Faith

What Does It Mean to Be a Believer?

Many years ago, not long after I became a Christian, I attended an evening church service by myself, and slid into a pew beside a woman who had spoken with me a couple of times previously. After a few moments of small talk, I said somewhat nervously, “I think I’m going to ask my mom to come to church with me soon.”

“That’s nice!” she replied, genuinely interested.

“Yes, I’m hoping she’ll like it. I’m just not sure,” I admitted.

“Oh, is she a believer?”

The question rolled off her tongue so naturally, and she asked it with such matter-of-factness, that I could tell she had a fairly straightforward understanding of what being a believer was all about. But it wasn’t a straightforward question to me, a new Christian, especially regarding my mom. (Religion was rarely spoken of in my family as I was growing up.)

So when she asked it, I froze.

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Other Topics

5 Things I Learned From a Year of Pandemic Reading

If you’re an avid reader, no doubt you’ve broken some personal reading records between March 2020 and March 2021. A year of a global pandemic will do that to a person. Maybe you also  binged on Disney+, learned to bake bread, did jigsaw puzzles, took countless walks, put in a home garden, cleaned and organized, or remodeled your house. But seriously, not if any of those things cut into your reading time, right?

It was a year of amazing reading opportunity. A golden permission slip, a guilt-free year of Nothing To Do and Nowhere To Go. So we stayed home. We rejoiced when libraries reopened, then closed again, then offered curbside service. And we read books that sustained us, comforted us, and kept us sane.

When we’re faced with an ever-shifting political and economic landscape, stay-at-home orders, and little to do outside our own small circle of home, it’s no surprise that readers turn to books for sustenance, comfort, and sanity. As we passed the one-year COVID anniversary this month, I thought back about my year with books and how it was different from others. I learned a few things this year:

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Homeschooling

Sharpening Social Skills Using Norman Rockwell Paintings, Part 2

In my previous post, I explained how and why you can use Norman Rockwell paintings as resources to teach social skills and inference to kids on the spectrum, as well as neurotypical (NT) kids. I also provided a walk-through of a lesson based on one of Rockwell’s early paintings.

In this post, I’ll go into more detail on the kinds of questions to ask your child, what to anticipate during the lesson, and what to do about a resistant child or one who seems to be in over his head.

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Homeschooling

Sharpening Social Skills Using Norman Rockwell Paintings, Part 1

How to use classic illustrations to teach social skills to kids on the spectrum.

For many years in our homeschool, we did “artist/composer study” every Friday, studying one person each month. For most of those years, we simply focused on the artist’s life and their most important works. But when I was teaching my youngest, I realized an amazing thing during our study of Norman Rockwell: his paintings are incredible teaching tools for developing social skills and inference for kids who struggle in this area. And as a bonus, they’re really fun to talk about.

Both this post and the next are for the benefit of those who are homeschooling a child on the spectrum, as well as those who teach or provide social skills therapy for kids with ASD, or want to use these techniques with neurotypical (NT) kids just for the fun of it.

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Faith

Testify

Everyone has a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. No matter what page you’re on, God is right there with you, even if you’re not aware of it. In the times of darkness and despair, at the height of great wonder and joy, in the wasteland of stifling boredom or crippling indecision, he’s never left you.

Everyone has a story. Here’s mine.

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Other Topics

Growing Up Poor and Bernie’s Mittens

Childhood memories remind me where I came from and who I really am.

Unexpectedly, the #1 viral image from the 2021 presidential inauguration hit me right in the gut. Oh, it was definitely funny to see all the Bernie memes: the old man in a mud-colored parka, disposable drugstore mask, and bulky hand-knit mittens in front of landmarks and embedded in pop culture. But before the memes, I had an unexpected encounter with that image that stretches back to my childhood.

On January 20, I watched the inauguration from beginning to end, as I do every four years, with whatever children happen to be at home with me as a part of their homeschool day. This time I was accompanied by my 14-year-old son who was extremely interested in the proceedings and required a play-by-play from me as to what was going on. Not a problem—I enjoyed that.

But what was going on inside my head was a very different, and somewhat odd, train of thought. The first thing I noticed, and could hardly tear my eyes from, were the gloves.

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Faith

Letting Go of Bible Reading Expectations

What’s the best daily Bible reading plan? The one that works for you.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve attempted multiple times to read my Bible every day. Many women I knew were in the same boat: having a goal of daily Bible reading, trying repeatedly to make that happen, falling short, and feeling guilt. We were often eager to try new ideas, always looking for the “one thing” that would help us maintain the Bible reading habit past a few days or so. But in all those years of adding this or that, trying this or that plan, I ultimately found success only one way.

Not by adding, but by taking away.

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Faith · Parenting

Light of the World, or 120 Watts of Jesus

When each of my children was around 5 years old, we did a “Names of Jesus” unit together during our Advent homeschool time. Each day we would focus on a different name that Jesus is called in the Bible, such as shepherd, king, Alpha and Omega, or light of the world. Each lesson had an activity, craft, or lesson associated with it, most of which I’ve forgotten now … except for the object lesson I used for “Light of the World.”

To begin this lesson, we would look at Bible verses together such as John 9:5, where Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” It was very clear to even a young child that Jesus understood his role in the world as a light to shine in the darkness. I then proposed that we go into the darkest room in the house, a small bathroom with no windows. Always eager to get up and move, and intrigued by continuing the lesson in the bathroom (of all places!), each child would eagerly comply.

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Faith

The Thorn in Your Flesh, and What To Do About It

The life of the apostle Paul—unmarried man living 2,000 years ago, Jewish convert to Christianity, known-world traveler who survived beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment—can seem distant and foreign to our 21st-century existence. But there is one aspect of Paul’s life that resonates down through the centuries to every believer: his famous “thorn in the flesh.” A thorn in the flesh is a near-constant irritant causing discomfort or pain in life, something you may be able to ignore briefly but is frequently on your mind, and is presumably not there by your own doing.

This thorn is such an unrelenting and problematic part of Paul’s life that he pleads repeatedly with God for relief, as he relates in his second letter to the Corinthians: “… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-8)

Name That Thorn

Almost without fail, the first thing a modern reader wants to know upon reading these verses is, what is Paul’s thorn? We begin to speculate, digging up clues from his other writings and revealing our particular fascination with another person’s secret problem. What could it be? Of course, we aren’t the first to have grappled with this question. Many theories have been proposed, among them: depression, malaria, epilepsy, vision problems, and Jewish persecution. We can speculate and debate all we’d like, but the fact is, we’ll never know. And there’s a reason for that.

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