Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Reading Scripture with the Right Spirit {and Free Printable}.

When I sit down for some time reading the Bible, it can be so simple. The words are there, the Spirit is within me, my mind is capable - I read, I absorb, I believe. Sometimes, of course, there are passages that I'm not sure about. But there are very reliable sources I can turn to for help as well as my lovely, learned husband. As a someone commented on another post of mine the other day,

"God doesn't want His will for us to be a mystery."
And that is so true. That is why we have this blessed book called the Bible! It is His breathed out will, written by men, inspired by His Spirit. Surely that means God's Truth can be known? Surely the pages we hold can be understood - and not only by those who are learned, or studied in theology - but for regular believers, like myself?

So why then, my heart ponders in confusion, is there so much debate out there? Why can so many of us just not agree? How can particular passages divide strong believers, Christ-like followers? Why are there so many "interpretations"? If this is confusing for me as a Christian, I can imagine what it is like for those watching in from the outside. No wonder the Church has so little integrity in the world today.

Call me naive, but I do believe the Bible is to be taken - in general - as it is read. And when I say, in general, I mean that we in our post-Christ age read the Word with Gospel eyes.  Of course there are elements of Israelite law that just do not apply to us anymore because all of the Law's promises have been fulfilled and have their their "Yes" in Jesus {2 Corinthians 1:20}. And cultural context does come into play when we look at the New Testament {as in, life is just different now}. 

But surely God knew this when He put the Bible together? Did the Middle Ages with serfdom and plagues and monarchies take Him by surprise? Or the Reformation or the Enlightenment or the Industrial Age or our Post-Postmodern world with it's terrorism and gender-nuetrality and sexually obsessed culture? 

When Paul sat down and wrote this letters, did God not know ahead of time the issues, the cultural differences, the wars, the history, the people that were to come?

Of course He did. Paul didn't know what was to come. He just wrote what the Spirit guided Him to, having lived and learned with Jesus, alone, for three years {Galations 1}. What Paul wrote he learned directly from Jesus, something none of us can ever say. So why do many people just not accept or believe or want to obey some Scriptures?

Again, call me naive, but this is my simplified observation: the way that we believe and live out Scripture stems from the way our hearts approach God's Word. Now I don't want to say how others approach Scripture, I just want to write about how I want to approach Scripture: with the right spirit.

A quotation that inspired my heart to write this post was written by a Christian man from long ago. His name was Thomas A Kempis and he loved the Lord during the 1400's. In his devotional, The Imitation of Christ, Kempis wrote:

"Every holy writing ought to be read with the same spirit wherewith it was made."
The same spirit wherewith {in which} it was made.

What kind of spirit did Moses have? Or David? Or Isaiah? Or Paul? Or Peter? Did they have a spirit of arrogance or conceit? Did they want to write what they wanted to? Did they write with a spirit of falsehood or with a chip on their shoulders?

Yes, every single man that God used to write His Word was that, a man. But that doesn't mean we cannot trust the Bible. We can trust it because each of these men were filled with the Spirit of God and it was His Spirit that caused the words of their hearts and minds to flow out. This is why we can believe that the Bible is inerrant {not wrong} and all we need {2 Timothy 3:16}.

So if we know that the spirit the writers of the Bible was God's own Spirit, then we know that their intentions were: honourable, righteous, meek, loving, God-seeking, Christ-glorifying, selfless, and in fear of the Lord.

Because we are fallen creatures, we will never read the Bible exactly as God intended it to be read. This is the biggest reason why none of us can agree. But, we are responsible for how our heart's are when we come to God's Word. James tells is that we are to receive the Word "humbly" {James 1:21}.

Is my heart humble?

Is my heart meek?

Is my heart truly wanting to please God and obey what He wants?

Is my heart clouded by own desires or preconceptions?

Is my heart darkened by worldly lies?

Is my heart seeking God's truth even if it costs me?

Finally, is my heart reading the Holy Scriptures with the same spirit that the original writers had when they wrote the very words of God?

When I think on this thought, when I think of what God was thinking when He wrote the Bible, I want to want Him. I want to want His ways, even if it chafes with something in me. I want to remember that if someone has to be wrong between God and I, it's me! 

Perhaps, just perhaps, there would be less confusion, less strife, less broken churches and broken people if we had a right, humble spirit in respect to the Bible.

 --- Free Printable ---
Will fit 8'x10" frame

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys.

During my childhood, I had the best of both worlds: I grew up in the city until I was nine, then my parents decided it was time to make a life in the country, so we shifted to the seaside on a peninsula. And you know what? The countryside and I are like, the best of buds. I am so thankful my parents made that radical decision.

My brother {who was five} and I grew up with: the bush {though we thought it was a jungle}, sand to make castles on, streams to fortify and walk up, rocks to search for sea animals, shells to collect, horses to ride, sheep to chase, wharves to jump and fish off, small country schools to blossom in, and - in my opinion, just the best thing - the freedom to be children.

Now, as a mother living in the city, I see how much lack there is for children to just roam nature and climb trees and explore bushy areas. Plus, with a very active, rumbunctious and high-energy three-year-old boy, I see the vital importance of outdoor play for him. Of course, spending time outdoors is of vital importance for both girls and boys. But recently, in the study of my own little boy, I see a direct correlation between outdoor play and the whole-being of a boy.

Here are some of my current thoughts.

Boyhood Today

I really believe that we are in an era where boys - and much of what makes them boys - is squelched out of them. Their desire for rough and tumble; their need for deep male friendships; the way they learn as opposed to the way they are taught; their need to be heroes and warriors and rescuers; their desires to be leaders; their innate instinct to protect {gasp! yes, protect women}.

Boyhood today is not the boyhood of yesterday. Today, we have domesticated our little boys. And one massive area of boyhood that has been domesticated is the greatly needed realm of wild and free, unstructured outdoor play.

And this lack and decline isn't just because we live in cities. There are many factors that have contributed:

  • Our children are in educational institutes from a very young age, corralled into areas with tens of other children, confined to playing with man-made play equipment. 
  • When the school day is over, boys are being put into constructive and defined extracurricular activities. 
  • We're also terrified of them braking arms or hurting others and lawsuits from occurring. 
  • There are school games - like bull-rush in New Zealand - that are deemed too dangerous so are banned.
  • From a young age, we rely more and more on technology to entertain children {especially boys}.
  • We ply them with ready-made toys {and lots of them}.
In the last fifty years, but more from the late eighties, a boy's childhood has become more and more confined, controlled, timed and planned out. Our culture's view of boyhood has become more feminine. We have allowed fear to rule our parenting. So altogether, our boys are domesticated.

{v} domesticate: to tame
We have tamed our boys. But so much research is showing the need for children to be free, wild and outdoors. Having plenty of time to play, build, explore, imagine, role-play and just run around crazy outdoors has social, health, educational, and behavioural benefits.

Why Outdoors Is Needed

This study from England delves into the need children have to be outside, and a study by the American Medical Association quoted in a Guardian article showed that:

"Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors."
If parents are worried that such unstructured play isn't learning {because our culture is so obsessed with education and being succesful before children even reach puberty}, it is both obvious and proven scientifically that play is learning for the child.

"It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child's work - the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for coming life." {source}
And that makes sense, doesn't it? From birth, babies are continually learning. We don't put them into classes to learn how to crawl, or walk, or feed themselves. They learn organically by playing, by experimenting, by trial and error. And as older children, that hasn't changed. 

As a boy climbs a tree, or runs as fast as he can down a slope, or finds as many crab shells as he can to fill a bucket - this is all learning. And many boys learn through activity, building and breaking with their hands, digging trenches, dropping sticks from a tree hut, seeking out rabbit holes. Boys in that kind of environment learn quite differently to a boy in more domestic environments.

 “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” {source}
In the homeschooling sphere, the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason encourage nature study and outdoor pursuits, especially in the early years. Charlotte Mason said that children should be outside for many hours each day, in unstructured play, but with a parent observing for necessary help and habit training.

My Own Little Boy

As a mother, I have found all of the above to be true. I think though, more significantly, I have found changes in my son's behaviour depending on how much time he has to be free outside.

Since bringing him home from kindergarten, Josiah has just blossomed. The attitude and behaviourial issues we were having with him have decreased greatly, and he is more gentle, more loving, more adventurous, more imaginative, and more helpful and kinder to his sister {and everyone!}. Aside from being home with his family more, I do believe this improvement has been because I have taken him out at least three times a week for walks in the buggy to spaces where he can just play.

In both pictures above, he is wearing his favourite costume: a hooded towel {his Batman cape}, his rocket socks and rocket boots. He loves zooming around the house as a superhero and he loves running here, there, and everywhere on our walks. He expends so much energy. He uses so much imagination. His mood elevates. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are full of joy.

He is wild and free and living.

Though the kindergarten we had him at was great with an amazing outdoor space, there is just something very different about acres of land, park space, pathways in forest walks, creek beds and bushy hideaways. Though our city was devastated by earthquakes a number of years ago, where we live is now blossoming into green space because all the houses are gone. This is where I take the kids to roam free and it has just been the best of blessings.

If your son is struggling, is moody, emotionally up and down, more troublesome with you and siblings - try sending him outdoors. Take him several times a week to a place that is big and wide and green for him to run around in. If he's absorbed in dropping stones down a drain, just let him. Don't hurry him a long. Forget about the time, things that need to be done - just let him have space and live.

Your little boy needs to be a boy and it is your job as his mother to understand this and to provide opportunities for him to have that avenue of free exploration in God's green earth.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How to Trust Your Instincts As A Mother

When we become mothers, we're given a lot of advice. Momentous amounts of it. Some of it blessedly helpful, and some not so much. From family members, well-meaning grandmas at church to fellow mothers further along the parenting track. Everyone has something to say.

Oh, and the professionals. Did I forget to mention the doctors and teachers and psychologists who know exactly how to solve your parenting dilema?

I remember one of the contributing factors to the postnatal-anxiety I suffered through with my son was from listening to every single person and getting completely overwhelmed. One person said one thing, another said the opposite, and then the books - the books! So much information, but only one baby to implement it on.

In my less than three years experience as a mother, I can offer you the best piece of advice I have been given and which has steered me well:

Dear mother, you can trust your instincts and make good decisions for your family on your own.

Did I mention that you can do this without following the status quo or despite what professionals say?

As I stumble along this parenting path, I am learning to believe firmly that a mother and father know what is best for their family. I believe this because only you, the person God chose to nurture and raise His children,  know the characteristics, habits, weaknesses, strengths, idiosynchrasies of the people in your family.

The times in my mothering so far when I have felt most overwhelmed, stressed and emotional have been when I haven't been trusting and doing what I know is good for my kids. I listen to everyone and get ridiculously lost. I go along paths of books and blogs and parents and --- well, you get the picture. It isn't helpful.

And many times, during this whole time of "searching" there is a feeling settled in my gut. I tentatively think I know where to go or what decision to make, but I don't feel confident enough to do it. This is especially so when it is a different path to others and you struggle with being a people pleaser {just so me}.

If you've been following my blog recently, you'll know that Tim and I have pulled our little boy out of kindergarten. It was a really difficult decision and I really needed some courage to make it. But boy, I am so grateful we did. Hopefully I'll post an update soon, but let's just say, being home has transformed our boy. It is a blessed relief.

So how can we trust our instincts and be confident making decisions?

1. Pray and seek the Word.
2. Discuss the in's and out's with your husband and seek his thoughts on the matter.
3. If more information/advice is needed, seek out one or two close mother-friends, preferably older and more experienced.
4. Pray more and seek the Word more.

And then, just do it. If everything is pointing one way, step out in faith and do it.

If you're offered more advice or thoughts from others {or in books etc.}, you take what you hear with humility and a grain of salt; then you look at your children and you think, "What is best for them?"

Another instance in our parenting where we followed our gut was putting our babies on formula. We did it at different times with them both and for different reasons. But both times, it was pretty immediately clear that it was the right choice. Rosalie, for example, had a slight dairy intolerance and I wouldn't have had a clue if we hadn't followed our judgement.

This isn't to say that we can't be wrong. Oh my, we totally can be. But thankfully, our God is a God of grace and redemption, and, our children are very forgiving!

I do believe, however, that we have all we need for this parenting gig with prayer, our Bibles, wisdom from elders and conversations within marriage. 

So, mother, you can do this. You can make choices for your family even if they're different, controversial or different between each child. Just trust God to show you the way as you seek Him. He really is listening and He really will direct your steps and give you wisdom.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:9 
"I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:7-8 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Homemaking Seasons & A Natural Cleaner Recipe

New wife enthusiasm..

Working wife juggling...

Pregnant pottering...

Newborn piles...

Toddler chaos...

There are many different seasons to a homemaker's life. Some seasons are prime for great activity and industry, while other seasons lend themselves to getting just the necessities done {and even that can be a big ask}. It is easy to either pat ourselves on the back for our great Proverbs 31 Woman feats of excellence, or ground ourselves into a pit of guilt for failing to live up to our expectations and standards.

What we all need, in every season of homemaking, is grace.

Grace for the new wife who is both ready to get going but often doesn't have a clue {whilst adjusting to both her and her husband's expectations/family upbringings}...

Grace for the working wife who wants to make their home a beautiful sanctuary but struggles to make time or focus when work requires much of her...

Grace for the naueseous or heavily pregnant wife who sees what needs to be done, knows they're growing a limb or a a lung whilst they rest on the couch, but feel the guilt anyway...

Grace for the new mother who is in the throws of sleep deprivation, spit up, endless onesie washing and opening cans of baked beans for another welcome-home dinner for her working man...

Grace for the mother of little ones {and big ones!} where endless energy, toys, books, blocks, food, projects, art, pirate ships, tea parties and forts make even doing the dishes with only three interruptions a massive accomplishment...

We are not superwomen. We are not meant to do it all. We are meant to accept that "there is a time for everything..." {Ecclesiastes 3:1-8}. Some times will be organised and pretty and very satisfying with all our to-do lists checked off. Other times will be about cuddles and books on the couch, learning a new letter of the alphabet, or reminding a little heart - once again - that hitting their sister is not acceptable.

It really is a thing of beauty. Don't settle for this busy, production and industry output world we live in. We won't ever live up to it. 

God didn't make the times and seasons that way. Have you ever thought that the very seasons signal to our souls how much work we ought to be doing? Summer is for production, winter for slowing down, spring for planting, autumn for pruning. And even then, if there is a baby in the mix - all goes to the side.

When all is said and done, we want our children to remember us and not our tidy homes.

If you want a really fresh, lovely natural cleaner, here is a recipe I created that is simple, cheap and totally homemade. I can garuntee that, whatever season you are in, even the smallest section of your home will be left smelling beautiful and it will make your soul feel really good.

Homemade Lemon Cleaner

spray bottle
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tbsp white vinegar
10 drops lemon grass essential oil
water to fill, 3/4's full

Put all ingredients into the empty bottle, careful for any pour over if the baking soda and vinegar react {sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't}. Carefully shake with lid on, then unscrew lid to release any pressure, screw back on tightly.

Since using this cleaner, I have found cleaning to be more enjoyable. I know that sounds a little strange, but I think that I know it is all natural and that it smells so good, I enjoy the effect of it all. It leaves the house smelling beautiful.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Birthing Babies: Grace In A Fallen World

"Children are a heritage from the LORD." Psalm 127:3
I am a mother by the grace of God. As part of His plan for my life, and my husband's, He has given us two children. And as I have said in my page about me, it looks like our two little ones are it {at least, biologically}.

My youngest turns two in a few weeks and I was thinking yesterday that it's been so long since I have been pregnant. It still feels as strong a relief as it did the moment she came out. But, I long for another one. I would like to have another baby.

Yet, I shouldn't have another baby.

As Christians, we love rules. We love adhering to a standard and making our stand on it: "Yes. This is God's way. We all must be this way." No, I am not saying there is no absolute truth, of course there is. Morally. But on many life issues, the Bible offers principles. And on child-rearing? Children are a blessing, plain and simple. That is why those who love the Lord ought to pro-life. God loves children and His hand is on the origins of every human being. They are not tissue or just a fetus.

But, I digress.

Children are a blessing. It is good to have children. It is part of our mandate as we rule over creation {Genesis 1:28} and it is a beautiful part of married life, and being one flesh {Genesis 2:13-25. And yet - it is not always as simple as we would like it to be.

Before Josiah, we had two miscarriages. I wondered if I could ever carry. Then, blessedly, Josiah was born. My body did okay with pregnancy, though I developed one blood clot in the later stages, and birth left some stitches. Then, I had a really rough bout of anxiety/postpartum depression that was really, really hard on this first time mother. But, once I got some help and pushed on through, life looked brighter.

Rosalie was born sixteen months after Josiah. Her pregnancy was hard. My blood turned to sludge and I developed nine blood clots during my third trimester, with strong prelabour from thirty-two weeks which involved two hospital admissions. I was on daily blood thinners and her birth worsened what was damaged from my first. When she came out, I cried, "It's over!" And I wasn't meaning birth. 

Pregnancy for me has the real possibility of being dangerous. It would be a significant risk for me to get pregnant again. I find that really hard, and I have wrestled over the chasm between my will for another child and the reality of what it means to have another child.

Birthing babies has taught me more and more that everything on this earth is tainted and destroyed by sin. Nothing is like it was before the Fall. It reminded me that we have it easy today with hospitals and medicine and life-saving operations. A close friend, if she had been around one hundred years ago, would have died with her first baby. She literally has no room to push a baby out so she must have c-sections. 

We are blessed and we are cursed.

Some Christians forget this dichotomy. I know why they do for, a part from loving rules we also love God's ways and it is God's way to have children {as opposed to our children are a burden/are despensible culture}. The only trouble is when well-meaning Christians make mandates about how many babies we ought to be having they forget that we are made for perfect, but perfect isn't here yet. It is coming. But until then, we're just waiting in a world that is groaning like in the pains of childbirth {Romans 8:18-23}.

Some women can have many children and, though it is hard, can do it by God's grace. Some women can't, or have a few, and do it by God's grace. God, above and overall, is in control and all births and deaths are in His hands {Psalm 139}. And really, we ought to mind our own business and live a quiet life {1 Thessalonians 4:10-12}.

If I were to discover tomorrow that I were pregnant, I would be over the moon. Children are a blessing. I haven't always felt that way, but I have always thought that way. My struggle would be entrusting my body to the Lord, knowing the great risks, but accepting His hand on my life. Life or death, I am His. But, we are not looking to get pregnant, in grace.

So if babies or pregnancies are a difficult issue for you; if you are frightened to have another one; if you want to but can't; if birthing babies breaks your already broken body more - - drink in grace. God doesn't condemn you for a broken body. He broke His own so that one day you will be perfect. But right now, we're having to do this all in bodies, in minds, in places, in a world that is decaying.

As Charles Spurgeon said,

"It is grace, and nothing but grace, from first to last."

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rock of Ages: A Hymn of Gospel Love

I am a great lover of hymns. In my life, God uses the depths of the words, the echoes of the music to stir in my soul a love for Him, worship for His Name, and a passion to share Him with others. This hymn, "Rock of Ages" is my favourite hymn. It has special meaning for my family; my husband sings in beautifully; I hum it to myself when I feel especially close to the Lord, or, when I do not.

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;"

God is our Father, and He alone in this changing world is where we can put our feet and know we won't fall. There is nothing and no-one that can save us, protect us, rescue us from the death that is our sin and the sickness that is in our souls. He is our hiding place.

"Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be for sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power."

God is our hiding place only because of Jesus, the man who was God, and who died on a cross for those he loved. He was wounded, pierced in the side from which blood and water flowed {John 19:34-37} to fulfill the scriptures from hundreds of years before {Zechariah 12:10}, to save us both from the guilt we have as sinners and the power it has over us.

"Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,"

It is in our very nature to do all that we can to make ourselves good. We make ourselves nicer, more giving, more patient, more loving - anything that save us from who we truly know we are inside. We know instinctively what is right and wrong - God's laws - and we try to do "what is right". We expend all our energies and have the highest zeal to the point of weeping - 

"All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone."

There is a point we get to in our "holiness treadmill" when we realise that there is simply nothing we can do to save ourselves. We see inside and despair. Nothing we do can make right what we do wrong {in our hearts and with our hands}. We are broken, hurting and hurtful, people. Only Thou - God in Jesus - can save, only Him alone.

"Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling;"

When we realise that we are actually nothing without Jesus and that we can do nothing to make ourselves right with God, we come to Him with open hands. We see the bloodied Cross before us and know that it is the lifeline for our very breaths. In all the storms of life, in all the pain and sorrow, in all our deepest failures - it is the Cross we cling to.

"Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!"

Everything about us is stained by sin until we are given the clothes of righteousness that Christ has purchased for us. Like newborns, we can do nothing with Him - we lean towards Him, desperate for the mercy and the grace that washes us clean, that gives us a new life to live, that enables us to breathe again.

"While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar through worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy Judgement Throne,"

In our moment of life and in our moment of death; when we are taken to that which we cannot see; when we face that which we have always taken in faith; when we see that what faith we have has been given to us and not what we have created - - then, before the judgement throne of God, we will finally see Him. And not just with our eyes - which so few have done before - we will actually see, clearly and fully and with perfect understanding, Him and all of our life's purpose, in Christ.

"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee."

The only way we can face the Judgement Throne and come away with mercy is by crying out to God, through Jesus Christ, and asking Him to cleft to us - to hide us away, forever, washed in the blood of Jesus on the Cross. And, we must ask - not presume - for Him to let us.


This hymn was written by Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763, considered one of the four top Anglican hymns. Traditionally, it is said Augustus wrote this whilst taking shelter in a cleft of a rock during a storm. In his Psalms and Hymns For Public and Private Worship, he labels this song simply,

"A Prayer, living and dying."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Little Post of Praise {A Mother's Love For Her God}.

I feel just an enormous sense of relief today. Our son finished kindergarten and I am just thrilled to have him home. Not that he was there huge amounts of time - only three hours, three times a week. But now, he's fully home. 

My little boy is where he belongs for now and it is just right. 

My heart sings for joy to the Lord because He really has been good to us. Sometimes when you're faced with a decision that just doesn't have a clear right or wrong answer, you just don't know what to do. You feel blind and you're afraid to even make a choice.

But that is when faith steps in. Faith in a God who knows, who cares, who foresees, who listens, and who guides when asked. He very rarely {in my experience!} blasts a neon sign in your face to show the way - instead, He is gentle, He nudges. His Word really is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path.

When praying for our son and what to do, I prayed,

"Make me [us] know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of salvation; for you I wait all day long." Psalm 25:4-5

Like I said, God doesn't usually make the answer obvious; but He has obviously given us His Word for guidance. In fact, He says it is all we need for LIFE and GODLINESS {2 Peter 1:3}. 

One quiet time, as I searched through the Proverbs - just a fabulous book for so many reasons, and not just for parenting - my eyes fell upon these simple words:

"He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Proverbs 13:20

Something about this verse just dug itself into me. Here we were, worried about our little boy and the changes we could see in him and his behaviour from his time spent at kindergarten. He was suffering harm. And it wasn't because this kindergarten was horrible - it is amazing - or that the teachers were neglectful or that the children were terrible. Just none of the above.

They just aren't like us. 

Secular environments obtain their wisdom from men. This is good - God has given us brains and minds to delve into many aspects that make us human. But it is still that - human. And anything that is purely human is simply sinful and flawed.

But a flawed human relying on a perfect God and His perfect wisdom? Power.

I've said before that one day, when they are ready, our children will be in the world. Fully and immersed. But, only when they are equipped, armed for battle, able to handle themselves. When they are able then, they will know the truth of how to walk with the wise and not with fools.

Until then, my little ones remain by my side. As crazy as it may sound to some, they belong here.

Don't fear for their "socialisation". I am certainly not worried with what I have lined up for them! And don't worry about them being "overprotected" because they will be sheltered from the unnecessary and gently guided to what is necessary.

If there is any point to this post, it is this: God really has the parent's back. If you ask Him, He really will help you. Don't expect big signs. Expect quiet peace. Expect to be asked to be courageous. Expect to be guided where others may not go. But expect what is good and what brings life. Expect His ways. And be thankful.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why Being A HelpMeet Is Not Beneath Me {Or You}.

The voices that speak to the troubled heart of a woman today are many, subtle and just soul-destroying. And the Greatest Liar of them all? His delight is purely in the downfall of all that was beautifully made in the beginning. He is thrilled and has made fools of us all. Wherever the pendulum swings - male abuse of being a head to the emasculating domination of a she-male - he is behind it all

The Bible is the only place we can find the hope, the solace, the nourishment, the endorsement, the understanding, the answers, the freedom and the beauty all women today crave. Today, I want to point our struggling hearts to the theology of women being helpmeets. I pray God just sets you free from any lies and snares and doubts about this incredibly holy calling.

"And the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make a helper fit for him.'" Genesis 2:18

First, woman was needed.

It is easy to gloss over the fact that God said that "it is not good". We've heard that before, haven't we? My heart can become dull to the fact that nothing in creation had been "not good" until Adam needed a companion. But did you know that the original Hebrew sheds a little more light to the heart of God as He made beautiful Eve?

The Hebrew used for "not good" here means positively bad. And I don't mean the positively bad that we've run out of chocolate in the house! No, when God saw Adam hanging out with his animals, He saw that without companionship, life would have no goodness.

Woman, you are good. You are needed and are just plain lovely and good.

Note too, that it didn't take God by surprise that Adam was lonely. God didn't make everything without Eve in mind; rather, he waited until Adam realised himself that he was alone. Adam discerned that he needed someone {Genesis 2:20}.

Second, woman was a helper-partner.

Elyse Fitzpatrick in her book Helper By Design: God's Perfect Plan For Women in Marriage fleshes out this verse {and surrounding verses} to show that God gave Adam six tasks to do in the Garden: Rule. Relate. Reproduce. Reflect. Rejoice. Rest. She says,

"Adam and Eve were unique in the creation, and although he was made from from the dust of the earth {and Eve wasn't}, she complemented and corresponded to him. Eve wasn't some other sort of creature; she wasn't beneath Adam, nor was she superior to him; but rather she was created as his partner, equally in God's image and called to glorify Him." pg.35

"Fundamentally, a wife can take steps toward helping her husband by seeking to understand the specific ways in which God has called him to rule, relate, reproduce, reflect, rejoice, and rest."pg.37

God's original plan for human kind hasn't changed. In our spheres of home, work, and other influence, we are called to glorify God and enjoy Him forever by ruling and subduing His creation. Specifically in marriage, a wife's role is to come alongside her husband and care for him, nurture him, strengthen him, encourage him, rebuke him {when necessary}, love him, and seek to learn him as a person and God's calling for him.

A wife may have her own form of paid employment. She may be a mother. She will have other pursuits and interests outside the home and that are uniquely her own. That is very needed and God will use her mightily as she submits those things to Him. But, her primary calling if she is married, is to be her husband's helper.

Third, woman was called to be like her Father.

When God created woman to be a helper, he wasn't making a role or calling that was new. God made man and woman in His image and imparted to them characteristics and responsibilities that were part of His nature. {The fact that they are man and woman and need one another differently reflects the very nature of the Trinity.} In fact, God's call on woman to be a helper was asking her to be like Him.

The very word "helper" in Hebrew is only used twice in the Old Testament. The first is when God created woman, and the rest is in reference to God and His great care of His people, Israel. Mary Kassian in her book Women, Creation and the Fall writes,

"In the creation of female, we see that a doormat or servant-slave was certainly not what God had in mind. God intended to make a counterpart for the man, a vital helper for him, perhaps in much the same sense as God is a helper." pg.17

Do you see that? When God made us to be helpmeets, He gave us a role that He fulfills to His people. This is such an important reason why the argument that women are inferior just does not stand and why our fear of being helpmeets is so sin-laden and culturally influenced. God made us to be helpers like He is. If it is "good enough" for God, why wouldn't it be for us?

"Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul." Psalm 54:4

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped." Psalm 28:7

I understand the fear in the hearts of women when they start looking into God's calling for them. So much of history is blackened by the abuse of men over their women. Yet, so much of history is also littered with women abusing their power of womanhood over men for their own purposes. We mustn't ever forget that women are sinners and have equally distorted God's design. 

Please don't think that I have never struggled with this. Please don't think that there aren't feminist feelings floating around in my mind. There are and I do struggle. In fact, this has been on my mind recently, my soul has been wrestling with what I believe the Bible teaches to what I hear the world teaching. I am truly flawed. But, I don't want what the world offers. Look how messed up this place is! I want God and His ways. I want what He has designed and which is lived out perfectly, beautifully and so sacrificially in the Trinity. 

Instead of fearing what isn't truth, we must fear the Lord, just like Sarah did {1 Peter 3:6}. Not only must we fear Him {respect and honour Him}, we must trust in His ways. We must seek to pursue His very words to us and believe that the fears we hold, the lies we hear are not from Him.

He esteems women greatly because they are made to reflect Him!

He made us because we are wanted and needed!

He created us to nurture just as He nurtures!

He calls us to help as He helps! 

No, being a helpmeet does not make us less. And no, being a helpmeet is certainly not beneath us. It is a calling that is godly and requires serious commitment and faithfulness. Being a helpmeet is a holy calling, one that is worked out in the heavens, and can be, by God's grace, lived out in all Christian marriages.

Please share your comments below. I would love to chat about this all.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

When Something Good Is Not The Best.

As Christian parents, Tim and I are continually having our minds graciously and lovingly renewed by God to His way of thinking. I'm not saying we have the number one, most biblical way of parenting thinking {insert *snort* here}...

...Rather, as we submit ourselves to our loving Father as our own children's parents, we find Him offering new ways of thinking about our family, our children's upbringing, and His way for us of "training our children in the way they should go" {Proverbs 22:6}.

The more we keep going on this parenting path, the more I know each family's submission to God's guidance will be different. And that is good! God loves variety! It is my responsibility to work in our family quietly, minding our own business and keeping our hearts from comparison.

"Jesus said, 'If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.'" John 21:22 {emphasis my own}

With that preamble set, let me share with you a big decision we have made recently for our family which has been challenging; offering an opportunity to follow God's direction in faith as it follows a different path that most families make in this day and age.

Last year, we enrolled Josiah into kindy. In NZ, kindergarten is a free-play environment that usually takes children from 3 until they go to school at 5 {though requirement of schooling age is 6}. The kindy we chose is truly amazing with incredibly supportive, skilled teachers and a wonderfully large outdoor area. This was a big for me as Josiah is an outdoor boy.

Aside from a few bumps, Josiah has thrived at kindy. He has grown out of his shell around people who aren't his immediate family and he has learned to play alongside others really well. Yet, we noticed after the start of this year that, though he was doing really well while he was at kindy, that his behaviour at home had really changed.

We went through all the normal reasons that can cause struggling behaviour and felt that none of those really seemed to apply to him. We talked to his teachers and we talked to each other and we prayed a lot. Last week we decided that we were going to pull Josiah out of kindy.

It was such a hard decision and even now, with only a few lessons left for him, I still feel emotionally torn about it {though, when I calm my feelings and think deeply about the guidance we believe God has been giving us, my gut tells me it is the right choice}.

It's been a lesson of learning that sometimes even really good things aren't necessary the best things for us {at the time, in a season, or, forever}.

Kindy, in and of itself, is a great place for little children. It is nurturing, with smaller numbers and a million opportunities for growth and play, play, play. Playing is the key for a child learning is their philosophy {and I totally agree}. It has done Josiah a world of good. It has been good.

But, we have come to the conclusion that - right now - it is not the best for him. The best, that we can see, is for him to be with his family more. With times that he has had off of kindy this year {holidays etc.}, his behaviour/demeanour/attitude has been undeniably better, more stable and more loving. For some reason - and we really have no idea why - something that is good {kindy} just isn't bringing out the best in him {at home}.

To some, this may be no big deal. But for us, home behaviour is everything. The saying that goes, "You really are who you are at home" is so deeply true. We can put on our "best" behaviour in public and then be just awful to those who love us most at home. Are we strict? Perhaps. We just believe that loving, disciplined yet authentic behaviour at home is the standard we are striving for.

There are seasons in life where, no matter the situation, we will have to make decisions based on how our priorities in life are lining up with where we are involved in. If our priorities align with our involvement in some commitment, church activity or other organisation, then that is really great. But if an involvement is causing issues that might allow us to compromise a priority or standard, some hard decisions may need to be made.

Even when, in many ways, you don't want to make that decision. Or that, sometimes, there may be no clear right or wrong. Sometimes all you can do is pray, seek God's guidance, analyse all the information you have before you, and make a choice. And then, step out in faith.

A child not going to some form of preschool or kindergarten is rare these days. We, again, are going to look different. {Sigh. Really, God? Again?} But we have to obey.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

And it's not just us, as parents, who want to be happy in Jesus. We want our children to have the ultimate joy of knowing and being happy in Jesus. And, because they are in our care, we have to trust and obey God, even when it bucks against the norm and requires hard, emotional choices for what is best, even if the second choice is still good.

In the comments: Have you ever made a decision that was hard because you had the choice of good and best?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Callings and Self-Doubt: Choosing Faith that You Are on the Right Path.

We all struggle with comparing ourselves to others {remember?}. And, as I am growing to see in myself, we all struggle with doubting ourselves next to others. Self-doubt is a massive continuing blip in the radar of my Christian growth.

Before we had children, I wasn't like any of the wives I knew. I didn't have a full-time job. I wasn't helping us save money for when children came. There was great logic in those choices, but they weren't our choice. I worked part-time {generally ten hours a week} and, for the most part, I considered being a homemaker {ie. Tim's wife} my full-time job.

Oh, it was such a different path to take. Granted, I never, ever got negative comments or remarks - but I did get lots of people questioning me. 

Why don't you work more?
Don't you want more money?
What does Tim think?
Aren't you bored?
What do you do all day?

The questions always got me. I knew, deep down that this was God's calling on my life, and I knew people would disagree with me. But all the questions - and often what the questions didn't say but silently did - were like little arrows of doubt. In those times, I really did have two people on my shoulder; one speaking positively to my calling, the other asking more and more questions, leading to deepening doubt. Even though I knew my own story and Tim's, even though I knew why dedicating my life to my family was my dream job, I still doubted. I doubted simply because I feared man.

Each day we have a million battles we face. We battle the choice to have faith or reject the Gospel. We battle to believe the truth of God's Word {and not listen to the hissing whisper, "Did God really say...?"}. We battle to choose obedience to God and not sin. We battle our culture. And sometimes, sadly, we battle our own family, friends and church.

Living a life of faith and conviction is ridiculously hard. Mere questions can be the marsh mellows of it all! Ridicule, persecution, misunderstanding, judgement and rejection are almost expected. And I am not just talking about God's moral laws here {as opposed to the world's standards}: I am talking about an individual's call, their choice of occupation, a family's way of life, their vision for the upbringing of their children...

I am talking about the personal, quiet, submissive belief one has before God that this way - this choice, this path, this conviction - is uniquely given by the Lord, to them, for their life. Everyone has callings that submit under the law of the Gospel.

We have authors, painters, teachers, leaders, servers, mothers, fathers, missionaries, single individuals, bridge builders, carpenters, evangelists, singers, bloggers. Under the grace of the Gospel, we have individual callings. And they will be different. You, and I, will be different. And amongst the many battles that we face each day will be the battle to believe, to hold on to, to grasp the hem of God that this calling is ours. No matter what questions are asked. No matter who asks those questions.

Self-doubt is one of the ways in which the enemy gets God's people off track. Indulging, believing and participating in self-doubt causes us to be like the person James speaks of, the one who, when asking for wisdom,

"must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind" {1:6}

When we are being tossed about in the waves of self-doubt {which is not faith}, we are ineffective disciples of Christ. We are crippled by our own selves and will not thrive in the calling God has given us. 

Paul, throughout the Epistles, repeatedly began his letters stating his calling, or appointment to service {1 Timothy 1:12}, or apostle by command {1 Timothy 1:1}. He claimed his calling and, despite believing he was the worst of sinners {vs.15}, he knew his calling to be true and that it was a mercy of Christ.

Though we are not Paul, we too are disciples of Christ and have our own callings. I am called to be a wife, mother, homemaker and church member. I have talent-callings I must use for God's service. And, as a married couple and as parents, Tim and I have decisions we must make in regards to the atmosphere of our family, the upbringing of our children and the way in which we use the blessings God has given us. We will look different. But being different to others doesn't mean being wrong.

So, dear friends, choose to have faith in your calling. You will be different, but don't let questions cause you doubt. Hold fast to your appointment, use questions to show God's mercy in your own life, and be thankful for God's unique care and concern over the way your life is lived, in practice and purpose. 

Please share your calling and any struggles you have had of self-doubt in it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Thinking About Homeschooling? Books to Inspire.

Over the last two years, I have read about home education in any form I could find it. Blogs, articles, research papers {yes, even some of a PHD thesis} - anything. Once God lays something on my heart, all I want to do is learn and grow and read as much as I can get my hands on. Because of our awesome libraries in my town {over fifteen of them!}, I have been able to read quite a number of homeschooling books. This has been so helpful and inspiring. From reasons to experiences to philosophies, my passion for educating children at home has just grown.

I'm part way through another book at the moment and, as I have been reading it, I thought: I need to share all the amazing books I have been reading. I am sure there are some mother's out there who, like me, want to learn but don't know where to start. This list {though not comprehensive} is for you. 

 This post contains affiliate links.

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson

This was the first book on homeschooling I read and it definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world. The Clarkson's are quite famous for homeschooling and have their own ministry. All their children are older now and successful in their own right. But that isn't what homeschooling is about for the Clarkson's - it's about creating a home that brings life and learning naturally, part of the whole child, and not just their minds. It is a Christian-based book and really encouraging {and weighty}.

What is a Family? by Edith Schaffer

I have written about this book so many times because, just, oh. I love it. It isn't a book on homeschooling specifically, but Edith's whole message about the importance of family and home and relationships deepened my growing conviction that God really cares about families, how much He wants mother's to invest in their family's lives, how much a home atmosphere affects a child's life. My desire to homeschool deepened after reading this book because my passion for the kind of life I wanted for my children doubled. 

The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson

Again, this isn't a homeschooling book per se, but Sally's message is clear: children need mother's and it is vitally important that mother's invest their all into their children for the season of life when they are directly under our influence and in our homes. Conviction, inspiration, encouragement, soul-warming - this book is for all Christian mothers, even if homeschooling isn't on your radar. But if it is, this book will inspire you with a new vision for how you want to teach your children {educationally, spiritually, relationally etc}.

This book. It was hilarious and I loved it. It isn't Christian at all, but that was really nice for a change. There are so many resources out there from a Christian perspective that it was a breath of fresh air to see why a non-Christian would homeschool. It was a one-year experiment for Quinn and her daughter, and each chapter follows Quinn as she researches, meets other homeschoolers, figures out what works for her daughter, goes to a conference. Her sense of humour made me giggle and I just really enjoyed following her along this journey.

The Homeschooling Option by Lisa Rivero

Don't be fooled by the cover - this isn't a research paper, but a helpful resource for people just beginning to look into homeschooling. Like all of my other recommendations, it is an American source. Which is great, America is the leader of the homeschooling movement; but for people outside of the US, some of the references, concerns etc. are not applicable. But, this book was a great beginning source for someone like me who had NO idea all the in's and out's and why's of this great schooling option.

The Well-Adjusted Child by Rachel Gathercole

I am currently re-reading this book and am enjoying it. It approaches that question all homeschoolers are asked, "What about socialisation?" This was a question for me at the start {because of my own naievity}, but I don't have any qualms about it anymore. The question is no longer "Are homeschoolers socialised?" but rather, "What actually is socialisation?" The answer is not simple as people assume. A great book.

I was excited to read this book on many levels and I am surprised by my response to it. Being a Sproul, I knew it would be biblically-based and it is - but I wasn't actually convinced by his arguments that homeschooling is a biblical mandate. I still love this book, but not for the reasons I think he intended. It made some great points, like, why are we surprised when our children turn out like Romans when we sent them to Caesar? This is a top recommendation from me, but with the sidenote that I don't fully agree with it theologically.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

My father is a Professor in Children's Literature, so by nurture, I am a reader. He gave me this book since he knows I am looking into homeschooling and, though it isn't about homeschooling, I think it ought to be a vital resource for all parents - especially homeschoolers. Reading is so, so, so important for a child's learning and for their well-being. Reading today in schools isn't reading - it's about quizes and comprehension. We need to go back to the belief that reading creates a love of learning, for life. One of my favourite schooling memories is when, at ten, our teacher read us aloud Watership Down. 

In my growing knowledge of how children learn, self-directed {or delight-directed} learning has really interested me. Allowing children to direct their learning by parents following their lead and providing outlines and lessons that fit into the child's interests of the moment. Some call this unschooling, but I feel there is more parental guidance needed. This book studied the lives of famous homeschoolers and how they were educated impacted their pursuit of excellence {like Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt etc.}. Really interesting.

So there you have it. Have you read any of these? Would love your own recommendations!