A Fresh Start

Well, how has your first week of school gone?  It’s so neat to hear from so many of you on Facebook at our new page, “Maple Tree Publications”, and to see your excitement over new books, new routines, new lessons.  September is a clean slate, a new start.  I have even heard from some of you who homeschool throughout the year and still there is that air of turning over a new leaf.
 

So, I decided that we had to participate in the fervor and to take pictures so I could post pictures of the shining faces of my little cherubs.  My kids had to search for the number of their grade while we walked idyllically around the Toronto Zoo on our first day of school.  We only found a number one.  We saw the gorillas and panda bears and also saw the komodo dragon being fed and talked to the zoo keeper because no one else was there to chat with her.  We took a fun first day of school picture on the bronze statue of the komodo dragons.   It was the continuing of a tradition started a dozen years ago: if we are going to do this education thing differently, we will do it different from the start and always take a field trip on the first day of school.  All in all we had a great day. 

The drive home was quite peaceful despite the city traffic we had to drive through.  Dinner and the evening were just fine.  Then 1 am rolled around.

My head had finally just hit the pillow after staying up late to make sure I was ready for the next morning and almost simultaneously two girls stumbled bleary eyed out of their bedrooms, a bit of panic in their steps…  Sick!  It was a long night.  Our hopes of a positive start on Wednesday were dashed.  No back to normal then or Thursday.  Sigh!

I get overwhelmed at times, wishing things went better, that I was a better teacher, more organized, less impatient, less irritable, wanting to deal with kids who were always enthusiastic, who listen the first time, who don’t leave wet towels on the floor in their rooms until they stink.  Sigh.  My plans just don’t always work.  I feel like I am failing my kids.  But then when I step back and look at things with far – sighted glasses I see how far we have come and I also see so much that we have to look forward to.  It’s then that I am reminded that it isn’t worth getting worried about the daily grind.  There is always time for a fresh start. 

So tomorrow, we will try again for the anticipated gentle startup that we had hoped for. I think it’s going to take us a few weeks at this rate to settle in. I had hoped we would be off and running by the end of this week or at least by early next.  Sigh! One of my sickies did perk up and voluntarily did two of her math lessons this evening. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.

I am realizing that our real lessons are learned when the going gets tough, not so much when we get to see the Komodo Dragon keeper impart all her wisdom about her charge.  Its learning to juggle sick kids and all the other things that the day throws at me without giving up and crying…. Too often.  It’s my kids learning to help one another out when there are two of them sick and only one of me to be the nurse.  The ones who aren’t sick (yet!?) learn to step up and help with newspapers or make the meal or empty the dishwasher.  They have learned a lot this week.  They’ve practiced skills we’ve been honing for years. 

So even if I had done the best of planning for this new school year, I would not have been able to plan these lessons.  I would have avoided them.  But learning to work together in these small adversities has been a greater lesson for these first few days than if we had got all the language arts and math lessons going. – Though I am hoping that tomorrow will be the day to tackle those lessons, finally!

A word of wisdom that my pastor imparted a few weeks ago has been rolling around in my head: Courage, true, biblical courage, is never cultivated in comfort.

Mamas (and Papas and others): know that your struggles are not in vain. You are building a lasting legacy so be strong and courageous! Wishing you all the best today as you build. 😉 And for many days after.

Peace,

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca
cori@mapletreepublications.ca

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


Monday Morning…

It was one of those mornings here.  I was frustrated, feeling inadequate.  I set my alarm early to get the best start: to read my Bible and do a bit of planning and maybe even do a bit of exercise before the masses required my involvement.  Suddenly though it was 9am, breakfast was still in the works, the kitchen a mess and the dining room table strewn with bits of oatmeal, a dry half of a sticky bagel and several school books, including my lesson planner!  Who got into that?  Well, my diligent older students had looked through the planner and were asking for work that I hadn’t prepared yet.  My younger more playful kids were trying to figure out how to sneak out into the new snow before they had to attack their work without me noticing. 

Do you ever feel like there’s so much to do that you don’t know where to start?  That was my morning.  In fact, I often feel that way. 

Then a sweet friend texted.  She reminded me to pace myself, that I wasn’t expected to get it all done before noon on Monday.  I don’t expect that of the kids; I don’t expect it of anyone else.  Why would I expect it of me?  In fact, I get over excited about all that I want to get done so often and with so much more than just school assignments.  I wish I had blogged more, I want to fix so many things on my website, I want my storage room to be at least passable, if not somewhat tidy.  I have so many ideas about how I could better serve the Awana programme which I run at our church. Sigh.

But then, I remember that there are 25 hours in a day on Mars.  If God wanted us to fit more into a day he would have made us Martians. 

I am reminded that there are a few things that I do need to do a better job at fitting into my overcrowded schedule.  I need to take the time to prioritize, to play, to pray. 

God, in his infinite wisdom, ordained 24 hours for each day that I am alive.  He wants me to spend those 24 wisely each day, to prioritize.  I need to respect that limitation that He has placed on me and make sure that I am a good steward of that gift of time that I have been given.  When I think of it that way, I realize that I have often misspent my time.  Have I spent it on useless things, or on things that have eternal value?  On running myself to exhaustion or on taking care of own body, getting the rest, rejuvenation, and nourishment that I need to be able to care for my family and others?  On connecting to Him and His life-giving Word or on things that might be very good but aren’t necessarily the right things for me to pursue right now?

It’s often hard for me to stop and play.  I know that I tend to be driven.  I know that it is a common personality trait for us homeschooling moms.  I get up in the morning with a long to do list and am not good at taking the time to stop and take in a new card trick or piano tune that one of my young performers wants to share.  Why do I sigh and reluctantly sit for a game of Skipbo when the world isn’t going to end if the chores get put off a bit longer?  If I put my time into perspective and start to pursue God’s priorities, I know that relationships are far more important that lessons checked off on a planner or chores completed to perfection.  The moments that impact my family are the ones that draw us together, and play timeis a key part of that. 

Finally, I need to pray more.  I need to pray in the moment; I need to pray in private; I need to pray when I am perplexed or happy or upset.  I need to take the time to quiet my heart so that I can wait on the Lord and learn His priorities so that I can pursue what He wants me to run after and have confidence in cutting out so many of the busying activities that only serve to pull me away from what I should be doing. 

Friends, as we embark on another day, I wish you moments to play and to pray and the wisdom to seek His priorities for your days.  I wish you peace that transcends the usual Monday morning rush.

Peace and blessings,

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca

Ripples

Hello All,

It’s been a while since I got to spend some time in my virtual home here Under the Maple Tree.  I have been rather absent this season, just like at this time last year, because I have been out in the real world more often seeing so many of your encouraging faces at homeschooling conferences and other events.  It was such a busy time as I worked and spoke at more conferences than ever this year and had the opportunity to travel across the country to meet even more amazing parents who are walking this crazy homeschooling road with me.  What a treat it has been.

Throughout this season, one small lesson has resonated with me.  Perhaps it is because it takes so many repetitions to get through to such a thick head as mine or maybe it is just something that the Lord wanted me to learn.  I think it’s a bit of both. 

On our first family weekend camping trip of the year the weather was beautifully warm though the water at the beach was still quite chilly.  The kids played the days away in the water while I just tiptoed in and out around the edges of the water when I got overheated, the water rippling around my shivering knees.  It was a peaceful reprieve, watching the water moving out in tiny waves from the places where my toes displaced it.

You see, midway through the season, conference season (which used to be called spring in my world), my precious Nana died.  It was sad.  It was hard.  But at the same time, we were relieved for her, hoping that she had finally found peace after a very long battle with Altzheimer’s disease.  She had long since left us and it was only her body left that finally gave up.  It was, of course a time of tears and of memories and of telling stories of old.  I, being the talker in the family, again got to share a eulogy for a grandparent.  I remembered her in her big moo-moo dresses, rubber boots, winter coat, slacks and straw hat in her garden growing more food than the whole family could eat.  I remembered family celebrations with KFC, kielbasa and cabbage rolls because my uncle didn’t like turkey.  After the funeral, when we came home that day it seemed the most fitting tribute to eat KFC and spend the rest of the day in the garden.  Ripples.  Her life cascading into my own.  
 
Most recently we have cried many hours with friends as they have suffered loss, the results of many years of ripples rocking their boat, influencing them in ways that they weren’t aware of until they capsized. 

Ripples.  They have become a focal point even in the smaller events, seeing how our decisions affect our children’s decisions, their demeanor, their values.  I’ve also noticed that so often we are affected by what is rippling out from someone else’s life, their ideas, their actions.  So often I want to think that homeschooling my kids will allow them to come only under my influence but that is so often proven wrong, and often to their benefit.  I don’t always make the right decisions, say the right things.

The lessons I have been learning this spring are of how powerfully we are influenced and how we also influence others in ways that we may not even imagine in this lifetime. It makes me afraid to dive into my roles, scared that I may unknowingly be the source of someone else’s undoing.  I think, too, how often I suppose to speak with authority about something and really I am just flapping my gums, sharing an opinion that may or may not be founded. 

As we formally wrap up another year of schooling I, as usual, am taking some time to look back and see where we have come from.  I see that we have learned a lot, but have we learned the right things?  I also look forward and anticipate.  I know that the unknown future holds many waves that will rock my boat, waves that will rippleout and threaten the sunny happy days that I desire for my kids to live under.  But rather than praying for a smooth ride, I am praying for a strong boat, for a firm foundation, and for waves that will propel them towards their Saviour rather than sink them in a mire of uncertainty. 

Wishing you, Dear Friends, strength and perseverance as you ride out the waves that shake you in this season.

Blessings,

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca

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

Perspective

So many of you have asked about our daughter that I realize that it is time to update you. 

Just reading over my musings of a year ago, I realize how I still get so relentlessly caught up in the mundane and overwhelmed by things that are so transient.  (This week, in addition to life’s everyday blunders and the usual financial frustrations, we have been dealing with BOTH fleas and lice in the Dean household.  When will “normal” arrive, please, Lord?!)

I have been feeling sorry for myself, wishing someone would step up to this plate that I have been given and run the race for me for a little while.  My husband and I have spent the week going to bed sore and exhausted, hoping for relief the next day but finding a new set of challenges with each morning: the dog gets out of the yard AGAIN, a computer crashes and people treat us like we are carrying the plague.  I think that it is the stress of it all that made us turn our backs on the fact that that nasty cold was creeping into the house as well.  Par for the course. 

Yesterday, in the midst of it all, we were brought back to the basics.  (We will conquer the fleas and the lice.  I’ve never dealt with fleas before but have with lice, it’s a lot of work but we know how to overcome it.  The colds will move on, eventually the bills will be paid and our friends won’t be afraid to see us.)  On the other hand, there we were on the floor of the little girls’ bedroom dealing with a tantrum, not the everyday grumpiness that you occasionally encounter but a full out kicking and screaming 3 year old.  And then she went pale, her eyes rolled back and the screaming eased.  My baby nearly fainted.  Now to most this would be happy justice for a kid that had cried it out.  For us fainting can be life threatening.

Suddenly lice, fleas, colds, and harsh words from friends didn’t seem so important.  Surviving the moment was all that we had. 

Now, as soon as the spell overcame her, she started to recover.  She certainly had lost the wind in her sails but she came back to us.  The normal procedure for days like this with a girl with a heart condition like ours has been to see the doctor immediately (get to the ER!)which has resulted in one weekend stay at the hospital so far.  The thing is that our most recent visits to our local paediatric cardiologist and to Sick Kids confirmed that our prayers are working, her heart is holding out and is more stable than they had originally anticipated.  Praise the Lord!  That being the case, we are now told that the pacemaker won’t be inserted into her heart until they see some quantifiable difference in the testing that they do or until this “starts to affect her quality of life”, meaning until dizziness leads to actual fainting.  We do hope to see our doctor this week but for now are closely monitoring her and seeking your prayers.

All of this has brought back some much needed perspective: God is in control.

            “I am the LORD, and there is no other;

            apart from me there is no God.
            I will strengthen you,
            though you have not acknowledged me,
            so that from the rising of the sun
            to the place of its setting
            men may know that there is none besides me.
            I am the LORD, and there is no other.
            I form the light and create darkness,
            I bring prosperity and create disaster;
            I, the LORD, do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:5-7

He allows us to go through the things that he does because He trusts that we will come out on the other side closer to Him and more able to be all that He wants us to be.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

Friends, my family and I have so appreciated your kind words, your prayers and your inquiries about our daughter that show that you care.  They have made such a difference to us.  Please do continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers as we journey along this crazy road.  It has made a difference as she had gone a full year now without need for pacemaker surgery and we hope that she will be able to go longer and grow more in order to better be ready for the hardware that is best suited to her needs.

Thanks,

Cori

Maple Tree Publications

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