Thursday, June 14, 2012

Read the Bible in 90 days

Last summer I read the bible in 90 days and though it was challenging, it was really rewarding.  Would you like to do it with me this year?  I am starting on Monday, June 18.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

For the next ten days...

...please find me at

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Easy Bake Oven

Zoe received an Easy Bake Oven as an early birthday gift from her Grammie.  She's been wanting one now for five years so she was pretty excited.  She and Abby Grace have baked for us now for several nights in a row.   Good thing the cupcakes are the size of nickels.

Zoe and her new prized possession.  The gallery wall behind her is new.  I bought a bunch of cheap white frames and now display our kids' artwork on the dining room wall.  I am really enjoying it.  It was actually worth it to drill every single hole into our concrete wall. 

Here the girls are busy baking--and yes, laundry baskets can usually be found on the kitchen counter in my home. 

Abby Grace really does take after me.  See how teeny the treats are?  Also, the map on the table is a great tip I learned from another homeschooling mom.  Even if you don't homeschool, it's a great way to protect your wooden table while you have kids at home, get the world in front of your kids, and start global conversations at every meal.  The other day when someone showed Zoe their birthmark Zoe exclaimed, "It's in the shape of Sri Lanka!"  I still need to check the map for that shape. 

Camping on Izena Island

We had the pleasure of taking a small group of people from the Harbor to nearby Izena Island for camping over Memorial Day Weekend.  It was gorgeous!  God gave us beautiful weather and a sweet time.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Whirlwind Trip to Denver

Our family completed our whirlwind relay race to Denver last Wednesday night when I returned with Zoe, Abby Grace, and Hannah to Okinawa.  We went briefly to be with Mark's mom who continues to suffer greatly from ALS.  It's a heart wrenching and unpredictable disease and Mark felt compelled that we should squeeze in a visit (he booked the tickets right after hearing sweet Abby Grace say, "I really hope we get to see Grammie again.").  Because Rebekah is still not allowed in the US (until she becomes a US citizen in October, Lord willing) we relayed it with Mark going first, me high-fiving him in Denver, and him running back while I visited for one more week with the kids.  Though it was fast, we are all so glad we were there for the brief time that God allowed.

Janet, Mark's mom, indeed puts her hope in the Lord, which is so encouraging.  She did not let her lack of mobility inhibit her playtime with her granddaughters.  She has two electric wheelchairs and so she let Abby Grace sit on her lap and then let Zoe drive the other one and they had races in her cul-de-sac!  She's always been a hands-on, super-fun, playtime kind of Grammie.  Though she was tired, had very limited mobility, and suffered from great pain while we were there, she tried hard (and succeeded!) to leave her girls with wonderful memories.  I count it a huge privilege that she is my mother-in-law.

As I mentioned before leaving, a crises erupted in my own nuclear family the week prior to our trip home.  It was still at its height when I arrived and drove me to my knees to ask the Lord to spare the lives of those involved and to please pursue them with His relentless grace, that they might commit their lives to His care.  That situation continues to be a source of anxiety for me and has me prayer dependent indeed.

While the situations at home in Denver were hard, we were so thankful for air travel and the means to go there.  It's hard to encourage from afar and was a blessing to be there in the flesh.  

As we do our best to wrap our minds around Mark's mom's suffering and the crises in my family, we find our humanity incapable.  It's all just too much.  The what-ifs are too many.  And so I find myself scripture dependent.  I'm reveling in the scriptures that speak of hope in God.

"...those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Isaiah 49:23

"Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." Psalm 25:5

"Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."  Pslam 42:11

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him." Psalm 62:5

"Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers?  No, it is you, O Lord our God.  Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this." Jeremiah 14:22

I'll close with some pics from the US.  Tomorrow I'll add photos of our Memorial Day weekend--we just returned from a Harbor camping trip to a neighboring island.

Abby Grace and Zoe about to fly out with Daddy. 

Hannah received a tie-dye kit for her fifth birthday (yes, I think the gift-giver actually hates me).  We took an afternoon when we were home alone to make some shirts for everyone.  Very fun! 

Here's Hannah and me in our new creations.  What a flower child. 

This was on mother's day.  I took Rebekah and Hannah to a walk-up Thai restaurant.  It was pretty fun! 

The girls in Denver with their cousins--my brother's son Thor and his daughter Axel.  Such sweet kids! 

The girls with Grammie.  

The girls plus Axel with my mom. 

When we flew back this is how my kids looked in Tokyo.  We still had one more plane to catch and they were all out COLD when it was time to deplane. 

We were the last people off after I relentlessly harassed them to wakeup! Traveling with three kids across the Pacific isn't exactly easy--but like I said, we were so grateful for the chance to fly "home" and enter into life with our loved ones. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Poem By Zoe, age 8

Zoe wrote this poem to me before she left for the States.  I had to share.

To Mom:

What does mommy do at night?
She tucks me in and turns off the light.
If my mom isn't the best mom ever,
I'd like to hear about some mom that's better.
Could you tell me about this mom that's better?
No.  Not ever.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The book I loan out the most

I have loaned out this book about six times per year for the last nine years.  It's a thorough, biblical, God-honoring discussion of sex.  I think it answers questions and concerns that all married women have but don't necessarily know how to discuss with others.  I've used it as a Bible study, too, which was really productive.  I wouldn't recommend it to single women, but I think it would be beneficial to every married woman on Earth.  It's nice to have around to loan out too--the average read time is about three days--it's a page turner.

Intimate Issues: Twenty-One Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Does the birth control pill cause abortions?

Last weekend we here at the Harbor hosted a seminar in which the speakers (not me and Mark, but a couple including a husband who is a Chaplain and a wife who is a Physicians Assistant), presented a biblical framework for children, as well as medical evidence that the birth control pill does indeed cause abortion.  It was a controversial and compelling presentation.   I urge my Christian brothers and sisters to cease using the Pill and educate yourself by reading the following short book, available online:

"Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?" by Randy Alcorn

The audio from the seminar will be podcasted soon and I will post that here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

God is Enough

This afternoon and evening I have felt almost tempted to despair--as mentioned two days ago in my post entitled "Raw," we are walking through three hard things right now.  In addition to these three things, half of my family is now flying to America.  Zoe, Abby Grace, and Mark are in the air over the Pacific.  Them traveling, coupled with my heavy heart, can be a recipe for fretful, unbiblical thinking.  In this weary state I am more prone to take worry to the next level and actually visualize what would happen if their plane wrecked or if we had a massive earthquake here on the Ring of Fire where I live.  I'm asking the Lord to control my thoughts and keep me from going there.  In addition, I led Bible study tonight (on contentment--perfect!) and so being in fellowship and the Word allowed my heart to be engaged in battle on the side of victory.

Tonight, as many other nights, I have to ask myself, "So?  So what?  So what if the worst came to pass?  What if you did lose everyone?  What if all your babies and your husband did die?  What if?"  And my heart has a choice to make now and everyday that is a walk of faith.  By God's grace only and by the power of Christ in me, I am able to say, "God is enough."  I have to decide NOW that God is good and sovereign and that nothing, NOTHING, is outside His will.  If those things did happen, God is enough.

I'm praying Psalm 73:25-28 tonight--Lord God please align my heart with this Psalm and make it true of me to the very depths of my soul:

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

If you have 2 minutes and 50 seconds I urge you to watch this video of a portion of a sermon by John Piper proclaiming that God is enough.  We are tempted to worship the gifts (children, safety, family, security) more than the Giver (God Himself).  This poignant video combats that and I long for a heart that truly, always, and fully believes God is enough.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking Back

A dear friend and fellow adoptive parent is aware of our struggles as we wait on the Lord to bring healing in the way I mentioned in my last post.  This friend emailed Mark and me today with an excerpt from the second page of John Newton's autobiography, "Out of the Depths."  So good.

Looking Back
For us, however, there is a time coming when our spiritual warfare
will be finished, our perspective enlarged, and our understanding
increased.  Then we will look back upon the experiences through which
the Lord led us and be overwhelmed by adoration and love for Him!  We
will then see and acknowledge that mercy and goodness directed every
step.  We shall see that what we once mistakenly called afflictions
and misfortunes were in reality blessings without which we would not
have grown in faith.  Nothing happened to us without a reason.  No
problem came upon us sooner, pressed on us more heavily, or continued
longer than our situation required.  God, in divine grace and wisdom,
used our many afflictions, each as needed, that we might ultimately
possess an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, prepared by the Lord
for his people.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


It's been a rough five days.  It's been a week on which I will look back and say, "Yes, that was a very sad time, but God was and is good, in spite of the circumstances that seemed to be shattering around me."  Three things in particular are troubling us now.

As I have said before on this blog, physical, earthly adoption mirrors our spiritual adoption as children of God.  Just as God the Father pursued us to make us His own children when we were far from Him, adoptive parents move towards their helpless adoptive kids and make them their own.  And in both adoptions, a work of the Spirit must happen.  When we are born again as Christians, the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and converts us from children of darkness to children of light.  Well, I am learning anew that the Holy Spirit must also convert earthly adopted kids--only God can convert their spirits from the heart of an orphan to the heart of a son or daughter.  Only God Himself can bring healing and restoration and convince a once-orphaned child that he or she is now a dearly loved heir.  Waiting for that conversion is painful and brings with it a host of burdens.

In addition to the above hard lesson, I have become aware over the past few days of a crises taking place in my own nuclear family back in Colorado.  It has me saddened to the core.  Someone exceedingly precious to me is suffering greatly and no end seems in sight.  I am on my knees begging God to bring healing and I do indeed feel so worried.

Lastly, as you may know, my sweet mother-in-law continues to suffer from ALS (a terminal and painful disease).  Mark and I are having a sort of relay-trip to Denver over the next two weeks to see her.  He'll go first, then I'll go, and he'll come back.  Mark has felt his mom's suffering pressing on him and he wants so badly to alleviate some it.  The three little girls will make the trip with us (in shifts) but we are forced to leave Rebekah here, as the US refuses to grant her a second visa.  These travels, too, have me anxious.

It's no coincidence that in the Bible study I lead here at the Harbor we have just memorized the following verses, which I am taking to heart and trusting to be true and life-giving:

"6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of Godwhich transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
--Philippians 4:6-9

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A few of my favorite things--Spiritual Growth Books

I truly believe you are what you read.  Smut in, smut out.  Fluff in, fluff out.  Reading and watching crap isn't profitable.  That's why I avoid vampire romances.  Really, ladies, you're reading that?  C'mon.  But I digress.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul teaches us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and praise worthy and "the peace of God will be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).  

I have a few spiritual growth favorites and can't encourage you enough to read them.  I feel especially strongly about the first two, as they have played a strong role in shaping my faith.

1.  Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, by John Piper--a true classic and powerful exposition of the Christian faith.  The thesis of the book is a slightly tweaked version of the Westminster Catechism and is my life mission statement: The chief end of man (the reason we are alive) is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever (is to enjoy God fully, which gives the Him credit and honor that He deserves).  The book is dense and challenging but so worth it--rich truth in, rich truth out.

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

2.  Heaven, by Randy Alcorn--I began reading this book after Mark's mom was diagnosed with a terminal disease in 2009.  As she suffers in her sickness our family is increasingly heavenward in our thinking and dreaming.  Heaven is a lengthy study of what the Bible says about heaven, what we can expect, and what the Lord will bring to pass on earth and in heaven in eternity.  One of my favorite ideas from the book is that this life is the before life--heaven is the real life (not the after life).  We were made for heaven and it's coming for those who believe.  After 13 years of following the Lord, this book changed my life, in that I began to truly imagine, expect, and live for what is promised to come.


By the way, Alcorn also wrote Heaven for Kids, which both Zoe (8) and AbbyGrace (6) have read and enjoyed very much.

3.  Calm My Anxious Heart, by Linda Dillow

4.  Radical: Taking back your faith from the American Dream, by David Platt

Monday, April 30, 2012

A few of my favorite things--Daily Reads with the Kids

There are a few books that we read our kids almost every day.  They are edifying for all of us and I highly recommend them to any Christian family with one or more children, ages 5 and above.

1.  Big Truths for Young Hearts, by Bruce Ware--this is a systematic theology book written in concise, simple language so that children and adults alike can understand "big truths" about God.  I wholeheartedly agree with A.W. Tozer who said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."  In my opinion it's never too early to teach kids the truth about God.  They think about Him and ask questions about Him, themselves, reality, heaven and more--so why not lay a solid groundwork from the very beginning.  Additionally, you as a mom or dad will learn a ton too.  Other than the Bible itself it's my highest recommendation for parents of school age kids.
Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God

2.  The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, by Sally Lloyd-Jones--awesome kids' bible.  Let me be frank: there are a lot of stupid kids' bibles out there.  Don't get one of those.  Be educated and get your kid a bible that isn't going to water down the character of God.  Most kids' bibles make the sovereign king of the universe look silly.  This kids' bible is beautifully illustrated, well-written, theologically sound, and captures the picture of Christ throughout both the old and new testaments.  Mark often reads it to the kids before bed.
  The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

3.  Operation World: The Definitive Guide Prayer Guide to Every Nation, by Jason Mandryk--this book will broaden your worldview and increase your concern for people around the globe.  After a quick theology lesson from #1 above, the kids and I always read the nation listed for the day in this large book.  It has opened our eyes to countries and people groups we never knew about.  Each day provides a brief lesson in social studies and church history.  Together we pray for the countless people around the world who are poor either spiritually or physically.  It's truly eye opening.

Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Operation World Set)

If you don't want to get the book, Operation World has a great web-site including Prayer Videos for many countries.  These are 3-minute videos highlighting the nation's prayer needs, as well as a national praying for their country.

4. And don't forget the Bible.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A few of my favorite things--Adoption Books

I hope this blog is an encouragement to anyone pursuing or contemplating adoption.  Here are my favorite adoption books, which I heartily recommend.

1.  Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore--this book gives the theological framework for adoption: we adopt because God first adopted us.  It provides a robust paradigm for adoption from the Bible plus the author's personal experience.

Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches

2.  Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care, by Tony Merida and Rick Morton--this book calls the church back into the act of caring for orphans, either through adoption or myriad other creative means.  It's a great resource for anyone burdened for orphans but unsure of where to go or what to do.

Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care

3.  Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge--I just read this book a couple months ago and felt like I was reading about our very own family.  It is tough, but truthful.  The author herself is adopted.  I'd recommend it to anyone who has had their adopted child home for a couple of years (it may be too overwhelming if you just brought your baby home).  It was an encouragement to me.  Eldridge also has a website at

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

4.  After the Dream Comes True, by Michelle Gardner--this book gave a hopeful and realistic look at what adoptive families can expect and prepare for.

After the Dream Comes True

5.  Here's a resource I haven't yet taken advantage of, but plan to study along with my friend and fellow adoptive mom starting very soon (by the way, everyone needs one or two or ten adoption buddies--it's a blessing to walk the road with others):

This tool is a Christian's guide to the book, "The Connected Child"--it looks like a 12-section guide for the book, along with Bible study tools grounding your methods as an adoptive parent in the Word of God.  I'll let you know how it goes.

6.  The Bible

I have read about 5 billion 20 books on adoption and could have easily listed a few more.  A lot of them say relatively the same thing.  A lot of them pertain to people adopting babies, not 12-year-olds, so I skimmed them.  There is a lot out there.  My main encouragement to potentially adoptive parents is to walk closely with the Lord and depend on Him alone for strength, wisdom, and guidance.  The book of James says that God gives "wisdom generously to all without finding fault" (James 1:5).  We have found this to be true many times when we have been confused and uncertain about what to do.  

I also encourage you (and ME!) to pray that God, "out of his glorious riches may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being" (Ephesians 3:16).  The strength to parent is not within us.  It comes from God alone.  And this feels even more true when parenting a wounded child.

Lastly, dwelling on our Lord as an adoptive Father and meditating on the Cross and the lengths God the Father went to adopt us is hugely peace-giving.  I am a sinful, imperfect parent.  But He is not.  He beckons me when I am distant.  He pursues me.  He provides for me.  He loves me.  While I was His enemy, He sent His son to die for me, that I might be His child.  That is Truth.  Meditating on Truth gives new life to this adoptive mom every time.

Galatians 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[a] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Email Update

Since we are missionaries here in Okinawa we rely on the prayers and support of the people of God who feel called to invest in the Kingdom through our ministry.  We try to keep those who are interested updated via email and snail mail updates.  I am copying our latest email update below.  If you didn't get it, but would like to be on the email list, please let me know.  Also, we sent out a snail mail letter at Easter.  If you didn't get that, but would like to be added to our snail mail list, please let me know.

Thanks so much for praying for us and visiting my blog!!

Dear Teammates, 
We pray you are well and had a great Easter!  Did you get our Easter letter in the mail?  If not, please let me know so I can add you to our mailing list.  

Today we wanted to share a brief story with you that exemplifies what the  Lord often does in the lives of military men and women who move to Okinawa.  

Drew (in the Air Force) and his wife Cassandra moved to Okinawa five years ago.  At the time they did not know Christ.  Through our ministry on base (the chapel) and off base (the Harbor) God pursued them with HIs relentless grace.  Within months they both were sweetly rescued by God, whom they began to treasure.  Drew and Cassandra grew like weeds, they became leaders here, and began ministering to others.  As we discipled them, they discipled others.  Last month, Drew was diagnosed with Melanoma.  They are now in Hawaii so he can receive radiation and they will be moving to the US for a year of chemotherapy.  We are indeed sad to see them leave and we mourn this trial.  But, Drew and Cassandra are firmly in the Lord's hands and they are actually walking in joy through this valley as they see God use it to strengthen them, purify them, and reveal Himself to others.  They are living out John Piper's message, "Don't Waste Your Cancer" (found here:  

We praise God for redeeming them here, growing them here, and sending them out from here to declare His goodness, even in their trial.  We are humbled to be on the sidelines praying for them and praising Him who holds everything together.  

This is my women's leadership team.  Cassandra is top right.  I call her as my stunt double, because she has stood in for me so well whenever necessary.  We did ministry together daily and I will miss her! 

Last year Mark took several former Harbor leaders to a conference, along with Drew (second from left).  Drew has been ministry-focused for years and is using his cancer for God's glory.  He, too, was a great encouragement to Mark and will be missed by this community. 

Thank you, friends, for praying for us and supporting us as we share Christ with the military here.  Your involvement in this ministry has multiplied disciples.  We cannot thank you enough for your investment in eternity, through the Harbor! 

With gratitude and affection in Christ, 
Mark, Jen, Rebekah, Zoe, Abby Grace, and Hannah Oshman 

Stay in touch! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Calm My Anxious Heart

The Harbor women's bible study is starting a new book tonight:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment (TH1NK Reference Collection)

"Calm My Anxious Heart" by Linda Dillow changed my life about 12 years ago.  I strongly urge you to get a copy.  It's easy to read and full of grace and truth.  It'll change the way you think.  If you're on Okinawa, come over tonight at 6:30 to begin discussing chapter 1. 

A couple quotes to get you thinking: 

"In the words of the well-knonw theologian J. I. Packer, 'Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God's hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good.'" (page 17)

Speaker and author Elisabeth Elliott says, "Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good." (page 17)

Giant Desert Centipede

They're baaack.  These freaky bugs come into our home every spring and summer.  I hate them.  Our first year here we found several under Zoe's crib, which was enough to make this new mom stay awake all night.  We've never been bitten but hear it hurts and makes you sick.   Since that first year, I've been praying Psalm 91:5-6 (I'm sure that centipedes were on the Psalmist's mind when he wrote those words, right?!).

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interesting Info

As I said yesterday, my best homeschooling advice is to do it if God tells you to and to not do it if He doesn't.  The information below was sent to me by our friend and Department of Defense teacher Ron Coia.  He blogs with my husband at, as they review the books they read each week.  Considering he's a public school teacher and uses his great sense of humor to sort of poke fun at our homeschooling ways, I appreciated him sending the info along.  Go to this link if you need to see it larger.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My best homeschool advice

My best homeschooling advice, free of charge, is: seek the Lord every year.  You should pray every year for every child and provide that child with the education that you feel is appropriate given your resources, your child's needs, and your capacity.  Each child is different and each year you will be different, as well.  As God grows and sanctifies your family, you will have new needs, joys, and challenges.  Our Father leads us all in unique ways, listen to Him and what He has to say one year at a time!

I homeschooled Rebekah for two years and then we enrolled her in Okinawa Christian School International.  She has been attending there since January of this year.  While it has been challenging for her, it has also been a blessing and it is exactly what we believe the Lord led us to do.  It's meeting some of her needs in ways we never could.  It's blessing her and growing her in ways our homeschool could not.  But we may homeschool her again in the future--like I said, each child, each year, seek God.

I am wary of people who make blanket statements such as, "All Christian parents should homeschool" or "All Christian parents should put their kids in public school so they can be a light."  Since when did our Lord call us all to the same thing?  His is creative and we are a diverse body.  

I do indeed believe that we as parents have a high calling to shepherd our children well.  I would encourage all my mom friends not to automatically follow our society in raising kids.  Pause often and ask God what His will is.  Schooling is one of many opportunities for moms and dads to either do it yourself or to prayerfully delegate it to another party.  Either way, though, they are your kids and their education is your responsibility.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

So why do you homeschool anyway?

I grew up in a family of public school educators.  I highly valued my diverse public school education.  I planned on seeking out the same for my own kids.

We moved to Okinawa with Zoe when she was a newborn.  We put her in Japanese preschool and that was sort of a disaster (but that has nothing to do with why I homeschool, so let me get back on topic).   The summer that Zoe turned five and was heading into kindergarten I had a wake up call.  Mind you, at this time I also had a three year old and a newborn and was doing full-time ministry--so thoughtful moments were few.  In July of that summer I realized we didn't have plans for Zoe's kindergarten.

Because we were not active duty military we did not have the privilege of sending her to the Department of Defense School (well, we could have for a fee of $18,000 per year).  There was one private school option, Okinawa Christian School International.  In fact, the bus stopped right in front of our house and they had a discount for missionaries.  We learned that this option would cost us around $5,000 per year and also that kindergarten was all day--so Zoe would be gone from 7:30am to 3:30pm.  This option did not sit well with me because the price seemed steep for kindergarten and I really didn't want to send my five year old away for eight hours a day.  We didn't feel good about putting her in Japanese public school because we do not speak the language and didn't want to be unable to converse well with her teachers.

So there we were: no American public school, not a great private school option, and not willing to do the Japanese public school option.  I honestly sat down at my kitchen table, pulled out my laptop, and googled "homeschool."  That's how I got started.  Not very inspiring, is it?

I was overwhelmed by the options, as there are so many now.  Over 3% of American kids are now home schooled and the market is flooded with curriculum options and tools.  Not only did I need to wade through the available options I also had some personal bias and misconceptions to get over.   After talking to many wise and older moms and also meeting some incredible young adults who were the product of homeschooling, my quest became less overwhelming.

I settled on purchasing a curriculum that did a lot of the thinking for me.  We use Sonlight.  I like it because everything I need for the entire school year comes to me in a box (from books to science lab materials to handwriting paper, it's all there--which is a must if you live overseas).  I also love that Sonlight tells me exactly what to do in every subject every day for a 36-week school year.  It takes all of the guesswork out of the painful wondering of whether or not I am teaching my kids what they're supposed to be learning.  I know there are many, many other excellent curriculums out there.  But I am not inclined to window shop, so I'm sticking with what's worked for us so far.

In August 2008 our first Sonlight box arrived and we started our homeschool career.  I was really surprised when I LOVED it.  I had a blast teaching Zoe.  She and her sisters now also really enjoy it.  Don't get me wrong--most days are fairly messy, it's all far from perfect--but we're learning together and having a great time.

I have a few more things to share about our homeschool journey, but I'll close for now.  The main point I want to make today is that homeschooling has been a surprising joy for me.  I'm four years and four kids into it now and I really like it and so do they.  Homeschooling isn't reserved for ultra-conservative jumper wearers on society's fringe--anyone can do it and I think almost anyone would find they enjoy it.  We found ourselves in a situation where we didn't have much of a choice, but for those of you with a buffet of choices, I would encourage you to think outside the box and not robotically follow what the US Department of Education says you should do.  They're your kids!

Zoe and Abby Grace sitting at our school table drawing a bean sprout in their science notebooks. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hannah's Birthday

Today my youngest, Hannah, turned five!  Because we homeschool (which is going to be the theme of my post tomorrow, so come back, if you're interested in why we do) and several of our friends do too, we had the party during lunch today, Wednesday.  It was a Butterfly Birthday Party.  The kids played "catch the butterfly," which is a game Mark and I made up just like "pin the tail on the donkey," and then we gave everyone butterfly nets and they went to the yard to catch real ones.  It was a fun time!  I was blessed by how sweet and delighted Hannah was the whole time too.

As a side note: this morning when Hannah came out to find me reading on the couch she cuddled in my lap as I wished her a happy birthday.  It suddenly donned on me that she is FIVE.  A quick memory check reminded me that most of the parenting literature I have read says that children need the issue of authority resolved and solidified in their hearts by the time they are five.  In other words, life will go much better for them if, but the time they are five, they know they are not in charge, mom and dad are, and they are willing to obey mom and dad.  I've read it many times--it's what "they" say!  So, remembering that I said, "Hannah, who is your authority?"  She replied, "God."  Wow, I was genuinely surprised!  I know she said it because she's heard me say it so many times, not because she genuinely feels that way.  Then I said, "Right.  And who did God put in your life to help you learn to obey?"  She replied, "Mommy and Daddy."  Whew!  It appears that, by God's grace, authority has possibly been established in her life.  Not that she won't rebel--she has several times since this morning and I'm pretty sure she's going to be the most colorful of our bunch--but it was encouraging to at least hear her parrot what I've said to her many, many times!

Hannah took the camera from me and took several shots of her feet in these new high-heeled hand-me-downs, that she loves to wear nonstop. 

Super easy cake! They are just cut up 9-inch rounds. 

Catch the butterfly (pin the tail on the donkey).

Catching the real thing. 

Sweet birthday girl!  What a blessing she is.