Wednesday, May 24, 2017

FAMILY- Life-Giving Love. My Gram Sjoberg's 1944 thoughts

Today my mom handed me a paper entitled "A Tribute to Ma and Dad 1944."  I read it immediately and my eyes welled up with tears as I was overcome with the deep security and impression that comes from FAMILY, so beautifully expressed by my grandmother.

My Gram was born 57 years before I was born, in 1918, nearly 100 years ago!  She grew up on the same dead-end dirt road to Canada that I grew up on, seen in the above picture.  I have many times pondered how well nearly all my great grandparents' descendants have done in life- my Gram and her siblings, the next generation which includes my mother, and my generation, and of course there's another generation now too.  I primarily mean spiritually:  Loving God and serving Him.

My Great Grandpa Smith, my grandmother's father, died when I was very young, so I know very little.  However, pictures show a man with a sense of humor, and a man with enough innovation to allow his oldest daughter, Ruby, (my Gram!), to work in the fields some, which I believe was rather unusual!

My Great Grammie Smith lived long enough for me to remember walking to her house or being pulled in a sled there, and playing with a bucket of items while my mom visited with her.

What I have pondered is- What was special?  What did they do, how did they parent, how did they live, what kind of example did they set to yield such great rewards in their children and grandchildren?  

I believe that my Gram's own words, from 73 years ago, answer some of this for me:

[Set the scene in your mind of Thanksgiving 1944.  June of 1944 had brought D-Day.  It was an uncertain time for sure.  My grandmother was 26 years old and had joined the WAVES.]

"One year ago today we assembled around the old family table to partake of the Harvest Feast which was a symbol of the heavenly blessing for the year.  Now we are engaged in a task which has separated us and made it our lot to render thanks alone; and, only in spirit are we with the family circle.

It is a wonderful security to know that back home loved ones are thinking of us and praying for our care and safety.  For our successes and advancements we do not completely take the credit.  Rather Mother and Dad during the years of toil, care, and guidance have had a big part in molding the personality and building the character which has gone out to face a world filled with hatred, fear, and revenge.  We must continue on, and we thank God for the foundation you, Mother and Dad, have laid.

So let us not be weary in well doing.  By keeping the faith, in due time, may God see fit to bring us together once more where we can share joyfully or tearfully the accomplishments of the past, the fellowship of the present, and the possibilities of the future.

Thus may this Thanksgiving be remembered as a day for thanking our Lord that the family can stretch beyond the door-step, and the love found there can endure in spite of changes, time, and distance.  Thank God, my home is just as complete in love, devotion, and sincerity as it was a year ago; only it is much more glorified in that it has proved these attributes to each of us individually.

May we each realize this bond which holds us together, may we seek to drink its fullness, and no matter what comes to us, life will not lose its savor nor the family its lifegiving love."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Delightful Sampling of Life

These past 2 weeks have been a concentrated version of LIFE for us!

In this short time period we have had a sampling of almost everything that I love and find joy in.  The variety of experiences has made these past 2 weeks kind-of a microcosm of our lives, encapsulating in a small amount of time the characteristic delights and encounters that make up our lives, right down to the unfortunate "row" that my husband and I had a week ago!

Our family, our God, our interests, our strengths, have all swirled around us recently.

Some highlights:

  • Easter!  Celebrating our Savior's Resurrection is the culmination of our faith and joy!  We prepared our hearts with God's Word and we attend our own church, Crosspoint Church, as well as my parents' church, EHBC.  
  • 2 of our does gave birth, giving us one kid each!  The preciousness and miracle of new life never gets old.

  • This has meant fresh, raw milk and I have enjoyed every part of that:  Milking, cooking, making yogurt and soap and butter.

  • The Great Outdoors.  I believe that spending time in nature, in God's Creation, is healing for us.  I love sharing these times with my family.  Hiking, Cross-country skiing.  Micah was camping last night!  (Brrrr!!)

  • Family Time!  We've had our work & school to do, but we've had time together:  Ice cream, games, movies, walks & talks.  Time with all our children, our parents, and our nieces and nephew.

  • We've had new accomplishments and favorite experiences:  Micah joined the Boy Scouts!  Micah went to MA for the History Bee.  Micah shot a 500 lb wild boar!  Kevin went skiing with a friend.  Noelle volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club.

These past 2 weeks are such an example of me, to me, that they bring to mind:
  • First and foremost- ALWAYS first and foremost:  Thank you, Jesus!  For all the good things You do!  (-Keith Green)
  • How we are uniquely made by God.  And whenever I start to think about that, I also ponder if I am honoring the unique ways that God made my husband, my son, my daughter, my mother, my friend... I am guessing -just guessing!- that not everyone would love milking twice a day- The act and the preparation and clean-up and the fact that it means one needs to be home every morning and every evening!  I am guessing- just guessing- that not everyone "comes alive" on a hike!!  It is a sincere, intentional goal, even mantra, of mine to honor the uniqueness of others, particularly my family, by not trying to pressure them to be or do what they were not made to be or do, as well as to help them discover and genuinely celebrate who God made them to be and their individual, unique desires, skills, gifts, and interests.  
  • Comparison destroys contentment.  (-Heidi Roseman!)  Why do I always come back to this one?  Probably because it's a struggle for me.  To be content.  (Oh, what I wouldn't do for 10 children!!!)  And to not compare!  I don't intend to do it, but it happens.  It helps to have a heart of gratitude:  Thank you Jesus for what You have done!  

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Meaningful Celebration of St. Patrick's Day!

I pretty much like to celebrate everything.
Snow, losing teeth, baby animals, an accomplishment...
and certainly, holidays!

However, St. Patrick's Day has not exactly been an important one for me.  Clearly, Easter & Christmas are the best because of their religious significance.  Others have a cultural base or a historical base that resonates with us.  But St. Patrick's Day?

When I recently stated that I'm not Irish & feel no connection to this holiday, my father corrected me that I actually do have an Irish heritage.  Even so, I am not connected to this holiday!

And yet we've done all the regulars...
~St. Patrick's Day books from the library, (always about pots of gold & leprechauns).
~Reading an online article about who St. Patrick actually was.
~Wearing GREEN. 
~Making & eating real Irish food as well as St. Patrick's Day-themed food.
~Making shamrock crafts.

Oh, and of course allowing my pre-teen daughter to Irish step dance at bars!  You know, the regular stuff...

A couple of years ago, during my last year of homeschooling, when the kids were 11 & 13 years old, I wanted to go a little deeper.  (No shocker there if you know me!)  I was quite surprised to find very, very little in my research.  There are many articles about St. Patrick & they all say variations of the same thing.  There is information about the symbolism of St. Patrick's Day.  And there are pictures of green beer & American St. Patrick's Day parades & frankly just not much else. 

No suggestions on how to have a meaningful celebration of St. Patrick's Day

So I came up with a missionary theme for this St. Patrick's Day.  It makes sense.  St. Patrick was a missionary who converted many Irish people.

I purchased the book St. Patrick:  Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh and we read it aloud at Tea Time.  Reading this book was a good resource for who St. Patrick was.

Taking the missionary theme a step further, I bought the kids each a missionary biography.  They often like to read before bed.  Micah read Brother Andrew:  God's Secret Agent  by Janet & Geoff Benge.  Noelle read David Livingstone:  Africa's Trailblazer by Janet & Geoff Benge.  Biographies are powerful!  YWAM Publishing has a long list of biographies in their "Christian Heroes:  Then & Now" series.  We have read a number of them and they are very good.  We also love the missionary stories that CEF puts out.

If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day from a missionary angle, there is no end to how you could do that!  Write letters to missionaries.  Pray for them.  Send care packages.  Learn about the missionaries that your church supports.  Let your children choose a country, or a time period, or a profession, and see how that applies to missions.  (And don't forget to wear green and eat fun food too!)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sabbath Rest: Not just for Kids and Christians. Small change with Big Benefits. Screen-Free Days.

If I were asked for my very TOP parenting advice, asked what I have found to be the most helpful and effective, taking a "Sabbath Rest", or- "Screen-Free Sunday" would be in my top 3. 

It's not just for kids.  
The benefits are not exclusive to those who are Christians.  
It doesn't have to be Sundays.

Advice:  Take one day a week and set it aside as screen-free.  Set it aside for rest.  Set it for family & friends and pursuing healthy habits & hobbies.  Set it aside to focus on God.  A Sabbath Rest.  A Screen-free Day.

This is far from a new concept.  It is modeled in the Bible.  We are told to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."  (Exodus 20:8).  (Note:  I am not speaking of being legalistic about the Sabbath.  I am not suggesting we cannot mow our lawns, hang laundry, or go to a store.  Galatians 3:10 gives some insight into this.)

I am suggesting, heartily, that it is worthwhile to take approximately one day a week to REST.

Personally I do not admire the habit of being busy.  I do not strive to be pushed to the brink of exhaustion.  I cherish adequate sleep.  I have discovered all that is good about having a slowed-down lifestyle is amplified on the Sabbath Rest days.

Most students and parents love snow days!  Students love them primarily because it means that they don't have to go to school.  :)  Students love them because it means they can be outside enjoying the fresh snowfall.  My teenagers love them because it means they can sleep in and they will have more time for reading and relaxing.  I love them because when they fall on the right day, I get to stay home and be with my family. 

Taking a Sabbath Rest Day is like a snow day.  It's a day when you don't do what you normally do, (go to school, go to work), and instead you take time for family, rest, and play.  This practice has been a true joy for our family.

Spiritually speaking, taking one day out of every week to focus on the Lord helps us be less likely to drift.  (Like church being a re-set.)  More about that here:

"This spiritual rhythm indicates a clear love for God and His way of living and bears the fruit of relationships and health in the family."  -Brian & Angela Haynes in Relentless Parenting

Spending one day a week for worship and Scriptures with the faith community as well as rest, play, and time with family is halfway done if you are already in the habit of attending church every Sunday.  Our family regularly attends Sunday School, morning church and evening church.  Attending these services and traveling back and forth take up the majority of our Sundays.  The dialogue and discussion while driving as well as at the lunch table are usually lively and lengthy!  We discuss what we have learned but also just about anything else that is on our minds!

**But I did say that this isn't just for religious people.  It's not just for people who want to set aside a day of their week to primarily focus on God.

I believe the principle of a Sabbath Rest and its benefits are applicable to EVERYONE.
That is also why this is not just for kids.  In fact, when we started doing Screen-Free Sundays we told the kids -the truth- that this is just as much for us as it is for them.

We often do a family activity together on our Sabbath Rest Day.  We might go for a bike ride, kayak, or a walk.  We might visit a museum.  We usually are working on a book as a family, reading aloud.   We play games.  We might do a service project together, or even a group chore, such as piling firewood.  We like to use our Sabbath Rest Day as a day to have company over for a meal.  We are in no hurry to leave the table and we eat slowly, we talk and listen.  We might take a walk with our company or play a game. Sometimes both!  We might visit a neighbor or family or friends.

It is counter-cultural to intentionally have a slow-paced day.  It is absolutely fighting upstream.  But it's worth it!  In our family, it makes a marked & noticeable difference.

For us, a Sabbath Rest is heavily intertwined with the necessity that it be a screen-free day.

My personal observations about screen time, particularly individualized screen time which is usually social media on a personal device, but can include TV and movies too:
  • Screen time can be a time waster.  
  • Often if given the choice of a screen, we will take it.  Therefore we often choose not to engage in conversation.  We choose not to pursue healthy habits & hobbies.  We might not even sleep as much as we should.
  • Screen time can aid us in being selfish.  No longer do we have to listen to the variety of songs the radio provides or what someone else in the room is listening to.  We can put our ear buds in so that we only have to listen to what we want.  
  • Screen time gives us instant gratification.  There are very few things we have to wait for.  
  • Social media can cause us to compare, bringing discontentment and depression.  
  • Although a genuine relationship in real life can carry into social media, social media should not take the place of face-to-face interactions and conversations.   
I certainly did not anticipate what a parenting challenge "Screen Time" would be.  For years we had dial-up internet.  Our three children PLAYED.  A lot.  They used their imaginations.  They spent hours & hours in the woods, in the playhouse, role-playing, building Littlest Pet Shop worlds, and decorating Playmo-Merica!  (The part of the basement with all the Playmobil, a favorite toy!)  All three of them love to read.  We play games as a family.  We love to spend time outdoors.  Sleep has always been a top priority.  There was a time when our weekly screen time included Little House on the Prairie episodes on Saturday nights and one or two PBS shows during the week.
We are now quite removed from that time!

Personally I would not have given my children smart phones, which they both have.  We are not unique in our blended family/ co-parenting struggles!  However, looking at the positive:  My children are learning responsible use of these devices while they are still in my home.  It needs to be said that if I were not co-parenting, it is likely this would be easier.

The difference I see on screen-free days is HUGE.  Well worth it.  Here are some benefits:
  • We pursue healthy habits & hobbies.  This was my primarily purpose when we instituted screen-free days.  What does that look like for us?  We read more.  We are outside more.  We are more likely to take a nap.  I have observed a significant difference.  I go to bed earlier on screen-free days.  Screen-free days give us a "forced freedom" to pursue learning a musical instrument, writing, baking, etc.
  • We are more creative.  Or perhaps, we have time to be creative because we are not being constantly entertained and distracted. On a good day, we have time to be bored!
  • For one day a week we are putting a halt to the negative effects of screen time.
  • In putting aside the negative effects of screen time we are improving our social skills, our conversational skills, our real-life relationships.

I am not militant about Sabbath Rests and/or Screen-free Sundays.
Being inflexible & uncompromising may get me the outward behavior and adherence to rules that I desire, but it does nothing to keep my child's heart, which is far more precious than not looking at a screen for a day. 

Yes, you may Snapchat for a minute so you don't lose your "streak".  (The things I never knew I would encounter!)
Yes, if we required most of your Saturday- With chores or a conference or family time, you may have your screen on Sunday.
Yes, if you need to, you may do homework on our Rest Day.
Sometimes my husband needs to work on our Rest Day, particularly during hunting season.
Usually I will allow 10 minutes at the end of the day for phones to be looked at and messages to be returned.
Often we allow much more than that and plenty of weeks we don't quite have a Sabbath Rest or a Screen-Free Day.  It happens. Often.

Maybe for your family it can't be Sunday.  So choose another day.  Maybe it can't be a whole day.  Maybe for your family taking the first two hours of the evening, each day, will accomplish the same benefits.  Maybe the thought of mutiny causes you to be too afraid to try it!  Perhaps you can start out with one Sabbath Rest Day a month, or two Screen-Free Days a month.

Please know that I get flak.  I get push-back.  And yet, each picture placed in this blog post is from just this past year.  My teenagers, too old to really 'play', have benefited greatly from restful, God-focused, screen-free days.  As have I.  And you can too!  I highly recommend it!  Not once -ever- have we regretted a Sabbath Rest or a Screen-free Day.  Quite the opposite.