Thursday, April 12, 2018

Living Counter Cultural: Femininity

Popular culture has a decidedly feminist bent.
 Recent movies, tv shows and prominent women
 are displaying heroins as 
superior cutthroats. 
 Current cultural trends are directly opposing anything close to Biblical standards.
I hope you realize this and are not one of the many frogs sitting placidly in a pot set to boil. 
 The darkness of sin and evil are sweeping across our nation
at a frightening and sickening pace.
A thinking woman must wonder;  what can I possibly do about it?
You can be a city set on a hill...
just by being who God created you to be.
In this day and age, trying to uphold a biblical standard of femininity will indeed 
set you apart.
When was the last time you saw a woman who looked lovely?
How about watched a mother tenderly communicating to a child?
Have you recently noticed a young girl dressed in  a sweet and wholesome way?
I am sure it wasn't in Walmart.  
Sadly, these are not things we see evident in our society today.

Being a woman created by God is such a privilege.
The gift of our femininity is something we can give both to ourselves and those around us.
I believe that our society is hungering to be transformed by the
 and grace
 of Biblical femininity.....they just don't know it, 
and are looking for everything else to satisfy this thirst.

What better antidote to a violent and pain filled culture
 than warm
 and gentle
feminine strength?

What better cure for poverty and filth
than a love of beauty and a confidence
in one's ability to make things lovely?

What better hope for the future than a
nurturing mother's heart that is
 more concerned for the next generation
than its own selfish desires?

All these qualities:
gentle strength,
love of beauty,
care and nurturing,
 are part of the essence of femininity.

 Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, twilight, outdoor and nature

As Emily Barnes says so aptly in her book, The Heart of Loveliness: 
 "To me a godly woman is one who possesses inner peace and tranquility; 
 she doesn't have to prove herself to anyone.  
She is strong, and yet she does not use her strength to control or dominate people,
 neither does she depend on recognition from others.
  Hers is an inner contentment and satisfaction based not on accomplishments, position, or authority,
but on a deep awareness of God's eternal and personal love for her. 
 That kind of inner peace, strength confidence and tranquility comes from depending on God; 
 drawing on His wisdom and strength,
 learning to be like Him."  

When this happens in our lives, 
we gradually grow free of anxious competitiveness and aggressiveness.
  We no longer need to prove our worth and value
 because we now how much we are worth in God's sight... 
and then, we are free to reach out in love to others.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornments such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes, instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
1 Peter 3:3,4 

As we set forth to cultivate femininity in our homes, 
let us think not only of ourselves, but of the darkness of the nation creeping in around us.
We are, in part, the answer..
for as we shine forth God's truth, acted out in our lives,
 we will be like a city set on a hill.  
For darkness does not take away light, but only deepens as the light grows dim. 
 Stand strong, therefore, Biblical women,
 and let your light shine.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

When Homeschooling went from frustrating to beautiful part 2

I firmly believe in long luxurious Saturday mornings.
A third cup of coffee?  Yes please.
Still in jammies at 9:30 am,
 perched at the window taking in a swath of forest in quiet contemplation suits me just fine.
The rest of the family know it is a more relaxed, hushed morning.
 The teens sleep in.
Our littles have anticipated, plotted and planned what creative play
these carefree hours will hold.
Eventually, I will make a big, lavish brunch of warm comfort food.
Saturdays are defined by order and structure
 that become a standard of living 
which breathes life
 and beauty into our home.

Order and beauty.

The question was posed to me a few weeks ago:
 "Just how did you  transform your home schooling into something beautiful?"

We began with a new vision for raising our children.
  First, we endeavored to live a life of nurturing. (part 1)

Secondly, seeing that our children had met the necessary educational standards
 suddenly became not enough,
 and, not even the point.
 What was our reason for home schooling anyway?
This must be determined.
Without a goal, there is nothing to aim at.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
(Proverbs 29:18)
We determined that what was most important to us is
that our children would grow in refinement, in knowledge, in strength,
in wisdom, in patience, gentleness, kindliness, in physical vigor,
 and be trained in all that would make them true and noble men and women.

Obviously, it would take more than a good working knowledge of math, English and science.

Our definite purpose
 is that of training, building up, and sending out people
filled with lofty ideas and aspirations,
governed by principles of honor
 and outfitted to embark upon the duties and struggles of life
 with wisdom and faith.

So, what kind of culture would produce such results?

Again, we turned to the rich wisdom of J.R. Miller in the book "Homemaking."
"There is nothing in all the influences
 and surroundings of the home so small 
that it does not leave its touch of beauty 
or of marring
 upon the life. Wherever a child grows up
 it carries in its character 
the subtle impressions of the home in which it lives."

 Wow. Oh my.
This would not be a task easily attained,
 and it would take everything we have to make it happen,
 and alot we didn't have.
 It was these thoughts, the gravity of the responsibility,
that drove us to our knees and caused us to cling to the Lord for the strength, resolve,
 and perseverance to see this thing through.

 We then discussed how order and beauty would be
  purposefully created and planned,
 so that our home life would be,
 every moment,
a structure for educating and discipling our children.

Home schooling would not be confined to text books.
In fact, I gave up all text books except math.
 The content of our schooling as it was, was happily, freeingly, defenestrated.
I recall telling a friend that we determined to not home school our children anymore,
in the sense of doing what the public schools do, just at home....
 but rather disciple them....which would include some school, of course.
 What this idea birthed was something bigger, more grand, and.... more beautiful
than home schooling had ever produced.

All of our home life was affected.

 We would have to fashion a godly culture in our home,
which means a culture based on Biblical ideas and on the very nature of God Himself.
This implies also that we wage war on the current culture,
because current culture is completely, thoroughly anti-family.
  I hope you realize that.
(this is another post entirely)
So, I firmly aim everyday to do exactly what the trend isn't.
 Wholesome movie, yes,
 Lovely outfits, yes,
 Dinner together at the table, yes,
Slowing down long enough to spend time with God, yes.
 Planning nothing Thursday night so we can visit with one another without any technology, yes.
 Inserting a half hour of silence into our day, yes.
Beauty in our daily lives, yes.
  Orderliness in our home, yes.

The very essence of the homelife we desired to create would be
 orderlines and beauty.

When God created the earth,
 He didn’t have to get everything done right now, in one day,
rushing 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.”
He spoke,
 and carefully, creatively fashioned everything into being,
 in an orderly way, relishing the moment, making it worth savoring.
So should we. 
When I get up,
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.
In every part of our day, we look to see the beauty,
we savor every good thing with eyes of wonder.
The idea is to live ordinary life artfully, appreciatively.

The thesaurus says that
to beautify is to sanctify, hallow, consecrate and bless. 
Is that how we see our day or our homes?
Something to sanctify and bless?
To consecrate?
Or is it something to endure, or to conquer, or to survive?

All of us create a culture of some kind.
As home maker, my choice and joy is to adorn my home with gifts of the soul,
purposefully creating rich experiences,
a sacrificial, validating, forgiving atmosphere of loving kindness,
 a treasure trove of all that is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and excellent.
(Phil. 4:8)
I will not allow the destructiveness of selfishness, strife, slothfulness, or apathy
 to have a place in my home.
  I do not want there to be any room for those things,
 because it is instead filled with an inspired lifestyle
which billows sweetness mingled with grace.
This is living fully, beautifully, abundantly. 

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. 
I have spoken often of these ways many times:
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.
 There won't be any gentle moments if you do not purposely fashion them.
We must create the beauty.

Order, may contain cleanliness, but I think it is much more.
  Order is the road map.
What will we do when we get up to make life more meaningful?
What will it look like?
Really it is the detailed plan of how we are going to accomplish our goal.
Orderliness, is the actual habit of having a time and place for everything.
Orderliness is a wonderful, blessed thing.
For example, Ecclesiastes says there is "a time and place for everything under the sun."
  I love that.
  It has helped me manage my home more effectively and efficiently.
When is the time for sweeping the floor?  After breakfast everyday.
How about dusting and cobwebs?  That would be on Friday, our current day for weekly cleaning.
When does Jim get his laundry done?  Ah, yes, this is my favorite....
Jim is on Tuesday.
Joe is Monday, Jim is Tuesday, Ben is Wednesday, Bethany- Thursday, Gabe is on Friday,
This is soooooo freeing.  It is really just the best!
This means that instead of 12 loads of laundry that fill the laundry area and always need to be done,
 I only have Joe's two loads in the laundry room to get done on Monday,
 so I will also add  a load of towels.
 Three loads a day, and I am done.
These three finished loads go back to the rooms they came from,
 Then, on Tuesday, there will be Jim's laundry, and I will add a load of my own.
 Three loads, done.
  A time and place for everything. 
 All our laundry gets done in an orderly fashion every week without it being a burden,
 or an overwhelming force to be wearily reckoned with.
 Order is lovely.

It is also lovely with school.
 Math, English, Science, History every day?  Nope, not in our home school.
We will make time for those things through out the year,
More importantly, a daily study of Proverbs-to instill wisdom.
 And a full hour to read good quality living books.
And a time and a season to work outdoors with the garden, or providing meat and wood.
 There is also time to learn ancient church History and all about the Puritans,
because it is important to our faith,
 much more so than Greek Mythology...which, by the way, we literally threw out the window.
Apologetics as a subject for speech?  Yes.
Missionary biographies instead of English lit?  Yes.
This has all become part of our beautiful schooling.
Home Educating becomes beautiful when the biblical culture 
of nurturing, order and beauty,
 rock the path of everyday life. 
Each day then has a smooth, well thought out surface to travel.

"There is nothing insignificant in the life that we live within our doors. 
 There is nothing that is without influence in the building up of character."
 -J.R. Miller

Seven year old Olivia proclaims that she wants to be just like Betsy Ross when she grows up.
Her new 18" doll is named Elizabeth, after the virgin Mary's cousin.
She is dressed as a princess, like usual,
and today she has set up a beautiful tea table because her friends are coming over.
This wasn't accidental.  It is all consequences of our home life...
overflowing into the makings of the next generation.

Friday, March 16, 2018

When homeschooling went from frustrating to beautiful: part 1

The morning was flowing along wonderfully. 
 Our hushed early risers soaked up the fire and coffee
 as the pitter patter of feet one by one emerged from sleepy slumber
 to join us in our morning rituals.
 Snuggling up with the littles under piles of blankets, books and pillows,
we visited,
 read aloud,
 talked about our plans for the day,
enjoying yet another cup of coffee,
happily immersing ourselves in a cozy, lazy hour before the day gets going.
I cherish this hour.
  Such a respite from the hectic pace that all too often befalls us!
Even though I am not a morning person, getting up before the day begins is well worth it,
and it is critical to a non chaotic,  non stressful morning.
Eventually breakfast was pronounced ready.
Our established routine begins the day encircling the table together with these 7 gems,
 giving thanks and enjoying a home cooked breakfast...
today a steaming stack of Joe's pancakes fragrant with real maple syrup and applesauce.
Often we sing a hymn, which helps us focus on higher thoughts rather than on ourselves,
then end with devotions from Proverbs-the book of wisdom-
 so applicable for youth.
The order of the morning proceeded to getting dressed,
children making their beds and a quick tidy of  their room,
bringing down their laundry (if it is their day)
daily chores, and finally reporting ready for morning time.

Poetry, mingled with Americana
kindles inspiration to finish our morning time with Great Explorers. 
 Sufficient coffee having been consumed,
 we are ready for Math, where each student works on their figures and I,
still in my rocking chair,
 am ready to lend a hand when they get stuck.
 After an hour of math, everyone scatters to a cozy nook for a pleasant hour of reading,
 then on to Bible memorization, each child pacing about learning their verses..
some with English accents, some rhythmically swinging while quoting their text.
 During this time I start a load of laundry and prepare a simple lunch.
This is how it works everyday.
 Smoothly, orderly, with much enjoyment and sweetness.
One of our older children says that they wish I had schooled like this when they were young.
 I do too, believe me!
It is beautiful.

But is was not always so.
 Our first 10 years of homeschooling were grueling, yelling, frustrated, overwhelming years
 that I determinedly trudged through.
Somewhere, there was a turn of a corner.

 I have been pondering just how it happened.
 What was it that rocked our world so much
as to turn a driven woman into a nurturing mama?, I asked myself.

 And there, in the question, was the answer.


I have been talking about it all along...if one reads back through the years.
 But I have not gathered all my thoughts in one place-
 until now.

Webster's defines nurturing as
 "providing loving care and attention to, 
the act of educating, developing, nourishing, feeding.
That which promotes growth."
The key here, I think, is what kind of care.
LOVING care.
Loving care says with a smile, "good morning, dear."
Loving care asks "what can I do for you?"
Loving care goes out of the way to feed....
heart, soul, and mind, and stomach.
It does not leave children to fend for themselves in any way.
How can I say that with conviction?
  Because we are to be imitators of God,
 and He never, never leaves us to fend for ourselves.

With loving care he tends to all that we need, and goes above and beyond.
He did not just provide food.
 He provided amazing, diverse, pleasant, satisfying food, and that in abundance.
(likewise we for our children)
He does not drag us along.  He tenderly leads us.
(by His strength, shall we tenderly lead and guide our children)
He did not give us a dry barren place to live.
He created a planet full of incredible beauty, full of unimaginable discoveries and delights.
(Our homes should reflect this)
He does not just observe from above, He is fully present, actively involved with us all the time.
(this is the trademark of a nurturing mama)

I think our corner appeared
 after a reviving and refreshing home school conference,
 we were convinced that our home life should take a dramatic reconstruction.
Our eyes were opened to the sacredness and responsibility 
we carry as parents.
 It is a great thing to take these tender lives, rich with so many possibilities,
and be responsible before God for their shaping and training and building of character.
We are the builders of the home.
  Our home will be what we make it. 
 Its tone,
 its atmosphere,
its spirit,
 its influence will be derived from us, the parents.
Having been thus humbled, and well, scared to death,
we repented before our children and asked them to forgive us,
and shared with them that we wanted our home to change,
 to reflect God and his character instead of the world's sad model.
Eagerly they agreed.
 There were many hugs and tears...and then, much prayer for how to begin.
J.R. Miller's old, old book, "Homemaking"  popped off the shelf at us
 and quickly became  indispensable...still is.
(please, please, please read it!)

And so,
Intentionally, I created a plan to begin our day with nurturing,
(I light a candle, we snuggle together, often with tender music)
 to continue with nurturing,
(we eat breakfast and have devotions, read aloud)
and end with nurturing.
(often reading aloud, prayers and tucking in)
  Know what's in the middle?  Nurturing.
(daily teatime, schoolwork together with no yelling, a meaningful dinner, 
all woven together with words of encouragement and affirmation)

Sprinkling loving acts of care and kindness
 that enrich and ennoble our lives throughout our day
 was the first step in transforming our home school into something beautiful,
 something we would all look forward to,
something just plain wonderful.

Kind words,
 smiles all around,
 candles, music, cuddles and hugs,
 patient teaching and instruction,
 working together,
 praying together,
singing together,
reading aloud, tea time, one on one time,
a well set table,
 preparing a good meal,
taking walks together,
taking time to tuck children in at night,
 anything that makes a person feel special-
 these habits are nurturing and uplifting.

Later, I read Sally Clarkson's book, The Life Giving Home.
Very inspiring.  I highly recommend it.
Even just contemplating the title is a place to begin.
What would a "life giving home" look like?
I believe it is a home where we honor one another with our words, our time, our talents.
   A place where we focus on giving and trust that Lord will fill us back up again.

And, I believe nurturing, or "life-giving" is just what women were made for.
 We are naturals.
 Sure, it will take a bit of practice to really get your nurturing rolling.
But, backed by prayer and a promise that God will see you through,
 you can begin.
You see, the nurturing is for you, too.  It will lift you up as well.
Then, your home school, and home life may just turn a corner.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sunday Dinner

Old and young,
 men, women, and children turn up in full force for 
the timeless tradition of family supper.
  Delicious aromas wafting up from the oven reach out beyond the front door
to greet each person as they approach our cabin.
 Roasting meat, fire crackling, a merry pile of children heaped on a couch,
 these familiar sights and sounds fill the senses. 

  Sunday dinner. 

 Just naming it brings to mind years of  home cooked,
 multi-generational dinners at my grandma's house. 
Grandma was the best cook.  
Her baked beans, biscuits and gravy, and pickles are still legendary.
  Generations ago, 
in North Carolina's way back hollers,
 a relative of mine served her family pickled something or the other,
 because that was one of their staples of winter food. 
 My grandma passed down this quirky tradition.
That tiny woman,
 of considerable strength, wisdom and energy, always had pickled beets, 
picalily, or dill pickles gracing her table. 
Now, we honor her memory and our family history
with our own home-canned pickled goodness each and every Sunday dinner.
It is part of the story of

 A generous sprinkling of the dishes I was raised with:
 Meat, potatoes, gravy, home made rolls or cornbread,
 and ofcourse, pie ending it all...
that's the hallmark our family dinners are made of.
 Traditional family food is more than delectable,
 it is heritage come down.

History is part of the feast.

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 Grandma's cooking was wonderful, 
but what is in my heart
is the gathering of family at table,
 for that is what made our family dinners special.
In this day of busy, over committed lifestyles,
we intentionally slow down long enough to come together.

And so, we seek to honor our parents by inviting them to Sunday Dinner,
 along with all our children, and usually a few friends, 
for a bountiful table set to holiday standards.
 My mom taught me that
  a thoughtfully set dinner table is a gift to those seated around it.
 and also that
 presentation can make anything you serve more gracious.

Setting a fine table is an effort.  
This is the work of preparation.
 This work of preparation brings forth the expectation of something extra special.
The children clue in on this, and excitement for the day swells.

The family dinner is a place of belonging...
...a place where we can commune together,
 experiencing the beauty and goodness of all that God has given us for our joy and pleasure.
This table invites us to fill the hunger and thirst our souls inherently have for community.

The intention is to treat those we love as what they are to us... wanted, valued, and appreciated.
  The result is a reawakened vision of family life as it used to be back in the day.

The extra work and effort unequivocally worth it.

Hungry guests and eager children know to listen for the sweet summons of the dinner bell.
Anticipation of the succulent dinner at hand, a hurrah goes up as we gather.  
Love that word. 
To be gathered around the table is blessing enough.
But there's more.
We lift up our voices, old and young, in song. 
Here is beauty.
Then, after a prayer, each person around the table expresses one thing they are thankful for.
This is so important. 
 When we do this, we are intentionally turning our hearts in gratitude 
to the One who has given us so very much, 
which, turns our hearts away from ourselves 
and offers a chance to revive selfish attitudes, thus rendering deeper enjoyment. 

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits:"
- Psalm 103:1-2 KJV

Dinner is served.

As plates are removed to the kitchen,
the children line up oldest to youngest near their dad,
 eagerly awaiting their father's blessing bestowed on each head.
  O, my heart!
In my mind, there is just about nothing as beautiful 
as a father giving his children a sweet blessing
 to carry them through the days ahead, 
reminding them of their value, their identity, their destiny.

When heads and hearts have received their blessing, 
a sweet, mouthwatering conclusion is served round.
The aroma of coffee brewing convinces all to sit and sip awhile yet longer.
Here are memories being imprinted on young minds.
Conversations eventually move to the living room in front of the fire.
The boys quiz their papa about welding, fabrication, forging, and cars.
The girls watch as the grandmas put the kitchen to rights with cheerful voices,
as if dishes for 18 are nothing at all to wash by hand.
The smaller children love to use Grampy's attention as a show and tell time. 
The cabin is abuzz with small conversations here and there,
 while second cups of coffee are filled and leftovers parceled out to each household.

Finally, the cabin empties as twilight settles in.
My heart is full.
  I am undoubtedly exhausted.
 And yet, I will joyfully look forward to next time, because
This is just too precious to pass up.

Living Counter Cultural: Femininity

Popular culture has a decidedly feminist bent.  Recent movies, tv shows and prominent women  are displaying heroins as   to...