Tag Archives: personal devotions

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.

When You Don’t Have a Proverbs 31 Day

24 Oct

By Elizabeth Thomas

I do laundry, pay bills, wash dishes, return movies and library books (sometimes on time), shop for groceries with coupons I spend hours clipping, buy birthday cards and gifts, wash the car, take care of three cats and a dog, cook dinner, and, once in a while, I get the house clean. I currently do not have cable or Internet service and almost never have time for my personal hobbies, which include sewing, scrapbooking, and gardening. I also have a part-time job that I’ve had for about six years. And if that’s not enough, I am the mother of not one or two, but four daughters that I also homeschool.

Sometimes I wonder: How did I get here?

Some mornings I wake on on the “me” side of the bed and think, “Why me?  How did I get here?”

As a young teenager, I used to say I would wait until I was 30 years old to get married and have just one kid, a boy! I was into my social life and, well, myself. The very idea of becoming a housewife who homeschooled really never crossed my mind. The insanity of it all makes me laugh now! Sometimes I think my life today is more like that part of “Cheaper By the Dozen” where everyone is screaming and yelling in total disorder.

I was reading in my devotional a few days ago about these verses in Proverbs 31:27-28: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” I almost threw my devotional on the floor when I read this! I can’t put into words how far from this verse I felt that day.

I was having issues with church, feelings, and family — and in the moment, nothing seemed to be going the way I thought it should! I felt like I was under attack by Satan, and I was about to bust into a million shattered pieces. I was emotionally drained. Blessed? Ha ha — I didn’t feel that way.

There will always be days like this — at least I know there will be for me — but the truth, God’s truth, is the light at the end of the tunnel. The truth is this: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

If I keep my eyes on Jesus and His plan in my life, all these “speed bumps” become irrelevant. Satan wants me to feel inadequate, to fall down and stay down. It’s a huge job to be a wife and a mother and a homeschooler, and inadequacy is an easy feeling to get trapped into. The truth is I am blessed! I can do this because I am blessed with the gift of prayer, and God’s strength in my weakness! Everyday is a new day, and we can start that day in devotion and prayer.

Staying in the Word really helps us focus.

Homeschooling is another gift I’ve been blessed with because we have the time to learn this important truth! We can spend eight hours a day learning how blessed we are as a family, even when we don’t always realize it. Being able to do this with my girls gives me the opportunity to not only get to know them and who they are, but it gives me an understanding of my parents that simply was not there before. Everyday I think, “Wow, my father taught this to me so much better, I wish I would have paid more attention.” I respect and honor my parents a lot more now, and that is really a gift in itself.

My children amaze me, frustrate me, and bless me with so much patience and love that I don’t think I would have if I worked full time. I honestly like them for who they are! Yes it’s rough and heavy work, but I honestly wouldn’t trade it for anything. And yes, I like to think, Proverbs 31:27-28 is talking about me.

Staying in the Word really helps our daily focus and keeping our “feelings” in check. I just have to remember that in my weakness, He is strong. When I look back on the past couple of weeks and what we’ve been through, I can see this clearly now.

— Elizabeth Thomas is a blessed wife and mom of four girls — Stormie, Rachael, Faith and Cadence — who are all homeschooled. She was homeschooled all through her school years and has been homeschooling for three years. She lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

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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