Category Archives: Bible

“Here I stand…”***

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My husband Martin holds baby Jean to the sky. We’re at Saddle View Point, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

My husband and I are nearing 19 years of marriage.  I have been reflecting on our history recently.

That is partly because my own parents divorced after they had “celebrated” their own 19th anniversary, and I have had to say, “SHUT UP!!” to the enemy keep my thoughts captive regarding this particular milestone, and have been purposefully dwelling on the successes of our time together as a family.

Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
Psalm 137:3-5 (NLT)*

It’s a pretty common understanding in the Christian culture that children are a blessing.

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My family: 12-year-old Wesley, 7yo Audrey, 14yo Grant, myself holding baby Jean, almost-five-year-old Fiala, Martin, and 16yo Ethan.

Confession:  For a long, long time, I did not feel that blessing.  I felt overwhelmed, not up to the massive task appointed to me.  I saw my every flaw replicated and magnified in my children.  I felt like I was endlessly disciplining, when I really didn’t WANT to discipline;  I wanted to snuggle on the couch and have everyone love each other, and everyone respect each other, everyone defend each other, everyone exuding kindness and loyalty…

I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, and though I do see my flaws in my children, I am less horrified these days.  Instead, I see that as the provision of God to accent my need for His holiness and his character, in both myself and my children;  it shows me what I need to work on.  However, I still feel, oftentimes, like that last sentence in the paragraph above.  There is not enough kindness and love in our home.  There is not enough of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  There is not enough of His peace.  His patience is frequently far from manifest in the lives and hearts of every member of our family.

HOWEVER.

I am still starting to get a picture, a revelation, of how much BLESSING I live in.

It is dawning on me from a number of different horizons.

To wit:

  • A mother came up to me after worship on Sunday and told me how she had seen my 14 year old son, Grant, enter right into exuberant worship and praise — nothing rote — and he urged a friend to do the same.
  • I am meeting more women — it’s my age, I guess — who do not have the family they envisioned for themselves, earlier in their lives.  They don’t have as many children, or none at all, or they don’t have a healthy marriage, or none at all…  It’s not that my marriage is flawless, but I do have a good marriage.  And I have six children, which feels… complete for the first time in my motherhood.  It doesn’t feel as if anyone is missing.  I am realizing how easily what I presently have could have never been.
  • I do long for more loyalty and kindness in particular between my children;  every time a child throws a sibling under the bus, so to speak, by tattling, my stomach hurts and my heart aches.  But, there IS a lot of love present in our home.  I am trying to treasure all these things in my heart — to remember the loving, tender moments.
  • People whose perspectives and opinions I trust are increasingly encouraging me, pointing out the good fruit in our home.  A maternal uncle visited this past weekend.  He left a note for my husband and I to read.  Part of it said, “You have accepted the challenge of raising a Christian family at a time in history when our culture, society, and even our government fights you.  Good job.  Keep going.  You are being watched by people you don’t even know, and they do so with a yen for what you have.”**
  • At my step dad’s memorial service last Saturday, many people came up to me to congratulate me on the good behavior of my children, and extended their blessings to our family.
  • Baby Jean seems to have brought a new level of tenderness in our family — especially in my two other girls.  My pastor’s wife keeps noting it to me.  It has opened my eyes to the reality of the Father God blessing our family, specifically through this chubby, sweet-smiling three-month-old infant.
  • Just in general…  People keep encouraging me, especially about my motherhood and my children.  I should keep notes and read on a day when I’m discouraged.  🙂

I’ve always kept with the notion that those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise.  Therefore, I often take lightly the compliments of others, regarding my children.  I see the best in my children, but I also see the worst, and I can’t help but often think, “If you only knew...” when someone says something flattering about one of my children.

But, I’ve decided this:  It would be more repugnant to live in the blessing and not realize it.  I think my perfectionist self rather disqualifies my motherhood, disqualifies my children, even, from receiving compliments and blessings.  This makes me sad.  I want to believe it!  I should believe it!  I want to embrace a life of blessing.  I want to ENJOY being blessed!  I think it would score one for the enemy if I really did live a blessed life, but didn’t have the revelation of it.  What a waste that would be!

I’m feeling an increased longing for more of God’s presence in our home.  In short, I’m longing for His blessing, His hand on our lives and in our hearts.  I’ve always wanted this… but it seems like God is bringing me to a place of urgency in prayer and in seeking Him for this, and I have, a number of times in the last month or so, been brought to tears with HOW MUCH I LONG FOR this, long for Him.

So, that’s my new goal:  To enjoy the Father’s blessing, which, indeed, includes my precious children, and to look for and acknowledge His blessing.  I am a blessed woman, indeed, to have six children and a loving husband.  Perfection is a long, long, long, long ways off.  But I am still very blessed, and I want to have an increasing revelation of that, and live in its peace.

———–

*For the curious, our family is not “quiverfull“.
** I was telling my pastor about how I was basking in this blessing from my uncle, and then, I looked over and saw my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, CHEWING on the note.  CHEWING IT.  She explained, “I’m pretending to be a puppy!”  My pastor said with a laugh, “And then reality set in!”
***There is an old worship song by John Barnett called “In the Blessing.”  Its words are:  “Here I stand/In the blessing of the Father’s love/Washed in blood/Sweet forgiveness for a life undone… Knowing that Your love is all I need/To get by/Knowing that Your hand is over me/All my life/My Father, I love you…”  I couldn’t find a recording of this song — which has often brought me to tears — to add to this post.

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Lovely Audrey holds baby Jean, who doesn’t look too pleased here. But, really, Jean *ADORES* her siblings.

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Hyper-nesting, time well-spent (or not), and hearing from God…

I have a one-ish track mind.  I tend to bunch my thoughts, my efforts together in one spot…  Right now, even though I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and one might think I have, “BABY BABY BABY,” going through my mind, it’s not.

Actually, that’s somewhat of a good thing.

Historically, I start nesting somewhere around five weeks pregnant and it’s all I can do to remain focused and engaged with the rest of my life, responsibilities included, for the whole pregnancy.  I tend to spend eight solid months with a nearly compulsive bent toward thinking, dreaming, planning, preparing, for my new baby.  I put a huge amount of emotional investment and TIME into it.  On one hand, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  But, when I have other children who need mothering and schooling; when I have a home that needs cleaning and maintenance; when I have a husband who shouldn’t have to fight for my attention; when I have responsibilities at church that need me to NOT be thinking, “I sssooooo don’t want to be doing this;” when I have friends who merit attention, my hyper-nesting isn’t that great of a thing.

So, for me, the fact that this is on the back burner of my mind:  I’m going to be adding an 8th member to our family in three months or so…  is rather a blessing.  I’m not struggling like I usually do with wanting to drop everything and become a hermit in my home and feeling VERY CRABBY that there are other parts of my life that are calling.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone.

I, for one, though, am very happy to feel ENGAGED with the world at 26 weeks pregnant*.

No, this is not me. It’s Emily Robinson from the Dixie Chicks, playing a dobro.

  • We’re still doing school (though I am REALLY looking forward to our Easter Break next week).
  • My home is quite tidy (most of it).
  • I’m still leading worship in a weekly small group (though I joked that I might need to obtain a dobro sometime in the near future to accommodate my expanding belly).
  • I’m still leading worship twice a month for SuperChurch (the 6-12 year-olds’ Sunday morning service).
  • I’m still singing with the “big church” worship team two or three Sundays a month (I keep telling myself that I probably look ridiculous dancing…  Oh, well.).
  • I’m still hosting the weekly CSA at my home, and even just decided that I’m going to do at least another 12 weeks, shortly after the current season ends on May 1 (even though I’ll have to find an alternate location for while I’m in labor…).
  • If anything, I feel MORE connected to both my husband and our five children during this pregnancy.  I also feel more peaceful.  This is probably my happiest pregnancy ever.

Knowing my history, I wasn’t sure, three months ago or so, that I should do the CSA.  I often start well, but don’t finish strong.  I get all fired up for one project or another, then start to lose steam…  I was more than a bit concerned that this would be a similar endeavor, and then, when I lost focus and dropped the project, not only would I pay for it, but so would the 25 or so other people who were counting on me, and their families…

Also… and this is hard to communicate;  I can’t grasp the right descriptive words…  But, I was uncertain if the CSA was where God wanted me to invest my time.  I long to be fruitful.  I want the things I do to have lasting impact.  I want my time to be well-spent.  I want my involvement with others to have more than just a tinge of “ministry”.  I mean… not that I’m trying to make this The Christian CSA with a prayer corner, worship music in the background, and Bible verses plastered all over my fridge — not that at all.  But, I wanted this to be worthwhile in every sphere, and I wasn’t certain if hosting the CSA was a good choice in how to spend my time — time which often feels spread too thinly as it is.

So, I prayed about it.  “Is this where you want me, God?  Is this OK?”

I got no discernible response.  I’m not saying God didn’t speak, but if He did, I missed it.  I didn’t even feel vaguely “led” one way or another.

I asked my husband — who is well-acquainted with my tendency to rush into projects hard and fast and then feel overwhelmed — what he thought.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that he seemed to think favorably about the whole thing.

It didn’t seem like God was telling me, “No,” although a nice, clear, resounding, “YES!” would have made me feel much more confident.

So, I went with my husband’s approval.

Well.

I guess I had previously felt that I was hosting the CSA for my own personal benefit.  I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I truly want to equip others to eat better.  But, I was kind of compelled more by the fact that I would get roughly $40 worth of local, fresh, organic produce for FREE each week, plus earn $1 per person, per week for what seemed like very little time.

I was wrong on nearly all accounts.

In the six weeks the CSA has been operational:

  • A couple of weeks, I’ve gotten much less than $40 worth.  The remaining time I’ve received FAR more.  We’re rolling in veggies, which pleases me to no end.
  • I anticipated making around $40/week, thinking we’d have that many participants.  However, we started with only 16, and are now up to 24.  So, I am not making even enough money to pay the midwife each month, which was my thought going into it.
  • It takes much more time than I realized it would.  Not only do I devote time “on the ground” from 2:00 – 5:30 every Wednesday, but there is a lot of communication and planning involved, too.  I probably spend an additional 3-3½ hours weekly, often more.  Seven hours total every week may not seem like a lot to you, but in my world, subtracting seven hours from other things that I could be doing??  That’s huge.  That’s a big commitment.

Much more significant, though, is how I have been absolutely surprised by the positive feedback I’ve received from so many of the participants.

I was thinking recently about how, when I started blogging more than seven years ago, I was just compelled to write.  It was 100% for my own benefit.  I saw blogging as an online version of journaling:  simply documenting the time and thoughts as they passed.  I wasn’t trying to gather an admiring crowd.  I wasn’t trying to change the world.  I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or even benefit them.  I just wanted to write.

Similarly, with the CSA:  I just wanted some veggies.  Some free, organic veggies.

But with both endeavors, I have been very taken aback by the genuine thanks, the more-than-occasional encouraging note, the thoughtful gestures that have come my way…  I never thought — not once — that hosting a produce-pickup was going to make a difference in anyone’s life;  I entered into it as rather an indulgence in something of significant interest to me.  But, similar to how I am now compelled to continue blogging by the random e-mails that will start off, “Thank you for your post on ______________ .  I was in tears because of my situation of __________.  I stumbled upon your post, and it was just what I needed, and here’s how it affected me:  ______________.  It was just what I needed and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” — I am now compelled to continue the CSA due to letters like this (shared with permission):

You’re a good friend Karen – even if “long distance”. I don’t think I would have stepped into organic thinking without your help and encouragement. The rest of my extended family think I’m nuts…a super picky eater or whatever. But I have strong convictions to take care of the body God blessed me with and it brings joy to my heart hearing my kids happily talk about healthy vegetables during mealtimes! It’s sad. I never knew any fresh vegetables except iceberg lettuce when I was a kid…nothing but canned and always over cooked. Surprisingly I took after my grandma it seems in how I feel about my health and she lived to be 70 even after smoking for 20 years of her life! She found Jesus, quit smoking & drinking cold turkey and lived a life of joy I still remember this day. I guess I’m sharing just to show my appreciation for you Karen. You have made a difference in my life too. I Love you friend.

That made me cry.  It also made me think that maybe why God was so silent was because He knew that I was just looking for Him to say, “Yes, it’s OK with me that you have this interest, and yes, it’s OK with me that you invest your time here.”  I was just looking for permission.  But He was setting me up.

I sent an e-mail of thanks back to my friend and asked her if I could put her story on my blog.  She didn’t immediately respond and I got nervous.  But, when her reply came, the tears flowed anew.

I would be honored to be a story in your blog – Please feel free to write whatever you wish! Amazing…Our Lord God never fails to love and “push” us into His most blessed plan if just choose to submit! Love you,  your thoughts & prayers are never wasted.

“Never wasted.”

I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale…  If you click on that link, at least 95% of it is me, to a T.

  • They have a strongly-felt internal sense of duty, which lends them a serious air and the motivation to follow through on tasks.
  • They place great importance on honesty and integrity. They are “good citizens” who can be depended on to do the right thing for their families and communities. While they generally take things very seriously, they also usually have an offbeat sense of humor and can be a lot of fun – especially at family or work-related gatherings.
  • The ISTJ will work for long periods of time and put tremendous amounts of energy into doing any task which they see as important to fulfilling a goal. However, they will resist putting energy into things which don’t make sense to them, or for which they can’t see a practical application.
  • Once the ISTJ supports a cause or idea, he or she will stop at no lengths to ensure that they are doing their duty of giving support where support is needed.
  • Traditional and family-minded, they will put forth great amounts of effort at making their homes and families running smoothly. They are responsible parents, taking their parenting roles seriously. They are usually good and generous providers to their families.
  • They are very hard workers, who do not allow obstacles to get in the way of performing their duties. They do not usually give themselves enough credit for their achievements, seeing their accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of their obligations.

It has actually been quite a while since I reviewed what I’m “supposed” to be like as an Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger.  But, re-reading that descriptive page makes me appreciate God more:  He who made me knows who I am.  He knows what I need.  He knows what brings me joy.  He knows what will surprise me.  He knows how to stretch me without breaking me.  And He knows just the right time to bring encouragement to me…

—————–

*It recently came to my attention that I never stated what this child will be:  SHE IS A GIRL.  My husband was 100% right.  Not only was I pregnant, but the baby is a girl.

 

 

In which I plea too earnestly

Note: If you do a Google image search for a mom talking with a teen, there are LOADS of fabulous mother and daughter pics chatting effortlessly away, but the ones of mothers and teen sons?? Weird. Or scary.

When your children are toddlers, you can write pretty much anything about them in a blog, and they just won’t care.

Not so much when they’re teens.

I had a conversation with my oldest son today — he’s 15 — and I will freely admit that I did about 98% of the talking, so it was more like a talking-to than a conversation.  I don’t want to call it a lecture, because as I told him a number of times, “I’m not mad.  You’re not in trouble.”  Maybe it was more like an admonishment.  I want to call him up.  I long to help bring out in him the potential that exists in him.  I do want him to “man up.”  I do want him to “put away childish things.”  Not that he must be serious all the time, but as he grows into an adult, it’s so important to me that he recognizes potential pitfalls in his own life and has the Godly strength of character to avoid them… not because of the threat of some discipline I might impose, but because he can discern right from wrong and make some of the hard choices for himself.

It all sounds so cliché, I’m sure.

I was thinking though — and told him about — my own teen years.  I really had so little guidance.  My mom, a single mother, worked full-time.  By the time I was a senior in high school, I was working (usually) 30 hours a week, and that was during the school year.  I hardly saw her.  I was the oldest of three children at home at the time.  I actually went to two different churches (my mother’s, and my church of choice), for a total of four times a week, and I was very involved… but I wasn’t really discipled.  It was more like — I received teaching which did my best to apply, but it wasn’t… personal.  It wasn’t one-on-one.  My mom uses the guiding paradigm of, “You’ll learn from your mistakes.”  While that often works, she gave very little guidance, very little input, little correction, virtually no advice, no direction, no admonishment.  I felt like I was just tossed out into the deep end and she didn’t even watch to see if I made it to the side or not.  I’m sure she cared, but I didn’t feel it, and I know that she felt a vast measure of relief when I reached adulthood, like, “Whew!  Glad that’s over!” and that she could step back from directly mothering me, except that perhaps she started three-ish years too early.  Part of that was us just not seeing each other that much.  Plus, I’m sure she was just plain tired.  Our personalities are extremely different.  We almost never fought outright, but we just didn’t share much.  Virtually never.

I was very much my own boss from about age 16 or 17 onward, very much aware that if I stood or if I fell, the results were entirely on my own shoulders.

This wasn’t really a good thing, for a variety of reasons.

The odd thing was, I was probably more mature about my freedom than most 16-year-olds;  I didn’t get into trouble;  it was important for me, even from a very young age, to do the right thing, as best as I understood it.

But, I truly had no one who spoke into my life who said, “You need to trim those weeds in your heart.”

Part of this, too, was due to (unknown at the time) flaws in my character, where I rarely saw fault in myself.  I didn’t know any weeds existed!  I was an excellent student, very responsible…  I was often receiving various awards, commendations, and compliments.  It never really occurred to me that I might have areas — VAST AREAS — in my heart that needed tending, some molding, some shaping, some pruning…

The first person who really did that for me was a friend’s mother, starting about my senior year of high school.  She was probably the first person who truly counseled me, probably because she was worried about my influence on her daughter!!  Honestly, though, that woman cared for me the way no one else had before, and I believe her input radically altered the course of my life, and greatly for the better.

She’s the wife of my pastor.  I’m 39.  I’ve known her since I was 15, and have had good relationship with her since I was 17 or so…

Lordy.

Time flies.

Back to my son…

It seems like the blessing and the curse of motherhood is the “gift” of extrapolation.  I have insight to see, “If this attitude/behavior/viewpoint/sin/whatever continues on a similar path, OH! the damage it could cause!”

I’m never sure how much to step in and bring direction:  “Is it too little?  Too much?  The wrong time?  The wrong way?  Will he understand?  Am I over-reacting?”

I don’t want to bring condemnation on my children, ever.

Yet, I will not just toss him into the deep end and walk away.

I do the best I can, praying for wisdom, praying for the Spirit to impact our conversation, to give me the right words, for the good seed to sink down into the soil of his heart, and the overwrought chaff to drift harmlessly away.

I tend to… earnestly plea.

I wish I was a better encourager, to more potential good and know how, exactly, to bring that out, like Your Mother, the Motivational Speaker, communicating with aplomb, humor, wisdom, and interesting anecdotes.

Instead, I end up talking too long, and pleading too earnestly.

Ugh.

I continue, though, because truly, truly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, I wish that I had known in my teens the million-and-a-half difficult lessons that I had to learn the hard way in my 20s and 30s.  I wish I had had some direction in my teens — especially my mid-teenage years — from someone — my mother, especially — to help identify problematic areas in my character and help me nip them in the bud…

The good news is that, in the end, I checked in, and he did not feel condemned, and didn’t feel like I was angry with him.  But, he did feel discouraged.

I think we both need an injection of encouragement.

(NOT THAT I’M SOLICITING YOURS.  What I mean is that it’s hard to give what one doesn’t own.  On one hand, I’m happy that in my personal life and in my mothering, I have steered clear of feeling and communicating condemnation, and that is GROWTH right there, let me tell you.  But, taking it one step further, to learn how to tend blossoms until the branches are dripping with fruit, filled with hope and expectation and excitement for the future….  I’m not so great at that, neither in my personal life and relationship with God, nor in my mothering.  Not yet.)

 

Hellfire and Damnation

I’m sure, in my 6+ year history of blogging, I’ve mentioned the frustrating (and for a time, wounding) experience I had while in university, being accosted by a street preacher.  It was my non-Christian friend, of all people, who had to pull me away from the man with the megaphone who was shouting at me that I was a Jezebel who would burn in hell.  I tried to reason with the preacher and tell him I was a sister in Christ, but he would have none of it, and hollered at me — at point-blank range, still through the megaphone — that I was lying.  My friend, meanwhile, growled at the preacher that he had “got the wrong girl” as he dragged away my offended self.

Ah, memories.  😀

That event, oddly enough, really cemented my heart in commitment to the Vineyard church.  With its emphasis on much-more-subtle (and practical!  and never emotionally-damaging!) activities like servant evangelism, it just seemed much more in line with what Jesus would truly do (and this, my friend, was way before the WWJD phenomenon).

Recently, I have decided to read through the book of Acts.  My pastor very often uses passages from Acts in his weekly messages;  they’re very practical for the everyday life of a Christian, for he is nothing if not practical.  So, I feel like it’s a book with which I have a good acquaintance.  And I tend to concentrate my Scripture reading in portions of the Bible that are less-familiar to me.  Nevertheless, I decided to read Acts for myself…  to reacquaint myself with what the early Church was doing, and to re-prioritize it in my own life.

Most days, I only read a few verses, before cross-referencing, word study, and contemplation take over, not to mention little girls waking up early, wanting to snug.  Yesterday, however, I read the whole of chapter three.  In it is the account of Peter healing a man who was 40+ years old of a lifetime of being lame.  The thing that really struck me, though, was the tenor of Peter’s sermon on the matter, and its effect.

Consider:

Not exactly the world’s most touchy-feely sermon, eh?  But what was the fruit of it?  What was the result??

But many of those who had heard the message believed;  and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Peter, the street preacher, with his megaphone, so to speak, delivered some really scorching words to the hearers.  And what happens?  Conviction!  Salvation!  Church growth!

His hellfire and damnation sermon WORKED.

Wow.

I suddenly have some compassion for my own street preacher — which I have never previously felt, in the twenty years or so since it happened!  Perhaps he was just trying to follow Peter’s lead, expecting the same result.

This morning, pondering it further, I was reminded of George Müller, whose amazing life is a profound testament to prayer, faithfulness, and God’s redeeming power, not to mention vast social change*.  If I am remembering correctly, when George first became a believer, he took his university Divinity education, and tried “pastoring” simple German farming folk** with high-falutin’ sermons, even copying, word-for-word, some of the most sophisticated ones he could find, in hopes of impressing those who heard.  The result was that he impressed them, all right, but he didn’t pastor them, nor bring any closer to knowing and loving Jesus, because they couldn’t understand what he was saying!

In other words, it may have been the right words, but it was at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.

The greater difference between Peter in Acts, and the megaphone-toting, hellfire and damnation New Orleans street preacher, though, may be this:

  1. Peter was filled with — and controlled by — the Holy Spirit.
  2. Peter’s words came after some serious manifestation of “signs and wonders“, which, in and of itself, made believers out of non-believers.

In Acts 4:23-31, directly after this event — Peter healing the lame man and being detained by the religious leaders of the day for it, and for preaching the resurrection of the dead in Jesus — the believers gathered to pray for further boldness!

I need that.  I need all of that:

  1. The right timing,
  2. being filled with the Holy Spirit,
  3. participating in the miraculous,
  4. and more boldness.

I really don’t want a bad experience with someone who had only one of those four in operation — the boldness part — to… well… I don’t know how to put it.  I think what I have done for the last twenty years, is mostly be afraid that anything I say or do out of boldness will have the same negative effect on others that my own experience had on me.  Until now, I really haven’t pieced it all together that it wasn’t the boldness, per se, that was wrong.  It was not having the REST of the package in concert with the boldness.

Having all of it together is the difference, I now believe, between wounding others and revealing the true heart of God to them.

As I re-read what I’ve written above, it sounds like a no-brainer.  “Duh.  Of course you need the Holy Spirit in order to be effectively bold.”  But, I guess that’s what a revelation is all about:  Really sealing things that you may have heard a million times before, and to which you can make a quick mental assent, into a true thing that goes deep in your heart of hearts, so that it’s really REAL, in a way that it never was before.

So.  Now.  Instead of tentatively praying for boldness, afraid of what would happen if God actually GRANTED that prayer to me, I will not just pray for boldness, in and of itself.  I will pray for His timing, His presence, and His power to accompany that boldness, continually in my life.

It’s a good recipe, I think.  And may it bear, oh God, the same fruit that Peter and the apostles did.***

———————-

*To my mind, no two men did more to change the way orphans were treated in Victorian England — and to this day — than Charles Dickens (who raised awareness in a socially-palatable way) and George Müller, who actually DID something about the horrid state of orphanages.

**George hadn’t moved to England yet.

***Might as well start now with the bold requests, eh??  😉

What God spoke to me.

I was recently thinking that, for all I have disclosed on this blog over the last 6+ years, so much of the most significant events in my life go unrecorded.  Some things are inappropriate to share, some defy my attempts at explanation, some I just never get around to…

I’ve been considering that anew, this last week.  I just don’t even know if I could — or perhaps even should — convey all that happened to me.  It’s hard to explain.

New Irish friend Azman & me, having a really good conversation.

The short version is that I went to a three-day International Leadership Summit — a retreat in the cool pines of Prescott, Arizona.  Back down the hill into the Valley of the Sun, the following day, is what we call International Super Sunday, with an extended church service in the morning, and a nearly five-hour event at night that features a dinner, some amazing speaking, and worship, followed up by a prophetic presbytery, where leaders with prophetic gifting (30ish or so) will give a personal prophetic word to anyone who wants one, and pretty much all the attendees want one.  🙂  Or two.  Or three.  Or as many as there is time for.

My love and me, taken by a different new Irish friend, Claire... I don't look this good in real life. 🙂 Bless God for the occasional use of makeup and supportive undergarments.

The whole Leadership Summit started about 15 years ago with just the leadership team of my own church — 20-30 good folk (and their spouses, as appropriate, most of whom are also leaders) who lead a specific area of ministry within the church.  Then, we expanded to invite a few of the pastors/leaders of various international ministries/churches with whom we minister, or over whom we have some apostolic leadership.  (See?  I bet I just lost a good 50% of you with that last sentence, and I’m just not going to explain it, either.  Unless you ask.)

Of the Summit — which is three jam-packed, meaty days of teaching, worship, and ministry, the most significant to me was Friday night.  On that night, I was praying for some friends when the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me.  At first, I just bent over and put my hands on my thighs, kind of holding myself up.  Then, I sat.  After a while, I had to lie down.  It wasn’t that sort of dramatic thing you may have heard about (and which I repeatedly have witnessed) where the Holy Spirit performs a “smack down” and a person slumps to the floor or falls backward.  It was a little more subtle than that.  But not by much.

For… a time… at least more than an hour, but I don’t know how long, I was prayed over and ministered to, both by my dear, dear friends… co-workers in Christ… and by the Holy Spirit.  I was trembly, deep in my core and up into my shoulders and arms, as the Holy Spirit was on me.  My abs are still sore, nearly a week later, I was shaking so long.

Everyone who yields to the Holy Spirit and comes under His power finds a different experience.  Some shake violently.  Some laugh.  Some weep.  Some experience a profound calm.  Another dear friend, Paul Min, an apostolic 77-year-old powerhouse from Irvine, California (originally from South Korea), experiences his legs shaking, and he knows the power of God is residing in him.  I tend to quiver/convulse in my core.  It’s been like that for my whole life.

I know that a great many of you may think that odd and/or unbelievable, and that you’d not care for it, and you’re having second thoughts about me, right about now.  Frankly, that doesn’t matter so much.  Well, the part that doesn’t matter is what you think of me.  It does matter a great deal to me how you consider the God of all creation.  But, you can think I’m a looney, and I’m all right with that.  Even if you stop reading my blog.  😉

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-aware that I’m a Christian;  I don’t hide that, though not every post is about JESUS JESUS JESUS.  It’s more like, “This is my life, and Jesus is an integral part of it, of me.”  I often don’t want to post on the more God-oriented events of my life, because its so hard to communicate effectively and so easily misunderstood.  But, I felt like this last week was too significant to just pass by.

See what I mean by that first paragraph?

So.  What happened to me in that time can be broken down into

  1. What others prayed over me.
  2. What the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me.

In the past, when I “go down” under the power of the Spirit, I — to my remembrance — have never heard His specific, direct words.  Instead, what I usually experience is more like a… sense, an overwhelming sense of whatever it is I need most at the time:  His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, His whatever.  This time was different in that I felt very strongly that I heard His voice.  It wasn’t loud.  More than a whisper, but not loud.  But, there were some specific things, some specific words and thoughts that I have never had, on my own, and I feel very strongly that they were beyond “impressions”;  they were the Word of God, to me, addressing some very specific needs.

Another thing that was different…  Sometimes, I have become a wee bit confused over others’ prayers over me.  Everyone, even those with maturity, doesn’t always hear from God 100% right, and the things that come out of their mouths aren’t always the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  For that reason, Scripture teaches us to “weigh carefully” what is spoken by prophecy.  In the past, I’ve had some difficulty at times, sorting out what’s what.  This time, among the 7+ people who prayed over me, and the many things that were spoken, there were two specific instances where God said, “That’s immature and inaccurate.  You can toss that.”  And silently, I returned prayer for the the person who was praying, thanking God for their willingness to minister and pray, but asking Him to increase the clarity of their spiritual ears, so that in the future, they could pray with more effectiveness.  It is my observation that in situations like that, the pray-er is often speaking out of what they know about that person, and their own personal views, rather than led by the Holy Spirit.  That doesn’t make God’s word less powerful, though those who minister prophetically should be continually seeking greater clarity, accuracy, and maturity.  I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

When the whole Friday night episode was over, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember.

Here are some of the things that God showed me — I’m not sharing everything.  Some of it is too personal, and some of it doesn’t quite make sense to me, and I have to hash it out, to seek God on it, still:

  • God showed me that some of the interests I have pursued — specifically writing and birthing stuff — I have done because I am afraid that I am too old to have prophetic singing/worship stuff fulfilled in me, things that have been prayed and spoken over me repeatedly — countless times — for the last 20+ years.  Writing and birthing are not bad and they may be pursued later, but for the right reasons, not out of fear or distraction.
  • I am to go to bed when my husband Martin does.  He is an early riser and I’ve always been a night owl.  In addition, I am an introvert, and I crave that time, late at night, when the house is still and no one needs me.  That is my “recharge” time.  However, it saddens my husband that I will not go to bed with him when he does, except maybe once a week.  I have thought he’s unreasonable/uncaring that he wants me do do/be something I’m not, and he thinks that I am unreasonable/uncaring because I won’t value his tender heart and the fact that he is restless until I come to bed.  I have been beyond stubborn, when what I really need to do is to obey.  I need to value him.  It is a “little” point of contention to me, but it is HUGE to my husband.  God the father affirmed to me that He will take care of things I fear I will lose in the process, and will make their replacement worthwhile.
  • I must be intentionalabout investing in both my guitar-playing and my singing.  I am a fair guitar-player and I have a great voice.  I’m not bragging;  it was a gift of God that I’ve known about since my early childhood.  However, for my whole life, I’ve just been expecting God to DO SOMETHING about my voice, with my voice.  And He has, to an extent.  I am one of the core vocalists on my precious church’s worship team.  I lead worship (playing guitar and singing) weekly in a home group.  I am one of the three worship leaders for our church’s 6-12 year-olds.  I have been maturing and growing in spontaneous prophetic singing.  Yet, I know that that is not all God has in store for me.  I know I’m not living up to my potential, to His calling in me.  However, I have just expected Him to drop some bomb, some opportunity, to hit me over the head with some profound and specific direction, and He hasn’t done that.  He said that, instead, I need to be intentional about working that gift, investing in it, prioritizing it, furthering it, developing skill…  I totally have NOT done that in the past.  I’ve just coasted on what I have.  To that end, He gave me two imperatives:
    • I am to play guitar and sing for a minimum of an hour, daily.  If I do other things — read, blog, pursue other interests, etc. — it is to be after that hour is completed.
    • I am to take a voice class.  (I’m not sure why about this one, and I have looked into it — the community college that is very close to my home, however, is an extension campus, and does not have voice.  The other location is REALLY far away, spring classes have already started, and the schedule doesn’t seem like it would work at all.  So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.)
  • I felt indescribably strongly that smallish but mighty Vineyard Phoenix, my home church for 17+ years, will always be my Favorite House.  With capital letters.  My husband just got done reading a book by Tommy Tenney called God’s Favorite House.  I have not read it, though I know it is about building the local body of Christ, the local church.  I was FILLED with love and thankfulness and tenderness for the people who have poured themselves out for the Kingdom, for Jesus, and for me personally.  Even though about half (or more?) of those at the Summit were from other nations, those who prayed for me on Friday night — minus one — were all from my local church, Vineyard Phoenix.  I felt that was specific and intentional.  I have long loved the people of my church, especially those on the leadership team, with whom I have served for these many years, and whose pure, vibrant hearts for ministry and the  Gospel of Jesus I have been endless witness to.  But, especially on Friday night, I was filled with a… beyond-strong love for each.  Vicious, almost.  Abandoned, intense, jealous over, consuming, zealous love for my co-laborers in Christ.

I was going to next describe the things that were prayed over me by individuals, but I think that, instead, I will save that for next time.

Until then…  🙂  My love to all readers who have made it thus far.

Thoughts on Christmas. Of course. And dreaming. And poetry.

I am really excited about Christmas, especially the presents, which is a switch for me.  I’m a terrible gift-giver.  I just never can think of what would be “just right” or the only thing I can think of is a bizillion dollars, or it would have taken a month to make and I’m out of time, or whatever.  It’s a lack of intuition plus inadequate planning, I guess.  Add to that the constraints of staying ON BUDGET, and it about wipes me out.  However, this year, we set aside some money well in advance.  And I’m excited about what I have planned for my family.  Although, also in the back of my mind linger the unpleasant memories of gifts that I thought were going to be AWESOME and they turned out to be a total bust.  It’s so much easier to remember the failures than the successes for me.  Something wrong about that….  Anyway.

I had my children make Christmas lists, which I don’t often do, as I think it’s a bit tacky and self-serving and can get their hopes up for that ridiculously over-priced Really Cool Present that they will never receive, like the CELL PHONE on my 12 year old’s list.  I know there are younger children with cell phones, but I looked at him and asked, “Really??” with the Mom Look:  One eyebrow arched, head tilted to the side, lips pursed, a heavy sigh written all over my face.

However, I need to let my children dream…  I’ve been convicted about that lately.  I caution them and prepare their hearts so well about our family’s values — which have a lot to do with Jesus and very little to do with materialism — that I caution them right out of dreaming.  I’ve specially noticed that about my oldest son, who is 14.  He is afraid to even have dreams, lest he be disappointed;  he doesn’t want to fix his heart on the impossible.  That’s startling, partly because that’s just like ME, and I have to fight just to allow myself to have dreams… and frankly, it’s not a super-healthy place to be.  I read “Hold Fast Your Dreams” by Louise Driscoll to him yesterday and suggested that it was a good poem for him (though “The Metal Checks“, also by Driscoll, is much more striking, as poems go, it wasn’t appropriate for the lesson at hand…).  And, I let the cell phone stay on Grant’s list.

Mine is almost identical to this one, mustache bridge and all. An upgrade from $50 firewood. In related news, pretty much all of our guitar-buying has been pre-1997, when we started having children.

For my younger two boys, Wes (age 10) and the aforementioned Grant, I’m having them memorize Luke 6:27-38, in light of the commercialization of the American Way to Have Christmas, and due to the fact that there has been way too much of, “Hey, that’s mine!  Give it back!” which makes me want to poke out my eye with a fork.  I slowly went over each verse with them, explaining that in God’s economy, if you give up something willingly, you always gain back in greater quantity and quality than what you yielded.  I used as an example:  In April 1994, I semi-unwillingly gave my $50 guitar — which was just this side of firewood — to my roommate who had, in my absence, started taking lessons with it.  It was hard, but I was intentional about being generous.  I got married in November of that same year, and my dear husband greatly surprised me with a Taylor guitar (815C model — jumbo with a Florentine cutaway) for our first Christmas!  I hadn’t even dared to hope — to dream — about my own super-fabulous guitar.  It was enough to play my husband’s.  😀  Come to think of it, that was the first of many instances where my husband goes above and beyond where I dare to dream, when it comes to buying me presents.

Anyway.  I also explained to my boys that Jesus was blowing the minds of his hearers.  The Jews already had an unusual law forbidding lenders to charge interest.  Jesus was taking it one step further telling His followers that they were to give anything to anyone who asked, and not even expect repayment of the principle, let alone interest!  This is challenging, to be certain.  Very challenging.  But, it’s required.  Even for kids.  No more, “Hey, that’s mine!  Give it back!”

And, it must be mentioned, that the former roommate is now a professional musician.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Faith, redeeming my Pentecostalism, and “trusting birth”.

I am a recovering Protestant.

My pastor calls us “empowered evangelicals.”  I like that.  Yes, I’m evangelical — I want to tell others about the beauty and love of Jesus — but there’s the power of the Holy Spirit behind it.  Or, rather, the Holy Spirit is in all things I do (that’s the goal, anyway).  God is the focus, the motivation.  His love compels me.  In 20ish years of reflection, now, on my childhood church upbringing, I feel that there was too much “show”.  In other words, speaking in tongues was THE goal.  Prophecy was THE goal.  Exuberant worship was THE goal.  Faith was THE goal.  It very well could have been the immaturity of my perspective;  I was 18 when I left my childhood church, never to again return.  But, somewhere in the mix there of all the hyperactive religion, the Lord Jesus Himself was lost.  I somehow missed that the GOD OF ALL CREATION IS THE GOAL.  All that other stuff is a means to that end:  Jesus.

So, with that in mind, I have been challenged so far this year, and have felt the breath catch in my throat on more than one occasion in my small group.  As a worship leader, I’m assigned a weekly group.  I don’t necessarily get to go where my friends are, or get to choose the leader who I feel most speaks to where I’m at, and does so in a way that communicates clearly to me.  I go where I’m assigned.  So far, that’s been a really good thing.  And, only three weeks into the “season” of new small groups, it’s really too early for thorough assessment.  But, more than once, the leader has mentioned that faith is going to be a focus of his teaching.

Having grown up in said Pentecostal church, where the idea of “name it and claim it” was (for real) taught, I feel like I have had more than my fill of teaching on faith.  And any time someone says that they are going to focus on faith, little warning bells and red flags start chiming and waving in my mind.

“What are you doing, God?”  I wonder.  “Where is this going?  Is my leader really going Pentecostal on me?  Because I don’t think I could handle that for nine months.  Am I overreacting?  Am I here to balance out any ‘name it and claim it’ junk that might crop up?  Do you have me here to test me somehow?”  Round and round my thoughts have gone.  What I have come to, though, after three weeks of concern, prayer, and a wee bit of hyperventilating, is this:  God wants to redeem my concept of what faith is.  It’s time.  It’s time for me to no longer be afraid of the word “faith” and to be rid of the negative connotations it has for me.  It’s time for that history to be sifted, and for the good, solid, true, right aspects of it to remain in the sieve, and the chaff and dust to be shaken out and done away with.

Which brings me to, yet again, the idea that one of the best things about God, and one of the most uncomfortable things about Him is that He doesn’t allow me to just stay, if where I’m camped is harmful.  He doesn’t allow me to remain in patterns of sin or even thought patterns based on misunderstanding.  He, by no means, is a static God.  He’s active.  He’s methodical, but not in a plodding way;  He is purposeful.

So.  Anyway.

(The following kind of jumps around a bit;  I hope that, by the end, it’s tied together coherently.)

I’ve been reading the epistle of I John lately, and this morning thought, “You know, I’ll be happy when this book is done.  It’s so challenging and meaty, and I really just need some love and comfort, like from the Psalms or the late chapters of Isaiah.”  Hahaha!  Such maturity.  🙂  Although, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in that time, “Take note.  Your children can also only handle so much correction and instruction before they need a serious break filled with love and comfort.”  OK, God.  Point taken.

Then, I came to this:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world;  and this is the victory that has overcome the world:  our faith.  I John 5:4

The first thought that came to me, upon reading that verse, was about the process of natural childbirth.  Among the natural childbirth community, especially for those espousing unassisted birth (that is, birth at home* with no attending physician, nurse, midwife, etc.) there’s a saying:  “Trust birth.”  When I read the verse above, I thought, “Rather, I should trust the GOD of birth.  Have faith in the God who created birth.  He has overcome all the junk in the world — sin and death and pain and crappy doctors (and nurses and even midwives and friends and family and whoever else) who are antagonistic towards the beautiful, arduous process of birth.  I must have faith that He’s a good God and that though the path is difficult, His purposes in it are right and true and good.”

I hope that makes sense.

What I’m saying — though it’s kind of tangential to the point of this post — and I realize that this may be a wee bit inflammatory, is that trusting birth is idolatrous.  It’s having faith in the creation, instead of the Creator.  My faith, and any woman who claims Jesus as Savior, needs to be in the One who originated the process, the God whose infinite mind conceived such an amazing process, and in His goodness and His right-ness in doing it in the way He did.

Those thoughts (faith, birth, Creator) led me, this morning, to progress to one of my favorite concepts EVER, found in Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

In other words, as the songwriter Kevin Prosch coined it, “The natural things speak of the invisible.”  I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT when I gain a better understanding of my God when He reveals more of His character, His heart, His nature, His abilities, His wisdom, et al, through something I can see, touch, or experience.

Birth, clearly, is an experience.  However, there are a lot of variables in the process.  There are a lot of emotions.  There are many unknowables.  With every birth, but especially with a first-time mother’s birth, it really is like diving into the unknown:  jumping off of a diving board into an empty pool with the hope that it’ll be filled by the time she hits the water.  There is a lot of FAITH that needs to be employed.

Backing up just a few verses, Romans 1:17 tells us, “…the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…”  I pondered that for a few minutes.  I re-read it, “The right-ness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”  We as people, and especially we as Americans, don’t like that concept.  We want to try before we buy.  We want a test-drive.  We are wary of anything that can’t be sampled.  However, that’s just not the way of God.  He calls me to trust Him, to have faith in His right-ness, and as I do that — after I do that, perhaps even as a result of my faith — His ways are revealed as solid, good, true, and trustworthy.

Does that make sense?  I have to have the faith FIRST.  It’s only after I’ve gone through that exercise of applying faith, and applying faith, and applying faith, that His ways are revealed as right.

So, getting back to the natural speaking of the invisible…  As further pondered where God has me, I realized that as I study my God, and as I study the process of birth, I am ever more convinced that the process of birth is a microcosm of the nature of God.  Birth is the marriage of:

  • The concrete and the abstract.
  • Science and emotions.
  • The rational and the transrational**.
  • The absolute and faith.

After I recovered from my reverie this morning (well, I’m still not quite recovered;  I’m still in awe), I became filled with thankfulness.  My God knows that I struggle with the idea of faith.  Thankfully, I’ve been a Christian for long enough to see God move in amazing, powerful ways, and in truth, my day-to-day relationship doesn’t require much faith.  He is.  He is real to me, as real as anything I could hold in my hand and stare at.  But, He is also faithful to illustrate to me the value for something that I gaze at, with sidelong suspicion:  faith.  And He did so in a way that makes sense to me, utilizing something for which I already have value:  the process of birth.

God is so good
God is so good
You reign on high in majesty
And the widow’s heart You cause to sing
You hear the cry of the fatherless
And the depth of Your love who can comprehend

For the natural things
Speak of the invisible
Look around and see
Who could deny the wonders of His love
(From God is So Good by Kevin Prosch)

————————–

*Well, usually it’s at home.  I actually birthed my third child, Wesley, all ten pounds of him, unassisted, because the nurse didn’t believe he was coming, and wouldn’t return to the room when my friend Stephanie called her back, “I just checked her and she was at an 8.  I’ll come back in 20 minutes or so…” and when she came back, I’d already pushed Wesley into the world.  Unassisted hospital birth:  that’s gotta be rare.  😀

**My dictionary is telling me that this isn’t a word.  However, I love it as a word-concept, even if it’s not truly a word:  “Transrational” is that which is outside of my understanding.  It doesn’t mean that it’s irrational or untrue;  it’s just something that cannot be quantified by cold, hard facts.

Freshman homeschooling angst

I love this!! from New Math by Craig Damrauer

I’m becoming more and more convinced that one of the major roles in parenting is to help children see the world in proper perspective:  to be more aware of others, to be aware of the potential results of personal actions, to discern what warrants a skeptical eye, to have a balanced view of self, to learn to look at things with God’s supernatural reality in mind and not just what presents itself as reality, etc.

My oldest son, Ethan, is 14 and has, four weeks into the school year, struggled with high school.  Not grade-wise;  he’s producing fine work.  Not with the content of his work;  he is enjoying what he’s learning.  It’s simply the volume of work, and how much it requires of his time and energy.

Our school day runs from 8:30 – 12:30.  If a reasonable amount of work is not accomplished in that time, I will often require that my children do the remainder of their work sometime in the afternoon, but my availability as a teacher is really limited after lunch;  they’re typically on their own for “homework” hours.  And, as I blogged briefly a couple of weeks ago, my approach for K-8 is very spiraling:  We cover topics repeatedly with increasing depth and complexity, so if one subject is not properly covered or grasped one week, or one month, or even one year, I don’t panic;  there’s always later.  That fairly relaxed attitude, combined with the fact that my children have done fabulously on standardized tests, has resulted in me really not having a rigorous approach to homework.

But… with high school, it’s different.  There are things that the state requires that my son learns (if I follow the track of high school diploma requirements — which is not actually necessary for homeschooled students where I live, but advisable).  And there are things that he needs to learn regardless of who is or is not requiring it.  And we can’t just catch up “next year.”  Our spiral is running out of room.  So, really, for the first time ever — other than math, which I’ve always insisted that they keep up on — I’m now communicating to Ethan, “If your stuff isn’t done in those four hours of ‘official’ school, you must get it done on your time.”

He’s having a really hard time with that, and feeling really, really, really, really overwhelmed, to the point where the entirety of his waking hours — from when his eyelids open in the morning to lights-out for the night — are heavy.  He hangs his head, he seems frequently on the verge of tears, he tends to pessimism, he’s on edge, he sighs incessantly, he needs lots of hugs (which is totally fine;  I’m thrilled that my 14 year old son wants hugs from me)…  Heavy.

I’ve told him that the mercy in me wants to just say, “Oh, it’s all right.  You don’t have to do it.”  However, I feel that it’s the right time to require him to manage his time, be consistent, persevere, work hard — even when he doesn’t want to, develop study skills, step up in responsibility, and any other number of practical skills and character traits that can be developed by hard work and persistence.

Plus, I just want him to learn.  I do, definitely, want him (and all my children) to enjoy school.  I want them to be excited about learning, and truly enjoy what they’re doing, and that desire daily factors into how we do school.  But, I would hate to look back on Ethan’s high school experience and know that my laxity as a teacher and a mother limited his options for college and/or career.  I don’t want to shortchange his education.

So, I’ve been pretty hardnosed about it.

Perhaps, though, I’ve been too hardnosed.

Yesterday morning, my husband Martin told me that the previous night (when I’d been out grocery shopping), he and Ethan had a heart-to-heart, and Ethan was pretty despondent about school, really feeling like he’s drowning and I don’t care.  😦  Martin suggested that I pray about how to handle it, and that perhaps I needed to ease up.

I prayed…  Not a 40-day intense time of prayer and fasting, but not simply a, “God help me.  Thanks,” kind of prayer…  Somewhere in the middle.  Well, “somewhere in the middle,” but on the shorter side of the middle, because after fifteen minutes of prayer, I had some guidelines in my head for a bit of a different approach.  As I told Ethan later that morning, I wasn’t claiming that they were totally inspired by the Holy Spirit, but they might be!  I also asked him to give the new system two weeks to see if it helped.

In short, the new system is this:

  • Maxing out his school day at 6 hours.  The four hours from 8:30 – 12:30, plus up to two hours of additional work in the afternoon and/or evening.
  • Requiring that he does the ‘hard stuff’ first.

Knowing my son, part of his battle is that while reading is a great deal of his schoolwork, he so prefers to just read that he’ll consume his schoolbook of choice (often a novel) all morning, getting himself a week or two ahead of schedule on that book, yet he’s four days behind on math, and three days behind in science, and he still has that writing assignment from Monday that is due on Friday, and here it is Thursday and he hasn’t even started.  Etc.

And with all that behind-ness, he just feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.  There’s no end to the school day, and no chance — so it seems — of ever getting caught up.  The new system gives him clearer structure to order his time, and gives him hope that the day won’t perpetuate forever.

He is doing Apologia Physical Science; Teaching Textbooks Algebra I; P.E.*; and Sonlight’s Core 200, which covers Church History, Bible and Apologetics**, plus English (comprised of Writing, Vocabulary, and Literature).

So, now, I require that he starts the day with his choice of:

  • Science
  • Math
  • Vocab
  • Writing

Once those for subjects are completed, he can do the remainder of his work in any order, at his discretion:

  • P.E.
  • Bible Memory
  • Reading — Literature
  • Reading — History
  • Reading — Bible & Apologetics

Ethan was pretty amenable to the plan, and felt cared-for, but still feeling overworked and somewhat distressed, and not convinced that it would have any effect on his schoolwork.

Well, at 3:30 p.m. that same day, he came back to me and said, “I’m all caught up.”  I replied, “That’s great!  You mean for the day?  It’s 3:30 and you’re done for the day?”  He clarified with a huge smile, “No.  I mean all caught up with all my assignments for the whole school year!”

Wow.  Awesome!

I was pretty giddy.  So was he.

I told him, “So… I guess last night was the dark before the dawn, eh?”

He looked blank.

“You’ve never heard that maxim?”

He hadn’t, so I explained.

I think this whole thing was a good experience for both of us.  For me, in that I still need to provide clear guidance and give him hope.  For him, that the work is doable, and that his emotions in a situation are not always a reliable indicator of reality.  Less than 24 hrs after feeling completely hopeless, the light was shining again, his face was beaming, and all of the despondency was behind him.

Now today, he’s in a new quandary, and dark clouds are again threatening.  But, I think we’ll get through this storm all right, too.

————————————-

*For P.E. (required by the state of Arizona for freshmen), Ethan is doing 20 minutes of activity four times weekly, and three times weekly, reading two pages of DK’s The Sports Book (which is a really engaging and well-illustrated book on how a wide variety of sports are played).

**Ethan is really enjoying Apologetics, to the surprise of us both.

Embracing the pain (sort of)

If you’re here for the recipes, you may just wanna skip this post.

The more I think about it — and I’m thinking about it a LOT lately — there are so many incredible parallels between natural childbirth and our walk in relationship with our Creator.

Something that has been percolating through my thoughts is the idea put forward in this verse:

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children…” (Genesis 3:16a)

There is the idea floating about, in some Christian circles that a woman just MUST birth in pain;  it’s part of the price she pays for the fall of man, the sinful nature, the original sin of Adam and Eve, et al.

I’m not saying that childbirth is or even should be 100% pain-free — though I’ve heard of pain-free births, I’ve not experienced any.

HOWEVER.  I think the focus on the pain misses the point.

In Christ, there is never purposeless pain.  GOD DOESN’T JUST HURT US TO HURT US.  Ever.  I’m not saying that God’s ways are entirely pain-free.  Until we get to heaven, there simply IS going to be pain, as part of our lives here in on earth.  However, our God isn’t sitting up there in heaven saying, “You’re in pain?  You deserve it.  Ha ha.  Part of the Fall, baby!!  It’s the price you pay.”

Every trial we endure — no matter what kind — even if not directly ordained by God (though some are!), can ALWAYS be ultimately beneficial for us as His children.  Always.  God isn’t a masochist.  The pain He allows us to go through will — if we submit to His ways and if we’re intent on gaining HIM in the process — produces a “harvest of blessing” if we don’t try to opt out of the trial, or circumvent His process, seek a shortcut, or try to… self-medicate, rather than lifting our heads to look squarely in His face and say to Him, “What are you trying to teach me, Father?”  If, instead, during difficult times, we yield completely to Him, and allowing Him to teach us, to bring us closer to His heart, to — for our own benefit — prune sin or dysfunction or destructive behavior from our lives, we’re ALWAYS better off in the end.  His ways have an end, and the end is GOOD.

He disciplines those He loves.  I’m not suggesting that birthing a child is discipline or God correcting us…  But the experience of birth can DEFINITELY be used by Him to perfect us in His love — our experience of His love for us, our love for our husband, our love for our newborn, our love as a family, our love for Him…

I posted recently on I John 4:18a (NASB) “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”  But, I want to take this a step further.  I know that the Amplified Version makes for awkward reading, but hang with me here:

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].  I John 4:18 (AMP)

What I suggest, and what the very end of the Amplified Version of this verse is saying is that, when we walk in fear of punishment (i.e., God is out to get us, God just wants to hurt us because we have it coming to us), that perspective is based out of a lack of understanding of His love.  “…he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love.”

GOD LOVES US.  He really does.  And when we see birthing as an extension of His love — even when it involves pain — and instead of being afraid of the pain, choose to embrace His process, and trust Him completely, we will then reap the fruit.  In terms of natural childbirth, the “fruit” doesn’t just refer to the baby, but (among other benefits):

  • Feeling profoundly grateful to Him
  • Closer to our husband and more appreciative of him
  • In awe of our Father God’s creative power working through us
  • An overwhelming experience in delighted love
  • A profound sense of a job well-done
  • Optimal physical health (natural birthing is better for both mother and baby)
  • Creating an amazing experience for EVERYONE who witnesses or participates in the birth
  • And a billion other things, most of which you could not anticipate or appreciate beforehand, but just have to experience to believe and understand.

In short (or, shortish), PLEASE don’t just brace yourself for pain and think that pain is just “meant to be”.  Embrace the process, even if the process involves pain.

Next up (as soon as I can get it written down, in my spare time between tending to my home, homeschooling four of my five children, baking the perfect gluten-free loaf… ):  why just “getting through” labor short-sells you as a mother.

 

Perfect love…

I had a thought yesterday that had me trippin’!

I absolutely adore it when I make a discovery or read something where science supports the Bible.  Add that to the science of birthing, and it nearly had me hyperventilating with excitement.  (I know, I get excited about weird things.)

Let’s see if I can explain my logic:

I was thinking about how, during the time when a woman is in labor with a baby, it’s really beneficial to completely banish fear, to have a 100% fear-free birth.  This is because fear releases adrenaline and noradrenaline (or epinephrine and norepinephrine), which triggers the “fight or flight” response.  These “fight or flight” hormones are also the polar opposite, endocrinely speaking, of oxytocin;  adrenaline pretty much negates the action of oxytocin:   adrenaline will “inhibit oxytocin production, therefore slowing or inhibiting labor“.  Oxytocin is a beneficial hormone released during labor that empowers contractions, enables breastfeeding, helps the mother to feel loved and to feel love towards her baby, and strengthens mother-child bonds.  Anything a mother can do to feel at ease, to feel protected, to feel loved and well-cared-for while birthing enables her to birth in such a way where her body is not fighting against the mechanisms of the birthing process, and enables her to feel better, all around.  In other words, it becomes a reciprocal process:  A mother feels loved and safe, so oxytocin is released.  That oxytocin, in return, enables the mother to feel even more at ease and calm.  “The baby also has been producing increasing amounts of oxytocin during labor;  so, in the minutes after birth, both mother and baby are bathed in an ecstatic cocktail of hormones.

Healthy birth, the way God created it, is a fear-free experience.

In other words, “perfect love casts out fear.”

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  I John 4:18 (NKJV)

Drawing by Cindy O. Used with her permission.

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