to thinking about this because of a recent Facebook discussion in which a BMW asked whether being a missionary wife was essentially the same thing as being a pastor’s wife (just in a different field–which obviously makes it totally different! But you get the idea of the question.)

Most BMW responders quickly and confidently pointed out the extra difficulties a missionary wife faces in ministry that a pastor’s wife in America wouldn’t. But one BMW noted that ministry was actually easier for her in many respects as a missionary wife than it had been as a pastor’s wife. She mentioned the squabbles, criticisms, and cliques that she experienced in her American ministry; in contrast to the complete acceptance and love she experienced from the nationals in her host country.

In a difficult or disappointing stretch in ministry, which may occur more frequently than the encouraging times, a missionary may hear of friends ministering in America and think about how easy their ministry would be if they were there. If only I were there, my church would be bigger, better, more like Christ! I would be more appreciated, more respected, and the flock would actually follow my (husband’s) advice. We wouldn’t have to deal with all this ___ (immorality, apathy, drunkenness, laziness, etc.)

Missionaries can also fall into the foolish trap of comparing fields. If only we were in Missionary Z’s field, our ministry would be more successful. They have it much easier because of… It is so much harder to serve here due to the burned-over territory from the prosperity gospel, or the idolatry, or the animism, or the atheism, or whatever, than it would be to serve in their country.

But remember that you don’t have the whole picture! Perhaps they also wish to trade places because of their own silent trials.

Yes, some of that thinking may be valid, fair, and true. A few missionaries have shown no qualms in saying they “could never do what you do.” I even included a question on this topic on my get-to-know-ya missionary questionnaire for the BMW blog: what makes your field difficult? (Because we all think that our field is the hardest for some reason, and some of those reasons are legitimate.)

But it’s not good; it’s not lovely; it’s not of good report; it’s not praise.

DSC_0122As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach–holidays when many missionaries, especially newbies, are homesick, this grass-is-greener syndrome may pop up. But let’s just call it what it is. It’s discontent. It’s a failure to praise God “in everything.” It is bitterness against God for putting you in a place so removed from the comforts of home and then apparently not making you successful there. It’s pride, because you compare your successes and failures with another’s and can only be content with your situation if you look the best at the end of the comparison.

The grass may truly be greener on the other side of the ocean. And yet it may not. But that’s not where you are. And you are commanded to think on praiseworthy things and to praise God in everything–where you are.

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Be Prepared! (with Meekness)

Meekness

Meekness is respectable. Meekness is comfortable. It is profitable. Finally consider what a preparative it is for something further.

Sometimes I have remembered my bad or inadequate reactions to an occurrence with shame, and excused myself with the thought, “If only I had known! I would have been better prepared for how to handle that; I would have planned what to say.” But there is a particular grace, a virtue, that God gifts us that will help us to be prepared for what will come in the future. Here are five ways that meekness prepares us:

  1. It makes us fit for any duty.
  2. It makes us fit for any relation which God in His providence may call us into.
  3. It makes us fit for any condition.
  4. It makes us fit for a day of persecution.
  5. It makes us fit for death and eternity.

Fit for Any Duty

It [meekness] puts the soul in frame and keeps it so for all religious exercises. There was no noise of axes and hammers in the building of the temple: those are most fit for temple service that are most quiet and composed. The work of God is best done when it is done without noise.

I want to sarcastically and loudly “Amen” that last sentence, since I’m writing currently in the peace of a quiet household (my husband having just removed all four hindrances to my peace in writing one hour ago). But mothers will object that if the work of God is best done without noise, then we will never be able to do God’s work well; because our houses are filled with running feet, crying, arguing, jollification, and the gamut of emotions displayed with no attempt at self-control or meekness.

But Matthew Henry is not talking about outward noise so much there, but our inward noise, the noise in our soul that constantly screams at us, covering up any pretense at a state of rest, acceptance, or calm. We already discussed that meekness calms our spirit so that inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation. So when we are practicing a meek and quiet spirit, we will be more ready to do God’s work.

Also remember that meekness prepares us to receive the Word.  And prayer is another duty for which meekness prepares our attitudes. Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24, “First, go and be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew Henry adds, “And if we do not take this method, though we seek God in a due ordinance, we do not seek him in the due order.”

Meekness helps us to preserve unity with fellow Christians, which makes us more fit for communion with God. Meekness is steady–still, consistent, constant–which makes you more energetic and strong for your other tasks.

Fit for Any Relation

Matthew Henry breaks down relationships into three memorable categories, relating meekness to each: superiors, inferiors, and equals, and he maintains that meekness makes you fit for any of those relationships.

Meekness would greatly help to preserve the wisdom and due authority of superiors, the obedience and due subjection of inferiors, and the love and mutual kindness and serviceableness of equals. A calm and quiet spirit

  • receives the comfort of the relation most thankfully,
  • studies the duty of the relation most carefully,
  • and bears the inconvenience of the relation (for there is no unmixed comfort under the sun) most cheerfully and easily.

I have heard of a married couple, who, though they were both naturally of a hot and hasty temper, yet lived very comfortably in that relation by observing an agreement made between themselves, “Never to be both angry together.” This is an excellent law of meekness which, if faithfully lived up to, would prevent many of those breaches among relations which occasion so much guilt and grief and are seldom healed without a scar. It was part of the good advice given by a pious and ingenious father to his children newly entered into marriage:

Doth one speak fire? t’other with water come;
Is one provoked? be t’other soft or dumb.

And thus one wise, both happy. Two indeed are better than one, and yet it is better to dwell alone in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry relation “who is like a continual dropping in a very rainy day.”

 Fit for Any Condition

Here, Henry reminds of us Paul who said he had learned how to be content in all circumstances and says, “Changes without made none within.” This section reminded me of the instructive section on being meek towards God, in submitting our souls to His providence concerning us, even when they are “grievous and afflictive” or “dark and intricate,” or in other words, hard to understand.

Fit for a Day of Persecution

Scripture warns us that tribulation and persecution will arise because of the Word and that all godly Christians will suffer persecution. Henry contrasts what we can often say with what we should say:

We are accustomed to say, “We will give anything for a quiet life.” I say, anything for a quiet conscience which will be best secured under the shield of a meek and quiet spirit “which doth not render railing for railing” (1 Pet. 3:9), nor aggravate the threatened trouble, or represent it to itself in its most formidable colors…

Here Henry reminds us that the meek and quiet Christian will be more prepared to have the proper emotional response to persecution–joy unspeakable and full of glory. This is in my view a litmus test of the virtue of meekness, and I struggle to comprehend a joyful response (instead of terror) in persecution.

Fit for Death and Eternity

This was an interesting section on how meekness prepares us for a quiet place (the grave, or Heaven).

The meek and quiet soul is at death let into that rest which it has been so much laboring after; and how welcome must that needs be!

“A good man” (says the late excellent Archbishop Tillotson…), “would be loath to be taken out of the world reeking hot from a sharp contention with a perverse adversary; and not a little out of countenance to find himself in this temper translated into the calm and peaceable regions of the blessed, where nothing but perfect charity and good-will reigns for ever.” Heaven, for certain, is a quiet place, and none are fit for it but quiet people.

Not only would we not want to go to Heaven straight from a contention on earth, but Seth has also reminded me during some contentions with fellow Christians in the past that someday we will love and rejoice together with those people in Heaven, and shouldn’t that temper our feelings towards them now during the heated situation?

So meekness prepares us, makes us fit, for whatever duty, relation, or condition, even persecution or death, that we may be called into by God’s providence. Be prepared! Be meek.


This is my attempt to rephrase Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit.


 

Creative K Kids

 

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Beached Jellyfish

We found a jellyfish washed up on shore! How neat after our science studies this year!!

We found a jellyfish washed up on shore! How neat after our science studies this year!!

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Vacation? What Vacation?

Ladies, we don’t live in a goldfish bowl…I’m afraid it’s more like under the microscope.

This quote came from a thought-provoking, humorous discussion I was in recently with other BMWs (Baptist Missionary Women) when a lady shared the criticisms her family received over spending “missions money” unwisely to get away for a day. The irony is that the missionaries were given the day away for free! Many other women shared how they had lost support or been threatened with dropped support because of sharing pictures of a vacation they took while on the field. Honestly, I’ve not experienced criticisms of misused funds for personal use before, and I feel sorry for missionaries who have supporters like that. Who needs enemies when you have “friends” like that, right?

Vacation?

It got me to thinking about how I have often struggled with, and never fully adjusted to, the lack of privacy here on the field. But I didn’t take into account that we can also be closely watched by American supporters (at times–we would actually like more input and friendship from our supporters–an uplifting kind of friendship!)

How ironic that a lack of privacy would be a culprit on both ends of the matter: It can make you feel like you’re dying to get away from the village for a break, but then deliver criticism from across the ocean if you do. (Again, thankfully, I’ve not experienced this!)

So in the spirit of solidarity with missionary women who have experienced this, I am posting pictures of an amazing vacation we just took to Durban (a coastal city thirteen hours south of us)!

Disclaimer: A wonderful friend here has a few vacation places she offers to us on occasion, so we got to stay in this place for free. We only had to pay for the tolls and petrol to travel there and then for food and activities there. :)

On a hike with friends at Johannesburg's Botanical Gardens.

On a hike with friends at Johannesburg’s Botanical Gardens.

Because of the distance this is only the second time we’ve gone to this holiday place, though it is so beautiful and relaxing when we’ve gone that we’d love to go more often. We plan to be gone almost two weeks to accommodate the travel. Usually we’re in Durban about nine days with two days travel on either end. We had good fellowship with other missionaries in Johannesburg on the way down, and at a church in Durban while there. We were encouraged to hear of some church planting endeavors they’re making in the rural Zulu villages. South Africa has many missionaries in the cities, but the rural areas are perishing for want of Gospel-preaching churches.

View of the Indian Ocean from our apartment window!

View of the Indian Ocean from our apartment window! The dot on the beach is me and the kids.

We stayed in our friend’s apartment on the 14th floor of a high-rise apartment building right next to the beach. Just take the elevator down, walk around the block, and you’re basking on the beach! We slept to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore and woke up to sunrise over the ocean, a view straight out of our living room window. IMG_2853

A little scared of the ocean, but he mostly enjoyed it.

A little scared of the ocean, but he mostly enjoyed it.

The surf is very high and scary–not really for swimming. But we had fun playing tag with the waves and wading in the edge of the water. I was especially excited to go to Durban this year because we just finished studying Apologia’s Swimming Creatures elementary science course, so we got to hunt for shells and see some coral and fish right on the small stretch of ocean we explored. Durban also boasts “the largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere,” so we made sure to go see the exhibits. It was an excellent field trip for the end of our school year! IMG_2902

The aquarium also had a "dangerous creatures" exhibit with venomous snakes, lizards, and spiders.

The aquarium also had a “dangerous creatures” exhibit with venomous snakes, lizards, and spiders.

An exhibit of the exact coral that we found in the rocks in the ocean right by our apartment building.

An exhibit of the exact coral that we found in the rocks in the ocean right by our apartment building.

At the dolphin show--lots of Durban school classes around us!

At the dolphin show–lots of Durban school classes around us!

There was a bowling place just a few blocks down the street, and we had a great time introducing the kids to bowling. We also got some time just to read and rest.

Fun climbing trees at a nearby small jungle gym.

Fun climbing trees at a nearby small jungle gym.

Naptime--"leisure" reading is a classic novel on South Africa, Cry the Beloved Country.

Naptime–”leisure” reading is a classic novel on South Africa, Cry the Beloved Country.

Really, the vacation would have been ideal if not for 2 1/2 things. :) First, the car needed a repair. Thankfully, there was a place within walking distance that could handle it well, if not too expensively. Second, I took Caleb to two eye doctor appointments that ate into some of our family fun time. That’s the “half,” because I was alternatively very thankful to be able to see a specialist in the city, since we don’t have a pediatric optometrist by us.  Third, the kids got stomach flu in our second week! That was not fun and caused us to return a day early.

A loooong visit at the optometrist!

A loooong visit at the optometrist!

A real wagon used by the Voortrekkers in 1854! We were so excited to see this at a petrol stop on our way home.

A real wagon used by the Voortrekkers in 1854! We were so excited to see this at a petrol stop on our way home.

New melamine dishes I found at a plastic store in Durban! Only 5 plates were stock, but I got 10 cups and bowls, just when our cups (wedding gifts) had all broken.

New melamine dishes I found at a plastic store in Durban! Only 5 plates were stock, but I got 10 cups and bowls, just when our cups (wedding gifts) had all broken.

The silver lining: a double rainbow after an incredible storm.

The silver lining: a double rainbow after an incredible storm.

What a wonderful time we had! I wish you all could have enjoyed it with us. And now it’s back to the races!

Playing soccer with church members the day we got back.

Playing soccer with church members the day we got back.

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World’s Largest Potted Plant!

A baobab tree! So funny!

A baobab tree! So funny!

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