Saturday, November 29, 2014

Singing & Slaying: Book Review: When Helping Hurts

 When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself
Singing & Slaying: Book Review: When Helping Hurts: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett My rating: 4 of 5 stars Just a...

Peter reviewed the book When Helping Hurts earlier this year and you can find his worthwhile review at the link above.  We read the book together and I find the concepts are applicable this time of year (think soup kitchens and other charity ministries).

I also find that the concepts illuminate a lot of trouble and mistakes I've made in the past and continue to make in personal relationships.  Peter says in his review, "They [the authors] encourage Christians to never do for someone else what they can do for themselves."  This is, admittedly, a tricky balance to find when we want to obey the scriptural directive to give generously.  I continue to find ways that my giving isn't about giving what is truly helpful to someone else. It is actually about making myself look wise (giving random advice on the internet or elsewhere?), keeping my kids dependent on me, "fixing" someone else so that I'm not embarrassed by them or other terrible motives.  Yesterday Peter said to me that he thought women, in general, were prone to wanting to be helpful.  That's a nice way to say it.  I think he's right, but that doesn't mean we do what is actually helpful, more like what we think is helpful.  I know he gives me the benefit of the doubt a lot on this kind of thing.  He's generous like that.  :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Last night during our family worship time, Peter asked "Directly after Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended, what happened next?"  The kids answered that he went into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights.  Peter shared that we shouldn't be surprised that isolation and temptation were the very next things after the coming of the Holy Spirit and baptism.  We, as Christians, shouldn't be surprised or disappointed when we find ourselves sent out alone to do battle, where no one else sees, either.  The truth is that we're not alone, just as Jesus was not.  God gives the Holy Spirit and He is fighting the battles for us.

I am thankful this Thanksgiving, that through the battle and isolation God brings about a slow transfer of our reliance on people and their affirmation to a reliance on Him as we see Him conquer the Foe for us. 

Bronwyn Turns 2

 Bronwyn is our 2nd October baby.  Going back to when we had leaves on the trees, here's a few pictures of her birthday celebration.
 She is picking out a pumpkin pancake from the big pile flipped by her brothers and sisters for her pancake feast.
 Breakfast for dinner makes Bronwyn happy!  Actually, I think we were singing the birthday song to her.  She loved it.
 This was her first time to open gifts when she knew what she was doing.  But she still required a lot of help.
 She needed some explanation and demonstration to see that this was a flashlight with several functions.
 Now she understands.
 Yum, yum fruit snacks.
 More explanation and assistance.
 Bronwyn's sisters picked out a set of plastic horses for her because she can comb their hair and take them in the bathtub.
 "Here's the comb..."
 Finishing with dessert, of course.  We made blooming roasted apples from a recipe shared on Pinterest.
She knows how to celebrate!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Writing as Obedience

I do not like writing.  It does not make me happy.  It is tedious and full of all kinds of detail that I hate to worry about or mess with.  This probably accounts for why I've never worked on it and improved my ability to do it.

The Lord has been showing me that I have had a view of obedience to Him that could be summed up by "doing what He says when it is what I want to do or planned to do anyway."  I'm slowly beginning to experience, not just mentally assent, that real submission is doing what is required of me at this time that I don't want to do.  I know.  It seems basic.  But somehow I'm only beginning to get it and really work on it and one of the things that I'm painfully exercising this in right now is...writing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Resources, Investment & Clean Up

Some History
There was a time when Peter and I wanted a big family.  We were newly-weds and planning our desires for our future.  We both loved children.  We knew we wanted to homeschool.  Peter grew up with a large family of four children.  Our conclusion was that a large family of four children was our desire.  Fast forward to when we had two children.  Admittedly, having kids was a lot harder than we had presumed.  We felt maxed out on a practical level, but our conviction about having a large family hadn't changed.  We certainly had to outdo the average family out there and be a role model of amazing-ness to all of our peers.  But we could also sense that God intended for our lives to be invested in more than a lot of what we were seeing in the world around us.

About that time, Peter accepted his first position as a senior pastor.  This suddenly allowed him more time to read and search for answers to many of the questions he had about the dispensational theology he'd been taught in college and the practical function of the American church.  Long story short, his reading led him to reformed theology and he found himself convicted of a lot of beliefs that didn't fit with our church backgrounds and that changed the whole direction of our lives.  One of the convictions had to do with birth control and trusting God with the size of our family.  We spent hours talking these things over as he'd share with me all that he was reading about and answer all of my questions/objections.

As I gave birth to our third child we both felt a different sort of excitement about adding another son to our family.  We saw him as a gift from God in a way that we hadn't viewed our first two children.  Something had shifted and we saw the whole act of procreation as more about furthering Christ's kingdom than about fulfilling our own desires.

After our fourth child and a number of difficult sacrifices made in order to live in obedience to our new convictions we began to "count the cost."  How many kids would God end up giving us anyway?  How would that work out financially and in terms of our time resources?  We worked through many questions but ultimately believed that the Bible taught us 1)God is to be trusted with all of it 2)raising children is an eternal investment and what would we rather be doing or would God rather us be doing with our money and time than that?  In theory, we prepared to give up other pursuits and comforts in order to invest all that we had into raising children. How could a large, nice house, for instance, compare to the blessing of more family and the reward of investing in Christ's kingdom?  We understood we would be making a trade-off.  We realized that we would watch other families around us have different lives with different flexibility and ease.

That trade-off was much harder in reality as we went on to have several more babies.

The Present
I am now pregnant with our 9th baby.  I went through a number of years of horrible struggle with my life and my inability to carry out the task and responsibility involved in the choices we had made.  The more I had to sacrifice, the more deep-rooted selfishness came to the surface.  I am now at a  different place with my perspective on this than I was a couple of years ago with my eighth child.

The truth is that resources, (i.e., my body, my time, my mental and physical energies, my belongings, my "wealth") are all given to me by God.  All that I have belongs to Him.  Anything He gives me, I now see, is only correctly used when seen as an opportunity to do good to others, for His sake.  As God has cleaned up my heart, he has convicted me to clean up my life and get busy repairing the ruins and turning my home into a blessing to others, my family members and extending out to minister and spread the gospel to the world around us. 

As I began to learn and work on this earlier this year, I found out I was pregnant and it felt a little in-congruent with God's directives.  I was thrilled and truly at peace with the pregnancy, but wondered how God wanted me to keep up the "clean up" while growing this baby in my close-to-40-year-old body.  Even so, I trusted Him and I knew by now that His plans were always for the best.     

This growing child within me is several weeks away from being born.  God has faithfully shown me how perfectly this work of growing another human life fits in with the lessons He was/is teaching me. Many aspects of "clean up" that I had been doing had to slow down or stop completely, but the Lord had other ones for me to be working on. 

A few thoughts:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Homemaking 101

 Yesterday I posted some pictures on Facebook of doing morning school with my littlest kids.  Above you can see Millie and Cecily counting out their dimes and pennies for the daily coin cup in the math meeting before their math lessons begin.
 Elijah is coloring in the Bible Story Coloring Book that came in a 6 book preschool book set that I got him. 
 Cecily's math lesson using pattern blocks.
 Millie's math lesson involved setting up a "store" where she labeled everything with a price, picked out two items at a time, wrote them on a receipt, totaled the prices and paid for them using dimes and pennies. is today.  More math.  More preschool.  Can you guess what I spend hours and hours doing every single day? 
 The kids are great at helping each other out...
 ...yet, there is many hours of tutoring required of me every day without fail.  Today I helped Ben and Cal look up a weather map with the high and low temperatures for the whole USA for tomorrow.  We documented the projected temperatures for about half of the state capital cities so that they will be able to graph them tomorrow.
                    I love teaching my kids and watching them learn, but there's a duty to this task that goes beyond anything I love to do.  They need my daily, consistent investment into their expanding knowledge as a big part of helping them to become strong, healthy plants in this garden of a household I am trying to manage.
                    I got to thinking today about how all of the many aspects of homemaking are meant to work together, like an ecosystem in a garden, to accomplish the end of strong, healthy plants that are bearing fruit.  Of course, the end of that end is glorifying God and growing His kingdom.  This isn't about me.  I play a role that God has laid out for me and I work for His pleasure.  All of the jobs I perform as a homemaker are a part of this role and they are meant to work together to produce healthy, thriving plants here in my home.  You can't remove any aspect of it.  They all work together:  the cooking, the laundry, the shopping, the cleaning, the discipline and time for training, the spiritual nurturing, the educating, the bathing and grooming, the soul nurture through generous giving and serving and providing things that they delight in, the continual looks and touches of affirmation and affection.  
                   I have a long ways to go when it comes to getting all of these aspects to function efficiently at once.  The truth is that my garden is far from lovely.  In fact, I feel a lot like Elijah, trying to learn the basics of drawing a straight line and stopping at the right spot on the bottom line(pictured above).  As I was teaching him this week and marveling at how such a simple task was difficult for him to get down, I was reminding myself that it's a building block.  First he's got to get the line straight.  Then we work on stopping on the bottom line at the right place.  When he's figured it out through repetition, we can move on to some curved lines and attempt the number 2.  Even holding the pencil is so awkward for him right now, but one day, Lord willing, he'll be writing essays and who knows what else.  
                  I recognize God doing the same kind of training with me.  Is it hard to be content with this?  Sadly, yes.  My pride wants to be the "accomplished housewife."  It's just this kind of weakness that indicates that I couldn't  handle being that yet anyway.  If I were, I would fall prey to so many temptations and it wouldn't be about God's glory anymore.  He has me where He wants me and He's writing my story.  I trust in this.  And I am content.  I could look around at all of the weeds left in my garden, still needing to be pulled, and become discouraged or ungrateful.  Instead, I believe the Lord wants me to reflect with praise on all that He has wrought in my life with His faithfulness, look with gratitude on the progress He has allowed me to make and view the weeds with a sense of hope and ambition to get busy!
                    Lord, I ask your forgiveness for all of the pride and self-reliance that I have brought to this task and for all of the weeds that I have subsequently sown.  Thank you for the hope you have given me and the opportunity to work for your glory instead.  May this garden you've given me ever glorify you.
Side note:  Will's chopping work today.
And my 32-week pregnant self heading out the door to spend some spontaneous time with my husband. God is good.