Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Missing Wonder Factor

There's something conspicuously absent in my life these days. ("These days" refers to the days since we started having children and added smart phones.) The missing something is what I think of as "the wonder factor." I don't notice that the "wonder factor" is absent because I'm not usually confronted with it and our new normal quickly becomes the only normal we know. However, a few things happened recently that made me ponder the missing wonder.

When I was growing up, there weren't cell phones. (I know I sound so ancient, but it doesn't seem that long ago!) When I said goodbye to my parents in the morning, I wouldn't talk to them (or text!) until I saw them again that evening. We had to communicate with one another. Maybe we would leave a note on the counter: Going on a walk. Be back by 4. Or a reminder post it note in the car: pick up mail, please. There were several times that I waited for rides home from sports practices or games when the school was closed (hence, the office phone was unavailable) and I had to WONDER... do mom and dad remember that I'm here? How long should I wait? Should I walk to a friend's house? If I leave to call them and then they come, will we miss each other? Did they already come and go home without seeing me? What if it starts raining?

All of these questions were my wondering. I would ask questions that didn't have answers and I would try to provide answers for myself. There wasn't anyone else to answer these questions and there weren't necessarily any right answers. There was just me, wondering.

On our summer trip to Il, I had a wondering moment. We brought out Labrador puppy with us on this trip. At our VA house, he sleeps on the floor in the bedroom. In IL, he has to stay outside. It was going to rain and I heard Stirco whining outside. I wondered if he would be okay and settle down. I wondered if he would do better in his crate on the porch. I wondered if he would wake up the 11 sleeping cousins. I wondered if I should sleep downstairs near the crate so he would settle in (oh! the things we do!). I wondered what The Lawyer would do. Alas, it was too late to call or text him. Everyone else was in already in bed. I was the only one awake, thinking about the whining puppy. I was tempted to grab my phone... to look up some sort of solution to this problem I was facing. There wasn't an easy question to put on an internet search and I knew there weren't any cyber answers for me. The situation warranted wondering. It wasn't a simple, solve-able problem, but one that needed care and intuition and creative thinking- all things that come better from a wondering mind than from a phone.

I was uncomfortable- so much so that it startled me. Have I become SO dependent on my phone for answers? Yes. Yes I have. It was uncomfortable to not have an easy answer to the dog dilemma. I had to wait and listen to him. I had to try a few different things. It took time to pet him, calm him, and to muddle through my options. He knows how to open doors, so I can't really leave him out without locking the doors. He could break through the screen door when I'm upstairs and that wouldn't be good, so I probably should block off that door. If he's wet, his electric collar could be a problem. Do I think he would run away or hide in the rain? Is he more likely to stay at the back door, or get into trouble somewhere else on the farm? What should I do?

After deciding on a plan to leave him outside without his collar, I went back up to bed. I lay in the dark, listening to the night sounds of the farm, the frogs, the bugs. . . and the dog (again). Not wanting to disturb anyone, I went back downstairs again for a second try.

In the cool darkness, with the moon shining and the solar lights' gentle glow, I pet Stirco and wondered. It was a strange feeling, one I hadn't had for so long, this thinking things through without any clear answer, without soliciting opinions or help. At the same time, it was a familiar discomfort. It totally reminded me of those lonely nights waiting outside the school gym, wondering if my parents would come or what I should do. I found myself praying for wisdom, turning ideas over in my head, and wearily accepting that there wasn't a clear answer. I had to trust that it would be okay. Thankfully, it was. It usually is. But how interesting that we may be regularly missing out on the "wonder factor." Maybe my children haven't even experienced it, in a world with google, facebook, voxer, texting, and youtube.

I dare say we are missing more than the wondering. We might just be missing the stretching and the scheming and the dreaming and the possibility thinking that our brains were made for. We might be missing the sometimes loneliness and the smallness that cause us to not only reach out, but reach UP when there is no one nearby to reach out to. We might be missing the mystery of dependance on Providence and the goodness of seeing faithful, supernatural provision and protection. I don't know. Maybe I'm making too much of this. I'm just thankful for that night with the dog when I realized how precious the "wonder factor" is.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Traveling with Boys and Toothbrushes

Traveling with boys can be interesting.

This morning, I reminded M (8) to brush his teeth after breakfast (which is a reminder I give nearly every day for reasons which will soon be obvious).

An hour later, when I returned from my run, I asked him if he had brushed his teeth. He looked rather guilty of skipping the task. "I couldn't," he explained.

"Why not?" I queried.

"Because I can't find my toothbrush."

Oh yes. Said toothbrush that he believed he had packed in his bag but has been unable to find... since we left VA a week ago. I'm pretty sure this means what we think it means (ahem. No toothbrushing for seven days). I encouraged him to ask Grandma for a new toothbrush. She's awesome and stocks up before we come for this very purpose. We have come on a summer trip before when not ONE of my children packed a toothbrush.

Shortly after this, I saw O (16) heading upstairs, toothbrush in hand. "Someone used my toothbrush!" he said, rather incredulously. (The children have been assigned specifically colored toothbrushes and specific bathrooms that they are to use.)

Apparently, when O went to brush his teeth, he couldn't find his toothbrush. It wasn't in the assigned downstairs bathroom, which only three children were supposed to use for personal grooming. This morning, there was one toothbrush conspicuously absent. He went upstairs to look for the missing toothbrush. On the way, he saw G (5). O asked, "Did you use my toothbrush?"

"No." said G. "I couldn't find mine, so I borrowed Grandpa's."

When O found his toothbrush upstairs, he then brought it back down. Showing it to G, he then asked, "Is this the toothbrush you used?"

"Yes." agreed G. But he didn't TAKE it upstairs; he just USED it upstairs.

After asking around for who was to blame for taking his toothbrush upstairs, O gave up. I heard him mutter, "It's not just that G used my toothbrush. . . it's that two people used my toothbrush and I don't know who the first person was."

And I had to laugh. . . because it didn't stop O from brushing his teeth anyway. These boys!!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Counting... Graces and the Omer

So... let's just say it's been about a year. Facebook has become my primary posting place and this humble blog has fallen off into obscurity. UNTIL... I visited for an archived recipe and L (13) started reading and found this to be a treasure trove. How much I forget! How thankful that I actually wrote some of it down!

Most of my consistent posting was when I was counting 1000 gifts, Ann Voskamp style. SO thankful that I did that, and I see the benefit to the practice. I've spent time reading books, journaling, and practicing gratitude in many ways since then (including #countinggifts on fb). Still, it's good to look back and remember the gifts that meant so much to me in those sweet, hard years of babies.

More recently, we've been deep into a journey of faith and digging down into the roots of our faith and asking, "What does the Bible REALLY say?" It's been hard and amazing, challenging and refreshing all at the same time.

Right now, we are counting the omer... and here's a quick 2 minute video to explain. =)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ode to a Little House (a farewell)

This could be a really long post about how we have lived in a little rental house for a really long time. It's a familiar story: people move into a rental home and intend to move the next year. Instead. they stay and stay and stay and stay and stay. Six years later they decide that now is as good a time as any and the kids aren't getting any younger and they pray and look (as in look at mls listings every single night) and wait and pray and look. . . and then they move!

I'd like to document all the ways that we've seen the Lord's hand in this moving process. I intend to! It will be a long story, however. An Ebenezer story. That's all I wanted, really- for our home story to be a God story, a story of provision and timing and blessing and goodness that could only be from Him. I was kind of hoping that we would be gifted a house (we WERE gifted a van!), even though I knew it was pretty outrageous to pray that way. Yet, I do feel this house is a gift and I see Father's love in the details, the finances, the timing, the location. The house we are moving to is so much better than I expected and I'm really overwhelmed by gratitude.

And yet. . . we will be leaving this little house we have lived in for the past six years. I'm not really sentimental. My friends seem more sad about us leaving this house than I feel. And still, I've worked to be grateful here, to give thanks and appreciate this house as a gift and I do see it as such. There are unique benefits to living in a small house and some of those things I have come to appreciate and value and I will miss.

Goodbye, little house.

Goodbye Little House where G was born.

Goodbye Little House where our kids grew inches and hair and teeth and new bodies.

Goodbye Little House where I could call names and everyone could hear me, no matter where in the house they were. Where I could stand in the kitchen and see the entire living area. Where my bedroom was only nine steps from the boy room. How many nights have I walked that hallway! Carrying sleeping boys back to their beds from my bed, soothing boys who have bad dreams or sore throats or tummy aches. Calling boys from that room for heart conversations, discipline, and instructions. How easy it was to hear their coughs or sniffles (or arguments!) and take care of my littler ones- what a gift!

Goodbye Little House, where I had to be creative to find quiet. I've hidden in my bathroom, in the garage, sat in front of the washing machine to have light for reading my Bible, and walked circles around you while on the phone. I've even locked myself in the van to have a few quiet minutes.

Goodbye Little House, so easy to clean! What an easy life I've had with only two bathrooms and wood floors and not too much to manage. I'll miss the simplicity of a small space when I attempt to keep a larger space tidy (not that I ever really succeeded here!). We never even unpacked everything from our Lynchburg house... trying to keep things simple and uncluttered was really a boon.

Goodbye Little House, so close to things we enjoy! We walked to the pool nearly every summer day
for swim team and recreation. I've walked miles and miles and miles of trails, gone running, kayaking, played tennis, soccer, used the ball fields and playground and pavilion, biked to the post office and to church and to the gym. . . Things were convenient and easy here.

Goodbye Little House, with the wonderful landlord who became like a grandpa to our children. Mr. B
can fix anything and was so quick to take care of us. He remembered birthdays and brought treats for the kids, was so generous with his garden vegetables and baking, invited us to swim at his pool, took the boys hunting and to work with him, and endeared himself to us.

Goodbye Little House where we made so many memories. We enjoyed nights by the fire inside and a few nights at our fire pit out back. The kids spent hours and days on the trampoline out back and we've used scooters, bikes, and flying turtles on the driveway and down the cul-de-sac days upon days. We've had over 40 birthdays here and celebrated feasts together. We've had friends over for dinner, for covenant group, and just because. We've learned together, worked on school, read so many great books aloud in this living room. I've rocked a new baby while watching the leaves fall outside my bedroom window. We've shoveled snow and planted grass, raked leaves and spread mulch. We've had hard conversations and tears and disappointments. We've also had celebrations and happy dance parties and turned the music up loud just because. We made so many friends in this neighborhood and it became our community. We had a van show up in front of you, Little House, as a gift. We've grown older here and learned a few things.

Goodbye Little House. You didn't feel like our home because you weren't, and we knew our time with you was limited. But you served us well! Our needs were met, we learned to be content and thankful and we see how blessed we were to live here for a season.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Heavenly Cake

It's been nearly a YEAR since I've added to this blog. Too busy with living life and checking in conveniently and quickly on FB. Blogging takes more time and energy (and clear thoughts!) than I usually have.

Yet tonight! Tonight my M (6) became a believer. He and G were tucked in their beds and I prayed for both boys. Then, he said that he didn't want me to die. He asked me what would happen when I died. He told me about the Bible account of the rich man and Lazarus who die. The rich man is in torment in hell. "What's hell?" M asked. (We have talked about it before, but clearly it was on his mind tonight.) I explained. Then, he said, "Mama, I want to go to heaven with you and Jesus. How can I go to heaven?"

So we talked. We prayed. I shed a few tears. He was beaming. (G fell asleep!) He told me he was SO happy; that his heart was happy. It was late at night for us (after 9) and yet he was SO excited. The Lawyer joined us and commented that the angels in heaven were rejoicing over M. "What do you think they are doing at the party right now?" I asked him.

"Eating CAKE!" he exclaimed jubilantly.

I love it. I'm sure there is some kind of cake in heaven. One day, I'll get to eat cake with my own rejoicing heart and my Lawyer and my M and my Savior. Oh, happy day! And how happy my own heart is tonight. . .

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.