Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Adventures in Homeschooling

Over the last two weeks, life changed dramatically, especially for parents.  No longer is there the burden of packing lunches and getting the kiddos off to the bus stop.  There are no more sports or after school activities.  Life, as we once knew it, has come to a screeching halt and everything, and everyone is practicing “social-distancing.”    While the announcement of all the cancellations may be saving us from hearing “hot-crossed-buns” on the recorder at the spring concert and from spending hours in the car shuffling kids to activities, it also forcefully employed every parent into being the teacher/principal/janitor/lunch lady and guidance counselor at the International School for the Quarantined.  

For the foreseeable future, parents will be assisting the education of their kids from home.  While this might be a baby step into the adventure of homeschooling, do not run out and buy a denim jumper or a pair of Birkenstocks just yet.  Homeschooling is similar, but not the same, as Quarantined school.  Yes, your kids are “doing school” at home, but the heavy lifting will still be done by the professionals.  You will not be deciding on curriculums or writing lesson plans.  You will not be grading papers or researching the best way to teach something.  You will never have to answer the question, “What?  No school today?”  You did not just sign on to bear the entire responsibility of educating.  Instead, you were forced to become a more hands-on, active participant in your child’s education. (This is a good thing.)  For many, this challenge is a daunting task. However, do not forget that at some point (hopefully soon), you send those tiny humans back to school and you will be officially unemployed as their stand-in teacher.

Knowing all this doesn’t make your job any easier.  Educating kids at home is hard work and when this is mixed with many parents trying to work from home, we might have a recipe for disaster.  

In hopes of alleviating some of the struggles and diffusing a few of the problems that come with educating children at home, we have interviewed a few professional/fulltime homeschool parents.  We gathered some of their tips and advice that might help you survive.  

·      Pajamas are a completely acceptable school outfit. 
·      Cleaning out the fridge can double as a chemistry experiment.
·      Give them extra credit for cleaning their rooms.
·      Sorting laundry, cooking, balancing checkbooks are all necessary life skills…bring them in on the fun.  
·      Take small breaks.  Take long breaks.  When educating at home there are no bells!
·      No shirt, no shoes…no problem!
·      It is ok to NOT be amazing.
·      Don’t add to the stress.  Just like working from home does not look the same as it does form the office, this does not have to look like “real” school.  
·      Install fluorescent lighting all over your house.  The health benefits are amazing and it will make your kids feel like they are really at school. 
·      Buy lunch trays and serve sloppy Joes and tots every day for lunch.  Make them pay in hugs and kisses.  
·      Use a kitchen timer and have a set time for each subject.  
·      You do NOT have to post every little thing on IG or FB.
·      It is OK to use the television to take a “break.”  For you OR for them.
·      Nothing beats a little reading and snuggle time.  
·      It is completely acceptable to hide in the bathroom (or closet) to find a little mental clarity.    
·      You want the Netflix password?…. I need your math done.  
·      Build a fort and do school in the “woods.”  
·      Block YouTube on your router while it is school time. 
·      Give them their own “workspace.”
·      Don’t forget you once were their age and struggled with basic math.  
·      When all else fails… resort to bribes and payoffs.     
·      Read a family book together that has a movie attached to it.  Read the book and then watch the movie.  Discuss the differences.  
·      As much as you need space (even a few minutes alone), so do your kids.  Structure some “alone time” in the day for them to play/read/craft.  It will do wonders. 
·      Remember when YOU are frustrated, so are your kids.  Take a break!  
·      Let them get bored (i.e. take the technology away) and then tell them to use their imagination.  Step back and watch what happens.  Don’t forget you grew up without an iPad or the internet and turned out just fine.  
·      Start and end each day by praying, out loud, for yourself and for your kids!

And finally, know that you are gifted this time by God.  Enjoy every moment, enjoy the laughter, play a few board games.  Remember, no matter how hard things might seem, no matter how close the walls get, no matter how many days you go between showering, in the middle of every printer malfunction, every meal, every load of laundry, every internet question, the bill, taxes, and the news…whatever you are feeling, it’s okay.  Own those feelings.  They are real.  They are yours.  And then remember… Jesus has not even for one second left you, nor has He turned His eyes from you.   He has you & you got this!  

“Children are not a distraction from the more important work.  They are the most important work.”
                        - C.S. Lewis

Friday, March 27, 2020

He Still Wipes Tears, by Reina Cherry

20 years ago today, my 8-month-old niece, Emsley Keasler, was taken from this earth into the arms of God. "Was taken" feels more like snatched, stolen without any permission or consulting with us by the Almighty. Every year on March 27th, my chest aches, my stomach feels hollow, and fresh tears form in my eyes over this grave loss.

Remembering this terribly hard day (and the long season of grief that followed) connects me directly to the tragic losses that so many are experiencing today. As Good Morning America is on in the background, all I am hearing about is death and the fear of death. I am drawn to the medical personnel.   They are the ones on the front lines fighting all the death that seems to be looming in this season.

This week all our CH women’s studies have gone to ZOOM meetings probably for the remainder of our Spring studies. (SHAMELESS PLUG: if you want to join a study during the days of COVID-19, please go to http://www.coacheshonor.org/women-s-studies and give your email to the admin of whatever study you wish to join. you will then get an email each week with a ZOOM link for that study.)  What a gift it has been to get to "BE" with each other amid the social distancing…The reality is we are made for an authentic relationship with God and each other.  This has been brought to front and center in our days of isolation. Seeing each other on ZOOM has been a healing balm to the loneliness we are all feeling. We also have been made aware of how much FEAR we are all experiencing amidst this COVID-19 crisis.

Many of us as Christians have been taught that the opposite of faith is fear…NOTHING could be further from the truth…the opposite of faith (collapsing/depending on Jesus to rescue us) is self-reliance (trusting in ourselves to rescue us).  Our self-reliance leads to great fear because deep inside us, we know we are NOT enough for life outside the Garden for which we were created to live.

ENTER CORONA-VIRUS - which seems to be pouring Miracle-Gro on our FEAR. All our emotions are like lights on a dashboard. Thus, our feelings indicate we need help/compassion/comfort.

ENTER-JESUS - who meets us in all our emotions with His help, compassion, and comfort. God, in the Bible, never condemns us for our fears, but instead invites us to bring our fears to Him, and promises to meet us there. 

Exodus 34:6 (this verse is the first time in scripture where God describes Himself to man.) 

“And God passing in front of Moses, proclaiming, 
       I am the Lord, the Lord, 
the compassionate and gracious God, 
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 
maintaining love to thousands…”

Compassion means "to dwell with another to alleviate pain." In this season, where fear seems to be a most predominant emotion - we have ONE who dwells with us; His name is Immanuel. Thus, we are invited to be aware/authentic regarding our fears. If we don't acknowledge our fear/anxiety we become fretful - which literally means "a heart that is torn into pieces." But, in taking our fears to "gentle and humble," Jesus, we are met with His gracious compassion. He understands, like no other, our fears during this pandemic. Coming to Him with our real selves, He gives us fresh faith/wisdom to live in these days where the fear of the grave seems to be all-encompassing.  

ENTER EASTER - where in just a few weeks, we will celebrate Jesus' most poignant act of compassion. We pause with gratitude to remember the perfect life He lived and His righteousness that has been put into our accounts. We grieve, looking at the cross where He died for the deadliest of diseases, our sin. And, we celebrate His rising from the dead, where He actually conquered death from the grave! This is our only and real hope today and, in the days, to come.

Indeed, this is my hope today, 20 years later, when my precious little niece, Emsley, was taken into the loving arms of our dear Savior.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The New To-Do, by Lindsey Weyer

Only a few weeks ago, I had a to-do list of errands to run, places to be, people to be with, and time often scheduled in thirty-minute increments to fit it all in!  Never could I have imagined how vastly different these weeks would look! 

Truthfully my emotions have varied throughout the day. For instance, I may feel completely different when I wake up, go outside, watch our two boys (ages nine and five) laugh and jump on the trampoline in the seventy-eight-degree weather while sipping my morning coffee than I do at about four in the afternoon after we’ve run into some technology roadblocks with home school, had some serious differences of opinions regarding Pokemon cards, and I’ve basically been a short-order cook for lots of meals and many snacks. 

My morning joy gradually slides into a wariness that has as much to do with current circumstances as it does to do with the uncertainty. How long do we not hang out with friends, how long do we not hug our grandmothers, how long do we gather online instead of in person? 

The not knowing can begin to let fear into my day. 

Then in the evening, after getting my kids tucked in, we have conversations about businesses, friends, and families that are now dealing with completely unexpected financial setbacks, and my heart breaks. But, you know what amazes me? Hearing my kids’ perspectives. When we’re eating dinner around the table, taking a walk, or hanging out in the backyard, they are quick to talk about what they are enjoying. Their eyes light up when they talk about catching lizards together, playing games with their dad, or doing art projects in our new home school situation. They miss seeing their friends, but this new-found endless amount of time together is something they’re soaking in, taking as much as they can get! They’re not working with all of the information, but they trust that their parents are taking care of the details. They don’t seem all that concerned that there is only a couple more rolls of toilet paper in the house; they just assume that dad will take care of that problem. 
It has been such a reminder to me of what it means to have child-like faith. It is alright that I don’t have all of the information. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask! My kids are asking questions all the time, and when I don’t have the answer, they want me to ask Siri. They ask, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t trust. They fully believe that they will be taken care of. It is such a powerful reminder that I can fully trust that we will be taken care of, even without all of the information. What I think I need is information, but what my heart is actually craving, what it is built for, is intimacy.
In John 16:33, Jesus says that “… in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” My peace is definitely not going to be found in the news, or even in my technology working correctly. It won’t be found in a hug from a friend, although that sounds great right now. It won’t even be found in knowing exactly when this will all be over. My peace can only be found in JESUS. The fact that this is hard, that we are dealing with a devastating set of circumstances should not really even surprise me. We were told by Jesus that there would be trouble. I love when there is a “but” in scripture… It catches my attention, as though it is saying, hold on… look at what is coming! What Jesus says next is that He has overcome the world. He who has overcome the word is our Father in heaven. He is not caught off guard. There is nothing that He cannot do. I can trust that I am in his hands. I can believe that He’s got this.

When I start to lose sight of that trust, I need to read and reread Psalms 91. It says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” With so many cities mandated to “shelter in place,” I’m reminded that we are invited to shelter in the safest place, His presence. His presence is not only found in a church building, or at a Bible study, it doesn’t even have to be while I am reading my Bible or praying. Because He has given us His Holy Spirit we have His presence with us always, even when I am folding mountains of laundry while my kids watch Wild Kratts. I have caught myself thinking that at least by the end of this, I will be caught up on laundry… But really that might not be true!
The thing about laundry is, it is endless. We keep generating more! In truth there is no where that we can go from God’s presence. Psalms 139 asks the question, “Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on the morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute – you’re already there waiting!” (MSG version) In Jesus we find peace. We can take our fears, doubts, and uncertainties to him. He is already there waiting. 

At this time, with so much togetherness for our family, my boys are feeling so loved. It is creating a new normal, an intimacy that comes from being together all of the time. I want that with my Father in heaven too, a new normal, an intimacy that comes from a deeper dependency. In Romans 8:15, Paul writes, “The spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.” 

My prayer over you and your families (and mine too) in this time is that the Holy Spirit would remind us that we are children of the Most High God, invited to bring him our fears, uncertainties, and questions and rest in his peace. We can take heart, knowing that even though we don’t have it figured out, we can trust that He has overcome the world. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Give us a pep talk Coach Taylor

Entire states are shutting down, schools and universities are canceled, people are scared, and this pandemic seems to be getting worse by the day.  In the wake of all the "bad" news that we have gotten over the last week, I get the feeling that we sure could use some encouragement.  We have so many fears, doubts, and questions rolling around in our heads that we need words of encouragement.  We need to hear words that will motivate us to continue the fight, to hold on a little longer.  We have to pull our heads out of the sand and stand tall.  

As we are all stuck at home, working remotely, educating kids, surviving on PB&J, afraid to enter into public, why not find a good movie to lift our spirits?  For my money, there is nothing like a sports movie to change the mood.   In a good sports movie, there are a few must-haves.  It must have the training montages, the struggle, a fist-pumping soundtrack, and the slow-motion victory celebration.  One other must-have that contains some of the most quoted lines is the quintessential, but obligatory, motivational talk/pregame Coach speech.  You probably have your favorite but if not here are a few good ones.

“Clear eyes, full hearts… can't lose!”  Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights

“I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game.  We’ll be winners!” Coach Dale, Hoosiers.

“Great moments are born from great opportunities.” Coach Brooks, Miracle

“And you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we, too, will be destroyed—just like they were.” Coach Herman Boone, Remember the Titans.

“In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody, but yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen.” Fortune, Rudy

“Ducks fly together!”   Coach Bombay, The Mighty Ducks.   

Just reading these words can bring goosebumps to our arms and tears to our eyes.  Watch the videos, and I am ready to run through a wall.  What is it about these words that get our juices flowing?  Why do we look for and need encouraging words facing a great trial?  I believe the reason is that these words clam our fears and direct our efforts and attention.  Before the game,  despite all of the preparations, efforts, and skills, there are still feelings of doubt.  This fear is as real and true in pee-wee games of t-ball as it is in professional sports.  The reason we doubt our ability is because we know deep down we are not as good as we think we are.  Pregame speeches are designed to help us forget, if just for a few moments, that we are not a big sloppy mess.     

In times like this, when it is evident that we are not as powerful as we think we are, a few good words from Psalms is EXACTLY what we need…
The Psalms was one of those books of the Bible that was not written all in one sitting, but is instead, a compilation of different authors from different times in Israel's history.  It contains prayers, hymns, laments, and songs covering a wide range of human experiences and emotions.

Psalms is a book of prayersnot poems.   They were written to help God’s children put words to the emotions of life.  Some of the Psalms are cries of distress to God during a trial.   Other Psalms seek God’s intercession or focus on His incredible blessings.  Some Psalms just sing about His love.  In all, the Psalms are meant to be the chorus that leads us as God’s children through the highs and lows of life right back to His Throne! 

Psalm 121:1–8 (ESV)
A Song of Ascents. 
1I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 
2My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 
3He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 
4Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
5The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 
6The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
7The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
8The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore

We all know that being Christian does not mean there is a promise to be delivered from the hardships or pains of this world.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  The promise is that "through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22).  

Psalm 121 reminds us that in the middle of our struggles, our help comes not from this world, governments, stimulus packages, or even shelves full of toilet paper and eggs.  Our help is from the ONE who made EVERYTHING!!  Our help comes from ONE who never fades away or runs out and never changes (Heb 13:8).   ONE who never sleeps and never looks away.  ONE who is not indifferent, but fully alert and aware of all that is happening!!  The assurance is also that this ONE will protect His own at all times, in all places. 

This psalm encourages us to rest and trust in God and by faith, to know that we under His protection and care.  This psalm gives to our hearts divine certainties that are meant to tip the scales of this world and human uncertainties.  These divine certainties are vividly witnessed at the CROSS of Christ.  It is there we know fully just how committed God is to His children.  It is there where we are told of the victory that because of Jesus, is now ours… “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 15:55-56)

In a world where things just seem to keep getting worse, we can allow our hearts to become infected with the news of the day and become overwhelmed with fear.   Instead, let us not look at the hills, but allow us to use the Good News to know exactly where our help comes from.   There we can drink from the remedy of the Gospel that will give us "clear eyes and a full heart!!"  Then and only then we are sure to NEVER LOSE!!


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thoughts From A Quarantined Extrovert, by Reina Cherry

Good morning from Neptune Beach -  

Today is actually day 9 for me to realize my world as I know it is drastically changing...."most of the time", I think I'm really ok... I think this is true for several reasons...here are just a few that are front and center. 

1. Apparently, I'm a 7 on the Enneagram, and we are always looking for a party/changes in the norm for more fun to be added into our lives. I know this might sound crazy to any other number during such times as we are in, but it's the burden we 7's have to bear :)

2. Lydia/Luke/Finn spent all last weekend with us - so the severity of social distancing was no biggie. I got to play with grandchild #6 for 2 days after returning from out of town. Oh my, nothing is sweeter than getting to wake up to the pitter-patter of the tiny feet we love so much! 

3. Yesterday we got to attend a wedding of 10 peeps in a lovely chapel in Savannah...We were so honored to be a part of this sacred ceremony. The gospel was poured out on this very-precious-to-our-hearts couple and thus on us too! Real and refreshing JOY was experienced amidst the dark and uncertain all around us. Truly, ONLY our God could/would do such a beautiful thing!

NOW - remember I said, "most of the time, I think I'm ok". well, what about the "NOT most of the time," times in my days? In them, I'm off. I'm afraid...and really I don't even know of what I'm afraid. It's pretty crazy-making. There is absolutely no self-rescuing me when the angst begins within...It's an under-current and impossible to grasp or stop...This too adds to the crazy-making. 

4. So...the foundational reason I'm actually EVER ok: I have ONE source to go to with my fears/angst...JESUS...He's the only ONE that can calm my troubled heart. He's the only One that can give me faith to trust Him and to believe that He's still on His throne, that COVID-19 is no surprise to Him, that He's still making all things new, even amidst such fear/despair. Best of all, He gives me fresh faith to trust Him, that He's still caring for me like He always has and always will as my loving, faithful, kind-to-me DAD! 

That being said - one podcast that I listened to twice cuz my soul needed the Truth (and some good laughter) was from Midtown Fellowship in Nashville this past week. Midtownfellowship - Coronavirus/ Jesus & 2000 pigs  "Yes," our son, Elliott, is a part of it. And, "Yes," I'm a biased mama.  But, I'm telling you it's worthy of our time. Randy Draughan and Dave Burden, 2 of the other pastors at Midtown Fellowship also speak such sweet and dear truths in this podcast discussing Luke 8 in relationship to the current COVID-19 pandemic... So grab a good cup of coffee and share the podcast with a good friend (whom could also be your spouse!) Hopefully you can then dwell together in the good news during this time of isolation. Praying your weary souls are encouraged deeply, just as mine was. 

with continued love,

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Can you spare a square? 

What has happened to all of the toilet paper?  Where did it all go?  It feels like just yesterday that I was strolling through my local Costco and saw stacks upon stacks of the fluffy two-ply butt napkins.  What happened?  Did I miss something?  I did not get the memo, and I am sure that no one pulled me aside and whispered in my ear to stock up.  But it is gone...All of it!!!  Know that I am not worried (we are always stocked in TP), but this mess over the last week or so has gotten me thinking and asking what in the world is going on?  

I understand that these are unprecedented times.  My children are washing their hands on a regular basis.  Schools are closed.  People are working from home.  #Self-isolation. Vacations that were saved and planned for months or even years are being canceled.  Gyms are closed.  Professional sports are postponed.  Instead of watching March Madness, we are marching in madness.    In just a few short days the world has cannon-balled into the pool of chaos.  The panic button was not pushed but smashed with a sledgehammer.  

Toilet paper is now the new symbol of the panic.  If there had an international road sign for alarm, it would be a giant yellow warning triangle with a toilet paper roll in the middle.  But why, TP?  I could understand the hand-sanitizer or even the bleach, but TP?  How much toilet paper does one need?  While this phenomenon will most likely remain a mystery, it got me thinking.  What if there is a lesson to be learned in the TP?  What if there is something deeper that God is trying to show us in the middle of all this?   

At first glance, I thought there might be a lesson about being generous.  Scripture has much to say about being generous and sharing with others. Here are a few.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share (1Timothy 6:18).   
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor (Proverbs 22:9).   
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God(Hebrews 13:16).   
As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack”(2 Cor. 8:15).  

However, I am pretty sure that the lesson here is not about you or I sharing a square.  It would be so easy for me to give more, try harder, share your TP, but the lesson is not about being you or me being generous.  We all know that sharing is a part of life.  We are all taught at a very young age to share our toys.  We are lectured to share our thoughts.  We are trained to share our time and our talents.  Generosity and sharing are character traits that are applauded, encouraged, and promoted.  Over time we begin to love the attention that being generous brings us.  We love the applause and bask in the attention.  I hate to admit it, but I have never liked sharing.  As a youngster, I did not want to share my toys.  I abhor sharing food and do not get me started about my time.  Even today, if I am going to give something or do something, reciprocity is a requirement.  Could it be written in the toilet paper…the cold hard truth is that our default setting is SELFISH?  

The Apostle James writes, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).  If it is true that our default setting is selfish, then the place of disorder and every vile practice is our very own hearts!!  We are jealous and self-serving.  We are frightened and near-sighted.  We hoard everything from our TP and emotions to our talents and our love.  The only one that I trust to give my heart and resources to is myself.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The greatest enemy to the human soul is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”  The truth hidden in the TP is that we are hoping to save ourselves.  We seem to believe that if we just have enough, secure enough… everything will be ok.  We run blindly to any THING we believe will make us safe and secure even if that thing is flushed down the drain.  I guess the words of CS Lewis are true, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” 

We all have all fallen short of the glory of God and are a much bigger mess than we would ever want to admit.  We are not generous, and we need rescuing from ourselves.  We have fallen into the gory pit of this godless world, and no matter how much TP is at the bottom, there is no cushioning the fall.  

The lesson we need to hear in this toilet paper crisis is that we need Someone who is always generous to rescue us.  We need Someone who shared not just a square, but all of Himself.  We need someone who did not give out of His excess, but poured out His very own blood.  

Jesus freely gave all of Himself.  He willingly went to the Cross that we deserve.  He did this not because we are good enough or because we have prepared enough.  He gave of Himself not because we have enough or even because in the off-chance we might be generous in offering our neighbor one of our spare rolls.  He gave of Himself because that is who He is.  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

If we really understood the Gift of God, would we be so concerned and consumed with TP?  There is only ONE thing that can keep us safe and it doesn’t come on a roll!