Ancient Egyptian Cartouche Bookmark

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For history, the three oldest and I are traveling back through time with The Mystery of History, Volume 1: Creation to the Resurrection by Linda Lacour Hobar. There are a number of reasons why I like this curriculum so much for our family.  First, it works for a variety of ages at the same time.  When I’m reading aloud about the Mycenaens or the Trojan Horse, the older three (and sometimes even the three-year-old) are able to listen and follow along.  Secondly, it starts at creation and goes through history chronologically, making sure to highlight what is going on in various parts of the world at the same time.  It takes away from the disjointed feel of a lot of history curriculum.  The book encourages you to make a timeline so the kids can easily see what happened when.  We are all very visual learners so we have been having a lot of fun making our timeline.  My favorite part of Mystery of History, however, is the plethora of extra projects and ideas included in the text.  In case you couldn’t tell from all my art and experiment posts, I love to do extra projects with my kids!

When we studied early Egypt a few months back, one of the suggested projects was making an ancient Egyptian cartouche bookmark.  (It’s on page 95 in case you needed to find it.)  I loved the idea, and together we came up with our own version of this bookmark. A cartouche was a intricate box that featured pictures representing the name of an important person. You can learn more about cartouches here. 

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own ancient Egyptian cartouche bookmark: a piece of white cardstock, a pencil, scissors, an exacto knife, a glue stick, a hole puncher,  gold acrylic paint, black paint, gold pipe cleaner, and paper towels

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First, you will need to make two templates out of your card stock.  Draw a oval shape like the one above with the “handle” underneath, and cut it out. Then trace it again on your card stock and cut out a second matching shape.  On one of your templates, draw your name in hieroglyphics. (There is a key to the Egyptian alphabet in the back of the Mystery of History book, but if you don’t have that, you can use this easy site. You just type in your name, and it shows you what your name looks like in hieroglyphics.)

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Next, cut out the hieroglyphs with the exacto knife or a very sharp pair of scissors.  Don’t worry if you have some rough edges – they will smoothed out when you paint it later.

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Using a glue stick, glue the template with the hieroglyphs on it on top of the blank template.and let dry. Punch a hole in the top with the hole puncher.

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Paint the whole bookmark gold and let dry.

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Using a bunched up paper towel, dab a little black paint on top of the gold and smudge it around to give the bookmark an aged look.

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Finally, cut small pieces of the gold pipe cleaner and glue them to the bottom “handle.” Cut a larger piece to insert through the punched hole, and then twist it to secure it.

Now you’ve got a very fancy and mysterious bookmark indeed!  Use it to mark the latest lesson in your history book.

 

 

David and Autism Awareness

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Where does the time go?  Oh – laundry, dishes, meal times, snacks, playgrounds, play dates, learning, kisses, hugs, church, grocery shopping, bedtimes, baths, fishing strange things out of the toilet, avoiding the lego obstacle course on the way down the hall – oh yeah.  It makes sense now.

Still, I intend to squeeze my writing back into these crazy life.  I miss the outlet of writing down my thoughts and chronicling the adventures of our family.  Homeschooling takes a lot of time and work, yes, but I also want to write about it and share my ideas as well as my frustrations.  Autism is a journey with twists and turns that keep us on our toes, and I am disappointed in myself that I haven’t taken the time to write about where we are in that journey lately.

April, National Autism Awareness Month, would have been an ideal time to put up a blog post detailing the latest in David’s progress and improvements.  As I do every April, I chose a favorite photo of David from my albums and tinted it blue for my profile pic on Facebook.  David came up behind me while I was posting the photo.  “Hey, why am I all blue?” he questioned me, giggling a little.  I explained that April was a very special month, and in particular, I liked to join the “Light It Up Blue!” campaign each year to bring more awareness to autism.  He was very quiet after that explanation.  I thought perhaps he was confused by the word awareness and hurried on to clarify that it meant a knowledge of and interest in a subject or cause.  He interrupted me to say in a very matter-of-fact manner, “Huh.  I always thought autism was spelled with an and it’s actually an au! Weird.”

And that’s my David for you, always thinking about things in his way and often seeming to completely miss the point.  Later, I will often discover, he has absorbed what I said and will discuss it with me then, but in the moment, he will frequently choose to talk about something else, often unrelated.  His one-track mind can prove very useful in school when he is excited about the topic at hand.  Then he will spend hours immersed in the subject and willingly do writing and art and all sorts of things that he normally resists.  However, if  I am trying to change the subject, it becomes quite difficult and sometimes impossible.  This is a problem when we are all tired of hearing about Mega Man, Ice Man, Fire Man, Stone Man, and all the other characters that I ought to know by heart by now.  I am attempting to teach him to be more aware of others around him and to allow them to talk about their interests too.  This is challenging for him.  Even if he remembers to give the other person a chance to speak, he is impatiently waiting for his turn so he can get back to talking about what he is interested in.  Recently, at our church home group, I saw him walk over to a group of junior high girls.  He jumped right into his current favorite topic with no preamble and no room for anyone else to talk.  I watched, resisting the urge to step in and help.  The girls were doing their best to look attentive, but as the minutes ticked by and he showed no signs of winding down, they got a little desperate.  Finally, one of the girls interrupted him. “Hey, David, I bet you can’t count all the bricks in that fireplace,” she challenged him.  It worked!  While he turned to look at the fireplace and start counting the bricks, the girls made their escape to another part of the house.  He was unfazed by the girls’ evasion techniques and went on to find another unsuspecting victim. 🙂  In instances like these, I want to shout “He’s autistic, okay? He has a hard time going off topic and can’t read social cues!”  But of course I can’t.  It’s not an excuse, and I certainly don’t want people to pity him.  He has to learn how to operate in these social situations.  And how many times have I, his very own mother, pulled the same trick to get out of talking about the same topic again??

David turned eight at the beginning of April, and he is now standing as tall as my shoulders.  He is quickly changing from little boy to growing young man. He is making tremendous strides in physical therapy and occupational therapy.  In September, he could not catch a ball with one hand and could barely throw it with any accuracy.  Now he does both with confidence.  His balance is better, and his fine motor skills are improving. There is still a lot of work to be done to build up his core strength, but we are working on that with various exercises each week. When we were doing Monday School with our homeschool co-op, I received great reports from his teachers.  He had one class – an art and literature class – that he particularly struggled in because he gets easily overwhelmed by projects and creative thinking.  His teacher was patient and helpful, and he learned a lot.  I asked him what he learned and he said, “Not to take an art class again.” Ha!

People love being with David and working with him.  He is charming and sweet and really does love being with adults.  I love having a conversation with him, trying to get a glimpse into that complicated head of his.  I cannot imagine him without autism – it is an important part of who he is. We will always be looking for ways to help him and encourage him along this journey.  I feel blessed that God saw fit to give him to us, and I do not take my duty and my privilege as his mom lightly.

(For more information on communication difficulties and difficulty reading social cues for autistic children, check out this helpful link at Autism Speaks.)

Coffee Filter Crafts: Jellyfish

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If your kids had fun making the coffee filter seahorse craft, they will certainly enjoy adding these jellyfish to their art aquarium.  They are made with the same technique of washable markers and water and have long tentacles that sway in the breeze.

The topic of jellyfish made an engaging subject in our ocean animals unit study.  As with the seahorses, we borrowed some books from the library to begin our quest for information on these magnificent creatures. (Jellyfish by Louis Spilsbury, Box Jellyfish: Killer Tentacles by Natalie Lunis, and Portuguese Man-of-War: Floating Misery by Natalie Lunis.)  We followed these books up with some videos on YouTube so that we could actually see jellyfish in action.

Here are ten things you may not have known about jellyfish before:

1.  A jellyfish does not have a brain.

2.  Jellyfish come in all sorts of colors: pink, blue, red, even multi-colored.

3.  A jellyfish’s body consists of a polyp, or float, on top and many tentacles dangling below.  The mouth is underneath the polyp.

4.  A jellyfish’s tentacles are filled with toxins used to hurt or paralyze their prey, which can be little fish, other jellyfish, crabs, and plankton.

5.  A group of jellyfish is called a bloom, a swarm, or a smack.

6.  Some jellyfish can glow in the dark.

7.  Jellyfish are a favorite snack of sea turtles.

8.  The Portuguese Man-of-War is not actually a jellyfish.  It is a group of organisms that live together and function together as a whole.

9.  Most jellyfish have a life-span of a few hours to a few months.

10.  Jellyfish range in size from very tiny (thumbnail size) to very large (whale size).

Now, let’s make some coffee filter jellyfish.

You will need: 2 coffee filters, washable markers, water, a paintbrush, a paper plate,  plastic grocery bags, a stapler, party streamers, and some tape

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First, lay your coffee filters one on top of another on the paper plate. Color dots and swirls and scribbles however you like (just like we did when we made the seahorse) on the top coffee filter with the washable markers.  Then, with the coffee filters still stacked up on top of each other, paint over the top filter with water until the colors are swirled to your satisfaction.

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When the coffee filters are dry, staple the outer edges together as shown, leaving a small opening on one side.  Insert the plastic grocery bags into the opening until the polyp is nice and full and then staple shut.

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Next, cut varying lengths of your party streamers and tape to the bottom of your coffee filter polyp.  (I found a couple of rolls of blue and yellow in the junk drawer, so blue and yellow it was for us!)  Use fishing line or thread to hang your jellyfish from the ceiling.

For a short while, we hung our jellyfish in the entrance of our dining room.  They added a beautiful pop of color and a touch of movement to the area, but they were too distracting when you had to walk underneath them.  We ended up moving our jellyfish to a safer location in a corner of the dining room instead.

Get creative!  Think another material besides party streamers would work for the tentacles?  Try it and see!  As with many other ocean animals, the different types of jellyfish vary widely in shape, size, colors, textures, and even the way they move.

And while you are creating your jellyfish masterpiece, you may want to try reading aloud Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High by John Fardell.  It’s a funny picture book for the kindergarten set but will be sure to entertain the older kids as well.

 

Super Cool Melting Ice Experiment

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Lately, we have been up to our ears in ocean animal books and projects and notebook pages.  Apparently, it is a science subject that is going to stick around for a while.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get sidetracked every now and then.  Honestly, it’s one of the beauties of homeschooling.  Your child suddenly shows interest in something, you go with it, and the learning happens!  Not a bad formula in my book.

A while back, the kids and I participated in a “Brain Break” at one of our local churches.  It is hard to explain a “Brain Break” in just a few sentences, but basically the church uses it as an outreach to the schools in the area.  When there is no school because of a holiday or teacher in-service day, the church provides a full day of care for the students whose parents can’t afford to take off work for that day.  They feed the kids breakfast and lunch, do crafts, games, activities, science experiments, and more.  It is an amazing opportunity to serve others and to share God’s love with the kids.  I got to serve in a room where we taught the kids how to make their own snow globes before doing a fun melting ice experiment with them.  The experiment was a simple concept, but it held a definite wow factor for the kids.  My boys had a chance to try the experiment at “Brain Break” too, and they talked excitedly about it all the way home.  I decided we would replicate it at home.  I thought of a few modifications that would make it even more fun, and that night I secretly filled up four balloons with water and put them in the freezer.  The next day we popped those sparkling balls of ice out of their rubber casings and using salt and some food coloring, we conducted our science experiment and did a little art, too!

Want to get in on the fun?  You will need: a balloon, water, a large bowl, salt, and food coloring or liquid watercolors.  That’s it!

Fill your balloon with water, tie it off and put it in the freezer.  (Tip: put your water-filled balloon in a bowl in the freezer so that it does not get lopsided or ridged from your freezer shelves.) Let it freeze in there overnight in preparation for the experiment.  SCIENCE TIME:  How does the water change from a liquid into a solid when it is put into freezing temperatures?  You might already know that water is made up of molecules moving freely around, filling the space it occupies. Those molecules have three atoms each – two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.   When you put water into a place that is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the molecules stop moving so quickly.  The cold slows them down.  Eventually they slow down to an almost standstill.  The oxygen atoms establish an organized pattern like crystals (remember those?), but the hydrogen atoms are rebels and go wherever they please.  This is why water expands, or get bigger, as it freezes.  If you put a bottle of water in the freezer with the cap screwed on tightly, it could explode from the water expanding as it freezes.

The next morning, put your frozen water balloon in a large bowl. (I have several colorful plastic bowls from the dollar store that we use for various occasions, and they worked perfectly for this experiment.) Use a scissor blade or knife to slit open the balloon and remove the rubber from your ball of ice.

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Just doing this will produce some “This is so cool!” responses or whatever the kids are saying nowadays.  Before we went any further in our experiment, I challenged the kids to hypothesize why there were these beautiful, sea-anemone-like structures inside our balls of ice.  Gabi guessed that it was the flow of the water as I filled the balloons.  David thought that maybe the water started turning to ice at the bottom and then moved out to the sides as it froze.  SCIENCE TIME:  Those were great hypotheses, but here’s the real reason for those crystalline structures inside the ice.  It may have seemed that I filled my balloon completely with water, but as I tied it shut, there was some air trapped inside the balloon.  If you look carefully at the first photo (the red one), you can see that the structure is actually made of hundreds of tiny bubbles strung together.  Those bubbles are the air trying to escape while the water froze.

Now comes the fun part.  Ask your kids to list some ways to melt or get rid of ice.  The kids at “Brain Break” certainly had some interesting answers to that question!  Inevitably, especially if you live in an area where snow and ice abound, someone will mention salt because they have seen it sprinkled on sidewalks and spread on streets during freezing winter weather.  Salt is what is used in this particular experiment to melt ice. So scatter (don’t dump!) some salt over the top of the ball of ice. The next part is hard – waiting for a few minutes while the salt starts to do its thing.  It’s a good time to discuss – SCIENCE TIME:  How does salt melt ice?  Here’s a quick video to explain it:

Or, if you want the Cliffs notes version, salt lowers the melting point of water.  Its atoms of sodium and chlorine disrupt the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of the ice and cause it to slowly break apart.

You may not be able to see the melting of the ice initially.  That is where your food coloring comes in.  We used food coloring because that’s what I had on hand, but if you can get liquid watercolors, I would recommend that.  Unless you like having rainbow-stained hands, then, by all means, copy us and use the food colors.  Choose a color and carefully squeeze a few drops over the top of your ball of ice.

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The salt actually sinks into the ice as it pushes aside the water molecules.  When the color is added, it drips down into these little pockets left by the salt.  This is clearly the art part!  Wait a little while and then add a few drops of a different color.  Try adding a little more salt.  You will notice that after each time you add salt, the surface of your ball of ice will become more dimpled like a golf ball.  It would take salt alone a very long time to melt this ball of ice.  It works more on the surface, which is why it is used on icy roads and walkways.

Other factors are at work in melting the ice.  Consider the temperature of the room you are in.  Is the sun shining through the window and perhaps directly on the ice?  Have you touched the ice at all with the warmth of your hand?  Now leave your ice alone for a while.  We went out to the library and the park before returning to see how our balls of ice were faring.

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You can see that our ice now resembled alien brains, as Mikey pointed out.  The tiny pock marks left by the salt had widened into larger pits like the finger holds on a bowling ball.  The water trickled down the sides in a snaky fashion as it twisted and turned around all the salt holes.  We added more color, which pooled up in the salt holes and streamed down the squiggly paths left by the melting ice.  We again left it alone for a while and came back to see new designs and patterns etched into the ice.  Each time we checked the ice, we were given a new art piece to admire and enjoy.  The kids left out their ice all night, and in the morning they came out to see their bowls filled with dark, cold salt water.

It was such an enjoyable and educational experience that we want to do it again.  What if we use something else beside a balloon to contain the water?  What will happen if there are substances in the water before it freezes?  What will the melting process look like if we use a hair dryer instead of salt?  There are a great many more possibilities, and my little scientists are eager to explore this new world of solids and liquids with more experiments.

 

 

Coffee Filter Crafts: Seahorses

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This year in science, we have been studying ocean animals.  We have checked out library books on sharks, watched videos about octopuses, studied the starfish, and really have enjoyed investigating in depth the many creatures of our oceans.  The kids are making ocean animal notebooks to go along with our study, but I have also tried to incorporate arts and crafts into our unit study as often as I can.  Doing something creative with your hands helps solidify learning and makes it more fun, especially for the hands-on learners.

A while ago we examined the lives and characteristics of seahorses.  We borrowed some books from the library (Seahorses and Sea Dragons by Mary Jo Rhodes and Seahorses:Everything About History, Care, Nutrition, Handling, and Behavior by Frank Indiviglio) and learned amazing things about these fascinating creatures.  We found that YouTube has some great educational videos on seahorses as well:

So what did we learn?  Here are ten facts about these little equine-looking sea creatures.

1.  Seahorses have the ability to change color and sometimes even their texture to blend into their surroundings, such as seaweed, various types of coral, and sea anemones.

2.  Seahorses are monogamous, mostly because they cannot swim very well, making it difficult enough to find one partner in life.

3.  Seahorses greet their partners every day with an elaborate dance and an intertwining of their tails before they venture off to find food.

4.  Seahorses have prehensile tails just like monkeys do, which means they can use them to grab onto coral or another seahorse.

5.  Seahorses have few enemies because they are too bony and too hard to eat, but often crabs are willing to try.

6.  Seahorses eat plankton, tiny fish, and small crustaceans by sucking them through their snouts like a vacuum cleaner. They have to eat constantly or they will die.

7.  Seahorses are the only animal species in which the male is the one that gives birth to their young.

8.  Seahorse swim upright.

9.  Seahorses are actually fish, as they breathe with gills, have some fins, and use a swim bladder to float.

10.  Seahorses can measure anywhere from less than an inch to more than fourteen inches long.

And now that we know a little about seahorses, let’s gather a few supplies to make a coffee filter seahorse.

You will need:  a coffee filter, washable markers in bright colors, a paintbrush, water, a paper plate, a googly eye, scissors, a glue stick, and a seahorse template such as this one

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First, flatten the coffee filter on top of the paper plate.  Have your child draw all over the coffee filter with the washable markers.  Big circles of color work the best.

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Next, give your child some water and a paint brush and let them thoroughly paint over the coffee filter.  It’s okay if they use too much water as it will dry. (eventually!)Lay the coffee filter and plate in a warm place to dry.  (I put ours on top of our dryer!)

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Once the filter is dry, show your child how to cut it up into small triangles and squares.  Then, instruct them to glue them to their seahorse page, overlapping them like the bony fins of a seahorse and covering the entire animal’s body.  More overlap will produce a prettier effect.

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Finally, glue on a googly eye and hang the completed art in a conspicuous spot for all to admire.

I think the results of this craft are very Eric Carle-like.  In fact, he has written a cute book called Mister Seahorse that features bright watercolor seahorses in the illustrations. That might be a fun read-aloud while the kids are doing this craft.

Be Calm and Burble On

DSC_0122A few months ago, we acquired a new resident for our aquarium. I named our little African dwarf frog Sir Hops-a-Lot, and he provided quite a bit more entertainment than the fish that just swam in circles all day.  My daughter and I did a little research and found that African dwarf frogs are very social.  This discovery led to the purchase of another African dwarf frog, Sir Spotty, to be a companion to our first one.

Not long after both frogs joined our household, I noticed a peculiar thing about Sir Spotty that caused me to panic a little.  He was floating near the surface of the water with his arms and legs spread out, totally motionless.  I thought he was dead, but to be sure, I knocked against the glass several times until he shifted slightly, as if startled out of daydreaming.  The next day I caught Sir Hops-a-Lot doing something very similar.  He was closer to the bottom of the tank with one foot rested on a plant and the rest of his body suspended in the water, swaying gently with the current of the tank.  “Please don’t be dead,” I thought to myself.  We had just had several of our fish go belly up in the last few days, and I wanted to think that we were not aquatic animal killers.  Sir Hops-a-Lot stayed in that position for over an hour before darting up to the top of the tank for a little air.

I decided to do a little more research on African dwarf frogs to see if this was a normal occurrence for them.  In doing so, I read that African dwarf frogs in captivity often participate in what is commonly called “burbling.”  A frog in a burbling position is effectively zoning out for a while, giving his body a rest from constant swimming or hiding.  You might say that he is in a meditative state of sorts.  This information was a great relief, although I admit to still knocking on the tank occasionally when they look particularly dead.

One recent morning, I was sitting at the dining room table, reading a bit of Scripture and journaling in my notebook.  I looked up to see that Sir Spotty was burbling again, and I noted how still and peaceful he looked.  It reminded me of a verse in Psalms – “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10)  Curious, and because the kids somehow were still miraculously asleep in their rooms, I looked up “Bible verses about being still” and was surprised to find so many on that topic.  I was drawn to the passage in Lamentations 3, where Jeremiah famously talks about the Lord’s mercies being new every morning and about the greatness of God’s faithfulness.  A little further down, Jeremiah proclaims: “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.”  In the margin of my Bible, some years ago, I had written “I must HOPE~SEEK~WAIT on Him!”

I tried to remember the last time I had truly been still.  When had I I last sought out God with no other distractions and then waited for His answer?  Four noisy kids now demanding breakfast and clean underwear and morning hugs answered that question all too clearly.  Being still and listening for God’s voice had disappeared a long time ago and had been replaced by grocery lists and overflowing laundry baskets and scraped knees.  Even when I got up early enough to meet with God before the kids woke up, my mind was still distracted with to-do lists and the busyness of life.  Too many a prayer was interrupted by a seemingly greater need of one of the kids.  Too many a Scripture reading was halted by the chaos of life.

I realized that I needed to make time again to just be still.  In my Scripture reading just this morning, Moses tells the Hebrew people to stop being afraid of the Egyptian army in hot pursuit.  He encourages them to “stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.”  He basically tells them to be quiet and let the LORD do the fighting for them.  How often am I missing out on God doing some great things in my life because I won’t be quiet?  Perhaps, to drive the point further home, what peace and contentment could the Lord bring if I would stop checking Facebook/emails/cell phone games/latest TV show so frequently?

It has been quite the challenge to learn to be still, to turn off the constantly humming “mommy thoughts”, and to realize that I do not have to be constantly entertained or busy all the time.  Every day is a struggle.  I ask God to please take away the distracting thoughts and try to focus on one time a day that I can just make like a frog and burble.  It’s usually after the kids go to bed (I mean sleep, because well we all know that “going to bed” doesn’t necessarily mean quiet kids!).

And in the midst of the most chaotic days, I give myself a little grace.  If “being still” doesn’t happen today, it will tomorrow. And I’ve always got my burbling frog friends around to remind me.

My Journey to Freedom: It’s Never Enough

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(For part one of my story, click here.  For part two of my story, click here.)

I memorized quite a lot of scripture growing up.  After the prerequisite “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” and ” Be ye kind one to another,” two verses that were early ingrained in my mind were Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  It was explained to me that no matter how good I was and no matter how many good things I did, it would never be enough to save me.  I had to accept God’s grace and ask Jesus to save me, knowing that my best efforts here on earth could never measure up to a perfect God.  To a child’s uncluttered, innocent mind, this was wonderful news.  I gladly accepted Christ as my Savior and understood even then how unworthy I was of this precious gift.

After I was saved, I started hearing a lot about “fruit” of salvation.  This teaching explained that you would truly know if someone were saved or not by their fruits, or good works.  I quickly internalized that the more people saw me doing good things, the more they would think of me as a good Christian.  This was reinforced by the adults around me.  I heard things like “Well, you know, Susan only goes to church on Sunday morning so she probably wouldn’t be a good choice to teach Sunday school” or “I’m pretty sure he just keeps his Bible in the car so he won’t forget it for church.  I guess there’s not a whole lot of Bible-reading going on there.”  I still believed that salvation was a gift, but that works were also really, really important.  Maybe salvation didn’t necessarily depend on your works, but if you didn’t have a lot of good works to show for it afterwards, perhaps you weren’t really saved.

Take, for instance, reading your Bible.  I sang “Read your Bible, pray every day” with great fervor in Sunday school class.  I heard quotes like D.L. Moody’s “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”  It quickly became a matter of great anxiety for me.  What if I weren’t reading enough?  What if I missed a day?  It became all about the doing, all about the act.  I read my allotted verses or chapters each day, and that was it.  At college, I made sure that I did my Bible reading in a place where others could see me.  I didn’t want them thinking that I wasn’t spiritual.  Then, I heard a preacher talk about mature Christians.  He said that when it came to Bible reading, you should be reading more and more each year.  He mentioned that he himself was reading ten chapters a day and was hoping to increase that to twenty chapters a day soon.  I felt deflated after hearing that sermon.  Here I was, struggling to read even one chapter a day.  I had babies that were getting up several times during the night and a toddler that certainly wasn’t going to allow her mother to sit and read for even a few minutes unbothered.  I was trying to read through the entire Bible in one year.  If I missed a day, I felt defeated and frustrated and tried desperately to catch up.  It was a losing battle.  At three chapters a day, two days missed meant I was trying to cram nine chapters into one day.  There was no room for the Holy Spirit to speak to me through God’s Word.  I was simply trying to get the work done.

And let’s not forget church attendance!  From the day of my birth (literally!) I attended church for Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and any other special services that might be scheduled during the week.  We were always at church.  The Bible said “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is,” after all.  Pastors interpreted that as “you ought to be at church every time the doors are open.”  I heard my parents and others speak derisively and even condescendingly of those who only attended our church on Sunday mornings.  Worse yet were the folks that went to “that liberal church that only has one service a week.”  There was no good reason to miss church.  If you were sick, you had better be on your deathbed to miss church.  When I became an adult, I was afraid to miss a church service.  What would people think?  If I did not attend a service, almost certainly someone would bring it up at the next service.  In a question masked with “godly concern,” they would inquire “Were you sick?  We sure missed you last week!”  I wondered what they would say if I just blurted out, “Nope.  I didn’t feel like coming last Sunday night.  The Sunday morning service was great, and I just didn’t feel a need to be there again Sunday night.”  But I never had the courage or audacity to say it.

So, if you were reading your Bible faithfully and attending all the church services as much as you could, it would seem that you were a pretty decent Christian.  Sorry, but that was not enough.  Fellow Christians always wanted to know what else you were doing for Christ.  Were you singing lovely Christian songs in the service to bless and encourage others?  Were you serving in the nursery to help some poor, stressed-out mother hear God’s Word that day in church?  Were you witnessing and telling other folks about Jesus every week?  Were you teaching in children’s church, or Sunday school, or VBS, or preferably all three?  Were you tithing and giving at least ten percent of your income to the Lord’s work faithfully?  The Lord really wouldn’t be able to bless you if you weren’t, you know.

It was a truly exhausting way to live.  I did all of the above and still felt like I WAS NOT DOING ENOUGH.  The gospel for me (and a whole host of other Christians around me) had changed from “not by works, lest any man should boast” to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  It would take me a long time to realize that Christ did not suffer death on the cross just for me to continually worry about what I was doing for Him.  Breaking that mindset would be incredibly difficult.  Until then, the frustration and feelings of complete inadequacy while trying to appear to the rest of the world that I was “happy and busy for Christ” would continue to build until I just literally would not be able to take it anymore.

To be continued…