Poetry Tea Time- Why and How?

Like so many other families, our family has a busy schedule. Our days are packed with schooling, activities, and ministry. We often have the next activity on our minds before we finish the task at hand. As the kids get older, it seems we only getting busier. And if we are not careful (and intentional), our family can easily become like ships passing in the night, each going his or her own way.

You may be thinking, “I know exactly what you mean! This is our family too!” Or maybe you are thinking, “Shanna, how is it possible for you to miss connection in your family when you live, school, and work at home? You see each other everyday, for like every minute of everyday!”

Well, it’s very possible, maybe even more possible. There is big a difference between being with people in a physical space versus connecting with people in a heart and mind space. When you see people often, there is a danger in taking their presence and their unique person for granted. Extra effort and intentionality are necessary to continue growing connections and relationships. Time is invaluable to check-in with each other to bust apart assumptions of how and what the other person may/may not have been feeling and the way they are experiencing life.

This is one of the reasons why I love Poetry Teatime. Teatime is an intentional, weekly break in our busy week to rest and reconnect with each other. It is a time to come to the table to enjoy. We set the table beautiful with “proper” tea cups and bring books to sit at our sides. We wait while the tea steeps and others speak, taking turns reading and listening to poems and plays. We slowly sip, nibble special treats, and relish the images that words and conversations bring to our minds.

It might seem very “Mary Poppins-like,” it kind of is. In a world that is increasingly becoming more confusing, dark and scary, these “Mary Poppins-like” moments are increasingly more precious to help celebrate the good and keep cheerful and magical moments alive. There are plenty of other moments in our week when the reality of the world comes crushing through our door with hard to answer questions. We don’t shy away from these things or from topics of current world issues. When these discussions and questions come, I often find myself leading a quick ground training of how to react and respond to these issues in love and according to our beliefs. Poetry Tea Time is a chance to for all of us to take a break, to refreshed and revived from our schedule and these heavy things.

So how? How does Teatime work? How can you start a time like this in your home? Teatime in your family doesn’t have to look exactly like ours. You can find some helpful tips from Julie Bogart, the creator of Poetry Tea Time here, http://poetryteatime.com. There are several components that make teatime special and enjoyable.

THE TABLE

On our table is always set with a table cloth and ceramic cups. I like to use my grandmother’s blue and white set, but we use other sets too. The Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places to find and purchase tea sets and cups. I always add fresh flowers or plants to the table. It is especially special to use something we found in our backyard- like pine boughs in the winter or daffodils in the spring. We always have at least one candle lit and sometimes my daughters will make a special table place card for each setting.

THE TREAT

Sometimes we bake our treats (or more accurately my daughter bakes them.) Sometimes we buy them. It’s fun to try cookies and treats we haven’t tried before. Then there are sometimes we use what we have in our pantry- like granola bars or crackers with peanut butter. Everything can be special and look differently when plated creatively. 🙂

THE TEA

I keep a collection of herbal and caffeine-free teas on hand and set them out on the table with sugar, milk and honey in ceramics. Sugar cubes are always fun to have. I buy them on Amazon as I haven’t had much luck finding them in my local grocery store.

THE WORDS

There are several books that always seem to make their way to the table. I encourage my kids to bring a poem, verse or short story they like to share. Sometimes the poems comes from our specific poetry books, and sometimes from unexpected places (like finding a poem in my daughter’s weekly reading assignment.) I’ve recently been encouraging all of us write our own poetry, but we are still working on that.

Sometimes, we have a Readers Theater during Teatime. We ALL love that! Here are some scripts we have used and enjoyed.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fractured-Fairy-Tale-Readers-Theater-Scripts-Writing-Activities-Grade-3456-3560643

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-True-Story-of-the-Three-Little-Pigs-Readers-Theater-Script-and-Craftivity-1125274

And sometimes, I bring our current read alouds to the table. Here are some suggestions:

https://embraceenthusiasm.net/bookshelf/


During readings, we listen to the reader and usually clap when he/she is finished. Sometimes we ask questions. Sometimes we share why we picked the poem. Sometimes we share our favorite parts. Sometimes the poem leads us into other conversations. Our Teatime lasts an hour long, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. There is a lot of “sometimes” in all of it because I feel like this is a time to just flow without an agenda.

There are many ways to set aside time and connect with family. Poetry Tea Time is just one way we do it in our family. There are other ways we connect that have nothing to do with tea or books. The important thing is making sure we are using our time wisely and and be intentional about creating spaces of connection.

How about you? How are you intentional in creating spaces to rest and reconnect as a family?

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Sweetest Things


The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars but do life’s common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.


– Robert Louis Stevenson

If we are not careful, we will miss it. We might overlook the joy and satisfaction found in ordinary things. We may fail to notice the extraordinary things disguised as common, everyday experiences. The brilliant lessons masked as seemingly dull duties. Within our routines there are priceless opportunities to build character and relationships, practice joy, and learn how to rest in contentment. These are the sweetest things in life.

Yet so often, these are the very things we cast aside and replace with desires and wants of enticing, more showy and sparkly things. The things we see in our Facebook and Instagram feeds that tempt us to identity crises, make us think we need more, need to do more, and make us question who we are. Envy, entitlement, and discontentment start cracking away at our hearts and seep into places that conquer and steal our attention away from the things right in front of us- the people, the tasks, the little tedious things that are often add up to some of the most valuable things in life.

We must be careful not to miss out on the work of our present circumstances. Faithful, ordinary work can be the extraordinary beginnings of dreams coming true. The hard and difficult situations, the ones we wish would vanish, are battle grounds of victory and strength that may be needed in the future. The daily grind of dealing with people and their needs can turn into connections that give us the resources and tools to move our hopes into new territories of growth and confidence. These are the sweet things, my friend.  

My prayer for today is that we see clearly. When we find our mind and eyes wandering to greener pastures, may our hearts bring us back to the sweetness of nearer things. To the places and circumstances where good, sustaining things are found through common, hard work and mature into sweet, beautiful lessons that bring us lasting joy and satisfaction.  


What Is Education?

Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy and methods motivate me to think about the definition and purpose of education. Her words have helped shape my personal philosophy of education, which gives focus, directs goals and provides reason to what we do in our homeschooling and why.

I believe education is a continuous process of developing character and cultivating knowledge to be used in life. It focuses on serving the individual child as is-mind, body, soul. It respects the child’s able, eager mind and places importance on his/her unique needs and capabilities. It employs teaching methods which encourage learning at different speeds, using appropriate leveled materials. Subjects are introduced though living ideas and relationships.  

I believe education should foster interests, develop lovers of literature and arts, encourage curiosity and creativity, and allow for play and outdoor time. It’s learning that lingers in nature, applauds observations and problem solving, and uses discussion as a showcase to express ideas. Most importantly (for me), it’s education in which Biblical Christianity is the truth and the foundation of all other knowledge.  

This may sound idealistic, too good to be true, but it is possible. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. It’s the way our family strives to live out education in our home. Homeschooling provides us the time, flexibility and freedom to learn in these ways.

It’s always a process. I never feel we do “education” perfectly (perfect is boring, right?) I try to embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and place high value on educating myself so I can educate others. I am constantly reevaluating and considering the options and the methods; considering each child’s needs as we go. As much as Charlotte Mason inspires me, I would not consider myself to be a “purist.” I use many of Miss Mason’s wonderful methods and ideas, but I use other methods as well. Methods that I’ve found to be effective and valuable through years of teaching experience.

As with many other parents and teachers, I feel a great weight of responsibility to ensure my children are prepared for life, for them to know the enjoyment of living. I cannot do this on my own. Our days are covered with prayer and we rely on a huge portion of grace and God-given strength. Each day, is a new adventure to look forward to. Homeschooling my children is a wonderful opportunity, a time to wonder and grow together as we explore and open the gift of education that is life.

You can learn more about Charlotte Mason and her methods from these books:

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Monday Motivation

This week might be coming at you like a freight train. A packed schedule with a million things that need to get done. Appointments that need to be kept. Situations that need to be dealt with. Life that needs to be managed.

You might feel completely ready to take on everything that will come this week. If so, that’s awesome! Go attack the week with enthusiasm!

But maybe you feel like this week is overwhelming before it’s even begun. Maybe there are things, in and out of your control, that are intensifying the expectations and responsibilities. Exhaustion, pain, loneliness, anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of resources. These things can make everything seem extra difficult, maybe even impossible. It is for you, I write this post.

When I feel overwhelmed, I hold myself to only one expectation. Keep moving forward. One small step at a time. In faith.

For me, that first step begins on my knees. I pray messy, raw prayers that drain my heart of the anxiety and fear that’s holding me back. I lay it all out there to God, “hand” everything over to Jesus. I admit I cannot do it on my own, admit I do not know what to do or where to go next, and ask for help to keep my eyes focused Jesus and the hope I have through the confidence of faith. And then I take the next step out in faith.

Faith is a powerful thing! By faith, we can do impossible things in holy fear. By faith, we can trust God and obey even when things do not make sense. By faith, we can rejoice in weakness knowing He is strong. By faith, we can endure hardships and persecution, wander in “deserts” and desolate places. By faith, we can realize that difficult situations can (and will be) used for dynamic destinies.  By faith, we can take the next step, walk in love and grace, conquer the situations that come, hold on to the glorious, living hope, and be thankful and joyful in all circumstances knowing we are never alone.

Jesus goes before you. He sees your week and what’s to come. He promises to fight on your behalf (Deut. 1:30), level uphill battles and break down barriers (Isaiah 42:2) and guard your back (Isaiah 52:12.) Be encouraged! Take the next step in those truths.

Have a great week! I’m praying for you! ❤

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1


2019 Word of the Year- HABIT

It could just be me, but I seem to hear more about breaking bad, unhealthy habits than building good, healthy ones. While eliminating bad habits is an admirable, brave and an important thing to do, it’s more important to replace those tendencies with new systems and support. Add the action to the inspiration. Put the “how” into the motivation to change.

That’s where I feel things are lacking. There is an endless supply of motivational quotes and memes. Things that get us thinking about change, but what happens next? How do we actually take the next steps to action? Are there things holding us back? Maybe it’s the lack of time, maybe it’s the effort required, or maybe it’s the overwhelmedness of where to begin. Maybe there’s something more to help us make those next steps to healthier, consistent and permanent good habits. I want to explore all of these things this year. 

My word focus 2019 – HABIT.  My goals include pursuing healthy habits in my heart and mind with grace driven, spiritual disciplines. I want to cultivate good habits in my children’s lives and around our home. And I want to incorporate healthy habits for the better physical health of my family.

Building new habits require work and perseverance that lead to character and transformation. Through this year’s word journey, I’m sure I will have my share of hard work, fumbles, fails, and mistakes as I work toward change and transformation. I’m hoping to share with you want I learn and I want to encourage and equip you as I do. Stayed tuned for what I am sure will be a great journey!

Do you have a word for 2019? If so, I would love to hear what you have chosen?  


Out With a Bang… A Year of Growth

Twenty eighteen went out with a bang. An actual, literal bang.

I was having a great hair day. I had just left my hair stylist and needed to pick up a few things at the store before going home. The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut. I zipped right by the line of cars and laughed at my good fortune of avoiding the long wait. When I arrived at the market, I was even happier and pleasantly surprised to find an open parking space right in the front of the store. Everything seemed to be in my favor!

About one minute later, my positive mood and character were challenged. Pulling into the parking space, I took the turn a little wide. An awful metal scrunching, fiberglass crunching noise accompanied the turn. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Did I really just bang into and swipe the PARKED car next to me? I hoped I had imagined the noise, but from the looks of the people passing by, I knew it really happened. I put my van in park, slowly stepped out and shamefully walked around the back. Silver streaks from the front of my van beamed and highlighted the dark gray fender of the other car. Ugh!  

The driver of the car was not there. For a split second, I dabbled in the thought of what it would be like not to have a conscience and enjoyed a scandalous moment of how easy it would be to leave the scene. Conviction quickly crushed the faintest of wrong thoughts to a complete close. My conscience and the Holy Spirit gave me forceful push forward into the market on a journey to find the owner of the struck vehicle.

How do you find a stranger in a whole store of strangers? Embarrassed and annoyed at myself for getting into this situation, I mulled over the next steps. I called my husband for support. I walked in and out of the store several times. I talked to myself- possibly aloud. I most likely looked crazed. I needed help.  

It seemed best to start at the market’s little café. I walked up to the hostess and explained my situation. She smiled a gracious smile and told me without criticism that everything was all going to be okay. She tried to encourage me with the fact that most people would have just left (yep! But, no, not an option.) She said she would do what she could to help me find the car’s owner.

Within seconds, the hostess had a team of people in action- she mobilized the servers. She sent word to the employees in the back room and at the serving counters. The open layout of the store provided me a full view of the word being spread. With each person told, I waited to see if they would stand up and move forward to me in annoyance and irritation. It took less than ten minutes to ask everyone and no one stepped forward. I thanked the hostess for her help and walked back out of the door disappointed the situation was not resolved.

Back at the van, I scribbled a note of apology, with my contact information, on a ripped piece of scrap paper. I tucked it under the other car’s windshield with a prayer. About thirty minutes later, I received a phone call from a very nice man explaining he was the owner. “Accidents happen,” he said. He even thanked me for being an outstanding person for taking responsibility. The hardest part was over, an insurance claim was made, it was all very easy, and we all went on with the rest of the day.

This small little blip in my day had not destroyed my peace or happiness. It did not wreck my good day nor did it cast a gray shadow over it. This tiny accidental bang gave me one more intentional opportunity to test out some things I had been working on all year.

Growth- my chosen word of the year. Growth in my responses versus my reactions. Growth in my resilience. Growth in the knowledge of what’s important and what’s not. Growth in the ability to ask for help, to let things go, and to be able to accept my mistakes with grace and understanding. These things and more.

If this small incident happened at the beginning of 2018, at a time when I was stretched too thin by over commitments, running around with my priorities out of sort, and in a place of depriving myself grace, this little incident would not have been so little. It would have taken up way more emotional space than it deserved and would have skewed my perceptions of my abilities. It would have left a negative mark on my day.  

“All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort. And effort means work.”
Calvin Coolidge

 

In many ways, this was one of the most flourishing years of growth that I’ve experienced since becoming a mother ten years ago. It was also a continual season of hard work provided by challenging situations that were taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced both the pain and beauty of growing. And it often came in unexpected ways at unexpected times.

The most important thing for me, was to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18.) With this as the foundation (or soil,) everything else I wanted to grow in would flow from it- the way I think, act, respond and love. When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created. The more I meditated on things of God, the more I felt a greater inclination to change and an intentional shift to focus more on life’s important things.

When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created .

My priorities needed to be rearranged. I reevaluated my schedule and our families activities. What once seemed pressing and demanding, seemed like things that could wait. I worked hard to create a balance of work and rest.  I wasn’t perfect. Many times things went off-kilter. There were times I felt overwhelmed. But instead of staying in the rushed craze, I used those times of induced stress, hurrying, and irritation to remind myself why the balance was important. I breathed more slowly, lingered with my children longer, asked for forgiveness A LOT, and prayed constantly.

By the work of the Holy Spirit, grace and love for others grew in ways greater than ever before. My eyes were open wider to seeing people for who God created them to be and seeing their need to feel loved and valued in different ways. I tried to take time to sit and listen to people, give them my attention. I felt (and feel) compelled to hear their stories, give them a chance to use their voice. I pray my words and actions in those conversations and interactions, left streaks of grace and love beaming and highlighting their lives.

The hardest part of growth is the pruning part. The part when things are cut away,and weeded out to make room for healthy growth. This year brought about a lot of change and pruning. I had to say goodbye to expectations, to some people and a role I loved. I had to keep reminding myself that it was all for the good. That it would work out the way it was suppose to, all in the right time. I tried hard not to let the “goodbyes” be a distraction, but allowed myself some time to grieve. I kept moving forward in the direction I felt God calling me too. And I’m still moving. Moving and growing. 


The hardest part of growth is the pruning part.

Growth doesn’t halt at 2019. It doesn’t change because a yearly focus word changes. It doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would. It is always a continual process in all our lives. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities and how will we respond to the situations that will grow our character. We will be embrace them? Or with the opportunities make us wither back in fear, anxiety and selfishness?

Growing is not easy. It’s messy, and effort is needed. But the end result is beautiful and good. For many of us, we do not have to grow alone. When we actively seek to grow as a person, desire to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and rely on dependence of Jesus, the courage and strength to do this type of character growing is available to us. There are people who want to help us too. They want to cheer us on, tell us that we are outstanding people (even when we feel unable, messy and foolish) and maybe mobilize a team of other people to help us find the things we need. Let them.  

I think all of us should start 2019 with a bang! Hopefully, not an actual, literal bang like an accident. But a bang of growth. It’s a new year to take responsibility. A chance to reevaluate priorities. A time to embrace challenge. And an opportunity to ask for and accept help more often. Be on the lookout for the beauty that comes out of all of it. You may be surprised where you find it.  I’m cheering you on. Happy New Year!

   Love,

Love,

The Gift of Today

There are many ways to respond to a gift. When the gift is something we want, it’s easy to react in delight and excitement. Unwanted, unwished for, and undesirable gifts are much harder to receive. It can be difficult to respond with gratitude and grace. It’s best to accept these presents with a polite smile, a “thank you,” and a focus on the heart and (hopefully good) intention behind the gift.

The gift of today is unique. It will bring something different to everyone. Some of us will be delighted. Others will struggle to respond gratefully to what may seem like useless and confusing things. We may wish we could return unwanted, ugly things and situations. We can’t. Time can not be returned. We need to figure out how to make the best use of them and learn from each situation. Many times, undesirable things are useful and needed things for the future. They are surprise gifts that help us grow into stronger, more experienced people and allow us to relate to and help others.

There is something good to be found in each day. Embrace today’s opportunities as chances to change our perspectives and be a gracious receiver. Pause and intentionally choose to respond in gratitude and joy- even when it’s challenging and difficult to do. And make today a gift for others. Regift your time in acts of kindness and show love in action that will keep giving long into tomorrows.

What will you do with your gift of today? ❤

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11