Friday, August 29, 2008

Pray for persecuted Christian believers in India

Pray for our brothers and sisters in India who are being tortured, raped, and murdered for the sake of the Gospel. In this short video, listen as Gospel for Asia Founder and President, K.P. Yohannan, tells of this latest attack on the Christians in Orissa. He mentions a pastor who had the opportunity to escape with his life, but chose to lead his congregation, along with thousands of other believers, into the jungle, saying, “I will stay with my people. If they come and kill us, I am ready to die with my people.”

Please go to: K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia Video on India

“Lord, help our brothers and sisters in India who are truly suffering persecution for the sake of Your blessed Gospel. Give them strength to endure and sweet joy in the midst of their suffering, so that even their tormenters would be amazed. Deliver Your precious children, we pray, for Your great glory alone.”

"Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!"- Ignatius

Sara Groves' Art*Music*Justice Tour

Dear friends,

Sara Groves is my very favorite Christian singer. Her lyrics so consistently and beautifully reflect what I'm thinking and praying about. I'm so excited that she's going to be in Tampa in October. Thad and I are planning to go over for the concert and spend the night there, since it is a two hour drive. She'll be on the Art * Music * Justice tour with Brandon Heath, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken and Charlie Peacock. I haven't heard most of these artists, so I can't vouch for everything they stand for or sing about. However, I do like two of the songs I've heard from Brandon Heath lately.

I love their emphasis on Art * Music * Justice because this is what the Lord has graciously been bringing before me in the past two years. They don't just talk about it -- they live it! I was so touched by Sara's documentary of her visit with the International Justice Mission to Rwanda that I showed clips of it in my English class last spring.

Anyway, you can go to the following web site and click on something to be able to download free music from all of these artists. This is free if you give them e-mail addresses for just three friends, or you can pay whatever you want for it.
http://www.myspace.com/artmusicjustice

You can also find the concert schedule on that site, or check out Sara's own site at http://www.saragroves.com/. You can list to samples of her music there, too.

Blessings,
Virginia

P.S. Here's part of the scoop from the e-mail I got earlier today.

SARA GROVES TEAMS WITH ACCLAIMED ARTISTS FOR ART*MUSIC*JUSTICE TOUR
Fall Tour to Feature Brandon Heath, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, and Charlie Peacock
Benefiting the International Justice Mission and Food For the Hungry, tour Aims to “Add to the Beauty, Seek Justice and Give God Praise”

NASHVILLE, TN....8/13/08.... Critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Sara Groves has gathered a group of fellow-acclaimed artists and friends Brandon Heath, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken and author/artist Charlie Peacock, for her ART*MUSIC*JUSTICE tour this fall, which will benefit both the International Justice Mission and Food For the Hungry. The International Justice Mission (http://www.ijm.org/) is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. Food for the Hungry (http://www.fh.org/) works in more than 26 developing countries providing disaster and emergency relief, and implementing sustainable development programs to transform communities physically and spiritually.

With dates running from September 19th through October 26th (concert listing below), the tour is a unique concert opportunity to “add to the beauty, seek justice and give God praise,” desiring to further educate the church on God's heart for justice, gain advocates for the oppressed, and show evidence of a God at work in this world. Each evening will bring inspired music and stories of God's people in action and their heroic experiences across the globe. Incredible stories of rescue from the International Justice Mission will be told, while giving audience members the opportunity to be involved in Groves 'adopted' village in Rwanda thru Food for the Hungry."God is mighty to save and is actively rescuing the oppressed through His people,” comments Groves. “ Scripture references to the 'slave, the poor, the oppressed' are not figurative. There are 27 million people enslaved today, after more than in 400 years of trans-atlantic slavery. God is calling us to respond. All of us on this tour want to convey, it is not a burden to help, it is an adventure. We’re excited to get out there and share what God is doing!" To listen to audio of Sara sharing about the tour, and for more tour information, please go to: www.myspace.com/artmusicjustice.

Free Music! In addition, all of the artists on the tour are offering songs on NoiseTrade.com for the price of telling three friends about them or paying any amount they choose in exchange for an immediate download. Webb co-created NoiseTrade.com after the success of giving away over 80,000 full downloads of his project “Mockingbird,” Through NOISETRADE, any artist can freely distribute their music online via NoiseTrade’s embeddable widget. For the Art*Music*Justice Tour widget, go to www.myspace.com/artmusicjustice.

UPDATE ON OCTOBER 17: It was an awesome concert, well worth the 200 mile round trip. View my pictures here on Facebook.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Picture with the Prez

Here I am with the Prez!

OK, so it's not really George Bush. This is me with our friend John Morgan, who is a professional George Bush impersonator. The picture was taken at his book signing just after he published My Life as a Bush... and My Heart for Imitating Jesus. I bought a copy for Thad's birthday, which was last week. It is inspiring, funny, and readable.


John is quite talented -- and world famous! But he's also a regular down-to-earth family man who has raised his children well. I've seen him perform "in character" once. Several years ago at our church group's Celebration conference, he did one of his impersonations of Bush for a visiting Cuban pastor who got quite a kick out of the experience when he was finally told the truth!

Here is a blurb from his web site:

Discovered at a “Bush For President” rally in 2004, Morgan suddenly went from selling appliances to performing at the President’s Inaugural. By 2007, John was bringing his big- time comedic impersonation to arenas all across America, appearing live before tens of thousands on Sean Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts” and before hundreds of thousands on “The Winter Jam Tour Spectacular,” where he amazed audiences with his guitar playing and singing. Millions more have seen him on The Family Feud, Headline News, Hannity & Colmes, E! Entertainment Network, ABC’s “The View,” and The 700 Club. Fans even voted him a finalist on ABC TV’s celebrity reality show, “The Next Best Thing.” John was awarded America’s # 1 Bush Impressionist along with two “Mirror Image” awards and a 2005 Cloney award for “Best Historical Impersonation” voted on by his peers.

And finally, heres's a snippet from the introduction to his book:

I guess I could say I'm a fake, a fraud, a sham. I pretend to be someone I'm not. A lot of people wear masks for a lot of different reasons, but I make a living walking in someone else's shoes.

I am a professional impersonator.

I imitate someone who for eight years was the most powerful man on the planet: the president of the United States of America, our "commander-er" in chief, George W. Bush.

It's the role of a lifetime... I look like the president and can sound like the president. I've imitated him onstage before thousands and on television before millions. I've invaded the Democratic Presidential Campaign headquarters in Boston, freaked out folks at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta, been cheered by American armed forces generals in Germany, and turned down an opportunity to be spanked by Marilyn Manson's girlfriend in a music video. I've even convinced America's first lady of journalism, Barbara Walters, that I was actually Dubya.

But none of this holds a candle to whom we are called to imitate: Jesus, the very Son of God.

People often look at me and my outrageous life and say, "Gee, I wish I looked like somebody famous." I have great news for you. If you are a believer in Christ, you do! You have been recreated in the image of God's Son and have His indwelling presence living through you.

Instinctively, we all know that we were born to do more, to be greater than we are, but we often settle for the mundane when the call to real significance rings in our hearts, awakening a longing that can only be satisfied in Christ. Let the truth be told. You were made to be like God. You were created to imitate the life of Jesus Christ and live the greatest adventure imaginable.

~*~*

Well said! You can find out more about John Morgan and his new book (with the forward written by Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee) at: http://www.georgebushimpersonator.com/.

Blessings,
Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Simple Strategies for Saving Money

Simple Strategies for Saving Money
by Virginia Knowles

Before I get started on this article, I want to let you know that I have already written posts on Saving Money on Groceries and Saving Money on Health Care Costs, so I won’t be covering those topics here. This is not fancy stuff, either -- just some basic tips on saving money every day. Feel free to add your own ideas by pressing the comment button below the article. You can find more great tips at Thrifty Times and 66 Ways to Save Money.

Be content.
  • The most important key to saving money is to be grateful for what God has already graciously provided! (See Philippians 4:11-19.)
  • Contentment often means making do with what you have, rather than running out to buy the latest and greatest to keep up with the Joneses. Ask yourself, "Do I really need this?"
  • Don't start expensive “pamper me” habits that will be hard to break later, like continually stopping by Starbucks or even Wendy’s.
  • You can enjoy the simple things in life, like a picnic in the park once in a while instead of having an expensive date night every week.
  • It might help to avoid watching much commercial television or subscribing to magazines which promote a materialistic lifestyle. Speaking of TV, we have never had cable! That's a big monthly saving right there!
  • Here is a little story for you: One year, a few days before Christmas, I was in Sam’s Club buying bulk foods. As usual, I was also drawn to the book aisle, where I ogled over the beautiful sale-priced Kingfisher Children's Encyclopedia. I really wanted to get it (who knows if it would be there the next time?) but I had already blown the budget for children's gifts and home school. I needed to honor my husband’s wishes, so the purchase would have to wait. A few hours later, my neighbor Marie knocked on the door and handed me a wrapped Christmas present for the children. You know what it was! God provided! This sort of thing has happened so many times that it’s like a game to see God’s hand at work in meeting our needs. God is good!


Take stewardship seriously.

  • This is another key, long before you get ready to shop. We have the responsibility of prudently caring for what God has already graciously provided for us.
  • The more you take care of your possessions, the longer they will last, and the more you will be able to enjoy them. My husband and I hunted around at used furniture stores for an affordable recliner chair for our bedroom, but finally decided to just clean and fix up one we already had. A screw driver and a can of upholstery cleaner were all that was needed to make it presentable. Now that’s a good deal!
  • Organize your home to avoid replacing lost items, because if you can’t find it, you can’t use it, and you may have to buy another one.
  • Conserve your resources! Save gas by grouping your errands or car pooling. Turn off lights when you aren't in a room. Use ceiling fans to cut your cooling bill. Take shorter showers. Hang laundry out on the clothes line occasionally. Use a little less detergent in your washer, and do a full load. Teach your kids to be "energy police"! Set your printer to fast draft mode to save ink. Reuse the back side of paper.

Keep a budget.

  • Even if your spouse keeps track of the finances, be sure to stay involved with the budgeting process and your cash flow. Try to be united and “on the same page” with money issues. While my husband is mostly in charge of the finances, we have frequent "budget committee meetings" -- always starting with a kiss!
  • We use Quicken software on our computer during our frequent “budget committee meetings.” This enables us to keep track of our budget as we go, and cut back in areas that seem to be getting out of control.
  • Plan all big purchases together! It is extremely rare for either of us to spend more than $50 on an item unless we have talked about it first. We avoid spending more than about $200 on anything unless we’ve had a few days to think about it.
  • Most states have a buyer’s remorse law that allows you to be released from a contract within 3 days if you have second thoughts. We have used this more than once! It's so easy to get sucked into a slick sales presentation.
Stay out of debt.
  • The first step here is to have the intense motivation to do this! Paying interest is a huge waste of money! Learn to save up for almost everything – even cars -- until you have enough to pay cash.
  • Check out the Financial Peace University! The teacher, Dave Ramsey, talks about having the same intensity about getting out of debt as a gazelle trying to escape a cheetah. We are enrolled in the DVD version of the class at our church, and one week we had to move out of our regular room because of a water leak. It turns out that a squirrel had somehow gotten stuck in one of the thick plastic PVC water pipes above the ceiling, and had been so desparate to get out that it had chewed all the way through it! That's the kind of motivation we need to get out of debt and stay that way.
  • I'm thankful to have a husband who has made staying out of debt a priority all throughout our marriage. Earlier this year, we even refinanced our house to shorten our mortgage from the remaining 15 years down to 10. Yay! We thought of refacing our kitchen cabinets this year, but when we found out the price, we looked at each other and shook our heads. It wasn't worth taking on monthly payments for several years!



Shop around!

  • Don’t be in a hurry to buy, even when you know what you want. If you take your time, you can usually find the best deal or you will even find that you didn't need it in the interim.
  • Let your family and friends know about your upcoming major purchases so they can keep an eye out for great deals.
  • Be sure to compare prices on the Internet. Most major retailers list their products and prices on their web sites so you can let your fingers do the walking, even if you are going to go in to the store to make the actual purchase.
  • Know when to buy certain items. We love the back to school sales when we can get school supplies for dirt cheap! That's the time to stock up! I always buy the same brand of capris pants at Walmart, so whenever they go on sale at the end of the season, I buy a few new pairs.
  • If the product is deficient, don't be afraid to take it back and ask for a refund. Stores want to keep you happy to keep your business.

Do business with folks you can trust.
  • We've all been ripped off at one time or another. I distinctly remember a guy who did a shoddy job painting the outside of our house, then skipped town without even finishing a job. We weren't the only folks he scammed. Check your Better Business Bureau, or ask for recommendations from friends.
  • We've been taking our cars to by repaired by Dan Roldan at Advantage Auto for over ten years because he is always honest and reasonably priced. He also checks out any used cars we are thinking of buying and gives us his opinion of what repairs they might need. We know we can trust him, and we're happy to recommend him to others.
  • Check your receipts! Even if somone isn't trying to cheat you, they may have made a mistake, or maybe the computer didn't have the price in correctly. Especially check phone bills and credit card statements for transactions that you didn't authorize.
  • You should also check your credit report on-line periodically. You are allowed to do this for free once a year from each of the three major agencies, so you can effectively do this every four months.

Get what you NEED.
  • Avoid impulse shopping by writing down your plan before you even pull out of your driveway or log onto the web. It’s fun to find bargains, but just remember not to buy something you won’t really use and love! It won’t be such a good deal if it gathers dust in your closet until your next yard sale.
  • When you do buy, choose items which are versatile enough for many purposes and seasons, rather than just the whim of the moment.

Don't bankroll your teenagers.
  • Our older teens have learned to be pretty thrifty because they have to buy their own stuff: clothes, makeup, restaurant food, gifts for friends, gas, activities, etc. They also have to pay their own share of their cell phones and car insurance. This teaches them to work hard and pinch their pennies, and it saves us money, too!
  • We do pitch in for clothes once in a while, though, as well as pay for their food when we are eating out as a family.

Buy it used.
  • I love used bookstores, consignment stores, thrift stores, and yard sales. I also frequently order used books from Amazon and eBay.
  • Many of our friends swear by Craig’s List for buying and selling!
  • Used doesn’t necessarily mean trashy; there are many upscale used sources, such as a Goodwill “boutique” store. Pawn shops can be an economical source, too.
  • Used toys are often a good deal. Sixteen years ago, I bought a large set of used wooden building blocks at a consignment sale, and we're still using them every day, though I have added to the set as our family has grown. Legos are really expensive new, but folks are always selling them at yard sales or giving them away. We do a good bit of birthday shopping at yard sales, especially for preschoolers who don't know the difference. I could have spent $15 for a princess costume at Walmart, but I bought it for 50 cents from a yard sale! I also got a small folder table and chair for $1 each. You can see the table on my blog post about Melody's birthday.
  • Used furniture stores are a great way to get what you need, especially if you know some basic repair techniques, like using a touch up stick of wood stain to fix scratches.
  • If you don't see what you need at a used store, ask the manager to let you know when it comes in.
Do it yourself.
  • Yes, you can! Whether it is cutting your own children’s hair, repairing clothing or furniture (or even cars), making greetings cards and gifts, decorating your home, or even entertaining your children, you can probably do it more creatively and for less money.
  • Kids love to make cards! Why buy them new?
  • Make sure you have basic sewing supplies and household tools on hand.
  • If you feel nervous about doing something new that otherwise interests you, ask a friend to teach you or enroll in a local class. You can also find “how to” information very easily on the Internet, especially at http://www.ehow.com/.


Get a discount.

  • It doesn’t hurt to ask! Many businesses are willing to give a discount, especially if you are a frequent customer or if you are just plain nice!
  • We get 20% educator discounts to local bookstores as part of our membership in our state’s home school association.
  • Our local YMCA grants scholarships based on income and family size, too.
  • Check out http://www.retailmenot.com/ for on-line coupons for your favorite businesses.
  • You can get especially good discounts from people who are trying to get rid of stuff they aren’t using.

Remember that free is good!
  • Some of the best things in life don’t cost any money.
  • You can get a lot of books from your public library. If they don’t have what you want, request it on interlibrary loan.
  • See if you can borrow a seldom used item from a friend -- and be just as willing to lend your own possessions. You may want to keep a list of what you lent to whom, so you can figure out where it is when you need it again. If it is home school curriculum you are looking for, consider swapping with a friend, such as borrowing her Biology book and lending her your Geometry one for a year. We used to borrow cradles when our older children were babies, and when we finally bought a bassinette for our tenth baby, we lent it out to several people when we were done with it.
  • Accept hand-me-down clothes from friends and family. We get bags of stuff every year from people who know we've got a bunch of kids. We take what we need and pass along the rest. Recycling clothes like this just makes sense!
  • Check to see if your local attractions have a free day. For local residents, the Orlando Museum of Art is free on Thursday afternoons and Leu Gardens is free on Monday mornings. A local church has offered free admission for home school students to the Russian ballet / Kiev symphony production of Romeo and Juliet, and we're all passing along the information to others by e-mail.
  • Ask friends to help with big projects or barter your skills. For example, a friend could help lay sod in your yard in exchange for you helping them paint bedrooms in their house. Or you can trade babysitting services if it is a family you really trust and your kids get along with each other.
  • Don’t be ashamed to pick up something useable from someone’s curb if you know it is “free for the taking” and not just something that happens to be sitting there. Walking around the neighborhood early in the morning is how I found my favorite recliner chair, a great book case, and a desk!
  • Free is good!
~*~*~

Whatever your expenses are, you can put your stewardship, diligence, wisdom, and creativity to work! Grandma always said, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why So Many Typos from an English Teacher?

Dear friends,

When I hit the "publish post" button while writing this blog, it sends the new post to my e-mail inbox. I print it out, hole punch it, and put it in my notebook. Later, I go back and read it over again. I invariably find at least one typo or two, sometimes even more. Aargh! I'm supposed to be an English teacher, instilling in my beloved students a careful attention to detail! Oh well.

Here's why, though... I love to write! I often say, "I can't NOT write." That is an intentional double negative, not a grammatical typo. But, as much as I love to write -- whether it is this blog, my monthly family & friends letter, a Hope Chest e-magazine issue, or a personal note -- it cannot be my top time priority in life. So I write very quickly -- usually interrupted by kids or laundry loads -- and hope for the best. Most of the typos happen when I go back to change the structure of a sentence, and I either leave in a word that I intended to delete or replace or I have a word in my brain that doesn't quite make it to through my fingers onto the keyboard. And occasionally it's just that my fingers are flying so fast that I miss a letter. I don't always have time to proof very carefully because someone is calling for me from another room or needs to use the computer (like, right now!) or whatever. Then, too, sometimes I'm just plain tired and not seeing straight.

The point is not to make excuses for my typos, but just to acknowledge that I live a real life, far from the ivory tower. While I strive for excellence in all that I do, perfectionism is not going to help me survive, much less thrive, in this busy season of life with a bunch of kids in the house.

So, if there is something in your life that you just can't quite seem to get the way you want it, do try your best, but give yourself a bunch of grace, too! That's the real point!

With love,
Virginia

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saving Money on Health Care Costs

Hi friends!

This is an article I wrote a couple of years ago, and I thought of it while writing a post about my Grandmother's recovery from a broken hip. Feel free to pass it on!

~~~

In this article, I would like to share with you several ways our family saves on health care costs, everything from foregoing traditional insurance to doing simple things at home.

When people find that we have a really large family (10 children) I know they often wonder how we can afford medical care without health insurance. When we lost our group coverage from Thad’s previous employer in May 2004, we looked into the costs of individual policies and found high deductibles at over $1000 a month with no maternity coverage! Ouch! So we decided to do something radical -- not get any insurance! Instead, after looking back over our previous year's medical expenses and running cost comparisons on a computer spreadsheet, we signed up with the Samaritan Ministries health cost sharing plan. Basically, the concept is that Christians, who generally have a lower risk of health complications because of their clean lifestyles, pool together their resources and share health costs. This is coordinated by Samaritan Ministries (SM), who validates the medical bills and divvies the expenses between members. We pay a $125 annual fee, then about $250 per month. [Note: since I wrote this article, the monthly fees have gone up, and we have joined in on some additional coverage programs, so we pay a little less than $350 per month. We would be paying four times that much for high deductible health insurance.] The first few months, this fee is sent to SM for administrative overhead, but after that, we pay it directly to the family that SM tells us to send it to. SM does not cover routine doctor visits or anything under $300, but they will pay the remainder of expenses over $300. After three such events in one year, they pay the whole thing. There are exclusions for preexisting conditions, car accidents (you can join an additional SM program for this), and congenital birth defects. We do have to pay the health care providers by ourselves and then wait a few months until reimbursement comes in, but so far, we have saved a lot of money using Samaritan Ministries instead of paying for insurance. I could go on and on about the spiritual and financial benefits of belonging to Samaritan Ministries, but I'd rather send you to their web site: www.SamaritanMinistries.org. If you do sign up, please mention our name (Thad and Virginia Knowles), and we will get a discount off of one month's payment. Even without that perk, I highly recommend Samaritan Ministries!

One way that Samaritan Ministries saves us money is that we have the opportunity to keep our own medical costs under control. I’d like to share several ways we have been able to do this.

First, we don’t run to the doctor every time we have a sniffle. Many times, if we wait it out, the illness runs its course. I usually only take kids to the doctor if they might have strep throat, or if they have a bad sinus or chest infection that won’t clear up in due time. There is not much a doctor can do for viruses the common cold or flu anyway. Many of our friends and relatives swear by an over-the-counter remedy called Zicam for colds. Decongestants, pain relievers, garlic tablets, vitamins, vapor treatments, warm baths, naps, chicken soup, and lots and lots of drinking water can help, too. Common illnesses can also be prevented and contained so they don’t spread among family members. We try to quarantine our children in their bedrooms or at least one corner of the living room when they are contagious, and not let them touch refrigerator handles, milk jugs, etc. In the past, we also kept their toothbrushes separated, but we haven’t been as careful about this lately.

Many health care providers, such as our pediatrician and chiropractor, give a hefty discount for self-pay patients. Florida Hospital has routinely given us a 40% discount for paying right away. When I was pregnant, my midwife referred us to a sonogram center, operated by a Christian OB, which gave special rates for self-pay patients. Delivering with a midwife in a birthing center at your home may be much more affordable than an OB in a hospital. She is also less likely to prescribe expensive and invasive procedures, and more likely to suggest good nutrition and other wellness approaches. Also, when at the doctor’s office we ask them not to order any tests that aren’t really necessary. For example, when the doctor looked at my throat and said I had tonsillitis, I bypassed a strep test that she offered because I would be getting antibiotics anyway.

There are several organizations that arrange for free or reduced cost prescriptions for those who can’t afford it. One of these is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at https://www.pparx.org/Intro.php. (I don’t have any experience with this program, but have seen the ads on TV. You can also ask your doctor for other recommendations.) A few of our doctors have been kind enough to offer us enough “sample” prescriptions to last the entire course of treatment. When you do need to pay for a prescription, you can remember to ask for generic and you can call around to find out what the least expensive pharmacy is. We have found Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart -- with their $4 prescriptions -- to be the most reasonable. We also buy generic brand over-the-counter medications, and have been quite satisfied. [Publix has free prescriptions in some cases.]

Our county health department provides free immunizations for children, and our doctor’s office charges only $10 per shot if you don’t have insurance. When our two oldest teenagers went out of the country for mission trips, they did have to pay for some of their travel immunizations, but the health department had the most reasonable cost and even gave a few of the shots for free because they were under the age of 18. I got my flu shot for a reduced rate at this clinic, too.

We avoid the emergency room as much as possible. We have found that if we can visit our family doctor or chiropractor first, we may be able to get treatment there. If not, they can give us a prescription to go directly to labs or X-ray at the hospital so we can skip the emergency room expense and wait. We also use walk-in emergency clinics for less severe problems when our doctor’s office is not open because the fee is so much lower. Another way to avoid the emergency room is to teach our children how to be safe so they don’t get injured in the first place. I can’t count how many times I have had to stop them from some sort of risky behavior saying, “We don’t need an ER visit right now!” Yes, we have to be a little more cautious, but that’s OK! We can also work extra hard to childproof our homes by keeping hazardous substances out of reach, blocking access to dangerous areas, or removing items that could fall one on someone or make them trip. For example, we used to have an iron railing separating our living room from our computer room. I can’t count how many injuries we had from children running into it, so when we redecorated the house, we tore it out. (It was really ugly, anyway!)

There are times when we don’t know whether we should go for medical treatment or not. Thad and I carefully observe the symptoms, talk it over, consult with our family physician and knowledgeable friends, check the Internet and our medical reference books for extra information, use our God-given intuition, and pray. Sometimes we go in with symptoms of a potentially serious situation that turn out to be nothing, but we’re glad we went in anyway because we needed to make sure. There have been other times when we had a concern but then decided to stay home and wait it out – and fortunately, we have always made the right decision with this! Here are a few good web sites to help you make informed choices about health care:

Dr. William Sears http://www.askdrsears.com/ (Christian pediatrician)
Dr. Alan Greene http://www.drgreene.com/ (pediatrician)
Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/
Web MD http://www.webmd.com

Last but not least, we can’t overlook the power of prayer – for God to heal us or for him to lead us on what to do about a medical situation. We want to be good stewards of our financial resources, but we also want to be faithful in taking care of our family’s health needs. God knows this, and he will help us to do what will please him the most! Last year, I started noticing signs of early arthritis, which runs in our family and is extremely uncomfortable. I asked one of our pastors to pray for me during a special time of intercession at church, and shortly after that the pain went away. When I was in labor with my tenth child, I didn’t want to pay for a $1,600 epidural that would be beyond what Samaritan Ministries would pay. (Pregnancies are covered based on the number of months you have been a member.) I made a deal with my husband that if I could go without it, we would send several hundred dollars to a pastor in Malawi. I came to the point where I faced several hours of excruciating pain after the less powerful IV medications wore off. I reluctantly called for an epidural, but all of the sudden, God divinely opened up my cervix from 5 cm dilation to 10 cm – in about 20 minutes! Baby Melody arrived before the anesthesiologist could even get in the room! Thanks be to God! He was faithful even when my faith wavered!

I hope that these ideas will help you save money on your family's health care! Let me know what you do to cut your expenses in this area!

Is Grandma Hess ready for the Olympics?

Here she is, friends! My grandmother, Dorothy Hess, is ready for the Olympics in the parallel bars gymnastics events -- at age 93!

Well, maybe not, but I'm awfully proud of her anyway. She broke her hip 10 days ago and had a rod inserted all the way down to her knee, and here she is at physical therapy. Way to go, Grandma!

On Monday, my mother wrote this update: "This afternoon Daddy and I went to the nursing home after lunch and weren't there very long before a nice physical therapist named JR came in to work with Mother. First he got her sitting on the edge of the bed for a while, then helped her to stand at the walker. Had her sit and rest a little bit and then had her stand and sit in a wheelchair. Daddy and I followed her to PT where JR helped her stand at the parallel bars. Since this was her first success at getting to her feet in a week, she was naturally tired. On the way back to her room, JR started to ask her if she knew why he was asking her to look at him. I think it was so she'd stand straighter, and also so he could see how she was breathing. Anyway, she looked up at him and smiled and said, "Because I'm beautiful."

Grandma, you are gorgeous! I love you so much and hope you get better soon!

In other orthopedic news, I thought a few days ago that I had a stress fracture in my ankle / foot since it had been really sore for three weeks and I didn't remember injuring it. Thad took me into the Jewett Orthopedic Clinic convenient care center yesterday morning. We had to wait a while, but after I got the X-rays taken, the guy said it just ligament damage. He spent quite a while with us recommending safer exercises for me than jogging at 5 mph on the treadmill at the YMCA, which is probably what did it. I guess that's a no-no for me. He says I should use the elliptical machine or the recumbent bikes for aerobic exercise, or walk slower on the treadmills. I can also continue with the FitLinxx weight machines to build my bone and muscle strength. I do need a lace up ankle brace for a while until it recovers, which may be several weeks. He also looked at the wear patterns on my sneakers and told me to go to Track Shack and getting fitted for supportive athletic shoes based on my feet and my gait. He said they do a really good job figuring out what each person needs. I ran into my friend Joanne Haver at Sam's Club a little later, and she said there is also a smaller family run store called Fleet Feet in Uptown Altamonte that does the same thing for their customers. She says they even watch you on a treadmill in the store and take a picture of your feet. I think I will go there.
We liked the thorough service at the Jewett clinic, and they gave us a 50% discount for paying right away since we don't use traditional health insurance. If it had been over $300, our coverage with the Samaritan Ministries health cost sharing program would have kicked in. Samaritan Ministries is much more cost effective for our family. We pay less than $350 per month for 10 of us, and we've never had a problem with getting reimbursed for medical costs in the 5 years we've been on this plan. Fortunately, we haven't needed them too often!
While I'm thinking about it, I'm going to post an old article on "Saving Money on Health Care Costs" in a minute.
Blessings,
Virginia

Monday, August 11, 2008

Our First Day of School

Our First Day of School


It finally came: the first day of our new school year! The Providence Home Educators co-op is back in full swing, meeting every Monday. One of my boys was so excited that he set his alarm clock for 5 AM. Daddy promptly sent him back to bed, but he was back up again at 6.

We took this picture just before we hopped in the van. I like to start the day with music, so we listened to Chris Rice’s song “Love Like Crazy” on the short drive over – only about 7 minutes in good traffic. Nearly 100 kids (ages baby to high school) and 25 parents swarmed into the Metro Life building at 8:45 for a full day of Math, History, Science and English.

During the math period, I would normally make all of my copies, as well as start checking and stuffing homework folders. Fortunately, I already had prepared my stuff last week, so I spent my time chatting with other teachers and checking in on my kids. During the history class, I’m scheduled to assist in the 5th/6th grade history class. Jenn Stephenson did a terrific job teaching about Native Americans, and I got to read a related story from the book In God We Trust. (I love this book for its short stories of great American heroes.) We also talked about cultural traditions and assimilation.

Lunch time was surprisingly peaceful, since moms (or dads) sit with their own kids. Still, there is plenty of opportunity for socializing.


English Class Lesson Plans

After lunch, I pulled out my white wicker teaching basket and reviewed my lesson plans for the day. I decided at the last minute that I wanted my 7th/8th grade English students to use composition books for copying quotes and practicing handwriting. I took a quick trip to Wal-Mart, where I knew I could get them for 50 cents each in a variety of funky patterns and colors. I also picked up two bags of old-fashioned candy sticks as a treat for them. Since we’re studying American historical fiction this year, I figured it would remind them of a one room school house.

At the start of my English class, I went over a page that describes my plans for the fall semester, as well as classroom and homework expectations. I showed them the three novels we are studying this semester: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.


Quotes and Life Lessons

Our first quote for the composition books sets the tone for the year:

“Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance, self-control, diligence, strength of will, contentment, and a hundred other virtues which the idle never know.” Charles Kingsley

I reminded my students that they will need to work hard this year, to really pay attention to what they are learning instead of letting it go “in one eye and out the other.” I stressed the importance of legible handwriting, and of using proper diction, vocal inflection and cadence in their speech. First impressions make a big difference in life, and if we want people to take us seriously, we must work on the quality of our presentation. I also spoke to them about four clusters of principles about Biblical communication:

1. Careful, Knowledgeable, Purposeful, and Useful
2. Honest, Accurate, Understandable, and Orderly
3. Pleasant, Encouraging, and Ready for the Situation
4. Bold, Gospel-Centered, and Spirit-Filled

For the first of these, I gave them a few Scripture verses including:

“Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel. (Proverbs 20:15)”

I wrote this verse on the whiteboard at the beginning of class so they could look at it. We talked about what it meant – such as that we need to have something worth saying. I also pointed out where the punctuation was, and noted how the words “abundance” and “knowledge” have verbs roots with suffixes that turn them into nouns. Then I erased the sentence, read it aloud ONCE, and had them write it from memory in their composition books. This dictation method is one advocated by turn of the century British educator Charlotte Mason, whose writings have shaped much of my own views on the learning process.

Grammar Lesson

Next came our grammar lesson, using the BJU 7th grade Writing and Grammar workbook. This lesson was on the four types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory) as well as identifying subjects and predicates. We did a lot of the exercises in the class, and took so much time that I only had a little left over to do our literature lesson.


Literature Study: The Witch of Blackbird Pond


I spent just a few minutes introducing our first novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which is set in a Puritan town in Connecticut in the 1600s. The book is about how a very educated young lady from Barbados befriends an old Quaker widow who is falsely accused of being a witch. I love this book for its vivid descriptions and its deep life lessons about friendship and loyalty in the face of superstition and prejudice. I told that kids that my ancestor, Margaret Stephenson Scott, was the last and oldest person hanged in the Salem witch trials, and how people were suspicious of her because a few of her children had died in infancy, and she had a reputation as a cranky old beggar.

In her 1959 Newbery acceptance speech for The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the author described the philosophy that has guided both her writing and her life: “I do not believe a historical novel should gloss over the pain and ugliness. But I do believe that the hero… should on the last page . . . still be standing, with the strength to go to whatever the future may hold.” This quote from the author comes from the publisher’s free on-line study guide, which you can find at http://www.glencoe.com/sec/literature/litlibrary/witchofblackbird.html. I used that study guide for a reference and background information, but I wrote my own study guide questions for the kids. (If you want a copy of this, e-mail me and ask for it.)

Great American Communicators


The final thing we did in class is to talk about the Puritan governor John Winthrop and his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.” I am featuring one “Great American Communicator” each week this fall, highlighting men and women who have made significant contributions to American history through their communications. Some of the future ones will include Jonathan Edwards, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Noah Webster, William McGuffey, Alexander Graham Bell, Sequoyah (who invented the Cherokee syllabary), Fanny Crosby and Katherine Lee Bates.

John Winthrop in 1630

John Winthrop, who lived from 1588 to 1649, founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 and was the first Governor, serving 12 terms. The 700 Puritan colonists from England had left behind their homes and money to settle in the American wilderness and establish a new Christian society. On board the ship Arbella, Winthrop wrote and preached a sermon called “A Model of Christian Charity” which reminded them all of their goal in going to America. They were supposed to make God’s kingdom grow, and keep themselves and their children spiritually safe from the evil culture around them. Winthrop used a word picture from Matthew 5:14. Jesus had told his disciples that they would be like a City on a Hill, a great example of God’s glory in the world. Many important people throughout American history have been inspired by the thought that our land is to be an example and beacon of light to the rest of the world.

Here is a very brief excerpt in the original Old English…

Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God, for this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberality…

My paraphrase:

If we don’t want to be shipwrecked (as a community), and if we want to prepare for our children’s future, we need to follow the advice of the prophet Micah: Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God. So we must work together as a team. We must treat each other with brotherly kindness. We must be willing to go without extra stuff so that we can help with what other people need. We must show each other meekness, gentleness, patience and generosity.

City on a Hill

As a modern day reinforcement, I brought in a CD with a song called “City on a Hill” sung by a Christian rock band called Third Day. I played it as the kids cleaned up the classroom and zipped up their backpacks. It was a fitting end for the class.

City on a Hill
By Mac Powell

You are the light of the world
A city on a hill cannot be hidden
Shine your light before all men
That they might see your works and then
Praise your Father up in Heaven

A city on a hill cannot be hidden
Standing tall before all men
To show the things that it’s been given
And everything that it can give
Just like that city on a hillside
We got a light that’s deep within us
No, don’t keep it to yourself
Just remember how you felt
When you first gave your life to Jesus

And I know that our salvation
isn’t in the things we do
But it’s only given by the grace of God
By the sacrifice of Jesus,
and if we really did believe
We were born to share
this message with someone.

The class time went way too quickly! I always seem to run out of time for everything I want to cover. I guess that's a good problem to have -- I'd rather do that than have to twiddle my thumbs!

All in all, I’d say we had another great day at the Providence home school co-op! My kids all enjoyed it, too! They've already eagerly started their homework assignments for the week and now they are cleaning up so they can watch some of the Olympics.
Blessings,
Virginia Knowles

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Melody, My Bud of Joy

Dear friends,

It's my little Melody's 3rd birthday today! I've often quipped that it would be a miracle if I survived until this milestone, but I guess I did it!
















About a week before Melody was born, I had gone into the hospital for a pitocin induction. I was on high doses, but it didn't work. After two days we gave up and went home. A week later, my midwife told me to drink an ounce of castor oil ($1 at the grocery store, much cheaper than two day of pit) and Melody was born the next morning! In the meantime, I thought often of this poem by Amy Carmichael...

Bud of Joy
Amy Carmichael
Come, bud of joy, the driving rain
That all thy young, green leaves doth wet,
Is but a minister of gain
To that which in thy heart is set.
Come forth, my bud; awake and see
How good thy Gardener is to thee.

And pass, my bud, to perfect flower,
Dread not the blast of bitter wind;
Thy Maker doth command its power;
It knoweth not to be unkind,
Haste thee, my flower; unfold and see
How good thy Gardener is to thee.

Melody is my "bud of joy" indeed! She brings a song to my heart.


I took these pictures this morning. Melody is wearing her "bud of joy" dress with chunky flower buttons. Ben offered to help me button her up. We're having a little family birthday party for Melody tonight. Lydia is going to make carrot cake. The only two presents we have given her so far are a little green table and blue chair that I got for $1 each at a garage sale. Melody seems to think the table makes a better bed...

















Here are Ben, Rachel, Naomi, Joanna, and Melody. Melody loves to climb on Naomi's top bunk, but she can never get down. I tried to teach her, but for now I'll just have to keep rescuing her!









Melody can be such a ham sometimes. Joanna gave her this funky hat. I also bought her a baseball cap with blue fake hair attached to it, but I couldn't find it this morning when I went to gather up her presents to wrap them.







Melody fell asleep at the table the other day. Joanna took this picture, and the flash woke her up. Startled, Melody immediately started shrieking, "That's MOM'S camera!"





Melody holds a special place in the heart of her big brother, Benjamin. I thought you might get a chuckle from some posts that her 15 year old sister Joanna put on her blog about them.

Ben by Joanna on July 22
Last night, when I was about to start reading No, No Bunny to Melody, Ben (who's 5) came in the room. He walked over to us, and said, "Melody, remember, God is always watching over you, even when you can't see Him." And then he gently patted her on the head and walked back out. I just sat there with my heart melting! It was the epitome of childlike faith.

"The Daily Episode of Ben and Melody" by Joanna on July 31

Around mid-morning I walked into the boys' room...
Melody was bouncing around on Ben's bed. He wanted her out.

His solution? A trail of toys going from his bed out the door. Good idea? For most kids, but not when Melody is concerned. She just grabbed the toys she liked (carefully not getting too close to the door) and went back and plopped on his bed to play with them. She even counted them (a little gloatingly) "one, fhree, four!"

I could've easily brought her out, but I wanted to see his next tactics.

"I have to find something really special," he told me. He picked up his toy gun, and said something to the extent of: "Here!! Look at my toy gun!! It's awesome...don't you want it?! You can play with it if you leave!" She gave him a look that said, "Yeah right, why would I want that?" and went back to cheerfully playing.

"Gahhh, now I have to find something really lucky!!" He rustled around in a drawer of his favorite possessions and pulled out a plastic hippo and antelope. "Melll-o-dy! Look at this HIPPO! and antelope! Ye-ahh!!" He waved them around telling how great they were.

Again, the"yeah right" look from her. He tried bribing her some more, but to no avail.

I eventually left the room, but I think he was exhausted of ideas and finally let her stay in and play with him, Either that, or she decided to leave, probably to get herself a graham cracker. Typical.

~*~*~

About two weeks ago I took the five younger kids to Leu Gardens. Admission is free on Monday mornings if you enter before noon. Since our home school co-op classes start next week and they are every Monday, I figured we'd better "do" Leu Gardens while we could.









We always bring a drink and a snack to eat at the gazebo in the rose garden. Here is Melody watering up!




















The kids seems so small next to this thatch of bamboo!


We always stop by the lake to feed bread to the turtles and the fish. When Thad took me to Leu Gardens during our courting days, we ate apples and cheese next to the lake. So romantic!










A cypress tree with its roots in the water reminds me of the Psalm 1:3 -- "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."








One of our favorite places, near the butterfly garden, is where there are two sculptures of orange pickers. Ben climbs up on the ladder to get a better look. If you've read my previous blog post, A Mother's Seeds, you will know that I am always waiting for the fruit to appear!





















Well, I guess this is the end of my blog post today. Happy birthday, my little bud of joy! I love you!


I've written some other blog posts about Melody. You can read them by clicking on these phrases...
Broccoli!
Me Too!
Miss Melody
Mommy Brain

Blessings,
Virginia (Mommy) Knowles

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Mother’s Seeds

A Mother’s Seeds
by Virginia Knowles

A mother sows seeds
Sows in hearts softened by sweet nurture
Seeds of myriad sizes, shapes, and sorts:
Truth, mercy, faith, repentance, salvation
Wisdom, praise, discipline, responsibility
Love, joy, peace
Here a seed, there a seed, everywhere a soul seed

No mother is purely saint, saintly pure
So subtle weed seeds slip from her packet too:
Bitterness, pride, impatience, sloth, doubt, scorn, fear
She may wisely snatch them up again right away
Before harm takes root in tender spirits
But some sink in and grow in spite
Later to be plucked out, or not

Yet she seeks to sow good seed in good soil
Not for the pleasure of plowing, digging. straining
Staining hands and knees with clay
Casting bloodied thorns and stubborn stones aside
Not for these trials she toils, bowed low
But for the hope, for the promise of the soul seed’s sole purpose:
Oh, for the fruit!

Working, watering, worrying, weeping, watching, waiting. wondering:
Will these tiny seeds fulfill destiny
First with green stem and fragrant blossom, and then fruit at last?
Or will they lie lifeless underground or shriveled on dry crust of earth?
Oh, did one, even just one, take root deeper and deeper in the divine deep?
Anchored by a sturdy, centering, downward shaft
With fragile spreading threads tangled outward, seeking sustenance?

Oh, for the fruit of those roots unseen!
So: more seeds! Sow more seeds! Sow and sow again!
Lord, make them grow!
For a mother must be faithful but He alone can bring forth fruit!
(Soli Deo Gloria! Gloria in Excelsis Deo!)
His fruit is sweet and succulent, swelling with more seeds
Later to be scattered far beyond her own field, season after season

Nations and generations shall witness her seeds and His fruit
Fruit from seed, and seed from fruit
From her home to His uttermost gardens
From her time to His eternity
For a mother’s heart sows well beyond her own wee plot
She mothers young and old, neighbor and sojourner
Her reach is far and deep, patient and persistent

Any seeking soul becomes her soil
She meets needs with diligent deeds
Bathes each one in warming rays of kindness and prayer
A mother’s heart sows these seeds then
Waters, works, watches, waits, wonders again and again
By faith, hope, and love, she reaps abundant harvests
When goodly, godly fruit is ripe at last!
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