Tag Archives: bible study

Friday Flashback: A Slow Start to a New Year

6 Jan

By Renée Gotcher

This week I’m participating with a homeschool blog link-up called “The Homeschool Mother’s Journal” hosted by The Homeschool Chick. I love that this week The Homeschool Chick Sue’s post is called “My Year of New” because it’s not about your typical “New Year, New You” gonna-fix-everything-that’s-wrong-with-my-life reflection. In fact, Sue’s year will actually be marked by a lot of  “new” — new experiences and changes on the horizon which she alludes will be revealed soon — and because of that, the word “new” seemed an appropriate theme.

I was glad to hear that, because for the first time that I can remember, when the clock struck midnight and ushered in 2012, I had nothing “new” on my resolutions list. In fact, I hadn’t even started a resolutions list. I have avoided every “New Year, New You” how-to article that’s dropped into my inbox or passed through my Facebook or Twitter news feeds. It’s been an intentional avoidance — which is completely contrary to my personality. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a plan for this New Year. Let me explain…

In my life this week…  I resolved not to make a New Year’s resolutions list! What?!? For as long as I can remember, I always been a big “New Year, New You” girl. From my former magazine publishing days and business as an independent beauty consultant to my family and personal life, I’ve always been goal-oriented and strategic about planning my work and working my plans. I’m a list-making, live-by-the-planner, problem-solving kind of girl. That’s just how God made me.

So what’s changed? I still have plenty of homeschool/work/life to-do’s on my list and areas of weakness that need to be addressed — many of which are recurring issues like exercise more/eat better/declutter the house/don’t watch the Bachelor/etc. Then there are personal goals that I’m passionate about (and I believe God has placed on my heart) which never saw the light of day in 2011. If I’m being honest, there’s actually quite a lot I should tackle in the New Year!

But here’s the thing: Try as I might to find a bible verse to support me in “resolving to be the best I can be” in 2012, I simply couldn’t. I’m not saying that God doesn’t ask us to be good stewards of what He’s given us (food, family, health, talents, etc.) or that He doesn’t call us to live a purposeful life (though I do believe it’s His purpose, not ours). What I did find was a call to seek Him first (Matt. 6:33), to be obedient to His Word (Deut. 11:13-15), to make knowing Christ the goal (Phil 3:8), and to be transformed — not conformed — in order to live out His will (Romans 12:2).

So that’s where I’m going to start. I’m going to examine the items that would normally be on my resolutions list and dig into the Bible to discover what God already has to say about them — I will seek Him first. I’m going to take the list to prayer, and ask God to show me what belongs there, what doesn’t, and what He wants me to add — I have a feeling that list will grow short. Then I’m going to ask Him to show Himself strong in my weaknesses, so that as those things that remain on the list are (hopefully) accomplished, He alone is glorified. Because the truth is this: It’s not about me, it’s about HIM!

I did make one resolution: To go back and restart/finish Beth Moore’s “Jesus, 90 Days With the One and Only” personal bible study my fellow homeschooling sister Cristina gave me a few years ago for Christmas. It’s been attempted, it’s been put aside, it’s been lost, it’s been found, it’s been packed for moving and it’s been discovered 18 months later in a box one of the girls randomly opened in the basement recently. JUST IN TIME. I have a feeling that a lot will be revealed if I just start there!

In our homeschool this week… we are still on a break from a typical school schedule. Truth be told, I didn’t want to get started until the house was restored to some kind of order, and the girls weren’t ready to let go of the Christmas decorations. Finally, Tuesday was the appointed day to take down the tree, pack up the decorations from around the house, and vacuum up all the pine needles and bits of wrapping paper and ribbon still lingering here and there.

While the experience of Christmas was still fresh in their minds, I did have the girls do a couple of writing assignments. First they wrote an essay on their personal highlights from this Christmas. It was fun to see who liked what and what stood out from our “homeschooling Christmas” activities from their individual points of view. The second was a letter to Jesus expressing what celebrating His birth meant to them. My middle daughter Claire — my sentimental girl — asked me if she could keep that one private, so I let her write it in her journal. It was hard not to try to sneak a peek at that one!

In the meantime, we’ve been putting back into order our school area — which is also our dining/front room and got a lot of Christmas use — and other areas of the house that are in full use for school time. Library books have been dug out to be returned, cubbies have been purged of unnecessary contents, supplies boxes have been restocked with working pens and glue that’s not dried up, and games that have been out and in use during the vacation are back in their boxes and on the shelves.

It’s Friday, and things are looking good! The school area is ready to go. The family room and kitchen have also been restored to working order and are even cookie-crumb free again (thanks to me and an hour with the shop vac). The girls are excited about getting back to work on upcoming unit studies and projects. And I’m finally back to a homeschooling frame of mind. Bring it on!

Quote of the week… Does anyone know where my well-planned day went?”

— Me, calling downstairs to the girls as I am frantically trying to locate my homeschooling planner at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. My husband’s laughs could be heard from across the hall. “Did you hear what you just said? Now that was funny!”

And so begins our 2012 story.

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Friday Flashback: Thanking God For Another Day!

18 Nov

By Renée Gotcher

This week I’m participating with a homeschool blog link-up called “The Homeschool Mother’s Journal” hosted by The Homeschool Chick. It’s been a pretty steady week of “ups” in the homeschooling department thanks to our recent school area “reorg” — which has been really refreshing — but it’s been a very challenging week for people I know and love, so lots of prayers going out.

Here are a few of the highlights and not-so-pleasant moments…

My favorite thing this week was… wrapping up an 11-week Beth Moore study called “David: Seeking a Heart Like His.” It was probably the first time in my 30+ year walk with God that I’ve studied one person in the bible so in depth — and what a wealth of wisdom there was to uncover! A man after God’s own heart, who was still very much a man, full of human weakness and contradictions.

It would take me many more paragraphs to fully capture what I learned in this study (I’ll save it for a future post!), but at the end of last week’s homework, Beth asked us to summarize what stood out to us the most about David’s life at that point in time. This is what I wrote in my study journal: “God doesn’t see us the way the world sees us: He cares only about the condition of the heart. He knows that our humanity prevents us from pleasing Him with our actions, so He is looking for a willing, undivided heart that He can captivate to show Himself strong in our human weakness. We were created to glorify God, but we can only do so when we have a devoted heart fully surrendered to Him. Then our lives can speak volumes about God’s awesome power and loving grace.”

If you ever get the chance to do this study, you should — it’s a game-changer!

In our homeschool this week…

As is typical with a “pre-holiday” week, there were some extra things to squeeze into the agenda besides our weekly regulars like my Women’s Bible Study, Awana and PE Plus. But I was really relieved to see that my girls are starting to get the hang of how to go with the flow without completely getting off track.

We take a unit study approach, and my goal is to hit two units per day (like math and history) after starting the morning off with a bible devotion. This week there were times when I wondered if we had enough time to get anything done in between activities, but the girls stayed focused and thanks to our recent reorganization of the school area, had no trouble pulling out the right notebook and diving in when it was time for math, bible history, ancient history, reading or writing & language arts. Today my eldest Audrey even ran the history “expand” activity for me — talk about applying what you’ve learned!

Even my four-year-old Elise has picked up a rhythm for school time. She now knows exactly what to grab and where to go when I say “It’s time for our reading lesson now!” Of course, her focus on the task at hand only lasts about 15 minutes, but despite that, I was completely impressed that as soon as she was done with reading or math time, she knew to go straight to her cubby and pull out something productively fun in to do in between, like a coloring or cutting project. Mission accomplished!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… This week was particularly full of new “Elise-isms” — funny sayings from my four-year-old that are full of wit, thoughtfulness and humor. Earlier this week Elise, my little “dress up” girl who loves to wear skirts and girly things, came into my bathroom undressed, with a t-shirt and jeans in each hand. She excitedly explained that she’d picked out her outfit with her eyes closed, pulling two things out of the laundry basket at the same time with both hands, and was holding them up for me to admire. When I asked why, she said “So I can surprise myself, you know – surprise!” Luckily it was a t-shirt and jeans. Surprise indeed!

Elise’s “Surprise” Outfit — surprisingly coordinated!

I’m reading… I recently finished reading both “Radical” and “Radical Together” by David Platt, and I don’t think I’ve been quite the same since. Reading these two books in tandem with participating in the David study has taken me to a new place in my spiritual journey, and both really confirmed principles about what it means to truly follow Christ that had been weighing on my heart for some time. Have you ever noticed that when God really wants to get through to you, you start to hear the message EVERYWHERE?

Yes, Lord — I hear you! If you haven’t heard of these books and you want to know what it means to “take back your faith from the American dream,” check them out (and by the way, you can literally check them out from the library — I did!). For us, homeschooling was one major step away from where our comfortable American lives were taking us and closer to where we feel called by God to live for His glory. Now I feel God asking us to take yet another step closer as a family, and the issues raised by these books really helped confirm what those steps might be for us. I am anxiously excited about where God is taking us — yes, anxious and excited, because I am sure the road ahead will be anything but smooth!

I’m praying for… friends who need God’s comforting embrace in their lives right now. I’m very thankful that we had a wonderfully smooth week considering all the extra activity, however there was a lot of bad news in the lives of people I am close to.

A young mother in my bible study recently miscarried her second child. A young Christian couple I know who were active in the youth ministry of their church is separating after the husband revealed infidelity to his completely unsuspecting wife. A veteran homeschooling mother in my local group is facing a potential major surgery. And my sister-in-law Rosanna and her children were in a terrible car accident that totaled their van — praise God they all walked away from the scene!

There were moments when I could barely contain myself from screaming out to the Lord — WHY??? Why are you allowing these things to happen to women who love you and follow you? Why am I blessed today, while my sister in Christ is devastated?

I cried and I prayed. Then God reminded me of a verse that we hear so much, I think we often forget what a powerful message it is: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” — Rom. 8:28.

Those words really comforted me in my prayer times this week. Those who are called according to His purpose are not promised a comfortable life. In fact, Jesus warned us to expect quite the opposite. But those who love God are promised His comforting presence, His fatherly love and protection, and His strength in our weakness, lifting our burdens off our shoulders and carrying them for us, giving rest to the weary.

I’m so grateful this week! I’m grateful not just for the joy and the blessings in our family, but the knowledge that if all of that is stripped away, I won’t be left standing alone.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.” — Psalm 18:2-3

If anyone felt the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, it was David. I’m thankful that his words of praise are captured in the Psalms to remind us that we have a Sovereign Savior who will deliver us from our enemies. I’m praying that my friends will feel rescued this week, held in God’s loving embrace and strengthened by His powerful presence.

As for me, I’m thanking God for another day! I rediscovered an old favorite song on my iPod during my run this morning — Natalie Grant’s “Another Day” — that seemed extremely appropriate for how I’ve been feeling this week. Click on the link to listen to it for free via YouTube. I couldn’t help but belt this one out with complete abandon today, what an inspired song! I am truly thankful to my Lord and savior today.

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Our First Week: Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

19 Sep

By Renée Gotcher (with Audrey & Claire Gotcher contributing)

The Sunday before our first “scheduled” day of the new school year, our family spent about eight hours driving back home from Telluride, Colorado — pulling into our driveway as the sun was setting at about 7:30 p.m. After being gone for almost 10 days on a family road trip, staying up late and waking up early, cooking on the campfire and eating in restaurants, and sleeping on air mattresses and couches (in tents and rental condos), we were anything but ready for a structured school day.

So I decided to spend our first week reacclimating to the daily routine — and save my new Heart of Wisdom lesson plans for next week. I kept the agenda loose each day: focusing on one or two key lessons and hands-on applications, having the girls do some review work from last year’s workbooks when I wasn’t working with them directly, and making sure we got to all of our new weekly extracurricular activities (like AWANA and P.E. Plus) on time and with minimal stress.

I also started a new women’s bible study at my church that takes place every Tuesday morning for the next nine weeks, and the girls will accompany me most of the time. Audrey and Claire are helping with the preschool class that Elise is participating in, and we’ll be starting our school agenda after lunch on those days. On top of the schoolwork I had planned and the new weekly extras, we also had to prepare for the monthly elementary presentation day with our local homeschool group, which, of course, happened to be this week as well.

I did implement one new change for this school year: Adding personal bible devotions time to the morning routine. Last year we started out with prayer and a family bible study/discussion time before launching into our daily lesson plan, but because our bible work will be more integrated with other subjects this year due to our curriculum, I thought it would be nice for the girls to have personal devotion time to start their day instead. Right now we’re using Bible Study Planet’s Keys for Kids Daily Study as a starting point for devotion time.

Daily morning devotions is something that I am also working on changing about my day: The women’s bible study I’m doing (Beth Moore’s study of David) is broken up into five daily lessons each week, so I have even more motivation (and accountability) to stay on track with my personal devotion time as well.

I could tell you that I think my mission was accomplished: We got everywhere we needed to be — prepared and only somewhat sleepy (the early bed/wake-up time proved to be a hard transition). But rather than give you my take on how we got back into the swing of things, I decided to let my fifth grader Audrey and third grader Claire share, in their own words, what they thought of our first week back to school.

Here’s what they had to say…

Audrey Gotcher, fifth grade

“I like the new devotions that we are doing in the morning. I also like the P.E. Plus class that we are going to now, because the coach is really nice and I get to see my friends and play team sports with them.

Audrey presents her postcard collection to our homeschool group’s elementary students.

I really like the place where we are having our presentation days now, because it’s bigger and it’s not at a ranch building (like last year) — it’s at one of the family’s homes. It’s more cozy and there are areas to play and relax with my friends. This week I did a presentation on my postcard collection.

I am trying to finish a few of my workbooks from last year too. I really enjoy doing language arts, because it’s teaching me how to write better and choose my words better than I used to. I like doing essays. This week I did an essay about our summer, and I focused on our camping trips. I really like writing and telling people about what I did or what I know about the subject.

I liked going to AWANA because I am in a new book this year that is harder than last year’s book. The verses are really long, but it’s fun to challenge myself. I also get to see a lot of my friends at AWANA and play with them during game time.

The only thing I didn’t like about this week was waking up early. It’s kind of hard for me because I like to stay up reading my books in my own bedroom at night and I like to sleep in. I will try reading my books earlier in the day so I can go to sleep earlier next week.”

Claire Gotcher, third grade

“This week went well. I had fun doing devotions every morning and reading verses by myself. I also liked finishing up some pages in my workbooks from last year, because it is helping me get ready for the new year. I can’t wait until my new math book gets here, because I finished last year’s book and I really like math! I liked going back to AWANA this week, because we get to memorize verses and say them to our leaders.

Claire presents photos from her summer vacation to our homeschool group’s elementary students.

I liked our homeschool group’s presentation day because it was really, really fun, and I did better than last year. I feel like it’s easier to give a presentation than I thought it was. I used to be scared, but now I know that I don’t have to be afraid because no one is going to make fun of me. I did my presentation on my summer vacation, and I talked about my camping trip with my grandparents & cousins, other camping trips I took with my family, the summer camp I did with my friends the Phillips, and how I got to see my Auntie Carol (and her two little dogs, Beatrice and Samson) and our good friends from Durango, like my best friend Kate.

I liked doing P.E. Plus for the first time because our coach is really nice. He also told us a verse before we left. It was: “And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Coach said Jesus said he provided a home for all the animals but he didn’t have a home, he would just go where God led him and stay with people who invited him to stay, or sleep in caves like his cousin John the Baptist. I didn’t know this verse before.

I like that we don’t have to wake up really early like we did before when we had to drive to school. But even though I like sleeping in, I know I am supposed to start getting up earlier. I will try to wake up earlier next week.”

I’m sure Elise, my energetic four-year-old, probably has a lot to say about this week too. She did work on color and shape identification pages, a couple of cutting projects, and lots of free-form drawing and coloring — and tagged along for all of the week’s activities. But she was too busy dressing up her dolls in make-shift outfits (using a new pack of hair ties and scraps of fabric from my husband Kenny’s office) on Friday afternoon to be interviewed. Maybe next week!

— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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