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Friday, January 25, 2013

My Favorite Bible Story


God's Words:
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’  So he got up and went to his father.  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
~ Luke 15:11-24

Our Bible passage for today is my absolute favorite story in the Bible.  It's actually a parable Jesus told, often called "The Parable of the Lost Son" or "The Prodigal Son".  A parable is a fictitious story which teaches a moral or spiritual lesson.  Jesus told many parables when teaching the crowds that seemed to follow Him everyone.  Sometimes these stories were hard for the people to figure out and He'd have to explain them later.  But this specific parable is not hard to understand.  And I just love it.  I can't ever read it (no matter how many countless times I've read it) without tearing up.

Then one of my favorite music groups, Phillips, Craig and Dean, came out with a song about it.  Gets me every time.  I looked on You Tube for a video of this beautiful song to share, but most of them looked kinda cheesy.  But here is one of the group performing it live and I have to say they sound better in this video than the recording.

Did it move you, too?  Sigh.  The lyrics so perfectly portray how much the father in Jesus' story loved his son and earnestly, patiently waited for him to someday return home.  And that the father was so happy and excited when he saw his son coming, that he ran to meet him!  Jesus used this story to show how much God loves us and how He longs for us to return to Him, accept Him as our Father, and live with Him as His precious children.

Nothing is stronger than a parent's love for their child.  If you have children, I daresay you feel the exact same way as I do about my children.  I can't help but love them unconditionally, no matter what they do-even at their naughtiest.  I can't imagine loving them anymore than I already do.  If I did, I think my heart would explode!

Well, the Bible tells us that God loves His children, the people He created, even more than a human parent loves their child.  Can you even wrap your mind around that?  As Jesus said,

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  ~Luke 11:11-13

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  ~John 3:16

And here is a prophesy foretelling God's sacrifice of His own Son for us (note the mention of us being engraved on the palms of His hands, which refers to the nail marks on Christ's hands from being nailed to the cross).  All because He loves us that much:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;  ~Isaiah 49:15-16a

Did you also notice that in Jesus' parable, the father doesn't scold or reprimand or punish the son for leaving their home for a life of rebellious sin?  Actually he welcomed him back, unconditionally, with compassion and happiness, and threw a huge party!  Not one mention of the son's rebellion, shame, unworthiness, or how long he'd been gone.

That is exactly how God welcomes us.  And unconditionally forgives us.  It didn't matter to the father in the story what horrible things his son had done while he was away.  And it doesn't matter what bad, sinful things you and I have done.  When we realize our need for Him and His forgiveness in our lives, He immediately washes us clean of all our sins, to be forgotten and never held against us - forever.

That, my friend, is a Father's love unlike any other.  He is our perfect Father.  Our earthly parents make mistakes sometimes because they are human just like we are.  And yes, we might need some therapy sessions to get over ways they've messed us up!  But our Heavenly Father only gives us good things, blesses us, guides us, protects us, comforts us, provides for all our needs, loves us unconditionally...no matter our past. 

And that is why this is my favorite Bible story.  Because Jesus wanted us to clearly understand how it doesn't matter that we've rebelled, how long we've rebelled, what bad things we've done.  God the Father gave His perfect Son, Christ Jesus, to die for us, so that we can be reconciled to Him and spend eternity with Him.  He is just waiting for us to come back to a right relationship with Him.  He is looking out for our return, waiting.  And when He sees us coming, He will run to greet us, with unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, and love.  Then the angels will throw a party in heaven!

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  ~Luke 15:10

Are you living a life of rebellion against God?  Or are you a born-again believer who has chosen to go down a wrong path or has been nursing a sinful habit that you know is keeping you from a right relationship with God? Perhaps you have a loved one who is living a life of sin and you have been praying a long time for them to seek God's forgiveness and give their life to Christ.  Or maybe you just feel far away from God.

In any of these difficult situations where there is a broken or damaged relationship between someone and God, this story of the lost son tells of all it takes for one to return to God.  Just come home!  Come back to God, your Father!  He is waiting for you!  He can't wait to throw a party to celebrate your return!  And He won't make you feel guilty or unworthy when you come seeking His forgiveness and acceptance.  On the contrary, He will run eagerly to meet you when you're still on your way back, enfold you in His loving arms, and compassionately forgive and welcome you back to Him, never to lose you again!

Oh, dang it all.  It got me again.  Where's the kleenex?  

In Christ,

Suzy

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dashed Hope, Crushed Heart

God's Words:

When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed, but a wish come true fills you with joy.
~Proverbs 13:12 (GNT)

Have you ever gotten your hopes up about something that you thought was so perfect for you, totally in alignment with your dreams, or seemed just the right fit for the talents God has given you...only to have your hopes mortally dashed right before your very eyes?

Oh, the painful disappointment and heart-breaking hurt of a wish unfulfilled; a lifelong dream left for dead.  Dashed hopes can literally make your heart sick.  My preferred translation of the Bible puts our key verse this way:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
~Proverbs 13:12 (NIV 1984)

At the beginning of this post, I shared the Good News Translation of this verse because it so accurately describes how I feel when a hope or dream doesn't come true when or how I want it to, if at all.  It feels like, just as my hopes are crushed, so is my heart.

I've personally experienced this heart-sickening disappointment way too many times already in my life.  I think my problem is that I get my hopes up too easily.   Especially when an opportunity comes along that really seems like something God would want for my life.  I mean, come on, it would be so awesome!  A perfect fit for me.  Such a wonderful blessing!  Why wouldn't God allow me this hope fulfilled?  I just get so frustrated when an opportunity seems so right, but God doesn't allow it to happen.  At least for that specific time in my life, anyway.  Can you relate?

Every time I see a perfect opportunity and get my hopes up about it, yet God in His all-knowing wisdom and loving plan for my life doesn't allow it to happen, I struggle with a reaction of huge disappointment and emotional let-down.  And let's be honest, probably even a little bitterness.  When my dashed hopes are at their worst, I might cry out to God (imagine a whiny voice), "But why not, Lord?!  Why couldn't You let me have this blessing right now?”  Or “Why aren't You allowing me to use the gifts and talents You've given me for this awesome opportunity?  You know I can do it!  And I know I can do it...with You helping me, of course.  So why not?!?"  Some pouting and pity-partying might ensue.  What a spoiled brat I can be sometimes.

Yet at the same time my heart feels sick about a "lost" opportunity, deep down I know why God doesn't fulfill each and every one of my hopes and dreams.  Can you guess why?  Because He knows that not all of our wants and wishes are best for us.  And even if He does have some of these fulfilled dreams planned for our future, His timing in our lives is always perfect and totally for our good.  When we come to Him with a hope or dream, sometimes His answer is "No, not that.  I have something different and much better in mind for you."  Other times His answer might be "Not now.  Just be patient; wait for Me.  Put your hope in Me."


So here are a couple things to keep in mind when you start to get your hopes up about something (and if you’re like me you don’t even “start” the getting-your-hopes-up process, you just go all out with full-fledged 100% hope!):

1.  Something you may hope for may not be at all good for you, so don't be surprised when God never allows it to happen.  He has a life planned out for you that is perfectly designed just for you and what He knows is best for you.  He is your Creator after all.  He knows exactly what you need and what you really don't need.  His plan is always much better than what you may have “planned” for yourself, as the following promises of Scripture attest:

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  ~Jeremiah 29:11

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.  ~Proverbs 19:21


2.  God's timing for your life is always for your best.  Even if His timing may sometimes frustrate you when you think you deserve something now rather than later, remember that He always, always, always has your best in mind.

In this case, God wants you to patiently wait for Him.  Wait for Him to act.  Wait for Him to open the door of opportunity to you.  And while you wait, He wants you to trust Him and His plan for your life and put your hope in Him.  Not in your own self-centered desires and wishes.  As part of His loving plan for your life, He has some maturing, learning, and faith-growing for you to do in the meantime.  This growing we do is the hidden blessing that takes place during our times of waiting for God.


Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.  ~Psalm 27:14

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!  ~Isaiah 30:18

Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”  ~Isaiah 49:23b


I don’t know about you, but nothing feels more joyful than when a wish finally does come true, just like our key verse states.  Then all the waiting and wondering, praying and patience was totally worth it and makes it seem even better than we'd dreamed!  So go ahead and give your hopes and dreams to God.  But remember to have an attitude of submission to His will for your life because He just might have something way better in store for you!


Here are more encouraging promises from Scripture about hope and waiting for God’s timing:

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.  ~Psalm 130:5

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.  ~Psalm 42:11

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  ~Isaiah 40:31

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  ~Roman 12:12

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  ~Romans 15:13

In Christ,

Suzy


Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Tour of Our Homeschool


Last year when I started this blog, I mentioned sharing a photo tour of our homeschool.  Well, I am pleased to announce that I finally got around to taking pics of where we do school at home!

First of all, let me start by saying that we've been homeschooling for 3 1/2 years.  The first 2 1/2 years we "did school" in our kitchen.  Many homeschool families prefer doing schoolwork in their kitchens.  It's a convenient location, Mom can do dishes or make food while simultaneously teaching a lesson, you can eat while you study.  I mean, who wouldn't want to learn in their kitchen?

Not me.  After the first few months I got to the point where I couldn't stand the constant cluttered mix of books, pencils, bowls, and crumbs.  I hated having to use half my cupboards to store all our books and school supplies.  I have a huge kitchen with plenty of storage space, but I still felt like there just wasn't enough room for how I wanted my school supplies to be neat and organized.  And I also couldn't stand having our school stuff out once we were done studying for the day.  So we'd always have to spend extra time cleaning up and putting our educational items away.  Not to mention the time it took to get all that stuff out at the beginning of our school time!

Needless to say, I am not a kitchen schooler.  So I dreamed of the blessed day when we would finally be able to have a separate homeschool room.  Thanks to my handy husband and father, last January we completed building a special room down in our basement just for that very purpose.

I love our new school room!  It's bright, cheery, and cozy.  I have decorated it just as I once thought I would decorate my future school room back in college when I was studying to get an elementary education teaching degree.  You know what I mean.  Every wall covered in motivational and educational posters, animal pictures, bulletin boards, chalk boards, dry erase boards...teacher heaven!  I still get a big smile on my face every time I walk into our school room.  I just can't get enough of the smell of crayons and pencils!  That unique "school smell" makes me so happy.  It did when I was a little girl.  And it still gives me that same "I'm excited to learn more today" feeling.  Yeah, I was a nerd who loved school.  So what?  You got a problem with that?  I bet I got better grades than you, so there.

All joking aside, I am very excited to share our school room pics with my readers!  I hope you glean some organizational or decorative ideas from what I've done.  Please feel free to shoot me a message if you would like more info about products or organization methods I use.  Plus, I'm always more than happy to share about what curriculum I've put together for my kiddos.

So without further ado, may I warmly welcome you to the "Bos Family Homeschool Room"!







My desk.  A very happy place.





My homeschool motto.  Oh, and where I got the title for this blog!




At Menards, I found these great blank dry erase posters.  I use this one for our Bible memory verse of the week.  Sometimes I let one of the children write out the verse.  Actually, my daughter's handwriting is much better than mine, I'm ashamed to admit.




My homemade prepositions chart.  Thank you, Easy Grammar!





The north wall.  Hmm, I wonder how I knew that?  And, in case you were wondering why there are birds and insects all over the walls, we are currently learning about flying creatures in science.





My DIY art display!  Yes, I created it all by myself!  I found the wall decal on ebay for super cheap!






Our art center.  Inside those plastic dressers are lots of art supplies and craft sets.  I'm sure you've noticed by now that everything is labeled.  So there are no longer any excuses for putting things in the wrong spot! 


On the south wall, we have our dry erase map posters.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I love it that I can write on them while we're learning about different areas of the world!




This is our American flag we use when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.  I strongly believe this is a very important part of the school day.  Second only to studying the Bible.




And here is the Michigan flag with 2 maps of our beautiful, unique state.



The school room doubles as a play room.  What homeschool room is complete without a Barbie house and horse stable? 




I also really love my cube storage system I found at Target.  I put scrapbook paper behind some of the cubes for added flair.




I hit the school decor jackpot when I found this adorable alphabet ribbon at Michael's!





This is our chore chart.  At the beginning of each school year, the kids get to decide rewards they will work toward together.  For each week they have completed all their chores well, without complaining or bad attitudes, each child earns one sticker.  They get to decide which reward to add their sticker to.  I know it's too blurry to read, but the rewards they've chosen so far this year are Kindle Fire games, Wii games, and an extra Wii remote.  Can you sense a theme here?  My children enjoy playing video games.  The number of stickers required to earn the reward is based on the cost of each reward.




I really love my over-the-door shoe holder as a terrific place to store school supplies!  I used 3M hooks to hang on the wall behind the door.  It's out of the way and works better on the wall than on the door.  Once again- labels, labels, labels!















The Reading Nook.  Doesn't it look like a cozy place to curl up with a book on the fish bean bag chair?






Also in the Reading Nook is my wonderful bookcase, with extra storage and plenty of room for more books that we find at homeschool book sales.


I love these red fabric bins.  Aren't they so cute with the free printable labels I made from Better Homes and Gardens?



I labelled the different book sections so the children know where to put books back.  Unorganized bookshelves drive me crazy!


















 And now, last but not least, one of my favorite spots in the school room.  My open closet!


Isn't it an organizational beauty?!




In the center of this shelf are the kids' "file boxes" where they keep all their workbooks and notebooks.

  

At the bottom of the closet are more arts and crafts supplies, puzzles and more. 



My kids do math on the computer (Teaching Textbooks) and this requires them to be in a separate room so that they can hear the lesson and concentrate without distractions while I'm teaching another child in the school room.  Therefore, my husband and dad made a home office/computer area in the closet of our family room in the basement.  I have a bulletin board set up on the wall that holds helpful math hint posters.





Never thought I'd tell my kids to go into the closet to do their math.  But then again, I never thought I'd homeschool my kids.  God's plans for us are always better than what we could come up with!

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.  ~Proverbs 19:21

I'm so thankful that the Lord's purpose for my life right now is to teach my precious children in the comfort and safety of our home, allowing them to learn at their difference paces, on our own timeline, and enjoying extra-curricular activities based on their unique skills and gifts.

So, that's it.  I hope you enjoyed our homeschool tour!  I sure had fun sharing it with you!  From time to time I'd like to share homeschool tips and ideas, curriculum we love, and more here on my blog.  So until then, happy learning at home!

In Christ,

Suzy