Friday, January 26, 2007

Meditating on Joy

I've been meditating on Joy this past week.

I guess it seems fitting, doesn't it? This blog IS called Joyful Momma Musings, and my website is called Joyful Momma Publishing.

At Reformers, my challenges this week have to do with the fruit of joy. (Reformers, as I said in other posts, is an addictions ministry in our church that I take part in each Friday). The definition of Joy that they give is this: "Joy is a cheerful, calm delight in all the circumstances of life" contrasted with Frustration. I started to realize just how much joy is related to meekness too, in a fresh new way. I have always known that Joy comes from God and that it is not about circumstances, but rather about God in me!

At first I was a little confused as to why the workbook contrasted joy with frustration. What?!? but then I realized that when we are joyful in the Lord (not just "happy") we are less inclined to be frustrated by the circumstnaces of life....we just roll with it.

Come on now, you too, right? I mean, when you are waiting in line at the store and someone decides to barter as if she were in the Morrocan marketplace while standing in the 20 items or less express lane with 23 items in her cart, if you are full of the Spirit you can usually cheerfully and calmly delight in it and even find some amusement in how frustrated the other customers are getting. AH but when we are in the flesh and the same thing happens we tap our feet, turn red and then blue from holding our breath, think unhappy thoughts about the dear lady, and practically breathe fire out of our noses.

that's Joy vs. Frustration....plain and simple. Think about it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Slothful Saturdays

It's a lazy Saturday here at our house ;)

For my husband's birthday, I am making Shish Kebobs for him as a special meal. He commented recently that he had a hankering for them. However, in the mean while, we have been sitting around doing some laundry, reading, talking, listening to music, and doing some light clean up, and basically staying in doors.

My daughter woke up this morning and decided it was too cold to go to the snow activity that they were having for the youth group, and so she much rather stayed home bundled in her sweats, drinking hot tea than going sledding. So much for looking forward to going sledding. Ha.

I think the only problem with really enjoying the snow is that it is too cold outside to really have a lot of fun. Of course if it gets warmer, then there is no snow so it's a bit of a catch 22 isn't it?

I am happy to see that my washing machine is not broken (praise God). I was wondering as I had one load of laundry overflow recently, but it must have been a fluke as it hasn't done that again. Of course, when digging around looking for the warranty of our less-than-one-year-old washer, I couldn't find it. I could find the warranty for every appliance I have ever owned EXCEPT the one that was malfunctioning. I have learned to keep all of those in the same place, but somehow the one I need at that moment always finds its way somewhere else. Why is that?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Learning Languages in the 21st Century

After that last post, a friend emailed me and said, "Ok, where on earth do you find good foreign language resources? Can you blog about that next?" So here I go...I'm going to blog about that for a bit before I go grocery shopping. Woo hoo.

No matter what language you are learning, you need a multifaceted approach. If you have a child who is confident in their own mother tongue (speaking, reading, writing, able to look up words in a dictionary, etc.), then you can use an approach similar to what an adult could use, but for a younger child, the best thing I think is to just do immersion, and learning the language in the natural context. Children have an ability to pick up language when it is all around them when they are young--after all, that is how they learned their mother tongue. There are lots of video games for preschoolers in different languages (teaching names of clothing, colors, numbers, and so forth), and some CDs to listen to in other languages.

For older kids and adults, using a multifaceted approach is great. Something that will teach communication in that language, something to teach basic vocabulary, and if it is a different alphabet (or in this case, Chinese Characters), something to help learn the written language too.

I LOVE I-Tunes! This is free. Go to and down load your free copy. Then go to the Music Store in Itunes....and search for the language you are interested in, under the category of Podcasts. Podcasts are basically on-demand radio shows. There are video podcasts or just audio podcasts. I found at least 20 podcasts just for Learning Chinese, and I listened to them with Anastasia until she decided on one that we both thought would be most helpful (for the record, that is Chinese Learn Online, though we also like ChinesePod). You then subscribe and download the "episodes". In the case of a language podcast, you want to go back to the beginning lessons too. Each time you log into Itunes, it will check for updates to your podcasts, and download them automatically.

Then you drag your lessons into a new folder within Itunes (I made a folder called "Learn Chinese" by clicking on the plus sign in the lower left corner), and start burning CDs. You can listen to it on the computer too....but we take them everywhere. You can also load them onto an Ipod or MP3 player if you are so blessed. :-))

We also found some books by googling Learn Chinese. There was a lot of free websites that helped out initially, and they are a blessing. We also found some inexpensive workbooks designed for bilingual chinese children whose parents want them to learn Chinese characters while living here in the USA. We've made index card flash cards to help learn the words, and we have had some help from a native speaker we met who made sure the pronunciation was spot on, though we have found another book that also shows how to pronounce the words.

Now that she is progressing more and more, she is looking for othre things to learn in Chinese and to read in Chinese. We have found a free downloadable Chinese Audio Bible. We found free downloadable hymns in Chinese. We found free Children's poetry in Chinese on another site, where you could read along and listen.

Hope that is helpful to someone. :-)

Multi-Lingual Musings

Well, I'm feeling better from my fall. Thanks for the well wishes ;). I still have a scraped up knee but it is getting better. I forgot all about it when I went up during the altar call at church Sunday and almost started crying real tears when I dropped to my knees, and, er, not of repentance. Skinning your knee at 7 was always much easier than doing it at 37. LOL Falling is SO not for old people.

Tonight we have RU at our church, and I was just sitting here reviewing my memory verses. I've memorized 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 this week (that comprises 3 challenges, but it seemed somehow easier to just do the whole enchilada at once). I memorized this years ago in German, and so as I am saying it to myself I am having a hard time speaking English. Maybe it is just the way my poor brain works.

Tamie and I were talking and she made the comment about my aptitude for languages, and that is really something I am jazzed about as languages have always fascinated me. I thank God for it. I like to be able to learn languages easily, because I also like to communicate with others. It's also sort of fun to speak a few different languages and have everyone assume you are the typical American (speaking only moderate Spanish, not 3 languages)...and then eavesdrop on what they are saying about you. Ok, maybe that is not so nice, but it does get amusing. Once I was at someone's house in Germany, and they started speaking French to each other because they didn't want me to hear what they were saying and assumed, in the words of the woman, that it was a big enough fluke that I was a bilingual American, but it would be highly unlikely for me to speak french too. Well...guess what? I had 6 years of French in high school and college, and though I don't think I can speak it too well today (I never used it like I use German), I did understand what was being said, and eventually had to come clean about it. Languages are so fun.

Anastasia, my 10 year old, told me just a couple of years ago that she feels that when she grows up God wants her to go to China, and so she wanted to start learning Chinese right now. Of all the languages I *Don't* know! Mandarin is the hardest language for an English speaker to learn. However, that has not deterred Anastasia. I figured it would pass in a few days or weeks...but here we are, two years later, and she is still dutifully learning Chinese, and loving every minute of it ("it makes more sense than English sometimes, Mom!" I heard recently). After a bit of web surfing, I found some programs to help her teach herself Chinese, and we found a native Chinese speaker at a local China Buffet restaurant who was thrilled to help make sure she is on the right track. It provides a fun excuse to go get the lunch buffet every so often ;). GOOOO (that is my alliteration for the Chinese word for Good :-) I am sadly also getting a fifth language stuck in my brain, and actually dreamed of dancing Chinese characters last night).

Before this I always thought of oriental languages as a lot of screeching noises, but now I see Mandarin as a really beautiful language that is very expressive of deep ideas, as it is based on ideas not phonics. Even some of the characters and how they are put together just blow my mind. The Character for the word that means "peace" "bliss" or "contentment" is the character of a house with the character for woman inside of it. The character for the word that means "goodness" is a character for woman and the character for child side by side. There is a lot of family-tie symbolism in the characters that just has such a deep wow factor for me.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Growing Pains

I'm hurting. This past Friday, while dropping off some donations for Goodwill, I slipped and fell. Rather ironically, it was after I had already dropped off the several boxes of stuff that I dropped off. The concrete was uneven and I totally Charlie Brown'ed. I scraped my knee to the point of bleeding, twisted my ankle on the other leg, and scraped my shoulder up (thankfully I was wearing an old leather bomber jacket, as it also got scraped up really good, but protected my shoulder. ) I was picking gravel out of my knee for an hour when I got home.

Because we just got new insurance (an HMO no less), and I haven't yet been able to find a primary doctor, I didn't go to the emergency room. Our insurance (which I suppose is better than nothing) will let you pay all of the fees if it is determined it was not really an emergency. I am also not allowed to go to urgent care unless my primary tells me to go there. LOL So...I didn't go anywhere as I don't have a primary. This week I've been calling around trying to find a doctor in my group that lives near me and that can squeeze me in but everyone is very busy. A few people at church told me about some good doctors they recommend, but of course only doctors people DONT recommend at all seem to be in my HMO. In fact, quite a few of the "I wouldn't let my dog go to that doctor" Doctors (by the anti-recommendations from others) are listed in the book, which makes me very nervous about just picking one.

Thankfully though, it does seem, from other people who have looked at me "unofficially" who have some medical background, that I only sprained and bruised myself and didn't actually break or severely damage anything. Everyone seems to agree that the fact that I felt a bit woosy was possibly from the fact that I also have a very severe head cold and all that spinning on the way down (remember, I scraped both shoulder and knee...and a 37 year old body is not supposed to move like THAT LOL) may have made my sinuses all whacked out...I'm feeling much better just very sore.

ANYWAY....what a thrill, huh?

In the mean while, with my legs elevated and ice on both my knee and my ankle, I have been sitting here doing lots of things that I am usually too busy to work on...such as finishing up the Creating a Website Tutorial that I have been working on, and working on my taxes for 2006. Because my husband lived part of last year in Cleveland while trying to find a job in Michigan, taxes again are going to be something that are going to leave me pulling my hair out. Ohio has more different tax forms than I care to fill out, and Tax Cut doesn't handle all the local ones. As I told Martin last night, I sure do hope he realizes how much the good folks at H&R block would be charging him for all of the tax stuff I have to do with his constant job switching, consulting on the side, and whatnot. Job security for me ;)

Ruth is sitting at the table with me working out her business plan for her business. It is sort of funny to me. How many times have I dove in with both feet without really thinking clearly about something! I told her that her business idea is so awesome I want her to get a business plan together so that she can think it through clearly without just diving in and having it fail for lack of planning. At first she sort of grumbled about it, but after a few months of putting her notebook aside, and watching a friend of the family fail to follow the same advice from me totally fail in what should have been a very successful idea,she decided that maybe doing all of that boring stuff is possibly helpful. Not that a business plan guarantees success, but it helps people to think through what they are doing before they brings up questions that you may or may not have thought of before, and makes you think about some of the tedious things that do make or break a business that most of us would rather not think about. Anyway, it's been both funny to me, and exciting at the same time to see her wrangle with each of these business plan questions and topics, and do some market research, and of course bathing her idea in prayer. The sweet, sweet experience of growth...!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pragmatic Obedience

As I said in my last post, I have really been enjoying being reminded of those fundamentals of Christianity, and getting back to basics in that regard. It made me think of how pragmatic we get in our Christianity sometimes. While studying this whole matter of love versus self love, and while meditating on God's expectations for me, as a Child of God, I have also been confronted with some various crisis, some in my own life and some in the lives of others around me. And I began to notice something, while this matter of love vs. self love was fresh in my brain, that we have become extremely pragmatic in our Christianity here in modern day America (and probably other parts of the western world). Our main concern is not, "Is this the right thing to do?" but rather "Does it work? Will it get ME the desired results that I am looking for, to meet MY needs?" How many times do people discuss issues like giving in terms of what God will do for us if we do this, instead of just "Do it because it is the right thing to do!" We help out those in need because God says He will bless us, not just because God says it is the right thing to do. We give our tithes and offerings because we want God to open the windows of heaven on us, not because we want to honor God. Well, maybe we do want to honor God but the fringe benefits are also there, prominately in our minds.

Maybe I am feeling a little bit cynical....since meditating on the whole issue of love, versus self love, and analyzing myself, I have noticed these strange hidden motives of my own heart, where while I want to honor God, I have one eye on what is in it for me. God, I'm giving this to missions,as you have prompted me, now you do your part and bless me really good, ok? God, I'm going to help out this family who is in need, so you be sure to take care of us too, ok?
Of course God takes care of us...that's why He says, as I read in my daily Bible reading today, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on..." (Matthew 6:25)...maybe part of that taking no thought is not doing the right thing with a hidden motive of bribing God into doing what He has already promised, not even thinking about what benefits might come our way. And this is not just financial giving...that's just a nice clear cut example where people say, Oh I tried that and I became a millinoare or I tried that and it didn't work. Obedience is something we do,not something we try out to see if we are going to get what we want--in any area of the Bible.

Friends with troubled relationships saying, "Well, I tried it the Bible way, but it didn't work because he is still doing (fill in the blank)..." or "I tried training my children but it just didn't work...." Doing the right thing because it is the right thing is a reward unto itself, isn't it?

Here's to obedience without pragmatism in this new year!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Reformers Unanimous

For the last several months (since November, really), I've been attending our church's addictions program, Reformers Unanimous. No I am not coming out of the closet with some sort of addictions problem (thank God)but rather I wanted to get invovled and go through the program so that I could eventually minister to others in this program, and also just because I kept feeling like God was prompting me to do this for a while. I wasn't really sure why.
I've actually be so blessed going. I've had a lot of spiritual growth in my life again since I started going to Reformers. I have found that it is good for us, even if we have been saved for a while, to revisit those basics of the Christian faith now and then. The first portion of the program focused in on the basics of our salvation in Christ, and the finished work of Christ on calvary, and what that means for a new Christian. Instead of focusing in on problems and our struggles, this program focuses on the solution (Jesus). I only wish that I had this program available to me when I was a new Christian, getting over being an alcoholic and drug user, living a party lifestyle. Ironically though, much of what is discussed here are the very things that God showed me as I read His word as a baby Christian. I suppose it is because His Word and the principles He has set forth to govern our lives don't change...they aren't original with me or with Brother Currington (who wrote the Reformer's program)...but with the Lord Himself...the one who does make us Free Indeed. Woo hoo.

I'm already into the second part of the program, where I am studying right now the differences between True Love (Godly Love) and Self Love.It really has given me lots to think meditate on. Like I said, addict or not, baby Christian or seasoned saint, it is so good to revist the fundamentals of Christianity. I have recognized in my own life the struggle between the perfect sort of Love that God works through us by His Spirit...and the sort of selfish love we have all been guilty of (doing things out of a supposed love, but with some underlying motive of personal gain and glory). It occured to me to ask myself when I do things, "Would I still be doing this if no one else was watching and no one was looking,and no one ever knew I did this?" Would I still do this "loving thing" for someone if no one else ever found out who did it?

In some ways I think of the legendary man Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (upon whose life the Santa Claus tradition is partly based)....details of his life are sketchy as he lived during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diolectician, however, as the story goes most of what he did was done in secret, employing only trusted helpers who vowed to keep this thing secret (though they told the story after the death of the man), and we will probably never know the fullness of the generosity of this man. Do I give to others in need to hear other's praise me or do I do it because I want to meet a need? What a challenge to think about that!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Christmas Celebrations at our House

(A somewhat unflattering picture of me with the pooch in my lap after filling up on Turkey on Christmas Day)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Life, as you can imagine it, has been insanely busy at our house. We had children singing in Christmas programs, and a teen who sang in the cantata (and all of the practices that go with it) and a mommy who sewed some costumes for the cantata too...not to mention a hot sale over at the This Old Schoolhouse website bookstore which kept me hopping, filling orders every day after Christmas. Praise the Lord for that. :-) And of course, there was time for baking, time for family, time for friends, and time to just spend time reflecting on just the awesome miracle that is Christmas. I hope every one of you spent time this Christmas reading the story in the Bible of Jesus' birth, and reflecting on what an amazing miracle that was. To think that the God who made heaven and earth came down to heaven in the form of a little baby is just to amazing to think about if you really start to ponder it. I always am reminded of that verse in 2 Corinthians 5:19, that says "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." If you didn't do it already, I have a great Advent Family Devotional in Ebook format on my website that you may be interested in for next year. Coming soon (next year hopefully) we will have it translated into Spanish, German and French, per many requests.

The fact that we have all had sinus problems and bronchitis for the last few weeks has only added to the back log of things that need to be done. I was holding someone else's child about 4 weeks ago, when I realized the poor little toddler was getting hotter and hotter, and sounded really congested. Within three days, I was also getting hotter and hotter and also sounding congested ;)....and soon the whole family had joined in on the fun, such that I caught it again after feeling better for a week. Thankfully though we are all still coughing a little bit, we sound much better, and my son is still boasting of being the only one in the family who remains healthy.

Of course there was also good food. My husband loves peanut brittle (the amazing part of that story is that despite enjoying peanut brittle he has only a few cavities in his mouth!), and he loves cashews instead of peanuts, so I spent some time this year making him some Cashew Brittle (which I suppose is also called "sugar" hee hee). My son, who hates nuts, observed it would taste better if it were just brittle. However, Hubby loved it. I like walnuts and hazelnuts best, so I used all of the hazelnuts from my hazelnut bush, and flavored the syrup with some mocha candy flavoring, before pouring it out. What we had was mocha flavored hazelnut brittle. It was heavenly. I'll post the recipe sometime soon, Lord willing. For the real food, we had Turkey with all the trimmings. You just can't beat that.

I am thankful too for children who are not all whiny about wanting the lastest and greatest toys and who are happy with whatever they get. I've seen so many bratty children again this year who whine and fuss at their parents about what they "expect", and it breaks my heart. I got a box of those amazing "Belgian Truffle Seashells" and that was more than enough. :-)...I'm easily pleased. LOL but I would not complain if there was an IPod under the tree either.

Without further ado, here is a photo of our Christmas celebration, with the whole crew (children, grandparents) at the table.

The kids and I decided to put the christmas lights up in the dining room around the entire top of the room. It made it look really nice in there. I think we may just leave them. Is that too redneck of us to have Christmas lights up all year long?

Somehow my kitchen looks a lot messier in this picture than it does in real life...but anyway, this is a picture of my hubby carving the bird.
Happy 2007!