Ponderings: Menachem Av

On a regular basis, I get phone calls and emails and private messages on Facebook. It doesn’t bother me; it is a blessing; it lets me be who G-d has made me to be–an encourager and exhorter. I love to listen and to speak words of life and blessing to others. Sometimes, however, it does take its toll, and I am learning that all the difficulties in this world are not for me to carry, but to offer up into Abba’s care time after time–to never stop surrendering to His will.

These past few weeks during the Dire Straits have been particularly trying for me and for many of my friends and acquaintances. I have felt raw, and completely exposed to the elements. I know my Covering is still there, but He has felt a little distant.

Last night, I spoke to a friend on the phone and I found myself speaking these words: G-d doesn’t show His character to those He doesn’t love.

Who does G-d love? He loves all. So then, how does He get those whom He loves to see His character? Through trials, through illness, through hunger and thirst, through sleepless nights–by whatever means necessary. For how can we recognize the true nature of our Father unless we know we are lacking, unless we see that there is a Great Provider, the source of all life and peace? He makes us to feel the lack of Him, in order that we will, like a little child who’s gone too far from her mother, notice the distance and run back to her mother’s arms. He makes us feel alone so that we know that we are never alone; He is steadfast; He is always there, longing, waiting for us to run back to Him.

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Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He speaks to my heart; is He saying something like these words to you as well? “Will you come to Me; will you come to Me even now? When your world is crashing down around you? When all hope seems lost? Come. Cast all your cares, your worries and fears on Me.”

O, how He longs for you and me, how His arms ache to comfort us.
Run back, dear ones of the Father, run and He will run to meet you, and take you up into His bosom and hold you tenderly. Let Him love you; let Him show you who He really is, for He is the Father of all comfort. Truly, He is Comfort.

To learn more about the month of Av, I highly recommend K. Gallagher’s post here: Month of Av: Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av
I also recommend The Power of Rachel’s Tears from Aleph Beta Academy, which speaks specifically about the purpose for fasting on 9 Av.

Prone to Wander

This week I had one of the most frightening experiences of my life. My children and I had had a wonderful morning picking strawberries with friends followed by coming back to have lunch and playtime in the backyard. When our friends left, we decided to go to the library.

When we got there my daughter and younger son immediately picked out a book, and I was assisting my oldest in finding a couple of chapter books. My daughter came up to me and asked if I would hold her book, as they all often ask, so I took her book and then went back to finding a book for my son. After finding the book, I looked and no daughter.

Now my dear daughter has always been prone to wander. When she was 15 months old, she got it in her head to walk across a football field to get to a playground with no thought of telling us where she was planning on going or grabbing one of us to accompany her. There she was just walking away without a care in the world.

So as I began to call out her name and walked toward the children’s play area, stopping short after calling her name again and receiving no answer, I started to panic.

I walked up to the librarian and asked her if she had seen a little girl with long brown curly hair leave the children’s section.  She shook her head and looked terrified as she got up to check with the other staff. I walked back toward the children’s play area, and there she was walking back toward the shelves she’d left me in. I grabbed her hand tightly and promptly told her and my sons it was time to go. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes, but it felt like an eternity.

I thanked the librarian who’d tried to help me, we checked out our books, and then I told my precious daughter to never do that again. I found myself uttering the words, “When you walk away from me, you put your life in danger. I can’t keep you safe, if you remove yourself from my covering of protection. It is so important that you stay near me, so that you won’t be hurt.”

And I heard Abba say, “Yes. You too, daughter.”

I realized that He was lovingly reminding me that all of us are prone to wander and can get so caught up in the things of this world, preoccupied with earthly matters, that we ignore our relationship with our Father. We don’t hear Him calling–and He is calling. If you hear His voice today, no matter how near or far you may be, come back to Him. Take the steps in His direction and place yourself under His covering and surrender to His care, for He cares so much for you.

A Hard Lesson

My three year old had a hard lesson this morning. About a week ago, he’d taken a “Go-go Squeeze” apple sauce packet and indulged. I told him then that at some point in the future, he’d not be happy that he took it.

Well, that “some point” came this morning, when I made our usual weekday oatmeal and I told my oldest son to get their “Go-go Squeeze” packets, and he informed me there were only two left. I couldn’t just give one to my youngest, to appease the storm I knew it would cause, because that’s not fair. So I stood my ground as he was screaming and crying and telling me I didn’t love him, and stomping his feet.

I told him to go to his room until he could calm down, and so off he trudged. When he finally said, “I’m ready to calm down now,” I pulled him up on my lap and we had a little talk.

“_______, you remember that you took a go-go squeeze off the counter that one day? I saw you do it. If you hadn’t taken it, you would have had one today. This is your fault, you need to own up to it and admit it.”

Mournfully and repentantly crying, he said, “It’s my fault!”

With tears in my own eyes, I said, “Yes, it’s your fault. When we take things instead of being given things, then when we want something it’s no longer there to give. But it’s okay, I’ll get some more this week, and you can try again.”


 

How true is this lesson for so many of us. We haven’t learned that it is better to receive than take. G-d is our Father and he gives us everything we will ever need, but when we are immature and impatient, we can be prone to taking matters into our own hands and taking before the appointed time He had chosen to give us that thing, whatever it may be.

The result is that sometimes we miss out on the blessings we would have had if we’d only waited for Him to give them to us. Instead, we may see others being blessed and gifted with those things while we stand by and watch them enjoy what we want, but had taken prematurely, those things that we took that came to nothing, because G-d’s Spirit was not backing us up, supporting us, empowering us to do the task or fulfill those desires.

When we take instead of receiving we are trying to be in control. We are refusing to recognize that G-d is sovereign; He is in control. And so, when we should have been blessed with a gift, our gift is deferred, until He sees that we are ready, ready to begin again, ready to receive, ready to recognize His sovereignty, ready to recognize Him as the Giver.

It’s a hard lesson, but one we all have to learn, one that we will all have to learn again and again until we “get it”.

Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Hanukkah Story & A Haircut

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Three years ago, I was pregnant with my third baby. I knew time was drawing near, and I knew based on how close my other two came to their due dates, that this one would probably be coming on or near the first night of Hanukkah. We’d picked his name, Judah, and joked about him being a little Maccabee. The second night of Hanukkah came and still no baby, but that next morning, I woke up and knew it was time. I labored in my tub and while I was going through transition my husband prayed for me and read through the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134) and the weekly Torah portion called Miketz (From the End). I was able to focus on the words and meditate during the most painful part of my labor. I remember it being the easiest transition to go through of my three children; it was complete shalom.

In all, my labor and delivery time was two and half hours. Can anyone say, “miracle?” 🙂 I pushed and then had to pause; the cord was loosely wrapped around his head. The midwife easily unwrapped the cord and after a total of five minutes of pushing, he emerged into the world. He was my Hanukkah miracle that year.

Since the beginning, I have had a special name for him–Shimshon (Samson, meaning sunshine). I gave him the nickname because he is always so happy, he’s very physically strong, and his hair is the color of sunshine, and it’s never been cut–yet. He is a very special little boy, not unlike his siblings, but he is my first baby born after my husband and I made t’shuva (repentance) and he was circumcised on the eighth day, according to the Torah. He has never known anything other than the Torah life that we live, and I believe this has had an incredible impact on his soul.

Of my three, anyone who knows him can see that he is a born leader. He has incredible self-control, he is a good listener, and he shows real remorse and repentance when he is disobedient. I pray he is just like the brave Judah Maccabee of whom he was named, and that he will possess the positive traits of Samson.

This next week, my littlest, will get his first haircut. It is a Jewish tradition called upsherin or halakeh to leave little boys hair untouched until their third birthday. Right now, he has wispy, curly hair. But next Sunday, he’ll have his hair cut in the Jewish way, leaving only long, golden peyot (side curls) behind. He’ll don his first tallit katan (small four cornered garment) and he’ll begin to wear a kippah. This is a very big event that we have waited for since he was born. We will teach him that when we, as God’s people, wear the tzitziot and kippah we are kiddush Hashem (sanctified to Hashem) and we must act in accordance with His holy Word, because we are commanded to be holy as Hashem is holy. For my family this is taken as an immense privilege as well as responsibility.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe my boy’s birth and his coming haircut is a very tangible lesson for us all, if we choose to see. Hanukkah comes at the darkest time of the year, when the nights are longer than the days. The light of the menorah is a picture of the light that should emanate from our own souls to a dark world. The Messiah is coming with the dawn, but while it is still night we are must shine the light of Messiah that is within us. Just as God’s Son walked by the light of the Word (Psalm 119:105), so too the time has come for us, His children, whether native born or through adoption, to tame our wild hearts, set ourselves apart, put on the commandments, and be submitted to the will of our Heavenly Father and King, Who loves us and desires good things for us.

Be a LIGHT!

Blessings and Shalom,
S~

Hanukkah — My Top Eight Gift Ideas!

Shalom, everyone! Hanukkah is right around the corner–YAY! Some people do gifts every night; some buy toys and games, but Brad and I save common purchases for their birthdays and instead have made a tradition of giving gifts that will enrich their spiritual lives and reinforce their heritage on just one night during this special holiday. What kind of gifts do we get? I decided to share what’s on my list for this year and things that we’ve previously bought and love!

Here’s my top eight list of gift ideas, in no particular order, along with appropriate age range. (Click on the image to purchase!)

1. Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire by M.R. Attar (age 7 and up)

ELDAVLF-2– “In the Old City of Jerusalem, a secret school exists which trains students in an all-powerful otherworldly wisdom. Young Elisha Davidson isn’t considered one of their most promising students, but after he accidentally discovers a strange ‘stone’ buried behind the walls of his own home, he ends up unleashing mysterious letters of fire that plunge him into a labyrinth of ancient scripture, legend and mysticism. Now Elisha is not only light-years ahead of his classmates, he’s reached a more advanced level than his school’s most venerated ‘master’. What happens when Elisha suddenly holds the keys to unimaginable ancient powers?

Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire isn’t based on fantasy. It draws only on non-fiction manuscripts, dating as far back as 5,775 years ago, and exposes the most extraordinary and cryptic teachings of the human race.”

You can hear a radio interview with the author HERE!

imgres2. My First Parsha Reader (age 3-8) – “Immensely enjoyed by preschoolers, as well as by beginning readers. Easy Sentences. Full page illustrations. Enjoyable to tell, enjoyable to listen to, enjoyable to read. It is also being successfully used in the field of special education.”

We use this series for homeschooling to get the basic themes and stories from each week’s parsha. My oldest is learning to read and does his out loud reading. And then we go through the comprehension questions at the end of each section.

3. Tribes of Israel Game (age 5 and up) –

s852117324463583283_p4_i2_w640Remember playing the “Monotonous” game as a kid–well, at least, that’s what my family called it! This is a much better version, and just as fun! You and your family will enjoy “settling the land” of Israel and learning about the Scriptures in a fun and memorable way.

“Choose your game piece (Tree of Life, Torah Scroll, Haggadah, Shofar, Matzah, Menorah, Ten Commandments or Grapes) and begin buying properties in each of the twelve Tribes of Israel. Hours of fun for up to 8 players. All cards are laminated for long lasting fun for your entire family.  Playing pieces are sturdy pewter.”

513iT9nx50L4. Apples to Apples Junior: Jewish Edition (age 8-14) -“The Apples to Apples Junior Jewish Edition brings the award-winning card and party game, Apples to Apples, to the Jewish family. Players from ages nine and up will delight in the crazy comparisons while expanding their knowledge of Jewish themes and thinking skills. It’s as easy as comparing “apples to apples”. Just open the box, deal the cards, and you’re ready for instant family fun. Select the card from your hand that you think is most like the card played by the judge. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. And, everyone gets a chance to be the judge. Each round is filled with surprising comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things and events. Fast moving and refreshing, the game is easy to learn and fun to play. It’s the perfect game for kids, families and friends.”

jpeg5. Artscroll Children’s Siddur by Shmuel Blitz (age 6 and up) –

“This Siddur was compiled by Shmuel Blitz, in consultation with master teachers. It has the basic prayers with which children begin their lives. The translations and instructions are on their level. And they’ll be fascinated by all the “Did you Knows” and “Closer Looks”. (So will you!) This siddur also features Tova Katz’s illustrations. They are lovely and enticing. They’ll keep children coming back to this Siddur again and again.”

This siddur has strong binding and a stain-proof cover for durability.

Hebrew_Complete6. Little Pim: Hebrew (age 6 months and up) – If you’re wanting to start your family on the path to learning Hebrew, this is a great first series to get for you and your children.

“Your child will love exploring the Hebrew language alongside Little Pim, the playful cartoon panda bear who serves as the series’ “teacher.” Little Pim will take your child on a journey as they watch real children enjoy everyday activities, such as playing, eating, waking and napping.” **They now offer versions for smartphones and tablet devices!**

51HdAk2wsUL7. Shalom Sesame (age 3-6) – This series is a family favorite. We like to play this in the car on road trips.

“This new series from the creators of Sesame Street introduces Jewish holidays, traditions, and cultures to viewers of all ages. It features the loveable, well-known cast from Sesame Street, new friends from Israel, and celebrities. Join Grover as he explores Israel, its people and places, and learns new things. Get ready to laugh and sing with this next generation of the popular classic, Shalom Sesame!”

1208648. Sheldon Low’s “It’s all Challah to Me!” and “Look at Me!” with Rick Recht (all ages) – These two albums are so fun! The songs are catchy and feature both Hebrew and English, making it fun to learn Hebrew blessings, prayers, words and phrases that your whole family will remember. Great for car rides or sitting at home–but I guarantee you’ll want to get up and dance with the upbeat tunes!

 

Hanukkah — My Top Eight Gift Ideas!

Shalom, everyone! Hanukkah is right around the corner–YAY! Some people do gifts every night; some buy toys and games, but Brad and I save common purchases for their birthdays and instead have made a tradition of giving gifts that will enrich their spiritual lives and reinforce their heritage on just one night during this special holiday. What kind of gifts do we get? I decided to share what’s on my list for this year and things that we’ve previously bought and love!

Here’s my top eight list of gift ideas, in no particular order, along with appropriate age range. (Click on the image to purchase!)

1. Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire by M.R. Attar (age 7 and up)

ELDAVLF-2– “In the Old City of Jerusalem, a secret school exists which trains students in an all-powerful otherworldly wisdom. Young Elisha Davidson isn’t considered one of their most promising students, but after he accidentally discovers a strange ‘stone’ buried behind the walls of his own home, he ends up unleashing mysterious letters of fire that plunge him into a labyrinth of ancient scripture, legend and mysticism. Now Elisha is not only light-years ahead of his classmates, he’s reached a more advanced level than his school’s most venerated ‘master’. What happens when Elisha suddenly holds the keys to unimaginable ancient powers?

Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire isn’t based on fantasy. It draws only on non-fiction manuscripts, dating as far back as 5,775 years ago, and exposes the most extraordinary and cryptic teachings of the human race.”

You can hear a radio interview with the author HERE!

imgres2. My First Parsha Reader (age 3-8) – “Immensely enjoyed by preschoolers, as well as by beginning readers. Easy Sentences. Full page illustrations. Enjoyable to tell, enjoyable to listen to, enjoyable to read. It is also being successfully used in the field of special education.”

We use this series for homeschooling to get the basic themes and stories from each week’s parsha. My oldest is learning to read and does his out loud reading. And then we go through the comprehension questions at the end of each section.

3. Tribes of Israel Game (age 5 and up) –

s852117324463583283_p4_i2_w640Remember playing the “Monotonous” game as a kid–well, at least, that’s what my family called it! This is a much better version, and just as fun! You and your family will enjoy “settling the land” of Israel and learning about the Scriptures in a fun and memorable way.

“Choose your game piece (Tree of Life, Torah Scroll, Haggadah, Shofar, Matzah, Menorah, Ten Commandments or Grapes) and begin buying properties in each of the twelve Tribes of Israel. Hours of fun for up to 8 players. All cards are laminated for long lasting fun for your entire family.  Playing pieces are sturdy pewter.”

513iT9nx50L4. Apples to Apples Junior: Jewish Edition (age 8-14) -“The Apples to Apples Junior Jewish Edition brings the award-winning card and party game, Apples to Apples, to the Jewish family. Players from ages nine and up will delight in the crazy comparisons while expanding their knowledge of Jewish themes and thinking skills. It’s as easy as comparing “apples to apples”. Just open the box, deal the cards, and you’re ready for instant family fun. Select the card from your hand that you think is most like the card played by the judge. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. And, everyone gets a chance to be the judge. Each round is filled with surprising comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things and events. Fast moving and refreshing, the game is easy to learn and fun to play. It’s the perfect game for kids, families and friends.”

jpeg5. Artscroll Children’s Siddur by Shmuel Blitz (age 6 and up) –

“This Siddur was compiled by Shmuel Blitz, in consultation with master teachers. It has the basic prayers with which children begin their lives. The translations and instructions are on their level. And they’ll be fascinated by all the “Did you Knows” and “Closer Looks”. (So will you!) This siddur also features Tova Katz’s illustrations. They are lovely and enticing. They’ll keep children coming back to this Siddur again and again.”

This siddur has strong binding and a stain-proof cover for durability.

Hebrew_Complete6. Little Pim: Hebrew (age 6 months and up) – If you’re wanting to start your family on the path to learning Hebrew, this is a great first series to get for you and your children.

“Your child will love exploring the Hebrew language alongside Little Pim, the playful cartoon panda bear who serves as the series’ “teacher.” Little Pim will take your child on a journey as they watch real children enjoy everyday activities, such as playing, eating, waking and napping.” **They now offer versions for smartphones and tablet devices!**

51HdAk2wsUL7. Shalom Sesame (age 3-6) – This series is a family favorite. We like to play this in the car on road trips.

“This new series from the creators of Sesame Street introduces Jewish holidays, traditions, and cultures to viewers of all ages. It features the loveable, well-known cast from Sesame Street, new friends from Israel, and celebrities. Join Grover as he explores Israel, its people and places, and learns new things. Get ready to laugh and sing with this next generation of the popular classic, Shalom Sesame!”

1208648. Sheldon Low’s “It’s all Challah to Me!” and “Look at Me!” with Rick Recht (all ages) – These two albums are so fun! The songs are catchy and feature both Hebrew and English, making it fun to learn Hebrew blessings, prayers, words and phrases that your whole family will remember. Great for car rides or sitting at home–but I guarantee you’ll want to get up and dance with the upbeat tunes!

 

“O” is for Octopus

We’ve arrived at the age of starting school.  Before my husband and I got married, we discussed our mutual desire to home school any future children.  Hubby went to a public school growing up, and I experienced public, private, and home schooling.  So we knew this day was coming when others his age were already attending preschool.

My son, though only three (he’ll be four in November) has always been very smart.  So this summer I started my search for home school curriculum.  It soon became apparent, after sifting through many curricula, that preschool would not be challenging enough for my little boy.  He excels at learning new things.  When he was only two we were doing flash cards, drilling him on animal names and the alphabet and he loved it!

I set out to find a curriculum that would be challenging and also well planned out for me as a new homeschool mom/teacher.  If you are not used to doing something it is sometimes best to go with a curriculum that’s already well laid out and can be adjusted to fit the needs of your child.

The curriculum I ended up choosing was LIFEPAC Kindergarten Level Math and Language Skills from Alpha Omega Publishing.  They are a consumable books, but I thought it would be best if he could draw and write in his books for this year, at least.  He has done really well in math so far.  He has a good understanding of the concepts being covered and is quick to pick up the new things with repetition.  The language skills have been a little more challenging, namely tracing letters.  He hadn’t really done much coloring or drawing up until we started doing his school work, so we took a little break and came back to it a week later, after much coloring, with renewed interest and a steadier hand.  He can now trace the letter “O” almost perfectly and he’s doing a quite good freehand “O” as well!  For tracing practice, I found a great site that has free worksheets: ZiggityZoom.com  This is the one my son worked on today

What I’ve discovered so far (only 2 weeks in) is that some things will come naturally and some things will be more difficult for your child.  The most important thing is to be patient, loving, and encouraging.  If they’re getting frustrated take a little break and come back to it. They’ll come around and finally “get it,” and when they do, you’ll be there cheering them on!

Home schooling has probably been one of the funnest things I’ve done so far on this parenting journey, and I look forward to each day with great enthusiasm and anticipation for what my boy will learn next.  I love watching him get excited about learning.  I hope that this post has helped somebody out there in cyberspace.  I’ll try to keep you updated on the progress he’s making throughout the year.