Answers: part 3 (of 3)

Well here I am, FINALLY, to share what I woke up the next morning to find laying open to me. Over the course of the past week it has not ceased to amaze me how human I am..."The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." I know it will always be this way, though I will train myself better and better and with the holy spirit's help I'll become more disciplined, but I'm back to feeling almost like I was. It's different, because I'm no longer waiting for an answer, and it's not heavy-how strange is that? But there's still a fog of sadness. I still cry at the drop of a hat. I went a while with no tears, (a week and a half HA!) but they're back again. I imagine I'll get these little breaks intermittently and they'll get further and further apart. Whatever happens, I'll just keep leaning on His promises and move forward.

Oh, you came here to read about answers. Well, last Monday morning, after I had heard that sermon, I wanted to read the actual Psalm that went with it, just in case there was some other little morsel I could glean from it. Now, mind you, that is a lot of "I" for what has been revealed. Understand that I realize this had very little to do with me...I was a captive audience who only chose to look for what God was revealing. This can-and does-happen to anyone! I don't think I'm special because I can understand (in one way...God speaks to us a whole host of different things through the same scripture depending on where we are at in our lives when we read it). I do KNOW I'm pretty special because the author of creation wanted to have a little 3 day chat with me! But I also know He'll do it for anyone who asks!

So...Psalm 90.
A prayer of Moses, the man of God.
1 Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
2 Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.
3 You turn people back to dust, saying,
“Return to dust, you mortals!”
4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day,
as brief as a few night hours.
5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.
They are like grass that springs up in the morning.
6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We wither beneath your anger;
we are overwhelmed by your fury.
8 You spread out our sins before you—
our secret sins—and you see them all.
9 We live our lives beneath your wrath,
ending our years with a groan.

10 Seventy years are given to us!
Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
soon they disappear, and we fly away.
11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.

13 O Lord, come back to us!
How long will you delay?
Take pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
16 Let us, your servants, see you work again;
let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful!

12 jumped right out at me...TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS...wha?!? I am NOT saying God took my baby to teach me to love life, but we live in this fallen world and well, crappy things happen. REALLY crappy things. I know this. It is not God's will. But He can turn any ashes into beauty. He does not waste anything. And I have to say, while I have always loved and appreciated my children, I hold them a little longer, kiss them a little slower and need them much more now that I have learned that our days could be few. Of course, you always *know* this, but it takes tragedy to fully grasp what that means. I've always been a sentimental sap and never wanted to leave angry "in case" but...this is different. This is deeper than fear. Moving on!

13, oh be still my heart! How many times I *knew* better than to think that my God had abandoned me, but I *felt* like He was far away from me. Like He was Blessing everyone around me and I was left in the cold. Which, incidentally, is a crappier feeling that just not believing He exists.

14 describes a longing, but somehow you just can't put that into words. Lots of Psalmists do a good job trying, but there is no way to describe that desperate, rising feeling in your chest. When you want to reach out to people but everything they say makes you angry or sad. When you feel the need to buy things, but nothing you bring home gives satisfaction. When you desperately want someone or something to fix you and you just can't manage to find it. I spent a lifetime here before I figured out that GOD can fill that hole. It's taken me a while longer to figure out that if I want Him to satisfy me in the morning I have to be UP before the kids are and ready to recieve it.

16 is when I cried out, "THANK YOU for coming back! We're ready! Make our joy so abundant that our children see it flow over into their own lives and they can't help but know You through watching us."

AND MAKE OUR EFFORTS SUCCESSFUL! There could not be a better ending to any blogpost than to sing with praise that He WILL make our efforts successful. Praise God!


Answers: Part 2 (of 3)

So here is where I fear I will lose some of you. This *is* completely worth the listen. Let me set it up...

Sunday morning we did what we always do and got to church. The nursery worker was there, but the kids were FREAKING out, so we let them stay with us through sunday school. After that was over, I attempted to take them into the sanctuary, but about the 3rd time I had to threaten Violet to sit down and be quiet, (really, I don't mind antsy kids in service, it is utterly BORING to them, but we're talking crawling around under the pews and disrupting other people physically) I took the two little ones and we left. I was SO angry, I really can't put this into words. I wasn't angry at them, per se, just angry that I couldn't stay and listen and I so needed the Lord to say something to me. I turned on the radio, which is usually tuned to a Christian music station, but I had become irritated with their advertising, so I had changed it to the Christian talk station a couple days prior. It was a live service from Dallas and I tuned in just in time to hear a great praise song. As we drove around, I heard the rest of the sermon and believe me, there are very few times I've ever been spoken to so very clearly through another person. This was a sermon I will never forget, it touched me so much.

click HERE to see the video. Start at 25:04. I promise you it is amazing and well worth the time. I even had a pastor friend say he has NEVER heard a better one.

I was so pumped up about this that I had to have Allan listen to it as soon as we got home. Then I wanted to play it for friends. So far, I have heard it a total of 3 times and I am still not tired of it.

Then I went to my inbox and was going through e-mails and came across this as the Daily Word: The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places ... and you shall be like a watered garden.--Isaiah 58:11

Yes, I should say so! This all tied together because it's the same tune we're singing, just another facet to it. Wait till you hear what I read the following morning and hopefully you'll see what I'm going on about. It's pretty great stuff.


Answers: Part 1 (of 3)

This essay I wrote last week is the start of a 3-part series of what the Lord has been speaking to me in the last couple of days. I know it's wordy, but I think everyone, even people who don't believe as we do, can glean something from what is written here. I pray you find it a quick, easy read and that it touches you.

I have been thinking about how “weird” we are now. Or so we’re called…haha! I struggle between knowing people don’t want to get it and not caring much about that, but being so excited about these changes and new perspective that I want to share the WHY.

8 years ago, anything but recycling and wearing my pants 2x before washing was “weird” to me. Then I got pregnant and started to look into how the stuff we make and use would affect my child. So we made some choices I was not so comfortable with at the start…I nursed, (and used Lansinoh much to my own dismay…who puts sheep “sweat” on their body!?) we used a cloth diaper service for the first 8 weeks. But as soon as both became inconvenient I stopped. I wasn’t about to go *that* far out of my way.

We still ate fast food regularly, (I am, after all, a French Fry Freak) and bought “normal” things to use around the house. Certain things troubled me, but not enough to research them thoroughly—like reports on the dark side of vaccinations, disposable diapers being linked to infertility later in life, the amount of bad stuff in baby food and the fact that the fruits and veggies were treated with pesticides and herbicides, the fact that breastmilk actually changes based on what the baby’s saliva is lacking—I stored these things in my mind, but didn’t let them change me and what was easy for me.

Between my first and second child, I became a Christian. As I started to read the bible, I wondered how we came so far from where we used to be. Of course, modern technology is my friend and I was taught that all these advances were for the better, but as I looked around myself and saw all the bad in our world I wondered if maybe a lot of this isn’t self-imposed hardship. People didn’t seem to have too much of a problem staying married in our not-too-distant past. People didn’t seem to have problems raising their children. And yes, I’ve heard the stories of abuse and submission (in the worldly sense of the word) and deprivation of wives/children, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe those were not the norm…maybe the norm was, well, Ephesians 5 and that somehow we’ve lost that equality in our quest for equality.

With the birth of our second child, we decided to nurse for longer, co-sleep for longer, eat more naturally, make our own babyfood…all these choices we started to make were based on the premises that God made things a certain way and maybe it was better than the way we do it. Being as our 2nd child was a sound sleeper, a calmer, and more peaceful soul, we were reassured in our thoughts. Being forced to live in a very small place with our growing family helped us to realize that no number of things would make us happy, but only grace from God. When we moved back into a normal amount of square feet for our family size, we kept this mentality and decided not to fill our home with things that would clutter, and therefore not fill our hearts with things that should not concern or take away from Christ.

During the pregnancy of our third child, we were forced to learn to completely rely on God to relieve all our fears and to fill all of our needs. But where do rayon and Downy and McDonald’s fit into that picture? We struggled with our want of small pleasures vs our desire to be the Lord’s alone. Slowly we made some changes that hurt at first, but the logic defied anything we could argue. Things like switching to natural laundry care…if Tide and Downy are bad for baby’s skin, why wouldn’t they be bad for ours? But don’t we NEED our clothes to smell like an April breeze for a minimum of a week while they sit in the drawer, so that when we pull them out we’re comforted? But now our comfort lies in the naturalness of the lack of chemicals. You know what? The clothes smell amazing. They don’t smell like an artificial flower, (which once smelled so good to me and now the scent overpowers my senses when I’m in a room with someone), they smell like fresh, natural clothes. And I always wondered why so many candles, room fresheners, body sprays and even laundry detergents smelled like “clean linen.” Now I know! Vinegar and sunshine (two very natural things, provided by the Lord Himself!) make clothing smell better than anything we could have ever created. Oh, and even better? They’re REALLY cheap.

Slowly changing certain things we had such hard-fast ideas about and realizing there was a simpler, better way, gave us the courage to start to really research those things that had once troubled me, but had set aside for convenience sake. All this stuff you’ve heard us talk about…cloth diapers, wool pants, grass-fed meats, organic fruits and veggies. The thing is, none of this was so “weird” 50 years ago. It was only natural. Our grandparents and great-grandparents would have said, “Why on earth would we spend so much money to throw away POOP? Why would we feed an animal anything other than what it was designed to eat? Why would we treat the creatures who take such good care of us so poorly? Why would we spray things on our crops that could potentially kill the crops or make us sick? Why would we spend time and effort genetically modifying something that is so good already?” Now that we’ve normalized mass-production and chemicals scientists are finally finding in the laboratories that the changes we’ve made are not necessarily good ones. And no wonder! This is not how God designed things to be! Could we, as lowly people, the CREATION, really improve upon what the CREATOR set into place for us?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe lots of improvements are inspired by God Himself in mankind, to help us become better, stronger, healthier, smarter…obviously our society is better off with hand washing as a habit and without slavery or mistreatment of women and children. But we’ve taken God out of the equation totally and gone too far. We can see this in the development of super bugs in hospitals. We can see this in the divorce rate. How many of that 52% of divorcees were really being mistreated by their spouse? We can see this in the way we are FORCED to “accept” people. (But is forced acceptance really acceptance at all? That’s an essay for another day) We can see this in the obesity rate and the fact that the generation behind mine will die before their parents. Improvements that were initially intended to improve the quality of life, but have instead destroyed it. Take for instance, the idea of mass production…it was begun by a wonderful man who wanted to see that everyone could afford to have a car, not just the super rich. That effort was re-directed toward food to see if we could feed everyone, so that no one would starve but it has turned into an industry full of people who don’t care about their consumers, but only about the dollar that lines their pockets, and therefore take shortcuts that do more harm than good.

So all of my research has drawn me to a conclusion: God gave us these amazing things. Things like sheep “sweat” which is so useful for soothing dry, cracked skin in sensitive places where we would not be able to put chemicals. It is useful for making wool clothes able to absorb so well and keep a baby’s skin dry and warm. It is useful for making sure no harmful bacteria colonize on our children. It is 100% natural and sustainable…no animals were harmed in the harvesting of lanolin or wool. If the sheep is mistreated, its fleece will not be a very good quality. If it is not fed or taken care of properly, its lanolin will not have the properties it was designed to have. But if we raise and use the sheep exactly as God intended for us to, it will provide us with warm clothing, all the benefits listed above, more sheep and eventually, when its life is drawing to a close, food. How could we propose to do that better? What arrogance we have to tell God, “no thanks…I’ll take Polyester and be sure it’s sprayed with Teflon and MicroBan before I wear it. That’s less “weird.”” “No thanks, I’ll take my corn supersweet and bred to not be eaten by insects. It’s all the rage.” Do you think maybe God laughs at us sometimes? Like, “haha, suckers…you just paid a lot of money for those pants, but you could have made them for free and had a month’s worth of stews in the freezer, too.” Or, “okay…you eat that genetically modified corn, but there’s a reason the bugs won’t eat it…maybe you should think on that.” Or maybe He just shakes His head sadly, knowingly, when we say, “You know…I think I might pack as many cows as I can onto one acre and since they won’t be getting any grass, I’ll feed them grains because that fattens them up real fast and makes them cheap to raise. Oh, plus the marbling looks nice, so they’ll fetch a hefty price at market.” All the while He’s thinking, “but you’re killing yourself in the process, this “new, improved” cow will make heart disease the #1 killer in your country and then everyone will blame my creation, which I made perfectly suited for you, and you’ll despise the things I made.” I sometimes wonder if our prayers are the ultimate irony when we are crying for life, but it was by our own hands that it was taken.
I can’t proclaim to know what God thinks or feels…maybe He doesn’t even bother worrying about what we shove in our faces or enrobe our bodies with. I also can’t proclaim to be perfect in this…we visited the McDonald’s drive thru a couple times last month. I can say what we’ve experienced, though, and that’s that the closer we get to where our food and clothes come from, the closer we get to God and the more we appreciate His creation. The more we shift toward doing things the way God originally intended, the healthier we are and the better we feel. Our children are more compassionate, patient, loving and understanding. We have a stronger bond. We have more security in knowing that God truly has provided everything we need…we don’t NEED WalMart to provide us with what we require so that we only rely on God for the money (and most of us not even that much!) We are fully aware this is not a salvation issue. We certainly cannot eat our way into heaven. We also cannot eat our ways out. We never intend to alienate people with our choices. But we do want to share this with the people we love. Why wouldn’t we want to share something that has brought us so much comfort and joy!?

Truthfully, it has taken a lot of time and energy to start doing what we’re doing. We don’t do this because we’re lazy or looking for the easy way out. Farming is HARD, being home to raise your family is the hardest job anyone has ever done. But it is also the most rewarding. Learning contentment has been constant since we started traveling this road. We don’t fool ourselves into believing life will be easy, but it will be simpler. And we will find God there. And hey…isn’t that the point?

Good Things!

Good thing I tucked those plants into bed on Friday! Here's what came on Sunday...
See them peeking through the snow?? It's starting to melt today, so I think it'll be okay. If it's not melted by tonight I'll go out there and brush the plants off.

Then last night we spent time with some good friends, (the ones with the cows) and the kids had a BLAST which allowed we adults to have a good time, too. She also does cloth and we ordered these dipes from the same woman. Such cute babies!
I can't begin to describe the awesomeness of the things God has revealed to me between yesterday and today. I want to shout them from the rooftops but I need to figure out a way to make them 1. comprehendable and 2. short enough that anyone will actually be interested in reading. It may have to be a 3 part series. Ever felt like simultaneously falling on the floor to weep with brokenness and being vaulted to new heights with elation? That's what these 2 days have been. I'll be back.


Tucking them into bed

Like everyone and everything else in the south, Mother Nature is polite here. There is talk we'll be experiencing a high of 25 all week long next week. That will mean our first hard freeze of the year. True to form, we've had another beautifully warm start to January. You can see in my other January posts that this has happened every year we've lived here. It'll get cold next week and stay that way until the beginning of March. So today I took advantage of the 60's temps and I did what all good mommies must, when their babies are in danger of frost-bite, I tucked my plants in for bed.
First we put down newspapers. I did as much weeding as I could prior to this, I'm hoping the others die under the weight of everything I laid on top of them. This is the strawberry bed and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that some of those little plants pop up next year. As you can see, the romaine is still going strong. We love to pick leaves off of that for tacos or burgers or whatever else might need just a few bites. It seems like they're finally coming to maturity and producing hearts, so we'll see if they survive. The fresh salads will be a wonderful winter treat if they do!
This bed was a bit more arduous. Technically, the rosemary should survive even without mulching, butI wrapped some paper around them, too. The broccoli is doing well and will definitely not mind the cold, but I've never done garlic before and those bulbs have to survive till spring, so sleep tight, little garlics!

This box I had to harvest some parsley out of. That is now drying in the oven. Most of the asparagus has given up for the year, but I have a few stubborn shoots. They'll be gone by next week Monday. Aaaand, more romaine because I thought I might need to feed a small army salad.

Next we spread a little organic matter on top of the papers so they will be good and decomposed by spring for the next batch of seedlings. In my perfect world, this would be homemade compost, but alas, when your house is on the market, you don't build compost heaps because they are ugly and no one wants to buy an ugly house. *sigh* soon enough, eh?

And then they all get tucked in with hay. Don't they look so cozy!? This mostly empty box toward the front is elephant garlic. The man we bought the cloves from said they don't get big in our clay Texas soil, but since the soil we made for the boxes is actually very friable, I think they're going to do wonderfully and get massive. I can't wait!

Nigh-night, sleep tight my lovelies!


Homeschool kids have all the fun

I realize many of you do things like this and send your kids off to school, but the title was catchy.

Believe me when I say that these 2 can tear a school/toyroom up in NO time flat. In fact, they inspired the great toy packing of 2010. After cleaning the room up daily so we could walk into a clean schoolroom in the morning and then not even being able to walk out at the end of the day, I decided to put away 2/3 of the toys. It's much easier to keep tidy now, but they can still trash it pretty fast.
Her eyes are this amazing green color, and as great as this new camera (I got an Olympus PEN and I'm IN LOVE!!) is, the photo still doesn't do her justice.

Corbin doing what he does best, creating chaos where there was previously order.

BUT! Bribery is a strong incentive. When we took the big girls to Medieval Times on New Year's Eve, GraceAnne found a "princess hat" she wanted desperately. I looked at the p ricetag and promptly choked and redirected attention to the little stuffed unicorn that was much more economical. To abate the tears, I promised we would make one. So today we went to Walmart to buy fabric and I told her that we would not be making another mess until this one was cleaned up.

So first I made a cone for her out of a box from Mom's Best cereal. Fitting name, I think. Then she helped cut the fabric to fit over the cone.

Gluing it on.

And what is a princess hat without frill? She also made some flowers to put on, but I forgot to load those pix.
The finished product! She was much happier than she looks with it, but she had just gotten in trouble for not keeping her brother away from me while I was using the hot glue gun. She was too busy watching me attach the last of the frillies to notice him climb up to grab my camera, (that is a cardinal sin around here...no tiny paws on my photographic equipment!) and whilst my fingers were full of ribbon and hot glue, there was a small panic. No worries, though. Camera and disposition were saved.

All before 2pm. I love it. For every grueling day when I slink out of the disastrous schoolroom with every shred of dignity and pride stripped away, (and there are plenty) it's days like this that make me remember why we thought this might be a good idea in the first place. Looking back over the first part of our year, she has learned so much, (so have I!) and grown tremendously. I have been on the verge of quitting so many times and I probably will be again tomorrow, but we're doing it. And despite everything, days like this confirm that she will probably be in my little schoolroom for 2nd grade, too. Praise God!