Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lazy Lake Days (And Late Pictures)

It was a beautiful summer.

And yes, I realize that by the time I am finally getting these words into print, summer is well over. As the welcome cooler weather has settled in, watermelon and salad have been replaced with apples and oatmeal as weekly staples in our home. It is nice - though almost eerily quiet - to sleep through the night on jersey sheets without the hum of the window air conditioning unit in the background. As someone who loves wearing socks and hoodies, and snuggling under blankets, I am inwardly delighted with the drop in temperature. Still, I would be remiss if I neglected to blog - however overdue - about our lazy lake days of summer.

Unlike last summer's six weeks of rain, this year was full of bright, sunny days, and not so many hot streaks as to be unbearable (though the humidity made me very thankful to at least have AC in the bedroom!).

Our June was sprinkled with activity, such as our strawberry picking field trip (an adventure that I don't care to repeat - in the future, I will bring additional adults or leave the children at home, or more likely, just buy my strawberries at the store!)

Don and I went hiked a small mountain with the teens from church, and our sweet Lydia experienced her first birthday.

In July the fun began with Lydia's first trip to the beach and then to the lake shore. It turns out that she loves both the sand and the water!

At the beginning of the summer, she was perfectly content to sit by edge of the pond and splash in the water, but by late August, she was determined to swim! She was fearless in her attempts to crawl straight into the middle of the pond, and refused to admit defeat until I was forced to pull her up, sputtering, from the neck-deep water!

The boys loved playing at Grammy's, too. They made friends with Henry, the elderly neighbor, caught frogs and snails, and went for paddle boat rides. Donny occasionally ventured into the water, but mostly preferred the shore, while Hayden loves to swim. With the swim bubble belts my mother-in-law bought them, both boys learned to do a decent doggie paddle in the pool, too!

Don missed out on our weekday fun while he was busy working, but he couldn't complain - he started a new job at the end of June that is 100 percent telecommuting. Now instead of battling traffic for 45 minutes or more each way, he just has to roll out of bed, walk into the office, and turn on his computer! Having him home has been an adjustment, but it is certainly a blessing.

As for me, I am very much a homebody, but if I have to be away from my own abode, I think my favorite place would be my mom's house. Besides the comfort of feeling "at home" and welcome to rummage the cupboards in search of snacks, there is something wonderfully peaceful about being at the lake. This lake is actually a pond too small for motorboats, to my husband's chagrin, but my delight. Without the threat of being plowed over by a speedboat, I was able to swim straight out across the middle of the pond, slowly and steadily making my path through the still water. Each week, while Lydia napped on a blanket and the boys played with Grammy on the shore, I worked on swimming a little farther before I turned around. My goal was to make it across the 1/2 mile pond and back by the end of summer, and with my slow rate of swimming, it was a somewhat daunting task.

At the same time, my relaxed pace also enabled me to thoroughly enjoy my swims. Practically having the pond to myself, I was free to pray or let my mind wander as I enjoyed the surroundings. Sometimes there were ducks in the distance. Once I swam out towards a neighbor's house to look into the eyes of a blue heron. As I floated on my back, I watched a hawk circling above me. And once, I was confused by the strange buoy I saw just a few yards away from me, until I realized that it was a snapping turtle!

Near the end of August, on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, Don and I did it: we swam all the way to the other side and back. I was stiff-necked and chilled, but very thankful for my husband's patience (since he could have done the swim alone in a fraction of the time) and excited to accomplish my goal!

It has taken a month now to finish composing this post, so although more could be said about this summer, I will conclude it here: watching the sun set over the harbor, as we did from the car window after one of our beach trips, and pondering the greatness of the God who made it all.

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.
Job 9:8

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Great (and Small) Things He Has Done

God has done great things, but sometimes it takes the small things to remind me how great He really is.

I don't believe in coincidence; I believe God is Sovereign over every detail of this universe, including those that seem mysterious or random to our limited human understanding. When I find myself stumbling upon the same Bible verse in various places, or reading about the same subject in different books and blogs and magazine articles, I think it is more than random chance. I see it as God getting my attention through the small things, to make sure I really understand what He is trying to teach me.

Don and I experienced this just a few weeks ago, when he was given the opportunity to preach at an afternoon church service. He was inspired by Psalm 150 to prepare his sermon, "A Proper Response to God," on how God wants us to joyfully praise Him. When it was nearly time to deliver the message about David dancing before the Lord, Don felt uncertain, wondering if he really was interpreting the Scripture correctly. He had been plagued by a pulled muscle for a few days leading up to Sunday morning, and he wondered if it was God trying to tell him something about the sermon. But then, when the morning service ended and we picked the boys up from their Children's Church class, they were shaking paper plate tambourines. The papers they had colored showed David praising the Lord with music. In fact, their lesson was on the very same event that Don was planning to preach about! The back of the paper even had a verse from Psalm 150. When I noticed that, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. God was so good to give us such clear reassurance!

Then this week, as the children and I enjoyed our last summer days and started to gently transition back towards a more structured school year schedule, the Lord has shown me the same Bible verse three times. First, he convicted me that instead of spending every nursing moment in front of the laptop, I should use the times when the boys are awake to read with them, just like I used to read board books to Donny in the early days of nursing Hayden. Accordingly, during Monday's first nursing session, we read a chapter from Hymns for a Kid's Heart, a really interesting book about the stories behind famous hymns - it even comes with a CD of children singing the hymns that we all enjoy listening to. Each chapter includes "A Verse for My Heart," so after learning about "To God Be the Glory," we read:

The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. -Psalm 126:3

It is such a simple verse, yet so profound. God HAS done great things for us! And we read about some more of those great things on our "Worldwide Wednesday," when I flipped to a fitting article in Donny's magazine. The article was about some orphans in Kenya who had gone to live in a place called Sanctuary of Hope. At their new home, they have brothers and sisters, and they learn verses and songs about God. Splashed across the magazine page in bold letters was Psalm 126:3, this time from the NIV:

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

I pointed out to Donny that we had just read the same verse in a different translation. Then tonight, I had written all of one line of a new blog post, when I decided to do a search for something on my website. The first post to pop up in my search was a summary of last year, concluding with, once again, Psalm 126:3. By now, I have the words memorized!

The Lord has done great things for me, for my marriage, and my family. He has done great things for orphans in Kenya and for a blind girl who wrote thousands of praise hymns. He has done great things for all of us, because He IS great, and His love is greater than we can understand. As I meditate on it, like the Psalmist, my heart is filled with joy. I love when He speaks to me through the small things.

Thank you Lord, for being greater than coincidence and more than chance. Thank you for the great things you have done. Thank you for encouraging me tonight. May I always be glad and filled with joy because of YOU!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Heart and a Schedule for Everyday Ministries

Recently, the Lord has laid a burden on my heart for people. Specifically, the burden is for missions and ministry, to encourage and pray for those involved in doing God's work, to contribute my own resources toward helping others, and to impress this burden onto my children. Part of my motivation grew from reading about a curriculum called Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve. Since my boys already know their letters, we love our My Father's World curriculum, and I prefer a more cohesive, unit-based method of study to the disjointed "letter of the week" approach, I decided not to invest in the curriculum kit, but reading about the serving aspect was certainly inspiring. In the free sample lesson, author Laura Coppinger shares how she taught her son letter sounds with service projects: surprising Daddy with Doughnuts, bringing Flowers to Felice, or Making Muffins for the Millers. I love the idea of doing projects, not just for the sake of doing them, but in order to bless others.

As I thought and prayed about this subject, an idea for "Missions Mondays" quickly grew into a week of alliterative themed days to help the children (and me) grow in our faith. Here is the proposed schedule for our upcoming weeks:

Missions Mondays: We will pray for specific missionaries, write notes of encouragement to them (the boys will draw pictures or make cards), learn about the parts of the world where these missionaries are serving, and develop a heart for evangelism.
Teens and Twenties Tuesdays: Since Don and I recently started a College and Career ministry at our church, this will help the boys get involved as they make cards, assemble care packages for college students, and join us in praying for the youth of our church body.
Worldwide Wednesdays: We recently started sponsoring a child through Compassion International, so some Wednesdays we will write to him. Other weeks we will do service projects that benefit the local community, contribute to charity, bake cookies for a neighbor, or find other ways to show compassion to people anywhere in the world.
Thankful Thursdays: To develop a spirit of thankfulness, each child will think of something he is thankful for, write and illustrate it, and add the page to a Thankfulness Notebook. I anticipate that learning about missionaries, lost souls, and people in poverty will help us all become more aware of how very blessed we are!
Fellowship Fridays: We will pray for families at church and find ways to bless our brothers and sisters in Christ with notes of encouragement, small gifts, or acts of service.
Selfless Saturdays: This could also have been "Family Fridays" or "Sibling Saturdays" since the goal is for us to focus on showing love to those in our family. All five of us are guilty of displaying selfishness at home, so spending Saturdays together can easily lead to sibling battles and outbursts of anger. My prayer is that all of us, and the boys especially, will look for ways to bless our family members instead of acting in selfishness.
Sanctuary Sundays: Sunday is our day to gather with other believers and worship God. We don't do "school" on weekends, but I hope to always make time to meet with God, and encourage the children to do the same. Sadly, in the rush of getting out the door to church and other activities, Sundays are often the day when we spend the least amount of time reading His Word!

It is only Wednesday, but so far the boys, and five year old Donny especially, have been enthusiastically receptive to our Days. They love to make birthday, holiday, or "just because" cards for people, so encouraging others with some unexpected mail naturally resonates with them. Earlier this week, they drew pictures and helped me write a note to a missionary family that we met last spring, and painted watercolor paintings to decorate the dorm of a college friend. Today they eagerly helped me sort through all of our family's shoes to decide what to donate to Shoes 2 Share. We just read in Donny's magazine yesterday about the Clubhouse Jr. challenge, and we are all excited to add our contributions to the thousands of shoes already collected for children in Haiti and other parts of the world!

I am not sure how many projects we will be able to fit in once we get back to our regular homeschooling schedule on Labor Day, but I hope and pray that we continue to make service a priority in our home education. I am confident that our themed days will give us the structure and enthusiasm we need to keep joyfully serving the Lord!

Lord willing, with continued prayer and diligence, a schedule for everyday ministries Works for Me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Day, Three Emergencies, Five Lessons

It was about 10:00pm on Sunday. Don and I were just wrapping up the second meeting of our new weekly College and Career Bible Study, when we realized that the faint noise in the background was one of our boys crying. I went into their room to find Donny in great distress, and though he opened his eyes, I was knew he was not awake. We have had episodes in the past of Donny crying during the night without fully awakening, but this episode was more intense than usual. I cuddled him, sat him up, brought him into my room and turned the light on, and rocked him, but he was completely inconsolable. He continued to cry, occasionally scream, and would say a few words like, "I need" (without finishing the thought) and "Ow!" (but would not answer when I asked what hurt). I left him on my bed and sent Don in to see if he could help. I guess Donny indicated that his side hurt, which coupled with the screaming, prompted Don to have me call 911. I awkwardly said goodbye to people as I spoke to the dispatcher.

The ambulance arrived quickly, but Donny had already calmed down, and was resting on the bed with Don when the paramedics walked in. When the friendly EMT asked him questions, he responded normally, as though he was finally awake, and the only thing that hurt was his stomach, "a little." There was certainly no indication that he was on the brink of a burst appendix or kidney failure. In fact, he was fine - much to our relief!

A friend suggested the next day that Donny may have been having a night terror, and shared how her daughter had a similar experience (minus the "Ow!" cries). After reading some on the subject, I definitely think that is what Donny was experiencing. Night terrors are characterized by sudden "waking" where the person may open their eyes but does not wake up, and they experience intense fear, screaming, and crying. This would explain, too, why he often cries during the night but never describes any nightmares. Though night terrors can be scary, it is a relief to know that his cries are nothing more than an unconscious reaction to stress and fatigue.

On Monday morning, Donny was happy and healthy, but the ambulance was outside again - this time, parked at the house across the street. The boys watched the trucks intently, and after some time, we finally saw the paramedics carry out Mrs. K., our elderly neighbor, while Mr. K. followed behind. I was suspicious when I noticed that Mr. K. did not arrive home until later that night, and was accompanied by several other cars, but when I saw a large group of people, including Mr. K., exit the house in formal wear on Wednesday afternoon, I was certain: Mrs. K. had died. I found her obituary online to confirm my suspicions; she died at the hospital on Monday. I only met Mrs. K. a few times; they came to our house warming party when we first moved in, but since then our only interactions have been brief hello's at the mailbox, and Mr. K. is usually the one checking the mail. I do not think they are believers, so I welcome prayers for the right words as I draft a sympathy card, that this loss would open Mr. K. and his family to learning the Truth about eternal life in Christ.

But before we knew all this, the ambulance drove away, and we resumed our Monday morning chores. I left the boys folding laundry while I went to quickly vacuum the office, with a brief warning to Hayden as I was walking by that the way he was lying across a chair was not a good idea. A few minutes later, over the noise of the vacuum, Don and I heard sounds of screaming - which sadly, is not an unusual occurrence, since Hayden screams whenever he doesn't like what Donny is doing. I finally turned off the vacuum as Don and I called the boys to come, but no one appeared. We swiftly walked to the dining room, ready to discipline the offending parties, only to find three crying children, the chair Hayden had been lying on tipped over, and his leg wedged between the slats. According to Donny, Hayden had been standing on the chair when it fell, startling Lydia and trapping Hayden's thigh. Don promptly tipped the chair upright and attempted to free Hayden's leg, but it only seemed to become more stuck as Hayden continued to scream. Don quickly found a saw and in a minute (one of those minute-that-feels-like-20), the chair was broken, but Hayden was free.

An investigation revealed a bruise line along his right thigh, so Don set him up on the couch with some ice, and he was excused from laundry folding in order to indulge in a video day. I thought he would be fine in a few hours, but Don wanted to have a doctor check Hayden out, just in case his knee was injured. It turned out that the earliest appointment was at 4:45, and it was only 10:00 in the morning. After straightening out some questions regarding our new medical insurance, Don was advised in the afternoon to take Hayden straight to the hospital for an X-ray. The results were unclear; apparently there was a possible fracture along the growth plate in his thigh. The diagnosis was pronounced: Broken Femur. Sweet Hayden came home an hour later with his leg wrapped in a splint from thigh to toe.

Tuesday was a sitting-down day, but a fun day for the boys, who were showered with gifts of arts and crafts materials as well as a new DVD. (My favorite was the Wikki Stix - what a neat combination of toy and mess-free activity, especially for craft-loving children like mine!) Hayden had to be carried to the bathroom and from couch to couch. We were thankful to get our Thursday appointment with the orthopedic doctor moved to Wednesday morning, and equally thankful to get an appointment with a trusted orthopedic who has worked on Don, his parents, and his sisters in the past!

The orthopedic turned out to be a comical, bow-tie wearing gentleman, but as Don had assured me, he was an excellent doctor. He didn't see any break in the X-ray, and when he unwrapped Hayden's leg to poke and prod him, Hayden didn't even flinch. The doctor told Hayden what a handsome boy he is and had him try walking to Daddy, which he managed with only slight pain. His official diagnosis was not a broken bone, but a Soft Tissue Contortion. I am so thankful that my little boy who loves to run, jump, and swim won't have to spend the rest of the summer in a cast! He spent a day crawling around the house and is now limping slightly, but he seems to be healing properly. There is nothing like a few emergencies to make you appreciate your family's health and mobility!

In fact, our faithful Lord has woven several lessons of varying significance throughout this episode. To summarize:

1) There is a reason to always keep oneself and one's home looking reasonably neat and presentable. You never know when a guest may stop by with a gift, or when three men in uniform will have to race from an ambulance to your bedroom.
2) There is a reason to work out regularly. You never know when you may need to haul 30 to 40 pounds of boy from one end of the house to the other.
3) There is a reason to pray for and reach out to one's neighbors. You never know when they will be gone.
4) There is a reason to listen to one's husband. You never know when he may be right about something. ;)
5) There is a reason to read, study, and meditate on God's Word. As we discussed at our Sunday night study, the Bible tells us to count it all joy when we face trials. We can be excited about our salvation even in the midst of calamity. Our family has been singing Nehemiah 8:10 all week:

The joy of the LORD is my strength!

And He is, indeed, the source of the joy and strength that overcomes pain, suffering, and even death. Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness, for three healthy children, and for the joy of walking with You each day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Year of Smiles

Dear Princess Lydia,

It is hard to believe that you are really a year old. Not long ago, you made your long-awaited entrance into the world, and we carried home our first bundle of sweet pink girliness. You spent two months wanting to be held constantly (and crying if we had the audacity to put you down!), but soon developed a beautiful smile that you have been using generously ever since.

With your happy disposition, you have earned the nickname Smiley Face, among others. I call you many variations of your name, including (but not limited to!) Lyddie, Lyddie Bitty, Lyd, Lyds, Lydsey, Lydsey-anna, and Lizard. Until recently, your movement reminded me more of a seal than a lizard, since you moved by pulling with your arms while your body flopped along behind.

You are not walking yet, as your brothers were attempting at this age, but that is just fine with me. I always tell people that I am in no hurry for those milestones, especially the ones that will enable you to make more messes! Yet even though you are a proficient crawler now who can pull up to a stand and climb onto the boys' mattresses, you don't seem to get into too much mischief. Perhaps you are too preoccupied watching your brothers' antics and sampling their abandoned toys to go off in search of trouble.

When I first tried to introduce you to food around eight months of age, you had little interest, and it has increased only slightly since then. At first, you refused to open your mouth for a spoon, and if I managed to sneak something in there, it eventually came back out. From eight to nine months you would gnaw on toast strips, but that was the extent of your food consumption. Now you regularly eat fried egg yolk bits, Cheerios, and apple wedges, and will accept yogurt off a spoon. Most other tidbits of meat, veggies, and breads are tossed on the floor. You have had the same six teeth - four on top and two on bottom - for several months. In recent weeks you have developed an affinity for your sippy cup of water, but nursing is still your primary means of nutrition. You nurse every few hours around the clock, especially to fall asleep. Just last night, you looked at me while nursing and signed "milk" just like I was signing to you. It is so exciting to see you learning to communicate!

You have a crib in our room where you'll briefly repose in the late evening, but you do most of your sleeping on Mumma and Daddy's bed. If a long nursing session doesn't put you to sleep, then snuggling up on Daddy's chest inevitably will. Your bedtime varies, but you wake up sometime between 6:30 and 8am, ready to start another day of discovering the world. When I put you down and you want to be held, you'll cry and bang your forehead on the floor, which has resulted in some bruises. Most of the time, however, you can be distracted with a toy, a song, or if nothing else, I can hold you on my hip while I go about my chores. It is easy to take you anywhere, as you are generally good-natured.

In the past month or so, you have been a bit more wary of strangers, and when passed around at a party you look for Mumma and make "Mmm!" noises to let me know you want to return. You spend much of our time in public snuggled on my front in the Ergo, where you sneak smiles at admirers and then turn away bashfully. You adore your brothers and always perk up when Daddy comes home; in fact, Daddy makes you laugh more than anyone else in the world. Your baby babble can be quite loud at times, while at other times you are quiet and snuggly, or mirthful and silly.

Dear Lyddie, you have made our lives busier, fuller, and so much sweeter. I praise God for giving us this wonderful year! And as you continue to grow, I pray that you will come to know your Creator and to walk in His ways, that your joy may be full.

Here is how you have grown!

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

~ Micah 6:6-8

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Having of Houses and Heaven-Set Hearts

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossions 3:1-2

Two years ago, Don and I very nearly moved to Texas. We ended up declining a less-than-ideal job offer there, and shortly thereafter, we purchased our home here in New England, where all of our close family lives less than twenty minutes away. In the past few weeks, however, some new job prospects have led us to again consider relocating. We have a comfortable home here, surrounded by family, friends, and a wonderful Bible-teaching church. On the other hand, in Texas we could have warm sunshine, a conservative political atmosphere that more closely matches our ideals than liberal New England, and a bigger, better house to shelter our growing family.

People say everything is bigger in Texas, and when it comes to housing, it certainly seems to be true. For the same price we paid for our three-ish bedroom, one bathroom, circa 1960 ranch located an hour outside of Boston, we could have a nearly new four bedroom, three bath, two car garage home in a Dallas subdivision, or we could go outside the city for a similarly large house with five times the land we have here. Southern houses feature such luxuries as standardized central air (oh, how I love air conditioning!), first floor laundry rooms (all old New England houses have the washer and dryer in the basement), master bathrooms with garden tubs, and walk-in closets the size of small bedrooms. And since Don and I love to virtual house hunt, we have looked at literally hundreds of houses, comparing everything from lot size to the depth of the pool, in search of the ideal purchase.

Our lonestar bubble was burst when we realized that our responsibilities and ties in the North would most likely keep us here for the forseeable future. It is hard to let go of the oh-so-affordable brand new log cabin on eight acres, or Don's similarly priced dream home complete with gunite in-ground pool, jacuzzi, fenced yard, double shower in the master bath, and theater room. But beneath the dazzle of new paint and countertops, even the grandest houses are but temporary dwellings, and it is all too easy to allow such temptations to become distractions at best, and at the worst, idols.

Recently, when my children were complaining about their perceived lack of choices at mealtime, I found myself continually saying, "You can have what you have," until it evolved into a song that the children and I were singing all day:

You can have what you have
You can have what you have
And be happy with what God gave you
You can have what you have
And be happy you have it
'Cause it came from the God who made you

As usual, just as I am trying to instill Godly character and virtues in my children, the Holy Spirit nudges me with a reminder that I need to practice what I preach. My unspoken complaints about my home, responsibilities, options, or limitations are as unholy in His sight as my five year old's demands for nothing less than a flawlessly cooked English muffin "with butter, toasted on the 10 setting." Who am I to tell God what kind of house I want, need, or deserve? We are so, so blessed to be able to afford any kind of house, when just two years ago the prospect of home ownership was little more than an elusive dream. How can I be anything but thankful?

Today, our family had the privilege of eating lunch with some traveling missionaries who have been called to Cambodia. Their family includes five children ages 3 months to 6 years old and the wife's sister, who travels with them to help. For the past year that they have been on deputation, all eight family members have been living in a trailer. As I chatted with the husband and wife from my cozy spot on their loveseat, I couldn't help but feel embarrassed over my own greed and selfishness. Here I was longing for a laundry room, when these missionaries can only carry a week's worth of clothing, and have to stop to wash it at someone else's house. Don and I often say how much we would like to have another bathroom, but at least more than one person can fit in our bathroom, and we have continual running water. Details like privacy, personal space, and excess stuff were nonexistent. I have spent so much time lately thinking about furniture and flooring and lot sizes, while they carry only what fits in the trailer as they travel from one church parking lot to the next. Yes, the Lord is always faithful to provide object lessons at the very time that we need them, and He could not have chosen a better time to show me how a family of eight can joyfully serve Him in a 300 square foot trailer.

There is still an honest longing in my heart to start over in a new place, to enjoy warmer winters and cooler summers, and to watch our family grow in a place where we have room to spread out and sustain ourselves to some small degree. Yet greater still is the desire to honor my Father and submit to His Will. It's not about bedrooms or backyards; it's about eternity with Him. For now, He says, "You can have what you have, and be happy you have it." I can thank Him for whatever home be blesses us with on this earth, but the perfect dwelling place is being prepared for me in His eternal Kingdom, and that is where I want to set my heart.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Journal: Mothering Moments

Monday May 3, 2010
We are learning about elephants! Because they say an elephant never forgets, our Words to Remember are "I will remember what God has done for me." We read some books and watched a video about baby elephants and their families. Lydia is playing peek-a-boo: she puts her hands over her eyes, I say, “Where’s Lyddie?” she pulls them away, I say, “Peek-a-boo!” and she giggles.

Tuesday May 4, 2010
Instead of waiting until afternoon to play outside, I ventured out this morning to enjoy the summer-like weather with my children and two girls I babysit. We also made handprints with paint, which we will use for a craft tomorrow.

Wednesday May 5, 2010
We turned yesterday’s handprints into elephants by adding a few details. I had the children do one set for me as a Mother’s Day gift. I just need to find a frame for my special "hand-made" present!

Thursday May 6, 2010
Lydia has been able move around with her seal-flop crawl for a while, but today she is crawling on all fours! Soon she will be following me all over the house and getting into everything!

Friday May 7, 2010
My friend Liz from church and her two girls came over to visit. We had lunch together and played outside. After they left, the children and I went grocery shopping. Then we went to my inlaws' house to see our Pastor's pictures from his recent trip to Greece and Turkey. It was fascinating to see the ruins of the New Testament cities!

Saturday May 8, 2010
Lydia discovered that she can clap; she watches her hands and laughs with delight when she does it. I spent the day in the kichen (with Lydia on my back in the Ergo) making spaghetti sauce and taco meat for dinners, and lasagna and apple cake for Mother’s Day. Don took the boys to the mall to look for a case for his new smartphone, and to WalMart to pick out a Mother’s Day gift for me. What a thoughtful Daddy!

Sunday May 9, 2010
Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like waking up to a cold house, no hot water for a shower, and a feverish baby! Apparently we ran out of oil…oops! Still, it was a nice morning. The boys gave me their special gifts, wrapped in Spiderman paper that they picked out. Hayden got me a hummingbird feeder, and Donny chose a hanger so I can mount it on a window. After church, we had Grandma, Grandpa, and Auntie Crystal over for lunch. Then we went to Grammy and Grampy’s for dinner, where the boys played Wii bowling and Don showed off his phone. Lydia still had a fever all day, but she managed to pose for some family photos and her 11 month portrait. I am so blessed to have great mothers in my life, and to be a mother to three wonderful children!

A verse from this week's readings:

"...The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7b

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Tale of the Cow Mug: A Story of Sacrifice

It is "Good" Friday. Throughout this week's studies of goats, Passover, and the Easter story, one word keeps surfacing as a clear theme: sacrifice. Even the Veggie Tales DVD I selected at the library - "A Lesson in Sharing," which seemed appropriate for the constant squabbles in our home - used the word in the very fitting verse at the end:

Let us not forget to do good, and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16

The boys excitedly note the use of their new vocab word, and again I find myself trying to explain it in a way that small children can comprehend. Sacrifice, I tell them, is not quite the same as sharing. I attempt to illustrate the difference between sharing a favorite toy and an old unwanted toy. They still aren't quite grasping it, so I explain that God wants our best...not the old mushy grapes from our fruit bowl, not the ones that we were going to throw away anyway; He wants the plumpest, juiciest, most perfect unblemished grapes. Giving away a rotten grape is easy. Throwing away a flawless, delicious piece of fruit that you really want to eat is a sacrifice.

Of course, to almost anyone, a grape is nothing. What we consider a sacrifice is all in our perspective. What would be a sacrifice to you? Giving up an opportunity to sleep in? A vacation? Your TV? (Maybe just one of many TVs?) Your car? Your gym membership? Your career? With all the material abundance our family has been blessed with, it can be challenging to teach our children to truly appreciate their possessions, activities, and relationships. Meal time, in particular, provides ample opportunities for practice. I strive to teach them that it really doesn't matter who gets the yellow napkin and who uses the orange one. They need to say "Thank you" for their not-quite-favorite food instead of complaining that they would rather have something else. And milk, I assure Donny, will taste the same no matter what glass, bottle, or mug it is sipped from. But children, in many ways, are tiny versions of adults, and the selfishness so easily observed in their behavior is just as likely, though perhaps not visibly, to manifest in us.

This winter, my five year old has enjoyed having his milk warmed up at mealtime in a ceramic mug, and one of his favorite mugs is the cow mug. My cow mug, to be exact. In 1999, I received two mugs featuring a print of cows in a field, along with some hot cocoa packets, as a Christmas gift. Since I happened to be big fan of cows, the mugs were lovingly displayed in my bedroom until I got married and added them to my kitchen cupboard. (Don't worry, the hot cocoa was consumed long ago!) They are my favorite mugs, one of which I keep in the back of the cupboard as a spare, of sorts, while the other is my cup of choice for the decaf tea or other warm drinks I periodically enjoy in winter. Since I do all of the drink-pouring in our home, my mug selection has never been in question until recently. Now suddenly, another person is requesting my preferred vessel. And while I constantly remind him that it does not matter which mug I give him, and that he needs to be thankful regardless of the pattern on his cup, I find my own sinful nature hesitant to display such contentment. I reach for the cow mug and claim it for myself whenever I can. And when Donny requests it, I may not burst into tears like my favorite kindergartener, but I reluctantly pour his milk, silently feeling some tiny twinge of resentment that views this completely insignificant act as some kind of sacrifice.

They say that the best way to truly understand a subject is to teach it. And so, I (try to) teach my children gratitude, and contentment, and unselfishness. As I instruct them, I feel the sting of conviction in my own conscience when I desire what I don't have, or hold too tightly to what I do have. Sharing my favorite mug, I must understand, may be difficult because of my selfish nature, but it is not a noteworthy sacrifice. In fact, I should count very little, if anything, that I do for my Lord as a sacrifice. The daily dying to self that makes marriage work and raises healthy children is only my duty as a lowly servant of the King. Whether it means giving up sleep to comfort a sick child or drinking my tea in only my second-favorite mug, no act of love is too much for God to ask of me. It seems ridiculous even to compare it.

If we want to teach our children about sacrifice, we have to look beyond our kitchen table and up at the cross. The Father who gave His one and only Son made the greatest sacrifice in the history of time. Jesus Christ, though He never sinned, willingly gave His life for my selfishness and discontent and every other ugly thing that has ever marred the beauty of His world. That, my children, is sacrifice. May every cross, every lamb, and every mug of warm milk remind us of that precious fact.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Journal: Milking It

Monday March 22, 2010
It seems like our family just cannot get healthy this winter. We finally got over a month-long cold, and now the boys are throwing up. Donny woke up sick during the night, requiring a few changes of sheets, and Hayden joined in the vomiting fun after nap time. The boys slept a lot of the day while it rained outside. Don and I were supposed to go to a wake for my stepmother's father at night, but because I could not leave the children, Don went by himself.

Tuesday March 23, 2010
The boys have stopped throwing up, but they were very tired and had no appetite today. Lydia is getting two more top teeth (lateral incisors). Don gave notice that he will be leaving his part-time job coaching gymnastics soon to start his personal training business.

Wednesday March 24, 2010
The boys seem better, but now Lydia is throwing up and has a fever. She needed to be held all day. To go with our C-c-Cow unit, we made butter by whipping heavy cream in the Kitchen-Aid mixer. It was interesting to watch the different stages it went through, and Donny and I enjoyed eating it on crackers!

Thursday March 25, 2010
Our friend Bill, a heating and cooling technician, was here all day installing our new boiler. Apparently we caught the stomach bug from his family. Lydia is still sick and needy. I tried making baked oatmeal, and I liked it so much that I ate nearly half the pan in one day!

Friday March 26, 2010
Last week’s beautiful weather was apparently a fluke; earlier this week was rainy, and today the temperature made a drastic drop to the 30’s. Thankfully, everyone was feeling well enough to run errands this morning, but the boys still are not eating much, and Lydia is more clingy than usual. My stomach is starting to hurt, too.

Saturday March 27, 2010
Don ended up getting sick last night and slept all day today. Bill was here most of the day finishing the boiler installation. The boys and I made ice cream by shaking up cream, vanilla, and sugar in a baggie surrounded by ice and salt. It was too bad our ten minutes of vigorous shaking only produced a small quantity, because it was delicious! Hayden was a good sport to help even though he can't have ice cream or any other dairy products. I am also attempting to make yogurt in the crockpot, including a coconut milk version for Hayden. We’ll see how it turns out in the morning!

Sunday March 28, 2010

The attempt at coconut milk yogurt was unsuccessful, which could have been due to keeping the heat too high, or using the wrong kind of probiotic to start it. The cow’s milk yogurt was entirely drinkable, but definitely yogurt in flavor. I will have to try it again using a different incubation method.

Don was at a gymnastics meet all day, and we had decided in advance that I would stay home with the children to avoid sharing our sick germs. It was really nice to have a peaceful Sunday without having to rush off to Sunday School, home from church for a late lunch, then back to church for Youth Group, and home again for a late bedtime. I love our church dearly, but once in a while, a day of actual rest is a blessing!

A verse from this week's readings:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. ...
The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7, 24-25

Friday, March 19, 2010

Glory in the Sticks

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?

Job 12:7-9

This afternoon was an amazing 70 degrees outside, and it was the perfect day for an adventure in our yard. With Lydia in the Ergo, and the boys dressed in their boots, we set out to explore the woods beside our house.

Believe it or not, in the 15 months that we have owned this home, I have never been to that part of our property…and our land is less than an acre! Our side yard is a wooded corner lot, providing just a taste of forest wonders before one meets the road, and until today I never had the simultaneous time, desire, and appropriate weather to investigate it. Today, after a brief lesson on the proper method of carrying a walking stick (so as not to impale one's brother), our first stop was by the edge of the large ditch that still held water from last weekend’s heavy rains. The boys thought it was the perfect spot to go fishing.

They found a “cuttlefish” plastic soda bottle and some “jellyfish” made of pine needle muck. Watching them play at the water’s edge reminded me of my own childhood, when I would explore the woods behind our house, making up all kinds of stories in my imagination as I crossed brooks, gathered sticks, and played beneath spruce trees. When they were done fishing, we investigated some fallen trees – and even a fallen telephone pole – and gathered some nice dry sticks for Daddy to burn in our next campfire. On our way back towards the front yard, we discovered a completely isolated evergreen; amidst young and old pines, and a few maples, was a random Christmas tree!

Before heading inside, we spent some time in our little strip of front yard (the only place where we have anything that resembles grass). I let Lydia loose on the dead grass, and she was both serious and delighted with her first real outdoor encounter.

We saw the mail carrier deliver our mail, and a few neighbors visiting their mailboxes, including Mrs. K., an older lady who lives across the street. In our brief conversation about the beautiful day and how busy I must be with three children, she commented that it’s nice I can be home with them. Watching my baby girl pluck fistfuls of grass and sneak a taste of tree bark, while my boys entertain themselves by banging sticks against the maple tree, I could not agree more.

I am so privileged to have this job of teaching little ones about the world God made for us, witnessing their wonder and delight, and striving to answer their many questions. I am consumed by the great responsibility that their words, their actions, and their attitudes will be shaped by mine. And I realize that my life must be characterized by constant prayer, both in praise for God’s blessings, and in seeking wisdom for the many decisions to be made each day.

I don’t like bugs or dirt or neglecting chores that need to be completed, so I do not often look forward to taking the children outside. But once we are out there, basking in the waning sunshine, I realize how much I love it. There is something so peaceful and simple about interacting with nature, something that no human-created environment can duplicate. In the style of Charlotte Mason, I have a sense that these outdoor adventures are as much a part of the children’s education as any formal lesson. Any inconvenience of getting outside is forgotten when I realize how worthwhile it is to be there.

Raising children is a backyard adventure. There are trails to blaze, hills to climb, and mud puddles to wade through. It takes time away from other activities that we may prefer, but with the right attitude, we find it rewarding. It may not have the glamorous sound of other professions, any more than exploring our yard sounds like swimming the English Channel or hiking through Yellowstone. It is full of things that seem commonplace on the surface: sticks and stones and trees; crawling and reading and baths and laundry. Yet when we take a few moments to examine the pattern of a leaf, to feel the texture of grass or a smooth stone, to discover the brilliant color of a wildflower, we realize that God’s glory is revealed right here in the small things. I may not be feeding orphans in the streets of India or preaching the Gospel to African tribes, but I am here in the yard, doing the work God gave me, and seeing His glory in the sticks and stones and smiles.

Thank you Lord, for blessing me with three willing explorers, and for Your faithful guidance as I help them discover the world.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Journal: Year Seven, Week One

Monday March 1, 2010
“I’ve worked you over for six years. Now I’ll take a Sabbath year off,” Don teased me this morning. As of sometime between yesterday and today, we have been married for six years. Inspired by our recent reading in Leviticus, we joked about celebrating our 50th anniversary as our Year of Jubilee. I decided that to help me remember our seventh year of marriage, I will write a few sentences every day to record the days’ events, and that I will share some of these entries on my blog to give my readers a glimpse into our lives.

During school time, the children and I finished our W-w-Water unit with watercolor paintings and started our two week I-i-Insect unit. Everyone has been sick a lot this winter, and I definitely have a cold. At bedtime, Don surprised me with an anniversary card under my pillow. (To let you know how unexpected this was, the last anniversary card he gave me was when we had been together for one month!)

Tuesday March 2, 2010
Donny and Hayden painted rocks to look like ladybugs. We took a quick trip to the library to get the rest of our insect books after picking up Hayden’s nebulizer medication at the pharmacy drive-through. (The drive-through is recent discovery which I am very excited more unbuckling three children and dragging them through the store just to pick up a prescription refill!) I made a pot roast for dinner. Then the children watched the library’s “Way Cool Creepy Crawlies” DVD with Daddy. I am reading The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. Don is reading Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker, a book recommended to him by an old friend from gymnastics who owns a successful personal training business.

Wednesday March 3, 2010

Today our toddler friends Madalyn and Riley came over to play, as they usually do on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Lydia sat in her new booster seat that Grandma and Grandpa sent her. I made almond protein bars, which were tasty, but didn't settle well with me. The children, especially Hayden, coughed a lot and had poor appetites most of the day.

Thursday March 4, 2010
We baked bread and caught up on laundry. Donny practiced reading with Lesson 38 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Hayden wanted to participate too, so I did Lesson 1 with him.

Friday March 5, 2010
It was sunny and nice out today, so for the first time since November, the boys got to play in the front yard after we came home from our weekly grocery shopping trip. I baked Six Layer Bars (substituting crushed pretzels for the graham cracker crumbs, since I didn't have any) and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for Grandma’s birthday party tomorrow.

Saturday March 6, 2010

Don and our friend Bill went to get some parts to fix our leaky boiler while I watched Bill’s son Owen. After visiting with them, we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to celebrate Grandma and Auntie Crystal’s birthdays. Then Don and I went out to celebrate our anniversary at the firing line. It was my first time shooting a real gun (a Glock 19 that we rented). I had not anticipated how exceedingly loud it would be or how far the shells would fly, but we had a good time. I was excited when, after some practice, I hit the center of the target!

Sunday March 7, 2010

We went to church for Sunday School, but because the children were coughing too much to go in the nursery or sit in the service, we decided to come home during church time. We read fromThe MacArthur Daily Bible, watched “Naaman the Leper” on the Bible Adventures DVD, and sang some songs while Don played the guitar. Don, Donny, and Hayden went to Auntie Shelly and Uncle Nathan’s house to meet their new golden doodle puppy. Then we went back to church for youth ministry. The children stayed with Don and I while we taught the 11th and 12th grade teens in our new small group.

A verse from this week's readings:
"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Mark 10:6-9

I praise God for six years of marriage to my amazing husband, and for the blessings the Lord has brought out of our adventure together!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aquarium Adventures

For our O-o-Octopus and Ocean unit this month, Don took a day off so that we could go on a family field trip to the New England Aquarium. Our town library offers a coupon pass to defray the cost of admission, and in order to avoid the $30+ Boston parking fee, we decided to make it a real adventure and take the train into the city. Boston's "T" is far from a glamorous way to travel, but besides being cheap (children ride for free!), the boys were excited about their first ride on a subway train that travels, as Hayden put it, "down into the dirt."

The adventure began with a drive, a long walk, a subway ride, switching trains for a short subway ride, several elevators, and a short walk through the cold winter air - all with three small children in tow, of course. We planned to arrive at the aquarium, eat lunch, see all the ocean creatures, and then ride the train back to our van in order to get home before the boys' bedtime. Don had thoughtfully remembered to bring some T tokens leftover from our pre-children days, but we discovered that the fare system had been updated and automated, and in our confusion, we ended up paying for the days' travels, and exchanging our tokens for a slip of paper worth a few more fares. It was after all this, as we entered the aquarium, when I realized that the lunchbox I had painstakingly packed with neatly labeled sandwiches, snacks, and beverages was not in the stroller as I had intended it to be; it was still in the van, which was now several miles and a few subway rides away.

During the ride to the train station, I had debated whether or not to eat my sandwich in the van, and now I was very glad I had decided to do so! I was worried about the boys, who had not eaten since breakfast, and Don and I would have even considered purchasing overpriced food from the museum cafe (something we would only consider under extenuating circumstances!), but just as we went in, a voice over the loudspeaker announced that the cafe would be closing. We decided to keep the boys distracted with all the fascinating creatures, and for the most part, it worked!

The aquarium visit was certainly a perfect conclusion to our ocean study. Although we did not get a good look at the octopus (he was huddled in the corner of his tank, with only a few tentacles in view), we did enjoy seeing a shark, moray eel, sea turtle, and tons of fish in the huge central tank. Other attractions included a jellyfish exhibit and an electric eel, just like the one we saw on our Moody Classics Experience with an Eel DVD.

The aquarium also features a hands-on tidepool area where children (and adults) can touch a sea star, mussels, and even hermit crabs. I vaguely remember visiting this exhibit in my own childhood, and our boys enjoyed it just as much, if not more than, I did years ago.

And of course, one of the highlights of an aquarium trip is always the penguins. When we visited the aquarium two years ago, the penguin exhibit was being renovated, so we were happy that the various penguin groups were back on display this time. Lydia slept through most of the adventure, but she woke up in time to pose for a picture with me.

It was around 5:00pm by the time we returned to our van and pulled into a parking lot to eat "lunch," but in spite of our blunders, our aquarium trip was a fun family day!

There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.

Psalm 104:25

Friday, February 5, 2010

Seed-Bearing Fruit

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:5

Motherhood, as all mothers know, has some ugly moments - and ugly days. I have shared glimpses (trust me, they were just glimpses!) into such times in my own life in previous blog posts. Any day has the potential for ugliness, for sin to creep in and eat away at the blessings of domestic life, but each day also has the potential to be an occasion of joy and thankfulness to the Lord. And today, I am happy to report, was not an ugly day.

In fact, the day started off with some of my favorite routine activities: snuggling between a sweet baby and her wonderful daddy, an early morning workout, a hot shower, and a hot breakfast. Despite the imperfections (a wet boy with wet sheets that now needed washing, just two days after I last changed them), the morning was altogether pleasant. This was partly due to the fact that both my workout and shower were surprisingly free of the usual (and often frustrating) interruptions.

Instead of leaving the children to their own devices while I washed off, I set up Lydia on her blanket with toys, and the boys close beside, each with a pile of laundry to fold and put away. Laundry is the boys' least favorite of their regular chores, and the mere mention of it often elicits groans, whines, or mysterious disappearances. Upon seeing Donny's chagrined face this morning, I encouraged him to please God, to please Mumma and Daddy, and to displease Satan by folding the laundry with a joyful heart. I reminded both children that God is watching them even when Mumma cannot, and that they would choose between consequences for disobedience or the rewards of completing their task before my return. I dared not expect too much - after all, there are many days when I command, "Fold the laundry," with repeated warnings and reminders, and the task still takes three times longer than it should. Yet I stepped out of the room hoping that today, after my gentle explanation and encouraging reminders, would be different.

And it was! I enjoyed a refreshingly unhurried shower, got dressed, and returned to find Lydia still playing on her blanket, and the boys putting away the last of the laundry they had folded. What joy to a mother's heart, to see her children obey completely! I have a strong suspicion that the time I spent in explanations and encouragement - the fruit of gentleness and patience displayed in me, by the grace of God - was what made the difference between an ugly morning of incomplete chores and a the joyful morning I experienced.

There was more encouragement later, while we ran errands. The cashier in the grocery store recognized us, and told the woman in line behind us how good my children are, and how the boys are always such good helpers with the groceries. It's true; they may have occasions of whining, begging, or spilling their snacks, but for the most part, the boys are great grocery helpers - especially when we get home, and they help me put all the food away!

Now of course, my three children did not suddenly morph into perfect, sinless creatures, or even into completely obedient little soldiers. By the end of day, discipline for bad attitudes and delayed obedience was necessary. Yet by the grace of God, the day did not go sour. I was able to remain patient and calm, correcting what needed correction, and helping my children come to a place of repentance for their sin. And in those moments, moments that could easily have taken an ugly turn, I saw God's hand at work. I saw spiritual fruit in myself: a gentle patience that is so often lacking when I am not connected to the Vine. Had I flared up in anger or collapsed in discouragement, I would not have experienced the peace of walking with God and leading my little ones to His feet. If selfishness had crept in, I would have been too self-occupied to notice the many blessings laced throughout my day.

In a similar way, today I saw fruit in my children, which encouraged me that the praying and Bible reading and verse memorizing and hymn singing and theological discussions are not just producing well-educated hypocrites. It seems that somewhere in their childish hearts, a seed has been planted, a seed that I pray daily will grow and blossom, that my children may come to truly know Christ as their Savior. Today I witnessed the fruit of my labors: children are not born knowing how to put away laundry or be cheerful in the grocery store, but consistent training in the ways of the Lord is effective.

I wanted to record today's events, however unexciting they may seem to some, to encourage myself and my readers not to give up on the ugly days. Get connected to the true Vine, find peace and refreshment there, and watch as the fruit you bear for Him produces seed for the next generation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Developing a Vision for Your Life

As promised in my last post, today I would like to take a brief look at the idea of vision. Just as it is difficult to reach a destination if we don't know where we are going, we are unlikely to achieve our goals in life unless we clearly identify those aspirations. Later I will discuss more specific details applicable to mothers and homemakers, but first, let us start with an overall vision for ourselves and the kind of life we want to live.

If the Lord took me home to heaven tomorrow, what would I want people to say about me? It may sound strange, but writing out, or at least thinking out, my memorial speech helps me envision the kind of person I want to be. Do I want my children to grow up and remember that when they were little, Mom yelled a lot? Or that she was too busy to help them? Or that she was always on the computer, and seemed irritated when interrupted? Of course not. I pray that my children will see their mother as a kind, gentle, and hardworking servant of the Lord. I want them to remember hugs and words of encouragement and being taught to work hard with a cheerful attitude. Fixing the vision of that kind of mother in my mind helps me to choose words, actions, and attitudes that befit such a character. When my children complain about their breakfast, refuse to do their chores, or fight over who gets to wear the green bib, I can choose to let my flesh take control and react with anger or irritation, or, by God's grace, I can react with patience and love. When I step back for a moment and listen to myself, or imagine what I would look like to others, it is easy to know whether or not I am honoring God by acting like a Godly mother.

Likewise, I try to consider what I would like my husband to say about me to his friends or coworkers. In my ideal world, my husband boasts, "My wife is beautiful inside and out. I don't know how she manages to teach and train our children, keep our home neat and ready for guests, make nutritious meals for all of us, and still look amazing. I hope our daughters grow up to be just like her." Of course, in my ideal world, I am actually able to do all these things! In the real world I may (and consistently do) fall short, but having the vision of the wife, mother, and person I want to be helps me to achieve my goals.

So where does this vision come from? How do we determine exactly which traits and characterisics to strive for? While specific roles and personalities vary greatly, we Christians ought to have the same end goal: to be like Christ. Every day, we are called to pursue Christ-likeness by fixing our eyes on Him in order that God might conform us to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). Other Christians, from mentors and pastors to heroes of the Bible, can provide inspiration for us, but it is Christ Himself from whence our vision ultimately comes.

The writer of the hymn "Be Thou My Vision" had it right: My Vision, my Wisdom, my Best Thought, is Christ. In order to develop a clear vision for my life and the person God created me to be, I must have a clear vision of who Christ is - a vision that is found by reading and studying His Word. In reading, I learn that Jesus lived a life of holiness, prayerfulness, humility, patience, compassion, goodness, and other such fruits, and He desires that same kind of life for me. As 1 John 2:6 succinctly states, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

As I look ahead at 2010, at what I hope to accomplish and how I hope to grow in grace and knowledge, I am humbled to see how my most lofty human aspirations pale in comparison to the plan God has for me. Diet and exercise resolutions may be forgotten by February, but our resolve to follow Christ is a life-long journey. This year, this day, and every day, I urge you to join me in fixing our eyes on Christ. Let us prayfully allow Him to direct our steps, asking Him to give us a clear vision of His good, pleasing, and perfect will for our lives.

My Goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
'Tis His to lead me there - not mine,but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.
~ Frederick Brook

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Sense of Sight

Something ironic happened in the middle of our homeschool unit on the five senses: We lost our senses.

No, we didn't actually go crazy (though a certain five year old's whining was enough to drive anyone crazy!). Actually, we just got sick. Donny started with cold symptoms and complaining that his mouth hurt when he swallowed. Then his ear hurt. And his eye was full of crusty goop. I took him in to the doctor on Friday in time to find out that he had an ear infection (not a surprise given the symptoms), conjunctivitis (also not a surprise), and strep throat! And although he never displayed any symptoms, Hayden also had the telltale white bumps of strep, so now they are both enjoying a twice-daily sip of bubble gum Amoxicilin to clear up the many infections.

Since his ear has been infected, Donny has been having some trouble hearing (especially when I am giving him instructions...suspicious, isn't it?). Like anyone with a cold, his sense of smell is diminished as well. When we did a smelling activity ("Close your eyes and guess what Mumma is holding under your nose!"), his stuffiness impaired his olfactory abilities. As for the sense of sight, I am the one who suffered the greatest impairment. I woke up on Saturday morning with one eye crusted shut: apparently, despite my careful handwashing, I had contracted Donny's conjunctivitis.

The treatment was easy enough: the doctor called in some prescription antibiotic eye drops for me. I was instructed, by doctor, nurse, and the prescription label, not to wear contact lenses. For most contacts wearers, it might not be a big deal to put on glasses for a few days. But since I hate wearing glasses, I have not bothered to own a pair for the past ten years. I managed high school, college, driving, marriage, giving birth (including surgically), and being up in the middle of the night with fussy babies and sick toddlers, all without the use of glasses, but recently I have been thinking that it might be wise to invest in a pair, and now I am convinced that it would be beneficial. Without my contacts, I can't see!

It's nothing like being in total darkness, of course, but I tend to say that I am blind without my contacts in. I can clearly see less than a foot in front of my face; anything beyond that is blurry. Normally, inserting contacts is the first thing I do in the morning, and removing them is the last thing I do at night, so to spend two entire days without my visual aids was certainly a different point of view. I am so thankful that my dear husband was home to help me! Not only was I unable to drive to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription; I couldn't watch TV, use the computer, or even read without holding the book right in front of my face, or see whatever the boys were trying to show me, or exchange smiles with my baby girl from across the room. Even something as simple as glancing at the clock to check the time was impossible.

When I finally reinserted my contacts after two blurry days, it was amazing how sharp and clear everything was! In spite of the inconvenience, this case of pinkeye gave me a deeper appreciation for my sense of sight (and for the technology that allows me to have sight when my natural eyes fail!). And all of this got me thinking about sight, and vision, and how the words apply to so much more than just that which is right in front of our eyes. Next time I blog, I plan to share some thoughts on having a vision for our lives, which is fitting as we start a new year. Until then, rejoice with me that you are able to read this blog because God has blessed you with the gift of sight!

Ears that hear and eyes that see— the LORD has made them both.

Proverbs 20:12