Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tea Party

Today, my husband and oldest son went to Empire Farm Days.  It's an annual extravaganza at the State Fairgrounds of metal and new-fangled ways of growing crops.  Oh so exciting.  Never mind the snow storm that was called for today - nothing stands between a farmer and large, shiny metal objects with wheels.  Nothing.

Exciting as the whole event is, the rest of the children and I stayed home.  As most of the remaining young ones are girls, we decided to have a "tea" party for lunch.  Rather than tea, however, we opted for the much more enjoyable home-made hot chocolate served in some of my prettiest tea cups.  (the cup shown in the above picture was my grandmothers)  PB&J cut with a circular cookie cutter and served on my best dishes with a side of fruit cocktail makes a simple lunch elegant. 

Forgive the bad-quality mobile pictures, but the real camera is currently being loaded with about 90 pictures of the aforementioned large, shiny metal objects.

For dessert - Boston Tea Cups.  It was a fun recipe I found in a new cook-book a friend recently gave to me.  I baked a yellow cake mix in a jelly-roll pan, let it cool, and cut it into bite-size squares.  I put three squares at the bottom of each tea cup, spooned some vanilla pudding on top of that then added three more squares of cake.  Finally, I dusted on some powdered sugar and drizzled chocolate sauce on top.  DELICIOUS! 

Afterwards, while two of my daughters folded some laundry, one swept the floor, and I washed the dishes, we all sang some songs together.  Definitely a special lunch that we will remember for years to come. 

Who knows? Maybe one February day 20 years from now I'll get a call  from one of my grown daughters inviting me to another lunch-time tea party with my grand-daughters as my grandsons attend Empire Farm Days with their grandpa and Uncle Mike. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Lovely Lunch

1 house.  11 children.   Pizza & orange pop. 

No spills.  No stains.  No fighting.

1 friend & me.  1 amazing lunch. (we had quiche)

My friend Stefanie loves to have people over.  Her husband, not so much.  So, once in a while, she will invite a friend and her kids (if they have any) for a lunch that would put any restaurant lunch entree to shame.  My children and I were her honored guests this past summer and, again, today.  She spoils us rotten.  I even almost felt guilty in the preceding days answering her questions of "What do you and your kids like to drink?"  "What are you kids' favorite chips?"  "What's your favorite salad dressing?"  Stefanie knows the true meaning of hospitality.  She opens her home and her guests feel comfortable, loved, and full!  To see our children playing and reading together was a blissful and sweet sight.  And, I could sit and talk with her ALL day, but, I was a polite guest and departed in time for her children and mine to get needed naps.

If we were Catholic, I'd recommend her for sainthood.  I mean, really, who invites a woman with 7 children to lunch?  Did I mention that she has 4 of her own 5 and under and expecting another?  HELLO!

Thank you, my friend - for the food, the laughs, and, most of all, your friendship. 

And, I think a nice fall 2024 wedding will be nice for a couple of our children.  :)

5 days and counting...

 We're getting ready to go on our first family vacation in 3 years this coming Sunday.

Ok, well, semi-family vacation.  We're leaving the youngest two home in the care of people who will spoil them rotten.  Because, let's face it, how much of a vacation is it when you have to change a poopy diaper in a public restroom, listen to a 4 year old cry because her feet hurt from so much walking, and having to constantly be spinning your head around in the pool to make sure the 2 year old hasn't drowned.

But, I digress.

In anticipation for a fun-filled week, we are making sure all of our school-work is caught up with and done.  I mean, how often is it that my kids actually get to put several hundred miles between themselves and their schoolbooks?

Once in three years, remember?

Can I just say...we should have a vacation more often.  I cannot believe how diligent and quiet my kids have been in their school this week.  They've even been doubling up on some of their work so they can begin their break even earlier.  I realize that we're only 2 days into the school week, but, in my world, 2 days in a row of diligent work constitutes most of the week.

My kids live in fear of the fact that I'll actually make them take their unfinished work along with us. Tempting as that is...not gonna happen.  Because, we all know that if they have to do school on vacation, mom has to do school on vacation.  And, as I said, THAT'S not gonna happen.

But, that will stay our little secret, right?

Who knew the week before vacation would be just as enjoyable as the actual vacation?

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Do You Sound Like?

Recently, I watched a video clip about a homeschool family whose daughter was attending a small Christian college in order to study music theory.  It seems like a lovely family who really love the Lord and are attempting to do the best for their children, but some of their explanations made me cringe a bit.

*Note:  I am aware that it is possible that the producers of the videos edited some of the answers given by this dear family. was not the Duggar family.:)

I often try to think of how many of us conservative homeschool families sound to those around us.  When we explain our convictions do we sound like scared, namby-pamby isolationists or do we sound strong and solid with a fervent love for the Lord and the lost?  People who don't see eye to eye with homeschooling will often try to use our own words against us and misconstrue our intentions.  Before opening our mouths, we need to be sure we - and our children - have an answer that will convict and make sense without conformity.

In explaining why this young lady chose the college she did, the family concentrated a lot on the dress code of the college. The fact that the young men wear suits and ties every day and the few girls who attend wear modest clothing.  The girl when on to say that she didn't want to go to a school where the guy sitting next to her in class had green hair.  Then she shuddered.

Ok, wait a minute. I'm all for modest dress. I wouldn't stand up and cheer if my son came home with green hair.  However, what does that sound like to non-homeschoolers and the lost world?  That boy with the green hair needs the Lord.  His hair is not going to hurt you nor make you impure.  In your one opportunity to explain to all of America why you chose a conservative Christian institution, THAT is what you say?

I attended a secular university.  I would never recommend it to any Christian young person - especially a young lady - not even as a commuter student.  What would I cite as my reason in front of the world?  How about safety concerns on university campuses targeting women?  Sure, Christian colleges may have their incidences, but, statistically, they are a lot smaller.  I might even cite vulgarity.  The amount of cursing on a college  campus is far more than you would hear in a work place, store, mall, or most public places.  After all of the years of growing up to be a Christian with a pure mind and heart - even avoiding television and certain music in order to sanctify my mind for Christ - why would I want to put myself in the center of vulgarity's breeding ground?  Forget green hair.  Safety and the purity of my mind is what matters.

At one point, the mother mentioned that they wanted to protect their daughter.  "After all, that's why we homeschool our children.  To protect them."

Again, how would a lost person hear this?  Is that really true?  We homeschool to protect our babies?  Maybe.  But, a more specific explanation would have had more conviction and strength. If someone were to ask you why you homeschool, what would you answer?  I got to thinking about it while considering what my explanation would sound like to the person asking the question.

My answer:  We homeschool to prepare our children spiritually and intellectually for the time when they will have to face the world.  They are not ready at 5, 10, even 15 years old to go out on their own.  By educating them at home, they learn more of our faith, see it in practice, and have one-on-one attention in their studies.  You do not send a new recruit straight into the battle.  Much time is spent preparing him before-hand so he knows how better to deal with the various situations he will come up against.   That is what homeschool is - preparation for the battle.

Sure, there are those who will still find fault with that answer.  However, it is a stronger explanation than "to protect them."  As Christians, WE know what they're being protected from, but the world does not get that.

Oh, and by the way, when a recruit is finished with his basic training, his authorities do not shield him from dangerous situations.  He is equipped to handle them.  Same should be for the homeschooler.  Don't send them into a mine field where the probability of surviving is minimal, but your student should not have to be sheltered so tightly after 18 years of training.  Green hair ought not to be an issue.  They should be able to see beyond the hair to the soul.

This is not to say Christian young people (and older Christians, for that matter) ought not be shocked at sin and things that are against the God-made nature.  The purity and holiness that they have hopefully attained will create that shock value - but it should not cripple them.  It should be a trigger mandating a response.  Flee the temptation.  Take a stand against evil.  Witness to those living in darkness.  Don't shudder and walk away.  Don't go back in your shell.  Jesus was able to sit among the sinners and talk with them without damage to His holiness.

Isn't that the ultimate goal of homeschooling - to raise our kids to be like Jesus?  Send your child to a Christian college.  Do what you think best.  But, make sure they can be among sinners with the mind of Christ.

And, explain that to others in such a way that don't make the rest of us look like freaks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Luke 8 Ladies

I was reading in Luke 8 the other day and came across verses 2&3 - "And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities...ministered unto him (Christ) of their substance."  These women were so grateful to have been the recipients of the healing power of Christ that they gave to Him of their own possessions.  In all likeliness, these women had homes and families of their own.  In fact, one of the women was married to the steward of Herod!  They had household duties to fulfill and the needs of their families to meet, yet they made time to minister to Christ, as well.

It is not made clear what "their substance" was, but it could have been material things such as food, blankets, and clothing made by hand.  If you were making a meal for Jesus, the One who healed you, would you not make it with your freshest and best ingredients?  If you were making a blanket for Him to keep warm while He slept, would you not reminisce about the time He reached out and touched you to take away that infirmity that plagued you for so long?  Would you not weep over it in love and gratitude?  If you were the one making His garment, would you not remember your friend who touched the hem of a previous garment worn by Him and pray that this would be used in a mighty way, as well?  Would you not feel humbled to have even a small part in such a ministry?  Oh, to have been one of those women.

But, wait!!!  I can be among this group.  No, I can not behold Him face-to-face (yet) and provide for His material needs as God in the flesh.  But, I am one of the women healed of evil spirits and infirmities. He has healed me of many physical ailments through the years and has made my heart new when He saved me so many years ago.  He has taken me from my original father, the devil, and made me His child.  In gratitude for His kindness and eternal love for me, I ought to have such a desire to minister to Him of my substance.

Often, we women feel that our household duties fill up every waking hour of our day.  Take a good look at your day; is this true?  Unless you have chosen to live in such a way that refuses the use of modern-day appliances and have to do everything from scratch in your cooking, you have extra time outside of your daily duties.  How do you spend that time?  The ladies in Luke 8 had no modern conveniences, yet still had time to minister to Christ.

The Bible tells us that whatever we do to the least, we do it unto Christ.  There's a lady who just had a baby or a family who has been ill - make them a meal using your freshest and best ingredients.  Do you know how to sew or crochet?  Use that talent to bless a new baby with a soft blanket or a young girl who seems to be growing out of all of her dresses.  While you sew, think of the many ways God has reached down and touched your life.  Thank Him.  Personally, I can't sew a straight enough seam to make a blanket for a snake, but I have recently begun to make cards and send them to those who need an encouraging word.  Spending time and investing my creativity in a card helps me to really pray for that person - while I'm making the card and for days afterward.  I think of the many people God has sent my way through the years to encourage me and this is one way I show my gratitude to Him.

When your laundry is drying, your dinner is simmering, or your children are napping - cook, bake, be creative for someone in need.  Or, sit at the feet of Jesus as Mary did.  In that case, her substance was her ears and her heart.

Give of your substance and welcome to the fellowship of the Luke 8 Ladies!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Forfeiting Spiritual Health for Physical?

The Lord has been working on my heart this past week and it has been good.  I struggled and asked questions, but He gently guided me as only my heavenly Father can. 

Lately, my priorities haven been mixed up.  I would get up early every morning to go to the neighborhood gym and work out for over an hour.  While that is a great thing to do for my physical health, my spiritual health was suffering.  Oh, I would open my Bible and read for a few minutes most mornings before heading off to the gym.  However, once 5:45 a.m. came, my Bible was closed as I knew my time at the gym was limited and precious.  After all, with seven children, if I don't work out in the morning, it never happens during the rest of the day. 

My time at the gym was limited and precious???!!!  What about that Book I just closed?  What about my time with its Author?

What it had come down to was this:  my exercise was my priority.  Saturdays were a non-gym day for me and I would sleep in, leaving no time for God and the Bible.  The reason I was rising early was to get my work-out and I was only reading my Bible so I could go without guilt.  In all actuality, my spiritual life was nominal and meaningless.

To make matters worse, where I first made sure I only worked out for 45 minutes in order to get home just when the children were rising, I began to increase my work-out time.  I was getting home later and, therefore, our day was beginning later and the order in my home was reduced to nothing.  But, hey, I was getting healthy and that's important as a mom, right? 

What is physical health when the spirit is malnourished and diseased?  What is physical strength when the home is becoming weak?

The Lord began to tug on my heart and I'm so glad He did as that is more proof that I am indeed His child and He hasn't given up on me.  Through His men, His Word, and through other writings by His people, I was convicted.  However, I was a bit fearful.  If I made time for Him like I truly wanted, wouldn't that mean I could no longer work out?  Contrary to popular belief, homeschool moms of many children don't really run all day long.  There is a lot of sitting as we go through lessons, read stories, and do lesson plans.  If I'm not sitting, I'm standing - not a lot of calorie burn there.  I still want to look good and keep healthy.  However, I know that if I put my priorities back in order and make God first, He will allow time for what He thinks is important.  If He wants me to keep the body He gave me in shape and healthy, He will show me how and give me the time to do it.

This morning, I woke early and got into my gym clothes.  However, I only dressed for the possibility of going to the gym.  I was going to read and pray until my cup was filled by the Holy Spirit.  Then, if there was time, I would go work out and be back home in time for us to have a peaceful and orderly day.

The Lord was so good to me.  He spoke to me so clearly in His word and I was able to have true communion with Him for the first time in a couple of months.  And, do you know what?  There was time for me to go work-out for 30 minutes.  That's a lot less time than I've become used to and I was tempted to stay, but I know that 30 minutes is better than nothing and I will still reap the health benefits.  This day has gone so smoothly and peace is returning to our home. 

Once again, the Lord has proved Himself loving and wise.  I am glad He has not given up on me.  Yes, my work-outs will be shorter, but my walk with God will be stronger.  That is the race I must continue and win.