The Harkey Blog

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Resources

Here's a quick list of some of our favorite Christmas resources for families:
  • Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels all by Arnold Ytreeide - historical fiction advent readings that really help you understand what longing for the Messiah was like from a child's perspective. (While we love the stories, we have sometimes found that the devotional portions don't line up with our theology, so we read the devotionals sparingly.)
  • Veggie Tales: Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving - We watch this on St. Nicholas day and read Saint Nicholas: The True Story of the Christmas Legend. We don't celebrate Santa Claus, but there's no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. The real St. Nick was a Christ-follower who set a worthy example.
  • The Very First Noel - A cute, animated video, most appropriate for toddler, preschool and maybe young elementary aged children.
  • Adornaments - Cardboard, storybook ornaments representing Jesus as Light of the World, the Good Shepherd, the Door, etc. Devotional book included.
  • Little People Nativity - Any nativity set that your kids can touch, arrange and love is perfect.
  • Nativities in general - There is much to learn and discuss with your children as you view different artists' representation of Jesus' birth. One thing we did when our kids were young was to hide all the baby Jesus figures on Christmas morning and have the little ones search for them. Another year, we looked at Nativities in which baby Jesus is depicted in a cross shape. We talked about God's plan for Jesus to die on the cross, which was already determined when Jesus was only a baby in the manger.
  • Ordinary Baby: Extraordinary Gift - This is an absolutely beautiful story. (There are one or two sentences that I edit as I read it, again because of the theology presented.)


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Sabbath Keeping

Today as I was working my way through my Bible reading plan, I read Isaiah 56. In this chapter, God describes people who wholeheartedly follow Him as being Sabbath keepers. I was convicted enough by what I read that I changed my plans for the day. My errand-filled afternoon of checking off to-dos got moved to tomorrow, and I chose to not check off anything this afternoon.

My Sabbath afternoon consisted of a relaxing walk around the neighborhood with my girls, something they have been requesting lately, and a trip to a coffee shop where we enjoyed a special treat and read through some of our favorite Christmas picture books, including The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, The Nativity illustrated by Julie Vivas, Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend and others. It was a great way to focus on Christ today and not on tasks.

My thoughts about the Sabbath, however, are not finished. As I have meditated on the Word today, I have wondered
  • How can I observe Sabbath without becoming legalistic?
  • What does God require of me, one saved by grace alone, in regards to Sabbath keeping?
  • What are some practical applications for Sabbath-keeping in 2011?
  • Do I more often profane the Sabbath by working and not resting on Sunday OR by adding too many rest days and times to my week so that Sunday is no longer special and set apart?
God is working on my heart as I think through these answers. I sense that obedience is not going to be easy.

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  • You are not asking for this, but another question I would add would be - How does Hebrews 4 fit into the discussion about observing a Sabbath? Is there a need for a set aside day or is our Sabbath rest now in Christ?

    By Blogger Vince, at 11:32 PM  

  • Thanks for your input, I appreciate it.

    It doesn't seem like Hebrews 4 abolishes the principle of Sabbath, but I will say that Hebrews has fairly cryptic language, so I could be totally off.

    The thought also occurs to me that Sabbath is one of the 10 commandments, which those of us in Christ still keep, now through His power not our own flesh. We don't discard any of the others, why would we discard Sabbath keeping?

    On a heart level, what is convicting me about Sabbath is that it's a time set aside to focus on God (partly through our designated corporate worship time). And a time set aside to rest and to admit that I can't do it all myself. When I have to give up task time, I am forced to trust God that He'll give me all the time I need to accomplish what is truly important. For me it's a matter of trust, humility and discipline in seeking Him.

    By Blogger Elise, at 9:14 AM  

  • Elise, i was happy to read your post. As a Sabbath keeper, i have some years behind, but there is always something to think about...
    Besides being in church i love to be out in the nature on Sabbaths. This day of remembrance was created right after the creation so if we keep it we will never forget where we came from.

    By Blogger cheerke, at 9:43 AM  

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some Favorite Picture Books

One of the most profound influences on our style and philosophy of education was my getting connected with a wonderful group of literature lovers in Northwest Arkansas. Each time I interacted with those ladies, I was introduced or re-introduced to classics. They lived their love for the classics by reading aloud to their children a minimum of two hours per day. I was inspired.

Recently, we began our study of 20th century world history. It's dark. That's all there is to it. (Daily I have to remind myself that God has a sovereign plan, and I cling to His hope.) Along with this study, our book selection has been on the somber side. To counteract that, I decided to bring back some of my favorite picture books and share them with the girls again. Some of them, Amelia is experiencing for the first time, even. This has been a delightful contrast to the hard truths of history.

Here are some of the picture books we have found to be real treasures (i.e. worth reading at any age).

A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of Definitions by Ruth Krauss
The Big Green Pocketbook by Candice Ransom
The Teddy Bear by David McPhail
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Dogger by Shirley Hughes
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Jesse Bear, What will you Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom
Pete's a Pizza by William Steig (but you must act it out!)
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojcichowski



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Friday, September 16, 2011


Today was a good, slow day. I relish days without rushing. Those days tend to be less productive in terms of sheer numbers of tasks completed. However, they are far more peaceful and usually more conducive to building and maintaining relationships.

I enjoyed a slow, relaxing morning with my girls. We took the entire morning to get ready and do our household chores. I spent some time in the Word and did a few computer tasks. We did a little work in our front flower bed just because we felt like it. We ate a simple lunch and ran (only) one errand via bicycle. We rode on a portion of the bike trail that the kids hadn't seen in several months. We noticed the the beginnings of fall color and the similarities between the Spring Creek Trail in Fort Collins and the Scull Creek Trail in Fayetteville.

After that we spent about an hour and a half exploring the CSU Trial Garden. The girls drew in their nature journals, examined flowers, watched bees, called to me, "Mom, come look!" No one was in a hurry. We didn't have to rush, and we didn't even finish looking at all the flowers. We just enjoyed the time that we had.

We rode home, and made a few preparations to host our guests this evening, ladies from our Township (church small group). The girls decided to make place cards for everyone. Amelia took her dolls for a walk in the backyard. I decided to make a salad to go with the pizza we ordered.

We ate dinner with new friends. We learned a bit more about them and enjoyed playing a couple of games together. The girls truly enjoyed their time with these ladies. I am blessed to see them appreciate relationships with people of all ages.

There was a lot of activity in our day, but it was unhurried and simple compared to most that we experience. I was better able to enjoy each event than I am on the days when I am trying to cram in as much as possible.

Not every day can be like today. But I am grateful for this one, every moment of it.

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Monday, September 12, 2011


My vocation is husband-lover, child-lover and home-worker. I am to fulfill that vocation while exhibiting self-control, staying pure, being kind and submitting to Brett. While that sounds old-fashioned to most, it's orthodox. It's the teaching of God's Word (See Titus 2). And so that God's word "may not be reviled", this is the vocation I have chosen.

This vocation is more than enough to challenge me. It's the most important calling to which I could devote myself. And as I become older and wiser, I hope to encourage other women to embrace this calling too, no matter how counter-cultural it seems.


  • Well, you encourage me! I feel like I have been such a grumpy mom lately. I love that you are blogging again. Reading your words spurs me on. LOVE YOU!

    By Blogger Chris and Carrie, at 7:51 AM  

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Voluntary Simplicity

We choose simplicity. We do not sell possessions because we are desperate for money. We are not worried about money because God, our Provider, owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He is completely able to provide everything we need. A simple(r) life is what we desire, in dependence on God, laying up treasures in heaven. We deliberately discipline ourselves to limit what we buy, consume and own. This world is not our home, and we don't need to accumulate things as if it were.

Are we perfect? Do we live as radically as some? Do we have it all figured out? Absolutely not to all these inquiries. But this is what God has laid on our hearts, and we are growing and learning. How has God called you to steward His gifts to you? How has He led you in regards to earthly possessions?



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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Treasures and Trusting God

If you had told me a year ago that we would be raising support to cover our living and ministry expenses, I would have told you that you were crazy. This process is totally out of my comfort zone. But God has a way of working on our hearts, doesn't He? In my experience, He doesn't usually give us the whole challenge all at once. He gives us many opportunities for obedience as we grow to be more like Him.

Over the past few years, God has led me to part ways with many of my possessions. For one thing, doing so made sense in terms of moving. I didn't want to pack up stuff I didn't need or want. I didn't want to be burdened with excess stuff to organize and clean up each day either. Also, God was teaching me that possessions don't make me happy. In teaching me this, God also has been teaching me that I can live on less. I don't need new clothing to keep up with the latest styles. I don't need to shop or browse for new things to fill my home. In fact, if you do see me on a shopping trip, you'll notice me putting back at least half of the items I originally selected.

I am not saying this to brag. I am pointing out God's work in my life. I used to love shopping. When I was (much) younger, I prided myself on wearing a different outfit each school day during a 9 week period. Now you'll see me wearing the same few outfits over and over, and I am okay with that, most of the time. I don't need much in terms of clothing. What I don't spend on clothing can be spent on. . . .

Well, that's where it gets sticky. Right now, our income is very low because we're in the process of raising support. We haven't met our monthly support goal yet. (We're at about 8 percent.) Living on less helps that situation be a bit easier. But ultimately, my dream would be that living on less will enable us to give more, to be more generous. If I am not consuming so much buying gas, clothing and gadgets for my kitchen, what could I give? Whom could I support in ministry? I've already got a list, and it's growing.

I have been praying off and on that God will show me how I can be generous when I don't seem to have money to give. Since I have lived in Fort Collins, I have given food to beggars when I encounter them. We limit the amount of clothing our kids have/keep. They give away what they do not need, even new items. Sometimes we give our time, even when time seems like a precious resource. I prayed again today for God to show me how I can give when my income is limited. I want to be more generous.

Here are a few ways that others have been generous with us. We have received so much more than we have given.
  • Within 3 weeks of moving here, Maitlyn broke her arm. A Christian family we had just met gave us money toward part of her medical bill.
  • We loaned our car to a friend. It clearly needed new brakes. The friend returned the car to us along with a gift certificate to a local mechanic to get the brakes replaced.
  • One of our first monthly support commitments came from a family who is raising support themselves.
  • God, is his generosity, provided a home for us here in Ft. Collins which we rent very reasonably (less than the market rate, for sure). This home is twice the size of our home in Arkansas. We don't want to fill this home with more stuff. We pray that we can use this wonderful space for God's glory, hosting a Township in our home and showing hospitality in the name of Christ.
By letting go of things, I learned to demolish the idol of stuff. By taking a risk and moving to a new place, I learned to trust God for His provision. Now in raising support, I am getting to trust Him even more. In our home, it's truly a day by day thing. Give us this day our daily bread.

I want to lay up treasures in heaven. Even though I have learned much, I want God to show me ways I still worship the idol of stuff. I have a long way to go. God, help me to remember that this world is not my home and that I am only a steward of all the resources You provide. Change me for Your glory. Make me generous.


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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bell Ringing

We're all familiar with the Salvation Army bell ringers. We see them every time we go to the store during November and December. The girls love to put coins in the kettle whenever possible. Don't your kids?

Last week, during some free time, my girls decided to become bell ringers themselves. It all started with a broken bell ornament. Next came plastic containers pilfered from the recycling bin. Then decisions about where any donated money should be given. Maitlyn spent over an hour poring through Window on the World to get ideas for a worthy place. Elspeth decided immediately that she wanted to give to her new church, and Amelia decided that she wanted to help kids whose families are mean to them (abused kids) and/or kids who don't have any toys.

Elspeth and Amelia requested to go door-to-door in our new neighborhood to ring their bells and collect money. I wasn't feeling that brave, so I suggested that we ring bells to some of our friends. We have visited one family already and plan visits to two more during the next couple of weeks to ask for donations.

Throughout this whole project, it's been cool to see our girls' creativity and initiative as well as their desire to do something to make a difference in the world. They are on the road to being world-changers someday.

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