Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gift wrapping - a wifely confession

I am no good at gift wrapping. I usually limit myself to lending a well placed finger every now and then while Beloved wraps. His meticulous attention to detail, expert tweaking of corners and neat tying of bows bespeaks care and attention whereas my own fumbling attempts look far more like something the fishmonger threw together! It's the thought that counts where a gift is concerned and a well wrapped gift shows far more thought and attention than a fishmonger's parcel!

I was thinking about this the other day and it made me think about the gift that I give Beloved every day - myself. You see, I believe on our wedding day I made that commitment to give myself to my Chosen every day. Each day is a choice to honor that commitment and give myself once again to Beloved.

I must admit, my gift wrapping for Beloved in this department has often resembled my expertise in wrapping other more tangible gifts! I don't like shopping for clothes, nothing seems to fit and it is all so darn expensive. My wardrobe often consisted of men's clothes bought at a discount shop (cheep, modest, good quality, practical, what more do you want?). For many years I viewed the putting on of make up and the use of skin care as needless frivolity limited to air heads and bimbos. Not worthy of the time of 'sensible' and 'intelligent' women like myself. The result wasn't all that pretty!

Then a few years ago our marriage hit the skids. I won't go into detail, but think of a really, really bad place for a marriage to be, times it by about ten and you have where we were! As part of our long haul out of that very nasty place I decided to put aside all my preconceptions and all the well meant advice of others to check out what the BIBLE said about being a wife. I figured there wasn't much I could do about changing HIM but at least I could be the best wife I could be and make it so it wasn't MY fault!

I learned a lot from that time and continue to make being a Godly wife a large part of my prayer, study and meditation time. One small thing I picked up on was my attitude toward presenting myself. The woman in Proverbs 31 had clothing of "silk and purple" (verse 22). Rich, beautiful garments. She didn't seem to do this to make herself beautiful in a vain or conceited way, but none the less, she did it. Why? Surely her time could be better spent than in caring for such garments? Surely the family budget could use those funds or she could give the money away to the poor if needs be and wear simpler, more practical garb? Then it hit me, she may well have chosen her clothes as a way to honor her husband. The same way we carefully wrap gifts, she carefully dressed herself, knowing her appearance would please her husband and reflect well on him in the eyes of others.

It bought into perspective my own choice of men's shirts and jeans!

Wardrobe is a fairly personal thing, touched by culture, background, personality and practicality, but I added "pleasing my husband" to my priorities in clothing myself. Slowly, since then, my wardrobe has changed. It is still essentially practical and modest, requiring little in the way of up-keep, but it is filled with 'code'. Certain garments are chosen because Beloved has commented that he liked the colour or cut. My wardrobe now has skirts in it because I like dressing to celebrate my femininity and inviting my husband to celebrate it with me! Certain garments are a way of saying privately "I care about pleasing you" or "I am glad I am your woman". My 'at home' clothes are chosen with the same amount of care as my 'going out' clothes because surely I should care equally, if not much more so, for pleasing the eye of my husband as for pleasing the eye of strangers.

The way I take care of my body has changed too. I haven't started spending hours in front of the mirror, but I do take a minute to apply make-up and do my hair MOST days now. I have a tube of foot cream in my bedside table that I rub on every night so that when Beloved reaches his foot out to mine in the night, his doesn't get a sandpaper welcome! I apply lip balm and face cream as I come to bed each night to give him a soft face to touch and a welcoming mouth to kiss!

The object is not to turn the heads of strange men on the street, but to make my husband feel like the luckiest man alive when we walk down the street together.

Will a change of wardrobe alone save a crumbling marriage? No. But the change of attitude it symbolises will go far to repairing a severely damaged one. When your actions are crying out to your Beloved every day that you care about him and want to please him, that WILL do good things for your marriage

And guess what? I've started having a little more respect for what is inside the package too. I've realised that this body that I have been blessed with can bring great pleasure to my Beloved AND to me. It does an amazing work bearing and feeding babies and deserves a little care, respect and maintenance. I see myself not as "house-slave" but "homemaker", not as the least important but deserving of a fair portion of my OWN time and attention, not only as companion but also as lover.

I am still no super-model and a day spent wearing my purple flannel PJ's with the pink pigs all over them sounds like heaven to me! BUT, because most days I make that effort, my marriage, my self-esteem and my self image all benefit.

How are you going in the gift wrapping department?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Some music

A bit of light comic relief


The Mom Song from Northland Video on Vimeo.

And one that made me cry


Prayer for this Child- LIVE from Northland Video on Vimeo.

Update

Christmas is over and we are all recovering! It was wonderful actually and we had a lovely relaxing time. My grandmother and Beloved's parent's joined us for a lovely day. I got a bit carried away with gifts for the children and three each ended up a bit of an over-kill, but they are all good quality and most of them are played with by all of them. Christmas Dinner was roast turkey (I dried it out a little bit, but it wasn't too bad) with baked veg, steamed veg and salad so fairly simple. We also had pudding and fruit skewers for dessert.

Erin:
has loved having family around and thrived on the excitement of Christmas. One of my most favourite memories of the day is Erin making Christmas Pudding with her grandmother and great grandmother. She also threaded grapes and berries in skewers for after-dinner fruit skewers. She took great pride in her contribution to the Christmas meal! Somehow she has grown up again. I think she has gotten taller, but that isn't really what I am talking about. She has just somehow grown up. Something in her manner has matured and I sometimes see glimpses of the young lady to come. Part of me is so proud of her and her many accomplishments (she read the sentence "My mosquito bites will stop being red and itchy in a few days" today with very little help!) and part of me just wants to wrap her up and cuddle her tight to keep her safe. My little bird is growing plumage and I can see one day she shall fly.

Billy:
had difficulty containing his excitement with the day and the visitors, but he did still enjoy himself immensely. Apparently he crawled into his Nanny's lap and wanted to pray for her. He has also said grace quite a few times. When Nanny had to leave the table to have a rest, he desperately wanted to say grace again for dessert. We explained that we had already asked a blessing on the whole meal, but he insisted. So we bowed our heads (Poppy got a stern look when he didn't down cutlery IMMEDIATELY for prayer! LOL) and what followed wasn't a blessing on the food but a long, heartfelt prayer about Nanny resting and needing rest and needing healing etc. It caused me to tear up!

Christopher:
has taken CONSECUTIVE steps (only two at a time, but still) on more than one occasion. We will have a sprinter soon enough. He is perfecting the art of the dummy-spit but it still rarely if ever gets him anywhere. It can be difficult to stifle the laughter when he throws himself on the ground, fake cries then looks up to see if you're looking at him! He has loved having the extra people around over the holidays and crumpled a little when anyone left. I think he has similar social tendencies to his sister. His special delight is trying on the hats that I bought Billy for Christmas. The pirate hat looks best, but the knight's helmet, the fireman's helmet and the racing bike driver's helmet also look smashing!

The New Baby:
is just fine. My ankles have swollen up to elephantine size over the last few days though so I am on strict instructions to rest with my feet UP. This is not easy to do as I have a million and one things I want to do and other than feeling a little tired, I feel just great. I need some more tests (a 24 hour urine collection which should be fun - not!) to rule out pre-eclampsia, which could end up with me not only birthing in hospital but having a few days on bed rest (possibly in hospital) or being induced which I really don't fancy! I am not too worried at this stage as I believe the protein in my urine is simply a UTI which I usually have when pregnant (antibiotics don't seem to shake it for more than a week or so) and slightly dodgy kidneys. The unusual swelling I put down to the hot weather and Christmas with 3 kids under 4 and a half. It is best to check these things out though and I am again asking for your prayers. Bub is perfectly happy though and settled ready for exit. I am getting plenty of movement, even though there isn't as much room in there (my mother-in-love played the jungle drums on my belly last night!). I tickle the feet of my little one through the side of my belly, I compulsively check the contents of my birth bag just to look at the tiny nappies and clothes (not too tiny - I'm yet to have a REALLY tiny baby!) and day dream about those precious newborn noises, the smell, the warm weight, feeding a little one again, those precious night-time hours when the house is asleep and all you can hear is the tiny gunk-gunk-gunk of the baby swallowing through a sleepy haze.

The house:
still has the remnants of Christmas strewn about and the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it. Resting with my feet up means there isn't a whole lot I can do about this! I think this is the most frustrating part, being unable to get into the nesting and organising. Before the resting though, I almost finished re-arranging the lounge room so at least as I lay back in my recliner the view ISN'T of boxes and junk..

The Garden:
got a bit of weeding thanks to my MIL and my great-grandmother. I was getting them to help me identify some of the flowers that had sprung up and one thing led to another - we didn't over do it but it has made a huge difference. We found sweet williams, pinks, dianthus, and a hot pink rose.

Exercise:
has been curtailed by the swelling and needing to keep my feet up unfortunately. I had hoped to keep mobile up until delivery but the best laid plans....

Jess



Thursday, December 25, 2008

Special Delivery

I've been wondering why I was not more stressed about the possibility of having to go to the hospital to have this baby. At the birth centre I am in a homey atmosphere (I've been there so often it feels like home!) with only my husband and my midwives who "get it" when I pray or quote scripture during labour, in fact they will join me in doing so. It is quiet and the focus is on just me. No worry that my midwife will finish her shift and need to go home (Anna will stay with me for as long as I need her) no stress that I will have to move to a different room so another woman can have her baby, no pressure to have my husband scooted out to "let us rest". When labour is done I snuggle into a big queen size bed with my newborn and husband or eat a big bowl of home made soup while I call family and friends to let them know the news. The hospital just doesn't measure up!

But I have peace about where ever I give birth.

Why?

Well, many years ago there was a young woman. She probably didn't anticipate giving birth in a stable. She probably didn't reckon on spending the last few days of her pregnancy on the back of a donkey. She probably wondered at the time WHY it was all happening as it was. But through those circumstances, prophecies were fulfilled and a mighty image of a Saviour who Humbled Himself was branded across the pages of history. And our Gracious God did not forget her. Shepherds came. Stories of angels singing the news of HIS birth, her son.

"....Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart." Luke 2:19

IF I had needed to go to the hospital, well, perhaps a word from me would have touched the heart of a midwife or nurse and turn her thoughts to God, perhaps God would have used me or my baby in some extraordinary way. But I know that whatever happens, God will give me things to keep and ponder in my heart. As I entrust to him the lives of myself and my child - I know He is in control. Whatever, wherever, whenever.

Merry Christmas to you as you ponder the Special Delivery sent to us so many years ago, and the blessed hope we have because of it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Update

Do you know what happens when a woman who is 37 weeks pregnant goes into town for a check up? She and her husband find a million and one "I'll just..." jobs to do in the heat and the Christmas crowds. Do you know what happens when she decides to wait in the car as the hardware shop because her back is killing her and her ankles have swollen to the size of watermelons? The oldest will decide she DESPERATELY needs the loo. Do you know what happens then? The woman with the sore back, legs, EVERYTHING hauls herself and the children out of the car and LOCKS THE KEYS IN THE CAR. The children enjoyed a nutritious tea of KFC at about 9, or was it 10pm? Ahhh well, at least it was a hardware shop I locked the keys in the car in front of, it made it much easier to break in when we could just nip in and purchase the needed hardware to do it!

Erin:
considers herself a super hero because it was SHE who was passed through the window to unlock the car. We went to a community Christmas Celebration on Sunday and she has her face painted like a sun, jumped on the jumping castle and had a fantastic time.

Billy:
enjoyed an afternoon with Daddy on his own today while the other two came with me to the birth centre and hospital. I am told he was very good and he loved every minute! He got painted up as a tiger on Sunday and joined in the games with complete strangers! We almost needed a crow bar to pry him away from the jumping castle.

Christopher:
coped exceptionally well with being stuck in a pram most of the day today and smiled charmingly at everyone he met. He has taken two or three individual steps, we may have a sprinter by New Years.

New Bub:
will be born at the Birth Centre according to all forecasts. I don't even need an iron infusion! I had a lovely OB at the hospital check things out and add his expert opinion. He looked about 70 years old and was as sharp as a tack. His expert opinion was everything will be fine if I stick with the Iron supplements. He gave a few other suggestions and recommended a couple of tests (I had major protein in my urine, but this is not unusual for me) but was altogether positive and confident. When you get such a positive review from a fellow who may well have delivered babies who are now grandparents, it gives you a boost! So all systems are go.

Home:
there is a slice of paradise in my bathroom and it is called a SHOWER! It is fully functioning and it is the most wonderful sensory experience there is! All the more special because Beloved built it. It is still a bit difficult to adjust the temperature, but that is because of the hot water system. It looks like something out of a show room with black marbled tiles, white base, chrome coloured tap ware and glass screens. We have also started re-arranging the lounge room and the visual relief is fantastic. Sarah-the-saint cleaned the oven this week in preparation for the Christmas turkey. She earned her money this week!

The Garden:
has produced a strawberry. It was carefully picked and kept in the fridge to show Daddy. Then it was carefully cut into thirds to be shared between Erin, Billy and Daddy. Never has a strawberry been more thoroughly enjoyed!

Exercise:
I have actually got on the bike a few times in the past week! I have gone for walks too. I feel much better for it of course. I am also brown as a berry because of the sun outside.

Jess



It was one of those moments you want to grab and keep forever. Nothing terrably outstanding happening, we were just sitting eating lunch. But I looked at each of my children in turn trying to soak in every detail of them. I was looking at Billy with his blond hair standing on end, the dark lashes and blue t-shirt making his eyes look like bottomless pools of twinkling mischief. I said to him "Do you KNOW that I love you?" He rubbed a crumby, jammy hand through his blond spikes and grinned at me before declairing

"I'm pretty cute too!!"

And modest.....

The same little boy a few weeks ago was wearing his favourite t-shirt, the red one with the crocodile whose mouth is a flap of material you can open and close. He came to me looking suspiciously damp.

"Have you got wet pants Billy?"
"Noooooooo"
"Are you sure? Come here and let me check. Your pants ARE wet Billy"
"No they aren't"
"Um excuse me, don't argue with your mother. You have done wee in your pants"
"No, the crocodile did it."

How do you answer that?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thought for today....

Perseverance is the hard work you do
after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

Newt Gingrich

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good, Better, Best

I read an excellent blog post on "Combatting the 'you should get out of the house more' mentality" and it made me think. You see, I don't have my drivers license. There have been a few reasons why this is so, but mostly, it just hasn't been priority. For years I have and friends and relatives tell me I should get my license. Some have even gone so far as to BERATE me for not having it.

"What if one of the kids gets hurt while Jon is at work?" well, if it is that urgent, we call our FREE ambulance service, if it isn't Jon works less than 40 minutes drive away, I am sure we will cope. I doubt I would have driven if I needed to stem arterial bleeding anyway! At the moment, if I did have a child being hauled away in an ambulance I would simply put the others in the car and drive in after them, if the police pulled me over and charged me with driving without a license, I am sure I could contest in court under compassionate grounds! I CAN drive, I just choose not too.

Another one I often get is "Don't you go INSANE alone at home with only the kids?". No, not any more than I did when I had to deal with people every day. Not everyone is like me in this respect I'm sure, but I don't see the attraction of "going out with the girls" or shopping for shopping's sake. If I need to talk to a friend, well, my two closest friends are mainlanders anyway so it is either the phone or an expensive trans-strait plane or boat trip! We usually live in isolated areas without access to public transport so it hasn't been unusual for me to go a weeks, even a month, without "getting out of the house". This suits me! To tell the truth, now that we live within walking distance of a post office, supermarket and playgroup I sometimes get the urge to just get away from it all!

If I did have my license, it would be very tempting to fill up the week. Do some cleaning for the church, go to the library regularly, take the kids through to the next town to a music class, take over the supermarket shopping, take the kids to visit an old folks home, go through to Launceston or Devonport once a month for museum, art gallery or science centre trips. All of these are very good and worthwhile things! But I need to ask, what would we be giving up to do them? The freedom my children have to spend time just exploring would be curtailed by being shoved in the car every second day. I would have to forget about any 'down time' for myself, keeping the house in managable order and everyone ticking along happily is a full time job now, if I take on more I will have to juggle things even harder. Perhaps it will be different in a different season of life when I can rely on the younger members of the household to do some of the major chores, but right now HOME needs to be our priority.

So I may get my license sometime soon. It would be handy to be able to go in to doctor's appointments etc. without Beloved having to take the afternoon off work. But right now? It isn't priority. HOME is priority for me. It is a matter of choosing between the good, the better and the best. Doing all those activities would be good, doing just a few would be better, staying home (at the moment) is best for us.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gypsy soup - a lovely story

Gypsy Soup

By: Debi Pearl

Perhaps you have heard of the famous old legend called Stone Soup. Different countries have published various versions of the story, but the essence of the old legend remains the same. Here’s my version.

Once upon a time there was a small village where the people met every Sunday night around the courtyard fire-pit. All the ladies chatted about the latest birth or a certain young lady’s marriage prospects, each having dropped into the huge kettle of bubbling soup their offering of meat, vegetable, grain, or herb. The deep-throated laughter of the men telling the same old jokes mingled with the squeals coming from the playing children, all blending into a joyful clatter rolling down the valley. Generations came and went, each enjoying the glory of the setting sun, but most of all, the fragrant aroma of the cooking soup and the pleasure of time spent with good friends.
Then, one long, hot summer no rain fell in their region. Most of the corn dried before it eared; the hens seldom laid an egg; and no one had any extra vegetables to sell in order to buy the necessities. People looked concerned as they worried over how they would make it through the winter.
The first foreboding sign of awful things yet to come occurred one Sunday afternoon in early winter just as the first snow flakes began to fall. As the people gathered, making their contribution to the community soup, someone whispered that two of the ladies dropped nothing into the kettle, yet both families ate with relish, even coming back for seconds. The next week only a few women brought of their meager supply to drop into the huge kettle. The soup was watery and without flavor. Not even the salt and thyme bearer brought her portion. Yet, everyone ate heartily…everyone…even those who had brought nothing for the pot. The third week, the fire builder didn’t bring his wood, and the water drawer didn’t fill the kettle, and the last of the givers stayed home to peer from their windows at the odious takers. The people of the village spent the long cold winter hidden behind their doors, suspicious of their neighbors. It was a miserable hungry winter for all.
One chilly spring Sunday afternoon, a child looked out the window and exclaimed, “Mama, old widow Martha is out building a fire under the courtyard kettle. What could she have to put into the pot?” The boy’s mother looked out in wonder. Soon, several children came out to the courtyard to watch. They felt compelled to help the skinny old lady draw water from the well and pour it into the huge kettle that sat over the now briskly-burning fire. By then, the whole village stood at their slightly open doors peeking out to see what she had to put into the pot. After all, she was the poorest of them all, having no children and being widowed these many years.
When the water began to boil, the old lady reached into the deep recesses of her big caroche bag and felt around. The hungry children watched in wonder and excitement. She grinned as she pulled out a handful of bright yellow flowers. “See what I found just breaking through the soil on the south bank? Dandelion flowers. Aren’t they pretty? They are good for you, and taste so fine.” Again she reached into her bag, her face momentarily frowning, “Ouch! Stinging Nettle’s sting, but they taste good and are very nutritious. They come out early in the spring, too. I’ll add them to the soup.”
“Widow Martha, them’s weeds! People can’t eat weeds. Is you cookin’ weeds?” asked the little hollow face staring up at her.
The old lady removed her glasses and began wiping them clean on the hem of her thread-worn skirt. She hesitated only a few seconds, then replied with great enthusiasm, “Yes, both are weeds. I am making Gypsy Soup which is made of many unusual things, including weeds.”
Why?” asked the group of children in one voice.
Martha carefully set her glasses back on her nose as she studied the waiting children. When she answered them, her old voice revealed a deep longing, and, yes, even hope. “Once, many years ago in the old country where I was born there was a great famine. It was then that my dear mother taught me to make Gypsy Soup, and it was delicious. So I decided it was time to teach you.”
She felt a hard tug on her dress and looked down into the freckled face of a small red-headed child. The child whispered, “Was yer mam a real Gypsy?”
The old face wrinkled up into a thousand smiling lines. “No, she was only a simple woman like I am, but she learned how to make the weed soup from a real Gypsy.”
A mocking voice of one of the older boys called out, “Weeds don’t sound delicious to me.”
Martha studied the rebellious-looking teen for a moment, recalling that it was this boy’s parents who were the first to withdraw their portion in the winter. The old woman knew his family had more than most. She asked, “Oh, it would sure taste better with a few corn cobs in it, but I doubt you would have any corn cobs to spare.” The boy’s face now showed total mockery, “We ain’t sharing our corn, but we have cobs lying around everywhere. I would like to see you eat one; you ain’t even got no teeth.” The boy ran to the barn to get the cobs.
The old lady beamed with great pleasure, then looked down at the skinny little girl who pressed closest to her, “Child, I know your mother keeps a few hens. Is there any possibility she has any egg shells that might go into the pot?” The little girl giggled at the old women’s strange request, then turned and ran home to return with a basketful of egg shells.
The corn cobs and egg shells were gently stirred into the Weed soup. “I got a bone my daddy gave me for my dog,” whispered a little boy as he held the bone up for the old lady to consider.
Old Martha’s eyes glistened, “Good, that’s very good. Could you break it into pieces with that big rock?” The boy did as he was asked, then held the pieces in his hand looking at her for direction. She nodded for him to add the pieces to the pot. The water simmered through the afternoon and past the setting sun, giving off a delicious aroma. What looked like cooking garbage to the kids, the old lady knew to be a vitamin and mineral-packed broth.
When another child came with a handful of wild onions, garlic, plantain leaves, and wild carrot tops, the old lady carefully strained the cobs and egg shells out of the broth and set them aside before adding her newest addition to the kettle. “Oh, those onions will really taste good. Thank you, child.” Another child scampered off, returning with one old turnip and a few other withered leaves from a cabbage. Yet another child brought a handful of potato peelings. The village idiot joined the group, bringing a handful of dried alfalfa gleaned from hay that the milk cows were fed. The children’s faces registered alarm at the sight of hay being stirred into the kettle, but old Martha smiled with thanksgiving at the poor man. Alfalfa’s nutritional value would add much to the broth. Wisdom, like nutrition, was found in the most unexpected places. Lastly, a child came forth with several sprigs of dried thyme and rosemary gleamed from her mother’s weathered winter garden.
Martha’s soup was now almost complete. Smiling contently, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small chip of animal salt/mineral block and dropped it into the pot of soup. Then the old lady bent down to add the last small stick to the dying fire.
Hidden behind a half-shut door, a man grimaced as he saw the old lady’s look of concern at the lack of more wood for her fire. Earlier in the day in the forest, he had stood as still as death behind a tree, hoping she would not see him and thereby obliging him to help her drag the heavy tree limb back to the village. Now he saw the firelight dancing on the laughing faces of his own children. How long had it been since he had seen joy in their countenance? Behind other doors, the same shame grabbed at the hearts of the guilty.
The old widow knew nothing of their self-reproach, only of the joy she felt in her heart as she warmed herself by the dying fire while listening to the broth bubble and pop. Like the days of old, the sound of children’s squeals rang out through the deepening shadows of the night. She sighed deeply. Almost…almost it was like it was before…before the drought, before fear and selfishness had stolen the joy and camaraderie of the people. Nothing had changed. Her cupboards, like almost everyone else’s, were still bare. All she had to offer was a fire, some water and some weeds. But it was enough.
Just as the first star’s light began to shine on the village, old Martha’s long spoon dipped deeply into the pot, releasing the unmistakable aroma of a delicious soup. The youngsters suddenly stopped their play to sniff the air. Moans of sheer pleasure could be heard as they gathered around waiting.
Her old voice called out the invitation, “Who would like a bowl of Gypsy Soup?”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

motion sickness



Erin has suffered from motion sickness since she was about two. We are talking violent projectile vomiting. Billy also has a tendency toward motion sickness and he is a bit of a sympathy chucker (i.e. if someone else throws up, he is ten times more likely to throw up too!). I also get a little woozy in the car, more so when I am pregnant (which seems to be all the time!). Beloved likes four wheel driving, we live in the mountains (lots of corners and curves and hills), it is at least a 20 minute drive to go most places and one of our major family activities is "the afternoon drive" where we jump in the car and just drive. How does all this go together? Not perfectly most of the time, but getting better! These are a few of our tips.

  • Eat when you get there when possible. We pack a breakfast and eat when we get where we are going or grab something there. This morning the kids ate breakfast in the car while I went to the Dr. We arrive at church a little early and have a 'special' breakfast of fruit buns and juice. We are mad picnic-ers. We like to go for a drive, eat, then go for a hike to let the food settle before the kids get back in the car (this also tires them out so they are more likely to fall asleep!)
  • Have bowls and ice cream containers (empty!) stashed within arms reach all over the car. Train the kids to get them AS SOON as they feel queasy.
  • Have an emergency throw up kit including a bottle of water, nappy wipes, upholstery cleaner, paper towel, a blanket (in case you run out of clothes), air freshener, and some anti-bacterial hand gel.
  • DON'T MAKE A FUSS! I can't stress this enough. When my kids get home, I want them to remember the trip as 'the time I found that funny shaped stone' or ' the time we climbed up to Devil's Gullet' NOT 'the time I threw up in the car AGAIN'. Just clean up, give a bit of comfort or congratulate them on their composure, then focus again on the positive. Once we were out for a mountain drive and Erin threw up no less than five times, we had just been to a church luncheon and Erin had 'overdone' it a little at the buffet! A few times Beloved and I suggested turning back but she INSISTED she was fine and wanted to see the top of the mountain. We clapped and cheered her for her resilience and persistence and we stuck with it. We saw the top of the mountain and now it is one of our most treasured family memories. Vomit can be cleaned up, character is forever.
  • Do not refer to the kids as "the one who gets carsick" or joke about the ailment. It isn't funny and if they start to label themselves thus, it is unlikely they will grow out of it in a hurry. Just deal with it and ignore it.
  • try not to seat the chuckers next to each other. Tricky to manage at times, but it does help.
  • Try remedies like ginger, barley sugar, acupressure bracelets, winding down the window. We have had varied success with all these. Keeping plenty of air flow through the car is the best for me personally. I would rather rug up a bit and have the car freezing than battle nausia.
  • Have a cheerful attitude. This is the same as don't make a fuss really, but I REALLY mean it. It probably helps that I worked in Animal Care for years before moving to child care so cleaning up various bodily fluids isn't exactly new to me. But if you are grumpy, the kids will interpret it as you being grumpy WITH THEM. And as someone who gets motion sickness herself, I really don't think that is fair. Vomit happens, it is your choice how you react to it.
  • We also encourage the kids to sleep in the car. We are blessed with heavy sleepers who sleep through some fairly heavy four wheel drive work! If they are awake we sometimes break up the trip with stops as well.
  • This may seem a little obvious, but don't give them books, drawing materials etc. Looking down makes you feel sick. I have been given such things by well meaning relatives to "help keep their minds off it". It is the fastest way to make them sick. Singing can help keep your mind off it, or books on tape.

Prayer request: Iron levels

This one's for me. At the start of my pregnancy when I had my bloods checked (OK, it was the middle of the pregnancy by the time I had it done) my iron store levels were low. I figured this was because of some major nose bleeds I'd been having. So I took some Iron supplement for a while, my energy levels picked up and I figured "she'll be right mate" (roughly translated to hakuna mattata or don't worry be happy for my international readers) and stopped taking the Iron supplement because, well, have you seen what things like that COST!!

My midwife suggested that I get my iron levels checked again. I thought it was a bit of a waste of time because I feel FINE, better than fine, I am NESTING. But at her insistence I got it done, three weeks later (the boys had colds and I am BUSY and I feel FINE I tells ya). The results came back and, well, not good people. My Iron levels are very very very very very low, as opposed to the just very low they were. In fact, due to the fact that my other babies have been accompanied by very significant 'bleeds' (I looked at the bath after having Billy and said "Gee, it looks like the set of Jaws in here!"), this may mean either an iron transfusion or birthing at the hospital rather than my nice cosy little birth centre. Possibly both.

I feel a bit silly about it because if I had kept up with the Iron supplements, gotten my bloods done at the START of my pregnancy so it was caught early or even gone and got my levels tested three weeks earlier it would be much less of an issue. Ooops! Anyway, I am now taking a supplement and my lovely Christian midwife is getting back to be with options! Prayers would be appreciated!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Homeschool Matrix


Come play with me!



Click the above link to play a game predicting when and what bub will be!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From the mouth of Erin

Erin bought a picture to show me today after I finished on the exercise bike. It had 3 black stick figures looking grumpy with each other, a fire and a purple stick figure looking happy. She told me that the black ones were arguing and getting crosser and crosser and the argument was getting bigger and bigger just like adding wood to the fire, but the purple girl was a peacemaker and she was going to help them not to argue.

Yes, she does take in our daily Proverbs readings it seems!!

Update

Another week, another update. This Saturday, Beloved and I both felt the urge to do something DIFFERENT. So rather than go to our usual local church (which we do love by the way) we decided to drive through to the next major town to join in worship there. So we were out the door a little late, but not doing too bad. Then we had no less than THREE stops for "Muuuum, I need to go to the toilet and it's URGENT" and "My tummy feels sick" and "I feel REALLY sick now Mum" so we pulled in to Devonport about in time for the last hymn! We decided to just make it a family worship and stop for Brunch (I forgot to mention, it was pouring with rain) and of course CHRISTMAS SHOPPERS. After driving around looking for a park to no avail for 45 minutes, we drove to the NEXT town (smaller and not so busy) for lunch. Needless to say, by this time I was feeling less than worshipful and more than a little disappointed that Sabbath wasn't going exactly to plan. After lunch we rang a friend who we hadn't seen for over a year and asked if he was up for visitors. He was, which brightened me up no end, and we had a wonderful visit. The kids were thoroughly adored by his two daughters and we found out why the day's events had conspired to take us to see him. He got served divorce papers on the Thursday before. I shan't go into detail at all as it is another person's life, but suffice to say I am glad Beloved and I got a chance to see our friend, who we love so dearly that our youngest son is named after him. I hope we were able to bring him some comfort and encouragement at a very difficult time for him.

Erin:
was THRILLED to spend time with the two girls on Saturday and wanted to travel through to see them again the next day. She is such a social button. This completely baffles me as a "special treat" for me is a few days without having to talk to anyone else. No joke, I used to go a week or more at a time when I was a student having "hermit time" where I didn't seek out ANYONE else's company, just spent the time reading and writing and praying and sorting out my own mental junk. How do I relate to this little girl who positively GLOWS at the thought of going shopping in the Christmas crowds - so many new PEOPLE to meet - when I do most of my shopping online so I don't even have to deal with sales people? The Lord will certainly use this little one to stretch me in new ways.

Billy:
is currently a mass of bruises from various bumps and scrapes. He ISN'T the social button that his sister is. While he loved the idea of having the other kids to play with, the reality of it was that he went completely silly with over-excitement, culminating with running into a desk and giving himself a black eye. He was more than a little obnoxious to the girls actually, just because he was so worked up. He copes much better with the company of adults or very small groups in familiar settings. This, I understand! While he wanted DESPERATELY to have fun with the other kids, I could almost feel the relief in him when I brought him into the kitchen to sit with the adults and have a bit of quiet time.

Christopher:
may be on his way to being symmetrical. After having seven teeth for well over a month, he has decided to have another one to even things out. I didn't even know it was coming until there was a swelling in the gum and a little tooth poking through, definitely our easiest tooth of his so far. It may just be that I put his grumpiness down to the tail end of the cold the boys had. He is flirting with the idea of walking around things now, but still shows little inclination to venture out on his own two feet. Not one to rush things is my Christopher!

The New Bub:
is head down but not engaged yet, my midwife estimating that it will be at least four weeks yet. I had someone mention to me that her youngest was born 4 weeks early. When I got home I looked around and freaked out a little at the thought of some one coming to take care of the kids while the house is so messy! Hoping for at least another four weeks to get things in order! My abdominal muscles are getting a little thinner and I can almost make out the shape of the little foot poking out! I said to Beloved when I was sitting in the car on Saturday "I think I stretched something in my lower abdomen." He nearly drove the car off the road he was laughing so hard, apparently I look pretty stretched all 'round at the moment. Pppffftt!

Home:
ALMOST has a shower, as in we will have a shower next SUNDAY! Happy dance of joy people, happy dance of joy. We had a bit of a white Christmas theme going in the kitchen on Sunday as Beloved had to take out a hole in the kitchen wall so plaster dust went everywhere, but he has been able to connect up all the plumbing and erect the shower screen. All we are waiting for now is the silicone to dry and then we can have a SHOWER! I have been madly catching up with washing and washing baby stuff, unfortunately my folding has not kept pace and the Mount Washmore Ranges extend through three rooms in the house now. Beloved brought in a set of shelves for me to put in the bedroom so we no longer have towels and linen piled in plain view in the living area. The sheer luxury of not having to keep Christopher clear of the bathroom now that we have a bathroom door that works has granted me much freedom!

The garden:
is an overgrown mess. I reworked the routines to allow 15 minutes a day weeding last week but do you think we had even ONE day that stuck to the routine completely? Nope! Every single day my gardening time was sacrificed to one special circumstance or another. Here's hoping for next week!

Exercise:
Yes, exercise bike looks good. I look at it every day. I will get on exercise bike....soon. Just like I will stop eating the ingredients for the Christmas goodie boxes that I am making (dark chocolate, jaffas, white chocolate, like that was going to last in this house! What was I thinking!). I did have a ten minute go on the exercise bike this afternoon and I do feel much better for it, I am planning a little cooking tonight and I needed to make up for it before I started! I have started using moisturiser, eye cream, hand and foot cream and even (gasp) applying make up now that I have made order of the bedroom and my skin is looking a million times better. While I do NOT go in for all the 'girlie' stuff, I did feel that Beloved deserved to have a little more to look at than me in PJs with hair still unbrushed. After all, that Proverbs 31 chickie dressed herself nice for hubby! I knew he noticed the difference when he rubbed his feet on mine in bed and exclaimed "Ooooh, have you been moisturising your feet?" apparently it makes husbands more inclined to rub up against your feet when they don't feel like sandpaper! Who knew!

Jess

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Lockwood Family

Please continue to keep the Lockwood family in your prayers as they move back to the states for an extended stay.

Monday Mythbuster: Perfection

I chose to have all these children so I have to be on top of things 100% of the time or everyone will tell me I shouldn't have so many children and I will feel hugely guilty and my children will grow up scarred for life and.......well, you get the picture.

Another myth we (or at least I) tell ourselves. The thing is, it is a myth. Yes, there are some people who go for the "well, if you can't cope perhaps you shouldn't have so many children" line, but the vast majority don't. In fact, I have known quite a few people who, when I admitted I was struggling, breathed a sigh of relief because I looked a bit more human! Cultivating the myth that we are 100% OK all the time places additional pressure on others to live up to an impossible standard. I DON'T agree with wallowing in our imperfections and taking part in the "Mummy Wars" (you know, when you sit by the playground watching the kids and someone says "Well I only got 3 hours sleep last night" then another pipes up "you are doing better than me, I got 1 hour if I'm lucky" and so on until everyone is running on negative hours sleep with obnoxious children and unhelpful husbands!!) But I do believe in being honest, asking for help or advice and doing the best we can with what we have.

As for the children growing up scarred, well, they have to have SOMETHING to talk about in therapy don't they? :P If they don't have your failings to talk about, well, they will just have to talk about the impossible standards you set!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A lovely song



I just loved this clip.

Thought for today....

It is the supreme art of the teacher
to Awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
Albert Einstein

I think this is my new homeschooling motto!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Three things you forget about late pregnancy....

Big-Belly insomnia, waking up at 1:30 and staring at the walls trying to remember when you last felt comfortable.

Getting up at 3am to moisturise your belly because the itching is driving you nuts.

Sciatica!!

But guess what? I still love being pregnant!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Toy management 2

Earlier in the year I made a Blog entry on Toy Management. I thought I would re-visit this in the lead up to Christmas. I have actually been very organised and already bought the kid's Christmas presents this year! I always find it difficult to stick to the budget and control myself when I am buying for the kids. It is very easy to get carried away. There are actually a lot of brilliant gifts out there for kids. My Amazon Wishlist overflows with books, CD's and DVD's that I'd love to purchase. The art and craft materials that I'd love to get for them is almost an endless list! Then there are the construction toys (blocks, legos, Mega Bloks etc), puppets and puppet theatres, dress ups (I got Billy 6 different helmets, including a knights helmet! He'll love them!), balls, bats, sand toys, felts, puzzles etc.

Of course, we have a VERY full house at the moment, the kids all share a room and our living area is not big. So how do we control the toy monster? Here are five ways we do it.

First, we set a budget. I'd do this even if it weren't necessary! I don't particularly want to raise children who have no idea how to live happily within financial restraints.

Second, purchase items that are high quality. I would rather get one item that will last until our grandchildren are grown than 10 items that won't last out the week! Poor quality items that break easily teach kids not to value what they have. Less is more!

Third, apply the "rainy week" test. Imagine the kids playing with this toy in the lounge room after a week of rain when your tolerance levels are low, there is minimum space (due to the clothes horses drying clothes by the fire) and the kids are most likely to misuse it. Is it going to drive you barmy? Is it going to make a huge mess? Is it going to be noisy? A toy that makes music may be sweet in the shop, but when the kids are banging on the on-switch to make it "rap" or you are hearing it for the 83rd time in four hours you may well want to send it through the nearest window! I have been known to remove batteries from toys within minutes of them being given because I can see where it's going to go!

Fourth, ask yourself when the kids are going to be able to use it. There are some toys that Erin only has during nap times for the boys because it may have small parts or little hands may just damage it. Having items like this can make those nap times special BUT there are a limit to how many of these toys she can use. I love toys that the kids can use TOGETHER such as balls, their trampoline, blocks, play dough etc.

Fifth, storage!! The bulk of the kid's toys are stored under Billy's bed. If it can't be folded down or packed up to be stashed away neatly, then we just can't keep it. A toy that we are falling over every day or that creates clutter is just a pain in the neck, no matter what other merits it may have. Toys that add on to toys that we already have such as blocks and dress ups often pack in easily with the storage we already have.

There are also the obvious standards such as moral and safety standards.

We go through and cull toys that have become excess, that are broken or we just decide to move on. This keeps things at a manageable level. Toys are there to facilitate the children's learning and help them have fun! If they can't access them easily and keep them in order then what is the point of having them? I have seen kids with ROOMS filled with toys who rarely touch them because they're overwhelmed by the MESS. It can be a bit of a reality check to get to the end of the day and realise that the toys my children used today were rocks, mud, a stainless steel bowl and a plastic container full of milk bottle lids. That tends to put the brakes on the spending!

At the end of the day, the kids don't NEED any more stuff. We choose to give them stuff as much because we enjoy giving to them as much as them enjoying getting. It's just all a matter of keeping it in perspective.

From the Mouth of Erin

Me: What would I do without you Erin?

Erin: Nothing, pretty much nothing. You couldn't do anything without me!

What was she doing? Unloading the dishwasher!

Why do I get the kids involved in chores etc.? Because it makes them feel INDESPENSABLE!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Update

I am dealing with the guilt of hiring a cleaner. There is a part of me that berates myself for not doing it all. There is another part of me that berates myself for spending the money, when the money could go to a million and one other things. There is another part of me that is anxious that I am sending a negative message to my children about work ethic and money management (surely if I have time to Blog, I have time to clean!!). The biggest part of me? Is SOOOOOO happy that I have a cleaner that I want to do a little happy dance of joy right here on my kitchen table. Work that often takes me the better part of a week to get done because of children and large belly, took her two hours. The house still isn't spotless, but it is a WHOLE lot better!

Erin:
Got to go on a special drive with Daddy on the weekend to buy pizza toppings and DVD's (we had a pizza and movies night!) and LOVED it. She thrives so much on individual attention.

Billy:
is thoroughly miserable with his cold and cough. He is fragile and bursts into tears and whining at the drop of a hat. He still gives the best cuddles though and when he is sick, he actually sits still long enough every now and then!

Christopher:
has a much milder dose of Billy's cold, so he is leaving a slime trail, but over all he is not too bad. He is trying to share his apple with me at the moment from the highchair beside me, but I'm not that interested.

New Baby:
is quieter as there is less and less room in there. Back pain threatened yesterday but I managed to fend it off with a good lie down. I still have so much I want to do before the baby arrives I can't believe it is only a few weeks away!

Home:
looks a whole lot better after the attentions of Sarah -the-saint (my cleaner). I also went insane last week and completely cleaned out and rearranged the bedroom. I think I broke the wardrobe and I gouged the floor and wall in two places, but it looks a whole lot better. Now if I can just get that set of shelves out of the workshop for the linen and re-organise that front hallway.... Jon is making more and more progress with the shower. He had to re-hang the bathroom door yesterday so that it wouldn't crash into the shower door if it was opened when the shower was open (does that make sense? It does in my head) so my bathroom door has a functioning latch now which means I can keep Christopher OUT of the bathroom! Yay!

The Garden:
is starting to get weeded again VERY SLOWLY. I found some flowering chives.

Exercise:
I have now unearthed the exercise bike, I just have to use it!

Jess



Prayer request: Lockwood Family

Please keep the Lockwood family in your prayers again. They are expecting number 12 and things are a bit complicated. The problem is complete/total placenta previa. The placenta is completely covering the opening of the uterus stretching out equally on both sides. Please pray for wisdom and discernment on the part of the family and medical staff and also for protection and healing for Mum and Bub.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Like minded doesn't mean looks like

Like minded people will have lifestyles just like mine.

This is a myth I have fallen for in the past!

I don't personally know many people who look like me. I'm not talking physically, I am talking in terms of lifestyle and beliefs. I am a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian but I am not a vegetarian and I enjoy the occasional glass of wine. I believe my children are a gift from God and have not used birth control for over four years now, but I do not condemn those who do use birth control and I do support AIDS awareness campaigns that promote condom use. I believe in wifely submission in accordance with the Bible, but I also believe that part of being a help meet is giving my husband access to an educated opinion and stimulating conversation where we can respectfully and lovingly disagree. I am a strong believer in homeschooling and my own methods are an eclectic style using the ideas of Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, Classical education and my own training but I am also a strong supporter of Christian schools. My husband is the head of our home and our leader, but does not feel the need to 'display' his leadership to the world preferring instead to lead us gently, kindly, privately and quietly. I believe in modeling my life on Proverbs 31, but I have a cleaner (hey, she DID have handmaidens!!). I do not feel that my life is a compromise or a half-baked mix of doctrine, for me it is a passionate implementation of the truth I believe.

So there aren't many families who look like ours!

I used to lament the lack of "Titus 2" women out there who I could learn from and gripe about the lack of "like minded" people. Then I met a family who looked a bit like ours! I was thrilled and (I thought) so were they, but as we got to know each other more and more, they got busier and busier. Soon it became apparent that the only time they had to talk to us is when they felt "impressed" to criticise our doctrine or lifestyle. Soon even that stopped. So it turned out that the people who I had thought were like minded, didn't like us!!

Initially, I was devastated. But then I looked around with new eyes. I realised my Mother-in-law may not have home schooled her tribe, but she raised her boys with love and she grew a vegie patch, milked a cow and raised chickens and beef not because of any trendy "homesteading" movement, but because it was the best and cheapest way to keep their tummies full!! If I couldn't learn from her, who could I learn from? My own Mum had "only" three kids and I have as intimate knowledge of her mistakes as MY children have of MINE! But I have gleaned more than she or I will ever realise from her hard-won wisdom. Our chats on the phone and visits have become very precious to me. The lady at church who makes the odd crack about her husband being her "other child" (something that REALLY grates on me) turned out to have a wealth of knowledge and experience that I had simply overlooked, as well as a deep love and respect for her husband. The people I worship with on a weekly basis may not have a lifestyle that reflects mine and may differ on small "doctrinal" issues, but most of them have been loving the Lord and growing in His grace for longer than I have been alive. I am humbled to think about that.

So I learned I need to stop being a snob.

It is easy to believe, if you spend a bit of time in the blog-sphere, that there ARE people out there exactly like you. The thing is, you only see a part of a person online. If you saw all of them I am positive you would find points of difference. This is not to talk down the Internet, I love the Internet and have found much to encourage and challenge my own walk on here. But don't turn away from those around you. Instead "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Phil. 2:3. I think you will find when you spend time getting to know those around you, listening instead of talking, serving rather than demanding to be served, you will gain access to a wealth of knowledge and wisdom you didn't even know was there. And minds that you thought were nothing like yours, will turn out to have more in common than you thought.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Our Christmas Letter this year...

For once we are organised enough to send the Christmas letter! What a year it has been, full of blessings and challenges.

Our most major change is that we have finally bought a house. In the end it was yet ANOTHER land lord making noises about selling the house we were living in that finally spurred us into really looking for a house. We are now living in Mole Creek and it is clearer every day that this is where we are meant to be. The community is wonderful and there is a strong feeling of coming home. The house itself is a definite fixer upper and Jon’s every weekend is spent renovating and repairing. A few weeks ago Erin lamented the fact that the old house wasn’t broken like this one! Thing is, the old house probably was as “broken” but as we were renting we weren’t repairing and renovating, we were simply living with it. At least here there is an end in sight – even if it is still a fair distance off. We are also adjusting to having slightly less space temporarily which has made unpacking somewhat of a challenge. But at the end of the day, this is OUR place and it is rare that a day goes by where I am not thankful that we are no longer renting. Moving is always traumatic and, Lord willing, we won’t be doing it again for at least a few more years.

Our other big blessing is our newest baby due in January. The excitement is definitely building now! Billy and Erin are old hat at all this Baby stuff and consider themselves to be seasoned older siblings. Erin has not got her wish for twin girls or boy and girl twins this time as we are certain there is only one in there (in spite of the constant “are you sure there is only one in there?” question I seem to get). She is still hanging out for a sister but is prepared to be content either way. Billy doesn’t seem to mind as long as it’s a BABY and Christopher remains fairly oblivious to it all. ! Jon and I are thrilled to be having another blessing to our home.

The change in the kids in the past year is amazing. Erin is now a real ‘grown up’ little girl. Her major accomplishment this year is learning to read. She is sitting next to me as I type writing yet another of her stories. Hours are spent filling scrap books with surprisingly legible writing every day. She is loving life in Mole Creek with a social life including play group and having everyone in town on a first name basis with her dolls. Her ability to chat with anyone and everyone is lovely.

Billy has gone from being a baby to a real ‘big kid’. His vocabulary is amazing and he has a dry, quirky sense of humour that often has me in stiches. His work ethic, which started with him INSISTING on stacking wood before his first birthday, has continued. He sets the table for breakfast every morning of his own accord and helped clear the rocks, bricks and rubble out of the garden using his own little red wagon. In winter he was also fetching wood to the back door, my big helping man at age 2 ½ .

Christopher is our sunny baby. His ready grin and laugh light our day and he is doted on by the older two. The boys seem joined at the hip – partners in crime more often than not. Erin and Billy spend ages trundling him around the back yard in a wheel barrow or wagon. He earned himself the nickname “Emperor” as he often is the one calling the shots (actually, it WAS Emperor Chins because he has a few extra chins, but Daddy suggested we may want to avoid making that long term!). His personality is as strong as the others, but I guess that is to be expected. I’d rather have to deal with his strong will now than have him grow up to be wishy washy!

Most of Jon and my time have been taken up with this move and renovations this year. We are looking forward to having time for a few more projects. Jon’s shed will be a welcome addition to the homestead next year and he will finally have space to work on his cars and various projects. We have grand plans for the gardens which we will hopefully be able to make a decent start on next year as well. The dream is to have this place become a comfortable haven for us and our family and friends. We would also like to get out a little more next year and see a bit of Tassie with the kids. While renovating etc. is great, we don’t want their childhoods to slip us by so hopefully we will be able to plan in a few trips, even just long weekends.

I dream of finding time to write more and do a few other projects I have had simmering in the back of my mind, but to everything there is a season and this is a season of lots of little ones – they are my most important (and time consuming) project at the moment! There are semi-weekly updates of our family goings on in my Blog (http://the-life-and-times-of-jess.blogspot.com/ ) but be warned, it also contains a lot of my mental dribble with very poor editing!! Enter at your own risk.

As the world at large seems such a scary place at the moment with wars and rumours of wars, threats of recession, drought, famine, floods and storms, we seem in a rare position of privilege here in our haven of peace. We aren’t completely isolated from these goings on and our prayers and thoughts are often occupied with such things. For the most part we realise that we are indeed one of the richest families on earth and we endeavour to use these blessings to God’s glory. We are indeed becoming richer by the day simply because we have each other.

God’s Blessing to you this Christmas Season,

With lots of love from,

The Guest Family:

Jon, Jess, Erin, Billy, Christopher and Newbie

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas Prayers

Two little boys were spending the night at their grandparents' house the week before Christmas. At bedtime, the boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers. The youngest one began praying at the top of his voice.

"I PRAY FOR A NEW PLAYSTATION! I PRAY FOR A NEW FOOTBALL! I PRAY FOR A NEW SCOOTER!"

His older brother turned to him and whispered,

"Why are you shouting? God isn't deaf!"

His little brother replied, "No, but Grandma is!"

Friday, December 05, 2008

Is too a squeeky toy!

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

A precursor for Christopher with the New Baby?

Depression

I mentioned a few months ago that I was struggling with depression. I recognised it because, well, I've been there before. It was all too familiar terrain. There is a lot of conflicting "stuff" about depression flying around, especially in churches. It isn't much fun when, while in the midst of depression, you are told that you just need to "get it together" and "be JOYFUL in the Lord!" or "Think Positive!". The proverb is right, "Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart" Proverbs 20:25 I even know some who were ACCUSED of being possessed or being tormented by demons because of their lack of faith, simply because of their depression.

What is depression? For the purposes of what I am talking about, depression is not just "feeling a bit down". Depression is a sustained state of sadness that effects your daily activities and relationships. Depression goes beyond a simple response to what is going on around you as your brain and body chemistry changes, making it harder and harder to "get it together". Left untreated, depression can lead to all sorts of no good, including relationship breakdown, compulsive behaviour, suicidal thoughts and behaviour and more. This IS worth addressing. If you want to know more about the symptoms of depression, the Beyond Blue website is a good resource.

The Bible does not dodge or mask depression. Elijah was depressed to the point of longing for death (1Kings chapter 19), and God's response was not accusation or condemnation, but to send angels to minister to his needs. Job was depressed, but this did not mean he was not faithful. Read Psalms, so many of them deal with depression or being in a depressed state ("my soul is weary with sorrow..." Psalm 119:28). Then there is Ecclesiastes and so much more. God does not dodge or trivialise depression, nor should we!

I think part of why I wanted to create this post is that depression is rife in today's society and stay-at-home-Mums seem especially susceptible to it, yet we still seem to have such a social stigma attached to this illness. I have my own theories on why this is so, but that is a whole other soap box! What I wanted to talk about was some PRACTICAL steps to dealing with depression. Now, I am not a professional in this area, I have no training whatsoever so DO NOT TAKE MY WORDS AS GOSPEL. This is what I believe based on what I have gleaned both as someone who has had depression and one who has had loved ones traverse the path of depression.

#1 Get Help.

It may be a good friend or relative who "tells you like it is" who helps you check the reality of what you are thinking and feeling. It may be a buddy who holds you accountable by taking a walk with you or calling every day. It may be a website like FlyLady. A support group. Your Pastor. Your GP. A counsellor. Call lifeline or another phone counseling group if you need to. It may even be medication. Likely it will be a combination of two or more of these things or others. I know that God has used depression in the past to teach me that I cannot do it all alone and to give me a healthy dose of humility as I realise how much I need the love, support and help of others. Is this Scriptural? Should we need help from others? Check it out for yourself. Start with Proverbs 27:17 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. If there are no others in your life and no prospect of getting support, of course God will be Faithful as He always is, but sometimes He provides assistance to us in the form of loved ones and professionals. Even seeking out practical help on how to manage home and kids can make a world of difference. Check in at "Ship Full O' Pirates" for some good ideas.


A note on medication:- many people feel that medication is not acceptable for them, that is their choice. I have not needed to take medication myself, however I do know people who have benefited greatly from medication. The medicine changed their brain and body chemistry enough so that they could implement the changes to their lifestyle that they needed. They then were able to move away from medication to a positive life. Medication alone solves nothing, but it can be a major hand up if it is warranted.

#2 prayer

I am not talking a casual utterance, I am talking sustained daily prayer. I am talking about specifically mentioning all the things on your heart that hurt - even the ones you don't think are "acceptable" or nice to talk about. I am talking about coming to the foot of the cross AS YOU ARE. I am talking about surrendering to God everything, especially those things you can do nothing about (i.e. the pain of loved ones, your own physical limitations, your depression). I am talking about claiming the promises you find in His word. I am talking about praying over what is REAL in your life, not what you pretend your life is to everyone else. I am talking about the type of persistent praying that Daniel did in Daniel chapter 9, continuing to pray even when it seemed there was no answer. The persistence of the woman who bothered the unjust judge in Luke chapter 18. If you feel you can't even pray, claim the promise of Romans 8:26 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

#3 ROUTINE

I know this sounds boring and mundane, even a bit silly. But it works. If you have a basic routine of waking and sleeping, your brain chemistry will respond and start to balance itself out. If you have a small list of things to do each day (get dressed, shine my sink etc.) that you can actually achieve, you will start to feel a little more like you can manage life. For more practical tips on how to implement a routine, go to flylady.org. We were created by a God of order, one of the first things implemented was the pattern of "Evening and morning" (Genesis chapter 1) so we need to realise that our good God has given us a pattern to follow for a reason. Perhaps surfing the 'net until 2am ISN'T the best idea (yes, I've done it!)

#4 take care of your body

You don't have to be a gym bunny, just go outside for a walk every day. Fresh air and sunshine will help with your body chemistry, getting your heart pumping and your body moving makes an amazing difference. When you are depressed it is the last thing you want to do, but I believe this is the Enemy's way of keeping us right where he wants us! Weak and vulnerable. I know I am getting depressed not so much by the emotions but by the overwhelming feeling of tiredness. I also binge eat. I have to exercise, avoid processed sugar and eat fruit and vegetables and initially it is a real effort to do so. I know I am getting better when I no longer have to force myself to do these things by sheer will power! I find it hard to take care of myself for my own benefit. It helps me to remember that it benefits my husband (I'm a WHOLE lot nicer to come home to when I am not still curled on a chair in my PJ's with my hair un-brushed and a sour smell seeping from my pores) and my children. I need to make the effort to take care of myself for THEIR sake or one day they will have an obese, embarrassingly unhealthy woman as their mother and wife. Left to myself, I'd live in my PJ's when depressed (actually, most of the time, I love my PJ's!)

#5 Be Still - Psalm 46:10

This has taken various forms throughout my life. It used to be a few hours of prayer and Bible study a day as well as a long walk when I was a student. It has been a quiet moment when my babies were sleeping (that stopped when I started falling asleep and drooling across my Bible as soon as they were down). For a while it was a prayer period for an hour or so in the very early morning as I walked my dog. Recently it is 30-45 minutes of Bible study in the morning as the children watch TV combined with some journaling and prayer time as I can get it. Our family devotions can also be added to this. Journaling has always been a big part of being still for me. Getting my thoughts and feelings out on paper makes it easier for me to bring them to God in a logical manner. I journal about the past, present and future. About relationships, fears and expectations. I journal prayers, poems (often really BAD poems!) and prose. I journal about everything really and this Blog is an extension of that journal in a lot of ways. Getting it out can allow me to "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him...." (Psalm 37:7). Gratitude journals can be an amazing tool for being still. Being still is as much, if not more, about listening as it is about speaking. Over the years I have embarked on my own studies, I have used pre-prepared studies and books (Elizabeth George has written some excellent Bible Study material for women). This time is important, get it any way you can. If ten minutes is all you can manage, start there. I used to feel bad because I no longer have the time to have the hours and hours of Bible study that I used to, then I realised that if I studied 12 hours a day, it still wouldn't be "enough" to learn everything! If I am faithful with the small amount of time I can manage in my day, I will reap the benefits tenfold.

#6 Sing

I know it sounds crazy, but it works. It gets your heart and lungs working and helps change that body chemistry back to what it is meant to be. Plus, if you are singing the old hymns you will find a lot of people who also took their struggles to God (What a Friend we have in Jesus, It is Well With my Soul) and reminders of profound spiritual truth (Amazing Grace, Softly and Tenderly). I do tend to crash down again after I finish singing, but not quite so far as I was before. Combined with the other things on this list, singing is a major part of my recovery from depression.

#7 have a realistic, helpful social life.

When depressed, I hide from people, even people who love me and can help me. When a friend of mine is depressed she fills her life up with people so that she doesn't need to think about herself. Most of us when depressed tend to choose to spend time around destructive, unhelpful people because, compared to them, we look great! There are no one-size-fits-all solution to this, but I have adopted some guiding questions.

Does this person encourage and support me to move forward with my life or drag me down, encouraging me to stay depressed or dysfunctional?

Am I wearing myself out trying to *make* this person make good choices in their life or am I allowing them their God-ordained freedom to make their own choices - even if they're the 'wrong' choices?

Has this person listened to me or shown an interest in ME in the last four times we have spoken or are they treating me like I am simply there to serve them?

Does this person respect the fact that I am a person with a life of my own, including commitments and responsibilities, or do they expect me to drop everything for them?

Am I friends with this person because I genuinely enjoy their company and share common interests, beliefs, mindset or history, or am I friends with this person because I am afraid to be without friends?

Am I remembering to keep in contact with people who I love and who encourage me, including people from my past, or am I shutting out people?

When was the last time I sent an encouraging word, card, phone call etc. the way of someone I care about?

Am I giving up my Quiet Time, time with my family, or neglecting my household responsibilities for my friendships or are they in balance with the rest of my life?

Do I talk to people outside my home at least three or four times a week or am I isolating myself?

Destructive friendships can be difficult to deal with. The best way I have found to deal with it is to simply stop seeking them out. Say no if it is appropriate, be kind and friendly but don't help them treat you badly. Jesus said to go the second mile, but he didn't say to rely on those people for your support!


#8 Find beauty

Look at something beautiful every day. I am privileged to have three beautiful children and a wonderful husband, but I can sail through the day without actually LOOKING at them. Erin pointed out the raindrops on the blades of grass today - beautiful. The kids bring me flowers, seed heads, interesting stones - beautiful. I have a small jar on my kitchen windowsill that is there as a reminder of many things, but mostly because it is beautiful. The shape pleases me. I have a stretched belly with a life growing inside - beautiful.

#9 laugh

Again with the body and brain chemistry, the working of the heart and lungs. It works I tells ya! Watch a comedy (Veggie Tales makes me laugh! Or Ken Davis), read a funny book (Barbara Johnson wrote some brilliant funny books that are spiritually encouraging a deal head-on with depression), borrow my kids for an afternoon. When you have a choice of laughing and crying (such as when the baby gets hold of a pot of honey or the children decide to make mud pies) LAUGH! In situations like that, crying honestly doesn't help. I know, I tried it.

#10 Take things one step at a time.

I was reluctant to make a list of "things to do" because sometimes lists, while well meant, are enough to drown a depressed person. "WHAT, I can't even get out of bed and you want me to SING!" But start at step one. Little by little, bit by bit, move forward each day. Don't sit down and write a rigorous schedule of exercise, healthy eating, early nights, singing, devotional times and joy breaks. It will just be one more thing to fail at! Implement one thing. When that is a natural part of your life, adopt something else. Then something else, then something else.... Allow God to teach you "a little here, a little there" Isaiah 28:10. You may be amazed the lessons God can use depression to teach you. I know that through my own depression, I have learned much humility, compassion, reliance on HIS strength and the promises of His word. He used a horrible situation called depression, and turned it to my good.

What an amazing God.