Meantime, Back in Greenwich

With the switch to Daylight Savings Time coming soon, it seems timely to revisit Greenwich, England.

You’ve heard of Greenwich Mean Time. Folks here seem to have invented time itself. Well, to be more accurate, they invented how to measure time, and I am thankful for that.

Clocks, antique timekeepers, and all sorts of devices for astronomy and navigation are featured throughout the Royal Observatory here, which was founded by Charles II in 1675.

The Great Equatorial Telescope (1863) is impressive.

To fully appreciate what’s on display at the Royal Observatory, you have to realize the problem of being lost at sea and the problem of longitude.

Back in the 1700s, longitude was an urgent problem, especially for sea-going nations involved in international trade. The precious lives of sailors and the valuable cargoes their ships carried made navigation at sea a matter of life and death. Skilled sailors, out of sight of land, could only find their north-south position (latitude). They had no methods or instruments to accurately calculate their east-west position (longitude). They did not know where they were!

Unfortunately, mapping the night sky and trying to predict the complex motion of the Moon does not work so well on cloudy days at sea. So after lots of trial an error and a big invention competition, the problem was solved by the development of a portable clock that could keep accurate time on board ships.

John Harrison, an 18th century clockmaker, made the first practical marine timekeeper, a monumental development in navigation.

Way back in 1775, Harrison claimed that his clocks were a hundred times better than those made by his contemporaries.  And a few years ago, this clock, titled “Burgess Clock B,” set a Guinness World Record for being the most accurate mechanical pendulum timekeeper of its type. It uses a radical theory proposed by Harrison, and it varied by only half a second in 100 days, finally proving in 2015 that Harrison’s claim was correct.

If you have time to read it, the book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time tells all about Harrison and how important longitude is to navigation. My sailor husband highly recommends it.

The biggest tourist draw at the Royal Observatory is not the clocks, though. It’s the Prime Meridian of the World. That’s zero degrees longitude, where the eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere meet.

And it’s a prime spot to stand in line outside to take a selfie.

The Prime Meridian covers 12,427 miles from pole to pole, but most of that is an imaginary line that doesn’t show up in a selfie.

Inside and away from the crowd, I couldn’t resist standing with one foot and one daughter in each hemisphere.

Learning about longitude and time made me ponder it for a while. How do we know where we are? Where does time go? Why does it disappear faster and faster the older we get?

Frequently in motherhood, when I see my kids growing taller and notice the years flying by so quickly, I want to panic like a sailor lost at sea. It’s easy to feel like time is running out and I don’t know where in the world I am. It’s easy to wish for some way to stop the clock or maybe even turn back the hands on the clock.

But I don’t truly want to go back in time. Not really.

One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, writes: “I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I’m growing older. These children are growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling time, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.”

Likewise, author Elizabeth Foss writes: “No, I don’t really want to stop time. But I do want to fill it. I want to fill it with gratitude and grace worthy of the days I trade for them… I want to take each one of these days…and really live the story [God] intends. I don’t want time to stand still, but I do want to still my soul and fill the time with His blessings.”

The idea of filling time with gratitude and stilling my soul encourages me.

My prayer is that God would teach me to number my days so that I gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). My prayer is that, as I count the days, that I make the days count. And my prayer is that I would walk carefully and wisely, making the best use of my time and understanding God’s will for me (Ephesians 5:15-17).

 

 

 

 

 

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Let This Be Written

A few years ago our family had the privilege of seeing an amazing exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at our local science museum. How incredible to see those ancient words of God – words that He miraculously preserved in jars inside of caves for two thousand years! What a mighty act of God! Preserving words on paper for two thousand years would be impossible for man, but it was possible with God.

Seeing those scrolls reminded me of Psalm 102:18, which says, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” I am indeed thankful for those men of long ago who obediently and diligently wrote those precious words down on scrolls so that my generation and my children could see them and praise God.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit also reminded me of Psalm 145:4. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” What a great verse this is for homeschool moms – and all parents and grandparents for that matter. If we could only teach one subject as homeschoolers this year, I think this should be it.

In her story book Bible The Mighty Acts of God, author Starr Meade explains that the purpose of telling stories of God’s mighty acts isn’t for entertainment value or good moral examples. The purpose is to make known the wonder of God’s great character.

Likewise, John Piper of Desiring God says we want the next generation to have not just heads full of right facts about the works of God, but also “hearts that burn with the fire of love for the God of those facts – hearts that will sell everything to follow Jesus into the hardest places of the world.”

That’s quite a vision for our students! And as this new school year begins, Psalm 102:18 and Psalm 145 are great encouragements to pass on to my children not just what I know about the one true God from reading the Bible, but also to pass on – heart to heart – what I personally love about God and how I have witnessed Him at work in my life. He has revealed specific attributes of His character – like His faithfulness, compassion, and unfailing love – in specific moments and seasons throughout my life. Knowing by heart those personal faith stories and marveling at God’s great character will fuel my children’s love for Him and better equip them to pass the faith on to their own children someday.

When I take time to recall how God has acted mightily in my own personal history, God is magnified and I am encouraged and comforted. But in order to recall these little faith stories and declare them to my children, I must first record them somehow. That involves watching for God’s grace in daily life, taking lots of pictures, making lists of specific things I am thankful for, writing down prayer requests, keeping a blog, and scrapbooking when I can. These practices take time and no, I don’t keep up with all of them regularly. But these practices are quite meaningful to me because together they build the history book of our lives.

Puritan Pastor John Flavel says, “There is not such a pleasant history for you to read in all the world as the history of your own lives, if you would sit down and record from the beginning hitherto what God has been to you, and done for you; what evidences and outbreakings of his mercy, faithfulness, and love there have been in all the conditions you have passed through.”

So what does praising God and declaring His greatness in the bits and pieces of my personal history look like? Some days it’s telling a story about my childhood as we eat lunch or reading aloud a passage from an old blog post or an old baby journal. Other days it’s looking at photos in a family scrapbook, reading an old letter from a grandparent, or clicking through a digital photo album of last week’s field trip.

In looking back at these records through the lens of God’s goodness, I see things I did not see before. I see ways He has cared for us, provided for us, comforted us, strengthened us, encouraged us, healed us and equipped us. I see how He has brought us through trials and sorrows. I remember joyous moments I would forget otherwise. And as I share all those insights with my children, I praise God.

Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God says the most essential detail to look for in our personal history is God’s mercy to us through Jesus.

“Every detail of God’s goodness to you has come through the blood of Jesus,” he says. “Look back on these providences and remember that you’ve earned none of them. They come by Jesus, or they don’t come at all. His cross is the most vivid demonstration of God’s love for us, and every little good we’ve seen has flowed from that glorious fountain. It did yesterday, and it will tomorrow.”

Parnell also suggests several other details to look for, such as God’s care for you, wisdom for you, grace for you and humility for you, as well as His goal in all your provisions and His goodness in comfortable stuff like socks. He explains each of these ideas thoroughly in an article online entitled “Seven Details to See in Your Past.”

This school year, I pray that teaching the next generation about God’s mighty acts and sharing stories of His goodness and mercy will be a higher priority each day. I pray that we keep pre-algebra and science lessons in the right perspective. I thank God for the fresh encouragement given by Asaph in Psalm 78, a passage which the ESV Bible titles “Tell the Coming Generation.” And I pray that we may arise and tell our children truths about God so that they set their hope in God, keep His commandments, and never ever forget the works of God.

 

Fly, Butterfly, Fly!

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When the little package arrived in the mailbox that sunny afternoon in May, I was not sure what to expect inside. My two daughters were busy playing in the backyard, so I was alone when I cut open the cardboard box and found the five tiny caterpillars inside a little cup. It was just what I had ordered. The cup had a thick layer of gooey brown food on the bottom and a nice tight lid on top. This project was to be the highlight of our homeschool unit on butterflies, but I secretly feared these caterpillars were dead upon arrival. I could not detect any movement whatsoever.

Continue reading over here at The End in Mind.

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Treasures for Pre-Teen Girls

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“She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books. She doesn’t read them, Miss Minchin; she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble…”

That’s how Captain Crewe describes his 7-year-old daughter Sara’s love for reading in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic A Little Princess. And like Sara Crewe, my pre-teen girls always seem to be gobbling up books and starving for new ones.

Hunting down a steady supply of wholesome, captivating books to feed their souls, encourage their hearts, and inspire their imaginations can be quite a daunting task. I want my girls to read and think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise, just as Philippians 4:8 instructs. But so much of what is newly published on the shelves for pre-teens is none of the above. Either it looks dark, creepy and twisted, or else it appears completely frivolous. Sometimes just seeing the book covers makes my heart sick enough that I don’t want to explore what unpleasant characters might lurk inside.

In His grace, God has been faithful in equipping me as I search for books. His hand is at work through wonderful websites that offer Christian reviews of children’s literature, such as Redeemed Reader and The Story Warren. God has led me to meaningful, age-appropriate books that I don’t have to pre-read entirely before sharing with my daughters. Specifically, I have felt God leading me to entire series of books written by trustworthy authors – some who lived a century ago and a select few from recent decades. Finding an entire series of books is a treasure! It helps satisfy my bookworms much longer than when I offer them a stand-alone novel. In addition, finding older books usually helps us steer clear of the objectionable worldviews that characterize some recently published works.

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Because of television and movies, nearly everyone is familiar with the classic fiction series like Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery, The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We do enjoy reading these, and we especially adore Anne of Green Gables.

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Sometimes in hunting for book series, I realize that a well-known, classic book has a sequel or is part of a series. For instance, Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women is one of four in a series, and Caddie Woodlawn has a sequel entitled Caddie Woodlawn’s Family. Who knew?

More often, though, God leads me to a less popular series that tells the enchanting stories of lovable characters who demonstrate commendable virtues like perseverance, kindness, gratitude, creativity, patience, forgiveness, and gentleness.

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For example, one of the older book series that we treasure is the All-of-a-Kind Family series written by Sydney Taylor in the 1950s. This delightful series relays the holidays and surprises shared by five Jewish sisters growing up in New York City in the early 1900s. The girls are genuinely kind to their family and others, and they persevere through challenges together.

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Also based in the early 1900s, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maude Hart Lovelace features best friends Betsy and Tacy and their whimsical childhood excursions in Deep Valley. Their devotion to each other and their creativity in playing together make these stories sweet and memorable. They were first published in the 1940s.

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Another excellent series published in the 1940s, the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright introduces readers to the four Melendy children and their lively adventures while residing in the city and in the country. The siblings endure change, hardship and occasional disputes with one another as they grow in perseverance, forgiveness, and patience. Elizabeth Enright also wrote Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, in which three brave cousins discover an abandoned lakeside resort and courageously make new friends.

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Of course, not all of our favorite book series are old. One newer but lesser known fiction series my girls cherish is the Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan. It includes five books about a mid-western farm family in the 19th century. Like the Ingalls, they carry on through the trials of farm life and adjust to family changes with love, forgiveness, patience and selflessness.

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The Kathleen McKenzie series by Tracy Leininger Craven, which includes four books about a spunky and competitive 11-year-old growing up during the Great Depression, is another favorite collection. Kathleen bravely works through difficulties and uses her talents for God’s glory.

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The newer collections that my oldest daughter reads over and over are those written by Lois Walfrid Johnson. Her faith-based historical fiction work includes the Freedom Seeker series, which is set in the 1850s along the Mississippi River and features the daughter of a steamboat captain. Set in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the early 1900s, her Adventures of the Northwoods series portrays the life of a 12-year-old who becomes part of a new family. And in her Viking Quest series, a young girl named Bree is captured by Viking raiders and taken from her home in Ireland. I had the great joy of meeting Lois at a conference this spring, and I told her that my 12-year-old had already gobbled up all of her books – most of them twice – and was eagerly awaiting her next series. Lois gently told me to tell her, “I’m sorry I can’t write books as fast as you can read them!” We look forward to her next series.

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Besides reading a lot of fiction, my girls also appreciate biographies. An excellent collection of faith-based biographies for pre-teen girls is Wendy Lawton’s Daughters of the Faith series. Each book features a girl who lives out her faith boldly and overcomes significant struggles. The titles are Almost Home: A Story Based on the Life of the Mayflower’s Mary Chilton, The Tinker’s Daughter: A Story Based on the Life of Mary Bunyan, The Hallelujah Lass: A Story Based on the Life of Salvation Army Pioneer Eliza Shirley, Ransom’s Mark: A Story Based on the Life of the Pioneer Olive Oatman, and Courage to Run: A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman.

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Another collection of biographies that we just began reading is the Chosen Daughters series, which portrays the lives of women who accomplish extraordinary things by the grace of God. The first book we read is A Cup of Cold Water: The Compassion of Nurse Edith Cavell by Christine Farenhorst. It’s a compelling and very well written biography about Edith Cavell’s family, her childhood, her life of faith and her exemplary service as a nurse during World War I. We loved it and are eager to continue the Chosen Daughters series this fall. The other title by Christine Farenhorst is Wings Like a Dove: The Courage of Queen Jeanne D’Albret. Other titles in this series are Dr. Oma: The Healing Wisdom of Countess Juliana Von Stolberg by Ethel Herr; Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson by Hope Irvin Marston; and Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata by Simonetta Carr.

Please Do Disturb Us

Having a flexible schedule is a benefit that ranks high among the reasons moms love homeschooling. It’s the joy of cancelling the day’s math lessons so that you can spend the first warm spring day at the park. It’s the freedom to postpone your first grader’s reading lessons until the quiet hour when your toddler takes her afternoon nap. It’s the empowerment to call off handwriting lessons for two whole months while your third grader’s broken right arm heals in a cast.

Continue reading Please Do Disturb Us over here at The End in Mind.

Rain Boots and Books for Summer

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Remember that rain song in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh? You know the one during which Piglet’s house floods and he gets swept away?

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down

in rushing, rising rivulets,

Till the river crept out of its bed

and crept right into Piglet’s.

That’s our theme song this spring. Forget the sandals and shorts. Our wardrobe has shifted from winter coats and snow boots to rain jackets and rain boots.

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The flowers love the showers, and my little girls sure love the puddles. Somehow rain boots make you brave in a splashy sort of way.

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A big sister’s steady hand also helps encourage a daring little adventurer across the rocks. I won’t mention who got wet this time.

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The last day of school is Friday, and that will wrap up our sixth year of homeschooling! I love getting to share the many adventures of daily life with these two precious girls, and we are all in a hurry to shift into a slower speed for the next few months.

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Bring on summer! I am looking forward to spending more time outdoors, especially on the lake, and I am also looking forward to relaxing with some great children’s books. If all this rain keeps up, we will have plenty of time for snuggling up on the couch with our books.

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Here’s what’s on our homeschool list for summer read-alouds:

  • Hitty – Her First 100 Years by Rachel Field: We already started this chapter book about a delightful wooden doll who writes about her own exciting adventures. I am surprised already by the non-stop action in this story, which was the winner of the 1929 Newbery Medal.
  • The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars: As a devoted fan of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan and a huge fan of Trumpeter swans themselves, I am eager to read this compelling story that received the Newbery Medal in 1970, although I haven’t yet figured out how swans figure into this tale about a 14-year-old girl and a younger brother who is missing.
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson: Maybe you watched the movie in elementary school, too? I don’t remember if I ever read the book, but I do remember this story about a boy and his dog is a tear-jerker. I tend to confuse it with Wilson Rawl’s Where the Red Fern Grows, so I hope reading Old Yeller will help me distinguish the two. Published in 1956, Old Yeller is a Newbery Honor Book.
  • Abel’s Island by William Steig: This is another Newbery Honor Book, and it tells the story of a mouse who is swept away from his wife in a rainstorm and must learn to survive alone in the wild. Steig is also the author of Brave Irene, a fantastic picture book about a girl fighting a snowstorm.
  • The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson: This story is about an old hobo and the friendship and adventures he shares with a group of children. Published in 1958, it is also a Newbery Honor Book with delightful pictures by Garth Williams, illustrator of the Little House series and many, many other classics in children’s literature.

 

Of course, if the weather turns out really lovely this summer, a few of these books might get bumped to fall. Flexibility is this homeschool mom’s favorite tool.

What’s on your reading list this summer?

The Story of Two Little Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

On March 23, 2003, we dedicated to the LORD our firstborn. During the ceremony that Sunday morning, just before her daddy played Jeff Deyo’s song “These Hands” on acoustic guitar, I read a letter to her. Here is part of that letter.

Today is your dedication day, and we praise God for what a blessing you are to our family. You are three months old and just figured out that you have HANDS! You bat them at toys, try to hold your bottle with them, and just love to put them in your mouth and slobber all over them. Most of time, though, you clasp them together and just stare at them as if to say, “What are these for?”

Before too long, these hands of yours will be coloring and tying shoes and learning to do lots of things. But our hope today is that someday your hands will point to God’s greatness and praise Him.

You see, God’s hands created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. And not too long ago, His hands created you. God loves you and cares for you and has a specific plan for your life.

We praise God for you. Always remember how much we love you, and that the ultimate purpose of your hands is to praise God.

In the meantime, don’t eat those hands! You’ll need them for later!

Those two little hands, she didn’t eat them after all. And since that day I’ve so often held them in my own. I’ve washed them. I’ve dried them. I’ve clipped the fingernails and polished those all shades of pink. I’ve squeezed one or both into my own warm pocket when little mittens were forgotten. I’ve kissed them. I’ve helped them fold together in prayer. I’ve showed them how to turn book pages gently. I’ve taught them to hold a crayon, a pencil.

I’ve watched them reach way up to pick apples from trees.

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And I’ve watched them reach way down to pick up sand dollars and seashells from Atlantic and Pacific beaches.

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I’ve taught them how to fold towels and t-shirts. I’ve taught them how to button buttons and zip zippers. I’ve seen them work puzzles, dress baby dolls, fill tea cups, and dribble basketballs. I’ve watched them write the alphabet in print. And then I’ve watched them learn the alphabet all over again in cursive. I’ve held the left one delicately as the right was wrapped up tightly in a cast for a broken arm. I’ve watched them paint flowers and stitch doll clothes and knit scarves.

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I’ve watched them kindly hold her little sister’s hand in the backseat of the minivan. I’ve taught them to wash dishes and wipe down countertops. I’ve watched them gently behold the wonders of God’s creation.

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I’ve watched them clasped together and dripping with lake water on baptism day.

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And I’ve watched them gracefully glide across the ivories day after day…

Week after week…

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For more than five years now those hands have made music.

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Oh, those sweet little hands and I have been ever so busy together. And God has lovingly and faithfully held these little hands and mine in His mighty hands. He held each and every moment. He held us by grace.

And yesterday — 11 years and seven days after her dedication day — He called those little hands to bravely do what I never imagined them doing when I wrote that dedication letter so many years ago.

Yesterday those little hands went to church and played “Glorious” right along with the worship band. And then the band left those little hands all alone at the keyboard, left my firstborn perched high on a barstool, like a songbird ready to sing. And those beautiful little hands played “Amazing Grace” for the offertory.

And even when her foot struggled to reach the pedal below and those slender fingers pulsed with frustration and momentarily lost their way across the keyboard. Even that moment was all grace. Those sweet little hands just stopped and played it again from the top — “Amazing Grace.”

How sweet was the sound as the little fingers met the keys, the notes sang out beautifully, and the joyful noise of it all filled the whole room.

An answered prayer, a moment of grace, an offering and a gift.

Oh little hands, may you continue pointing to God’s greatness, may you continue praising the One whose hands made you!

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17