Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home School

So, I guess I've been hesitant to post anything about homeschooling. I am one to avoid writing about things I feel are controversial and I find that when you bring up homeschooling in a conversation that people either love it or hate it. I've gotten everything from, "That's just wonderful!" to "Why would ever want to do something like that?"

Last summer Andy and I wrestled with whether or not we should home school James. It was a very tough decision for us and one that we did not take lightly. Ultimately we decided that for this year...at this time....homeschooling was right for us and right for James. Why? Well, there are a ton of reasons why, but the major one is that we felt he was not ready to be in a class full of little people. You see James is a social butterfly. Anyone who knows him knows that he makes friends at the drop of a hat....I'm not sure where he gets that from....but I digress....

Our decision came based not only on our own personal observations, but also the observations of his pre-school teacher. The problem was that James would become so wrapped up in what everyone else was doing that he had no idea what he was doing. It's not at all that he can't handle public school....it's that he needed a little more time to mature (to be able to focus). And our worry was more that he would get lost in a class full of little people, and be struggling. The suggestion from his pre-school teacher (and a lot of this stems from him being a younger 5) was either to home school him for Kindergarten, find a private school with a small class size (the fewer the kids....the less distraction), or simply wait another year and put him in Kindergarten next year after he's had time to mature.

Andy and I agreed that he needed time to mature, but we were not simply going to keep him home and not do anything with him. So, we decided on a home school curriculum, and have been working on it since the end of August.

Well, now we're in December.... I am constantly faced with "Did we make the right decision?" And even more so now that we're almost halfway in. And I believe that we did. I believe that James has thrived in a one on one learning environment. And I can see him maturing and being able to focus more and more before my very eyes.

I can definitely say that math is his strongest subject and I've had to increase his math work because he was flying through the full days lesson in 10 minutes and saying "that's it?" He enjoys learning his letters and the sounds they make. He's good at remembering the sounds, and he enjoys saying word like, "B-B-Butterfly" and then will exclaim, "Butterfly starts with B". The best part for me is that he enjoys being home schooled. When people ask, "oh where does he go to school?" He proudly announces "I go to home school. Mommy is my teacher." (And I love how he says "I go"....like he's actually going somewhere and not just staying home. :o))

Here are some pictures of our home school experience:

Writing/ practicing the letter "S"

James working on letter "M", Samantha working on the color gray

Using Cuisenaire Rods to make the Letter "I"

Staring to write sentences and working on sight words.
(I especially love his little picture of himself! And after I took this he said "oh yeah! The arms!" but then he erased it before I could take another picture)

Time passes too fast

I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is already behind us, that 2011 is quickly approaching (which means my sweet little ones will soon be 6 and 4), and that dear husband and I will be entering into 8 years of marriage.

I am so thankful to God for the many ways He has blessed our family in 2010.

Here's some pictures of the kiddos from Thanksgiving....

Climbing a tree

My little sweeties

I have to find a way to make time slow down....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ethiopia ~ Part 2 : The letter

This morning I read the following letter to my church. I have changed just a couple of things for the blog just so that others can understand certain things....and I removed the full names of individuals....you know to protect the innocent or something like that...The things I've added extra for the blog are in parenthesis.......

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I would say about Ethiopia. And I am blank. I’m not sure what to say or even how to say it. Do I tell you about the amazing amount of people we saw there? How they walked the streets at any time of the day or night? Do I tell you about how when we would start to speak people would crowd around to listen….how there would sometimes be groups as large as 40 or more surrounding just one or two of us? How I felt incredibly small in that group and inadequate, but somehow extremely comfortable, calm, unafraid and unashamed ….that I knew God was with me in that crowd. Do I tell you about the little girl with no shoes who stole my heart? Who’s face I still see everyday….

Let me back up just a bit….

The first Sunday we came to Ewing Road the Ethiopia trip was announced. I felt God tug at my heart that very moment, but my mind said that going would be impossible. At that time, Andy was only “subbing in” and we were just visitors at your church. When we got in the car that day I said “If we were members of that church, I would want to go on the Ethiopia trip.” If I hadn’t said it out loud, I wouldn’t have believed I actually thought it. And God answered that prayer….almost a month later we came and joined at Ewing Road. And my heart screamed that I was supposed to go even though I had no clue where the funding would come from….even though I knew my husband would not be able to join me…..even though my mind told me I was crazy…..I heard God louder than all of that! He said “don’t worry about the details….just GO”. And while I could not wrap my human mind around the details….I committed to go.

Then I was confronted with the fund raising part of the trip. Now I do not like asking people for money….I do not like the idea of fund raising. It’s a pride issue and I know it. (I don't mind others asking me for help but I hate to ask for help...see my blog post here for more about that) At the time I committed to go, Andy and I had enough money in savings to pay for the trip….but then things started happening to deplete that funding…..We needed new tires on the RAV4, our tenant in our house in Grayson was late with her payments, and we encountered furlough days ….the money I had counted on to pay for the trip dwindled. And I was put in a place where I had to ask for help or I couldn’t go. So, I sent out support letters, and I was blessed beyond belief. God supplied all the money I needed except for about $400. This even included the money I spent on shots.

When we got to Ethiopia, I felt prepared for what I would see there….for the most part it is like what you see on the discovery channel or the “help the children” commercials you see on TV. But this was real. I looked into their eyes….I saw, walked, and smelled the areas where they live….I worshiped with them. And oh how we worshiped! I saw a little boy who appeared to be around 7 or 8 worship with more passion than I have ever worshiped with in my life. It never failed that during every night worship service that the lights would go out….but the people did not even hesitate in their worship. In the complete darkness, they continued to worship He who is the light. Why? Because it’s how they live every day…..surrounded by “the darkness”….facing sickness, hunger, lack of work, homelessness, and persecution...the main area we served is 90% Muslim. They rely fully on God and the hope He brings. (I know there is a lot of recent controversy over Muslims... controversy aside, the people there are persecuted by them. One church even had a security guard that slept at the church b/c the Muslims had been coming at night to tear down the church).

And when we were out and we spoke of His hope, people listened. Every once in a while there would be a “heckler”….mostly a person who was talking loudly and while you didn’t know what they were saying, you could imagine what they were saying….even then others in the crowd, not even people with our team, would start quieting them down. They wanted to hear the message of God’s love.

I can tell you that before the trip when people would ask, “So what will you be doing in Ethiopia?” And I said “sports evangelism and teaching kids English” I would normally be met with a “that’s nice”…..it was almost a sort of half-hearted “glad you’re going to Ethiopia to 'have fun'”. Not that everyone was like that, and that may have even been the Devil trying to make me feel like what we were going to do was not going to make a difference….but still that is how I heard it.

God WOWED me with the way He used sports evangelism to speak to people and share the message of His gospel and love. God took a simple baseball game and made it so much more. People flocked to the baseball games by the hundreds. I cannot say enough about Taylor (the youngest member of our team at 20 yrs old. He prepared all the baseball materials and taught the game with the help of a translator) and how God used him to patiently explain the game of baseball…….somehow even though there were language barriers, even though there were people crowding around from all angles, even though they were learning a sport they had never seen, and playing a game with people they had never met…..the game of baseball was not only learned, but the people accepted it and enjoyed it. While some were playing, members of our team would be sharing with large groups of people all around the field. One day it even started raining and while everyone bolted for the bus or the locals bolted for shelter, Cheryl (Taylor's mom) braved the rain with a small group and continued to share the gospel. After seeing her passion, the rest of us slowly came back off the bus to share as well. The sun came out and people gathered around to watch Carrie share a large evangi-cube (Think a cube that shows the gospel in pictures....an excellent tool in a language barrier situation...ours was much larger than a normal cube). AND THROUGH A SIMPLE GAME THE GOSPEL WAS SHARED.

God WOWED me again with the way He used teaching children simple words and phrases….with the way He used a simple VBS….to share His love with children. Carrie and Sandy beautifully shared the daily lesson, Cheryl wonderfully demonstrated the crafts, I played the best game of Simon Says ever (which is hence forth known as “Michelle says”), and the guys joined in to help wherever we needed them to. We were able to send the children home every day with a little craft or candy, but most of all we sent them home with hope and the message of God’s love. THROUGH A SIMPLE VBS AND TEACHING A FEW ENGLISH WORDS THE GOSPEL WAS SHARED.

Why did these “little things” matter? Because through the small act of playing a game we were also saying “we care enough to spend time with you.” Through the simplicity of a VBS and teaching a little English we were saying, “We care enough to come half way around the world to teach you.” And then we also got to share why we care…..because the God we know and love cared enough about us to send His precious one and only son to die for us.

We have no idea really how many accepted Christ into their hearts during our trip, but we do know that through members of our team sharing with them hundreds of seeds were planted. We know that several local Christians were encouraged and strengthened through the messages Jack delivered in the church every night (and that several of them surrendered their lives to Christ). The most beautiful thing is that we really didn’t do anything at all…..God did it. He paved the way for our every action. He provided the money for our trip. He provided us safety throughout the trip. He gave us the words to say, and He provided us with the people who needed to hear it. GOD DID IT ALL. And while I had hoped God would use me to minister to His people…..they ministered to me. The words “Break my heart for what breaks yours” have never been so true…..and I have never felt God’s love for me so strong as I do now. And every day I don’t know what adventure He’s calling me to next, but I look forward to any opportunity He gives me to serve Him or to share His love.

Forever I will be grateful to Ewing Road for being mission minded enough to send a team all the way to Ethiopia. Truly this trip blessed me more than I can ever express.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ethiopia ~ Part 1

It's taken me a while to write about Ethiopia, and I know it. When I returned home, my heart was extremely full from the things that God allowed me to see, experience, and feel. It's taken me this long to try and process through my emotions and the things I learned.

By far, the mission trip was one of the best trips I've ever taken. Ethiopia is a beautiful country. Everywhere there are people and animals (cows, donkeys and sheep mostly). Addis Ababa (the city where we landed) is bustling with people, and cars moving so fast you often wonder how there aren't accidents every few minutes. The city not only has people walking everywhere, but also people laying on the side of the road in the grass. Some people live in tents made from tarps on the sidewalk, while some seem to have no home at all. From Addis we take a bus for 5 hours to Shashamene (pronounced Sha-sha-may-nay). As we depart Addis the countryside quickly turns from buildings and concrete to fields of crops and little huts. Looming in the distance are mountains that are almost too beautiful to take in.

Once we arrive in Shashamene, we find our hotel and get settled in. Our room is furnished with two full-size beds, a small wooden love seat, a mirror, and a stand with a small TV. The room has wood looking tile floors, cement white walls, and the best part is the "wood floor" ceilings. I say "wood floor" because the ceilings look more like what I would want on my floor at home. There's a little balcony off our room, and from it you can see the street. At all times of the day and night are people walking that street.

On Sunday, we get up and head to church. The church is a building made of wood boards and tarps. It has dirt floors and hand made wooden benches. The church has a keyboard, a large speaker, and microphones that they use for worship. While our surroundings are modest, the worship is passionate and full of life. There were many times during worship that I just closed my eyes..... I didn't know what they were saying, but I knew who they were singing too and that's all that mattered. After about an hour of prayer and an hour of worship, the pastor gets up and introduces Jack to the congregation. Jack is warmly welcomed. Jack can preach only a sentence at a time because he has to be translated after every phrase, but the pauses really allow for the message to sink in sentence by sentence.
the church

At the close of the service two people ask Jesus into their lives for the first time. They come down front and raise both hands in surrender while Jack prays with them through the translator.

We have only been in Ethiopia a day and a half. but already the trip is more than I could have imagined........

Monday will hold even more joy and surprises....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Samantha is 3

When did this baby....
Become this little girl??
It all happened in the blink of an eye.
Happy Birthday baby girl.....mommy and daddy love you more than you will ever know!

Monday, August 16, 2010

He made a way....

"He" being God, and the "way" He provided was the one to Ethiopia.

I officially leave for Ethiopia on Sept 17....making my mission trip to Ethiopia officially one month and 1 day away.

Since my last post, God provided all that I needed for the trip. We only had to provide about $500 of our own money for the trip. I plan on using birthday, Christmas, and any money made from SweetSamantha (my etsy shop) to replenish the $500 we're spending. God has truly provided for this trip, and I am ever so thankful for my friends and family that helped to pave the way. You have truly been a blessing and I don't think I can ever thank you enough!!!

I am excited beyond words about the adventure before me, and at the same time I am nervous too. Please continue with me in prayer. My number one fear is getting sick. Many of you (especially my fam) know how incredibly sensitive my body can be, and I am praying that I do not even feel nausea while I'm on the trip! I am planning on taking snacks with me such as peanut butter, crackers, granola bars, trail mix, etc. I am also planning on taking some over the counter meds. So, hopefully that will help in the event that something disagrees with me. Thank you in advance for praying for me, our team, and the people we come in contact with (even those we meet in the airport along the way!!).

I cannot wait to return and share with you exactly how God worked. He's already provided and we know He has great things in store....we just can't wait to see what those things are!!

Next up I'm getting my shots next week, and then just counting the days till the trip!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The hardest post I've ever had to write

I have a confession....

I have times when I am prideful.

I struggle with pride, and not in a good way. Not in the "I'm proud of my kids" way (although I feel that), but in a "I'm too proud to ask for help" way. Typing that stings....almost literally.

It's not that I hate help. And it's not that I have anything against people helping me.

It's just that.....it's hard for me to say.... I need help.

And especially anything that has to do with asking for monetary help.

Why? I don't know. I just like being able to say "no, it's ok. We can do it ourselves." And in most cases we can. Andy and I are fine financially. We have been working the Dave Ramsey plan, and our finances look better now than they ever have in our marriage. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that.

But now I am swallowing my pride and asking for your help.

In March of this past year, Andy and I became members at Ewing Road Baptist Church. The first day we were there, an announcement was made about a mission trip the church is taking to Ethiopia. Immediately I felt a tug on my heart, and I knew I was meant to go. I prayed about it, talked to Andy about it, and discussed it with a couple of close friends. I already knew the answer was "go", but my friends and prayers further reiterated "go."

I sent out some support letters, and also noted on my Etsy site that all sales would be going towards the mission trip. So far from donations, Etsy sales, and a little budget tweaking I have raised $965.00. That is a huge accomplishment in such a short time, and I am sooooo thankful for those who have given in support. However, I need more help. The total for the trip is $2300.00 and also I have shots that total $230 (or $330...depending on if I take the malaria medication). To be able to go on the trip I need $1335.00 (does not include my shots) by August 15.

Now there are TWO ways you can help. If you are feeling led to give, then you can make a tax deductible donation to Ewing Road Baptist Church (You can click on the church name and go to contact for the address). It's important that in order for your gift to be tax deductible that you not write my name on the check...instead simply enclose a sticky note or a piece of paper with my name on it and "Ethiopia mission trip", and it will get to where it needs to go. It's also fine if you want to send it to me, and I will turn it in. That is completely up to you.

Well, that's one way you can help, but what is way number two??


I totally and completely understand if you're saying "Michelle, I love you, but I can't give right now!" And I'm ok with that!! I love you too! But something that doesn't cost money that I need even more is prayer. Prayer that I and the other individuals on our team would receive the required funding. Prayer that God would make His will clear. Prayer that we would have a safe trip. Prayer that God's love....His gospel....would be shared, heard, and received. Prayer that people's lives would be changed....ours included. Prayer that God would be glorified by our work.

So whether or not you can give does not matter.....what I need most from you is prayer.

I thank you all so much for your donations and especially for your prayers. I would not be where I am today without the love of Jesus and the support of my friends and family.

One last thing! If you've ever been on a mission trip and there's a specific passage of scripture that you leaned on during that time, please pass it along! Thanks!!!

My Tomato plant is a diva

Well, technically only one of my plants is a diva. I have two plants and one is always acting up and the other is perfect! Two plants in the same pots, same soil, same location, but one has experienced blossom end rot and scorched leaves and who knows what next! I have come to terms that while the plant is still fighting to live right now that in the end it may not make it. After talking to my Pop (the tomato plant master), I realized that planting tomatoes does take some trial and error. He said, "Oh yeah, I had that happen years ago."

So, I'm not going to let myself be discouraged....even my Pop has experienced difficulty with his plants and had to learn what to do differently. I'm glad my plants have come this far, and I still have one that's in good condition. After all, I can't expect to be a growing expert right off the bat! Next year I'll know even better what to do! And if next year's plants go awry? Well, there has to be at least one diva in the group, right? :o)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Night Owl

Samantha has become a night owl.

I really. honestly don't know how it happened.

She goes to bed normally at around 8:30 - 9:00 with absolutely no problems.

Lays her sweet little head down, goes to sleep, and stays asleep all night. (Aren't they so sweet when they sleep?)

NOT anymore! Suddenly my little sweet sleeper has started a new routine..... Oh, she still goes to bed at her normal time, BUT now she wakes up at around 2 AM (give or take an hour). Not only does she wake up at 2 AM.....she wakes up and declares, "I don't want to sleep! I not tired!"

And then she throws a fit!!! Finally, after the average 2-3 hours of convincing her she is tired, she falls back to sleep. (And YES I said 2-3 HOURS).

What happened to my sweet little sleeper? Where did she go and when will she come back??

Currently it's 12:50 AM. And my little sweetie is sitting at my feet working on a sticker book. I KNOW she should be in bed, but trust me....allowing her to do a sticker book is better than listening to her scream. Yes, I could let her scream (and she will probably be doing just that in another minute) but screaming wakes everyone in the house.....even the dog....who stares at me like "when will this end??" Trust me, Giz.....I'm ready for it to quit too!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New things

You have to go check out my blog at Simply Sweet Samantha!
I'm trying a new sort of post and I need your input! Thanks so much!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

4th of July

For the 4th of July we went to downtown Powder Springs. We enjoyed local pizza, people watching, walking downtown, eating elephant ears (or funnel cakes), watching fireworks, and just simply being a family.

Here's Samantha coloring with free crayons.

The kids "sharing" the funnel cake.

Me and my boy
Hanging out
Trying a boiled peanut
Watching fireworks
It was a fun time! I'm glad we decided to head out and enjoy....even if it was a late night, it was worth it!

Summer Fun

What have we been up to so far this summer? Well....
We visited Fernbank...one of our local museums. We got a family membership for the year through a deal on Groupon.com. The deal we got on groupon was awesome, and with one family visit we got the value of the membership! Woo-hoo!
The kids looking at fossils in the flooring
The Gecko exhibit was awesome!
We've taken trips to library.
Some of the thing we enjoy are story time....
Craft Time

Felt boards
Exploring Sea Shells
and Computer time. The library has all sorts of fun things to do!
We've gone to the park. These pictures are from when we went with church for a family picnic time.

This boy has the look of a professional frisbee player...
We've been able to visit with friends, and we had our first experience with a slip-n-slide!

Lastly, we've celebrated birthday's with sweet friends!
I love these kiddos.