New Beginnings

It has been six months since I’ve written.

I was homeschooling our girls this past school year, due to our relocation to Maine. We bought a new house that is about 25 minutes from the ocean, so we moved and have been settling in. Also, in any free time I’ve had, I’ve been digging in to Christian theology & doctrine and Church history. I’ve been reading books by John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and a classic by Jonathan Edwards. Great material as I’ve been refining more specifically what I believe and why.

NewBeginningsCurrently, I’m preparing to homeschool our oldest daughter again this year. She has dyslexia, or some kind of slight learning disability, and is still a bit behind. So I am going to work with her one-on-one this year and see if we can get her caught up to her peers, or at least closer. We’ve registered our other two girls back in school, so we’re rounding up supplies, planning lunches, getting the bus route figured out, and will be going to meet the teachers the week before school starts. They don’t start until September 6th, so a couple more weeks of summer.

I’m going to be teaching a class for the 5th/6th graders at our homeschool co-op this fall. It’s going to be creative writing, along with an introduction to what blogging is and Internet safety.

Around the house, I’m sanding, priming, and painting a dining set we got from someone on Craig’s List. It’s a round, expandable table and seven chairs. My goal is to get it done by Labor Day! My list also includes getting a kitchen cart that can be used for more storage/counter space, either along a wall or as an island. I’d also like a desk or table, along with some shelves to put containers for hanging files to keep all my stuff organized.

We’re plugging into a new church and meeting people there. And I am a new regular contributor on another blog: Satisfaction Through Christ. I’ll be posting there twice a month. The ladies who write there are great women who love Jesus, and I’m so humbled to be part of ministering with them. See below for an excerpt and link to visit STC and read the article.

Our family traveled down to our hometown in PA for my husband’s 20th high school reunion at the end of July. The kids and I stayed there for two weeks after that to spend time with family and friends. It was a great time! We went camping, swimming, kayaking, to movies, horseback riding, to an amusement park, to a picnic, and school shopping. It was jam-packed with fun!

This is a season of new beginnings. We’ve been in Maine for a year, but we’re still in the midst of new beginnings. New home, new neighborhood, new school and school year, new church, new writing opportunity, and new look on the blog. I’ve decided to call this space, “In Awe & Wonder.” This blog is a ministry for women, proclaiming the Gospel of grace, proclaiming the Truth of Jesus, giving glory to God, studying the Word, and topics on Christian living.


Heart Attitudes & Amazing Grace

I want to discuss Numbers 11 with you. It stood out to me in my Bible reading. In my Bible, this chapter is titled, “The People Complain.” I will go along and outline what happened, but I encourage you to go to your own Bible and read that chapter for yourself.

This event takes place as Moses is leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But even then after they are freed, with their basic needs being met by God, they begin complaining…again. As if complaining itself isn’t bad enough, they dare to whine and cry that they wish they were back in Egypt…as slaves!

What’s at the root of all this? Their stomachs. Or their taste buds. My Bible says it was intense craving. God was miraculously providing manna for them to eat every day, again in response to their crying because they were hungry. Now it seems that isn’t enough for them. They long for the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that they got to eat in Egypt. The people were weeping and said, “…there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (v.6) …

…Click over to Satisfaction Through Christ to read the rest of the article.


Let’s talk: What have you been up to this summer? If you have kids, when does school start for you? I look forward to chatting in the comments…

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For the Love of Beach Glass and Barbies

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I must begin by saying how happy we are to have visited Maine in the summertime and moved here at the end of August so that we can experience some wonderful beach days. So far, the climate has been about the same, if even a few degrees warmer than in Pennsylvania. Most days have been in the 80’s and even 90’s. It seems the sun is out more often here, too.

Our home in Maine

Of course, most houses here don’t have air conditioning. (We bought the house pictured above, after renting along the ocean for nine months. It didn’t have air conditioning either.) In fact, the house we’re renting only has one ceiling fan in the kitchen. Upon the advice of one of my husband’s colleagues who helped us unload our U-Haul, we have our two box fans, and otherwise rely on the breeze from the ocean and opening windows at night.

I do love that the house has a lot of closet space. I’m sure it will be to my hub’s delight…and perhaps all of us will appreciate it when winter hits, that every closet in the house has at least one or two blankets in it. We might be all wrapped up in cocoons unable to traverse the roads or handle the cold.

A walk down to the beach

We’ve been told it can be icy along the coast. The snow accumulation shouldn’t be too bad, unless a “Nor’easter,” as they call it, hits. They said if a storm is coming, stock up and it would behoove my husband to work from home if possible. We’re no strangers to snow. We were born and raised in the “snow belt” of PA – the dumping ground for “lake effect” snow from Lake Erie. Our hometown averages 106″ of snow each year! It’ll be just a little different if a “Nor’easter” were to dump 20+” in one day. We’ve been reassured by many that they keep the roads well maintained.

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I did impulsively purchase a 3-pack of boot socks in the $3 bin at Target the other day. It was one of the 90 degree days, but I was planning ahead. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself!) While on that topic, I have to say that I’m delighted to have Target and Kohl’s just 8 short miles away. The closest I’ve ever lived to those stores was in Ohio, when they were about 18 miles away, so I didn’t frequent them often. Anyway, my husband didn’t seem as excited.

Although I’m excited about being near those stores, I am having Aldi’s withdrawal. The closest one is over in New Hampshire. The savings I would get at the store would likely negate itself in the time and gas it would take to go there. So I’m exploring the three grocery chains here: Shaw’s, Hannaford, & Market Basket.

There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on every other corner in New England. So are dentist offices. I wonder if there’s any correlation?

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For now, though, we are soaking up all the sun and beach time we can. We’re in a routine with homeschool enough that we’ve been able to be done with studies by 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon and we bolt out the door for the beach. The girls absolutely love looking for beach glass, certain shells, and other beach treasures.

We’ve found marine hermit crabs, sea crabs, fish, mussels, lots of types of seaweed, cool rocks, and snails. I had no idea hermit crabs were so far north and in the population they seem to be here. The hermits are so cute and the girls have fun playing with them on the beach. (It is illegal to take them off the beach and these guys need saltwater to live. They’re different from the land hermit crabs we’ve had before.)

The girls each have an abundant collection of beach glass! We have found so much – blue, pink, clear, brown and green. I kept my jewelry making stuff accessible (not in storage) so we could perhaps try making some of it into jewelry.

Today’s trip to the beach included taking “The Pearl Princess” (a mermaid) and “Mike the Merman” Barbie/Ken dolls. For the love… being the mom of girls, it’s normal to tote dolls around, especially Barbie types and mini princesses. I had to rescue two of them from being left on the rocks – and was asked to carry a few around with me, which I knew would happen. Gotta love a walk on the beach with “Ken,” (aka “Mike the Merman”).

If you don’t know “Mike the Merman,” let me introduce you. (Click the link if you dare watch the video!) This dude’s real name is Prince Ken Triton, according to Mattel, a character in Barbie: The Pearl Princess. One day last year on YouTube, I came across a video featuring “Mike the Merman, Defender of the Sea.” I watched it and was in hysterics. I showed it to the girls and our oldest laughed along with me. But our middle and youngest actually wanted the dolls. Alas, for Christmas we did buy them each a “Mike the Merman” doll. And today he was introduced to the ocean!

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Jutting way out on the eastern edge of the Eastern Standard Time zone, we’re adjusting to an earlier sunrise and earlier sunset. That’s a little irritating to me – a night owl. I like dark in the morning and light later in the day. Not a biggie in the grand scheme of things.

We had a great time on our first homeschool field trip to the Maine State Aquarium last week with the Homeschoolers of Maine group.

Kristen

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing…in Maine

Greetings, Friends!

So much has happened since my last post in June that I don’t know where to begin. I will say that there is one more chapter to post about from the book, “The Pursuit of Holiness,” when I seemed to drop off the face of the blogging earth. I apologize for leaving that hanging. Because I love Jerry Bridge’s message in that book so much and feel it is important to write about, and because my personality is part melancholy and gets irritated with unfinished things, I will finish the book club.

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know a bit about what’s been happening. Without all the details at this time, suffice it to say that we have relocated to the southern coast of Maine and I’m homeschooling our girls this year! It’s a whole new state, a whole new church, and a whole new way of life.

Middle Beach Biddeford Poole Maine

In the midst of all the changes and newness, I’ve redesigned the blog yet again.

The new tagline is, “Keeping the Main Things the main things…in Maine.” In junior high, I had cut out a quote from a magazine that said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” (Looking it up now, the quote is attributed to Steven Covey.) I thought that was such a great play on words. Even then, I knew my priorities and would read it each day as a focal point. This quote has embedded itself within me and followed me through life. So when we relocated to Maine, my mind went to the quote. It might be a bit cheesy, but it fits in neatly with the blog.

New England Peepers

I’ll be sharing about life in Maine and living along the northern Atlantic coast. We’re renting a house for the winter that is literally on the coast line. We wake up to the sound of waves. The air is filled with the salty-fishy smell of the ocean. We can walk to two private beaches that are just a hop, skip & jump away. As of next June, we will have to find somewhere else to live, but we are soaking in this living on the ocean while we can. It’s gorgeous and such a blessing.

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I’ll be sharing about some of our homeschooling adventures. I have no idea if we will continue beyond this transitional year. God has moved on my heart, and where I was convinced I wouldn’t in a million years be able to handle homeschooling the children He gave us, I’m fully relying on Him and by His grace we are doing it. Homeschooling has proven, in just these three weeks since we’ve started, to contain so many more blessings than I could have imagined.

Of course, I’ll continue sharing about faith, doing book reviews, and perhaps book clubs.

Come along with me on the journey of life – the new changes in my life in Maine and homeschooling!

Kristen

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 11

HolinessBookClub

This has been an extremely busy final week of school for the girls and me. On Monday, Kaitlyn’s kindergarten class walked to a diner for free ice cream cones and I joined them. On Tuesday, Alexis & Jasmine’s classes participated in the annual 3rd, 4th, & 5th grade kickball tournament. On Wednesday was the annual school “Field Day” and picnic. I was at the school all day, running the “ring toss” game. (It’s set up in stations with a carnival theme including games, activities, and snacks.) I have a free day today, thus the blogging! Tomorrow, the kindergarten classes are walking across the street to a pond/dam to have a picnic lunch, and I’ll be going along for that.

After this post, we’ll have one final post on “The Pursuit of Holiness” book club.

Here’s the list of links to past posts from the book club in case you need to catch up: Intro, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, and Week 10.


Today, I’m on chapter fifteen, called Holiness and Faith. This was a defining chapter of the book for me when I read it the first time, two years ago. On the last page of the chapter, I had written: Faith + Obedience = Holiness. In all simplicity, that is what it boils down to. This time around, I wrote more of a flowchart: Salvation => Holiness => Faith, with two arrows off faith: 1. Obedience and 2. Trusting God’s Promises.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would
later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even
though he did not know where he was going.”
Hebrews 11:8

This chapter looks a Hebrews 11, specifically the stories of Abraham and Noah, as examples of great heroes of faith. Both Abraham and Noah were called to do things by God that seemed unreasonable, absurd, or even stupid in the eyes of anyone watching. Many times, the same thing happens to us.

God calls us to something, oftentimes contrary to human reason and the world’s view. Did you know that when God called Noah to build the ark, the earth had never before seen a drop of rain? Yeah. So not only did everyone think he was utterly nuts, talking nonsense about water drops falling from the sky, but no one even knew what a flood was. Our callings might not make us appear to be insane like that, but following God’s precepts makes us pursue morals, values, and goals that are opposite to the majority of other people in the world. So it’s by faith that we obey and it’s by faith that we trust God to uphold and fulfill the blessings He’s promised if we obey.

We need to have conviction about the necessity of obeying God’s will, as well as confidence in the promises of God. Without these elements, we won’t do the hard part of carrying out obedience.

I want to quote a few sentences from the book, because Jerry says it perfectly:

“No one can pursue holiness who is not prepared to obey God in every area of his life. It calls us to obey God even when that obedience is costly, when it requires deliberate sacrifice and even exposure to danger.

Obedience to the revealed will of God is often just as much a step of faith as claiming a promise from God.

…since obedience is the pathway to holiness – a holy life being essentially an obedient life – we may say that no one will become holy apart from a life of faith.

Faith is not only necessary to salvation, it is also necessary to live a life pleasing to God. Faith enables us to claim the promises of God – but it also enables us to obey the commands of God. Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind.

How often do we fail to obey God’s clearly revealed will because we do not exercise faith?

And because we do not have a firm conviction that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), we do not seriously pursue holiness as a priority in our lives.

Faith and holiness are inextricably linked. Obeying the commands of God usually involves believing the promises of God. One definition of faith might be “Obeying the revealed will of God and trusting Him for the results.”

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). If we would pursue holiness we must have faith to obey the will of God revealed in the Scripture and faith to believe that the promises of God will then be ours.”

Here’s a New Testament example that Jerry uses. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” There’s a command and a promise. If we don’t believe in, have faith in, or trust in God’s promise, then it’s difficult to pursue obeying the command. The things of life end up taking top priority, instead of seeking God first.


For your journal:

1. Explain the relationship you see between faith and obedience in Hebrews 3:17-19 and 4:2, 6.

2. Read through Hebrews 11, noting the instances of obedience by faith. List five things which some of the persons mentioned in this chapter believed. Which is the most meaningful for you, and why?

3. List five ways in which the persons mentioned in Hebrews 11 obeyed God. Which is the most challenging example for you, and why?

Kristen

The Pursuit of Holiness Book Club Week 10

HolinessBookClub

Hi Friends,

There are only two more posts to go and this book club will be done. Then I have two book reviews to do. I am aiming to get these posts all done by June 8th – my kids’ last day of school. I’m considering a blog hiatus for the summer, or at least not committing to a regular schedule. (If you’ve been following the book club, you’ll know that I’ve ended up not posting on the same schedule I intended. For that, I apologize.)

If you have missed any posts, you can read them at these links: Intro, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9.

“For it is God Who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
Philippians 2:13

This week, we’re looking at chapters 13 & 14 of the book, “The Pursuit of Holiness,” by Jerry Bridges. This is about holiness and our wills and habits. We need to determine in our wills that we’ll form habits of holiness. Jerry points out that each time we give into temptation and sin, it becomes easier and easier to keep giving in and sinning. But the converse is also true – whenever we choose holiness and habits of discipline, it becomes easier and easier to choose that. Soon, (either way it goes), those repetitive choices will form habits.

We need to understand our wills – why they choose to sin or obey, and learn how to bring our wills into line with obedience to the will of God.

Jerry says,

“It is the will that ultimately makes each individual choice of whether we will sin or obey. It is the will that chooses to yield to temptation or to say no. Our wills, then, ultimately determine our moral destiny, whether we will be holy or unholy inour character and conduct.”

Our hearts = our faculties of the soul => the mind, the emotions, the conscience, and the will. God gave us these things. But with the fall of man in the garden, these faculties started working in conflict with one another and with God. Our wills have become stubborn and rebellious – being selfish, self-centered and self-serving. Our emotions wreck havoc, taking over and drawing our minds and wills away from obedience. Our minds are clouded, our desires are tainted and our wills are perverted, thanks to sin.

Our wills are what ultimately determine our choices and those choices are made based upon the forces acting upon us. Our wills can be influenced by the enemy, the world, our own sinful nature, our conscience, suggestions of other people, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whatever way these forces come to our wills, they must pass through our reason (minds) or emotions.

So again, we see that we must guard (diligently) what enters our minds and what influences our emotions.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.”
Psalm 119:9

It is vital to stay plugged into a habit of reading the Bible. The Word reaches us mainly via our reason so it influences our minds. The Lord, the Word gives wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-5 points out that He gives wisdom and understanding to those who:

  • receive His sayings
  • inwardly treasure His commandments
  • make their ear alert to wisdom and heart ready for understanding
  • seek understanding as if it were hidden treasure

The Word give us protection by its influence on our minds and wills. It gives spiritual information and practical application for daily living.

While most often God influences our wills through our minds, Satan usually attacks our wills through our desires and emotions. This is why we need to guard our emotions and check our desires through the lens of Scripture. We need to be aware of our desires and emotions and work proactively on the offense by setting our hearts and desires on God and His will – things above – spiritual values – and delight in God.

Our faculties should work by way of reason first, then our wills, then our emotions. However, oftentimes, they work in the reverse order. Therefore, we come back to the need for a structured plan – discipline. That’s why we need to stay in the Word – to get the head knowledge, but as we grow closer to God and experience His love and presence, it moves from the head to the heart. Our emotions, wills and desires will be for God and will keep us motivated to holiness.

I love Philippians 2:12-13 and this is how Jerry wraps up chapter 13:

“In the final analysis it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose. But we are expressly told by Paul to work at this ourselves (Philippians 2:12). Our responsibility regarding our wills is to guard our minds and emotions, being aware of what influences our minds and stimulates our desires. As we do our part, we will see the Spirit of God do His part in making us more holy.”

“Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery
to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now
offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”
Romans 6:19

John Owen said,

“Repeated acts of the consent of the will unto sin may beget a disposition and inclineableness of the will unto a proneness and readiness to consent unto sin upon easy solicitation.”

We need to understand how our habits influence our wills.

Habit = “prevailing disposition or character of a person’s thoughts and feelings.” They are in our minds and probably the most forceful influence on our wills. I have heard in the world of neurology that there are actual neuron pathways that are developed when we do something or think something – and the more we do or think that thing, the stronger that pathway becomes and the more our brains use that pathway. That’s the process of a habit taking hold in our brains. But when we stop using that pathway (doing or thinking that thing), the pathway begins to fade and over time, will disappear if not used. That’s when a habit is broken.

The easiest and best way to break a bad habit is to not only stop the bad thing, but to also then replace it with a good habit. We can’t just clear out all the junk and leave ourselves bare. Emptiness and idleness can be a doorway for the enemy to move in. So break those undesired habits and replace them with good habits of obedience.

We put off the old self and put on the new. Just remember that it’s futile to attempt this in our own power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit – working in cooperation with and dependence on Him.

Jerry gives us four principles we can follow to train ourselves in godliness:

  1. Frequent repetition – focus on saying no to sins that we are most vulnerable to. Then God leads us to other areas. Along with saying no to those sins, develop thinking thoughts that are pure, true, and good, and habits of prayer and reading Scripture. (This lets the bad habit pathways fade away and reinforces the new good pathways.)
  2. Never let an exception occur – don’t fall for a “just this once” temptation.
  3. Diligence in all areas is required to ensure success in one area – if we indulge a habit that we think “isn’t too bad,” it weakens our wills in all other areas.
  4. Don’t be discouraged by failure – we’re only failures if we give up and stop trying. If we keep working, regardless of how often we fail, we can see progress.

Jerry closes chapter 14 with this paragraph:

“It is vain to guard our minds and emotions against that which comes from without if we do not at the same time deal with habits of sin which are within. The battle for holiness must be fought on two fronts – without and within. Only then will we see progress toward holiness.”

For your journal:

1. How do the following verses describe our responsibility concerning our reason, emotions, and will? Romans 6:19, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2, James 4:7-8

2. Carefully read Proverbs 2:1-12. If we desire to guard our minds from evil, what must we do?

3. Review the four principles for acquiring or breaking a habit. Select a habit you want to acquire or break, and write a plan and how the four principles can help you.

Kristen

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