Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Married to Macgyver

This is funny.  I wrote that whole post on being content about being home and happy about the way vacations look for our family.  Then, out of the blue, on the same day, we got a letter in the mail from the beach house in Outer Banks!  The letter said, and I paraphrase, "Hey, you should really book with us soon!  We've got a good deal for you!"  It included all these great pictures of the house on the beach, the ocean, the pool, the sand.....I couldn't believe it!  I took it as a sign!  I immediately texted my husband and said, "I think we're supposed to go away!"  He laughed.  The truth is, it was probably just a test of my resolve.  We haven't heard from the owners of the house for two years!  Why now!? I'm pretty sure it was just to try and knock me off my feet.  It worked...for a couple seconds anyway. Anyway, I just thought it was very interesting timing.....It doesn't look like we're booking any time soon.....sigh!

We continue to marvel at God's provision for us though.  This past couple of weeks has seen every single hay machine break down, leaving us with some hay uncut, waiting and waiting for the machines to get fixed.  We knew we would have to spend money to fix them, but how to do it for the lowest price.  It is always easier and faster to order new parts, but RM got super creative and went around the property taking old parts off of other broken down machines and used them to "Macgyver" a solution to fix the haybine.  To my amazement, he was able to do this, saving us hundreds of dollars.  I'm always in awe of his mechanical abilities.  When I asked him how he was able to do this and what made him think of it, he said, "God just puts these thoughts into my head!" He doesn't even know himself how he comes up with the solutions.  He's never fixed these types of machines before.  He's never had to deal with these types of problems.  It's incredible.

The other parts he was able to get new part off of ebay for less or he was able to get used parts. Everytime he uses the credit card to order off the internet he's paid it off immediately so we aren't carrying any debt month to month.  All that to say, we should be back up and running soon.

Recently, his contract with the college came to an end, but funding came in to be hired again for an 18 month period.  Ironically, however, his salary will be significantly lower because they allow for benefits.  This, of course, is good and bad.  Good because we will definitely use the benefits for orthodontics, teething cleanings, eye wear, etc., but not so good because you can't buy groceries with benefits.  But we're grateful for the job.  He'll be able to make up the difference by teaching at the college in the fall as well.   All I know is this time last year we didn't have work and now we do.  I will never complain about that.

I told someone, "God knows if we need more money and if He thinks that is enough money for us, than it is."  Simple as that.  We are grateful for the work, grateful for the benefits which we haven't had in many many years, and grateful for God's provision in so many ways.  Interestingly, he will get paid vacation which we also haven't had in years.  Will that mean that we go away?  I don't know. Anytime that we've gone away before has meant unpaid leave.  This will be the first time in a very long time that we'll actually get paid while on "vacation"!  That just seems unheard of to me!  I suppose it is normal for other families who are used to getting that, but I can hardly get my head around it!  So who knows, maybe we will do something next summer....More likely we'll finally get the work done on the house that has been taking a very long time to do.  Either way, it's exciting to think about.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

God - The Vacation Planner

This year our 3 older children are gone to the worldview camp that our oldest went to 3 years ago. She's now a mentor for the second year in a row and loving her role.  She was so inspired by it that our next children wait anxiously to go each year.  I can still hardly believe how they embrace sitting in lectures for a whole week, but who am I to question it.  I think it is the fact they are around like-minded youth that don't have horns that keeps them coming back!  Knowing they aren't the only kids out there with a Christian worldview is such an encouragement to them, and to us, as parents.

The woman who started this camp is a mom, just like me.  She has 5 children (most of whom are now married and having children) and there was nothing in Canada like this for her kids to attend.  And, just like with the junior quizzing, she acted on the need and put things into place....voila!  A Christian worldview camp was created!  I guess that is how most things come about...necessity is the mother of invention?

It is still a full house though with ten kids, 3 borrowed from our "other" family!  I don't mind, the kids that are left behind feel like it's camp, too, just at home!  This is actually the wonderful part of how God works in my life.  He knows what all of us long for and somehow He always creatively gives us just what we need, not necessarily what we want all the time, but what we need.

RM and I continue to debate, and will probably always debate, the "need" I have for a vacation.  I grew up with vacations and I just assumed we would also regularly go on vacations.  This has not been the case and for a long time it was a real sore spot for me, especially when everyone and their dog was planning a vacation (I'm sure I've written about this before, but it's summer again, so it has come up again!)  But that was just not how he grew up and, for him, he sees vacations as an alright thing to do once in a while, but as a very expensive thing to do.  For most people it is a time to get away and be with their kids, but for us, we are with our children all the time, so we don't have the same need.  What to do then?

I decided I would no longer be a nagging wife.  I simply brought my "need" (are vacations really a need?) to the Lord and left it there.  Amazing things started to happen.  Over the last few summers, we have had the most amazing experiences - all here at home - on our property or nearby in this area. We've had people contact us out of the blue, sometimes people we don't even know, and they'll come and visit anywhere from a day to two weeks.  They'll be friends I haven't seen in years or missionaries from overseas or simply neighbours.  Every week of the summer holds a different experience and I never know what's coming.  That is the fun part.  It appears like I have a blank schedule on my calendar.  It appears like it is going to be the most boring summer every year, and yet, it never is.  My summer gets so full that I never accomplish all I had planned because of all the fun things that happen.  What people love about vacations is the change of pace, the change of location, etc.  For me, it's as if that all comes to me, here.  It's a change of pace, with new faces, new schedules, new conversations.  God somehow brings the "vacation feel" to me!

This summer it has been the summer of the pool.  Not our pool, as we don't have one, but of pools near us.  All sorts of friends have beautiful pools, amazing backyards, and they are bored!  They find that they have a pool, but they don't use it!  So they invite us!  We go!  No problem!  Our kids absolutely love visiting friends with pools, so that is a super fun way to stay cool, beat the heat and not spend money.

I've learned in this surrendering of my rights to a vacation that yes, vacations are awesome, but they aren't the be all and end all of life.  I've learned that there is a cost to having a vacation, both a literal one, (they always cost more than you think they will) as well as an emotional one (so much to think about and organize), and then a physical cost (getting the car ready, packing, getting animals cared for....).  With so many young children, it was never easy to get away when we did get away.  It turns out they never really knew that they were "supposed" to have a vacation, it was always me pushing for one. Now that the youngest is 5, perhaps we'll be able to consider a vacation in the future, but it hasn't been really necessary when there were so many babies for so long.

Now there is another month ahead with no real plans.  In the past that would have made me worried. Will my children have a good summer?  How will I keep them busy?  Will it be fun?  I don't worry anymore.  I now wake up with a sense of anticipation....what will happen today?  Who will call? Where will we go?  Who will we see?  On days where we are just home, I embrace it and try to accomplish as much as possible.  I've also discovered that as farmers, we really need to be home in the summer to do the hay, make sure the garden gets cared for, get projects done.  If we are going to go somewhere, summer isn't the time to do it.  Farmers generally vacation in the winter.  Now I get why.

Once I asked my husband, "Can we go to a cottage this summer?"  His answer, "Why?!  I bought you a farm!"  Not the answer I hoped for, but you know what....it's true!  I live on a vacation property in so many ways, I just forget.  In the summer, it is so beautiful here.  Everything is in bloom, the grass is green, the views are spectacular, the trees are full of leaves offering wonderful shade from the heat, the animals are out and about, the kids are everywhere, the garden is alive and well....The Lord regularly opens my eyes to show me the beauty that is around me.  I don't need to leave to be happy. That is the lie that Satan tried to tell me for years, "You'd be happier if you went on vacation like everyone else.  You poor thing, you don't get to go away."  This only bred a spirit of discontentment as well as well as resentment towards others who always went away.  Learning to be content is the key to warding off the enemy's attacks.  The blessings immediately follow.  When I'm a nagging, discontent wife, my husband is sad, depressed and feels inadequate..... because his wife (the one who is supposed to be his greatest support) makes him feel that way.  He's frustrated because he's feels he's never enough, never providing enough...his family is always wanting more....that is a bad place to be as a husband.

Now, if someone were to approach me and say, "I would like to offer you an all-expenses paid vacation in Hawaii!"  I would still take it, don't get me wrong!  I do love vacations! When we went away a couple of years ago to the Outer Banks, it was super fun!  Our kids were a little disappointed when we didn't go the next year.  But this is the other thing I've learned...vacations are great, but they don't have to be every year, all the time.  When they do go, it sure makes kids appreciate what they had and where they went, knowing it isn't an every year experience.  The memories of the vacation linger and they reflect fondly on them often.  If we did this every year, I think it would create a sense of entitlement, which is also something we are wary of.  I always think...what will my children's marriages be like?  What appetites am I building in them that their future spouses will not be very happy about?  Knowing we didn't have a lot of vacations will actually be a positive thing for their future spouses because my kids won't go in demanding they get regular vacations.  I think that is a good thing.

My attitude has slowly changed over the years.  This might be a little out there, but it helps me to think, "Did Jesus have a vacation?"  No.  He went away for relaxation and respite for sure, but not to an all-inclusive resort.  He went away to the mountains to pray and spend time with God.  I can do that here.  I'm pretty sure Abraham didn't get away too much either.  I'm guessing, if I did "vacation research", that is is a relatively new thing.  Our culture tells us we have to get away, why? From what?  I love my life here.  I would love to see other places just to appreciate God's creation for sure, and maybe one day I will, but for now, I don't have the same pressing need.  I think it is really important to evaluate why and how vacations have come about.  There are really good reasons to get away, but some really bad ones, too.  I just don't want to fall into the trap of planning one just because the world tells me I have to.  It always comes back to contentment in my life.  It always comes back to watching where conflict comes up in my marriage.  It's usually the same issues over and over.  RM knows what is important to me and tries his best to be all things to both me and the kids, but he also is really good and drawing the line and not spending just for the sake of making the kids and I stop whining about vacations.

My children will go into their future marriages with a good view of vacations I think.  Not expecting them necessarily, but happy if they work out.  I think that is the better way to be.

Friday, 21 July 2017

A New League is Born

Last night was exciting, and I knew it would be, as families gathered in our home to talk about the idea of junior Bible quizzing.  This idea has brewed in my head since we first started quizzing nearly 6 years ago, and apparently it has been done in the past somewhere, maybe in a different league.  But I knew, if I mentioned the idea, it would have to be run by me or I would have to organize it.  With all the little ones around my ankles I knew it was impossible, so I just prayed and hoped someone else would do it.

A few years later, my little ones are now growing up.  The youngest is five, so no more little little kids.  I actively started my research again.  I found out that there was a league, but they used a different version of the Bible then we did, so we wouldn't be able to quiz against them without changing versions.  That wouldn't work either, though, now, I was getting excited that this was a real possibility.  I even got in contact with the other league and spoke with someone about how they ran their junior quizzing.  Maybe we could do it?

Then, I simply wrote an email to a few families and said, "Would this interest you?" and outlined what I was thinking.  I got immediate response from people saying, "Yes!"  A few weeks later a meeting was planned, league board members were invited, interested families contacted and the next thing you know....junior quizzing has been born!  

There was just one small problem.....did that mean I was taking that all on?  Was I the organizer? That was definitely not my skill set.  I am a recruiter, a cheerleader, an enthusiastic supporter of all things Bible Quizzing, but don't make me organize it.  My husband, however, is very good at putting those kinds of things together, but he was too busy....who then?  Suddenly, as I was thinking and talking all of this out loud, I looked over and saw my innocent daughter just standing there, unaware of my schemes.....I knew I had my victim...I mean, volunteer.

I quickly explained how she would be the perfect person for this position.  I explained how this could be a way she could give back after all these years of others building into her.  I went on and on.  To my amazement, she said, "Ok!"  That was easy!  So now, we have a point person, a new league, and all the kids you can imagine, ready to to start quizzing as young as 8 years old.  I'm so excited.  My younger kids are so excited!  They had been memorizing for a long time, but they never had a venue to compete, so they would stop memorizing.  Now we have a place for them.

This is the shocker.  My place should have been filled to overflowing last night and it was, but that's just because we have a small house!  I'm amazed at how many didn't come out.  We talked about it with everyone last night and why more people don't "Quiz".  It came down to this.....people assume it isn't fun.  People assume it is too much work.  It isn't "cool".  Yet, the kids who are in it, love it. Why? Because it is fun!  The competitions are extremely, well, competitive!  It is high stress (in a good way) to those who are in it and to those who watch it.  It is a lot of work, but not as much work as people think. Children's brains are sponges and they can memorize large volumes of whatever they want to.  We would just prefer that it be Scripture!  Not cool?  Who cares!?  The kids who choose to quiz could absolutely be doing something more "cool" by worldly standards, but we always try to look at the eternal picture....what's going to get them "home"?  

We want our kids to be "normal" (whatever that means) and be comfortable in all sorts of settings, and we actually think Bible Quizzing is a great way to do this.  It teaches confidence in large groups as they have to speak loudly and clearly in front of all sorts of people, coaches, the audience, other quizzers, etc.  I told everyone that I would like to do brain scans of quizzers before and after they start memorizing.  I'm convinced (and I'm going to make a stat up on the spot with no proof) that 100% of all quizzers' brains increase their synapses which leads to improvement in all their other subjects.  I'm going to suggest their chances of brain degeneration decrease!  As well, it gives them plenty of chance to "socialize" (everyone's concern with homeschoolers) with all the other quizzers and coaches.  You would think I got paid to say all this, but I'm just such a huge supporter of Bible Quizzing.

Last night my 10 year walked around with buddies on his new "team".  He and his friend now belonged to something...together.  "Hey Mom, we're on the same team, right?"  There was a connection made.  But what is different is that the Bible is the thing they have in common!  I love that kind of team connection.  And now, because of the junior quizzing league, my ten year old doesn't have to wait 2 more years to quiz and start memorizing.  He can, and he will, start now.  I am so excited, as you can tell.

Years ago we read a book that revolutionized our life.  It was called Ten Peas in a Pod by Arnold Pent III.  After the Dad in the book (Arnold Pent Sr.) got saved, everything changed in their family.  They took their life on the road (they also had 8 children) and went around sharing the gospel all over the U.S. and Canada.  But what struck us was how much time the Dad had his kids spend time in the Word.  He required anyone from 6-11 years read a half hour every morning.  Those who were 11-21 were required to read an hour. Pent added up all the hours this meant of Bible reading over the years (up to 21 years):  for the younger kids 913 hours, for the older kids 3,650 hours.  Adding up the 30 minutes of family devotions after each meal (1-21 years), that meant 11, 497 hours.  As well as miscellaneous times of Bible study, prayer time and church attendance, 6000 hours.  The grand total was 22, 060 hours of Bible study!  Incredible!  As a result of this much time in the Word, some of their kids had memorized the entire New Testament while the younger ones knew large portions of other parts of Scripture.  It was amazing!  We aren't necessarily trying to get them to memorize the whole New Testament, but it's not a bad goal!  Needless to say, it was an inspiring story and they didn't even have Bible Quizzing to aid them in all their memorizing, they just did it on their own.  We first read this when we only had the older four.  We reordered the book and have started rereading it to the younger four to inspire them and to re-inspire the older ones.  One of the Pent kids was being quizzed on how it was possible to know all that Scripture.  His answer was great, "You see, the only reason we can do this is because we spend time with it."  That's all we want for our kids, too.  We want them to spend time with God's Word and they will naturally commit it to memory much more easily.  The great thing about having God's Word in your heart is that it can't help but change you once it's there.  That is the goal, not just Scripture memory for it's own sake, but for the fact it will transform our lives.

This week coming up I will write another email, but this time it will go to all the teams in Ontario. All the families that currently quiz with the senior league will now have the chance to add junior teams.  I'm so excited to see how big this could grow!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Making of a Champion

I was able to listen to a sermon in the car the other night and it was perfect timing.  It was on David and Goliath, by David Jeremiah.  It must be hard to preach on such a well-known story, to try and give new insights, but he did such a good job.  He titled it, "When Two Giants Meet".    Everyone thinks Goliath was the giant, but David was a giant, too.  Everyone thinks David was only a champion after he took down the giant, but he was a giant way before that.  That was what I found so encouraging.

He looked back at David's life and wondered, "How is this possible that this young man became a champion?  What was he doing in his life before this to make him like that?"  The answer was so great.  He was faithful in the small things before God put him before the giant.  He had to watch sheep.  Every day.  When his brothers were off to war, he had to stay home.  When everyone else was doing something exciting, he was with animals.

When he was finally given the responsibility to go bring food to his brothers at war, he showed he was responsible as well.  The Bible includes the fact that he made sure he had a keeper to watch his sheep because he'd be away.  That can only be included to show how he was so faithful and didn't just take off.

When he got to the battle and heard Goliath's challenges to the Israelites, he didn't back down or cower in fear, he ran towards the impossible and embraced the challenge.  Saul was the one who really should have been leading his men, but he was just as much a coward as the men he was leading and made sure he didn't go out.  Most of us just don't do this.  We see the impossible and say, "Yup, that's impossible.  Can't do it."

He also said David was ridiculed for daring to take on Goliath.  Not by just anyone, his brother and Saul, whom he respected.  Jeremiah mentioned that anytime you take on the impossible, you can expect people to attack you because you make them feel bad for not doing it themselves!  They need you to feel just as inadequate as they do.

The timing of the sermon was great because the next morning we had such a strange morning.  It felt like not just one giant, but many giants, came out of nowhere, for all of us.  It began with both our cats going into labour on the same day and both cats losing all their kittens except for one!  One cat was pregnant with only two kittens, but they were so large she couldn't deliver them and so we had to help her, but they'd gone through so much in labour, I guess, that they both came out stillborn.  Tragic for her, tragic for us!  The other cat delivered outside somewhere.  I tried to find out where and could only find two, both alive, shockingly, but one was clearly dying as I'd found it far away from its mom.  So sad for all the kids!  A small giant, for me, but....

Then, a virus that had started over a week ago, continued its way through the family and took down two more kids yesterday.  Normally sick kids don't bother me, but yesterday....seemed hard to take care of them because I was still out looking for kittens!

Then, as I was outside, I noticed the laundry still on the line.....argh...left out all night.  My daughter had kindly put it up, but had forgotten it.  I came in to find piles and piles of laundry unfolded, but clean, everywhere.  I walked in the kitchen and piles of dishes everywhere......

Then, cow out.  Chickens out. Dogs barking.  Suddenly I hated all our animals so much!  I was starting to feel overwhelmed.

Then, my son, who had been doing so great in math, came down and on such a hot, humid day, needed to go to the library.....everyone suddenly was so needy in our family!  All at the same time!

Then, I looked at the garden.  I didn't see vegetables.  I only saw weeds.  Really high weeds.  And all my help was gone.  My husband was at work, the oldest kids were gone.  My helpers were all under 10 and were sick!

Now, I was no different than Saul or the Israelites.  I wanted to stay far away from my giants that seemed to be everywhere.  Each giant on its own was manageable, but when you added them all up, they seemed to be one giant Goliath!  Didn't even know where to begin....

But then, flashback to sermon.  Be faithful in the small things, even if it means one load of laundry at a time.  One sink of dishes at a time.  One row of weeds at a time.  It also occurred to me, maybe this is just some strange spiritual attack?  Why else would everything appear like a giant today when normally it doesn't feel that way?  I looked back over my week and realized, I had taken Satan on, without even knowing it.  I had been meeting with a friend about her marriage struggles and had been making a plan with her on how to make this marriage work.  Ah...I had taken on the impossible.  I had run towards it.  Satan must have hated that because I had been praying hard for her and for the ideal of marriage.  I had made plans that week to get other women together who were in difficult situations and instead of despairng about their situations, I was going to try get them together to encourage, pray, and fast together, on behalf of their marriages. Satan must have hated that, too.  I feel like God opened my eyes to the attack going on.  I was no different than David.  Maybe I wasn't taking on a physical giant (though in some ways it felt like that), but I was certainly taking on a giants.  Seeing the attack for what it was helped me realize I need to not be overwhelmed, I just need to take one task or giant on at a time.  I had also taken on the task of raising 8 kids.  That's a big enough task, but trying to raise godly kids?  That's a whole other matter and so I should expect to be attacked when I attempt that kind of impossible task.  We're still on our debt-reduction plan.  Talk about impossible goals.  All Satan has to do is tell you a little lie in your ear that says, "It'll never happen.  None of these things you want to do will ever happen."  Armour of God.  Man, I need to wear it everyday, all day.

Even though so many were sick, I grabbed one ones who weren't and shared my David pep talk.  We needed to be champions like David, I told them, and be faithful in the many small tasks ahead of us. They were on board.  I gave out the tasks so that it wasn't on just me.  And off we went.  First, dishes. Check.  Then laundry.  Not so quick of a job, but eventually all caught up.  Then garden.  I made great progress and realized it wasn't the end of the world if it didn't all happen in one day.  As for the sick kids, they all rested and relaxed, while the non-sick kids, played happily for what seemed like hours!  The animals seemed to start behaving and quieted down.  My spirit was calming down, too. I knew I was being prayed for.

I felt like a champion.  I had taken Satan on and had won.  I attempted to do all the little things that surrounded me, taking care of my little "sheep", just like David.  I had changed my course which had been to run away from what was ahead of me, my looming giants, and had decided to run towards my impossible list of things to accomplish.  For a mom, the attacks have to be "mommy-ish", kids, meals, laundry, dishes.....Satan isn't that creative!  Thankfully as the attacks came one after another, God opened my eyes to them thanks to that wonderful sermon I had heard the day before.  Giants are not always HUGE things.  Sometimes they can be a bunch of small things added up all together.  Feeling overwhelmed is never a good feeling.  I'm grateful for praying family, God's Word, and the ability to choose to not be overwhelmed.  I feel very badly for those who do not have a spiritual side to them, who are unaware of the spiritual realm.  It can only lead to hopelessness and despair.  Thanks be to God for the awareness that a believer has and for the hope that is available to us.

Friday, 7 July 2017

A Warning to Complacent Women (and everyone!)

As the last two weeks have gone by since my son and I sat down and talked about our fears, there has been a tremendous peace upon us.  The things that are normally triggers for both of us we now recognize almost right away as just that, a potential trigger, but not necessarily what needs to send us over the edge in fear and anxiety.

For him, not hearing back from his teacher quickly would make him feel anxious, but now he knows his "Teacher" hears his cry and that "as soon as He hears it, He answers", so now he simply cries out to God and give him back his anxiety.  For me, it is simply choosing to also take my thoughts captive. For me, one of my triggers is when we host an event.  The whole week before can make me insecure as all I see are the things I dislike about our property and I always focus on those things that make me upset instead of being grateful for what I have.  This past week, every time an anxious thought came into my head, I recognized it for what it was and once again, chose gratitude.  What a better way to live!

We had all begun to be a little concerned about our dog and her pregnancy status.  We were supposedly more than half way through her pregnancy and though there were some signs, nothing obvious and we began to think we were making up her symptoms in our head.  We had to book an ultrasound to confirm whether or not she was and so we would have peace of mind, if you can imagine.  My son's thoughts kept going to the fact it was such a waste of money if she wasn't as he had paid a high stud fee.  He also fought the idea that if she wasn't, his source of paying his tuition would be gone.  But then he saw what he was doing and said again, "She's not my dog.  She's God's."

We got to the clinic and to our amazement, as the vet started using the machine a bunch of blobs started showing up on the screen.  My son wasn't sure what he was seeing so he asked, "Is she pregnant?"  "Oh, yes!"  Apparently there are so many puppies she couldn't count them all!  Such a miracle!  We drove out of there so excited!  It was almost the same feeling as finding out I was for the first time!  There's such a sense of awe and wonder and amazement at new life.  We truly found ourselves rejoicing over the potential birth ahead of us in just a month.  In fact, we are becoming more and more like Dr. Doolittle over here as our two cats are also due any day, so between the 3 animals, there are going to be a LOT of fuzzy, impossibly cute, little beasts running around here soon. We actually can't wait!  I've got a little nursery upstairs in my room for the silly cats and then we are turning our homeschool room into a nursery for the crazy puppies.  I can hardly believe I just wrote that.

But, why should we surprised?  At the end of those passages I wrote about last time, it says, "You shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart as one set out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel."  That's describes the "new us" - full of songs in the night and gladness of heart.  The joy of the Lord really has been our strength.

The passage I wrote about in Isaiah 30 was amazing, but Isaiah 32 took it to a whole new level:

"Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice; you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech.  In little more than a year you will shudder, you complacent women; for the grape harvest fails, the fruit harvest will not come.  Tremble, you women who are at ease, shudder, you complacent ones." (Isaiah 32:9-11)

This passage has so much in it.  First of all, it is addressed to daughters, to complacent women.  I have daughters, both in my own family and in the family I "foster".  I recognize a certain degree of complacency in both.  It is seen in literally too much sleep as well as in a lackadaisical (great word, had to look it up for spelling!) approach to life.  The word complacent is also a very interesting word. I also looked that up to see what the true definition was on-line.  It said it so perfectly.  Simply, "Satisfied.  Unaware of the dangers ahead."  Wow, did lights ever go on for me.  Are my daughters complacent?  At ease?  I sure don't want them to be, so just like with my son, I almost ran to get them.

They LOVE the musical Hamilton.  So much so that they have played it so often that my 5 year old knows most of the words to this amazing hit musical.  Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers of American History and the whole musical is about his life and role that he played.  One of the songs has the line "Rise Up" in it.  I asked the kids, "What is that song about?  Why does he have to 'rise up'?"  One of my girls says, "Because he's about to birth a nation?"  YES!!!!  HE'S ABOUT TO BIRTH A NATION!  Rise up means that you are about to be a part of something HUGE!  But, sadly, we don't rise up.  We love our comfortable little life and we don't want to take risks or be out of our comfort zone.  We love being "at ease".  Hamilton knew he had to rise up, why don't we?

My poor kids.  I regularly give pep talks.  I really should have been a Dallas Cheerleader.  I'm quite good at them.  I went on..the danger of being complacent is that you can't see the danger!  Being complacent seems safe when it is actually very dangerous!  I thought it was interesting that the Bible includes a time line, "little more than year".  Life doesn't unravel right away when you start making bad decisions.  No, it isn't always suddenly, though it can be.  Sometimes it falls apart over time.  The character traits we long to see in our kids don't show up or do show up as they get older.  We don't always see perseverance or discipline until much older, but if we don't see it by then, it can be too late.  The Bible warns in this chapter that after that timeline, "you will shudder, you complacent women; for the grape harvest fails, the fruit harvest will not come."  This is such a great comparison for us as we actually grow grapes!  We've had a failed grape harvest, just last year.  Not good, a financial loss.  It felt like such a waste of effort that we had put in for the whole season, to only have it come in way below what we had hoped.  Same with parenting...if we put in a whole lot of effort into them in the beginning, which we feel we have, and then they decide, nah, this whole living a good life thing is just not for me, and stray off, it will feel to us that our "grape harvest" will have failed!  Not what we want.

Inside each one of our daughters, and all of our children, there are little seeds of fruit.  We long to see this fruit, in the form of character traits, "harvested".  But this verse says, "the harvest will not come". In order to see fruit in anyone's life, it has to have the exact right conditions - sun, soil, water, etc. Same with spiritual fruit, if there is a weed like "complacency" or being "at ease", there is no way fruit will be seen.  I warned them, we don't want the grape harvest to fail!  We want the fruit harvest to come!

I have had so many opportunities this week and last to share this verse, but not just with my own daughters, with my sons, too, and with other friends.  This warning certainly cannot only apply to daughters, what about to mothers (i.e. me!) and fathers?  We cannot afford to be complacent in any way, shape, or form, in our attack on debt, our attempts at raising Godly children, in anything!

So needless to say, I've been living in Isaiah all week, really loving the challenge and sharing it with anyone who will listen.  Poor those people.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Do Not Go Down to Egypt!

A couple of days ago I read the greatest passage in Isaiah.  I have come back to it so many times this week.  The application of it to myself and my kids has already been profound.  The title of chapter 30 is "Do No Go Down to Egypt".  This is ironic because I joke with my Egyptian friend how I wish I were Egyptian!  I love Egyptian food and I pretend that I speak Arabic whenever I'm around her.  But in this chapter, going down to Egypt is portrayed as not a good thing.  I'll explain....

It begins with, "Ah, stubborn children," declares the Lord, "who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!"

How do I go down to Egypt?  Do I go down?  Do my children go down?  I believe I do, and so do my kids, without even realizing it half the time.  Whenever my thoughts go in a fearful direction, it's my way of seeking comfort in Egypt.  My own son, who seems to be following in my anxious steps, does the same thing. If he isn't getting his math as quickly as he hopes, his thoughts start to take him down the Egyptian way, and he, too, finds comfort subconsciously by holding on to his anxious thoughts. We don't mean to "seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt", but that is exactly what we are doing when we stay fearful. Instead of carrying out God's plan, shown to us by His Spirit, we instead seek "an alliance" with Egypt and we "set out to go down to Egypt".  We don't ask for His "direction", but instead "take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh".  This only adds "sin to sin".

I had never seen my anxious thoughts as my way of seeking shelter somewhere else, but that is exactly what I'm doing and what my son is doing.  For me, it tends to be anxious thoughts about money and our future.  Though we are in a way better place than we ever were, it is hard for me to break the old patterns of fear because those really dry years were hard for me and I think I'm afraid to go back there.  I listen to my husband as he tries to encourage me.  He is very optimistic.  I am usually the optimistic one, but with our finances, I tend to be discouraged.  Instead of believing his optimism, I question him.  I wonder why I do this?  Just like some people take comfort in being down and depressed all the time and love the attention they get by being martyr-like, I think I am doing that sometimes, too.  This is not a good pattern!  I see it in my son as we encourage him all the time and he is doing great, but instead of moving ahead in confidence, he remains fearful that if he doesn't finish this course in record time with record grades than his whole life will fall apart!  Of course that isn't true, but that is how he adds "sin to sin".  His fear leads from one fear to another.  Oh, how we are so alike!

Isaiah warns those who do this, who seek shelter in Egypt, instead of in God, "Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation......everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace."  I shared this with my son.  What a beautiful time we had together yesterday morning, just the two of us.  I told him how I am just like him and I love my anxious thoughts.  They make me happy!  I think I've believed the lie that if I'm anxious, than I'm doing something about our situation.  It may seem backwards, but I think I must actually believe that sometimes.  I told him that I not only see that in myself, but also in him.  Yet, the opposite, is true, of course.  We both know this, but we're like the Israelites who are described as "stubborn children".

In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian is described as a man carrying his burden around.  But he loves his burden so much, doesn't want to put it down.  Isaiah goes on and says the same thing about the Israelites, "Through a land of trouble and anguish...they carry their riches on their backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them.  Egypt's help is worthless and empty."  Wow.  I think we do the same, carrying our burdens, our "treasures", our "riches", all the way to Egypt, thinking that somehow, we can save ourselves from our fears and troubles.  But God says, "No.  Egypt's help is worthless and empty."

Then, in a very interesting phrase, Isaiah says the Isaelites are called, "Rahab who sits still."  I had to think about that for a while.  Rahab.  Who sits still.  What could that mean?  Rahab was not one who sat still at all!  She diligently saved the spies and then later put out a scarlet rope so that her own family could be saved.  Perhaps to be called one who "sits still" is an insult because it would have been like Rahab knowing she could save the spies yet refusing or knowing she could save her family, but instead just hoping everything would work out.  I'm not sure if that's what that phrase actually means, but all I know is that I don't want to be one who "sits still".  Instead, I want to be like Rahab who actively worked out her freedom, who didn't wait around knowing she could do something to save the spies and later her family.  The Israelites seemed to believe they were doing something by going to Egypt, but they were deceiving themselves.  They weren't going to God for their salvation, like Rahab, instead they were off to Egypt.

Isaiah continues with this description of them, "For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, 'Do not see, and to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.'"  Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, 'Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant...."  As my son was about to start his day of school, I knew he was feeling anxious, as if his whole life hung in the balance, all depending on this one course!  I read this passage to him as well and reminded him to not "trust in oppression" or to "rely on" his anxieties.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  We are like the Israelites who don't actually want to hear truth about our sin and only want to hear what we want to hear.  I'm a good person.  My son is a good person.  Yes, maybe we're a little anxious sometimes, but we're really not that bad.  That's what we tell ourselves.  But the truth is, every anxious thought is sin.  And this "iniquity", that the Bible calls it, shall be "like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse".  How can it help either one of us to stay in that state of fear?

As usual though, God knows us so well and there is always a turning point where He says words of comfort after the major warning, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength."  Oh good.  I will do that.  I'll return.  I'll rest.  Oh, no, I almost take off the burden, but then I quickly put it back on again.  I am so used to it.  God knows this, too!  He says, "But you were unwilling, and you said, 'No! We will flee upon horses'; and 'We will ride upon swift steeds;' therefore your pursuers shall be swift."  He tell us to return and rest, but we say, no, I love my horses!  So funny.  We all know what to do.  We all know what our burdens are, the things that keep us in bondage.  I know mine. My son knows his.  But we just cling to our burdens, our "horses".  We love them so much!

One more time, God is patient.  "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him... He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry.  As soon as He hears it, He answers you."  This part of the chapter was very interesting.  My son's course is all on-line.  His virtual teacher is super frustrating sometimes.  Because he can't actually see him, all the contact is through email.  My son will send in an assignment or a question and he won't hear back from him for days!  How can he advance in his work if he doesn't know how he's doing?!  This drives my son crazy and certainly does nothing to help his anxiety.  But God, my son's God, is not like that.  Isaiah writes that God is not like his virtual teacher who never responds right away, instead he writes about my son calling out, "As soon as He hears it, He answers you.  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your TEACHER will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your TEACHER.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.  Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images.  You will scatter them as unclean things.  You will say to them, 'Be gone!'"  How amazing is that?  God is described as a TEACHER!  A TEACHER who listens, answers his cry right away, shows Himself to my son, speaks to him which way to go and reveals my son's carefully made idols of anxiety and fear.  My son was amazed.  He has a TEACHER who does answer him right away.  He never realized being anxious was a potential idol, but when I read that to him, he saw it.  I told him I was the same.  Anxiety is an idol!  Simple as that.  We both need to "scatter them as unclean things".  We have to say to them, "Be gone!"

Then, we prayed together, mother and son.  We committed to destroying our silly idols of anxiety. He'd never seen it that way before, but he confessed it out loud, as did I, and we started our day like Christian, leaving our burden at the cross.  What a wonderful day we both had!  We both walked around with a lighter feeling, with a feeling of anticipation about our day, not with the same heaviness that we'd been feeling.  Knowing our sin nature and the spiritual attacks that lie ahead, we must stand on guard against the enemy that hates us and seems to know our weaknesses.  He'll probably try to convince us to pick up our burden again.  But God is gracious to us and always shows us such mercy.  How grateful I am for His Word once again that shows me my sin, helps me to guide my own children in the right path and then gives us not only warnings, but encouragements to stay on the path.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Two Down, Six to Go.....

Last year our oldest daughter graduated.  This year, it was our oldest son as well as our middle daughter (from gr. 8).  What a night!  We get the privilege each year to speak into our children words of blessing in front of our homeschool community.  This is never hard for me as I could go on and on. What is hard is holding it together emotionally.  This year, more than one family stood on the stage, hugging and holding one another, saying such beautiful things that no one was able to be strong.  At one point, even a young boy graduating from gr. 8, heard the words from his mom and was wiping his own eyes.  How are you supposed to hold it together when even the kids can't?!

But, thank goodness for my son.  He saw me wiping my eyes just before I went up with my daughter and he leaned over and said, "You can't get all your tears out now!  You have to save some for me!" It was just what I needed to get a grip.  I got through her 2 minutes, virtually tear-free.  We were able to remind her, just like on her ceremony into womanhood, that she is like a fine china plate.  She has a purpose and though she has been set on a shelf in our family for a time, being carefully watched, protected and cared for, we now realize it is time to take her off the shelf and slowly but surely start to see her used for God's purposes.

Then it was my son's turn - gr. 12, oldest boy.  These tend to be the hardest when it is the oldest girl and boy.  They were the guinea pigs for everything and may need firstborn counselling at some point! After my daughter's grad last year, the next day I read a passage in 1 Chronicles where David is passing on the baton to his son Solomon.  When I read the words I knew a year ago it would be what I would say to my son last night.  It was perfect, because I knew the words came from God, not from me.

David "called for his son and charged him".  We did that last night, too.  David said to his son, "Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you.  Only may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God.  Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel.  Be strong and courageous.  Fear not: do not be dismayed.  With great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord.....Arise and work!  The Lord be with you!" (1 Chronicles 22:6-16)

It was perfect - that's exactly what we wanted our son to know, too.  He will only succeed if he follows the rules and laws of God.  He will need to be strong and courageous and fight fear and discouragement all the time.  It has been with great pains and great sacrifice that we have attempted to give him the education he has at home, a literal cost, an emotional cost, a spiritual cost.....but it was all worth it.  So now David simply puts it, "Get on with it!  Go!"  We ended our charge to him the same way - Arise and work!  The Lord be with you!

We shared a few more verses and I was completely fine.  Totally had it all together.  Until I put the mike down and my son said, "Can I say a few words?"  Oh no.  What was he going to say?  "Sure?" I whispered to him.  He then went on to briefly tell the story of Dmitri Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table.  In his research this year, my son learned about this famous man.  But what struck him was the story of his mother.  She saw his potential and was determined to get him a higher education. She traveled all over Russia with him determined to get him into university.  He was turned down at the first one, so she continued on with even greater determination.  She finally succeeded in getting him in and, as the story goes, she then died of exhaustion.  My son finished telling the story and then said (and I'm paraphrasing because it suddenly became a blur for me), "I recognize the sacrifice my parents have also made for me and my education and I want to honour their sacrifice by making something with my life."  Uh.....wasn't expecting that....don't know if that was a spur of the moment thing or what, but I was stunned.  It was hard to hold it together at that point.  Thank goodness I was already walking off the stage and didn't have to stay up there much longer.  Special words, a very special moment.

Before the parents and grads began their blessings to each child, our local member of parliament came and spoke to the graduating class.  He is only 19 years old, only a few years older, or months even, than some of the grads there!  He gave such a great charge to the grads, all from Scripture, as he is a solid believer who was also entirely homeschooled from beginning to end.  It was amazing.  So glad he was willing to come and speak.

All in all, a great night.  My younger two now know what grad is and hate it.  It is a looooong night! They started asking when it would be over right at the beginning.  Sorry!  Poor things have many graduations to sit through before it is their turn.  The desserts were their only thing to look forward to and running around playing tag in the parking lot.  They are still in bed and will be for a long time. My older ones don't get a break.  Just like the words in the Bible, they had to "arise and work".  It is tough growing up!

Two down, six to go........