Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beautiful Rituals

When God made the earth, I am sure he could have done it all in one day. 
I think it is odd that He didn’t, but then an “ah-ha” hit me,
as I went walking with Gabe in the fall sun.

  It is has been cloudy and gloomy all week,
so when the sunshine split through the clouds this afternoon,
we all went on a walk, sickies too. 
I thought the fresh air would be good for them. 
Gabe and I had a wonderful time. 
He had to stomp in every mud puddle he came across.





We do have a tendency to get very excited about sunshine, since it is our power source.
  So we were fully enjoying it, and the thought occurred to me
that God didn’t have to get everything done right now, 
in one day, rush it all through so he could get on to the next project.
  Instead, he took His time,
and enjoyed every minute of it,
for at the end of the day, He proclaimed his work “very good.”
This tells me he was pleased with the day. 
He spoke and carefully, creatively fashioned everything into being, in an orderly way.
So should we. 
When I get up in the morning,
there is no reason to slosh my way through the morning
without paying careful attention to the details of beauty and creativity. 
As the Creator God modeled, I should follow suit in my work. 
This is living fully, beautifully, abundantly. 
Dressing in something feminine and lovely,
regardless of where I am going or not going,
smelling good, fixing my hair the way my husband likes it, 
this is the first step in beautifying my morning.

The thesaurus says that to beautify  is to sanctify, hallow, consecrate and bless. 
Interesting.
My morning rituals include my husband’s fantastic coffee,
talking with my Lord. giving him the day,
dressing, and then facing the household duties. 
These I begin with music by the Josties, which is sweet and uplifts me in my priorities.  
Especially on dark mornings, I light candles.
When I think about uplifting rituals that add beauty to our life, 
my desire is to enhance our home life in a way that does not idolize materialism,
so I look to the Lord, and ask Him for creative solutions. 
Singing at the dinner table,
taking turns listing what we are thankful for that day,
holding hands while joining in prayer, 
reading aloud at bedtime,
taking walks together, 
and relishing the gentle moments throughout the day,
are investing in the richness of the day to me. 
Life is so dear.



I am in the process now of asking my Lord how else I might infuse loveliness into our home.
  I am expectantly awaiting inspiration. 
I have an inkling that whatever it is will revolve around deepening relationships, 
since that is what God is all about. 
He is not all about shopping,
or the gathering of stuff,
but cultivating that which is peaceful in us, 
what  breathes honor and enlivens kindness.
   He is not about how much can I fit into one day,
or in living a mundane, ho hum, ordinary life.

Merely gazing at His creation will tell you that.



  
Just as studying God’s creation uplifts the soul, 
so gazing on all sorts of beauty acts on the soul, 
which was made to thirst for Heaven, the ultimate place of beauty.

If we take for granted the beauty of God’s magnificent creation,
our lives will be in more poverty for it.”  -My mom

To continue that thought, if we feast upon beauty,
we will enrich and enhance our lives.  
 
My friend, Enola Gay,
has tea every afternoon with her husband when he arrives home from work. 
She makes wonderful tea, serves it with all etiquette,
on china inherited from generations of tea loving women. 
When I visit her, she shares this elegant ritual with me, 
allowing me to join her in a charming moment of beauty.
  This is the Romance of life that I often speak of;
that of making an ordinary occasion splendid by embellishing it with loving care.




 When we ignore these possibilities in our life, 
we make a choice to detain ourselves, or our family, in privation. 
To me, this would include being so preoccupied with getting things done
that I miss the joy of each day, which is the way I used to live.
That lifestyle fosters irritation, frustration, and depression. 
Our world loves the abstract, the ugly, death, the chaotic.. all in rebellion of Who God is. 
We who are devoted to and love God,
should be obvious about embracing beauty, order, harmony, elegance, and joy. 
It should permeate our daily lives and spill over into generosity toward others.
  In short, our lives should be defined by beauty. 
Simply taking time to gaze upon and enjoy the beautiful is a godly thing to do.

Let the beauty of the Lord be upon us.” Psalm 90:17
I do believe I am liking that verse more and more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sick Tikes

Welcome to our practical Saturday post for large family living.  
This is when and where we share some practical things 
that have helped us along the way of raising our large family.  
These are things I wish I would have known when we were struggling to adjust to a larger family, 
or at about child #5. 
Little Gabe and Bethany are sick this weekend with fever and cold symptoms, 
leaving mama without much free time.  
The rest of the family is off to a wrestling tournament, 
so my dear mom has come to keep me company and help with the sick tikes.  
Between holding the hot little ones, wiping noses, reading stories 
and trying to keep them from serious grumpiness, we are pretty busy. 
 So, here is an old post on nurturing your little lambs.
 I will likely be in the rocking chair with a sick tot, thinking of you.


From "Tending Sick Lambs", April 2010:

Illness brings out the nester in me. 
 I do not score highly in compassion or mercy when taking a spiritual gifts test, 
but as a mother of many, 
I do have reserves of both which do show up when my little lambs are sick. 
 I am reminded of a chapter in Edith Schaffer’s book, “Hidden Art,” 
n which she describes the days of her childhood illnesses
 as being some of her most fond memories
because of the loving care of her mother at those times. 
This has had a profound impact on me.

Nobody likes being sick, but everyone likes a bit of TLC, 
especially when they aren’t up to par. 
So I have begun to believe that family illness is a great opportunity 
for the well members to take extra special care and attention to the ones who are ill. 
 What a wonderful training time for our children who are well.  
They can help me and learn at my side, the ways to ease the discomfort of their siblings.  
Edith pointed out that fresh sheets on the bed, 
books read aloud, 
extra pillows, 
and other simple acts of thoughtfulness are good for both the ill and well. 
 These are things I can teach my children, as well as practical how to’s such as 
reading a thermometer, 
how to tell the difference between a  virus and an infection, 
when to medicate a fever, 
giving tepid baths, 
using herbal remedies, 
as well as fixing soothing foods.

Taking the illness in stride, then, one can see it as a God given time to slow down, 
think of one another, 
put our own agenda aside for a time,
 and serve one another.


Journey of a Gracious Woman

I used to love being pregnant.
  And then, I got bogged down with the many negative comments from folks,
that included words like “huge, twins, how long, oh my, and poor thing.“
Getting my eyes off of the Truth, I stumbled and fell in the ditch, 
where I have been slogging along in misery for several weeks.

For years I have prayed that God would make me a gracious woman.
Many of the characteristics of a gracious woman are those that do not come easily to me. 
But, if I live long enough, I hope to one day be described as gracious. 

A gracious woman shows Kindness, Courtesy, Tact, and Propriety.
Her ways are marked by Charm, Beauty, Gracefulness, Elegance, and Good Taste.
She exudes Mercy and Compassion.
I have met such women, they really do exist. 
In their existence, they do more than live,
they thrive in beauty,
their lives inspire onlookers, such as me.

Recently I was reading one of my old journals, which reminded me of this life goal.
Perspective is a wondrous thing. 
My current perspective has been one of feeling heavy laden with this pregnancy,
When a dear friend was visiting, she gave me the optimistic encouragement 
of a more biblical perspective… that my “baby bump” is lovely, nurturing life, 
that each day in such a state is a miracle, and the expectant the miracle bearer.


Ah, it is so easy to get swept away in the world’s philosophies,
and in so doing, I lost sight of my desire to become gracious. 
My first thoughts, when reading the journal, 
was that graciousness would have to wait,
I could not possibly be gracious while very pregnant. 
But then I realized that I was believing a false supposition, 
and that God would be honored if I held His view,
as He created woman to be a Life Giver,
not just in the physical sense, 
but in the spiritual sense; one who is generous, compassionate, kind, 
patient, affectionate, enthusiastic, sacrificial, merciful, unselfish, and nurturing.

  As I have gone about the past few days thinking about this,
I find much hope, joy and beauty in daily life that I had previously passed by.
  Sure, it is difficult to think of elegance
when you are doing your utmost to keep you ankles from dragging on the floor,
and “charming” doesn’t suit the worldly vision of someone who is close to giving birth. 
Graceful doesn’t describe the way I move these days,
but all that aside, graciousness is much more about our attitude
than our appearance; it is about setting up beautiful details in our lives, 
the kind that make an enormous difference in our daily lives. 
I can do that. 
I can turn my mind from,
“O God, please be merciful and help this time to pass quickly!” 
to directing that growing nesty-ness into to creating beauty in each day.
  Single days experienced fully add up to a lifetime lived deeply and well. 
Truth be told, when these small moments are handled lovingly,
 with thought and care, they become life-enhancing,
making you capable of doing more with the rest of your time.



Funny how timely occurrences come into our lives,
just today a friend sent an email that described a gracious woman this way:
She can deal with stress and carry heavy burdens.
 She smiles when she feels like screaming and she sings when she feels like crying.
She cries when she's happy and laughs when she's afraid.
 Her love is unconditional.

   Certainly, that is something to aspire to.
  I may waddle, and groan when I move,  this will pass, eventually. 
  But I have come to the conclusion that I will not waste my time waiting in misery. 
I believe that if I make more of an effort to cultivate beauty in my everyday,
it will effect my perspective, which will radiate to my family. 
Why?  Because beauty nourishes the other areas of your life. 
God is a God of beauty, order, creativity.
  Perhaps I stumbled upon the lesson in the verse that had me perplexed last week. 
May the beauty of the Lord be upon us, and establish the work of our hands.”  Psalm 90:17

In so doing, I hope I can regain what ground
I may have lost on my path to becoming
a gracious woman.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Things I Love



One of the things I love
is homeschooling,
particularly the mentoring and discipling that goes on through the process. 
When I see one of the older children voluntarily help out 
or involve one of the younger children in what they are working on,
my heart sings.  
These are precious moments to a mama.


 Another thing that I love, is to partake in a cozy Sunday nap. 
Part of me is jealous for the little ones, 
who are priviliedged to partake in a snugly nap every day.
  Watching them sleeping always brings a smile.

 

I love, love, love, the out of doors. 
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, each with it's own sounds, smells and beauty. 
I am so very thankful to live in the Northwest, 
where each season is pronounced and gorgeous.




I love the simple things in life:
The silly things small children say,
singing at the dinner table, eating good homemade food, 
watching the children play, visiting with friends, 
snuggling under covers when it is cold out,
harmonizing in the car, playing with kittens,
reading a good book together, walking in the woods, 
eating a crisp apple, sloppy baby kisses,




and oh so many wonderful things that the Lord has given us to enjoy.
He is good, so good.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Removing Grumpiness With Gratitude

Jesus said that he came to give life, 
and that more abundantly. 
I try to live in that abundance, focused on the beauty of the day,
the eternal matters, and enjoying the blessings God has graciously bestowed upon us.

  There are days when that does not happen, though. 
Days when the children stand back, wide eyed, wondering what is going on with mama. 
As I grow older, I pray those days become fewer and farther between. 
At the end of such a day, it is difficult for me to go to bed
without having another stab at altering my frame of mind. 
Romans says to renew your mind by reviewing what is good.
Philippians advises giving thanks to gain peace and contentment. 
So, at the end of a roller coaster day, 
I am going to do just that.


I am thankful that our oldest son, John, shot a nice big fat black bear,
that will provide our family with hundreds of pounds of meat,
gallons of lard, and a beautiful hide to grace the walls with.



I am thankful that this is Farmboy and not me.

 
I am thankful for the first snow to have been today.
  I needed a reason to celebrate, 
and we have a tradition of making festive the first snow 
by baking and decorating sugar cookies,
and cutting out paper snowflakes.





I am thankful for a lovely, romantic home,
snugly set in the woods 
where we can be cozy warm inside 
while gazing at the breathtaking beauty of snow falling and wind swirling outside.  



I am thankful for my loving family, who puts up with me,
patiently, I might add,
on those days when all is not quite well with me.


I am thankful for a most compassionate and kind heavenly Father,
who loves me, loves me, loves me because I am his,
and does not condemn me when I don't measure up,
but patiently and tenderly leads me to green pastures and still waters,
restoring my hormonal, overly emotional, pregnant soul.

I am thankful for God's provision, from a multitude of sources,
of wonderful garden produce all summer and fall long,
even though we were not able to garden this year.
  Oh how He knows how to give good gifts! 
There is just nothing like a home grown carrot, or tomato, or strawberry for that matter.


There are so many wonderful blessings in each day.
  I have been uplifted to recount some of them here.
Sharing them with you has brought a smile to my face,
and a contented sigh to end my day rightly.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."  Phil. 4:8

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Advent Peparations

I am preparing for Advent.  
The Advent season is longed for all year by our family,
who prefers this contemplative, peaceful tradition to the more popular Christmas celebrations. 
If you are new to Advent traditions, you can find out about Advent here. 
  What Is Advent
One of the festivities we relish the most during Advent is the weekly lighting of a new candle,
celebrated by partaking in the season’s best flavors and aromas 
around the table with tea each Sunday evening.
Now, I am trying new recipes in anticipation. 
This year will be quite interesting, as we are anticipating
the birth of our wee one 
in the midst of Advent. 
So I am preparing now. 
Making menus for tea, ordering teas, packaging scone mixes, 
purchasing candles, selecting a book to read aloud, so that it can all come together with little fuss.

The first Sunday of Advent this year is November 28, little more than a month away.  
When it comes early, like this year, I have, in the past, found myself unprepared. 
So this year I am making way now, avoiding the crowds of Thanksgiving shoppers later. 
On afternoons when I am feeling plucky, I can work out some of the preparations. 
Today, I am baking gingerbread scones, a new recipe. 
Doesn’t pear butter and whipped cream sound like wonderful accompaniments? 
Moist, easy to prepare, and yummy, this is a keeper.
4 c. flour,
6 tbsp. brown sugar,
4 tsp. baking powder,
2 tsp. ginger,
 1 tsp baking soda,
1 tsp salt,
1 tsp cinnamon.
 Mix together. Cut in 1/2 c. cold butter.
Then mix in a separate bowl, 2/3 c. molasses,
1/2 c. milk,
2 eggs, separated. 
Keeping egg whites separate, Add the mixture to the floured mix, stir lightly, pat out into a circle, 1/2 to 1 inch deep, cut into wedges.  Froth egg whites and brush on tops of scones, sprinkle with sugar.  bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.  Best if served while warm.

Makes 8 large scones.



Our favorite resources for Advent are:
The Advent Book -shop.celebrationsandtraditions.com/ 
This is a book of beautiful doors to open each day of Advent.  
Our children greatly look forward to rotating who is opening what door.  
We begin with door #1 every night, and work our way up to the door of the day, 
so that by Christmas Eve, they know the sweet scripture story by heart,
even the smallest of them.




Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s  Passage, and Tabitha’s Travels by Arnold Ytreeide -/www.christianbook.com/fiction  
These storybooks have added great delight to our traditions, 
building within us the anticipation of the last chapter, read Christmas day,
where the main character finds Jesus.  Each book builds on the last.
Young to old, we have really enjoyed these stories.


And our own family traditions: 
Decorating the house with evergreen garlands, flowers,
the advent wreath, and cozy winter comforts.
Tea each Sunday as we light the new candle. 
Reading an Advent story each night aloud. 
Opening a new door in the Advent book each evening.
Lighting the Advent wreath each evening as we read. 
Spending quiet family moments contemplating the prophecies,
the town, the people, and the Savior who came so humbly to testify of the Truth.


If you have wondered about Advent, this is the time to start looking into it, 
so that you too may be ready to begin your own celebration this year.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Home Schooling Delimas

Welcome to our practical Saturday post for large family living!
 This is when and where we share some practical things 
that have helped us along the way of raising our large family.  
These are things I wish I would have known when we were struggling to adjust to a larger family, 
or at about child #5. 
Today I want to answer some questions from families new to homeschooling, 
not that we have all the answers, 
but we have been schooling for 13 years, 
and therefore have had to work though some of the regular challenges that come up.


Q:  What do you do when you get up late

A:  This happens frequently at this time in my life. (smile)
 I am not a morning person, and when I do not feel good, I am extra slow.  
From the time the children were all small, they would get up and play or read, even if mama was not up.  Often this happens on my bed or in my room, especially with the small ones. 
 The way I deal with slow mornings, morning sickness, interruptions, or whatever the circumstance, 
is to just go about the morning as if time did not matter. 
 If breakfast is at 10 am, then chores and Proverbs is next, 
and we do the next thing until school is done, even if it isn’t until late afternoon.  
I like to begin school between 8 am and 9 am, this has always worked best for us, 
but sometimes you just need to be flexible. 
 I have learned over the years to persist on, instead of giving up school for the day,
 since schooling is a priority.



Q:  What do you do when you are too sick to function as a teacher?

A:  Besides taking the day off, which I do not like to do,
 other options are to dig out a video and watch it, then have the children write 
(or draw if they are too little to write) about it. 
 I have had the children write letters and draw pictures to grandparents 
on days when I was too ill for school. 
 Often, you CAN get something educational done, even from your bed.  
Once I had the influenza and was so miserable I just wanted to sit in the bathtub.  
The children were small, the oldest about 6.  I put on some light weight clothes, ran a hot bath, 
had the children gather some toys and coloring, 
 I nabbed a “Little House on the Prairie” book, and we all headed into the bathroom, 
where I soaked in the hot tub and the children made nests in the floor and colored and played 
while I read to them for hours. 
 As I kept reheating the bath water, I kept reading aloud, and mercifully, we got through the day. 

Other ideas:  A quiet basket comes in handy for days of illness for mama. 
 One could also call a friend and ask them to bring over some educational videos while mama is sick.  
Now that I have older children, they are capable of running school in my absence, ah but that is nice!  
After having had a baby, my husband runs school for the first week.

Q:  What age do you begin schooling?  My 4 yr. old is just not ready to sit for long and do preschool work.

A:  All the children sit at the table first thing, regardless of age.  
The little ones can sit in my lap or color, the three, fours and fives color and write letters for a little while, listening to our Proverbs.


When they are ready to get down and play, that is fine, as long as they are not too distracting. 
 At about 6 I get a bit more serious and begin phonics along with writing letters and words. 
 After a few months of this, I add math.  
I really like the Rod and Staff preschool curriculum packet, which is suitable for most 5 and 6 year olds.


Some of our children just were not developed enough to read until they were 8, 
that is fine, we read aloud a lot and did other activities that were more hands on.  
Boys seem to be particularly less ready to read at the younger ages. 
 I understand that usually, a child catches up by the time they are 9 or 10, 
regardless of whether they started school at 4 or 8. 
 Earlier is not usually the better choice. 
 Look at the attention span and interest of each child individually.  
 Resist peer pressure to have your 4 yr old reading.  
When we had a child who was slow to read, we dropped out of all church programs, 
because it drew attention to the non-reader in the class.  
That child caught up and eventually excelled, it just took longer to get going.  
Once you do begin schooling a child, consistency is vital.  
It has never worked for us to be hit and miss with a first year student.  


I hope that was helpful to someone out there. 
 I am not an authority on homeschooling, 
just an experienced mama who desires to help others along if at all possible. 
 May God bless you as you train up your children!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Candle Lit Evening


Few things in this life are as relaxing and romantic to me
than the soft glow of a candlelit home. 
I recall visiting the home of a dear fiend, who is also off grid,
and upon entering her house one evening,
was awestruck by the warmth, cozy appeal and romantic atmosphere
of her home in candlelight.
Instantly, I was addicted.


After dinner is cleaned up, I like nothing better than to light the candles,
turn off the lights and settle down with a big sigh.
The day’s work is done, 
and soon we will tuck all the children,
whom after the day’s various activities,
are now safely gathered in.




The dim lighting soothes and settles down the children,
usually, unless they get a mind to use the shadows as opportunities
to jump out and scare each other.
(smile)
  But I soon put a hush to that,
drawing out our current read aloud and announcing it is time,
they squirm together on the couch in silent anticipation, eyes big.
 


The world seems a gentler, sweeter place in candlelight.
After the young ones are tucked,
we often sit in the dimness and visit with John,
 review the next day's schedule,
and recount humerous or notorious events of the day.
Perhaps it is just this candle-addict's justification for her habit,
but I believe the candle light uplifts the nurturer in me,
and well, isn't that just completely romantic?
Yes, indeed.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Remember When



Here, some favorite pictures from yester-year:
















Ahh, those were the good ol' days.