Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday's Words: Sarah Mackenzie

I finally got my hands on Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and started it this week. I am trying to go slowly, maybe one little section a day, and am enjoying it so far. I've heard so many great things about this book, so I'm looking forward to reading it. This is some of what I read last night:
"We are doing the small, difficult tasks day by day, one stone at a time. The cathedral builders toiled for years of their lives without knowing whether they would see the finished cathedral - the holy place to which they had given their lives. A homeschooling mother acts on similar faith - adding one small brick at a time - wondering if it makes a difference, if anyone will ever notice, if those small quotidian tasks will ever add up in a meaningful way."
I thought she described motherhood perfectly there and particularly love the metaphor that home education (all parts of mothering and raising children, I think)  is building a cathedral, "the holy place to which they had given their lives."
 "Rest looks like stewardship. Consider a garden - a raised bed right outside your kitchen window perhaps. The Master Gardener has charged you to plant it with seeds, to cultivate the soil, to tend to the plants and help them to flourish. He did not throw some seeds at you and tell you that you were responsible for the miracle of turning them to ripe, plump vegetables. He place the seeds into your palm, patted your fist lovingly, and asked you to tend them well. To steward them. To help them grow.
Remember your place, then. You cannot make the plants grow or bear fruit. You can only plant the seeds. You can water them, and steward them. You can cultivate the soil (education is an atmosphere!), thin them (a discipline!), and water them (a life!). It is only by our cooperation with the grace of God and the laws of nature that the seed becomes a plant and bears fruit. We don't need to have anxiety about when the plant will grow, about how quickly it will come to fruition - our part is to steward it and do what we can to make sure it has the ability to grow rightly." 
I have always felt that I was called to this job of Mother. I would not necessarily have chosen it for myself had I known what motherhood truly entailed, but instead I was called. I knew when I first held Riley, I was made for this.

But being a mother has changed me. It has been harder than I could ever have imagined. I have cried, and agonized, and pored over parenting books. I have been terrified and anxiety ridden that I would mess this up, that I would damage my kids, that I would do it all wrong.

I have been reminded, though, that I am not in control. My job is to guide them, to teach them, most importantly to love them, to do what I can to make sure my little seedlings "have the ability to grow rightly."

Relinquishing control is a hard thing.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
Matthew 11:28, 29

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday's Words: Charlotte Mason

I continue slowly on with my study of Charlotte Mason. These are some of my favorite quotes from her, not from my reading this week, but some that I wrote down in my journal a while back (from Teaching in the Branches):
"But that most delicate and beautiful of human possessions, an educated conscience, comes only by teaching with authority and adorning by example."
"Authority does not compel. It indicates the way and protects the wayfarer and strengthens and directs self-compelling power." (Emphasis is mine.)

First time linking up with:

Monday, July 11, 2016


"The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."
Proverbs 27:7 
The passing of the baby's first birthday combined with the slow and systematic removal of sippy cups (discreetly take them to another room to hide them after they come out of the dishwasher so we can get rid of them later) from the house has me feeling nostalgic. I looked around this morning and realized that technically we have two toddlers now. We have settled into nap routines and meal times and there is an easy, predictable flow to our day.

Are we really leaving the baby stage behind? It seemed so permanent just a few months ago. I've had babies in the house for a long time. 8 years, actually. I don't even know what to think about the possibility of No Babies. It is nearly inconceivable to me. I'm pretty sure I thought Oliver would be a baby for always. He's so tiny and cute, I thought I would just be carrying him around like a little monkey clinging to me for the rest of my life.

Time passes by so quickly now. I only have time to stop every few months and marvel at how it's already midsummer when it was just Christmas yesterday.

One day we were eating with my in-laws and my mother-in-law said, "The last thing I rememeber..." And I don't know what I thought she was going to say, but I wasn't expecting: "... I was 32."

I laughed so hard. One of those really good, loud, open-mouthed, from the belly laughs. My mother-in-law is almost 60. I'm pretty sure whatever happened to her is happening to me too. I started this post thinking about one thing and I went off on a tangent about babies (or lack thereof) and nearly had a panic attack at the realization that my kids are growing up.

But what I was thinking about that somehow started all of this was how easy it is to miss life's really beautiful moments when you have a big family, or when you are just plain busy. There is a near constant flurry of noise and activity and mess. It's easy to only see the chaos and stress and not the underlying beauty. It's like when you go into your kids rooms at night while they're sleeping and you look at them, so calm and peaceful in their beds, and you think about what awesome little people they are and how much you love their little quirks, but an hour ago you were wrestling your 3 year old to bed and someone was screaming for water down the hall and someone else got up to announce they had to pee and OMG DOES IT NEVER END.

It's easy to look back and see the beauty, but sometimes it is so hard to see it in the day-to-day mundane of motherhood. Or as my Mom-in-law likes to call it, "In the trenches."

With both of the babies being 1 now and everybody growing up a little, I feel like I have been catching a little more of those fleeting and beautiful moments. The other night, I grabbed my book and sat down on the couch while Husband was reading to the kids. I flipped it open and read a few pages before looking up. The oldest three kiddos were lounging around me, quietly listening to the story (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), sucking on fingers, or looking at other books. Both babies were already asleep. And I thought: Holy crap, I need to record this. I didn't, but I tried to commit the moment of peace and contentedness to memory.

This morning, I looked up to see 4 out of 5 kids happily swimming and laughing together in the pool. No one was fighting. They were all just in there together, the bigger ones helping the littler ones, everyone being silly and splashing around. Then they climbed out to dry off and sat on their towels in the sun together.

People think we are a little crazy when they see us all out together. But this is what it's all about, folks.

When I look back on this past year, I don't think about how hard it was, how many tears I cried in the shower, hiding from sight. I remember those things, but they were all just stepping stones to here and now, and what I think about is moments like this and how blessed I am.

God saw me, even when I refused to see Him. He gave me more than I deserve and more than I would have asked for, but, it turns out, exactly what I needed, and even more than I could have hoped for.

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
Romans 8:24-25 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Time to Every Purpose

God seemed quiet in the wake of not getting the answer I had hoped for. I asked for guidance on what comes next for us. I had hoped I might "hear" from God. Husband has talked about this phenomenon, maybe I'll share some of his stories one day. Sara Hagerty also talks in her book about praying, then being quiet to listen. So that's what I did.

I don't think I heard anything. But I did fall asleep. Whoops.

The kids seemed extra loud. I had plenty of time to mull over the news and by the end of the day, I still felt a sense of peace around me, though I will admit it was colored with some irritability. I told Husband that I don't feel like it's over. I don't feel like we should move on or give up. Rather, I feel like we are waiting.

God works in His own time. Now is our time to get some things in order, to focus on our family, and maybe a little ways down the road, we will look up to see that the scenery has changed and circumstances are different. Maybe what is not possible now will be made possible later.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..." -Ecclesiastes 3:1
"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:18 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Earnest of the Spirit

Yesterday, I left the house for a spontaneous afternoon outing feeling pretty anxious. You know that feeling in the bottom of your stomach when you're worried about how something will turn out? I tried to talk to God in the car, which is kind of hard to do over the clamor of young people and music. I tried to say, I trust you with us. But it was really hard to tell if that was true. I wanted it to be true, so I was trying really hard to let go.

Here is the thing about wants. Sometimes you want something so bad, you can rationalize it no matter what. Sometimes, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between what I desire and what is right.

Fleetingly, I thought of that verse in Matthew: Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. But I shook my head because it's not like a person can just turn off their worry. Right?

Then I started humming that praise song from my long ago days of church camp: Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power and love... And I honed in on wisdom. He is wise. He knows so much more than me. I have to give this to Him. I can't control it anyway. It's completely out of my hands. And He loves me. I've seen that now. Whatever happens will be right.

No joke, right after this, I reached out and switched the radio to a praise station. Which I have done all of NEVER. I knew about this station, though, because Riley stumbled across it a while back and likes to listen to it in her bedroom, singing along to the "Jesus songs." Listening to one or two songs did calm me down some more and then I had to change the station because the Boy Bands for Jesus vibe was a little too bizarre for me.

A while later, as I watched the three big kids laugh and play at a splash pad with a bunch of other kids, peace settled over me.

Some things that stood out to me in my reading:
"Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us is God; 
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." 
2 Corinthians 1:21-22

"But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." 
Hebrews 11:6 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Husbands and Wives

Husband and I have been married for almost 9 years. It's been a happy marriage, a good journey so far. He is truly my best friend. But there is one thing that we have always struggled with, one thing that always causes rifts and strife and puts distance between us. Sometimes it seems only a small hill, sometimes it's an insurmountable mountain.

I stand firmly on my side, unwilling to budge, always in the right, waiting for what I "deserve." He has always been so much more willing to bend and give than I have, but still, we can't seem to find a common ground.

Yesterday, my eyes were opened and I finally could glimpse the way to meet Husband where he is. I could just see the answer, or at least where to find it. It's somewhere in love and grace, and demanding less for myself. Love him as he is, where he is, as he needs and deserves. Give him grace when he makes a mistake, when he is not perfect. Bend, Sarah. Give just a little more than you think you should, or a lot more. And he will respond in kind.

It seems an obvious answer. But it isn't always. And it certainly won't be easy. It's hard to change 30 years of stubbornness, of always needing to be right.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Text Messages from Above

When I first imagined what my blog might be, I thought I would be one of those funny, witty but insightful writers who gives lots of great anecdotes about the sometimes insane day to day life of mothering 5 kids between the ages of 1 and 8 (at the time of this writing). I didn't know that when I did start writing that my thoughts and my words would be turned to God.

It happened again. He truly knows my struggles right now. He gave me this:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
- Ephesians 5:22-33, KJV

I have heard some of this one before. I always revolt at the word "submit" and turn off my listening ears. So I had to chew on this a while, all day really. Until I went for a run after the kids went to bed and I opened up a conversation. I think I understand now, the answer He was giving me. And it wasn't "Just do whatever your husband says or wants." Whew.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Expanding on Yesterday's Note from God

Praying is a really foreign thing to me. I remember when we were kids and my parents went through a churchy phase. Sometimes they made us pray out loud together and when it was my turn I had no idea what to say, so I would make a long list of thank yous. Think: "Dear God, thank you for this day, and the trees... and food... and my clothes... and grass. Ummm, in Jesus name I pray, amen." Awkward, right? So, pretty much I didn't pray for like 20 years after that. Except sometimes in complete and total desperation, but even then not really, because I was pretty sure that God was frowning down at me for being such a hypocrite.

But lately I've been trying something new... It's more like talking to God. I've heard people do this. Husband has talked to me about it before. So, I thought I would give it a shot. On walks, in the shower, in the car... I've been trying my hand at starting a conversation with the Almighty. It feels really weird to me. And I'm basically always approaching it like, "Well, God, if you really  are out there... If you can hear me right now..." I had a feeling I was going about it all wrong, but what do I know about talking to God?

This morning I was reading and decided to look up some mentioned verses. The first one was James 1:27 and I thought to myself Isn't that the orphans and widows one that everyone always uses when they talk about adopting? So, I looked it up and I don't know if that was the one I was thinking of, but I decided to read the beginning of James to get some direction and see where verse 27 was coming from. And as I read the words, I just knew that God was calling me out. He knows how doubtful I've remained and that I've been reluctant to put my faith in Him. I've been coming at Him halfheartedly, sort of hopeful, but not quite believing. He was saying, "I see you, Sarah! I got your number! YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET THIS!" Just kidding about that last part. Maybe.

I have to say, I was more than a little amazed. Nothing like this had ever happened to me. Did He really just do that?

Monday, July 4, 2016

To Sarah, From God

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
 - KJV, James 1:2-8

I feel like I have just been slapped on the wrist and scolded.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

What I'm Reading, July

I always have a pretty big stack of books to read. I sometimes have a problem finishing books because in the middle of one book, I will get a new book that I'm so excited about I have to start reading it rightnow. Usually, I'm reading several things at a time, though.

Last month I went on a twaddle binge and read a bunch of YA sci-fi books. We homeschool here at Casa de Johnson and I was just plum ready for summer break. I just needed something that didn't require brain power to read but was kind of entertaining. Enter: The 5th Wave series, three books about an alien invasion and a bunch of kids just trying to survive.

But I digress. This month, I am reading several books that I am really enjoying and I wanted to share them.

First up, Janet Lansbury's Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting. I discovered her blog several months ago and I read her other book, No Bad Kids. (For those who may not know: I read a lot of parenting books. Like, a lot.) I'm reading about a chapter a day of Elevating Child Care and it has quickly risen to the top of my list of parenting books I'd recommend to other parents and come back to time and again myself. Janet is all about respecting children, especially babies and toddlers, as people. Now that is something I can get behind. Kind of reminds me of someone else...

"Children are born persons." - Charlotte Mason
Speaking of Charlotte Mason, I am currently on a 3 Year Tour with a group of ladies on the Ambleside forums. (Ambleside Online is an awesome curriculum we use in our homeschool.) Right now we are studying CM's 20 Principles, and later we will be reading through her 6 volumes on education. I am a little behind in the study, but as I read, I am constantly awed by Charlotte's wisdom. I find myself highlighting and underling and saying "Yes! This!" to myself as I read. So, I am reading chapters from her 6 volumes, as well as some extra articles and related blog posts online, sprinkled throughout the week.

Ok, next up, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty. This book is much different than the kinds of things I normally read. What originally caught my eye was the title. I love it. I think it's an amazing title. What made me kind of want to read it was hearing that the author has adopted four children from Ethiopia and Uganda. It took me a while to decide to buy it. It's written like a memoir and tells the story of Sara's growing relationship with God. I have to say that I am having trouble comprehending her relationship with God, as I have never experienced anything like what she describes and have never met anyone who seems connected to God that way. Still, I'm enjoying it.

Finally, the one I am enjoying most, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene. Another great title! This is a book about the author's family and tells the story of how they came to adopt 5 children (added to their biological 4 = 9!). I am really loving it. It is touching and funny and relatable. Not to mention, I basically just eat up stories about people expanding their family through adoption. I love to read personal accounts.

So there it is. I think that's all of them. Happy 4th of July, internet! (Since I am pretty sure no one is reading this yet.)