Drinking in the Season

I often struggle with prioritizing.  Sometimes I feel like there are so many things to do that I don’t know there to start.  It feels like I am trying to drink out of a fire hose.  But then, if I can draw some perspective and think through what exactly is worth doing, what needs to be done, what is important, I can often lessen the overwhelming flow.

How much more intense is this torrent during this season?  Thoughts of Christ in Christmas are hard to come by if I don’t initiate them myself.  They aren’t in the stores, the teachers aren’t allowed to mention them, the marketers would rather write fairy tales of gifts that bring happiness on Christmas morning.

So how do you keep your eye on the prize?  How do you remember that Jesus is the reason for the season?  How do your drink in the sweet grace of our encounter with the divine in the vulnerable form of a baby?

I would love to hear about how you and your family enjoy a Christ-centred Christmas in your home.  Please comment on the blog and share your ideas with all of us!

Here are a few ideas that we have tried or heard of:

1)      Make sure that your gift giving includes gifts for Jesus.  We started a family tradition of celebrating Jesus’ birthday the way we would other family and friends: cake and gifts for the birthday boy!  When we blow out the candles we one by one give him a gift of words of praise and then we choose gifts out of a Samaritan’s Purse or Gospel for Asia or other Christian charitable catalogue.

2)      Give gifts that emphasize the thought rather than the price tag.  A woman I spoke to recently said that in their family they draw names and each get a gift of a used book for the person they drew.  They have so much fun finding out what the person might like, discussing their literary tastes and hunting down the special treat.  A thoughtful and inexpensive way to love on your family.

3)      Before accepting invitations to gatherings, events and parties, decide who you most want to spend time with over the holidays and how often you want to go out and make sure that you protect your schedule from events that won’t fit these priorities.  With several birthdays in our extended family at this time of year, we find that often we have to choose to only accept invitations from family in December and plan to visit others in the New Year.

4)      Give gifts that are a double blessing.  Get a gift that will not only make a loved one smile but will also bless a needy person through a charity or will bless a local small business person who is trying to provide for their family (rather than a large corporation that is trying to pad their bottom line).  This year many of our gifts are home made by local artisans, by our family or are supporting charitable endeavours that are close to our hearts.

5)      Do less, enjoy God’s people more.  I have come to realize that the only way that we will have the house decorated, the children educated, the cookies baked, the cards sent, the house clean, and the packages wrapped is if the whole family is intensely involved.  When the kids were younger, this was next to impossible and even now, there is so much that we can’t accomplish in pursuing all of these traditions.  So ask yourself, can we do without baking? Can we send our love in a simpler way than having to mail Christmas cards?  Can our gifts consist of gifts of time to visit rather than rushes to the store with an overtired credit card?

As you prepare your hearts and homes for the celebration of the coming of Christ this season, I wish for you the opportunity to drink in the sweetness of the moments and really savour our Saviour.

Blessings,


Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca


A Few Good Books

Hello All,

As many of you know, this Maple Tree is littered with many good reads and I am constantly shipping them out from our little space.  I thought I would let you know of a few good books that I have here and would love to share with you…

First our Clearance books.  These are all new books that are discounted because I have more than we need even at this busy time of year.
 
Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series $50 (Regular $62!)

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick $12 (Regular $14)
*Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra and Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra Companion $36 (Regular $48)
*Life of Fred: Advanced Algebra and Life of Fred: Advanced Algebra Companion $36 (Regular $48)
*These Life of Fred books are being replaced by a new volumes which combine the companion into the text.  In other words, these four books are now coming out as two books which will be $42 each.  As far as I can tell, the content is the same.*

I also have a hard cover, “scratch and dent” copy of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully available for $10.  There is no visible wear and very minimal damage.

As well, not wanting to jump into the Christmas shopping rat race, but also wanting to respond to the requests of some of my customers, if you have items that you are thinking of purchasing for your family and friends for Christmas and think that Maple Tree could help you out with them, I do very much appreciate your support of our small business from one home schooler to another.  I have in stock several items that you might have on your Christmas list including:

          The Jesus Storybook Bible ($19)
          The Jesus Storybook Bible with CDs ($28)
          Jonathan Park CDs.  (I hope to have the newest volume, #9, in stock in the next week to 10 days!) ($25)
          What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver DVDs by Phil Visher ($15)

Also, I am able to order thousands of other titlesthough a distributor that I am working with that supplies both homeschooling resources and many of the books and other items that you would might find at a general Christian bookstore.  Please let me know if you would like me to special order something in and I will see if I can help you with what you are looking for.  I plan to make an order this Thursday so please send all special orders in by Thursday at 10am.  Thanks!

Finally, as it is my goal to give gifts that are doubly beneficially this year, I also wanted to pursue items at Maple Tree that could be doubly beneficial.  As such I have started to carry a few titles by talented Canadian independent authors.  These books are a wholesome treat to have in your home and your purchase can also support independent Canadian authors and small businesses.

·         May I introduce to you a beautiful children’s picture book by Janis Cox called Tadeo Turtle.  Mrs. Cox is a very talented artist and has filled her book with amazing watercolour paintings.  The book is a story and learning opportunity about painted turtles and other animals and has a sweet moral to it about how we are all special because we are different.  There are many activities and learning extensions included in the book.  It retails for $13 and for Christmas I am shipping it for free! (These books are so new to Maple Tree that I don’t have them on my website yet but you can preview them here: http://www.janiscox.com/information/)

·         Carolyn j Morris is another independent Canadian author whose stories have been a treat in our home.  She has published three novels entitled Mourning Dove, Barn Swallows and Pine Warbler.  These novels are suitable reading for about a grade four level and up and can easily be enjoyed as a read aloud by younger children as well.  In the first story, the main character, Billy, is dealing with the recent loss of his father.  In this and all the stories the reader becomes acquainted with rural Canadian life as Billy spends a lot of time on his grandparents farm.  You will laugh and cry at the tender moments in these stories but will also learn some of the ins and outs of life on a farm in Canada.  A real treat.  These books also retail for $13 each but I have an introductory special of $12 each or all three for $30 plus shipping.  (You can read more about these books here: http://www.railfencebooks.com/books.php)

I hope that these few volumes will be of use to some of you.  Please let me know if I can help you with any of these titles or with a special purchase.

Blessings,

Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca
 

32 Pairs of Socks

For Christmas my family tends to get practical things in their stockings as well as an orange and a candy or two.  Fairly predictable.  More often than not, this means that Christmas time is a time to restock on socks.  And, boy, did we need socks!  It seems that we are constantly rifling through the clean laundry looking for a pair of socks for the day.  How nice to feel like we are restocked and spoilt again in the New Year. 

But here is the catch, as I sat trying to catch up on the laundry this past week, reveling in how nice it is to be healthy again (after sharing all together in being dragged down by a horrible cold/flu virus all through the holidays), I realized that maybe I had erred in the sock purchases over the holidays.  You see, I sat for a quite moment – probably a good half hour – and sorted out half a dozen piles of “what belongs to who” and then proceeded to start the pairing…  I paired up Hubby’s socks and tucked them away, then I folded mine.  32 pairs of socks.  No, not his and mine.  I folded 32 pairs of my socks.  Really?  Do I really have 32 pairs of socks…. And that would also imply that it’s been a month since I last folded socks…  And that it will also likely be another month before I am sufficiently motivated to fold socks again.  Sigh!

How often is my life like this?  I invest time, or energy, space, or money in something that is meant to help or simplify life and yet makes no difference or a negative one.  I was thinking this when I considered other things in my little world too.  How often have we “needed” a new book or curriculum that only seemed to make us busier but not smarter?  How often have I stuck with an old activity while adding a new one on to our already busy schedule and hoped to be able to fit it all in? 

I know that New Years is a time for resolutions and reflections but I don’t tend to like to follow the crowd and don’t want to make these grand commitments to change just because everyone else is.  I do however want to continually be striving to be all that God created me – and my family – to be so New Years is as good a time as any to strengthen my resolve.      

So I am strengthening my resolve to strive for the purpose and simplicity that we set out for so long ago in our family life.  I want to constantly question why we do things and how we could do them better.  In our school this year, that has meant lightening some of our work load to be able to focus on other things.  Namely, we chose to take a break from reading and writing curriculums so that we could spend more time just reading and writing.  Sounds simple, I know, but it has been revolutionary.  The kids and I are so enjoying just reading a lot together.  It’s been fun to take the time to make cards, write letters, to teach them to blog and to write out their thoughts on the things that they are learning, to listen to a beautiful poem or Bible verse or saying and to set it aside for later to be copied and kept.

Now, as I try to jam my 32 pairs of socks into a too-small drawer, I am reflecting on other ways to keep it simple in areas that I tend to invite the complicated, ways to redeem wasted moments that could be used more wisely.  I think that one thing we will do is to read our Bible more, to simply enjoy it as literature with our other readings rather than parsing the meanings to death.  Teaching my children to view the world through a biblical lens can only be enhanced by reading the Bible more and discussing all of life in light of the living word of scripture.  It seems to me like a spectacular way to continue to “throw off everything that hinders” so that we can “run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us” knowing that to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1,2) will only bring us closer to that ideal that we strive for.

Blessings, Friends, as you strive to be all that you were created to be in 2013!

Happy New Year,

Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca
mapletreepublications@sympatico.ca
905-778-9412

Christmas Blessings

Dear Friends,

I have finally dusted off my laptop to send you a few words of greeting over these beautiful holidays.  First I want to send my wishes that you have had a spectacular Christmas with friends and family and to wish your New Year will be filled with God’s richest blessings.

I have to admit that I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately.  We are finally starting to see the end of a horrible bout of cold and flu that has been with us for more than three weeks.  I have been stuck in the past wishing for a White Christmas and a repeat of the idyllic holidays of many years gone by but these days Christmas has been a visit to his mom’s and then my mom’s and then my dad’s and … well you get it.  This year, it’s been a few of us visiting with one pocket of loved ones or another hoping tentatively for peace and having to leave one or more sickies at home. 

This holiday has taken an extra striving to recall the point of it all.  It is so easy to lose the sound of the still small voice of the baby in the manger.  But we have found our Christmas in the moments.  Friends, I hope you have found your moments as well. 

We loved the moments of our advent readings even if, yes, we didn’t finish them all.  I was touched by my husband’s reflections and patience when I was too stressed with lists and cards and bills to see through to the Jesus who had made it all so special.

I enjoyed discussions with my daughters about the gifts that they had for Jesus.  So neat to walk my seven year old through why Jesus didn’t take the beautiful card that she made for Him and set under the tree.  “Where does Jesus live daughter?”  “In heaven.”  “Where else?”  “With us, here in our house, in my heart.”  “So, he kept his precious gift here where he lives.  No?”  We discussed how he says that when we do for others we are doing for Him.  We discussed the gifts that we gave especially to Him when we gave to others.

Another special moment with Jesus was in a new tradition that we started last year: a cake, candles, and “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  My oldest daughter loves to bake and makes wonderful cakes.  This year she really wanted Jesus to have a cookie monster birthday cake.  We put six candles in and after singing to Him we each blew out a candle and gave him a birthday gift of words, “Thank you Jesus for giving me my family!”  “Thank you Jesus for taking care of us.”  “I am so glad, Jesus, that you are so much smarter than I am.”  Last year we chose out gifts for Jesus on Christmas day from the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue, each giving of their own money.  This year, we pooled our resources and were able to give to Jesus in another fun and creative way.  What a treat!

Still wrapped in the busyness even last night (since you can’t finish Christmas cards when everyone is sick for three weeks in December and we are finally starting to catch up on some of those visits that we cancelled) I received another sweet gift from my Saviour: a note from a friend.  It is such a blessing to have friends who are there at just the right moments.  So neat to see that Jesus is there to bless me in so many ways: through little thoughtful notes, and through the huge sacrificial gift of coming as a vulnerable boy to be my Saviour from all that I deserve.  It’s so hard to comprehend.  Perhaps that is why I can only handle it in small moments.

Friends, I hope that you have had that idyllic time of Christmas wonder and enjoyed this amazing time of reverence for our Jesus but if you have been, like me, seeking at least the little moments, may this magical time between Christmas and New Years be a time of you to rest in Him and to know His peace in a new way.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Cori

Celebrating

Dear Friends,

I trust that the holidays were kind to you.  For us, it was, as usual, a busy time of hustle and bustle.  We enjoyed sharing gifts with our kids, and blessing the rest of our family too.  At first, I struggled this year with even wanting to give gifts to everyone and with scrimping to spend money that was tight.  As we contemplated it, we wanted to give to Jesus on his birthday but did that mean buying lots for everyone but him? 
But then, I realized that He said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)  So we were pleased to be able to make efforts for his birthday and others did the same for us.  Some wonderful “Santa Claus” left gifts for our family at our home just before Christmas.  What a touching treat!  That experience helped me to realize that we wanted to make sure that our family, our kids know that they are our first priority in sharing the love of God. 
So in addition to our traditional stockings and gifts and turkey comas with several different family groups, we enjoyed a couple of neat activities that were new:
We enjoyed a wonderful gathering of friends in which we got to sing some old fashioned Christmas carols to get us “in the mood” to celebrate the coming of the Saviour.  That was so refreshing.  Thank you, Friends!
As well, our oldest daughter made a birthday cake for Jesus and we all sang Happy Birthday to Him.  Then each of us gave a gift of praise to Jesus and blew out one candle.  Afterwards, we each chose a gift from the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue for him.  An excellent birthday party on Christmas day!

What old and new traditions highlighted your holidays, friends?

And what are you looking forward to you for the New Year?
Soon I will post some of the exciting things that I am looking forward to for 2012…  I will resume the Mother Culture posts and am getting into the readings for the next Charlotte Mason meeting…  Then, ever so quickly, homeschool conference season will be upon us and I will look forward to seeing many of you in person at one or another….
Until then…  wishing you all a (belated) Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.
Blessings,
Cori

The Evening News

Tonight, as my hubby and I sat watching the evening news and flicking through the few channels that our antenna gets, it seemed that a sad theme was jumping out at us… 

*Click*  We heard about the deadly toll that the recycling of electronics takes on workers in India.  We watched both adults and children working away to provide for their families by investing both their time and health into dismantling toxic waste that we, as Canadians, ship to them as recyclable electronic waste. 

Then, *Click*, there was the story about whether we should really be using that harsh “C” word at this time of year…  Christmas!  The marketers weighed in arguing that Canada is a multi-cultural country and so “Christmas” just isn’t relevant anymore for this “Winter Holiday Season”.

Just before the news came on *Click* we caught a few minutes of a documentary about life in the mid to late 1800’s.  What a stark contrast to today!  People then has so much less, wasted so much less, threw out so much less.  These were the people who raised and taught our grandparents and great-grandparents.  They laid down the foundation for the life and families and country that we now have. 

And yet, *Click*, the commercials point out the gluttonous buying frenzy that the corporate world would encourage us to indulge in at this time of year.  This is thought of as progress. 

This is the kind of progress that has brought us other interesting phenomena like the show that friends discussed with us over dinner tonight…  *Click*: “Extreme Couponing”.  I know, I don’t have cable or a satellite so I haven’t seen a whole episode but watching short snippets on YouTube has just made me cringe. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am about the most frugal girl there is around…  If I can get around buying something I will.  I love borrowing and lending.  Bartering is awesome and from time to time I’ve been known to clip a coupon here and there. 

But tonight I saw clips of people who had stockpiled 150 years worth of deodourant just because the coupon made it nearly free.  Do they ever wonder what they are going to do with 150 years worth of deodourant?  Or who ends up paying the real price when they are clearing out the stores for next to free?  The prices will go up!  What about the cost of devoting so much of your valuable time to shopping when you could save the same amount by growing your own food.  You get double the value by saving the money and getting fresh, organic food over processed, packaged food.  Don’t we all lose when our focus is on getting stuff and not on saving money or even better on enjoying the life that God has given us.

Of course there is a time and place for couponing but we need to make the distinction between wisely investing our money and hording.  Looking over stockpiles of cake mixes, deodourants and dishwasher detergents just makes me imagine all that is invested in these items that a cash register receipt doesn’t tally.  There’s the cost, in time, of searching and planning for these purchases – often without regard for the need for the items.  There is the cost of finding storage space for all of the stuff, buying shelving, heating garages that would otherwise be cold, mortgage payments for larger homes with extra storage space that might otherwise not be needed.  I think of the extra gas in the car as I would drive out the store again and again to get that one more deal.  Then I think long and hard of all of the impulse buys that we really get caught on when we go out to buy these treasures.  The stores rely on those!  Extreme couponing may work for some but there are certainly more costs involved.

Again, I hate having this beautiful time of year, when we anticipate the coming of our Lord at Christmas, overshadowed by so much commercialism.  *Click* (Off goes the TV.)  Someone who wisely explained the stuff monster is Annie Leonard on her short videos at www.storyofstuff.com.  Interestingly, she points out that, while we have more stuff and more luxuries than any time before in history, we aren’t happier.

One way that we like to combat the Stuff Monster at this time of year and to refocus the giving onto the guy whose birthday we are actually celebrating is by giving gifts to him.  These gifts are the ones that get to the poor and hungry since he said,

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”  Matthew 25:35-40

We love Christmas in our home so we don’t want to miss out on the food, the parties, the gifts, and the happy crooning of Bing Crosby in the background, but it must be that – background music to accompany gifts that Jesus actually gets.  Here are some places that we have bought our birthday gifts for Jesus in the past.

http://www.samaritanspurse.ca/
http://www.worldvision.ca/Pages/welcome.aspx

Happy hunting folks, as you seek to honor Him whose birthday we celebrate.

Peace and Joy!

Cori

Page 1 of 212