Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Couple Quick Thoughts on 2 Year Olds

Okay, really, this post has been in my head for about a YEAR... since I don't even have a 2 year old anymore. Still, I thought it would be worth noting a few things that have really been a benefit to our family as we have had little ones to raise up. These three things have been great for my one, two, and three year olds.

1) Consistent Lap Time. When I read the Bible aloud in the morning, the bigger children fold napkins and towels and/or color. I tried having the littlest one on a blanket beside me ("blanket time"), with the idea being that I would train them to stay on the blanket while I read. For me, it worked better to put that little one on my lap. (I admit, I quickly tired of straightening the blanket, correcting the child, etc.) With G on my lap, I could hold him tighter if he squirmed and I could prevent him from getting down. This was also great practice for us because during church he needed to sit quietly on our laps for an extended period of time. In essence, we were practicing for church. (But it also comes in handy on flights, in doctor's waiting rooms, and anywhere you would like to contain a squirmy little one for awhile!)

2) Productive Potty Time. I might be the only one, but it seemed I spent a good deal of time in the bathroom waiting for little people to finish so that I could wipe them and help them wash hands. During our toilet training, I kept books on hand (which I didn't really like to have in the bathroom, anyway.) Now, I use that bathroom time to run through catechism questions. It's one on one time with my little man and he loves it when he knows the answers and I make a big deal out of it. Honestly, this just doesn't have another spot in our full homeschooling day, so I'm happy we have a consistent time now to lay down these truths in his little mind. (G will ask me to say "YES!" really loudly when he gets it right.) These are a few of the simple questions that I can remember: Who made you? What else did God make? Why did God make you and all things? Can you see God? Where is God? What is God? Where do you learn how to love and obey God? Who wrote the Bible? Who were your first parents? What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?

3) Brother/Sister Time. This has been part of our homeschool day, simply so that I could focus in on older children and help them with their work. However, I've now seen so many added benefits! As each older sibling has 30 minutes with the youngest one, they get to plan their time, choose their activity (usually they are only given 2 options), and I tell them that THEIR goal is to be the teacher/babysitter. G gets one on one time with a variety of siblings every day, which is such a gift! I see how he has special and unique relationships with each of them that have been fostered through their times together. (And, I'm super glad that everyone is engaged in their own activity during our school time. Fewer distractions has been a huge help to this mama!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Netzer

There are passages in the Bible that have stumped me for years. I'll admit I'm not the most scholarly Bible student; with six children at home with me most all the time it can be hard to find quiet moments for study. Still, I know how to use a concordance and my favorite tool is blueletterbible.com. When a passage that has tripped me up for years is finally clear- and not only that, but beautifully, gloriously clearly pointing to Messiah- it's so precious to me! Matthew 2:23 is one of those passages.

"And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'"

The obvious question is: where was it prophesied that Jesus would be called a Nazarene? And what would it mean if Jesus were a Nazarene?

I know that Samson was a Nazarene. No razor could touch his head and he could not drink wine. If Jesus were a Nazarene, he was a poor one: it was not noted that he did not shave or cut his hair and we do know that he drank wine (such as at the wedding in Cana and at the Last Supper.) It doesn't make sense to me that Jesus, who was perfectly sinless, would take vows of a Nazarene and break them. This one little verse bothered me.

Just last week, my sweet cousin sent me a new book, The Chronological Gospels, reconstructed and annotated by Michael John Rood. In the introduction, he addresses this very passage and clears up all my confusion in such a simple explanation. I'm going to try to paraphrase and quote him as I seek to understand this even more.

Several prophets stated that the Messiah would be a tzemach. A tzemach describes a role of the Messiah, a prophetic mission that he must fulfill, a characteristic or quality that he will display. In the gospels, Jesus is the Tzemach- the King, the Servant, The Son of Man, The Branch, The Son of God, The Coming Judge. The Hebrew word "tzemach" was translated into English as "BRANCH."

Isaiah 11:1,10 "And there shall come forth a rod (khoter- living shoot) out of the stem (geza- cut down tree stump) of Jesse, and a BRANCH (netzer- specific type of branch) shall grow out of his roots (shorashim)...10 And in that day there shall be a root (shoresh) of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to the root shall the gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (taken from The Chronological Gospels, page 21.)

Now I see a prophesy about a BRANCH/netzer. A netzer is a very specific type of branch. Rood declares that in the Hebrew language a "netzer indicates a shoot from an olive tree that grows out of its original root system but springs up at a later time and somewhat distant from the trunk. The branch that shoots forth out of the root of the stump of the family tree of Jesse will spring forth as a netzer."

The Hebrew word netzer (specific type of branch) is similar to the word nazir (nazarite vow). While the "nazarite vow" translation tripped me up, I am in awe of a God who plans to send a Messiah as a netzer and who fulfills His plan through Jesus, a branch out of the trunk of David, revealing to us the truth of Jesus, Messiah. What love is this!

The explanation is so simple. Nazareth (in English) is really Natzeret, taking it's name from the root word netzer. The residents of Natzeret knew that they were a "shoot" out of the tree of Jesse. The town was originally established by descendants of King David, who knew that their little village was distant, and springing up at a later time, from the stump of Jesse.

The apostle John writes that if the whole of the story of Jesus were written, it could not be contained by all the books in the world. (John 21:25) Yet the things that were written in the Bible are so that we might assuredly know that Jesus of Nazareth (Yeshua of Natzeret) is The Prophet whom Moses spoke about and the promised Messiah. My heart soars in adoration at this little mystery explained, Christ as netzer. I'm searching for more quiet moments when I can read more of this wondrous good news.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Teaching our Children to Hear Us

In this new year, I've gone through my crazy full email inbox and created a folder of great Bible study posts that I wanted to spend time with. This morning, I chose a Doorpost study on obedience from July of last year. These always give me insight and instruction that is so helpful! I especially like the ideas at the bottom for sharing what I'm learning with my children.

Here is the post I read this morning: http://www.doorposts.com/blog/2015/07/05/thirty-days-of-child-training-boot-camp-for-busy-busy-mamas-day-5-catch-up-and-optional-lesson/?awt_l=NxwGI&awt_m=3kTxOcojv.F_QyO

I'm convicted that I haven't been approaching the Word with an ear to yield and be obedient, giving my consent and interest and attention to the wisdom it contains. How much I've missed! How thankful I am that I can open the pages today and HEAR with the help of the Holy Spirit.

One thing that has been fun in teaching our younger children to hear and obey is to make a game of practicing these habits. When I would change the little one in the morning or at night, it was a good time to give instructions such as: go to the door; lay down on your back; roll over; pretend you are a puppy; blink your eyes; tackle me! (Honestly, some of this started when the little ones were SO wiggly and changing them was a challenge. But it turned into a game that yielded great results!) When the bigger kids happen to be in the room, they beg to be included in the game. Not only do I give them fun and silly instructions, but I can send them all over the house on little errands that are accomplished quickly and happily.

Another time we play this game is when we gather at the table for school time. I often notice how untidy things are at that very moment, and can send children to put away one item at a time with another silly command. (Grab the cape from the floor and spin with it all the way to the dress up bin, and then put it away. Do five jumping jacks and then take five books to the shelf.)

Our boys LOVE to be asked to be active. They are so happy with push ups, jumping, punching the air, crawling under furniture, giving high fives, kicking their feet, and rolling on the floor. We usually end up happy and panting at the table, which I think is a great way to have their attention to start.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Last Month's Birthdays

Well, I haven't completely given up the blog yet. This has been a good place to chronicle our children's growing up. Two of my favorite young men had birthdays last month, and I want to take time to honor them here.

R turned 12 in November. On his birthday, we remembered how hairy he was as a baby. We were thankful that he wasn't in the hospital this year (he had surgery to remove part of his mastoid bone two years ago). We were also glad he hadn't had any broken bones or stitches this past year!

R is the son who keeps things light around here. One of his gifts is being able to include EVERYone in whatever fun he thinks they ought to be having. He tells the funniest stories, has an amazing vocabulary, and his love language is still punching. (Family joke; truly, though, he loves to be punched and to have his back scratched.) This past year he taught himself to play guitar and he learned a bit of ballroom dancing. (Look for the slight young man wearing a tie with flair!) He had his first season on swim team (which he enjoyed mostly for the social aspect!). Our avid reader continues to devour hundreds of pages at a time and he will happily chat your ear off on about any topic (he's well versed in a variety of subjects thanks to all that reading!). If he gets in trouble, it's usually for talking instead of working. He is extremely happy to have a friend who lives in our neighborhood and would spend every day with friends if he could (or maybe watching football- or BOTH!). Our R is absolutely a delight to us. He can cause me to feel a level of crazy I'm not comfortable with... but he also adds color and joy to my life. Love him!

G turned 3 in November. I love 3 year olds. They say the funniest things! When I read to G and there are animals on the pages, he often asks me to stop reading and tell him WHO the animals are. For awhile, I was confused by this. Now, I understand that when there are two animals, I am the bigger animal and the smaller animal is always G. He also uses pronouns incorrectly, although it's endearing. "Him wants to go outside" would be G speak. Also, "Him wearing his hat." G has a weakness for gum. We know better than to give him a pack as a gift; he eats the entire package at once. And then we find it: on our bed cover, in his hair, on the floor, under his bowl at the table...

For Christmas, G got a new bike. (His old bike had issues with the tires and training wheels.) The boy is ELATED about this bike. He rode circles in the house before we took it outside. He happily took off with a loud, "Weeee-who!" He comes up with all kinds of loud, happy exclamations. Lately, he has even taken to making up songs and singing them to us. (Yesterday he sang about the baby Jesus in the clothes in the manger.) He loves to sit on the counter and help me with everything. Thankfully, he still takes regular naps. He usually gets up from them slowly and still wants lots of snuggles on my lap (which I'm glad for!). He likes for people to lay with him when he goes to bed. I thought he only wanted me because he still likes to put his hand down my shirt (ahhhh!), but apparently anyone's skin will do. And, one night, I found out, that he didn't really want me anyway. He said he wanted Daddy to lay with him. When I asked why Daddy was better than Mommy he said, "Because Daddy shows me funny cat wideos!" (And how can I compete with funny cat videos in bed?!?!) I think we all wish he would stay little and talk with his cute imperfections and need us just a little bit. It may just be me, but I think I detect that we're all in denial that this precious boy is already three.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feeling Full (and Thanksgiving is tomorrow!)

This may be the longest hiatus I've ever taken from the blog. Let me assure you, it's not because our life has become dull and slow and nothing is happening around here. Just one little mama can't quite keep up with it all and also find time to write about it.

YET.. I'm awfully full these days, and I thought I should share.

I've been taking a "Joy Challenge" that Tommy Newberry offers. It's 40 days of focusing on JOY and adding joy-producing habits so that you can live more fully the joyful life you were intended to live. I needed this focus. I've grown complacent, lazy in my thinking, and let go of counting gifts (like blogging) as life has felt plenty full. Seems that giving up some of these good little things has had a pretty significant impact on my attitude. The good news is that it's never too late to give thanks and live a joy FILLED life!

What we focus on expands. As I focus on the good gifts God has given, on the blessings and happy things and lovely things in my life, I'm finding more and more of them! Just this week, I've noticed the amazing gifts of being given a deer (FREE meat?!) and having our particularly amazing landlord teach the boys how to process the deer. Not only that, but my absolutely amazing husband has put in extra time after dinner to clean, cut, and grind the venison.

Also this week, aforementioned landlord began replacing the (low grade, four-year old, white!) carpet in our rental house with Pergo flooring. Amazing and generous. The big boys have been helping him, learning how to put in floors, etc. I love the skills for them just as much as I love having the nasty carpet out and the shiny, slippery, lovely floors in!

O at special 14th birthday dinner
There's much more, but the two things that really stand out to me are related to O (now 14). Earlier this week, an older man in our community called to ask if the big boys would rake leaves in their lawn. O and R have also helped this couple spread mulch and done other odd jobs for them in the past. They were able to finish their school work and spend a few hours raking leaves before they started in on the floors here on Monday. That evening, Mr. T called (the older gentleman). After talking to O briefly, he asked to talk with me. For several minutes he explained to me that the boys had done a great job with the lawn, doing everything he asked (and then some!). He said "they worked their butts off" and earned every dollar he paid them. His wife is a teacher and so he clarified with me that our boys were, indeed, home schooled. I told him that was true. He then told me that The Lawyer and I were doing a great job as parents, that we have great boys, and that we are doing things right. After thanking him for the unexpected compliments, he reiterated what a pleasure it was having our boys over and that they would like to call them again for other jobs because O and R were so polite and hard working. Well! What an unexpected gift to have a total stranger affirm the character of our children.

Finally, my mother heart was touched by O's thoughtfulness this week. He took on the project of adding the tomato cage and Grow Lights to our TowerGarden- just to bless me. (And the effect was stunning AND productive!) While I was out with four of the children for piano today, O managed to install Pergo in our bedroom (with awesome landlord) and was working to clean and put things back in order to surprise me. Again... just trying to bless me. I was so encouraged by this! I'm not sure that these thoughtful acts have happened before. Maybe now that I'm looking for them, I see them?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Feast of Trumpets- A Good Season for Us

Our family has been learning a lot about the Biblical feast days. We're fascinated by what we are studying! The children have joined The Lawyer and I in watching some video teachings and we've read Scripture together, seeking to understand things we haven't seriously considered before. Because of this, we were talking about whether or not we would celebrate the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) last week. (I apologize that this is long, but I want to remember how the Lord met us!)

The main reasons we had not to celebrate were that we simply didn't know how to (and reading and figuring it out takes time!), we didn't have a trumpet or horn or shofar, we didn't have special feast foods on hand (and I didn't want to try my hand at making challah!), and we didn't have anyone to celebrate with (and really, celebrations are so much more fun with others!).

So, this is a story of how the Lord met us in our weakness and neediness and brought glory to His kingly name.

First, we admitted that even though we didn't know how to celebrate exactly, we did feel compelled to celebrate. We were convicted by the idea that these are the feasts "of the Lord" and that as the Lord's people, we ought to observe them. There is so much about this idea that stirs our hearts, it would be impossible to share it in this post. Suffice to say, feasts are special times for the Lord's families and we believe that special food, special traditions, special ceremonies or music or readings all help us to remember and think on what the Lord has done, what He has promised, and who He is. What wonderful ways to talk to our children about the Lord and prepare our hearts for Jesus' second coming! Celebrating the Feast of Trumpets appealed to us.

THE SHOFAR: I've learned that when I think I lack something, I can just as my Father. Either He provides it, or I didn't really need it. Therefore, I asked the Lord to provide a shofar or horn IF He wanted us to celebrate this Feast. We needed it by Monday. We couldn't buy it (a shofar runs about $40-$500 and we only had $30 discretionary funds this month). Each day as I walked, I would remind the Lord that we were waiting to see if He would provide a shofar and that we were willing to celebrate this Feast if He met this need.

Finally, on Saturday night, I had the idea to post on our church yahoo group that I was looking to borrow a horn or trumpet. I doubted that anyone would see a post so late at night or that they would check the group on Sunday. I didn't hear anything back. I wasn't surprised, but I was a little disappointed because this was one of my last hopes for finding a horn. Sunday morning, I pulled in to church with the kids at the same time that another family was just getting out of their car. By the time I got out of our van, the father of the family was beside me, TWO shofar/horns in his hands. We got to PICK which horn we would borrow. It struck me how generous God is to supply MORE than we need sometimes.

THE FOOD: Now that we had a horn, I really needed to plan a Feast! On Monday (the Feast day), I organized a quick grocery list and prepped a special meal for the evening. I had to run out for something else, and took 2 boys with me to Kroger. We picked up our few items, including the wine, challah, yogurt covered raisins, and bugles. Then, we went to the self-checkout, which is where I realized that my wallet was is the other van. The sweet checkout lady has seen me so often that she let me buy the wine without an i.d. and I wrote out a check for the groceries. She took the check and we took our groceries and began the long walk to the door. Then, another cashier started calling to me across the store, telling me to come back. I so wanted to pretend that I didn't hear her. I was practically out the door with my 2 bags of groceries and 2 little boys who were driving their shopping carts with enthusiasm (and a bit rowdier than I like). Still, I returned. She couldn't accept my check without my i.d. and apparently the other cashier had gone on break after we handed her the check. We ran through options, but they didn't work for me. Come back later? No; I had a napping child at home, food to prepare, and no time to return. Go retrieve the wallet? Same problem with time. Have the Lawyer stop by? Too troublesome. I pleaded with her, "please? I need these groceries for a feast tonight. I can come back tomorrow and pay and you can hold my check?" No way. So, I sadly handed her the bags of groceries and two sad little boys and a very sad me walked back across the store to leave. "Ma'am!" I heard again. She called me back again. Apparently, a woman had overheard our exchange and offered to buy the groceries. Touched by the generosity of this woman, we went over to thank her. I held out my check to her (she declined) and then asked for her name so I could send her cash. She again declined. "You have a very nice family," she said, "and you are a very nice woman. I do this all the time. I'm the Lord's and I do it in His name." Well! I believe I was crying as we walked away for the third time. Now, we had our Feast food- and we didn't even pay for it.

THE FELLOWSHIP: It's pretty tricky to get together with people; everyone is just so busy. Still, we had a family in mind that lives close to us and has become dear to us over the past few years. On Monday we invited them to join us for our Feast of Trumpets celebration. They said YES! (It's a small miracle that they were even available!) Neither family had much food for the evening meal, so we decided to eat dinner in our own homes and then gather afterward. For some reason, that just didn't sit well with us, and by that afternoon we asked them to also join us for dinner. They did! Not only did we have enough food (I'm surprised how our two small packages of lamb could feed two families!), but they brought food, too, and it truly felt like a feast. Beautiful, varied dishes and flavors, and the fun of sharing mealtime with this precious family made the feast so special to us. And THEN! Then, we took turns reading Scripture, discussing the Feast of Trumpets, eating our fun Feast food, and then singing (with guitar, violin, mandolin, shakers, and horn!) together. It was a lovely, joyous time of learning and celebrating. I can't imagine what it would have been like not to have had others to share this with!

O and I made a festive, multicolored banner to hang. The kids cooked and cleaned with me. We readied the house for our guests. We combed through information on the Internet and printed little packets for our time together. Our Feast observance surely could have been improved upon (keeping the day holy and without work would be a great start!), but still it was fun and holy and exciting and memorable. We are SO very thankful that the Lord provided, drew our hearts to worship Him in this way, and showed us clearly that He was pleased for us to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. The kids have already started talking about next year and next Feast (Yom Kippur is tomorrow!) ... which is keeping The Lawyer and I digging and reading and learning and praying. What a good season to be in!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Farm Time 2015

Curtis/Dickson Cousins

Rockcut Park with Griffith cousins

O (13) and R (11)



L (10) with cousin H




Fishing with Grandpa

G (2)

On Class Reunions and Years Gone By

This year my high school class celebrates 20 years since our graduation. Whew! That just sounds wrong to me! I am now one of the "old people" who seem to always be tagging on the phrase, "how can it be?" to every milestone, birthday, anniversary.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure I really wanted to go to this reunion. I've never been to a class reunion. Mostly, because we aren't usually in IL when the class reunions take place, but also because I just wasn't sure I really wanted to put myself in that situation. You know, the awkwardness of having people size you up and seeing if you measure up to what they thought of you back then or what they thought you would make of yourself. I imagined that I wouldn't know what to say to people, that the 20 year span would have obliterated all we once had in common. I wondered if the old cliques would still be circling, leaving me feeling a little like the odd one out. And truly, deep down, I wondered what seeing my peers would reveal to me about myself (how did I compare)... and would I like it? I used to know where I stood with this group of people, in terms of class rank and perhaps in what they thought of me. (My high school self was not one to party or date around, so there are a lot of people in my class I don't know very well because I wasn't at their social gatherings. I was probably known as a bit of a goody goody and one who studied. At the same time, we had a small school, so I was also able to play sports and be involved in lots of activities, too.)

This dinner was especially intimidating to me because The Lawyer wouldn't be with me. Nor would my cousin (and class mate), Andrew. I hadn't seen most of these people at all in the past 20 years. I'd really have to stand on my own two feet. Would I be confident in who I am? How would I feel if people questioned me about our family size (there are usually some comments!) or our decision to home educate? What was I going to say if they asked what I "do?" On the other hand, what would I ask them- after more years apart than we ever had together? Would I recognize them? Would it be awkward? Would I be able to appreciate and esteem my class mates so they felt valued?

I'm so happy to say that it was an absolutely lovely evening. It encouraged me and filled me up beyond what I ever would have expected. (Some of that is due to the extrovert in me!) I didn't recognize everyone; there were some pleasant surprises. I was struck by how beautiful these people are. Clearly, we are older. Yet, I felt at home in the same smiles and warm eyes (with gentle creases now!) that I remembered. These ladies and men are wearing the years well and it was good for me to see. Some of us look a little worse for wear, but I know there are stories of heartache, grief, loss, sleep deprivation, hard toil under the sun, the strain of raising children, losing parents, etc. . . and so each one of the people I spoke with seemed more beautiful than I remembered.

We sat around chatting about school lunches and teenage boys, of sports and spouses and things going on around town. I was struck by the sweetness of sharing the moment with these class mates and friends of mine (I use the term "friend" loosely. We had a small class of 63 students, so we were all pretty well acquainted). They are good citizens to have in their small towns. They are good parents (as much as we can be!) and they are endeavoring to do good in their homes and in their community. I was PROUD of them, proud to still be part of this group of good people who are doing so much for those around them. I heard them supporting each other (buying sausage and pancake breakfast tickets from one another) and I could tell in the way they spoke to each other that it was GOOD that these men and women had each other for support and community.  Even though I was the one in the circle who lives far away, I still felt connected to them and thankful that the people I love have these good folk close.

There wasn't much awkwardness. I was in my element, asking questions to find out all I could about these old classmates of mine. Their past 20 years were absolutely fascinating to me! I needed more time to talk to each of them! There were so many fun surprises- the couple who met online; those who met on a blind date; the farmer who just became a father (of twins!) a few weeks ago; the husband and wife who drive hours and hours to support their superstar softball athletes, the WI beer brewer, the unexpected banker with gorgeous blond wife, the ultra-successful divorced man, the newly married pair, the woman expecting her first baby this fall. With 20 years to look back over, there begins to be a pattern and a tapestry, and a making sense of some things, and surprises that maybe we should have seen coming. It gave me a glimpse of what I expect one day in heaven might be like a "big reveal"- when all the hills and valleys of our lives are laid bare and exposed for their purposes. Just this little glimpse was almost glorious. . . I had the sense that the Master had been working out His plans.

And so, the night ended and I was full of thankfulness and joy. For my best friend Kim, and all my other friends, too. For this circle of people that I was still connected to. After all these years, it was plain to me that we were still connected in some way, at some level. I'm glad to be part of this group of imperfect people who are yet striving for good. I don't quite feel that I fit in, but I do feel that somehow our strengths complement one another and we have new things to offer than we did 20 years ago. It's mysterious to me, and yet also confirms what I suspected deep down. When we look for good in others, we find it. When we truly share our lives with those around us, we are joined in some way. If there is another reunion in five years, I will be happy to visit with my class mates again.