Thursday, 23 March 2017

3 Good Books from 2017 Reading (up to March)

I have been reading more this year, and though I have had to push myself a bit at times, in general I have been enjoying working through the books for my 2017 reading challenge. The books I have chosen are here and here. I've read all but a few now, so here are 3 of the books I've appreciated the most so far:

1) Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

Thoughtful and incisive, this is a book which helps us to shine the light of scripture on our hearts and our lives, to show up not only how we sin, but how we tolerate or excuse certain sins. Furthermore, there is helpful instruction on how to face up to these areas of sin, and how to tackle them with God's help - as we apply the gospel, depend on the Holy Spirit, pray, apply scripture, and seek help from other believers.

2) The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

I love to hear how others have come to put their faith in Jesus, whether (like mine) the stories have no obvious drama, or (like Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's) God's transformation work is plain for all to see. In every case, the gracious hand of God saving and keeping hold of sinners is an extraordinary work to see. In Secret Thoughts, the author describes her life as a lesbian professor of English, and how this was turned upside down when Christ called her to himself. What is remarkable about this book is that the narrative dwells not so much on the before and after of her conversion (though it does do this), but on the experience of conversion itself, and of what it means to begin to know Christ. The writing about conversion is raw, and extraordinary:

"How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck?" 

"When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future."

"...I felt the call of Christ upon my life. I was both subtle and blatant, like the peace inside the eye of the hurricane. I could in no way resist and I in no way understood what would become of my life."

The reflections about church and community are as challenging and moving as those about sexuality and identity. I cried more than once - and ended up hugely encouraged as I read a book that was, first and foremost, a book about God and his work.

3) The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung

This book is a series of reflections on the theological truths articulated by the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th century set of questions and answers designed to help believers to understand and remember key gospel truths.

As soon as I began to read this book, I found that the Heidelberg Catechism itself hugely encouraging. The language was startling and direct, and the truths of the gospel were brought home to me time and again. In particular, I found how the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer were unpacked very helpful.

The notes alongside the catechism questions were also well worth reading. They weren't particularly long, but were insightful nonetheless. I read a chapter or two a day after my morning Bible readings, and found them a really helpful way to think about and pray about some of the key truths of the gospel each day.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 47

This has been one of those weeks which doesn't quite go to plan. Nothing disastrous has happened, but extra visitors (some planned, some not, all welcome!), some extra church ministry stuff which both Michael and I have needed to be involved in, and a slightly injured knee from running have all come along at once.

My lists have not all be completed - but I am trying to accept that sometimes that's just fine!

Last Saturday I went to our local parkrun with a friend from church for the first time. I really enjoyed it, and ran faster than I hoped, which was satisfying. Unfortunately, I ended up with a painful knee after my next run, so I am resting it at the moment. It turns out that running 10K on a knee that hurts after the first 5 minutes is not a good idea.

The children have spent plenty of time outdoors this week. We have been very much enjoying the warmer weather for our walks. The guinea pigs have also been moved back into the outdoor hutch, which they seem to like, and this has meant that the children have already been spending lots of time in our garden so that they can see their pets.

Today we had our home education group. It is our final week in North America, and we were focusing on the USA. One family made a lovely presentation about New York, and also brought along New York themed food to eat. The cheesecake was especially popular with my children!

One of our crafts was making cookie dough maps of the states of the USA, some of which tuned out very well.

In spite of a fairly unpredictable week, we have still managed to have good days together - just not the days I planned!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 46

Last Sunday, we enjoyed our monthly church lunch. My 9 year old had asked if he could make cake for the occasion, and produced a very tasty chocolate layer cake. It was even gluten free!

Chocolate Layer Cake

Like many children, mine can be a bit wary of food that isn't quite what they are used to - especially when is is served away from home. This week, my two eldest both enjoyed the meal, though, and my younger two survived on rice, bread and salad (and pudding!).

This week has been unusual for us all as I have been away at a conference for the wives of those in church ministry. It was a refreshing and encouraging few days for me. I appreciate the time to rest, and particularly the opportunity to hear God's Word taught and applied.

Michael has been working hard at home while I have been away, teaching and feeding the children, as well as continuing with some church ministry around those responsibilities. Everything ran perfectly smoothly in my absence, though I was welcomed home with great enthusiasm which was really quite touching.

Today, once we had finished our work this morning, we met some friends at the Horniman Museum, which is a few minutes walk from our house. There is an exhibition called Robot Zoo at the moment, which has a number of large robot animals to look at, and plenty of hands on activities for the children. It was a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Robot Zoo

A Robot Chameleon 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Friday Reflections - 45

Today we finished our week with our home education group meeting. Our activities were focused on the U.S.A. this week, so we made American flags from lolly sticks and created collages of Native American teepees with seeds and nuts. They turned out surprisingly well.

U.S.A. Craft

We have done quite a bit of history this week from The Story of the World, including looking at the Mongol Empire. The children made Chinese lanterns while I read the narrative to them.

A Chinese Lantern

The highlight of the week was probably our trip to Pizza Express with our home education group, where the children each made a pizza. Afterwards we all went to the park together.

Happy Pizza Chefs


Since we spent the morning out and about, we used the afternoon for an art session rather than getting the books out. The children completed the last level 1 lesson from ArtAchieve. It is still popular, so we will continue to the next level.


My 9 Year Old's Sheep Picture

Next week, I'm away at a conference, so Michael will be in charge. I think there will be more science and less Latin!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Small Changes

My natural tendency is to plan our lives as efficiently as possible so that we can fit everything in. This can be helpful at times - but can also mean that I try to do too much. Although this may be good for me (though that isn't necessarily the case), I need to watch that I am not expecting too much from the children.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been trialling a couple of small ways to make ours days feel a bit less pressured, but without losing too much of what we do.

Firstly, I have reduced the amount of maths that my eldest has to do each day. His maths has suddenly become harder, and although he is managing well with some difficult work, it seems fair to lessen the amount he has to do. This has been well received! In addition, I have spread out his writing lessons so that he completes his work over 5 days rather than 4. Again, this small change has made a noticeable difference.

For everyone, I have moved from teaching history 3 days a week to 2 days a week. I am guilty of a little sleight of hand here, as we are covering the same amount of ground overall. However, the time saved getting everyone together and all the materials gathered means that the week feels less pressured. Not all the children were happy with this the first time, but they seem to have accepted it and to appreciate that they gain free time over the course of the week.

Working hard...
...but not all the time!

I'm not sure that I have the balance quite right yet, and there will no doubt be further changes that need to be made. I am prone to worrying that I am not doing enough with the children, but sometimes I need to realise that I am in danger of doing too much!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Friday Reflections - 44

Celebrations have featured more highly than usual this week, as I visited my Dad to mark his 60th birthday with him last weekend. Michael held the fort at home while I travelled North with my sister for the party.

In addition, it was our 14th wedding anniversary this week. Having discovered recently (!) that neither of us is all that bothered about presents, we keep our celebrations low key. However, Michael had gone to the effort of scanning our wedding photographs and compiling a photo book from them. Since the originals have a habit of falling out of the album in such a way that it makes it hard to look at them, this was a much appreciated gift!

Otherwise, it has been a relatively normal week of work now that we are back after our half term break. An unexpected highlight for the children was watching a house be demolished! We went for a nature walk, but this was clearly the most memorable part.

Half a House

After the roof came down.

It was good to be outdoors, though, and the signs of spring are encouraging.


Although we don't mind getting out in all types of weather, warmer, longer days are eagerly anticipated.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Friday Reflections - 43

We have had a break for half term here, which has meant a quiet few days. Unusually, Michael has had a week with very few church activities, so he has been less busy too. I enjoy the more restful times, and I know that I need weeks like this last one if I am going to be able to keep going in the longer term. However, I also find that I can get a bit anxious that I'm somehow missing something - that there is some responsibility I am neglecting or some chore I have forgotten. It is also easy to feel a false guilt about being able to sit down with a book during the day, or not having to get up quite so early if I want to go for a run. I need to learn to rest well!

I have used the time to read, to finish off one crochet blanket and begin another, and to keep up my running.

A Finished Blanket

The children have filled their free time well over the week. We have had friends here to play, enjoyed some walks out together, and there has been quite a bit of baking.

My 9 year old made raspberry macaroons one day:

Raspberry Macaroons

My daughter made mini gem biscuits:

Grating Lemon Zest


Mini Gem Biscuits

I also took my two older boys to visit my grandparents this week. My 11 year old brought along his box of magic tricks and put on a show, while my 9 year old brought mini Victoria sponges that he'd made. The visit seemed to be enjoyed by all! I will take my younger two to visit next week, and the older boys were telling them how much fun they had, which was good to hear.

Today we had a home education group meeting. It was good to see friends and enjoy some activities together. We were focusing on Cuba, and made some wooden car pencil holders to reflect the interesting cars in Cuba.

Pencil Holder

We went for a muddy walk in the woods earlier in the week, and we are all enjoying the fact that it has been a little warmer.

In the Woods

Posing with some Fungus!

One or two of our bulbs have produced some flowers, and we are looking forward to Spring.

Signs of Spring