Thursday, December 1, 2011

Our Princess Is Here!

There has been a long silence on my blog for some time. Oh, I've tweaked a few things on my book corner, read old posts while ideas floated around in my head, but I just haven't been able to sit and write. In the last six weeks, we have welcomed a little baby into our family and I have been trying to get used to the new normal. Seeing how every day is different, I'm not sure when I'll get to a normal routine. Even though every day is different, each day is the same, too. Yes, it's quite complicated, but let's forget that for now. I want to talk about how this precious person came into our lives.

According to the usual way of calculating due dates, I was due towards the beginning of October, but the due date came and went and I knew that this baby was going to be "late". My midwife had a trip scheduled with her family to go to Hawaii towards the end of the month and she thought surely the baby would arrive before she left. Just in case, I had the phone numbers of two other midwives that would be available if she was on vacation. Becky left and a few more days went by. The last trimester was an uncomfortable time for me. I had been slowing down for awhile, but during those last weeks, I was wondering how I was going to make it. It's not as though I had never had long pregnancies before. Most of our children were born after the given due date. Those estimated due dates are for a 28 day cycle and I was not one who stuck to such a regimented schedule. My babies just needed extra time. I knew all of this and I also knew that God had the perfect time in mind for this new baby to be born, but I did struggle with waiting on the Lord.

A few more days went by and I decided to call one of the other midwives, so we could talk and get to know each other. I had never met either one of these ladies, so this was a good way to cover the basics before I went into labor. The next day, I began showing signs that labor would begin soon, but I still thought I had another couple of days. That night, things picked up, so I decided to call the midwife and let her know I would probably need her the next day. I hung up the phone and ten minutes later, I knew I'd have to call her right back. Contractions were getting stronger and much closer together. She had an hour's drive to get here, so she hurriedly gathered what she needed and was on her way. In the meantime, another young lady,(Rachel) who had assisted at the birth of my sixth child came to be with me until Tricia arrived. She was a trained midwife, but still quite new. Even so, I was thankful that she could be here so soon. I called my baby-sitter and asked her if she'd like to have a slumber party with our family. Anna knew what that meant and was soon on her way. Anna has been almost like a family member, kind of like the little sister I never had. We have appreciated her so much and again I was thankful to know she would be taking care of the children and the household duties. My dear daughter Rachel was also helping to get kids ready for bed, cleaning up the kitchen after making dinner that evening. I was so blessed.

My room was ready for baby. Blankets and clothes for the baby had been ready for weeks. My husband set up my laptop with quiet music playing and then, thoroughly cleaned our bathtub in case I would labor in there. I had really wanted a water birth for years, but either I never made it into the tub during labor or I wouldn't stay in it. Tricia arrived and I talked to her as much as I could, but that was soon becoming too difficult to muster. My husband always knows we are getting close to that wonderful time of transition when his very talkative wife stops talking and begins her vocalizing. With help, I did make it into the tub and never came back out. I remember hearing Tricia say that if I wanted to go back to bed, I'd have to get out then, or we were definitely having a water birth. I opted to stay in the tub. The water really was relaxing and with each contraction, I was able to use it to my advantage. The contractions still hurt, but it seemed somewhat more bearable. One of Franz Liszt's pieces was playing on the computer and I was grateful for the soothing power of music until the Hungarian Rhapsody started to play. AAAHH! I remember telling my husband that that would never do. "I will not give birth to the Hungarian Rhapsody!" I recall hearing a few snickers from the midwives and my Honey, but the music was discreetly changed to Yo Yo Ma playing selections from J.S.Bach. "Aaah, much better", I thought to myself and I was instantly transported back in time to when David and I were sitting in the front row at a Yo Yo Ma concert. We were so close to him, in fact that we could hear him take huge breaths between musical phrases as he played that beautiful cello. "Breaths, breaths...breathe, Dawne". I was back to the year 2011 in a flash. "Oh yeah, that's right. You're in labour, Knoch",(I address myself with my maiden name when I need to do something hard. I really don't know why). A few more contractions came and went and it was time for another funny comment from the laboring mother. "Oh, I bet Becky is at a luau right about now!" A few more snickers...

They say that transition is the shortest time of childbirth, but it always feels like the longest to me. It's probably got something to do with the pain. You know, like when you were a kid and it seemed that you would never get to your vacation destination. That was painful wasn't it? Okay, maybe not, but giving birth is!

It was finally time to push. No, we don't wait for the midwife to check to make sure I'm a perfect 10. Momma knows when it's time. I began to push, but it felt more like a tug-of-war. The last two babies did not take very long, so this time around, I was a bit surprised. I was pushing, but it seemed like someone else was pulling that baby back inside. I had been praying the whole time, whispering Philippians 4:13 to myself, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength", but now I was praying even more. I soon learned why I prayed harder and why I felt like something wasn't right. The baby came and I was quickly instructed to stand up. I heard the words, "It's another girl!", but I became just a little scared when I saw this precious little one quite floppy and not breathing yet. The cord had been wrapped around her neck, not once, but twice and also around her arm. Tricia was very quick to get her untangled, but it took her, Rachel, the midwife and my husband to get my little girl to breathe. They took turns rubbing her and Tricia gave her oxygen and then, I heard her first cry. We were all thanking God through our tears and I was just aching to cuddle up with her. I soon was back in my cozy bed snuggled up with our daughter. It had been quite an ordeal for her, so she was still a bit too stressed to nurse, but she tried with all of her might. What a trooper! Tricia gave the baby some herbs and she was finally nursing peacefully. I was busy soaking in newborn baby smell, newborn baby skin and newborn baby sounds. For those moments, I felt as if the world stood still while I loved on my baby, my Sarah Rose.

And, here we are in the present. Wow! What a joy Sarah is to us. The children simply adore her and David and I thank God every day for another blessing. What a gracious and loving God to give us another child. We pray that Sarah will become a woman of God one day and will love Him with all of her heart.

My days have certainly changed since Sarah has joined the group. I spend most of the day with her, feeding her, changing her, walking with her, cuddling her. Sometimes, I'm disappointed when I can't seem to accomplish the simplest of tasks, but I know this is a season and from what I hear, this season of new babies goes by so fast. In the Lord's strength, I'm learning to take it one day at a time and thank Him for every moment I have with each of my children. Yes, there are dishes to be done. The laundry is piling up again and we need to get back into our school routine, but I want to invest in what really lasts. I want to invest in eternity. As a dear friend always says, "There are only two things that are going to last. The Word of God and the souls of my children". Oh, that I would take this to heart. I know that children are a blessing and a gift. The Word of God says so: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward"(Psalm 127:3). What I must not forget though is that we cannot raise them right without the Lord being in charge. A few verses before this says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it"(Psalm 127:1). I cannot do this without Him. If I try, it's all in vain. My prayer is that I let Him be Lord of this home and that I commit Rachel, Jonathan, Hannah, Stephen, Mary, Nathan, Esther and Sarah to Him alone. They belong to Him. What a comfort and a hope and what a great God we serve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Let Us Run With Endurance"

As I am approaching my due date, many thoughts and emotions are going through my head. I'm thinking of all of the things that need to get done before this baby arrives and I am trying to accomplish those things little by little. Doing too much tires me out and doing too little frustrates me to no end. Am I nesting? I don't know. I've always been a busy person and love to have things organized. That doesn't mean that I am organized, but I sure try to be! With seven kids, I stay very occupied, and knowing there's another little person coming is a huge motivating factor for me to keep going. I have to have things ready for the birth. Do I have my rice sock to give me comfort for the inevitable back pain I usually get during those contractions? Check. How about my tiny jar of peppermint essential oil? Check. I respond quite well to certain scents, peppermint being very relaxing to me. Do I have baby blankets and clothes? Check. The last time, little Esther came so soon that I was rummaging through my baby bins during labor! When the contractions were too strong, I just told my Hubby to have some blankets and gowns ready. The baby wouldn't care.

Not only do I need to be ready to welcome this little blessing, but the house should be somewhat clean and organized to the point that Hubby and the other kids can run things when I'm off of my feet. I can't guarantee the dishes will be done when I go into labor, but I can make sure everyone has some clean clothes for that time. We are in the middle of the summer to fall/winter switch. When I finally start this endeavor, I enjoy seeing how God has provided clothes over the years for all of the kids. We've been able to use hand-me downs for all of them. Clothes do wear out, so we have to buy some new, but for the most part, we always have what we need. When I enter our storage room, it's like going to a Goodwill store and selecting what we need.

Remembering that our home school will be on break when the baby comes also motivates me to keep going with our studies. There are days I'm not feeling my best, so we read more during those times and I assign work making sure the kids know I'm available for questions, but my oldest is also a great teacher's assistant. She can help teach the basics if I'm resting. I do feel like I've been a bit of a slave driver over the last few weeks, but we've gotten a lot done and I can see that even the children are feeling a sense of accomplishment. They are definitely looking forward to the break, but I'm thankful for their good attitudes and hard work. I have realized their need to just spend some down time with Mom, too. I love the discussions we have during our morning devotions and the one on one time I get with the older ones. The younger ones also enjoy when Mommy just takes a break and reads a good book to them or sings a song with them.

The Lord has been impressing on my heart how much more time I need to spend with Him. This is always true, but I tend to be so busy fluttering around the house or I'm praying with the children that I don't take that time to be completely alone with Him. So, I am taking even more time to pray for this new baby. I am praying for each of our children. I am praying for my husband. I am praying for the Lord to prepare us for yet another change as we finally get to meet this child. I'm praying for a good birth. Most of all, I'm praying that God will teach me how to trust Him more and how to continue keep my eyes on Him. There are some tough times ahead. Labor is never something I'm excited about, and yet, I so look forward to meeting the little one that I've carried for so long. The days following will be challenging, too, but I know God will bring us through it as our lives will be changed for the eighth time. I am so thankful that God is blessing us again.

All of this preparation time and the birth itself reminds me of a race. A runner spends much time preparing to run. Training, eating well and getting plenty of rest are all things a runner must to do to be ready to run. Of course, in my case, it's more of a waddle. Even waddling requires quite a bit of effort. I am running a race, but as Christians, aren't we all? Some of us may not be taking care of ourselves like we should. Some of us have let our training slide and we aren't resting in the Lord, but it's still a race.

The apostle Paul said, " Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever"(I Cor.9:25). Are we running for a crown that will last forever or are we merely surviving from day to day? Are we running with all of our might and wanting to win or has our run slowed into a walk? Are we keeping our eyes on God and training in His Word or have we lost sight of the goal, sometimes even stepping off of the path to serve ourselves? Are we willing to face the hard times and to run until this race is over? Through the Lord's strength, we have to run this race wholeheartedly, keeping our eyes on the One who gave His all for us. There is a purpose in every thing we face in this life and it's all for God's glory. That means we need to be on our knees more, soaking in His precious Word and reminding ourselves why we are running.

So, when I finally get to look into this little one's eyes for the first time, I'm going to remember not only the race I just completed, but the race I will continue to run until He calls me home. What an awesome calling we have to run. Are you running?

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God"(Hebrews 12:1-2).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Hard-Pressed on Every Side"

It's been a while since I posted any thoughts or the many happenings in my busy life, so I thought I would share a few things before turning into bed. I am very thankful that the contractions I was having last month have stopped. My very round tummy keeps growing and the little one inside is quite lively these days, but both are reminders of God's blessing and goodness. It is such a wonderful thing to carry a new life. Yes, with each pregnancy, I grow weary. My back hurts, sometimes quite a bit. Walking has gotten harder. I tend to be out of breath after the simplest tasks, but the Lord continues to remind me that He is there, sustaining me and providing for my needs. All of the aches, the tiredness, and even the forgetfulness is worth it, not only when the baby arrives, but it's worth it even in the midst of it all. The reason? Because even when I feel the pain and the exhaustion, that each day feels like it's dragging along or when I feel I am at the end of myself, God moves. If I am not dying to myself daily, I don't see His life in me. I don't learn the things He wants to show me. You see, I never need to despair. Even when things get really bad, God is walking with me, instructing me, perhaps, even whispering of His love and His purpose for me. He is my very life. Am I willing to give Him the glory no matter what each day brings? Is the joy of the Lord my strength,(Nehemiah 8:10)? Am I purposefully living in a way that pleases my Savior? It is much easier to feel crushed or to despair. Much easier to feel sorry for myself and to complain, but I must choose to look up and walk in His truth. Even when things don't make sense. I'm on the underside of the tapestry, looking at all of the tangled threads some days, but God sees the beautiful picture on the other side. I must trust Him with each new day, each moment, each pain or disappointment because one day, I will look at the beautiful picture with Him. So today, I am going to remember:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

II Corinthians 4:8-18

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Resting at the Feet of Jesus

Here we are in the middle of July, temperatures soaring and it doesn't look like it's going to let up anytime soon. I am so thankful for air conditioning, but the power was flickering on and off throughout the day yesterday and today at 5:30, we woke up to a broken A/C. I'm praying that I can make it until our repairman shows up in a few hours as this very tired, expectant mother needs a cooler house.

These days remind me of summers in the past. My children love to hear the stories from my childhood when we had no A/C. My sister and I slept in our attic. Wow, now that was hot! Dad would run the fan in an open window and try to bring in the cooler air in the evenings, but we usually ended up on top of the covers with our heads at the foot of the beds. Sometimes, we slept downstairs in our breezeway and if we were able to coax our Dad enough, he'd set up the two-man tent in the backyard. Our brother would join us. We enjoyed that adventure and definitely slept better outside.

During those hot days, we looked forward to the ice cream truck that would drive by our house from time to time or we'd simply grab a Popsicle from the freezer. Occasionally, we'd run through the sprinkler or play in the cool basement. Sometimes, Mom would suggest a walk to the library just down the street where there was A/C and as we walked, we loved to pop tar bubbles with our shoes the whole way down the street. Some days seemed unbearable, but we made it through.

It was a little easier to deal with the heat back then. Being seven months pregnant in this heat is a different experience, but I just have to remember to take it easy and let some things go. I've had to learn about letting go and allowing myself extra rest this week. We've had a rough couple of weeks with a dog getting sprayed by a skunk, the 2 yr. old getting sick and the 1 yr. old cutting molars. Add on the heat and life gets interesting. At the beginning of the week, I thought I was in premature labor. I'm not quite at 30 weeks yet, so this is a bit early to be starting that. Thankfully, the midwife said everything was checking out fine, but that I needed to take it easier and keep hydrated. After asking for prayer this week, I've had an outpouring of help from our home school support group and church. Offers of baby-sitting, house cleaning, and meals have been coming in and I so appreciate these special families.

So, resting is what I'm doing although many times, when I'm feeling a little better, I'm tempted to be a Martha and to dive back into my work. Then, the contractions return and I'm reminded to put up those feet of mine and rest. If I had lived in Jesus' day and He came to my house for a visit, I probably would have tended to be busy, perhaps stopping to hear Him talk, but always busy. Fluffing the pillows around Him, picking up the things on the floor, washing the dishes, fussing over where He should sit and, of course, complaining that I was the only one doing the work. Jesus desired to encourage and instruct those that were listening to Him. He didn't put a lot of stock in how clean a house was or what He would be served for dinner. Mary desired to listen and to learn from her Lord and realized what would last for eternity. Not a clean house, but a pure heart.

"Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:38-42

I wonder if I really know how to rest. Even when I do take a break physically, have I learned to rest in the Lord? Am I willing to be quiet and listen to the Teacher or am I so busy that I crowd out any words from Him? My feet may be up, but my mind is racing a mile a minute, thinking about all I have to do, all the unfinished projects, the kids' lessons, or worrying about the little one I'm carrying. My prayer is that I can rest at His feet and obey Him by not worrying. My life is in His hands and no amount of worrying or fussing will change that. All it does is make me miserable and it is a poor example to my children. If we would learn to rest at His feet, think of all we could learn. He promises to never leave us and He promises to restore our souls.

So, with feet up, a glass of ice water beside me, my Bible opened and a heart quiet before Him, I'm going to follow my Shepherd and rest at His feet today.

"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names' sake." Psalm 23:2-3

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"If I Speak with the Tongues of Men and of Angels"

Several years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting and communicating by letter with a missionary by the name of Helen Constance. She was a missionary who served alongside her husband, George with the Christian and Missionary Alliance for many years beginning in 1935. They served in Colombia and faced many hardships and joys during that time. In her book, "Stepping Out on Faith", she included many of the poems she wrote describing missionary life and the various people they encountered. I would like to share one of her poems. It tells of an Indian that George and Helen met along the Amazon River and the terrible atrocities that he and his people endured when the "white man" came to their part of the world in search of rubber at the advent of the motor car.

Good-Bye Forever

The sun was sinking in the west
And the afternoon shadows fell
On the face of an old, old Indian
A century had marked so well.

He sat by his bamboo cottage
And thought of the years gone by-
Years he wished he could forget
As he waited now to die.

He lifted his eyes to the river
as he heard the familiar roar
Of another outboard motor
That would pass close by his door.

The roar of those noisy motors
He wished he never knew.
He loved the sound of dripping paddle
Guiding silently his canoe.

A dugout with outboard motor
Stopped near the old man's door
And he watched with apprehension
As a white man cam ashore.

He did respond as the stranger
Waved in a friendly way;
When the man drew near, the Indian
Had nothing at all to say.

Yes, he understood Spanish,
Though he spoke it brokenly,
But he would not talk with the white man
But sat there stubbornly.

While the white man told about Jesus
and how He had come to die
That the Indian might have eternal life
In a home beyond the sky.

He shook his head as the white man
Told of Christ's death for sin
And how God could change a wicked life
And put love and peace within.

And then, with frustration and anger
The Indian spoke at last;
He said he did not believe it
And could prove it false from his past.

"Long ago," he said, "in the forest
We were happy, peaceful, free;
With our jungle trails and dugouts,
Our tribe and family.

"But the white man came and enslaved us
And sent us to forest trails
For rubber- as much as he ordered-
Or death to the one who would fail.

"I tried so hard to get plenty,
But my quota I could not fill;
They said the tribe was just lazy
And to teach us, they had to kill.

"So my wife and my sons were beaten
Till the blood on the ground ran red,
And my brother was horribly tortured
Until at last, he was dead.

"And I cannot forget my young daughter-
Just 14 and sweet and shy.
They beat her until she crawled away
To the forest alone to die.

"In the jungle, searching for rubber,
I wanted to take my life,
But they said,'For every dead Indian,
There is torture and death for his wife.'

"When at last the white man departed,
Just a few of the tribe remained-
Disheartened, discouraged, defeated,
Our souls with hatred stained.

"You talk to me about Jesus
And I remember only the boss
Who ordered his men to beat us, yet
He wore on his neck-a cross!

The lash of the horrible bullwhip,
The memory of screams in the night,
and when the torture was over,
To the Virgin they lit a light.

"Every act, every deed of cruelty,
We noted with growing despair,
Ended by making the sign of the cross-
'Twas the symbol they used in prayer.

"White man, don't talk to me of a cross,
Don't tell me it takes away sin,
For the scars I bear on my body
Prove the cross makes beasts of men.

"And love-did you speak to me of love?
The only love I remember today
Is the love of my tribe and family
Which you and your cross took away!

"Too late, white man, is your message,
Too late this poor soul to save.
I've known only cruelty and hatred,
and with this I go to my grave.

"But look, white man, look up river
And see there is tribe after tribe
Of Indians who never yet have known
This beautiful love you describe.

"You say the wonderful Book you bring
Is just what we Indians need.
But no one has ever cared enough
To teach my people to read.

"Young Indians know my sad story,
But my path they never trod;
So perhaps since their hearts are not bitter
They'll believe in the love of your God.

"Perhaps to the young generation
You might prove that a God above
Sent His Son to die for the Indian
If you show him a cross-of love!

"Good-bye, good-bye, Mr.White Man!
Take your canoe away from my shore.
I'm old and I'm tired of living,
Adios-forever more!"

Helen Constance

When I read this to my children, they were shocked that people could be so evil and still act religious. I related how this wasn't Christianity and we talked about the many instances where men would come to a region, and "convert" the native people, but not without a cost. This kind of "evangelizing" was not out of love, but was born of impure and greedy motives. A conversion or death. Not a very promising prospect. Where was the love of Christ? Did Christ die just so that men could force others to follow some sort of religion or for material gain?

Of course, we automatically recognize these acts as evil and wrong, but on the other hand, are we really living our lives through the love of Christ? Does the world see Christ's love in us or are we simply speaking out against things without showing love for others? Maybe we're just too busy to take the time to care. When was the last time we went out of our way to share the Gospel, to give an encouraging word, to help an older lady at the grocery store, to check on a neighbor in need, or even just to smile at someone? What does the world see when we are out with our children? Do they just see us surviving? Do they witness love between brothers and sisters or constant bickering? Do they see wives respecting their husbands or do they observe complaining or rolling of our eyes when things don't go our way?

What does it look like in our homes? Are we grumbling because there are clothes and books on the floor again? Do we genuinely love that child who is in disobedience? Are we moms so touched out that one more kiss or cuddle from a child makes us want to scream? Do we take the time to listen to that child who is aching to tell us a story or do we tell them that we are too busy? Are we loving our husbands when we complain about our day or when we tirelessly nag him about unfinished jobs?

Yes, loving others can be very difficult, but Jesus commanded that we love. He said the world would know we are Christians by our love. Whether we are overseas missionaries or are ministering here at home, everything we do is to be done through the love of Christ. The fact is that we can do a lot of good. We can lend a helping hand to our neighbor, wash our children's clothes and make one hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We can stand before a huge audience and talk about the Lord. We can visit the elderly or those in prison. We can stand for life and witness to an unwed mother, but if we do anything without love, it doesn't mean a thing. May our prayer everyday be that we love. And, we can only do that through Christ. If we try to love on our own, then, we really aren't loving. Christ's love is supernatural. It's unconditional. It's sacrificial. It's beyond our comprehension. His love is why we are not consumed. His love is what saved the world. May He love others through us and may the world see the love of Jesus in our lives.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked,does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Home School Convention

The home school mom walked into the annual convention, thinking she was prepared for the weekend. The schedule of workshops she wanted to attend and the list of curriculum she needed was all tucked into her bag. So filled with expectation of what she'd hear and what she'd find, she attended the first session, then, another, then, another. Oh, this was going to be great! She knew she had to continue in this calling that God had placed on her and her husband to disciple and teach their children in the Lord, but it had been another exhausting year. She wondered if she was doing enough. There were days she struggled with thoughts of failure, contemplating if she really had the ability to persevere. Some days, she was simply tired. But, to hear speaker after speaker giving passionate talks on why we are to be diligent, why we should continue in this journey of home schooling was such an inspiration. She learned so many other things, too, like reasons one child may be struggling in certain areas and how to solve those problems, new strategies for putting life into their studies and realizing once again that she was not alone. Other moms have their frustrating days, too! What a wonderful weekend this was going to be! Suddenly, it dawned on her that she had not eaten lunch, but this was not a problem. Being the prepared home school mom that she was, she had packed a sandwich, some fruit and a bottle of water. The first day was moving along nicely.

Then, she stepped into the vendor hall. Each year, she would take a deep breath and quietly remind herself of her small list of books she needed, but each year it happened. Her head felt like it was spinning, her shoulders sank, her knees became weak. She thought she heard strange music as if from a movie. She pushed herself to begin walking, looking straight ahead, not looking any vendor in the eye, even though she felt like every vendor was staring at her like a bird of prey. Occasionally, she would hear one calling to her, sounding far away, asking if she had heard of their curriculum before, but she continued on and on. She suddenly couldn't seem to find her list anymore. It was still tucked into her bag, but something prevented her from reaching for it. "What books did I need? Where do I need to go? Wait, how many children do I have? Oh, no, what's my name?" Oh, good. Her name tag was hanging from her neck, so she could at least answer the last question. Finally, she gave in. Another vendor called out to her and she felt this incredible force pushing her to their table. She ended up buying books she felt she couldn't live without, and yet felt a tinge of guilt. She put her self talk into practice again. She miraculously found her list and scolded herself for purchasing items that were not on it. This time, she was going to be disciplined, but it wasn't long before it happened again. She kept hearing promises of yet another book or curriculum that would revolutionize her home schooling experience. She did buy most of the books she needed, but added many more.

The guilt wasn't a comfortable feeling anymore, so she decided to replace it with excitement. "Wow, look at all these things we can learn this year!" Of course, when the children saw the weighted down cart and the mysterious smile and glazed look over their mother's face, they weren't sure what to do. Play along and get excited over the new found treasures or run away screaming? What really took the cake was when this home school mom began laughing in a rather sinister way. "Oh, kids. There is so much to learn. We have our work cut out for us, but boy, this is going to be fun. Even if it means that we won't finish home schooling until you're 30, we can do it!" More laughter to follow. A look of terror came upon their faces. And, remember, this was only the first day of the convention.

Every June, we look forward to our home school convention. For the first few weeks of the month, we continue to home school until the day before the convention starts. Going to this big event is a reward for us after a long year of schooling. We really don't ever finish school, but the conference is the beginning of a nice break for us before we pick up again later in July. Every year, we are greatly encouraged by the speakers, by seeing old friends, meeting new ones and of course, finding some great books and other items to enrich our home school. However, I have to admit that during the first couple of years, I was a bit overwhelmed. So much information. So many choices! And, even now, it is still easy to get carried away and to lose my focus.

One of the beautiful things about home schooling is that I am learning things I never learned in the public school system or sometimes, I'm simply relearning concepts that were a struggle for me when I was younger. I love books and I love learning and one of my desires is to instill that same love into my children, but at what cost? This is a noble cause. It is wonderful when children really want to learn and want to obtain a rich education, but if I'm driving them and myself crazy in the process, spending too much money and losing sight of the most important reason to home school, then, it is a waste. The truth is that I'm never going to be able to cover everything. I won't be able to read out loud to them all of those books on my shelves, just like they probably won't be able to read all of those books on their own, but I will read what I can and I can steer them in the right direction, so that they can read for themselves and research information on their own. None of us stop learning in this life.

At this time of year and at other times throughout the year, we must keep ourselves in check. It is good to evaluate where each of our children are in their learning process, seeing what works and what doesn't. Going to the home school convention is an excellent time of renewal and encouragement for us moms. Yes, we will need to purchase books, sometimes spending more on extra things, but we have to ask ourselves why before we go full speed ahead. Do we remember how many books we still haven't used from previous years? Do we remember that the library is always a viable option? Or how about sending those kids outside and having them explore the world around them? Books are great, but they aren't the only tool that we have. Most importantly, do we remember that these children who really belong to God, will get what they need and that if they love and serve Him that everything else will fall into place?

Here are a few suggestions that I'd like to share with home school moms who are either new to this convention thing or even seasoned home school moms that may drift from the right focus:

First, pray before you even go to the convention. Pray that God would show you what workshops would be of the greatest benefit and what books would help you in teaching your kids. Secondly, always consult your husband before handing over the money to any vendor. You are his help meet and spending without talking to him can be very disrespectful. Deciding on a budget ahead of time is helpful, too. If you are a single mom, go back to the first suggestion and pray for wisdom. Thirdly, do not compare what another home school family is doing. Your family is unique. God made you that way. Fourth, have a list before stepping into that vendor hall. Sometimes, it's okay to add to that list when you see something new, but use common sense. Be kind to the vendors, maybe even listening to what they have to say about their curriculum. They're there because they really believe in their product and after all, they have families, too! Fifth, know that we are discipling these children for God's glory and that He will give us what we need to accomplish this task. He is more than able to give us strength and courage to keep up the good fight. Joshua 1:9 says, "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Finally, rest. Rest in Him. Do not worry and do not forget that He carries you. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

May you be blessed during this convention season. Have fun and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Garden

It seems we've had some major setbacks to planting our vegetable garden this year. In May, we had a record amount of rain and storms which rendered our ground useless to till. In between the rains, we'd check the soil, but it needed more time to dry out. The garden would have to wait again. Then, the rain stopped. We had a stretch for several days of good weather and our good neighbor came and tilled the garden for us. Finally, we could begin planting. Another setback was lurking on the horizon. Our family contracted a nasty cold virus. *Sigh*. I'm happy to say that we are on the road to recovery, so we began the planting over the weekend. There were two more potential setbacks on Saturday, however, when first, the temperature rose to 92 and I, being with child, could only handle short increments of time in that heat. Returning to the soil in the evening helped, but then, we heard distant thunder. I felt a prayer rising within me that said, "Please Lord? Can you hold off on the storms just a little while longer?" Of course, whether we got the storm then or later, it ultimately was in the Lord's hands. We would get planted what we could and just have to rest knowing we did our best. To our delight, we only had a short rainfall and some thunder.

We were able to finish the planting of the main vegetable garden the next evening with only the herb garden left to plant. I like to add to my herbs every year. This year, I'm adding peppermint, sage and chives among other things. I am so thankful that even with all of the setbacks, we were able to plant the garden.

The work has only begun, however. Yes, we've tilled, dug our rows, planted the seeds and watered, but there is still more watering and weeding to be done before we can enjoy the harvest.

Gardening always reminds me of our children. I referred to this concept of planting, watering and weeding when speaking of why we've chosen to home school. It is imperative, no matter what the setbacks are, that we put in the extra effort and "prepare the ground" for planting. We need to take the time to plant the seeds and to water and then, we have to continue these actions while they are living under our roof. This is obedience to God. In Proverbs, we hear again and again the importance of training our children, of children following the instruction of their parents and of seeking Godly wisdom. "My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck"(Proverbs 6:20-21). The Deuteronomy passage is always timely in this admonition to teach and to train the children God gave to us. "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up"(Deut.6:7). Paul reminds fathers, "do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord"(Ephesians 6:4).

How do we tend this "garden" that God has given us? To me, preparing the ground is praying. Praying before we ever have children and then, praying every morning before those little ones awake. Praying every moment of the day, while correcting a behavior, changing diapers, fixing meals, teaching division, diagramming sentences or reading a book out loud to the children. We have to pray continually. And, then, we need to read and meditate on God's Word. We should be reading it so much that those words of life and wisdom are fresh on our hearts.

We plant the seeds by living out our faith in front of our children. When we fail, we need to confess that before God and share with our kids how loving and patient God is with all of us when we take our eyes off of Him. We plant seeds when we read the Bible. This should be the most important subject in our curriculum. It should be the first thing we reach for before any other book. In our home, we begin each day with a Psalm and another chapter of the Bible. The kids watch "Picture Proverbs" on DVD which gives them a Proverb each day. Daddy reads the Bible at dinner time and the children that read, spend time in their own Bibles during our afternoon quiet time. I still feel as if we're only scratching the surface when it comes to Bible reading, but it's a start. We're planting seeds when we pray with our children, worship with them and answer questions about God and why our hope is in Him.

We water those seeds by continuing that training each day, persevering when times get tough and remembering the important instruction, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary"(Galatians 6:9).

We "hoe between the rows and weed" when we lovingly correct a child, when we say "no" to something that may seem harmless to them, when we take away a privilege or give a painful consequence because of disobedience.

A long time ago, I had a unique opportunity to plant a garden in someone's life. There was a little girl whom I babysat during my summer days. I was a little girl myself, but even at a young age, God placed a desire in my heart to sow seeds of truth into that little girl. We took walks together and enjoyed picnics at a nearby creek. We sat on her porch, singing praise songs, reading the Bible and praying together. I had no idea at the time what those seeds would do later on. I just knew I had to plant them. Today, that little girl is a grown married woman who loves the Lord. It didn't end with her. Her parents love the Lord, too.

It's important to point out, however, that whatever seeds I planted in that precious girl so long ago or what I'm planting now in the hearts of my children will only grow and flourish because of the grace of God. It is God that draws these little ones to Him. It is God that causes the growth. And, it is God that changes lives. "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth"(I Corinthians 3:7). We are to be obedient and train our children in the fear of the Lord. We need to pray for them unceasingly. We have to live a life of faith, so that we can be good examples to them. But, if we try to do all of this without Him, we not only will fall flat on our faces, but the focus will be on us and not on Him.

Just like I desire to faithfully work in that vegetable garden, I'm going to be faithful to the calling of pointing these precious souls to the Savior, knowing full well, that it is God who is ultimately faithful. He will cause the growth in each of my children and will guide them through this life. What a bountiful harvest that will be!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For My Dear Mom

When I think of my mother, so many thoughts come to mind and yet I find myself unable to put into words just how much she means to me. My mom. The one who carried me for nine months, gave birth to me, nurtured me, sang to me, taught me, loved me. She kept me clean, washed my clothes, fed me, kissed my boo boos, answered my "why" questions, combed my hair, and laughed at my imagination. My mom accepted countless bouquets of wildflowers from me, encouraged me when I was sad, corrected me, listened to my hopes and dreams, read the Bible to me and when I was at the tender age of five, she sat and prayed with me as I began my first steps in following Him.

I could talk to my mom about anything. From a very young age, we would walk through the neighborhood and the fields that were close by. She listened to my endless chatter and as I grew older, I began to listen to her wisdom. She loved to talk about our family history and her growing up years. Stories of family members who knew General George Washington, a grandmother who shook Abraham Lincoln's hand, or an uncle who fought for the U.S. Cavalry all captivated me as my mom had a wonderful story-telling ability. The stories of her life on the farm were just as exciting and at other times touching, as she spoke of my grandmother's faith in the Lord, how they raised nearly everything on their land from cattle and pigs to a spacious garden and a fruit orchard and how Mom and her sisters would play in their woods where their imaginations would run wild.

Mom taught me much about nature and how to recognize various trees and flowers. She shared a love for birds and for wildlife as my father did.

Mom shared her love for music and was always singing around the house or making sure beautiful music was playing.

Above all of those things, Mom talked about the Lord. She not only talked about Him, but she lived out her faith. I used to love looking through her very worn and well highlighted Bible as she studied it daily. Mom was an authentic example to me of someone that desired to know and love God and to follow Him every day of her life.

There were hard times. During a difficult period when my dad was out of work, Mom was there, keeping things together, praying, supporting Dad and teaching us the difference between needs and wants. Mom was not a spender. She made sure we got what we needed, but did not buy much for herself. When I was ten years old, Mom went to work. It was a challenge for me to accept this change. Mom was always at home waiting for me to return from school. I appreciated our talks after my long day and she helped me to make sense of things, counseling me and teaching me truth when I was confused. But, even after going to work, she continued to take the time to talk to me after her long day. We would talk as she fixed dinner and even continued our talks late into the evening.

During those years at home, my mom was very good at leaving encouraging notes for me and when I left for college, the notes continued. When I married my husband and left home for good, she still wrote letters. I missed our heart to heart talks, but her letters were the boost I needed as I was so far away as a young Navy wife.

My mom and I have had our share of misunderstandings. Sometimes, words were said or not said that hurt us both but, many times, things were said out of care for the other. My mom and I also don't walk in each other's shoes. We've experienced some of the same things in life, but our lives are also very different. I believe we've both grown through all of the difficult times and I so appreciate her love through it all.

My mom has so much love for all of us. It is felt every time we see each other. It is felt in every kind word on the phone or in her letters. I see it in the way she holds our babies and in the way she talks to each of our children, being interested in what they are interested in, just like she was with me as a little girl. I see her love in the way she cares for my dad after having his stroke. She is not only a blessing to us, but to everyone around her. Mom is truly a precious servant and a beautiful woman and I thank the Lord for every day that I still have with her. Like her mother, my mom is leaving a Godly heritage and I only pray that I can do the same for my children.

"Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
'Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.'
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

Proverbs 31:28-30

Thank you, dear Mom for being that woman. I love you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Preparing Our Hearts

This week marks the time we remember Christ's suffering and death on the cross and His glorious resurrection. In our home, we have not only been praying for the lost, but also for the believers all over the world that each person would be reminded just how much Jesus did for us and also to be encouraged, knowing that we serve a risen Savior.

We've been singing many hymns about the cross and about Jesus' resurrection. We've listened to St.Matthew's Passion by J.S.Bach.

Today, we made "Resurrection Rolls" using crescent rolls and marshmallows to signify Jesus' burial and resurrection,(in the oven, the marshmallow disappears!). We also opened our Resurrection Eggs, one by one and read from the Scriptures about the happenings of this important week so long ago.

We do include fun like decorating eggs and having an egg hunt on the property. We understand that there are some Christians that shun these things because of the pagan origins of Easter. We understand their views, but for our family, we simply have fun, knowing full well why we celebrate this exciting time.

We lay out nice clothes for church and make sure everyone is clean! The boys are getting haircuts this weekend,(they are getting a bit shaggy). We even look forward to after church where we come home and prepare a yummy brunch. A few years ago, our tradition was to take the family out for brunch, but that's getting a little pricey and tiring.

Most of all, we anticipate the morning at church with our dear church family. What a wonderful thing it is to celebrate our risen Lord together!

He is our Redeemer, our Hope, our very Life! As we prepare our hearts for this week, may we be quiet before Him, sincerely reflecting on His infinite love and then, rejoicing that He has conquered sin and death. He is alive! Alleluia!

"Up from the grave He arose;
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a victor of the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints remain.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Waking Before the Sunrise

For a little over a week now, my two year old Nathan has been waking up very early. At first, I thought his schedule was off because of the sickness in our family, but he has consistently been getting up very early. I find myself dragging more than usual during the day because of the early morning awakenings, but I think I'm getting used to this change.

I do love mornings. When I was a kid, I enjoyed getting up very early when everything was quiet in the house. I loved hearing the birds greeting the day. In the summers, I would plan little adventures like riding my bike down the street to a little creek where I would bring a lunch box with cereal, a bowl, spoon and a thermos of milk. Or, I'd just stay in my backyard and swing on my swing set singing favorite songs by 2nd Chapter of Acts.

I still love mornings, but I usually appreciate them more when I'm the only person awake. The sunrises over our pasture are breath-taking. I savor the stillness that surrounds me in those early hours. It's a wonderful time to talk to my Savior, to read His Word, to reflect on all that I have to be thankful for and to rest. But, sometimes when I have to share that precious time with a little person, it doesn't have the same appeal to me. Instead of using that time to enjoy my child, I find that I complain that I'm not alone. I probably don't have the luxury to really study God's Word or to ponder the things in my heart because my attention is now on that little person, but maybe I should "wake up!" Those times with a child are sacred. That child is a blessing from the Lord, no matter how cranky he may be, no matter how tired I am and no matter how much I want time all to myself. It's a wonderful opportunity to practice service, unconditional love and a bit of creativity on my part.

Yesterday, Nathan was not only up before the sun rose, but he was up before the garbage truck arrived. That is early for me! So, when the truck did arrive, I made a big deal out of it. The loud sound of the truck and the flashing lights were exciting to my little guy. I opened our front curtains and together on the couch, Nathan and I watched the truck slowly approach. Nathan babbled enthusiastically, waving to the garbage man until he was out of sight and I relished the cuddling time.

So, I have a choice to make. I can complain about losing out on some extra sleep, or maybe some extra alone time, or I can thank the Lord for the little person who is sharing those early mornings with me. God will give me the rest I need, the encouragement from the Word that I crave, but I won't get those times back with my son. These days are short. I want to remember every waking moment I have with my children.

A very long time ago, there were some ladies that woke very early one morning. They were filled with grief, despair and confusion, but what they discovered that morning would change their lives and so many lives after them.

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.'" Matthew 28:1-7

From now on, when I wake up early, whether I'm alone or not, I'm going to remember that one glorious morning so long ago. My Savior, the One who took my place on that cross, rose again. He lives. Praise the Lord, He lives.

"Hear the bells ringing, they're singing, that you can be born again.
Hear the bells ringing, they're singing, Christ is risen from the dead.
The angel up on the tombstone said He is risen just as He said.
Quickly now, go tell His disciples that Jesus Christ is no longer dead.
Joy to the world, He is risen, Alleluia. He's risen, Alleluia. He's risen, Alleluia.
Annie Herring, 2nd Chapter of Acts

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope After the Long Winter

Today, I decided to walk outside for some fresh air after cooking our dinner. I only had a few minutes as my daughter, Rachel was setting the table and dishing up the food. Not so many weeks ago, I only went outdoors if I had to. Helping fill the wood furnace, collecting the mail, or getting into our truck when we had to go somewhere. It was just too cold and most of the time, too icy and snowy to warrant a nice little stroll on the property. Not only that, but our family has experienced weeks of sickness. First, it was a nasty cold virus that swept through the family and then, there was last week. All but one of us suffered a terrible stomach virus. One by one, we came down with it. We had to put off our studies again. My husband had to cancel a brief business trip. I have had morning sickness for weeks in addition, so this new virus was not a welcome guest.

As I walked to the front of the house, I noticed that my spring bulbs were up, but that was not all. Under the dead weeds and brush from last year was one daffodil in full bloom. One beautiful, yellow and unassuming flower that seemed to be smiling at me. Unexpectedly, I began to cry. I thanked the Lord for this little gift, this glimmer of hope. "Lord, it's been a very long winter. Thank You that it's over."

I began to ponder how our lives are very much like this long winter that we just came through. Life is full of hardship, sickness and sorrow. God is always with us, providing for us, giving us His strength each day, but there are many times that seem to be filled with despair and uncertainty. It's at those times, we need to look under the dead weeds and the brush to find that there's a yellow flower, reminding us of the hope that is yet to come. I am thankful that we are just strangers here. There is something far better awaiting us. We have a hope in Christ that is brighter and more glorious than that little flower I saw today. As we go through our days, learning to love Jesus, loving our families, teaching our children, and serving our neighbors, let us not forget this hope. One day, that little yellow flower will not be alone. We will find that we are surrounded by a garden of color. Oh, how I long for that day.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Give Thanks in All Circumstances"

I'm sitting here, drinking peppermint tea, eating little protein snacks, but nothing seems to help this morning sickness. Of course, it's more like "all day" sickness. I'll start to feel a little better, but when I eat, I'm back to feeling poorly. This is definitely not new to me. I've been through this more than a couple of times in my life. I know what to do. I'm taking vitamin B6. I try not to wait too long to eat. My midwife encourages protein every two hours. I avoid certain smells and delegate the diaper changing to my oldest daughter,(She's been a dear, taking over with the little ones and helping with meal preparations). I rest. I complain. I pray. I get a little grumpy. I repent for complaining and grumbling. But, am I "giving thanks in all circumstances?" I tend to do the easy thing and focus on the temporal. Praising the Lord in all things isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind. Thinking in that way takes work. It takes a commitment to lay aside my worries, my pain, my discomfort and look to the One who loves me. The One who knows about all that is bothering me. And, the One who has blessed us once again with a new life. I have the glorious privilege of carrying a baby, welcoming that baby into the world, caring for him or her and best of all, telling this baby about the Creator. What a wonderful way to give thanks to God! Sharing with my little one about the immense love that God has for us. Another way to give thanks is to choose to focus on Him even when I don't feel like it. Like right now. I find that when I'm praising the Lord, I'm able to cope with the discomfort just a little better.

The other night, we had an old-fashioned hymn sing at our church. My husband had just arrived home from a business trip and needed to rest from all of the traveling. He encouraged me to go without him. I have to admit, even though I had looked forward to it all week, I really didn't want to go that night. I was tired, on the tail end of a cold, nauseous and besides, it was pouring down rain. Well, I went anyway and was so glad that I did. What a blessing that night turned out to be. Singing the great hymns of faith beside my children and our dear sisters and brothers in the Lord. And, you know what? My flesh still felt lousy, but my spirit was uplifted. My focus turned upward and I saw once again, my precious Savior.

Oh, how much I owe to Him! I can never repay the One who gave His all for me, but I can give Him the glory. I can praise Him even when I'm feeling low. I can "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus". I Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

This morning is a lot like the other mornings this week. The temperature is a bitter -2 and I am pulling on my overalls, face mask, work gloves, hat, and boots in preparation to battle the cold and the wood-burning furnace. This is normally my husband's job, but he's taking classes for his job this week in a different state. The wood seems heavier than usual and I have to pry it loose with an ax because it's frozen solid! I try to hold my breath because of the smoke. The shoulder that I hurt several weeks ago is hurting again. I am expecting another little one, too, so I may be tired because of that. I could complain about my circumstances, but, I'm keeping the home fires burning.

Our week has been filled with taking care of the children, music lessons, a dentist appointment, grocery shopping and home schooling. I could easily excuse myself from all of the errands and the extra driving. I could declare this a week off of our studies. I could be slack with the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the dishes(we can use paper plates, right?) and generally keeping the house tidy. With my husband gone, I could certainly sit back and just relax, but I'm keeping the home fires burning.

The Cambridge Idioms Dictionary defines the phrase "keep the home fires burning": to keep your home pleasant and in good order while people who usually live with you are away, especially at war. My husband is not at war, but he did serve in the military for many years. When we married, he was serving and for the first five years of our marriage, he was stationed in various places. At first, he was on shift work at a nuclear power plant in Idaho. We then moved to Bremerton, Washington, where he was assigned to a carrier. There were many months of what they called work-ups where they would train at sea in preparation for the long six month deployments. During those long deployments, I had to keep up with the housework, and the 4 acres. I maintained the cars and managed our bills. I wanted to make the old home we were renting pleasant to live in, so I added little touches here and there to improve it. Dried flowers, candles and my grandmother's homemade aprons and doilies did wonders to that old place. A mop and a bucket sure helped, too. I was keeping the home fires burning.

The small farm we were renting had a nice pasture, so I decided to board some sheep for a local sheep breeder. He raised Horned Dorsets. I was able to earn some extra money and help someone at the same time. There was much to learn about sheep which I soon realized.

Part of the rickety old fence came down on one occasion and I had to quickly herd those rams, yes rams, back into the pasture. They were attempting to walk down our long driveway and onto the busy road! As the rams grew older, they were getting bigger. I was told not to befriend them too much, because it could prove very inconvenient for me later on. I understood that all too well. When they were very young, I would walk with them and even play my flute while they gathered around. David played harp to his sheep, so why not flute? There was one deaf lamb that seemed to get into trouble often. Every night, I would call the sheep into their barn, but since this little guy couldn't hear when I called I had to search for him, often with a flashlight in hand. Many times, I found him stuck in the blackberry bushes, caught by his horns. One day, when the sheep were bigger, I was walking in the pasture with them like I had done many times. All of a sudden, they decided it would be fun to cuddle with me. By this time, it wasn't cuddling. I managed to whisper a prayer and scaled the fence faster than you can say, lamb chops! I wasn't close to the gate, so the fence was my only way out.

From the time the rams were small, they loved to hear our old screen door open because that meant I was coming to feed them. As the months went by, this became very difficult. They were much larger and would try to butt and crowd me as I poured the feed. I would try to wait for feeding times when they were far away from the barn, but they would still hear that door and come running. The barn stood in the inner pasture which had a gate attached and I soon learned a technique to protect myself at feeding times. If I closed the gate early enough, I could pour the feed without them in the barn. When they heard me, they would run up to the closed gate, pressing their faces against it, just waiting to enter. When I was done, I would stand back while I opened the gate and would watch the stampede. One particular day, I forgot to close the gate. It soon became feeding time and they were getting dangerously close. Tiptoeing out the door, I hurriedly ran into the inner pasture, but one looked up from the ground, then another and another and they were soon running full speed towards the gate. I reached the gate just in time and slam, it was closed. The sheep were thwarted and I was out of breath, but safe. I'm sure if any of our neighbors saw this adventure, they would have been laughing. I was keeping the home fires burning and staying in shape!

Besides sheep, I had much more to learn living as a young Navy wife. Our home had oil heat, but the furnace broke down a number of times, so we used the wood stove that was in our small kitchen. It kept the house very toasty, but then, the windstorm of 1995 hit the West Coast. That meant power outages, damage to the sheep barn, blown tarps that covered my wood, rain, and then, very wet wood. My husband was deployed again during all of the excitement. And, there I was, hammering shingles back onto the roof of the sheep barn, chopping more wood and trying to keep enough dry to burn in the wood stove. But, I was keeping the home fires burning.

Throughout our married life, I've had to keep the home fires burning. Whether my husband was on a ship, sitting in a week long class for work or just gone for the day, as a wife and mother God commands me to keep going. I am not to do these things just because it's expected. I admit there are times that I just go through the motions, sometimes complaining about my work, but this is not what God desires. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." So, I'm keeping the home fires burning, not only for my husband and my children. I am keeping them burning for the Lord.

Yes, life is really hard. We have our difficult days, sometimes even months and years, but instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we have to choose to praise Him. God is good. He is faithful. He always provides what we need, even it's it only for the next half hour. The saying, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" is not very accurate. It should be more like, "God doesn't give you anything you can handle". It's only through God, that we can persevere. It's only through Him that we have hope. And, it's only through Him that we can have the power to offer up praise to Him. I cannot keep these fires burning without Him. With Him, I will go on and I will praise the One who gives me strength.

"Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear Presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A New Year

In our corner of the world, it has been very cold with much snow on the ground. From December 1st until now, we have had the white stuff, with only a short period where the temperatures rose enough to melt most of it. It's back though and has been the cause of many a cancelled music lesson . If it's not the weather, it's sickness. Not only have we missed music lessons, but we've been missing church as well. We made it to church once this month, but it happened to be the week of the potluck dinner. I do hope we will be back for a service before the next dinner.

Of course, sickness has put a damper on our school days, as well. Paying close attention to each of the older children, I find the ones that are either not sick yet or I observe how sick a child is to determine what I can expect of them for any given day. If they have fevers, can't keep awake or are just plain miserable, they definitely get a break. When they are on the upswing, I know they can handle reading, practicing some math facts and listening to Mommy read. In our large family, it can take a while for all of the sickness to pass through the home. Sometimes, only a few come down with something, but the ones who remain well are expected to help. Besides their school work, they are gaining a vast knowledge of life skills. Wiping noses, comforting the little ones, making special "sick beds" on the couches are all part of "Caring for Sick Siblings 101". It also helps all of us to practice patience because the little ones are extra needy during the sick times. There is usually more whining and more crying.

Even with sickness and bad weather, we are off to a good start. I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore except for one. That is to not make any resolutions. So, that's one resolution I always keep! Oh, I have goals and things I'd like to accomplish, but more than those, I simply desire to grow closer to Jesus and to my husband and children in the next year. All the other things pale in comparison. I pray that God will reveal those things that are keeping my focus off of Him and my family and that He will draw me closer to Him.

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith."
Hebrews 12:1-2