Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dreaming big and listening to God

Our family returned late last night from the Texas Homeschool Coalition State Convention. It was a time of refreshment and renewing our vision as a homeschooling family. I was inspired by each speaker to continue onward, never giving up on the vision God has given me and Todd to raise our children to be Godly people who serve the LORD with their whole hearts. There was a theme that seemed to run among all the talks I was able to attend: don't let my own fears and doubts or the negative influence or opinions of others cause my trust in the living God and His plan for me and my family to waver.

Todd and I have chosen to follow God and go against the mainstream for a very long time. We decided early on, when our oldest child was barely 3 years old, that we were going to commit ourselves to homeschooling our children. Many people, including some from church and some family members, expressed concern and doubts over this decision. Thankfully, I am married to a man who isn't easily influenced by others around him, and who tunes his heart to God and what He is leading US to do. We have homeschooled all these years, and though everything isn't perfect by any means, we feel God's blessing on our efforts. We have listened to God's prompting in our lives to allow Him to continue to bless us with children. When I was expecting our 4th child in 4.5 years, we received many negative comments from people around us. This has continued as God has blessed us with more and more children. We have struggled over the years as we have tried to discern HIS voice apart from all the many (mostly well-meaning) voices around us. It isn't (and has never been) easy, but we have walked this road together, and we see such fruit! We are expecting baby #9 on November 1, 2011. God has given us peace with Him and with each other as we trust Him in this area.

When we decided to move out to the country onto our 20-acre hobby ranch, Todd felt that God wanted us to be debt-free. We built a small, unconventional house in order to help us achieve this goal, and we have lived here nearly 5 years. Our home was originally going to be the garage of a much bigger house (which would have required us to acquire a large mortgage), so it lacks the closets, pantry and storage spaces of "normal" houses. We live very differently from pretty much everyone we know, and some people have expressed to us that they could never do what we're doing, but we feel that we are doing what God has called us to do. I'm really glad that I didn't squelch Todd's vision to do this, as at times I have wanted to do (let's just be "normal," get the mortgage, and build the "normal" house!!). I feel so blessed to be learning through this experience to be more creative in how I do things in order to adapt to our environment. I have also learned to let go of so many unimportant things, and release myself from unhealthy and unrealistic expectations. As an added perk, I am getting pretty good at ridding our lives of clutter! I do sometimes struggle with wanting some of the things other people's homes have in them, or the beauty of others' homes, but I am learning to bloom where I'm planted and to bring beauty, nobility, love, and LIFE into this very home so that it is the life within, not the physical home, that draws our children's hearts here and blesses all those who come through its doors.

The last talk we heard this weekend was by Todd Wilson of Family Man Ministries. He spoke about dreaming big, and allowing those around you to dream big as well. This seemed to sum it all up for me. What dreams has God planted in my heart, in Todd's heart, in the hearts of our children? Do I allow others to kill those dreams and rob me of the opportunities to see God work in mighty ways? Do I kill my husband's dreams or gently fan the flame? Do I encourage my children to allow God to speak dreams into their hearts and then follow Him and watch Him work in their lives? I am encouraged not only to continue to allow God to give me big dreams and follow Him unafraid, but also to especially fan the flame in my husband's heart and in the hearts of each of the dear ones with which He has entrusted me. Who am I to limit what God may call them to do? I do not want to be one of the discouraging or negative voices in the lives of those around me. Instead, I want to be one who supports others as they listen to God's unique plans for their lives. I can't wait to see what dreams God puts into the hearts of my children and how He will use them as they follow Him to pursue those dreams!

What are your dreams? Don't be afraid to follow God's unique plans for your life, the dreams He has laid on your heart. Likewise, choose to be a voice of encouragement in the lives of those around you as they listen to their dreams as well.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beware of Mama Bear!!!

It has been a while since I have posted!  Life is a whirlwind!  I have lots of things to write about, though, so I hope to do more blogging soon.  This post is about something that has been on my heart for several weeks.

A couple of months ago, I had the blessing of getting visit my beautiful younger sister and her family in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina near Asheville.  I was super excited because my sister had just given birth to her first child, a precious little girl born at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day!  I was able to bring my sweet 9-year-old girl and my little 17-month-old (at the time) Jedidiah.  My older sister was visiting as well, and brought her 9-year-old daughter to visit as well.  It was a wonderful weekend.  We enjoyed the time together, the beautiful scenery, and spoiling that sweet little baby! 

Everything was perfect until right before dinner Sunday evening (we were scheduled to depart on a Monday morning flight back to Texas).  My sister's neighbor brought something over to the house for us to see, and we all went outside.  The neighbor's Golden Retriever was tagging along as well.  Jedidiah LOVES animals, especially dogs.  As this was a Golden Retriever, I foolishly trusted it to be sweet with my baby.  We let him approach us, and his tail was wagging.  I let him sniff at my hand, and then I began to pet him, and all the while his tail was wagging.  Jed was holding my hand, and I asked him if he wanted to pet the doggie.  He slowly reached his hand out, and then the unthinkable happened.  This Golden Retriever attacked my baby.  He bit him in the cheek and then after Jedidiah fell to the ground, the dog went back after him, biting him on the back of the head.  I screamed and quickly scooped up my baby, as the frantic owner of the dog pulled the Golden away.  I ran inside, holding Jed, who had blood streaming from his face and matting in his hair.  We rushed him to the nearest hospital, where we then waited for a rather horrific 10 hours before finally having the wounds treated and the face stitched (an entirely different story in itself!).  The wound to the cheek was very deep.  BUT praise God that all Jedidiah ended up with was an inch-long scar right around where his laugh lines will eventually be.  It is purple right now, but when he smiles it looks like a large dimple.  I praise God every time I look at that little scar on his sweet little face, thankful that the bite wasn't a little lower, where it could have severed his jugular vein.  Upon arriving home, I called my trusted friend and dog trainer who has worked with my Boxers.  I described to her some of the previous aggression this dog had shown prior to the attack (which I found out after Jed was bitten).  She said we were lucky we ended up with stitches instead of a coffin.  All of this fueled a fire that had been growing in my heart from the moment of the attack. 

Jed after stitches (on the way to airport)
I experienced some rather ugly feelings that I didn't even know I was capable of feeling!  I wanted the owners to call me and apologize (which they never did, though a few days later they did call my sister to see how Jed was doing)!  I wanted revenge!  I wanted the dog to have to be put down!  Instead, the owners were granted a 10-day home quarantine.  I wanted to make sure that dog never had a chance to bite another little child in the face or worse (namely, my niece)!  I felt like a mama bear protecting her den of cubs.  Anger welled up inside me, and I could think of nothing else for days.  I spoke to my sister many times on the phone, in the process upsetting her because of my anger and insistence that I should do something about this (sue the owners, demand the dog be put down, etc...).  I wasn't really proud of my angry and vengeful feelings, but they were there nonetheless.  My very wise husband counseled me to let this go, to pray and move on.  He said we could be thankful and not worry about it anymore--the dog is far away from us.  I have been praying about it, and the Lord has shown me so much in the process.

Ironically, about a year ago, our female Boxer had shown some major aggression after having given birth to a little of puppies.  She nipped a friend of my son's (in the stomach through his shirt) who ran by the whelping box only a couple of weeks after the pups were born, and we all gave her the benefit of the doubt and attributed it to the hormones due to the puppies, and the fact that the boy was running so close to the puppies' box (even my friend whose son was bitten gave her the benefit of the doubt).  We should have gotten rid of that dog right then.  Unfortunately, several months later, when we thought her behavior was under control again, our dog bit a woman who was walking by our property on the back of the leg.  We did get rid of the dog at that time. We called and apologized to the woman, who was very gracious.  We offered to pay any expenses she might have, which she said was not necessary (there really weren't any).  I think part of my anger came from the fact that we did those things, and the owners of the Golden Retriever did nothing.  They were more worried that their dog was going to "be in trouble forever" than that a 17-month-old baby had been attacked in the face and head by the dog!  I wanted to control their actions and reactions, and I could not.  I had to just give it to the LORD (which has been very hard to do)!

Praying through all of this, I have been able to let go of the anger, for the most part, and hold onto the thankfulness that I feel for how blessed we are with the outcome.  I have been very humbled remembering what happened with our own dog, Cocoa.  I have also been able to see that it's not all bad to have these Mama Bear feelings.  God has made us mothers to love and nurture our children and, when necessary, to protect them.  I have seen in myself a very dim reflection of God's feelings for us, His children.  He hates our enemy, the devil.  He would do (and has done!) anything and everything to protect us from this enemy--it is just in our hands to accept that!  He has shown me that I can overcome unholy anger and turn it into rejoicing.  He is in control.  He knew that this would happen, and when it did, He was not surprised.  He had His angels guarding my Jedidiah, more than I could ever protect him on my own (I was even standing right there)!  I have a peace about it all, and I see that I am Mama Bear, and that's okay--even good.  Balancing that, though, is the trust I have for God's plans, for the portion with which He fills my cup. 

Psalm 16:5 "LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This is the stuff I love...

I like Francesca Battistelli's new song,"This is the stuff."  It opens with this line, "I lost my keys in the great unknown, and call me, please, 'cause I can't find my phone..."  I laugh because that sounds just like me!  It seems like every day my phone goes missing and my keys disappear regularly (at times carried off by our dog, and once actually hidden in a shoe by little Jed), usually when we are hurrying out the door.  The song continues,

"This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use"

It's so true that I can get caught up in the stuff that "drives me crazy" instead of focusing on "how big I'm blessed," especially as we blaze through life at breakneck speeds.  Yes, God uses these things to draw us closer to Him as we lean on Him.  I laugh along with this song and the things of life that can make me crazy, but it gets me thinking about all the blessings in my life.  How blessed I am, how loved by God!  These are in no particular order...

So here is a list of *some* of the "stuff I love," or "how big I'm blessed":
I love my little 18-month-old Jedidiah's little kisses.  He smacks me right on the lips and even makes the smoochie noise!

I love watching my children play together as they create a new game, collaborate on a song to sing, jump on the trampoline, build a fort, go on a hike on our property...

I love living on this little farm.  In the mornings, I hear birds singing, chickens cackling, our little miniature donkeys greeting me with their calls, the horses' whinnies...

I love homeschooling my children and getting to spend so much time with them building into their lives.  

I love watching Tehillah Grace (6) hug a miniature donkey around the neck.

I love seeing my children playing in the haystack (jump!).
I love seeing my 13-year-old daughter swinging on the swing hung from a large oak tree near our house. 

I love hearing my husband wrestling with the children upstairs.

I love that after 16 years of marriage (and 8 children), my dear husband and I still feel like newlyweds.

I love watching my 10-year-old son play soccer, which is his favorite thing to do...

I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing my 12-year-old girl riding a horse in my own backyard.

I love it when my little donkeys come up to the glass door on the back porch, looking in as if to say, "May I come in and be with you?"

I love taking a walk down our long driveway to get the mail with the little children.

I love baking with my 9-year-old little girl.  She is an amazing little baker already!  

I love candles burning all around the downstairs of our little house, making me feel warm inside.

I love waking up early, reading/studying my Bible, and drinking my coffee all alone with God... my quiet times so important to me.

I love a good cup of tea in the afternoon (or lately a smoothie).

I love it when my sweet 3-year-old boy comes into my bed in the middle of the night to snuggle with us and "snore in my ear."

I love seeing Enoch, my 7-year-old boy, tenderly holding his bunny or his mouse, or gently kissing his baby brother on the head at night before bed.  He has a sweet, tender heart that I love.

I love watching Simeon, the 3-year-old boy, riding his little green tractor behind daddy's big green tractor, or seeing him go on a tractor ride with daddy.  Jedidiah has joined in on this lately (so sweet!).

I love that we live in a free country where we can worship God freely and teach our children about Him.

As I write, more and more sweet images keep coming to mind, but I must go get started on the day with the children.

How blessed we are to know God!  How blessed we are in so many ways.  I pray today that I would focus less on the "stuff that drives me crazy" and focus on those things that I love! 

                                                    Like father like son...

                                            Tehillah Grace with Dusty the mini donkey

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you

I have been a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ now for many years.  I have walked through valleys and been on the mountaintop as well.  Most people who know me would probably describe me as cheerful, upbeat, and energetic.  Some of my friends laughingly call me "Mighty Mouse," because I am very petite and very high energy.  But like anyone else, I have my times when I am anxious or feel burdened with life.  We live in a fallen world, and as a result, there is often pain and sorrow in our lives.  As a mother, I find that I tend to become anxious at times about my children.  I have one teenage daughter, and another who will be a teenager in a few months.  (Of course, there are six younger children growing up quickly as well!)  Sometimes they disappoint me with the choices they make or the way they speak to me or Todd.  Often they are immature, talk back, or quarrel with their siblings.  I find myself becoming anxious about their futures.  What if I don't do a good job raising them?  What if I miss something?  What if the choices they make have lasting consequences that are painful?  Over the years, I have come to realize that so little of this is truly in my control.  I can pour the best things into them, spend time with them, teach them, love them, build traditions for them, but ultimately the choices they make and the paths of their lives are out of my hands.  My anxiety will accomplish nothing.  One of the best things I can do for them is simply to pray diligently for them. 

When I tend to worry, I call to mind these verses: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." (1Peter 5:6-7)  I find it interesting that in verse 6, we are told to humble ourselves before we cast our anxieties on Him.  Is there a bit of pride in our worrying?  Do we feel that our worry in some way will help something?  We are to humble ourselves under the mighty had of God.  God's hand is Mighty!  Nothing we can do will ever compare to the mighty hand of God in our lives.  When I am tempted to worry,  I remind myself that I can cast all my anxieties on Him.  God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think! 

There have been some dark times in my life when I have felt alone and worried that things would never get better.  I remember clinging to the Lord and asking Him to carry me through and show me His truth.  He is always so faithful.  Sometimes the answers aren't exactly what I thought they would be, or even what I prayed for, but God's ways are always higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9), and He has given me grace to see that His plans are better than mine. 

Tuesdays are very busy days for me.  We are running all day, going to the library, lessons and a few classes the children are taking.  It can be so stressful getting everyone here and there, making sure we don't leave anyone behind (we have a couple of pokey ones), feeding everyone, etc.  As I head out for my Tuesday, my prayer is that I will let go of all my anxieties today, casting all of them on Him, knowing that He cares for me, that His hand is mighty, and He is sovereign!  As I watch my children grow, see how quickly the time passes, and realize how little time I am truly given with them to help shape their lives, I open my hand, and put them into His Mighty hands, praying all the while.  I know that their future is in His hands. 

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
Nor are your ways My ways,"
        says the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than Your thoughts.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there, 
But water the earth, 
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater, 
So shall My word be that goes
forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void, (amen!)
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And is shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
                                        Isaiah 55:8-11

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."  
           Ephesians 3:20-21

Monday, February 28, 2011


"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matt. 6:19-20

We returned home this past Thursday from a ski trip to New Mexico.  The week before we went skiing, I was in North Carolina for the weekend visiting my sister and her new baby.  I came home to a houseful of sick children and a rather sad and disturbing episode with one of our Longhorn cows that ended in her having to be put down.  We spent the week with each person in the family eventually catching the stomach virus, and everyone (including my husband and myself) feeling miserable for a couple of days at a time.  When I left for the Wholehearted Mothers conference that Friday, two children were still sick and the house looked like a tornado had struck!  I was filled up and refreshed at the conference, however, which was much-needed!  Upon my return Saturday evening, I had less than 10 hours to sleep and re-pack for myself and our 3 youngest children so we would be ready to leave early Sunday morning for our ski trip.  Needless to say, our house was not the cleanest place when we left for our trip.  I was just glad to have managed to pack in time and that everyone seemed to finally be healthy!

Upon our arrival home on Thursday, I determined that I was going to "disinfect" the house and get things back in order.  The problem is that with 8 children, the farm, and the business of life and homeschooling, it can be difficult to feel like I accomplish much at all towards the goal of cleaning and organizing our home.

We moved to our little "ranch" 4.5 years ago, from a 3500 SF house into what was planned to eventually be our garage.  This place is 1800 SF with very little storage/closet space.  You realize when you remove the contents of a large home, place everything in storage and then try to cram it all into a home almost half the size just how much clutter you have!  We thought we were getting rid of things when we moved out, but in reality, much of our stuff is still in boxes in the storage shed we built or in the new garage we built when we decided we would wait on building the "dream home."  So, God has been teaching me a LOT about clutter and the hold it has on my life.  Almost everywhere I turn, there is something I feel I need to clear out of our home and our lives to make things more peaceful.  Clutter and messes are distracting, and I believe they can be used by Satan to defeat us in this life.  Friday, while I was cleaning and disinfecting our house to rid us of the germs of our "sick week," I decided we were going to really dig into getting exess STUFF out of our home so we can focus and live more peacefully day by day.  We cleaned out the girls' closet upstairs, and took out a whole slew of dolls and doll clothes that no one really plays with anymore.  When we were finished, their closet was actually very neat and organized!  I kept hearing these verses in my head:

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..." Hebrews 12:1-2

The clutter in our homes is so much like the clutter in our spiritual lives--sin and distractions that keep us from living a life focused on God.  Cleaning my home and ridding it of the clutter and piles of unnecessary distractions has become almost a spiritual mission for me in light of this revelation this past weekend.  I am not beating myself up over it, but I am praying that the Lord will help me be less of a hoarder and more of a GIVER, blessing others with the things I am holding onto that simply entangle and trap me instead of blessing our family.  Likewise, I pray that God will help me rid myself of the clutter of comparisons, discontent, and self-focus that keep me from fixing my eyes on Him and living my life in Joy before my family.

We sang this familiar song in church yesterday, and it blessed me so much in keeping with these thoughts:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace..."

May you have a Jesus-focused day!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I decided to start a blog

To tell the truth, I never thought I would want to start a blog.  I have read a few blogs myself and even followed one for a while, but me, blog?  I am just way too busy to dedicate time to my own blog, right?  After all, I am the mother of 8 busy children ages 13 down to 17 months.  I homeschool 6 of them, with the youngest 2 along for the ride as well. We live on a small, 20-acre hobby farm in Texas, which adds the element of farm life to an already busy life.  Why in the world would I get myself into something like blogging?  

Last weekend, I attended Sally Clarkson's Wholehearted Mothers Conference in Irving, TX.  As I sat there, drinking in the encouragement, laughing, crying, and talking with other moms, I felt God stirring my heart, urging me to think of what I might do to encourage other moms. We heard from many lovely mothers at the conference, some of whom are bloggers. Many of these women are using their blogs to inspire and encourage others in their walk with the Lord. I often think that I have very little to offer. I struggle and stumble, fall down, pick myself up and keep on going, just like everyone else out there. I am just an ordinary mom. As I think about this, I hear God gently reminding me, it's not about me at all or my inadequacies and failures. It's all about HIM!!! My story is HIS story. I feel Him calling me to just share my story and be blessed myself in the sharing. As I write what He has done in my life, it is like the Israelites placing mounds of memorial stones at important places to remind them of God's faithfulness throughout their history. So, this blog will be a memorial to God's faithfulness in my life. Each post will be a new stone to add to the mound of remembrance. Its purpose will be to encourage and build *my* faith as I write and remember the big and the little things I see Him do in my life as I strive to do my best to live excellently and point my children to the ONE who loves them so much He would die for them. It is my memorial as I write and witness how He has shaped and molded me and my husband in our marriage of 16 years.

So this is my blog, my remembrance in honor of the ONE Who is faithful to give me LIFE, and LIFE in abundance!! (John 10:10) If others are blessed and encouraged through this blog, then all the better. Let the journey begin.