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:  http://carmelhillbillies.blogspot.com/2016/11/today-i-am-weary-of-people.html

"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.










Saturday, January 28, 2017

Perspective

"Were we ever somewhere else?  You know, it's hard to say..." -Shawn Colvin


The snow right now is just right so that even I can walk on top of it without falling through.  So today I took my walk in our yard, walking around & around the house and by where the pumpkins grow and near Narnibithia, (our make-believe woodsy world) and across from the pasture and over the "slug rock".  My intention was to pray over our home and our family.  Yet with each step I took the memories sprung forth and all I could do, with tears in my eyes, was thank the Lord and praise Him for His faithfulness.  

Lord, thank You for the wild strawberries & roses, family dinners on the porch, campfires, children playing on the lawn & digging in the dirt.  Lord, thank you for our little road & healthy legs & bikes that work and for the 1,000 times we have gone for walks & bike rides.  Lord thank you for Time:  The time you have allowed me to be present & home & creating & soaking in memories.  Lord, You have protected us and provided for us here.  Lord, You are faithful, sovereign and good. 


We see what we choose to see.  Not long ago a walk around our 7 acres would not have brought praise to my lips, thankfulness to my mind and joy & peace to my heart.  It's the same yard.  But I would have walked by the clothesline and remembered a big blowout.  I would have stood in the driveway as the bitterness crept in.  

I am not denying the bad things.  With my personality, it seems that I couldn't even if I wanted to!  There has been genuine brokenness.  Hurts that cut deep and regrets for what could or should have been.  There still are devastating disappointments and we continue to live together as imperfect people in an imperfect world.  "There's bound to come some trouble... there's bound to come some tears up in our eyes.." (Rich Mullins). That's what makes this change in perspective all the better- It is clearly from the Lord.  There is truth in the idea of positive thinking.  "Whatever is true, whatever in honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

A New Perspective started to creep in the day of my Gram's funeral.  September, 2012.  I walked around my grandparents' farm for the last time:  All the parts that were packed with memories.  Packed.  I was sad for this chapter of life to come to an end.  To my surprise the "Glad that it happened" overshadowed the "Sad that it's over."  This does not come naturally to me, but the groundwork was laid with time to breathe, spiritual health and the warmth of family.  As I walked through the apple orchard and fixed in my mind this beautiful barn & yellow house, my mind shifted toward our home.  Our beautiful home!!  I started to stop mourning my own 100-year-old yellow house on Pearl Street with its perfect bathrooms and how I could walk to parks & live in a neighborhood.  I took the first baby steps toward contentment with my country, taxidermy home!!  With fresh eyes I appreciated the amazing house-less view and the privacy we have. 

There is hardly a square foot of this place that I do not have pleasant memories attached to.  That is a gift!  And it continues.

The wind and the waves are still present.  (Matthew 14).  I can still become frightened.  But Jesus has his hand stretched out.  I am learning to focus on Him and not on the wind & the waves.