Beloved, All Things Work Together For Good…

Friday Reflections

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Can sickness, death, homelessness, financial hardship, lost friendships, and traumatic experiences lead to anything good?

As I’m entering into my 5th day of juice fasting Romans 8:28 has come alive for me in a way I had not considered before.

Back in October after some troubling health news, I began to incorporate daily fresh vegetable juices into my diet at a whopping 80 to 100 ounces a day and 5 days ago I decided to consume only vegetable juice for as long as my body can tolerate it. I’m fasting mainly for health reasons but I am also using the time to pray more and hear from the Lord.

During my fast, I’ve had moments of wanting to give up, especially in the first three days. Having to cook meals for everyone including sweet treats has been hard. Working and dealing with the kid’s schooling has also been hard as I am low on energy. All in all, it has been quite the struggle but I know that what I’m enduring right now will only have a good impact on my overall health in the near future.

The idea of suffering in a small way during my fast made me realize that in God’s kingdom our spiritual lives are a bit like my fasting journey.

At times we face what seems like an unbeatable odd, a mountain too high to climb, a problem too big to fix and yet the Lord God Almighty whispers, “All things, yes all things work together for good.”

It is for his Glory that we are often thrown into the furnace so that in our obedience his name may be glorified. God desires that all of his children would learn to trust him even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it is hard and even when we see no end in sight. Because he is the master planner. He sees beyond the pain and frustration and when we seek his kingdom first, all things work together for good.

Although we cannot see through the stormy clouds we are enduring, although the sound of thunder seems threatening and never-ending, the Lord our God is seated above the clouds and he knows when the sun will shine again and when quiet streams will flow near barren valleys.

So let us take courage, for God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Mariana

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Who Are We Devoted To? A Look Into How We Are Doing Things At Home

Friday Reflections

Who are we devoted to? Are we devoted to things and systems that oppose God?
Whose standards do we live by in our home?
Do we have high secular standards for our kids or high heavenly standards?
Do we pray about everything and seek Gods best plan for each and every area of our life?

Recently I was talking to someone about homeschooling. They said that I should meet a mother they know but they added that this mother had very high standards for her kids.
I asked the person what they meant by “high standards”.
“Do you mean that they invest thousands of dollars in expensive curriculum or do they work their kids for hours and hours a day to master pre-established academic goals? Do they have high spiritual standards?”
This conversation got me thinking.

So what exactly does having “high standards” mean?
What does it mean to the disciple of Christ specifically?

The first verse that comes to mind is in 1John chapter 2 verses 15-17:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

➡️Do not love the world…
➡️not in him
➡️the pride of life…
➡️is not from the father…
➡️the will of God…
➡️abides forever…

These snippets above jump out at me especially “the pride of life”.

The pride of life. Ah yes.
All the things we want and desire to have for personal gain and fulfillment.
Status, recognition, education, success, beautiful homes, enchanting gardens, fancy clothing, picture-perfect children, money etc. The things we pride ourselves upon.

But God’s standards are way higher, they are not of this world, they are not created in a university or in a laboratory.

His standards are simple and can be found countless times in his word. From the sermon on the mount to the apostolic exhortations throughout the new testament.

➡️We are called to NOT be conformed to the patterns of this world.

➡️We are called to NOT love what the world says we must love.

➡️We are called to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

➡️We are called to train up our children with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

➡️We are called to pray about everything and at all times.

➡️We are called to apply Gods standards to everything we do, not the world’s standards.

Within the chaotic movement and blinding noise of everyday life, we can lose perspective and begin to slip into worldly conformity.

Conforming to the world’s standards relinquishes the guiding of Gods Holy Spirit and puts us in danger of hearing “depart from me…I never knew you.”

➡️Remember that the son of man, Jesus Christ had nowhere to lay his head at night.

➡️Remember that many of his followers were uneducated men who did not even wash their hands before eating, who could not read or write. Most of them did not have a formal education but God used them in a profound way.

➡️Remember that Jesus turned away the wealthy man and praised the widow who in her poverty gave all that she had.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, please consider who’s standards you are following and why.
Please open up your bible to find out what God really expects of you.

And please don’t frown upon others who don’t meet worldly standards but are close to the heart of God.

In closing, I want to share a short story from a few years ago when I had the opportunity to work alongside a native South African missionary friend who ministers to orphans in East Africa.
I invited her out to eat lunch with several employees. She sat at the table and laughed while she ate. She chewed with her mouth open and savored everything even to the point of licking her fingers.
A few of the staff members commented afterward of her lack of manners and table etiquette.
I sat back and listened and I remember thinking to myself: “She is so precious in Gods eyes who cares how she eats.”
This woman missionary has endured several beatings, one that left her hospitalized for weeks yet she returned to her beloved orphanage and continues to work there until this day.
I believe she will be one of the great ones in Gods kingdom.

I can only hope and pray for Gods Spirit to lead and guide us every day so that we can bring him glory in the way we train up our children and in the way we honor and obey his holy word.

Set us apart Lord so that we may be acceptable in your eyes.
Mariana

No Stress Homeschooling – Thoughts On What I Have Learned & Free Resources

11107369_1411576342504043_7942726883185188231_nThis past year was insanely crazy. I mean with all the health issues going on, my fulltime job and 3 kids to educate, it was a busy year to say the least.
So this time around, I’m working on a no fuss homeschooling schedule. No fancy curriculums and no stressful books.
In spending about 10 hours researching, I’m amazed at everything available outside of expensive curriculums that can help kids learn. Last night after I finished researching and reading tons of articles online, I grabbed some mini dinosaurs I bought at a thrift store and in just 15 minutes I taught our preschooler some basic math skills. I had him write his answer on paper and that was it. That’s math class for him and it works great with his learning style and sensory needs.

He starts Kindergarten this year and we’ll be using a relaxed homeschooling approach with him since I noticed that he really dislikes doing worksheets for more than 5 minutes a day. So with him we’ll read books on each subject for 15 minutes a day and use thrift shop finds as visual aids in learning math, logic and science.
His entire homeschooling day will only take about an hour and a half and it’s something I can do on my lunch hour and in the evening after work, so that’s awesome.

When we started homeschooling last year we were sold into the idea that our kids had to follow an expensive, complicated and stressful curriculum. But it was not necessary and now I know that allowing them to grow in the areas they enjoy most makes more sense then forcing them to sit at a desk doing seatwork for 6 hours a day.  Although seatwork is important it should not be the only form of learning and it definitely should not be forced on small children as we were doing erroneously.

Biblically as I look at how Jesus taught his disciples and those around him I am convinced that traditional public school education is completely wrong and leaves many kids thinking they are dumb without maximizing their potential. When I look at Jesus I see a man who taught outdoors, who without having much had everything he needed even though he had no secure place to lay his head each night. When I think of who I want my kids to be like, I envision Jesus and his humility. His love for others, his simplicity and his amazing teaching style. I don’t want my kids to be like Steve Jobs or their favorite sports figure, I want them to be like Christ. To grow up and use their talents and strengths to impact the world for Gods glory.
Sadly, education today is seen and managed in a cookie cutter method. But unfortunately this method does not allow a child to grow, to question and to logically work through life’s ups and downs.

So for us, homeschooling this year will take on a whole new approach. It will be parent and student lead, relaxed yet enriched, full yet not stifling.
I am so blessed that the light bulb finally went off in my head and my “ah ha” arrived before we continued to damage our children’s educational process.

If you are on a home-schooling journey and you are wondering how it can be done, I invite you to check out these links below for some great articles on homeschooling methods, free curriculum, free worksheets and more.
May you be encouraged and inspired to make the best decision for your family.
God bless you!

(Pictured: our smallest child, happy to receive a beanie baby my aunt rewarded him with for sounding out new words.)
Below are some awesome links, I highly recommend you visit if you are wanting to homeschool or homeschooling already:

Teaching our children to write, read and spell

Links to educational sites, free homeschooling resources, fun interactive learning activities, information about homeschooling, and lots of other “homeschooling freebies!”

The best advice of seasoned homeschoolers and other educators

Considering Methods & Styles of Homeschooling

Free Complete Online Homeschool Curriculum List

Homeschooling High school

Preparing to Homeschool: Homeschooling Styles

Online Homeschooling via SchoolhouseTeachers.com

50 States Coloring Pages

KidZone Geography United States Printables

500 Free Printable Lunchbox Notes to use at the kitchen table or for a picnic in the park

Free Homeschool Geography Resources

Is Our Identity In Christ?

identity
Where does our identity reside?  

Is it in a building, a person, a credit card, a location, a wardrobe or philosophical teaching?

I see a Christ that yearns for his servants to realize that true identity is only found and held in Him.  In his wounds that bled on Calvary.  In his blood that was shed for our filth.

It is at the foot of His cross that we find our identity.  It is there that we see the savior, hanging lifeless for all of mankind.  It is there, at the foot of his cross that we lose all that we are and gain all that He wants us to become.

Let us not lose focus on who the author and finisher of our faith is.  He is the Christ child, who grew up among Jews, gentiles, prostitutes, and heretics.  The Christ child who spoke with authority in the temple while others marveled at his wisdom and criticized him.

The child who grew up and spoke to crowds congregated in Jewish temples. The savior who rescued a harlot from being stoned.

The redemption of mankind who came into the world as a child and left as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

His identity was in His father and in doing the will of his father.  He was no less of a savior when he established his ministry among unbelieving Jews and Pharisees.  He was and always will be God incarnate.

Let us find our identity in him and in him alone.

Amen – Mariana