A hammer

My husband and I were discussing our living situation now that we have three little ones in our care. We live in a beautiful state where the weather is good, if not radiantly glorious, most of the time. 

As I was recalling our past living situations, God showed me how good He’s been to me over the years.

We have never lived in what one would call a stately or a large home by American standards. We have lived in nice homes though, and just what we needed. We used to own a nice and humble home. Now we live in under 200 sq ft per person, and it’s perfect. 

We’ve had two cars since we were 16 years old. We have one car now and I love “old faithful”. I’m more appreciative of that old bird than ever.

It’s less than we have ever had…
It’s now about two weeks since I first wrote this post. God has showed me more as I was complaining to Him. 

He blessed me in His reply: If I always had my “eternity goggles” on, I’d view a house like a tool, a hammer. It doesn’t matter what the hammer looks like if it does its job. It could be big and pink hammer with a diamond-encrusted handle. It could have a marble or granite head. Or it could be made of iron or wood and be tiny. The point is, God gave me a hammer. 

“As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭9:57-58‬ ‭NLT‬‬ 

You see, Jesus had no home, but He equipped us with one, even if it’s on rent. After all, don’t we know it’s all on rent?

Now then, how am I using my hammer? That’s the question.

Advertisements

My birth plan

There’s the hospital birth plan and the thing I really want to happen.

What I really envision happening is for my water to break at some point, hopefully st home, though many women don’t have waters break before labor, and to labor for many hours (Micah was 30 hours, and Kade was 19 hours) during a calm day, and then have the baby in the middle of the night while the children are sleeping. 

And I want to be listening to praise music, smelling essential oils, and praying. I want to have a quiet labor in low lighting and end with deep low long breaths and a loose relaxed jaw.

I envision baby breathing just fine with great color and muscle tone and lots of hair like her brothers had at birth.

This is how I prepare for labor. I play it out in my head. I conceive what could be, in many scenarios. And I pray.

If it turns out differently – quicker, requiring surgery, requiring help, being late, baby struggling etc – I’ve imagined those scenarios too and how I might deal with them. 

God is in control, not me. Thank the Lord for that!

Christmas, kids, and the Holy Spirit

We may give gifts, but nothing compares to the gift Christ Jesus gave us. 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We limit our gift-giving to four gifts for our children: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” I want them to experience a conservative Christmas, because it’s not about the presents. Jesus, Lord of all, received three gifts, not fifty. I know several families who give one gift. I want my kids to be happy with no gifts, even. I want my kids to be happier giving than receiving. 

For each other, we (husband and wife) may buy one thing, or we may skip it altogether – gift-giving is not either of our love languages, and in many years we were so skinny in money that it just made more sense to “skip” us, and I never felt a shortage.

This year, I did get Ian (my husband) something. He guessed his gift! And then come to find out, he found another one which had come in the mail, and already put it away, thinking he had bought it for himself (great minds think alike, right?). That stinker.

Our extended family makes Christmas a total extravaganza. Even baby Hope has a gift under there – she is still in the womb! We are so blessed!

But all this decadence is for one reason alone: we celebrate the coming of Christ with elaborate joy and excessive jubilee! And we look forward to His return. 

I had a day of purging, sorting, clearing and cleaning today, Christmas Eve. As I was cleaning, Ian came in and found me crying. He said “uh-oh”. I assured him saying, “don’t worry, God’s just having a moment with me”. And it is true. The Holy Spirit was so sweet at the most ironic time today – the shrek version of hallelujah was playing, and I was a blubbery mess of a very pregnant woman :). I’m delighted by how God takes care of us right now, and really how He has cared for me my whole life. And I’m stunned at how much we have. We really are so very, very blessed.

I live in the land of excess. California is not “normal” America. Single family homes here start at a million dollars and increase from there. An equivalent home in Rochester or Atlanta would run you 20% to 40% of the cost of homes here. Sometimes I need God’s reminders to keep me in check, as I become tempted to be ungrateful. Because that’s really what it is: ingratitude. When I’m dissatisfied with the flooring of this duplex… Ingratitude. When I’m bothered by the cement backyard… Ingratitude. When I’m flustered by less counter space… Ingratitude. Because what I really have is so much. 

I have the most awesome God, full of splendor and truth. He gave me the best family ever starting with my parents and siblings and their children, bringing my husband to me, and blessing us with healthy children, and surrounding us with friends. 

We have warm shelter, and two full bathrooms. In California, two full bathrooms is a big deal on our budget. We have a cement yard – we could have no yard. We have a kitchen. We can give our children gifts, and give away toys without concern – in fact, this is what we did today, we purged toys and made them ready for donating. We can welcome others into our home and share food with them. We can pay for gas for our car. My husband can bike to and from work. My husband helps me in all things.

Our new baby will be born sometime in January. This means from now on, October through the end of January is now going to stretch into busytown. Right now, it ends with Christmas. I’m so happy to see the celebrations extend further, but this means I will have to add birthday party planning into the month of December, which is already so full.

Your philosophy may be different than mine. If so, ignore the following list. 

Tips for Christmas for you and your kids:

Read a great advent book all through December so your kids understand why we celebrate Christmas – we read a Jesse tree advent book.

Schedule traditions into your month, like: 

  • seeing the Nutcracker, 
  • reading certain books together or watching certain movies (we love It’s A Wonderful Life), 
  • seeing Christmas lights around town, 
  • having certain foods around the house only during holiday time, 
  • going or hosting Christmas parties,
  • having a kid’s Christmas party to decorate gingerbread houses and sing, 
  • making ornaments, 
  • making cards, 
  • wearing something special, 
  • going to a Christmas Eve service, 
  • caroling,
  • seeing a live nativity,
  • baking a cake for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday,
  • opening a gift on Christmas Eve,  
  • setting out a nativity the kids can touch right after Thanksgiving and 
  • decorating the house and tree.

Do the flow of Christmas Day the same every year. For us, we open stockings before breakfast, but we always read the story of Jesus’ birth and pray first. There’s cooking and playing and celebrating and a birthday cake for Jesus. This year is our first year without extended family. It makes me sad, but we spent dinner with the best Cali friends one could ever want.

We don’t do Santa Claus. But on Jan 6, I put chocolate coins in my sons’ shoes for fun, and remind him who people are talking about when they fuss over Santa. We reiterate again and again, the story of Christ, and what various Christmas symbols represent in Christ’s birth story.

Try to find people in need and help them. This may be a lonely lady on your block. It may be a homeless person picking trash or sitting under a bridge. It may be a displaced twenty year old who you see at the market, or a widow at your church. It could be a foster child whose foster family needs some respite. It could be you – and if it’s you then set down your pride and express your need.

    Try to say yes as much as possible, while respecting your need for Sabbath rest – this goes for your children too! We all need downtime, and if you have a child who is different than you, respect the needs of the person who needs the most quiet reflection time.

    This is all for now. I started this post yesterday on Christmas Eve, and then didn’t have time to finish it until tonight. I hope it helps someone!

    If anyone wants my flight plan for Christmas, I’d be happy to write about it. But my dinner was an hour and a half late today, so don’t ask me about timing dinner well, because with one oven, I struggle!

    Verses for homeschool encouragement

    I put together verses for homeschool encouragement last year for my son. We say these in the morning, along with some I picked out related to our specific discipline and character needs. Thought you might find them useful. My son started saying these after me at 4 years old! And now my two year old gets to hear them recited out loud too!

    My husband also assigns them life verses while they are baking in their baby rooms (my womb, haha). They hear these often too! 

    We are also learning Ephesians 6 this year. So far we know verses 1-8!

    I encourage you to do this for your family!

    To keep this fun and interesting, we do this as a game. Here are some tips for memorization. 

    1. For each verse said, earn a solo cup to add to a tower, and at the end knock it down with a ball (like bowling). Earn more than one cup at a time by finishing the verse yourself. Another version: do this outside and squirt the tower down with a water gun.
    2. Say verses will doing exercises.
    3. Say verses with silly voices.
    4. Make up hand motions for memorization.
    5. When verses have lists (like in Phil 4:8 or Col 3:12-14) use your fingers to keep track of the attributes you’re listing.
    6. Find a song that recites the verse. 

    Top 10 lessons learned in the past two years

    Part of my job as a parent is to ‘constantly expand my children’s world’. This means, I should be constantly introducing them to new things so they have a broad and deep sense of what’s available to them. Two years into this homeschool journey, I have learned a few things.  

     

    1. We can’t fit it all in. I can constantly introduce my kids to new ideas and new experiences, but there’s not enough space and time to do it all.
    2. I have to prioritize where we spend the most of our time in the balance of accomplishing our life’s purpose, amongst the business of living, while living according to our family’s values. Let me decode that. We have a purpose: to love God and love people. We have to get things done so we can live: we need to earn money and do laundry and dishes, etc. We have to live in a way that honors God, and fosters respect, compassion, truth, passion, and responsibility, and leads us to be free, successful, disciplined, good stewards, embedded in deeply meaningful friendships and also having fun there and again. 
    3. A major part of my kids’ education will be in learning the business of living, but in a way to compliments accomplishing our lives’ goals. My sons will somehow uncover the trifecta of a ‘best fit’ career: a career for which they (1) are the best at doing (2) are well-paid  (3) hold an enduring passion. Now, God only knows if a career switch will be appropriate, what whatever He says is the path we will follow!
    4. The most important thing I can teach my kids is to teach them how to love God and love people. This lesson will be the one thing they will have to hone, and rehone, their entire lives. It’s my responsibility to set the example, and tell them when I’ve failed. Then pick up the pieces and move forward. 
    5. It’s difficult to keep a toddler focused on being helpful and appropriate while he’s passionate, but the best thing I can do to help a little mind grow, is to constantly replant him by my side, and let him out a little by little only as I know he can effectively uphold our family ‘values, purpose, and business’ well (in whatever applicable area), and with the same enthusiasm with which he started. Yes, my children will have a strong ‘sense of self.’
    6. My model of discipline is the one I saw Jesus do: Model, tell, train. My kids quickly call a bluff if I’m not committed to my words. My actions have to follow through, and I have a huge job trying to become the person I want my kids to grow up to become. Help, Lord!
    7. The world’s standards, increasingly, don’t agree with my own, so I have to model how we can be different, and yet loving, while living in the world. We were called to love Jesus. He asks us to honor Him with our mind, body, heart and spirit. It’s just incongruent with popular culture. And no, I’m not going around thinking I’m ‘holier than thou’ – I’m struggling just like you are.
    8. I’m really poor in the area of memorization, and sticking with routines. I’m also not naturally inspired to clean. But there is a  beauty in simplicity, tidiness and cleanliness we can’t afford to let go. I want my children growing up with a deep appreciation for people, resources, and time and space. I have to constantly grow and be self-critical, not with the goal of feeling badly, but rather with an eye on self-improvement.
    9. Myself, and my husband, are the best humans at seeing inside our children’s souls. So when we see their heart aching, their bodies disorganized, or their spirit dragging, our first job is to take them to their Creator in prayer. Our second job is to meet their needs. Our third job is to help them understand themselves, and on an increasing basis, to help themselves. Our fourth job is to translate our intuition about them into packages the people around them can understand, so people around them can be equipped to respond appropriately, in the instances that it’s appropriate or necessary.
    10. We are not qualified to provide all they need in terms of spiritual, emotional, or intellectual growth. This handicap drives home the point that we must cover them in prayer… And cover ourselves in prayer. Because, afterall, there are no excuses in life. We either raise men, or boys. And God trusted us with them, which means He says we cut the mustard somehow, but only with His help!

    Little Moments

    It’s the little moments that make us great mothers.  Your child is not going to remember that the house was spotless, or you made lots of money.  Your child won’t remember you were the most efficient person you knew.  Your child won’t recall how you had so many friends.

    Your child will remember the kinds of words you used with him or her.  Do your words build up or destroy?

    Your child will remember the kinds of looks you gave him or her.  Do your looks encourage or discourage?

    Your child will remember the kinds of touches you extended towards him or her.  Do your touches show affection or instill fear?

    Your child will remember the attitude you had with store clerks.  Do you show appreciation or are you perturbed?

    Your child will remember that you stopped so (s)he could show you something (s)he achieved, observed or remembered.  I’ve discovered all people just want some basic dignities in life above food, clothing, and shelter: to be loved and respected, and to be acknowledged and appreciated.

    Your child’s heart is a garden for which God made you the caretaker for just a whispering moment.  God gave you the soil.  Your job is to help that garden bear fruit by giving it good water and nutrition.  Your job is to keep out the little foxes, rodents, and insects that steal the fruit away and cut off the stems.  Your job is to prune down the weaknesses and encourage the strongest limbs to grow.  Your job is to make sure no fungus or parasite takes hold.  Your job is to pull up the weeds and fight the droughts.  Your job is to let in the sunshine.

    Let’s all take a moment to ensure we are the best gardeners possible.  We are, after all, responsible for these tiny hearts.  One day we hope our kids will be mighty, courageous, and stand up for what they believe.

    What’s one thing you will improve about your mothering as a result of your contemplation?

    Mashed Potatoes for Your Soul

    potatoes

    We all know how important it is to feed our bodies and eat healthy. Food is the fuel that keeps us going. Our bodies need it to function and remain strong, and it is so important to eat the right kind of foods. But did you know that your spirit needs food too?

    “So what do you feed your spirit?”, you might ask. Well, you feed it spiritual food of course! Now you can feed your spirit anything you want really, but just as we have to choose between junk foods or healthy foods for our bodies we also have to choose between junk foods and healthy foods for our spirit. Where can we find the healthiest spiritual foods? The best “recipe book” is the Bible, God’s holy word.

    In Matthew 4:1-4 the Bible speaks of Jesus’s experience with hunger:
    4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

    “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

    Jesus says here that man needs spiritual food from the word of God in order to truly live.

    Let’s take a look at what the Bible describes as some healthy spiritual foods:

    Galations 5:22-23
    “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;against such things there is no law.”

    You know how people say “you are what you eat”. Are you the fruits of the spirit? Take a moment to reflect on each one and pray that God may show you where you can improve in your life. Maybe you already know what you need to improve on. Pray for God’s help in reminding you to practice these fruits and ask for His help in establishing these qualities daily in your life.

    So why are these spiritual foods so important anyways? What does food do for our bodies? It nourishes it and determines what kind of output we give. When we eat heavy, saturated foods we feel slow and weak. But when we eat wholesome, nutritious foods we are able to conquer tasks to the best of our abilities, such as taking care of and playing with our children. Once again, spiritual food has the same input to output effect. And furthermore, our output is then inherited by our children.

    Matthew 7:17-20
    “17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

    What kind of fruit are you producing? Your children will certainly pick it up as their spiritual food. What kind of fruit will they produce? Are you nourishing your body with the proper spiritual food to keep you spiritually strong and ready to take on any temptations the devil may bring at you?

    I want to challenge you this week. Try to remember the fruits of the spirit, there are 9.  Can you name them all from memory? Practice 🙂 and while you are memorizing them, try to remember to act upon them too. When we memorize God’s word we can use it as spiritual food in times of need and also share it as nourishment to others.

    Psalm 119:11
    “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

    Blessings and love,

    Rebekah

     

    ————–
    I love to smile, laugh, and be optimistic. I also love organizing and being creative. As a child, I grew up in the church with an amazing children’s pastor who taught me many kids’ ministry skills such as puppetry, crafts, music, and sharing the love of Jesus Christ. I have a love for learning and a love for teaching; I taught preschool for 3 years for children ranging in ages from 1-4 years old.

    I attended a private Christian college, Emmanuel College, and was a part of the Honors program. I am always looking to learn something new and I look forward to learning from others. I also hope to share some of my experiences and positive attributes with all of the babies and Active Mamas!

    – Rebekah