August 30, 2009

Linear Thinking

linear

1642, from L. linearis "belonging to a line," from linea "string, line" (see line (n.)). Linear A and Linear B (1902-3) were names given to two related forms of linear Minoan writing discovered 1894-1901 in Crete by Sir Arthur Evans.

Today I think I made a breakthough concerning this concept of "linear" thinking. As you may know (or not), I am not a linear thinking type person. I am a visual-spatial thinking type person. The main difference between the two types of thinking are in ordering and processing. The linear thinking person is very comfortable following a sequential order and finds it easiest to process details if they are laid out as A, B, C, and so on. The visual-spatial thinking person is most comfortable looking at the details and then sorting them into groups or patterns (arrangements). Often, they find it easiest to process details if they are arranged in a meaningful way (based on some internal valuation system). VS thinkers struggle following pre-ordered and pre-arranged lists. Though they value lists, and often make them to help them connect dots or complete tasks, they generally prefer to sort details on their own, based on their own assessment of the situation.

Since I am not a linear thinking person, I tend to favor a mind-mapping approach to any project. I group like items together, then sort them into meaningful categories. Once I have my categories, I then order them again and prioritize them based on their value and importance. Moreover, when faced with a difficult decision, I often create charts of lists, groups of information that is sorted and valued, to help me decide what to do.

I know this sounds really complicated and time consuming, but in reality, all this happens in my head, in a very short amount of time. I can generally process a group of details just as quickly as the person who is working a linear list of things to do (from 1-10). The outcome is similar -- the task is completed; however, the process is very different.

For the VS thinker, every step requires a re-evaluation and reassessment to make sure it is properly sorted and priorized. And, because it is not sorted based on placement or linkage (ex. often a linear list will include steps, so step 2 cannot be performed before step 1 is completed), every detail must be compared to the other details to make sure that it is not being completed before all the other key components. This process is mentally taxing, and does require significant time. Most VS thinkers learn how to do this rather quickly, so even though we are working through a process, completing task, we are actually completing more than just one step at a time. We are, in short, multitasking.

I have come to learn to live with my mental processing ability. I am comfortable with how I handle details and tasks. For the most part, I am fairly competent, and am able to tackle any task given to me. Sure, I get frustrated. Sure, I get overwhelmed at times too. Overall, I feel confident that I can handle whatever comes my way, so long as I am given the time to sort, to categorize, and then to complete each task.

Our Pastor, completed a wonderful study on the Book of Ruth today. I was familiar with this story, and have found his interpretation/message interesting. Our Pastor loves theology, and spends a great deal of time studying the Word of God. He makes sure that he gives you all the necessary details, identifies difficult words (in Greek or Hebrew), and generally teaches you the history of the text as well as the Biblical interpretation of it.

In his last message (Ruth has 4 chapters -- this was our 4th week on the Book), he spoke about this concept of linear thinking. Well, he really was speaking of linear time. I happened to make the connection to linear thinking. He said that God is linear, meaning that God's purpose and plan is linear. He likened it to a railroad and how a train moves on the track, never diverting, until it reaches it's destination. Though the train may stop or it may slow down, it will come to it's destination without fail. God's plan for redemption (as seen in the Book of Ruth) is the same way. His promise to redeem His people Israel will come to completion. His promise to send a Messiah came to pass (in Jesus). His promise to redeem His chosen people (Israel/Gentile -- grafted into the "one" olive tree) will come to pass at the end of the age. God's plan is linear. It will follow His line and will reach it's destination at the appropriate time.

Ok, so this part of the message was pretty clear to me. The next part, however, was so helpful in getting me to see how and why God's plan "appears" at times to be stalled or non-existent. Our Pastor said that although God's plan is linear (always on track), sin can and does frustrate it from time to time. It was an "a-ha" moment for me. You see, I have been seeking God's will for my life. I believe that He has a plan for me. I believe that He has a purpose for my days here on earth. Sometimes I feel as though I have it all figured out, that I know what I am to do, and how I am to go about doing it. Then, it is as if my clear mental picture shatters, I find myself left with only broken pieces. I can no longer see it all put together. God's plan for my life has been shattered, and I am left to pick up the pieces and try and make it all fit together again. Time and time again, I have been in this position...thinking it was all set, everything was in motion, and then bam! Everything I held onto and knew and loved, was suddenly shattered apart.

Many times, this feeling of being shattered was not of my own doing. Sin committed by people around me, my family members, a loved one, etc. shattered the perfect plan. Sin frustrates the plan of God. Sin clouds the purpose of God. Sin, in it's essence, places the plan of God on hold, in a standing still position -- it stops the train from moving forward.

Our Pastor gave the most wonderful reminder of how we are to get that train moving forward again. He called it the "Four R's" and they will take that stalled engine of your life (and mine), and start it moving in God's direction again. Here they are:

  1. Recognize
  2. Release
  3. Receive
  4. Repent

I like this list, it makes such good sense to me. In the first step, the believer must recognize that they have sinned. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and even though we are forgiven, we still deal with sin on a daily basis. We live in a fallen world made up of fallen people. Fallen people choose to do fallen things -- and these fallen things frustrate the plan of God. So recognizing that you and I are sinners is the first step in getting that engine moving again. The second step involves confessing our sin to God. We must confess our sin and ask for God to forgives us of it. This step releases peace (God's mercy) into our lives. The third step is to receive that peace -- this is the free gift of God -- forgiveness from our son, the cleansing of our heart and mind, and the releasing of that peace to comfort us. The last step involves repentenance. Repenting means turning oneself around or changing oneself. It is an actual act -- something we must do -- we must turn from our sin and promise never to do it again. God's grace will give us the ability to turn from that sin and will enable us to live a life that is pleasing to Him. We must choose to turn around --to move forward (or think of it this way, to pump coal into that engine so it can continue on it's way).

After this morning's message, the thought occured to me that often we stifle God's plan when we sin or even when we allow the sins of others to trap us. God's plan and purpose are linear -- they are moving us closer and closer to His standard of perfection (and toward Heaven). When we sin ourselves or are a partner to sin (through someone else's actions), we simply apply the brakes to God's heavenly steam engine. We frustrate and stop His movement in our life.

My prayer today was that I wouldn't stop God's plan from coming to pass in my life. I want Him to have His way with me, to live His life through me, and to accomplish His purpose in both my life and in the lives of those around me. I want my life to be a blessing to others, not just for me to be blessed.

My goal today is to do whatever I can do to keep God's plan moving forward. God is sovereign; His plan will come to fruition. My part is simply to keep Him on His timeline (His heavenly timetable). I can slow Him down or I can let Him keep to His schedule in my life. My prayer is to let Him keep His schedule and to do whatever He needs to do to bring me into that Heavenly City on time. PTL!

August 19, 2009

Life's Little Blessings

I had another sleepless night. I am not sure how many more of these nights I can take. So far I am up to about three weeks worth. It is not as if I am tossing and turning all night long, but rather that I am being awakened throughout the night, and then find it difficult to get back into my normal sleep pattern.

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about all the plans I have made for our life. My mind never seems to stop these days, it is like a constant stream of "thought" running on and on and on. I try and turn it off, but it just won't shut down. This makes falling asleep really difficult, and makes falling back to sleep even harder. I have tried taking over the counter sleep aids (such as Advil PM). These work, but I don't like to be dependent on them. Plus they tend to make me feel really yucky the next day. To make matters worse, I have gone off all coffee. I decided a couple weeks ago (about four now), that I needed to get off the coffee. It was making my stomach sick (indigestion) and also giving not-so-pleasant breath. The first week was really hard to let go because I had come to enjoy the warm drink every morning (also at night -- which for me actually induced sleepiness). I noticed great results after that first week. My headaches were gone, no more stomach upset, better breath. Overall, going off the coffee has produced a sense of well-being, more energy, less dullness of mind. Perhaps my mind is kicking into gear now that it has less caffeine to deal with?? Perhaps it is that the mental fog has cleared and my mind is freed up to dream, to think, to plan once again. I don't know, but unless something changes here, I am going to become a zombie!

The title of this post is "Life's Little Blessings" so you would think that I would blog about a happier subject and not spend the first two paragraphs lamenting my sleepless condition and struggles with caffeine addication! LOL!! Truth be told, there is some blessing in all this lamenting.

Today is August 19, a not so very out of the ordinary day. Nothing earth shattering happening on our home front, nothing making major headline news (at least, I haven't read the news today). It is just another hot and sunny day here in Phoenix, Arizona. The forecast is much the same for the rest of the week. Hot. My son is up (it is 9:30) and working on some music project (school starts next week for us); DH is out at a business meeting (potential new work); and I am here sitting in my PJs (still) having some diet pepsi (ok -- so I have to have some caffeine -- just today!)

Generally speaking, all is right within my world. I may not feel 100% ready to be put in the game (put me in TOMORROW coach!) right now, but overall, I am pretty sure I will be ready later today or even tomorrow. God is so Good. Even though I feel low, a bit lonely, and definitely out of sorts (just physically drained), I know that God is Good. His will for my life is set and has been confirmed ("And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." ~Romans 12:2). I know what my purpose is and that my life has meaning. I have a daily list of worthwhile work to do, a family to care for, and a ministry to serve in. God has provided and met all my needs with sufficiency and I am well-loved, well-provided for, and well-cared for. I am filled to sufficiency -- I have the Grace of God working through me to help me, to guide me, to comfort me, and to lead me on to my eternal destination. I may not feel well today, but I see the outcome of my future. I can see the end. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that if I just stay on this track it will lead me home. God is so Good to me.

August 14, 2009

Do Overs

The other day, I was thinking about my experience home schooling and wistfully thought about "doing things over." Every now and then, I get this way. I am a confessed curriculum junkie. I love curriculum, all kinds, and love receiving my yearly catalogs from the big publishing companies. Even though we have used Ambleside Online fairly consistently (free Charlotte Mason curriculum), I still find myself drawn to other programs. I am steadfastly eclectic, so no one package seems to work for me (or meets my expectations, LOL!) I prefer Charlotte Mason's teaching methods, but am not 100% purist when it comes to implementing them. I love classical education type programs such as The Well-Trained Mind, but don't like all the rote work and paperwork that seems to go along (workbooks, etc.) I guess I am most closely aligned with the true classical approach -- the Socratic Method (questions and answers by a mentor/mentee), but know that this works best with teens in the high school years. I enjoy some textbooks (for color and presentation), like unit studies and lap books (all crafts), think adding in movies/DVDs enhances learning, but still find reading a good book works when all else fails (or money doesn't materialize).

So just for grins, I thought I would put together my 12 year program (should I ever have the opportunity to teach littles again!). I typed it up in Word and it is downloadable here:

http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cheps/pdf/12year-chart.pdf

Sigh! Maybe I am getting old, or a bit whimsical now that my only child will be 16, but this was a fun experiment and gave me some time to rethink and plan along those "what ifs".

Mission Statement

I found this slip of paper tucked into my Bible the other day. I wrote this "mission statement" back in 2006:

I will live my life as an imitation of Jesus Christ. I will make Him the center of my attention, my focus, and my passion. I will pay attention to the world around me, and do what I can do demonstrate God's love and compassion to those I see in need. I will choose to obey God without question and without hesitation. I will cherish my freedom in Christ, and will express my joy in His gift of redemption. I will be faithful and steadfast and will work "as unto the Lord." I will make integrity and honor my bywords and the mark of my witness. I will maintain a pure and wholesome appearance. I will make godliness the mark of my life. I will love the Lord with all my being (my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.) I will love my neighbor as myself and give preference to others. I will finish this journey with grace, meekness, and humbleness.

August 7, 2009

New Blog

I have been thinking about setting up a new blog for a while, and finally decided to do it. I am calling it "A Simple and Modest Life." This blog is about my journey as I learn how to depend on the Lord for His provision and guidance, as well as how to live a life that is "modest" (humble).

You can read this blog over here at http://mtobp.blogspot.com.

August 6, 2009

School Plans

Well, summer is almost over (you would hardly think it so since it is supposed to top 111 here today!). I have been working on our school plans for 11th grade since June. After a series of revisions, I have finally settled on the old standby, using AO/HEO for this year. I have always liked this free curriculum (http://www.amblesideonline.org). I find it difficult to schedule and plan, but that is just me, and not a failure of the curriculum in any way. My son has enjoyed this program, but has struggled at times to comprehend some of the heavier books. Again, not a fault of the curriculum, but rather my inexperience to see ahead and realize that a book might not be a good fit. Overall, we have given it the good ol' college try and done our best. My son is doing well academically and is ready for 11th grade. AO/HEO has provided a rich and challenging reading-based curriculum, and since it is free, it has been a real blessing to us.

Our program is loosely-based on Y10, American Civil War era. We will make some book changes, but for the most part, we will read it fairly as designed.

Bible

In the past, we have read through the Bible using a one-year reading plan or a Daily Walk type book. We will continue to do this, but will follow a prepared schedule. We will also read the devotional books suggested by AO/HEO: J.I. Packer's "Knowing God", A.W. Pink's "The Attributes of God," and John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress."

Math

Our plan was to use Thinkwell Math's Precalculus course this year. However, due to some financial constraints, we might have to use something else. Right now, that looks like Saxon Advanced Math. If I can find it used along with the Saxon Teachers CDs that would work great.

Science

We are planning on studying Earth and Space Science this year. I have a used college text and would like to use video instruction through the Annenberg Project (free online at http://www.learner.org). However, we may have to use another book/course. I am thinking we might use Apologia Physical Science, again, if I can find this book used (cheap!)

Language Arts

The bulk of our language arts study comes from AO/HEO. We will be focusing on Expository Writing and will review and finish Jensen's Format Writing this year. For literature, we are reading Novels (not AO). I chose novels that I thought my son would enjoy. I have downloaded several good study guides (free from Penguin USA at http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/services-shared/teachersguides.html). We will read: Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde (Y10), Uncle Tom's Cabin (Y10), Lord Jim (Y10 free reading), The Prairie (my choice), Hard Times (my choice), and The Great Gatsby (my choice). In addition, we will read three Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Othello, and Much Ado About Nothing) using the Penguin Guides for Shakepeare as well. For Poetry, we are reading select poems from Coleridge, Browning, and Walt Whitman. We will also use some essays for writing practice (from Y10).

Social Studies

Social studies will be almost all AO/HEO, with some slight modifications. Our spine is Churchill's fourth volume in his series, The Great Democracies. For US History, we will continue reading vols. 3-4 of Carson's Basic History series. Our supplemental books will be from the Y10 book list: Arguing About Slavery, The Killer Angels, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Biographies will be on Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, and Hazlit's Spirit of the Age (collective bios). We will also read Up From Slavery (with study guide). Geography, grouped under this topic, will be two novels: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain and The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman (Y10). Government/Economics is also grouped under this heading and will include readings in: de Toqueville's Democracy in America, The Law by Bastiat, and several groups of essays (Stowell, John Stuart Mill, etc.).

Foreign Language

We will hope to finish Tell Me More's language series in French this year. This is a free resource through our public library, so we are happy to be able to use it and save some really big expenses.

Art and Music

Our Music program is the same as previous years. We use an outside music studio for lessons and instruction includes: theory, composition, performance, ear training, sight singing, applied music, and ensemble experience.

Electives

If we can fit in any electives, it will be more computer programming (son's choice). I would like to cover some practical housekeeping skill as well. He has been learning how to grill, so I think we will bake and cook more this year. Additionally, he will begin doing laundry (good for college) as well as clean the bathrooms (oh, am I a good Mom or what?!)

That is about it -- three months of planning, sweating, and tears, and there you have it. Not rocket-science, but it sure hurts each year to do it. I only have this year and next, then my boy will be heading off to college. I am not a good planner or scheduler, but have found great success using Home School Tracker software (http://www.tghomesoft.com). Each new revision is getting better and better. I am liking it more, especially the LP feature, and find that it does save substantial time in getting organized. Now if I could just get the rest of my life inputted and I would be really GOOD!