The grit of feelings

It’s not often I come across an article referencing Common Core standards that doesn’t mention the catchphrase “grit” and relate it to what we must be building in our kids in the modern world. While I agree with the idea of helping our kids develop perseverance and tenacity – in essence a strong work ethic – I do not support the idea of this information being collected by the government en masse without proper oversight to ensure that kids’ “scores” don’t hinder their opportunities to pursue the futures they desire, not to mention the extreme violation of privacy of so much monitoring “non-cognitive factors” that reach far beyond mathematics and reading skills. Just how necessary is it for my elementary student to have his every social interaction monitored and filed on his permanent record? Grit and tenacity, I strongly believe, are one of those sacred responsibilities for parents to foster in their children regardless of the educational choice a family makes. The facial expression cameras and pressure mice suggested by Common Core advocates, though not widely used yet, can never replace the intimate knowledge parents have of their own kids’ personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and intelligence that is not measured on bubble tests. I know that the definitions of grit and tenacity have their place in the educational world, but I want to address a different aspect of these characteristics.

I have had the opportunity lately to broaden my own understanding of grit and perseverance with my four year old, Ketziah. If ever there was a strong-willed and determined little person, she is it! Ketziah is a very sensitive child, and she has a very particular method of dealing with her environment. She is precise and agreeable, but her sense of justice is so strong that it often leads to complete meltdowns over what I would consider to be minor issues. The way she deals with her world, both positively and negatively, is with strong emotions. When I think of all my kiddos, I actually think most of them have very strong “feelers” and are willing to pay a high price to use them. However, Ketziah has broken the mold.

God has done a lot in me over the past few years in how I relate to my children’s strong feelings. I was not raised to express my feelings despite being an extremely passionate person. I learned early on how to stuff them deep down. While the skill of hiding an emotion might be called for in certain circumstances, it has taken me a long time – decades – to figure out healthy ways of expressing feelings and to determine safe places where I can pour out my heart instead of stuffing, which is extremely unhealthy for the soul. I’m still learning. When I first started out as a mother, I was so overwhelmed by these little ones who had SO. MUCH. FEELING. I hadn’t the first clue about how to help them use their words to tell me what was going on inside in a respectful yet genuine way. My first instinct was to constantly be telling them to be quiet and stop carrying on. I didn’t allow them to share when they were truly hurt or confused because I didn’t know that it was not only okay, but extremely important for them to develop a sense of safety and confidence in their identities. Jaelah was probably about four years old before I realized that I was going to seriously damage her if I didn’t let her be herself, an independent and wildly dramatic person with feelings spilling over the edges of her heart’s cup at every turn.

My next step in learning was to help the girls know that it is always okay to tell Mom and Dad what is going on. We want to be a safe space where they can learn how to put words to their feelings, especially the negative feelings that we are often taught to fight against. The fact is, sometimes we just have to be honest about the struggle instead of pretending everything is okay. More than anything, I don’t want my girls to struggle with guilt over being straightforward about what might be a tumultuous storm inside the heart. I thought for many, many years that I could not even be honest with God about what was truly going on in my heart. Yet, He knew anyway. I have found that the easiest way to overcome being ruled by my emotions (and thus being helpless to change anything) is to find a way to give words to the struggle and thus release its power over me. Rather than stew in the negativity that I refuse to acknowledge or express (though it doesn’t disappear just because I ignore it) I have been making a concerted effort to get those things OUT so that I can see them objectively and determine with the Lord’s help how to move forward. Our efforts with helping the kids get those thoughts into words were a bit clumsy at first. After many years of practice, I am happy to say that it’s somewhat often that I will get a note from one of the girls sharing a heartful of words on a page with expressiveness, tears, and a sense of vulnerability that is beautiful and humbling to me as their mama. I think they are refreshed when they unburden their hearts.

But God wants to take me even deeper in my understanding of how my children cope with their emotions. Going back to grit and perseverance, I am coming to see that, in particular, Ketziah’s fierce determination to express what is going on in her heart is the precursor to her developing her own grit. It has been a long time since I stopped constantly trying to snuff out my children’s feelings (far from perfect here!), so Ketziah was born and has grown up in a mostly “feelings-friendly” environment right from the start. And boy, does she ever have a lot to share! Part of the development of perseverance is to give voice to the struggle. We have to acknowledge obstacles if we are ever to overcome them, and using our God-given heart understanding and strong responses to said obstacles is part of the process of overcoming. It is how we get from one valley to the next mountaintop and on again. I am not talking about teaching children to express themselves in a self-controlled way, for that is certainly part of the process since a full-blown tantrum at Costco does nothing to help children identify what is really going on inside. I am referring more to teaching children a habit of talking, putting words to their experience on a regular basis – before we ever get to meltdown territory. Sometimes, for my more internal, less verbal kiddos, drawing a picture of how they feel or whispering it in my ear when they have some embarrassment about something is an effective way to help them address their hearts. The point is getting it out in some way before it eats away at their insides and turns into really ugly things like resentment and bitterness.

My ultimate goal is to help the children know that all the things they say to me or Pete actually can be addressed to God in prayer. I won’t always be right there with them, but it is my job to help them understand first how to get words to what is going on in their hearts, then to find a safe place to express that. Sometimes, that will be a person, but more often than not, Abba Father is the only One who truly will understand. Prayer journals can be an excellent way to turn to God more and more and rely a little less on Mom with each year that passes. Jaelah and Selah have become much more comfortable sharing things with God in their prayer journals, and I truly hope that this process has started a lifetime of dealing with strong emotions in a healthy way. I still pray they will find amazing friends who will support them, and that they will become good friends who can listen well.

The freedom I have experienced is in realizing that I don’t have to control the children’s emotions. I can let go of my desire to control the environment (and the noise, if I’m being really honest) and let them stumble over words to say what they need to say even when it is inconvenient and uncomfortable for me. I still have many, many moments where everything in me wants to shout, “Just get over it, already!” But I know that is merely a fleshly response to something precious God is doing in each of my little one’s hearts. I don’t get to determine what kinds of beautiful gems will be unsurfaced as they are fashioned by their heavenly Father. Their Creator is the One who pieced them together. If there ever was a need for patience in me, it is during these times of seeing what so clearly seems to be an utter lack of grit and tenacity, yet I only need look just beyond the surface to see that Abba Father is molding my young ones into fierce lovers of Him who experience their emotions in a straightforward way and embrace them, rather than try to flee at anything scary or sad. The “grit” is being developed before my eyes, as I raise these children to not be afraid of the one thing that probably holds many of us back from more than any other external force – our own emotions. It is those times of weakness and learning to admit the need for help – first from Mom and Dad, then ultimately from the Lord. Being at peace with our weakness is so important. Realizing that dependence upon Him is of utmost significance if we are ever to truly be able to rely on His strength to accomplish anything. When I see my young daughter falling to pieces over yet one more trivial matter, being able to zip my own mouth shut (rather than belittle or ignore her) and help her both express and give her burdens to Yeshua together with me is a priceless lesson in love.

I still have a long way to go on this journey, yet I believe I have seen the light. This new understanding dawned on me so clearly in real life the other day. Just as I was tempted to keep all this new revelation unmarred in a peaceful, cerebral realm, it all came crashing down to earth in my twelve passenger van. We had planned to go to lunch at my grandma’s house. Ketziah really enjoys making cards for people and once she knew we were going wasted no time in getting out her art supplies and fashioning a beautiful two-piece card, complete with tape, markers, and sparkle. She kept telling me that she wanted to go out into the yard to pick a flower for Grandma. I overcame my irritation trying to finish school work before leaving for lunch and went out into the backyard to help her select the perfect dandelion. She was so happy. Not ten minutes later, as the kids were getting loaded into the van, everything came to a screeching halt as Ketziah tripped in the garage and face-planted at a full speed run’s pace. I could hear the shrieks all the way into my closed bathroom in the house. It took a good ten minutes just to get her calm enough for band-aids, but she still could not stop sobbing. I ended up getting her a lollipop from my secret stash, thinking that would help her calm on the drive over to Grandma’s. Nothing doing. She finally was able to choke out some words about her card being messed up when she fell. I tried to tape back the card the way I had remembered, but she was still in full meltdown mode. As I started driving, she started crying again, “my flower is gooooonnnnneeee!!!” It dawned on me that of COURSE she was upset over the very thing she had poured her entire morning into creating. But by now we were in the van and 10 minutes from home. What could I do? “It’s just a silly dandelion,” I told myself. “She has to get over it.” Yet the Lord suddenly poured on me this deep sense of compassion and understanding. It was like He personally invited me to creatively work with Him to help Ketziah heal this hurt, insignificant though it might have been in the grand scheme of things. I literally felt driven to find a way to make this right. Just before we got on the highway, I saw some flowering bushes by the entrance to a hotel parking lot. I steered our big van in and parked, feeling utterly ridiculous. I called Ketziah to come out of the van with me. She put her pudgy little fingers in my hand and with tear-streaked face walked over with me to select a perfect wildflower for her card. Immediately, all tears and sobbing stopped. I could literally see the healing of validation flooding her little body with relief. Your dandelion is important to me, Ketziah. Your card for Grandma MATTERS to me. Your tears and feelings matter. I’m going to help you bring calm to this storm inside you.

We got back in the van and drove to Grandma’s house. And of course my Grandma knows about these little girl kinds of things and she promptly put Ketziah’s flower in a cup of water on her counter. The sight of Ketziah beaming with happiness at her treasure being treasured was so special it brought me to tears. In thinking logically about this whole encounter, I realize that there will not always be a way for me to get new flowers for Ketziah in those times in her life when she loses old ones. Not everything is going to work out smoothly or have a precious ending like this one did. Yet, what did I reveal to her about her mommy’s heart in that instant? I hope it was something like what Yeshua has shown me – that He sees the little details, the sparrows that fall, those secret thoughts of the heart that are almost too insignificant to utter in prayer. He is the truest of Friends. And can I be that to my little daughter as she walks her way through these years until she is mature enough to understand His tender care over His lambs? I was so humbled to be used by Him in a way to bring truth to my daughter’s heart. How tragic it would be if I had lost the opportunity to see what was really going on! What message would I be sending if I had been more concerned with her being quiet and controlling herself? The longer I walk this harrowing path of godly motherhood, the more I see that there is a big difference between rebellion and disobedience, and the struggle, curiosity, and tears of simple childishness. I have to make the choice to see what He is doing, and join Him in it. There are times to bring discipline and boundaries, and times to bring the softest of gentle and reassuring touches. Oh, may I submit to the Holy Spirit as He guides me to the right choice in each situation, developing perseverance in me AND my children.

What we do for Bible, Worldview, and Discipleship Studies


There have been many different Bible programs and studies we have done over the years. Some have fallen flat and been a disappointment, a waste of money and time. I won’t focus on those here. I want to share some of the very best resources we’ve found because they are so captivating and have helped me build a foundation of truth for the children. Those of you who have asked me what we do for Bible, here you go!

Sometimes, when parents start out looking into homeschooling, they feel overwhelmed at all the choices for curriculum. One place that can be a good start is to narrow down Bible choices first. It’s a wonderful freedom bestowed by the choice to homeschool that we as parents get to choose how to direct our children’s lives in ways that go far beyond education. Spiritual training directs all the way into eternity! We believe Bible should be the cornerstone of our homeschool and that’s why I’m writing a whole blog post devoted just to Bible resources. Not all of these will work for every family, and we certainly don’t do all of them in any given year. Instead, I have purposed to let Holy Spirit guide us to training that will work for any given season we walk into so we are equipped for Kingdom work. Some of the best of what we’ve tried has ended up in this post.

Of course, Scripture is woven throughout all of our school material (history, science, mathematics, literature, etc.) but here we focus on specifically learning and living out God’s Word. While there are many, many options for spiritual development out there, this post will mainly look at curriculum that can be adapted to homeschooling for Bible credit and/or family devotions, not to programs and tools for things like chore-training and character attributes (which are important too, just different from the purposes outlined here). Perhaps some of these choices will help you begin to build a curriculum to train up your children. Even if you make the decision to pursue more traditional schooling options for your kiddos, these resources can be an invaluable resource for devotional life.

Scripture Memorization

Hands-down, the very best Bible memory CDs we’ve ever used are produced by the Steve and Annie Harrow. We were first introduced to their music through Sonlight Bible cores, which we’ve used regularly since the beginning of our homeschool journey. The songs are very simple and well-done without being cheesy and annoying. In fact, Steve and Annie’s Harrow’s music is pleasant enough that I could have it playing in the background while we work on other subjects. I can’t say that for most of the children’s Scriptural music I’ve come across. All the tracks have an accompanying instrumental track for when the children have memorized the words to the verses. The only downside I see to their music is that most of the verse references are not included in the songs themselves. When I was a little girl, I remember listening to GT and the Halo Express, which had the Bible references actually sung along with the Scripture. To this day, the verses I learned back then are burned into my memory WITH the references. However, even considering this, I still prefer Harrow family productions as they are so beautiful. It’s not too much extra work to memorize the references separately. We currently have five of their seven CDs.


This is the first year we are using the Westminster Shorter Catechism in our biblical studies. There are many reasons to include catechism in our daily lessons even though we are not orthodox. The main reason is that children need to internalize the basics of Scriptural understanding. These truths are the bricks with which we build a House of Truth. The little ones cannot understand complex, abstract doctrines, but by memorizing questions and answers such as they are presented in the catechism, they will be able to build well into the future as their understanding develops. I do not believe catechism should be held above memorization of the Word itself, but it is important to be able to give an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15) and put concise words to exactly WHAT we believe. We are using Holly Dutton’s Westminster Shorter Catechism songs. There are four CDs in all, and they cover all 107 questions and answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Both the questions and answers are included in each song, making it easier for the kids to have memory pegs for some of the main doctrinal points of our faith. There are several questions we will not memorize as they differ fundamentally with what we believe (i.e. infant baptism being a sacrament, the first day of the week being the God-ordained Sabbath after Christ’s resurrection, etc.). However, since the majority of the questions and answers are so eloquent and the music is so beautiful and simple, I did not want to forego the learning opportunity provided by the catechism.

Bible Study

Kay Arthur’s book How to Study Your Bible revolutionized my life. I visited this book when I was in Bible college and again while part of a leadership training program in my young adult years. Kay’s method of delving into the text is so straightforward, and I really like the questions that are laid out at the beginning of a study. They can be used for any passages, anywhere in the Word. While I do not use her method for my devotional reading, those times when I just want the truth of God’s Word to wash over my spirit but I am not doing a particular exegesis, I have yet to find a better way of organizing study. A few years ago, I discovered that Kay Arthur’s Precepts Ministries International publishes a series of Bible study books for kids called Discover 4 Yourself. They have a version of How to Study Your Bible for children as well as several workbooks that students can use to go through different topics in both the Old and New Testaments. The workbooks are fabulous. They are interesting and written with an engaging narrative style that ties the adventure of Bible study with the reality that one can actually possess a deep understanding of God’s Word no matter her age. There are games, puzzles, and questions that force kids to really dig into the text. Jaelah and Selah have done several of the workbooks but are now growing out of them and are ready for the next phase of Bible study. Chavah recently finished the book for Jonah and I can’t even express the joy I feel as I look through her workbook and see her handwriting and colorful notes all over the text, displaying how she has dug into the meat of the Word. It is nice that most of the referenced Scripture is included IN the workbooks so that any mistakes made with the colorful symbols that are used in study won’t be a permanent part of the children’s personal Bibles. The material is broken up into very manageable chunks that don’t take more than about 20-30 minutes to complete per day. The teacher editions are nice but not completely necessary if a parent has an understanding of Kay Arthur’s study methods and can do the work along with the children. So far, Lord, Teach Me to Pray has been my favorite – an entire book breaking down the Lord’s Prayer.

PictureSmart Bible has been on my backburner for several years now. I have not yet delved into the program because I wanted to be able to use it with all of the kids at the same time. Just recently, PictureSmart Bible has come out with a K-3 curriculum, so very soon we will be able to use the Grade 4-Adult curriculum for the older kids and the K-3 for the younger kids. If you want to go through the entire Bible and get the main theme from each book summarized in one picture that you color in as you go, this is the program for you. Not only do you go through and study every single book of the Bible, God’s plan of salvation is emphasized in each and every book. I don’t know of many programs, especially for young children, that take the minor prophets of the Old Testament and reveal how redemption is woven through the entire text.

Veritas Press Bible is a program we are using for the first time this homeschooling year. Now that I am teaching 6 students, any subjects we can combine and easily adapt for levels of ability save a lot of time for me. A fan of the idea of “memory pegs” on which children can place knowledge as they grow, I have found VP Bible to be an excellent program for review and understanding. There are five sets of flash cards, each set made up of 32 of the most important events and people of a particular part of the Bible. On the front of each 5 ½ x 8 ½ card is an illustration or famous artwork depicting a person or event. On the back is a short summary of the event as well as Scriptural reference, dates (if applicable), as well as a list of cross-reference materials that can be used for further study (books such as the Children’s Illustrated Bible, or Journey Through the Bible, etc.). Each of the five sets has a memory song to go with it and will go through all 32 events as well as the setting and Bible reference referenced by the cards themselves. Currently, we are making our way through the Genesis to Joshua song. While not the most incredible work of musicianship I’ve ever heard, the details ARE being retained by the kids. My goal is not for them to memorize the whole memory song, but rather to get very familiar with the order of Biblical history and the important events. A teacher guide is included with each CD with printable worksheets and tests related to each flash card in the set. I use these to go through the cards, but the review portions tend to get a little redundant in my opinion after awhile, so I do not emphasize them more than on the first time or two we are looking through a particular flash card. Memory work is a foundational aspect of classical education, but I find that the time I am spending with the kids on these cards is enough for familiarity to be established, which is my ultimate goal (not word-perfect memorization of song lyrics). Especially considering all the other Bible resources we are using concurrently, I feel that we are getting enough out of this program to justify the cost of the flash cards. The five sets consist of Genesis to Joshua, Judges to Kings, Chronicles to Malachi, The Gospels, and Acts to Revelation. The bonus is that these cards DO correspond to the Veritas Press history cards, which has really helped the older two girls to place biblical events alongside ancient world history.

Worldview & Apologetics

We use Apologia Worldview curriculum as the basis of our family devotions. We took a year just to go through the first book, letting the conversational bunny trails get lively and knowing that interruptions abound. After all, you can only get through so much serious discussion with a toddler and a preschooler contributing around the dinner table. This curriculum has been a family favorite thus far and we have not even gotten more than halfway through the second book. The stories, dialogue, Scripture, and beautiful illustrations and photography have added a great depth to conversation for our family. I particularly appreciate the importance placed on developing a solidly Christian worldview and acknowledging the fact that Scriptural truth simply MUST be the foundation upon which we build our entire lives. The simplicity of the gospel is laid out consistently and centrally in each book. These books do not delve into doctrinal specifics that vary greatly across congregations, denominations, and families (i.e. topics like the gifts of the Holy Spirit for believers today, or the role of women in the church, etc.) None of what we have studied has been from a divisive perspective but one that majors on some of the most important parts of what we believe. Apologia curriculum is excellent for those who like the notebooking journal style of learning. We used the Junior notebooking journals for the first level. It has lots of space for notes, activities, Scripture study, and even writing out prayers. However, we always end up going back to using the coloring books that are included with each level. Though I am sure they were intended for the younger audience, our oldest two daughters love to get out the colored pencils and color while Daddy reads aloud. The great thing about this worldview curriculum is the ability to draw in a broad range of ages without anyone feeling left out.

Torah Portions

Many will agree with my opinion that one of the best Torah resources for children is Children’s Torah Club, published by First Fruits of Zion ministries. Our children have used parts of this program in Shabbat classes since they were quite small. We have never gone through the entire program as a family, but this is another one of the back-burner programs I may use with the younger crew during the next Torah reading cycle. Activities, readings, puzzles, and the like are included in each lesson. Review can be incorporated as well, but it is not a strong point in this program considering most Messianic families go through the Torah portions every single year. Each Torah portion has its own 8 page packet. One of my favorite aspects of the program is that basic Hebrew is taught alongside each lesson. It should be noted that while there are gospel portions and haftarah portions included in FFOZ Torah reading schedules available each year, the additional readings are NOT a part of the curriculum of this Torah Club program. Parents would have to add in other readings and activities even though TC is written from a Messianic perspective. FFOZ states the recommended age level of Children’s Torah Club is 6-10 years old, but I think the age is a fair amount younger – perhaps 5-8, and my almost-4-year old would be easily able to work through many of the activities with my help. By the time my kids are 9 or 10, I believe they can and should be delving into deeper truths without the need for so many activities to hold their attention, but that is only based on what I have seen in our family.

Jaelah is working through the Walk! Torah devotional studies during the Torah cycle this year. This is definitely a more mature program, at least at the high school level. I like it enough to consider using it for all the kids as they prepare for bar and bat mitzvah. There is a significant amount of reading, both in Scripture and through the commentary, but it pulls a great deal out of the text. It teaches some basic Hebrew and is Messianic in perspective. Jaelah is not ready for the level of the chumash yet, but I believe she will be well-prepared for it when she is done with the Walk! books, that is, if she wants to delve into the chumash on her own. An even more in-depth study on the Torah portions, one I was turned on to over 6 years ago and my own personal favorite is written by the Rabbi’s Son. I love his perspective, language, and inspiration, but since we aren’t yet using it for homeschooling study, that is a blog post for another day! These books DO include the Haftarah and B’rit Chadashah readings.


Through the relationships we’ve developed at The Church at Ellerslie, we discovered a recently-launched project called Heroic Life Discipleship. It’s a curriculum aimed at training up children in a solid foundation of the Word that they might mature fully in Christ. The curriculum will ultimately cover all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation (in 8 semester sections) but for now only the first (Foundations), seventh (Our Sure Salvation), and eighth (The Exchanged Life) semesters are available with new semesters being rolled out over the next few years. Activity guides are provided along with the leader guide for each semester, and a student book for two separate age levels (age 4-7 and age 8-13) are available for each level as well. This means another great way for me to combine multiple age levels without having to add any hours to an already busy day. I am thrilled about this program because we have seen such an abundance of fruit from the training we’ve received at Ellerslie just by being a part of the body there. I know this curriculum will grow us in many ways as a family. We are starting with Foundations. I cannot comment on ease of use through the entire program, but from the samples I’ve read of the newly-released material, it will dovetail very nicely with Apologia’s worldview studies.

One of the aspects of Heroic Life Discipleship that excites me the most is the call to intercession for young ones in a practical way. Though we pray as a family, it has been a practice that has moved along in a clunky and sometimes uninspiring way – mainly because Pete and I had not developed from a young age the practice of praying in groups (or even individually) and collectively calling the promises and realities of Heaven down to earth. It is hard to pass on a discipline to children as parents when we ourselves have struggled to create a resilient habit. If the children can start young, however, I know that they will thrive in the truth that Yeshua dwells within them and they can develop a powerful prayer life in connecting with Him at all times. The other aspect of Heroic Life that I’m very excited about is that mighty men and women of the faith will be featured throughout the semesters. We utilize biographies in all areas of our homeschool study, but I cannot wait to delve into some of the lives of incredible people who build our faith through their testimony and encouragement. This format promises to highlight some true heroes whose stories I pray will burn in our children’s hearts.

This family prepares for bat mitzvah

We are still about two years away from Jaelah’s bat mitzvah and yet it is finally time for preparations to begin! This has been a much-anticipated time in our household. The children look at this process of being released into “grown-up-hood” as a treasured time. Though there are some fun privileges in our family that we’ve associated with bat-mitzvah season, such as finally getting to wear make-up, the heart process of a child taking ownership of her relationship with the Lord is the primary purpose of becoming a bat mitzvah, or “daughter of the commandments.”

As our spiritual and emotional preparations begin with our eldest child, I am in continual awareness that these precious souls are only loaned to us for a short time. Being released into the responsibility of one’s own walk with God for the rest of her life is a tremendous time of blessing, a journey that must be walked with a knowledge of its holiness coupled with rejoicing as we are draw nearer to that special day.

There are many books we want to read through in the coming months, and with my big stack it’s obvious that we will need every last week of the next couple of years. More than just book knowledge, however, now is a time of discovering and expressing in a greater fullness the unique gifting and personality God has equipped Jaelah with.

There are few bat/bar mitzvah programs and books I have found that emphasize the New Covenant in its fullness. A Torah-submissive lifestyle is something our family wholeheartedly embraces, yet the walk of faith and redemption all of our children must eventually choose for themselves is much more than living out commandments in a practical way. It is finding oneself utterly dependent upon Yeshua for everything and choosing to follow Him with everything, submitted in heart AND action. Technically, I suppose, we will be having a bat b’rit chadashah (daughter of the New Covenant) ceremony for Jaelah.

Here are some of the categories and resources we’ve chosen to incorporate into our family’s bar/bat mitzvah training. Some might end up left by the wayside while others will be a go-to for all seven of our kiddos. I’m sure I’ll find some other treasures along the way to add to our collection as we launch Jaelah into adulthood.

First things first. In our family, one responsibility we will require of our children before their covenant ceremonies will be to read through the entire Bible. We’ve read through most of the Bible already incorporating it into our school day, but as we are approaching a new Torah cycle we have decided to help Jaelah go deeper with it at a level not too far above her understanding yet challenging in just the right way. Daddy and Jaelah will be going through not only the weekly Scripture portions together this year, but also working through the Walk! devotional commentaries on the Torah, Haftarah, and B’rit Chadashah readings. Since this study will take a fair amount of time daily, I am going to count it as Bible credit for school as well.

Devotion to Yeshua in spite of what the world does and says is difficult, particularly for those not living with the religious freedoms we have in the US. I don’t want to overwhelm Jaelah’s extremely compassionate heart with violence unnecessarily, but the history of believers is fraught with stories of incredible conviction in the face of persecution, imprisonment, and death. These true stories can be gripping and build faith in spite of the difficulty of reading them. Missions and the persecuted church is already something we discuss regularly in homeschool, but now Jaelah will be reading through Voice of the Martyrs’ publication Extreme Devotion. It has short, daily readings, with devotional-type questions. Many of the stories are taken from Fox’s Book of Martyrs, a book I am reserving for high school.

The Hebrew roots of our faith is not a new discussion topic around here, and yet there are many specific theological and doctrinal topics that we would like to help Jaelah understand more than she does now. Hebrew roots is an extraordinarily complex subject, so we will be taking portions from the following books and presenting them to Jaelah in the “cliff notes” versions. Other than developing very basic skills of exegesis (which has been extremely successful so far with the Discover 4 Yourself series of Bible study books by Kay Arthur), my main desire is to create a framework from which she can continue to build throughout young adulthood and beyond. Even as a college student, I struggled through Samuele Bacchiochi’s From Sabbath to Sunday, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t present the bullet points to her now. Though she could technically read through all of them and maybe gain some insights, I plan to use these books as school curriculum towards the end of high school because I want her maturity to be at a level where she can more readily understand and incorporate them into her belief system: Holy Cow! by Hope Egan, Our Hands are Stained with Blood by Dr. Michael Brown, From Sabbath to Sunday by Samuele Bacchiochi, Too Long in the Sun by Richard Rives, Fellow Heirs and The Letter Writer by Tim Hegg, and The Mystery of the Gospel and Grafted In by Daniel Lancaster.

While many of the resources I just listed will give a great intro into the Hebrew roots of our faith, they assume that a basis for Christ’s divinity and identity as Savior has already been established and accepted. The framework of Messianic faith must be laid upon the foundation of Christ. To really help her solidify her understanding of God the Creator and Yeshua His Son, Jaelah will be going through Lee Strobel’s excellent “Case for…” series, which is geared toward students. We’ll read The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, as well as The Case for a Creator.

One part of bat mitzvah training that begins now and will go on for several more years involves both purity and modesty (in body and heart) as well as godly relationships with the opposite sex. I’ve read several books on purity that devote more time to defining what types of clothing are truly modest than to developing the purity of heart and mind. Instead of slapping on a maxi skirt and billowy blouse and calling it “modest” I want Jaelah to see that there is much more to how she displays herself to the world. What motivates her? What parts of the culture does she allow to influence how she thinks about herself? How will she define beauty? Does modest begin and end with the clothing on one’s body, or does it actually pertain even to speech and attitude? How does she feed her definitions of these things – from the world or from God’s Word revealed through Holy Spirit? All these questions will continue to be asked long past a bat mitzvah ceremony, but I want to start laying the foundation even now. First, we will go through Leslie Ludy’s Lost Art of True Beauty, which is geared toward younger women. For lighter reading that provides encouragement about a variety of things related to godly young women, from modesty to devotion time to gossip, we’re subscribing to the Set Apart Girl magazine that comes out bi-monthly. These magazines are exquisitely done and are so good that we will get the hard copies instead of the electronic version so we’ll always have them at hand. When we’re ready for a bit more depth on relationship study, which probably will be much closer to when Jaelah is 13, we will read Elisabeth Elliott’s Passion and Purity. I would say it’s a timeless book on relationship and purity, though it still has some material that will not pertain for awhile yet. Another book that is a bit advanced but will be on our shelf is Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally. Despite what the title might suggest, it’s actually a book geared toward becoming a young woman who focuses more on who she is becoming in Christ than on what young men she attracts. It’s still not really on the radar for us, but I like having resources at the ready for topics like this.

As Jaelah develops her spiritual and motivational gifts, we will go through Don and Katie Fortune’s Discover Your Child’s Gifts. This book has tests that will help both Jaelah and us as her parents to see the particular way she views the world and how to help her find the place she will fit in the Body of Messiah. Some of the things we want to incorporate for Jaelah will be service-oriented and involve mission trips and helping with different ministry tasks over the next couple of years. We’ll be looking for things that help to turn book knowledge into wisdom through life experience. While somewhat more difficult to plan out than pages to read in books, I look forward to this aspect of Jaelah’s development as a believer and soon-to-be daughter of the covenant.

A Fruitful Chanukah

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Isaiah 9:2

There is biblical significance to the number eight in the Bible. Eight stands for “new beginnings.” There is an interesting correlation with the nights of Chanukah and the Fruit of the Spirit, which our family will be meditating on during this year’s holiday season. For anyone who has seen a Chanukah menorah, there are obviously places for nine candles on it. The shamash candle, or “servant” candle is the one used to light all the other candles on each night of Chanukah – one for each night of the eight day celebration. The shamash is a symbol of Jesus as He came as a servant to light our hearts to Him as the path of salvation. He declared Himself to be the Messiah during the Festival of Dedication (John 10:22-42), solidifying in the hearts of His followers that He was the awaited Promised One.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

It is through love that we appropriate the fruits of the Spirit into our lives. We have love for the Father and His Son, therefore we walk in a manner pleasing to Him by putting on the other fruits. We love one another, which is the second part of the greatest commandment. We will be exploring verses related to each fruit during each night of Chanukah this year as we light the candles. Of course, there are a multitude of verses on these topics. Some of them will focus on the example God gave us to follow as He embodies each of these gifts in Himself. Others will focus on the characteristics He seeks to develop in His children by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Each night of Chanukah, as we light the first candle of love, we will read some verses about love, followed by readings for the additional gifts in order.

pomegranate-loveJohn 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Colossians 3:14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Matthew 5:43-45 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

1 Corinthians 13

Mark 12:30-31 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another.

Ephesians 4:1-2 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

John 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.


John 15:10-11 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

James 1:2-3 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Proverbs 17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

2 Thessalonians 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!


John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

Romans 8:6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

Psalm 119:165 Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.


James 5:7-8 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.


Colossians 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Proverbs 19:17 One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.

Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?


Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Galatians 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.


1 Samuel 12:24 Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart, for consider what great things He has done for you.

Proverbs 28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.”

Proverbs 3:3-4 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.

Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.


Titus 3:2 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;,

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

tomato-self control

Proverbs 25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.

1 Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

James 1:20 For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Matthew 26:41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.