Friday, December 4, 2009
A better way to seek God's favor is to live by the practical advice found in His word. That includes staying out of debt, and giving of our tithes on a regular, consistent basis to faithful ministers of the gospel.
Remember this: God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. We cannot negate a lifestyle of sloth or irresponsibility by dropping money into an offering or donating to a cause. God usually allows the natural consequences of our actions to play themselves out in our lives, even if we have repented and received forgiveness. If we look to the Bible for guidance in our everyday lives and live frugally, we will be blessed in the long run.
The Old Testament principle of tithes and offerings is confirmed by the New Testament. The tithe is a tenth. Everyone can afford a tenth. It's all God's in the first place; He deserves at least a tenth. When it is the first tenth we spend, we ensure avoiding the temptation to spend it elsewhere. That is the concept of first fruits.
Unfortunately, American Christians have not taken this seriously. The average giving among them is only 2.5% to 3%--way below the biblical standard. As a result, American churches are largely impoverished, even while appearing wealthy. Think about it, and crunch the numbers. If ten families gave faithfully 10% of their income, they could theoretically support one full-time pastor at the median income of that congregation. As it is, most churches must have four times as many giving households to compensate for the lack. That means that each full-time pastor must personally shepherd 35 to 40 families. No pastor can do a good job of shepherding that many.
I believe this has contributed to the trend of churches adopting a mega-church, programmatic model, which leaves congregants improperly discipled and immature. Their church buildings and programs may look slick and trendy, but the relational needs of the members remain woefully lacking.
I'll admit I didn't really think about all this until I became a pastor's wife. I confess my self-interest on this subject. I recognize that economic hard times have hit, and I don't fault church members for that at all.
Simply take this as a loving suggestion. If you entrust God with your material resources, He will bless you--but only if you are walking in the light of His word, in consistent integrity. I feel the Spirit's conviction even as I write these words. I know I am not consistent in all things either. Lord, forgive me--and keep me humble.
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"
Friday, September 25, 2009
I got this email from a mom friend asking for advice regarding her 9yo son. Here is her question and my response.
S. is struggling w/ his handwriting. It's ATROCIOUS! His printing is bad and, of course, his cursive is even worse. I feel like we spend a lot of time (too much time) on handwriting "practice." I read an article yesterday that said a lot of government schools are doing away w/ cursive because most students don't even use it beyond elementary school. I don't write in cursive (other than my signature) and am wondering if scrapping cursive (this would be our 2nd year of it) and focusing on nice legible printing would be a better use of our time, along w/ teaching him to type, which seems like something he will definitely have to use in the future.
Sounds like you’re on to a good plan. The one problem with not teaching cursive is that the next generation won’t be able to read cursive from prior generations. I have taught my children cursive because I use cursive in my journals and someday I want them to be able to read them. If it is not your habit to use cursive then the need is minimized, but there may be others in their lives who still use it.
If his printing is bad, then yes, first things first—teach him to print well. He will always need to be able to handle a pen or pencil to some degree and the dexterity is important for many things. I read recently that a company was having a hard time finding people capable of peeling potatoes anymore. That is sad!
My method to hit two birds with one stone is to have them copy Bible verses for daily penmanship and memory work. That helps them hide the word of God at the same time.
My boys were especially reticent to use cursive. Caleb complains every time I require him to use cursive. But I’m the boss :). It may be a gender thing; but in the end it pays off to outlast them and plug away.
Typing is a necessary skill to have too, and indeed may be more important than cursive writing in this day and age. I use a version of Typing Instructor (CD-ROM) that has the more obnoxious musical tracks removed. I think I got it from Timberdoodle years ago. Don’t know if they still sell it. Check also with Rainbow Resource. The kids like the games on it and it makes it easy on you.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
"Wear just enough makeup that people will say, 'Oh, what a pretty girl!' Don't wear so much that they say, 'Oh, look at that makeup.' Makeup is intended to enhance your natural beauty, not cover it up. When you are old and wrinkled, you can use it to cover up the wrinkles. When you're young, you don't need it so much. A young girl is beautiful already!"
Wasn't that good advice? God has given young ladies a natural beauty that simply needs to show, with subtle touches here and there. Yes, the acne needs covering sometimes. But why cover up God's handiwork?
Usually when I see a young lady use a heavy hand with her makeup, I jump to the conclusion that she is insecure about her appearance and feels it necessary to improve upon it. Perhaps that is an unfair judgement; but "man looks on the outward appearance", and I am human.
Too much adornment and makeup has the appearance of evil. It sends the message that the young lady is advertising for male attention, and competing with other females for that attention.
I challenge you, young lady, to examine yourself with this question:
What is my motive? Is it
-to draw undue attention to myself?
-to compete with others?
-to attract male attention?
-to bolster my self-esteem?
OR is it
-to glorify God?
-to honor the King?
-to enhance my natural God-given gift of beauty?
I encourage you to ask an older woman who you consider to be godly, "What do you think about my appearance? Have I gone overboard?" We women need to help each other in this area. My own children have often let me know when I wore something too low-cut or short, and I appreciate their input. Likewise, my husband and I have tried diligently to coach and correct our daughters--and sons--in this regard.
We often think of modesty as referring only to the amount of flesh that is showing. A "modesty piece", according to Webster, was "A narrow lace worn by females over the bosom [read: cleavage]." But I hope I have shown that modesty is more than skin-deep; it involves the heart and character of the whole person.
Modesty means humility and discretion in appearance, in speech, and in spirit. Our tone of voice even displays a spirit we may be unconscious of. Women can have a high-pitched nasal whine that is so unpleasant, it's no wonder Solomon says a contentious woman can sound like "a constant dripping". We need to modulate our voices to be pleasant, not nagging or whiny. And we need to choose our words carefully, so as not to be frivolous or flirtatious.
The I Peter passage I previously quoted said, "...[do] not be frightened by any fear". This is directed at all women in regard to one's dress and submissive spirit. So, if you are not yet married, do not be frightened by the fear of never finding a good man to marry, or not attracting enough attention. Leave that in God's hands, and let him make you beautiful in that young man's eyes--that one man which God has intended for you. You need not play the field--God already has a wonderful future for you, if you obey His Word.
The spirit of modesty shows itself in how much we are willing to share the limelight with others and put their needs before our own. A woman's greatest asset is not her physical beauty but her heart condition. When her heart is humble, and the joy of the Lord is there, it naturally spills out unconsciously in her countenance. This is the type of beauty we should strive for.
If you've read this part first, read parts I and II below for a biblical view of modesty.
On the one hand, we have freedom to dress as befitting daughters of the King. Beauty is a biblical value. I do not believe God calls me to be ugly for Jesus, or reserve my beauty only for my husband's eyes, as I have heard some plain-dressing advocates claim.
On the other hand, we are not to go overboard in bringing undue attention to ourselves. This is the essense of humility. "Let your adornment be...the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a quiet and gentle spirit". Our clothing choices should reflect this heart attitude. I Timothy 2:9-10 says,
9Likewise, I want (A)women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
10but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. NASB (italicized words added by translators)
Here Timothy is in agreement with Peter, that a woman's clothing reflects the inner heart attitude of modesty, discretion, and godliness.
I love Noah Webster's original 1828 dictionary. Here is his definition of modesty:
"MOD'ESTY, n. [L. modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.
2. Modesty, as an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence. Thus we say, the petitioner urged his claims with modesty; the speaker addressed the audience with modesty.
3. Moderation; decency.
4. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor." (emphasis mine) (taken from http://1828.mshaffer.com/, which has a word search of the 1828 Webster's)
I can hardly hope to treat the topic any better than Webster has already done here ! I feel my spirit elevated and nourished by his words. Don't you?
In Part III, I will take us women further into how we can apply this to our own lives.
Modesty = Humility
1 Peter 5:5-6 says, "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves therefore, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you." (emphasis mine). The phrase "clothe yourselves with humility" jumped out at me as I read this recently. I believe this verse can be taken literally as well as figuratively.
Some Christians may say, "Well, God cares more about our heart than He does about what we wear." This may be one way of interpreting the scripture, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (I Sam 16:8). However, we must be careful to interpret Scripture with Scripture if we are to have a balanced view on any topic, including modesty. And there are several scriptures that indicate God does care about our clothing, for the way we dress and adorn ourselves speaks volumes about the condition of our hearts. And since man does look on the outward appearance, we should take heed all the more not to be a stumbling block to others with our garb and adornment. This is particularly true for women and young ladies. We should dress with regard to treating each man and boy as a "younger brother" who is vulnerable to stumbling.
Here is the balanced view from Scripture. On the one hand, we have freedom to adorn ourselves as befitting daughters of the King. Psalm 45 describes a wedding celebration (probably Solomon's).Verse 8 speaks of garments fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia, of the King desiring the bride's beauty.
Verse 13-15 says,
"The King's daughter is all glorious within;
Her clothing is interwoven with gold.
She will be led to the King in embroidered work,
The virgins, her companions who follow her,
Will be brought to Thee.
They will be led forth with gladness and rejoicing,
They will enter into the King's palace."
Notice the sumptuousness of the occasion: the embroidered clothing interwoven with gold, the perfume, etc. This prefigures the return of Christ the Bridegroom, where we who are clothed in robes of white will meet Him at the final wedding feast. How glorious it will be!
In the meantime, there is much to celebrate, and much joy alotted us in dressing to honor special occasions in our lives.
We should also dress appropriately for our station as daughters of the King of Kings. We can find other passages describing the adornment of godly young ladies such as Rebekah and Esther. There is no hint of condemnation for their adornment.
In counterpoint to that, we have I Peter 3 to wrestle with. My NASB reads thus:
"1(A)In the same way, you wives, (B)be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be (C)won without a word by the behavior of their wives,
2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
3(D)Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;
4but let it be (E)the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
5For in this way in former times the holy women also, (F)who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;
6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, (G)calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right (H)without being frightened by any fear." (Italicized words were added by the translators.)
Because the word merely is not present in other translations, I assume some Christians have read verse three to mean it prohibits the wearing of gold, braiding of hair, etc.--in other words, plain dressing is required. This is the tradition of such groups as the Amish, Mennonites, etc. While I have the utmost respect for these groups for their conscientious attempt to obey scripture with their plain, simple living, I believe they have elevated this passage over other passages, such as the psalm passage above. (As a side note, notice they do NOT take "the wearing of dresses" as a prohibition :).)
There is beautiful balance to be found in scripture. It does not contradict itself; it only limits and defines the meaning by its various passages on any given topic. It is a truly remarkable document, sufficient for every good work. It is, after all, God's word!
So how do we apply this to our every day choices regarding dress, apparel, and adornment? See Part II.
BELOVED. What a beautiful word! "I am my beloved's, and He is mine,
His banner over me is love."
I love the thought of being beloved. Beloved by God, beloved by my husband. To be the undeserving recipient of such desire, such care, such attention--that is the source of my self-worth and confidence.
When I am grounded in this belovedness, then I have the strength and resources to let that love flow onto others.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
This year, things are different already. We are not farming out our music instruction. With the Classical Conversations Curriculum Guide (only $25 if you buy an old edition from their website) and a tin whistle (also purchased from their website) I am teaching Caleb to play this simple wind instrument, made for the key of D, on a variety of songs, while Alexa plays along on her flute (she is already quite accomplished from past lessons and band involvement). We spend no more than 15 minutes a day on it, and will probably only need about 6 weeks before he masters the instrument. Then we will move on to other things, like reading aloud The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers by David Cavanaugh. I highly recommend this book. Even with my music degrees--one from a "Christian" university--I am almost completely ignorant of the degree to which the classical composers professed faith in Christ. My Christian college followed the same secularized curricula that has been dished out for a century by nonChristian colleges, so this book has been an eye-opener and a blessing. There is also a sequel, I believe, which I have not yet read.
I have also borrowed The Gift of Music from a friend and recommend it too. So just add to these some classical CDs, play them, name the tunes, and start reading to your kids. Don't be intimidated; you can do it without a music degree!
Monday, August 24, 2009
This week my husband and three children-still-at-home are spending a couple of nights at Lake of the Woods, Oregon, camping with other families and friends. I am looking forward to these days of solitude, to do some cramming--er, reading for our homeschool year to start in a week. I am excited about another year to spend learning exciting things with my two youngest children, Alexa and Caleb. Sigh. Only two left. Sounds like a breeze. But I've chosen an ambitious curricular schedule for them, much of it new to me as well as to them, so it will be a challenge. I am utilizing much of the program developed for Classical Conversations by Leigh Bortin. We will study Latin (which I have done before with Naomi) and Biology by Apologia, and good old Saxon for math. We will do a lot of memorization of facts--history timeline by Veritas, grammar facts, Bible verses, science, geography, etc.--Oh, I can hardly wait.
But I am reminded that my enthusiasm will wane as the winter months drag on, and we will probably find ourselves way behind in some things. That's okay. I can make plans, but the Lord will direct my steps. He will give me just enough time to get done just what He wants me to get done. I can rest in that assurance.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I can think of four factors in helping me feel better than I have in years while on Kauai Island. One, many people were praying for me, specifically for my health. Two, my husband was very attentive to my constant demands ("You need all SEVEN pillows to carry on the plane?") and he uncomplainingly carried or dragged every piece of luggage by hand, on wheels, strapped together or slung on his back and front. Three, the airlines were very willing to provide wheelchair assistance at every point in the itinerary. Four, and probably most importantly, I had all the time in the world to swim every day--usually twice a day--in the hotel pool. Ahhh!
I still dealt with pain, and was reminded of its threatening presence when we encountered one short stretch of washboard-type road which jostled my stomach and abdominal muscles badly. But I recovered quickly, and had no other stomach problems. The day we were scheduled to depart from G.P., I had a very crampy stomach, up until THE MINUTE we left. I mean, the MINUTE we were headed for the airport my stomach loosened back up. (I did take meds for that purpose and they worked well that time; they don't always, and have the side effect of dry/sore throat which is bothersome.)
Actually, there are two more reasons I may have done so well. Fifth, I had help from some of my lady-buddies from church with the packing and errands. (Mahalo, Leanne and Jen.) And sixth, the islands have the highest oxygen levels in the world, so they say; I'll have to research that to see if it's true. The air there really is wonderful. It's very humid and has a sweet smell to it.
We stayed in a hotel on the east shore (Kauai Sands) and spent most of our time exploring the north and east shores, with the final day spent on the south shore, where we would like to spend more time if we ever return.
We rented a mid-size Malibu for the price of an economy car from Alamo because by the time we had stood in line for over an hour they had run out of economy cars. A nice trade-off :). (Thank you Kelly for helping us find a discounting agent.)
2. Kilauea Point Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge
It poured monsoon-like as we walked up the trail to the lighthouse. My raincoat and John's poncho served only partial coverage. No matter. It was very warm. A little rain (or a lot) would not dampen our spirits. The cyclone Felicia that was due to hit the islands the day we arrived, downgraded quickly into just a lot of rain and wind. Mahalo, Lord! Besides the unusual sea birds, we also saw a baby bird in its burrow right by the trail. Awww...oh, and a seal on the rocks below. (Thanks, Mom for recommending binoculars for this place.)
3. Kauai's Hindu Monastery
Quite an impressive place. The garden is admittedly peace-inducing and beautiful, the temple setting breath-taking. As we entered the building, which had a sign telling us to take our shoes off and enter with "an attitude of worship", I whispered, "We enter with hearts that worship the Lord Jesus Christ." His image was obviously not among the idols. They didn't convince us to join up (relieved?). We went away reminded of the freedom we have in Christ and the joy of coming boldly to our Heavenly Father, knowing that all the work has already been done for us.
4. 'Opaeka'a Falls
See the brown stripes in the water? That's the storm's effects: red clay dumping into the rivers and bays, resulting in very murky beaches lasting a week. These falls usually have two separate streams, but the excess waterflow united them into one big rush. There were Tropicbirds, with their long ribbonlike tails, swooping in figure eights below in the mist; very cool. (Hey, I could join the Red and Purple Hat Club now! No?)
5. Coconut Marketplace, Kapa'a
This shopping center within walking distance of our hotel is in foreclosure. Sales are down 30-40% from a year ago, and half of the spaces are vacant. I don't remember the type of wood this chair I'm sitting in is made of. Do I look like I care?
6. Eggbert's/Hula Girl Grill
I had a mouth-watering Seafood Omelette for breakfast, and Opa Fish w/ sauteed Mushrooms for dinner here, in the Coconut Marketplace. John's clam pasta was unremarkable.
7. Smith's Tropical Paradise
We splurged on one luau, and went to the "Best" one, according to The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. (Thanks for lending it to us Kelly--it was indispensible, but is a little worse for wear :P) The Smith family's luau is located in a botanical garden and includes a tour of the garden, pig-cooked-in-a-pit-Hawaiian-style ceremony, a free shell lei, a nice dinner, and a fabulous stage show with all the traditional polynesian dances.
8. Hideaways Beach, Princeville
Finally on the sixth day we set out at 7:30am to find a beach with water clear enough for snorkeling. We tried three sites and the third try was charm. The view from the top looking down at the beach was spectacular; the makeshift trail down the cliff was not. I was afraid I would be overtired trying to climb back up; John promised he would "get" me back. I knew there was no way he could carry me up that cliff, but I went for it, and I'm glad I did. My mask kept leaking and I couldn't see without my glasses, so I gave it up, but John succeeded and delighted in coaxing a scad of tropical fishies up to his hands. He was like a kid in a candy shop under water. And he pushed me from behind, back up the cliff trail, after which I wasn't the least bit sore! Mahalo!
I was fanatical about avoiding sunburn, and wore a long-sleeved rashguard shirt for snorkeling. It worked like a champ.
9. John's beachcombing souvenir
On Kalapaki Beach (which had chocolate-brown seas), John rummaged through some driftwood for a good souvenir. He picked up a PVC corner and said, "This looks suspiciously like a PVC corner." I said, "It could be worth a couple bucks!" I was teasing, but I guess I convinced him it was worth keeping. Back at the hotel he discovered a crack in it. We threw it away, but got a picture for memory's sake.
10. Poipu and Spouting Horn
OH! The best for last! The day we were to leave we saw everything we could on the south side of the island, and what a treat it was.
The Grand Hyatt Hotel was spectacular (we had seen the Marriott in Nahwiliwili, which was on the same scale but excessively ostentatious somehow) and its water slides made John comment, "Oh the kids would love this!...I wonder how cheap a room you could get here..." Ha!!
We also had the thrill of spotting some sea turtles in the waves, and ate Puka Dogs at the Poipu shopping center, at our friend Sean's suggestion. MMM-MMM.
Then, to top it off, we saw the Spouting Horn. Wow!
In a little open-air craft fair by the Spouting Horn, John bought me a sterling silver ring for our silver anniversary. It was only $10 and probably worth every penny, but I am very pleased with it.
The return trip was cold. The plane rides to Hawaii were all hot and stuffy or normal temp, so I decided not to carry on a coat on the return flight. Big mistake. After we had already checked in our baggage and about to board in Lihue, we were told at the gate that the feds had confiscated all the airline's blankets and pillows due to the swine flu scare, and that if we wanted any wraps we should get them out and ready before boarding. By then it was too late. The 5-1/2 hour flight was FREEZING. I at least had long pants to put on; John just had his shorts and short-sleeve shirt on his back. He covered his knees with napkins and wore a Winco bag over his chest :). His one consolation was that his sunburn didn't suffer from heat. It was a nighttime flight, but we didn't sleep much.
Then we had a 10-hour layover in Portland, which was thankfully reduced to seven hours by going on standby on an earlier flight, but the PDX terminal was also FREEZING while outside it got up to nearly 100 degrees. Of course, they don't let you go outside for awhile anywhere once you're through security, so we froze--until we got to the Medford airport where it was 105 degrees outside.
I forgot to mention that we visited Kauai Reformation Church on Sunday and met some folks who were formerly from OR and CO who know mutual friends. It is a church plant of Oceanside United Reformed Church with about 40 attendees, and they have had a pastor for only two months. That afternoon, John checked out Waimea Canyon and Kalalau Valley while I rested in the hotel. He also hiked up to the top of Sleeping Giant earlier in the week.
Oh, I could go on some more, but this is probably more than you care to know. A-LOHHH-HA!
Friday, August 7, 2009
My biggest challenge is the travel to Hawaii. I fancied I could do this last October when I bought reservations because there would be minimal driving necessary. I think it will be easier to fly--no jostling and vibrations like road travel, and I can get up and move around--but we will see. Getting enough sleep is another big concern. We will fly back through the night and take all day for connecting flights, but then I will be home and can crash if I need to.
I also can't really be in the sun much, because it makes my candida bloom and my feet swell. Nor can I eat fruit and melons for the same reason. But I look forward to all that good fish and seafood. Yum...
On another note: This week we finally bit the bullet and decided to drill for more water on our acre. We went to 300 feet and got a little over 5 gallons per minute. Not spectacular, but better than we did have. It has certainly cut into our finances, but God has provided. Thank you Lord!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Now 36 states are considering taking the Tenth Amendment at its word! What a great flourish for Sarah Palin as one of her last acts as governor. State sovereignty is not secession, but it could rejuvenate our republic like nothing else will.
Alaska's resolution states:
"Be it resolved that the Alaska State Legislature hereby claims sovereignty for the state under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.
Be it further resolved that this resolution serves as Notice and Demand to the federal government to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers."
Now if the rest of the states will actually pass similar legislation…pray! It could mean we could take back Federally-held logging lands for Oregon and return to prosperity once again.
And once state sovereignty is established, I propose the next Declaration of Independence for the People of Oregon:
Those powers not delineated in the State Constitution to the state of Oregon are referred to The People, as given to them by their Creator God.
I’ll be the first signer! Let King Barack do what he will, my John Hancock goes there.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
One new-to-the-church sister who ministered to me had her baby and three sons in the car when she drove me to the Y this week. So when I saw them at church the three young boys were so solicitous to help me and pray with me. It is a rare thing for young boys to show such adult-level caring for an 51-year-old like me!
When I came home this afternoon I laid down, and actually got a three-hour nap! Hallelujah!
When I say I am "improved", it only means (at this point) that I have gotten sufficient rest and have behaved myself enough to get the pain down. It is not an indication of real improvement. But I live by faith and take it a day at a time.
And by the way, my health blog has a different address now: www.myfmsjourney.blogspot.com. I updated it last week with more details of the struggle. Have a good week all of you! God bless!
Monday, July 13, 2009
The Lord has been gracious to provide my husband within calling range two of the three times this has happened since Memorial Day.
So while laid up in bed I have had lots of time to read; I read Waiting for a Miracle and Trapped in Hitler’s Hell by Jan Markell. The first book is written by a woman with the same condition I have (CFS, EBV). I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand chronic illness better. It’s the first book I’ve found that gets the spiritual side of it right.
The second book about a Jew-turned-Christian in WWII helps keep my state in perspective. I live in such luxury here in our beautiful home with people who love and serve me. No one is forcing me to get up at 4 am to work in the wind or heat for 10 hours a day. I have all the medical help known to man available to me. The fact that I’m sitting up and able to type for now is good. John never complains when I need prescriptions picked up, or a back rub for the knotted muscles, or just his presence for comfort. He and the children are running the household quite well without me. I also have been sleeping better since doubling the dose of my sleeping pills, but the sleep has not been sufficiently restorative.
I can’t help but think our Hawaii anniversary trip next month will not be possible, but I’m trying to take one day at a time. I am more and more aware of God’s presence around, in and about me, sustaining my every breath. He doesn’t just know me, he permeates me with his Spirit. As long as I keep that in mind, I can hand over to Him every discouraging thought with the rejoinder, “Jesus is here and He saves now!” I have much to be thankful for.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I want to start off by honoring my mother today (Mother's Day). My husband and children would concur with me that Grandma Voyla is a very loving, nurturing, caring person. She has the instinct of a mother. She would love to gather the whole world under her wings like a mother hen gathers her chicks if she could. Somewhere along the line, however, this nurturing instinct was not passed on to me. I am much more task-oriented than people-oriented. My mother has said that I tended to keep my business to myself and didn’t talk much when I was younger. I believe part of the reason I didn’t turn out like her is that I didn’t have much time with her. I attended 13 years of public school, four years of college to get my teaching degree, and another year in graduate school for my masters. That’s a lot of seat-hours spent away from Mom. In addition, my mother returned to the work force when I was only four years old and my sister was two. I understand why she went back to work; she has explained to me that my father was so sparse with the praise and heavy on the criticism that, in her words, “I would have become a nothing if I’d stayed home”. So, she sought personal affirmation from the working world.
Kevin Swanson, in his article, “The Re-integrated Family and the Return of Love,” pointed out that forty years ago, when I was about ten, only about 2% of children under six were without their moms during the daytime hours. That figure is now at 64%. I was one of those 2%; my sister and I were latch-key children before such a term existed. I’m here to tell you, it was a lonely existence. When Mom came home late from work, I could tell she was too tired or distracted to go deep with me. I somehow thought that my experiences at school were my own burden to bear.
When my husband and I married, we determined that we would do things differently; I would stay home with the children. There was one big problem; I had spent my life preparing myself for the working world outside the home; my mother had modeled that paradigm for me; and I didn’t know how to be content in the home.
In my article I describe how I ended up working part-time anyway while our two eldest children were born, and how I was faced with the stark reality that I was repeating history; I had lost my daughter’s heart; and she was only two or three. Due to financial choices we had made, it took me another year or two to finally come home for good. But you see, there was still the issue of my own heart. I had also thrown myself into volunteer work. When I was home, I had found myself on the phone, cooking up more commitments. I gave prolife speeches in the high schools; I debated Planned Parenthood on the college campuses, on radio and television; I led a Concerned Women for America chapter, and was in the church choir. You see, I was still seeking strokes from the adult world, just as my mother had. Whenever I got on the phone, I noticed my children would suddenly create a crisis, interrupting me and trying to get my attention. As soon as I got off, they would settle down and be fine. They were competing with the telephone for my attentions. They knew they didn’t have my heart.
Oh, and did I mention I was in Bible Study Fellowship too? Well, that was probably my best decision. We were studying the Life of David one week, and we got to the chapter where King David shares his desire to build a temple for the Lord with the prophet Nathan. The Lord gave Nathan a message, and these words were like a sword into my heart: “(I Chronicles 17:4) Thus says the Lord: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in…Moreover, I declare to you that I, the Lord will build you a house. When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.” When I read that, I knew beyond any doubt that these words were for me. God was saying, “All this work you are doing for me is good—the babies you’re trying to save, the church work, the political changes you’re working for—but it’s not what I have called you to do.”
Well, I argued with God. “But Lord, I’ve made all these commitments, I’ve started a new prolife council, etc. etc. I can’t afford to be flakey!” So I didn’t hear directly from the Lord anymore. But what did happen was that my health went south—fast.
In ‘92, six months after I had quit teaching and come home, I became very ill with hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. The chronic pain and fatigue are still progressing today, seventeen years later, in spite of my visiting at least sixteen different doctors and trying dozens of treatments.
That was the same year I had started homeschooling my children. Naomi was four, Nathan was two, and I had a newborn, Aaron. (He’s graduating from high school next week.) I had thought, if I can teach other people’s children, I can certainly teach my own. But here I was, getting sick and sicker. I wanted desperately to do right by my children—to give them my best, my all—and now I didn’t know if I’d have the strength.
It has been and still is a struggle. When I am in pain, I tend to be more stressed and irritable. I will push myself through the pain, and deal too harshly with the children. They often don’t know what In the world is wrong with Mom. Sometimes I don’t know myself. Then when the pain lifts temporarily, I feel so much better that I tend to be aggressive, trying to catch up for lost time. My husband has often said, “You must be feeling better. You’re getting feisty again.” There were some years when I was so debilitated by the pain that John stepped in and put four of our children in public school. (Caleb was still preschool-age, so I kept him and taught him at home, by hook and by crook.) Those were the darkest four years of my life. The constant pain, along with my sense of failure and uselessness, caused a lot of deep depression. We soon realized we were losing all our children’s hearts in a hurry, and John finally came to the conclusion that if necessary, he would homeschool them himself while working fulltime, and he brought them back home. I was so relieved.
I have found various ways to keep going, managing the household and homeschooling my five children. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I haven’t time share the details of our curricular methods.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I have learned that my greatest gift from God—my greatest treasure—is my life, and my life is measured in time. The greatest treasure I have to give my children is my time. And though it’s a struggle even now to give them my heart, because of my past choices, I know God will honor His promises and raise up my children to build a house on a sure foundation that will last forever.
Two words of advice I have for mothers and young ladies aspiring to be mothers.
1. Guard your heart.
2. Give up your rights.
We women must guard our own hearts from being seduced by the world’s voices that say it’s more satisfying out there, away from home, than it is being at home with our children. We must guard the way we spend our time, choosing activities that will help us be content with the limitless possibilities that await us in our own homes. Then we can more effectively guard our children’s hearts from the influences of the world that continually call out to them.
And we must give up our right, to have control of our time, and our right to adult companionship. Jesus said, “He who seeks to save his life shall lose it; but he who seeks to lose his life for my sake shall find it.” There is indeed great joy awaiting us if we seek his kingdom first, and all these things shall be added to us.
Now the leaders and founders of Household of Faith Community Church say that we are not a homeschool church. We are a parental discipleship church. I take that to mean whatever model works best for parents to maximize the time they spend with their children in order to make them their primary disciples, that’s the schooling model they should choose. I admit I am not without bias; I think the superior model for discipling children is through homeschooling them. I can’t think of a better way to have the most and best of your time with your children than to homeschool them. Our primary reason is relational. Elizabeth Smith wrote an article called “10 Reasons to Homeschool Teens”. Her #1 reason is: “Cement family relationships. Relationships are the most important thing in family life. When teens are away from home for six to eight hours a day, subtle changes begin to erode relationships at home. Divided allegiance or “serving two masters” can shake their foundation. THE RESULT IS DIMINISHED FAMILY TIES AND PARENTAL INFLUENCE.” She also says, “Age/grade isolation or segregation inhibits socialization.” This was certainly our experience.
Are you making your children your primary disciples? Do you have their heart? Do they have yours?
I often ask myself that question and wonder. I have indeed come a long way, through God’s severe mercy upon me, in re-prioritizing my time, but I often have a hunch that if I weren’t still sick, I would be saying yes to too many “good” options to fill my time, which would divert my attention and energies away from my children, and now my grandchildren. I would love to be taking on tutoring students, or teaching this class or leading that women’s bible study or discussion group. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t picture myself doing such things. And then reality sets in and I must tell myself “no”. I can say, however, that I am very content in my own home now. I do wish I could practice more hospitality there. The hardest part is saying no to John, who I’m sure is disappointed that I don’t have guests over very often. I only know God must have his reasons. I also God will heal me, someday. The only question is, when?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So here is our typical school-day schedule:
5:00am John rises, showers, has coffee, personal devotions
6:00am John rousts the children out of bed for personal devotions
6:30am John and children read one chapter from the Bible round-robin aloud together; they discuss the content, he asks questions, shares his observations. Then one of the children is called on to lead in prayer, a different child for each day of the week. They agree in prayer for certain friends, church and family members, missionaries, government leaders, etc.
7:00am John leaves for work. The children find some breakfast for themselves, do grooming, and morning chores as indicated on weekly chore chart, posted in kitchen. I get up (I have to move slowly in the morning or I won't make it through the day), have personal devotions and breakfast, and ensure the children are getting their morning jobs done.
8:30am "School" starts. (Well, the academic part does. The chores are just as important for character- and life-skill training as the academics. )
The first hour of the school day is what I call the Recitation Hour. During this time we gather on the comfortable sofas of our living room, with a fire in the woodstove if necessary, and I give direct and interactive instruction to them all together. (Aaron, however, has started to work independently from us during this time. I think he would benefit if he was still with us for this hour, but he has asserted his independence on this point, and I have acquiesced. Because he is so responsible with scheduling his use of time, I felt I can afford to let him have his head as he attains to manhood.)
The Recitation Hour is roughly broken into three 20-minute periods for three subjects. I and each of the children have a two-ring file-card binder and a pencil in our hands during this time. The first period is spent on Bible memory work. I select verses from the scripture portions being studied at our church, or as the Spirit leads. We copy the verses on cards and keep them in the binder, to flip through and review as needed. Then we recite them together for a few weeks until they are well-memorized, adding new verses while rotating through old ones on occasion.
The second and third subjects I cover during the remainder of that time varies from month to month. Currently I am teaching them grammar and reading poetry. They are taking notes on the grammar in their card binder as well, and I review with them some of the basic definitions and concepts of grammar from those cards.
I currently use Warriner's Grammar, First Course. I keep it simple. I read aloud a page or two from the text book, help them take notes on their cards, and we orally work a few exercises together.
During the first half of the year we used this time for Spelling and Vocabulary. I used The Writing Road To Reading's Ayers' List to test each child, and they copied all their mispelled words into the card binder for future review. When I ran out of words from that list for the older child, I used the vocabulary words from our Robinson Curriculum. I have done this simultaneously with all the children, going around the room, one at a time giving them a word to spell orally, a la spelling bee. For some reason, the children have expressed enjoyment in learning spelling this way more than most anything else. Go figure!
I just administered a Basic Skills practice test (http://www.basicskills.net/) to Caleb and Alexa last week, and found that their spelling and vocabulary skills are excellent. What they are lagging in is mechanics (punctuation)--the part of Warriner's I haven't gotten to this year. So we are hitting punctuation hard for the next two months before they take the real test in May.
While we work on this, Aaron is usually working on his computer programming homework. Aaron is being apprenticed by a programmer-friend, who meets with him once a week in his home. The arrangement has been a great blessing.
9:30-12:30am Individualized school work.
With direct instruction done, we discuss what each child needs to accomplish for the rest of the day, and they write their tasks in their student planners. Then I set them loose to do what they need to do.
Caleb has been spending the remainder of the morning on: geography, math, and research.
For geography, we have used the National Geographic website http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ extensively as a resource for our study this year. He competed in our cooperative-academy's geography bee last January. It was a good motivator for both of us and found it very fun!
For math, Caleb is in Saxon Math 65. He can usually do the lessons on his own, and asks for help as necessary. He also researches for his writing assignments, which are geography-related, on the internet.
Alexa uses her morning for physics, debate, and math. I have been hosting a Physics study group with her and Aaron and three other homeschooled teens. They are preparing for the AP Physics test using Apologia Physics and Advanced Physics textbooks. On occasion they have emailed Apologia with questions, but for the most part they have been self-teaching straight from the texts. On Tuesday afternoons these five teens meet together in our home to do the module experiments and discuss the lesson content. This has been a boon to their science knowledge.
Alexa competed this year in LD debate with our local speech club, and as the topic of this year's debate resolution was very philosophical, she has been reading some heady stuff about the Greeks, pragmatism vs. idealism, etc.
Aaron also spends this time on physics and computer homework. On Wednesdays, after he goes to his computer training session, he also does our weekly grocery shopping for me, and stocks the family-owned snack machine at the YMCA for some income on the side.
While the children work, I am in the kitchen cleaning up, thinking about meals, answering emails, and fielding any phone calls or other interruptions. I consider my job, as gate-keeper of the home, is to ensure a good environment for learning. No music other than soft instrumental classical music is allowed during study time. Nor can they use headphones to listen to music. Talking, joking and singing is discouraged, unless they are directly helping each other with homework. Sometimes to blow off steam, I tell them to run around the house three times before continuing with school work. This can help break up the monotony.
12:30pm Lunch and Chores. The children again refer to the chore chart for their assigned chores: laundry, dishes, vacuuming, collecting and washing eggs, etc.
1:30pm School resumes. The children work independently again. Caleb does writing, mandolin practice, and reading. Alexa does apologetics writing, research and reading. She has been competing in apologetics with the speech club this year, and writes new "cards" to add to her file. I have compiled and refined an assigned K-12 reading list that is a combination of the Robinson Curriculum core reading and my own books in our personal library. Aaron and Alexa have finished reading most of the books on the list and have four more for the year. Caleb has been my most avid reader, and I have had to augment the list with more books appropriate to his reading level.
Alexa at age 15 is also a gifted blog writer, artist, illustrator, seamstress and photographer, as well as main cook in the family. She fills her time quite well, with little direction from me.
3:30 or 4:00pm School is over; I go to the YMCA for my water workout (three times a week) or run errands, and sometimes the kids go with me to swim, climb the wall, or run at the park. Alexa or I fix dinner. John comes home.
5:30-7:0pm Dinner, Devotions, Kitchen Cleanup. This is one of my favorite times of the day. We talk about the day's happenings, the news, and John reads from a devotional from R.C. Sproul's Table Talk. The boys do the dishes.
The rest of the evening may be spent at the computer, reading the paper, reading aloud to each other, playing a game, or what-have-you. Our Tuesday nights are for speech club, which the children love, and John usually coaches. Wednesday nights are date night for John and I, and we often go visit our grown children on that night. The rest of the week we try to be at home.
I love being home. I love our family life. I love what God has called me to do. We have our spats and conflicts, but we keep short accounts, ask forgiveness, and work through the messiness. Family life is GOOD!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I have been pondering and treasuring many things in my heart today. We have kept a 25-year Christmas scrapbook since John and I married, and this year we are filling the last page with our newsletter and memories. Naomi shares an interest in scrapbooking and memory-keeping, as she sells Creative Memories products. She and I scrapbooked together, and I loved that time. So much has happened these 25 years. How can life be so full? How can my heart hold so much?
MARRIAGE AND CHURCH
Far and away the main event in the Sleadd household this year was Nathan’s courtship, engagement and marriage on October 25th to Colleen McMurray. Colleen and her parents Robin and Brad, and my buddy Carla Deems directed a wedding to beat all weddings. God provided many favors, and Christ was glorified at every turn. Alexa was a bridesmaid; Aaron was a groomsman, and Caleb a lantern-bearer. Nathan and Colleen, both 19, came home from their two-week honeymoon in Leavenworth, WA with the news that they were pregnant. Their honeymoon baby is due July 22nd.
The church is a central feature of our lives. Coram Deo Church www.coramdeogp.org has some of our sweetest friends. John is pastoring the church for his second year part-time while teaching fulltime at Highland Elementary. He preaches twice a month and the children join him to lead worship once a month. There is much participation in each service by the young people, and easily 40% of our church is composed of teenagers. We have moved to a better location with an awesome kitchen, and our weekly shared meals are a high point in our social life. We anticipate a name change to Household of Faith Community Church, www.hofgp.org, as we affiliate with the consociation by the same name (www.hofcc.org). Alexa says, “I love our church!”
MORE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2008
• Naomi, Colleen, Alexa and I hosted a Thanksgiving celebration for 25 people in our home. You can see more pictures on Alexa’s Facebook page. The girls brought their china, I got out my silver, and Alexa decorated the tables fabulously. We dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians; each person shared what they were thankful for; we played a Pilgrim Trivia game, ate turkey, made pumpkin ice cream, staged a paper boat race and played a hootin’ good game of Guesstures.
• Nathan and Colleen were blessed to secure a guest-house apartment from our friends Bryan and Lori Scott. Several work parties were organized to remodel the interior of the apartment, (see also Alexa’s blog, mylifecompiled.blogspot.com).
• Naomi and Nathanael announced their expectancy of #2 the same weekend as Nathan’s engagement, right after July 4th. Naomi is due in March. They sold their trailer home a week before Christmas in spite of economic turbulence. PTL!
• Aaron received the Iron Man Award at regional speech competition last spring, having placed and qualified in six speech events plus LD debate. He and Alexa took two first places with their duo interpretive The Elephant’s Child . They qualified for Regionals but were one place short of qualifying for Nationals. This year Alexa is the only Sleadd competing, in LD debate, impromptu, and apologetics. I count 32 medals and four trophies accumulating in our study (okay, I’m bragging!).
• Aaron has been spending his Wednesdays at our friend Stephen Hewitt’s home learning about HTML, web design, and other computer stuff. Aaron aspires to be a computer programmer. He will be graduating from high school this spring. He has also taken over the snack-machine business from Nathan, with a new machine I helped him buy for the YMCA location.
• John launched Covered Bridge Academy, a home school cooperative, last fall. Seven classes were offered; John taught beginning speech, and I taught writing. I am also facilitating an AP Physics class which Aaron and Alexa are taking. The Academy has received a scholarship for the start of our Family Choir, which has four families presently and is directed by Ron Strom.
• Caleb joined Aaron in the egg production business this spring with 20 new chicks. Recall our story last year of the slaughtering raccoons? Well, this spring all but two chicks were killed, perhaps by a skunk, in one night. This year we were not so charmed by the cute critters. Nathanael lent us a live trap, and we dispatched two skunks and one raccoon. The boys bought another 18 chicks and they are now grown and laying brown eggs like crazy, even in sub-freezing temperatures. You can buy some from them for $3 a dozen.
• In October I began antiviral treatment for HHV-6 and EBV. These viruses are among those suspected to cause chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. I am hoping that this will finally be the answer to curing my 17-year illness.
• My parents have had serious health issues this year. Dad has been on the edge of eternity several times. His foot was amputated this month and is spending Christmas in a nursing home. My mother battled breast cancer for the second time while trying to care for my dad. I am frustrated by my own health keeping me from being more helpful and leaving the work to my sister Julia, bless her heart. Tomorrow we will attempt to brave the snow over the pass and visit them.
• John and I hit the big 5-0 this year. I planned a surprise birthday party for him, and he really was surprised. He thought it was just another pool party at the Scotts’.
• For our 24th anniversary in August we spent time at Lake of the Woods. The weather was perfect, while back home it was baking. There were millions of butterflies throughout the camp. How romantic. We love being married. This year we re-instituted a weekly marriage-date-night, and I recommend it for anyone. For our 25th we have reservations to go to Kauai Island, Hawaii. It will be John’s first time to visit the islands. I hope and pray that my treatment will cure me by then, or I will be well enough to make the trip.
• After building a business from the ground up for four years, Nathan put up a new website last spring for ziplinegear.com and sales took off running. When business boogies, he hires helpers among friends and siblings. With no debt to pay, he is making enough to support his new family; not bad for a 19-year-old.
In Christ’s Love,
Arden for the Sleadds
Thoughts from John
Life is a workshop, and we are all works in progress. I say this because I have been spending long, blissful hours in my garage during Christmas vacation building cabinets for Alexa. Her craft clutter had begun to spread like a flood, offering the perfect excuse for me to buy a new table saw and launch into a woodworking project. I picked up a new belt sander, shop vac and quick-grip clamps, too. O the joys of ripping, chopping, routing, clamping and sanding. A man is in his element when he dances to the buzz and whir of spinning blades. Now that I’ve finished the cabinets, allow me to wax reflective on the passing year.
Last January I got ordained as pastor by Bear Creek Church in Medford, Oregon. I’m still waiting for the pastor police to show up some Sunday morning and cart me off for impersonating a real reverend. I can’t claim to really know what I’m doing, but whatever it is, I love it and I can’t help but do more of it. I get to study and talk about the best Book ever written, and try to live out what it says with fellow fans of the sovereign, triune Author. Last year I preached 30 sermons. This means that the talented men of God with whom I share the pulpit got to preach the other 22. I’m really just a cheerleader for Christ and a recruiter for kingdom servants. I enjoy watching others excel at teaching and I hope to expand our church’s preaching and leadership team in 2009.
For fair weather frolics the kids and I enjoyed camping with the Holst family at Silver Falls, and we joined the Bear Creek Church campers at Howard Prairie Lake. We tried to squeeze in a cool backpacking trip before school resumed, but it got cancelled due to smoky forest fires.
For a good portion of 2008 I duked it out with chronic shoulder pain until pouring concrete sidewalks by our pool cured me. Right now things are in relatively good working order as long as I don’t break dance, do acrobatics or jujitsu with my fifty-year-old bod.
In September I wrapped up my one-year leave of absence from teaching and reported for duty at Highland Elementary School, where I now teach fourth grade. Being a bi-vocational pastor can be a challenge, but I enjoy the fruitful labor of working with young minds and a great staff. The high percentage of students who live in broken homes is a strong reminder of the urgent need for family restoration in the American divorce culture.
With graying beard and ever-present reading glasses, I am looking more and more the part of a grandpa. I’m thrilled to cackle and burble with my grandson, Boone, at every opportunity. Now that two of my wee tikes have grown up into parents, I’m reminded how fun it was/is to be a dad. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-4).
May God’s abundant blessings draw you to Himself. -John