Over the last few years, I have tried to focus on building habits, so I don't have to make decisions throughout every single day of my life.
I've worked on building habits in all areas of life: home, health, physical wellness, career, and spiritual growth.
Admittedly, my prayer habit has really changed over the years.
After reading the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer and watching The War Room, I began to be more intentional in my prayer life, thinking about my prayers as a strategy against the enemy. At that time, I began to write out prayers about specific subjects -- our marriage, our children, our siblings, the rest of our family, our church, our minister & his family, our careers, health needs, struggling friends, and so many other topics. When something came up that someone needed prayer for, I wrote out a prayer for them and began praying it out loud.
This method was very effective. However, it also became difficult to manage when I had hundreds of notecards with prayers written out on them. I wanted to have an effective prayer strategy, but I felt like I was missing important topics and I felt like I was missing out on some of the "relationship" part of my prayer time.
I started to research what other people were doing in their prayer lives.
I talked to friends, surfed the internet, and of course, prayed.
I have learned a few things about myself over the years:
I'm going to be brutally honest here, this month has been extremely overwhelming for me. As a school administrator, dealing with the end of the school year amid COVID-19 concerns and regulations has brought on unprecedented decision-making requirements for school districts. On May 4th, like I talked about in my last blog post, we had straight-line winds that destroyed our barn and damaged our roof & two other buildings. We've been cooped up (like the rest of our country) with almost no outside contact for the girls with friends and family.
So many of my prayers during May have been spontaneous whispers for peace and calm and protection.
I have no doubt that these prayers were effective and heard and appreciated, but I feel like this time we have spent in the valley has been "survival mode".
As the school year has come to an end, I'm ready to get back to growing and thriving in my prayer life, not just surviving alongside Jesus.
So for June, I've created a prayer template for each day of the month. This will hopefully keep me grounded and focused, as well as help me to rebuild my morning prayer habit.
I have created this two-page template for every day of June.
I'm going to take this weekend to add in daily scriptures for each day and to write down my "specific daily prayers" that I pray about each morning.
I've outlined these prayer topics below, if you're interested in doing something similar.
Specific Daily Prayers
Each day, I have specific topics that I cover. This is something I started a few years ago when I was trying to come up with an effective method of covering all of the "regular" topics I wanted to be in prayer about.
Here is my schedule for my daily prayer topics.
So that's what I'm going to do to strengthen my prayer habit this next month.
This might not be the right prayer method for you, and that's okay.
I would encourage you, however, to find a method that works for you. Schedule in some prayer time and be intentional with how you use that time.
Making prayer a priority here at the farmhouse,
Every single Sunday, I find myself worrying that people think I'm texting or checking my Facebook during the sermon.
Granted, I do reply to a text message here and there.
But usually, I am looking up the scripture that Brother Matt is referencing or taking notes on my phone.
I started taking notes on Google Docs in January of 2017 and it has been amazing.
Brother Matt is in the middle of a sermon series entitled "Second Chances" right now.
He preached his first message on Easter.
It was amazing. You can check it out here.
Today was week 2.
The message was from Acts, Chapter 2.
Acts Chapter 2 was after...
the betrayal in the garden,
and 40 days of traveling and teaching.
In Acts 2:38, we read these words that Peter had said when the people asked him what they needed to do to make Jesus Lord.
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
I grew up in the Church.
I can't even tell you how many times I have read that passage or heard that passage read aloud during a sermon or Bible study.
And yet today...I got a fresh perspective on it.
Repent means I'm turning AWAY from my sin.
Baptism is when I'm turning TO God.
When we choose to leave behind those behaviors that are not pleasing to Him, we choose to leave behind those feelings of guilt and remorse.
The feelings of not being good enough.
The feeling that we are "broken by our own mistakes" (good words, Brother Matt!).
We choose to turn towards Jesus and the feeling of hope that He brings.
So we stop repeating our bad behaviors, turn towards Jesus, and He sends us the Holy Spirit to help us to keep ourselves out of the situations we have been in for so long.
It's like a lightbulb popped on for me.
So I took notes and journaled about it this afternoon.
Sometimes, my pages are a lot more detailed.
But today, this was fine.
Turn away from sin.
Turn to God.
The stain will be removed and a Helper will be sent to you.
If you enjoy art and would like a creative way to connect with God's Word, I would recommend the art of Bible journaling.
Happy Sunday from the Farmhouse, friends.
Isn't it grand?
You wait nine months for this little bundle of joy to be put into your arms and then you question every single decision you make for the next 18 years.
There are so many joy-filled moments that come along with raising kids.
And let's be real...some moments that are, eh...not so wonderful.
Toddler fit-throwing in public.
Eye-rolls from the pre-teen.
Sibling arguments one minute and them teaming up against you in the next.
And perhaps the most difficult of parenting challenges...struggles with friends.
I was a young girl once.
I knew that our girls' friendships wouldn't always be beautiful and wonderful and easy.
After all, we are all human.
However, I have been struggling with something that I believe most parents struggle with...
The tendency to make an excuse.
A few years ago, one of our daughters was having a hard time with a girl who she considered to be a good friend.
This classmate had kind of distanced herself from our daughter and hasn't been the kindest at times.
When I mentioned their friendship, I could tell that there was some tension there...a bit of a strained relationship.
I heard of things the friend had said,
faces she had made,
and other behaviors that would be frustrating for a friend.
However, when I would ask our daughter about her own contribution to the situation,
she admitted that she sometimes snapped back at the friend,
avoided her at times,
and probably was not acting in the way that I would expect her to act...
regardless of how she has been treated.
And my tendency, as a human and as a mother, is to make an excuse for her actions.
But it's not okay.
It's not okay for a child to treat her friend unkindly.
It's not okay for a student to talk back to a teacher.
It's not okay for a player to roll her eyes at the referee...no matter how ridiculous she thinks the call was.
When we, as parents, make excuses for our children's poor behavior, we are reinforcing the choices they are making.
We are justifying the disrespect, the lack of kindness, and the inappropriate behaviors.
I fear that we are raising a generation of entitled youth who don't even understand the concept of respect.
Whether it's respecting their elders,
respecting their peers,
or respecting property.
I'm afraid the concept of respect (even when it's undeserved) has gone out the window some days.
And I'm afraid that every time I make an excuse for my child's lack of respect or justify her actions, I'm contributing to the problem.
Friends, we have to stop the cycle.
I'm not talking about respecting adults who are abusive or pretending like there's no issue with peers who are exhibiting bullying behaviors.
But in the majority of our day-to-day interactions with other human beings, we should be showing kindness...
And we should be teaching our children this attitude, as well.
This week, let's really help our kiddos be accountable for their behavior.
Let's try to not make an excuse when they don't make the right choice.
Let's support that teacher...that coach...that referee.
It's up to us. The parents.
It's not up to the iPad.
Not up to the TV.
Not up to their older siblings.
Not up to their teachers (although we teachers try to set the same expectations in our classrooms).
Let's set an expectation for how they treat people.
Let's work hard to raise a generation that we are proud of.
It's up to us...and it's a challenging and rewarding responsibility.
Happy Tuesday from the Farmhouse, friends.
May the force be with you.
Last week, I wrote about my grandmother's time (for the last sixty years) as the organist for Adrian Christian Church.
This got me to reminiscing.
I have so many memories in the church and one of my favorites is visiting with "the quilting ladies".
For the first 25 years of my life (at least), there was a group of ladies who met every Tuesday to quilt in the basement of our old church that used to sit smack-dab in the middle of town.
Before I was in school and in the summertime after I started school, I can remember going to the church with our grandmother and great-grandmother on quilting day.
I can still hear the chatter of the quilting ladies and picture them sitting around working diligently on their masterpieces.
I can picture so many special women who have gone on to see Jesus before us sitting around those quilts.
When I think about these women, I think of patience...
I think of attention to detail...
I think of friendship.
When I think about these women, I can see in my mind some of my most precious spiritual mentors through my young adult life...
I can hear their laughter as they shared stories of the good ol' days...
I can still smell the food they brought to share a meal together each week.
Looking back, I realize how much I learned just watching these ladies work...week-in and week-out.
The quilting days of Adrian Christian Church have come to an end.
But it just takes a second for me to close my eyes and be transported back to that church basement, back to a simpler time...spending time with some of the most wonderful ladies I was ever privileged to meet.
What a sweet, sweet memory.
This is a big one, folks.
This post will be unlike any post I've ever written.
Yesterday, a student asked me about the situation and I decided it was probably time to let the cat out of the bag.
My colleagues and my family, along with some friends, already know my big news.
However, I feel like posting it on the blog makes it public knowledge and that can only mean one thing...
This is really happening.
After thirteen years as a teacher of one kind or another, I'll be leaving the classroom.
I wanted to be the reason that a student with special needs felt successful in the general education classroom.
When my former students were asked later in life who their favorite teacher was...I wanted to make that list.
I wanted my kiddos to look back on their time with Mrs. Newkirk as their teacher and say, "She played a small part of who I am today."
I'm hopeful that I've been able to make a difference like this in the lives of kids and families over the last thirteen years.
However, the Lord has also given me a passion for people with special needs.
My parents opened up a group home for adults with disabilities when I was in upper-elementary school.
What started out as four adult women with various needs living with us in our home from then until my high school years has now grown to three separate group homes in our small town, where we provide housing and community habilitation services for twelve ladies.
Growing up in the group home led me to pursue a double-major in college...elementary education and special education.
In fact, I started my career in the special education classroom and only transitioned into the general education classroom because of a series of crazy events that I believe the Lord orchestrated to give me general education experience, to allow me to meet and work with some of my very best friends in the world, and to give me an opportunity to touch the lives of many children over the last ten years.
Almost nine years ago, I graduated with my masters degree in Education Administration.
My plan was to continue teaching for several years and then hopefully find an elementary principal's job to finish out my career...but not for a looooooong while.
And then, a few years ago, my principal (a mentor and friend to me) said, "Have you ever thought about going into special education administration?"
Well, I hadn't really considered that and honestly didn't even want to think about going back to school.
(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure...I didn't want to think about PAYING to go back to school.)
However, the administrative team encouraged me to not dismiss the idea immediately, but instead to call and see what classes I would need to fulfill the requirements necessary for a job in special education administration.
So in April of 2016, I called.
And I needed two classes. Two.
I needed one class that was offered only a 45-minute drive away, over three weekends that next summer. Three weekends that were open on our family calendar.
I also needed an internship class that I could do right there in my home district with the Director of Special Services.
And we could pay for them both in cash. No more student loans.
That seemed easy enough. So I signed up, thinking it would be good to have options for my very distant future.
I finished up the class over the summer of 2016 and finished the internship in the spring of 2017.
Fast-forward to this past August...the beginning of this school year.
Our superintendent calls me into his office to tell me that our current Director of Special Services is retiring at the end of the year and he would like me to be ready to present to the school board about the possibility of stepping into that position for the next school year.
WHAT!?! Like NEXT YEAR!?!
His idea was that I could be trained during this school year...to shadow our current director, to prepare to take that role the following August.
Long story short, Mr. Farmhouse and I prayed about it.
A host of family and friends prayed about it with us and for us.
We had lots and lots of conversation about it.
I talked for hours about the possibility to my current teaching partner.
I contacted friends of mine who are special education directors for support and answers to my questions.
I presented to the board.
They offered me the job.
And I accepted.
I believe that I will be able to use my leadership skills, my passion for education, and my knowledge and experience working with my students and the adults in our group home with special needs in this new role.
I believe that this is just another place that God can use me to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
There are things about this transition that will not be easy.
With any transition, there will be some sorrow...some difficulty.
But there will also be joy, excitement, reflection, and new ideas.
I am so thankful to be able to stay in my current district. I've grown so much as an educator and met so many people who are near and dear to my heart.
I'm grateful to my principal for pushing me to go back to school,
our superintendent for encouraging me to move forward,
our school board for giving me this opportunity,
our current special education director for training me,
my mentor special education director from my alma mater,
my colleagues (current and former) for believing in me,
the two fourth grade teachers in my building that make up the other half of our team for offering so much encouragement this year,
my teaching partner for all of his support through the years...especially this year,
my family...our parents, grandparents, and siblings,
my dear Mr. Farmhouse and our three sweet girls.
I'm grateful for my students & their parents through all of my teaching years.
For the life lessons that I have learned standing in front of that classroom.
For the opportunities to grow and develop into the educator I am today.
I'm just so very grateful.
Life will be different here in the farmhouse in just a few short months.
For now though, I'm going to enjoy the time I have left this year with my darling third graders...shaping young minds. Laughing with them and cheering with them. Helping them along and making sure to let them know how much they help me along, too.
I have been using the YouVersion Bible app (by Life.Church) for quite some time now.
For six years, in fact.
However, it was just over the last few months that I have begun making it one of the social media platforms I use to share my Bible study experience with friends and family.
And just in the last three weeks have I become friends with two of the most wonderful little girls you will ever meet...my oldest two daughters.
To be honest, I thought this would be a fun little activity that we could do to spend some time with Jesus and have good conversation about the Bible.
I wasn't prepared for the deep thoughts the girls would share on our shared Bible studies.
After reading her devotional, along with a few scriptures from Hebrews and Romans, my sweet Harlee replied profoundly that faith and trust in God is what makes life worth living.
Wow...what a thought for my barely 11-year-old.
And a wake-up call for her mama.
Since that day, I have taken my Bible study time with her (and her sister) very seriously.
God has used these words to speak to all of us...
To open up conversations on our Bible apps and in person...
To be able to have these teachable conversations through our day-to-day living.
If you are struggling with how to talk to your children, preteens, and teenagers about God's Word and Kingdom Work, I'd strongly recommend meeting your kiddos where they are.
Let's embrace the technology that is so prevalent today and connect with our kids on the matters of God.
Happy Weekend from the farmhouse, friends.
Yesterday, my bestie and I went out to do some shopping for our classrooms.
She teachers fourth.
I teach third.
We both are heading back to school soon and decided to hit the teacher sale at Mardel.
I believe that I'm heading into the school year that has snuck up on me faster than any year before.
This summer, through the home selling and buying process and the moving situation, we just haven't felt very "settled" in the farmhouse until the last few weeks.
And now that we FINALLY feel like this is home, BOOM...it's time to go back to school.
I meandered around and found some great items for the farmhouse.
My three favorite purchases were a clearance "you & me" sign for the master bedroom, a sign that says "Be Kind...it's that easy.", and a sign for my classroom that said "It's a good day to have a good day."
I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in our circumstances that we struggle to find the positive side of life.
I see it every day on social media.
There are some people on my Facebook Newsfeed who seem to struggle to find anything good to say about their day...every single day.
My heart is filled with sadness for these people, as they can't find any good in their circumstances.
I also see the opposite side of the spectrum on my Facebook and Instagram feed.
People who are struggling through really big life hurdles...chronic illness, a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a close family member. And yet, their words are encouraging and inspiring and uplifting.
I want my students to know when they walk into our classroom that EVERY day is a good day to have a good day.
Yes, we will have struggles.
A house sale or purchase doesn't go as planned.
The air conditioning goes out in your Yukon.
The car you purchased to save you money is having transmission problems.
Your three-year-old has decided that she doesn't like sleep anymore.
(These are all hypothetical situations, of course.)
But even when life seems to hit, we have a choice in how we deal with it all.
We can smile and persevere.
Or we can frown and complain.
We can show kindness to family, friends, and strangers.
Or we can be cranky and negative.
Let's just try over the next few weeks, no matter what road we are walking on right now in our personal lives...to have a good day.
To find the good in the world.
To BE the good in the world.
Happy Weekend, friends.
Make it a good one. ❤️🏡❤️
There's a Hobby Lobby right beside Mardel, so of course we had to run in there to see what we could find.
I can't believe I found more items to buy, but this great "Gather Together" sign was in the new fall line.
The "Fresh Eggs" sign and the beef cuts plate were in the new farmhouse line and fit perfectly in our kitchen, as we eat our own farm fresh eggs and butcher our own beef.
The farmhouse rug looks great in front of our kitchen sink...even though I didn't think about how dirty a white rug would get on the farm.
I also got a new-to-me window that my mom purchased for our dining room. I had another window on the piano that I decided would fit better in our bedroom, so I needed to fill the spot. Mom delivered, as usual!
I know, I know.
I'm not in control. God is.
I can't change things by worrying about them.
God's plan is better than the one I have planned for myself.
Let go and let God.
I get it.
I say these things to other people.
I say these things to myself.
I use these phrases in my daily prayer time.
But sometimes, when things don't go the way I planned, I forget.
I forget that although things don't always work out the way I had planned, they do work out the way God has foreseen from the beginning.
I forget that when I spend my time fretting on the inside, my family gets the raw end of the deal on the outside.
Because I'm kind of cranky.
Kind of unsettled.
Kind of irritable.
Deep down, that Polly-Hannah that I wrote about a few days ago is still there.
Polly-Hannah knows that God's got this.
She knows that He can keep the world on its axis spinning at just the right speed.
She knows that He already has divine appointments lined up to make specific things work exactly how they need to work out for His glory.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't days that I'm frustrated with the day-to-day moments in life.
When my plan doesn't work out the way I had pictured it all even though I am confident that this is the plan God has for us.
You see, last Friday, we were given the impression that all was good to go with our closing date.
God came through and that one piece of paper that needed to make it to the lender's office made it!
But Tuesday we found out that there was another piece of paper.
And that paper is still sitting on someone's desk at the USDA office, just needed to be sent over to the title company.
So we didn't close yesterday.
And we won't close today.
Hopefully we will close tomorrow.
And even if we don't, I know that we will close eventually.
We will sell our old house.
We will buy the farmhouse.
It will all work out the way God intended it to.
I know this.
But for now, "I like things to work out the way I had pictured in my head-Hannah" is trying to find "Polly-Hannah".
I'm trying to put on that smile and enjoy the journey.
To remember that someday, I will look back at this time in life and say "that was a long eight weeks, but we grew during that time...we learned to trust God and enjoy the little things in life."
For now though, I will just breathe deeply and pray that our closing date comes sooner than later. ❤️🏡❤️
Last night, we finished our fourth night of Vacation Bible School 2017.
I am tired. We all are.
There's no tired like "VBS week" tired.
We used the Maker Fun Factory curriculum from Group Publishing.
We learned a Bible point each day.
1. God made me. I was built for a purpose.
This Bible point goes hand-in-hand with the current book I'm reading, Love Does, by Bob Goff.
In his book, Goff talks about the creative whimsy of Christ.
He talks about how God pursues us daily through things that happen, places we go, and people we meet.
God created each one of us with specific interests and unique talents to be Kingdom Workers.
He puts us in certain places with our unique talents and desires for a reason.
We just need to listen and act.
2. God is for me. If God is for us, who can be against us?
I am an overthinker.
So many times, I find myself worrying or stewing or just overthinking about certain situations.
The Bible tells us that there is no reason to worry or fret.
If God is for us, no enemy can come against us.
If we feel insecure, or afraid, or unqualified...we only need to remember that He is for us.
3. God is always with me. We are not alone.
Joshua 1:9 tells us that "God is with us wherever we go."
And He is.
Even in the depths of our despair and sorrow.
In the midst of anxiety and insecurities.
When we are feeling lost and alone.
He is with us.
He will carry us.
He will hold us.
God is always with us.
4. God made me for a reason. God has a plan for our lives.
Like I mentioned earlier, God's plan for my life is very specific to me. His plan for your life is specific to you.
He knows the number of hairs on my head.
And the number of hairs on Mr. Farmhouse's head.
And each of our three girls.
He keeps the earth spinning perfectly on its axis.
He controls so many things on this earth and in the galaxies beyond ours.
And yet, He is able and ready to work in our lives.
He is able and ready to give us opportunities to see His hands work like nothing we have ever seen.
God built us for a purpose.
He is for us. He is not against us.
God is always with us.
Sometimes, I feel like once we outgrow that childlike faith that the Bible talks about, we have a hard time remembering these simple truths.
Maybe it's time we take a step back from "adulting" and get back to the basics.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Count your blessings.
Trust and obey.
God is still God.
And He is ready to work.
All we have to do is let him.
One thing that we try to really impress upon our girls' hearts is that it is always important to be kind.
Harlee and my niece Riley are at basketball church camp this week.
When we dropped them off, I made sure to have my teacher-y moment with them about how to treat other people.
"Girls, you're very lucky to have each other here, but not everyone will have a friend. Include those people. Invite them into your group. Be kind to them."
Kids just want to be seen.
Adults just want to be seen.
People just want to be seen. And heard. And loved.
Friends, we have a great opportunity to "be the good" in this broken and scary world.