April 03, 2015

A Covered Wagon

We finished Little House in the Big Woods a week ago and, with cool enough weather to start a fire in the fireplace (a cool 66* outside), the girls and I enjoyed roasted hot dogs for dinner. We then ceremoniously (or not so much) destroyed our toilet paper log cabin by throwing it piece by piece in the fire as well. Due to the high humidity the walls were starting to collapse and it wasn't going to last much longer.

So the plan was to start a new week with a new book, Little House on the Prairie. But as life happens I ended up getting sick. The virus and head cold I ended up with wiped me out and school was cancelled for the week. Thankfully the timing of my sickness was perfect. My husband doesn't have classes for two weeks due to a module, Good Friday and other circumstances so he was "free" this week. He and my mother-in-law graciously served me as I laid around for four days with little ability to do much else. They took care of the girls, prepared meals and washed dishes. All that to say, we didn't start our book as planned.

Class time with Daddy
One thing that did happen though, due to my husband's free hours, was a building project. I asked him if he could, along with the help of the girls, build a doll-sized covered wagon. My original plan was to do a simple one out of cardboard but by asking him to help we ended up with a much nicer, more usable and more permanent little wagon. The girls were able to help with sanding the wood, gluing a side on and then nailing it together. They also helped screwing on the wheels. After the wagon box was complete Nathan added three wires and I sewed a simple, quick cover out of some scrap cloth I had. The girls have loved carting it around behind them this week and it was a good start to our prairie theme.

March 24, 2015

Pioneer Homeschool Continued

Today we are making cheese! After reading "Summertime" in Little House in the Big Woods we just had to make cheese. We're doing the simplest version I know: buy some yogurt, drop it in a cloth and let it drip dry. We definitely won't get hard cheese that way but it will give the girls a taste of the process and not be as intense as Ma's process.

The girls are really enjoying the book. They loved hearing about Ma slapping the bear and Pa attacking a tree (that he thought was a bear). They enjoy Pa's songs and Laura's mishaps (like losing her pocket). They were so happy when Laura was given Charlotte and loved hearing about the dance at Grandpa's. After reading about the dancing we jumped online to watch videos of jigging and square dancing so the girls had a better understanding of the type of dancing they would have been doing.

Craft time: Bears in the Woods, simple construction paper circle bears
One thing that has enhanced our reading of this book has been the addition of the "My First Little House" series. Each day that I read from Little House in the Big Woods we also read the correlating "My First" book if there is one. Although they are repetitive and leave out many details, the girls enjoy seeing the pictures in the "My First" books. Today we read "Summertime in the Big Woods."

There are times while I'm reading that I have asked the girls to draw something from what they hear as I read. Here are a few examples of their drawings:

We also made an addition to our log cabin: an Ingalls family made of yarn.

March 04, 2015

Pioneer Homeschool

So we completed A Pioneer Sampler. Overall it was a great resource. I really enjoyed the descriptions of how life was lived during that time. We were able to use it for quite a few projects (both as inspiration and/or with instructions) including: simple beef and veggie soup with biscuits, butter making, punched tin designs, hand spinning cotton balls, making simple cups out of a piece of paper and homemade jumping jacks (although the instructions lacked a little on that one).

Today we read our first chapter of Little House in the Big Woods and I can already see the benefit of having read the "Sampler" first. For our "grand entrance" into the Little House books we made a log cabin out of toilet paper and paper towel rolls. The girls did a great job with gluing and assembling the structure (the assembly was done with a lot of assistance). They also created the grass out of crepe paper. They didn't want to leave it empty so I made a quick bed and stool out of some more toilet paper rolls, a little cardstock and some more crepe paper. We also needed to add curtains (although they were a little bummed they can't open and close them). The roof, a large piece of card-stock, is removable and the youngest was adamant it has a chimney so we added that (also removable) to the top. It was a fun start to the series.

The "family" has moved in.

March 01, 2015

Wisdom from Elisabeth Elliot

If you have paid attention to the past couple of years of my life, you'll know that I have struggled with being a missionary wife. God has faithfully been working in my heart through my own Bible study and also through other resources: books, blogs and sermons. A couple of months ago I came across this speech by Elisabeth Elliot, shared at Urbana many years ago. This speech, which I have now listened to multiple times, has been one of the most encouraging resources I have found to encourage me as a Christian and a missionary. The little tidbit about her quiet time at the very end is also one of the best encouragements I've had for my personal quiet time in a long time.

February 27, 2015

Our School Year - Continued

This is part two to our 2014-2015 school year plans. You can read the first part here

So after a lot of prayer and thoughts, I started making plans for a more concrete study wrapped around the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. At first I thought only our semester in the US would include this unit study but the more I thought about it the more logical it became to stop our current studies after one semester and pick up the unit study after the Christmas break.

We made butter using the "shake it" method!
As I said in my last post, I was feeling frustrated with our current curriculum and was open to a change. So starting the unit study mid-year was a good way to break up that frustration. I was also considering how I was going to have the time later in the school year to pack our house up and prepare for our time in the US (plus our ongoing ministry responsibilities). In the end the three things that made the decision final were flexibility, thinking about our return after our home assignment, and our youngest starting kindergarten next year.

We already know that when we return from our US home assignment we're going to "hit the ground running." It will most likely be the beginning of March and we'll want to step right back in to our schooling. By stopping at the end of last semester I will be able to pick up a "ready made" curriculum when we get back for the Spring semester without splitting another year's curriculum in half (since we'll only be gone one semester). It also allows me to integrate my two youngest daughters into the same curriculum for history and science. Which makes me a very happy teacher (and mamma!) when you consider read alouds!

Punching designs into "tin"
So we are now a month into our Little House unit study which we will do for two semesters. We started with a book we have in our personal library called "A Pioneer Sampler" (found here). Written as a story but with an in-depth look into living as a pioneer, it has been a great way for us to start. Each chapter has the storyline first and then a couple of pages of explanation on processes like making cheese, making yarn, dying cloth, building a house, etc, with a "do it yourself" section. I am hoping that by reading and doing some of the projects in this book first the girls will have a better understanding of what I'm reading once we start the Little House series (next week!). The plan is to read the first three books this semester: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and Farmer Boy.

My only disappointment with "A Pioneer Sampler" has been the family interaction between older and younger siblings. Squabbles are real but it's kind of disappointing to not see them have an encouraging relationship that deals with the issues (aka apologies, forgiveness and a helping hand). 

Along with the "Sampler" we have been reading poetry (currently from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Garden of Verses," found here) and an unrelated book on the side (currently "Milly Molly Mandy," found here). We are also continuing with a short prayer time, songs, Bible, Spanish verbs, Math-U-See and Spell to Write and Read. For science we are going to be doing more of a Charlotte Mason nature study approach so we are currently reading Linnea's Almanac (found here) and will be starting journals once done with that book.

The practical skills include daily chores (like making their beds), helping in the kitchen, and hand sewing, plus some fun events like making butter, making "tin" designs, and building a log cabin out of toilet paper rolls.

One exciting aspect of doing this unit study this year is that we will be spending the second half of the year in the US where we will have access to a museum with an early pioneer living museum (a working house from the 1800's), an abandoned but maintained homestead (30 minute drive from where we'll be located), snow (which two of our girls have no memory of), a county fair (where their cousins will be entering crafts and showing pigs for 4-H), and Yellowstone National Park (where they can see some of the animals mentioned in the books).

Overall I am very pleased with how the last month has gone, how everything "fell" into place, and how much more flexible our schooling will be for our travels and busy schedule. The girls are definitely more excited about how interactive school has become. Hopefully I'll be able to share more about our projects as we go along.

February 26, 2015

Our School Year

So I have yet to post on our 2014-2015 school year, mostly due to feeling overwhelmed with life. But after some spiritual growth, a couple great big breaths and some time, life seems to be setting a more even pace.

Our school year started out much like last year and the year before. You can read about those here and here. With the same curriculum it was a pretty smooth start. I found balancing a second grader, a kindergartener, and a preschooler a bit more difficult than the first grader and two preschoolers but we were doing our best to work out the kinks. As we were moving along I started to get frustrated. I found myself rushing to get through the "prescribed" plan for the day and was losing the joy I had found in homeschooling so I started to pray.

It was about that time that my husband and I also needed to think about when we are headed to the US for a home assignment. I knew I would need to do some switch-ups with our schooling plans since all of our school materials are here in Bolivia. There's definitely no way I'm carting all that weight back to the US just to turn around after our time there and return with it (plus materials for 2-3 years more!). So I continued to pray.

It was decided that we will head to the US sooner than later (this year, not the next). That meant I needed to plan on being in the US for the first semester of third grade, first grade and kindergarten. In the back of my mind an idea was forming. I often find that with our "normal" school, ministry and housework I don't find time for some of the things I would like to do with the girls. I started thinking about how so many of the practical skills I desire to teach our girls are included in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And so I began to pray about how I could plan a semester of school around those books.

To be continued tomorrow.

February 08, 2015


Checking out the termites together
One of the things missionary kids miss out on most is time with extended family, especially grandparents. We are truly blessed to have parents (both sides of the family!) who desire to actively build a relationship with their grandkids via phone calls, Skype, packages, letters and time spent with them.

Celebrating Grandma'a's birthday with her!
Puzzles with Grampa!
Right now we are blessed with a three month visit from my husband's parents. They have come as volunteers so that they can spend more time with our family and it is such a blessing for us (and our ministry!). I love seeing our girls building a relationship with their grandparents and it means so much more when they don't get that opportunity very often. And although my mom can't be here right now, we can't wait to see her during our next visit to the US!

The girls with Grandma the last time we were in the US.

February 04, 2015

Encouragement from a Distant Land

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. ~Proverbs 25:25

"Glistening" among the coffee plants. ;)

One of the things I miss the most about living in the US is keeping up on the daily lives of family and friends. I love hearing about the tidbits happening and it's so much easier to catch up when you're face to face on a Sunday morning or over a hot drink mid-week. Social media helps us keep in touch a lot better than a letter every couple of months might but it's still not the same as sitting down with a good friend. 

A couple of weeks ago we were blessed with "good news from a distant land" in the form of a friend. Beth is one of my good friends from college and probably the one I stay most connected with. She also happens to be one of nine people on our Support (or Barnabas) Team at our sending church. Since arriving in Bolivia, Beth and I have talked about her future visit and it finally happened! Our Support Team decided to help send Beth as a representative and an encouragement to us. We heard what they were doing and I did a mental happy dance! I was SO excited. 

So Beth has come and gone but her visit was such a blessing. We went and did but we also sat and caught up. It was so fun to show her around and try to give her a taste of what our life is like here. It's fun to know she understands us a bit better now when we tell stories or share what we're doing in our week. 

So if you're looking for a way to encourage your missionaries, consider sending a package in the form of a friend or family member. The best encouragement we can receive is definitely a hug in person in Bolivia! 

You can read what my husband wrote about our coffee plantation visit here.

November 30, 2014

Heart Surgery

Part of a Bolivian landscape on our wall ~ Artist: Tintaya

When I was eight years old I made a choice to follow Jesus. Through the twenty-one years since that choice was made God has faithfully been making changes in my heart. There have been times of great growth and times of maintenance. There have been times of struggle, doubt and frustration. There have been times of great joy, elation, and laughter. 

But nothing has compared to the past four years. 

There are many wonderful stories out there of great men and women who were made for the mission field. Excited and ready, they headed to another country. Not to say they didn’t have struggles. They did but ultimately their stories tell us that they knew where they were headed and gladly submitted to that calling on their life. And, they accomplished great things for God.

My missionary story doesn’t read that way. And I know I’m not alone. Before moving here I was excited and scared, nervous and submissive. I didn’t come kicking and screaming. I came willingly. 

But I didn’t know, not really, what we were entering into. 

Of course we had gone through training, Bible and cross-cultural. In the eyes of many, including ourselves, we were prepared. We boarded a plane with our three daughters and flew to a new country. 

I was not prepared.  

I was not prepared for the intense heart surgery I was going to start experiencing as God slowly started stripping my desires and so-called rights. And I began to fight. I began to kick and I began to scream, begging God for a change. 

I know much of the rollercoaster can be attributed to culture shock and the emotional changes that have to take place as someone gets acclimated to a foreign country but the spiritual battle taking place in my heart was also very real.

My lowest point came a year ago, that moment when a coworker advised us to not move into a village and that we might consider returning to the US. It was horrible and wonderful. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders and then it was replaced by questions, lots and lots of questions. 

In the past weeks I have finally admitted that much of my struggle has come because I don’t desire to fully deny myself. 

Today I stayed home from church. Nathan took the girls and gave me a morning at home. I jumped online and looked for a sermon, specifically looking for one on self denial in light of God’s will and found Eric Ludy’s “The Costly Gospel.”

Sharing from Acts 27, Eric Ludy, shares the story of Paul's shipwreck on his way to Rome and he relates this story to the lives of believers. As the storms of life start to batter against us we first throw away the nonessentials. Then it’s required that we let go of the replaceable things in our lives. The next thing to go is the lifeboat, the thing we are holding on to, that thing which has our confidence. Lastly, we lose everything and are filled with Christ. 

I need to let go of my lifeboat. I have slowly been letting go of the nonessentials and the replaceables but my lifeboat, a life in the good ole’ US of A, needs to be cut. I need to let that go. The not-so-secret hope that we will be able to return to the US. I need to let go of my language and my culture. Not that I can’t continue to use them, but they cannot be the focus of my life. They are at the heart of my frustration and they are impeding my growth and opportunities for ministry. 

When God has a commission on your life that lifeboat is an impediment because it is diminishing your confidence in God. ~Eric Ludy

I need to grow in the understanding that God can use me in my weaknesses, including my weakness in the Spanish language. He can use me when I feel out of place because He brought me here. 
Please pray for me as I cut the ties to my lifeboat, that I may be able to keep my eyes on Christ in the midst of the storms.

May 07, 2014

Knowing God is at Work

I love when I know God is working in my heart. When I can feel it in my core. When I have joy despite struggles.

In many ways I'm still processing, struggling, grasping and searching for the desire to be here in Bolivia. I know it's a choice that must be made but while making the choice to continue on here I'm still seeking desire.

I recently asked my husband, "Why me? Why do I have to be the one to give everything up? My country, my culture, my language, my family, my friends and my lifestyle? Why?" That question is at the heart of my soul right now and God is faithfully giving me glimpses into His truth.

In my Bible study this week I read through the book of Philippians and was caught on chapter 3, verses 8 through 11. Here it is in the New International Version:
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
To give you some context, Paul is talking about his "rights" as a Hebrew, born of the tribe of Benjamin and a Pharisee. In the eyes of the Jews he was the epitome of one with "rights." But Paul, with a great understanding of his salvation through faith, was giving up his "rights" according to men and taking confidence in his position through Christ.

Most of all, Paul's words "for whose sake I have lost all things," really struck me. Paul gave up his position. He gave up everything in the eyes of the Jews. To them Paul threw away his life. He was foolish. But Paul knew the truth. He knew that he was gaining so much more. He was gaining salvation and life in Christ. He was gaining Christ and choosing to "be found in him." Paul was growing closer to Christ, knowing him more and desiring to know even more: "to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."

Ultimately, Jesus Christ gave up more than any of us can imagine. The choice to come to this sinful place was a choice to give up everything and the ultimate sacrifice came the day he was nailed to a cross. He literally gave it all.

Here I am. In the world's eyes I am foolish. I have chosen to move away from home to share something that many in the world see as nothing more than a good story (or a bad one!). In my struggles I find that my desires are rooted in the things of this world: a life of comfort and ease (in my own language and culture) and surrounded by family and friends (many who already know Christ personally or who have great access to truth). But there is so much more within my grasp.

Who am I to question why I should give up, in reality, so little? I am so blessed and God continues to reassure me with His word that what we are doing here is worth so much. And so I am doing my best to listen, to grow and to rest in this promise:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  --Matthew 19:29 
Some day I will have eternity to spend with my family and friends. Some day I will live at home, the place my heart truly yearns for. Some day culture and language will not affect my daily choices.

Some day. . .what a glorious day that will be!