Loving the One

Loving The One

If you spend time with me in person, you will very quickly discover the things I get passionate about. There are a number of them! But sharing the love of Christ with those that need it, both in practical ways and also meeting the needs of the heart; then looking at long-term solutions for every person to enjoy the fullness of life that God has created for us – those are biggies. I love the big picture, but also the details. I love cultures and nations, but also love the one, and sowing into a single life the love of Christ in whatever ways he opens up.

I’ve felt heavy of heart lately with the sheer enormity of the needs of people across our nation and the globe. The estimate of people currently in need of humanitarian assistance has risen from 82 to 102 million people just in the last 8 months. The scale and sometimes complicated circumstances around some of these situations can make it easier to turn away from, as it seems that what we can do is so little.

I realise I can’t change the world for every person, but I sure can for one. Every single life is worthy of touching with the love of Christ.  Love does not hold prejudice, or make a judgement on which life is more worthy than the next.  Love has to look like something that is more than words or good intentions.

I love this:

“I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important and that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionise the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities, nations, and yes, the world.” (Beth Clark in “Kisses from Katie”, by Katie Davis)

If I turned up on your doorstep and was in desperate need of your help, would you turn me away? Think about it. Picture my face. Imagine my children at my heels. Of course you wouldn’t. You’d invite me in. You’d meet the most immediate needs right then and there. You’d care for my children. If need be, you’d help me work out a plan for my future. You’d pray for me, hug me, and encourage me with hope.

And now imagine again, and this time picture this woman at your doorstep, with the same needs.

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

The fact is, there’s no difference between this woman and me. Other than the obvious cultural difference and geography, she’s a mother like me, she loves her children and wants to see them live the best life they can. She hopes that one day they will never have to worry about having enough to live. She wants them to have an education, and gain skills that will see them through life. I want this for my children too.

This women, and others like her, are not on my literal doorstep, but in a sense they are. We share the same earth under our feet, and neither of us chose where we would be born. I was blessed to be born and raised in a country without war and one with a ‘safety net’ via our Government should I ever need it.

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

Will you look at what you have in your hands today, and considering offering what you have to be Jesus’ hands and feet?

I’ve been tremendously encouraged lately by the work that Caritas have been doing worldwide, including in my own country.  They are working in almost every country, and when a crisis hits they are already on the ground.

Have a read about one place that has especially moved my heart recently, and pray about whether you can add your strength, resources, and prayer behind their efforts.

It just takes a little sacrifice, compassion, and willingness to partner with others.

“ With no husband I worry every day how I am going to cope; how I will pay for food, school fees and medicines for my children.” says Rawia*. Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

“ With no husband I worry every day how I am going to cope; how I will pay for food, school fees and medicines for my children.” says Rawia*.  Photo: Annie Bungerouth/ACT-Caritas

If you click through nothing else in this post, I would love you to read this one:  Darfur Voices: Vulnerable Families

Thanks for reading, and have a blessed week.

Victoria

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
 – Micah 6:8

10 Years On – Remembering My Firstborn

10 years on - remembering my firstborn

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have just passed since our beloved son left us.

His pregnancy was difficult right from when I unexpectedly found out, through to when I lost him at 22 weeks. I was so sick that I lost tons of weight and at 12 weeks had to go to hospital from vomiting for days without holding anything down.

They decided to give me an ultrasound just to check how things were going, and after noticing something didn’t look quite right, I was referred to a specialist who gave me another ultrasound and with 2 other doctors, sat us down and gave us the grim news.

Our baby wasn’t going to live and I would probably miscarry very soon. They advised a termination, which we promptly declined. So they sent me home to wait for the inevitable.

Our lives went into a spin, and I can’t even begin to describe the range of emotions over the next 10 weeks before we lost our precious child. We still hoped for a miracle, and that was expressed to us over and over by many faith-filled friends. My stepfather was terminally ill, and the added stress on my mother and the rest of our family was hard to bear.

When no heartbeat was found at a regular check, my midwife sent us to the hospital for an ultrasound, which confirmed that our baby had died. The last movements I’d felt 2 days previous, that I’d smiled for joy over as they were so strong, and now that I’ve had subsequent pregnancies to compare to, were probably the moment in which he died.

The day I was induced and his birth that followed is still not yet something I can speak openly about. All I can tell you here is that it was utterly traumatic and heart-breaking. Our son, although 22 weeks, was developmentally behind in his gestational milestones so was more like a 16-17 week baby. I felt too overwhelmed to hold him, something I now regret, but his lifeless body just seemed too fragile and my heart couldn’t take the possibility of more trauma if something more would happen to his delicate body if I was to touch him.

After delivering our first child and spending some hours with him, we then had to leave the hospital with empty hands and hearts and prepare for a funeral. Those weeks and months that followed were raw and unbearable.

Gradually, life had to return to normal, a ‘new’ normal, and I had to allow my heart to trust God again. I’m grateful to those few who journeyed with us through that time.

There is hope in this story, and it doesn’t end with complete heartache and despair.

My Heavenly Father did walk closely with me through this time, despite my tendency to hold Him at a distance many times through it.

I discovered how unrelenting His love was towards me, regardless of how angry and raw I was towards Him.

I discovered that through such unbearable loss, I’m forever changed through this and can offer compassion and empathy to those that have suffered so much more than if I hadn’t had lost him.

I discovered that grief is not something that anyone can set the pace on for another person, and we should never attempt to shorten another person’s grief with our words.

I discovered a greater measure of grace was available to me, and that His loving hand will uphold me and comfort me, sometimes in ways I don’t necessarily expect.

I discovered He is incredibly patient, kind, loving, and tender towards me.

I discovered that sometimes there just aren’t answers for things we so desperately want to know. The ‘why’ question is rarely answered this side of eternity, but instead we can ask God to reveal more of who He is to us through our grief, our suffering, and also our joy and victories.

I discovered that the resolve in me to reach out to a needy world, desperate for love that actually looks like something, only grew and continues to.

I discovered a greater reality of this:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

I have my heart in sync with these words, and trust that everything in my life will come together and be used by Him to further His kingdom on earth. I believe it, because it’s the plain and simple truth!

The life of my son was and is a treasured gift to our family, and one day I will know the purpose God had for the brief time we had him.  Until then, I am determined to faithfully live out the purpose He has for my own life, and grow in my capacity to love and trust my Father wholeheartedly.  He’s always good, He’s always faithful, and He has an undivided heart.

May you know His relentless pursuit of you today.

Victoria

Seasons of Life and Your Pursuing Your God-Given Dreams

Seasons of Life

When I started this blog over 2 years ago, I simply wanted to bring my loaves and fishes to the www, as I try to faithfully raise my children and navigate my way through everything that entails.  Ironically, I’m usually a really private person and an introvert. But I felt compelled to share my journey with others in the hope that I could be a blessing and pass on what I’m learning during this season of my life.  Thanks for sticking around through my different ‘blogging’ seasons so far. 🙂

A few months ago, I sensed the Father drawing me into a deeper relationship with Him, and that in the process He would launch me into a new phase of ministry besides that of raising my children. He did shortly thereafter, and I went through the process of joining a ministry team for someone I greatly respect and admire. But it hasn’t ended there.

I’ve had things on my heart for years – the last couple of decades of my life to be honest. As time has passed, the desire to pursue these dreams has only increased. At the same time, children arrived on the scene, so for the last 10 years my life has been focused mostly on them. I’m committed to homeschooling them, and to raising adults that desire to know their God, and be his hands and feet on the earth.

But I won’t be doing this gig full-time forever. And neither do my dreams need to go on hold completely until my beautiful children have grown up and left home.  He gave me these desires NOW for a reason!

So here I was, enjoying the delights the Father was showing me of Himself, and contributing to an incredible ministry and globally-based team. And enter in another change.

The catalyst for a final tipping point in my heart was simply an article that a friend posted a couple of weeks ago on Facebook. I’ve seen these images before. We all have. But for some reason this time, it broke my heart.

I declared to myself that from here the kind of faith I’m going to live out for the rest of my life was going to have to go to another level if I’m to truly touch the world with the love of Christ. It’s no longer enough for me to dip my feet in the water – I have to get right in.

The brilliant thing about turning 38 this past week is that I’m old enough to worry much less about what people think anymore and, gladly, I haven’t grown cynical.  I also know the gifts and abilities I’ve been given, and looking back on my adult life, I can see a learning experience or preparation of some sort in everything I’ve done (even that university degree in Criminology 🙂 ). It’s all going in my backpack on this next phase of my journey.

I’m writing, praying and dreaming like I haven’t in a long time. I’m talking to my friends that have/are serving on the mission field in areas that I can see myself assisting in, and am asking the Lord to guide my steps where he’d have me. As I said last time, I’m allowing God’s capacity to love increase within me, and I can hardly contain my excitement about what He’s going to do through me. He’s going to be amazing!

Let me encourage you today – it’s never too late to pursue the dreams that the Father has laid on your heart, no matter how unqualified you think you are, or how impossible it seems. God loves an impossible dream, the kind that only He can bring about.

Pull out that journals, look up previous prophetic words and dreams, spend some decent chunks of time seeking the Lord, and write down what He shows you. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps”. (Ps. 16:9).

Talk to some people that you see pursuing a life extraordinary, and glean from them whatever you can. Ask the Lord to bring the right people into your path that will encourage, inspire, and provide wisdom into launching you forward another step. And be that person for someone else.

I strongly recommend writing things down. Do you have a 5-year plan? A 10-year plan? Are there skills and preparation you can work towards now that will assist you later? Can you network with like-minded people and communities now? Can you serve another person’s vision for a season?

Think you’re already on track? How about exploring the possibilities of going higher, wider, deeper, and beyond your current expectations?

The world needs you to be your brilliant self, in absolute fullness not just in measure. Enjoy the season you’re in, but take a risk and be willing to step out on the water to find who God wants you to be.  The world is waiting!

Soul Food (my list for the next month)

[There’s a couple of Amazon affiliate links above.  It just means that I will earn a small percentage from the sale if you purchase, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra – I’m giving 100% this year to these great people in Uganda].

Combating the Giant Within

Combating the giant within

This week the mainstream media has run stories from around the world of atrocities that have been going on for some time, but some of them are starting to get the international attention they deserve. Many of you will have read and seen the graphic images of Christians being beheaded, raped, slaughtered, and driven out of their homes in Iraq. And I’m sure I don’t need to give you the details of the situation in the Middle East – you can google it and wade your way through the mountain of opinion and articles. I can’t make sense of it myself.

Every day I read of causes and campaigns that we can give to, which may relieve pockets of the suffering for some, but the systemic issues remain unresolved and we can feel like our efforts were so temporary. One heartless dictator falls, another rises, sometimes far worse, to take his place. Girls are rescued from sex trafficking, but others are moved in to take their place. And sometimes projects are successful, with local people empowered and equipped to change their own communities -stories of hope, of courage, and of overcoming.  I love it when that happens!

Then there’s social media giving us the ability to become aware of what is happening in other parts of the world as its happening. Still, the stories that don’t often make it to the mainstream news are the ones we’ve seen many times before: the monsoons in South East Asia; the overcrowded refugee camps with a sea of despairing faces; the fighting in the Middle East – unless of course there’s a new twist or a massive number of casualties that we simply can’t ignore, and then it might make the news.

So where does that awareness lead us to? Once we spend a day or two outraged, expressing opinions and taking sides in wars, and perhaps throw up a quick prayer, what action has really been taken to truly get involved and bringing the incredible love of the Father into communities, people groups, and nations? Awareness should lead us somewhere, right? If not our own hands and feet sent to those in need of a touch of heaven, then surely set to task with what we can actually do?

Awareness without action is quite simply apathy, and I believe it’s the greatest challenge we presently have in the Church. It keeps us from sharing the eternally life-changing message of the gospel with our loved ones; it holds us captive from discovering what our greatest purpose and destiny for our short time on earth; it spreads and strengthens its grip using religious language, unhelpful man-made traditions, and just plain ol’ self-interest taking the front seat.

Apathy is a lack of interest or concern, and it’s a war to wage amongst ourselves. It’s a war I have to wage within myself as well. I wish that wasn’t the truth, but it is. I also think that apathy can rise from a place of feeling powerless and overwhelmed, and also not knowing just how incredible Jesus can actually be in each of us. What to do about apathy? I’ll get to that in a sec. But first, let me give you a personal story of apathy.

ME

I haven’t been entirely just warming a church pew for my 20-something years as a Christian.

Honestly, I’ve given to tons of charities and individuals, to everything from work with orphans, emergency relief, evangelism, everything. I’ve fundraised countless times for others going overseas, as well as myself. I’ve given like a mad-woman at times, even when it has meant my own discomfort, inconvenience, hunger, unpaid rent, and holey clothes!

I’ve signed petitions, sent letters to Members of Parliament, stood collecting on the street and gone door-to-door, volunteered for everything from stuffing thousands of envelopes, fed the homeless, helped drunk teens, prayer walked all over the world, and helped prepare rice meals to be sent overseas (that one was fun).

I can give you first-hand stories of poverty and injustice that I’ve seen with my own eyes – drugged babies by their begging mothers to make them appear more desperate in India; a woman washing a few metres away from a man squatting in the same trench in Mumbai; orphaned/abandoned children on the streets in the Middle East; the crumbled remains of a war zone in Cyprus, ‘no man’s land’, accompanied by the stories of relatives still mourning the loss of their missing ones… OK, I’ll stop there, you get my drift.

But here’s the thing… one day I can weep over what I see or read,  telling myself that I’m going to do something, then the next I’m absorbed with planning my children’s birthday party with cute decorations and fun-shaped food, or complaining about the hot water running out once my kids have drained it dry. Or that they won’t eat their vegetables.

I want to change the world one day, and then the next my brain is back to being numb and consumed with the issues of life again. I, along with plenty of others, frequently switch off to the images of war, disease, injustice, and dire poverty, many times because it’s uncomfortable; because if we chose to feel, we might have to do something. We might actually have to do something inconvenient, time consuming, expensive, or life-changing.

I’m a mix of being exhausted, tired of caring about everything and everyone, apathetic, overwhelmed… but also compassionate, intentional, deeply caring, and extremely passionate about seeing nations transformed. I’m a big mess. 🙂

Even with some ‘missions streams’ running through the course of my life, I still struggle to overcome this giant called apathy. So I’m not on a high horse telling you here to care like I do. I really do struggle to know how to live in that place of tension – where I enjoy the life God’s given me, yet also participate in bringing God’s Kingdom to earth.

I can’t remember the name of this city in India. But I do remember there being a dead body in the middle of a roundabout that had been there for days.  Crazy huh?

So again, what to do about apathy?

I believe apathy is displaced by a personal and profound revelation of the Father’s absolutely over-awed incredible plan for your life. When you know who you are, and who Jesus wants to be to you and through you, you can’t help but be propelled into action. Apathy is displaced by love. The kind of love that looks like something. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more uncomfortable I become with being a spectator. 

So consider this: do something different today than what you usually do. Have a different thought. Ponder the possibilities. Seek the Lord and find out what he’s saying about who you are. Discover your truest identity, and dream big with how you can be used to change the world. And that’s not supposed to be a cliché… you actually can change the world for someone. Every single life is worth enough for Jesus to die for – so every life is worth touching with the power of love that is found in Him, be it outside your own door, or further afield in the world.

Is there a nation on your heart? A cause? Human trafficking? Humanitarian and emergency assistance? Foster care? Orphans? Shifting atmospheres in prayer? Are you a pioneer at heart, or a much-needed partner to follow another’s leading? What are you natural and learned skills? Jesus is interceding at the right-hand of the Father for you – what’s He praying over you?

Friends, I haven’t yet worked out how to live from a place of perfect peace and joy (the abiding atmosphere of heaven), as well as allowing my heart to bear the burdens of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Or how to be truly moved by compassion without it knocking me off my feet, and I lose joy as my natural state of being.  If you have, tell me here. 🙂

But I’m sure committed to finding out how to be less manic and fickle, and more consistently committed to living out the life that I’m here on earth for. I don’t want to cope with the enormity of the task by flicking a switch off in my heart, as I believe there’s a better way. I’m searching to find it through allowing God’s heart to increase in capacity within my own – lest apathy takes hold of me and keeps me from pursuing the extraordinary life that is mine to live.  God help me from becoming indifferent.

The task of bringing the Kingdom to earth is indeed overwhelming, because it’s not meant to be undertaken by only a few.  It takes us all.

Join me?

~ Victoria

Home – The Heart of Homeschooling

Home the heart of homeschooling

Our family’s journey in homeschooling this year has been largely focused on establishing a rhythm that will be sustainable long term.

One of the things we’ve been doing is concentrating on our relationships with each other, particularly the children with one another (more on this another time).

The other thing we’ve been focusing on is keeping our home as the centre of our homeschool.

This is what I’m sharing at Lindsey’s website today.  I hope it encourages you.

“We’ve heard it said: ‘Home is where the heart is’. For homeschooling families, home is where our children’s hearts are. It’s the place where we intend to lovingly guide, equip, shepherd, and prepare our children’s hearts for the life set before them.”

READ MORE

Victoria

PS. A quick note from me – you will find me posting a lot less for this next season of life, possibly just once or twice a month.  If you enjoy what I write, you might like to subscribe to receive posts by e-mail (see sidebar on the right).  Thanks, and have a great weekend!

FREE Christian Book – “No Longer a Slum Dog”

Friends, I’d so glad to pass this on to you:

KP Yohannan, author of over 200 books including ‘Revolution in World Missions’ (with 2 million copies in print) has recently released ‘No Longer a Slum Dog: Bringing Hope to Children in Crisis”.  In this book, KP shares stories of families and communities transformed.  This isn’t just a book about human trafficking, child labour, poverty and hopelessness – it’s a book about a hope and a future.  You’ll be encouraged and inspired!

Gospel for Asia has made this available for free, including shipping, and I encourage you to add this one to your reading.

Visit Gospel For Asia to order your copy.

b9-coverHave a blessed week.

Victoria

 

Choosing to Stand Tall

Choosing to Stand Tall

It’s taken years to be truly on this path to freedom, but here I am in 2014 finally able to embrace who I am, and whose I am. And I don’t plan on retreating back to where I once was!

We have an unfortunate cultural trait in our country called ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. It’s common enough for there to be a name to it. When a person stands taller from the crowd, they are pulled down or cut down with words so they no longer stand tall. It’s sometimes overt and sometimes more subtle, but the outcome is the same – to prevent another person from rising to all they could and should be, so that another feels better about themselves. It’s the opposite than what Heaven intends for our country, which a culture of true honour, comradeship and courage, and a People that will cheer on others in their chosen path.

I have been on the receiving end of this, and without doubt I’ve probably hurt others in this way. I can only repent for where I have partnered with this myself, and pray the Lord keeps me sensitive and humble from walking in it again!

What we want in the Body of Christ is for EVERY PERSON to walk in fullness, and in that way we are all better for it! We can honour the unique voice of one another, and enjoy and celebrate the brilliance that shines from each person.

My Journey in Becoming a ‘Tall Poppy’

For many years, and more so since becoming a mother, I’ve frequently been on the receiving end of jealousy, cutting down, and revilement, because others have desired what I have or have been jealous of what I am capable of. It has caused me to withdraw, be silenced, and isolate myself from others. Sometimes, it’s been shrouded in religious language, or a ‘minor’ reason given instead of the ‘main’ reason that hides what it really is. Other times the responsibility has been put back on me, as though the cause is me – I’m causing insecurities to rise up in others, or intimidating women because I am skilled and gifted in areas that others may not be. I’ve been pressured to hide my light, to be less of myself, to enhance my struggles and shortcomings so that others feel better about themselves.

But do you know that excluding others, cutting off or cutting down someone, or withdrawing your friendship or care of someone because you perceive them to as the source for your discomfort, is really unloving and based on a lie?  And at times, the victorious life they lead might actually be the result of years of perseverance, cost and sacrifice? Or perhaps an outpouring of favour of the Lord they have grown in, to be celebrated and cheered on?

Here’s a snapshot.

I love my husband and children. I very rarely need time away from them. I do need time by myself to re-energise at times, but it’s not because I’m fed up with them. It’s because I’m an introvert that likes to sit and read, listen and think. So I don’t crave the time out of the home without my family that others might. I also love spending time with other families, and I don’t crave women-only get togethers. Rejoice with me that I’m different and what a change the Lord has brought about in my heart – when I first got married I wasn’t sure I wanted children, as I was still hurting from my parents’ divorce. What a transformation God has done in my life!

I don’t believe my way of parenting is the best/only/right way. Truly. I have many convictions about things that are right for our own family, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s the best way for your family. Those decisions that we all have to make about raising children, eating, Church fellowship, homeschooling or public school – they are all things that we can only be responsible for ourselves and not for others! I freely and joyfully love to help others, hence this blog as one example. But if you decide a different way, then go for it and be the best you can! So celebrate with me the victories and the courage it has taken to go against the mainstream, as we have pursued the best plan for our family.

I (usually) have a well-ordered and clean home. My mother set a wonderful example for me. I also learned young how to do this, as from 11 I lived without my mother under the same roof. It became necessary if I wanted clean clothes! Celebrate with me God’s redemptive purpose that has come about, and that he has brought strength and excellence into my life as a homemaker. It’s come at great cost.

I love to be home with my children and am glad for the blessing to homeschool them. I’ve had hard days. Really hard days! But the vast majority of the time we enjoy ourselves and my children are thriving and doing well. But the cost of living off one income is I only get a haircut once a year, we wear our clothes out (except the kids who benefit from a very generous Nanna!), we don’t get out of town to see family often, and a thousand other things we can’t afford to do. Worth it? Yes yes yes! So tell me I’m doing a great job and encourage me. Don’t tear down homeschooling because it offends your worldview or theology, or gossip about me because you see imperfection or you feel inadequate yourself. Be the best ‘you’, and encourage me to do the same!

I love to create a warm and hospitable environment for people to come to. It’s true – before you arrive at my home, I will often whisk around and pick up things that you might trip on, check the toilet for any ‘surprises’ my children may have inadvertently left, and perhaps wipe down the dining room table where you may place your coffee cup on arrival. Enjoy the place I’ve created for you to enter into. Embrace the English cultural background I come from, where you can sit and be served rather than the more common way in our culture of being told to ‘help yourself’ or ‘make yourself at home’( which is fine too). This is how I do hospitality – be blessed by it!

I love to create nourishing meals for my family and am good at it. I had to learn young, and at 11 I was cooking roasts and making school lunches. God has used those difficult circumstances and turned them into something good, something helpful, a blessing to my family, and also to others that have been on the receiving end of my generosity. Please, rejoice with me at His goodness expressed in my life!

I’m frequenting on the receiving end of the Father’s generosity and our family find ourselves with abundant provision that is beyond logic. Rejoice with me in the goodness of God! It has sometimes come at the cost of many times of enduring faith and hope, tears and prayer, and we ourselves have been generous with all we have in our hands, at times with extraordinary sacrifice.

You probably won’t catch me posting photos on Facebook of my messy lounge, my baking fails, or any other imperfectness – not because I don’t have those days like every other mother, but because I choose to celebrate the victories and strive for the excellence that I know is in me.

I’m not perfect. I fail daily. There is grace daily. I’m utterly dependent on Him.

I am a beautiful, gifted, beloved child of the Father. I love who He’s created me to be, and love my life, and I love growing in who I am in greater measure. Rejoice with me that God has taken brokenness and grief and turned it to wholeness and joy. He’s brought beauty from the ashes. I will no longer hide my light!

And He can do the very same thing with you.

“The church is God’s body, where every member is welcomed, accepted, loved and valued as a contribution. There is room for us to live in Christ while we are learning to be Christlike. This means we make space for the ugly and the beautiful in all of us to grow and change.” From MANIFESTING YOUR SPIRIT (Graham Cooke)

Tall poppy Monet

Spring Has Arrived – My Word for the Year in Motion

Spring has arrived

Here in the southern hemisphere, we are in the middle of winter and about to have a couple weeks of holiday time from ‘official’ homeschooling. Mid-way through the year, it’s a good time to reflect on the word I had for this year: Spring.

Here’s the gist of that original post:

Here’s what ‘Spring’ means for us:

  • New life
  • Renewed vision
  • Restoration of hope

Spring is a time of warmth, and of buds and blossoms giving the promise of fruit within their beauty.  It’s a time of growth and a bustle of activity within nature – but in the midst of all the activity, there’s no striving or stress.  No-one tells the bees to collect pollen or the grass to grow.

For us, this means that we are going to enjoy the journey, and God’s promises unfolding in our lives without striving to obtain something that is already freely given.  If we find ourselves striving or stressing, then we’ve left the place of peace and it’s up to us to return and remain in His abiding presence.

So how are things going?

It wasn’t all smooth riding right from the start, but I can honestly say I’m learning to live out of a whole new level of joy and peace in my stride that rises above any challenges that life brings our way. In fact, I’m seeing challenge and difficulty as opportunities to grow and be transformed from the inside out – which in turn is changing my circumstances as I release the atmosphere within me into the atmosphere around me.

This year has seen plenty of challenge in all those usual ‘big’ areas. But I’m committed to releasing goodness and grace in all those places, despite what comes against me. It means being loving, generous, joyful, kind and relentlessly committed to seeing the best in people, even when what I’m faced with the exact opposite.

So instead of usually not enjoying the process of becoming more like Jesus, but loving the eventual glorious outcome, I now find myself enjoying the journey as well. A new problem comes my way, and I’m starting to get immediately excited about the possibilities and just what the Father has for me instead. The key is rejoicing. Always!

Do I still have bad days? For sure! I still get moments of temporary amnesia and forget what I’ve already been freely given from Heaven.

Here are some great scriptures to meditate on:

  • Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
  • You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
    (Psalm 16:11)
  • But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy. (Psalm 68:3)

So halfway through our school year, I’m not burnt out in the slightest. In fact, I’m energised and enjoying the journey beyond my expectations.

I have nothing but outrageous hope for the future, and fully expect heaven to continue to invade my world. You’ll be amazed at what can take place in your life if you just keep releasing goodness all around you.

My encouragement to you is this: firstly, rejoice and give thanks; then pray and ask the Father what He is saying so you can agree with Him. Pray with the answer, and not for it. Expect Him to answer you, because His word says He will, and in the meantime, wait with joyful expectation.

Start the day asking: ‘So what are you saying Lord? And what would you like me to see/do/be today?’ Every day has encounters for you to have with the Father, and opportunities for you to bring heaven to earth. Enjoy the journey!

For behold, the winter is past,  The rain is over and gone.  The flowers have already  appeared in the land;  The time has arrived for  pruning the vines,  And the voice of the  turtledove has been  heard in our land.…

“For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers have already
appeared in the land;
The time has arrived for
pruning the vines,
And the voice of the
turtledove has been
heard in our land.…”

Veritas Press: Self-Paced History – Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation {A Review}

Veritas Press

Homeschool history has reached new heights in our home over the past few weeks, as we’ve had the privilege of reviewing the ‘Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation’, one of the online courses on offer from Veritas Press. This program has energised our learning more than anything else for a long time, and I’m excited to tell you all about it!

The online program is complete in itself, with no supplementary material required, besides a stunning set of the 32 Middle Ages, Ren & Ref Flashcards that correspond with the lessons and are intended for the purpose of reviewing the course content. We also used them to order the 32 significant events chronologically for the time period.

About Middle Ages, Renaissance and ReformationSelf-Paced History

Veritas Press follows a classical Christian approach in that it teaches history chronologically, and aims to keep Christ at the centre of your child’s learning.

Here are some of the main features of the program:

  • The age range is intended for Grades 2nd-6th.
  • The self-paced program is designed to do over a full year at the student’s own pace and contains 160 lessons, with 5 lessons for each of the 32 important historical events
  • The 32 flashcards cover the period from St Augustine to John Knox and are used along with the memory song within the course and for the purpose of review.
  • The program mainly uses actors to present history with realistic backdrops that are relevant to the time period.

VP Collage 3.1

To give you a sampling of what is covered, here are the first 8 of 32 significant historical events (40 lessons) that we have managed to complete so far:

  • Augustine Converts to Christianity
  • Barbarians and Vikings
  • St Jerome Completes the Vulgate
  • The Council of Chalcedon
  • St Benedict and Monasticism
  • Justinian the Great
  • Mohammed and Islam
  • Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, and Charlemagne

We’ve looked ahead on the lesson list and are especially looking forward to learning about William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings, St Francis of Assisi, and the Renaissance. To be honest, I can hardly wait myself!

VP Collage 10.1

Historical Literature

There is an optional literature component, with historical fiction titles to include in your history studies (two different levels). We did not complete this component for the purpose of this review. But as we have many of the titles listed, we took the opportunity to enhance the learning experience and bring these books out off our shelves.  Adding in the historical literature would be a great way of furthering your child’s learning of the time period.

VP Collage 2.1

 How the Program Works

This online program utilises a number of different ways of presenting the course content:

  • Actors dressed in period costumes present most of the course content with realistic backdrops in a style that is engaging and informative, and although the content is fairly in-depth, it’s also age appropriately presented.
  • A memory song is used to cover the chronological component, as well as reinforcing the key dates, people and events of the 32 main historical events (lyrics can be viewed and/or printed).
  • Games and activities are dispersed through the lessons, often using multi-choice questions to review material.
  • Other activities are used at different times, such as word searches, mapping, spelling, timelines activities and others.
  • There are end of lesson tutorial quizzes every 5 lessons (graded) and a shorter assignment/quiz at the beginning at the next group of 5 lessons (ungraded).
  • There are 8 supplementary activities (completed offline) over the full course, the first of which my daughter completed on ‘monastic manuscript’.

VP Collage 4.1

In true Classical style, the course is heavy on memorising important dates, which was sometimes a stretch for my 3rd Grader (particularly in the beginning). But gladly she didn’t find the memorising monotonous or too overwhelming.  The great thing was that every lesson and quiz reviewed previous lesson content and reinforced what my daughter had already learned.

Functionality and Ease of Use

The program is very easy to navigate with only a few buttons or options to click. Each lesson needs to be completed before the next slide is unlocked, and you can pause at any time. If needed, there is an option for further help and support, but we didn’t need to use this.

Middle Ages, Ren & Ref Flashcards

The flashcards have all 32 historical events covered in the course, with a summary on each side containing the key information and dates for each – from ‘St Augustine Converts to Christianity’ through to ‘John Knox in Scotland’. The flashcards are not absolutely necessary to have, but are certainly a great option to add to the enjoyment of learning, as well as being useful to review the lesson content before the graded tests (resulting in a better grade).

They’ll also be great to have in future when we’ve finished the online component of the course and just want to review this period of history.  The flashcards are sold separately.

VP Collage 9.1How We Used It

We aimed to use the course 4 times a week, but because my daughter enjoyed it so much, we did 1-2 lessons a day, 4-5 times a week. Each lesson took about 20 minutes (less time for the quiz lessons).

As my daughter was initially not used to online learning, or to tests and grades, she needed some supervision to start with, but quickly picked up how it works and what to expect each lesson.

There was no option to skip ahead of the current lesson, as they can only be unlocked once the previous lesson is completed. So my daughter simply worked through each slide within each lesson, with little supervision from me.

VP Collage 11.1

My Thoughts on ‘Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation

This really is an outstanding online history program. I was impressed at how history was presented age-appropriately, despite there being some fairly graphic events that occurred during the time of the Middle Ages. I especially liked the consistent connections made between historical events and Church history.

The music accompanying the slides throughout the course follows the theme of the Middle Ages, or is suited to the place of interest for each lesson (eg. Arabia).

A Note on the Age Level:

I’m of the opinion that the content itself is better pitched at an Advanced 3rd Grade student, or 4th Grade up, as it covers history at a depth that may be beyond younger students and some of the activities (eg. spelling longer words) could be a stretch. To complete the course for 2nd and 3rd Grade students, a parent could possibly sit through the lessons and explain some of the more difficult concepts and help with date and event memorising. But to really get the most out of it, I would recommend waiting until your child is just that little bit older.  You may also like to view the sample lessons to determine whether or not your child is ready.

VP Collage 5.1

I can see how this self-paced history course would be a popular choice for Classical homeschooling families.  But I believe this would also be a great fit for homeschooing families of all educational philosophies and methods.

I highly recommend this comprehensive, engaging, and enjoyable course to all homeschooling families who love history and want to take their learning experience to a new level.

Pricing and Links

[For System Requirements, see Veritas Press FAQs]

VP Collage 7.1

Two slides of the memory song, which puts the 32 historic events to music.

Review Crew permalink

TOS disclaimer graphic

My Top 6 New Zealand History Books

My Top 10 NZ History pin 1

I recently went on a hunt for the best New Zealand history books I could find, as so many I’ve come across just do not stir up an excitement to learn about our nation’s history. So here are a handful of elementary/primary age titles that we have enjoyed recently.

Taketakerau : The Millennium Tree – Marnie Anstis

TaketakerauFinally, here is a New Zealand history book that brings alive our story in a way that is memorable and moving. This beautifully created book tells of two narrations and timelines alongside one another: one of a 2000 year old tree woven together with the story of our nation’s history, and the other giving a broad overview of world history. By far the best New Zealand history book we’ve come across.

Le Quesnoy – Glyn Harper

Le Quesnoy

Le Quesnoy is a town in northern France that was occupied during World War II by the Germans.  After 4 years, New Zealand soldiers liberated the town without a single loss of civilian life.  The story is told through the eyes of a child. 

Tarore and Her Book – Joy Cowley

Tarore

The true story of a Maori girl named Tarore who was tragically killed, and the subsequent aftermath of her death on the spreading of the gospel in New Zealand.  A powerful story of how the Maori people heard the gospel through one copy of the gospel of Luke, and how they become evangelists to their own people.

Taratoa and the Code of Conduct – Debbie McCauley

Taratoa

During the Land Wars of the 1860s in New Zealand, Henare Taratoa wrote a Code of Conduct before the Battle of Gate Pa at Pukehinahina (29 April 1864). This beautifully written bilingual book records the extraordinary story of compassion by Maori on the battlefield towards the defeated British.

Gallipoli – Kerry Greenwood and Annie White

Gallipoli

A story of two friends, Bluey and Dusty, who fought together at Gallipoli after landing on the beach on 25 April 1915. The story recounts this part of the Great War with a moving narrative that includes historical references and events that paints a realistic introduction to war for elementary-aged children.

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story – Philippa Werry

Anzac Day

A non-fiction book on Gallipoli, on the history and meaning behind Anzac Day. The Four Chapters cover the Gallipoli Campaign, New Zealand at War, Remembering our War Dead, and Anzac Day, plus websites, further reading, and things to do.

So those are the best I’ve found so far – let me know if you’ve come across any treasures in your history hunting as well.

Victoria

“A new dictionary will need to be compiled after the Great War.
For new words are among the things that have been born of this war. And the greatest of them all is Anzac.”

– Sydney Morning Herald 26 April 1918