Sunday, December 25, 2016

Expectations at Christmas

Christmas. The day that most families are posting photos of smiling kids standing around a pile of presents. My Facebook feed was full this morning of family photos. I posted a photo of my own children last night.

But, what about the kids without the piles of glittering wrapping paper? What about the families who may have gifts, but no longer have a Daddy (or other relative)? What about those families separated by military service or a job at a store that stays open 365 blessed days a year?

As usual, my biggest struggle today is my own battle with unrealistic expectations. You know, the images in my head of kids playing with new toys, or sitting around a glorious, pinterest-worthy feast? Everyone is smiling. No one holds a grudge. No one breaks out into argument because “she got more mashed potatoes than I did.” We are all guilty of these expectations in some way or another.

What do we do when reality strikes? There are no presents, or there is no feast, or the kids continue to act as they do every other day of the year? Shining new gadgets and toys may forestall the naughtiness for a time. But, by the end of the day reality will come pouring down on us. Either your husband will start talking politics with Uncle George, or the kids will eat too much sugar and come crashing down in a tumult of blood sugar-spiked tears. Or, the toddler will take the baby's new toy . . . and break it. What then?

I am writing this now, to answer that question for myself. What is Christmas really? It's not just a day for glamorous photos in my FB timeline. It's not just about presents. And, let's face it, kids will be kids – even on Christmas. So, what should my realistic expectation be for this Christmas?

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 
I Cor. 10:31

It doesn't really matter if it's a random Tuesday in February or Christmas Day. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Whether you are celebrating His incarnation with feasting and merriment, or sitting in an apartment fearing that tomorrow you will lose your electricity- Live for the glory of God.

Easier said than done, to be sure.

But, Christ is the only Standard by which we can live. Christ is the only Stable, Static Entity in our ever-transitioning lives. CHRIST!

So, whatever you do -whether you open presents, light candles, eat cake, play with kids, work at your job, cook a meal, go to school, etc – do it for the glory of Christ. Because Christ is the only un-changeable in our lives. Christ never fails.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When daydreaming brings better vision...

As sometimes happens, I was hit with some deep thoughts while I was in the middle of daydreaming.
What would happen, what would it be like, if I became blind? (This isn't exactly prose... neither is it any type of poetry I am familiar with. We could call it meandering mind... or derailed train of thought that took me to the destination that was better than the one I anticipated.) Some of this was written with my actual weaknesses in mind, but some of it is written with every woman in mind.

What if I became blind?
If I became blind, would I finally see?
Would I more clearly see the people that surround me?
Would I fall more in love with my husband as he served me and daily laid down his life for me?
Would I hear the hurt in the voices of the broken, where previously my eyes were deceived by fake smiles and make-up?
Would I love people without seeing such things as tattoos and ear rings?
Would all the designations of beauty that the World gives mean anything at all?
Would I see for the first time that some of God's most beautiful souls are hidden in bodies of people who are "fat," "short," or "too tall?"
Would I love people more if I couldn't see the car they drove? The brand of clothes they wear? Or the color of their hair?
Would I love people more if I couldn't see acne or a smile muted by the crooked teeth it revealed?
Would I see my own daughter, who is covered with white patches (caused by vitiligo) as even more beautiful than I already know her to be?
How would it feel if I was no longer distracted by hair styles or eyebrows?
Would I be free of forming instant judgments about people?
Would I love more freely?
Would I more readily hug those who might presently make me cringe?
Would I see what true beauty is?
Would I better hear the cries of the hearts of others without the limitation of sight?
Would I love people from all walks of life with more fervor?
Would you drop me off on the "wrong side of town" and I could be free from the burden of such labels?
Would I see myself as beautiful, if I was no longer enslaved to a mirror and a scale?
Would I discover what really matters?

Lord, free me of my wretched human sight and let me see through Your Eyes! As I enjoy the rich colors of autumn, I rejoice! As I look forward to a day of daughters parading down the aisle in white, I rejoice! As I see my husband's eyes - so blue, so gentle - I rejoice! But, I want to see more than my human eyes can see. Remove the limitations of human sight and let me see people through the eyes of love! Transform my heart, that I would truly SEE! In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A (word) picture to describe my chronic illness

Living with a chronic, invisible illness is awful. This is compounded by the fact that I usually don't look sick. The following paragraphs are from my "book" about living with chronic illness. (It's more of a memoir, really). I wanted to share this picture of disability. This is addressed mostly to people who don't live with a person like me, and they don't really know what it means to have a chronic illness. This is written in past tense, as though I no longer deal with this struggle. But, my autoimmune issues flare up often and I have bad days. I still struggle.

           I want to paint a picture for you to understand what it is like to live with chronic illness. I will use my husband as an example.
            My husband, Paul, worked for UPS for several years. For quite a while, he was in the position of pre-loader. He put the packages into the trucks. Sometimes he had to load as many as four trucks at one time. The work was fast-paced as well as physically and mentally challenging. It was like a big puzzle that had to be put together every night. When all the boxes were properly loaded he was tired, but felt satisfied in a job well done.
          Then, a horrible thing happened. Paul's discs in his back became herniated. He could no longer do his job with the same vigor. And, there was a period of time that he had to take three months off while his back healed. During that time, Paul struggled with feelings of uselessness. He wanted to be able to get out and work.
           This kind of situation is hard for a man to deal with. Men were made to work. But, it could have been worse . . .
           What if instead of just being stuck in his bed every day (which was hard enough for a hard-working man like Paul) he had to lay on a couch at the delivery center and see boxes and boxes piling up outside of his package cars? What if he had to watch while someone else tried to do his job, but they were just not doing it as well as he could have? Worse yet, what if he had to watch a driver pull away from the bay with the work left undone and boxes strewn all over the floor?
          That was my life (in 2014, when I was at my worst). I knew my job description. Mother: makes meals, tickles children, plays catch, washes laundry, does the dishes, makes child do homework (or in my case teaches school), kisses boo boos, keeps the house looking nice. But, I was unable to fulfill my role as mother. Sadly, I had to watch as jobs went undone, finished half-way, or completed once again by my eldest daughter. I had to live in my mess . . . forever seeing that I couldn't do anything to help. I felt useless. I felt like a failure. There was no where to turn my eyes to avoid seeing reminders of my sickness.
          That's one picture of disability.
          Add to that first picture now (Paul, on the imaginary couch at work, watching the work get done by someone else to a lesser standard than he could have done it) – What if he had gotten up and forced himself to work? What if he had a day where he had less pain and decided, “I would like to work today”? How would he have felt the next day? What would have been the long-term repercussions? One good day of work would be followed by many days in worse pain. This is the reality of what many chronically ill people suffer with day to day. The physical pain is one thing. The mental anguish is another.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Day Spent Enjoying Ourselves - Photos

Our two real cameras were in use. So I was happy to have my phone camera. Click any photo to enlarge. (Photos by Bethany)

At Stephen's Lake Park in Columbia, MO. This park is one of my favorite places in Columbia! On this day we spent a lot of time exploring and photographing nature.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pecans - Photos by Bethany

I took these photos last year. At least, I think I am the one that took all of these. My apologies if I have unintentionally stolen Nelson's work. That's the trouble with your son having the best camera in the house. (Click any photo to bring up the enlargements page)

Our children - Fall 2015

This year we don't have too many pecans. In fact, I'm not sure we will even get one bucket. Between storms and Japanese beetles our pecan tree was stripped.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Photographs by Nelson

We were all feeling creative the other day, so I encouraged Rebecca and Nelson to get their cameras out. This post is only Nelson's work. I will post Rebecca's photos later. Please let Nelson know which picture is your favorite.

(CLICK any photo to bring up the enlargements page)

Nelson's photos:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review - Wingfeather Saga

photo credit:
 (I do NOT have affiliate links. I just include links to make your life a little easier.)

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson is an incredibly entertaining and encouraging series! I read the books first to see what they were about. And, then I re-read the series aloud to the children over the past few months. (This series is a great way to rack up homeschooling hours!) I loved hearing the book through their ears, while they folded laundry or colored quietly. (Yes, friends, that is one of my motherhood secrets right there. Bribe the kids to fold laundry by reading aloud. Just kidding. I love read alouds for their own sake! The laundry is a bonus.)

Short summary- Book One, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, begins the epic adventure of the Igiby Family. They are pursued by evil while making unlikely allies around every corner. The fictional creatures they come against in their journey add yet another spark of interest to an already difficult escape.

The characters of the Wingfeather Series are fictional, yet very real. The plot is exciting and drives forward with momentum. The fantasy locations of the book are ingenious and the fantasy creatures and foods range from laugh out loud funny to turn your stomach queasy (or both at the same time). Every detail of this series is well thought out and well written. I have no qualms comparing this series as a modern day epic adventure like the Hobbits went on, or like Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy experienced in Narnia. Yes, I think this series is that good!

I don't know how Peterson would sum up the theme of the book, but I think the undercurrent of the book is individual struggling with the darkness inside of yourself and how it affects the people around you. There is also a strong element of how facing your own demons can change the world (for better or for worse). It is hard to explain this without completely spoiling the book for you. I wish I could give specific examples, this series is ideal for essays on character, plot, theme, etc! (oooh, more homeschool credits!)

The characters were children and adults that my family could easily identify with! One child seems a bit selfish and impulsive, another child is sweet and tender yet brave, another child is studious and decisive. Other characters have hidden or dark pasts that they are trying to overcome. The children work together to fight against evil. The children have certain talents that allegorically represent spiritual gifts. The whole book has a strong allegorical leaning. The tale will lead to thoughtful discussions around the dinner table.

The Wingfeather Saga is a must read for Christian families! It will be a blessing to every age group! I highly recommend adding this to your family library!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Aug 2016 - Update, with photos!

In case anyone is curious, or stops by the blog check on me:

- Our family is still living in mid-MO.
- We are still home educating. (Our local homeschool cooperative is in Boonville, MO, and it is called B.A.T.C.H. If anyone sees this post because they are doing a google search for a homeschool group in Boonville, please contact me. I would love to put you in touch with the group! We don't have a web page, but we do have a Facebook group.)
- We are holding at 6 kids. (winks) The "baby" is 4 years old!
- I am still fighting with disability in the winter months, but nothing like I have in years past.
- The kids are becoming more involved in sports and community.
- Rebecca is beginning 9th grade, Nelson is 7th, Lydia is 6th, Joshua is 4th, Josiah is 1st-ish, and Jeremiah is in kindergarten... more or less.
- We are still trying to battle learning disabilities with diet and brain exercises. Maybe I will write more about that at another time.
- Life is busy.

How is that for keeping it short and sweet?

I am not writing much these days. When I read my Bible I journal in whole sentences, because I think my thoughts might be useful for a book someday. But, right now my hands are full with being a wife, mother, and teacher. I will try to write again soon.

Below: Our kids, July 4, 2016
Nelson (12), Joshua (almost 9), Rebecca (14), Lydia (almost 11), Josiah (6), Jeremiah (4)

The whole tribe on the Fourth of July in Arrow Rock, MO.