The Nature of Self-Control

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I used to be a sugar hound. Marshmallows, brownies, candies, and cookies seduced me every time. In order to take control of this obsession, I needed a clean, hard break, so I decided to fast from desserts and candy for a whole year.  From doing this fast for almost a year now, I have learned six keys about the nature of self-control.

Self-control is messy, unpleasant, and painful.

Somehow we conceived the notion that controlling ourselves is supposed to be easy, but nothing could be farther from the truth. For the first few sugar-free days, I was absolutely exhausted. Everything within my body was crying out for sugar. Resistance hurt, and I was not a happy camper. Even though making the hard choice to practice self-control hurts in the here and now, later it leads to rewards. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Self-control is not an uphill battle the entire way.

At first, fasting can be grueling. Consistently saying “no” can steal much of our time and energy. However, if you persevere, you will quickly discover an adjustment to the new normal. Once you become accustomed to your new standards, keeping them is fairly simple. At the beginning of my sugar fast, resistance required all of my energy. Now, I can quickly fend off my occasional cravings. I have discovered that it is far more productive to fast for a longer period of time. You give yourself time to adjust to the new normal, which makes a fast less grueling.

Self-control hurts, but the consequences of not practicing self-control can be life destroying.

If you consistently lack control over your diet, you’ll end up with a boatload of health issues. If you regularly fail to turn the smartphone or computer off at a reasonable time, you will look back on your week to see wasted time and unfinished work. If you refuse to stick to a budget, you will find yourself in a hole of debt later on. Avoiding the consequences of self-indulgence is worth the fight.

Practicing self-control is like building a protective wall.

Proverbs 25:28, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

When the self-control walls are broken down, anything and everything has access to you. The self-control walls prevent you from eating three pieces of chocolate cake. The self-control walls keep you from staring at Facebook for two hours. The self-control walls stop you from spending two hundred dollars in one mall trip. Even though building a wall is never easy, fortifying yourself is a necessary guard against temptation.

Self-control brings satisfaction supreme.  

Having the power to say “no” to a previously powerful temptation is AWESOME!!! Talk about indescribable satisfaction! Being in control over temptation is wonderfully freeing. Take that ice cream and brownies; there’s a new boss in town!

We only have the ability to serve one thing.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that we can only serve one master. However, many people are trying in vain to serve two or more masters. Anything that controls you can become a master, such as sugar, social media, and spending. When we serve earthly things, we take some of our focus off of Jesus. We are now called to put aside our old, uncontrollable flesh and take up the new man. Galatians 5:24-25 says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” When we depend on God to help us overcome our temptations, resisting becomes easier because we are given supernatural strength that we could have never acquired on our own.

In the end, practicing self-control is never easy, but it always leads to benefits and freedom. The initial period of time during the beginning of a fast can be grueling (believe me, I know!), but it eventually becomes easier to say “no”.  Self-control can prove to be fun, not only because it gives the control back to us, but because we are doing the right thing. Finally, gaining control over temptation frees up more of our devotion to be centered on Jesus.

 

 

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What Tracking Time Taught Me about Myself

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Managing our time is arguably one of our hardest tasks, because it requires managing ourselves. Our natural behavior patterns fight desperately against organization and productivity. Thus, we must reset our behavior. Self-discipline and self-evaluation will highlight previously unknown behavior patterns and tendencies. In order to better utilize my time, I decided to write down what I did every fifteen minutes, every day, for at least seven days. Here are five things that I learned about my behavior from tracking time.

1)         I am more squirrelly than I originally imagined.

For the past five years, I have either taught or helped in children’s church. I learned that when a kid asks to go to the bathroom, they are most likely bored and hoping to escape their seat. Tracking my time showed me that I tend to escape my work and responsibilities just like the kids at church. I found myself periodically escaping my desk to go to the bathroom, snag a snack, or say hi to my mom – basically anything to elude my work. Before I decided to track my time, I was completely oblivious to this habit. Now that I am aware of its presence, I must work on taming my inner squirrel.

2)         My time tracker became my accountability partner.

Like most teenagers, I have struggled to control my social media usage. At times, I have maintained control through online blocks and restrictions. Unfortunately, as soon as those blocks were removed I would binge on the social media that I had resisted all day. When you are writing down every single task and activity, writing “watched YouTube” or “scanned Instagram” looks extremely pathetic. They are a blaring red blotch on a record of otherwise productive activities. Having a visual of where my time was going forced me to make more responsible decisions.

3)         I spend more time online than I originally thought.

Even though copiously writing down everything I did made me more responsible, I still wasted a shocking amount of time. On one of the first days I tracked, I spent about [gulp] six hours online. Admittedly, for most of these six hours, I was doing something else while I was online. While I blow dried my hair, I flipped through various blogs. While I ate breakfast, I scrolled through social media. Calculating my numbers, I only spent about two hours and fifteen minutes online while not doing anything else, and most of that time was late at night, which made me realize that practicing self-control when tired is especially difficult.

4)         My idea of fifteen minutes is way longer than an actual fifteen minutes.

I tend to overestimate my ability to accomplish something quickly. What I think will only take fifteen minutes usually takes thirty to forty-five. Even a simple task, such as washing dishes or folding laundry, can quickly eat up more time than originally assigned to the task. Before I started tracking my time, I did not realize my ability to overestimate, and as a result I would get frustrated when there was never enough time in the day to accomplish my goals. Tracking my time taught me that a real fifteen minutes is much shorter than my imaginary version.

5) I caught a glimpse of adulthood.

From seeing how many hours I spent on school, I caught a glimpse of how few hours I work compared to the rest of the adult world. I have eagerly been awaiting the time when I will start a job, but now I realize that first I must develop the time management needed to juggle school and work (without letting either ball drop!). With my previous work habits, it would have been unrealistic to try to hold a job. I realized that I need to build a strong work ethic before I apply for a job, rather than haphazardly throwing it together when I am in the thick of school and a job.

 

Tracking time is an effective form of self-evaluation. While it does require dedication, it bears an equal reward. You will find yourself more diligent, more focused, and thus more productive. Your most useful time periods will be revealed. You will also notice your least productive time periods. Tracking time forces you to be honest about how effectively you utilize your day, thus giving you the opportunity to strengthen your weakest areas.

 

A Godly Perspective on Fitness and Health

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 At the dawning of a new day, I grab my favorite pair of jeans and zip them up. I wince when I feel how tight they are. “It’s not like I’m super overweight”, I tell myself for the umpteenth time, “It just would be good to lose 10 pounds. Then these jeans would be comfortable again!

Ever had a conversation with yourself similar to this one? You aren’t alone! Many of us have found ourselves in this uncomfortable situation, struggling to squeeze into clothes that should fit.

Throughout my own journey of learning about fitness and health, I have struggled to find the balance between staying healthy and not obsessing over my physical appearance. I began searching the Bible for its insight on these issues. Here are four counter-cultural, Biblical directives on fitness and health that I discovered.

We should value fitness and health as a means to glorify God rather than ourselves.

In today’s society, fitness and health are often seen primarily as a means of becoming more attractive. Just look at the gym advertisements in your mailbox. They usually feature a fit woman who is wearing nothing but an exercise bra and short-shorts. Many people head into the gym with the aim of achieving the same look. However, this motivation usually proves to be flimsy in the long haul.

We should not exercise and eat healthily with the sole purpose of improving our physical appearance. Instead, we should treat our bodies with respect because God crafted them and the Holy Spirit makes his home inside of us!  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparing ourselves with those around us is purely foolish and leads us down a path of frustration. Second Corinthians 10:12 has something to say about those who are constantly playing the comparison game: “But when they (comparers) measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” Body type and build vary immensely among individuals; no two people are exactly the same. If a girl tries to assimilate the clothing size and weight of one of her peers, she is setting a trap for failure.  I am absolutely guilty of participating in comparisons, and have finally come to realize that our bodies are simply different. Even in my most “fit”, there would still be no logical comparison. Comparison is futile!

Spiritual exercise is more important than physical exercise.

1 Timothy 4:8 says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” While keeping in shape is important, staying spiritually fit is exponentially more essential.  Our physical bodies are mortal, but our spirits are eternal! Thus, while fitness and health do have value, spiritual training is priceless.

Most importantly, God cares more about the appearance of our heart than the appearance of our bodies.

While taking care of our bodies is crucial for a long and healthy life, building up our character and faith is even more vital. When Samuel went to Jesse’s house to appoint the next king of Israel, he naturally gravitated towards the brothers who were strong and handsome. However, God has a completely different outlook. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God speaks to Samuel, saying, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In the end, we should endeavor to stay physically fit while keeping a balanced perspective about our outward appearance and the number on the scale. We should not be consumed with comparing ourselves to others. Instead, we should enjoy the beautifully unique bodies that God has given us. Fitness and health is all about glorifying God by taking excellent care of the body He has given us.

 

 

The Essential High School Course

Foundations in Personal Finance

Every high school student should take Foundations in Personal Finance because the skills taught are vital to life. For once, you will actually have a myriad of answers when your student asks, “When will I ever use any of this stuff? Why do I even need to take this course?”

Below, I have broken down different aspects of the course to give you an idea of how it would fit into your homeschool.

Scope of the course: This course covers everything from the nitty gritty of budgeting and investing, to more general topics such as career planning and goal setting. The variety made the course quite enjoyable. For example, while chapter 9 covered the basics of insurance, chapter 11 went into job interviews, resumes, personality assessment, goal setting, and career plans. One of the assignments for lesson 11 was to create your own resume. Chapter 3 coached the student through the process of creating a budget. The workbook provided links (mostly to their own website) along the way to assist with activities like creating your own budget and resume.

Level of teacher involvement: If your student is motivated, then they can complete this course entirely without help. While there were activity pages and practical application at the end of each lesson, there were no graded assignments. This course is self-explanatory, fast paced, entertaining, and highly interactive. As you are watching the DVD lessons, you have blanks to fill out in your workbook. This makes staying engaged and paying attention to every word a necessity.

Time needed to complete course: This course only has twelve chapters, thus it does not comprise a full school year. I believe this course took me less than a semester to complete. I would often finish a chapter in a day with plenty of time left for other school activities. For example, I completed one of the easier chapters (Money and Relationships) in one hour. While this course should definitely be included on a high school transcript, it will not fulfill a main math credit.

Intensity level: I took this course while I was a junior in high school. I was glad that I waited until my junior year because by that point I was seriously considering large financial decisions such as purchasing a car and paying for college. While they may not be as interested, I think a junior or sophomore in high school could complete this course with relative ease. This course requires attention and dedication, but is not strenuous.

Authors of the course:  Four experts contribute to the course: Dave Ramsey, Rachel Cruze (Mr. Ramsey’s daughter), Chris Hogan, and Jonathan Acuff. Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze taught in a majority of the videos, but Hogan and Acuff’s contributions were also engaging and insightful. Many of the videos that address subjects like insurance and investing were taken from one of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University seminars.

Other benefits of the course:

  • Motivation to stay out of debt: In a culture where debt is normal, even expected, this course does a fantastic job of showing how debt is destructive and should be avoided at all costs. After covering debt’s destructive nature, this course gives practical advice specifically geared towards high school students on how to stay out of debt. Much detail is given on how to buy a car and go to college without accruing debt. This course made me feel empowered to use my money wisely. While living below your means requires sacrifice and humility, the sacrifice is well worth it in the end.

  

  • Biblical world view: This course is clearly built on a solid Biblical foundation. One of the introductory pages is titled, “Managing Money God’s Way” and lists a number of Bible verses about money. Every chapter includes at least one Bible verse, usually more. This course shows that our faith is not something that is contained by a church building. Rather, our faith should be the foundation of every major decision we make, including money management. Not only does every chapter have a Biblical slant, the last chapter, 12, titled “Giving” teaches on Biblical generosity. According to all of Dave Ramsey’s materials, giving should be automatically included in your budget. Since most high schoolers have a rather limited income, the chapter focuses on how they can serve with their talent and time.

 

In conclusion: Even though this course does not count for a general education credit, it teaches priceless skills that every teenager should have in their tool box for the future. Invest in your teenager’s financial future by having them take Foundations in Personal Finance. This course will solidify their determination to carefully avoid debt and train them to be godly stewards of their money, talent, and resources.

 

Five Animals That Teach Us to Trust God 5) Oxen

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“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Ever woke up with a spring in your step? Maybe you just received some good news or were looking forward to an event in the near future. Either way, you probably felt as light as a feather. Well, God wants to carry our burdens for us – leaving us light and free. This Bible verse describes a place of rest as being yoked right next to Jesus. Ever seen two oxen in a yoke? They are side by side, connected by the same harness. When we walk in step with Jesus – when we become His disciple- He carries the weight of our burden for us. We will still have problems and challenges in our lives, but we can be free of the stress and hassle knowing that we are never alone. That way, we can have a spring in our step.

The place of peace, the place of safety, and the place of purpose are all found close to God’s heart. When we draw close to God, we will receive whatever we need. True strength often means acknowledging when we need help. We cannot live peaceful, secure lives on our own –no matter how much time and energy we pour into our efforts. Just as sheep, birds, chicks, and oxen show us, only when we surrender and allow God’s love to carry us will we find rest.

The French and Indian War and the Ownership of America-Lesson 5 IEW Advanced U.S. History

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This was a fact heavy essay project since it was recounting a war. Summarizing references, topic sentences, clinchers, and the three-paragraph model were all covered. The source text was provided in the text book. It was very challenging to choose which facts to write down with the limited spaces on the outline. IEW does an excellent job training you to search for the most important facts.

Audrey French

IEW Advanced US History

24 April 2017

The French and Indian War and the Ownership of America

Although the French and Indian war is often glossed over, it is a monumental event because it transformed the map of North America. Before the war, the English owned most of the East Coast of America, and the French owned Canada, land surrounding the Mississippi River, and domain farther west. In the year 1700, the English only had 250,000 settlers, but by 1750 that number had leaped to 1.25 million people. Due to this increase of population, the English began to move farther west in order to find unclaimed land. The French, of course, detested this intrusion into their land. They furiously began to build forts and increase their number of soldiers in order to keep the English from encroaching on their territory. During this time, the English and the French both increased the number of their troops which were in America. The French had an astronomical advantage because nearly all of the Native Americans sided with them. Only the Iroquois joined the English. The key motive for all three parties in this conflict was land. The French and English desired more land and the Indians wanted to keep the land they originally inhabited. The English expansion had triggered a war that would not only involve the French and Indians, but would also rezone America.

Initially, victory looked extremely unlikely for the English since they were horribly unskilled fighters in the American forests. They were accustomed to fighting in open fields with strict battle rules in Europe. Normally, they would march as though they were in a parade and wear brilliant red uniforms. Unfortunately, they continued this strategy in America. In contrast, the French quickly learned guerilla warfare from the Indians and would hide behind trees while fighting. This strategy proved to be deadly to the English forces. In the first battle, the French and the Indians killed two thirds of the English soldiers present. This calamitous defeat for the British was only the beginning of the depredation that would reign for the coming years. For the first two years of the war, the French nailed victory after victory. The Native Americans, both brutal and savvy warriors, also wreaked havoc on the American frontier during this time. However, in 1757, England made some desperately needed changes. They replaced the current leaders with more innovative, skilled generals and increased their number of soldiers. After many key English victories, the war ended in 1760. Although unlikely in the beginning, the English had managed a smashing victory because they changed their leadership and increased their fighting men.

In 1763, after being defeated by the English in several other worldwide battles, the French were finally forced to forgo their rights and sign a peace treaty with England. According to the terms of this agreement, the French lost Canada and most of their land east of the Mississippi to the English. Spain also suffered under this agreement because they had helped France in the French and Indian war. Spain lost Florida to the English. France gave Spain their territory between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains as compensation for the aide received during the war. Despite Spain’s new land ownership, England owned half of North America. England, now an overbearing overlord, increased its role in controlling its colonies which were rapidly assuming more power and independence from their mother country. This irritated many of the freedom-loving colonists, which would spark the flames for an even more famous war in the coming years. The French suffered permanent damage in the aftermath of their defeats to the British as evidenced by their losses of territory, but the impact was even far more reaching. While the French and Indian War activated immediate consequences, it also sparked the Revolutionary War which would entirely change the ownership of America for centuries.

Five Animals That Teach Us to Trust God 4) Sparrows

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“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

Birds are powerful teachers because God certainly uses them in analogies often. One point that can be taken from the verse above is that God sees worth in things that humans devalue. I’ve never put any thought into the lives of the sparrows around me. They live – they die. As heartless as this might sound, I am honestly unconcerned about the birds chilling in my backyard. But God is attentive to their needs. He keeps track of birds that most people consider cute, but utterly useless. The other thing that can be deduced from these verses is that God never ever forgets – very much unlike us humans. If someone tried to number the hairs on a head, they would not succeed in the first place, but even if they did I highly doubt that they would remember the number! God remembers and cares about things that seemingly do not have value – nothing is too insignificant to bring to His attention.