Exodus wonders

Yesterday I was reading in Exodus- where Moses is asking Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, and Pharoah says no again and again.  Or he says yes, sometimes- but then as soon as the plague is lifted, his heart is hardened and he says no. 

God sends all these plagues: the water in Egypt turns to blood, He sends frogs and gnats and flies to cover the land, He brings a plague onto the livestock of the Egyptians, He causes boils to break out on the people and animals, and more.   Throughout these chapters is the phrase "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen", or "he and his officials hardened their hearts", or "he hardened his heart and would not listen".

In chapter 9 we read that God tells Pharaoh: "I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

Then in chapter 10, after several plagues- the Lord says to Moses:

"Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."

Pharaoh was raised up by God for "this very purpose"- he, in his unbelief and hardening of heart, was used by God in order to show God's greatness. 

His heart was hardened by God so that God could perform all of those miraculous signs; because God wanted to show what He was able to do, because this would be a better story for people to pass on to their children and grandchildren. 

How amazing is that?   I just love it that while God could have caused Pharaoh to say yes right away and let the Israelites go already, He chose instead to create this grand drama with suspense, complete with all these signs and wonders so that our kids get to hear this story and marvel at the power and greatness of God.  I love the way God works!  

And this is such a FUN story to tell them, too- my kids love to imagine Aaron's staff-turned-to-snake swallowing up all the snakes of the magicians, and what it would be like to have flies everywhere and in everything.  All of it- it's ripe for the minds of our children.  I love having the privilege of getting to tell them!

Our chickens

Thankful, today, for our backyard flock of chickens.  I really like our chickens.  We've been keeping chickens for seven years now, and I still really like them.  :)  And it's still exciting to discover eggs in the nesting boxes.

nesting boxes

Spied in the nesting box this morning.  This is Summer, doing her part to provide us with these:

These photos make me thankful for our various breeds which give us the different colored eggs.  It was Mark's idea this last year to get some Ameraucanas (for the sole purpose of getting those pretty blue and green eggs.)  I'm glad he did.  Our Welsummer ("Summer", up there in the nesting box) lays the darker brown eggs

and our Rhode Island Reds, (Plymouth) Barred Rocks, Australorps, and Buff Orpingtons lay the lighter brown eggs.  We have a white egg-layer, too- Millie- (I forget what breed she is.  Mark would remember) but she has decided to take a break for awhile.

Our hens really slow down in their laying-egg habits during the shorter days of winter, so it's always exciting when the days get longer and we get more eggs.

Have you written your sponsored child lately?

I love Compassion International.

Recently a woman at our church shared with me about her visit to a Compassion project on a recent trip she took to India.  She was not familiar with Compassion at all when she went, but she came back enthusiastic about the program and ministry of Compassion.  She was so impressed with the children, the staff, and the curriculum they use to share the gospel.

As I heard her tell of her experience and impressions, I was again reminded to write letters to the children we sponsor through Compassion.
If I can share just one more thing, it is to tell you how important your letters are.  There are days when some children get letters and others don't, and it is hard to explain.
-from a Compassion partnership facilitator in India
I have heard that so many times- and I know it's true: our communication with our sponsored children is so important to them.  We pray for them, but I want to also be faithful in writing to them.  I confess I'm not very good at doing so.

There is one thing I've done in order to make correspondence easier, and it has helped considerably.  I've put together a Compassion binder containing the following:

one of our tabbed sections.  following this are each of their letters to us.

- tabbed sections for each of our Compassion children, beginning with photos of them and information about their country
- their letters to us in the order received
- rough drafts or notes of our letters to them (so that I remember what we've written to each)
- a list of ideas of what to write about
- a list of items that can be sent
- blank paper (and the stationery & envelopes Compassion provides) for writing

the front of our Compassion binder

On the front of the binder I have a Correspondence Record where I note when we've sent letters and what we've enclosed with those letters.  Most of the time I send pictures that our kids have drawn especially for them, and we send photos of our family whenever we have a current one to send.

Other things we've sent:

In October we pressed leaves between clear contact paper and sent those.  One of our sponsored boys wants to be a policeman when he grows up, so recently we sent him a coloring page of a police car.   We've sent stickers.  Today I sent Hello Kitty Band-aids to our three girls.

I prayed today that God would give me the discipline to write to our sponsored children more regularly, and that He would give me the words to say that might encourage them and show them our (and His!) love for them.

One of our little five-year-old boys has a 95-minute walk to get to the nearest Compassion child development center, and he goes: twice a week.  Isn't that such a testimony of what Compassion has to offer? - that it is worth a 95-minute walk for a tiny boy?  Twice in a week?

If you've never sponsored a child, I encourage you to do so! 

Book list for an 11-year-old girl

As promised, here are the books Ella has read so far this year.  None of these books have been assigned to her; they've been chosen by her at the library or from our home library. (Note: some of these she's read before and have shown up on other book lists I've posted.)

The Good Master by Kate Seredy

Will Clark, Boy Adventurer* by Katherine E. Wilkie
Ruby Throat: Story of a Hummingbird by Robert M. McClung
Rachel and the Riot by Susan Martins Miller
Casey the Utterly Impossible Horse by Anita Feagles
Abandoned on the Wild Frontier by Dave & Neta Jackson
The Tinker's Daughter by Wendy Lawton

Labrador on the Lawn by Lucy Daniels
The Striped Ships by Eloise McGraw
Pup at the Palace by Ben M. Baglio
Heidi's Children by Charlies Tritten
Annie Henry: Adventures in the American Revolution by Susan Olasky
Two Dogs and a Horse by Jim Kjelgaard
West Against the Wind by Liza Ketchum Murrow
George Washington: Our First Leader* by Augusta Stevenson
The Wind Blows Free by Loula Grace Erdman
The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm by Patricia MacLachlan
Helen Keller: From Tragedy to Triumph* by Katharine E. Wilkie

Neil Armstrong: Young Flyer* by Montrew Dunham
Louis Braille by Margaret Davidson
The Happy Orpheline by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Children Who Stayed Alone by Bonnie Bess Worline  [Ella's note on this one: "a great book"]

The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years, all by Laura Ingalls Wilder  (I wonder how many times Ella has read this series?  ~smile~)
Clara Barton* by Augusta Stevenson
Emily Makes a Difference by JoAnn A. Grote
Five Smooth Stones (My America) by Kristiana Gregory
Betsy-Tacy, Besty-Tacy and Tib, Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, all by Maud Hart Lovelace
In the Land of the Big Red Apple, On the Other Side of the Hill, and New Dawn on Rocky Ridge, all by Roger Lea MacBride
Little House in Brookfield, Little Town at the Crossroads, Little Clearing in the Woods, and On Top of Concord Hill, all by Maria D. Wilkes
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Martha Washington* by Jean Brown Wagoner

* * *

*the starred books are all from the Childhood of Famous American series, which Ella really enjoys. 

Her filler books, when she doesn't have a book to read and wants to grab *something* at the library are The Boxcar Children books and some from the American Girl Collection.  I haven't listed those here.

Previous book lists I've posted:
Book list for a seven-year-old girl
Book list for a nine-year-old girl
Book list for a ten-year-old girl

Around the house

There is this progression of drawing that I love to watch in my kids.  Their "people" drawings usually begin with a head and then eyes and a mouth-- and they perfect that for several weeks.  I'm always so delighted to see when they suddenly add hair and hands (!) and legs (!).  I was especially excited to spot this particular drawing on the dry-erase board the other day, because of who drew it: ADELIA!  She rarely draws anything, because she can barely sit still for something so time-consuming.  *grin*  Audra is constantly coloring; give that girl a pencil and piece of paper and she can occupy herself for hours, but not so with Adelia, so it was worth a photo.

I peeked in on Audra's quiet time yesterday and found this:

 I don't know why I found this so cute: her dressing up Pooh in Ella's old clothes.  But I did.

And for Isaac's quiet time today, he's taped up the room to make a road for his cars.  (I think he may have even talked Ella into joining him.  ;))

In other news, we've realized that we needed to tighten up our diligence in terms of discipline with one of our children in particular.  So.... we've been praying lots, Mark and I-- seeking God's wisdom on how to do so.  I also pulled out a favorite book again (I posted about it here and here) and this tattered old chart I made the last time I read the book- some seven years ago, now.  (Any long-time readers remember this one?)  The chart was my take-away from the book, as an effort to have a visual of common sins we ought to put off and what we should put on in place of them, based on Ephesians 4:22-24.

The kids and I have been discussing one of the "Put Off" behaviors on the left-hand side of the chart each morning and then reading verses on what to Put ON in place of what we're putting off.   So far we've covered Tattling and Slothfulness, and I am SO grateful to say that tattling is on the decline and the kids have done their chores much more speedily for two days running now.  (One of my boys, who usually dawdles quite a bit, actually completed his chore in 6 minutes yesterday- which is surely an all-time record for him.  I was astonished.  I think he was, too.)

As for our little discipline-issue with our strong little five-year-old, I am focusing on two things: being diligent and prayerful.  And with her, we're focusing in on just two things right now, too: not arguing or disputing when mommy asks her to do something, and obeying.  We're three days into using this little ticket system (see below) and so far it's working GREAT.  {Thank you, Kendra, for the idea!}  I'll try to get back to you on the details soon, when we've had a few more days of using it.

This parenting gig is downright challenging, isn't it?   I am so thankful for God's faithfulness.  I have been praying for a few weeks about our five-year-old's increasing disobedience and He has been so faithful to lead us to a better place.  I'm thankful, too, for a friend with older children who we spent time with this week (and who saw some of that disobedience rear it's ugly head) and exhorted me to do something about it, and soon.  It was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed, truly.

Eleven years into this parenting role and I still need to be reminded of the basics: God desires children to obey their parents.  It pleases Him. (Col. 3:20)  It goes well for them if they do (Eph. 6:2-3), and I need to be diligent to ensure that they do. (Prov. 23:13.)  I'm sure there's more but that's what God reminded me of this week. 

Love to all of you who are dealing with the same types of issues.  Keep on.  God is faithful to equip you for those little ones He has entrusted to you.

Blessings to all of you!


Ella's birdhouse

This was the second year of our handmade Christmas.  Mark drew Ella's name and made her a birdhouse.
Here she is, examining his artwork: 

He drew windows and flowers on it, cute daddy that he is- and just knowing how much she would love those details.

This is how much she loved it:


Here is her birdhouse now:

We were all so excited to spot this little visitor last week!  Ella says it's a house sparrow, and she and her mate were flying in and out all morning with little pieces for their nest.  ~smile~