Monday, December 2, 2013

To Be Like Mary

This time of year especially makes me reflect on the powerful example our Mother in Heaven is. If only I could say "YES!" the way she did, to whatever The Father asks. 

The Annunciation
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
He went in and said to her, 'Rejoice, you who enjoy God's favour! The Lord is with you.'
She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean,
but the angel said to her, 'Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favour.
Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David;
he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.'
Mary said to the angel, 'But how can this come about, since I have no knowledge of man?'
The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.
And I tell you this too: your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month,
for nothing is impossible to God.'
Mary said, 'You see before you the Lord's servant, let it happen to me as you have said.' And the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

The Visitation

My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

Luke 1:46-55

Kissing the Face of God

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole inhabited world.
This census -- the first -- took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria,
and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David's town called Bethlehem, since he was of David's House and line,
in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space.
Luke 2:1-7

~My prayer this Advent is to understand more more fully the true meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate our Saviors birth~

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No More "Whatever"

 Today I attended the funeral of the brother of a dear sweet friend. I was under the impression that I was attending to support her in her loss, to help her through her pain. That, I’m realizing was only a small part. As hard as it is to attend funerals I am always touched by the pause that we take to celebrate the precious life that just left this earth for Home. It always helps me remember how short, fleeting and fragile life is. Each time I come away remembering how important my loved ones are and with a resolve to love them more, to love them better, to be kinder, slower to anger. I’m reminded that none of the day to day hassles, setbacks, or frustrations, matter. They. Just. Don't.

  However I still slip right back into the mode I promise myself I won’t. I go right back to feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, annoyed and negative. I go back to lacking self control and flying off the handle over nothing, instead of focusing on how precious my children and husband are. 

 Today the son of the man who passed away gave the eulogy and it struck me right in my heart.  He told us that the night before he lost his dad his dad told him how proud he was of him and how much he loved him. The young man’s response was "Whatever".  He told us how sad he felt that "whatever" was the last word he spoke to his father and how he wished he would have responded. He urged all of us to watch what we say to each other because you never know when the words you speak may be your last words or the last words someone might hear.  This young man shared his heart and deep regret over the fact that his last word to his father was “Whatever”. He said he will never forgive himself for that. {I pray he will forgive himself, because that is an incredible weight for a young man to carry and surely his father is looking down from Heaven, understanding and has already forgiven him.}

 The reason this young man’s words struck me so greatly is because the word "whatever" has become a word I use TOO often. I throw that word around to my kids and husband with the full impact of disrespect it can carry. I never feel good about it yet I keep throwing it out there. What’s worse is my kids have learned it and use it. Is that the attitude I want to have? Teach my children? Express to my husband? No! It took a young man’s words to wake me up today. The word "whatever" used with malice and disrespect is banned from my home from this day forward. No more "whatever". It’s not just the word itself that matters but the attitude of the heart that it exposes. It’s something I have been asking God to change in me anyway, but his words today reinforced the need. It will take a hefty dose of His grace to exercise self control, because I know as soon as life settles back in and the frustrations build I will struggle. But He is capable and I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

 I need an attitude change in many ways, but with His help and grace I can start with no more “whatever”. 

God bless,

 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

Monday, October 28, 2013

Self-Discipline, Goals and Simplifying

  It has been quite some time since I have added anything to my blog. I’ve missed writing. Thousands of thoughts are running through my mind, begging to be shared! But my family always comes first and I have been working hard to make sure our school year is off to the right start. 

 For many of our homeschooling years I have not kept the schooling part in the forefront. I have allowed many things to interfere. I have put off planning and preparing properly because of the busyness of life, only to find complete frustration when our school day arrives and we need to “wing- it” once again. I have found myself caught in the trap of busyness. I have filled our calendar with all kinds of things. I have said yes to things even if it meant putting my children’s education (or my sanity) on the back burner. I recall color coding my calendar for each child and their many activities and events. A colorful calendar it was! I believe this “busy trap” is one that we women tend to fall into. Goodness, our society has become a 24/7 world where no one seems to know the meaning of rest anymore. My mom, who was born in 1929, used to tell us that when she was growing up she and her family would prepare their pasta (an all day event) on Saturday, so they didn’t have much work to do on Sunday. They were also not allowed to sew on Sundays. Sewing wasn’t done for pleasure, but for necessity back then. Sunday was the day of rest as it should be. Where have those days gone? I find it very difficult when our calendar is filled. I need white space on there! Our weekends that are jam-packed create Mondays that are grueling. When I feel that I need Monday to recover from the busyness of the weekend that is a red flag to me. That is when it is time to reassess, regroup and take some things out. "Mental health days" cannot trump school days! 
Along the journey to find healthy ways to be the best homeschooler I can, I have realized that being a good Christian woman/mom/wife does not mean running like crazy, trying to do everything for everyone, or running our kids to every activity their hearts desire. Proverbs 14 reminds us that a wise woman builds her home. How can we build our home well if we are on empty? Proverbs 31 describes a woman of noble character. At the top of the list it states that she brings good to her husband. How we can bring good to our husbands if we are running in the rat race that our society says we should? If we live like that we have nothing left. This isn’t to say we should only be in our home. We are also told in Scripture to help others. Our children do need activities. We should be active in our community. But we don’t need to allow our calendar to dictate our life. I am learning this is a fine balance. Sometimes I have confused being a good Christian with doing many things and going non-stop. (Other Christian women do it so I must be failing if I am not.)  I then forget that my family needs my first efforts not my leftovers. I believe to my core it is wise to pray about everything we are thinking about adding in to our busy life and to continually assess whether we are putting things in proper order; God, spouse, children, family, community. Sometimes we need to say no. Sometimes we need to take time to rest and refocus. 

 I am realizing more and more that homeschooling is not just something we do; it’s our way of life. It takes preparation, it takes time, it takes effort and it takes focus. And sometimes it takes saying no to certain things. A while back, as my sister listened to me express frustration over having so many things to do, and feeling guilty for ever saying no to anyone, she reminded me of Nehemiah 6:3, “…I am doing a good work and cannot come down.”  She encouraged me that what I am doing (homeschooling my children) IS a good work and it is okay that I don’t want to interrupt it; that I need to put homeschooling first. I tend to be my own worst enemy when it comes to this because I am so easily distracted and feel that I need to answer every phone call, email, text, etc immediately. Newsflash to self, the world can still go on around me if I don’t jump on everything the minute it comes to my attention!

 I have been bound and determined to have a good school year in which I feel that we are thriving not just merely surviving. I have written down some daily goals/disciplines. (I am not speaking of disciplining children. I am speaking of self-discipline) I offer them up every day along with asking God to order my day. I think the biggest is keeping Nehemiah 6:3 in the forefront of my mind. Yes, I AM doing a good work and I cannot come down. And for this season of life, that is okay.

Here are a few things on my list:

~Wake up at least an hour before the rest of the family to pray (I used to do this but somewhere I lost that discipline and would pray “on the go”. Not the most effective way to spend time with God)

~Begin school by 8:30 each morning (it’s amazing how much more productive we are if we get right to it! Maybe this is even considered late to some, but we have had years where we don’t get into our day until 9:30 or later, so I am very content with this time.)

~ Meet with my 8th grader daily in the afternoon (She is a very independent student and it’s easy for me to forget to check on her. Then her struggles can fall through the cracks if she has any. By meeting with her we can discuss any troublesome areas and work through them right then)

~Grade work daily (when I fall behind in this it’s completely overwhelming and then I can’t even figure out where a concept has been lost. Grading daily allows me to fix problems right away.)

~No cell phone in the school room (it’s just too tempting to check and answer text messages, emails etc that come through)

~Less time on Facebook and checking emails and more time being present with my family

~Try to keep a calm and quiet environment (I cannot do this if I am completely overwhelmed and stressed out.) and remember that “life is not an emergency”

~Have a specific book to read on Sundays, maybe about the saints, to focus on Sunday being God's day. I purchased a book called The Domestic Church to begin this little Sunday tradition. As of yet I have not begun this goal but still hope to. 

 I have not perfected these by any stretch of the imagination. I am a work in progress. There are days weeks where I don’t follow all of these. I can say though, when I do practice these disciplines we have a much more peace filled home and accomplish great things. And by His Grace I can keep trying.

 My prayer for you is to find rest, balance, simplicity and peace in this busy world.

 God bless,