Get Your Teenager Talking book review

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I selected the book Get Your Teenager Talking because as a mom, an English teacher, and  ministry worker, I interact with teenagers regularly. I believe I will use the book as a resource for both my personal and professional use. The book begins with a short preface entitled “5 Tips to Get Your Teenager Talking”. In this brief article, Jonathan McKee reminds us that Jesus noticed people and asked questions to lead seekers to salvation. The main idea presented in the introduction and the foundation of the book is “Notice what teenagers are excited about, ask them about it, and then you won’t have to do much talking at all..our teenagers really want to be heard.” The author reminds the reader that in order to receive thoughtful answers one must pose insightful questions, not ones that will have a one-word response. The remainder of the book is a list of 180 “Conversation Springboards” covering a range of topics including sex,  food, education, work, and faith. In addition to an initial question, McKee includes follow-up questions, insight, comments, and Bible verses in some cases.  I believe these “conversation springboards” presented in McKee’s book can help to facilitate discussions with students and teens and are great to use as icebreakers, as a journal prompt, and at the dinner table. The only suggestion I have for the book is to organize the prompts by topic. The “conversation springboards” are only listed with a number, and in the Index the topics are listed, but the prompt number is given, not the page number. I feel if the “Conversation Springboards” were listed topically and the page numbers given in the index, the book would be easier to navigate. Also, some selections have Scripture verses included, but the references are not listed in the index. It would be great if all the “Conversation Springboards” had a  biblical link. However, the random order of topics may be just the thing to jump start discussion in some settings, and the author encourages parents, teachers, and others to keep the conversations flowing naturally. I recommend this book and Jonathon McKee’s website TheSource4Parents.com. I received a free advance copy of this book from Bethany House.

Looking back at January

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I can’t believe it is Groundhog Day and we are looking at six more weeks of winter! January was a busy month. It contained SNOW, SICKNESS, SEMESTER CHANGE, and STREAMLINING GOALS.

SNOW–In January we had quite a bit of snow, and a tiny bit still remains on the ground. Since I am a teacher, I had three snow days. we expect more snow this week. I still enjoy relaxing at home on snowy days, drinking hot chocolate and reading a book. However, I hate the cost of heating oil!

SICKNESS–last week, the stomach bug hit each one of us. We all missed school and work and lost a few pounds. Now we have to catch up on work and restore our energy for the week and month ahead.The house and bedding got a thorough scrubbing, but that was the only benefit.  Stay healthy!

SEMESTER CHANGE–This year I have a student teacher, so she had to jump right in as I missed school due to illness. It is a busy time of year as I wrapped up the previous term and now have new students to get to know. I have three very different classes, 2 freshman courses and 1 junior course. My children also had to change classes, and it went well for them so far. My husband is in school, and he has an important certification test this week. The semester change means we are halfway through the year!

STREAMLINING GOALS–During my Christmas vacation, I had lots of time to dream  about the many plans I hope to execute this year. However, the busy day-to-day got in the way a little bit, as it usually does. I listened to another teleseminar by Donna Partow this weekend, and I decided to  focus primarily on managing my home and finances, which will free me to be more creative and pursue my writing goals. Most of my time is taken up by work right now, but I feel that is important as I anticipate receiving my professional license this summer. Are you meeting your New Year’s Resolutions?

 

Let it Snow!

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Recently we have had two snowstorms which interrupted our schedule. My Christmas vacation was extended 2 days due to a storm, then last week we had another storm with blizzard-like conditions. It is very cold, so the snowfall has stayed on the ground. The cold snap continues for a week or so. I finally figured out how to load my pictures from my iphone to the computer, so I’m able to add them to the post. I intended to write a post the day of the storm, but my lack of technical knowledge set me back.

our home Jan 2014

living roomShoveling out

 

Ok, so I didn’t upload the pictures perfectly, but here are views of our snowed-in home and the shovel and broom we used to remove the snow so we could walk the dog. The third photo is of the snowmen indoors. I’ve collected snowmen for a while and most of them are gifts. I like displaying snowmen so that the display can stay out for a while instead of taking it down right after the Christmas season. I always try to put up the tree Thanksgiving weekend and take it down during school vacation. Otherwise, it would stay up year round! The paintings above the snowmen are ones I created. I hope to have more time for creativity this year as part of my goals. Unfortunately, I did not take advantage of the time during the snow days to focus on art; I did get housework and correcting done. We may have some more snow headed our way, but only a few inches. Stay warm and cozy! Our family has a busy week ahead as there are finals at school and Jeremy has four basketball games this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strength in Weakness

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As I reviewed the week, particularly the fact that I had not written any blog posts, I began rehearsing a list of my weakness. I’m messy and disorganized, I’m very impatient, I need to step up my computer skills, our family doesn’t plan ahead, I still struggle with budgeting, and procrastination is my middle name!

During my quiet time, I searched the Scriptures for some relief for the shame and guilt that plagues me. An initial search led me to familiar passages like 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Another favorite verse is, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one who is tempted in every way, just as we are –yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

These verses are great in theory, but how do I live them out in the day-to-day grind? I am juggling many different responsibilities and goals, and if I’m not fitting in blogging, the real question for me was, Should I keep writing?

In this season, my days are full. I am teaching full time and just added the responsibility of mentoring a student teacher. My own children are in high school, so after managing behavior all day I come home to more homework and discipline; in addition, I am taking a course once a week and I am part of a committee that is implementing the new Educator Evaluation system. My husband is in school full-time and working part-time, so the burden of housekeeping falls to me. My son plays varsity basketball, and this week he had three games, which meant most evenings I didn’t get home until 9 pm. In this busy schedule, I want to find the secret of relying on Christ’s strength in spite of my weaknesses, and I continued to wrestle with this problem.

This morning during my devotions, God was so faithful to meet me to assure me of his presence in my hectic days. While reading a portion of Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways, the section on “Offer Your Weakness” spoke hope into my situation. She writes, “We must make art, even in our weakness. If we don’t, we are denying ourselves ourselves.” An example written by her father resonated with me. He wrote, “I’m disorganized and messy…Just because I don’t like something about myself doesn’t mean it’s sin.”

When I come home from a busy day at work, the dishes in the sink taunt me. My cranky daughter wants some of my precious time, and I snap back impatiently. The laundry needs to be done so my husband and son have their uniforms for tomorrow, and Satan shames me.

But the Father of Lies does not have the final say. Despite my procrastination and my messy desk and a tiny bank account, and without a writer platform, last year I had 5 articles published, I attended She Speaks, I went to Europe, I received my master’s degree, and I parented teenagers and taught school and lived by faith in Christ.

When you are confronted with weakness, undesirable character traits, messy relationships, and too many responsibilities with too little time, remind yourself, it’s not sin. It’s the ideal situation for God to show up with abundant grace. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13

On My Bookshelf

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We recently had a winter storm; the cold weather is a great opportunity for me to get cozy and read during the dark afternoons and evenings. Here is a sample of the new books I am enjoying.

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman

                Last year I discovered Emily and her work; the fact that she was speaking at She Speaks was a big motivator for me to attend the seminar last summer. As with Grace for the Good Girl, this book is one I keep reading and meditating on daily.  The question that is posed today is, “What does it mean to live life like an artist in the midst of this everyday hustle?” I am struggling to find time for my blog posts and creativity goals because of the busy schedule of our life right now. I am glad that the answers this book supplies are not trite; instead Freeman challenges us to wrestle with the deeper questions and “sink in” to God as he defines us and our art. I would love to create an artist’s circle and use this book as a starting point. I am still waiting on God’s timing for that.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

                This is a great work of fiction recommended to me by my friend Becky who never steers me wrong. The setting is World War I and the story follows the life of a woman who had been a servant at an English manor. As she is dying, a movie is being made about the lives of the wealthy people who owned the home and a young man who committed suicide on the property. The story flows seamlessly from the present to the past, and the story’s twists and turns kept me up past my bedtime many nights as I tried to predict the outcome. Go out and read this book!

Prayer Warrior Mom by Marla Alupoaicei

                My mother often gifts me with a book to aid my spiritual growth, and as a mom of two teenagers, I was grateful for this helpful volume. Each chapter is full of insight and Scripture as well as guiding prayers for any mom. Again, I want to start a group to pray through this powerful book.

The Zion Covenant: Vienna Prelude and Prague Counterpoint by Bodie Thoene

                This is a historical fiction series.  The novels are extremely well-written and researched. The story is compelling and the time period fascinating. The setting is just prior to World War II, and the main character is a Jewish musician who begins helping Jewish children to escape the Nazi Reich that is taking over Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

New Year’s Resolutions

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As you can infer from my previous post, I enjoy this time of year as I take stock of the previous year and anticipate the one to come. I have almost always made new year’s resolutions, and this year is no exception.  I recently listened to a teleseminar by Donna Partow and used some of that goal-setting time to finalize some areas that I would like to develop this year.

1. Writing—I am returning to blogging and I am planning to complete 1000 posts.  From what I’ve read, that is about the number of posts it takes to have a strong online presence and build a platform.  In addition, I want to start writing a devotional book. This will take about 2 years as I plan to cull my quiet time journals for the various selections.  I also hope to write an e-book on prayer. Now I’ve made it public, so that gives me more encouragement to stick with it.

2. Career –When I return to work as an English teacher in January, I have some new leadership responsibilities as our school system begins to implement the educator evaluation system established by the federal government. In addition, I will have a student teacher under my supervision. As I anticipate receiving my professional license this year, I am looking ahead, and wondering if I should pursue an administrative license. This is something I am praying about, as my full-time work really becomes a ministry.

3. HOME –I am still working on home management and I continue to follow the Flylady system. We have been in our home almost fifteen years, so at this point in addition to decluttering, some remodeling needs to take place. With our busy schedule, things pile up quickly if I don’t maintain order.

4. Finances—With my husband in school, our budget is strained, and this year I want to pay off some debts as we will be needing a newer vehicle.  It seems this area is a constant battle for me. However, God has been so faithful to provide for all our needs and many of our wants as well. The discipline of keeping a budget makes me disciplined in other areas as well, and I have seen my children become content.

5. Creativity— I have stacks of art magazines and supplies stacked up without finished products to show for it. So, as my “reward” for meeting my writing goals, I am going to give myself permission to work on my art.  If I don’t develop my creativity by completing a few specific projects, I will give or throw away my magazines and art supplies on July 31, 2014, freeing up time, space, and mental energy to pursue something else.

I didn’t include my spiritual disciplines or exercise on my list because these two items are part of my every day routine. When I wake up, I walk the dog, make some coffee, and have my devotions before I start the day. In the afternoon I take a walk or go to the Y.

The verse I chose for the year is “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of POWER, of LOVE, and of SELF-DISCIPLINE.” 2 Timothy 1:7

 

The Year in Review

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I have to confess I love December as it rushes towards New Year’s Eve. The radio plays a countdown of the top songs of the year, the news programs cover the year’s memorable events, and it is a chance for me to reflect on the outgoing year as I make plans for the one to come.

2013 was a challenging year filled with both positive and negative events.  February was a particularly difficult month.  My son was poked in the eye at a basketball game. He ended up with a blood clot in his eye and had to end the basketball season prematurely as he was put on complete bed rest, getting up only for visits to the doctor where the pressure in his eye was monitored regularly.  He has permanent damage to his eye, but we are so grateful for the many skilled doctors that gave him timely care. One week after Jeremy’s injury, a blizzard hit our region, and thousands of people lost power.  When our power was restored within 24 hours, my sister and her family came to stay with us.  They lost power for almost a week, and our children missed several days of school. Next, my grandmother broke her hip and had an extended hospital stay.  She lives in Arkansas so we missed her and made regular phone calls to check her health. Fortunately, she made a rapid recovery and I heard she was dancing at a family wedding in October!

In April I had the opportunity to chaperone a school trip to Dublin, Wales, London, and Paris. I took hundreds of pictures and enjoyed seeing international landmarks, including Shakespeare’s birth place, St. Patrick’s church, and The Eiffel Tower. We were in Wales when the Boston Marathon occurred; as I live just south of Boston the news hit home for many of us on our trip. I was on the steps of St. Paul’s cathedral in London just hours after Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. I was so grateful my husband was willing to spend his vacation time taking care of the home front while I was away. I hope to go on another trip soon!

The summer was welcome after a long cold winter, and it was a productive season for the family. Our daughter completed eighth grade and had many memorable activities, including field day, a promotion dance, and graduation ceremonies. In July and August she participated in a residential summer program held at a local college. She made new friends and took part in two performances.  Meanwhile, my son took his driving lessons, and I completed my Master’s Degree in teaching at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. In July I had the chance to attend She Speaks, a Proverbs 31 conference for female writers and speakers. I made some new friends, and heard two of my favorite authors Holley Gerth and Emily Freeman speak. In 2013 I had about 6 articles published.

Returning to school in the fall is always a defining moment in the family, and this year my husband returned to school full time to study computer technology. This has been a passion of his for some time, so he is thrilled to have a new career. This comes with some challenges as we don’t have his income and we have additional bills to pay for his tuition.  God has been faithful to provide for our needs and has blessed us with many opportunities.  Our daughter Summer started high school and played volleyball, and both children are great students and beginning to define their future. 

As always, I am so grateful to God for answered prayer this year. My guiding verse was Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” He led me every step of this year’s exciting journey; I look forward to what next year will bring!Image