Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Adventure Begins? Or Continues?

In the midst of trials, I am often so focused on surviving the season that I can't see past the immediate circumstances. Yet, looking back from the opposite shore, I am acutely aware that my Father was purposing to do a deep work in my heart. At the time, I never understand how deep the work, nor how the different trials could be woven together so seamlessly to suit His plans. Even afterwards I only see through a glass darkly. Thousands of seemingly unrelated incidents work together to mold me into the woman that He desires to use and to prepare me for what may lie ahead.

I honestly do not know if I had ever imagined a situation such as the one I am in now. Even though I always desired to be used on the mission field and we have been praying for an opportunity for about eighteen months now, this is not what I expected. Knowing how many times my personal big fat plans have crashed and burned, I am relieved that, at least this time, this was not my idea.

Mr. Visionary and I concur that no matter how unbelievable to our flesh, it appears that Father desires us to pursue an opportunity to serve Him together as a family in the West Bank of Israel. Our task would be to personally work in the vineyards, orchards and groves serving the Israeli farmers, as well as building a team of volunteers to serve short or long-term shifts ministering to the Israeli farmers. The ministry we are working with is HaYovel, begun by Tommy and Sherri Waller, whom a lot of homeschoolers know from the A Journey Home video about their family. It is a work that, looking back, we can see many areas in which Father has orchestrated events for such a time as this.

Of course we are aware of the dangers of serving in such an area. We are not foolishly headed into this wearing rose-colored glasses, or otherwise refusing to see the facts involved in such a move. How easy it is for any of us to quip, "The safest place to be is in the center of His will" (and how brave of us to assert such a thing sitting in middle-class suburbia). We are being reminded every day that to walk on water, Peter had to get out of the boat. Thinking outside of the box is a good thing...but so is stepping out of the boat.

This is the single most intense crisis of faith through which our family has ever had to walk. In some ways it is so difficult ~ our flesh at times screams for us to run away. In other ways, it seems as if it is the most natural step we could take ~ to take Father's hand as He leads us to the dance floor. He truly is the perfect partner, leading with strength, grace and gentleness. Our toes only get stepped on when they are out of their place. No matter the music...a lilting serenade or a crashing symphony...His lead is calm and steady. How grateful I am that this is so!

The plans are not set in stone as of yet. We are still awaiting confirmation of exactly what His plans are for us. At this point we cannot even honestly say that we are headed to Israel. All we know is that Father is leading us to walk through the doors that would take us there. If He wills, we will go to Israel to serve Him. If He does not, we will expect to find closed doors. Either way, we expect to one day look back and see at least a clouded glimpse of His purposes for us in this season.

You have seen, over the last few posts, that we are downsizing. We are also working to put our farm on the market to sell, but it is slow going. Life is busy, there is only so much of us to go around and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done unless our family relationships are neglected. Unwilling to allow that, our progress is at a snail's pace. However, we know that the timing is in Father's hands. All aspects of the timing are in His hands, including our only being allowed to have ninety-day visas. (The necessity of our needing to leave Israel that often is what prompted my recent comments about living out of suitcases.) Therefore, after selling the farm, we are hoping to buy a small farm/home with cash, so that we will have a place to live between visas.

Other plans are to send Mr. Visionary to Israel for a few weeks this Fall, so that he can experience the harvest season and the Sukkot festival, and to get a feel for the work upon which we will embark. We are praying that Father will give us further confirmation one way or the other through Mr. Visionary's trip. We are also looking at RVs to use in case we need to travel the U.S. before heading abroad, are researching Hebrew curriculum, and are enjoying and appreciating our possible last summer at the farm.

We would be blessed by your praying on our behalf for confirmation and clear direction from Father. I'm sure there will be many questions. I am even more sure that many will be offended and not be able to understand our journey. While I may not be able to address each person individually, we will consider all comments which are shared in a spirit of love, and I will attempt to answer what I am able in subsequent posts. My goal here has been to give a brief overview of our newest adventure. :)

For local folks, Tommy and Sherri Waller and the children will be here to do a presentation at our home on Wednesday, July 11 at 7:00 p.m. Anyone who is interested in the work they are doing in the West Bank (and in which we will be involved) is invited to come. Call or e-mail us for more details.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Regarding Raiment

Six months they will be on the road. Living in a bus and sleeping in a new place nearly every night would seem to be discomfiting to these kids, yet they were the happiest, most well-adjusted children I have ever met. Ugandan orphans who travel the world singing and raising the money that supports them, they are on tour for six months at a time, with no more belongings than what they can carry on their backs. The Watoto kids that stayed with us last Fall taught me much about traveling light.

The contents of their backpacks consisted of three outfits, three underwear, three pair of socks, one pair of pajamas, a toothbrush, a comb, and a bandanna. That's it. For six months. My first reaction was that of disbelief. How could they possibly live that way? What if their clothes got dirty? What if they lost a button? Didn't they ever have grape juice incidents?

But as I watched their lifestyle, I was enamored. People. Ministry. Laughter. Singing. This is the stuff of such a simplified life. They washed and dried their clothes every night. They had a stain stick and a sewing kit. Simple. No backed-up laundry, no "What-do-I-wear-today?", no unmatched socks, no stress. I wasn't sure at the time what Father was going to do in me with this revelation, but I think I am discovering it now.

Having many months to ponder this and experience the contradiction in our lifestyles, the lessons in it finally took root in the form of embarking on revamping our family's clothing plan. I have already had much success in the area of the children's clothes. We keep five play outfits, two "good" outfits for public wear, and two church outfits. Doing laundry every day (a necessity in this size family) makes it easier to have fewer clothes. It also means that our favorites (which is all we ever end up wearing anyways) are always clean.

Since the main determining factor for clothing choices is lifestyle, we started by assessing what it is we need to accomplish in life. Starting with activities in which we are already involved skips a major step. Who is to say but that the things we are already doing may not need to be changed or eliminated? So we begin at the beginning: what activities does our Father want us to be doing?

What do we need to do in a day? A week? Anything that we need specific clothing for once a month or less, makes me question whether we need either to do it at all or at least need special clothing for it. (Which would explain why my bridesmaid dress from my brother's wedding is on eBay.)

Based on my lifestyle, I need only a few types of clothes. I work at home doing housework and teaching the children, I sometimes do really yucky work like farm chores or painting, I exercise, I go to church, and I occasionally go into town for business or social activities. All of those work themselves into three categories of clothing needs: Everyday, A-Little-Nicer-Than-Everyday, and Downright Grungy. Those three categories could not possibly require as many clothes as I currently own.

I have rewritten this post several times, explaining what types and amounts of clothing I have, only to determine that you do not need to know. I know that my initial reaction to reading information like that would be to compare myself, and judge myself poorly or favorably according to whether I am entering into pride or condemnation. I don't want you to do that. My desire instead, is to get you thinking...the same as the Ugandan children did for me.

How much time have I wasted standing in the closet, trying on outfit after outfit, attempting to decide what to wear (and how much have I frustrated Mr. Visionary in the process)? I know folks like to joke about how many clothes and shoes women have, but is it really funny? In light of eternal matters, can I continue to justify the amount of time and money that has heretofore been spent on clothes in my life? How much money have I spent on clothes that were a dumb choice in the first place? Worse yet, how many clothes did I buy because the ones we had just 'were not in style' any more? How many choices were made for no other reason than vanity? Fear of Man? Pride? How much time have I wasted finding a favorite shirt in the midst of ten perfectly fine ones?

Carla has taught me to not just notice the answers to questions like this, but to grieve, and allow that grief to do a deep and heart-changing work. My noticing how shameful my answers are is a beginning, but the next step, my repentance, is the true means of grace that the Holy Spirit will use to change me.

Do not hear what I am not saying. I am not saying it isn't important to care about our appearance, what I am saying is that we need to be honest about our motivation. I need to be honest about my motivation. I realize how easy it is to get caught up in the world's mentality about clothing and appearance. It screams that our worth is tied to our appearance. Yet, just because a lie is loud or unrelenting doesn't make it true. Getting free from that lie is a key to simplifying our wardrobes...and there is something about that kind of freedom that just invigorates a person.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you have been able to simplify clothing, or how you are feeling led in this area. Iron sharpens iron, and heading into a season of being world travelers and living out of suitcases...I can use all the help I can get.


Mr. Visionary took the picture and held the baby! He's multi-talented. :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Good News, A Pile And A Party

As I begin this post, I feel led to remind you, gentle reader, that it takes a certain level of humility to engage in full disclosure in such a public arena. What I am about to share, I do because I feel compelled to in order to encourage and inspire others to tackle the difficult areas of their lives. Well, that, and...I'm just really excited to have this accomplished!

For far too long now, since about the New Year's Flu, I have had on my sidebar a goal of eliminating 80% of the contents of our attic. On a seemingly unrelated note, our schoolroom/playroom was converted into the Yard-Sale-Waiting-To-Happen Room back in February. When it became probable that we will have a house full of overnight company next month, I realized we'd better get busy on the attic and the yard sale, to clear up the extra space in the house. I really couldn't procrastinate any longer.

So without further ado, I present to you the before, during and after shots of what will henceforth be known in our family as the Attic Attack. Starting early, before the attic did it's impersonation of an oven, first on the agenda was to empty the attic so we wouldn't have to work in the heat. Here's what the attic looked like before we began:

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Mom stayed in the attic and chucked lowered boxes, etc. down to the boys, who neatly stacked piled the attic contents in part of the family room. The good news is that by the time we got the attic emptied, it looked like this:

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The bad news is, the Family Room looked like this:

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After blocking the TV, the front door, and two couches in the process of emptying the attic, we sorted and purged most of the attic contents. A little forethought allowed us to tie a rope onto Mom's leg before attacking this pile, in case she didn't make it back out. After several hard days of keeping the kids out of the junk boxing and bagging, we are happy to announce that we got the Family Room (and the entire house) back in shape in time for Sabbath dinner on Friday night.
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Note to Self: Remind kids of this process before next trip into town. And myself!
Note to my Children: Yes, we will be having a party to celebrate. Just let me catch my breath first.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

When It “Clicks”

As we were re-assessing the boys' belongings in their room this morning I heard The Engineer say this as he was picking up approximately 2000 colored pencils that had been dumped on the floor:

"Hey Mom, I want to do what your friend in the covered wagons was doing. I want to say, 'Is this a want or a need?' just like they did."

Music to a downsizing Mom's ears.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

More On Traveling Light

I can't help but notice, as Cheri did in the comments yesterday, that Father is developing a recurring theme in His people, and wanted to share a post by my friend Carla Lynne. Her family is further along this purging and refining journey that Father is helping our family along, and I count it a blessing to follow along the trail she is treading. Carla Lynne and her family have embarked on a journey of which many of us have dreamed, especially on the hard days.

You will be blessed by her family's mission, even if you could never imagine yourself called in a similar manner. She will be chronicling their journey (which has already begun) to their Promised Land on her blog. Visit her here: Carla Lynne's Lightening The Load (Part One), and be blessed. But grab a tissue, and be prepared...I was weeping by the end.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Time To Cast Away

So what do you keep? How much do you get rid of completely, and how much do you put away for later? I've been pondering this question frantically obsessively a lot lately, as we have been walking through this extensive decluttering effort in our home. Folks have also been asking for advice regarding their own journeys into decluttering. I have pondered many angles with which to approach this question, only to arrive at one answer definitively.

Deciding your possession end-point is a private matter between you and God. My answers for how much to keep will likely be different from yours. Likewise, my reasons for casting away may be different from yours. My intention here is to share some of my reasoning in hopes that it may help you in your own journey.

After finally understanding on a heart level that there is a one-to-one relationship between the possession of things and the consumption of time, I determined to get serious. My complaining about a lack of time did not fit with the family rule about not complaining about anything you are not doing something about. Therefore, I had to put up or shut up. Too frustrated to shut up, I was forced to eradicate stuff until I did not feel the need to complain anymore.

The first thing I did was to make a list of everything I needed. (A quick, easy method of life reorganization could have been to consider anything that did not make the original list to be automatically out.) After making this list of "needs" (that was remarkably long), I began crossing out items as I was convicted of the non-necessity of each. This list of necessary items will be different for different folks.

In case going through every item we owned with this list in hand was not quite enough motivation, we have taught ourselves to ask a question that has been even more beneficial. 'Is the convenience or pleasure this item brings WORTH what it takes to maintain, clean, house and shuffle this item around until I use it?'

A negative example would be the three-tiered plate stand that I use about twice a year for special girl-birthdays. Truth is, the thing is a hassle to schlep around and to have taking up so much space in my pantry all year just for those four hours a year that it is used. Yes, it is pretty, yes, it is the perfect thing for serving the petits-fours and chocolate-dipped strawberries. But it isn't worth all of the rest. I am finding that most things are not.

A positive example is the jogging stroller. With the extra large tires. That does not fold up. It is big and bulky, yet I have decided to keep it because it gets used almost daily. Walking the quarter mile driveway with a fifty pound three-year-old makes it worth it's space in gold to me. It has enough value to me to justify it's continued presence.

Another question that has proved helpful is, "how many of these can I use at one time?" or more importantly, "how many of these do I use at one time?". I have six laundry baskets that are often being used for some good reason all at the same time. However, when I realized that my five whisks and five cutting boards in various sizes had never been used all at once, most of them were slated for dismissal. I saved only the heavy-duty spoon, and two boards, one for meat and one for vegetables and bread. While making last night's dinner, I had to wash the vegetable cutting board six separate times in the process, but I only had to store it once.

A helpful activity may be to sit down sometime when you are feeling refreshed, and as objectively and unemotionally as possible, think and pray through what the callings are in your life during this season. The 'things' of our lives are simply tools to further God's work in our lives, and to help us do whatever it is He desires for us. Those things, when not prayerfully added or removed can be a disastrous hindrance to our ability to walk in obedience. Since they can also be tools He uses to help us minister to others, we need discernment from the Holy Spirit, and a heart of obedient trust to know which items are which.

Based on lifestyle differences (city/country, large family/small family, work & school at home/work & school away), and seasons of life ( ages of children, tight finances, moving often) we will each be led in different areas to keep or discard the chattel of our lives. The first key is to seek Father's face and desire to know His heart for you and your family, trusting that He will lead you. The second key is to obey what He leads you to do. It is one thing to be convicted about the level of extraneous baggage our family is carrying with us through life, and working to change it. It is quite another to know we have too much and to ignore the promptings to change it.

Here's to traveling light for His glory!