Friday, April 27, 2007

Inescapable God

"Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."

Psalm 139:7-12

Throughout history, people who came to disbelieve in gods or spirits they had once venerated have literally torn down their idols... defaced the "images of the gods"... cut themselves loose from the relics of the past.

Today, many people in our postmodern world would like to escape the God of the Bible.

But how can we?

We could perhaps burn all of the Bibles in the world, remove every trace of Scriptural influence from Western speech and thought, and rewrite history.

But then there would be relationships. Father and son. Husband and wife. These things which so eloquently speak of Him. Still, this too we could destroy. We could blur gender lines. We could cheapen marriage. We could turn parents and children against each other.

We would walk outside, free of God in our homes, and be confronted with seas and stars and trees and wind and glorious nature.

Easy enough to deal with. We can level it. Poison it. Pollute it.

But then, having killed our life source to get away from its Creator, we might accidentally look in a mirror. And behind the guilty, sin-marred expression that looks back at us, there is a soul. An eternal spirit. A spark of imagination; the power of reason; the power to create or destroy.

We are the greatest evidence of God. No matter how we unravel ourselves, we can't be rid of Him.

If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Inescapable God.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Family Business: Pros to Embrace

"Sweet Somethings is a family affair—in the beginning, fudge making was the hobby of one of our ten daughters. At the time, our family was traveling with another product to craft and trade shows around the country, and she decided to try her hand at peddling a particularly good fudge recipe she liked to make. We decided to give it a try, so in March of 2003, we set up shop at our first show with only three flavors of fudge and a lot of fresh cut flowers. We did pretty well, and our imaginations immediately went into overdrive."

Four years ago, my family started Sweet Somethings, a traveling chocolate company that has been a financial staple for us ever since. The above words were written by my sister Becky on the Web site she recently designed for us.

My father has ever been an entrepreneur. He is what Debi Pearl calls "a Visionary." In fact, when I first read her "Three Kinds of Men" chapter in No Greater Joy's monthly newsletter, I ran into our kitchen (where Mom and three of the older girls were busy preparing fudge for an upcoming trade show) to read it out loud. We laughed so hard that fudge production ground to a momentary halt. Surely, we thought, Debi had been following us all these years and taking notes. Dad's visionary nature has driven our family into many ventures with varying levels of stability, normality, and success.

If you're starting a family business of your own, here are some of the pros you can look forward to:

1. Time together. Sweet Somethings has meant long hours working--and joking, talking, even complaining--in the kitchen. It's meant hours in the van, packed in amidst boxes of fudge, collapsible tables and fake flowers for decoration, swigging Coke from a two-liter bottle and seeing the world together. It's meant long work days that are a treasure-trove of memories now. The family that works together spends time together--and in a world where it's increasingly hard to do so, that is high praise for a family business.

2. Experience! Families are ever in search of ways to give their children experiences that will benefit them in life. Business is an excellent way to do this. In a business that involves sales, as ours does, our kids have had umpteen opportunities to interact with people from all walks of life, to learn graciousness and salesmanship, to get over their shy tendencies, to work with money, to make chocolate (an invaluable skill, I assure you) and to see the world. Business brings us all face to face with reality in a way that few other things do.

3. Hardship. Yes, this is a good thing. We're not talking desperate privation here, just a good working knowledge of life when it isn't comfortable. I'm extremely grateful for the presence of some hardship in my life. Its salt has heightened the flavour of everything else.

4. Personal growth. This ties into each area above, but I want to highlight it here. Sweet Somethings has developed confidence in the shyest of us; savviness in the dreamiest of us; persistence in those of us most likely to quit. We have learned to sacrifice for each other and to work together as a team.

Our chocolate company has been reasonably successful, so it's helped us financially. Greater than the financial benefits, though, have been the rewards reaped in family solidarity. As you launch your own family business, keep these things before you.

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Wild tales of the Thomsons' adventures in trade shows shall be shared in the unnamed book-to-be-published next year, an entertaining collection of stories and essays that examine life in a big, homeschooled family. Subscribe or check back at this blog for updates!

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Coming soon: "Family Business: Cons to Beware."

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling: The Bee Edition

... is up. Heather of Sprittibee has done a marvelous job. Says she:

"So, what's a carnival?" you ask. A carnival is a place where bloggers of a like-mind or a similar group can showcase their most important, funny, interesting, or otherwise groovy posts so that YOU will go seek them out and read them. Each link is a teaser to lead you on your merry way through the internet to the blog where it originated.

As usual, there's a fine collection of reading material... and all interspersed with pictures and lessons on Heather's favourite pollen-collectors. Enjoy!

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Yes and Amen: The Magnificent Power of "Yes"

This post presents the flipside to a previous one, entitled "Thou Shalt Not: The Staggering Importance of 'No'"

Parents must tell their children "no." To say ourselves nay sets us apart from every rabid coyote in the world. It makes us human.

Equally important, equally stunningly important, is "yes." If no makes us human, yes makes us like God.

Witness God's first recorded words: "And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light." From God's "let there be"--His first, incredible yes--we have come. Our earth has come. The heavens have come. "Yes" is creative power: it is all possibility, all adventure, all life.

The power to say yes is an oft-overlooked part of parenting. I am not a parent, and I see how this principle applies to every relationship in life. We all, sometimes, exercise this power in the lives of others. Yes, come in. Yes, talk with me. Yes, I'll hire you. Yes, I'll help you. Yes.

Still, it is parents who speak the first and most important yes's in the lives of their children. If most of us have done anything unusual or wonderful in our lives, chances are it was the yes of our parents that got the ball rolling. I wish I could help everyone see how amazing this is, what creative power we have in shaping lives. I wish we all understood the explosive joy, the growth, the energy latent in this word.

Don't misunderstand. I am not at all saying that you should say yes to everything. That's why parents are so important. They're older than their children; they have a bigger picture. Theirs is a yes of discernment. But when they give it, it opens such doors.

My brother wants to build a house when he's nineteen. (He's almost fifteen right now.) Maybe that goal will change. But we think it a worthy goal. A goal fit for a young man. If he works for it, he'll develop work habits and character and skills. Someday it will help him provide for a family. My parents have heard this goal, and they have said "yes." They'll help him however they can. Perhaps he can apprentice somewhere; perhaps he can get onto a construction crew in a couple of years. Right now he's got a paper route, so Mom and Dad encourage him to work hard at it, to be diligent and responsible no matter the weather or his feelings at the time, and even though on the surface Pennysavers don't have much to do with houses, the character he builds now will be there when he's nineteen. Attaining this yes means a lot of no's in the meantime--no, you can't quit; no, you can't be lazy; no, you can't allow yourself to be distracted. But as long as he knows where he's going, he'll take the no's for the stepping stones they are.

"Yes" can mean so many things. It can mean the formation of relationships that will impact generations. It can mean the difference between daydreaming and pursuit. The difference between excuses and passion. The difference between a life of fear and a life of adventure.

I don't know why we withhold "yes" sometimes. It's not always because we've discerned that yes would be a bad thing. Sometimes we do it because we're skeptical, or lazy, or just plain negative, or irritated over something. But it's such an important thing to say, especially if you have influence in someone's life. A life without "yes" will never be lived. Don't be the one who withholds it.

It's spring. Go outside and feel the sun and think "Let there be light."

Do something incredible today.

Say "yes."

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the ultimate way to honour an author

Develop a theme park around his books. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, it is called "Dickens World."

P.S. The title of this post is sheeeeer sarcasm.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

not your average bio

My cousin Carolyn has a major ballet exam coming up in May--on my birthday, as it happens--and yesterday we put our heads together to write a quick bio for the program.

Well. 'Twasn't your usual bio. Homeschooled all her life, Carolyn just hasn't done the things they want to see. No started-ballet-at-the-age-of-two, no acceptance into a company, no awards or scholarships. Does this sound familiar at all? We homeschool grads often sound like ne'er do wells when we try to list our achievements. Nope, no honour roll, no scholarships... didn't go to school, actually. No, I don't have a degree. Applied to Harvard? No, I haven't. Leader of the Drama Club, class president, Chess Club champ, high school quarterback... ummm, no. Sorry. And you want to know about my what? My love life? You mean the journal I've been keeping since I was seventeen with thoughts on becoming a better wife and the regular breakfasts I take with my dad to discuss courtship? (That's not what they meant.)

"So," I asked Carolyn, "what have you done with your life?"

She's done what a lot of us homeschool grads have done.

She's stayed at home. She's studied things she's passionate about. She's been involved in the raising of seven younger siblings. She's read hundreds--nay, thousands--of books. She's translated Psalms into Elvish. She's baked like a madwoman. She's fallen deeply in love with God. She's witnessed. She's choreographed and directed church musicals, performed with Christian singers at festivals, churches, and benefit concerts. She's run her own studio since she was fourteen, starting with teaching her siblings. She became a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance at the age of nineteen. She's crossed Canada five times. She's lived.

We're in the same boat. I have few world-approved laurels to show for it, but I have lived more in my twenty-four years than I think some people ever do.

The temptation is strong to feel like a failure if we don't meet the world's expectations, but it's a feeling that we need to shred. Frankly, as long as we live for God we will never win the world's full applause. Measure not your life--or your children's lives--in SAT scores and resumes. Measure it, instead, in the fulness with which you have walked God's path for you. Measure it in relationships, in family, in joy, in passion, in true learning.

At its heart, homeschooling is about going back to the basics so we can thrive the way God meant us to thrive. Don't succumb to the temptation to shuck the basics now that you're through your "school years." Keep focused. Keep living.

And write a bio you'll be happy to lay at God's feet.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

68th Carnival of Homeschooling

Henry Cate, founder of the Carnival of Homeschooling, has posted this week's edition. The theme is taxes--a topic which, while not exactly near and dear to my heart, has been much under my nose lately.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

there's magic in the dirt

Why, you may wonder, has Rachel posted a picture of four pots of dirt on her blog?

Ah, but you just think those are four pots of dirt. The truth is something much greater. Those four pots are an herb garden. They are glorious and green. They are healing for headaches and upset stomachs; they are salve to sore throats and aching lungs.

I forget that at times, and then I feel silly for lugging those four pots out into the sun so my herb garden can thrive, and for watering them every night and sometimes praying that my unproven thumb will prove green. But I'm right. There's magic in that dirt.

Have you ever heard a song that melted you or carried you away to some verdant, misty paradise? The song "Perfect Day" does that to me. Every note, every instrument, every word reaches deep into my heart and calls forth a response.

The other day I was typing and I heard my little sisters playing outside my bedroom door. In their story, Keturah was a fairy who sang instead of talking. She sang her whole story: where she had come from, why she had come, what she was searching for. It was rambling and warbly and a little off-key. But there was a seed in it. A storytelling seed, a musical seed, a calling-f0rth-response seed. Someday she's going to reach people with music.

Recently I sat down and faced a blank page. Pushing aside thoughts that I was wasting my time and couldn't possibly pull it off this time, I typed some letters. But they wouldn't stay letters, no, as letters will, they turned themselves into sentences and formed a paragraph. This is what they said:

It was raining in the fields. Cold rain. Taerith stretched out his arms and raised his head, letting the rain hit his face and run down the bridge of his nose. He opened his mouth and gulped convulsively as the liquid trickled into his throat. It was good of the sky, he thought, to give him water. He had been at work with the other men, harvesting late corn, but the rain had put an end to the work for now. The fields were nearly bare anyway. Water puddled around his boots--held together now with string and patches--and turned the trampled furrows to mud.

There's magic in those little ink blots. They're not just letters now, they're a story--a story of a man who is sent away from his family and forms a new one by laying down his freedom to serve a slave girl and a persecuted queen, to befriend an imprisoned priest and fight next to a half-blood warrior. (You can read what there is of that story here.)

Beginnings. Rarely do they resemble what we know, by faith and a sort of passionate instinct, they will become. Off-key ditties don't sound like symphonies. Jumbles of a's and b's and h's don't look like literature. Children don't look like mothers and fathers, prophets and servants, yet there's magic in them. God put something in them that will grow if it's tended, into something green and tall and beautiful.

Keep hauling your pots into the sun, watering the dirt, writing those words, playing that piano. Keep investing in the lives of your children and grandchildren and brothers and sisters and friends. What you sow, you shall reap.

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The Poetry of Homeschooling - Carnival 67

The Tutor of Apollos Academy has done an excellent job with the Carnival of Homeschooling this week. Her theme? Poetry! Putting poetry and homeschooling together naturally draws me like a magnet: this is one of my favourite carnivals thus far. Enjoy!

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

what a day can do

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, a day on which millions of people remember that two thousand years ago a man rose from the dead.

Time runs quickly; days run together. Their significance is lost in a blur of years. But oh, what a day can do! What that day did, for all of us. Easter is not just a holiday without personal significance, it's at the intimate core of who I am and what my life is about.

Because of that day, I know God. Do you? Stop. Think about that. Because of Jesus' resurrection, the enmity that once existed between you and the Creator no longer does. It has been gloriously replaced. God has adopted me. God is my Father. I have access to Him, and I love Him... perhaps that is the greatest miracle of all.

Because of that day, I have eternal life. Life with my Father. With my elder Brother, Christ Jesus the Lord. Because of that day, all of life is invested with meaning and quiet delight. Days may blur together, but they're not meaningless. They're colourful threads in a tapestry God is weaving.

Because of that day, a community was born. An assembly of people from every culture, tribe, and nation, a community that has existed for centuries and is still one. A community which has never truly lost a single member, for God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. This community, this church, is so close that we sometimes refer to each other as "the Body." This is not a community that exists only in theory. They have been the most important people in the world to me. I have loved them. They have loved me. Because of that day.

Because of that day, hope.

Things are dark--hope.

The world is evil--hope.

People still die--hope.

Because of that day, hope. There is no darkness so great that hope does not eclipse it. Hope is not born of wishes or resolution that we will do our best. It's born in resurrection.

What has that day meant to you?

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Read more devotional articles on

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thou Shalt Not: The Staggering Importance of "No"

Last night two friends and I came up with the designs for three t-shirts. We want to wear them around the university campus where one of us lives, as protest to the degradation that universities are more and more famous for. The first shirt would say "Ack!", the second "Why?!" and the third "Thou Shalt Not!"

Religious people are much maligned because we believe there are things we shouldn't do. Likewise, parents are made to feel guilty for "stifling" their children with the dread word "no." Give us free rein, we say. Let us be ourselves. Let us follow our hearts, capitulate to our whims, be in all things accountable to nothing but desire.

The importance of "no" cannot be overstated. A society of people who cannot say "no" to themselves are destined to destroy themselves. Not every human urge is good. Some impulses should be bludgeoned, not acted upon. Do you doubt this? Try being on the receiving end of someone who says "yes" to everything. Yes, lose your temper. Yes, let those venomous words out of your mouth. Yes, take that physical relationship far beyond the limits of commitment. Yes, have another drink. Yes, start that fight. Yes, yes, yes.

God is often seen as a monster because He dared tell us "Thou shalt not." The parent who does the same is overprotective, overbearing, and overstepping the bounds of individuality. The grown-up child who tells himself "no" is a stick-in-the-mud. So says the world. But the world will crumble while God and His people stand, all because of the virtue of saying "no."

When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to ask why when my parents said "no." It meant what it meant; my job was to obey. As I grew, the rule relaxed. My parents wanted me to understand. Blind obedience is good to a point, but whole-hearted obedience born of understanding and acquiescence is better. I read the Bible and got a whole host of "Thou shalt nots," and with them, an understanding of what sin does to people. I thank God for His laws. I thank Him for His wisdom. I thank Him, because the "Ack!" and "Why?!"-worthy things we do were not in His plan.

The ability to say "no" is what makes us human. We can and must judge between good and evil in our society, our standards, our actions. Self-control enables us to rise above animal urges and live worthy lives of creativity, duty, productivity, real love. What good does it do a man if he follows his every urge, and loses his own soul?

It begins at home. Self-control, the inner "Thou shalt not" that guides us, is best learned at home under the loving tutelage of parents who want us to understand, as God wants us to understand. The father or mother who can firmly and lovingly say "no" opens the door to true humanity.

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Coming next week: "Yes and Amen: The Magnificent Power of 'Yes'"

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Spring Fling of Homeschooling, Carnival #66, is up at Kris' Eclectic Homeschool. She did a lovely job and it looks like there are some great articles in here, whether you're looking for information on starting out or keeping abreast of current news and trends that affect homeschoolers.


Monday, April 02, 2007

The Carnival of Family Life is up again :). Blog carnivals are a new discovery for me, but I think they're a great idea. This one's got lots of fun and informative articles from parents, homeschooling and otherwise, in all walks of life. Enjoy!