Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sticky Pillowcases

What a little person will do for candy is quite amazing. I remember those cold, dark nights on many October 31st evenings. The discomfort of that bulky costume, the cold, wet nylon stretched over my face for that ghostly effect and knowing that I was missing that Charlie Brown special made the trek more wearisome. In and and and out...of that warm cozy car in pursuit of the sugary Mother Lode. Tired and frozen toed, I returned home to set up shop on the kitchen chairs and start the wheeling and dealing trades with my sisters. Our brown bag lunches were something pretty special the next day. It was my birthday the next day too, so that was my calm after the storm. The whole experience was just a price I chose to pay for the treats. Not really very exciting...nothing at all like Christmas.

As an adult, I tend to enjoy Halloween much more. I love seeing the local kids growing every year, all the mini visits with my neighbors, sitting in my warm van with a hot mug in hand as the kids gather their treasure and just the feeling of community I get as I watch a whole street bustle with fun and sharing. It's short and sweet (pardon the pun). We always take the opportunity to share the gospel with everyone we give or receive treats from in the form of Adventures in Odyssey CD's or tracts in their treat bag as well. What a great night to double up on door to door ministry!

I realize the pagan roots of Halloween as well as other holidays we celebrate, and the controversy revolving around the issue. Obviously, I want nothing to do with the demonic theme that surrounds this night. My kids never dress up in anything that is not "noble, pure, lovely or admirable" in keeping with Philippians 4:8 and we keep the night simple...devoid of any recognition of it's past heresies. I beleive in redemption. I believe in taking something awful, digusting and wrong and turning it into something of value. Only Jesus can do this...he did it with me so I know He can do with with anyone or anything. Costumes, candy and darkness are not wrong, they all come from God, it's how you use them that matters. I do not look to the roots of things to decide if they should be part of my life. If that were the case, we'd all have to change our last names because there will always be some skeleton in the closet of every family tree.

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13-14

Until I am convicted otherwise, there will be a stash of junk food hidden somewhere in my house that I will find next October, melted, sticky and unused. Another pillowcase ruined.

Redeem the night!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Embrace the Short People

I have to confess something. I must confess that I had an absolutely amazing time last night doing childrens' ministry. Spending a Friday night, after a long work week, with 40 some, hyper little ragamuffins might not sound thrilling...but it often is. I am a red shirted AWANA Sparky leader...and happy to be. Although the mind leans toward a hot cup of peppermint tea and a movie, my body moves into that little church classroom with several red vested 6 year olds bursting with stories of their eventful week.

On the verge of a headache and possibly chills, I just let myself relax on the book work for a moment and fell into these little tales of mischief and adventure. I have never laughed so much at AWANA as I did last night. I was bursting with endearment and refrained from cheek pinching for 30 minutes straight. I had 3 sources of cuteness to behold in my little group. One wild and crazy boy with a huge vocabulary and a heart of gold, was in the mood for confession...he held a sobering face as he dictated to me some imaginative situations that he felt needed forgiveness. Trying not to laugh, I assured him that God forgives anything, even if it involves slaying someone's dragon with a sharp knife.

Another boy used the word "fiend" continually until I took the time to ask him what it meant. After proudly explaining it to me, I carried the game on using the descriptive noun as often as I or out of context...just to make sure he was still with me. His face glowed every time I did. The sole little girl in my group must have been paying close attention to my lesson. I taught about Paul writing a letter to the Philippians while he was suffering in jail. He told them to rejoice always, be gentle to others and not to worry. Well, she grabbed hold of the gentleness thing and ran with it. Every time she used her little whiny voice to target one of those annoying boys, she quickly changed her tone to one more like Mother Theresa, while looking straight at me for approval. My head pats and smiles sent her through the roof. We are friends for life...that's FRIENDS not's kind of stuck in my mind right now.

It was a wonderful, relaxing and soulful two hours. Spend some time looking deep into the life filled, bright eyes of a young child and listen carefully to their might just surprise you how fun they are. Get involved in their games and join in their laughter. Appreciate their hugs and respect their God given personality. Get short for awhile, even if it hurts your knees. Let go of big people ideas and accept their eager invitation to be carefree and imaginative. It's their gift to us and I am grateful for having it every Friday night.

After the evening's activities come to an abrupt close, all of the colorful leader shirts appear with bags, books and jackets hanging from every limb. We plop onto the back pews for a little regrouping, then I head home for that peppermint tea, movie and cuddles with my very own special little ragamuffins. Sometimes...often...I wish that they would never grow up. I love that innocent and forgiving age. Often disregarded...often ignored because of the bustle of life...but never for long. Thankfully, I am reminded of the blessing they bring and get look at life on their level and enjoy the view from there. Dragons, princesses, sparkly hair bands and baby teeth smiles are all around. A nice change form laundry, dishes, schedules and big people problems.

No wonder kids keep you young, if you look past the work and into their ever loving hearts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Bit Boot Crazy

When I was a little girl, I had major feelings. That hormonal brain bath that happens in per-adolescence really affected my thoughts and my affections. The daydreaming started, the deep thoughts were born and Movie stars became real to me. As a little girl with "sensible" sisters, I thought I was maybe a bit crazy...fortunately I had a pseudo-sister (Allie) who was just as crazy as me, so I realized I wasn't all alone in this dreamy world. Her laughter, harmless antics and loyalty made me feel like I could escape the crazys for awhile and just be a kid. A breath of fresh, carefree air.

There were places I would go that made me feel comfortable and sane. Places that were quiet, pretty and alone. The woods behind our house went on forever. Big rocks, brooks, ferns and open field spots to catch the sunbeams were readily available and safe. Something about the scent of those places and the sound of peace cannot be replicated in a Yankee candle or on a nature CD. It was total immersion. Thick and forever. I could have stayed in that place all day long, but my mother's cooking was too good and I got hungry. But it was faithfully there for me, just a few steps away behind my house. On the other side of our home was the river. With open, clean air, the soothing beat of the waves and full access to the warming sun. I had another oasis to rest my mind and be alone with God.

People talk about the advantage of having quiet times and places to go to, but the older you get the more you realize just how vital they are. See, God knew that I would need a lot of that "quiet time" escaping, so He surrounded me with opportunity to get myself together. God has always planted me in the country. I think I would suffocate and die very quickly in the city. I love to visit the city, with it's bright lights, high energy and bustle of activity, but my poor overloaded brain needs to be able to hit the eject button upon my will for quick escape, should I feel the need. After a stimulating trip to town, I pull into my dirt driveway, step out of my car and face the open field framed by sky and forest. I stand in silence taking in the "welcome home" sung by crickets and decorated by starry hosts. A fish thrown back into the life-giving water.

I rarely listen to Shania Twain, we have no horses and I don't own a pair of cowboy boots, but I think country is my middle name. I'm deeply in love with it's character and beautiful face. Something about it's music just makes my heart dance and let out a big sigh. Horses are too much work right now, although that would be my vehicle of choice. And about the boots...I love cowboy look at...but I've never tried a pair on. I notice them on anyone, with admiration. I figure they are not comfy enough to wear for the look, just for the purpose. Maybe someday I'll step into a pair and be transformed. My little girl has a red pair and dons them regularly with skirts, shorts and pj's. She looks fabulous, so I'll live vicariously through her on this one. If there was a Birkenstock version of cowboy boots, I might reconsider. Maybe it's the relaxed atmosphere and the "back to nature" aroma of anything country, but whatever it is, it's intoxicating.

That little girl got bigger and so did her crazy feelings and daydreams. By the grace of God, her country boundaries expanded too, giving her more therapy opportunities and places to press the "reset" button. Who needs a leather couch and a shrink? I've got grassy fields to lay in and a vast sky to carry my prayers.

Fun boots.

Escaping boots.

O my...relaxing boots.

Wedding boots.

Chocolate boots.

Painted boots.


...and for Stacey Lynn...Han Solo boots :)

Ok, so I went a little too far here...but there are so many nice boot pictures online!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Empty Calories

When I lay my head down on my buckwheat pillow every night, I ponder the day...briefly...because I fall asleep very fast. Did I do things that meant something? Did I redeem the time, or just use it for my own pleasure? I'm a big fan of pleasure, but I also have a strong aversion to empty calories. Those things that I do that feel good, but lack sustenance...hold nothing of eternal value. Sleep is much sweeter when I know that I have been used of God for some of His purposes, whether great or small, as long as He has had His way with me.

It doesn't take long to notice people all around me engaging in seemingly shallow activities. I realize that I can't always see what is going on behind the scenes in their lives, but the glimpses can often be very telling. People looking happy and fulfilled, yet having no lasting reward. I just WONDER. I don't really KNOW. I hope for them, pray for them and spur myself on to greater fulfillment. The older I get, the more disappointing physical or worldly pleasures have become. Ice cream just doesn't taste as good as it used to. Christmas isn't as magical as it used to be. Dates with my husband aren't as relaxing as I used to find them. Kind of depressing, but a truth that can lead me to greater satisfaction.

Once this sad epiphany settled in, I set my mind to finding the meat and potatoes of life. I know it's Jesus, but what form of Him? What practical useage of my relationship with Him? The words don't reveal the "how to" of Him being the answer to finding joy. Jesus needs to be real and vibrant in our lives in order to really change and satisfy us. Trying to take the spiritual and turn it into the physical is a process. It's a learning, timely revelation orchestrated by Jesus himself. Letting go of the obvious pleasures of life to engage in the hidden treasures at His right hand, takes a little convincing. It's like taking candy from a baby and trying to interest him in a broccoli tree. Eventually though, you get tired of all the failed attempts at fulfillment and just give in. Let go of the lie and hand over your plate to Him. Eating from the hand of God can be surprisingly tasty. Retreating from life's rat race and indulging in His character is like a great big glass of fresh well water for a thirsty soul.

His simplicity...freeing for my mind.
His faithfulness...soothing for my worried insides.
His creativity...inspirational for my desires.
His discipline...comforting for my imperfections.
His humor...just makes me see that He is real.
His patience...relieves my urgency.
His grace...always gives me something to look forward to.

I could go on and on, but these kinds of things are deep, healthy, lasting and delicious. I really like this menu much better than the one I used to sample. I will be a regular at His table and there is much more room for anyone to join us. Pull up a chair today and dig in.

Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to ENJOY him forever
(boldness added)

-The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm trying VERY hard to keep this schooling boat afloat. Teaching 4 kids, at different age levels, approximately 10 subjects of various depth, housework, healthy cooking, ministries, exercise and hobbies...well let's just say, I sometimes forget to do some of those things. I'm focusing my attention on the priorities, and doing those FIRST in the daily schedule. The hobbies come at the end of the day, while Bible, reading, math and writing get first pickings in the morning. By the afternoon, I'm sometimes too brain dead to tackle the secondary subjects, like science and history. But I LOVE those two...more than teaching reading or that motivates my tired soul to "get r' done". Today, I mustered up the gusto to do science with the younger kids.

Apologia science is excellent for Jr and High schoolers:

I have made more great changes in our routine and curriculum this year. The most important being the focus on improving the reading of my two youngest kids. I bought a great little book called "Reading Rescue 1-2-3" by Peggy M.Wilber. It has been a big help in accelerating the fluency and confidence of my struggling readers.

Another 2 in 1 find is Sandy Queen's "Pictures in Cursive", which combines handwriting practice with picture study...LOVE this:

I still feel VERY strongly that the geography game on Shepherd Software is the answer to all of life's questions. Well maybe not ALL, but certainly for those "Where in the world?" questions. I still play it, the kids still like it and it is SO essential in order to follow world news...if you care about that:

Finding a way to add time to my day or to walk through it with a completely carefree and gentle spirit has not happened yet. I am still in pursuit of one or both of these dreams. In the meantime, I continue to reach forward with music in my ears, God's Word in my heart and a pretty things before my eyes. I AM that "mature student" in the Myers' Homeschool...always learning and loving it :)