Friday, 26 August 2016

How Loyal Are You?



I took this picture of the moon last week. 



It's pretty impressive - the moon, that is.   It really lit up the  darkness for a few nights and made it hard to sleep.  The dogs barked all night because they could see things running around.   The sheep were noisier than usual - perhaps there were more predators out and about on those nights.

It lit up a place that is normally dark - being 40km from town lights, it gets pretty dark here at night when the lights are out.

You're probably wondering what on earth the moon has to due with being loyal, right?  Well, the moon reminds me a bit of undue loyalty.    It looks pretty impressive and it is - a huge great ball in the sky, but it doesn't have any light of its own - it is merely reflecting the sun's light back to us on earth.  

Now look at this picture of the moon taken just an hour or so earlier.



It doesn't look quite so bright, does it?    It isn't quite so impressive in the light of the sun shining.   And the sun was shining behind me, in the west, as it was slowly setting.
 
And you know it reminds me of the something that happened this week, where a person was being incredibly loyal to her hubby, unduly loyal, at the cost of integrity, and her sons' respect, and that of others too.    Her hubby is her source of wisdom and 'light' and the reference point for her value and her values.   He is the light in her dark place.    But she doesn't realise just how poor his light is in comparison to the Son, the Son who values her regardless of how she performs or looks, regardless of how much money they have or how 'well-bred' they are or the car they drive or their other status symbols.    I felt sorry for her, even though in being loyal to him she disappointed us and refrained from doing what was right.   And it was obvious that she was refraining and being restrained, though not physically - her loyalty was restraining her.   

We're not meant to be loyal to someone on this earth above God and His ways. 

Jesus had some things to say about being loyal to Him above all else, and all others.

It reminds me, again, of how much liberty there really is in having God in His rightful place in our lives.   When the light of His Word, His truth, His very presence shines in our lives, then we know that we must be loyal to Him first for anything and everything else to  make sense.   I have seen and felt the damage, firsthand, when we are, I am, loyal to a person or a theology or group or doctrine above being loyal to Him.   It's like living in the light of the moon, all the time, and not realising there even is a sun. 

He made both the sun and the moon and He is greater than both.  I don't want loyalty to anyone or anything else to turn my day into night, not any more.   

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of HIM.   Psalm 33:8

Linking up at Five Minute Friday, a writing party where we get to write for five minutes on a prompt word.  Today's prompt is 'loyal'.  




Saturday, 20 August 2016

Team Work

Last night, I was watching some of the Olympics reporting, while I read in front of the fire.
I watched a short segment about the Australian Men's Basketball team.  Now, I don't follow basketball, at all, so I know very little about it, but I watched with interest as this team of guys did something amazing.  No, it wasn't winning their game or a medal.    They lost their game against Serbia, even though they were the favourites.  So now they can fight it out against Spain for the bronze medal.    It's a big deal over here, apparently.  

I love this comment from an online news report, and I guess this sums up what makes this team work well, though he acknowledges other factors as well.
'....a team-wide willingness to find the open man has contributed to Australia’s tournament-leading field goal percentage.'

Now, I don't really understand basketball, but I understand that no one person is carrying the load, no one person is getting all the big shots and all glory, no one person is doing all the big stuff but together they're trying to win their game.   And apparently it's what is helping them to shine. 

But, what  caught my interest about this team is how unified they were as a team and what they did in a remote, Aboriginal community in a bonding exercise.   Of course, whether they win that medal will be all over the news for the next week or so (their match is Monday morning, AEST), so we won't know for a few days.   There will no doubt be criticism or applaud and probably both, as there already is.    

But what they did as a team in that Aboriginal community makes me proud of them, as an Aussie.     They went there to bond together, to help their team, but also to help out the community in practical and philosophical ways.  They fixed up the basketball courts so the kids could play on them again, and they encouraged and inspired some young people to reach higher  and look beyond their circumstances.   You can read about it here.




And when I look at the Olympic rowers in their boats, I am reminded that if they didn't all work together and head in the same direction, it would look ridiculous and they would invariably lose their races.   I guess it would be pretty obvious in something like a rowing contest. 

So, I guess team work is about all wanting the same thing and be heading in the same direction and for no one person to be carrying the load or needing to get all the glory.   

So, when I see a team falling apart (a marriage, a church, an organisation, a home school family), I wonder if perhaps one person is carrying too much, trying to do too much or perhaps one person is getting/needing/wanting the glory, or perhaps they don't know where they're headed or why or how to fix it. 

Praise God He sets the standard for what makes a team work well. 

Philippians 2:1-9   So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him.

Linking up at Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes on a prompt word.  Today's word is 'team'. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

A Day in the Life

I have been asked to comment on what our regular, homeschooling day looks like, so here it is. 

Our day often depends on the season and whether hubby is home from work, doing farm jobs.    
We have a routine that works for the days when he's not home, and a routine for when he is. 
This is our routine for when it's just the three of us - Me (Mum), Miss 7 and Miss 3.5.

DISCLAIMER:  This is how it goes, right now, in this current season of our life, and at their particular stage of development, before it changes, again!!    And this is how it goes if everyone is okay, has had enough sleep, isn't sick, or we're not heading out the door.

So, we start the day with cuddles and dinkies in the big bed (Miss 3.5 is still breastfed - hence the 'dinkies', as she calls them), and we talk about any dreams we've had (Miss 7 always has exciting dreams!) and then we discuss the plan for the day/week.

When we're brave enough to get cold, we race to the loo, then to the loungeroom and park ourselves in front of the fire (the rest of our house is freezing at this time of the year! )   When we're hungry enough, I am seconded to the kitchen to make brekky, which we eat in front of the fire. 

Still in front of the fire, we do our first round of school work, which basically consists of a Bible lesson and memory work (currently working through the days of creation) and some phonics and maths review (with clip it cards), plus some reading.    Miss 3.5 will often do puzzles, colour in, glue, and various other hands-on activities.  Sometimes, Miss 7 and I will play chess or some other brain-straining game.   

We usually finish in front of the fire by 9.30, so the girls watch Play School and Bananas and the telly goes off.    We tidy up the loungeroom and and the girls are free to play for a bit.   I check emails and Facebook, if I haven't got there already.  Facebook is my primary way of staying in touch with family and friends. 

Then we head outside, play with the dogs, ride bikes, walk to the mailbox, hang washing, etc. 



Around 12pm, we do our table-time school work.    This is where we learn/review new sounds/spelling/phonic rules, etc, learn/reinforce maths concepts, do some sight words, counting, reading practice, and any other worksheet-type schooling that we do, including writing letters.  This takes about 90 mins, max.   During this time, Miss 3.5 will do playdough, paint, cut and glue, stamps, stencils, puzzles, etc, or sometimes choose to watch a movie on her own.      Mostly, she likes to stay with us and do some pre-school type 'school work'. 

During table time, I cook, wash up, tidy up, etc, in the kitchen, and interact with the two girls as they need me, being available, but trying to encourage some independent work.

Then we have lunch and the girls are free to play with whatever doesn't need my constant supervision.   Miss 7 can watch a movie or use the computer to create some artwork.   I will use this time to write for my blog, sew, do school/farm/business paperwork, or some other job that requires concentration. 

Mid-to-late afternoon, we start the tidy up routine, and go outside to play with dogs, bring washing in, wood in, etc.   Once hubby gets home, Miss 7   helps him outside, then reads to him for a bit, while  Miss 3.5 and I tidy up, start tea, etc.   After tea, we play some games, colour in, read and then it's time for the bedtime routine.  

And that's a normal day for us, and happens about four days a week.   Of course, mixed in with all that idyllic routine are our little messes and crises and so we get through each day, one day at a time. 

Our fifth work day of the week is spent in town, with friends, at playgroup or homeschool catch up, shopping, etc and that in-town day changes from week to week.   Saturdays are usually spent doing farm jobs and catching up on housework.    At this stage, we are not committed to any sporting or other groups because we got to burn out stage last year and decided we needed to pull back a bit this year and re-assess.    Hubby and I both have aging and needy parents, and we have three older girls that we want to be able to see regularly, so we can't commit to too much outside of our home life. 

So, that's us.    My day is not meant to be a blueprint for yours, but to show you how to fit 'school' into regular life, and still have a life!!    I tried the Supermum (aka martyr-Mum) approach during our first round of homeschooling and it didn't work!    We all came to resent homeschooling.   So, our schooling is less formal this time around, but we are not unschoolers.   Our current routine seems to be serving us well at the moment, and the girls are learning and growing in lots of ways.   And it gives me a few small spaces of down time during the day to maintain some sanity!!  

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Small Beginnings

You know, when your kids are little and doing 'little' things like drawing and painting and cutting and gluing, making toy farms with paddle pop sticks, writing stories and letters and playing, lots of playing, and they want to do those things a lot, much more than school work, you wonder if they'll ever get an education and 'succeed'. Let me assure you, they will, if you let them develop those talents and help them nurture them.

These are some of the gifts of our older girls, all now adults, doing what they were good at as children, but in an adult setting.



The fence was built and photo taken by daughter no 3, the picture drawn by daughter no 2, the blog (and books) written by daughter no 1.

All that to say, if you are in the trenches with the 'everyday' stuff that doesn't seem that interesting or outstanding, don't despair and don't overlook the 'little' things your kids are good at. One day, it might be their bread and butter - it is for all three of them, to various degrees.   

With three older girls (all adults) and two younger girls (aged 7 and 3), I have the unique privilege of being able to look back and look forward.  I have seen how the 'little' things my older girls did back then have now turned into life passions.    And I can see that the 'little' things my younger girls are now doing could easily turn into their life passions, if I keep encouraging them and facilitating their learning. 

But, I am still tripping up over Duplo, drowning in endless pieces of paper and cardboard and egg cartons, still finding homes for toys, helping someone set up yet another farm/train track/car track/tea set/doll's house/zoo/teddy hospital, and sometimes I despair at the mess and the chaos.   And then I remember those small beginnings of the older girls and I am encouraged to be patient again, with the little things, the messy little things and the messy little creatures who live in 'my' house.  And I reminded that they will not always be here, but will be out there, doing 'big' things. 

So, let us rejoice, as God does, in small beginnings and enjoy these days. 

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.....
Zechariah 4:10


Linking up at Titus 2 Tuesdays


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Lift Your Hands, Lift Your Eyes

Lift your hands, lift your eyes.....
Sounds like something a baby or toddler does so easily, doesn't it?  When they need something, need someone, they don't think about it so much, they just lift their eyes and lift their hands so you can pick them up and meet their need. 

But do I do it easily?  Nope!!  

When my toddler is upset and I'm frustrated with her, one of the best cures is to just lift her up and appreciate how little she is, though she isn't a baby.   It cures my frustration, most of the time, and it cures her insecurities, most of the time. 

But, it's a very childish thing to do, isn't it, to want to be picked up? 
Or is it?  I guess we're trained, as children, to not need picking up or comforting or helping, because our parents are trying to instill independence in us.  I do wonder how much of that is for the parent's benefit or convenience, not the child's.  And it's hard, as a parent, if your child is needy, sick, whingy, or not inclined to be independent when they could be.   It's tiring, frustrating, inconvenient, annoying and more besides. 

Is that why we learn, as children, adolescents, young adults, to be 'strong', independent, to contain our emotions, suppress our emotions, hide our struggles, to find our own solutions to problems, to feel guilty for even having them, feel guilty for not knowing, not understanding, not being smarter, for making a mess, for not being quicker, more able, less sensitive.  Is that why we learn not to lift our eyes and our hands?  
As a daughter and as a mother, I can answer yes to all these, sadly.

And so, these lyrics are some of my favourites. 

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go


It has ministered to me, many times, because when I lift my eyes and my hands, literally, to Him, I am helped because I have asked for it, not because I have to deserve it or analyse why I should need it.  I am helped because I have come to the throne of mercy and grace, I have come to Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, I have come to Him who abounds in grace.   And when I lift my hands and my eyes to Him, I am able to allow others to ask the same of me and to find some  help when they lift their hands and their eyes. 

This is another verse from that song:

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will



So can you - lift your hands, lift your eyes - to Him?  He's waiting.  

The lyrics are from the song, Just Be Held, by Casting Crowns. 


Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Linking up with Kate Motaung at Five Minute Friday, a writing party held every Friday, where today's prompt word is 'lift'. 

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Saturday, 6 August 2016

AT REST IN HIS HAPPY PLACE



Oh, to be a dog, eh?  This is our gorgeous dog, Kaelen.  He is a pure-bred kelpie, bought and trained from a pup by our second-oldest daughter Anna.  He has a pedigree.   He was bred for a purpose.  He was brought here for a purpose.  His purpose here is to help us move sheep around and move them through the yards.  But, most of the time, he doesn't do that, because there isn't that much sheep work to do here.  So, his happiest moments are when he's flying through the air, chasing a tennis ball.   His eyes glow and his body is agile and he is alive!!   He spends hours sitting, sometimes staring at me through the kitchen window, begging me with his eyes to come and play.  And when I do, he's so happy.  He loves long runs around the farm, following after a motorbike or vehicle, but his happy place is chasing that ball.  

What is your happy place?   Is it just when you are fulfilling the purpose for which you were signed up to whatever role you play in life?   Or is it when you are enjoying yourself and enjoying the company of those who love you and whom you love?  

I look at my mother who, sadly, has spent her whole life trying to make others happy, and at this late stage in her life, she feels like a massive failure because they are often unhappy, but the failure isn't hers.  It's theirs.   It was never her purpose to make them happy, not in God's eyes.  Her purpose, the reason He thought of her, designed her, created her, was to enjoy Him and enjoy herself.    She doesn't know that.   She thinks she's here on this earth to make people happy and to constantly miss out and let go and forego to keep them that way.  But the people she's trying to make happy have choices to make, and the choices they make mean they will never be happy.   Because for them to be happy means to exalt themselves and to have their own way, all the time.    That is NOT happy.   They are not happy and the people they 'love' are not happy.

I wonder what makes God happy?   And He's not someone who needs to have it all His own way to be happy.  He is happy when we are living a full life, a life overflowing with the goodness He first placed in this world.   He is happy when we make good choices, right choices, holy choices, and when we choose happy for ourselves, a happy not based on our circumstances, but grounded in our hearts.   A happy that starts in our hearts, founded on knowing His love and being grateful to Him and confident in Him, in the midst of any circumstance.   A happy that starts and stays in fearing Him above all others, wanting to bring Him happy (pleasure), not appeasing someone else.

I've just recently read some of John Bevere's thoughts on fearing the Lord, and I found this verse:  
 
The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied  Proverbs 19:23

Are we satisfied and happy in Him?   Are we at rest, happy that we bring Him pleasure, make Him happy above all else, above everyone else?   Have we found the ultimate happy that He offers - to delight in Him as He delights in us. 

Linking up with Kate Motaung at Five Minute Friday, where the prompt word for today is 'happy'.

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Friday, 29 July 2016

Content To Be Hidden?

Linking up at Five Minute Friday, where we write for 5 minutes on a given prompt.   Today's prompt is 'hidden'. 

The word 'hidden' took me back, instantly, to a poem I wrote a few years ago for a struggling friend. 
Since that time, she very graciously sent it back to me when I was struggling with similar issues. 

So, I'll share it with you and perhaps it will help you too. 


THE ROSE

I saw in a garden, in a quiet, little place
A rose red as scarlet, full of beauty and grace
Why is it there?   For whom does it grow?
Does anyone see it?  Will anyone ever know?

Why has the gardener planted it there?
Does anyone notice, will anyone care?
Is it enough for the gardener to know?
To enjoy its beauty, and see that it grows?

It seemed such a waste, for its beauty not to be seen
By the rest of the world, like some hidden-away queen
There in a garden, a beautiful gem,
Growing lovely and strong, but only for Him.

But then I saw Him, and saw the joy on His face,
As His rose grew there, in that secret place.
I saw His delight and the love in His eyes,
as He pruned and adored His beloved prize.

This prize was a gift, redeemed by His Son,
Who'd hung on that cross, till the victory was won.
To His Father, He gave His life just for this
To buy back this gem, and present it to Him.

Had it been bruised, was it limp and forlorn?
How much had He pruned it, to bring it back to its form?
How much love had He spent to bring it around,
To the way that it looked, to be the gem that I'd found?

There in the garden, in that quiet, secret place,
Under His gaze, receiving His grace,
For whom, Christ in His passion, paid the ultimate price
It got me to wondering, it made me think twice.

Am I content to be, is it enough for me
To be a rose that only You will see?
There's so much I could do for You, in some other place
Is it enough for me to be here, under Your gaze?

Will I let You prune me, to bring me around
Allow You to form me, like the gem that I found?
If nobody ever sees, and nobody ever knows,
am I content, just to be, Your hidden, scarlet rose?


Photo courtesy of our dear friend, Suzy, who loves roses and other flowers, and for whom roses have been a symbol of God's faithfulness in her life.