The Why: Time Edition

The it the second post since in which I’ve started writing out why we do things the way we do. People who know us are probably thinking, “You mean, the hard way?” …maaaaybeee…

Anyways, I’m mostly recording this for my own sake. It helps me to remember why Nic and I have structured our lives the way we have, and you dear friends (I accidentally originally typed fiends, which made me giggle) just happen to subscribe to the journal of alphabet soup that explodes out of my brain now and then.

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So first I talked about food, which was super easy. Even if people have an opinion, I think it would be difficult to find a good reason for expecting me to do something differently. It was low risk. I likey.

Buuuut, now on how we use our time. A wee bit more touchy when you live sub-level to a multi-lense cellular magnification device.

What does our life even look like? First the how:

Daily, our life looks a wee bit different from many families. First, Nic works when and where it suits him. This means, while he has a lot of work to do, he gets to remain involved in a lot of our daily lives. Most days he and I are up earlier than the kids (more on that later) so we can spend time with Jesus, spend time with each other and then discuss our day.

Sometime Nic eats breakfast with us (yay for us!). Either way, we usually get some things done around here and then he gets to “work”. He heads to the church office, the “office” (aka his standing desk in the garage) or sometimes a coffee shop depending on what needs done.

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While he works for a few hours, the kids and I get our day started. This usually looks like breakfast, clothes and the like, and then slave labor chores. While I finish  absolutely necessary household duties (such as the rolling hills of dirty dishes or the vast mountain of laundry) the kids are supposed to be playing.

Our kids don’t usually get out of bed until 8 or 9 or maybe later for Micaiah. So between the aforementioned tasks and whatever life throws at us, that usually brings us to much time.

The afternoon brings naps (praise Jesus) and “structured” (kind of, I mean structured for me) school with Micaiah. This usually looks like some reading and discussion before I get him started on whatever activities he might be doing on his own.

We eat dinner early, around 5.

Then, we get ready for our evening which may involve guests for dinner, Bible study or outreach night with some teenagers or other miscellaneous activities. Our “free” evenings are few and far-between.

In the late evening we do more chores, a little cleaning up, get ready for bed and the next day. Besides normal bedtime stuff (like teeth brushing) we read a Bible story and pray with our children. Lately Nic has been doing this with the older kids while I finish straightening some things and then put Eloise to bed.

My day goes much better Everyone’s day goes better if I can just wake up to a cleanish floor and orderly throw pillows and blankets on the couch. A clean counter is nice, but I mostly just do it to keep the pests away. I can get from my room to my spot on the couch without seeing the kitchen, so if it weren’t for the gross factor of having a dirty kitchen I wouldn’t worry about until breakfast time. Weird? Maybe. But orderly pillows make for a sane mother in this house.

Mop, girl, mop!

Mop, girl, mop!

Also, if there is more “stuff” on the floor then I feel like I can pick up before Eloise needs to be in bed, I sweep it into a pile and pretend I don’t see it in the morning. Then, I assign that chore ASAP to one of my beautiful children. I don’t even know how the stuff gets there, it’s insane what accumulates in one day. Someday I’ll take a picture for you, then you’ll know were really friends.

Now to the why:

Much of the way we disciple others happens in the evenings: Bible studies, meals, sports etc. So we’ve always put our kids to bed later than the average family. The result has been kind of cool. Our children all get the amount of sleep they need. They just start and end later than many other families. The flexibility of homeschooling means that we can continue this as long as it works for us, not worrying about kids who need to be up to catch a bus or drive to school.

I love that the Hebrew day traditionally began in the evening. The way I spend the end of my day, drastically effects the next one. So I to do my best to prepare for a good day.

I didn't even know a "felfie" was a thing. But here we are taking a farm animal selfie.

Because we like to “do things the hard way”. We do a lot of working at home. I prefer things handmade, done ourselves and of course, beautiful. I’ve encountered some questioning on this one. When we moved here, I explained to the nice people on the board and search committee and then the congregation that we want people in our home. We do ministry at home. This was different from both our communities tendencies and the previous youth pastor & family. (Please read as different, not better. I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s…ok I’ve digressed :) So, I think they didn’t believe me.

Three years later, (yes three, gotta love slow moving change where the roads are dirt) it’s finally actually working like that. For a while, even I was wondering why I didn’t go to this or that. But remaining homeward oriented has paid off. Young mothers, unbelieving neighbors, employees from the business across the street, people who know people on the aforementioned list, and completely random people who know this is a parsonage are all among the many visitors we get in any given week.

A walk.

A talk.

A cup of coffee or tea.

It starts differently, but inevitably some need whether emotional, physical or spiritual, mine or theirs is always met.

It’s beautiful.

And it’s just one of the many dreams that have come true for me lately. See, fairy tales do happen: in the way of good and perfect gifts from God.

Again, working at home allows us to be available to people and gives us a unique opportunity to show people we care by setting our work down or involving them in it.

As a socially awkward (awkward is such a fittingly awkward looking word!) introvert, it would be a bad idea for me to be leading on up front situations. And as a creative person it doesn’t work out well if I take on administrative roles. By that I mean that I’m fine through the whole process and everyone else is panicking.

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We’re all gifted differently. Women are different from men and different from each other. We continue to try to evaluate things (read: I occasionally overanalyze things) to ensure that we’re honoring the Lord, our brothers and sisters in Christ and our community with our time. It’s a lot to balance.

Let’s just say I’m super-dee-duper thankful for grace.

Our big “thing”

I read. A lot.

I clearly remember my parents coming home from a parent-teacher conference with grim looks on their faces only to report that I was a book worm. Apparently my teacher (one of the best out there btw) had to tell them that I was even reading when I wasn’t supposed to be, zooming through books faster than I could get them from the library.

Today, I’ve moved on from Nancy Drew (most days!) and try to read things that will grow me as a believer, wife and mother. I often seek out books and blogs and articles to help me parent and homeschool “right.” It’s almost as if I feel like there’s a perfect combination that, if I could just narrow it down, equals a recipe for perfect children. Of course, to write that it seems ridiculous, but that’s the reality of my strivings.

11169793_10103099164671053_774557601831639369_nI’ve developed a sort of way I go about things (always being adjusted slightly) that seems good to me. In all of my likes and dislikes I’ve found resources that I turn to.

Montessori preschool, waldorf play, reggio amelia too, building independence, Bible-based discipline, classical homeschool, sustainable/whole foods. And there is a blog and book or ten about all of them! But as I look at families who seem to have any one of those “down,” I can’t help but wonder about something. If waldorf is our thing, or interest-lead learning or even classical schooling, where does Jesus fit? I mean really, should Jesus just “fit?”

I asked my husband about this about a year ago when I was expecting Eloise. None of those things equal Godly offspring. Only God’s grace can do that. 

So how do I make our “thing” Jesus. When people look at our blog, Facebook pages even our home and our family, I want them to see Jesus. Do they see wooden toys? Children studying Greek? Or do they see the love of Jesus? The peace of God?

Since I’ve started thinking about this a couple of things have changed:

I’ve loosened up on a few things. Learning to depend on God’s grace means I don’t have to strive for perfection AND I don’t have to worry about what other people think.

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I’m slowly learning to see things more through my children’s eyes. This means more fun, more yes answers and less teacher-voice (at which my son’s eyes automatically roll anyway). It also means more discipline. I’ve seen a look of contempt come from some of my friends’ older daughters toward their mothers. When two women live in the same house, some amount of conflict is inevitable. But one thing I think would prevent some of this is good discipline early on. God’s authority, God’s grace. If they get that, they’ll be just fine.

We’ve been more intentional in our Bible study. We had already done a Bible story before bed, but now we try to make it more enjoyable for our children all ages and in different ways. Family Bible study should be something they look forward to, right?

Also, I’ve been keeping my children with me in service. The baby is the only one I’ll occasionally pass off.IMG_1212 Not only do I want them to learn to sit in church (quietly obviously…one day. Sigh.) but I want them to learn to listen and participate. (Side-note: one of the biggest obstacles we see in Christian teens is that once they’re given their own youth pastor, they’re no longer taught to learn from the main pastor. They’re only required to sit still and keep quiet.)

I’m sure there are more ways, maybe even some I don’t notice. (I hope!) These are just some things I’ve been wrestling with, and this happens to be where I share them. I’d love to hear your take on Jesus being the center. Here’s a verse I’ll leave you with today, one my wise and wonderful husband brought excitedly to me a while back:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring
Malachi 2:15

 

On Mothering: Part Two

Soaking Cold! As my son would say.

Soaking Cold! As my son would say.

If you missed Part One, you can find it here.

Several months have gone by since I wrote that post. Even after I wrote with such resolution, I still went through huge concerns regarding how I should be doing bed time, nursing and other infancy stage questions. I wanted to share with you some specific things that have come up and how things are turning to be just fine – of course!

The first thing you need to know is that I’m pregnant for the fourth time! This was the root of many of my insecurities. My daughter has pretty much always nursed to sleep. I tried to nurse until I knew she’d be full and then lay her down drowsy. After six or seven times at 3 in the morning, I realized that I was about to become dangerously frustrated with my newborn and I brought her to bed with me.

All along, she could not self-soothe within any reasonable amount of time. I continued to try as she got older, even zonked out she would some times wake up and not go to sleep unless she nursed. I know there are probably some moms (or at least I imagine you’re out there) saying that I just didn’t have the tenacity; she needed to learn to soothe herself and I didn’t give her the chance. Let me help you understand this. It’s the same in the car. If she was tired she would cry scream like she was dying. Sometimes I would stop, but other times we just couldn’t. Knowing that she was fed and changed we would just keep driving. This baby (who fusses for about 3 seconds and goes straight to screaming bloody murder) has screamed for almost an hour and a half. Usually even then she didn’t fall asleep, but when she did she would still be gasping for air as if she was till crying. You know, those quick inhales like she’s sobbing. Talk about heart breaking, not to mention making this very spontaneous, adventurous momma never want to take another road trip again!

I began to wonder if she was ever going to go to sleep without nursing. How was I going to move her from a sidecar-crib to a floor bed of her own. I didn’t mind the idea of tandem nursing, especially for the health benefits. But I did not want her to be so dependent on me with our next blessing comes. Even when I had six months time, I was concerned as to whether everything would work out. I was already a little stressed about the chaos that would be if I didn’t “fix” this.

Our family took a little trip for my husband to take a class at a nearby college (I live in a big state, so nearby is often several hundred miles.) I had the privilege of spending time with a mother whom I respect, possibly more than any other young mom I know. She was complementing me on how “chill” I was with my firstborn. I admitted that I was just to young to know about all the parenting methods and cultural expectations and I just did was I thought was right. Pair that with a super-easy going baby and what’s not to be chill about?! By the time my daughter came around I was aware that there are certain “ways” and she was one of those “high-needs” (oh, how I hate these labels) babies. I admitted to my friend that there were so many things I said I would not do that I caved and did, just because it was what worked. She didn’t know this, but as I used the example of bringing my baby to bed with me, it killed me to admit it to her. She has so much resolve and seems so comfortable in the way her and her husband have chosen to do things. While I know she doesn’t have it all together, I still feared what she thought of me in a number of ways. Even the idea that she may read this and find out that my daughter’s crib is right next to my bed gives me some butterflies in my tummy!

As usual, fear of man led me to stress quite a bit about it all again. My daughter got sick after that trip and so of course then she was waking up several times a night (by that I mean a good six times or more) and nursing. It all seemed kind of hopeless. “If I was only more like her (out of town mommy-buddy), I wouldn’t be in this mess.” I kept telling myself I had done something wrong along the way.

To make a long story shorter, here’s what happened next. My husband and I knew it was time for us to make an adjustment. I tried to ignore how my super-mom friends do things and ask myself what I believe about Biblical parenting. Find the extended version here, but basically I am for healthy independence but I’m all about helping my children make the adjustments at their own pace. Yes, I could sing my son a song and lay him down at one month old and he would sleep all night long. With my daughter, it’s been very different. One day, during my much-needed alone time she got tired early. My husband walked with her until she was pretty much asleep then laid her in the crib and rubbed her back while she fussed herself to sleep. He did this nap and night time for several days and then I took a stab at it. Sometimes with me she still wants to nurse and it takes longer/more fussing than it would for my husband. She has gotten better and better at self-soothing. Very soon we’ll be able to lay her down and leave her with just as little trouble. After our trip I said I would let her cry it out if that’s what she needed to learn, but that it was only fair to try and help her learn. It’s so encouraging to see how far we’ve come!

In the last post I mentioned pleasing the Lord and not being lazy. If I had only followed my own advice. I just need to show my children Christ-like qualities: patience AND discipline, kindness AND healthy boundaries. This Psalm has been so many things in recent months so I’ll share it in closing with you today:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
 Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127

On strong-willed children and the like

Today I was writing in a journal, a luxury I rarely get. Here are some thoughts I thought I’d share concerning the temperaments of my children. People have been classifying them as of late. You know: good, bad, wild, calm, smart, trouble…those kinds of things. Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

The truth is: yes my children are different. But they were both formed by the same loving Creator with unique personalities.

They are both corrupted by the same sin-nature and they are both in need of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.

What saddens me: Because my son demanded less of me, he received less of me. less nursing, less cuddling, less holding – he was easy. But is that really the way babies should be cared for? Just because he played so well by himself, how wish I would have just held him more.

Maybe God made him to be a more introverted soul in order to appreciate deep, meaningful relationships with others. Maybe he will be exceptional at taking the hand of those in need of fellowship or discipleship . Maybe as he grows in wisdom, what little he’ll say will lead many along on the narrow road.

Yes, my daughter pushes the boundaries. She tests the limits and explores every nook and cranny. What if one day she instead pushes the church around her to test what is truly Biblical? What if she tests the limits of what culture says she can do with the Word for instruction and faith, grace and love as her tools? What if she explores every avenue to seek out lost souls to be taken into he heart and home and thereby into His fold.

I feel that her outgoing nature is no more of a weakness than his introverted nature. She may struggle with obvious sings, while he struggles with secret sins…Of course I would hope none of this for my children and this is why I pray for God to grant me the grace to see how to disciple my children.

In a world where raising young ones is about managing behavior (appearances really), I desire that God would use me to cultivate the inward person of the heart to be something beautiful. That all of my children would walk with Him and glorify him with their lives…no matter the cost.

I have an odd sense of peace about all of this…The thought of my children suffering for Jesus’ sake raises a pain I my chest, but also a peace and joy that the Father would be their first love…

Can any of you relate? Do you understand? I want my children’s personalities to be seen as a gift from God that they can offer back to him, not a stumbling block. They will have enough of those in this life.

A Message for the Anxious

I’m writing this for the only person whom I refer to as my BFF. Cheesy I know, but it’s how we’ve signed our Hallmark cards for years. As I thought of ways to encourage her while she deals with deep-seeded anxiety, it dawned on me that many other women could use these same words. As I watch this woman, whom I love dearly, walk through this struggle my heart is equally heavy for you, yes you. Across the screen wondering what I could possibly have to say to help your anxieties. I sincerely wish I could sit across a table from you and lift your spirits. So I decided to share these words. In fact, you will receive them with her – at the same time – because you are equally important to our Savior as my dear friend.

Anxiety is impossible to understand, especially when you’re in the thick of it. After several conversations with a leading American Neurophysiologist, I am convinced that it is truly only for the Lord to know exactly what is going on inside of us, the secrets of the heart (Ps 44:21). In our society we look at a problem and feel the need to understand it before we develop a step-by-step solution.

I have often spouted advice, even scripture, in your face as if it’s as easy as fixing cereal in the morning. And then I experienced anxiety myself. All of a sudden my two-word sermon, “fear not” made me want to slap myself in the face. Forgive me, and other ignorant orators for our heartless advise. This time, I don’t pretend it’s simple. I know that one doesn’t just stop being afraid. But with empathy and understanding this time, I still want you to remember this: God commands His people to “fear not” more than any command in the Bible. In fact, repeats is roughly five times more than “love one another” and “love the Lord” put together.

It is clear that He doesn’t want you to be afraid. Nice, how on earth do I do that? Here’s what I picture working out best:

First off, I think it will be a battle. Friend, please don’t treat anxiety as something you need to find a way to “get over”: as if it’s a hurdle you just haven’t been able to leap yet. If the enemy knows you’re weak, he is definitely not going to let one (or even several) sincere “bounds” discourage him. He comes to seek, kill and destroy and toying with your fears is a surefire way to break down our faith if we are unprepared.

Which leads me to my second point. I love you, and so I want to help you see this. There are patterns in your life leading up to your worst anxiety. What? Who? Where? What are the common factors amongst the most difficult times in your life? If you don’t (and even if you do) see some, you should probably ask someone close to you what they think. Maybe they’ll even help you sort through the root cause. Why those particular things? Past experiences? Bitternes/unforgiveness? Unrepentant for sins in your own life? I don’t know! But try your best to prepare yourself next time. This might mean self-examination or having tough conversations with others and should definitely include burying yourself in scripture and prayer. Ask for others to pray, there’s no such thing as to much prayer!

Move on. Don’t get red in the face yet; let me explain. One time Nic taught on sin. He sat a snazzy red button (pop bottle on a small tile, but it looked cool anyways). He told everyone about the button, all about the button, and repeatedly mentioned how it would be detrimental to push the red button. Of course it didn’t take long before someone HAD to push it. Sometimes we focus SO HARD on not doing something, that we can’t help but fall into it again. So yes, do that study on trust. But then, please do one on joy. Or John. Or Judges! -Anything but worry/fear/lack of faith.

This last thing is something I feel very strongly about. When you choose to believe in the God of the Bible, you must believe all of Him. His every attribute it Truth, the only Truth! Jesus said this to believers while He walked amongst them, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” 

Sister in Christ, bad thing do happen. All around us. You and I both know what loss feels like, what empty arms feel like. I don’t know your whole past. I don’t know why you fear pain, loss etc so much. But then quite possibly, neither do you. Please try and carve the words of the God who knit you together on your heart. What does worrying accomplish? Absolutely nothing…good.

Finally, I think we need to find something else for your mind to do. Telling you not to worry is like telling a child not to touch anything. How about we give you something constructive to do with those ever-turning gears? I find something Solomon said on the subject quite fascinating. I know Ecclesiastes could be depressing, unless you understand what the teacher is trying to say.

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

We cannot understand what is going on around us and in our lives. But we serve a God who does. I mentioned earlier how we always want to understand the problems around (an in) us in the process of solving them Without realizing it, our pride let’s us believe that, “if we can just figure it out for ourselves” it will all make sense. But it’s not supposed to. God rules. God wins. God cares for us. The only thing we figure out is how to function on minute amounts of sleep (as I write this at 2am). I think Solomon understood something we don’t when he said not to do that :)

I love you my friend, near and far. I pray sincerely that you will overcome, one battle at a time. I have one last thought and one last scripture, for this is the only thing I can imagine leaving you with. Remember that first and foremost is grace. HIS grace. Those around you will need grace, grace that He will have to provide you with. You will need grace from those around us, they’ll have to see Him for that too. Grace, His perfect grace, is the foundation for love, for forgiveness and for trust. All these, imperfect: except that His grace covers all in faith. If you look at your life, time and time again it will always feel like it can come crumbling down. Through His grace, He wants to see you have grace, whether or not situations/people make it easy. Maybe we get anxious because we’re not going to the Source in ways which would prepare us for, well, anything?  If you look at His life, His grace, you will only see a solid rock that will withstand e-ver-y-thing that could even possibly happen.

I pray for Love, Grace and especially…Peace,

Mission of Hope Haiti - Nic looking out the window at the new hospital

Mission of Hope Haiti – Nic looking out the window at the new hospital

Elicia

Unless the Lord builds the house,

those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. -Psalm 127:1,2

Playing With A Purpose! Preschool at Home

I love to learn. So even if I hadn’t set out to do preschool with my son, our playing would have ended up somewhat educational. I am not naturally administrative or organized by other people’s standards (I think my systems work just fine :) so I wanted to share how I approached the tiny sprout of preschool that we’ve begun this year.

Style

The first thing I decided on was a style of learning that suited my child and I. It didn’t take a whole lot of thought since I have a

boy reading bible

photocred Tammy Deshner

super easy going kid and we play together frequently.

I love the idea of Montessori-style activities. This makes it easier for me to be patient while my son takes his time on the ones he likes. (Sadly I often have a shorter attention span than my 2 1/2 year old son.)

Micaiah and I both love crafty learning! Anytime he can create something, we both have a blast! As we do more activities, I’m starting learn more specifically how the help Micaiah engage better in learning.

Content

I jotted down a few categories in my Moleskin and then listed specifically what I would like him to know by the holidays. (I’m pregnant and due in the new year so I’ll reevaluate what I think I can handle after we do this for a while. Plus, I want to take plenty of time to do Christmas-specific activities.)

I want my son to begin to learn letters, shapes and counting as well as learn about God’s character from His Word. (He’s pretty much got colors down.) Knowing my son and his natural interests, I’ll use them to help him learn these! As we develop skills and knowledge through different activities, I love to see him delight in learning something new even if its simply through a conversation we have while playing.

Micaiah LOVES animals. At two years old, he doesn’t just identify a “bird” but knows a flamingo from an eagle from a hawk from an ostrich and so on. This boy reads elementary school level animal books and wants you to help him identify every unique animal in it! Therefore…

  • We’re doing an animal alphabet using coloring sheets I made from free images online. He learns the letter that the animal’s name starts with and a fact or two about it.
  • We count animals when we see them in groups in images, books and out-and-about. (He can count to six but would rather say “one, two, one, two…” so that he can get through the whole herd.)
  • We started out doing a shape every two weeks, but I found that it was a little to much for him. So, we talk about shapes when we encounter it (and I think if it) and he seems to be catching on just fine.
  • Bible “Lesson” (see below in Resources)

 Structure

I balk at the word. But I decided that I had to schedule specific time or we would never get anything done! Beyond that, I simply have an objective and allow him to choose from lots of activities that I can use to guide him toward that objective. Very simple and it may need to grow as our family does, but right now we both enjoy this easy-going pace.

Resources

Bible –  The purpose for growing and educating my children is to develop young disciples who glorify God and further His kingdom. I had intended on doing very short memory verses/biblical ideas. This turned out to be to much for him so I ditched it (not the Bible all together obviously). Because we already do a family Bible reading/prayer time each evening, I simply ask him comprehension/teaching questions when things come to mind. I also think this helps him create a habit of thinking about/talking to the Lord anytime – not just at bedtime, mealtime and church.

If I’m still reading my Bible when he wakes up in the morning, I open to a Psalm or something simple and read a few verses. This way he has personal exposure to a real Bible and who God is (not just a storybook). Plus, any time in the Word for Micaiah is good time in the Word!

1+1+1=1 has been an indispensable resource and a great encouragement

Intentional Homeschool – This site is relatively new, so it’s fairly small so far. I do love their vision and think it will become a great resource.

Twisty Noodle – Free printable coloring pages for many animals, dinosaurs and a whole lot more!

Google – Seriously, I find free coloring pages soooo helpful. I also print off a real photo of each animal. (I remember find the real thing so much more interesting as a kid.) It also piques his interest if I let him get on the computer and do a little “research” on the animal with me. Between google and pinterest, I can find crafts and coloring for any crazy animal we pick!

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I find myself referencing regularly.

How did you help your kids learn “the basics” in early childhood? Did you include spiritual growth?