Saturday, 24 September 2016

Five Miracles and Five Privileges

Once upon a time, there were three little girls and their sad little Mummy.   Not sad because there were three of them, nor because they were girls, but because they were growing out of being little and there were no more coming behind them.    I always felt we were supposed to have five children, and yet all that was happening was one miscarriage after another, usually in the early stages.   

After yet another miscarriage, this time at ten weeks, just after we moved to the farm, I finally went to the doctor and she suggested some tests.    She ran the tests and called me in to make an appointment.  Out in the waiting room, my ever-growing little girls played in the toy section, and I waited to hear my results.  She started with a strange question.

'Those three little girls out there - they are yours, aren't they?'  

'Yes, they are - you were my doctor for one of them, remember.'

'Well, it's just that these genetic and other tests show that it's physically and genetically impossible for you to stay pregnant long enough to have a healthy baby.   You need to go home and enjoy the ones you do have, though it's beyond me how that happened.  And don't start with the God-stuff - you know where I stand on that!'   

So I went home, sad and grateful.   Sad that there would be no more, and grateful that God had performed three miracles that science couldn't account for.

After a time of grieving any future possibilities, God showed me very clearly that I needed to change my attitude and find contentment in who my girls were at their various ages and stages.  

Contentment is a hard thing to choose when you're pretty sure the status quo isn't going to change.  It's one thing to be content for the time being, with the hope of future possibilities.    But it's quite another thing to choose contentment when this is all there is. 

But I did choose contentment and I found a new appreciation for the girls, and their ages and stages, and a new appreciation for each of them for who they were, and not just part of my mothering dream.    I realised that while I was pining for another baby and then another, I wasn't loving well the ones I  had already been given.   So, I chose contentment and it brought me a great deal of freedom from many things. 

But, I pretty much gave up on my dream of five children.

But, many years later, we were surprised with another miracle and another privilege.   By this time, my older girls were 16, 13 and 11 and they were pretty convinced I was either pregnant or had a brain tumour!!   They were relieved to find out I was 14 weeks pregnant.    We welcomed Raelee Rose the following May, and a few years later, we welcomed Abigail Eloise, 21 years, almost to the day, after her oldest sister was born. 

I had my five, the number I always thought I'd have, with doctors still sprouting their negativity and their disbelief and their worst-case scenarios, 'You need to have an abortion, you're too old, you need to get over yourself and get a life, this will happen and that will happen, ....... blah, blah, blah.' 

Well, here I am, the mother of five miracles and five privileges.     I am still trying to get a current photo of all five girls in the one place at the one time.    One day!   This one was taken when Abi was just a few days old. 

And these are our two youngest miracles now.  

And on the hard days of parenting and sleep-deprivation, I need to remember my story of five - and the privilege that I have been given.   For many of us, conception and pregnancy and birth are not a given - it's not that easy.  

But for all of us, regardless of how 'easy' it is, our children are a privilege and we do well to remember it, on the hard days and the good days.   

Children are not just the fulfilment of our dream - they are a gift from God and a heritage - a huge privilege. 

Psalm 127:3  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Linking up with other writers at Five Minute Friday, a writing party on a given prompt.  Today's prompt word is 'five'.  

Saturday, 17 September 2016

To Listen is to Love

I was thinking about the word listen as I sat near a bonfire at our house, not really able to do much thinking because I was watching two little people near a large bonfire and listening to their many, many questions and comments.  

But, these were the thoughts that came to me. 

To listen takes time, real time, not watching-the-clock time.

To listen takes quietness of soul, peace to know that the hard stuff is not yours to keep, but His to handle.

To listen takes security, security of soul that you don't have to agree or submit to someone else's opinion nor defend yourself, that He decides who you are and your worth.

To listen takes courage, courage to hear what's hard and unpleasant and unfiltered.

To listen takes strength, strength to stay and hear stuff that hurts the speaker to say, and maybe the listener to hear.

To listen takes gentleness, the kind of gentleness that doesn't have an agenda or a harsh answer. 

To listen takes humility, the kind of humility that doesn't judge or pity, but embraces and comforts and gives hope. 

To listen takes wisdom, wisdom to know there is a time to speak and a time to be quiet. 

To listen takes patience, the patience to hear all that needs to be said, not jumping in at the first quiet moment. 

To listen is to hear someone's heart, a privilege being offered, but it takes a lot of listening to get there, through the fluff and stuff that we are so used to saying because we rarely find a true listener.

To listen is a gift, a rare gift, but one that makes a huge difference in little ways.  

To really listen is to love.   

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  James 3:13

Linking up at Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes on a given prompt.  This week's prompt is 'listen'. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Taking Your Learning Outside

I am not an outside person - I would much rather be inside - but I like to get outside and I like my girls to get outside and get some fresh air and sun, for about an hour, twice a day.  That doesn't always work, but I try and make it work, meaning I make sacrifices to make it work.    If it ends up only being 15 mins each time, then that is fine too. 

I try and put those outside times in between bookwork/craft or TV time, so their brains get a break and their bodies can get moving.    It often helps to alleviate frustrations and bad moods, on everyone's part.   For that reason alone, it is worth the sacrifices made to make it happen. 

Our outside activities can be as simple as playing in the sandpit with sand and water and rocks, or we walk to the mail box or play on the trampoline or swings or bikes.  Raelee loves to play ball games.    I try to combine their outside time with hanging or bringing in washing, collecting wood, taking out the garbage, putting the dogs to bed, cleaning out the car, etc.  

Sometimes our outside activities include helping Dad with yard or farm duties or simply picking up sticks and putting them on the various fire piles we have around.   I will often create jobs just to get them moving.  

This week, it has been very wet here on the farm and there has been a lot of water running down our road.   So, between showers, we've done some lessons outside.

We went down to the road, just outside our front gate, and the girls discovered all the water.  Even on a freezing cold, windy day, children are attracted to water.

So, I let them play in it and Raelee, 7, decided she would try to make a dam to keep the water from flowing down the road.  

They used rocks and discovered that they weren't going to stay together enough to keep the water back, so then we piled on some mud and put some grass in with it.  We discussed how putting something in the  mud is like putting rocks and steel in concrete (which Raelee often helps her Dad with), and how people all over the world use some kind of mud and thatch to build houses and roofs and various other structures.  

As you can see, it did work to keep the water back.    But then they realised the water was running around behind their stream and breaking through in lots of other spots. 

Thirty-six hours later, after a lot more rain, we discovered that our dam wall was not high enough or strong enough, and all the mud and 'thatch' had been washed away.  

We discussed the power of moving water, and why the water was dirty in some places, clean in others. 

We discussed why dogs love water and mud and all the exciting things they find, like rotting bones and creatures to chase.     We tried to gauge the depth of the water by how far up the dogs' legs it went, so we could decide whether to walk through it.

We discussed the different patterns in the water and what makes them.

We discussed how, on this first day of spring, it was still too cold to swim.     Two days later, however, when it was still too cold to swim, and there was considerably more water, they managed to fall over and get soaked, as you do!  

We also discovered that after several days of rain, and two trips to the mud, we were running out of clean, dry clothes and boots!  And we discovered that sunny, windy days are good for getting clothes and boots dry again.  

Sometimes, we over-complicate life and think we can't teach our kids anything, but my girls have learnt a great deal this week, just being outside with me, discussing, asking a LOT of questions, experimenting, discovering, learning in ways that are too numerous to write down. 

So, all that to say, 'Have fun learning outside!'

Friday, 2 September 2016

Staying on the Road!

This is our road, the one that I've slid along too many times these past few weeks.   It's not a path, as such, but it's a road God has used to teach me some things about staying on the path He sets for us.    This road has ruts in it and when it's wet, you better stay in those ruts, because otherwise you go sliding all over the road and end up in the drain.    The roads with ruts are actually better than the ones without, because at least there is something keeping you on the crest of the road and not sliding sideways towards the drain.   My path might not be straight, but I do like to stay on the road!   

I do not look forward to driving on this road when it's wet.    My husband does this stuff for a living and doesn't mind it;  young people we've had here have found it fun and challenging and exciting.  Not me.  I just want an easy drive and a quick one.   I don't want to struggle or suffer or be challenged and I don't like sliding sideways - fast or slow!   

Sometimes the path God chooses for us, or perhaps we've inadvertently chosen for ourselves, is a lot like this road.  It doesn't feel like a good place to be, or fun, or the right fit for us, or comfortable, or helpful.     And it's hard to stay on that path, even though we know it's where God has us right now.   

And it's hard to keep steering and keep moving forward on that path, because it's difficult and tedious and tiring and sometimes all-consuming.   It takes all our emotional and mental energy to just keep moving forward, albeit ever so slowly and not give up or turn back.   You can't turn around on our road - you're stuck, which is probably just as well, 'cause it's taught me to keep going!  You either keep poking along and eventually get there, or get bogged trying, or you give up and sit in the middle of the road, which makes the journey that much harder, because once your vehicle has lost its momentum, however tedious and slow that is, it is very hard to get going again. 

Of course, driving on a road for 30-40 minutes in these conditions is different to being on a difficult path for months or even years at a time, but I've done that too and some things feel much the same to me.   It's hard and depressing and you can dread it the whole way through, with your hands stuck so tight to the wheel you have to peel them off at the end.   Or you can relax just a little, but keep steering, keep moving, keep going forward while you keep trusting and submitting your ways to His, keep acknowledging Him, and keep believing that He cares, He's there, He's working on it, He's helping in real ways, unseen ways.  

In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.   Proverbs 3:6.

Linking up at Five Minute Friday, a party of writers who write on a given prompt every Friday.  Today's prompt word is 'path'. 

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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!!