Friday, May 6, 2016

New beginnings

My husband has farming blood in him.  He's brought up the idea of moving to the country more and more frequently over the past few years.  I, in turn, dismissed the idea as impossible.  Yes, it would be nice to have more land for the kids to play in.  But...I like being a part of a neighborhood, I like nice-looking manicured lawns, I like being five minutes away from a milk stop, or a diaper stop, or an oops-I-forgot-I-needed-that-ingredient-before-I-could-make-our-dinner stop.  And what about ticks?  Snakes?

About a year ago, he started browsing properties, showing me ones he liked here and there.  We even drove by a few.  But seriously, we have seven children.  Do people with seven children ever move?  How is it possible?  And we love our house!  Our pretty red house with the white pillars out front.  Newly landscaped. New pretty kitchen.  And friends for the kids literally on our front doorstep.

After the new year, there was a shift in my perspective.  I'm not sure what caused it.  Looking back, I'd say that God changed my heart on the matter and I was much more open to the idea of moving.  Brian had found a house he'd been watching that he really liked the looks of - ten acres, and what got me interested was the huge area for entertaining on the main level.  Complete with a basketball court.  Because every living room needs one.  So, we went and had a look.  It ended up needing quite a bit of work done and was not what we were looking for in terms of bedroom configuration.

This opened the door even more to considering a move.  Well, that and the fact that we were now expecting our eighth child.

We met with realtors about the value of our property.  We told them we were leaning toward building because we couldn't imagine finding anything that would fit our family's needs.  There were properties trickling onto the market, little to none meeting our criteria.  We told the kids, who of course started telling everyone that we were MOVING when they found out we were meeting with realtors, that there was a 1% chance we'd move within the next year.  We ended the meeting with the realtors telling them that we weren't going to be ready to do anything for a year or so.

A couple of weeks later, around the end of March, a highly interesting property hit the market.  Looking at it, I thought, that was exactly how I would have liked our house to look if we chose to build.  We called our realtors and arranged to go and take a look.  We stood in the kitchen after the walk-through and told him it was too bad we liked it so much because our house wasn't nearly ready to go on the market, then we'd need to sell, then we'd need to hope that this property was still available.  In a market where houses were going very quickly, I was not optimistic.  I mentally let the house go, not wanting to get attached to something that was such a slim possibility.

After prayer, talking it through, and a lot of endless thinking, we decided to push hard to get our house ready to sell.  We painted, replaced light fixtures and knobs on cabinets, and cleaned EVERYTHING.  In a week.

And then we put our house on the market.  Testing.  Praying with purpose that God would NOT let our house sell unless He wanted us somewhere else.  Meanwhile, the other house was still on the market, and we decided to put in an offer, contingent upon our property selling.  Our offer was still being considered when our house officially went on the market, last Thursday, April 28, around 2:00 p.m.

An hour later, we were getting calls from realtors requesting showings for that evening.  I'd cleaned the house the evening before while the rest of the family was at church, so we were in good shape there.  Did some touching up and planned for a dinner out with the kids.  We ended up having 3 showings at the exact same time.  We actually sat in the van around the corner and saw that three couples were simultaneously looking at the property.  Late that night after returning home, Brian received an e-mail from our realtor stating that he'd gotten two offers from those showings.

The next day, we were officially presented with both offers, both of which were above asking price, and decided to accept one of them, seeing clearly that this was God's direction for us at this time.

Right around the same time that we finalized those papers, there was mutual acceptance of our offer on the other property.  Now without the contingency of us needing to sell our home.

So, not only did God provide clear direction and answer to prayer, but He also provided us with a bunch of mercies we weren't even praying about - we needed to prepare the house for showings exactly once.  A huge blessing with that many hands and feet constantly getting things dirty.  We had a quick sale, which allows for a quick closing date, far enough out from my due date that I will still have the energy to pack and unpack and plenty of time to get settled in before baby and before another year of homeschooling starts at the end of August.  AND we're not even technically in the country, just on the edge, but with a good chunk of land and trees and plenty of adventure for the kids to discover.  The roads are even paved.

It's going to be so hard to leave.  So many memories of little feet walking, new siblings arriving, and even tornadoes!

We're trusting in God's plan and the future only He can see, and rejoicing in the many undeserved blessings He's shown us through this process.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Been there, done that.

Recently, we took a trip out to NYC where Brian's home office is - a much smaller "we" than normal, consisting of just Brian and I and Moses.  On what is becoming our annual fall get-away, I gear up for the next few months by:

- Addressing all my envelopes for Christmas letters (it was my hope to actually write the letter as well, but this didn't happen).

- Eat.  (For warmth - MN will be averaging freezing temps soon and some extra padding is a good idea)

- Blog.  (And thus, be inspired, once again, to blog more frequently)

- Spend some one-on-one time with my littlest.  (Moses, enjoy it while it lasts)

- Walk. (averaging 4 miles a day, I didn't walk as much as I'd hoped, but I did become aquainted with 5th Ave. and several other streets as accident)

- Christmas shopping (or at least browsing and getting some good ideas - especially for the kids with FAO Schwartz just a couple of miles away)

- Chocolate sampling (Lindt and Godiva both make their homes on my much-traveled route up 5th Ave.  Moses really wanted to go inside and I couldn't say no.)

- Dining out (deserves its own separate category apart from "eat" - because dining out in NYC can be quite the experience, complete with waiters looking like they may be part of the Italian "family".  And did you know there is such a thing as "green-lipped mussels"?  And that our dining experience at a fancy Italian restaurant consisted of me ordering my favorite fettuccine alfredo, described on the menu as "the classic dish served in the traditional manner"?  In other words, I'm boring.)

- Researching where to dine (with so many amazing choices and so much varying cuisine, this can be an anxious task)

- Spending extra time with my husband (and enjoying walking non-chalantly by the Empire State Building thinking, "Yep, my husband, he works there.")

- Have time to decide exactly which shoes I'd like to wear on a particular outing (I brought more shoes than shirts - several pairs I didn't wear even once)

- Listen to the musical I'm directing for the children's choir at church (hotel room neighbors, you're welcome)

- Sleep.  (Sleep.)

- Read. (and lose myself in my book about France to the extent that I actually think for awhile that I am in France - NYC does feel like visiting another country)

A peek into my four full days of vacation.

Loved every minute.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Seven Sinners.....and me.

One of the most difficult things about having children is that it reveals your own ugly humanness, your own sin.

I've said so many times, "I never knew I had an anger problem until I had kids."

It is also revealing of selfishness, impatience, pride, and a whole host of others.

I have 7 little reflections of my own sinfulness looking to me everyday to feed them - not just physically, but spiritually.

Reading through Kings right now, I've noticed how after many of the kings, the mother's name is listed (as in, "His mother's name was so-and-so".  In particular, I notice the kings who sought after the Lord when their father did not, and I recognize that the credit may very well go to the mother for teaching her son the ways of the Lord.  I want to be like these mothers!  (Not the ones mentioned whose sons were wicked!)

How in the world can this be possible when everyday, I not only see my own past struggles with particular sins exemplifying themselves in my precious children, but I also have to deal with my current issues with sin. Normally hidden just under the surface like a ragged nail under some pretty, sparkly nailpolish, but after a day (or hour, or minute or blasted second!) of being filed away on under the harsh, sandpaper-like surface of the emery boards known as my offspring, it is uglier than it was before I tried to hide it!

The Biblical phrase "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" comes to mind.  I need to cast myself daily on His mercies, on His willingly offered forgiveness, recognize daily that it is not about my own strength of willpower, my own determination not to yell, not to be impatient, not to grab the shoelaces out of fumbling fingers and TIE THEM MYSELF! - It is only and HAS to only be about Jesus and the strength He allows me for each day, one day at a time.

If I allow myself to be debilitated by sin constantly revealed, I am defeated, I am exhausted, I have not honored the One Who died for me.

If I recognize the sin and stop and thank the Lord for allowing me the spiritual eyes to see it as sin, for giving me the reminder (yet again) that I'm not perfect, not even close, that in so many ways, I am just like my children, whining about a simple task, or even outwardly defiant, running away and slamming the door in His face - then I can breathe, call upon His grace, and give Jesus and His forgiveness, as well as my own, to my children, rather than Angry Mother.  Am I greater than He that I should demand and expect instant obedience while the consequences of harsh discipline and yelling wait in the wings?

Romans 2:4 states that "His kindness leads us to repentance".

How fitting then that these 7 blessings He has seen fit to surround me with would also lead me to repentance - if I choose.  Can I also be thankful for their sin, in a way, because it continuously drives me to my Savior?  Because "He works all things together for good".

My heart is to teach them His ways - the ways of love, repentance, and forgiveness - and not my ways! This can only be done by His grace, through His grace, because of His grace and His filling of love, love to be given away.

Many people, friends, strangers on the street, the taxi driver, wonder, "Lady, how do you do it?"

I fail.  I strive only to show them Jesus.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sticks or Stones?

One of the reasons I love homeschooling is how much I learn right alongside my children.

This year, the older 2 boys are doing an in-depth study of the book of John.  In the teacher's guide, there was a morsel that just blew my mind!

When the Scriptures refer to Jesus as a "carpenter" (see Mark 6:2-3), the original Greek word is "tekton", which means, generally, builder/day-laborer.  In the region at that time, the primary building material was stone, not wood. Stone was used for the temple, for the houses, for many everyday objects.  Therefore, it is probable that Jesus was actually a stonemason and not what we think of when we hear the word "carpenter", someone who works with wood.

For those of you who were really bummed to discover that Jesus was not actually born on December 25, this theory may disturb you.

So let's go with this theory and explore some Biblical passages:

In the Old Testament, there are some instances where Jesus is called a stone or rock:

Isaiah 28:16 "Therefore thus says the Lord God, `Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.  He who believes in it will not be disturbed.'"

Psalm 118:22 "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone."

2 Samuel 22:47  "The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be God, the rock of my salvation."

There is also the story of David and Goliath where "David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground.  Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David's hand."  (1 Sam. 17:49-50)

Numbers 20:8-11, where Moses strikes the rock after God told him to speak to the rock, is so reminiscent of the crucifixion - the soldier pierced Jesus' side and blood and water came flowing out.  In the Old Testament passage, "Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly.." (20:11)  

In the New Testament:

Acts. 4:11 is a reminder of the fulfillment of Psalm 118:22 in Jesus - "He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief cornerstone."

1 Peter 2 is full of the metaphor:  "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  (:4-5).  The following verses again quote the Old Testament references to Jesus as the corner stone.

1 Corinthians 10:4 directly tells us that the Old Testament instance of water from the rock was a symbol of Jesus - "and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ."

Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter (a word closely resembling "rock", or "petra"), and upon this rock (Jesus now refers to Himself as Rock! A fulfillment of prophecy!) I will build My church ("For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 3:11); and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."  It may be that here Jesus is giving Peter hope, that Peter, although rough and ragged and not useful for much, will be formed and cut by the master Stonemason, Jesus, to emerge as the true Peter, the person God intended him to be all along!  Be careful to read the first part of the verse in regards to Peter and the second part of the verse in regards to Christ (Biblical backing provided).

Finally, at the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus' body was placed inside a stone tomb.  The "Stone", Jesus, bursts forth after 3 days, fully glorified, having completed His work, just as an object cut from stone would be fully completed after the stonemason laid aside his tools.  It is a beautiful picture of the Ultimate Stonemason, Himself having become a stone, the Stone, to show us how much He desires that we submit to His craftsmanship.

Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sam's story

My Samuel Paul
Leader of his siblings (and anyone else who happens to be around)
A challenging challenger, a thinker who loves God and His Word.

Passionate about music - violin and piano, especially.  Loves to figure out his own arrangements of songs and create his own compositions as well.

Stretching to young-manhood, but still very much a child.

Loves the outdoors and active play.

One of his favorite things is spending time with just Mom and Dad.  He is adept at mature conversation, loves having people of all ages around, and has asked for deoderant and hair gel for his birthday.  
On the cusp of being a young man, he wants to be a pilot when he grows up.  He is anxious to explore what God has for him and is currently content to let his parents pick his future wife.  We'll see how long that lasts..
Sam, you have a leader's heart, and God is developing in you a passion to speak His words to others.  What a combination!  I pray you let Him use you for His glory every day!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Considering Caleb

Caleb Luke
Thrives on helping,
Diligent in his schoolwork,
Loves his siblings

Naturally good at math and science

Will be the first to jump in and help out when needed (and when not)

Go-to babysitter and patient teacher of the littles and the minis

Goofy, yet more naturally serious and quiet

Is the hardest worker at things he's not naturally talented in - like swimming and piano .

Caleb, my second-born, my responsible, loving, boy - I can't wait to see what God has for your future!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Notably Noah

 Noah James
He loves to dress up, whether in costume or in a suit.
His facial expressions and vocal inflections make him a hysterical actor.
He is the leader of the "littles" (Isaac and Josiah).
He has dance moves - somehow he has dance moves...
He is full of personality.
He loves to cuddle.

Schoolwork is mostly a chore for him, although give him some encouragement and
he glows and digs in.   

He has the privilege of being in the midst of everything - not too old to play with the littles, and not too young to be a part of the "bigs",  he can be found frolicking and having a wonderFULL time.

He's the drama king, the ladies man, my most affectionate.

Noah, we'd be a different family without you!  We love who God created you to be!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Isaac's Interests

Isaac John -
a small package of
quiet (sometimes),
 He and his brothers had a blast playing in leaves which they hauled in from several other yards to dump in our own (sorry, you missed your chance - no more leaves accepted)

 Adores his younger siblings

 Has been a trooper on our walks this fall - he will walk (and be the first!) over 6 miles with nary a complaint!

 Hanging on for dear life - if his brothers are having an adventure, he needs to be in on it.

 Don't just leaf me here!

 He and Josiah are both making headway this year with memorizing the first chapter of John - they were reciting for Grandma Sue here.

 Gymnastics - all that energy is a bit like watching a puppy who's just eaten a chocolate bar.

Isaac loves to read, has amazing handwriting for a 5 (or 10!) year old, loves horses and cats, will often go and spend time alone playing with legos, just started piano lessons this fall, and can often be found sprawled on the floor working ahead on his Math.  He's got a wonderfully goofy personality.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Josiah's Joys

Our Josiah Thomas

Loves to be with his brothers - which may be why I couldn't find any pictures of him alone.

Enjoys his schoolwork - especially projects like this one, a paper mache world.

Best friends!  Josiah loves to dress up and pretend with his brothers.  Anything with knights or pirates.

He learned to swing on his own this summer - as did his twin brother, Isaac.

Josiah is an astounding reader, enjoying chapter books already.  He loves to do puzzles and is generally more serious than his brothers.  He has an endearing smile, startlingly beautiful eyes, and a sweet spirit when he doesn't allow whining and arguing to mask it.

Josiah, you are a gift!