Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011 Memories

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Joy is in His Presence Not Presents

Last year we tried to be very intentional about keeping Christ at the center of Christmas. This year I feel like we have done that but n a different way...instead of constantly doing activities we have been a bit more quiet, a bit more prayerful and a lot more peaceful. Going into this holiday season I set my mind that anything that stressed me out as we prepared for the holidays wasn't from the Lord. If it was stressing me out...He wasn't in it.

We decorated the house and continued with our homeschooling lessons, finished up our fostering homestudy work, and just genuinely have enjoyed each other. I haven't had time to bake a bajillion cookies and we haven't done half of the traditional things we typically do, but there is a peace and a joy about our house that has been lacking for far too long.

I firmly believe the decision to homeschool our kids this year was from God. I do however believe it was less about their education and more about refining me. It has caused me to take a look at my selfishness and really die to myself each day. It has brought me to focus on truly doing everything as unto the Lord and to find joy and gratitude in all situations. I am coming to realize that I do not need validation and praise from my family (though it is nice). I know He knows my heart and He sees. I am ever so thankful that His grace covers me in all of my shortcomings and am learning each day to be sure and extend that grace.

A week or so ago as part of our Advent Challenge we decided to sponsor a child from World Vision. We typed in Isaac's birthdate and up popped the picture of sweet Samuel, (who we later found out when we received our information that his last name was Happy...Thank you Lord!) and Luke read from the Bible and as we talked about giving to "the least of these" as a way of giving to Him for His birthday, my sweet 8 year old looked up and said..."Then mom, are WE the least of these? Why do we get toys for His birthday?" Um...I had nothing. I rationalized all kinds of things about celebrating and wanting to give to the people we love (which is somewhat valid) but largely...I was at a loss.

Howard and I discussed not getting the kids presents this year but I wasn't ready for that...I'll be honest...I LOVE to see their faces on Christmas morning, and we don't go crazy, they each get a gift from each of their siblings and one from us and we do one family gift from Santa. I just love the joy of the kids on Christmas.

A few days later we were again discussing our Advent Challenge and decided to let the kids pick something from the World Vision catalog to buy for Christmas. They decided on chickens. We told them that for every dollar they contributed we would match it. That afternoon, Luke asked if he could go to my dad's garage to stack wood to earn money. (Grandpa pays well and I had seen Luke eying up a Star Wars Lego set) So he came home a couple of hours later and opened his hand and showed me that Grandpa had paid him SIX dollars. I told him to go put it away and he said, "No, is for the chicks." I stood there feeling guilty for taking his money. He assured me he wanted ALL of it to go to the "chick fund" he had done the math and he knew with his donation we were halfway there.

That night as I tucked him in he was GIDDY. I mean seriously crawling out of his skin and jumping for joy. I asked why he was so happy and he said. "Mom, I never knew giving everything I had would feel so good. It seems like it would make me sad but I am just so happy I could do that. It is so fun to give. This must be why Jesus gave up everything for us." My eyes filled with tears and I kissed him good night as tears fell down my cheeks. I had forgotten. I had forgotten that allowing and even encouraging our children to GIVE WAS A GIFT. My gut reaction when he handed me that money was to give it back to him and tell him to save it for his Lego set. Had I done that, I would have robbed him of an even greater gift.

I am not sure what Christmas will look like next year in our house, but I am so grateful for the reminder that joy doesn't come from opening gifts. Joy comes from the Lord. It comes from gratitude and giving. The world teaches us that Christmas means presents. This Christmas I am thankful for his constant presence in my life through those I love most. Luke astounds me and makes me want to be a better me. I am so very thankful for all of the amazing gifts I have been given...not one of those being "things". What are you thankful for this Christmas?  May your holiday season be filled with His presence.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Schooling Dilemmas

I come here looking for tips, tricks and advice from my fellow moms who school your kids at home...I have been at this for three months now and have tried a variety of different things to make school work best for our family. I have tried the, get everyone up early and work on a schedule type day, the do school with one child while the others play and then alternate kids day, and the relaxed let them take all day kind of day. I have yet to find something that works perfectly for raising and educating a 2nd grader, a preschooler and a toddler.

I had been feeling defeated and pulled in so many directions that I feared I might lose my mind. I prayed and prayed that God would give the clear direction, and I think He has. Yesterday I woke with some strong convictions. One about ME getting up early even if and especially if no one else does. A typical morning here has me getting up with Howard to send him off and make sure he has his coffee, breakfast, lunch, then I typically go back into my bed and read subsequently falling back asleep only to wake when Hope (who has yet to realize she can get out of her big girl bed herself) screams my name like the house is on fire. I have to admit...waking up to that doesn't set me up for success. Then Ben typically wakes to the alarm of hearing Hope yell MOOOOOOOMMMMMM! We snuggle and watch Dora and wait for Luke to get up and then we have breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, make beds and begin school.

The Lord has reminded me yet again that while I love my warm bed in the still dark morning, that my days go better when I get up early, send Howard off, get myself dressed, get a cup of coffee and pray and read before the children get up...when I have had he opportunity to start my day with Him in the quiet peace of the morning it definitely has an impact on the entire day, yet that soft warm bed entices me.

Another conviction I believe He is alerting me to is my use of the TV. Obviously during school time we can't have the TV on but I have been so guilty of leaning on the TV to entertain Hope while we do school in lieu of finding her appropriate activities to do. Yesterday we spent the day TV free and it was so fantastic.

I also need to stay off the computer myself. I am often times lured by the computer to check Facebook or a deal site and then find myself snapping at the kids when they want to steal my attention from my laptop. They deserve ALL of me not just my leftovers.

So, I've set some goals for myself for the next few weeks...I've written them down so I can reassess in a week or two. Here they are:

1. To get up early no matter what and get my day started with God and prayer so that I can be fresh and ready to greet the three blessings He has given me the way they deserve to be greeted. To greet them with a smile, a hug and a prayer for the day each morning.

2. To have ALL meals planned out to avoid the chaos of what's for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and to include the kids in preparing the meals.

3. To not rush through school and take a more "team work" approach...allowing the kids to be included in all lessons if it interests them and allow them to teach each other more.

4. To include the kids in more of the chores of the day to allow them to take ownership of our home and see first hand the work that it takes to keep things up.

5. To include family devotion time each day as we do our Advent Challenge.

6. To stay off of my computer during the day...allowing for time checking messages and blogging in the morning before the kids wake or in the evening after they are in bed.

I hope to check in at the end of next week and see if our days are more peaceful and if I've followed through. :) What are some goals you have? What helps your day go better and more peacefully?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sweet Sydney

Today marks four years since sweet Sydney Grace Byrd came into the world. She was born still. She never took a breath but has accomplished more for God's Kingdom than many people who have lived for many years. I know you will be blessed by her amazing mom's words and the incredible song written by her loving dad and mom. Please take a moment and meet Sydney and see and possibly contribute to her legacy. Hallelujah! He gives and takes away...BLESSED BE HIS NAME.

Praying for a Heart Like Hers

It has been just over four years since I started this blog. Just over four years ago, I came here to document EVERY thought, feeling and moment I had with our precious fourth born boy. Each year since I come back here and relive it as I read through the raw heartache, not because I am obsessed or morbid, but because I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget how far I've come and I don't want to forget one single moment parenting Asher the only way I know how.

Four years ago I longed for a book called "What to expect when you are expecting a baby who is expected to die". There isn't one. It was uncharted territory for me and I danced the grief dance for months before even meeting Asher. Grief wasn't unfamiliar to me, but my grief with Asher was very different from my grief with Isaac.

As the snow begins to fall and the Christmas tree goes up I am reminded of the journey we began four years ago as we did these same things in hopes of a miracle. In hopes that Asher would prove all of the doctors wrong, that he would live and that we would get to see him grow. There are still times that the grief and anger surface, but mostly I have peace. Each day I wake up and my heart aches for my boys in Heaven. Sometimes it hurts so much I can barely breathe and then God gently reminds me that His grace truly is enough...that I don't get to understand all of the whys...I have to accept the path He has given and keep on walking.

Lately I've been feeling the heartache more as we are in the season of excitement and family pictures and two pieces of my heart are missing. All I can do is pray for a heart like Mary's. I am so thankful for the Magnificat. It brings me such comfort and peace and shows me I am not alone in this and reminds me of the Truth I know but sometimes lose sight of in my own grief.

The Magnificat
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:the Almighty has done great things for me,and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy,the promise he made to our fathers,to Abraham and his children for ever.


Praying this morning for a heart more like Mary's, a heart that gives thanks for even the heartache and praises Him for ALL He is and all He gives...and thankful for each and every one of His promises. As Sally Lloyd-Jones says it best in the Storybook Bible, "One day He will make all sad things come untrue." MAN I look forward to that day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talkin' About My Girl

I've had a few people message and ask how Hope is so I figured I'd take a few minutes and write a bit about our girl.  (Especially since keeping up with baby books is NOT my strong suit)

She is two and is still a peanut.  She wears 18-24 month clothes and LOVES all things girly.  She more often than not is wearing a tutu, sparkly shoes, and is dripping in jewels.

Her speech astounds EVERYONE.  She's got spunk and can verbalize herself so well.  She literally speaks in paragraphs.

She loves to have her nails painted and her hair done.  We recently discovered she has enough for a ponytail!  It was a momentous occasion, though I must say, it makes her look less baby and more big girl so it hurts my heart just a little. 

She is a mover and a shaker.  She loves to get out and explore.  This was her first trip to Starbucks where she got her OWN drink.  :)  She thought she was big time.  Oh how I love her.

Her BIGGEST obsession is Dora, which drives her brothers insane.  It is all she wants to watch or play.  She loves to find a piece of paper and pretend it is a map and create her own missions and adventures. 

She still prefers mama above ANYONE else and I have to say I am eating it up.  We do everything together.  The boys often go fishing or go play baseball and she and I get to go shop, paint nails and cook!  SO very fun.  We are so blessed!

She recently had her first dental visit.  I was a bit nervous because I had never heard of a two year old sitting through a cleaning and exam.  She did it.  We go to a STELLAR pediatric dentist and he was wonderful with her.  She got glowing reviews and was a rockstar!

In all, she is the perfect addition to our family.  She is all I ever dreamed of in a daughter and all I never knew possible.  She amazes us all and reminds us of just how blessed we truly are.  She loves Ben and Luke and loving refers to them as "her guys" or "her boys".  She looks up to them and loves joining in when they allow.  Just this afternoon she was running around the house with a tutu, camo boots, a pink Spiderman tshirt that her brothers got her and a giant flower in her hair.  She was chasing bad guys alongside her "good guys" with her butterfly wand as "Princess Spiderman".  My cup TRULY runneth over and I am enjoying EVERY MOMENT.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do you?

Just last week Howard and I sat down to have a heart to heart about some parenting issues we are having recently. As we got into things I told him that I felt like we have become pretty complacent. We have fallen into a comfortable rut and I am not sure God is still the center. His reply to me literally brought me to my knees. He said, "Do we want God at the center, do we REALLY?". I felt my face begin to burn as he seemingly antagonized me.

I assured him we DID. I told him that I was feeling overwhelmed, that my plate was full and I was having no time for God. I was finding it hard to find a few minutes to eat lunch let alone get into my Bible. Then he asked, "Well, WHY do we want God at the center? So things will go well for US? Is it all about US?" (He is a gem...I know.) I stammered and sputtered and tears began to roll. I came up with the several places in the Bible where God DOES in fact tell us that when we obey, when we are in line with Him, things WILL in fact go well for us. It was how he intended it.

Howard then went on to say that he felt like we had kind of become what we swore we never would. With no immediate crisis to face, we have found it more difficult to serve Him in all turn we wind up serving ourselves. We find ourselves attracted by shiny things, and struggling to live IN but not OF this world. He then said that he felt like he wasn't sure we really WANTED to follow God and keep him at the center. In truth, when we follow hard after Him there is a lot of denying of self that needs to happen and for us, that can be hard.

I will admit that after my conversation with Howard I spent the next 24 hours praying harder, immersed in scripture and reminding myself of the grace I need to extend to EVERYONE. I can say with my whole heart that IN God's will is where I WANT to be. I WANT Him at the center of it all. I am well aware that sometimes that means intense heartache and pain. It also means peace and joy.

I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the most difficult times in my life as I held and had to let go of Isaac and Asher, I felt the tangible presence of my Father. I knew He was there. I knew I had nothing to offer, I was helpless and oh so very broken. I was at the end of my own rope and He was all I had left. It honestly sounds like something horrific, but as I look back, I sometimes find myself longing for that. Not that I yearn for more tragedy, but I yearn for that closeness with Him. The peace I felt in those days was beyond anything I can describe with words.

I hope I never have to walk such agonizing roads again, and I miss my boys so much it steals the breath from my lungs some days, I have to try each day to try and find peace and joy in knowing that God's plan is bigger. I have to say though that I almost feel privileged to have walked the roads I have. I long for my babies, but I am so thankful for all they have taught me. They have changed my perspective on just about everything. I have known intense love and peace in the most painful of experiences...why don't I feel it every day?

As I have been reflecting, I am coming to realize that my belief that it takes some tragedy to feel that closeness again is a flat out lie. He has a plan for each of our lives and sometimes he places heartache in front of us and sometimes he places times of abundance and sometimes periods of ordinary. The important thing to remember is that where we are, is where He has placed us. He meets us where we are. So for me to believe that I need to find some ideal quiet oasis to have time with Him is a lie. He meets me as I wash dishes, as I teach my children, fold the laundry and mop the floors. He meets me in the chaos if only I keep my eyes turned upward. The things I see as blockades are likely just excuses. We are called to worship Him in ALL we do. Every single item on my to do list should be done for His Glory. When I can keep my focus on that, I find joy and peace in even the changing of diapers and raking of leaves. I choose.

I don't know about you. I don't know where you are right now, but I do know a loving God who desperately wants a relationship with each of His children. I know that where ever I am, where ever you are, He wants to meet us there. My goal is to allow Him to meet me in the chaos, when it all seems overwhelming and when my heart swells with gratitude. We do get a choice in all of it. We can choose Him, we can choose joy. He placed me here...He placed you the circumstance we are in, how can we bring Glory to God? What are your goals? Do you WANT Him at the center no matter what that may mean?

I do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Horror

Last year I wrote my thoughts on Halloween and our new tradition of NOT trick or treating. This year when the topic came up, Ben REALLY wanted to dress up and Luke still wanted NO part in the holiday despite the fact that he and his brother are dressed like superheroes, cowboys, ninjas, etc more often than not. My fondness for the holiday was thwarted by a sucker punch while walking through a nearby mall and glancing over at the Halloween store to see a playground of dead baby corpses mechanically spinning and moving around.  I literally nearly lost my mind right there in that mall.  At what point have we become so desensitized that mechanical dead baby corpses is even remotely funny or even okay?  Honestly, I don't think I am easily offended but that display brought me to my knees.  I digress...we have super fun kids with super great imaginations and dressing up can be fun!

We debated what to do. We contemplated taking the little ones to a few houses and one of us just staying back and playing games or something with Luke. Then we were invited to a local church community celebration and figured it might be just the thing to allow Ben to dress up and Luke to be comfortable with things. At the last minute we decided to get everyone in costume and head out.

I will say that I think the church did a wonderful job reaching out to the community, providing hot dogs, snacks, beverages, games, and just stretching out a friendly hand and showing love. It really was a great event held by the church and my negative feelings toward the holiday and the events that followed had NOTHING to do with the church's efforts.

The event was held in a local business parking lot.  Trick or Treaters were encouraged to join in the fun and i was so impressed by how many actually did.  I did leave though feeling disheartened and frustrated.  As I stood there looking around at all of the little ones running around I literally felt sick as I saw five year olds in fishnets, sexy seven year old devils, and more slutty (elementary aged) vampires than I care to admit.  We also saw many little ones covered in blood and dressed as zombies, scary movie stars, and vampires.  In the car on the way home, Luke asked if we could once again bypass the holiday next year as he saw several costumes that bothered him.

I sat last night with a broken heart praying and wondering what has happened to our culture.  When did we become so desensitized to things?  When did corsets, fishnet stockings, and fake cleavage become okay for sweet young girls.  Innocence is lost so early these days and kids are no longer able to just be kids.  Gone are the days of homemade costumes, superheros, princesses, and farm animals. I will note that I did see several REALLY creative and amazing costumes, but the vast majority were far from even PG rated.

I guess in the end this is a holiday, that for our family, we are just going to let go of.  Even with good intentions, I had to explain a few things to my boys about modesty and appropriateness that I wasn't prepared to go into detail on at their ages.  I don't feel this is stuff that should even be on their radar at 8 and 5.  I am all for going out as a family and sharing the love of God with everyone and I thought this was what we would do, and I hope that we accomplished that goal.  I do believe that God calls us to be the salt and the light in a world so confused and dark that values are lost and innocence is gone far too soon.  For my family however, I think we are done.

While I don't believe any day can belong to anyone but God, Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”  I think we are called to glorify Him every day, even on Halloween.  I think where we get blurred is where we start seeing cute witches, wizards, devils, vampires, etc...these things are evil.  When we start to make them look cool or innocent, we blur the difference between good and evil for our kids.    Ephesians 5:15-16 says. “Be careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…”  Every day is our chance to share God with the world.  We also must, however, be careful how we live – not unwisely conforming to the culture (Romans 12:2), but shining the light that we have before men (Matthew 5:16).  Be a light in a dark world!  And I admit, I am struggling between wanting to lock my kids up for the month of October and shield them from all of it ( I am kidding of course...kind of) and wanting to get out there and try to be a light, just as this particular church was doing.

Sometimes I struggle because while I know we are called to be that light to a dark world, I also know that my kids are still innocent and while they do need information and need to be taught to live in but not of this world, I wonder if they are ready to really understand...I am not sure I have equipped them yet for this.  I hope that one day they can go out and shine their light, but right now they are so impressionable and easily confused, I need to be sure I am setting a solid foundation.

Parenting is tough stuff.  The responsibility of shepherding these amazing little people is immense and I just want to be sure I am doing all I can to train them in the way they should go.  I don't want to shield them from everything but I want to be the one introducing them and teaching them in small bite sized increments as they build their foundation.  Satan is on the prowl and I don't want to give him a foot in the door.  Halloween is just one of those issues that I find myself so conflicted on.  I am praying that God gives me clarity on what he wants our family to do, because I don't want to hole up in the house and miss an opportunity to share His love, but I also want to keep our sights on what is good and noble and true.

So tell do you handle Halloween? 


Wow! Is it possible I've been away from here for a month!? Yikes! Well, life has been full to the brim with blessings and busyness. We are in full homeschool mode which takes up the majority of our mornings and we've been exploring the world around us in the afternoons!

My sister blessed me with a trip to visit her in Florida for my birthday (which is actually today) and though I was hesitant to leave my crew, I found it wonderful and refreshing. I think one of the biggest struggles I had was worrying that something bad would happen while I was away and God so gently reminded me that He is in control of that, I am not. I am not the only person who can care for them and that was kind of a hard pill to swallow, but they did great and had a wonderful time with their great daddy, and I had some sister time and honestly feel like I got my groove back...

Can you tell?  :)  My sister was a fabulous hostess and I almost felt like a princess.  I really had the best time.  It had been a year since I had seen her and that is way too long!  We went shopping, watched movies, went to dinner, sipped champagne in the hot tub, sat on the beach and drank sangria.  It was a really relaxing weekend away and I am feeling like a new girl!

Not to mention she lives only about five minutes from THIS!  :)  I shall return.  That is for sure.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Afghan

A couple of weeks ago I was going through some old things in the basement and came across an old afghan my mom made me when she was pregnant with me. It was covered my twin bed for most of my twin bed days. Pastel, well loved and threadbare, I pulled it from the storage bin it had been in and decided it would cover Hope's bed since we haven't bought her bedding for her new bed yet.

This week our house has passed around some strange cold and everyone has had their turn being "down" for a day. Yesterday was Luke's day. As his fever broke he shivered and I turned to find him a blanket and there in the laundry basket, freshly washed and folded was the afghan my mom made. "I'd like that one, mom." he said to me pointing to my childhood blanket. I swallowed hard, opened it up and snuggled him into it. He fell asleep and I watched as he slept, thanking God for the gift that he is.

When he woke up he was feeling a little better and was chatty. He asked where the blanket had come from and why he had never seen it. I told him that my mom had made it and he just gave me a sympathetic look. I've always been honest with the kids about what happened to my mom and he knows her story. In that moment I was a kid again...just months older than Luke himself...hearing from friends at school the gruesome details they overheard their parents talking about.

He I am sure saw the emotion coming to a cusp and he began asking questions. He has asked about her before but this was different. He wanted to know her. The blanket was something tangible...something that proved that she lived.

In that moment as I told him some of the few things I remember, I realized that in my life, I have encountered great loss...repeatedly...and with Isaac and Asher, we are open and find ways to include them in our daily lives. Their pictures sit right next to their siblings and they are just a normal part of our family. I don't have pictures of my mom around...for so long I was just angry and didn't want them to know how broken this world really is...and quite frankly I didn't need the reminder.

After she died, my dad was so angry that most of her things were destroyed or donated...I have VERY few things that belonged to the kids aren't used to having objects around that would trigger them to wonder about her and honestly, neither am I. I wasn't ready for what that afghan would bring, but I have found tonight that those woven, worn threads are weaving something more beautiful in this house...healing.

As I talked with my boy, wise beyond his years he was more compassionate than most adults I know. Tears rolled down his hot cheeks as he admitted that he felt sad that he never knew her. Then it dawned on him that I was just a bit older than what he is right now when she took her life...and she was just a bit older than I am. He hugged me tight and said "It must have been hard mom, to live without your mom, I don't know what I'd do without you, but you sure were blessed to have your Grandma to take care of you. I wish I had known her, but I am glad you had Great Grandma White. You missed out on a mom and I missed out on a grandma, but God still gives us what we need." (insert ugly cry)

He does. He really does. Sometimes this world is so unimaginably broken...sometimes we encounter loss, and it breaks us...changes our world forever and leaves scars that will never fully heal. God makes no mistakes and she is the woman God chose to be my mother, my kids' grandmother. She is an important link in the chain and for nine years of my life she was a wonderful mom. I ache to know her and I won't lie and say that I don't feel cheated. I can't just keep leaving her out though...she is a crucial chapter in my story. My heart hurts knowing that there are others out there hurting the way my mom did. Others who think that the best choice that they have is to just end their life to stop the hurting. There is such a taboo even still swirling around mental illness and depression...a shame that comes with it that saddens me. We were never created to walk this world alone. I am so thankful for the hope I have in the One who gives and the One who takes away. I pray daily for the mother out there feeling as my mom must have, buying into the lie that her children might just have a better life without her. Satan is a sneaky punk...he is on the prowl and he is doing all he can do destroy families...the good news is that God is greater...Satan might be a lion on the prowl, but our Lord has him on a leash. Beauty comes from our brokenness especially when we share it and put it out there.

Tonight, I sit here, tears streaming down my face thanking the Lord for this life He has blessed me with. I have known great sorrow and I have known great joy, and both of those have helped me to be the person I am today. Tonight, the gift He gave me in my 8 year old little boy has shown me the beauty coming from grief. I've never known a wiser, more compassionate little guy and I can only pray that the Lord continues the work he is doing in him and helps him become a wise and compassionate man. Tonight...Luke amazed me...God REALLY always does give us what we need. Sometimes it hurts like Hell. Sometimes it makes no sense and brings us in a puddle to our knees.

Tomorrow, in an act of healing that I NEVER thought would happen, when we get home from serving at the City Mission, I am going to walk the steps to the basement and bring up the bin of photo albums I haven't opened in years. I am going to share with my boys the grandma that they were cheated out of. I am going to help them to see what a wonderful lady she was and how hard she tried to be everything she could be. While sometimes I just wish I could shield them from the brokenness of this world, Luke has shown me that it is the brokenness that brings beauty...we take our hurt, our loss, our grief and we keep on moving through it in the hope of comforting others as the Lord has comforted us. We will be praying for those without the hope we have that they would feel His loving arms around them, warming them like a threadbare afghan. The world is so very broken my friends, but there is hope. There is always hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

GRAttitude is Everything

Well, last week was "Fair Week" in our neck of the woods, which meant LOTS of learning opportunities and MAN did we take advantage of them. We saw goats being milked (the boys REFUSED to partake) ;) Cow milking, sheep shearing, horse pulls, tractor pulls, old fashioned cider mills, steam engines, and all the like. The week was filled to the brim and Sunday we were exhausted and "Fair Hungover" :) Each morning Hope got up and promptly went to the door after getting dressed for her mud boots and John Deere bow. :) Sunday was a day of rest...well sort of...since we had been gone so much of the week, there was much to be done so we plugged away at that.

When Monday rolled around, I was tired, the kids were tired and crankiness was in the air. I KNOW that attitude is important...I know that crankiness is contagious and yet I went into the week with a chip on my shoulder, feeling overwhelmed and cranky once again. (I'd like to also clarify that my house is fully in order...well as much order as one can have with three small know...just for the record.)

I tried to share my frustration with my sweet husband which only infuriated me further. He always reminds me that there is no room for a bad attitude and all too often I am tired and weak and instead of hitting my knees I get irritable and cranky. He assures me that I am capable of anything God wants me to do and if I set my mind to it and move forward prayerfully His plans always succeed and yet somehow that often times infuriates me more, until I do hit my knees and see his heart and intention.

This morning I was buzzing around the house getting packed up to head out the door because on Wednesdays we meet up with some other fab families for playtime/mommy time/lunch and then I go work with my dad while my Grandma spends an hour or two with the kids. As I buzzed, I fumed. Dirty socks on the floor...not mine...not the kids. Dirty coffee mug in the sink instead of the dishwasher, and toothpaste in the sink. I thought to, I am married to a neanderthal. Stomp stomp stomp as I pick up messes I did not make...a toddler fit because it just isn't fair follows. Just kidding...kind of.

Then in several conversations today with three different friends, as they shared marriage struggles with me, I realized I hadn't thanked Howard in a very long time. His minor little flaws are really nothing at all in comparison to the gift he is in my life. He is my very best friend, my biggest supporter, the most amazing father who LOVES having time with his kids, and a wonderful leader for our family. On top of all that he is a minister to many especially my own heart.

He is a wonderful and loving man of God and so tomorrow, when I pick up dirty socks and move that coffee mug from the sink to the dishwasher I will fight back the toddler fit and I will be trying to use those previous annoyances as a reminder to pray for Howard and give thanks for all he is to this family. If we take a close look we all have lots of flaws. I have more than I can count and yet he loves me in spite of and sometimes even because of each and every one. I am so very blessed to have found such a wonderful man of God and I know Satan loves nothing more than tearing marriages apart and so it is my goal from now on to stop when I find myself annoyed (one of Howard's famous lines to the kids is that annoyed is a choice)by the little things and give thanks for the MAJOR blessing God has given me in Howard Bolte. As my dad would say I "had an attitudinal problem that needs some readjustin'"(a quote from one of his favorite movies) Thank you Lord, for the gentle reminder of all you have given me. May I see this as another opportunity to lose the selfishness and die to myself. Attitude is of the utmost importance and as the wife and mother of this household I need to have an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude, much like ungratefulness is a seed...only each bears a different fruit. I pray to plant a seed of gratitude in this family where love and joy can grow wild. By grace alone.

Friday, September 9, 2011

American Idol

 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.  Jonah  2:8

So, last week was tough.  I made it through each day by the skin of my teeth.  Being responsible for the education of my children weighed heavily on me and I felt overwhelmed and underqualified.  My fuse was short and I was not the graceful, patient mother I want to be.  Howard was frustrated with me I could tell.  He never said a word, just, encouraged me to seek the Lord and do my best.  He left my Bible open on the counter each morning and left me a sweet note.

Sleep seems to allude me when there are lessons to be planned, floors to be swept, laundry to be folded, toys to be picked up, sinks to shine, toilets to scrub, children to bathe, you get the picture.  Then I found when I did lie in bed, my mind raced thinking of all the things left undone.  I shared my insomnia with Howard who assured me I needed to take it to God.  He asked if I had prayed about it. Prayed about it?  Huh. Gee, I guess I forgot to start there.  And then it dawned on me.  I hadn't REALLY prayed in days...I mean we gave thanks at meals and I prayed with the kids at bedtime but it had been days since I bowed my head, drowned the rest of it out and asked the Lord for the grace that only he can extend.  

This week has gone considerably better.  We are learning our curriculum and how to best use it for our family.  We have gotten out and spent some much needed time with friends, but the real difference I believe is prayer.  We are beginning each day with prayer and I find myself needing (after reading the little reminders I leave for myself all over the house) to bow my head and commune with the One who can make it all so much better.  The One who knew we would be right here in this place and he orchestrated it all.

You see, I hate to admit it, but when I get busy, the first thing that tends to go is my time with God.  In a world where becoming an "idol" is a great accomplishment, I want so much different for my family.  He commands us to have no other God before Him and I have been so guilty of practicing idolatry on a daily basis.  When I decide I MUST scrub the floor or shine the sink or do just that one last chore before I hit my knees, I am basically saying that these chores are more important. When I sit down and check Facebook instead of meeting Him, I am making Facebook an idol.

I grew up in a home where "cleanliness is next to godliness" was the theme.  My grandma is an AMAZING lady and kept an immaculate house.  We never had the nicest "things" or anything fancy, but what we had, we took care of and cleanliness was of the utmost importance, but at what point have I chosen to put it ABOVE the One who gave me all I have?  I don't know.  I still firmly believe that God calls us to be a good steward of all He gives, whether that is money, possessions, children, or spiritual gifts, and we are called to take great care of such things, but if we are missing out on our one on one time with Him, aren't we missing the point?  Idolatry is sin.  While I still want my husband to come home to a clean house, it is more important that he comes home to a wife who is right with the Lord and children who are learning what it looks like to live this life for Him.

My goal for the next week is to rise just a few minutes earlier, to hit my knees before I hit my feet in the morning and begin each school day with prayer and to weave it throughout the day, we are called to "pray without ceasing" and for some reason I struggle with this.  I tend to compartmentalize my life and often forget that commune with Him should be a theme throughout.  I knew money could be an idol, other people can become idols, and graven images can become idols, but housework?  YEP!  I am constantly telling my children "When we disobey, things don't go well"...humbling for sure.  When we disobey, things DON'T go well.  God calls us to turn from idolatry an to consecrate ourselves to Him alone.  I am hoping that the shift in focus will make a difference in our school day.

The housework will still need to be done, but AFTER prayer, after a heart check with God.  I am not sure what this is going to look like, but I am certain it won't look as it does, what with the frustrated slamming of cabinet doors and overwhelmed sighs of despair.  Schoolwork will still need to be done, after meeting with our Lord for the morning and constantly throughout each day.  Perhaps if we commune with Him and invite Him into every single thing we do, there will be more joy and less frustration.

I have been in need of an attitude adjustment.  We started this school year and I was overwhelmed from day one.  I felt like adding the role of academic teacher to the bajillion roles I was already juggling was ridiculous and if I am being honest, I was a little resentful that I felt like this was what God wanted me to do.  I mean when would I have ME time?  At what point would I get a moment to do what I wanted to do?  What about me getting to go back to work one day?  (Oh wait, my going back to work would me getting hired in a school, to educate other people' children.  Should that desire be greater than my desire to shepherd and teach my own children?)  He is refining, and it is uncomfortable and a little scary.  He is moving me out of my place of selfishness and each day more into a place of servanthood and self-denial. If my children don't see me open my bible consistently and pray without ceasing, how will they know how crucial this is.  Is that not more important than learning about subjects and predicates?  :)  I believe education is very important, but knowledge without God is futile.  What am I putting first?  OY!  Reality check.  This girl has some serious work to do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Schooling Your Own Kids Isn't For Wimps!

HOLY MOLY! What a whirlwind the past two weeks have been. If I am being honest, I ended last week in tears, certain I had made a HUGE mistake and that Luke might be back in school by Monday. :) I sat down and just cried and cried pleading for the Lord to just tell me what on earth He is doing here and what exactly He is calling me to. You see several months ago when we were pursuing foster care (which we still are and I will update you on soon)I felt the Lord pulling me in just a bit, He was reminding me that I needed to be intentional and invest all I could into the children I had already been given. I have this tendency to want to rush out and do HUGE things and change the world all the while missing the boat with the mission He has already set before me.

Just a couple of years ago if you would have asked me my thoughts on homeschooling I would have said, I thought it was nuts and that ALL children should be in school. I shouldn't be surprised that in the past two weeks when we have been out in public, I have had to field the question of why Luke isn't in school, but it has caught me off guard. I have been asked countless questions with varying intentions I am certain. I have had grocery store clerks ask why the boys aren't in school and then roll her eyes when I tell her we were done with school for the day because we are schooling at home.

Now, here is the thing...I am by nature people pleaser...all my life I have worried so much about what everyone else thinks, and this season in life is not allowing for that. We have had to stand firm on what we believe to be right for our family and just hold fast. We have had to think and rethink our position on things and we still believe without a shadow of a doubt that this is what is best for our family in this season. That is not to say that they won't return to public school and it isn't to say that they will. We have chosen to revisit the decision yearly and do what is best for each individual child. That is all we can do as parents right?

As a former teacher I was sure I would be a stellar teacher for my children and oh how they have humbled me. This homeschool stuff is not for wimps. It is constant and beyond exhausting. I have learned this week that I don't have to make "our school" look just like public fact that kind of defeats what we are doing here. We have loosened up and though we re following the curriculum we are also focusing on experiences and not so many worksheets. :) I am learning more about my own kids and about myself than I imagined I would. I am finding that the Lord is refining me and pushing me beyond my limits in this and He is stepping in to fill the gap when I allow Him full reign.

This week has been such an improvement from last week. It is still hard. I am still barely awake by the end of the evening as I plan the next day's activities, but I can't describe the overwhelming sense of accomplishment and joy when I see progress with the kids. I have found that if I start my own day with asking Him to fill the inadequacies that are so glaringly obvious in me, and hitting my knees and asking for help the moment things start to get hairy, He is there, He steps in and He makes it right. Keeping God focused has helped my attitude go from, oh my word, "I feel like a pinball bouncing between three children barely having time to pee or have a moment's peace" to "Thank you Lord, for allowing me the opportunity to do this, to pour into their lives as you pour into mine. Thank you for your peace that is able to overcome all of the chaos and fill my heart with joy."

So, I wont lie and tell you the "Bolte School" is perfect, that tears aren't shed or that frustrations don't ever run high, but I will tell you that we are working on it...together, with Him and that He is refining and making beauty from a complete and utter mess...and for that...I am so VERY grateful.

I might also add that I am also so very grateful for the new friends He has brought into my life gradually over the past couple of years for this very season.  While many are critical, I am so thankful for a group of friends who are right here in the trenches with us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bus Stopped Here

I shared earlier that we decided to school Luke (2nd grade) and Ben (PreK) at home this year, so when I was getting breakfast on the table and the bus stopped and honked at the end of our driveway at 8:20 this morning my heart sunk and tears began to flow. The kids were getting dressed and making beds so they never saw it, but it literally brought me to my knees.

I have shared my intense fondness for our local elementary school and at first I thought these feelings were just my grief over not being a part of such a great school this year. Then, it hit me for the first time. If Isaac were still here...HE would be getting on that bus. He would be starting Kindergarten this year. Sometimes these milestones cause grief for days of anticipation leading up to the event and sometimes they seem to sneak in out of nowhere and suck the wind right from my lungs.

Today I felt as though I had been sucker punched. Yesterday was our first day of homeschooling (which isn't real homeschooling so I have been so kindly informed because it is cyber school that we are doing, and it isn't REAL public school as I have also been reminded because it is by and large ruining the public education system) I digress. The day was a whirlwind of activity. I felt like a pin ball being whacked from one side of the board to the other. Three different voices begging for my attention all at the same time. By the end of the day I was spent. I was fairly certain I had ruined my children and must have been out of my mind when I agreed to keep them all at home.

This was when Howard got home. Always the voice of reason and wisdom, Howard gently reminded me that this was in fact what we were called to do in this season and that I needed to remain firmly planted in His word. Always my reminder that attitude is everything he held his half full glass of water up and gave me the look. :) (sometimes it is superbly annoying how right he is and how great his perspective generally is. I may have wanted to knock the glass out of his hand.)

I woke up this morning and Howard had left each child a surprise and love note on the table reminding them of their weekly Bible verse and for me. He left my Bible OPEN on the counter. When I sent him a text this morning about Isaac he replied, "Good thing the Lord had better things in store for our boy.". At first I threw the phone down. SERIOUSLY? I had sent him the message knowing that he too would feel the pang of grief and yet he gave glory to the Lord...I'll be honest...sometimes it annoys the daylights out of me that he never seems to allow himself to succumb to the human side of this grief thing, but I am also awfully thankful he doesn't always indulge me in it.

I then came across this nugget of wisdom from Ann Voskamp this morning:

"Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The brave who focus on all things good,all things beautiful,all things true even in the small,who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now,they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places,let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows."

Lord, Please help me to focus on the good. Please help me to always see that glass in Howard's hand as half full. Help me to be thankful in all things and continue to send reminders to gently pull me back to gratitude when my heart begins to shift to self pity. Please help me to allow the joy to soak in to all of my brokenness.

Today we got through school and it was picturesque. We sat on a blanket under the tree and read, we finished all of our work before lunch and had a great day. Perhaps perspective and prayer really are the key to it all. When am I gonna learn?

(pictures of our "first day of school" to come as soon as I can figure out why my camera blinks red and refuses to upload to the computer when I plug it in.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Luke Love

On August 19th, 2003 I was about 35 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I was furiously cleaning an prepping a special dinner for Howard's family to celebrate his Mom's birthday that we were celebrating that night (though it was her true birthday the next day). Howard had gone into the bedroom to lie down for a bit before everyone got to our home and I went in to the bathroom to get dressed. That was when my water broke. I stood there stunned and unsure of what to do. I couldn't tell if I had lost bladder control or if the time had come. I was certain it couldn't be baby time as I was still supposed to have five weeks to prepare for Luke's arrival.

I went to the bedroom to tell Howard what was going on and he popped up like a jack in the box and began running around like a mad man throwing my things in a bag. I called the doctor who asked me to come in to the hospital to be checked. We ran out the door as our dinner guests were arriving. We told them to help themselves, apologized, and off we went! I remember being terrified, not really knowing just HOW early five weeks was, I kept asking if he would be okay. The nurses assured me that from what they saw he'd be fine and hat he may need the NICU or a little oxygen but that we'd be just fine.

After about 21 hours of labor, the doctor came in and gave me the lowdown. I was exhausted and so my choices were to accept something for the pain and get an epidural so I could rest or risk exhaustion and ending up with a c section. They didn't want the baby to be in there for more than 24 hours with my water broken.

Two hours after the administration of the epidural (for which I could have kissed the doctor)the doctor came in and checked me. He said "Okay we are ready to push. This could take a while so slow and steady wins the race." I pushed, and the doctor put the nurse in charge while he ran across the hall to deliver another baby. With the next push the nurse asked me to STOP! She called for help and literally held the baby in until the doctor came running back into the room. He literally caught the baby as he ran in and he came out and handed him to the nurse. It was like something from a movie.

Then they handed me our boy. The boy I was certain would be named Noah or Benjamin. We looked at him and knew this was Luke. He came ON his Grandma Bolte's birthday! He was just over five pounds and the most miraculous thing I had ever seen. And to this day I look at that boy in awe.

Honestly, I can't imagine life without that awesome kid. He has grown to be the most amazing eight year old boy. He is responsible and respectful, loving and light hearted, he has a heart of gold and is as smart as a whip! I am so proud to be his mama. He's come a long way from that 5 pound baby boy we were terrified to even hold, but he captured my heart in a way I never knew possible. He changed me. He made me a mom. He has taught me so much and I am so excited to continue to grow with him.

He adores his little sister and has his nose in a book more often than not and if his nose isn't in a book he is likely climbing the maple tree in the front yard or riding his bike.  He loves to help out and be given jobs.  He is compassionate on  level I never knew possible for an eight year old.  He has a tender heart and cries easily.  He has the ONLY Bolte sibling to have met each of his siblings on earth.  He has learned about love, life and letting go.  He is an old soul and makes me want to be a better person.  He loves anything Lego, Mario or Star Wars and is pumped to have some of his best buds, two sets of twins, over tonight for a sleepover. For his birthday dinner tonight he has requested homemade stromboli and chocolate chip cookie dough brownies. I am so thankful that we get to celebrate eight years with him and I pray God gives us many more. Being a mom is the GREATEST gift I have ever known and it all started with our Luke! Thank you LORD for Lucas Robert!

Seriously.  My heart is just overjoyed knowing that I get to be their mom.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Be Thou My Vision

Last week our family piled in the car for our annual trip to the eye doctor. As I sat in the chair chatting with the doctor, I mentioned that all my life I have seen double and that recently, I have found that it hinders the amount of time I can spend reading. I had it checked as a teen and the doctor then told me that nothing could be done to correct it aside from "vision therapy and eye exercises" which my dad scoffed at. I figured it was just something I would have to live with so I have.

As I explained this to the doctor he looked at me with pity. He said, "You mean for as long as you remember you have seen two of everything and you have not done anything about it?" To which I replied, "I guess so...I didn't think anything could be done." He gasped and went on about how I should have brought this up in the past five years since I have been seeing him. I have prescription glasses but it is a VERY minor prescription as my sight is actually near 20/20, just needed a little fine tuning.

He assured me that he could give me glasses with prisms in them that would help me to see only one of everything. I was skeptical, and I don't much care for glasses on my chubby face, but I was also excited at the idea that the headaches might subside, and that I might be able to read for more than ten minutes at a time.

My glasses came yesterday and it was my first day wearing them. I put them on so the glasses fitter lady could adjust them and she asked if everything looked clear. I said that they did, she adjusted my glasses and I got up to leave with them on...which is when I nearly fell flat on my face. I sat back down and told her I didn't think they were working because my distance perception was awful. She assured me that they would take some getting used to and told me to just try wearing them for short periods and gradually increasing each day.

I wore them again today and it was better. It is CRAZY to me that I can see so clearly and only ONE of everything. :) As I was thinking about how crazy it is that I have lived 32 years and never knew this kind of clarity was even possible, it dawned on me...our coming to Christ is so much the same.

We walk through the world blurry and often dark unaware of the crisp clarity that is available to us. Once we get gutsy enough to ask for help or have someone gracious enough to teach us the Way, we seem unsure...the idea takes some getting used to. We try our salvation on and are amazed at the precision with which we can see, yet it still seems so foreign. It takes some getting used to. We may stand up and sit back down. We may stumble and fall flat on our face. We may have to try it for periods and keep coming back to it until we are certain, but it is surely a better way.

Prior to allowing our vision to be through Him, we are unaware of the glory and beauty that awaits...sometimes it is like seeing again for the first time. Sometimes though, we put it on and we look in the mirror and believe lies and think we look stupid in our new glasses (ahem) but eventually the clarity outweighs all of it. The beauty in the gift that has been given is so great that it trumps it all. We put those glasses on and wear them with pride, knowing that looking stupid is FAR better than living without them. Life has been taken to a whole new level that we never knew possible.

Tonight I thank Him for my vision and for His Vision. Without which, it would be a mighty dark world. One of my favorite hymns is Be Thou My Vision.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night

Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light
Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I , Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
Riches I heed not nor man's emptly praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven my treasure Thou are
High King of heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision O Ruler of all

That last verse I have repeated to myself over and over, hidden in my heart when life hurts and makes no sense.  I have often prayed to the Lord to be my vision despite the whole world crashing in around me.  I have begged for Him to make my heart His own and for my limited vision to be sighted with His mighty Vision.  Sometimes this world just makes no sense to us, but using His word as our glasses, we know we can trust His vision above all else.  Tonight as I type this I am overwhelmed with gratitude that He has led my blind self into a place of beauty and clarity.  I surely don't deserve the gift he so lavishly bestows upon me, yet He gives it anyway.  I pray that He will continue to be my vision.  I will (with the help of my new glasses) immerse myself in His word so that I may continue to see so clearly.  I pray that I can help to be an eye doctor to a blind and hurting world, bringing clarity and joy to those who don't even know what they are missing...Lord...Be Thou My Vision. May I always seek Your Vision above my own.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two Cardboard Boxes

Yesterday, two cardboard boxes showed up at my doorstep. The appearance of those boxes in our home sent me deep into thought last night as I realized the magnitude of what is happening.

As a little background, I went to college to be an Elementary School Teacher, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Education. I attended public school, I taught in public school and I believe very much in public school. My senior year at college I had to write a paper on a highly debated educational topic. My thesis was that homeschooling is actually a form of child abuse. (I know, I know). Howard is a public school teacher. Some of our very closest friends are public school teachers.

We happen to live in a school district with one of the best elementary schools around. Howard and I both attended this very school and we have nothing but good things to say about the school, staff and familial feel of the wonderful place. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful public school option. Seriously.

This is why, when the Lord started nudging me a while ago to research other options for our kids I shut Him out. I was content. I knew Luke was SO loved and so well cared for and it made it so much easier to let him get on that big yellow monster each morning. :) I love my kids. I love when they are all home and it was hard for me to say goodbye for such a large chunk of his day, but I figured it was an issue that was for ME to work on...I needed to start letting go. So I did.

Luke liked first grade and loved his teacher. She is one of the best there is for sure. Howard and I both had her as our first grade teacher and we were thrilled that Luke would be blessed by her also...and he was. This is why part way through the year when Howard asked if I would consider homeschooling the kids, I thought he was nuts. I had been feeling the Lord work on me in this area and it was all too scary for me. I shrugged it off and we kept on.

One night, Howard and I had a serious talk on the matter. He shared with me all of his concerns, as a parent and as a teacher himself. He was concerned that Luke was becoming lazy, that because he is one of the oldest in the class and is several levels ahead in reading, he is learning to do the minimum just to get by. Even the most wonderful teacher in the world, when placed in a room with 24 seven year olds can only do so much. She had kids who barely knew their alphabet...they needed her attention. She tried hard and gave Luke extra projects and work, but again she was only human and already spends countless hours on creating lessons for the kids.

I kept praying on what we were to do...I knew how strongly Howard wanted the kids to be schooled at home, yet he knew that unless I felt it too, it would not work so he just let it go and kept praying on it as well. Through my prayer time and scripture reading, I was beginning to really hear God calling me to this job that honestly for me seems impossible...THREE small children all depending on me for their everything. Let me just tell you that I do not have the patience of a saint so it is only by the grace of God that this could possibly work.

Last week we decided. My convictions became stronger and my fear of disobeying what God was calling me to do became greater than my fear of homeschooling itself. In a few short weeks, that big yellow bus will drive down our road and bypass our house as we begin to create a learning environment within these walls.

If I am being honest, I am excited but also terrified. The magnitude of being SO responsible for my children's education overwhelms which Howard gently says "so why trust it to someone else...if it is so important...God will equip us". Oh, that wise and yet sometimes so irritating. (I say that with love, I know how blessed I am) It has become a matter of just saying "Yes, Lord" and praying our way through.

Now, all this said, I have found that as we share this decision with friends and family we are coming up against a LOT of opposition and eye rolls, so just for myself, I want to explain a few things.

We are not doing this out of fear. We believe that we are to fear nothing but the Lord, Himself. We are not trying to shield the kids from the world or protect them from anything. We are merely trying to do what is best for OUR kids. That said, we also believe that public schooling is good and is what some families are called to. Our reasons for homeschooling are not religious as much as just trying to do what is best for our own kids. Our choice to do this is in no way saying that we have a beef with school or the teachers there...that could not be farther from the truth. It is also not saying that we think this is what is best for every family. Much like all other parenting decisions, families need to choose what is best for their own kids and their own families. For some, that is private school, for some, homeschool, and for others public school.

Proverbs 9:10
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

We have also been scolded for making a choice that will ultimately cause the demise of public schooling. Disappointment has been shown in our "not allowing our children to shine their Light into the public school system." To those I say...we are merely trying to be obedient and do what is best for our kids. Expecting my five year old to be a Light is a huge responsibility, and one that I must admit I don't think he is ready for...we have a lot of foundation yet to lay. I do hope and pray each day that our children will shine their lights for all to see...I just feel like I need a little more time to instill some of those things in them. We still think it is of the utmost importance to teach them to be a light and to love with the love they've been shown.

I want Luke to retain his love of learning. I want our kids to find learning fun and exciting and above all I want them to be kids. I want them to play and explore. For THIS year Luke will do second grade and Ben will do Pre-K at home...we will pray and make schooling decisions each year depending on what is best for each individual kid. I really think we will send Ben to Kindergarten next year, but we will see. I hope to remain open to whatever God has for us.

I welcome any advice on homeschooling (especially when you don't have a school room) and organization as I am new to this. I am excited and can't wait to spend all of my moments with these precious ones. I know that if the Lord is calling us to this and we continue to seek Him that we will all be blessed.

Those two cardboard boxes...are just a reminder to never say never...and that God can change hearts in big ways. If you say so, Lord...I will.

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Deuteronomy 6:5-8
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thank You Lord, For Benjamin Oliver

As I sit down to type, words fail me. I stand in awe at the plan the Lord had for us when he gave us Benjamin. Three months after Isaac died, I became pregnant with Ben. In an effort I think to fill the large gaping wound in my heart, I threw myself back into pregnancy and all things baby.

The trouble is that when Ben was born I felt a huge disconnect. They handed him to me and I expected the hurt to heal instantly. It didn't. He wasn't Isaac. I wanted Isaac. Little did I know how much I needed Benjamin. The Lord knew. He wove this wonderful ginger haired babe together perfectly and just for our family.

He wasn't Isaac.  Isaac was gone.  We were given Benjamin.  A bright eyed, red haired boy who would turn our world upside down in the best way possible.  God knew we would need a little boy to make us laugh and not take life so seriously.  We would need to have his personality added to our brood to help us to laugh again and enjoy all that we've been given.  Daily Benisms have soothed our broken hearts.

Ben does everything he does fiercely.  He loves fiercely, he plays fiercely and he fights fiercely.  He is my polar opposite in so many ways and has been such a blessing in my life teaching me so much more than I could have imagined.  He didn't need to live in his brother's shadow, or fill the hole left by him.  He just needed to be Ben.  God has used this boy in a mighty way.  I love you buddy...for all you are and for all you've yet to be!

Don't for one minute think that because you are the middle child, you are forgotten or less important.  You hold a very special place in our family and in our hearts and we praise God for you, son!

He has a unique place in our family...sandwiched right between his two brothers in Heaven and he is right where he was meant to be.  He has been a tool used by God to show us how blessed we are in the midst of strife and in the midst of our daily mess.  He reminds us never to take ourselves so seriously.

He came into this world quickly and intensely and he seems to go about life the same way.  He challenges me more than I would like to admit and  he blesses my heart more than I could have imagined.  I thank the Lord each day for the incredible gift he gave us in Ben.  Ben is proof to me that God really does know what is best.  He knows what we need and he provides it.  My heart overflows with joy in knowing I get to raise this little man.  I can already see a work the Lord is doing in this boy and I am so excited to see what He has in store for Ben.  Through the light bulb incident, to the numerous calls to poison control, ER visits and quirky Benisms, I can't help but overflow with gratitude that the Lord blessed us with such a precious boy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Modesty...A Thing of the Past?

I know that there is a chance that this post will cause some folks to roll their eyes or to argue against what I am about to say, but after the week I have experienced, I have got to get up on my soapbox here.

We have spent some time in the past few weeks at the beach, various swimming pools and a waterpark. I have seen more skin than I ever care to see. I wouldn't typically consider myself a prude, but maybe I am. I find it interesting that we look down on men when they falter with lust or have a wandering eye, but as women, don't we hold some responsibility for that too? I mean, if we aren't dressing to make men look, then why the plunging necklines and the mini skirts?

After a trip to the mall today I was floored. We don't spend a whole lot of time at the mall, but the boys had outgrown their shoes and Hope is about to potty train so we thought we would venture out for two new pairs of sneakers and some little girl undies.

Everywhere I looked as we walked through the mall I could see cleavage and butt cheeks. I found myself disheartened that this is what society has come to. This is what we value. A woman doesn't have to dress frumpy or out of style to be modest. I know many women who dress beautifully and very stylish without showing off what God gave them.

I know I am new at this raising a girl thing but I seriously flipped my lid today while underwear shopping for Hope. She is two. She is barely 20 pounds and I was having a hard time finding undies that were small enough. I ran into GAP in an effort to find something that would be just right as often I can find smaller things there for her. Much to my dismay, while I was able to find a pack of xxs underwear (for OVER 20 dollars) when I opened the package to hold a pair up I nearly lost my mind. The lack of coverage on those "bikinis" made for a two year old made me tear up.

My goal is to teach Hope about what is appropriate. I hope to teach her that she should do everything she does to honor God, even what she chooses to wear should please him. I want her to be able to be cute and express herself without selling out to this idea that more skin shown is better somehow. It is for this reason that, when I was pregnant with her, Howard picked out her first swim suit, that is a rashguard and little shorts. We hope to start now so that she knows that we expect appropriate. I have to wonder, why society has told us that one piece swimsuits are old fashioned. We have to start teaching them from the beginning and this is another uphill battle I am willing to fight because I think it is worth it. We set the example. We need to be more mindful of what we wear and what our true intentions are for wearing it. We had a horrible time trying to find her an appropriate swimsuit at 2 so I can only imagine how hard it will be at 12.

If I have to learn to sew so I can make her appropriate underwear, I will do it, but I'd rather not...anyone know where I can find tiny appropriate underwear for Hope? Help a mama out! :) And on second thought...maybe I AM a prude. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

It is well