In this past Saturday’s Free Lance-Star Column I promised resources to help you plant the seeds for a lifelong love of education in your children. Below is a list of books, curriculums, and more that have been immensely helpful to me in my homeschooling journey. I hope that you find them helpful, as well.
Awaking Wonder: Opening You Child’s Heart to the Beauty of Learning by Sally Clarkson. Sally has also released a series of videos to support this new book on her website. The videos will be free to view on website for the next week. Think of them as a homeschool conference at home.
Sonlight: A “living books” homeschool curriculum. This is what I have used my with my daughters over the past ten years.
Wild & Free: A homeschool community for mothers and homeschoolers who want their children to not only receive a quality education, but also to experience the adventure, freedom, and wonder of childhood.
Happy last day of May! Can you believe that summer is here already? I recently read something that made me a little sad, but also very motivated. As parents, we only get 18 summers with our children and this is one of them.
That means I am on number 13 with my oldest daughter and only have 5 childhood summers left with her. That breaks my heart in a good way because it motivates me to not waste one minute of these bright, sunshiny days with her and her younger sisters.
And while you may not be in the season where you have young children in the home, this summer is still special. Each day, each moment is significant because it is all we really have. Our past is, well, in the past. It is fleeting and gone. And I have learned in a very real way that our future is not promised. The present is all we can claim to own.
One of the women I follow on FaceBook and Instagram encourages people to think about the life that they want to have when they are 80 and to live today in a way that will create that future. Her mantras are that “it is okay to grow slow” and “progress over perfection.” I love this advice and have applied it when setting goals the past few years.
But since my husband’s heart attack, I have realized that while good, that advice can also be dangerous. Yes, it is good to live each day in light of the future that we want to create, but it can also lead us into a state of complacency and stagnation. It can be easy to feel like we have all the time in the world to achieve our goals, so we put off taking the baby steps we need to take today to get where we want to be tomorrow.
But what if there is no tomorrow? What if we don’t make it to 80? What if by being okay with slow growth, we miss out on the life we desperately want to live? And so, when making plans, I will still be asking, “Will this get me to where I want to be when I am 80?,” but I will be adding, “and will this help me to create the life I want to live today?”
In that light, we went to the movies as a family this past Monday to see the new Disney live-action adaptation of Aladdin. It was great, but what moved me the most was this line from the trailer for The Art of Racing in the Rain, “The best drivers don’t dwell on the future or the past. The best drivers focus only on the present. No one knows what curves life will throw at you, but if a driver has the courage to create his own conditions, then the rain is simply rain.”
My husband used to race cars before our children were born. He learned that as a driver, you have to be completely in the moment. All of your senses have to be focused on what is right in front of you. You can not be distracted by what just happened or what might happen around the next bend.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t make plans for the future. A good driver also studies the track and decides which lines are the best ones to take to get him where he is going. He also makes adjustments based on past experience. But once the plans are made and he is in the car racing around the track his focus is trained on only what he can see right in front of him.
And so today, I challenge you to live like a good race car driver. Plan for the future. Learn from the past. Embrace the present.
Camp Willow Springs
What an amazing blessing it was to spend two weekends in May at Camp Willow Springs as the speaker for their mother-daughter retreats. I do believe I got more out of the experience than the ladies and little girls did! I was so nervous to leave my husband so soon after his heart attack, but when it came time to get in the car God truly granted me a peace that passes understanding. If you are looking for a summer camp for your children, I cannot recommend Camp Willow Springs and their sister site for older girls, Camp Willow Run enough.
I could have never imagined how God would use my seven years of pageant competition. I dreamed that it would culminate in winning the Miss MD crown, but He had far better plans. It was almost unbelievable to me that over 200 hundred moms and their daughters wore t-shirts with my message on them: Instead of chasing an earthly crown that will never tarnish, we should seek a heavenly crown that will never tarnish by being women who love God, love others, and who seek to become more like Jesus every day.
Free Lance-Star Columns
I write a bi-weekly religion column for my local newspaper. Here are May’s editions.
Links from Around the Net
When Life Cracks Your Heart: With school being out and children being home more, gun safety becomes even more important. The gut-wrenching words of a mother whose three-year-old son accidentally shot and killed himself with the family gun will haunt me for a long time to come. Such an important read.
Naomi Scott, Compassion UK Ambassador: We have been fans of Naomi Scott since we saw her in the Disney Channel movie, Lemonade Mouth and we were so excited when we saw she had been cast as Jasmine in the recently released Aladdin. We are even bigger fans after reading about her work with Compassion International.
Thank you so much for all of your kind words and prayers after my husband’s recent heart attack. They have meant the world to us and have carried us through this difficult time. Please continue to pray for complete healing––body, mind, and soul.
PS – I am currently booking fall speaking engagements and would love to discuss the possibility of coming to your church or women’s ministry event. Send me a message through my contact page located on my blog and we can chat.
When we last touched base at the end of March, I promised to start sending a newsletter each month, beginning in April. I had every intention of sending one out on April 15th (yeah, tax day!).
Well, a lot of life has happened between then and now and that last blog post feels like a lifetime ago. This newsletter is going to be very different from the one I had envisioned.
On April 6th, one of my daughters started to experience excruciating pain in her chest along with distressing GI symptoms. Three doctors, two emergency rooms, multiple tests, and several medications later and we still have no answers or relief.
Having a suffering child and not being able to do anything about it is one of the most frustrating things a parent can experience. We want answers, but at the same time we are scared of what the diagnosis might be.
We have more testing this week that will hopefully give the doctors an idea on how they can provide relief and healing to my precious little girl.
And then on the morning of April 18th, I received a phone call from my husband’s co-worker that has forever changed the course of my life.
Expecting my husband to be on the other end of the line, I was surprised to hear a woman’s voice asking if this was Mrs. Ablondi. She quickly told me that my husband, who I had just chatted with 15 minutes prior, wasn’t feeling well and was rushed to the hospital.
I stumbled to the backyard, so my children wouldn’t see me, and collapsed to my knees in prayer for my beloved. The rest seems like a blur–frantic phone calls to friends and family, driving an hour north in rush hour traffic, receiving a call from a nurse uttering unbelievable terms like catheterization and stent.
My very physically fit 49-year-old husband, who eats well, doesn’t smoke, and only drinks occasionally suffered a complete blockage of his left anterior descending artery. I have since learned they call this particular artery the “widow maker.”
What are you doing, God?
I wish I could tell you that I had complete trust in God and His plan throughout this trial. The truth is that I questioned God and why He would allow something like this to happen. I felt abandoned and alone.
As time has gone on, I am starting to be able to look back and see His merciful hand of protection on my husband throughout this ordeal. Steve was at the perfect place when the heart attack began–a government office building with a nursing staff. He wasn’t on the highway, traveling out of the country for work, running through the woods near our home, or any of the other places he could have been.
The closest hospital to his office is one of the best in the country. The care he received was stellar. From the onset of the attack to the time the stent was in place was less than two hours, allowing for minimal damage to his heart.
The outpouring of love we have received from our church family has been incredible. Their prayers have sustained us. They have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus in the practical ways they have helped.
Steve spent last week recovering at home and has started back to work part-time as of yesterday. Looking at him, you would never know that he suffered a major heart attack less than two weeks ago. His follow up appointments have gone well and all of the doctors are very optimistic about his future.
I have no idea why God allowed Steve to have a heart attack, but I am so thankful that He protected him and gave him more time on this earth to be the husband and father we need him to be.
It is my prayer that God will be glorified and that this experience will not be wasted in our lives. Let Him use it to further His kingdom and to bring hope to a lost and hurting world.
I am still processing all that has taken place and am sure I will have many thoughts to share in the future. In the meantime, will you keep our family in your prayers? Our emotional and spiritual healing will most likely take far longer than Steve’s physical recovery.
Camp Willow Springs
Months ago, I excitedly accepted an invitation to speak at a mother-daughter weekend camp in NC from May 3-5th and then again May 17-19th. With the events of the past few weeks, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep that commitment.
Thankfully, some wonderful friends offered to come and spend the weekend with my husband and kids, allowing me the peace of mind to minister to these precious moms and their daughters.
It should be a fun weekend! I will be using my experience competing in the Miss America Pageant to illustrate spiritual lessons God has taught me over the years. I will even be pulling out my old wardrobe and rhinestones!
April Free Lance-Star Columns
April 5, 2019: The power of doing the impossible
April 19, 2019: Hope and healing can be found in Jesus (I wrote these words 45 minutes before receiving word that my husband had had a heart attack.)
Thank you for your prayers and please let me know how I can be in prayer for you. I look forward to chatting with you again in May (hopefully life will not be as eventful between now and then!).
Back when I was competing in the Miss America Pageant, I joked that once I had “aged-out” (the pageant term for being too old to compete), I was going to start a club for fellow former competitors called Has Been Beauty Queens or HBBQs so we could share our experiences and support each other through pageant withdrawal.
I never did start that club, but I have come to realize that the lessons I learned while competing are applicable to life in general. We all deal with self-image issues, friendships, comparison, sticking to goals, failure, questions of faith, doubt, disappointment, and broken dreams. I just happened to struggle with my issues before a live audience.
There was a time in my life where I tried to hide my pageant background for fear that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I believed that I needed to present myself a certain way on this blog and in my presentations in order to be seen as a “real” Bible teacher.
But I learned that you can take the girl out of pageants, but you can’t take the pageant out of the girl. In trying to hide this part of my life, I have suppressed who I really am and have short-changed my audience from being able to benefit from the unique perspective on life, faith, and service that my competition years have given me.
And so, I have decided to wholly embrace my HBBQness by renaming my blog Confessions of a Has Been Beauty Queen. I am excited about this new direction and the freedom it will lend me to be more transparent and genuine in my writing.
Don’t worry. This will still be a place where I talk about faith and God and all the wonderful things He has taught me and the miracles He has performed in my life. It just might not be so formal. In fact, I have some stories that are downright hilarious! I hope you will be able to relate to the experiences that I share and that you might see yourself reflected in them.
goalis for this to be a place where we journey together to discover God’s character, explore our identity in Him, and learn to live out that identity with abandon.
Starting in April, I will be sending out a monthly newsletter that will include personal musings and helpful links from around the Internet. I will also continue to share links to my bi-weekly religion column every other Saturday morning. I do post more frequently on Instagram and would love to interact with you there! You can find me at @heathermablondi.
I am excited to be working on two new projects that you will be hearing more about in the future. First, I am writing a daily devotional based on a blog series I did several years ago
called31 Days of Knowing God. This series looked at the Hebrew names of God and how they help us to understand God’s character. This devotional will be available as a free PDF download to all subscribers.
The second project is a compilation of Saying Grace (my column in the Free Lance-Star) pieces called 100 Days of Saying
Grace. This will be available in paperwork and e-book formats. I hope to launch that in time for Christmas!
Thank you for inviting me into your inbox. I know that your time is precious and it is my goal to provide something you will find valuable in your everyday life.
In Him . . .
I hope you have been enjoying your weekend so far. I had a wonderful coffee date with a friend from church this morning. It reminded me how important it is for us to take time out for ourselves and how nice it is to talk to someone face to face instead of through a screen.
Look how beautiful this coffee shop is! I cannot believe that it sat as storage for over a decade before being restored into this amazing art cafe. I am looking forward to spending time there working on some exciting upcoming projects. And after not having any sugar for a month (more on that another time), I was also reminded how much I like a good mocha!
In this week’s Free Lance-Star Saying Grace column, I shared my thoughts on the college admissions bribery scandal. When I sat down to write that piece, my intention was to focus on how things done in the dark always get brought into the light. But then I realized that I am much more like those parents than I care to admit and that theirs is a cautionary tale for us all. You can read that column here.
Until next time . . .