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Friday, November 30, 2012

Crazy Day

My pastor-husband, who makes the majority of things happen at our church, was feeling very overwhelmed and behind going into this Christmas season. He asked me, well kind of begged me, to take today (Friday) off from my home duties and come work alongside him on church activities so he could get caught up.

Our church will be blessing eight families in need this year. Giving to those less fortunate is the greatest birthday gift we can give to Jesus!
Thank God for my mother-in-law, who willingly watched over my kiddos so I could be released to go serve my husband for a day. Let's just say he's in a much better mood this evening after all we were able to accomplish together.

Don't you just wish you could have two of you some days? I sure do.

Here in the valley of Northern California, and especially out in the country on our five acres, we're completely flooded! We have lakes in our backyard - a few of them - that never existed before. This is no joke - during a break in the storms today, my boys actually went swimming in those newly-formed lakes. Coco, our lab mix puppy, was in hog heaven! She was running full speed through those lakes, splashing and playing so happily.

Our chickens are standing in water. Apparently, their coop is a low place in the ground.

And our pigs were wallowing in a foot of mud. We moved the goats to another pen and let the pigs out into the large goat pen so they could dry off a bit.

Only ones who stayed dry were the rabbits because their cages are suspended off the ground and surrounded by tarps. They also have wooden hiding boxes in their cages for them to take cover when they need to.
 One of my son's rabbits, Brownie, if truly pregnant, is due next week. We will bring her up under the back patio this weekend so we can put a grow light on the babies to keep them warm. I don't have electricity out at the rabbit habitat.

A few weeks ago, my daughter finally found her Holland Lop doe so she could begin breeding her rabbits. Her doe, however, is a baby, and has to get a bit older before she can have any babies. But she's darling, isn't she?

My kiddos all worked their tails off to finish the rest of this year's schooling and start Christmas break early. We're done, folks! Hooray!

I'm feeling good these days. Over Thanksgiving break, I felt like the paddles were applied to my heart - I was given a good shock of new energy and determination. I just got tired of being tired, decided to take my focus off of my inadequacies and put my focus on my God, whose grace is sufficient for me. I decided to fight in warfare prayer against the devil who tries to keep me down. My strength is returning as I draw nearer to God.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pruning is Painful

To be honest with you, I hesitated to write this week. I couldn't think of what to write about. I'm such a work in progress right now. It's easier to write about lessons learned after you have learned them. I'm in the middle of some lessons right now, and I feel very inadequate to write about them just yet.

For several months now, I've been in a pruning season with God. It's been an ugly process. I'm not a huge fan of it, myself. I believe strongly that God has some new things in store for my future. I'm totally unsure what they are. But whatever they are, He decided some things needed to be worked on in my life before He reveals them to me or before I walk into them.

In the meantime, I'm in this painful pruning process. I feel like Jacob wrestling with God, and I'm pretty sure I'll come out of this season with a new identity.

This week, I decided a few things:
  1. To stop dwelling on what an awful person I am while being pruned, and instead focus on how great God is - slow to get angry and abounding in love.
  2. If I ever want to get out of this season and begin bearing more fruit or even much fruit, I am going to have to start battling in prayer. The enemy would love to keep me bound up in this paralyzed position as long as possible, wallowing in self pity and discontent. Only as I begin to bind Satan in Jesus' name will I see the fruit of all this.
  3. It is entirely possible that my latter days will be greater than the past. I had a hard time accepting that. What could possibly be better than birthing and raising five beautiful children? Being a pastor's wife? Planting a thriving church? I don't really know. But, in the words of my dear friend and mentor, Sherri Sumstine, "That was His best for then. This will be your best for NOW." God, I want your new best for me, and to get that, I must release the idea that there will never be anything better than what I've already had.
Sorry if this sounds like a bunch of gibberish. Everything's very scattered in my head. I feel inadequate to talk to you about parenting or marriage or homeschooling or homemaking at this point. I am not on my A-game in any of those areas. I can't wait to be on the other side of this time so I can go to bed each night feeling good about how I did in those areas of my life. But for now, I'm navigating one day at a time, doing all I can to keep tuned in to Jesus so I can hear everything He's wanting to say to me right now.

Thank God for grace - from my children, from my husband, even from my dogs, and mostly, from God Himself. God rocks!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving on the Farm

they are here!


These are "the boys," all brothers. They're a Hampshire/Duroc cross, which will make for very tasty meat! They're 11 weeks and came to us at about 55 pounds each. They will each grow to approximately 230-250 pounds, which is market weight, by age 6-8 months. They are STRONG! Within an hour of arriving, they had tilled up their entire pen by rooting with their snouts. It was fascinating to watch! They ate all the slop we had saved for them from the night before within 15 minutes. I was thinking, "Geesh! We don't have THAT much leftovers!" We have a pig grain to feed when we don't have enough scraps to give them. And they sure do enjoy our pumpkins from October. They are eating machines! I've never seen anything like it. They almost hurt each other to get to the hanging feeder. We're already gearing up to build something bigger so they have more room to get at their feed. We've also discussed switching their housing with the goats when the pigs get much larger, as I think they're going to need the extra space, after seeing their parents. They're so fun!

guys & girls, God's way
This past Wednesday, I shared at our youth group's home group called "Kickbacks." I was blessed with a living room full of young people with whom I shared some of God's topsy-turvy truths about the broke-down American system of dating. I prepared this PowerPoint to aid the kids in taking notes, and I'm happy to share it with you. Unfortunately, you don't get all my verbal comments and teaching to go along with it, but it will give you the basics of what I shared.

our thanksgiving plans
 I really can't wait! To be honest, I'm a bit tired and worn out and need a break. The children have been working furiously on school to get as much of their end-of-the-year work done, so they can start Christmas break early. They didn't get it done before Thanksgiving, so we'll have to return from next week's break and do some more, but they have made some tremendous headway.

My side of the family decided to all meet at my parents' home this Thanksgiving. My parents live in Medford, about 5 hours north of us. My brother, his wife, and three children live in the Portland area, about 4 hours north of my parents. So we're meeting in the middle. My children rarely get to play with their cousins, so this is a treat! They always seem to pick up right where they left off. My parents, Dad especially, love having everyone under the same roof (for a short time).

So when we made that decision, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could fly up early and spend time with my mom in the kitchen making preparations, as well as getting some alone time and rest?" My husband totally supported the idea. My parents were gracious enough to donate some airline miles that will allow me and my 7yo son to fly to their home for $10. Woohoo! So Luke and I will be leaving Sunday evening. My hubby and the rest of the kids will drive up to meet us on Wednesday. We'll all come home on Friday. Today is packing day. I am really looking forward to this!

Happy Thanksgiving to You All!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Thoughts on Christmas Gift Giving

My husband and I use a holiday savings account to save all year long for Christmas. We still don't have a huge Christmas budget, and the family keeps growing every year (with new cousins and everyone).

We firmly believe that Christmas should be about Jesus, not getting presents. We tell our children this is Jesus's birthday, and ask what they think He would want for His birthday. They come up with many ideas of volunteerism and serving those less fortunate. We drill this concept into our children's hearts, even though everywhere we go, the opposite message is in their faces.

For the past several years, we've done the "three gifts per child" thing, because Jesus got three gifts for His birthday. I liked the concept, but found it hard to keep it balanced and fair. One child's gift could be a color book and crayons, while another child could get an iPod. It wasn't always easy to keep things even amongst all five of them.

This year, I came across this blog article, where a reader wrote a revised version of the "three gifts" idea:
Every Christmas our five children receive three gifts: one “gold” gift, the big item they are longing for; one “myrrh” gift, which is for their body, such as clothing; and one “frankincense” gift, for their spiritual growth.It keeps spending down but also focuses on our celebration of Christmas and the gifts given to the Christ child. We send a portion of the money we’ve saved to charity.”

My husband and I both liked this new idea, and will be giving it a shot this year. I've already purchased everyone's gold gift, and all the boys' frankincense gift, so I'm half done.

As for everyone else on our list, we love to give books to children (i.e., cousins), we're opting for homemade goodies from the kitchen for many of the others on our list (ya know, the people who don't need anything), and then we're really going to focus on giving - to the homeless, the elderly, our neighbors, those who bless our lives all year long (teachers, my wonderful chiropractor who provides me service for free, our church leaders), and whomever else God lays on our hearts. This is what, we believe, Jesus would truly want for His birthday.

God, break our hearts for the things that break Your heart this Christmas. Let our family bless You by reaching out to those You'd have us to touch this year.