Thursday, June 26, 2014

learning to love

As part of our summer plan for "success" (ie: Momma not pulling her hair out every time the children are arguing over a toy they never want to play with until someone else is holding it), we are memorizing the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter in the Bible. The goal is one verse per week.

It is the passage most commonly read at weddings, but is feeling awfully applicable this summer. There is nothing like an extended period of togetherness to highlight all of the areas that a person needs work. Part of learning to enjoy our summer togetherness is learning to treat each other right. No better lesson book than the Bible when it comes to learning about that...

"Love is patient,
love is kind.

It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.

It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails...."
1 Corinthians 13

It turns out that most of my little family's arguments can be solved by working on one of the phrases from this verse.

...Girls, instead of fighting, let's share our toys. Remember "love is not self-seeking".

...You need to use a nicer tone of voice with me. Remember "love is not rude".

...Wait your turn. Remember "love is patient".

...Try not to get frustrated with each other. Remember "love is not easily angered".

Inevitably, when I begin to work on something with my children, my own heart simultaneously gets a makeover. This summer I keep personally getting stuck at the beginning: "Love is patient, love is kind." Getting those two things right changes the entire trajectory of our day.

The golden rule of family love is that it must always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. Love never fails.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

moving mountains

"...For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, 
you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, 
and nothing will be impossible to you."  

Matthew 17:20

This week has found me heavy hearted for a dear friend. Along with many others, I am being called to walk beside her, encourage her, and pray for her. It is a beautiful thing to see so many stand together with her and for her, in solidarity.

In addition to the heaviness I feel for my friend, I have also struggled with what I would call spiritual warfare - the attack of the Enemy on my internal being, aiming at my soul. It has left me irritable, angry, sleepless, unproductive and wrestling with myself. I am weighed down by the burden of all this ugliness in my own life. Upon inquiry, it seems that some of the others lifting up this friend are experiencing similar weighty-ness.

Why? I wondered. Why would we be the ones experiencing these blatant spiritual attacks? Why this group of women on the outside? We are walking a friend through a difficult time, and feel elated at the opportunity to be there for her. So why this wrestle in our own darkness?

Because we are moving mountains.

I am not sure how it works, but somewhere in the spiritual realm our prayers are being heard. They are powerful, effective, faithful. They are the opposite of what sin and Satan want to accomplish. Prayer changes the path of darkness being etched into our lives. Prayer sets the Light in motion.

People tell me they want to do something. Praying doesn't feel like enough. That is the voice of one who wants to distract from the only thing that does make a difference.  Though we may feel ineffective, the Enemy's attack is proof that we are deemed worthy opponents. Prayer is the one thing that will move a mountain of this magnitude and our prayers are changing a life. So, one fistful at a time, let's move this mountain.

"...For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, 
you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, 
and nothing will be impossible to you."  

Matthew 17:20

The words in Isaiah struck a encouraging chord in my heart this week, promising that though we are in a desert wilderness, one day the mountain will forever be gone, the valleys raised up, the rough and rugged places made smooth...

"In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; 
make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; 
the rough ground shall become level, 
the rugged places a plain. 
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together."  
Isaiah 40:3-5

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

all creatures great and small

Living on a farm has its advantages in the spring time. My little animal-lovers get to witness nature in a mostly undisturbed setting.  Though I am somewhat squeamish at heart, I try not to let on in front of my children. Shhhh... don't tell. I fool them into believing I am not afraid of these crawly things in hopes that someday they will not let fear of touching an animal 1/100th of their size rule over them.

One day back in March, thousands of tadpoles appeared in the small spring-fed pond at the bottom of our hill (picture above). I did a good mom kind of thing and let my children catch and raise a quartet of them in one of my favorite glass vases on the kitchen counter. I assumed the tadpoles would take around three weeks to grow legs and lose their tails. Not sure where I came up with this number, but I figured that kittens can be adopted away from their mothers after 6 weeks, and tadpoles are far more simple creatures, so it couldn't take too long.

Wrong. Three months later a few of them had hind legs, but they all remained in the tadpole category. Their bowl was absolutely putrid because we had discovered the hard way that tadpoles are "fragile". I was afraid to clean it lest they die after all this time on prime kitchen counter space, and my kids would want to start over with new ones.

After all of that watching and waiting, metamorphosis did eventually occur. Despite the long tadpole stage, the end process was alarmingly fast as one tadpole at a time made its final change into a Pacific Treefrog. In a 24-hour period a tadpole would sprout front legs, lose its tail, and then did its best to hop right out of the bowl. After the first frog was found on the kitchen floor, we paid more attention to the others as they approached frog-hood.

Goodbye frogs that took FOREVER to grow. You can fend for yourself in our backyard now.

After all of the observing for months I couldn't believe how fast the final miracle happened. Perhaps the long stage of tadpole development really was about preparation for that final miracle. Even the smallest among God's creatures is complex in its own way. And perhaps metamorphosis can occur in our own lives if we are patient enough to see it through.

Without further ado, here is glimpse (seriously, only a tiny segment) of the other animal encounters we have had over the past few months. Cecil Frances Alexander's poem says it best...

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
(Rescued baby hummingbird)
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
(Great Blue Heron)
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
(Wild male turkey displaying his feathers. So much more magnificent in real life.)
The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;
(Swallowtail Butterfly)
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
(Gopher snake that doubles as a styling necklace)
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;--
(Snake skin as tall as Annike. Hopefully the owner is out eating our gophers.)
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well. 

-- Cecil Frances Alexander
circa 1848

Oh yes. Can't forget the chyrsalis hanging in the doorway after nap.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

mother's prayer

We started off the summer on a bad note. Within an hour of awakening on Annike's first day home I was angry, frustrated, impatient, and found myself using a military tone with my children. Of course, this is because they were whining, arguing, ignoring me, and generally being unpleasant. It may be well-deserved, but this is not how I want the summer to go.

I am morally against planning up every moment of the summer because I sincerely believe in the health of unstructured time. Unplanned hours are when children learn to be creative, when they exercise skills I didn't know they had, and when they first practice self-motivation. Their future world has plenty of structure and they need freedom to simply be kids. But I also don't want to spend the next few months dreading the way we will spend our days together. (See last summer's post here... I am still striving to avoid survival mode!)

Not wanting to fall into a cycle of frustrated, negative, parenting this summer, today started with a prayer:

A Mother's Prayer for Summer

Dearest Lord of All Seasons,

Bless our time of togetherness.
May I treasure up today for tomorrow it will be gone.
May we strike the delicate balance between rest and activity.
May our unstructured hours be fruitful in the ways that matter most.

May our boredom be fought with creativity.
May our whining be fought with gratitude.
May our arguing be fought with appreciation.
May our selfishness be fought with perspective.

Guide us as we choose our words, our hearts, our attitudes.
Together life is better, we laugh longer, we love stronger.
Help us view each day a unique opportunity.
The lesson isn't just for them. It also is for me.


I am also re-convicted to be consistent with our family breakfast devotional time. My friend's blog at Not My Own once recommended the VeggieTales "365 Very Veggie Devos", and I must agree that it feels just right for small children. The short and simple lessons are about sharing, telling the truth, being kind, obeying - all very applicable to the little group listening. If you aren't currently using something you like, I recommend it!

We also started a summertime sticker chart with the goal of keeping us intentional and providing alternatives to television as a time-filler. I made Annike's first, and wrote the title at the top:
"Annike's Summer Chart".  
Annike was participating, and as I moved on to the second chart, she suggested I write:
"Sommer's Annike Chart."

Hmmm. A bit confusing when you name a child after a season.

So this is how our summer will go. It is never too late to start over, set some better goals, and PRAY for the Lord to bless our endeavors!

(This video made me laugh. I hope you are not viewing it sideways. The narrative is not important, but the joy of watching my three kids fill up the swing set is. Anyone want to join us at the park?!)