Monday, May 28, 2007

Journey Through A Summer Storm

Standing at the far end, I survey the lay of the land, noticing the steep cliffs on either side, assessing the dangers, and developing my strategy for passing through this area unscathed. I quickly suck in my stomach, perch on my tippy-toes and begin the journey, slowly sliding sideways, as the gorge is too narrow to pass through head-on. Breathing heavily, I attempt to steady my emotions which are swinging wildly between fear of an avalanche, and the elation of having made it this far. It was a tortuous but necessary journey.

I made it through to the end of the hallway.

The boxes, bags, stacks and stashes on either side are the fruit of our efforts to scale down our possessions. The hallway is crammed full from our morning's engaging in warfare against the guest room. This being the Anything-I-Don't-Want-To-Deal-With-Now-Gets-Put-There room makes it more challenging than any other save the kitchen, otherwise known as the Boy-I-Sure-Love-A-Good-Gadget room, which was attacked yesterday.

Although this process is fraught with emotional turmoil, I can honestly say that I am not sad to see anything go. That is not the emotional upheaval I am experiencing. Owning this stuff costs time, effort and money. I am grieved to finally see just how wasteful our lifestyle has been. How much of Mr. Visionary's back-breaking effort has been wasted making the money to buy all these trifling things? Even the "free" stuff donated by well-meaning friends and family costs plenty. How much of my precious Mommy time has been spent shuffling this stuff from place to place, organizing and reorganizing, picking up and putting away, and how much cuddling and book reading could have been done in the time that was spent? How many hours have I wasted making and implementing chore charts to help us take dominion over all this in order to keep it from taking dominion over us? I can't do exponential math accurately in my head, but I cringe at the estimates at which I am arriving so far.

Like a summer afternoon storm, it started with a smattering of fat drops in the dust, "Maybe we need to get rid of a few things." Moving into a decided drizzle, "Wow, I had no idea we had so much", and onto a substantial shower, "I am ashamed at how much stuff we have", I began repenting. In the drenching downpour I find myself in now, I can hear my own voice echoing in my ears..."There's just not enough time in the day"..."I have too much to do"...

Or maybe I just have too much.

I have been daydreaming throughout this process about how different life could have been had we never owned all these possessions. I am also dreaming about how life will be different without them now. I am asking Father to help me learn this lesson well ~ to know the truth contained in it well enough to not forget, and to experience this conviction deeply enough to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Concerned that I might be taking this too hard, Mr. Visionary spoke encouragingly to me, "It's OK, Sweetheart, don't be so hard on yourself. We know now, and we're not going back there."

I answered with my best attempt at quoting Mr. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice: "You may well warn me against such an evil. Human nature is so prone to fall into it! No...let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough."

Even as the words were coming out, I prayed, "Father, let it not be so! I desire to be changed by this deluge ~ and by your grace I will be."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No Man’s Land

Where we go doesn't matter. The crowd we're with seems to have no bearing on it as well. Wherever we manage to find ourselves, our family is an oddity. Wherever we go, whether in the world or the Church, we do not fit in with the folks around us. Two recent experiences have ingrained in me that there's only one place to call home, and that place isn't back on our farm.

On a recent trip, we had the opportunity to meet with a fellowship that is very careful to observe and obey all that the Lord has instructed. Many of them were farmers, most of them had large families. I was looking forward to making new friends and enjoying some fellowship. Since it is not everywhere we go that the kids can be with other kids who milk cows and share bedrooms, I was hoping they, too, would enjoy the chance to fellowship.

Unsure of what to expect as far as dress code, I was sure my tried-and-true conservative outfit would serve well. I wore my almost-to-the-ankles full black skirt, my bright pink sweater set, and my trusty black Mary Janes. I am pretty conservative about clothes ~ but apparently not conservative enough for this crowd. The combination of my uncovered head, eyeliner and lipstick must have screamed, "brazen Egyptian hussy" to them. I was road-blocked out of multiple conversations, apparently because anyone who looked like me, couldn't possibly know anything about what their life was like. "And what is someone as worldly as her doing with seven children, anyway?"

On the other hand, last night our family spent way too much money to go downtown in a major city for a "Christian" concert in a "Christian" church building. Again unsure of what to expect, I wore the same tried-and-true outfit. It didn't fit any better in this crowd. The country bumpkin surrounded by (Ick!) children was contrasted here with the tight pants, push-up undergarments, dyed hair and manicured nails of city life. The looks said, "I wonder if she's even wearing shoes". The actions said, "Let's not get close enough to find out".

It is pretty popular these days to claim we all worship the same God, but I believe that is blasphemy. We do, however carry the same book (don't get me started on translations). While actually reading it would be helpful , feeding on it would certainly be better. After all, He has exalted His Word above His name.

The same chick, in the same clothes, with the same children fared no differently in either place ~ too hootchie for one, too frumpy for another. In earlier days I would have been angry at the treatment we received. I would have been offended that someone would judge the book of my life by it's cover. Yet now, I am grateful for the reminder to love no matter what. Teach me, Father to have no respect to matter what they look like on the outside. Teach me that while fruit inspection is good, the packaging may look different. Ingrain this lesson in me while the wound is still tender.

And let me never forget this feeling...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Not My List, But Yours Be Done

Have you ever called one of your children and begun explaining a job you wanted them to do, when they instantly leave without ever having listened, without ever having asked for details, and to have them start working frantically, furiously even, on something altogether other than what you were desiring? Not only have I experienced this with my children, I have been this child.

Had you asked me, I would have surely told you that the items on my list were part of my work in serving the Lord with gladness. I mean, come on, the Proverbs 31 chick had plenty of irons in the fire, so it was normal, natural and godly for me to do the same. There is a lot involved in caring for a large family in general. Add in homeschooling, running a farm, and being crunchy health-food types, and you get a recipe for full days. For the cherry on top, make the Dad self-employed, and you get instantly over-full days. But this was for God, and far be it from me to suggest that our doing the Lord's will is too much for us.

Without question I was doing the Lord's will. My being so sure of it pushed me to work harder and faster as I knew that if He called me to do it, there would be abundant grace to help me accomplish it. It led to a thinking based in poor theology that if I didn't get my list done, it was surely sin. However, when my To-Do List didn't leave time to be or do the other things clearly defined in scripture, I was forced to question.  My questioning began along the lines of, "Father, why did you give me so much to do?" but quickly turned to, "Who did give me this List? "

My Father assured me it did not come from Him, and I was duly rebuked in that I never consulted Him about it in the first place. When praying over my List, Father cleared His throat and said, "Excuuuse me? When did I give you that?" I had  assumed too much. I had read a lot of books and listened to much teaching. I had become an educated idiot ~ so full of knowledge that I forgot how much I needed wisdom. That wisdom could only be found sitting at His feet, soaking in His Word.

So the first step in my journey to do His will was to learn to come to Him first. I have learned this lesson well enough that now, I will not move without CLEAR leading from Him. Coming through the fire has taught me that I'd rather die sitting still than to take a step without His direction. I am not afraid to look as if I am doing nothing.

What is for breakfast? What should we work on this afternoon? What curriculum to use? What do I say to this child, Lord? What time do you want me to go to bed tonight? What is next from here, Father?

I am waiting. Waiting on Him, because I know He will speak.

~~~~Next, I'll tell you where my old "To-Do List" came from...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Laundry Detergent, Lists and Blogs

I bought laundry detergent. I sold my chickens, too. One cow is gone, so is 99% of my RSS feed list of daily reads. I ditched the Greek curriculum and unit studies, but acquired two newborn calves, and an automatic cat-food feeder. Trying to figure out the common thread here?

I mentioned here that our going through a difficult winter spurred me to get very practical with Father. I was melting down under the burdens that I had placed on myself. I came to a place of making a list of all that was on my plate, the small and the great, the important and the fleeting, and bringing each item to my Father in absolute (finally) humility... I was determined to obey whatever He instructed me to do or to ditch. It has been several months now, since instituting some of the major changes that Father has shown me, and I wanted to give you an update on several fronts.

First, to share exactly in which areas we have made said changes, and secondly, to share the effects of such changes. Some alterations were made amidst much kicking and screaming on my part, ("But, but, but..."), some reordering occured without anyone noticing, and still other remodeling has been unexpectedly, nothing short of life changing. A metamorphosis has occurred in our family, and I want to share it with you in hopes that you, too may benefit.

I'll start the list of things we changed tomorrow, but I wanted to first leave you with these few blog posts that really ministered to me during the trial this winter:

JavaDawn's Distracted With Much Serving and Choosing the Good Portion and...Holly's  Dear Mom.

Friday, May 4, 2007

No Regrets

It must have happened when I was playing with Babydoll in the Red Clover field. I don't know if Babydoll or the puppies were the instrument that caused it to come out, but either is equally likely. It is thought-provoking how they have survived this long, through this many grabbing babies, many moves, and lots of living, anyway. But, to everything there is a time under heaven, and this was apparently the time.

I am a very plain kind of girl ~ I wear three pair of shoes, like solid colored clothes, and, had Mr. Visionary not intervened with an opinion of his own, would have happily lived life with a wardrobe consisting of simply black, white and khaki. Many years ago, nine to be exact, when Mr. Visionary surprised me with a gift of very special earrings, I was a little taken aback. They were beautiful, to be sure ~ oval emerald studs with a diamond at one end, and small ~ showing that he really knew how I loved dainty earrings. I was afraid to wear them because they were lavish and costly, and at first I didn't notice how dejected Mr. Visionary seemed as I left them in their luxurious little box. I was too proud of my thriftiness to be seen wearing such an extravagant delight, and besides, what if they got lost?

Yet they have been lost many times over the years ~ partly because my babies have seemed drawn to them, and grab at them often. Although it may disgust the Ezzos, my method of redirecting little hands was not always successful. So when I realized this time that they were gone again, my retracing my steps helped me determine where they were lost. The field of red clover wherein I was playing with Babydoll and some puppies at a friend's house was the most likely place. I'll not bother to go back and attempt to find the missing one, but not just because I think it would be futile.

There is a weightier reason.

Although not astute enough to pick up on it quickly, by my Father's grace, I did notice Mr. Visionary's downcast face over my not wearing the earrings. When I realized how it appeared that I was rejecting him and his gift, I determined to change. Within the month, I started wearing the earrings every day. If they got lost, then so be it. My darling's feelings were more important than some stupid earrings. For nine years straight I wore this pair of earrings, and no other, every day, resolved to enjoy them while they lasted. I praised Mr. Visionary to friends and strangers who commented upon them, and I thanked him hundreds of times over the years. In short, the reason I will not pine over their loss is that I enjoyed them while I had them.

I have no regrets.

In the last few years, it has been my ever increasing desire to live a life that I can look back on with no regrets. I want to be an old woman who rejoices in the fullness of her years and blessings, surrounded by family and friends. I am definitely not perfect in this regard. Those that know me are fully aware of my shortcomings in this area. But my desire, my heart's deepest wish, is to live today with the end in sight.

And if all it ever takes to learn this is a lost earring, broken china and crystal, a messy house, or dirty carpet, then it will be one of the least costly of any of the lessons I have learned am learning.

"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" Ephesians 5:15-17.