Monday, August 14, 2006

Peeling off the Layers

Philippians 1:6 says“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I decided one summer I would redo the boys’ bathroom. The wallpaper was coming off in places so I decided that I would strip the paper off & paint it. My summer was almost over when I finally decided it was time to strip and paint. I got my kids involved and we had a blast making a huge mess. As I was peeling off the layers I thought," this is me". I, like the wall, look really good in certain areas, but there are those places that I hope others don't see. I hate when people would come over, because the boys’ bathroom was also the guest bathroom and it looked horrible. The paper had come loose in a few places so my little ones took that as an invitation & peeled away. In other areas it was peeling off with no-ones help. It was embarrassing to me for anyone to see it. I don't like for people to see what I am like inside sometimes. I’m prideful, arrogant, selfish, and jealous and many more I'm sure. I want people to see my wallpaper not the real me. We kept peeling the paper and one of my sons said, “Look mom there’s an ugly wall in there! Are we going to paint this?"

As I finished taking all of the paper off the wall this verse came to my mind. "I'm like these walls aren’t I Lord," I prayed. "I have so many layers of filth that you are trying to peel away. You have begun such an amazing work in my life but my "wallpaper" keeps getting in the way of the beautiful picture of me that you are painting." If we truly desire to become the masterpiece that God has intended for us then we welcome the layers of wallpaper to come off, as painful as it may be. My son was right about the wall underneath the paper. It was plain & kind of ugly, so are we without our "wallpaper" until the Lord begins painting His masterpiece do we really begin to look beautiful. I'm not done with that bathroom yet, but I hope that it will look better after I get done, than it did before I started. I’ll finish the bathroom, but the Lord will never be finished with me while I am still on this earth. I pray that while I am living that my life will reflect Christ and people will see the beautiful masterpiece that He is creating in me, but I also look forward to the day when He has completed His work in me.

What a glorious day when I can stand before him with no layers of wallpaper, only as His masterpiece.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Confessions of a Bad Year

I am very active in my homeschool community. One of my ministries to moms for the past several years has been to help those who are just starting to homeschool. I have really loved talking to them and guiding them through their first year. I love the excitement in their voices when they tell me about a really good day they had & how surprised they were when their kids actually wanted to "do school".

This past year was hard for me though. I continued to mentor and teach the moms, when deep inside I have felt that I had no business telling them anything. I guess I felt a lot like a hypocrite. I had to try extra hard to get excited about curriculum and why this works for some & that doesn't work for others. Our school year, I felt, was horrible. We weren't getting much of anything done it seemed. It was my 10th year & really felt like I had no idea what I was doing!! My oldest is high school age and yet she was falling between the cracks in a really big way, at least that is how I feel. She is dyslexic and needed a lot of my attention that I did not give her. I needed her to do some of her work on her own and she didn't. She is the oldest of 9 and I am expecting the next one anytime now. Everyone kept telling me, "Wait until they get older then they are more independant." Not her!! I feel guilty for getting frustrated with her, but I still do. "Just do the work!" I want to tell her. I try really hard not to compare her with her younger siblings that are more on target, but I know I still do. I also have a son who is almost 13 & still can't read very well. His younger brothers help him read stuff. This is driving me crazy, because he just really doesn't seem to care. He has missed many opportunities of service at our church because he can't read. I have heard from many moms who have sons who really didn't learn to read until they were close to 14 years old. I didn't want my son to be one of those. He is behind in everything else because he can't read.

I really wish I could just erase this past year. This week is our last week of school. Since I am about to have a baby we just kept going through the summer so that we could take a nice break after I had the baby. I'm afraid to let them stop though. My 2 older ones are going to keep doing math a few times a week so they don't fall to far behind, but will my dyslexic daughter do it with out me reminding her constantly? I don't know. I'm afraid if we stop school then we may never get it started again. Mainly because I don't want to. I need the break. I know that, it is obvious since I am writing like this. If any other mom came to me & told me this stuff I would tell her that she was burned out & needed a break. I know that I am not totally alone in this, I just have never admitted it. I'm the one that helps those who are feeling this a way to pull out of it. The stresses of mommyhood are huge right now and adding teacher to it is just too much. I guess this teacher needs to take her well deserved break & just be mommy. I have noticed in the past that my kids have actully learned a lot during our breaks. Several mastered reading, one began writing stories on her own & still writes without ever being told. Another proudly memorized poetry and scripture. I just had to get out of the way & let the relaxed schooling happen. Another copied the Shakespeare play, "The Tempest" and is now a huge fan of Shakespeare. I guess that is what we are in need to get out of the way.

Thanks, I feel better!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

About Dana

I am a mom of 11 children, but before that I was a wife to Scott. We were married in 1990 & were thrilled that the Lord began blessing us with children very soon.

I was 19 when I had our first baby. I knew nothing, but thought I knew it all.

5 years later, I had 5 kids. I was in complete survival mode. I don't remember much about those days except making sure the kids took a nap everyday so I could have some time to myself or get the house cleaned up. My time with the Lord was so rare. I knew I needed to spend time reading the Bible & praying everyday, but I thought God would understand why I didn't since he gave me these kids. My faith & trust in God grew very small, but my faith in myself grew very big.

I have learned that when God wants you to do something, he has a way of getting you to the point in which you can do it and do it very well. This happened to me. He wanted to use me to share with others about his love for them, but because my heart was in the horrible & and selfish shape it was, he wouldn't use me. So He decided to break my heart and slowly piece it back together.
In 1999, I was in a car accident with my 6 children and was 9 weeks pregnant. I lost control on a rock road, rolling 3 or 4 times landing upside down. Our suburban was totaled, but we all survived. In the months after that accident I sank into a deep depression as I believed that I tried to kill my kids that day. The enemy had a powerful hold on my mind. After many months I slowly began to recognize my condition as depression. Finally after 18 months of living in spiritual and emotional darkness, the Lord began to work in me. I was truly a new creature. My journey has been long and difficult & is still going on. He is not done with me yet! But fear and depression is not a daily part of my life anymore...Praise the Lord!
In the midst of my healing I read a scripture that really seem to jump out at me and it seemed like the Lord was speaking directly to me. Isaiah 61:1-3 says,

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to preach the good news. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to
proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on
them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning
and a garment of praise in stead of despair. They will be called oaks of
righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

I accept this verse & claim it as my charge from the Lord. Now, the desire to encourage & minister to mothers is a passion and reality for me. He has placed many friends in my path that I have had the pleasure of visiting and sharing my heart with. He speaks to me through his scripture and gives me words to write that I could never write before. He gives me words to say that I could never have said on my own.
I am still a work in progress as we all are. I don't have all the answers and never will. My kids aren't raised yet, we are still training and praying that we are doing it right. God has blessed Scott & I with 10 kids so far. We don't know if he will bless us with more or not, but we feel so blessed with the ones we have. He uses my kids daily to reveal more of his truth, because I have to seek his wisdom or I will fall flat on my face.

Dana & Scott

He is teaching me daily that I have a choice in my circumstances. I can either praise him or cry. I can either reflect him in my reaction to my circumstances or I won't. It is my choice. I can be blessed with his joy or I won't. It is my choice, no one can make it for me.

I pray daily that he will use me and to bring comfort to the many hurting hearts I will encounter. As mothers we face challenges every day & can't do it alone. I need the Lord just to get out of bed each morning.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cherishing our Children

I was told once by a friend that she doesn't think it is fair to tell homeschooling moms how to prevent getting burned out in their homeschool. She went on to tell me that over the years she has learned that everyone will go through it at some time or another. Rather we should be sharing how to get through it and out of it and maybe even how to lessen the chances of it. I there is some truth to what she said.

One thing I have found that has helped me to not feel so burned out is to make conscious efforts to cherish my time with my children. By homeschooling, I have been given an opportunity to be with my children in a way that parents whose children attend a school during the day do not have. When you homeschool though, it is very easy to get very wrapped up in the daily schedules and routines of your school and not be as aware of the true needs of your children. My focus can at times be on who has finished their homework or hasn't. Who needs more help in reading or math & I forget to look into their eyes and listen to their real words.

I looked up the definition of "cherish" in the dictionary. It said "to treat with affection and tenderness; hold dear. 2. to keep fondly in mind". Then I went to the Greek dictionary and found the Greek word. Thalpo was the Greek for cherish and it meant, "To soften by heat, to keep warm". That reminded me of a mother bird and how she keeps her eggs warm until they are ready to hatch. Do you remember the documentary movie that came out call, "March of the Penguins"? Do you remember how the newly hatched egg was carefully passed from the mother to the father? Then the father kept the egg buried deep in his fur away from the freezing temperatures for months. His main purpose at that time was to keep that egg safe and warm until the mother came back. He cherished that egg. That is such a wonderful picture that God has given us of how he cherishes us and how we can cherish our children.

In Luke 2:19, when Mary had just given birth to Jesus it says, "But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart." I think she must have cherished every moment with Jesus knowing who he was. Many times I find myself watching my children and treasuring up their play in my heart. I want to remember their childhood because it will be gone very soon. My heart aches all too often because I don't remember many of the special times I had with my oldest kids. I had the first five kids in less than 5 years. I didn't cherish my time with them; I just tried to get through it.

In 1 Samuel we are introduced to Hannah and her husband, Elkanah. She wanted a child very badly. She prayed to God desperately to give her a son (1 Samuel1:20). Finally scriptures say the Lord remembered her and she became pregnant. What great joy she must have felt. She had promised God that if he would give her a son she would give him back to God, she kept her promise. When Samuel was weaned she took him to the temple to be raised by Eli the priest. Don't you know that until that time Hannah cherished every moment she had with Samuel. She must have cherished each visit she had with him each year as he grew and trained under Eli.

So how can we cherish our children in a way that will help to keep us renewed in our calling to homeschool? I think one of the most important things we can do for our children is to pray for them. Use scripture in your prayers. God loves to hear his Word spoken back to him. Pray for their hearts and mind to remain pure and have a hunger for the Lord. Pray that they will desire repentance for their sin. Pray for their purity and for their future mates.

Another thing we can do is to journal about our children. Take notes on what they are doing. Make notes about bad attitudes or even better write down when you catch them doing something good. Notes of Excellence; I write down things I see in my children that can only be described as excellent. I try to praise them for those things & I thank God for their excellent traits.

When you have a house full of kids it is hard to spend individual time with each one, but when it happens it is always so special. I have a dear friend who has 10 kids and they have that time with their kids each night. They call it "eyeball time". Each kid has his or her own night and they get to stay up later than the rest & spend it with mom and dad. My friend says it is priceless what she has learned about each child and their relationship is so valuable to them both.

Deuteronomy 14:2 says. "for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession."

So much of the time I do not feel treasured by my family. I get so caught up in the daily routines and let the relationship go by wayside. When I feel this way, I know my family does not feel treasured by me. But remembering that I am treasured by God often helps keep my feet on the ground & my eyes on him. When I begin feeling overwhelmed by my big long list of "to do's" I put it away.

Matthew 11:28 says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Also, Mark 6:13b says, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. " (NIV)

I love those two verses. Jesus is calling us away because he knows we need rest. He did not plan for us to become burned out and tired, but he knows it will still happen so he calls us to come to him and rest. Here are a few ways I do this.

I have smaller expectations on myself and my family. I do not expect my five year old to wash the dishes nor do I expect my 13 year old son to fix dinner. I do have expectations for them, but when I set those to high, they are dashed & I get upset. I also enter into my quiet time with the Lord hoping for 5 minutes. If I get 10 minutes, I have surpassed my expectations. When I expected to have an hour and only got 5 minutes I was upset rather than refreshed & renewed. A hot bath before bed counts to me as resting in the Lord because many times I pray while in the tub, listen to worship music or read..

We cannot prevent symptoms of burnout, just like we cannot prevent the temptation of sin. But if we recognize the warning signs and seek the Lord for the rest and guidance we need and desire, we won't experience it so often Don't forget that Jesus drew away for rest, why shouldn't we?