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Reading books by great American authors with a group is even better than reading them alone! Homeschool co-ops, book clubs, day schools and the like provide wonderful chances to engage in group activities based on the books in the American Literature curriculum. Additionally, crafting interesting writing assignments from the books you've read enrich the learning.
High School American Literature
Here are some writing assignments and group activities I've enjoyed with the high school American Lit. students I've worked with this year:
From Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451:
If you had to preserve only one book (other than the Bible), what book would you choose, and why? Great for discussion or as a writing prompt!
From New Journalism, like Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff:
Report on an event in your local area (or even something silly that happened in your own home), but write about in the style of New Journalism. Tell the facts accurately, but tell it with a particular voice, use colorful and descriptive prose, and let your personality show.
From Isaac Asimov's I Robot:
People feared the power that advancing technology would have on the world. Take a look at the power of the smartphone, the internet, the constant connection that is virtual but feels real. How well did Asimov predict the world to come?
From A Raisin in the Sun:
Watch a performance on DVD or YouTube. Discuss the elements that were more or less powerful on the screen than on the printed page. Or hold a readers theater event and read the play aloud together. (For more on readers theater, check out my post with tips for making it a smash!)
From various selections of poetry:
Focus on responding to a poem rather than analyzing it. Use your 5 senses and imagine the impact of the poem on each of them.
From Henry David Thoreau's Walden:
If you were going to try an "experiment" like Thoreau's self-sufficient life at Walden Pond, where would you go? What would you need to prepare first? What would your goal be?
From various Christian fiction:
Explore ethical dilemmas that are created by times of war or other circumstances where lying may seem necessary, or where murder seems justified.
From books with a strong plot line like The Scarlet Letter:
Practice inferential reading skills. Stop 1/3 of the way into the story and predict the various ways the plot might logically develop from there. What will happen next?
Do you have ideas to share for enriching your homeschool's study of American Literature?
High School American Literature
Once upon a time (as all good stories begin), Sara's 3rd son was just a year away from completing high school and was just itching to stretch his wings and leave the nest! Sara wanted to be sure said son was equipped to handle his finances wisely and not fall into the pitfalls befalling many young people first venturing out on their own.
(Nothing worse than falling into a pitfall befalling others!)
So what did she do? She called her friend Maureen, another homeschool mom (and Sara's 1st son's Consumer Math/Financial Literacy teacher from years before).
High School Financial Literacy Curriculum
This, my friends, was the conception of what would become Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective - a truly unique, interactive, life-skill-building, rich and FUN etext for high school students. (It's available in our ebookstore for $34.99.)
"Maureen," Sara asked, "What curriculum did you use?"
(Isn't it wonderful when homeschoolers help one another out?)
Maureen gave her info and as many pointers as she could. Then Sara embarked on her first year of teaching Consumer Math/Financial Literacy at her local homeschool day school. Sara's third son (and numerous other students) graduated that year with a good foundation for facing the realities of financial decision-making in their lives.
But the story doesn't end there!
The class continued on each year at our local homeschool umbrella school (click here to see what other cooperative classes we've taught with success in our local community), and Sara found herself modifying the curriculum in various ways.
- First, the curriculum wasn't from a Christian perspective, and since handling financial matters is such a big part of life (and God says SO much about it!), Sara began supplementing the curriculum with Christian principles.
- Then, Sara noted that the curriculum her class was using sometimes only lightly covered topics which she believed would be more beneficial to teens if covered a bit more in depth. She sought out resources that would shore up these weak spots for her students.
The years passed (as they always seem to do), and Sara continued teaching Consumer Math/Financial Literacy, making improvements and corrections to the course each year. One day, Sara looked at her curriculum and realized that her 'changes' had evolved into a course of her own with an exclusive focus on Financial Literacy!
The topics are the same as those in most Financial Literacy courses, but the angle of approach is quite different.
- First, God's perspective is considered in every topic, from setting up a budget to understanding the principles of insurance to paying taxes.
- Next, as a homeschooling mom herself who understands how important it is to parents to be able to share their values with their children, Sara included numerous assignments asking students to discuss with their parents financial topics which might not otherwise come up in day to day life.
- Finally, realizing that this generation of students will turn to the internet to have their financial questions answered, Sara's curriculum utilized reputable sites to reinforce financial literacy topics. Articles, videos, and interactive sites provide varied activities throughout each chapter.
With a 'hat tip' to the painstaking work of 7 Sisters' editing team and a grateful prayer of thanks to the Lord for His unfailing faithfulness, 7 Sisters is pleased to offer to you Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective.
(and we'll all live financially-literate-ly ever after!)
What resources have you used thus far to help your teen become financially literate?
Here's a free taste of Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective - download "What's the REAL Cost?" worksheet and answer key from the ebookstore as our gift to you!
High School Financial Literacy Curriculum
You chose your sisters as BEST Homeschool Vloggers for 2014 -- WOW!!!!
THANK YOU to all who voted!
We LOVE sharing homeschool encouragement with you, and it makes us so happy to learn that our vlogs (video-blogs) have been a blessing to so many homeschoolers.
If you haven't seen the 7 Sisters Homeschool YouTube channel, pop on over for a visit!
The HSBAPost is a fantastic resource for homeschool information and encouragement.
Among all of us at 7SistersHomeschool, we've homeschooled 26 children through graduation and taught hundreds of others in co-ops and group classes over the past 20+ years.
While homeschooling high school in particular, we found that sometimes the available homeschool curriculum options were a poor fit for our kids OR were so full of busywork that they left us no time to do the education of REAL LIFE.
Out of our particular expertise and areas of interest and passion we developed curricula that have been the RIGHT fit for our homeschooling high schoolers' educational and time-stewardship needs. As our own homeschooling years drew to a close, we fine-tuned these resources and created ebook homeschool curricula to share with other home educating families.
Our collection of ebook homeschool curriculum resources includes:
- Literature Study Guides
- Writing Guides
- Human Development
- Financial Literacy
- Career Exploration
- World History and Philosophy
- Early Childhood Education (a High School Course)
- Spiritual Walk
- Christian Apologetics FREE from Good Answers Ministries
- Elementary School Resources
Our kids (and the kids in our classes) have found that 7Sisters homeschool curriculum is AWESOME because of:
1. The conversational tone and friendly style of instruction.
Material is not presented in an overbearing, overly serious manner. It does NOT include time-wasting busywork.
2. The Christian worldview of the etexts and guides.
3. No busywork or over-teaching.
Our kids got GREAT education and still had TIME to develop the other things a transcript needs (the arts, athletics, service, extra-curriculars, competitions.)
4. The easy level-ability.
Many colleges are requiring that the "academic level" of each core class be reported on the transcript. (There is no standard method, but here is a post about How-to Determine Levels drawn from what we've learned.) Each downloadable guide and text includes EASY instructions on ways to tweak the level of the material to fit the needs of your high schooler and his/her transcript.
5. 7Sisters homeschool curriculum ebooks work well for independent study or in a co-op or class setting.
We have designed the curriculum to work flexibly with students at various grade levels across high school so that homeschool co-ops can really enjoy using it without the teacher having to do a lot of adapting.
Here is a general idea of how levels work in a 7 Sisters curriculum ebook (specific, clear instructions are in the front of each downloadable guide or text):
-Level 2 (Average High School): Some of the work done verbally, no special assignments.
-Level 3 (College Prep): Work from the text completed per instructions in text, no special assignments.
-Level 4 (Advanced): Work from the text completed along with some special assignments such as projects, special-topic books, or papers.
-Level 5 (Honors): Work from the text completed along with a rigorous number of special assignments including projects, special-topic books, or papers.
Some of our teens completed Honors- or Advanced-levels in their courses. Some of our teens did not need to spend time on Honors assignments, instead they needed to concentrate on apprenticeships while still earning a solid diploma based on honest work. These completed Level 2 and Level 3 work in their curricula.
Ready to get started with 7Sisters homeschool curriculum?
* Click to visit the ebookstore and browse our comfortably-priced titles. Read customer reviews scattered throughout the product descriptions to see just how much of a blessing our ebook curriculum can be to your homeschool.
* Read blog posts organized by category to boost your confidence for homeschooling high school.
* Send us an email with specific questions! We love encouraging other homeschool parents.
Happy New Year!
Homeschoolers need lots of encouragement to stay motivated. They need to share ideas for inspiration. They need to equip those who are newer to the adventure than they are.
Favorite Homeschool Posts 2014
In the spirit of "journeying together," we offer this Round Up of some of our most popular posts from the last year.
Here (in no particular order) are links to some of the favorite homeschool posts from 2014.
Electives make for a powerful transcript. Colleges are looking for much more than the basic core academics. Students who are not college-bound need lots of intentional career exploration as well. This post has been wildly popular for folks who are trying to craft a personal, powerful high school experience for their teens.
This one suprised us with all the traffic it generated. It began as a simple tribute to Labor Day, to the history behind the holiday, and then grew into a couple of posts in series that explored this concept in ways that would be meaningful to our high schoolers. The books discussed in this post are all titles that will generate really cool discussion with your teens...and some of them may be books you've never thought of in this light before!
Essays. Gotta write 'em. Gotta think about how you're going to do that well. Might as well take a FREE lesson from your sisters to get you started!
These movies (mostly appropriate for high school students) are rich with imagery that brings periods to life, ideas that challenge our thinking, and characters that inspire. Some of these are movies made from books that we also recommend adding to your reading list.
Our dear friend and homeschool buddy locally shares her struggle with COPD and other health issues in this touching post. She also shares concrete, powerful, faith-filled strategies for thriving rather than simply surviving.
This post brought to a close our series on Financial Literacy (which is so much MORE than simple Consumer Math), and it seems that many of you were eager to hear what actually went into developing the new curriculum Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective by Sara Hibbard Hayes due for release Jan. 31, 2015. Read Sara's personal homeschooling story, and learn how it led her to write this unique, interactive etext.
Losing a loved one is tough. Saying goodbye to her at Christmas time is even tougher. While time does not heal all wounds (Jesus is the Healer), it does offer a different perspective on pain. Those of you who know us at 7Sisters know that we are fiercely honest about the fact that life is hard, and there are no cookie cutters that provide a guaranteed outcome for family, or homeschooling, or anything else. Sharing our personal pain from time to time allows us the chance to stand together in humility and prayerfully look to the future for all of us with hope.
Wow, this one just gets shared and shared! (And we LOVE that! Thank you!!) The first in a multi-part series taken from a workshop for homeschool conventions, this practical, in-depth look at teens and reading equips homeschoolers to move beyond simple comprehension questions and assignments, encourgaging teens to form a relationship with the book they're reading. Develop inferential and evaluative skills, interpret, and observe...all of these pieces of the reading puzzle come together for bookworms and reluctant readers alike in this Teaching Literature series.
Vicki Tillman's extensive experience with LD and spectrum kids in her counseling practice inspired her to write this excellent post. It's for the parents of special needs kids AND the parents who want their own families to better understand folks they encounter who have special needs in all walks of life.
This one hit a hot button somewhere! We are not even remotely anti-college at 7Sisters (many of our own kids went on from homeschool to college and even to graduate degrees). But we also do not believe that college is for everyone. This post looks at successful career pathways for after high school where no college is required, and offers ideas for exploring those options while still in your high school years.
So many ways to encourage the artistic side of your teen! This post offers ideas and practical ways to document the learning as you go.
The real-life peek into Vicki Tillman's homeschool as her fifth and final child graduated from high school.
Favorite Homeschool Posts 2014
Happy New Year! Wisdom from some folks who had a way with words...
New Year Quotes
"The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective."
- G.K. Chesterton
"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
- T.S. Eliot
"Each age has deemed the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer."
- Sir Walter Scott
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering 'it will be happier'...”
- Alfred Tennyson
“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!
This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!
I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!”
- William Arthur Ward
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain
"Glory to God in highest heaven, Who unto man His Son hath given; While angels sing with tender mirth, A glad new year to all the earth."
- Martin Luther
"Be always at War with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you, a better person."
- Benjamin Franklin
"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties."
- Helen Keller
New Year Quotes
The Christmas holiday season is almost over; the beginning of a new calendar year is looming on the horizon. The mid-year point in a traditional academic year is a good time to take stock and evaluate. This week on the blog, we'll be encouraging you with ideas for recovering from fall semester mistakes and making the most of the coming spring semester opportunities.
Here are three tips for beginning a mid-year homeschool checkup:
1. Take it slow.
Quick question for ya: What day of the week is it, anyway???
If you are like most of us, the whole rhythm of homeschool life has been off for weeks now. Allow yourself time to recover your house (decorations do NOT put themselves away at my house, either). Don't expect yourself or your kids to be immediately 100% on top of the game; you may need a few days to ease back into your typical homeschool schedule. Try setting progressive goals, aiming for a bit more academic accomplishment with each day of a regular school week, and see if you can't get back in the swing within a week rather than a day. As you add back in each chunk of learning, take a close look at it. How does this subject feel at the almost-half-way point of the school year?
2. Ask hard questions.
A little honest evaluation as January begins can be worth its weight in gold. Talk to your kids. Talk to your spouse. Talk to yourself. Talk to the Lord. Is that unit study approach you planned for History working out like you hoped it would? Did that timeline you set for writing the research paper turn out to be cruel and unusual punishment? Were there areas that got skimmed-over in the fall, and you need a new approach to stay accountable this spring semester? It's better to face the hard questions now than to wait until the academic year is almost over.
3. Make homeschooling healthy.
There's a reason people join the gym every January; the start of the New Year is a popular time to begin (or begin again) a healthier lifestyle. The same is true for homeschoolers, and our kids can learn a lot from a parent's honest priority-shifting in the interest of health. Don't just think about your physical health. At the same time that there may have been WAY too much sugar in your diet, has there been too little Bible reading and prayer? Did your brisk walking habit fall by the wayside when the Christmas tree went up? Have you and your spouse had too much time with extended family gatherings and not enough time for attention to your marriage? Give yourself a check-up (physical, emotional, spiritual and relational) and encourage your kids to do the same.
Is Writing one of the subjects that took a beating during the fall semester?
Let our writing guides help! Essays, poetry, research papers and short stories all get some friendly help from these comfortably-priced downloadable ebook guides offering 6-10 weeks of writing instruction. Click to view descriptions and excerpts from each in our ebookstore!
A special Christmas guest post from 7Sisters' dear friend, indie fantasy author and homeschool dad Will Hahn. This post is running concurrently on Will's blog. "Classics You've Never Read: The Tale We All Tell" is posted with permission.
You could guess this installment’s topic with your eyes closed, inside a burlap bag. From the basement room of a neighborhood that has no electric lights. Because it was, like, the Dark Ages. So I don’t do mystery, sue me. What other classic would I be reviewing in the week of Yule except Charles Dickens’ absolutely immortal- A Christmas Carol.
Dickens' A Christmas Carol
I can feel your impatience from across the internet, so let me give you the summary in two bullet points.
* Yes, this is a fantasy classic.
* And no, you haven’t ever read it. Not really.
A Spiritual Experience
Now I don’t want any sass on that first point– Marley was dead, to begin with, there is no doubt whatever about that. Then this dead guy, he talks for an entire scene, and Scrooge can rave about blobs of mustard all he likes, but even HE says he believes it.
Add three ghosts, trips across time and space, walking through walls and an old man spending the coldest night ever recorded on earth in his nightshirt, and what you have there is a fantasy tale. Light on combat, I’ll grant you, but a ripping good fantasy yarn nonetheless. Horror and the supernatural are strongly allied to fantasy and always have been. The main difference, in my view, is the growth of character across the tale. Eighteen movies where a cabin/car/boatload of teens run screaming from Risen Guy with a weed-whacker, and what has anyone ever come away learning?
But Scrooge– graduate degree in Goodwill and Charity, in one night.
And this is YOUR tale, rather ours. We all tell it, because we all continually live it.
The only real choice you have with A Christmas Carol is to figure out what part of the story you’re in. And decide how long you’ll stay there.
Scrooge and You, Both Misers
Not me, you exclaim? I’m warning you, no chance you’ll escape this one. The popularity of Christmas Carol is a tidal-wave of evidence. Why does every actor on earth want to play him? Why do we all listen to it, on the radio, in 19 major films, in 39 stage versions (since 1974, half of them running continuously). There have been three Scrooge operas, a graphic novel with Batman as him, over 200 major productions either repeating the story directly or putting a “modern” touch on it. There’s a steampunk version of this tale, one where he’s a TV producer, one where Scrooge is played by just about the hottest woman on the planet, and another where Tiny Tim’s disease is causing the zombie apocalypse.
You think you’ve read this tale? Please, you don’t even know which character you’re playing. Yeah, it’s not good news. But prove your literary worth and pass the quiz first.
Scrooge by the Book- Is it in the Story? (True or False)
1) His clerk asks him for extra coal in the beginning
2) Scrooge watches his younger self lose the love of his life
3) The ghosts come at 1, 2 and 3 o’clock
4) Scrooge sees himself in the future
5) Scrooge visits Crachit’s house on Christmas Day
All false. You’ve been remembering one of the many excellent video versions, which take details of the character arc to heart and amplify the essential meaning Dickens started with. The book’s too short for TV! And that’s fine. But why bother with a 160 year old novella unless everyone– directors, screenplay writers, major actors and you watching at home– responded to something there?
Point: you respond to a tale this powerfully this well this long, because you identify with a major character. And Christmas Carol has only one.
The chief thing about a miser isn’t that he’s rich, or that it’s only about money. Misers are unhappy. They deny everyone their wealth, starting with themselves. There’s a word for the condition a miser lives in. It’s called misery. Scrooge is quite correctly described as sad, weird, funny; as his nephew points out, the only one hurt by all his crabbing is himself. Our lives reflect this and it’s seldom money- it might be patience, or good humor, or our love, or– ahem– our writing talent, but we hold it back and don’t share it enough.
And we need to change. Your heroes need to change- why else are people reading your novella? Many wise online coaches have written about conflict, but Dickens gives us a more detailed map of the how and when. Here is where the spirits come in. You might call them muses.
A Reader’s Progress- Scrooge’s Character Grows
Marley comes to warn Scrooge and his principal impact is based on fear. Scrooge needs to be jogged out of his complacent habits, convinced there are consequences to his actions beyond what he can see, and forced to consider that he must change. The fear is important, but alone it’s not enough. As soon as Marley leaves, the miser is trying to settle back into his old ways, muttering “humbug” again. But he is still off-balance and open to-
- The Ghost of Christmas Past whose chief influence is to fill him with regret. Seeing that he was once happy, and that he used to respond more kindly to people around him, Scrooge becomes truly sad (not miserable, which for a miser is just a form of self-pity). He tells the spirit he can bear it no longer- she has scraped him out like a gourd. Based only on regret for his mistakes, though, Scrooge will not change- he pushes down the cap over the spirit’s light to get rid of it. For more progress in his arc, Scrooge needs-
- The Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him happiness and gives him desire. There’s a Chinese proverb that speaks of how sorrow hollows you like a man creating a pot. Now you can contain more joy. Scrooge sees others making merry despite much less wealth than he possesses and comes to desire that happiness again. If left here, he probably wouldn’t be quite so crabby, for a while, but it’s still not enough. Scrooge must be pushed that final step to action by-
- The Ghost of Christmas Future, who doesn’t simply terrify him but gives Scrooge a sense of consequence. Misers like us mortals are not only selfish, or rather we’re selfish in part because we can’t see for sure the best thing to do with our talents. Easy to say how stupid it is for an old man to hoard money- but remember, Scrooge doesn’t think he is a miser. None of us do. By seeing his future, Scrooge realizes his choices matter. He could make the wrong one. He has been so far. His fate and Tiny Tim’s are linked: and in the event of death, the boy has nothing to fear, whereas Scrooge… that’s not just fear, it’s an impetus to act.
If a man gave away all his money but had not changed inside, it would be about as effective as a knight in my tales defeating a dragon without effort. Scrooge on Christmas Day has become “light as a feather, as giddy as a schoolgirl”. He is an imp– speaking in riddles to the boy outside his window, sending the turkey anonymously to Bob Cratchit. He is unafraid to appear a fool; he knows he has already been one. He understands it’s important to use his money, not to be known for doing so. He is exchanging his treasures here for those in heaven. Just one more remarkable feature of Dickens’ writing, that he so clearly points to a moral and religious purpose without using the G-word (even in vain). Scrooge accomplishes a transformation of character that the world has responded to across all media for sixteen decades. We know, deep down, who he’s talking to.
The 19th Century Indie
Dickens did here what all us authors, writers, chroniclers want to do with our work. More than readers liking the story, more than loving it, he changed how people lived. Did you know:
* He wrote Christmas Carol as Plan B? His original idea was to pen a political tract, urging Parliament to do more to help the poor, and children, etc. He decided that a parable about Christmas would be better. I don’t think he was wrong.
* His tale brought us not just Scrooge, but “Merry Christmas” itself! In Dickens’ day there was still some Puritan in England’s make-up, believing that celebration and liberality were wrong. He was out to change that, and he did.
* He finished the work in less than six weeks, with a deadline (Christmas 1842) looming over his head as pressure. The spirits were with him.
* He elected to self-publish! Took a percentage-royalty instead of flat fee. And he didn’t do that well on it- the book’s popularity was almost immediate but his returns weren’t as great as he’d hoped. Public readings (early video!) and reprintings eventually made up the gap (but Dickens was already well-off). He did the slow-burn!
* Dickens also spear-headed the blasphemous idea that you could publish longer tales, like his other novels, in shorter formats released as serials. Hmmm…. and by making each chapter so cheap (just a ha’penny or so) even the masses could afford to buy a copy.
So, the more things change. And if Dickens was prefiguring so many of our publication choices, we might want to take his writing style to heart as well. Check any article about the history of Christmas Carol to see the impact his tale had on the world: other great writers heaping praise and vowing to give generously, factory owners reduced to tears or closing shop for Christmas after seeing the play. Face it, you got to get a piece of this.
Start with yourself. I urge you all to read A Christmas Carol- the verb there was “read”, but see it too if you like. Learn from your fear, desire the happiness that comes with giving, and make good choices to change the world. Scrooge learns it’s never too late. But the flip-side of that maxim is also true- what day better than today?
A Merry Christmas to you all. God bless us indie authors, every one.
Yep, me too. (Will playing Scrooge in 2006 at the local children’s theater.)
Will occasionally pontificates on Classics You’ve Never Read. His earlier reviews can be found here.
And a P.S. from Will --
BTW: The best of the lot in my opinion? Albert Finney, the musical version.
Dickens Christmas Carol
Pinterest is all the rage. I’m not on it, but I love the concept. It a place to capture images, ideas, plans, ideals for every occasion. I think that Pinterest is really just an outward, shareable copy of something we all as women have internally. We have our own mental Pinterest board full of images and ideals of how each aspect of our lives should be.
From big to small these ideas are all carefully catalogued and never far from our mind’s eye.
* We know what our homes, jobs, and family should look like.
* We know what our family dinners and activities should be.
* We have images for our relationships – how they should function - out children, our marriages, our friends and extended family members.
* We have a category for our future, set up sometime in the past - college life, marriage, career, children, our children’s marriages, grandchildren, our retirement lifestyle - are all displayed somewhere on this mental board.
These images become or are made from our expectations.
Christmas provides the opportunity for an entire Pinterest board of its own. We mentally see in living color how our decorations should look, how many batches of cookies should be baked, what the family photo should reveal about our loving clan. The ideals go much further than outward appearance. We know the ideals of emotion, attitude, and interpersonal relationships which coincide with the season. We should be cheery, joyful, friendly, patient, gracious, enjoying and making memories, delighting in family time and the joy of giving.
Reality does not always match our pins, though.
* Our decorations can be more work and make the house harder to clean.
* The tree cutting outing becomes an ordeal because it is cold, the kids are tired and hungry, and your husband is grumpy about trying to get the tree tied on the car.
* The cookie baking day with Mom makes a mess and doesn’t match the memory-making ideal. (Or maybe Mom does not like to bake cookies.)
* Our family photo does not come out because someone was in a bad mood!
* Our Christmas does not look like our own mental image, never mind Currier & Ives.
Deeper than these outward pictures, our attitude and emotions sometimes don’t match our ideal image either.
We feel impatient, annoyed, rushed, behind, maybe even a little down.
If I’m honest, sometimes I DO care whether or not I’m given a gift and what that gift is.
The same inconsistencies between our images and reality invade every aspect of our lives and the other people in our lives. We often see our plans and expectations unrealized in our own life and those around us.
As Christians, our pins include a whole wall of Christian life and the Church. And, I dare say, for those of us who have grown up in the church, the collection of ideals we have for our lives and other Christians and the church is vast. We can become disappointed and discouraged by these unrealized expectations. We can give up on others or become angry or disillusioned with them. If our reality matches our ideal image, we think we are fine with God; if it does not we flounder.
Worst of all, we limit God by focusing on our self-made Pinterest board. We may have created these images based on great ideals, even godly ones, but we have still created it ourselves. Perhaps this Pinterest board is an idol. Even our prayers and dependence on God can become tied to this idol. We ask God to make our reality or our loved one’s reality fit these ideals. We are asking God to color the pictures we have made. God is bigger than that. He wants to paint a masterpiece, not color in our coloring book. His plans are far bigger and better and more eternal than any ideas we have in mind. (Isaiah 55: 8)
Jonah 2:8 gives us profound wisdom - “Those to cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that would be theirs.”
We do not want to miss the enormity of God’s grace.
He is creator. He is redeemer. He is making all things new. He can make a better painting than our coloring book allows - even using some really awful things.
The first Christmas gives us a wonderful illustration - Mary’s image of her life probably included quiet, respectable family life in her small village, married to a hardworking carpenter, raising children, and caring for her home. With the angel’s announcement, her future completely diverged from that ideal, but she chose to accept God’s grace and plan instead and joy, glory, and closeness with God resulted. (Luke 1: 39)
Let’s make this Christmas our practice session. Join me in choosing to lay down our Pinterest board images, each moment, with each activity, with each emotion, and choose God’s grace instead. It will be infinitely more satisfying and eternal.