Monday, June 18, 2012


What's going on? Isn't it supposed to be T.G.I.F.? 

Sure, that is the traditional acronym that many of us are familiar - whether in the context of casual Friday, or the traditional after-work appys to be shared with friends, or in my case - the drop-in swimming and gym time at the YMCA for my kids.  Or maybe you simply sigh it in relief: THANK GOD, it's Friday.... and you're just thankful that tomorrow you can sleep in, and relax, and zone out.

So here I am, blogging: Thank God It's Monday! Why?

Monday is probably the day where you get back into your work week and know you've got 5 long days ahead of you.  Or maybe it's the start of a hard week of studying and writing papers... Or maybe, like me, your days and weeks blur.  My schedule changes so little whether it is a Tuesday or Saturday - I still have little kids to care for, diapers to change, meals to cook, and important lessons of character and virtue to instill in my lovely, active brood. Yet there is something about Monday.  It is symbolic - the day we are expected to plunge into our regular (non-weekend, non-relaxing) activities.  Monday is the day that we roll up our sleeves, whether we like it or not, and say "Alright... better get at it!"

Okay, so if you agree with my above statement, then here's the reason for T.G.I.M.:  Monday is your chance to get started on a new week, a new habit, a new way of living; a new YOU! Every week, Monday rolls around and you get another crack at it, another chance to live this new week really well. Consider it a "Happy New Week" not at all unlike the freshness of a new year.

What does this week hold for you?  What would you change and do differently than you did last week? Whether it involves working harder, breaking habits, living more purposefully or just relishing the fact that you never have to go through last week again, TODAY IS A NEW DAY (and Monday, the fresh start of a new week)!
"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." -Isaiah 43:18,19

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Dad

A little tribute to my dad:
I grew up knowing a dad with rough hands, usually stained by grease from working on our "newest" older vehicle, or from helping fix a friend's broken down vehicle. If it wasn't grease, it was drywall dust or paint from a reno job that he was working on in the evening, to help pay the bills of putting his kids through Christian school or helping us pay for a youth group event or other needs we had.
He's always been very generous and I'm looking forward to my Papa coming this weekend to visit... and, as usual, helping us work on our house!
Happy Father's Day, to all the hard-working Dads out there...!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mommy is busy...

There is a thick, aromatic tomato and beef pasta sauce simmering on the stove and bread dough rising on the counter.  I'm a blur in my floral (thrift-store) vintage apron, stirring, kneading, sweeping, and snatching up my toddler to keep him from trying to "help" me... again.  Kids are busy and filling my home with noise and activity - one child playing her favorite song (for the 30th time today) on the piano, another child galloping around the living room and girls running back and forth as they prepare a tea party in the back yard.

My four year old rushes up to me, so excited: "Mommy, Mommy..." no response: "Mommy, come see!!!"  he gushes, and pulls on my apron, getting right in my way as I'm scampering back and forth between oven and pantry and adding a "pinch of this and a dash of that" to the sauce on the stove.

"Honey," I sigh, lovingly yet hurried, "You have to wait! Mommy is busy making supper."

And he waits and waits... and my work is never quite completed and something always comes up: like the two year old, escaping from the house (again!), or some of the kids are fighting and I have to figure out how to deal with the bickering and teach them to be loving, patient and kind!

I do my best to take good care of my children... but I am not the best example of attentiveness on planet earth.  And tonight, I had a rare chance - without children tugging on my jeans and clamoring for my attention - to enjoy a worship service at my church.  I was basking in the love and kindness of God and it occurred to me that although he has a planet-full of people to attend to, He never says "I'm busy right now... You'll have to wait for my attention."  God is supernatural... He is God.... and His attention never wanes and He does not grow weary with our requests.  Ps. 55:17 in the Message says: "At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs - he hears, he rescues." and Psalm 34:15 (NIV) says:
"The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry".

I take heart in a God who is not limited by human nature and abilities.  He isn't worn out, too busy or too stressed out to listen to me - whether I'm asking for help or simply rejoicing and giving thanks.  I can only hope that as I experience and absorb the goodness and character of God, that I will display more of His attributes as I care for the little lives with whom He has entrusted me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Calm in the Storm

The dishwasher is broken.
But I kind of find the hot, sudsy water soothing and my hands find joy in the simple task of scrubbing, swishing, and rinsing.

Later in the day, I'm relishing in the glory of a steamy, long shower (the only space that guarantees privacy) and I'm enjoying the fact that kids are cooperating and not banging on the door and disturbing my solitude.  The next minute, I find myself in the opened front doorway, dripping wet and wrapped in a towel, YELLING down the street at my children (namely my four year old) who headed out for an impromptu walk.

My life seems kind of bipolar... up and down; like a teeter totter.  Praises and joy on my lips one second, panic and frustration blurted out the very next moment.
And the greatest manifestation of peace comes in an unexpected place: waiting in the van for my little girls as they attend a monthly group piano lesson.  They told me that some of the other moms would be inside, drinking tea and socializing.  I told them I'd rather be alone... quiet, reading, thinking...

So I sat in the van, with absolutely no urge to turn on the radio or look at my smart-phone.  There was no need to fill the space with activity, information; noise.  Instead I sat, breathed deep and stared out a cracked windshield as the gentle rain blurred my view.

He comes in the calm.  He breathes life in the stillness.

The pitter patter of raindrops were a musical balm to my over-worked, stressed and over-stimulated emotions.  Not even the most poetic melody or stirring symphony could have been a sweeter sound to my ears.  He played His love song to me, a simple reminder: I AM.

No matter the busyness, trials or worries; if I'm up one moment and down the next - it really doesn't matter. 

He finds me when I hide from the rest of the world.

Drops of water for a thirsty, parched soul. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Process of Simplification

There's been a lot of critical assessment going on in my house lately.  "Simplify" is not just a trendy word featured in magazine articles and on TV shows, but it is my new reality.  Especially since there is nothing simple about #1) six kids #2)homeschooling and #3) pastoring a church.  So as my steam and energy for life has waned in the past year, I've had to begin to adjust and change the way I operate and exist.  Simplifying is becoming my primary course of action as of late.

Just to share how this is having an effect in my life I'm going to describe some of the ways I've been working to simplify.

I worked to declutter - specifically my kids' toys and rooms.  I got rid of the majority of my children's toys, especially since it felt like they had dozens of things that they never played with, didn't really care about and that were of little benefit to them! I have also, on an ongoing basis, kept a "give-away" bag nearby, so I can get rid of any items that I don't think we need or that don't get used.

I've also worked to declutter our schedule - attempting to assess my children's activities and our activities as a family.  I don't want to waste valuable time doing stuff that doesn't really matter in the long term.  I think we are a generation that wants to give our kids all of the best in experiences, but that in itself doesn't create healthy families and children who grow up with character and purpose.

I've also dabbled in, and recently revisited the idea of my children's workload and how they contribute in the home.  I believe that I as a mother am not meant to be a slave to my kids and do everything for them, but that part of home life is teaching them how to take care of themselves and others (including how to cook and clean).  That being said, they are included in the running of the home, and are expected to contribute.

Even more recently, I've been simplifying our finances and taking a close look at how we spend our money.  Whether you are working with a lot or with a little (money), having an awareness of your financial situation, and taking responsibility for the way you spend your money is a way of taking control and thus being able to tie up any loose ends (or dripping faucets of mismanaged money). For me, doing a budget "cleanse" and sticking to a cash-diet (no debit or credit) for a little while means that we will be in better control (and more aware) of our finances.

Today this "simplifying" brought me to my cupboards and pantry.  In trying to save some money this month, and pay off a small amount of unnecessary debt, we are going to attempt to shop a lot less, and only buy what we truly need.  This means using the food that we already have in the cupboards.  So, I got a little nerdy about it, but I did an inventory of our pantry!  By knowing what we have available, I will have an easier time meal-planning, and I will plan our meals around ingredients that we already have in stock.  Not only will we be saving money, but we will be less likely to waste food and... this simplifies things in that there will be less shopping for me to do!

Anyway, this has been more of a practical "this is what's going on in my life" post, than something introspective and emotional like I normally write.   However, I want to reflect upon the fact that all of this practical, hands-on simplifying leads me to a less cluttered, less emotionally driven lifestyle.  A cluttered life - whatever the area - is usually a not-so-happy life.  Clutter brings stress.  I want to spend my time, money, energy, and essentially my life on the things that really matter.  I don't want to be worn down by excess or by mismanagement of my resources.  I may not be able to control all aspects of my life, and there will always be interruptions - but I will do my best to manage what I have, and in doing so, I'm sure to be more content.

Simple is good.

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Extremely Ordinary

I did it!  I finally finished the last chocolate in the box... probably my third or fourth chocolate for today, because I told myself: once all the Valentine's chocolates are gone, then I'll get serious about how I am eating!

I've discovered that I have a penchant for extremes and addictive behaviors.  For example, if I replaced my sweet tooth with a desire for alcohol, smoking or some other nasty habit, then both the obsession and mindlessness with which I indulge myself would clearly be seen as unhealthy.  Some mornings I wake up and the shiny box of sugary chocolates immediately begins to attract my attention. Why eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast when you could jolt your system with a succulent square of candy enrobed in milk chocolate?  Then there is the issue with all of my "secret stashes".  On a bad day, when my top dresser drawer is empty of goodies, I can always start searching the kitchen cupboards for other chocolates that I've stashed away.  If worse comes to worse, there's always the humongous Costco bag of chocolate chips that I normally reserve for making my husband's favorite cookies... except in the case of emergency chocolate cravings.

Over the years, I've attempted to keep my obsession confined to being primarily a holiday treat. We start out in January with the on-sale, leftover Christmas candy.  Then comes February with Valentine's chocolates.  In the spring, there are Easter bunnies and Cadbury Eggs.  After that, there is a bit of a lull, but with various summer festivities, there are at least 2 candy parades (yes, my very community is an enabler to my bad habit!).  Of course October means Halloween candy by the bucket-load, which often last until Christmas.  So you see my problem - no time is a good time to avoid candy - it's practically shoved down my throat the whole year through!

Well, I didn't intend to make this posting entirely about health and dieting, but it certainly illustrates the patterns and extremes of addictive behaviors and the impossibilities of controlling them.

I tend towards extremes in my life.  The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other whether it involves exercise, food or my schedule.  For a while, I'm intensely committed to eating more healthfully, then I drop the ball, and I don't just let things slide, but I usually plunge myself into the sorrowful mindset of "I just couldn't do it, so now I might as well give up and eat every disgusting sugary, chocolaty thing in sight."  And there are times when I load up my schedule with every hour accounted for, my life so tightly wound that one little mishap will leave me completely frazzled and hopelessly, wretchedly late and unable to catch up.

The problem is, as a society, we tend to be addicted to extremes.  We have television shows featuring all manner of extremes:  people losing extreme amounts of weight, "xtreme" fighting,  people documenting survival in extreme environments (Survivorman, Man vs. Wild), the eating of extreme foods, and then there are all the shows with extreme in their name: Extreme Makeover, The Most Extreme, and don't forget Extreme Couponing!!!

I wonder if our instant-gratification, over-stimulated and comfort-driven lifestyles have numbed us to the satisfaction and joys that can come from simple, honest living?  If my "normal" life has become dull and mundane because my senses are accustomed to getting whatever I want, whenever I want it, and I am always trying to make my life better, then how can I find delight in the ordinary?  Too often, I'm seeking the next high - and in doing so, I battle the extremes in my lifestyle that come from an underlying dissatisfaction with my present circumstances.

We are 51 days into a 366 day year. (That's about 14% of the year.)  Today also marks the first day of Lent for many people, as we approach the Easter season.  There seems to be a lot of personal-assessment going on around me, and I imagine it has a lot to do with our proximity to the near year.  By now, you're either cruising along, satisfied with the success of your New Year's resolutions, or you're beating yourself up over your sucky-ness at screwing up yet another perfectly good year.  As tempted as I am to check-mark the boxes of where I'm doing well, and berate myself over the areas where I feel I'm floundering, I know I shouldn't because I'd only be fueling my tendency to implement extreme measures.  (Yes... I've eaten WAY too much chocolate this week, this month... this year.  That doesn't mean I need an extreme diet to counter it.)

What I am proposing is a pull-back from the hunger and desire for something bigger, better, faster, thinner, sweeter, or richer... ultimately that craving that simply says: I NEED MORE.  Instead, I will seek to find contentment and satisfaction in my daily routine.  I will choose to be more grateful in the midst of my circumstances.  I  will stop and smell the flowers - or maybe just the sticky sweet syrup in my toddler's hair.  I will find joy in the simple satisfaction of a neatly folded pile of clean laundry.  I'll thank God for the busyness of a household of healthy, active children, and the fact that I am blessed enough to spend my days at home with all of them.
Instead of hiding my boredom, stress or sadness with unnecessary indulgence, and instead of setting myself up for failure with all manner of goals and resolutions as I seek to change myself and my life in a really big (a.k.a. "extreme") way... I'm going to aim lower...much, much lower.  I'm going to attempt to be happy right where I am, just the way I am.  I'm going to work at being happy with my life and my family and not fuss about trying to make everything better all the time.

Dream big...?  Nah, not me.

Shoot for the stars? No way.

Instead of setting my sights on extraordinary things, I'm going to get my head out of the clouds, calm down, and be glad that today is just another ordinary day.  
"This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24) 
"In everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:18)

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Journey

Life is not a competition.

If it were however, I could measure myself by my weight, pace per mile when running, number of kids that I have, choice of education for my children, our household income, the size of our home, and how many tropical vacations we've been on in the past 5 years.  I could judge my success by how well behaved my children are when we're out in public, by how "healthy" or "gourmet" I can cook, and by whether I have the latest style handbag hanging on my shoulder.

On a more serious note, if life were a competition, I'd pay close attention to how many times I've cried this month, how many times I've yelled at my kids and whether I'd volunteered enough of my time for selfless endeavors.  I'd wonder if I had put enough effort into my relationships with my children, my husband and with God.

The problem is, when you're in a competition (and I'm not... at least that's what I'm telling myself daily), you have to COMPARE yourself to other.. well, competitors.  Then all this nasty sort of self-talk wells up inside; things like: "She's definitely fatter than me, look at those chunky thighs..." or "That woman must have had a tummy-tuck.. there's no way she's had a couple of kids and been able to bounce back to that shape!" or "I would never homeschool my kids with that curriculum!" or "Man, their house is way newer and nicer than ours..."

Then, on an even deeper level, you might begin to compare your successes in your personal and emotional life; particularly your ability or inability to maintain sanity in the midst of work, kids, marriage, etc.

And when we compare ourselves among ourselves... we either deceive ourselves and can fall in to pride, or we simply fall short.
For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12
Oh how true it is... The only measuring stick I ought to use is that of my conscience; as I stand before the Father God.  Yet even in that instance, I must be grounded in the truth and light and in the hope of His grace. 

A thought came to me the other day: Don't compare the journey if you're riding a different train...

(photo from:
The fact is, life is a journey, not a competition.  And we are all traveling on different paths, using different methods of transportation.  You might be in a sports car, an SUV, on an airplane or in a helicopter.  For now, I'm stuck in a fully occupied, 8-seater minivan with crumb filled car seats, candy wrappers on the floor, and a stroller in the back.  I have to slow down quite a bit for my passengers... pit-stops, potty breaks and sometimes to stretch our legs and get our wiggles out.  It would be ridiculous for me to compare myself to anyone else, especially when we likely have entirely different destinations.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Grocery Store Grief

I felt at least half a dozen pairs of eyes on me as I struggled to make it through the self-checkout today at the store.  Two little boys proved to be just too much on this mid-afternoon, should be nap-time and there's-no-more-cookies-to-bribe-with shopping trip.  With exasperation, I roughly and sternly shoved my two-year-old back into his seat in the cart for the fourth time since I started to check out my groceries.  One more can scanned, then I whipped myself around and grabbed my toddler's sweater to keep him from tumbling out of the cart.

Caught in the moment; just trying to purchase some food, I barely noticed the smiling clerk as she took a moment to talk with my busy three year old and answer his question: "Excuse me... are clocks expensive?"

"Ummm.  Yes." she replied seriously, and then listened patiently as he explained all the things he wanted to do and to receive on his upcoming birthday.  That was nice of her.

But I was trapped in my own little cycle - raging war against the most determined, stubborn, grumpy, acrobatic two-year-old that I've ever given birth to... my challenging last-born child who keeps me on my toes as I protect him from himself. (Like all the times he finds knives on the countertop and plays with them... or found a wineglass, broke it, and then cut himself trying to fill it with water... all by climbing up on the counter.)

I felt like racing out of the store, strapping both kids in the van and just screaming for a moment or two - and then maybe I would pick up a self-medicating Caramel Latte at Starbucks, but I needed these groceries! Not only that, but I couldn't slow down - there were people behind me and it was taking so long; this tango - back and forth of scanning an item, then turning and dealing with my toddler - and I was going to be late to pick up my older kids!

Eventually... finally, I swiped my credit card on the pay pass scanner, pushed my toddler back onto his bottom in the proper seat, called to my wandering three-year-old and we raced out of the store to load the groceries and hopefully not be more than a few minutes late to pick up the other children.

Sigh... it seems that in this season of life, so many of my days are like this.  I read the magazines and books and listen to other mothers speak on encouraging programs such as Focus On The Family, and they tell me: "Simplify! Slow down! Take time for yourself!" but all the advice in the world can't seem to give me the steam I need to accomplish the necessary and I am caught in this hurried whirlwind of life, watching the pages of the calendar flip before my eyes in fast-forward.

In the end, after the groceries were mostly unpacked and the perishables were put away and the banana peels littered the dining room table and the little kids were put into their beds so Mommy could have a quiet-time, I realized that I forgot something.  Maybe I could have asked for help?  No... I don't mean I should have turned around to the customer behind me and asked them to watch my kids for a minute while I scanned my groceries, although it may have worked, considering there were a lot of seniors shopping that afternoon and they always seem intent on chatting with my kids (even when I'm in a hurry).  But that's not what I'm talking about... something - or maybe Someone - was trying to remind me that a simple heartfelt prayer, such as "HELP!" and turning my focus heavenward to a God who cares about even the little things, could make a difference in my day. 

It's easy to feel alone in your struggles when you are the one with the unending list that won't change until your kids grow up and leave home.  Even after that milestone, I imagine, there are hurries, worries and stresses that can plague you and leave you emotionally harried.  I guess what we (what I) need to remember is that you don't have to do it all on your own.  God's love is like a reassuring hand on the shoulder, a gentle reminder that His faithfulness will not fail and that his mercy is freshly available like each new day when the sun slips up and over the horizon.  Life may not change significantly when a prayer is offered up in desperation - it doesn't mean that the laundry will be magically folded, dinner will be on the table and an angelic being will come down and scrub your toilets for you.  However, I believe that with the asking, and with the acknowledgement of a need for God's presence, there will be a provision of strength for the day.  Like manna from heaven, God's provision is usually just enough, just on-time and leaves you still needing Him when you wake up the next morning.

Naptime is about to be over.  Dinner is yet to be made.  The house is a mess.  Okay, I can easily acknowledge that I'm not on top of my game.  So... here goes...
God...please help me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Miniature Successes

Sometimes you have to be content with the miniature, everyday successes in life.

I did a load of laundry.
I gave my youngest two kids a bath and they had a fun time playing together, in the tub.
I whipped up a batch of dough for Naan bread.
I didn't stay in my p.j.s all day, despite feeling tired, cranky and under the weather.
I didn't eat too much chocolate.  Wait... hold on, is there such a thing as too much chocolate?
As much as I'd like to conquer the world, write a book, be a genius teacher to my kids as I homeschool, and exhibit myself as a domestic goddess day after day... it just doesn't happen.
At least, in the end, I can be content in one thing:
I am accepted in the Beloved.

"to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:6

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Homeschooling Sucks (and your curriculum isn't working)

I have some confessions to make as a homeschooling mother.  Lately, homeschooling sucks!  Day after day, I either slog through the material like I'm swimming through molasses in January, and the children respond in kind, acting like a bratty three-year-old at the dentist with a toothache - or, we get next-to-nothing done that could be classified as schoolwork.  Meanwhile I am stuck appeasing my 2 and 3 year old with Sesame Street episodes to reduce the number of times they interrupt my grumpy, frustrated, caffeine-powered "teaching/yelling at them to cut-it-out" lessons.

Certainly, I should be cut some slack.  I have SIX kids, 12 and under!  And they seem to take after their father quite a bit... loud, sometimes obnoxious, energetic, always talking... oh, ya, and the good stuff too: highly intelligent and creative.   That being said, I used to picture my "Home-School" as a serene, loving, and somewhat quiet environment.  It would be much like that pretty picture on the cover of "Five In A Row", the popular preschool and elementary curriculum utilized by loving homeschool parents much like myself.  Children would take turns to make insightful comments or ask inquisitive questions.  They would snuggle up next to each other and we would spend half our day sipping tea and reading together and the other half exploring nature and visiting culturally stimulating venues.

Not so in my household.  It started with my early years, battling what some might call a "strong willed child"... make that several "strong willed children" and then my eldest struggled to learn to read.  So I felt at a loss from the very start, wondering if I was making the right choices and if I really was both patient enough and properly equipped to teach my own children!

Then there were the life-changing interupptions.  As in: moving overseas in my daughter's first year of school, then having another baby (making the total at that point 4 kids).  Then we bought ourselves a fixer-upper and moved mid-school year.  Then another baby...another fixer-upper and another baby... and then we had family move in with us for a year and a half, and we were still fixing up the house... And that brings us to this, my 7th year of homschooling which has already seen 2 major interupptions including a family trip to Arizona for nearly 3 weeks and my husband and I leaving the kids for 10 days to go on a mission trip to India.  Oh, and don't forget Christmas.

See?  My life has been overflowing with disruptions and interruptions, corrupting my ability to be a decent homeschool parent.

Now that life has settled down... Christmas is over and no-one is living with us and there are no huge trips in the near future... I still find myself floundering.  I lack the daily inspiration and creativity to make homeschooling a positive experience for both myself and my children.  And let me say that it is not for lack of a good quality curriculum.  On the contrary, I have what I would consider one of the best curriculums around.  It is literature-rich with a Christian world view and is filled with gobs of inspiration history.  I would have LOVED to have been taught with this very curriculum that I am now imposing upon my children!  However, it seems that the curriculum I carefully chose is no longer serving me and my children, but I have become a slave to the schedules and book lists and the high standards outlined. 

When the vibrant materials I possess fail to come alive under my tutelage, then it is quite obvious that I need to change my program and structure.  The glory of homeschooling, at least in my opinion, is a parent's ability to connect with the individual needs and particular interests of each child.  You don't have to sit in a desk all day, memorizing pointless facts and figures, but you can go out into the world and experience history and culture!  Homeschooling allows you to speed your way through the drudgery of the "required material" and spend your time leading your children in what really piques their interest or allowing them to pursue the areas in which they are gifted.  For one of my children, that area is science and for another it is everything related to homemaking: baking, sewing, childcare, etc.

Somewhere along the way, homeschooling ceased to be fun.  I want to have fun with my kids again, and not have to "manage" or push away my younger children because they are infringing upon the older children's learning time.

So what am I to do about my current situation?  I am fairly certain that my best option at this point in time is to change my methods altogether.  To lay down the curriculum which I've invested a good chunk of my homeschooling budget upon and laboriously chosen based on it's core values and functionality, is a difficult decision.  However, as they say, "desperate times call for desperate measures".  I cannot value my curriculum choice above my children's current levels of learning (and my aptitude to teach them!).

The best answer I have is as follows: to create learning experiences that are active and can involve all of my children (to varying degrees of participation).  For example, a while back we were learning a little about the human body.  Each child had their bodies traced, and day by day we would add in organs and bones and muscles that they had colored from photocopied tracings.  Even the youngest kids had fun with the cutting and pasting, and it didn't matter that they didn't color it "correctly" or even place the organ in the perfect position on their body.  What mattered most was that my 4 year old would exclaim proudly to friends and strangers alike: "I have a spleen!"

I'm going to return to my roots of doing fun projects with my kids instead of just directing supposedly amazing literature at them and hoping something sticks amid the potty training, interruptions from other kids and my own distraction as I try to instruct and clean and cook and care for 6 kids all at the same time.  It's not that I expect this shift will be a lot easier, per say, but I know that I can restore some of the joy to our family learning time.  There may be a lot more messes as we discover and explore together, but the shreds of cardboard and paint on the floor will be worth it when I see the look of amazement on my children's faces as we play "Kings and Queens" in our home-made castle.  Most of all, my youngest kids won't be shuffled to the side.  I won't have to treat them like they are "in the way" because they stop us from getting through the day's grammar list or "essential" historical timelines, facts and figures for the day.

I'm going out on a limb here... I've confessed my failings.  I haven't been able to keep up with the schedules and routines that would be fairly normal in a regular school system.  Yet I love my kids, I love having them home with me and I want to rediscover the joy of learning together.  Hopefully I'll have a good report to blog about in the near future...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Movement for 2012

Have you ever been in a public washroom stall, and an invisible hand flushed your toilet before you were... umm...err... done?  Yeow!  Can there be any more annoying and startling experience than this?  Just when you're in the middle of *something*, "FLUSSSHHH!" and you're prompted to remove yourself from the bathroom stall entirely.  You gotta love those modern motion-sensor-activated flushing toilets.

Sometimes life is like that.  You are wallowing in your situation, taking your precious time as you deal with your crap (pardon my language, but it clearly demonstrates my point).  Suddenly, the rug is pulled from under you and you are forced to move on!  I think sometimes God is prompting us to move away from our little piles of hurts and sorrows.  He nudges us away, or sometimes even finds a way to give us a swift kick that is lovingly meant to prod us to better living.

It would be something if the Bible said: "Even though I wallow through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me" but it doesn't.  It clearly indicates movement... walking through the dark places, with God at your right hand (and sometimes even carrying you through it all!).

I am feeling an unction, if you will, to encourage my readers (and remind myself) of God's desire for forward movement.  I understand grief.  There are times (and have been times in my own life) where the sadness weighed so heavily on me that I could barely get dressed and feed myself.  But even grief is a process, something to move on through.  I'm not specifically pointing my finger at these sorts of trials, rather I want to shine a spotlight on the lingering doubts, issues of self-pity and other on-going baggage that weigh you down in what should be a progressive, forward-moving life.

There comes a time when enough is enough.  A time where you need to call it what it is - or as my friend and fellow minister likes to say "Put on your big-girl panties!" (If you are male and reading this... well, put on your big-boy pants!) 

Let's make 2012 a year where we don't cling to our former habits, destructive thought patterns and debilitating ways of thinking.  I think many of us can identify the sludge in our lives which cause us to settle in one place, and sink down in the muck and trials of this life. 

I know it's all fine and dandy for me to simply say: "Stop it!" but it's another thing altogether to actually accomplish what I've been talking about.  This month at my church, I am participating in what we call "Spiritual Growth Month", which for me has meant getting up early every weekday morning and spending time in prayer and quiet meditation.  I found that the first couple of days, I felt quite frustrated, and brought my list of all my atrocious behaviors that I can't change before God in prayer.  And the more I thought about the things that I don't do and should do or the things that I do and wish I wouldn't, the more depressed I felt. 

As I humbled myself before God and made a commitment to wait on Him,  He answered me. 
"I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry." (Psalm 40:1)
What I felt fairly strongly, was not that He was asking me to shape up to my detailed list of all the things that I should be and do, or that I should hurry up and ignore the pains and sorrows in my life, but that He wanted me to have a focus on spending time with Him.  All my problems will be resolved in the presence of the Lord, as I bask in His glory and experience His love.  You see, it is never about all that we can do for Him, but rather about what He wants to do in us and through us.  The more I know Him, the more I will be able to act like Him.  But I can't set up for myself a set of rules and regulations... I need to really know Him and spend time with Him.

Well, now I've really gone off topic, but I believe this all ties in to the idea of letting go of the junk in our lives.  The best place to bring your worries and problems and pain is to the feet of Jesus.  WALK with Him through the valley, and move forward into what He's promised.  Life... abundant and full of His grace.

Caught in the Current

When I was 11 or 12, I took a dare to swim across the river in my city.  It was summertime, so the water-level wasn't overly high, but there would still be a relatively strong current and a good patch in the middle where my feet wouldn't be able to touch the ground.

The river had carved out a valley, a quite solitude in the midst of a busy metropolis.  The hills were dried and yellow from the blazing summer skies, but down in the val, ley, it was cooler and the soil was rich and the trees were well watered and flourishing.  I squinted up at the sky, at wisps of cotton candy clouds and the sort of blue that makes you feel both serene and imaginative all at the same time.  My cut-off jean shorts were already wet, strings of frayed white threads dripping cool water down my tanned legs.

With a hearty splash, my brother forged ahead of me: dutifully proving his bravery and leadership in our outdoor pursuits.  I watched as he waded deeper and deeper into the water, the force of the river causing him to lean and then yelp as he was overcome by the current, now fully committed to swimming to the other side with a strong front crawl.

After being pulled downstream somewhat, the water became more shallow, and he found his footing on the slippery river rocks.  He tumbled, sopping wet, out of the water on the opposite bank of the river and beckoned to me to hurry and join him.

My upbringing never led me to be sheltered or shy or overly cautious.  I only hesitated for a moment before moving deeper into the water.  I looked down at the clean, rushing water and the muted green, gray, tan and pink rocks beneath me.  My feet felt icy cold but the water was refreshing on this hot summer day as the sun shone bright on my bare arms and dark hair.  I slipped on a slimy rock for a moment, the current getting stronger and throwing me off balance and I stubbed my toe.  "Ouch!" I whimpered to myself, but with a steel jaw I gritted my teeth, intent on moving forward and passing this test of summer bravery.

As the water moved up my legs, past my calves, licking at my knees and then immersing my thighs, I felt a chilly thrill of excitement.   It was to the point where I had to lean into the current, ever so mindful of my steps, so I wouldn't slip and plunge fully into the water.  Finally, it was too much... I had to fully commit myself to the adventure, and I dove into the water with my whole body and began to swim.

It seemed easy, at first.  I had taken swimming lessons throughout my childhood and was a strong swimmer.  By my little muscles were no match for the ferocious current.  With my head bobbing on the surface and my feet barely grazing the rocks below me, I felt myself being carried downstream.

It is the loss of control that terrifies.  There comes many a moment in life where everything seems to rush in and surround you, and you are simply treading water; a clear sky above you, taunting you, while frightening cold water immerses you from the neck down.  The world began to pass before my eyes as I watched the shoreline with my brother standing and waiting move out of my sight and I was caught in the current, heading downstream.

I fought with everything inside of me and settled my sights on some trees on the seemingly distant shore.  My arms moved frantically, my legs fluttered and I gulped deep breaths of air as I struggled to keep my chin out of the water.  Desperation and panic prompted my legs and arms to continue their fight against the power of the water.

Then my feet met the bottom and I stumbled my way to more shallow water.  My heart pounded with the adrenaline and I felt instant relief at the solid ground beneath me.  With each wobbly step forward, the sun kissed my goosebumped skin, the river water making little rivulets of water from my long hair down my back.

Sometimes life's responsibilities bring me back to my river experience; that place of panicked uncertainty where you must keep your eyes on the distant horizon and plunge forward with all your might.  One thing I remember about that summer day, was a quiet moment when I was struggling in the middle of the river.  I tilted my head up towards the sky, my body nearly fully immersed with even my ears underwater and filled with the river's roar.  In that moment, the light of the sun beamed upon my nose, my forehead and my cheeks and even though the river was carrying me downstream, the glorious radiance of the sun upon my face was restorative and strengthening.

Life's messes scream at us, demanding our attention.  Sometimes you just need to tilt your head up and behold the power of the light.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Pressure

My trusty alarm clock awakened me early on this fine New Year's day. And by trusty alarm clock, I mean my barely 2 year old baby, who is STILL teething and doesn't always sleep through the night.  Not only that, but he also STILL sleeps in our room and his wail is piercing, able to summon the dead, calling for attention and immediate response from all who dwell in a 2 mile radius.

In the foggy fuzziness of after-sleep which lingered upon my brain, words of a foreign origin swirled repetitively in my head: "Gung Hay Fat Choy" which is the traditional saying for Chinese New Year and reminded me that today was January 1st.   I don't know why my brain chose to remind me of this auspicious day with another language, but it was enough to get me going.  With the new year in mind, I decided to leave my warm burrow under the soft, comforting quilt and tackle this day with vigor and optimism. 

As I padded my bare feet across the cool, smooth laminate floor into the kitchen, I began to consider what noble actions I could embark upon in resolution for a better life this year.  The scent of rich, dark coffee grounds sparked my imagination and the first thing that came to my mind was the question of how I could resolve to better manage my laundry crisis, as a mother of six.  "What if," I pondered, "I washed a load of laundry every day, and promptly folded each load once it had completed the drying cycle...???"

For but a moment, my imagination settled upon the luxury of continual clean and folded clothing, but I quickly came to my senses and realized that the practicality of this idea was completely bogus.  What sort of New Year's resolution was "organized and regular laundry maintenance"?  Certainly not the top of my list of priorities when I could come up with a dozen other pressing issues in my life.

I sipped the delicious, steaming, rich coffee and considered my options.  I could enter this logically, and give myself a list of goals to accomplish, things that I would either feel good about completing before the year-end or things that would lag on me and pronounce guilt if not completed.  It occurred to me that instead of plans and goals, what I really need is focus.  I seek a new attitude; an all-encompassing presence of mind - a new perspective and a new way of seeing and "doing" life.  

The problem lies in the change, however.  How do I suddenly make myself better: more patient or gracious or joyful?  I could give myself a visual reminder, like a string around my finger.  Yet I know I'd find myself deep in the chasm, tossed by the waves and drowning, in the midst of the hurricane with disaster all around before I'd notice that subtle suggestion.  Then I would breathe heavy the guilt and drink the sorrows of my mistakes.

I dare not go into a new year with a list of expectations, plans and goals.  Instead, I plan to set before my eyes and ingrain within my heart the attributes and character which I feel God desires of me.  So my challenge; my proposal is this:  What can you focus on for the coming year?  What do you need to turn your heart towards?  Is it patience?  Is it grace, compassion or kindness?  Instead of the pressures and restrictions of a specific plan, what about a new focus and purposeful change of perspective?

In the story of Peter Pan, Wendy learned that Peter could fly due to his lighthearted attitude.  Perspective is everything.  It can leave you in despair, or lift you above the gloom and clouds.  I have no lofty goals for 2012.  I simply yearn to shift my thoughts to the right place; to focus on the good and to see the world with a more heavenly mindset.   Colossians 3:2 reminds us to "Set your minds on things above".  The more I focus on Christ and engage myself with Him and desire His presence in my life, the more I will be able to have the right perspective when it comes to my kids, my husband, my home and my self.  He is the source of my joy, and the light in my life.

Interruption came to my train of thought as children began to stir... By "stir", I mean I could hear a door slam and someone yelling "Get out of my room!"  Then there was crying and calls of "Mo--o---o--m!"  My heart pounded more aggressively and my nostrils flared.  This is not how I envisioned the birth and glorious inception of my precious new year.  But today, like the rest of the year will be about my attitude and my perspective and I will choose not to measure it by all of the standard accomplishments and typical mother's check-marks.  Right off the bat, I am given the opportunity to practice my new year's resolution: a new attitude and a perspective guided by peace and patience.

"...think happy thoughts" - Wendy