Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving & The Ministry of Reconciliation

We have had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our home for the last two years. We've got a decent amount of space, double ovens for all the grub, Xbox for the nephews... and I love to open my home to my loved ones. (My camera died before catching everyone.) I would be kidding myself though, if I thought I was the brains behind the outfit. When she's not too busy with her hair going up in flames, my mother is always always always serving, nurturing and loving. She's got the Thanksgiving thing down to an art. Here's the two of a double barrelled shot gun...twice the fun.

This Thanksgiving while being thankful for the dear ones around me, I was burdened and missing those loved ones not around me. This year I am most thankful and most convicted for what God's scripture calls:
~The Ministry of Reconciliation~
All things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:18-21
(You wouldn't know it by the looks of her...but food is a really serious issue to this here sister. None of us will ever forget the tragic year the white rolls were replaced with wheat. She won't let that happen again... )

The world (Hollywood) has portrayed it as the norm for family gatherings at holidays to be a torturous, dreaded occasion in which the old usual family dramas continue to play out and steal the focus and glory of the day--days that could and should be a blessing to all, and a glory unto God. Well maybe it is the norm in the world. We're all sinners, yep? And yet for those of us mentioned in the incredibly convicting scriptures above...we are sinners forgiven, and entrusted (committed) with a ministry specifically that of reconciliation. God, creator of the universe and us, didn't count our many trespasses against us, and reconciled us to Him by sacrificing His one beloved, sinless Son.

It makes sense for a World that will not even receive God's very gracious reconciliation, to not understand a ministry of reconciling to other human sinners. For we who say we understand it, well it makes no sense at all to eat our Turkey and ignore our calling to reconcile. We are... ambassadors?

Rec'on cile - 1. To cause to be friendly again; to bring back to harmony. 2. To adjust; settle; as, to reconcile differences. 3. To make consistent or congruous. 4. To bring to acquiescence or quiet submission; as, to reconcile oneself to afflictions. - SYNONYMS... Reunite; conciliate, propitiate; harmonize....
Rec'on.cil'i.a'tion - 1. Act of reconciling, or state of being reconciled. 2. Reduction to congruence; removal or explanation of inconsistency; harmony.

(Richie and Jimmy. Two of the three bestest brothers)
(Juliet inherited a few things from Gramma Carolann. Cute toes and a weakness for mustaches!)

Dear fellow ambassadors for Christ's Ministry of Reconciliation: Do we believe and understand these words of life? Are they piercing your heart now like they are mine? Did not Christ hold out to you His ultimate sacrifice in the midst of your sin? Did He not suffer shame, pain, humiliation and death that you might live and hold it out to others lost just to reconcile you to Him because He loves you?

God's Word says to "redeem the time...for the days are evil". If this were your last living day how would you redeem it?

Christ condemned empty tradition. For heavens sake, let's not suffer through our empty traditions for the sake of tradition. We are called to much more. We are called to The Ministry of Reconciliation.

...And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach--


indeed you coninue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven... Col. 1:21-23

Now go pick up the phone. You know who to call. I know who I'm calling.

Daddy's Happy Birthday~ We took Daddy....well...technically Daddy took us to the Old Spaghetti Factory for his birthday dinner.
Reading his cards from the kids

Make yourself at home Bub...

I love Hannah's look of utter devotion as Daddy reads his card.
Gemma whipped this card together at the last minute to illustrate her personal baking of Daddy's birthday cupcakes. The googley eyes add the perfect touch don't ya think?
Thanks to the Lambrusco, I was not too prideful by the end of the evening to take this humiliating picture of myself in the middle of the Spaghetti factory...
Yeah you family photographers know what I'm talking about. There's one in every family. We have to regularly repent of what I call picture pity.

Just keepin it real.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I love Homeschooling...

Aztec Hot Chocolate
I love getting a second chance at learning. We're learning about the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas now and today we tried out a new recipe in our book mixing mexican style unsweetened chocolate, milk, honey, salt, cinnamon & water. Mmmmm.
This morning my little Essie caught the stomach bug that Owen had the night before. As I was holding her on the couch, rubbing her back and watching Good Morning America, I was overwhelmed with the blessing of just being able to sit and comfort a sick child. Sickness (as much as I dread it), is a part of life. And yet I have discovered that comforting a sick child can be an altogether wonderful part of parenting if we are able to throw off the stress of everything we thought we were going to do and just comfort our little one. Anyone with kids knows that you need to hold them while you can. Once I can "get over" my wrecked schedule and a few extra loads of barf laundry, I really do love that time of nurturing.

Mmmmm. Perfect day for hot chocolate! Essie is up and feeling better!

Before melting it into the pot, I let all the kids try the raw unsweetened stuff. Si and Essie (my sweet tooth kids) thought it was pretty bitter. Our activity book had a chart of Mayan numbers with missing spaces for the kids to try and figure out the system and fill in the numbers. I was amazed watching Silas sit there in deep concentration for a good half hour so very into it! And I was really amazed when 9 year old Hannah cracked the code before me. Gemma and the others never did and I am looking forward to seeing if Brian can beat Hannah's time!
We hadn't seen our deer friends for several weeks but they came back today... Must've smelled the hot chocolate...

I am immsely thankful to the Lord today for His constant watching over my children. While rinsing Essie's sick bowl this morning and having one of those ignorant and ridiculous mental pity parties, I heard those horrific sounds a parent never wants to hear. Gemma fell about halfway down the attic stairs while carrying the baby and for a few minutes I didn't know what I had on my hands. Other than a bruised tailbone for Gemma and a scratched nose for Juliet, they are fine. (Long story) We were all crying and praying for Juliet, not knowing how badly she was hurt, and not really being able to tell at first. Owen walked up, handed her a stuffed frog, she instantly stopped crying, smiled and we all busted up laughing with relief. Thankyou Jesus for being a better parent than I and watching them all when I can't! Thank you for reminding us of your control over our lives that can often feel a bit out of control! So far it's looking to be like a 2 hr. bug because all three little ones had it for about that long and have seemed to recover totally. Wierd.

Essie demonstrating a Funny Uncle Matt trick...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Only Guy she'll Ever Date

I overslept a little Tuesday morning but came downstairs just in time to see Daddy and Essie pulling in the driveway back from their Starbucks "date."

Ahhhh what this does to this mother's heart. Her in her little dress....and tennis shoes!
If you're seeing this and thinking how fortunate it is for Brian with all that extra time on his hands to dawdle at Starbucks, I would point out that this dedicated Father and employee wakes well before the crack of dawn to work several early hours so he can spend a little time with the kids before then hitting the (at least) hour commute and the full work day ahead. Most likely it is often after a late night helping sooth a teething baby...or listening to a talkative wife. Essie burst in with all the exciting details to tell her sisters who were waiting excitedly to hear.
"Gemma! Hannah! I had um, I got hot choclit meeeeeilk! And I got a bwownie...wif white and red little thingies on the the little canny cane tasty things!"

Back at home for some breakfast. Fleepin bleepin CUTENESS!!!!!

Special Times
There is this phenomena that frequently happens at our house during "quiet/nap time". While sisters are not too busy being "best friends" with their sisters....and brothers have a little free time from their "best friend" brothers.... they sneak away to brew a cup of hot tea and relish their "Special Time" with their special bud. These two....

stick together. We use to call them "Bonnie and Clyde" due to the fact that their best bonding was during their frequent toddler crime sprees together. People have commonly thought them to be twins and they might as well be. Now they have mellowed out into the most angelic little duo imaginable. With similar personality types, they are very into asthetics, are neat, orderly, thoughtful, tender little early birds. They make time every day for their "Special time" together. They are funny to listen to, so I caught a little random conversing...

And sometimes it's just really amusing to me to film people while they think they are posing for a still photo... I know. I have problems....

I got the First Belly Shot!

Isn't she cute?

Mom of Boys Dilemma:
Parenting is full of interesting dilemmas. There were two options. First, I could lecture him on how bad for him it would be to drink the pepperocinni juice. How it's not healthy (or generally socially acceptable), how it might pickle his insides and burn even more fiercely on the way out. But... I realized with this kid here that may be the whole point, ya know? And I think he knew it? After all, the kid wants to drink the fire juice to impress me. (You see the eye...carefully watching my reaction)... wondering if this means he'll ever graduate to whole jalapenos...

That first option seems most reasonable... to a mother. But then I hesitated and remembered that motherly tendency to coddle and reign-in the little men that need to stretch out a bit and I think maybe this is one of those trees I need to let him climb? any good mother, would I started cheering and leading the chanting... "Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!" (option two?)
Who knows? Maybe I have just foolishly pickled my son to no avail, but when he proudly pulled up his shirt to show off his distended belly and I saw he had acquired his Father's old broken discarded cellphone from somewhere and was proudly wearing it just like a man would, I realized that this was indeed a day of mysterious manly experiments and that this time the Holy Spirit had led me aright. One of those things we females don't understand.) I wish I could add a fifth "wonder" to that verse in that Proverb from the female perspective... (wink)

There are three things which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand;
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid.

[Um...and the way of boys and their self-inflicted pains?]

Proverbs 30:18

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who is teaching your Child right now and what are they teaching them?

...and for that matter, what is their belief system, their agenda, their motives, their life philosophy? Is it their school teacher painting Creation in a ridiculous light? Is it the innocent PBS TV cartoon in the other room? An older kid piping off on the school bus about the last filthy movie he just watched? Who in the world is writing in permanent ink, on that little blank, believing canvass that you love so dearly.

Whell yeah...I would say I'm in "rant" mode. I haven't blogged in several weeks, being particularly busy schooling these little guys. We've made the salt blocks and painted gold glittery nuggets of West Africa, sailed our Santa Marias, feasted on the sweet potatoes of the Americas and much much more. This morning I had no formal school scheduled because of Dr. appointments, but learn we did!

Ah..... but yes, our children are always learning aren't they? Owen was driving me crazy so I turned on the last resort "babysitter" and sat down to nurse the baby and drink my tea. Well, the great teacher quickly drew the crowds so before we knew it, all the kids were flocked around mesmerized by some innocent looking Sprout show on PBS... Super Readers I think it was. Well, my ears perked up when I realized they were presenting the most confusing,jumbled excuse for reading instruction I could possibly have imagined and I thought maybe I should put on something else. Hannah and I would periodically explain to the non-readers that we don't "sound out" words using their letter names, but in fact their phonetic sounds and that's why it looked so confusing. (All capitals no less). But it got better. (Hang in there with me, I do have a point)...

The show began with a little boy super hero and his baby sister. She said his name and no one in his family believed him. He called for his Super Reader friends to help him with the dilemma. Immediately the plot began to thicken.

Worldly, sick and twisted Cartoon humanist Agenda #1:Your family is the enemy. They won't understand you. Your little friends will.

So his little buddies fly in and in keeping with the "reading" theme of the show they call up magical help from a book with little Princess "P"s magical wand. Down from the shelf flies "The little boy who cried Wolf". Thank goodness! I think. There's a moral to this after all... But then they begin to diabolically twist and mangle the original story beyond all recognition... They made it out like the little purple lovable wolf was the little boy's friend. When he would "cry wolf", nobody would believe him even though the wolf was actually there playing catch with him because his friendly little wolf friend would wander off picking flowers whenever they would come. (I kid you not.) I'm thinking what in the world are they twisting this story for? The second, third, fourth sick and twisted Cartoon humanist agendas began to emerge...

Agenda #2 ~ It is O.K. to re-write history and literature to suit your fancy and to convince the current generations of what you want to teach them, regardless of if it is polar opposite to the moral of the original. Everything is relative right?

Agenda #3 ~ The Holy Bible is just a fairytale and therefor equally open to re-writing to suit the current humanistic godless mindset of the times. There is no original sin, and cute little boys are only corrupted by their environments (i.e. unbelieving parents and townspeople) So current cartoon is removing anything implying sinfulness in a little innocent boy. (Like, lying to get attention and jerking the busy townspeople around all day, manipulating their desire to protect him.)

Agenda #4 ~ Wolves (and sin) don't have to be dangerous. They can be cuddly and purple if they're not misunderstood by a bunch of intolerant grown-ups. (until they eat you of course.)
So in the end, the little boy who cried wolf (because in this story there really always was a cuddly little wolf) starts spewing out the same psycho babble I was presented with in 7th grade in a formal "anger management" class at my public school. Little cartoon boy begins... "Townspeople, I feel hurt by you when I tell you about my wolf friend and you don't believe me. You need trust me and stick around long enough to see that a wolf really is here." So all the townspeople grown-ups apologize and then the little purple wolf pops out with a bouquet of flowers. Psyyyyyyyyyyyyychoooooooo..... Yeah. They were trying to feed this to my kids and I almost didn't see it.

Agenda #5 ~ Kids DESERVE trust. Adults OWE it to them and if the kid doesn't seem trustworthy, then the parents just need to "stick around" get educated, stop judging him, wait till he is trustworthy and trust him all the while.

Agenda #6 ~ Reality is your own perception so you may never in fact see eye to eye and agree on the truth but parents need to learn toleration in all things because cute little kids are only corrupted by unbelieving and intolerant old people and your belief system is outdated and intolerant.

Agenda #7 ~ Everything....absolutely EVERYTHING must be tolerated. (Oh, except Christians and their intolerant Bible.)So little boy reader goes back to his own land, gathers his family around his little sister's crib, spells out T-R-U-S-T in big letters (not phonetically mind you, and in all caps to add a little insult to injury!) and begins to rebuke his parents with what he just learned from the new re-written version of the old classic. He says "Family, I felt hurt when you didn't believe me when little sister said my name. You need to trust me and stick around long enough to hear her say it!" Idiot spineless Dad interjects "Son, you're right. We just need to trust you." And of course the baby says his name, the 5 year old kid is vindicated and has just taught his family a good lesson.

Really Sick humanist Agenda #8 ~ Fathers are idiots to be constantly mocked and disobeyed. In fact, they are least trustworthy member of the untrustworthy dysfunctional family unit.
Well thank God my three big kids caught on. Eli said "Hey, that's weird, the kids are the ones sposed ta trust the Dad!" with his cute little left eyebrow cocked, blue eyes peering through smudgy glasses. Hannah was frowning and commenting, Gemma was pointing out actual logical fallacies. But little innocent, pliable, believing Silas, Essie and Owen were all wide eyed and loving the happy colorful humanist fun. Essie cried when I shut it off to correct them. How many times have I, the vigilant home schooling, super strict about television, ever-watchful mother, stood by while my kids were brainwashed right in the safety of their own home? Forgive me Lord.

Do I sound too paranoid here? Am I overreacting? Am I a hyper sensitive over protective parent? Heck yeah. There is no higher calling mothers, than to be hyper sensitive to all the spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological, educational dangers out there and to vigilantly protect your precious little people from them. Why not? Why the heck not? Dump a bucket of cold water over your head if you need to and wake up to reality.

Anyway, the kids and I had a great conversation to point out and prevent the damage of the TV beast. I asked them to tell me all the lies and fallacies they just heard and all the agendas. For the most part the (big kids) were able to present the contradicting TRUTHS. But would they have if I hadn't thrown a hissy fit? I think their consciences pricked a little, but had I not made a deal out of it and drawn the dangers out to their fullest conclusions, I think they all may have sat there mesmerized and their little canvasses would have been marred. My hope is that those little canvasses will be such a glorious picture of Christ and His redemptive plan, that rarely a eye will see it and not want to know a little more. Why would I labor so carefully on each color and stroke, to just hand it over to be so marred?

Truth #1: Families are sinful, yes. But the family is God's design. Instead of walking through life with a chip off our shoulder about the areas each of our families failed to perfectly display God's design, maybe we ought to go back to original sin and discover the unique redemptive plan God is working out through each of our fallen yet made in God's image families. As Christians with this mission, we must guard against the humanist mindset that is bent on weakening the family. Reject any assumption that says a child would/should inevitably go through the phase and become "too cool", distancing himself from the family that truly loves him. Weakening the family is a real agenda flourishing in our nation.
Truth #2: The original "Little Boy who Cried Wolf" is a classic of good story telling with a moral that made us all shudder and turn from our wicked lying ways as kids. It made perfect sense, and since "folly is bound up in the heart of a child", it was good for our souls when we heard it. History, literature and the very Words of God are being re-written and wickedly interpreted everyday. Are we equipping our kids with the truth to see and to discern it? Are we protecting them from it in the meantime?

Truth #3: Anything that denies the doctrine of man's depravity and original sin should be avoided like the plague. The Bible says we "go astray right from birth...speaking lies...." We parents know this. While looking into the vast blue eyes of our adorable four year old lying through her chocolatey teeth, we are confronted with the overwhelming knowledge of this. And yet, we search for some probable explanation. We would rather blame it on the parents than take on the hard task of confronting sin in our little ones.

Truth #4: The lies in the original story that the wolf illustrated, WERE DANGEROUS! The kid in the original story didn't go home and lecture people about believing his reality because he was eaten! God defines right and wrong. He has given us His truth in the Bible and to dapple in sin and lies will consume us. Why would we NOT warn our kids or real dangers to their bodies, minds and souls? We must have the backbone to at times "hurt their feelings" for their own protection.

Truth #5: Kids will eventually get trust, once they have earned it. I have explained to my kids that trust is like their towers of building blocks. It takes a lot of time to build, but one quick wrong choice to topple it all down. Our kids need to be taught to trust God by obeying their parents and to memorize the many verses that say "Be not wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and turn away from evil"... and "There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death". To trust them when they need protection is to feed them to the wolves. They may learn their lesson too late.

Truth #6: Each of our children are unique and different. Every set of circumstances may throw us for a loop. God calls us as parents to be humbly aware of our own sin and need, and to cling to His truth when we don't know the answers. As he is teaching our kids, He will surely be teaching us just as much. BUT...there are answers and there is truth. If we train up our children in those truths from a young age, they won't struggle as much down the road and they will not depart from them. There may be bumps and bruises along the way, but God keeps His promises. Our kids need us to give them absolutes and to ourselves live faithful examples.

Truth #7: This current cultural spewing of absolute tolerance is hypocritical. It is unloving and one-sided. They say to tolerate everything and everything that doesn't "hurt" anyone else but lack the wisdom to have a clue what hurts. It is totally ARBITRARY. So many innocents are being abused and hurt because of this. Turn on the news and see the effects of everyone's tolerance and liberty on America's children. Nobody wants to be the intolerant bad guy until it's way too late.

Truth #8: It is a feminist, anti-family agenda in this country that would use a cartoon to dog on the men and the Fathers and teach little toddlers to rebuke the fathers they should respect. Avoid this also like the plague. Men in this society are damned if they do, and damned if they don't. I despise the way TV sitcoms treat their fathers. Fathers are sinful like everyone else. Once you become a parent, you realize this. Fathers, Mothers, Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters have "all sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Don't let your kids buy into the Dad dis-honoring of this day. Satan is using it along with everything else, to rob Fathers and children of their glorious created design. Our children could also discover this when it is much too late.
It is so much easier to prevent these deceptions from taking root in our children now, then to realize it after the fact and try to convince them otherwise.

Mothers (and Fathers), I encourage you! I mess up in this too. How often have I turned on the tube and thought they were watching an innocent cartoon, or how often have I let them wander out of my sight and hearing because I was socializing or (uhhhh....blogging?) For the record, Gemma is teaching them all math right now. ;) There is no higher calling, and "no greater joy than to see that our children walk in truth".
Pray, pray, pray for your children. Protect them! Be ever watchful and ever listening. Take every thought captive for them until they can. Pour your heart and soul into them. Don't just do what everyone else is doing. Don't let the TV babysit your kids unless you know exactly what it will say. The moral of this story is not that the TV is the devil. But the same criteria you have for people, you should have for the tube. We wouldn't leave our kids alone with a person who might tell them or show them anything obscene or harmful??? Don't be "guilted" into going against your conscience because you don't want to hurt a friend or relative's feelings. You will answer for your kids. God will lead you. His Spirit will guide you in the way of His Truth. Avoid "emotional" parenting, but be soft to the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit.

Ah yes. I'm feeling that "post rant" sense of relief. And now I'd better go check on the kids!