Thursday, 14 December 2017

Hard Foreheads and Stubborn Hearts

We all know our kids aren't perfect, but whoa....was I ever reminded a couple of days ago.  It seems even though we don't have a video game set or anything like that, our kids will seek out a way to play these annoying games.  We've made it pretty clear we'd rather them spend their time doing something that will be more productive.   Only the two older children have phones at this point and we have a couple of lap tops.   But these laptops all have games on them that just come with the computers.  How handy!  Also, it is very easy to download games onto phones.  Even my 7 year old knows how to do this.  And, quite regularly, my phone or my daughter's phone will mysteriously disappear.  We'll call all the kids who are regular law breakers and sure enough, they have it and were using it for games.

This week was a busy week of having different people over for different events so I was often cleaning, baking or actually visiting.  Sometimes if the kids are out of sight and it's quiet, I won't run around looking for them.  It can be a nice break to have the silence!  Big mistake.  I should have checked in.  Silence may be golden, but around here, it's a clue that something is up.

My 7 year old had been gone too long.  It was too quiet.  I should have known.  But I was enjoying my visit so much with these ladies that were over!  After they left and he was still missing, I finally realized I wasn't being the best parent and called him down.  Surprisingly, he came right away.  Another clue!  I knew there wasn't a computer upstairs and I had my phone, so what was he doing? This is where it almost gets funny, if it weren't so awful.....

Me:  Where were you?

Him:  Upstairs.

Me:  What were you doing?

Him:  Nothing

Me:  Nothing?

Him:  Well, I was actually reading my Bible.   (another clue:  he's not that strong a reader and he doesn't own his own Bible yet)

Me:  (super suspicious now...my other son and I looked at each other, raised our eyebrows at the same time and shook our heads "no" to one another...)  Really?  You were reading your Bible? 

Him:  Yes.  I was just wanting to read more about self-control.

Me:  (I nearly choked at this point).  Self- control?!  Oh!  How interesting!

I was trying so hard not to laugh.  He was handing me line after line that was just so out of character for him.  He was trying to talk like he was Charles Wesley or something.  I quickly texted my husband and told him what my son said.  He said, "Give him the benefit of the doubt."  So I did.  Until I put him to bed....

Me:  So, where is the Bible that you were reading?

Him:  Oh, well, it's here somewhere (as he anxiously looked around his room).  I can't seem to find it.

Me;  (now I knew something was up).  What were you reading then? 

Him:  Oh, this book here (and he randomly pulls a science book off the shelf...NOT a Bible)

Me:  (got 'em!)  Ok, now we know you were lying....

So, he's a liar!  I was so upset!  When I questioned him some more we found out he had found an old phone of my daughters, downloaded a game and was playing happily upstairs the whole time.  I was unaware what my sneaky kid was up to!  When I asked him why he said all those lovely things about reading the Bible (who wouldn't want to hear that?!), he said he knew it would make me happy and that way he wouldn't get in trouble.

We are still trying to figure out the best consequence for this liar liar.  My husband hasn't been home to discuss it much, but we aren't going to let this one slide.  If you can lie, you can do anything.

It was a great opportunity to talk about Jesus though because as my son cried and cried about being caught (he was remorseful at least!), I told him he has to try to be a good boy.  He said, through his tears, "But I can't!  It's so hard!"   I quickly interjected, "Yes!  That's just it!  It is TOO hard!  We can't do it on our own!  That is exactly why Jesus came!"  He prayed, I prayed.  And then I quickly got rid of the phone!

The next day we read about Ezekiel and the stubbornness of Israel.  "But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me:  because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart." (3:7)

My husband and I are my children's prophets.  We are in authority over our children and it is our job to point them to Christ and help them see their need for Him.  Like the verse says, if they won't listen to us, they won't listen to God.  We have to constantly pray about their hard foreheads and their stubborn hearts!  What a responsibility!

For the next couple of days, I would see my son and he would look at me and say, "Sorry."  I knew what he was sorry for.  I think he was truly repentant.  But, boy oh boy, was it ever a good reminder to keep an eye on him and to not let visiting friends get in the way of watching for my kids. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Feeling Grateful

I feel like I'm living in a new house.  It is not a new house.  No, no, it is far, far, from being a new house...over 200 years old actually, but to us it is new and remarkably larger though we've done nothing to add space to it. 

It kind of goes back to the original posts from several years ago.  In those early days when we had decided to really buckle down on spending and had even decided to not spend money on the house, God opened my eyes even then to contentment.  He showed me how much I had and that I needed to stop wishing I had more.  That was when, what I called, "The Multiplication Effect" occurred. 

One day I looked at my cramped family room and suddenly I saw the problem.  I quickly got some kids on board, moved around a few pieces of furniture, took a few out and in a blink of an eye, we had a much larger room that could accommodate all of us.  That happened in other rooms of the house, even in the barn!  Nothing had changed in our home, but I can only think God was just waiting for my attitude to change and that was when He opened my eyes to these strange blessings of multiplication in the space of our home.

Now our younger tribe has gotten much older and much bigger.  With 2 adult children and 2 more well on their ways, it was getting cramped.   This time it was my husband's eyes that were opened.  .  A couple of years ago he looked at one of our walls and decided it was time to tear it down and so he did!  We started with one and now, 2 more just this Fall, has seen our house open up to new exponential space.  My 5 year old said recently, "On the outside our house looks really small, but on the INSIDE it's BIG!!!!" 

Add in my new best friend neighbour who gave us two 7 ft. long couches and we have doubled our seating.  Every time someone comes over, I marvel, as now we have two large seating areas that accommodate a lot of people now.  This has always been my dream to have large groups of people in the same area, able to visit and fellowship, all under one roof, in one space. 

It kind of seems to go against the debt-reduction plan to do all of these renovations and several years ago when we first made that decision we had said just that, "No renovations", but then we found our heating costs so high that we found we actually had to do something if we didn't want to go broke paying the heating bills, so that's when we started the ripping out of outside walls just so we could insulate and update the old plaster and lathe.  We are one wall away from insulating the whole family room now.  The new drywall is up and is ready for the mudding and eventual paint. 

But, back to the debt-reduction plan....I like decor.  I try not to!  Decor is expensive!  Back when we lived in town all the stores I loved to shop in were so expensive and they just left me discontent as there was no way I could ever afford to decorate with their price tags.  But then what do you do with what I feel is a God-given desire to make my "nest" a cozy place?  Did I have to leave the walls bare?  Paint wasn't an option at this point.  I was anxious though.....would I have to wait for years for paint?  When would I be able to put things back up on the walls?  I was hosting a number of seasonal events.....I wanted it to at least have the facade of being done.  But then RM gave the green light, "Hang stuff up, we won't be painting for a while....."  Oh yeah!  So I did.  And that's where more mini miracles happened.....

I now had more wall space then I knew what to do with.  Like I said, in the olden days, I would have wished I could have gone to a store and purchased all sorts of rustic decor. then knowing the price tags, sighed, and given up.  Not this time.  I just walked over to my on-site rustic decor "store", i.e., the barn, and started hunting.  I found more window frames that I hadn't seen or used before and quickly dusted them off (I don't even bother sanding, no time for that) and literally threw them on my bare, unpainted freshly drywalled walls.  Then,  I ran outside, cut off some greenery, which up until last year, I hadn't even noticed we had, and threw that around the house.  It was looking good!

One more touch....we had no lighting!  We have looked at beautiful fixtures, but are waiting until everything is complete, so in the meantime, I grabbed all the Christmas lights and a son, and asked him to go around the ceiling edges putting them up.  He did and now we have beautiful white lights around almost the entire perimeter of the family room.  It gives such a nice glow to the house.

Not being particularly crafty, but knowing I had access to vines, I knew I had to do something with them this year or it would be a big waste of craft supplies!  Last year I cut all sorts of vines off the grapes and put them in storage for the winter thinking I would do something with them in the spring. Not smart.  Over the winter they turned to dust.  Each time I picked one up it crumbled in my hands.  This year I knew I had to cut them and immediately make them into something.  So on one of the last warm days of Fall, I went down and cut a whole bunch of vines and turned them into mini Christmas trees.  I absolutely love them and can't even believe I did them myself!  My own kids are in a bit of shock, "You made that?"  All it took was my time.  They're all over the inside of the house and I even threw a couple outside and they make the front porch look so festive.  Why couldn't I see these things before?  Why did I think I had to buy everything?  Why am I suddenly aware that I can do these things when I used to think it was only those people born with the craft skill that could make things themselves?  I can't explain it, except that my eyes were opened again.

The flooring is currently plywood, but that's fine for now.  We're waiting on a steal of a deal.  So here I sit in what seems like our new home.  I can hardly believe how the home has been transformed from what I always called "our dumpy farmhouse" to a new and improved version.  I never knew beautiful ancient beams were hiding under an unattractive drop ceiling.  I never knew there was free rustic decor at my disposal when we first bought this place.  I never knew it would actually be the biggest home we had lived in when all I saw was a tiny, badly-organized floorplan at first viewing.  It's one of those "don't judge a book by it's cover" moments or a badly wrapped gift that seems small and you only want the big gift with the fancy packaging.  Yet, here it was, under all the old coverings lay this gift I could have never imagined when we first bought this place 7 years ago.  It is far from being finished, but I am seeing the tremendous blessing it is to our family and not a single square inch has been added.....it is the Multiplication Effect again.

This is my nest.  Psalm 84:3, "Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young..."  I spend a lot of time in my nest.  I am no different than a bird.  I just want my nest to be cozy and a place where my birdies will be comfortable and happy.  I want them to stay as long as possible and I'll always want them to come back and visit.  I'm convinced this desire has been put in me by God Himself.  He could have made the world unattractive, but He made creation so beautiful that it really defies description.  It is a heavenly desire to long for beautiful things.  Of course, the world has taken this desire and turned it into an idol, but it doesn't have to be if we recognize the source of this desire and keep our sin nature in check.  Just as the mommy bird takes her time in making her nest comfortable so do I.  None of this happened overnight.  It has been a long process and I'm so glad God didn't give me what I wanted when I wanted it.  I don't think I would have appreciated it as much.  A friend came over yesterday and complimented me on the decor.  I was able to say, "The best part?  It was all free!"

A quick reminder this morning that there's work to do.....the water is frozen.....we didn't get the heater in the pumphouse soon enough!  So, it's not perfect, we are a work in progress....but I'm still grateful!!!!

Friday, 24 November 2017

Dogs and Prisons

Today will be a sleepier day as 4 of us got next to no sleep last night.  We had quite the adventure....

Lately, our son has become a little lazy with the dog walking since it's so cold and has been just opening the door and letting the dogs out (we still have one puppy left and she stays inside with us at night).  Each time, we warn our son not to do that.  Instead, we say, put on her leash, she's going to take off!  Ah, the foreshadowing....

Sure enough, last night, he opened the door just before 11 pm and let the Mommy dog and her puppy out.  The puppy came back.  The Mommy did not.  Not good.  I was unaware of this as was my husband.  Then, around midnight, we got a text from my daughter and my son saying, "FYI.  The dog is missing.  We've looked everywhere...."  How was I supposed to sleep after that?

I didn't know if I should wake up RM, but I did anyway because everyone else had given up and gone to bed!  How could they sleep knowing she'd be outside all night!?  We'd never see her again for sure and besides, what if she was hurt?  Being outside all night would have definitely made things worse, especially if we found her in the morning.  I couldn't sleep knowing she wasn't found.

RM was not happy, for so many reasons, but he got up, which I had hoped for.  Meanwhile, I also got up, got my son back out of bed and even my daughter.  We turned on our flashlights and started looking.  Somewhere in the process, my husband got an idea.  The gator.  She LOVES the gator. It's our farm vehicle that we use all over the farm to drive from one end to the other.  Whenever she hears it, it makes her nuts!  She barks and barks like a crazy dog.  He figured if she was still ok, and not hit by a car or stuck somewhere, she'd come running.  Good plan!  But I was still worried.  So my daughter and I went in for a doggie prayer meeting.  If she was gone for good or possibly dead, it meant $10,000 to my son.  He had paid for all his schooling with her puppies and then some.  I prayed that my son wouldn't have to learn a lesson in responsibility the hard way.  I surrendered everything to the Lord knowing He would have to find her.

Within a few minutes of turning on and driving the gator out to the field, we had our dog back.  Alive and well.  She had been having a great old time, just running to the farthest end of our property.  Then I was mad.  Glad she was back, but so mad at her!  However, she was given a warm embrace by all.  The story had a happy ending, my son had learned a valuable lesson and it was only 12:30 a.m.!  I somehow managed to fall back asleep fairly quickly, but morning did come much sooner....

I have learned more lessons from Jeremiah though and I think even this dog story can apply.  Jeremiah had been put in prison in chapter 37 having been falsely accused of lying about "deserting to the Chaldeans".  Verse 15 says, "And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made into a prison."  I read that line over and over again, how Jonathan's house "had been made into a prison".  I started thinking about how we can turn something that is good into something that imprisons us.  A house isn't supposed to be a prison. 

Homeschool moms can sometimes feel like they are prisoners in their own houses.  Actually, homeschooled kids can feel that way, too, sometimes.  But what I've learned over the years of homeschooling is that it is all a state of mind.  If you think you are imprisoned, you are.  I have never felt that way, I've loved homeschooling and having all my kids with me in our home all these years.  However, I know I have created other prisons for myself.  Lately, I've felt imprisoned by frustration and, dare I say, anger, at times, when things don't go as planned more days than not with these challenging tots who are still at home with me.  There are no bars of iron around me, but I can still feel them sometimes, which is even harder to deal with when they aren't tangible bars.  For some, it can be being imprisoned by anxiety, or fear, or comparing oneself to another, which I've done many times.  I asked the kids to give me ideas of what they thought could be prisons in our home and they came up with all the same ideas I had.  They got it.  They understood the prison image.

Back to the dog.....today I could be imprisoned with fatigue, grumpiness at not having enough sleep or anger at my son for not being more careful.  I could easily put bars up around my state of mind and choose to be locked there all day.  My prayer is that I will not allow that to happen, but instead that I will choose freedom.  It reminds me of one of my favourite Psalms in the Bible, 107.  Verses 10-16 describe a prison:

"Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons....Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress...For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the BARS OF IRON."

The iron bars can be shattered for me today.  I don't have to be in prison in my own house, in my own mind.  God may not take away my fatigue, but He can give me a new state of mind.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Be a "Son of Jonadab"

I am always looking for ways I can "pep talk" my kids or at least "spur them on to love good deeds".  The book of Jeremiah has become one of my greatest resource.  It has some fascinating passages that I have found so inspiring to use as encouragment for my children. This most recent was was quite unusual as God seems to use the obedience of one family to show the Israelites what obedience looks like.  I say unusual because typically it is considered bad form to compare your kids to other kids to shame them into good behaviour, but this morning, in Jeremiah 35, that's kind of what God did!  I think there is something to learn here.  Maybe it isn't to shame our kids into good behaviour, but maybe it is more to show them the model of good behaviour and then they'll learn by observing others.  I'm getting ahead of myself....this is what happened....

God told Jeremiah, "Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak with them and bring them to the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, then offer them wine to drink."  So he did what God had told him to.  He called them over and then offered them pitchers full of wine.  "But they answered, 'We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father commanded us, 'You shall not drink wine, neither you  nor your sons for ever.  You shall not build a house, you shall not sow seed, you shall not plant or have a vineyard, but you shall live in tents all your days that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.'  We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father in all that he commanded us to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, and not to build houses to dwell in.  We have no vineyard or field or seed, but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us."

It may seem that this is a passage about drinking wine, building houses and planting vineyards, but it is not.  As the chapter goes on, God explains why he had Jeremiah call them over and offer them wine.  "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:  Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words?  Declares the Lord.  The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine has been kept, and they drink none to this day for THEY HAVE OBEYED THEIR FATHER'S COMMAND.  I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me.  I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying "Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.  But you did not incline your ear or listen to me.  The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab HAVE KEPT THIS COMMAND, but this people HAS NOT OBEYED ME."

God then pronounces "disaster" upon Judah "because I have spoken to them and they have not listened.  I have called to them and they have not answered."  He adds, however, "But to the house of Rechabites....Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me."

So, it seems, he literally sent a family, who must have been a God-fearing family, simply as an example to Judah.  They showed full obedience to their earthly father and in doing so they were used to model what kind of behaviour God expected from all His people.  Because of their obedience God said to them how they would be blessed in future generations.  Judah, however, would experience disaster for their lack of obedience.

It isn't good to pit one "good" child against another disobedient one, nor is it good to compare one family to another family, but the Bible does show that obedience gets rewarded and there are consequences for those who follow the path of disobedience.  Jeremiah simply does what God tells him to do and the illustration speaks for itself.  The message is clear and the phrases get repeated throughout the chapter, "They have obeyed their father's command", they "have kept this command",, "kept all His precepts".  The others have "not obeyed me", "I have spoken to them and they have not listened.  I have called them and they have not answered".  I'm always looking to the Word of God to help my kids stay on the right path.  This is such a good passage to remind them of modeling our lives after those who obey, after those who listen to God, who don't ignore Him.  Sometimes in our family there are those who listen better and those who obey quicker than others.  I don't think it's a bad thing to point out their good behaviour.  I think it can be a good thing to remind everyone of the good life they can have when they stay on track.

I did end up talking to our kids about this in our morning devotional time.  It struck me in the middle of our discussion that the family of Jonadab hadn't really loved all the rules their parents had given them.  It was quite the list:  no wine, no houses, no vineyards, seeds, sowing, and they had to live in a tent all the time.  I wonder if that list felt restrictive.  I wonder if they weren't particularly happy about the fact all the people around them were allowed to do all the things on the list they weren't allowed to do.  Yet, somehow, their father had their hearts enough that they still obeyed, despite the restrictive list that must have been so hard to follow in that culture of wine drinking, house building, garden planting..... Our children have certain limitations that are different than their own peers.  We know it isn't easy to follow them.  This passage was such a great encouragement for them.  It was a great reminder that blessing always follows obedience.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Newbie Homesteading and a Proclamation of Liberty

It's been another fast week, but full of blessings and "grace in the wilderness".  It started off with a short text from my neighbour.  This woman is like an angel in my life.  Since I've met her, I can't count how many times she's showed up at my door with a fresh coffee in hand (and recently, fresh-baked-out-of-the-oven muffins!).  My kids call her "the nicest mom they've ever met" and love going over to her place.  Turns out, she was doing some redecorating in her home and purchased some new furniture for her family room, displacing the couches she originally had.  Well, guess who she offered her extra couches to?  Yup - us!  Her text simply asked if we wanted them.  Beautiful, leather couches?  Easy decision.  She admitted a couple of cats had gotten to them before they reached our house, but, uh, that's perfect, we said, "Pre-disastered" or "seasoned" as someone else described them.  We can't have new.  Ever.  Not with the amount of animals we have in and around our house.  She didn't even know we had opened up the living room and were in need of more couch-style sitting space.  It was such a blessing.  Thank you, kind neighbour!!!

I have another new friend in my life who has recently become such a blessing to me as well.  She's another capable woman who just seems to know how to do everything.  I had mentioned to her that I had access to goat's milk (for at least a couple more weeks) and wanted to make goat's milk soap.  She said, "I make soap!"  I have one other friend who does this, but she lives so far away I can't access her superpowers from here, so to find someone else who knew how to do it who is local seemed like such a great blessing, too.  We got together last night and made a huge batch of homemade soap.  It was so amazing.  I absolutely loved it and can't wait to do it again.  Another huge blessing to have capable friends that are willing to share their soap superpowers!

These goats that we have will really only be with us for a very short time.  When we first got them I froze their milk, until I ran out of space in my fridge, and then for the remainder of the time we gave the milk to our puppies and kittens.  They loved it!  But I was procrastinating.  I knew I had this resource of milk and I knew there were a million things I could do with it, but I just couldn't bring myself to do all the research and reading.  Why?  What was keeping me from doing it all?  I really tried to analyze it and came up with a million really good excuses, but I think it came down to being paralyzed by the unknown.  Knowing I was running out of time, I did a really quick youtube search and saw it wasn't as hard as I thought.  The first thing I wanted to try, besides soap, was cheese - "chevre" or goat cream cheese.  You need all sorts of fancy starters and I didn't have any of those, but I found a recipe that didn't need starter, just lemon juice and goat's milk.  In a matter of minutes, no joke, I made my first goat cheese and to my amazement, it looked and tasted just like goat cheese!!!  I had done it!  I was so impressed with myself I basically made announcements all around the house, "I MADE GOAT CHEESE!!!"  No one else was as impressed with me as I was, but it made me feel not just like a pioneer, but like a gourmet chef!  Funnily enough, I tried it the next day, too, and it was a flop, so I'm apparently not an expert yet.  But wow, making things that you thought you could only buy in the store is so incredibly satisfying!

I now have all the ingredients to make the official goat cheese, with starter, etc. so hopefully today it will turn out better.  Here's hoping....

So, was I paralyzed by the unknown or was I paralyzed by fear?  Probably a little bit of both.  I read in Jeremiah 34 this week another amazing passage.  It reminded me of how easily I fall victim to my fears. It said, "The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a PROCLAMATION OF LIBERTY to them, that everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no on should enslave a Jew, his brother."

It went on, "And they obeyed, all the officials and all the people who had entered into the covenant that everyone would set free his slave, male or female, so that THEY WOULD NOT BE ENSLAVED AGAIN.  They obeyed and set them free."

Here was the turning point..."BUT AFTERWARD THEY TURNED AROUND AND TOOK BACK the male and female slaves they had set free and brought them into subjection as slaves."

Here is the Lord's response, "But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me.  YOU RECENTLY REPENTED  and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbour , and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, BUT THEN YOU TURNED AROUND AND PROFANED MY NAME when each of you too back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought" them into subjection to be your slaves.  Therefore, thus says the Lord:.......I proclaim LIBERTY TO THE SWORD....|

I feel like this passage describing the Israelites is such a picture of what we do in our lives all the time.  There is a "proclamation of liberty" that comes from being in Christ.  We are free from slavery, free from fear, free from sin and we know it and we embrace it, we obey, saying, "We won't be enslave again."  But then, just like the Israelites, "afterward", we "turn around and take back our slavery".  It said, even thought they had "recently repented", it didn't matter.  They still "turned around" and "profaned" God's name.  They just loved their slaves so much!  Am I really any different?  I've identified my fears, the things that keep me enslaved and I repent of my slavery.  I obey and give up my slaves and the things I'm enslaved to, but then, I turn around and take all my fears back, even though I have "recently repented".  God's word to this is scary almost, "You turned around and profaned my name.....I proclaim liberty to the sword."  It's as if He's saying, "You want freedom, but you don't really.  You seem to like your slavery, so if that's what you want, that's what you'll get....freedom to be a slave."  And then He leaves us to our devices and to all the harm that comes from being enslaved.  Yikes, I don't want that.

Reading that passage was a great reminder for me of my silly patterns of behaviour.  I read it with the kids and explained to them how we all are like the Israelites in some way.  My own kids promise every morning that they'll be the best kids ever every day, but then they walk away from our time together, even though they've "recently repented" and they go and hit their brother or sister and disobey the very commands I've just given.  What?!  It doesn't seem possible, but we're all just victims of our bad habits.  So for the rest of the day I went around the house saying, "I am making a PROCLAMATION OF LIBERTY!"  as if I was the town crier!  We are free!  We no longer have to be victims of our bad habits.  We have freedom!  The alternative is proclamation of liberty to the sword!  I don't think so.  Not interested in that kind of proclamation.  We prayed again for God's help in our family, in all areas, to all members of our home.....may we not turn around and forget our freedom, our liberty.  We are no longer slaves.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Junior Quizzing and "New" Homeschool Mom Devo

I think it is official....Junior Bible Quizzing was a huge success!  I wasn't sure how it was going to go...would others be interested?  would there even be any teams besides my kids?  would the kids be able to handle the amount of material?

The first quiz meet was going to be the big test and I can say with a resounding yes, it was AMAZING!!!  If anyone else could have seen it, they would have been blown out of the water.  These kids were all so little, so timid...it seemed impossible to think that they could hold so much in their little heads, but did they ever.

Four chapters, not 4 verses, of 1 Corinthians were memorized and by memorized, I mean MEMORIZED!  These kids knew the verses backwards and forwards.  The comment I got all day long was, "Have you seen these kids jump?"  In order to get picked to say your verse, you have to jump off your seat and be the first one to set off the sensor.  The senior quizzers can jump on the first syllables of a question and get them right...I don't know how....In the first quiz, we noticed the little guys were also jumping just like the seniors!  It was amazing to watch. They certainly had a spirit of competition and it was clear that they knew their stuff and so did everyone else!  I'm proud to say one of our teams was top quiz team of the new junior teams, but it was very close....it'll be hard to stay on top.  So far we have 6 junior teams, but there are more to come, I'm sure.

That was a huge answer to prayer for me.  As I said before, I just didn't know if it would take off, but it certainly has.  It was super inspiring and it makes me so happy to know that a generation of quizzers are moving up.  It was also really neat to see graduated quizzers there now helping with the younger ones.  My older son, who has now graduated and moved on, said the other day, "Bible quizzing was the best thing we ever did!"

The joke by the end of the day was, "We've got to start toddler quizzing!"  We'll see......!!

I have a new responsibility that I've taken on with our homeschool group.  I'll be writing a weekly (or however often I can do it) devotional that goes out to the whole group.  This will be easy for me because I'm just writing what is already on the blog just making it work for the whole group, making small adjustments here and there.  This came up because I was sharing with the other board members that I've entered into this extremely challenging season where there is more going on than I can handle sometimes.  As I told them how overwhelmed I feel at times, they all just looked at me with this "Join-the-club look", not out of indifference, but out of a sense of understanding....i.e....we're all there.  That's when it occurred to us, maybe there are other moms in our group that are suffering or going through a challenging time.  How could we encourage them without seeing them every single day?  One of them asked if anyone could write a quick devotional that could go out to all the members.  I didn't immediately say yes, but when I got home and thought about it, I was suddenly inspired and easily woke up the next day and started writing.....I had words coming into my head faster than I could get them on paper (or on the screen!).  I will enjoy this role....

This is an example of what I'll be sharing with them this week...

One of my greatest challenges, and has been from birth basically, is one of my younger boys, who shall remain nameless, but is super cute, blond and 7.  Love him to death.  So much life, energy, spunk, but with that comes stubbornness, frustration, and a battle of the wills.  I often wonder is there any hope for him?  Have I done something wrong?  Will I ever see the fruit I long to see?  I think I could handle him if I didn't already have so much going on.  How am I supposed to spend the time with him that he needs when I can barely get dinner on the table let alone the groceries in the fridge?! It can keep me up at night...

One morning last week, I came to my Bible really begging God for a word from Him.  I needed a supernatural encouragement and I truly came expecting to hear.  I've read that we are to do that all the time, but this particular morning I just couldn't wait to see what I would read.  I nearly fell off my chair when I opened my Bible to Jeremiah 31.  I wouldn't have expected that to be a book about parenting, but wow....that morning it was.

I began to read.  Verse 2 said, "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness."  I had to stop there and read it over and over.  Grace in the wilderness.  Isn't that the most amazing phrase?  Those crazy Israelites were taken from the most difficult of situations where they were slaves in Egypt and it seemed like they were saved, only to find themselves in a new difficult situation, stuck in the wilderness.

That seems to be my life from moment to moment.  I handle one hard situation with one child (aka cute blond boy) only to turn and find myself in another difficult situation with another child (often another cute blond boy - or girl!)  From sword to wilderness!  Or I get through one challenging season with one age group, only to find myself in a new challenging season with the next age group!  AHHHHHHH!!!!  The wilderness is a difficult place!!!!  But, when I read that verse and read that expression.....grace in the wilderness, I had to stop.  I do have grace in my wilderness, all the time.  Just like the Israelites had their manna, I have mine.  Simple things like coffee in the morning...that's grace!  Or running water!  (I always think of the pioneer women before me who had NONE of the conveniences I have...how can I possibly complain?!)  I have good health and so does my family.  A roof over our head.  A loving husband who is providing for our family.  I have the freedom to homeschool and worship.  My list went on and on as I thought about it.  I prayed that morning that my eyes would be open to even more "graces" as I went through my day.

It didn't stop there.  Verse 11 said, "For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him."  That's it!  My job as a homeschool mom is "too strong" for me.  My son is literally "too strong" for me (he works out at 7 years old, no joke).  In other words, "It's too hard!"  But that's perfect....that's where God has to step in.  If I could do it on my own, then I wouldn't need God.  I clearly DO need God.  Just like I can't save myself from my sin, I can't redeem myself, I also can't homeschool, or do anything, myself.  I must be saved from my sin, which is "too strong for me" and from my homeschool, which is "too strong for me" ONLY by the Lord who has redeemed me and ransomed me from the hands that are "too strong for me".  I was starting to feel a little more hopeful.

Then, verse 16 was the big kicker, "Thus says the Lord:  'Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work.'"  What homeschool mom hasn't found herself in a pool of tears on those really hard days?  Back to my cute, but spirited 7 year old....he can push my buttons like no one else.  I really have to keep it together when he's in his all-out "bad" moments.  After I read that verse, something changed for me, and I found myself saying the verse in my head over and over throughout that day, "there is a reward for your work, there is a reward for your work, there is a reward for your work...."  So instead of panicking and feeling hopeless about him, I took it as a direct word from God for me that day, to keep on keeping on with him.  There were times throughout that day (and every day for that matter!) when I would feel frustrated or angry or discouraged, but then the thought would pop into my head again, "Don't cry, don't worry...there is a reward for your work...."  Knowing these were words directly from God helped keep the negative feelings at bay and instead filled me with a supernatural patience that day and even helped me come up with new and creative ways to handle the typically difficult situations I have when it comes to him.  When he wouldn't read (he never wants to read) I didn't force him, instead an idea came to me, "Ok, you read one sentence, I'll read another...." and sure enough, he kept reading...no issues!  When he wouldn't do his math ("too hard!" he always says), I said the same thing, "You do one problem, I'll do another...." just to show him it can be done.  Suddenly his math was done, his reading was done, we were both calm, no tears (from either of us!)

The takeaway?  Get into God's Word, every day.  What if I hadn't read Jeremiah that day?  What would my day have been like?  How would I have gotten through those tough, tearful moments?  I'm not sure I would have and I'm quite certain it wouldn't have gone so well.  And the neat thing for me, that I'll share with my kids today, particularly the ones who still get tearful and downright weepy when it comes to school sometimes, they, too, need to know that "there is a reward for their work", too!  All the hard, difficult, challenging lessons are all for a purpose!  They can't possibly see it now, but they will one day when they're out providing for their families or at home taking care of young children.  They'll see it eventually!

So, there is hope, and there's always a new day, a new week....I just have to make sure I start my day on the right track, in God's Word, which He has written just for me, a homeschool mom, with really cute, but stubborn, kids.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

I'm No Different than My 11 Year Old

This comment had me howling last night.

11 year old:  Mom, can I get an ipod shuffle?  (he went on to describe a new device out there I don't                         even know about.

Me:  Uh, no.

11 year old:  What?!  We NEVER get anything new.....except toothbrushes!!!

I laughed and laughed.  I felt like a perfectly successful parent.  When I told my other older kids what he had said, they laughed, too, and one of them added, "We don't even get new toothbrushes!  We just boil them when they get too old!"  True enough!  My poor deprived kids...I actually really liked that comment.  If they only get new toothbrushes, and maybe even then just once in awhile, then I think we've worked out the sense of entitlement.  And, by the way, he's totally lying....they get new stuff all the time....they just have a very short memory.

It's a great tie-in to the verse we studied in church a couple of weeks ago, Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"  God will give us ALL things.  The pastor went on to describe all things does not mean all that we want, but all that we need.  He challenged us to look at all the things we THINK we need and then see if we have them.  If we don't have them that God does not think that we need them.  So, for my poor son...he thinks that he needs the newest device and went on and on about the nice parents that give them to their kids.  We said no.  So I told him, he doesn't need it.  He can want it, but I know he doesn't need it.  Just like our good Father keeps things from me, I keep things from my son, at least in this case, for now.  Maybe when he's older or maybe when he can buy it himself, but not now.

In my own situation here at home, I joke with people that I just found out that I have a large family.  When they were all younger we pretty much did all the same things together, had the same taste in music, movies, food, activities. We went everywhere together and almost had all the same struggles. Now, my life has changed so much in the last year, I hardly know how to handle it!  The older four are living almost entirely different lives than the younger 4.  They have their own interests, their own struggles, their own everything.  I need a separate mom to take care of them.  And, I wonder if it is because of this, where half my mind is on them all the time, that I'm finding it a challenge to accomplish all that I want to with the younger 4!  I need a separate teacher to teach them!  The only thing that is getting me through this is that verse.  ...will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?"  Well, I think I need a cleaning lady, another teacher, a guidance counsellor, a lawyer, a judge (to deal with all the conflict with the tots), a live-in dentist (do you know how many trips I have to make to the dentist?!), a live-in doctor....oh, and I'm a vet part-time now, too.  I sometimes just sit in my house and wonder where the nearest spa is!  For all of us!  Just to get some tranquillity!!! There is so much activity, so much noise, so much going on, half the time there are anywhere from 5-10 animals in the room, chasing themselves around....it would make anyone's head spin just to sit in on it for an hour.....YET....All those things that I think I need, I don't.  Because God gives us what we need, not what we want!  Therefore, He's telling me, I can do it somehow, I can make it somehow.  It's forcing me to be on my knees in a constant state of prayer, unceasing prayer, all day, because that's what God knows I need.  He's using my situation, which may feel like it is permanent, but I know it isn't, to teach me all the character traits He thinks I need....again, not what I want, but He knows what I need way better than I do. 

Am I any different than my 11 year old son?  Nope.  I want an ipod shuffle, just in mommy form, but God is saying no.  He wants me to be ok without all the things I want.  The verse has shown me that is ok and is actually a good thing because He is my heavenly Father and He is parenting me better than I could ever parent myself.