Thursday, November 30, 2006
Where in the definition of fellowship does it mention that no work can be done, that we have to just sit around and visit? With this definition, it is no wonder we 'never have time' to get together with folks. When did hospitality and fellowship start to so resemble entertaining? As much as I want to say that I want it back, I am aware that this is something I never had. We are walking a new path here. An old path.
In our journey, our newest endeavors on the hospitality and fellowship front have involved at times even harder work than entertaining. This work is often physically more demanding, but emotionally and spiritually much more strengthening. It is work made easier by many hands and hearts. Instead of 'wasting' time we are redeeming the time.
There is something about hands being busy that opens hearts and loosens tongues. There is something in being served that encourages and refreshes. There is something about serving that feels like a worthwhile expenditure of our time. The old two birds with one stone method of fellowship and hospitality is service.
Now, we pack a casserole and take the whole family to go help cut down our neighbor's tree, (or put siding on a friend's house, right, Kati?) talking, laughing and teaching the children all in one fell swoop. We work together, break bread together and grow together. This is fellowship and this is redeeming the time.
One girlfriend walks in my house and immediately picks up a broom-every time she comes. Instead of my pride condemning me about the state of my kitchen floor, her actions free me to share about the day-to-day struggles of raising a large family. This is fellowship.
The most impressive compliment I ever heard about a mother-of-many is that she served guests peanut butter and jelly with no apologies. Her warm welcome and refusal to be embarrassed by what she had, profoundly affected her guests. That is hospitality. It blesses like no entertaining ever could.
On a routine errand, I stop by another friend's house, she washes me a cup and fixes me tea, never minding the dishes piled high. This is hospitality. After the tea, I wash the dishes while she unloads a burden. This is fellowship.
The days of barn raising and quilting bees need not be over. As long as people are feeling overwhelmed by life, as long as there is work to do that can be eased by a neighbor's help, relationships can be built or strengthened. True hospitality, real fellowship, and valuable service can all go hand-in-hand.
There are still occasions for that special dinner with scented candles, pressed table linens and all the cozy touches to make it a memorable meal. We especially like to bless visiting missionaries with all the wonderful comforts of our home, with no other agenda than to encourage one another. (Well, that and hearing the great stories!) But it is very freeing to know that this is not a requirement for fellowship.
It is good to know that the fellowship can be just as rich over a sink of dishes (especially with a suds fight) as they can in an immaculate family room. Fellowship and hospitality can come in a vast array of shades, shades that will look different for different folks in different seasons. Casual or formal, perfectly clean house or not-so-perfectly clean house, home-cooked food or delivery pizza...it's all good if done for Him.
I am thankful for the journey we have experienced. Although the season in which we find ourselves now is rich, and we may even revisit the other methods from time to time, by His grace...
I'm never going back to 'the show'.
For Part One of this Series, click here.
For Part Two of this Series, click here.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
This plan, while much more involved, allowed us to get to know (much better) another family in a variety of different stages. We had the Friday night kick-back-after-a-long-week nervous entering into conversation. Then the Friday night the-kids-are-up-way-past-bedtime meltdowns, mutually witnessed and mutually experienced. 'Look, honey, their kids throw fits, too.'
With sleeping children there was the sleep-deprived giggling honesty as we relaxed in each others' company. The this-is-where-I-am-with-the-Lord sharing, led to an intimacy and friendship as the hours slipped by.
The next morning's coffee and Morning Hair, making breakfast for a crowd with billions of children underfoot was a comedy of errors. We could see what these families were truly like in a casual setting. And they could see us.
This was an attempt at hospitality, but it was also feeding a need to be known, truly known, and to experience community with other believers. After lunch and naps, we went back to our respective private lives. During the analyzing that Mr. Visionary and I frequently engaged in after such a weekend, we came to unsettling conclusions.
The house did not start out perfect anymore than it ended that way. A quick reminder to the children to share took the place of the lengthy lecture of olden days. The show was over. While this was far better than the previous model of hospitality, it still fell short. Yes, we could say that we knew these families better now. Yes, we did fellowship as a family-no shipping the kids to a back bedroom to play so we could chat, telling lies to each other about how wonderful our lives are. Yes, we related our true experiences with the Lord and grew together.
But we couldn't get past that whispered sense that something was missing. We still had that sinking feeling that we had just wasted a weekend, sitting around talking away perfectly good days...
Surely there were times when the severity of a situation warranted dropping everything and just talking through issues... but was it the norm?
To see where this all started, you may click on Stage One here.
To see what happened next, click on Stage Three here.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
'Dad, she's twitching again...'
Mr. Visionary tries to help: 'Relax, Baby, it's just dinner. It's no biggie.'
No biggie. Right. At the Schmo's house, I know what is happening. Maniacal cleaning, , the 'perfect' meal rivaling a Thanksgiving feast is being prepared, fussing at the kids that 'They will be here in two hours. Hurry up!', and all manner of pressure and strain. I've been there. I know.
It's mirror image occurring at my house is equally stressful. We all have to be dressed 'just so', we give the kids 'The Talk' about behavior, best and otherwise, and Mr. Visionary and I run down the list of contraband conversation topics. Right. Don't talk about Christmas, homeschooling, or homesteading because they aren't into all of that. Check. Remind me again what I can talk about?
The appointed time arrives, as we do ten minutes later. We spend the next three hours in politically correct conversation, dressed in our best clothes, with all our kids on their best 'company' behavior. How sweet...in an artificial kind of way.
On the ride home...
Mr. Visionary: 'Well, did you have a good time?'
The Mommy: 'Yeah, I guess. It was fine.'
Mr. Visionary: 'So, what does she think about ___? What are their plans for ___? How are they liking ___?'
The Mommy: 'I don't know. All I know is that their children, their house and their life are all perfect, school is going great, and she got the chicken recipe from her Mother-in-law.'
Mr. Visionary: 'You, too, huh? I feel like by the time we got everyone ready and drove there and back, we just wasted half a day of our lives to go see a show, and walked away just as lonely as we went in.'
The Mommy: 'There's got to be a better way...'
Whatever happened to real life? Whatever happened to real fellowship?
For Stage Two of our journey through hospitality, click here.
For Stage Three of our journey through hospitality, click here.
Monday, November 20, 2006
His weeping was a wake up call for me. His shuddering sobs a reminder of what things are important. I had not wholly forgotten, but the severity of the consequences had faded in my heart. My hopeful sense of expectancy had somewhere, somehow over the years, grown colder. My aching fear had lessened to a casual matter-of-factness.
When, during an all-too-routine talk with Little Napoleon this morning, he broke down in tears over his sin instead of the usual mechanical, 'Yes, Mom...yes, Mom...yes, Mom' cycle...I knew the Lord was working. I preached the gospel to him again-the bad news first, then the good. When he still seemed sincerely repentant, I called in the older children who are believers. Testing his response in front of everyone, we walked through Psalm 51 with him, and he remained steadfast in his decision. It appears that Little Napoleon was truly born again.
In the midst of the other children
interrogating questioning him, I noticed the Engineer weeping violently. Imagining him to be rejoicing for Little Napoleon, instead I found him to be heartbroken for the Dreamer, who is (in our opinion) still unsaved. A foolish (but graciously short-lived) season of our allowing the Dreamer to be in a Sunday School class has left him with a warped view of the gospel. The easy-believism-ask-Jesus-into-your-heart-and-live-happily-ever-after plan to which he had brainwashing exposure, was the source of agony to the Engineer. He was weeping over his brother's unsaved state...and his very sure future outside of true repentance.
Reflecting on this later in the day, it was needful for me to repent of my lackadaisical attitude about the unbelievers I love. Thanksgiving is coming, along with many unsaved relatives visiting. Some claim to be believers and are not, some know they are not and do not care. Knowing that their fates will be the same, how much do I care?
Lord, remind me where I was when you found me, how it was no different from them. Remind me how you prepared someone to preach to me, and how they need the same. Remind me anew of how to fulfill the debt of love I owe to You...
'So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' (Romans 10:17).
'How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?' (Romans 10:14).
Saturday, November 18, 2006
We've heard it a thousand times, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'. But when it comes to being sick, or worse, having our kids sick, or even worse yet, having all your kids sick at once, this prescription is as good as gold.
Exposure to bacteria and viruses is not the cause of illness. We are exposed to harmful germs daily. Our bodies' response to them is what determines if illness will occur. Some measures we take are about avoiding exposure, and others focus on building our immune response. The two go hand-in-hand.
Starting with those stratagems which are easiest to implement, following are some of the measures we employ in our quest to prevent illness as much as possible:
- Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep mucous membranes wet. Wet noses (not necessarily runny), wet eyes, and a moist mouth will repel germs, whereas dry ones allow the germs to stick like glue. If you are waking with a sore throat and dry cracked lips, you are not drinking enough. (The recommended amount to drink is half your body weight in ounces of water daily, which for my Little Napoleon would be about three ounces a day. Grin.)
- Exercise daily. (Please don't ask me if I really do this.) The lymph system has no pump like the circulatory system, so the only way it can move the good stuff (lymphocytes and antibodies) and the bad stuff (bacteria and viruses) where they need to go is through our muscles contracting and pumping it around. Hence, folks who exercise have higher immune function.
- Get fresh air daily. (Sounds like a no-brainer, but for homeschool Moms, it is sometimes a challenge.) Get yourself outside, and get fresh air inside as much as possible. Open windows-even in winter for a short time. Stale air is full of toxins, which stress the body's systems. Stale air is typically very dry as well, which goes back to point number one about dry mucous membranes.
- Wash hands frequently and properly. Use hot water and soap, and keep rubbing for 20 seconds. This is about as long as it takes to sing the first verse of Amazing Grace, or if you're Doodle, the first line three times over. The hot water and soap will help wash off the germs, but you don't want to kill them. Antibacterial soaps are a leading cause of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains of germs. Don't use them if you want to be healthy. What doesn't kill them makes them stronger, and since we don't wash our hands under a microscope, we don't want to take chances.
- Bathe properly. That means not too much bathing, and not too much soap. In studying, I found that decreased exposure to bacteria may be spurring the rise of modern-day illnesses such as asthma, allergies and auto-immune diseases. Also, our skin has an acidic oily layer that is the biggest chemical barrier to infections, because it is inhospitable to most harmful germs. When this layer is washed off with soap, it does us no good. So wash your hands with soap, but try to avoid it on the rest of the body.
If you can stomach it, you can let them eat...well, you can read it yourself here.
- Get enough rest. Tired bodies have tired immune systems. If you are worn down, you will be more likely to get sick. I try to be proactive about this by not allowing us to be over-extended. Instead of waiting until we are already coming down with something to rest, I make it a priority all the time. Good, deep sleep allows our bodies to release interferon, a powerful immune-enhancing compound that is especially helpful with fighting viral infections.
- We avoid antibiotics at all costs. Anti means against, and biotic means living organisms...these things kill living organisms-the good and the bad. (Until I started studying immunity, I had no idea how important 'good bacteria' were. I will explain more about this later.) When something does the work for you, it makes you weaker. Every time we use antibiotics, our bodies lose an opportunity to grow stronger. Studies also show that for a normally healthy person, the use of antibiotics lengthens the duration of illness, and the likelihood of recurrence.
- We drastically cut our intake of sugar. We don't drink juice, soda, Kool-Aid, etc. Studies have shown that after ingestion of even a teaspoon of sugar, immune function is depleted for up to six hours. This goes for even healthy sugars like raw honey, sucanat, real maple syrup,and even...fruit juice. Whole fruits do not have the same effect on immunity. For us, this looks like not serving pancakes with maple syrup before church or on Town Day, when we will be exposed to a lot of new germs.(Not to mention how it helps Little Napoleon sit still in church better.)
- Dietary Supplements- these are things we include in our everyday diet to strengthen our immune systems:
- Vitamins-We do not use vitamin supplements, only whole foods. Studies have shown isolated nutrients (and especially synthetic ones) do more harm than good.
- Cod liver oil- Nourishing Traditions says it confers 'resistance to infectious disease in children'. We buy it lemon-flavored, and there is no special way to take it...just chug a spoonful with dinner. This has been instrumental in curing one of our children of asthma.
- Virgin coconut oil- The Coconut Oil Miracle says that the fatty acids found in coconut are powerful natural antibiotics, killing bacteria like streptococcus and staphylococcus. Besides being the only oil outside of butter that we use in cooking, we also put it in smoothies for snacks and hurry-up breakfasts. Another yummy way to supplement with this is to melt a spoonful in a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate.
- Raw garlic-this Italian girl is thrilled that garlic is part of a healthy lifestyle! We eat it regulary in salad dressing, pasta sauce, dips, etc. Our favorite way to have it is on pasta tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper with raw garlic put through the garlic press. Even the Littles eat it this way a smidge, and the big kids like it with plenty of garlic, (although no one likes as much as Mom!). Garlic can stimulate the activity of the white blood cells, which attack foreign organisms (viruses, bacteria, and yeast). Also, garlic increases the activity of the T-helper cells (immune cells which are central to the activity of the entire immune system). Dragon breath for a good cause!
- Elderberry Extract- we take our homemade Elderberry syrup every day during cold and flu season. Studies about elderberry extract have proven it to offer strong protection against respiratory viral infections. Here are instructions for making it yourself, or you can buy Sambucol. Elderberry has no contraindications, and can be taken continually (unlike Echinacea) without harming immune response.
Throughout my studies, and now, my experience, the most important thing I have come across to support and strengthen the immune system is healthy bacteria in our digestive systems! I cannot stress this enough. The good bacteria in our digestive tract kills the harmful germs we come into contact with while they are in our digestive tract, before they enter our bloodstream. The lack of healthy bacteria in our bodies these days is why food poisoning is so rampant. E. Coli is naturally occurring in our bodies-it is just when it gets out of balance that it wreaks havoc. I found that strong immunity depends upon the bacteria in the digestive system being in balance, with the 'good' bacteria outnumbering the 'bad'. Everything under the sun kills the good and causes the bad to proliferate, especially stress, conventional farming methods, and the over-processed, high-sugar content of the standard American diet.
In organic farming, the healthy bacteria we need in our systems are naturally on the fruits and vegetables we grow. Modern farming practices kill the bacteria, causing us to be way under-supplied with the good bacteria or 'friendly fauna'. Thus, our need to supplement our diets with these bacteria. A healthy whole foods diet will help to keep the bad bacteria in check, but we have to be sure to eat the good. How we do that is by making and consuming traditional lactic-acid fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and old-fashioned lacto-fermented pickles. (This dietary change has also been instrumental in curing one of our children of asthma. Thank you, Father!)
We eat at least one of these foods daily (it only takes a smidge) to keep those bacteria in balance. A yogurt shake, a tablespoon or two of sauerkraut with our sandwich at lunch, a few pickle slices with dinner...it is very easy to do. If you want to know more about the effect of the digestive system on immunity, read Restoring Your Digestive Health by Jordan Rubin. If you want recipes and instructions for making these lacto-fermented foods, read Nourishing traditions by Sally Fallon. They are truly simple to make-needing nothing more than a knife, a jar, some salt, some water and a vegetable. The kids have been talking about posting a blog tutorial about making lacto-fermented vegetables, so we may do that soon.
In closing, I just want to state that YHWH (God's name in Hebrew) is sovereign. He alone controls whether we and our families will experience illness. Knowing that He expects us to be faithful stewards of the health that He has bestowed, these are the measures that we have been led to take.
Well, these and the old stand-by:
'You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.'
At least not while he's sick.
P.S. If you haven't already, you may want to read Battling Illness Naturally Part One ~ The Why.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I am quite sure it has gotten worse since we moved to the farm. In fact, I can hardly remember anything more than a rare occurence when we were city-folk. And it never happened at an innapropriate time...at least not often. Things are definitely regressing.
I am a very visual person. I can perfectly picture house plans in my head, and paint colors on walls. As Mr. Visionary gives me driving directions, I visualize that blue house on the corner of Fifth and Main and that certain oak tree that was struck by lightening back in '92. During any conversation with any person, I create mental images of the topics discussed. It is a very useful skill.
Unless it happens while I am attempting to ingest food.
Let the record show that a farm is a bad place to be a 'very visual person'... especially with a passel of homeschooled children around. They are encouraged to seek, find, explore and generally take dominion over the farm. As long as their finds do not take dominion over my house, I am usually happy. It is the vivid re-creations at dinner that get to me...
'Tell her how he ate the head of the mouse first!' 'No, tell her about how Buckwheat fell in the...' 'And then, Mom, we found this weird egg that was...'
I try remember to stop what I am doing, give my full attention and actually listen to the children when they want to talk. Sometimes I am even successful. I am truly working on this area of listening-truly listening. I know what a blessing it is to the children to share their heart with me, so I keep at it. Although the visualizing of these stories could be a great weight loss program, I feel rather justified in just tuning it out. Thanks, but...no thanks.
'Whatsoever things are lovely...think on these things', that's my motto.
I tell you what...I won't ask...and please, please...don't tell.
Friday, November 10, 2006
While I've never read the book or seen the movie, I am vaguely familliar with the story of The Horse Whisperer. Sounds like an interesting story, and I may read it someday (or perhaps not). But for now, our family has stumbled into the lead roles of a real-life version of the spin-off. It has been given a working title of The Cow Watchers.
Bred at the same time, our two Jersey cows are expecting calves
soon any minute, and we are more-than-a-little-excited. Our first experience with calving last summer was less-than-perfect. In fact, we missed the whole thing. Since our newly-bought Millie delivered three months earlier than we were expecting, we woke up to find the calf instead of getting to watch the birth. We have high hopes for this go-round.
Just like human Mommas, we have an idea when to expect the calves, but don't know for sure when they will arrive. Enter the Cow Watchers. We have spent much time observing these ladies, scrutinizing every minute change in their anatomy and behavior. We have discussed, speculated and wondered aloud (but not at dinner). In true Johnny Bench fashion, I have even squatted behind my cows, gazing so fixedly at pieces-parts that I have at times blushed and felt the need to aplogize to my ladies.
Life just never seems to turn out like you imagine it. When I was saved in high school (Thanks, Mike!), I was not-so-affectionately dubbed the Head-Chick-Gone-Jesus-Freak. I seemed to my friends then as changed as I seem to myself now. I cannot believe I am living this life. I cannot believe I am enjoying it so much. God is good. Life is good. And suprisingly enough, cows are fun.
Now, I have to go watch. I hope I remember my lines...
Pardon Me, Ladies...
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
For which other activity would I be excited to drag seven small children out on a cold, rainy day? Election Day is one of my favorites of the year since moving to a smaller town, but I can assure you that my giddiness stems not from being thrilled about the candidates from which I have to choose nor a delight in politics in general.
I am thankful for my heritage as an American, and I want to set a good example for my children. I also believe it would be an affront to the men who died to give me the right to vote for me to neglect this act. These are reasons to vote that, for me, stem from duty. I vote because I should. (Coming in farther down the list is the rule at our house which says, ’If you don’t vote, you can’t complain’. My desire to complain is also a motivator.)
But the reason I get excited about Election Day stems from family tradition. In the Mr. Visionary family, we have Brunswick Stew for dinner every Election Day. In our part of the South, every cold-weather event is celebrated by the making of this stew in 50-gallon cast iron pots stirred with long wooden paddles. Part of the mystique of this meal is it’s being stirred for 12 hours or so by women with names like Sissy, Nita, Becky-Sue and other hyphenated names, which just cannot be re-created at home. So, we happily buy it at the Fire House and have it for dinner (along with corn bread, of course) that very night as we listen for the election results on the radio. Let the record show that any tradition that involves not cooking is good…no matter how I feel about politics.
And so, a few words from the Mr. Visionary Family Children:
'I loooove Brunswick Stew, and I love seeing all the neighbors! I'm glad we have a chance and the right to vote. (And it is fun to see inside the Fire Station.) I'm glad we have the right to vote bad people out and good people in. Thank God for our liberty.' ~Literary Lady
'When we walked in the Fire Station, Mom went up to a booth and pressed some buttons on the screen to vote for people. She asked a lady to take our picture so we could blog it. Then we went into another building and bought Brunswick stew and baked goods. I'm glad we can choose the people we want to vote for instead of someone else deciding for us. I am so excited when the person who we voted for wins. ' ~Flower Child
'I like being in this country because it is easy to vote. People in other countries have to wait in line five or six hours just to vote. In places like Iraq, people who come to power usually fight to come to power, and the people don't even get to vote about it. We are very blessed here because we can actually vote for the people who run our country. God has blessed America.' ~The Engineer
'I like being homeschooled so I can go on a field trip to vote with Mom. Even though we have to vote, God really decides who is going to win. I'll be glad when the election is over so our phone won't be ringing off the hook all day. When we got to the Fire Station, there wasn't much Brunswick Stew left in the pot. I love Brunswick Stew!' ~The Dreamer
'I like the truffles that we got at the Fire Station. Mom started pressing different buttons, and every time she pressed a button it went to a different screen. I hope Mom voted for a good person. The lady who was helping Mom get the voting machine started was giving out stickers. And one more thing...I liked the cookies...and I like Brunswick Stew. God bless America.' ~Little Napoleon
'I saw Mrs. Clark. She gave me cookies and I looked in the big pot.' ~Doodle
'I had a nice nap.' ~Babydoll
Election Day Field Trip...it's good to be an American.
Stirring the stew...and Little Napoleon peeking at it cooking.
Monday, November 6, 2006
There is a sparse area of woods just beyond a small yard in the front of our house. This area has been named by the children in our family, "The Village", and happens to be the favorite play spot for our kids. Comprising the Village are child-built homes complete with fenced garden areas, flowered arbors, and outdoor kitchens. Supplies and building materials for the buildings have been salvaged from the trash pile, the lumber shed, the woods, and "the Goodwill pile".
The Village happens to be right outside my kitchen window, which particularly blesses the Mommy. When the children play there, I do not require the usual walkie-talkies to be put into service, as I am able to watch the happenings. In my late afternoon musings from the kitchen window, I have pondered many reasons why the Village is definitely a requirement for raising these children well.
The Village adventures related at dinner are the stuff from which pure joy is made. On a great Village day, the children leave off that familiar bickering, and learn the teamwork that some believe can only be learned from participating in team sports. Other, more general benefits include:
- Village building uses up those miscellaneous pieces-parts of stuff that should be tossed, but never quite make it to the trash pile (or at least don't stay on the trash pile).
- The kids are allowed to use their creativity in ways that keep them out of trouble (i.e. they have permission to build in the Village). This is one of those side benefits to living in the country, as well. When we lived in a "planned community", folks could be fined for something as simple as a bike left out overnight.
- It makes our farm fit in the neighborhood better asthetically. The Village gives the place that country ecclectic look, sometimes known around here as the "poor white trash" look. Besides, it kinda "goes" with the house on the corner with 14 broken-down cars parked in the front yard.
- The children come in at the end of the day covered from head-to-foot with dirt. It is a great life for a farm kid. Every child should have the opportunity to be that dirty regularly.
I love to go out to visit the Village, to see their home improvements, the new meals cooked that day, get updates on their "gardens", and find out how they have occupied themselves all afternoon. I am often suprised at what they know how to do, how much they really have listened, and what things they have discovered on their own.
I have found that the Village is a place of discovery for me, too.
As a matter of fact, just this morning I discovered the location of my missing measuring cups. Apparently it does take a Village.
The newest addition to the Village, complete with parking area and shed on the back.
A lady's touch: a 'deck' and walkways.
Looks kinda cozy inside. I love the tablecloth.