Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Where Is Our Focus?


Ah!  It's that time of year again. Christmas music fills the house.  Favorite recipes are found and pantries are stocked with the necessary ingredients.  The Christmas tree is cut and decorated.  Presents are being purchased, wrapped and hidden in secret places.  The family is in good spirits, singing, laughing, and smiling.  But, there's a problem.  Yes, the music is playing.  Good smells from the kitchen are filling the house.  The tree is beautiful and the idea of presents has the children giddy and excited, but I have to admit, we're not always smiling and in good spirits.

Over the last few weeks, there's been bickering, complaining, and worry.  The little ones have been downright naughty.  The older children have had problems with bad attitudes and I hear myself complain about the most trivial things.  Of course, the children are very good at mimicking their mother, but when I see it in them, it annoys me.  I worry about money.  I worry as I never seem to have the time to do anything else besides the basics of dishes, laundry and cooking.  Home schooling is being done, but on some days, we definitely don't accomplish my goals for the day.  Oh, the kids are learning, but I do tend to have goals that are a bit lofty for this time of year. 

Last week, my evenings were filled with rehearsals and concerts for the symphony chorus as we presented our "Holiday Pops" for the community.  It's always a great experience for me to sing in this group and the concerts definitely helped to get us in the mood for the season, but on the down side, my husband and kiddos had more responsibilities and missed the presence of Mom in the evenings.  I am also completely spent. 

One decision we made a long time ago that has helped us was to limit the number of gifts for each child to three.  Three gifts were given to Baby Jesus by the Wise Men, so we thought that would be a good number.  As our family has added more children, even three was still too much, so we are down to two each with that third gift being for a family in need or extra funds being given to an orphan ministry that we support.  The older children help to contribute to this and they are all beginning to understand how the needs of others are much greater than our own.  This year, we sent bags of rice and gifts of Bibles.  We felt it was essential to not only help to fill these orphans' bellies, but also to feed their souls.  I would still like to see us give so much more, but it's a start. 

This is a wonderful time of year, but only when we can keep the focus off of ourselves and most importantly when we remember how much God has done for us.  Of all of the needs that we have, the need for a Savior who came and took our place on that cross was the greatest.  We could have never saved ourselves or faced a holy God without Jesus.  His love is beyond all comprehension.  I am so thankful at this time of year, but every day when I remember His great love for us. 

So, I think there's some repentance in order for the complaining and bickering that our family has done lately.  We also need to repent of our lack of thankfulness and our focus being on anything but Jesus.  After the gifts are unwrapped, the tree is down and the goodies are eaten, we still have Him.  He is all we need.  He is all we will ever need. 


"Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing."


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Embracing God's Design

Before she entered the room, the young home school mom thought she had come to the wrong place. Peering in through the window of the door in the meeting room, she observed other ladies that she felt looked the part. One woman was shifting uncomfortably in her chair, dressed in a suit with a briefcase on the floor beside her. Another woman with a very short haircut and flawless make-up and nails was typing away on her laptop. A younger lady in jeans and a T-shirt was hurriedly texting someone on her phone. And, then there was Katie, the home school mom, dressed in her jumper and holding her notebook and pen. She did not want to go in. She wasn't quite ready to admit that she was very much like the others, that she struggled with some of the same thoughts. She then remembered the discussions she had with her husband, the Scripture she had been reading and the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit that led her to this place. She scolded herself for looking down on the other women she saw and realized that she did not know their stories. Each one of them was there to support one another. Katie asked the Lord to forgive her for judging the others, took a deep breath and walked into the room.

This was Katie's first time at a meeting like this and she felt the butterflies in her stomach growing more restless. Would she be able to utter the words that the other ladies around her were saying? All she had to do was add her name, and the rest of the words should come easy. She continued to hear each woman introduce themselves and then admit that they too had bought into the same lie. After what seemed like hours, it was finally Katie's turn. With as much courage as she could muster, she said, "Hi, I'm Katie...and I'm a feminist."

Okay, to my knowledge, I don't believe there actually is a "Feminists Anonymous" although in the blogosphere, there are a few sites that are either committed to disclosing the lies of feminism with the name of "Feminist Anonymous" or they are committed to supporting feminism. But, what if there was? Would Christian women go to the meetings? Would we finally admit that all of us struggle with feminism?

Growing up in the 70's and 80's, I heard about feminism and the women's liberation movement. As a Christian, I saw how destructive it was to our society and to the family, but when I thought about feminism, I only thought of the extreme side of it: Those who fought against God's design for women. Those that wanted to denounce the differences between men and women. Those who campaigned for "equal pay and equal treatment", running over anyone that was in their path. Those who rejected the importance of marriage and family and instead embraced a career and a life unto themselves.  Those who fought for the right to murder the unborn.  I only thought of feminism as something that a non-Christian would support. I mean, what Christian woman would be feminist?

The problem with only seeing feminism as an extreme idea or as something that only an unbeliever would support is that we place the blame on others and do not see that we are all guilty of this evil thinking.  And, I say evil, because the roots of feminism go back to Eden.  When Eve listened to the Serpent who questioned what God had said to the first couple, she ceased to believe God.  She denied the authority that God had over her and the natural result of this was to rebel against the authority that God had placed over her through Adam.  God's design of man's headship over woman was not one of cruelty.  It was a beautiful thing that ultimately pointed to the headship that Christ has over His Church.  We are all subject to authority.  The head of man is Christ, the head of woman is man, the head of children are parents, but we are all subject to the Lord Christ.  When we fight this, we fight God. 

As I have pointed out, feminism has its roots from the Garden of Eden, but we have seen waves of feminism throughout our history.  During early Bible times, the times of the Roman Empire, the beginnings of the "women's movement" in the late 18th century and up to now, there has been feminism weaved into the culture.   Jennie Chancey from Ladies Against Feminism has a very helpful and concise article explaining the beginnings and meanings of feminism.http://www.ladiesagainstfeminism.com/theme-articles/what-is-feminism/


Also, Matt Walsh has written from a different angle in that he states men and women are not equal. http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/09/02/men-and-women-are-not-equal/ Yes, we have all been made in the image of God.  We all have value which comes from the Lord and as Christians, we are "fellow heirs of the grace of life."  I Peter 3:7  But, we are not equal, meaning, we are not the same.  God has designed us with different roles.

So, maybe after taking a closer look at the roots of feminism and witnessing how it has permeated into today's culture, we can better understand how it has affected all of us.  It has definitely influenced us in one way or another, but do we see that it is a constant struggle for even those of us who know the Lord?  Do we see that as Christians we need the work of the Holy Spirit to fight the desire that we have to rebel against God's design for us?

It is so easy to point the finger at those who look or act the part of a feminist, but do we wives see that every time we disrespect our husbands, whether it's in front of our children, other people, or even behind our husband's back, we are dishonoring the Lord?  We need to be careful even when words are said in jest. What we say to and about our husband can greatly affect future marriages. It can hurt our husband and it can affect how our children look at him.  Being disrespectful is a terrible example to our daughters as to how to act towards the man that God gives them one day.  I am ashamed at how many times I have done this very thing.  There have been times when my husband was reminded of passages from Proverbs where it says,  "A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike",(Proverbs 27:15), or "It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman",(Proverbs 21:9).  No, our husbands do not always act in a way that pleases the Lord.  They sin.  They hurt us, but we are to live in forgiveness, lifting them up to the Lord each day.  We need to share when we are hurt or when we struggle to do as they ask, but we can do this in a way that is not hateful.  God did not command that we respect our husbands when they deserve it.  Turn that around.  God commands the husband to love his wife and to give himself up for her.  If we were loved only when we deserved it, we would not be loved very much.  God loves us unconditionally and He expects us to love our spouses in the same way.  "That's next to impossible," you say.  "You don't know MY husband!"   No one understands the relationships we have with our husbands, but, God's Word does not change.  When we live according to His Word, He is honored, our marriage and our family functions in the way that God intended and the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed loud and clear.  When we are out and about, people notice that our lives are different.  Many times, this opens up excellent opportunities to share the love of Christ with others. 

This is an area in my life that can be a huge challenge at times.  Just as an alcoholic cannot go back to taking a drink from time to time, I as a recovering feminist cannot go back to this line of thinking.  I must die daily to myself and to my desires for control and to submit my will to Christ.  This can only come from the power of God's Holy Spirit.  I must not expose myself to feminist thinking that is generated so incessantly in movies, in music or in books.  I need to be careful who influences my life.  I must be in God's Word.  I must be on my face before Him and I must step out on faith during those times that feminism rears its ugly head.  I pray that God will help me to embrace His design and not my own and I pray that my marriage reflects Christ and His Church. I want my life to always give glory to Him.




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Resting in His Word


It has been a whole week since we said goodbye to the little one I was carrying.  Recovery has been slow.  Besides dealing with grief, I was suffering with terrible headaches and exhaustion.  The headaches are subsiding, but I find I am still very tired.  I know to expect this, but it's still difficult when I'm used to bouncing back and managing the household.  My husband and older children have been doing most of the tasks and I am thankful for their help.  It's not easy for them.  The little ones don't get as much "Mommy" time as they are used to getting, so sometimes, they misbehave just a little more.  My husband has to keep up with things from work and still is making sure I am cared for and the house is running smoothly. 

I rest mostly, but I have been trying to get up and around more, setting small goals for each day.  I plan at least once a day to walk to my flower gardens or check the mail.  Yesterday, I threw the ball back and forth with our dog.  Annie was a bit surprised when I quit only a few minutes into our game.  I will sit and fold socks, get up to throw a load of laundry into the dryer or make my way to the living room to read to the children.  Today, I may iron a shirt or two.  Or maybe not.  Writing helps me a great deal, but I am so thankful for the times in the Word most of all.  That communion with my Heavenly Father is sweet and healing.  I desire that these times in His Word will continue.  Even when I'm back to my busy schedule again, I want to remember how much I need to hear from Him.  It was His Word that gave me the strength and the peace to get through our recent struggle and it is His Word that reminds me to rejoice every day.  I need His direction.  I need to seek Him when I'm planning my lessons, when I am correcting a child, when I am performing a mundane task or when I am dealing with doubt and fear.  God is so good and so loving.  I am thankful for His Word that cements this truth into my heart. 

"O how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day."  Psalm 119:97

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walking Through the Valley

In the last few days, we have been experiencing something very painful.  We were so excited as we were expecting another child and now that is no longer a reality.  Last week, I began having some minor bleeding.  That was not normal for my pregnancies, so I called my dear friend and midwife.  She gave me suggestions and a few things that I could take to help, but I think I knew that we needed to plan to say goodbye to our little one.  Each day, I hoped and prayed that the bleeding would stop, but it just increased.  I really wasn't sure what to expect.  We lost a baby about seven years ago, but it was much earlier in the pregnancy and the symptoms were very minimal.  Years later, I began to grieve for that little one, but at the time, I didn't feel the loss very much.  The knowledge of the pregnancy was so short that I had not begun to bond with the baby. 

This time around, it's been different.  I was planning my life around the time of the expected birth.  I bought a new maternity dress that I planned to wear on our upcoming twentieth wedding anniversary.  I thought about the baby every time I would eat or drink.  We were discussing possible names for the little one.  The children were looking forward to another brother or sister.  I talked to the baby, sang to the baby, prayed over the baby. 

As I realized that things weren't looking good, I prayed even more.  I prayed for a miracle.  I prayed that if it was God's will, that He would usher this little one into His presence peacefully.

I'm not going to pretend that I've been handling it like a champ.  I have been fearful.  I have been begging God for another child.  I have been going through times of incredible sadness, constant crying and even anger.  I would tell God that I was angry at Him and then, of course, immediately ask for His forgiveness, knowing in my heart of hearts that He loved me, He loved this little one and He would carry us through. 

On Sunday afternoon, my husband felt I needed to get away from the house.  I was weepy and listless and he thought a little time away together would help.  It did help my heart.  We sat at our local Tim Hortons very close together, holding hands and trying to laugh.  It was very hard when a mom with a newborn baby walked in a short time later.  David just squeezed my hand and spoke his usual words of love.  When we later went to Walmart, I knew we needed to go home as soon as possible.  Things were progressing and I wanted to be home with the rest of the family.

I couldn't be with the kids long as I became increasingly ill.  David gathered the children around for the nightly Bible reading and broke the news to them that Momma was very sick and the baby may be going to heaven.  The children came into the bedroom where I was and laid their hands on me while David prayed.  Stephen said quite emphatically, "Mom, your baby is with the Lord."  Even Mary, days before had told me that "when babies die, they go to be with Jesus and sit on His lap."  My oldest girls had put the kids to bed and were getting ready to serve me tea and put on a show to perk my spirits when the bleeding grew worse.  My trips to the bathroom were more frequent, but I tried to rest in bed as I could.  I wondered if I would be able to tell if I passed the baby, but it was impossible with all of the blood.  I kept telling the baby I was sorry, but that I loved him or her.  I told the baby to wait for me, that we would meet each other in God's good timing.  As the bleeding continued, I became more disoriented, but I kept praying and talking out loud to God and to myself.  I kept hearing the verse from the Old Testament about how "the life is in the blood".  I didn't want to hear that, but I wonder now if that was God's way of reminding me that I needed to hang in there.  I saw my face at one point and didn't recognize myself. I looked like death. I was very faint and finally did black out completely for a few minutes.  David had been carrying Sarah around when he heard the several thumps coming from the bathroom.  He handed her to Rachel and came in to check on me again.  In my weakened condition, I told him quietly that we had to call the midwife.  One moment, I thought I could just get through the nightmare by myself and at another moment, I thought my life was ebbing away. 

He called and Becky came very quickly.  It helps that she lives on the next street.  When she arrived, I was shaking uncontrollably.  I was so cold.  She covered me in blankets after checking my blood pressure.  I knew by the look on her face that my situation was an emergency.  She called the squad while my husband called our neighbors to come.  Becky and David did their best to make sure things were out of the way so the EMT's could move me out of the house.  You know, things like my ironing, a bag of unmatched socks, school papers, books.  I remember telling her how sorry I was that the house wasn't cleaner.  When the squad arrived, the two men worked to make sure everything was in place.  They gave me an IV and as soon as they could, they moved me to a stretcher chair.  I was only in my pajamas, so they moved me to the real stretcher quickly as I was shaking from cold again.  As I lay outside waiting to go in the ambulance, I saw the stars that my Maker created and thanked Him that He cared for me.  The EMT's moved me into the ambulance and heated it up for me.  I learned that one of them was a home school dad, so we talked while I breathed into my oxygen mask.  David followed behind the ambulance and we made our way to the hospital.  They didn't blare the sirens until we got into town, so all of the farmers wouldn't wake up.  Boy, the things I do to get a ride to the hospital. 

On arriving, it was the usual hustle and bustle.  Nurses, doctors, and other emergency workers running around like crazy, stopping to ask me questions like my name and date of birth and how many kids we had.  Giving me more IV fluids, moving me, examining me, attaching wires to me.  I was still scared, but relieved I was there and that everyone knew what to do.  To tell the truth, though, I was more worried about my husband.  I knew all of this was hard on him.  Losing a baby, seeing his wife gravely ill and not sure of what was going to happen next. 

The doctor came in to examine me and to talk to me about the D&C.  She told me it was the only way to stop the bleeding, but reassured me that it was a quick procedure and I wouldn't be under anaesthesia very long.  She talked to us about saving any "pregnancy tissue" and I wanted to scream, "you mean the baby, right?"  I knew it would be very hard to see anything because of the blood and even if we could, I'm not sure how we could have handled it.  So, we just placed the little one into the Lord's hands once again, knowing we would see this baby again in a perfect body. 

When it was time for the surgery, the workers wheeled me through the halls to the operating room.  Before going in, I prayed to the Lord and told Him if He wanted me to come home, I would go, but that I'd rather stay here a little longer to take care of my husband and children.  He heard me because I woke up in the hospital.  I was having a hard time seeing because of the effects of the anaesthesia and my throat hurt so badly.  I learned later it was because of the tubes that had been down my throat so that I could breathe during surgery. 

It was a welcoming sight to see my husband again and to feel his touch.  We stayed in the recovery room until just after lunch.  They wanted to make sure I could sit up, move to the wheelchair and use the bathroom.  When they felt I was strong enough to leave, I was wheeled to our car and we made the trip home.  I was able to make it up the porch and into the kitchen holding onto David, but slumped into a chair as soon as I made it inside.  Our dear neighbor gave me a hug and after resting a few minutes, David helped me into bed and that's mostly where I've stayed.

I think the recovery is going to be slow.  Dealing with the exhaustion, the throat and neck pain, the headaches, the constant pounding of my heart that I can hear in my head and the fact that our baby is not going to grow inside of me anymore can be overwhelming.  I still cry, but I'm almost too tired to cry now.  I'm sure there will be more days for that.  Even through all of the pain, I do have hope.  Hope in a God that is infinitely wise, infinitely sovereign and infinitely loving.  He knows me down to the hairs on my head.  He holds me in the palm of His hand.  He knows my future and is bringing about His glory and my good through all of the trials that I face.  This life is only a shadow of what is to come.  My babies in heaven never had to walk through this shadow.  They were instantly ushered into the arms of Jesus who loves them, who already gave them a name.  No shadow for them.  Only Jesus. 

My mother always reminded me that when the psalmist David said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," that meant that God would always walk through the valley with us.  He never intends to leave us there.  And, in these valleys, we grow.  True growth is in the valley, not on the mountaintop.  My hope is in Jesus, who is alive and has promised me eternal life.  Yes, I will see my babies again.  Yes, I will spend eternity with my husband and children, but the best part will be seeing Him.  It's always about Him.  Everything that we face has passed through His hands first.  It is for His glory that we are here and for His glory when we finally reach our real home. 

So, no matter what we may be facing, we can walk through our valleys, knowing that our loving Heavenly Father is guiding us through them and holding our hands.  I want to come out on the other side, stronger and loving Him more than ever.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, July 26, 2013

An Unintentional Break

Just in case anyone was wondering why I haven't posted on this blog for a little while, I'm checking in for just a few minutes.  Between laundry, dishes, house-cleaning, home schooling, home school convention, meal planning, planting and weeding gardens, a short weekend vacation, county fair, and oh yes, eight children and one dear husband, I've been a bit busy.  I'm always busy, but with summer comes added activities.

Some days are pretty stressful. There are days, I'd rather curl up with a good book and shut out the world around me.  I like those times when my husband will take the kids for a few hours, so I can rest or accomplish things I can't do as easily with everyone around.  It can be a struggle from day to day choosing what priorities should be at the top.  The days we spend reading and working hard at our studies are not days we get a lot of housework done.  That's just the way it is.  Then there are the days that we clean the house from top to bottom and bookwork is put on hold, but those days are necessary as well.  Besides, those are the days that I find our books and those lost school papers!  I've had so many people ask me how I do it.  They think that I'm able to squeeze everything into each day.  Maybe they think I am super organized.  Guess what?  I'm not.  In all honesty, we do stick to somewhat of a routine, and I do try to make sure we have clean dishes to eat from and clean clothes to wear, but I am not trying to make it into Better Homes and Gardens.  I have more important things to do.  As a dear friend often says, "The only things that are going to last are the Word of God and the souls of my children."  Yes, the children are learning what they need to know.  Yes, we work to keep up our home and farm, but above all else, our prayer is that the Lord Jesus Christ is first and that we hide His Word in our hearts. 

It's time for me to switch out my laundry, but then, it's back to asking the Lord to shape me into the wife and momma He wants me to be and pray that He does the same for my precious family. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thirsty

It was the beginning of the year, the middle of winter.  Christmas was over and for us, the birthdays were finally over for a couple of months.  It was also the time when we were feeling a sort of slump in our home school.  After the holidays, it was hard to get going again.  The never-ending demands of housework seemed to nag me. Nearly three weeks of sickness was discouraging as well.  On top of it all, I lost a dear friend unexpectedly who was like a brother to me.  I was thirsty.  I felt as though I had been walking through a desert with no oasis in sight.  Not even a change of scenery.  No bend in the road.  I did not like it.  I wanted my heart to stop hurting.  I wanted physical recovery for my family.  I wanted to get back on track with our daily routine.  I wanted balance.  I wanted rest and peace.

Where did I go when I was weary?  Where did I find contentment when I was thirsty?  Where did I turn when I was grieving?  I did pray.  Sometimes, it was a half-hearted effort.  At other times, I earnestly cried out to God, needing His strength and asking Him to make sense of everything. Many times, I just cried.  I played certain songs over and over again, knowing that I would cry more tears upon hearing them.  That was okay, however.  It was what I needed.  I confided in my husband and a few close friends.  They were praying for me and I was so thankful for their prayers and encouragement. 

There were other times that I did not pray.  I chose instead to look inward and not look to the Lord.  It was at those times that I felt sorry for myself, became angry or wished I was somewhere else.  I was not content to rest in the One who loves me deeply, who knows my every need.  When my eyes were not focused on Christ, I forgot that my trials and hurts were meant to draw me to Him.  But, oh, how gracious and compassionate He is!  He gently drew me to Himself.  I knew He was there, still loving me and holding me in the palm of His hand. 

As home school moms, it is so easy to grow weary, to have discontent, even to despair.  Even in the best of circumstances, we don't always "like" our husbands or our children.  Some days, we don't even feel like playing with the kids let alone do schoolwork.  We feel like we might scream if our husbands leave their socks on the floor again.  We forget to smile at our children.  We may even ignore them instead of paying attention to them. These are the times when we have to ask the Lord for His strength to keep going.  We need to step back and look at our children and thank God for what a blessing they are to us.  We may have to let go of the book work for a little while and play a game with them, take a walk around the yard, or even squeeze into that "fort" they made in the living room.  And, guess what?  We will just have to pick up Hubby's socks again and not even say a word about it. 

On a practical level, we do need to take breaks.  A short rest, a cup of tea, a bubble bath, or a walk alone can be very refreshing.  A real treat may be getting together with another mom as both of you can encourage one another.  I would like to offer a word of caution, however, when thinking of taking breaks.  The world and even other Christians can throw that "me time" necessity at you, but remember that you are not taking a break so that you can escape your responsibilities, or escape from those kids. If we simply have "me time", we aren't going to love our children any more than we did before. We can actually lift ourselves higher than we ought, thinking that we are entitled to "me time" and not remembering why we take those little breaks. Jesus went up to the mountainside to pray alone, not so that He could get away from His disciples, but so He could commune with His Father and be of better service for the Kingdom. When we talk about taking breaks, we are doing that to fill ourselves with the Lord, to rest in Him and to go back to those little ones and our husbands with open arms, ready to love them the way God desires. A verse that comes to my mind almost daily is:
"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Gal.6:9
  And a few more:


"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4

So, Mom, if you are thirsty, if you are weary, run to the Lord.  He will give you all that you need.  From the big trials down to the little irritations, God uses all of it to shape you into the woman He wants you to be.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  Just like the potter doesn't leave his lump of clay to be shaped on its own, the Potter will not leave you.  He is actively and lovingly shaping and molding you to be more like Christ.