Thursday, December 30, 2010

"We Will Dance"

Today, we said goodbye to a dear friend. Jennifer has been fighting ALS for the last few years and on Christmas she went to celebrate Jesus' birthday with Him. The sun, which had just started shining for the first time that day, shined on her face before she breathed her last breath.

One of my first memories of Jennifer was in the church nursery many years ago. I remember how she cuddled, rocked and walked those babies all around the room. I remember the joy she had around children. Jennifer watched our kids and even in her wheelchair loved to hold babies. Before becoming sick, she would come to clean our home with her close friend, Tammy, giving this tired Mommy a break. I so looked forward to those times because I not only had some extra help and a cleaner house, but I received such encouragement and love from this woman of God. David and I were also blessed when we had a Bible study with Jen and her husband, Gary for several weeks one summer.

The love of Jesus radiated through Jennifer's life. There was not a place that she went that one could not feel that love. Can you picture a dark room and the only light you have is a flashlight? As long as you shine that light around the room, you can see. Turn that light off and it's dark again. Jennifer was like that light, except that she kept shining. She was always the person you could talk to. She always had a shoulder to cry on. You knew if you asked for prayer that Jennifer would pray. She loved to sing and praise the Lord. She had a smile that glowed. She was a huge advocate for life and the unborn. She was not ashamed of the gospel. She loved and served her Creator with passion and wanted everyone to know Him.

Jennifer was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend. I have not known many people that had such a love for God and for others as Jennifer did. She was truly a beautiful woman of God and a wonderful ambassador for Christ.

Even though we all feel a tremendous loss and miss her beyond words, we know she is with her Lord at last. She has her voice again and can sing and shout praise to her Heavenly Father. She does not need that wheelchair anymore. She is walking, running and dancing before Him. Praise God that she is home! And, one day, we are going to dance beside her, giving glory and honor to the King of kings. Thank You, Lord for Jennifer's life. Thank You that we had the awesome privilege of knowing and loving her. Thank You that she is with You. Thank You for Your promise of eternal life to those that belong to You. We will all dance on those golden streets and sing the song of the Lamb. Praise the Lord!

We Will Dance

Sing a song of celebration

Lift up a shout of praise

for the Bridegroom will come,

the glorious One

And Oh, we will look on His face

We'll go to a much better place

Dance with all your might

Lift up your hands and clap for joy

The time's drawing near,

when He will appear

And oh, we will stand by His side

A strong, pure, spotless bride


We will dance on the streets that are golden

The glorious bride and the great Son of man

From every tongue and tribe and nation

We'll join in the song of the Lamb

Sing aloud for the time of rejoicing is near

The risen King, our groom, is soon to appear

The wedding feast to come

Is now near at hand

Lift up your voice,

Proclaim the coming Lamb

Monday, December 6, 2010

There Is Room in My Heart for Thee

Thanksgiving has come and gone, my Dad is home from the hospital, the snow is falling and the Advent season is in full swing. What a whirlwind the last couple of weeks has been! I am thankful for my Dad's recovery and the opportunities that I have had to spend time with him and my Mom. I am also thankful that no matter how crazy things become around our home, we continue to see God's loving hand as He daily provides for us.

Even though we do not participate in as many things as some families do, there still is a hint of busyness during this month of December. The oldest three children performed in their home school choir concert last weekend. They have a few more weeks of piano and violin lessons before our break. Christmas parties, visiting friends and relatives, viewing the beautiful lights, addressing cards, and making Christmas cookies are all on our list of things to do.

We know in our hearts that "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season", but it is easy to be caught up in all of the activities, that we still forget Him. Take away the lights, the cookies, the presents, even the beautiful music and guess Who is still there? Jesus. The Author of all Creation. The Alpha and Omega. The One who was and is and is to come. The Redeemer of mankind. The Word made flesh. The Truth. He humbly left His comfortable place in Heaven to be my Savior and my Lord. Jesus. Do we have room for Him or is He subtly forgotten while we are busy celebrating? May it never be. I want Him to occupy every room in my heart. I want Him to be first, above all earthly things. I want Him on the throne of my heart. May I make room for Him this Christmas and every day.

"Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, when Thou camest to earth for me. But, in Bethlehem's home there was found no room for Thy holy nativity.
O, come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Words Better Left Said

I've been thinking lately how prone we are to forget the impact different people have on our lives. Those who've known us all of our lives like our parents and siblings. Those we've met during our growing up years and those we've met in our adult lives. No matter how long we've known these special people, they influenced us in one way or another. On the other side, we've made an impact on others whether we knew it or not. For good or for bad, people remember us by our words, our actions and our character. I believe there are no coincidences in the people we meet along the way. I believe God always has a purpose in every meeting, every relationship and every life. The Lord has been showing me how thankful I should be for the many people that I've met over the years. He's also been showing me how important it is to be a faithful wife, a faithful mother, a faithful daughter, a faithful sister and a faithful friend. I will fail and let others down, but God is good and can restore the times when I've failed.

There is someone in my life that has made a tremendous impact on me and on so many people. Sometimes, I don't think he realizes how many lives he's touched. I'm hoping this week that he begins to realize just how special he is to so many. God knew him before the creation of the world and created him for a special purpose. There were many circumstances in his life that were less than desirable. At 15, his parents were divorced and he did not feel that he had his father's approval. He didn't always have the best relationship with his mother either. This continued for decades, even after he was married and had adult children. In spite of his early experiences, he was a fantastic student, singer, and dancer and was voted president of his high school class. His humor was a gift to everyone around him. He was a hard worker and loved to talk to people. He knew no strangers.

One day, he was visiting his mother in the hospital. I forget the reason she was there, but a pretty young lady who was training to be a nurse walked into the room and I think he was twitter pated. They dated for a little while and when they were both 20 years old, they married. Children came a few years later and he loved them. He did not do everything perfectly, but he trained them the best way he knew how.

There were tough times ahead though. Some time later, he was out of work. He wanted to work at a job where he could be a positive influence and the current job he had was not where he wanted to be. He took other jobs and worked for a while and then, for one reason or another, he was either let go or he decided to look for something else that wouldn't force him away from his family so much. There were many years of financial struggles, but he was very good at stretching a dollar, paying for things with cash and conserving the resources he had. Of course, it meant that the house would not be a show place, the kids would wear hand me downs and the family would not go on many big vacations. His wife began to work sometime later to help make ends meet. Together, they made many sacrifices for their children and for others. Even through the hard times, he kept his sense of humor and was also drawing closer to the Lord, discipling his children and always pointing them back to the Savior. Yes, there were some struggles. His wife and children did not always appreciate him during those times, even resenting the way things were, but through it all, they loved him very much and so many others loved being near him. I used to wonder if there was an imaginary magnet attached to him, because people could not help but to be drawn to him.
Tonight, this person who I thank God for everyday, this person who I love deeply is in a hospital bed after suffering from a stroke. This wonderful man is my Dad. He was never rich. He was not a man of great position or fame, but he has faithfully been a loving husband and father, a devoted friend and a child of God. He has made mistakes and yet has lived honorably. He pointed me and my siblings to the Lord Jesus Christ, praying for us, explaining the Bible and taking us to church. He has loved and cared for my Mom for nearly fifty one years. He instilled in us a love for God, for our country, for music and yes, even “The Andy Griffith Show”. He reached out to help others and made friends everywhere he went and continues to make friends even at the hospital. Life hasn't always been easy for him, but he has persevered.

God has impressed it on my heart to write another letter to my Dad. I wrote a letter to him last year for Father's Day here, but I still feel that there is more that needs to be said. One of the greatest tragedies is words left unsaid, so I am writing to him again.

Dear Dad,

Just like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life", I think you may have forgotten just how very special you are to all of us. If you had not been here on this Earth, there would have been a great hole, a missing piece to this life. Mom would have never had the opportunity to know such a loving and kind man. Of course, Kevin, Kris and I wouldn’t be here. All of your precious grandchildren wouldn’t be here. And all the scores of others whose lives you've touched would not have known you. Dad, I know we've had our disagreements and even a short, but painful period of time where we did not speak. I didn't always appreciate what you did for me when I was under your roof. Those are things I've wanted to erase, but God used all of it to strengthen us and to bring us closer. And, Dad, I want you to know that I hold no bitterness against you. I have forgiven you for your mistakes and I ask for your forgiveness where I've been wrong.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to being a little girl. Do you remember the times you would sit with me when I was sick? Holding my hand and praying for me? I even saw tears in your eyes at times because you did not want me to suffer. Do you remember the tea parties I had with Jesus and how I invited you to join us? How about the time we made that terrible coffee cake together? You ate it anyway. I have so many wonderful memories from childhood and continuing through today. So much laughter, many tears, yes, more than a few heated words, but always love. Thank you, Daddy for loving me. Thank you, for loving all of us. We only pray that we can return that love to you.

So, Dad, never ever think that you have been a failure. As Clarence said to George, “A man is no failure if he has friends.” You are loved by so many and better yet, you are loved by the greatest Friend of all, the Creator of the Universe who very lovingly placed you in this life for His glory and so that we would be blessed. Thank you for everything, Dad. We love you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Mommy, Where Did You Get Laryngitis?"

That's the question I received tonight from my seven year old daughter, Hannah. She seems genuinely interested in my predicament. Beginning last week, several of us have had colds. And, good 'ol Mom loses her voice. Every time! I only have to cough a few times and my voice just goes away. It is quite frustrating. Our read-aloud times, Bible and character lessons have been either put on hold or I let my oldest child read for me. Instead of leading the kids in singing during our worship time in the morning, they have decided they can now sing when they are exercising together. They were so cute today when they were trying to decide which praise song fit best with each exercise. I think "King of Kings" was sung during sit-ups. "Clap Your Hands" for the jumping jacks and "Seek Ye First" for the cool down period. They are creative.

There are times I feel ignored. Unless I hit the table, whistle or clear my throat, the children do not know that I am about to talk. Trying to call them back upstairs when free time is over is nearly impossible. Flicking the light switch on and off helps. Answering the phone? Not going to happen.

As difficult as it is for me to lose my voice, it reminds me to think about what is really worth saying. I know there are so many times during my day, that I just carelessly speak. Sometimes, the words are hurtful to someone or just a bad example of a quiet spirit. Sometimes, they are just a waste of breath. Oh, how I wish to end the constant chatter. Proverbs and James have a lot to teach about the tongue. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue". "Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." My desire is to choose my words more carefully, that my words would utter praise for my Creator and that they will encourage and edify my husband, my children and others around me.

I have a dear friend who was diagnosed with ALS(Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) a few years ago. A beautiful, vibrant woman of God who has touched so many lives. I had not seen her for a few months after her diagnosis, but would hear updates on the physical changes she was experiencing. First, she was walking with a cane. Not long after that, she was in a wheel chair. Then, she lost her voice. This is when I finally got to visit her again. She would gesture, write on her small white board and she would hug. It was a hard visit for me, but I so loved seeing her again and witnessing her trust in God.

I couldn't imagine really losing my voice. I would miss talking and really miss singing. I depend on my voice. But, you know what? Everything I have is from God and belongs to Him. If I lose my voice for a time or even for the rest of my life, will I still praise Him?

So, "Hannah, where did I get laryngitis?" Perhaps, I can say from God. I think He may be wanting my attention. I'm always so busy talking that I don't spend enough time listening to Him and using my voice for righteousness. And, besides, "laryngitis" is a great spelling word. It's going on the board tomorrow.

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Location in Maine

After pinching myself a few times, I realize that I'm not dreaming. I am sitting in the loft of a cabin we've rented in Maine looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. Coming to Maine has been a dream of mine since childhood. That dream has grown over the years and now, my dream has come true. For the last two summers, my husband and I talked about coming here, but it didn't work out for one reason or another. Now that we've finally made it, Maine means so much more to me. I've waited a long time, but it has been worth the wait.

In preparation for our trip, we finished reading "Sarah, Plain and Tall" and are reading the sequel, "Skylark" on the road. Most of the story takes place on the prairie, but Sarah was from Maine and we thought it would be fun to see some of the places we have read about while on our vacation.

We arranged for our baby-sitter/mommy's helper, Anna to take care of our animals for us while we are gone. She is coming twice a day to take care of the horses and the cats. We took Annie, our dog to Anna's farm where she is running, jumping and playing with her siblings and corn cobs, pine cones and cattails. We are missing our little puppy, but know she will be loved and cared for until we return.

Packing for nine people was interesting. The older ones packed on their own with Mom coming behind them to see their progress. Since we'd never been to Maine, I really didn't know how to pack for a September trip to the Pine Tree State. We tried to pack a variety of summer and fall clothes, but we still didn't have enough warm clothes. At least the cabin would have a washer and dryer! So, with suitcases, backpacks, coolers, diapers, a portable crib, baby gate, strollers, a bag of snacks and a bungee cord to hold it all down, we were on our way.

As we drove through each state, we would cheer every time we crossed a border. We drove through Pennsylvania and New York where we stopped our first night for a hotel. We listened to Jonathan give us the "hand dryer" report every time we stopped for gas and to stretch our legs. This is his new interest right now. He is intrigued by these machines and pays attention to how many watts and what model each one is. After New York, we drove through Massachusetts and New Hampshire with the excitement building and questions floating through the truck like, "Are we there yet? Are we ever going to get to Maine?" "Yes, Dear, we will be there soon," I would say. Deep down, I was becoming a little impatient myself, but to help pass the time, we listened to an entire volume of Jonathan Park, read the Bible, our book and marvelled at the changing scenery from state to state. When we came to the Pistataqua River Bridge, it was really time to cheer, for on the other side of that bridge was Maine!

After driving through some major cities and little coastal towns, we found our turn that would take us to the Chalet by the Bay cottage. Up winding dirt roads, we made our way through the forests and turned into the long winding driveway to the top of a hill. It was dark with the exception of a few lights left on inside, but we wouldn't see the amazing view until the next morning.

Our cabin is outside the little town of Machias. It sits on a hilltop overlooking the Machias Bay in northeastern Maine. We are surrounded by forest on all four sides. The forest is carpeted with moss and feels like a velvet cushion as we walk. The kids found a hideout that is made of huge boulders and evergreens. The thing I notice the most is the unbelieveable stillness and peace there. Even when the kids are busy exploring animal tracks and picking wildflowers, it is quiet with echoes of laughter bubbling through the trees, as if the trees themselves are laughing. The forest has also become a wonderful place to reflect on the goodness and provisions of God. How I'll treasure the quiet moments with Him in those woods.

For the first full day we were in Maine, we decided to take it easy and stay close to the cabin, only going to town for dinner and a trip to the store. We were all exhausted from that long trek through six states and my husband and I wondered how we pulled it off with our crew. God gave us what we needed for the trip and we were thankful for His protection. At the store, we enjoyed listening to the accent so unique to this area and we stocked up on the things we would need for the week.

The next day was Monday, and this was the day we would visit one of those things I hold dear. I cannot put it into words, but for some reason, lighthouses are very special to me. I've always admired pictures of them and read the histories of many. I've even traveled to quite a few over the years. West Coast, East Coast, or Great Lakes lighthouses. It doesn't matter. They are simply beautiful to me. They seem to offer hope and comfort to me as they have for countless ships that have been guided by them. Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic or maybe I'm just reminded of the hope I have in Christ and how He is my light through the storms of life. Whatever the reason, I almost get chills every opportunity I have to visit one of these magnificent buildings.

The lighthouse we visited was the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. This 49 foot red and white candy-striped beauty stands at the easternmost point of the United States. I recently read that this particular one is among the most photographed lighthouses in America. Across the water lies New Brunswick, Canada. We took our share of pictures, circling the lighthouse to capture different angles with the kids shouting that we were "the easternmost home schooling family in America!" We toured the building that used to be the light keeper's quarters, but could not enter the tower as it was not open to the public. We then walked on a trail that led to a steep staircase. Leaving the strollers behind, we carried our two youngest and with the help of the older children, we led the toddlers down the stairs to a beautiful rocky beach. With the lighthouse in view, we could still enjoy its beauty while exploring all of the fun things that come with the territory: tide pools, various rocks, shells, a crab hiding under a rock, ocean waves and water birds in pursuit of food. In an effort to prolong my visit at this special place, I found a big flat rock to stop and nurse little Esther. She probably won't remember that when she's older, but I'll always cherish those moments with her and with my whole family at the West Quoddy Lighthouse.

On Tuesday, after a little breakfast and clean up at the cabin, we packed everyone in the truck for that day's adventure. We were heading to Bar Harbor, pronouncing it, "Bah Hahbah" like the locals, and then, to Acadia National Park. Upon our arrival in town, I turned around to make sure everyone was getting out of their seat belts and found that Hannah who had been happily chewing gum was now looking quite dismayed. Her gum had fallen out of her mouth and into her pretty long hair. Sometimes, I'm able to get this annoying substance out of hair, but not this time. So after a homemade haircut, we plopped some of the little ones into strollers, threw out some trash, did a quick head count and began our stroll through Bar Harbor. The first stop was a souvenir shop that had a huge sale on T-shirts. That day was warmer than we had planned and most of us were wearing long sleeved shirts, so we bought and changed into our new shirts and were ready to go "on the town". But, wait! A familiar question was raised by a few of the kids, "Can we go to the bathroom?" Let's not forget some diaper changes and a certain little one wanting to nurse. After the bathroom break, the changing of diapers, nursing little Esther and some pigeon chasing in the park thrown in, we were really ready!

We went to some nice little shops and watched sailboats and a big Cruise ship in the harbor. We also stopped at a whale museum which was of special interest to the oldest three kids. We received the usual stares and comments, "Are they all yours? You sure have your hands full!" We appreciated the kind smiles from others, too. We were enjoying the day, but I was aching to get to Acadia. Bar Harbor is a pretty town, but I prefer the quiet of the forests, the mountains and the portions of seaside where there are less people.

We began our drive on Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park and what a drive it was! We saw almost indescribable views of distant lighthouses, the ocean, the shoreline, and the mountains. Even the sounds were like a melody. The sea gulls soaring in the air, the waves crashing against the shore and the Maine breeze blowing through the pine. I quickly realized that this was one of those places I would want to come again and again. We made several stops along the way, but one stop in particular was Sand Beach. We didn't think to bring swimsuits that morning, so the children were just going to walk in the sand and shallow parts, but the waves were just too tempting for them to avoid. The children thought it great fun to jump when each wave came. At first, they were successful in not getting too wet, but that did not last! The children rolled up their pants, but were still soaked to the skin. They will always remember the long drive back to the cabin in wet clothes, but it was worth it! They had so much fun playing at the beach that day and we even met another home school family vacationing there.

The next day was my birthday. I did not ask for any gifts as I thought that spending my birthday in Maine was quite enough. My dear husband and children still made my day special, however. Breakfast was sausage and French toast with wild blueberry syrup. My husband then took all of the kids except for the youngest two into town for a few hours. I had the cabin to myself. I straightened up and made sure the table was ready for the party that we would have later. After some quiet time, the family returned with a bouquet of flowers and fresh lobsters that were caught by a local fisherman. He had just caught them shortly before my family went to pick them up. We planned to have "Surf & Turf", so David fired up the grill for the steaks and with Rachel's help, began heating the lobster pots. Of course, I couldn't resist having a little fun, so the kids and I put the live lobsters on the floor for awhile. I had named some of them, so when it was time to drop them in the pots, I left the kitchen! I didn't stay sad for too long though. It was a delicious dinner. After stuffing ourselves, we lit the candles on my birthday cake,(peanut butter chocolate from a restaurant in town), and my family sang to me. I love all of those sweet voices! We completed my day with an episode of "Andy Griffith" and then fell into bed.

On Thursday, we made the trip to Camden, Maine where "Sarah" from the books was from. Camden is a charming little town. The houses are quite fancy and expensive as are the shops. Maybe I misread a price tag, but I was almost sure I found a toss pillow that was nearly $200! It was nice to look. The boats in the harbor were beautiful. My husband was especially interested in them as he had lived on sailboats when he was young. We walked the streets and tried some tasty treats at a bakery, but we were more than ready to head back to the cabin that evening. Camden was a too expensive for our liking, but we also felt extremely out of place, traipsing around with our large bunch.

Friday was going to be our last full day in Machias, so we decided to keep the day simple by visiting a few shops and sight-seeing just outside of town. We found a thrift shop that was a bit messy, but we came out of there with a huge bag of clothes for only $2. That was more my kind of shopping! We drove past Fort O'Brien which was the site of the first naval battle of the American Revolution. We stopped at Roque Bluffs State Park where one side was saltwater and the other side was freshwater. We even pulled into the parking lot of a factory where they process wild blueberries. The smell of blueberries permeated the air. We spent the rest of the day back at the cabin, resting, hiking in the woods, washing clothes and packing, since the next day was the day we had to begin our trip home.

Saturday came too early. Even after my husband and I stayed up late the night before, we still had so much to do. We were aiming to have the cabin cleaned and the truck packed by a certain time, but as always, we continued to find more things that needed done. We couldn't put the younger kids on "pause" either, so we needed to attend to them from time to time. My dear husband is quite good at packing the truck, but even he was getting a bit frustrated as we had to rearrange things to fit just right. We went to the woods and sat on the front porch to take in the view one last time, stealing a kiss from my Hubby and then we finally pulled away from the little cabin which had been our home for the last week.

We headed back to Acadia National Park for a few hours. There was a mountain that we had heard about. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the eastern seaboard. It was a slow, but beautiful drive to the top. When we finally made it, we parked the truck and gathered our things. We hadn't found a place to eat breakfast or lunch that day, so we opted to pull the peanut butter and jelly out of the cooler. Carrying the kids, the cameras, and our lunches, we found a nice spot to sit and enjoy the view. We're still convinced that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches never tasted better! It was a sunny, but windy and cool day at the top of the mountain. The view was gorgeous. We could see faraway islands and the town of Bar Harbor below. Even though our time was limited since we really had to begin our trip home, it was so worth seeing.

Our next stop was the L.L.Bean outlet store in Ellsworth, Maine. We didn't have time to go to their big headquarters in Freeport, but this was the next best thing. It was fun to shop for things firsthand instead of through a catalog. We were behind schedule by a couple of hours, so we only got as far as Portland that night. We stopped at a Denny's and prayed that God would provide an affordable and safe place to stay as it wasn't a very good area. We were searching on the internet and weren't finding anything, but just then, the manager of the restaurant came to our table and helped us to find a motel. It wasn't very big, but it was all we needed and the kids got to witness an answer to prayer.

Sunday morning, we said goodbye to Maine. My husband and I mapped out a different route home which took us through New Hampshire and Vermont. The leaves were just starting to change, so it was a lovely drive. As always, we had to make some stops for the babies, assembly line diaper changes, bathroom breaks and gas, but we wanted to get as far as we possibly could without getting too tired. We wanted to take it easy on our return trip, so we finished driving for the day and found a motel in Herkimer, New York. There was a Denny's there, too, so we went there for dinner. Like Dunkin Donuts, Denny's was becoming an all-time favorite in our family. The hostess led our family to a back room where there was only one other party. We had settled in and ordered our dinners when the folks next to us began singing the familiar song, "The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength". Our family started humming along and soon, we were all singing the song together in the restaurant! The people next to us were a singing group in the area that ministered at nursing homes. We sang hymns and other praise songs and then, prayed together. It was a powerful and encouraging time for all of us.

On Monday, we began the last day of the trip. We were determined to stop at a certain waterfalls on the way home. Seventeen years earlier, my husband and I had traveled to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for our honeymoon and now, we were going to take our seven children! This time, we visited the American side and I could almost see my dear husband and me across the falls. So much life has been lived since that time. It was a strange and yet wonderful feeling to be back and to share it with our children. It was definitely worth it to drive a little out of our way, so the kids could experience this amazing place.

We continued driving until we arrived in Pennsylvania where there was a welcome center. Here the kids could run and play and slide down a big hill. Lake Erie was in view and beside the parking lot beyond the fence was a sweet smelling vineyard. The smell of Concord grapes was a strong as the smell of the wild blueberries back in Maine. It was refreshing.

We arrived in Ohio and made one more stop for dinner and gas. All of the kids were sleeping when we finally pulled into our driveway late that night. It was good to be home. We thanked God once again for keeping us safe and for bringing us so far.

I started this post in the loft of that cabin in Maine and I am finishing this post in my kitchen, looking out over the pasture where the horses are contentedly grazing. I thought I was dreaming weeks ago when I was so far away from home and sometimes, I still feel like I'm dreaming. But, I'm not. We really did make it to Maine and we really are home again. I miss Maine very much and hope one day that we can return, but as "Sarah" says in "Sarah, Plain and Tall", "I will always miss my old home, but the truth of it is I would miss you more." No, Maine has never been my home, but it was a place that I always wanted to visit. Sometimes, I think I made visiting there more important than I should have and perhaps, that is why God did not allow me to go for so long. Whatever the reason, I am thankful that we could go as a family, but even more thankful FOR this family. I am content to be with my family, wherever God has us. God used us on our trip to minister to people. We were ministered to and grew closer to Him and to each other during this time. God continues to use us and to work in us at home. And, one day, we will all be in the most wonderful place that we could ever imagine. We will forever be with our Creator. I pray that I long for there more than any other place.

"When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory!"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting Back to Normal

I've been away from blogging for a while, but am working on a post I started on our recent vacation. It chronicles the days leading to our trip, while we were at our destination and the road home. So, I'm adding a kind of "coming soon" post. We have started our new school year and are busy unpacking, washing clothes and getting reacquainted with our animals. It has been difficult getting back to normal, but I am trying to ease the kids and myself back into the usual routine. We know God has much in store for us during the coming year and we look forward to the days ahead.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"The Re-Integrated Family and the Return of Love"

"It should go without saying that the worldview of modernism did not consider the priority of the family and community, while it built its schools, churches, universities, and corporations. The combination of the dissolution of family farms and businesses, the corporate job for father, and another corporate job for mother, the rise of a "teaching class," the segregation of the children into classrooms by age, and non-interactive forms of entertainment (such as television and video games), all served to undermine the vision God had for families. God's vision for education was about relationship, discipleship, mentorship, life integration, and character development. "You shall teach your children my Words as you sit in your house, as you walk by the way, as you rise up, and as you lie down" (Deut. 6:7). But, as a bad worldview worked through the industrial revolution and the modern educational systems, it became impossible to pull off this kind of discipleship, and the end result is a corruption of family relationships and education, and a badly crippled faith."

Click on the link above to read the rest of this excellent article by Kevin Swanson.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is My Home a Haven?

Home. It's the place we live. The place we rest, eat, work, play, learn. For some of my children, home is the place they were born.

The word "home" is such a comforting word for me. In 1828, Noah Webster defined home as, "a close place, or place of rest." I think the word, "haven" goes hand in hand with "home". Webster defines "haven" as, "a shelter; a place of safety." Is my home a haven? A place of rest and safety? Or, have I invited the world into our home? As a home school mom and as a Christian, I have a desire and a duty to protect my kids from worldly influences. Those things that take our minds away from God and encourage idolatry. Those things that can harm, cause pain or stress.

In many ways, my children have not been introduced to things as early as I was growing up. Going to public school and having regular television influenced me greatly. I was taught wrong from right, but being surrounded by this culture as much as I was shaped my character. I always thought of myself as sensitive to anything that was not pleasing to the Lord, but after time, I began to relax my convictions. It wasn't popular to be that sensitive and I also was very good at rationalizing why certain things were okay to watch or to listen to. When God started blessing us with our own children, He began restoring those sensitivities again. He gave me discernment about things that I once thought were acceptable and taught me just how unprofitable or even how dangerous it was to invite the culture into our home.

My husband and I paid for cable for a few short years. We enjoyed some very good programs from time to time, some not so good, and some that were just a waste of time. I remember one evening when we were flipping through channels. My husband was trying to figure out what a particular show was and the next thing I remember, a robotic car began gunning down a man right in front of my little ones! We had two children at the time. Of course, I jumped in front of the television before they saw very much, but I was so angry and sad at the same time. There was no warning and I prayed that they wouldn't understand what little they did see. Programming that wasn't violent, but had subtle and unbiblical messages were just as bad. After much prayer, we cancelled our cable. We couldn't afford the extra expense, but more importantly, we couldn't afford what the television was doing to our family. Not only were the programs and commercials depraved, but they were taking precious time away from us. Time we'd never get back.

Getting rid of the cable was a wise decision, but we still have our videos. We still have our music collection. We still have internet. Simply having those things is not wrong, but the Lord has been convicting me in this area of what I allow into my home. There are definitely things I do not want our children to listen to or to view. These things may not be evil, but are still too mature for the kids. My husband and I do need to be aware of current events in the news. We need to listen to sermons that are geared more for our ears, but are we truly being wise in what we allow for ourselves? Is what we are listening to and viewing bringing about the righteousness of God in our home? Everything we do should be done in the light of God's Word. If it is found to be antithetical to what we know is true and right, what are we going to do about it? We have favorite movies. Some are just fine, but there are those that we find hysterical and yet are not pleasing to our Lord. "Why am I laughing at that?", I ask myself. In both movies and music, we are praying that God will show us what needs to go and what can stay.

Our home should be a haven, a place of safety and rest. A place where we can collect our thoughts, pray for and encourage one another. A place to shut out the evil and the darkness of this world. Our home should be open to others outside of our family. We need to be salt and light and pray for every person who comes through our doors, but we don't need to invite this godless culture into our everyday home life. We must not stop with our videos and music either. I question those "harmless" catalogs that encourage covetousness and discontent. The toy catalogs, LL Bean, and even the home school catalogs(gasp!) that promise fun, beauty and enrichment for our home and children. We need to shrug off "selfish ambition"(Phil.2:3) and "complaining"(Phil.2:14). We need to continue to dwell on "whatever is true, noble, right, pure..."(Phil.4:8). We need to meditate on and memorize God's Word. We need to "sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord"(Eph.5:19).

I am praying that God will continue to work in our hearts and show us the areas we've invited into our home that have no place here. I'm praying that He will make our home a haven. A haven of rest.

  1. My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea,
    So burdened with sin and distressed,
    Till I heard a sweet voice, saying, “Make Me your choice”;
    And I entered the “Haven of Rest”!
    • Refrain:
      I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
      I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
      The tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep,
      In Jesus I’m safe evermore.
  2. I yielded myself to His tender embrace,
    In faith taking hold of the Word,
    My fetters fell off, and I anchored my soul;
    The “Haven of Rest” is my Lord.
  3. The song of my soul, since the Lord made me whole,
    Has been the old story so blest,
    Of Jesus, who’ll save whosoever will have
    A home in the “Haven of Rest.”
  4. How precious the thought that we all may recline,
    Like John, the beloved so blest,
    On Jesus’ strong arm, where no tempest can harm,
    Secure in the “Haven of Rest.”
  5. Oh, come to the Savior, He patiently waits
    To save by His power divine;
    Come, anchor your soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
    And say, “My Beloved is mine.”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Quest for the Clean Organized Home

So, here we are in the middle of our summer school. A little math. A little reading. Wonderful read-alouds about Eli Whitney and the ship "Old Ironsides". We continue to read in the Psalms every morning, watch our Picture Proverbs, and study from our character training book,(the current trait being "contentment"). My big plans to begin our book on Botany have not happened yet. Instead, we have been watching "Forces of God's Creation" from Vision Forum covering topics on volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Library videos on Thomas Edison, raising sheep, and the ancient Inca culture have offered a nice variety as well. Better yet has been watching another caterpillar munching on leaves in a little home we prepared for him and then, making his chrysalis. We are hoping that we can witness the moment he comes out as a butterfly. It's a laid back schedule, but we are learning.

However, there is one very important task I've been putting off the entire summer and that has been to get my house back in order. With sick animals, the addition of a puppy, out of town company, day trips and the daily responsibilities, I have just not found the time or the motivation to do the extra cleaning and organizing that our home needs. And, honestly, when I think about it, I realize this job never ends. Just when I finish one room, another one is waiting to be cleaned and on my return to the "clean" room, I find it's in disarray again. Such is the home of a mom with young children. Lots of laughter, but lots of toys, books, papers, rocks, wrappers and let's not forget the fingerprints on the windows!

I do find myself claiming the martyr title from time to time, complaining about how the older kids and how even the husband just "doesn't get it". "Why does he leave his dirty clothes on the floor? The hamper is a few feet away!" How about that counter in the kitchen that we have named, "Daddy's Junk Counter?" The barn? I won't even touch that one, except when I go out there to look for my gloves or rose trimmers and I'm tripping on everything! And, then, I hear my thoughts and my words and realize that I'm not acting as his loving wife and being grateful for the hard worker he is. Now, really? Is it going to kill me to pick up his clothes? No. The junk counter? He'll get to it. It's not in my way. The barn? Have I forgotten just how many times, he has to make room in there to fix a car or the tractor? Have I forgotten the pressure he's under at work, the last minute business trips which require quite a bit of time away?

The kids? Well, yes, they do need to do their part. They need to be responsible with their chores. They need discipline. But, is it loving discipline to gripe about how many times I have to empty their bathroom trash or wash their clothes? Should they be thankful that their mom feeds them, makes sure they have clothes to wear and cleans the places where they sleep and play? Yes, but I cannot control their hearts. I will pray for attitudes of thankfulness and a willingness to help and to be of service. I will teach them, but I need to forgive them when they are neglectful, praise them when they do a good job and I should be a loving and Godly example to them in my words and actions.

"And, Dawne...what are you doing to clean up your little messes?", I ask myself. My bedroom has become the room where the home school books and papers get dumped when it's dinner time and I don't have time to sort them. Mail and toys with no homes get stashed there, too. How about that big bag of clothes that needs to be washed by hand? The school room? Yikes! I mostly use that room to store the kids' work and past and future curriculum and books. We like to use the chalkboard when it's required, but lately, that's impossible. We can't even walk in there! Now, granted, I did not make most of the mess, but I did allow it.

So now, I'm getting somewhere. "Admitting you have a problem is the first step"... Yes, I need to have more order in this home and I'm part of the problem. Last week, I had a very valid reason to be motivated to get busy. An old friend from my teenage years was coming for a visit! Unfortunately, I panicked. I began shouting orders to the kids right and left, heart pounding, the anger rising when they weren't quick enough. Some of it was good for them, well, not the shouting part, but when I had a precise plan of action and told them how important it was for everyone to pitch in, it was quite effective. The three oldest cleaned their bedrooms and the big playroom in the basement, picking up every piece of trash and even getting out the big Shop Vac to make it super clean. My friend was bringing her two children and my kids wanted it nice for them. I did get a lot done, but I still had so much more to do. I was tired from working hard for two solid days, trying to fit in some school and managing the house without David,(yes, he was on one of those long business trips). I just decided to relax with the kids during dinner and we'd finish the most important things the next morning before she arrived. Then, the phone rang. It was my friend having to cancel the visit. Her little boy was fighting a bad infection and needed some down time at home. "Well, there goes that! But, wait! Daddy will be home tomorrow night and look at what we've accomplished!", I told the kids. We were disappointed about the cancelled visit, but we planned to reschedule it and were sure happy that we cleaned up for Daddy!

I do have some very helpful resources to aid me in this "Quest for the Clean Organized Home". Now, if only I could find them...Oh wait. Here are a few:

"Help for the Harried Homeschooler" by Christine Field, specifically Chapter 2: "Chaos Control, Getting and Staying Organized". The entire book is so refreshing and encouraging, but I especially could relate to this chapter.

"101 Ways to Clean Out the Clutter" by Emilie Barnes. A very short, but practical book that I'm beginning to utilize.

"Managers of Their Homes-A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschool Families" by Steven and Teri Maxwell. I really appreciate this book and plan to start working on our schedule for the coming year. This is a wonderful site. I don't read it everyday, but I have read some very helpful hints to help me on my quest.

Above all else, the Word of God is what I need. I am comforted in knowing that the Lord understands my hectic days and He continues to remind me what's important. Hearts turned toward Him.

Titus 2:3-4: "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God."

Proverbs 31:25-28, 30: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her...Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

As a wife and home school mom, but more important as a child of God, I have decided to continue on this quest to organize our home. I desire for a home that runs smoother and with a little less bickering about lost items and things that trip us, but most of all, I desire to work hard at the job God has called me to. Every room I clean, every paper I file, every load of laundry I wash is for His glory. Who knows? He may have some work for me to do in my eternal home. This is the training ground. And, with that, it's time for bed. Another big day tomorrow!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Just When I Was Enjoying Our Little Break!

My calendar says that tomorrow is our first day of summer school. I'm planning on keeping the next four weeks simple before our vacation. Our routine really won't be any different except we will be throwing school subjects in with the diaper changes, the naps, the toddler patrol and the nursing infant. Oh, I almost forgot the new puppy, too. She takes a bit of time as well.

We're already not getting a very good start. Everyone went to bed later than usual. We were busy watching old home videos and rearranging pictures on the walls. Now, that Esther has joined the family, we've found that the wall dedicated to pictures of the children is getting smaller and smaller. So, as of tonight, we've upgraded the pictures to the big wall in the living room.

Did I mention that I don't even know what subjects we're covering? I have thought of a few things to study, but I realize it's going to be a challenge to give them work to keep them sharp and yet keeping it simple. I'm thinking a little Bible, Math-U-See, reading, character training, Botany and some history mixed in and I think we have a plan! Of course, I'm also praying that God will direct me during this month and we will cover what we need to cover.

And, so it begins. But, it never really ended. We've been learning a lot this summer. We learned about what it means to grieve when a dear pet dies. We are learning how to take care of a precious new puppy. We've picked blueberries and learned to freeze them and bake yummy recipes with them. We're gardening and continuing to take care of our other animals. We've had field trips to the zoo, the science center and Amish country. We were encouraged during our annual home school conference. The older ones are helping take care of the younger ones. We've had many opportunities of practicing our conflict/resolution skills in this family and as always, we are reading God's Word.

I was enjoying our little break, but I am going to enjoy a few weeks of more directed study. More than that, I will continue to be thankful for the freedom to disciple and teach our children at home. I will be thankful for all seven of these "little blessings" and I will be thankful for however long I have to serve my Lord on this Earth.

"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Do We Home School?

Through the years, I have thought about this question and would jokingly cite all of the 500 and some reasons to home school. On a more serious tone, I would then list many very good reasons why my husband and I chose to home school our children. Let's teach a Christian world view, to keep the kids away from subjects we felt they were too young to face, to get a more well-rounded education, to keep them from being labeled, to keep them safe. These were just a few of the reasons that I would give to myself as well as to people that would ask us. But, lately, I've thought a bit more on the subject and I can honestly say that there is one main reason that we have chosen this task of home schooling. Simply put, we want to honor God's command to disciple our children. In Deuteronomy 6,God says: "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Ephesians 6:4 states, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." This can not be effectively done when we choose to outsource their discipleship and education to others. I would never go so far to say that they cannot learn from anyone besides their parents. Our children have had piano teachers, choir directors, 4-H advisers, and horseback riding instructors that helped to mentor and teach them, but when we willingly allow them to be away from us for the main part of their days and months, what are we doing? God gave our children to us, as well as the responsibility to disciple them.

I have a garden that does very well when I take care of it. So much work goes into it at the beginning of each summer, but it has to continue. We can till, rake, plant and water to our hearts' content, but if we do not spend the hours weeding between the rows, we have a huge mess and sometimes, we lose what we've planted. I have to admit that some weeds are actually quite pretty. I like to call them "wildflowers", but let's face it. They are still weeds. They are not the plants I wanted in my garden. And, so it goes with our children. We can tell them about Jesus, read Bible stories, take them to church and try to keep them away from the evil influences of the world, but if we send them away from us the rest of the time, you know, the 900 plus hours they spend at school and the time they spend in Sunday school and youth groups later on, we are going to find that our children are overcome by weeds. And, I mean the kind of weeds that if pulled may uproot any "good" we have planted into them. No, we cannot keep them away from everything. We live in a very dark sinful world. There will be times they will make unwise choices as we all do, but home schooling or rather discipling our children will equip them for this life more effectively than any school could.

Another question that my husband and I have asked ourselves is what are the goals for our children? If our goals for them are: to do well in school, to land a good job, to find what their "knack" is or to build self-confidence, etc. then, I believe we are missing the point. Of course, we all want our children to be able to succeed, but our first and most important goal should be to lovingly direct them to their Creator. Whether "Johnny" can read, write and breeze through his math assignments or not will not matter at life's end. Our days are numbered. We were made for eternity, not here. "Here" is going to be gone one day. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." We are here right now for God, not for us. Everything we do now, is preparing us for something far greater. We have a lot of "weeding" to do. We need to start before it's too late for our children. I'd rather start now, while the weeds are small.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"I Love This Crazy, Tragic, Sometimes Almost Magic, Awful Beautiful Life"

Although I don't support the values in this country song by Darryl Worley, I'm going to borrow the title to describe my life these days. Blogging has been at an almost standstill since our Esther was born. We are settling into somewhat of a routine now, but I'm finding that I need to improve my strategy to "get it all done". And, guess what? I am not "getting it all done!" Wow! This is my seventh child and I am still surprised at how much time and energy I need just for one small helpless human. I am not complaining, but I am realizing once again, that when I do not lean on God, my energy is low, my priorities are not lined up where they should be and I become disappointed with myself.
Here is a typical day in our home:
6:30-7:00: Wake up, nurse Essie and put back to bed
7:00-8:00: Set out breakfast items, drinks, clothes for the little ones, dress myself, wash, put on the coffee, stretch out, read a little Bible, make sure the older ones are up.
8:00-9:00: Worship: reading of the Psalms, singing, prayer; enforce chores, dress little ones and make sure everyone has eaten.
9:00-10:00: Older kids finish outside chores and Hannah and I watch the toddlers and clean up the living room and kitchen.
10:00-12:00: The kids exercise, we study from our character training book, watch Picture Proverbs and we do some seat work like handwriting, math and reading, and practice piano.(Essie usually sleeps most of the morning and then, wakes up during this time, which means, nurse, change diaper and playtime with her).
12:00-1:00: Lunch and clean up, nurse Essie.
1:00-3:00: Get kids settled down, bedrooms ready for naps, change diapers, fill sippy cups, take 4 yr.old to the bathroom and put the little ones down for naps. Essie is usually still awake, so the older kids play with her, rest and read books.
3:00-4:30: Read-aloud with the older ones, put Essie down for another nap, finish up school for the day,(Horse History with Rachel, grammar, science).
4:30-6:00: Older kids play downstairs or outside, horse chores, younger ones wake up, have their diapers changed, eat snacks and join the older ones to play. Nurse Essie.
6:00-7:00: Prepare dinner, finish dishes, clean counters, high chair, and table. Sweep and pick up dining room and living room if there's time, greet Hubby and try to smile. :)
7:00-8:30: Dinner, Bible reading, nurse Essie, clean up and down time with Daddy.
8:30-9:30: Baths,(not every night), nighttime chores, leftover school, maybe a short show like, "The Andy Griffith Show" on DVD,nurse Essie.
9:30-10:00: Make sure kids are in bed and asleep, dress for bed, put on the tea kettle.
10:00-?: Tea with Hubby, bills, checking account, school preparation, reading, computer time, other chores like dishes, folding laundry, etc. and a little sleep.
This sample schedule is an ideal day. Throw in a day that has some extras errands in town, piano lessons, gardening and household projects, Hubby out of town on a business trip, then it can get a little more challenging.(That's where the "crazy" part comes in). Throw in a favorite barn cat dying, then a week later, my beloved cat of nearly 17 years dying, you have the "tragic" part. Of course, on the very day little Mendelssohn died, our dear Annie the border collie came into our lives. Insert "magic". Of course, we don't believe in magic here, but we do believe in a very loving and compassionate God who cares for even little things like this. He knew the perfect time for our new puppy to come. He answered my prayer that Mendelssohn would die peacefully in his sleep and allow me to cuddle with him one last time. Those little things matter to God. So, it's not really magic, but hey, that word is in the title. Anyway, there are other areas I would rather not admit to having in my life. The "awful" parts come when I am not helping my husband. Thoughtless words, miscommunication, unforgiveness, and not living in our God given roles are just a few things that leave a blight on a marriage. Other "awful" parts are when there is a child that is struggling with behavioral, health, or spiritual issues and can effect the whole family. I believe God allows for these things to show us that we can't do this alone. We have to trust Him in every situation and we need to trust that He will soften and change our hearts. Okay, so where does that leave us? "Beautiful". My life is beautiful. Not perfect, sometimes really hard, but beautiful. As I look around, I see each child as a beautiful gift from God. Their hopes and dreams, their funny little ways, their skinned up knees and tangly hair, their faith in their Creator. I see my husband as another beautiful gift from the Lord. Sometimes, he doesn't make the right decisions and sometimes he speaks before thinking, but he is my husband, my best friend, and the head of our home. I know he loves me with all of my quirky ways. When I'm less than easy to live with, he is patient. He goes to work every day to provide for our family and works hard on the farm. I am thankful that God made marriage and that it is beautiful. This world is beautiful. The horses grazing in the pasture. The hummingbird that visits me on the front porch. The flowers, the sunsets, the rainbows. God's handiwork is beautiful. And, God's love. So beautiful. The sacrifice He made for mankind is indescribable. His presence, His strength, His peace. God's hand is in every area of our lives. He is sovereign. He is holy. He is beautiful. So, I am thankful for this "crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life". This life is from God. I will trust that God will give me what I need for today.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Mom's Prayer

The following post is a prayer I found years ago. Unfortunately, I do not know who wrote this, but it helps me to remember the most important things.

Dear Lord, it's such a hectic day
With little time to stop and pray
For life's been anything but calm
Since You called on me to be a mom
Running errands, matching socks
Building dreams with building blocks
Cooking, cleaning, and finding shoes
And other stuff that children lose
Fitting lids on bottled bugs
Wiping tears and giving hugs
A stack of last weeks mail to read
So where's the quiet time I need?
Yet when I steal a minute, Lord
Just at the sink or ironing board
To ask the blessings of Your grace
I see then, in my small one's face
That you have blessed me
All the while
And I stop to kiss
That precious smile

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Little Blessing

January is almost over already and we've been keeping busy with our school routine, piano lessons, having a baby, house repairs, animal care...oh. Did I mention, having a baby? A new little blessing arrived two days ago. Esther Amelia came a little earlier than expected and what a sweet little blessing she is! I was trying to finish out our school week. Lesson plans were all set for Thursday and Friday. We were supposed to go to our monthly gym class and I had a Bible study scheduled for today, but God had other plans! So, we are enjoying our baby break a little earlier and getting to know this precious little girl.

On Wednesday of this week, I knew something was happening and thought the baby would possibly be here by the weekend. By late Wednesday night, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. I thought contractions would slow down if I tried to sleep, but they actually grew more intense. My three year old was restless that night of all nights, and so in between contractions, I talked to him and tried to get him settled down. I watched the sunrise and the horses dance a little in the pasture to the chilling wind that was swirling around and finally woke my husband a little after 7:00. I wanted to let him rest as long as possible, but I needed him. An hour later, I left a message with the midwife and grew more and more uncomfortable, but I continued to try and keep the house running, ordering the kids to finish their chores and watching the little ones. The midwife arrived a little later and found me to be at 6 cm., so she decided to run home for a few more things. She lives just down the road, so she can do this, but by the time she returned, things had really progressed. I was trying to pull a few baby clothes out of bins so the baby would have something to wear, but I gave up on that. The contractions were coming at an intensity that I could barely put two words together. My water broke and before too long, I knew it was time to push. I think I pushed about three times and then, Esther came into the world. She was born at 10:40 and was 6 lb.4 oz. and 19 1/4" long. I think I'm still in shock over the quickness of her birth, but I am so thankful to God for yet another good delivery and a healthy child.

God is amazing! He had Esther Amelia in mind from before the creation of the world. I do not know what God has in store for Esther. She may never be a queen like Esther in the Bible. She probably won't fly an airplane like Amelia Earhart, but my prayer is that she will follow God with all of her heart and will show the love of Jesus to every life she touches. Thank You, Lord for our little blessing. She is Yours Lord. May You use her to make a difference in this life.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 in Retrospect

We are entering a new year again and like each new year, I am looking back at 2009 to see where we've been, what we've done and to remind myself of the goodness of God. I could very easily give myself a hard time for things that were either not done well or left unfinished. Books unread, getting behind in home schooling, places that I didn't get to, families I didn't invite to the house, closets unorganized, not enough one on one time spent with my children, words that were said that I cannot take back, wasted time and the list goes on. I have a huge stack of books that I wanted to finish at the end of the year. I do not ever feel like we are really done with school. I have this dream of going to Maine and last summer was the second time we talked of going and never got there. I thought of how nice it would be to have a different family over each month to practice hospitality, but the house either would not be clean or I would not feel up to entertaining. The closets? I won't talk about those. I found that the most one on one time I had was with the young children at feeding or nap times. Of course, I have always had a challenge with either too many words being said or not enough uplifting ones. Wasting time has also been a talent of mine. I may be doing a lot of "good" things, but not the "best" things. I've just scratched the surface of many of my short-comings and so, it would be very easy to focus on those and become very discouraged about the last year, but I am asking God to redirect my thoughts. I need to remember that God is always good. He has given me so much to be thankful for. In the darkest times, He has been there. And, the things I didn't get to do or to finish? Perhaps, I am placing just a little too much importance on those things. At the end of each day, can I say that I have grown closer to God, to my husband, and to my children? Have I made a difference for His kingdom? If I have, I will praise God. If not, I will repent and humbly ask Him to help me the next day. As I reflect on 2009, I must admit that much was accomplished for His kingdom. In many ways, I grew closer to the Lord. I had many wonderful times with my husband and children. We learned many things together and visited some interesting places. Any accomplishments or blessings were all from my loving Lord, however. Without Him, I could do nothing. This is a new year, but each day is a new opportunity to love the Lord. Each day that I have on this Earth is a gift from God. I am thankful for what He's given me and I want to trust Him for the days ahead. "Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13,14