Hope for Messy Families

This is the article that started it all.  It got me thinking; took me down memory lane and about some lessons that God has taught me.  But what good is it to learn lessons the hard way, if not to share your stories with others so they don’t make the same mistakes you did?  So here goes, this is a word for the young moms and the tired moms and discouraged moms: TAKE HEART.

I have been a born again Christian for over 30 years.  I have been a stay at home mom for 22 years.  I have been a homeschooling mom for 15 years.  (Did I really say those things out loud?  Now I feel old.)  One would think that with a resume like that, I would have this parenting thing down and our family would be the picture of love and tranquility.  Did you hear that sound?  That is the sound of God and all his angels laughing at what I just said.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are a very messy family.

When I began homeschooling, I went with my friends to the annual homeschooling convention.  These days were promoted as a time of encouragement and refreshment.  At these conventions, I would see other homeschooling families with their children:  Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect ; all wearing matching, homemade outfits.  I came home to my own messy family:  Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient, wearing clothes that may or may not be stained, have holes, or match. Rather than encouraged and refreshed, I was discouraged and disheartened.  I don’t go to homeschooling conventions anymore.  (Please note that this is not in any way intended to be critical of homeschooling conventions.  The people who put them on work very hard and many people are blessed by them.  They are just not a good fit for me.)

But this is the good news:  God, does indeed, specialize in messy families.  Messy families are the perfect place to learn forgiveness and grace, the heartbeat of the gospel.  Those things don’t take place in a perfect, sanitized setting; they can only happen surrounded by messy, sinful people who trust in a gracious, forgiving God (Eph. 4:32).  God is not done with us yet, but He is faithful to complete the good work that He started in each one of us. (Phil 1:6)

Comparison is a trap that we set for ourselves.  So what if that mom at the convention has Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect?  God did not give her the grace to raise my family.  He gave me the grace to raise my family.  He gave her the grace to raise hers. (Eph.4:7)  And if I was honest, sometimes Angel, Goodly, Neatly, Sweetly, and Perfect turn into Grumpy, Stubborn, Sassy, Argumentative, and Disobedient too (Ro. 3:23).

If you are a mom who woke up tired and discouraged this morning, take heart.  God’s grace is new every morning.  He does not grow tired or weary and in His strength you can meet the challenges that this day holds (Isa. 40:28, 2 Cor. 12:9, Heb. 4:16).  So have the courage to be real, think Biblicaly, and live the gospel.  And you have my permission to let your kids wear the play clothes.  They are the perfect attire for messy people like us.

Lessons From the Tabernacle

This year, the kids and I have been attempting to study the Pentateuch for our Bible class.  We’re taking it pretty slow, but it’s been good.  We just finished Exodus and God’s plan for the Tabernacle this week and I learned some interesting symbolism which has been very meaningful to me.

Each piece of furniture in the Tabernacle was symbolic of some aspect of the believer’s relationship with Christ.  Although not technically a piece of furniture, there was only one entrance to the Tabernacle, just like Jesus Christ who said “I am the way and the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The first piece of furniture as one enters the Tabernacle is the bronze altar where the sacrifices for atonement (among others) were made.  Similarly, one cannot come to the Father without being immediately confronted by Christ sacrificing Himself to atone for our sins.

The next piece was a bronze wash basin.  The New Testament imagry this brings to mind is of Christ washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.  When Peter asked him to wash not only his feet, but his whole body, Jesus replied “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (John 13:10)  It was only the dust of the ground which needed to be washed.  Similarly, even though I have found forgiveness at the foot of the cross, I find myself “dusty” with daily sins which need to be confessed, repented, and forgiven.

Behind the wash basin was a veiled room which partitioned off the Tent of Meeting, consisting of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  Behind this veil in the Holy Place sat the Lampstand, the Table of Showbread, and the Altar of Incense.  The Lampstand is interesting to me.  I never realized before (although it makes perfect sense) that the Lamp was the sole source of light in the Tent because all natural forms of light were blocked out by the series of curtains and it was sufficient.  It reminds me that Christ, The Word,  is my source of Light and wisdom for every situation and that He is always sufficient.  The Showbread reminds us of how Christ strengthens and sustains us, and the Altar of Incense is a picture of prayer and worship.

Within the Tent of Meeting, there was a second veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  Only the High Priest was allowed to enter and that only once per year at the appointed time. Here we find our final piece of furniture, The Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark is ripe with symbolism.  It’s cover was called The Mercy Seat and it is here where the fullness of God’s presence rested.  Inside the Ark was a jar of manna, representing God’s provision; the second set of tablets enumerating the Ten Commandments, representing God’s righteousness; and Aaron’s staff, representing God’s miraculous power.  Even its very name, the Ark of the Covenant stands as a powerful reminder that God always keeps his promises.  It was this veil which was torn asunder when Jesus was crucified, making all of this now accessible to the believer.

The second day I was considering the Tabernacle and all its symbolism, it occurred to me how the progression of the different pieces of furniture is a picture of the walk of a believer.  When one first comes to faith in Christ, his sins are forgiven and his name written in the Book of Life.  Later as he grows in faith, the believer sees the need for daily repentance and finds the Bible sufficient wisdom for any and every situation.  And so it goes, finding refreshment in God’s presence, becoming a person of prayer, and finally finding oneself at the Mercy Seat, encountering God’s presence, experiencing his provision and miraculous power.  God in His wisdom does not drop us off in the Holy of Holies; He has much to do in our lives.

And so I woke up this morning, facing the day’s challenges.  They started earlier than usual today. :o)  God placed the thought in my mind to use this imagry to focus my prayer time today, stopping at each “station” of the Tabernacle, using it as an opportunity to thank God for how He has manifested Himself in my life, to worship Him, or bring my requests before Him.  It is one of the best prayer times I have had in a long time.

I am under no delusion that I dwell in the Holy of Holies, but as I think on it, there have been times when the Father has bid me to enter and fellowship with Him there.  They have been times which seem difficult to me here on earth, where I have had to rely on his provision or his power.  These times of fellowship, although outwardly difficult have been very sweet and I miss the sweetness of it when the trial is over.  More often though, I find myself a wanderer, travelling to and from the different stations of the Tabernacle as each situation has need.  Perhaps of late, I have become somewhat of a tour guide, mentoring my children and any others as God gives me opportunity, in their walk with the Lord.

The Power of a Star

We are finally well underway in our 2008-2009 homeschool year.  This year Anna’s academic load has been ratcheted up quite a bit.  One of the things she is learning this year is to write using cursive handwriting.  For a girl with significant fine motor delays this is really hard .  She was really excited at first.  We began with a lowercase “a”, went on to lowercase “d”, and then we hit lowercase “g” and it was like hitting a very painful brick wall.  That loop was so difficult, her hand wouldn’t do what she wanted it to, why did she have to learn this anyway?

This is our third day working on the letter “g”.  After the first row, I asked her, “Which one do you think you did the best?  Draw a smiley face next to it.”  When she was done, I showed her which one I thought was the best and drew a star next to it.  You could see her body begin to relax and her face light up.  The next row was the same, except I gave one particularly good specimen two stars.  That was really exciting.  Her handwriting became smoother.  The loops seldom crossed at the line, but on the whole it was much more legible.  She asked if she could have a sticker for her folder if she did a good job on the rest of the page.  Of course she could, that’s what I bought them for.

It’s such a small thing.  It cost me nothing except the dollar or so that I paid for a book of stickers that will last me the rest of the year and the willingness to slow down, remember this is a process, and give the gift of encouragement along the way. 

We are not so different, she and I.  I need to slow down, I need to be reminded that this is a process–I am not yet a finished product, and the smallest amount of encouragement is like a salve to my soul.  Oh that I would turn my eyes from myself, my needs, my agenda, and give the gift to little hearts who are waiting to drink it up like rain to a dry and thirsty land.

Order my days, O Lord…

These are not the days I had planned on having.  With two weeks left in my pregnancy, I had planned on staying at home as much as possible and working hard as a family to get as much of our homeschooling done as possible so we could all enjoy a well-deserved rest.  In an uncharacteristic-for-me move I had even arranged for others to take Mavis to both of her doctor appointments this week so that I could concentrate as much as possible on my kids.

And then yesterday hit. Continue reading

Christ’s prayer, my prayer

John chapter 17 gives us a priveleged glimpse into the prayer time of Jesus, appealing to God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Before I go any further, I must stop and check my attitude to see if I am approaching this with proper reverence and awe.

Now I am far from being like Christ.  (Some days much farther than others!)  My children, however, as they live with me and learn with me are not that far off from the disciples.  As I approach the beginning of another homeschool year it would be good to examine how Christ prayed for his disciples and pray for my children in a like manner.

He prayed that they would obey God’s Word (v.6) Yes, Lord, may they not only gain head knowledge of You, but put that knowledge into action in their lives.  May they be quick to discern Your voice and quick to obey.

He prayed that they would know that everything comes from God the Father. (v. 7)  Help us to get a better handle on stewardship, Father.  Help us to understand that everything we “have” is Yours, to remember that we are only investors in Your Kingdom, to comprehend that stewardship not only applies to money and things, but our time and abilities as well.

He prayed that they would be certain in their faith. (v.8)  Oh, yes Lord!  May they not only grow rock-solid roots of faith, but may they grow in their ability to give an answer and a reasonable account for their faith.

He prayed that God would protect them from the world.(v.11)  And Father, can you help their father and I do a better job of discerning how much of the world we expose them to?  May we repent O Lord of our own worldliness.

He prayed that they would be unified. (v. 11)  You have made them so delightfully distinct.  Please help my children to find unity in spirit while growing to be the people You made them to be.

He prayed for his disciples to have the full measure of joy within them.(v. 13)  Yes!  Yes,  Lord!  I pray for joy to fill our home!  I pray for smiles and laughter and fun and silliness.  I pray that we would enjoy each other as a family.  And as the trials and tribulations come our way, I pray that we would braid ourselves with each other and with You and experience the deep peace of knowing that You are God and You are Good and You have not forgotten us or lost control.  For this too, is joy.

He prayed that God would protect his disciples from spiritual attack. (v. 15)  O Father, Satan is jealous for all You possess, and as each of us is Your possession we are targets for his wrath.  I pray for each of my children that You would make them aware of the enemy’s methods and that they would turn to You when tempted.

He prayed that they would be sanctified. (v.17)  Dear Father, please help my children to grow in Christ-likeness, and let their father and I grow as well.  May each of us look a little more like your Son as each day passes.

Finally he prayed for those who would believe in him through their message.(v.20)  This is such a sobering and awe-inspiring thought…that these children who I too often think of as my own are really Yours from the beginning with a role to play in Your Kingdom.  May they each one grow to be obedient to that role and may Your Kingdom increase and expand due to the obedience of my children.  I pray for these people who I have not yet met that You would do for them all that I have just prayed for my children.

And as I draw ever nearer to the beginning of yet another homeschool year, I am given words of comfort and peace.  I don’t have to be perfect or perform super-human feats in order to please my heavenly Father.  “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (v. 4)  Thank you Father.  One day at a time.  Moment by moment help me to to bring you glory by completing the work you gave me to do.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sprouts Update

We now have 11 flats of seeds planted with approx. 70 plants per flat.  Many of the kitchen herbs are off and running…I fear the dill may have to be transplanted to a larger container soon.  Yikes!  If any of you happen to be travelling in the northern IL area, please come to my rescue!! ;o)

Dawn, if you know of any good books on what to actually do with these herbs besides cook with them, let me know.  I’ll see if I can get it through ILL.