Thursday, November 20, 2014

Resources, Investment & Clean Up

Some History
There was a time when Peter and I wanted a big family.  We were newly-weds and planning our desires for our future.  We both loved children.  We knew we wanted to homeschool.  Peter grew up with a large family of four children.  Our conclusion was that a large family of four children was our desire.  Fast forward to when we had two children.  Admittedly, having kids was a lot harder than we had presumed.  We felt maxed out on a practical level, but our conviction about having a large family hadn't changed.  We certainly had to outdo the average family out there and be a role model of amazing-ness to all of our peers.  But we could also sense that God intended for our lives to be invested in more than a lot of what we were seeing in the world around us.

About that time, Peter accepted his first position as a senior pastor.  This suddenly allowed him more time to read and search for answers to many of the questions he had about the dispensational theology he'd been taught in college and the practical function of the American church.  Long story short, his reading led him to reformed theology and he found himself convicted of a lot of beliefs that didn't fit with our church backgrounds and that changed the whole direction of our lives.  One of the convictions had to do with birth control and trusting God with the size of our family.  We spent hours talking these things over as he'd share with me all that he was reading about and answer all of my questions/objections.

As I gave birth to our third child we both felt a different sort of excitement about adding another son to our family.  We saw him as a gift from God in a way that we hadn't viewed our first two children.  Something had shifted and we saw the whole act of procreation as more about furthering Christ's kingdom than about fulfilling our own desires.

After our fourth child and a number of difficult sacrifices made in order to live in obedience to our new convictions we began to "count the cost."  How many kids would God end up giving us anyway?  How would that work out financially and in terms of our time resources?  We worked through many questions but ultimately believed that the Bible taught us 1)God is to be trusted with all of it 2)raising children is an eternal investment and what would we rather be doing or would God rather us be doing with our money and time than that?  In theory, we prepared to give up other pursuits and comforts in order to invest all that we had into raising children. How could a large, nice house, for instance, compare to the blessing of more family and the reward of investing in Christ's kingdom?  We understood we would be making a trade-off.  We realized that we would watch other families around us have different lives with different flexibility and ease.

That trade-off was much harder in reality as we went on to have several more babies.

The Present
I am now pregnant with our 9th baby.  I went through a number of years of horrible struggle with my life and my inability to carry out the task and responsibility involved in the choices we had made.  The more I had to sacrifice, the more deep-rooted selfishness came to the surface.  I am now at a  different place with my perspective on this than I was a couple of years ago with my eighth child.

The truth is that resources, (i.e., my body, my time, my mental and physical energies, my belongings, my "wealth") are all given to me by God.  All that I have belongs to Him.  Anything He gives me, I now see, is only correctly used when seen as an opportunity to do good to others, for His sake.  As God has cleaned up my heart, he has convicted me to clean up my life and get busy repairing the ruins and turning my home into a blessing to others, my family members and extending out to minister and spread the gospel to the world around us. 

As I began to learn and work on this earlier this year, I found out I was pregnant and it felt a little in-congruent with God's directives.  I was thrilled and truly at peace with the pregnancy, but wondered how God wanted me to keep up the "clean up" while growing this baby in my close-to-40-year-old body.  Even so, I trusted Him and I knew by now that His plans were always for the best.     

This growing child within me is several weeks away from being born.  God has faithfully shown me how perfectly this work of growing another human life fits in with the lessons He was/is teaching me. Many aspects of "clean up" that I had been doing had to slow down or stop completely, but the Lord had other ones for me to be working on. 

A few thoughts:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Homemaking 101

 Yesterday I posted some pictures on Facebook of doing morning school with my littlest kids.  Above you can see Millie and Cecily counting out their dimes and pennies for the daily coin cup in the math meeting before their math lessons begin.
 Elijah is coloring in the Bible Story Coloring Book that came in a 6 book preschool book set that I got him. 
 Cecily's math lesson using pattern blocks.
 Millie's math lesson involved setting up a "store" where she labeled everything with a price, picked out two items at a time, wrote them on a receipt, totaled the prices and paid for them using dimes and pennies. is today.  More math.  More preschool.  Can you guess what I spend hours and hours doing every single day? 
 The kids are great at helping each other out...
 ...yet, there is many hours of tutoring required of me every day without fail.  Today I helped Ben and Cal look up a weather map with the high and low temperatures for the whole USA for tomorrow.  We documented the projected temperatures for about half of the state capital cities so that they will be able to graph them tomorrow.
                    I love teaching my kids and watching them learn, but there's a duty to this task that goes beyond anything I love to do.  They need my daily, consistent investment into their expanding knowledge as a big part of helping them to become strong, healthy plants in this garden of a household I am trying to manage.
                    I got to thinking today about how all of the many aspects of homemaking are meant to work together, like an ecosystem in a garden, to accomplish the end of strong, healthy plants that are bearing fruit.  Of course, the end of that end is glorifying God and growing His kingdom.  This isn't about me.  I play a role that God has laid out for me and I work for His pleasure.  All of the jobs I perform as a homemaker are a part of this role and they are meant to work together to produce healthy, thriving plants here in my home.  You can't remove any aspect of it.  They all work together:  the cooking, the laundry, the shopping, the cleaning, the discipline and time for training, the spiritual nurturing, the educating, the bathing and grooming, the soul nurture through generous giving and serving and providing things that they delight in, the continual looks and touches of affirmation and affection.  
                   I have a long ways to go when it comes to getting all of these aspects to function efficiently at once.  The truth is that my garden is far from lovely.  In fact, I feel a lot like Elijah, trying to learn the basics of drawing a straight line and stopping at the right spot on the bottom line(pictured above).  As I was teaching him this week and marveling at how such a simple task was difficult for him to get down, I was reminding myself that it's a building block.  First he's got to get the line straight.  Then we work on stopping on the bottom line at the right place.  When he's figured it out through repetition, we can move on to some curved lines and attempt the number 2.  Even holding the pencil is so awkward for him right now, but one day, Lord willing, he'll be writing essays and who knows what else.  
                  I recognize God doing the same kind of training with me.  Is it hard to be content with this?  Sadly, yes.  My pride wants to be the "accomplished housewife."  It's just this kind of weakness that indicates that I couldn't  handle being that yet anyway.  If I were, I would fall prey to so many temptations and it wouldn't be about God's glory anymore.  He has me where He wants me and He's writing my story.  I trust in this.  And I am content.  I could look around at all of the weeds left in my garden, still needing to be pulled, and become discouraged or ungrateful.  Instead, I believe the Lord wants me to reflect with praise on all that He has wrought in my life with His faithfulness, look with gratitude on the progress He has allowed me to make and view the weeds with a sense of hope and ambition to get busy!
                    Lord, I ask your forgiveness for all of the pride and self-reliance that I have brought to this task and for all of the weeds that I have subsequently sown.  Thank you for the hope you have given me and the opportunity to work for your glory instead.  May this garden you've given me ever glorify you.
Side note:  Will's chopping work today.
And my 32-week pregnant self heading out the door to spend some spontaneous time with my husband. God is good.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Cecily's 6th Birthday

 Birthday celebrations are one of those things that rely almost entirely on me.  Other family members pitch in a lot to make it happen, but especially the cooking depends upon the head cook, as we usually try to make something special, that we wouldn't ordinarily have.  This year we settled on coffee cake for breakfast, but this particular week was an especially bad one and Cecily's birthday came at the climactic end of it.  When we woke up that morning, I tried several times to get going on that cake, but came to realize that I just couldn't do it, for once.  Lots of times, I just need to push through and do it even though I don't feel like I can, but this wasn't one of those times.  I took some time to think it over and I knew that even though I would feel disappointed, Cecily would not feel disappointed if we went and got doughnuts and yogurt and ate at the park.  So we did.  Does she look disappointed?  I'm thankful for such options on such days.  I had to remember the goal of a birthday celebration in the first place and get over my own ideals about how I wanted it to look.  It's the spirit of fun, enjoyment and celebration of the individual who is being recognized and thankfulness to God that matter.  That can be conveyed in so many different ways.  I'm thankful this year that the Lord helped me not be selfish and feel upset about the inability to make a coffeecake and have a homemade birthday breakfast for my girl, but rather to focus on a celebratory attitude for her sake and enjoy a good thing with her instead.  A slumped over, discouraged mama doesn't exactly speak, "This is about you and about thanking God for you and the good work he's doing in your life."

Thank you Lord for helping me not to do that this time and for forgiving me for the many times in the past where I couldn't resist the temptation.

 This was a beautiful morning to be outside, and a big treat and she was delighted. 
 We let the kids run off a little energy at the playground before we went home.  (Truth be told, we didn't go directly home, we ran to Target to get a gift, because none of my plan-ahead plans had worked out, including a gift.)

 Happy Birthday girl.
 Also thankfully, we had planned an easy dinner of turkey burgers and frozen fries.  Amelia and I did manage to get a birthday cake made in the afternoon, which you will see shortly.
 Time for gifts.  Lousy picture quality is due to being in the basement at night, with inadequate light.
 Nail polish!
 The bag had some snacks in it that the boys picked out for her.  She is holding some bunny cookies that they found.
 Her own wallet, from Grammy and Papa.
 Millie helped her check out all of the compartments and tell her what they were for.  ("This one's for your debit card....")
 We bought Cecily Spirograph (last minute) and she also got a Make A Plate from my parents.  Both of those gave her some new artistic things to work on.
 Amelia wrapped her stick horse up in a blanket and gave it to Cecily.  I let her because it was generous of her and I knew Cecily would love it.
 The Oreo Cake.

Something worthwhile to celebrate: God's gift of life to this girl.  She's really so easy to please and such a treasure to me.  Thank you Lord!

Friday, October 17, 2014

JoAnn's Halloween Utility Apron

My sister started a little crafting blog not too long ago to share projects that she is working on, mainly with crochet.  Tonight I saw that she posted some new pictures of a utility apron that she made to wear to work at the craft store she works at.  Everything she makes, she pretty well designs herself and I'm always so impressed.  I thought I'd put a link here so that you could check it out, if you want to see her handiwork.  Her birthday is October 30th, so she's always been a little attached to Halloween, which is part of the explanation for the effort she put into this themed apron.
Click the link below to see her post:
JoAnn's Halloween Utility Apron For Work

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Baby Jones #9

I got a sweet surprise yesterday when the ultrasound technician gave me this picture of our new baby boy, kicking around inside of me.  I thought some of you might like to "see" him too.  I am in my 28th week, by the way.  That leaves less than 12 weeks until my due date.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Summer Evening Walk

You will know who took these pictures if you pay attention to who is not in them.  I picked out my favorites.  
There were many deer and fawns lying in the long grass in the meadow to the left in the picture above.  Some of them roused while we walked by.

A rare picture of myself.  I thought of you, JoAnn, when I posted this. 

One of the last summer outings of the year.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Hi Grammie!"

It's time for cozy jammies again.  Elijah and I took this picture just to say a big hello to Grammie and to show her his new cozy jammies.  Love you, Grammie!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Samuel's 15th Birthday

Sam's 15th birthday was at the end of July.  Here's a few photos to catch you up.
Sam just wanted roast and potatoes for his dinner.  Oh, and homemade bread.  Homemade bread only makes it's appearance around here every so often, so it was a treat.
Peter picked up a couple of books for Sam.  If you haven't heard of this one, October Sky, you might have heard of the movie.  Sam really liked the film because it was about a West Virginia boy, Homer Hickam, from a small coal mining town who became a famous author as well as a NASA engineer and helped put West Virginia on the map.  
The second book, below, is hunting and fishing tales by famous outdoorsman, Zane Grey.

Sam's gift from us was a recurve bow, for hunting, that he has been wanting.
He was very pleased with it.
He's been practicing with it and he's hoping to at least shoot at a deer or turkey this fall.

Sure was fun to celebrate our oldest.  He's such a contributer and a blessing to our home.