Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Real Life

Because of Alegra doing a vlog of our family, I really don't need to post too much on this blog.   Every now and then, I get a hankering to write what I'm feeling and being guided in.  So, here it is.  My life as of late.  My real, not perfect family vlog material, struggles in life. 

We all want everyone to see our best and can usually get by with that happening.  It's easier to fake happiness and success than truly let others see what's going on.  Some people have no problem showing others all their drama, but not me.  I like to look like I have it all together.  I have the perfect big family, who are home schooled, always get along, my husband is always perfect, we never bicker, and there isn't a day that goes by that I feel down.  REAL LIFE isn't like that. 

I'm finally feeling like I have a grasp of my life right now, this week.  You see, a couple weeks back, I had a break down, full on anxiety attack, couldn't control my thoughts kinda situation.  My husband held me while I cried, sang worship music at my request before bed to help calm me, and I'm sure spent time in prayer while driving around for work.  Does this look perfect?  No.  But it was real life for me.  There were several things that set me off- finances, sickness in family, marriages falling apart, children struggling, and not feeling secure in where life is at for our family right now.  What???  How could I feel that way when my little family seems so perfect? 

Real life.  It took me a good couple weeks to finally break out of the horrible pit in my stomach and tightness in my chest at any random thought of uncertainty.  If my strength comes from God then why am I so unstable feeling?  I blamed spiritual warfare, fear, and worry.  I'd say all three played a part.  If I were to say that all of life is perfect for me, I'd be fake.  If I were to say that I hold myself together always, I'd be fake.  If I were to say that I don't struggle with my husband and children, well, more fakeness. 

We all have struggles and real life happenings.  Don't be so ashamed or proud that you can't let those struggles show some, to allow others to help you.  Don't feel like you'll never have things right.  Well, you might be right on that one, but how do we choose to handle not having things right all the time is the key.  Do we remember that God truly does care for us and takes care of our every need?  Do we know that He provides what we need not what we want or even think we need?  In the moments of darkness He will show Himself.  He will remind you that He is near.  He will remind you that He wants you to just trust Him if you'll let Him be in control.  Control.  Boy isn't that a tough one.  When I can't keep things under control or some situations are completely out of my control, but they still affect me and my heart, that's really hard for me.  Am I remembering that He holds the world in His hands and has all things in place just where He wants them? 

Oh, the lessons.  Oh, the hardships.  Oh, how He loves you and me.  Real life.  Don't feel ashamed of your struggles.  Pick yourself up and take one step forward, then another, until you're out of that pit.  It's not a fun place to be in.  Sometimes the enemy uses it to really mess some BIG plans up.  Take charge of letting God win the victory in your life.  It takes some effort sometimes to let Him have His way.  It's totally worth it though. 

Real life.  It can stink.  It can be hard.  It can cause lots of questioning of why.  It can make us proud.  It can make us fake.  It can break us.  In the brokenness, let it cause us to get up and press forward til we reach the next step.  Even if that next step is saying "yes" to something that seemed so difficult to do.  We all have struggles.  Don't be fake to hide them.  Be real and reach out for encouragement.  Share your real life experiences with someone else who just might need to know that it's ok and that nobody has a perfect life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Passport to Purity Weekend

It seems that the subject of purity and waiting for sex til marriage is one that is a hard topic for parents to discuss and often times isn't even first heard from the parents but through the school, whether it be a special class on it or by peers.  That is something that we wanted different in our family. Obviously since we home school, our children wouldn't be hearing about it through a public school, but we still wanted it to be a time of special reflection and learning just between us.  I found this pack that looked like it would fit what we had in mind perfectly.  Passport to purity starts out with basic concepts for youth such as peer pressure and following the herd and works its way to talking about relationships, both in friendships and in dating.  It ends with the parents and child discussing what boundaries they want set for dating/courting and what goals the child would like to commit to in staying pure.  

 Here's just a few pages from the journal.
We actually buy a special journal for our children to write in as they go through the weekend that they can keep and continue to write in as they grow and develop their own ideas and thoughts in Scripture concerning it.  This way we can use the book over and over again for each child.

 Something special we do with the journal we give is Jonathon and I take a page each and write a letter to our child in it.  I think it's special to give our love in writing that the child can always look on as they continue to journal and look through what they've written over the years.  

Some things we do during our weekend?  We make our weekend during a time when my parents are gone on vacation.  We can stay in their house for the weekend and it just be the two of us without other distractions.  It works out perfectly and saves money!  

Generally we stay on Thursday, all day Friday, then leave after lunch on Saturday to join back up with the family for Sabbath fellowship.  I have 2 movies, one for each night to watch.  I can't remember what Alegra and I watched (I should have written it down), and this time my movie pick wasn't very good, so we turned it off after the first 5 minutes.  We ended up watching Diella's pick of Esther, which is definitely a suitable movie for the topic.  We also found one that we didn't know what it was about but it ended up being perfect as well, Princess Cut. about a girl who wanted so badly to be married and found herself in wrong relationships until she decided to completely give herself to God and wait for Him.  Then a wonderful young man came along and was a blessing to her and her family.  So, movie nights consist of snacks and pjs, which is always fun.  We always make sure there's plenty of chocolate and ice cream.  :)

I do make some food ahead to take along to eat, but we also plan a couple meals out for fun.  She wanted to go to East of Chicago in Shipshewana and Olive Garden, so we scheduled our meal plans according to when we would be around those restaurants.  

We desire our children to choose to have a party like a Bat Mitzvah to give them blessing and as a way for them to make a statement of their faith in walking forward according to Yahweh's Word.  Diella hadn't been interested in having her party from fear of having to speak and be in front of others.  We've been praying for her in this and during the weekend she decided that this summer would be her party.  We give a ring of purity and devotion in hearing God's voice and their parent's voice of counsel until they are married, where we have hopes to hand that off to her husband.  So, we take time to go to a jeweler and get her finger sized for a ring.  We also have a blast finding a dress for the party.  We took some great footage of our day doing that, which you can see over at our family vlog spot on youtube, The Grateful Chronicles (it's posted below).  That day is always filled with fun, food and great memories of time spent together.  We were tired after all the shopping (we're not shoppers at all!), so we were glad to get back to rest, do another session and watch a movie.  

Along with the journal in Passport to Purity, there are also CD's that we listen to for each session.  The speakers have great stories and relate so well to the youth and their daily situations with friends and relationships.  I love how they make the Bible, God, and the parents the guides to life.  They make the parents look like we are the helper, assister, and overall encourager in the dating to marry journey.  I realize that we haven't faced those days yet as neither of our girls have expressed interest in it, but hopefully, we've well established our ideas and what the Bible would encourage, so they can make the path easy and not have rough spots along the way.  We want them to keep their hearts and bodies for the one person God has for them.  Time will tell if our teaching and directing will pay off in helping them through those days ahead. 

The kit also comes with great activity ideas that go along with each session.  It's a hands on activity that shows them the concept in a real way.  Both of the girls loved this part of each session.  It takes a little prep work on my part to gather the supplies and do ahead what needs done, but it's totally worth the extra time.  

The kit encourages planning one fun activity for you to take your child to, such as  play or music concert.  Take them somewhere that they have an interest in or would enjoy seeing.  We didn't do anything special except spend the day shopping.  That's usually what our fun activity is.  Diella hates shopping for clothes, so I was so worried our day wouldn't be fun.  By the end she was grabbing dresses to try on that she just thought would be fun to try on, not that she was interested in the style.  That was fun for her to get out of her comfort zone and just have fun.  I also enjoyed helping another lady with a dress she was trying on for her daughter's wedding.  That was interesting to throw that in there as we were spending the weekend preparing Diella's heart for those days ahead and here is a mom who is planning for her daughter's wedding.  It was fun to help her and talk with her as she tried on dresses.

So, that's what we do.  By the end of the weekend I ask if they have heard about any of the stuff we'd discussed from friends or others.  Both of my girls hadn't heard anything and was evident by the questions they asked and the way they handled the information.  I know our culture is changing in this world and children get exposed to more and more worldly things, but we talk all the time about why that has to happen.  Why do we have to conform to the ways of the world because we are surrounded by it?  Why do we have to do things the way the world does things to keep our children up to speed with what's going on around them?  Why do we have to let them hear and see what's going on in the world to prepare them for the bad?  WE DON'T!!!!  We limit our children's internet time, though as they get older they get more, but it's still monitored.  We don't talk with them about every detail of life when they are super young.  They can't handle the information and then don't know how to properly process it to fully understand what it's about.  We choose the families we are around so that our children are being influenced by other families who think the same way we do.  I applaud all the families we are around on a regular basis that my children didn't hear anything from their children.  That's one thing I appreciate about home schooling is that we can direct that area a little and as they get older and start to choose their own friends and are around others in the work field, they have a good foundation of what type of people are truly good people to choose as friends.  

Will all my children walk this part of life out perfectly?  I doubt it, but I sure hope so.  We have a part to play in actively teaching and training them in the way they should go.  It takes time.  It takes effort.  It takes some purposeful decisions to lead them in a certain direction and not let the world influence otherwise.  If  you have wondered how to handle these subjects with your youth, I highly recommend this kit.  It's so well put together and makes it easy for discussion with parents and child.  I hope this has encouraged you to direct your family how you want, not how others around you walk out this part of life.  Make the choice for you and your children!!!   

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

SEAL- Word of the year.

I don't usually do the word of the year that I've been reading about people doing.  I am always intrigued though by what people pick.  Lately I've had a couple words come to my mind and keep being brought forth to my thinking.  The words are WRESTLE and SEAL.  I've been studying these a bit the last couple days and here are my quick thoughts on it.  I do want to keep the word SEAL as a word that I continue to reflect on this year.  I know it's not a typical word that I hear mentioned, but there is something in it for me, and I want to find out what the Father is trying to show me.

Most of us know the story of Jacob in Genesis 32:22 where he wrestled with someone until he received the blessing he was hoping for.  There are many different ideas on who he wrestled but the Scriptures mention God.  One interpretation is that he literally wrestled with God, hence getting the name Israel, which means "one who struggles with God".  "Struggles with God" doesn't seem like a positive thing to do.  As I studied and as I look at my life and how I walk out my faith, I'm seeing that it is a healthy thing to struggle or wrestle with God. 

At one point in the story, Jacob was not going to let go of the person until he received the blessing.  When two people wrestle there is always contact of some kind, whether it's their whole body or even just parts like legs, arms, shoulders, etc.  Jacob did not allow separation of their bodies until the blessing was received.  His wrestling was essentially the SEAL.  His wrestling was the seal before the blessing.  Future blessing, the promised land, could not be separated from the struggle that they went through to get there.  There was struggle before the blessing.

In Job 41:15&16 it says, "Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between."  No air can pass through because of the seal.  They are tightly together.  When two people wrestle they are tightly together.  When we wrestle with God, we should be tightly together with Him seeking to know Him more and seeking to understand His Word more.  We are so tight with Him that no air can even pass between us.  That's the seal.  As we wrestle with God a seal forms, never to be broken.  It draws us closer to Him.  It blocks out germs, evil, and untruths. 

Why do we think that we must be confident in the Scriptures and have answers to everything?  Wrestling with God in the Word seals us for blessing ahead.  Seeking the truth of His Word, wrestling with what it says, with what He's speaking to us that our flesh wants to ignore, is showing our love to Him.  Isaiah 8:16 says, "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples."  I can picture wrestlers getting bound up together as they wrestle.  Bind up the testimony.  Wrestle with it.  Study it.  Prove it over and over from one portion to another, and as that happens, the seal that takes place will be the law among His disciples written on their hearts in love.

He wants us to give all of ourselves to Him.  If that means wrestling what He's trying to teach us or with what His Word really says, than that's what He wants.  He will not stop putting things in front of us until He has all of us.  He will not stop pursuing us until He has all of us.  He will not stop.

This song has touched me and spoken to me and caused me to pursue my search on what Yahweh wants me to see in this word SEAL.  I hope it blesses you and encourages you to give it all to Him.  Let Him seal you, so nothing comes between you and the Father.   You Won't Relent by Jesus Culture

Friday, November 24, 2017

Time on Earth

"Work on your relationship with God, and everything else will fall into place."
That's the biggest word that stuck out to me when we attended the Your Life Speaks event in Topeka, IN, where Nathan Harmon shared with many youth groups his struggles when he was younger and where his hope came from to be freed from drugs, alcohol, self harm, and suicidal thoughts.  What a powerful testimony to youth of focusing on God, and when doing that, their life will fall in line as they seek HIM and HIS plan for them.  So much that night spoke to me as a part of my journey that I've been going through over the last year.

We are given so much time, here on earth, to live out our purpose.  Are we actively pursuing God's plan for us or our own?  What if His plan looks different than ours?  I've been pondering thoughts for a couple months, trying to sort them all out and piece them back together.  Focus on God, and He will make the negative and bad flee and will rise up the good and blessings as we draw closer to Him.  If you're struggling with alcohol, don't strive to not drink.  Strive daily to become closer to God and serve Him, and He will take the urge away as you are drawing closer to Him.  You become filled with His goodness instead of the desires within your flesh.  It can apply to many areas of life.  HE can fill voids, bring healing, and strengthen areas that have room for improvement all by focusing on Him.  That takes life out of our hands and puts it into His, which is where He desires each of us to be. 

 We all know that there is strength in numbers.  What if we actively pursue Him in numbers.  Even if it's just within our family?  Do husbands and wives pursue God's calling as a couple?  Do parents pursue God's calling for their children?  Might sound strange, but let me explain.  If we see a gift or talent that our children have that can be used for the kingdom, shouldn't we encourage and help them pursue that as a way to minister to others?  Instead we let them experience many things, that they choose they want to do, and we bounce around from activity to activity, outside the family unit, with parents separated trying to support each child.  Separation.  That's what the enemy loves in a family and uses for his purpose.  When a family isn't keeping God focused, then it allows the enemy to creep in and steal peace, faith, joy, contentment, a bond, and many other things.  Are we pressing toward the mark of the higher calling or pressing toward our own mark?  Are we teaching them to press toward the higher calling or their own satisfaction and achievements?  I love seeing youth serving together and ministering together.  In our family, we've incorporated our gifts into ministry as a family.  Some of us do music, give food, send encouraging cards, plan kid's activities, etc.  We all work together at serving.  We take our children along and be the example of  serving in our gifts.  This keeps the family together, pressing toward the higher calling and seeing results of our faithfulness to God.  Such a greater reward than personal achievements. 

Don't misunderstand me.  If God is calling you or your child to a particular activity, then He must want to use you in that area.  Don't get caught up in your or your child's glory and successes, but stay focused on God's plan.  God has recently been showing me this in my own life.  When I reach out to a lady that I know I can encourage, what do I do when she doesn't respond to me or rejects me?  Do I go cry, because she doesn't want to be my friend?  The Father has opened my eyes and mind in keeping my response focused on His plan.  If God's plan is to use me in her life, then I want to pursue her.  If His plan is to use someone else, then I need to step aside without sulking and feeling rejection and allow someone else to be obedient to what He wants them to do.  I don't want to waste time and energy on having a pity party for myself.  When we put the focus on ourselves, it's completely taken off of Him and becomes our plan, our agenda, our purpose, and our own desires.  Don't let those get in the way of living out HIS plan. 

We are finding that as we serve alongside our children, we are teaching them respect for others, team work, putting others first, real life pain and struggles that we can help and pray people through, how to serve as one body, putting aside personal beliefs and/or opinions.  When we serve together as a couple, we are finding that we are growing together beyond what we imagined.  We are finding that the bond of marriage grows stronger, not allowing room for the enemy to creep in.  The areas that we longed to be changed in the other, just naturally does because God is our focus, and HE is changing that within us as our relationship with HIM grows. 

The song that says, "You won't relent until You, have it all", rings within my mind and heart as I desire to turn it around and express to Him that I won't relent loving Him until I've reached the mark.  As we've been in more and more contact with hurting people needing and wanting change, we know we can't stop running after His plan, because what if He wants to use us to reach one more person we can pull out of the enemy's pit of drugs, alcohol, suicidal thoughts, stress from the demands of life and being successful, and every day struggles of being a faithful follower of Jesus.  We don't want to miss it!!!

Our family isn't perfect!  We are still learning, being disciplined, growing, and hopefully taking strides forward of making changes for the good.  Some things that we've chosen to make a regular part of our lives are:

~Family worship
~Discussing Scripture (even if it's one verse)
~Pray blessings over the children every night
~Encourage open eyes to see who needs help
~Not forgetting the importance of the elderly
~Using gifts to bless others (even when it's uncomfortable)
~Expressing daily what we are thankful for

I want to encourage you to serve together as a family.  Decide what you want your family to represent to those around you, then set out to live that way, bringing your children up with hearts focused on serving and loving in that manner.  Here are some ways you can do that, teaching, instructing, and serving alongside your spouse and children:

~Make and send cards to the sick or shut ins
~Prepare and deliver food to someone with a health challenge, new parents, or elderly
~Volunteer to watch a single mom's children
~Visit a nursing home
~Help at a homeless shelter or food bank
~Collect coats for a winter coat drive
~Rake leaves for someone
~Shovel snow for someone
~Be friendly to neighbors
~Smile at everyone you make eye contact with
~Pray together for certain needs and watch them be answered
~Walk your neighborhood as a family and pray for those who live in each home
~Talk over the dinner table of ways you served or encouraged that day. 

Maybe you can use some of these ideas in your own family or come up with others that fit your family and where you are at in your journey.  As Christ followers we can get so complacent in our every day life that we miss the real battle going on for each soul out there.  It's real.  No matter how much we go to church, read our Bible, pray before every meal and at bedtime, or sing a hymn or chorus in praise, there is still a battle to take over the souls that are doing that.  The fight is real.  Take it seriously, brothers and sisters.  We wrestle not with flesh and blood but against principalities.  It takes numbers to fight for each other.  It takes intentional living at following God's plan to have victory over sin and darkness.  Won't you join us?  Won't you step your faith up a notch and get out of your comfort zone to reach the hurting and broken, or to reach those that HE is calling you to reach?  Maybe it's the widow next door.  Maybe it's the orphan child that lives with grandparents.  Maybe it's a couple from church that needs encouragement.  Maybe it's the drunkard within your own family.  Maybe it's your children that need to have the continued teaching and example of godly living.  It doesn't matter who it is!  Be warriors and fight the battle with boldness, with His strength, with relentless love for the Almighty, the Creator of all human kind and with love for all people. 

All of the photos were taken at the community event with Your Life Speaks and the Night of Community Worship at Prairie Heights.  Our family has been ever so blessed to be a part of both of these events.  Reaching out and serving our community in the giftings He's blessed us with to bless Him and others.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Feast of Tabernacles 2017- Pokagon State Park

Another year of celebrating with friends the wonderful feast of tabernacles or sukkot.  Sukkot in hebrew means "booths", which describes the aspect of this feast of dwelling in temporary tents for all seven days of the festival.  Leviticus 23:33-36 and Deuteronomy 16:13 talk about the feast and what it entails.  Further into Leviticus 23 it speaks of the offerings that were required during the feast.  There are always lessons learned or challenges faced during Sukkot that help us grow as individuals or as a group.  This year I really felt some heart tugs in regards to how I serve my fellow brothers and sisters and those surrounding me.  Not how I do the act of serving but how my attitude is when I do it.  What am I offering.  During this feast they were to bring extra offerings in addition to their normal offering.  What was I bringing in addition to what I was already offering?  

Deuteronomy 16:14 "Be joyful at your festival- you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns."  God wasn't simply directing this to jews only.  He even included the widows in their town to be celebrating this.  This is why we keep this feast and celebrate it.  Besides, in Zechariah 14 it talks prophetically about this feast happening again.  Some how our brains can't wrap around the idea that it happened in bible times, He will have it happen later on according to the prophetic writing in Zechariah, but we shouldn't be doing it now?  It just doesn't make sense to us, so we observe this feast and practice the joyful celebration of our King coming (this just might be the actual time of Jesus' birth too if you look into it a little) to dwell with us as we camp out in temporary dwelling places.  After all, isn't this earth our temporary home?  I sure don't plan on being here forever.  Waiting for that day when HE comes back for us to tabernacle with us for eternity.  

Every year it looks a little different for us as far as where we are and who we are camping with.  Every year is a blessing no matter who we're with because it's the joy and the remembrance of Him being with us and rejoicing in the blessings that He pours out on us.    Here are pictures from this year's celebration.  We camped with 5 families, but we had so many other families trickle in to visit, study, eat, play, sing, and enjoy each other's fellowship.  If any of our readers are interested in this feast and keeping it with us, let us know.  We'll keep you posted in the coming year.  

You can watch Alegra's vlog here of our week or continue to scroll through my view of the pics she took.  :)   
We all love some good hikes during the week.

This is one of our family's offering.  We bring harvest from our garden and cook up a big pan of deliciousness that everybody helps prepare.  It's one of our favorite things during the week, working together from the bounty of our harvest and feasting together on it.

The children played lots of games all week.

We visited another group up in Marshall, MI who also observe this feast.  A meal of chicken and veggies over the fire and peach cobbler and ice cream were quite satisfying along with the singing and Scripture story.  It's always a treat to visit the Twelve Tribes community and partake in fellowship together.

The first and last day of the feast are to be high holy days or a special Sabbath.  On the regular Sabbath, the families enjoyed doing their own thing, children played, and we had a long time friend and teacher from Valpo come share a teaching he has done in the past called Moshiach (Messiah) in the Feasts.

We took the children halfway through the teaching to make graham cracker sukkahs.  It's always a fun activity for the children.

A group of us went horseback riding at the park.  It was a gorgeous morning to ride and stroll the trails on horse back.

We loved having friends come hang with us.  
The Danberry and Ferris families came to enjoy a hike and visit.

Lots of 4 square happened.

Alegra had fun doing a photo shoot with her friends.

There was plenty of love to go around with all the little ones to keep track of and care for. 

We had some random people end up in our camp for some medical needs.  We hoped that we were the servants Yahweh needed us to be for them.  We had various health issues within camp- poison ivy, blisters from walnut juices, bee stings that kept us all caring for one another and each other's children.  Those things bring us together.  We had meals together.  We played together.  We sang together.  And we sat around enjoying each other's company, encouragement, and gifts that they could offer during the week. 

We each had offerings that were brought to the table that weren't planned ahead.  The paramedic in the group was of great help to our group and others in the campground.  Different ladies had ointments and oils that came in handy for children and dogs who were in need.  Ladies who opened their arms to hold little ones so mamas could shower or prepare food or put other little ones to bed.  Knowledge of RVs came in handy for those who needed help.  Bringing together the food we had prepared always made for more than enough food for us and others visiting.  Even the spilling of popcorn all over the ground resulted in a fun opportunity for the children to see how an accident can be used for the good and as a blessing as they put the kernels from the ground in a paper bowl to cook over the fire.  What delight they had as they watched the kernels pop all over the place. 

A week of joy.  A week of rejoicing.  It went too fast.  We didn't get everything in we wanted to.  But the love and celebrating was filling and hopefully glorifying to our Saviour.