On Patriotism, Politics, and Being a Christian

It’s Thursday, October 28.  The mid-term elections are just five days away.  Much of the country waits anxiously to see who will be victorious.  Much of the country could care less.  This year I find myself somewhere in the middle.

I am, at heart, a talk radio/quasi-political junkie and would listen to it primarily in the car, but the antenna went out on my truck a few months ago and the only stations I can get now are country music and the occasional top 40 station.  I can’t listen to it much at home anymore, as we’re doing school during the prime talk radio hours.  And I don’t have the time to stream it on-line in the evening.  I feel out of the political loop this year and maybe that is part of my ambivalence.

Part of it is that I still feel somewhat burned by the Bush administration.  He was incredible during 9/11 and in his first years in office.  But that second term was a waste of taxpayer dollars.  I have become, at least partially, one of those people who doesn’t really feel like I can make a difference, that what I do, say, or think can’t change anything about this government machine.  In a word, I feel a bit helpless.

But on the other hand, I seem to see a movement within the Church away from political involvement.  It seems to be en vogue to be apolitical.  Love of country and active involvement in her government are considered idolatrous and anti the Kingdom of God.  I think this attitude is terribly dangerous toward the freedoms that we have enjoyed that allow us to have this open dialogue and to worship and live and do – all, more or less, at our own choosing.  Because if those who possess the mind of Christ are not involved in the lawmaking a governing processes, then who is?  Those who are against Him, or at the very least, do not acknowledge Him or His moral law.

Our Founders’ own words confirm that we are nation founded on faith and that our citizens were expected to have an internal moral code, a conduct becoming of those who were the example of freedom and hope to the world, an educated populace who could defend against both physical and intellectual attack:

“It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.” – Abraham Lincoln

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We shall not fight alone.  God presides over the destinies of nations.  The battle is not to the strong alone.  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!  Give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

“Every thinking man, when he thinks, realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally – and I do not mean figuratively, but literally – impossible for us to figure what that loss would be if these teachings were removed.  We would lose all the standars by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards towards which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“The choice before us is plain, Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration.  I am rather tired of hearing about our rights and privileges as American citizens.  The time is come, it now is, when we ought o hear about the duties and responsibilities of our citizenship.  America’s future depends upon demonstrating God’s government.” – Peter Marshall

“The Bible is the Rock on which this Republic rests.” – Andrew Jackson

America is not a perfect nation, but she is no doubt amazing.  A unique experiment in history that led to a so-called five thousand year leap in human progress.  I want to be part of that dream.  I want to be part of history.  My hope is not in my government, elephant or donkey or anything else, but I believe we are called to be active in the process.  So in spite of my current detached view of it all, I will make it a priority to stay engaged, to be informed, and to be involved.  The future that my children will have as American citizens is far too important to not make an effort.

What about you?  Have you been involved this political season?  You still have a few days.  Won’t you take some time this weekend to read up on the candidates in your area, and then make the time on Tuesday to get out and vote?

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Two Seemingly Unrelated Stories…

…And a God who brings all things together:

A month ago, my purse was stolen.  Prior to that we had been experiencing months of trials that are common to life, but they just never seemed to let up.  Seven days after it was stolen, it returned.  All by God’s grace and for His good pleasure.  My heart was delighted by this and it seemed to be a turning point in how things were going for us.  Life just seemed to improve.

Today I called the cleaners and found out my purse is back.  The cost of having it cleaned was a decent amount more than I had planned on and I just wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to go pick it up right away.  I decided not to worry too much about it and I would trust the Lord to take care of it.

Last night I sent two girls to my parents’ house while Matt had meetings, the older two had ballet, and I got groceries.  I made one last stop at the Dillon’s near my parents’ home to grab some of the deals in the expiring ad (and to get some produce, because I am so over WalMart’s produce).  I loaded the few bags of groceries out of the cart and into the back of my SUV, dutifully rolled my cart up and over the poorly placed median, and put it in the cart corral.  I began to walk back to the car and the silly cart started rolling backward away from the corral and out into the lot.  I went back and pushed the cart back into its spot and that’s when I noticed it….someone had left an iPad in the next cart in the corral.

I considered taking it inside and leaving it with customer service.  Those who know me know that I assume the best of just about everyone I meet, but I had a very uncharacteristic thought of, What if someone inside decides they would like to have an iPad, rather than returning it? So, I decided to just take it home and try to figure out who it belonged to.

I wanted to protect the privacy of the owner, so I did minimal snooping.  I found a cell phone number connected to the iPad and tried calling it.  No luck.  I sent a text.  Never heard anything back.  Today I did some deeper snooping and found an email address.  No reply.  So tonight I decided to really get nosy and began skimming emails and searching everywhere I could for some more contact information.

Eventually, I found out the owner’s last name (I already had her first name from another page).  Then I was able to find her address.  I looked online to find a home telephone number, but couldn’t.  I nosed around some more.  I put together that she had a couple of kids going to a local high school….  And then something just clicked in my head (it was, in fact, the Holy Spirit)…. her last name, kids at a certain school, they lived in a particular part of town, could it be???

I called my veterinarian’s office (that sounds random, doesn’t it?) and spoke with the assistant who answered the phone.  “Ellen, this is going to sound like a really strange question, but is the doctor related to a (so and so)?”  A slow yes was her reply.  “I think I have her iPad,” I told her.  She squealed and put me on hold to go tell the doctor.  He was elated.  I drove out to his office to deliver it to him before he went home for the night.

Once I was there, we visited for some time and I learned that the past few weeks for him and his family have been much like those few months over the summer were for us.  The iPad had been a gift from him to his wife for their anniversary; she used it all the time and had forgotten it in the cart in her hurry to get home last night.  She was devastated.  He was trusting God to take care of the details.

By the time I got to the office, He had written me a “reward” check and also told me that Coco’s next round of boosters (that she’s due for this month) were on him.  I told him that it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted.  I told him the story of my purse and that this money he was giving me was enough to pay for the cleaning bill and leave a little extra.

And we rejoiced together that God is good and He is in the details and He works in amazing and mysterious ways.

Oh, He is glorious!  And He is so tender to us, His children.  What a thrill to be on this side of a God-thing today.  He is good!

Time and Balance Tuesday – Delegate

One of the true keys to good leadership is the ability to delegate.  Good leaders are not controlling and self-sufficient, but realize that they cannot do everything on their own.  They realize the value of teamwork and look for strengths and skills and potential in those they work with and begin to delegate responsibilities to their team members.

So it is with us as moms with our children.  While we can pray for and encourage and request help from our husbands, we can’t really force them to do anything, and nagging will get a woman nowhere.  We can, however, train our children to be productive, contributing members of the family (not that our husbands are not….hear what I mean here!  😉 ).  This will not be an easy task and one that I am convinced will be on-going, at least to some degree.  I have to watch over my younger ones and check on their progress and handiwork regularly.  I can give instructions to my oldest and trust them to be carried out, but I am a fool if I do not at least occasionally double-check her work and, depending on her mood, I may have to do some extra motivating.  I believe that one of the primary goals of a mother is to train herself out of a job, until the day her last child moves out and hands the job back to her (but surely it will be easier to keep a clean house once they’re all gone, right?!?!?).

So, what should your child be able to do?  Below is a small list of age-approximate (in years) skills a child should possess or be able to learn.  These have been acquired from a wide variety of resources compiled by my mother-in-law through her many years of delegating tasks to her eleven children.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  Eleven!) In the interest of time as I am preparing this post, I am not going to list all the resources.  If, however, you would like to know some of the resources, message me and I will be happy to pass them along later on.  For now, on to some job ideas!

  • put pajamas away (2 to 4)
  • begin to pick up toys (18 months to 4 years)
  • begin to make own bed (2-3)
  • leave the bathroom neat after use (6-10)
  • empty hamper, put dirty clothes in wash area (3-6)
  • put away clean clothes (4-9)
  • fold and separate clean laundry (6-10)
  • begin to wash own clothes (7-10)
  • sort clothes by color, dirt, fabric (8-10)
    • I disagree – we have implemented a color coded-laundry system in our house.  I have four baskets in our laundry room, each is labeled with colored paper.  One is blue, for denim items.  One is purple, for dark items.  One is pink, for light colored items.  One is white, for – you guessed it – whites.  Even my four year old can sort her dirty clothes using this system.
  • clear own place at table (2-5)
  • dust furniture (3-10)
  • set the table (3-7)
  • clear the table (3-7)
  • pick up trash in the yard (4-6)
  • shake area rugs (4-6)
  • spot clean walls (4-6)
  • wipe off door frames (4-6)
  • clean windows and mirrors (4-6)
  • feed pets (5-8)
  • empty wastebaskets (3-6)
  • empty the dishwasher (4-6)
  • load the dishwasher (6-8)

This is just a small sample of jobs you can begin to teach your young children.  Obviously, some of it will depend on your child’s temperament and level of responsibility.  But I firmly believe that children will rise to our expectations.  If we set our expectations high (not ridiculously so, but enough to challenge them), our children will invariably rise to meet them.  The unusually busy schedule that we have been maintaining these past few months has challenged me to find new ways our girls can help around the house and they are being expected to learn many new skills and take on many new challenges.  I simply cannot run this house by myself, they have to help.  I also believe that, while they may grumble, children want to contribute to the family.  I find that, invariably, my children will finish working in the yard for an hour much more satisfied and happy than if they had spent that hour watching television, even though letting them watch television would have definitely been easier on us all.

Another very important way to “delegate” is by asking for prayer.  I am blessed to have a husband, parents/parents-in-law, and many friends whom I can ask for prayer from.  I have several friends I can text “flare prayer” requests to, and I know that I will be lifted up right then and there.  As I said the first week, the only way to live this life well is to live it in the presence of the Most High and prayer is our constant channel of communication with Him.  He desires relationship with us, He desires to know us.  How blessed and privileged we are!  And how little we make use of this great gift of prayer.  Instead of making it our last resort, let us learn to make it our first option.  Let us pray early and often throughout the day, coming continually before the throne of the Living God with our needs and the needs of those we love.  I believe we will be amazed by the power of it all.

What can you delegate this week?  Is there something on your growing “to do” list that you can have someone else do, even if you have to pay them?  Sometimes our time and stress level is worth the monetary investment of letting someone else do the work for us.  What can you train your children to do?  Who can you share prayer requests with to bear the burdens of daily life?

I’m praying that God is using these weekly posts to draw you close to Him and to simplify your life, even in small ways.  Don’t want to miss a post?  Subscribe by clicking the link on the right.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Next week – more tips!

Counting the Daily Gifts

Last week we stepped back, slowed down, and stopped to savor life.  When I slow I am reminded of how God is faithful to meet us in the daily, the ordinary, the mundane.  I begin to see His presence everywhere and the gifts add up quickly.

We are back to the normal routine today, though by God’s wonderful grace, it is slower.  But it is a return to the regular, the ordinary, the tedious and endless.  And I find that, when I look for Him, listen for Him, God is faithful to meet me here.

Exodus 3:1-2 says, “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.”

The vision of the Angel of the Lord came to Moses while he was involved in his everyday work.  That is exactly where the Lord delights in giving His revelations.

Beloved Father, help me to expect you as I travel the ordinary road of life.  I am not asking for sensational experiences.  Fellowship with me through my everyday work and service, and be my companion when I take an ordinary journey.  And let my humble life be transformed by Your presence.

No one can stay on the mountaintop of favor forver, for there are responsibilities in the valley.

~ Streams in the Desert, October 22

0854.  the zoo

0855.  baby hippo

0856.  one of the most beautiful October’s I can remember

0857.  trees aflame in red, orange, yellow

0858.  doing something different

0859.  ice cream cones

0860.  DeAnna Rose Farmstead

0861.  Lush skin care

0862.  fall pictures

0863.  pre-point I

0864.  progress on little projects

0865.  new schedules

0866.  flexible, supportive teachers

Weeks in Review

I am reminded again this morning of one of the reasons why I keep this blog.  Two weeks have gone by now without my Friday chronicle of our every day lives and it all seems forgotten already and an eternity ago.  Amazing how, by simply recording, the events come to life again.  We refresh our memories, revive them to relive them, and savor the moments of our every day lives.

The past two weeks have been mostly ordinary, with school and work and the stuff of life.  But last Thursday I decided it was time to do something different.  So this week we did.  We’ve been to the zoo and a farmstead in Kansas City.  We did less school, did some major grocery shopping that enabled me to restock our formerly empty pantry, and purchased some cool weather clothing for the third born.  We’ve had riding lessons and art lessons and, of course, piano and ballet.  And we even stole a few moments one beautiful afternoon this week to take some current photos of the girls….

Matt and I have been out on dates, including one that was a total surprise to a very special place, and I have been blessed by some wonderful times with a wide variety of girl friends.  Today I am stealing away for much of the day with one of my favorite friends to celebrate our September birthdays together.  The past two weeks have been good.  This week in particular has been refreshing.

May your weekend be refreshing as well.  Whether it is slow and leisurely or over-booked with activities and obligations, may you find moments of rest and peace that draw you closer to our Heavenly Father.  Give glory to Him today!

By His Grace ~

~ Sara

Time and Balance (Take Two) – Make a Schedule

 

It is rather sheepishly that I come here today to write this post.  Who am I to speak on Time and Balance, when I struggle so much with it all myself?  As I shared in last week’s post, I am still a work in progress and the Lord keeps me humble and He continually teaches me new things in this (and countless other) areas.  And it also seems that as soon as the routine is found, something comes along to mix it up again.  So I hope you will graciously, and prayerfully, read my words today and be able to put at least some of them to good use.

We have talked in previous weeks about the most important place to begin and about striving to slow down life and slow down time.

The first thing to do when trying to tame time and all of life’s activities is to make a schedule.  Organizing your days leads to a (more) organized life.  I am a “paper person”, so I like to keep an old-fashioned day planner on an easel in my kitchen.  Obviously, the more modern method would be to use your smart phone, the calendar on your computer, or any other number of electronic options.  I thoroughly enjoy the process of writing out all that needs to be done and the (very satisfying) act of marking those items off.

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

~ Annie Dillard

I keep a variety of schedules and lists that relate to our daily lives.  I have schedules for school (daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly).  Most of that is on the computer and only the week’s lessons are printed off each Monday morning.  I have the day planner in which I keep track of personal and family events and appointments.  I also write my to do list in this.  I do enter far off appointments and library book due dates into the computer so that it can pop up a reminder to me.  I am simply not faithful enough to sync my phone with my computer to use iCal for everything.  That, and I just don’t enjoy the process as much.  I have lists and schedules for projects that need to be done around the house and items that I am saving up money for.  Keeping little goals over time results in great progress when we are faithful to stick with the process.

The number one rule of a schedule is to make one.  The number two rule, though, especially with children involved, is to keep it flexible.  Don’t be so bound to your list that you can’t bend when life demands it.  Don’t be like Henry Kissinger who said, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”  Which takes us back to the concept of saying “no” to things so that we still have some margin left in our days.  😉

What about you?  What systems have you found to be helpful in keeping your schedule organized?

Come back next Tuesday when we will share more practical tips for taming time.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Time and Balance Tuesday

I just want to take a moment to check in and let you know that I am still planning to share a post today, but I didn’t get my post ready ahead of time this week and it’s been (and will be for a bit longer) a busy, busy Tuesday.  If I run out of time or steam and don’t get the post up today, I will begin tomorrow sharing practical tips on how to find some balance in life.

Thanks for your patience!

 

Remembering What Matters Most

We live in what I like to call a “transitional” neighborhood.  It’s not as bad as it may look from the outside, but it’s no master planned community either.  It’s old and some of the houses show it, but most of the owners on our block have been working hard to restore and maintain all of our nineteenth century homes.  But there is one house in the neighborhood that remains an enormous eyesore.  And it happens to be the one right.next.door.  Which brings us to today.

We get home from church and pull into the drive.  I feel like a third world country has popped up in the neighbors’ back yard.  Make shift laundry lines and clothes hung out to dry.  Random household items are strewn in the side yard.  The remnants of their now weekly “yard sale” linger on the front porch.  I get angry and say this has to be stopped.  I’m going to call the landlord, I fume.

We come inside and prepare to lay down for the Sabbath’s rest.  A perfect 72 degrees outside, the bedroom windows are open.  I hear profanities being spewed outside my window.  Not the rest I had in mind.  I’m angrier and begin to try to find the landlord’s telephone number.  No luck.

I come back to try to lay down again and begin to pray and my heart softens.  Did we not just spend the Sunday school hour discussing what matters most is that people know Jesus?  Did I not hear, oh white-washed tomb?  Or do I simply not practice in real life that which is so easy to say in a classroom of like-minded friends?

So I pray for them and I pray for myself.  I pray that my eyes would be opened to see them like Jesus does, to love them like Jesus does.  I pray that the Lord will draw them close and use them (and me) for His glory.  And I pray that if I have the opportunity that I will not shy away from telling them about Jesus.  From telling them about the only one who can take this heart and make it free to love the unlovable.  Telling them about the one who loves them just as they are and who wants to dwell with them and abide with them and make them free as well.  And telling them about the one who makes it possible to “give thanks in all circumstances” for this is what He made us for – to praise Him.

Praising Him for just some of the countless blessings…

0842.  serving with my girls

0843.  building bridges over time

0844.  loaves of bread, rising in their pans

0845.  doing something different

0846.  a friend who brings coffee and an hour of conversation

0847.  lunch with a friend, sharing stories and laughter

0848.  curtains made

0849.  girls’ night out

0850.  the mission field next door

0851.  four year old’s phone call, just to say “I love you”

0852.  surprise new clothes

0853.  surprise dinner at a special place on a beautiful patio with my favorite


Sometimes you just have to do something different….

I love routine.  I thrive on it, in fact.  Knowing what to expect and when – it is freedom within safe boundaries.  The kids seem to appreciate it, too.  But sometimes, the routine can start to feel like an obligation and I can start to resent it and find myself bucking underneath it.  Perhaps it is a character flaw within me, perhaps it is that youngest child syndrome I still struggle with, but take something I love and *require* me to do it, and all of a sudden I’m not such a big fan.

We have been at school for two and one half months now.  Life has interrupted a couple of times, but we are on schedule and plowing through.  And we all seem to have hit a wall.  Like we just can’t go one.step.further.  They seem to need a break.  I definitely need a break.

But then there’s my schedule.  All those lesson plans I entered…planned days off, all other days on….they wag their finger at me if I don’t stick to them religiously.

But then I have to remember why we start school in July, when it’s a million degrees outside and we don’t even want to go swimming anymore.  It’s so that we can enjoy these days, the days when it’s 72 and sunny and the leaves are turning perfect colors.  Because all too soon it will be cold and dreary and gray and we’ll be back to daily sitting at the dining room table plowing our way through textbooks and activity pages.

I also have to remember why we home school.  It is for more than just the education.  It is for hearts and relationships and time together.  And when we’re all so fried from the day to day, we can miss the bigger picture.

So, today we finished up some stuff we started and then put it all away.  The girls worked on their ocean boxes for a science class and I vacuumed floors.  And I think I’m going to re-evaluate next week’s schedule.  It’s supposed to be spectacular outside again and I don’t want to miss it.  There will still be school, but some of it may just have to wait for colder, rainy weather when we have nothing better to do than workbook pages.

What about you?  What do you do when you need a break from the routine?

Today…

…I am completely captivated by the stories of the Chilean miners and still dealing with the fall out of my purse being stolen, so here are some photos of our family trip to the pumpkin patch for our church’s fall festival.  Enjoy and have a wonderful, wonderful Wednesday!

Jumping on some giant inflated thing

I totally wished they would have let grown ups on!

Making "corn angels"

Farmer Matt

One of Matt's most popular things to do with the kids - the Twisted Swing

The Bookends

Goofballs

She's so pretty - but I might be biased

Really wishing I had made her set down that cup

She had a run-in with a piece of firewood while we were camping, thus the roughed up chin

 

I’ll leave with this quote my cousin shared today on Facebook:

“There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here.”

~ Jimmy Sanchez, Chilean miner

May we all have such faith in our day to day troubles.