Tag Archives: Faith & Missions

Books Books Books!

Books books books

Hi Friends!

I have a stack of glorious reading for the summer here DownUnder and I’d love to share these with you.  Many of these are Christian titles, as I’m simply at a place right now where I’m wanting to feed my soul. :) And the rest are history titles, my other great love when it comes to reading.

Multi award-winning historical fiction, The Chronicles of Iona is set in 563 AD and is the story of the two men who laid the foundations of the Scottish nation, an Irish monk, Saint Columba, and a Scottish warlord, Aedan mac Gabran.  Aedan is my direct ancestor, and I absolutely love this period of history.  What’s not to love?

Technically this is a homeschool title for my Fourth Grader, but no harm will be done if I read it too! This one takes a look at English history from  55 BC to 1611 (the year the King James bible was published) and how our language developed.

Hannah is said to have earned three reputations in her life: that of a playwright, a writer on moral and religious subjects, and a practical philanthropist.  She is said to have affected every level of 18th century British society.  I love a good inspirational biography.

A stunning introduction to this medieval book, with beautiful full colour pictures.  I bought this partly to accompany our homeschool medieval studies next year, but also because I love Celtic history!

It seems fitting to re-visit this treasure, and actually finish it this time, with the 200th anniversary of when Samuel Marsden first preached the gospel on Christmas Day 1814.  Keith has done a fantastic job of telling the story of our early history in this young nation of New Zealand.

Most know of William Wilberforce, the 19th century politician famous for the abolition of slavery. But few know of the other members of the group, known to us now as the Clapham Sect.  Hannah More was also part of this group, and others including the Reverend John Venn.  The Clapham Sect not only sought to abolish slavery but are also responsible for other endeavours (future blog post!).  I’m looking forward to reading more on this extraordinary group of world-changers.

I love learning about historical awakenings and revivals in the Church, especially those that have impacted all places of society.  This seems to be the one that is recommended on revivals, so I have this arriving in my mailbox any day now.  I also have a couple of Winkie Pratney’s on my wishlist, after hearing him speak on revival last Sunday. Brilliant.

Anything by Graham Cooke is going to be brilliant. In this book, the first of a three-part series, Graham packs this training manual/guidebook full of insight, examples, application and assignments.  If you’re a student of the prophetic, then this one’s for you.

Understanding the Seer gift of the prophetic is something I’m going after at the moment.  The seer dimension of the prophetic is simply a way of receiving revelation, it’s not scary weird stuff. :) So since this is the recommended book by those that I look to for wisdom, so it’s at the top of my reading pile!

This book contains rare, never before published material of selected, transcribed, edited sermons delivered by A.W. Tozer.  I thought I should probably balance out all the modern Christian titles with a little of the classic.  This seemed like a good fit. :)

Undoubtedly I’ll be adding other books to my pile before the break even starts.  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What will you be reading over the holidays?

With joy,

Victoria

reading

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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

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

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

 

Sounds of Worship – meanderings in making my sound

Sounds of Worship

Music is my great love.  I’ve always had music around me constantly, even before I was a Christian, and have always been desperately drawn to expressing the creativity of our Creator God through sound.

Ability-wise, I learned classical piano when I was young to Grade 5, I taught myself the guitar in my early 20s, and can sing a little above average.  I have some natural talent but not tons of it.   There is always someone else around that is much more capable to lead worship, even in a small group of friends, and my own songs would most likely not make the cut onto any worship album.  I have a realistic estimation of my ability so you will probably not catch me gracing your screens anytime soon!

It’s only been as an adult I finally have gained some confidence – or perhaps I just mind much less what people think these days.  But now I have a growing family and more than enough to do with my time than practice for the hours it will take to cultivate what little natural ability I have!  And to what end if I was to pursue that?  What does the Lord really want me to do with the sound that is within me? I’ve felt for a long time the Lord wants me to lead worship, yet I have zero desire to do this on a stage and/or in the form that most are used to.  I’m a little different.

So what do I do with this overwhelming desire to make beautiful and creative sound in worship?

Here’s what I’ve seen unfold in my life so far, which I’d like to encourage you in also.

You can affect the atmosphere, be it a regular church gathering or any time that people come together in His name.  You can change the environment by releasing your sound into that place.  Whether or not someone hears your worship, or whether it’s especially tuneful or ultra gifted, you were made to worship!  God isn’t looking for the most talented singers or musicians to bring glory to His name. 

‘Rend your hearts, not your garments’ (Joel 2:13). 

And these:

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name”.  – Hebrews 13:15

So in making my sound only for Him alone, does this mean I’ll never express worship publicly for others to hear?  Or write songs that someone else will sing?  I really don’t know.  But whether or not that was to happen, I still have a sound to make as I become more free in who the Father has created me to be, and it’s my own sound, unique and beautiful to my Father in heaven, and worthy of being expressed.  He’s listening and He enjoys what I offer Him.  My worship is for an audience of One.  There’s nothing quite like coming together in unity with my believing friends in times of worship and bringing glory to Him.

I love to watch others sometimes, and see the different colourful expressions of worship – someone who doesn’t sing but who drums his fingers on the back of a chair; or those that dance; and those who sing beautiful harmonies naturally to every note; or simply those that close their eyes and smile as they sing quietly.  It’s a sweet sound to hear what a group of friends will make together.  I especially love to hear indigenous sounds of worship, communities of passionate Jesus followers, worshiping in their own language, style, sound, and uniqueness.  My heart wants to explode with joy!

Naturally, it does helps to have someone who can sing in key and play in time to lead others in worship!  But your sound in worship is no less worthy, beautiful, unique and needed than a worship leader with the guitar and voice.

What is your sound?  Do you play an instrument, whatever your skill level?  Do you hum, whistle, sing, clap, recite poetry, dance or perhaps create something beautiful on a blank canvas?  There are other ways to worship, but there’s nothing quite like making sound!

Let me encourage you today to release your sound on the earth.  There’s no-one else who can express it quite like you.

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;” – Psalm 98:4

Some beautiful people making their sound…

{Linked up at Teaching what is good, and Capture Your Journey}

Our Family’s Discipleship Approach

Our Family's Discipleship Approach

We are still very much growing into how we are to disciple our children.  We have the clear scriptural precedent that we, as parents, are solely responsible for training and guiding our children’s hearts to pursue a living relationship with Jesus.  We can invite others into this place, but scripturally speaking, there is no direct command given to any other role or person to fulfill this responsibility to raise our children to be followers of Jesus.  So in that aspect, we are certain.

As to how we do this however, we’re only just finding a rhythm and consistency in this.  Partly this has been due to having three young children, all at different places on their faith journey, and then we as parents continuing to grow and add habits that we need to be disciplined about keeping in place.

What is Family Discipleship?

Firstly, what is discipleship in the context of the family?  I believe it is partnering with the Holy Spirit in directing your child’s heart towards cultivating their own relationship with Jesus.

The heart of our family’s discipleship approach is to stir within our children a desire to love like Jesus, and to follow Him every day of their lives, growing deeper in their faith, and living out His purpose for their lives on earth.

We’ve decided that the very best thing we can do is to love Jesus ourselves, devote ourselves to knowing him, be extravagant in our faith and in how we express love to others, and our children will follow our lead.  We cannot lean on a method or curriculum to guarantee our children’s successful discipleship – these can be useful tools but do not replace loving nurture and guidance in stirring within our children a heart to cultivate their own relationship with the Lord.

Nurture and Connection

We’ve found that having gentle and sympathetic hearts with our children, and making our connection with them a priority, makes it possible to guide them from that place of relationship.  Let me add that we aren’t perfect, and we ask for forgiveness daily for impatience, stern words, and missing the target in other ways.  But establishing heart-to-heart connection is at the foundation of  building into their hearts.  Otherwise we would be doing nothing more than teaching good morals, and teaching bible knowledge as though it were a school subject.  Discipleship for us must be from a living, real, honest, relational context.

Shannon Jungle Tales (1895)

Some Practicalities

Admittedly, we have wavered in our consistently many times, and are only just reviving our goals in this area.  But here’s some of our approach and what we hope to grow into more this year:

  • Read the bible (or storybook bible) and pray together.  We bought a Discoverer’s Bible for our 8 year old, and enjoy The Jesus Storybook Bible with our younger children (we all love it).
  • Prayer is the first response rather than the last when navigating the storms of life, no matter what their size.
  • Children’s devotions are those designed for children to work through themselves or with your assistance.  We especially love “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” which is written for children ages 8+.
  • Family devotions are a way of bringing the family together and connecting together over His Word.  “Our 24 Family Ways” by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a favourite, which contains nicely-illustrated colouring pages for children to complete while they are listening.  Sometimes we just do a spontaneous family devotion at the dinner table.
  • Spending time with like-minded families is such a necessary part of building one another’s faith, and inspiring a desire to know Jesus and make Him known.
  • Worship with other Christians is something we love to do, and we have a community of like-minded families that we love to worship with where the children are welcome to participate.  It might look a little different from a family separating into two locations once a week and standing in rows to worship, but we love the freedom of creativity of allowing God to move in a group of people that love, honour and accept one another, with children a valued part of His voice and expression amongst us.
  • Worship music on in the house every day is something we’ve always done.  Worship is my great love, and I know it will form the soundtrack of my children’s childhood.  It’s our hope that the songs of their childhood will be remembered throughout their lives as a source of life, encouragement, and blessing.
  • Memorising scripture and displaying scripture so His Word is being learned and meditated upon regularly.
  • Audio bible is something we haven’t utilised yet, but plan to use when our children are a little older.
  • Intentional bible study and learning – we haven’t wanted bible study to simply be another school subject, but do want to gradually introduce more intentional study as they get older.  We want them to first and foremost understand that the bible is God’s Word – infallible, trustworthy and true.
    A couple of resources we are currently enjoying as part of our intentional learning are, “Who is God and Can I Know Him?” (Apologia text and accompanying notebook), and “What’s in the Bible” DVD series.

We have a growing collection of books containing stories of missionaries and some great heroes of faith (both historical and living), that seek to inspire children with what it can look like when lives are surrendered to Jesus.  A couple of films that we’ve watched recently (Father of Lights, and Compelled By Love) have reminded me that these will be a wonderful addition to our family’s discipleship resources at some stage.

Our Discipleship approach

One Final Thought

We aren’t simply aiming for our children to simply behave like Christians and grow up to be good people.  We want to present them with the truth that the power of the gospel will save them and transform them.  Yes we need a discipleship path that is grace-filled and intentional.  Yes we need to model them love and a living relationship with Jesus ourselves.

But also, we need to remember that the goal isn’t to produce children and eventually adults with good morals and behaviour.  It’s to train them up in the way THEY should go on the path of life, and encourage them to find out what God wants for their lives.  Instead of asking them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’, ask them ‘What does God want to do in and through your life?’  It’s all about Jesus, and what He’s done for us.  In dying for us, we can now live for Him.  And he enables us to do so.

You might also like my ‘Parenting and Homeschool book list, and ’Family Devotions and Discipleship book list.  There are many other great titles, but these are ones that we use and enjoy.

{This post contains some affiliate links}.

Looking Back and Looking Forward – 1000 Gifts

Looking back and looking forward

2013 was quite a memorable year.  We started the year with a few days holidaying with dear friends, and felt relaxed and full of hope for what lay ahead.  My word for the year: 2013 the year of joy.   I had my joy dares in hand, ready and eager to chronicle our joy gifts from the Father.

I quote this again, as it continues to speak life to my soul:

Joy is who God is.  Joy is the abiding atmosphere of heaven.  Joy is the expression of the kingdom here on earth. And therefore joy is an environment that we should be creating as a community and inhabiting on a personal level – in our homes, in our places of work, we can make those places like heaven. – Graham Cooke

Early February my precious family was hit with illness, husband included, and we negotiated our way through this for many months.  There were some scary nights in there, where I wondered if my children were going to take their next breath.  Those of you who’ve been through something similar know that it’s simply indescribable.

After this, I felt like I was running on a deficit for the remainder of the year, and still am to some extent.  Life continued to bring what it does for many, and didn’t wait for me to be ready – financial challenges, health challenges, relationship challenges, heart challenges.

Maintaining my place of joy became much more difficult than I could have ever anticipated.

But through it all, there were so many beautiful, wonderful, hope-filled, incredible moments.

There were lots of firsts for my youngest child, and even with our third, they are no less special and worthy of celebrating.

There were treasured moments with each of my children, where my eyes were opened to see more of who they are created to be.  Precious.  I love being at home with them.

There were some really enjoyable learning times, and crazy fun-filled moments in our homeschooling.

There was authentic connection with heaven, with the Father’s grace and mercy, and with the soft and loving sound of His voice.

There were those moments with my husband, where we sat looking at each other, completely spent, sometimes in utter disbelief at the most recent wave of challenge, but unspoken love passed between our eyes, as did the firm resolve to never give up on ‘us’.  We have been shaken, but our love runs deeper than ever.

There was one incredible friendship that shone brighter than my worst days, and remains one of the most treasured gifts that I’ve ever received from heaven.  I’m still floored that I’d be worthy of such a tender-hearted, giving, sweet, loving, beautiful friend.

So although the ‘joy journaling’ faded as the year wore on, the overall purpose did not die completely, as today I can remember with thankful heart some ‘big’ joy gifts.  I am blessed.

2014 holds much hope.  I wrote on this just the other day – my word for the year: Spring.

I have little expectation of what might happen in our circumstances.  But I know the Father is already there, and His grace will be sufficient for whatever we will face, whether it be abundant and overflowing, or challenging.

The joy journaling is back at the fore, and once again I have my joy dares printed and ready to go.

Can I encourage you to read my simple and short post on Journaling Joy Gifts, in the hope that you will feel inspired to join the community of joy-seekers?

Be blessed.  And thankful!

Victoria

[You may also like to visit ‘A Holy Experience’ and read Ann’s Grace Plan for 2014].

My friends with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are also writing on ‘Looking Back at 2013’ this week.  Have a read of some of their posts and be encouraged [Live on 8th January].

looking-back-at-2013{Linked up at The Homeschool Post – January Blog and Tell}

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree {Our New Family Tradition}

Jesse Tree

I’ve been reading about this around the web for some time, but haven’t taken the time until recently to discover what Jesse Trees are all about.  So I’ve finally gotten around to it and LOVE this idea!

A Jesse Tree is a way of celebrating advent in the 4 weeks before Christmas, using the story of Jesus found woven through the Old Testament.  The Jesse tree is the family tree of Jesus, and is based on this wonderful scripture in Isaiah 11:1-3:

Isaiah 11

A Jesse Tree is a countdown to Christmas, celebrating Jesus through the re-telling of the story of his coming (advent means ‘coming’), with the story culminating at his birth.  You simply find a way to display and tell the story, using a tree, and devotionals with your family.

Now is that better than a bunch of chocolates behind cardboard flaps?  I think so!

How to Make a Jesse Tree

You’ll need a tree.  Be it a fresh potted tree, a leafless wintry branch in a vase with stones, a wooden stand, a thrift store tinsel throwaway, a cardboard cut-out fixed to your wall.  I’ve seen photos of quilted and sewn trees, of felt trees, of silhouette trees.  Find something that works for your family.

We tried to find a driftwood branch on the beach, but ended up settling with a flax stem with flowers from our back garden which we’ll hang our homemade ornaments on.  We have a pohutukawa tree in a pot next to it, which is a beautiful native tree that flowers just in time for Christmas.  They are not cheap to buy, which is why we’ve settled for a very small one!  But we’ll use this in the coming years for our Jesse Tree. I just loved the idea of having something ‘living’ and native to our country.

When to Start

Some people like to start on 1 December, others start with the 4th Sunday before Christmas.  Whenever you start, make the most of it by having a plan so you have something ready for every day until Christmas Eve.  If you find a great guide online, you can add in or take out pages so you have just the right number of readings for each day.

Devotionals and Decorations

Jesse Tree 6

Our homemade decorations

There are so many great devotionals about, for younger children, for older children and for adults.  Find what works for you (see the end of this post for some additional links).

For this year in our family, we’re going to use a combination of things, including reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible daily using this great plan.  We love how this storybook bible so beautifully portrays the anticipation of the coming of Jesus through each and every story.

There’s also a super one for children, “Jesse Tree Advent Celebration” by Ann Voskamp (‘A Holy Experience‘) that has beautiful colourful decorations to print onto card (we’ll hang these on our regular tree).  We’ve decided to do both for this year, as our younger children will enjoy the Jesus Storybook Bible readings, and my eldest daughter will love Ann’s beautiful words and the accompanying scriptures.

I’ve gathered some beautiful materials from nature including drift wood, shells, and native flax from our back garden, and have made the decorations with our children from self-hardening clay.  They are hung on hemp twine.  Each piece is wrapped individually, and the children will upwrap one a day and hang them on the tree when we read the accompanying daily devotion.  Perfection!

Jesse Tree (3)

Decorations printed from Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Advent Celebration.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the culmination of the re-telling.  I can’t wait to huddle around His Word together and recount the story…

“…they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

We have three miniature boxes from a local fair trade store, each with a precious gem inside to represent the gifts.  We can’t replicate the originals, but are using precious stones instead.  I’m also putting a couple of drops of essential oil in each to make it that little bit more memorable.

Our boxes will sit under the tree as a reminder that the heart of Christmas is Jesus Himself, the King who came and gave us the gift of Himself.

Jesse tree box

Resources, Ideas and Readings

{Note: This post has affiliate links in it.}

Introducing ‘WinterPromise’ – A Unique Homeschool Curriculum

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Reading ‘Children of Many Lands’ Together – a beautifully presented book on 30 countries (exclusive to WinterPromise)

I confess, I love researching homeschool curriculum as I’m constantly looking for the very best resources that suit our learning goals and our core values.  It’s not every day I come across one that really gets my attention, but here’s one that has.

WinterPromise has the best of everything.  It’s a literature-based curriculum with a Charlotte Mason twist and a touch of the Classical, and combines notebooking, worksheets and hands-on activities, journaling, mapping, and the best living books that will engage your child’s attention and stir a love of learning and of history.  I especially love the Christian perspective that encourages my child’s heart towards God and towards seeing opportunities in the world to love and serve.  That has been a real thrill for me, as I’ve seen my daughter’s awareness grow and her understanding widen to how others live.

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Looking at the stunning photographic displays of what families own in different countries around the world (in ‘Material World’)

We have been using resources from the ‘Children Around the World’ theme this year, and here are some of the highlights so far:

  • Eye-catching books that draw my children in, with beautifully written content. ‘Children of Many Lands’ is one particularly that’s a real treat for us.
  • Involving my younger ones in the reading times and cultural experiences.
  • Reinforcing our family’s core values in international justice and compassion issues.
  • Finding an age-appropriate outlet for prayerful discussion – some of the things we’ve read have given us some priceless opportunities that I’m grateful for.
  • The flexibility to do some things more in-depth when we want to

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My friend who lives just a walk away is doing the full-year theme ‘Children Around the World’ and purchased mostly e-books, which made for a much more cost effective way being that we are outside the US.  She is a full-time missionary and wanted to widen her children’s worldview in this area.

There are currently 18 themes that will suit any interest and learning goals, and range from pre-K through to Senior High – have a look here. We have already picked some favourites for future years!

You can add Science and Language Arts programs to your themed full-year theme package, and WinterPromise also stock some quality Math programs and activity kits.

Finally, I thought I’d show you some photos from our recent English tea party (from a free WinterPromise study on Great Britain).  The kids loved this one.  Because I have English parents and we eat similar food anyway (and I wanted our tea party to be a little more special than normal), I took the opportunity to make some things we ate as children, and did a little family history lesson while we ate.  Naturally we also learned a little table etiquette also.  The kids learned about their English roots and most importantly we had lots of fun!  The girls especially loved drinking from  cups and saucers.  They have asked me to make some of our family favourites from when I was young, which I’ll do at some stage soon – Toad-in-the-Hole, Roast Beef with Yorkshire puddings, apple pie and custard, and bread and butter pudding.

WP English tea party (3)

WP English tea party (4)

WP English tea party (2)

If you’d like to find out more, start here for further information, free samples, and heaps more.

WinterPromise are having a Facebook party this Monday 30th September.  I encourage you to come along and learn more about them and win some of the dozens of prizes.  I hear that there’s going to be a special announcement.  I’ll be there – join me!

WinterPromise FB Party{Linked up at Ducks in a Row}