Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sewing with Meme's machine

As a child, I loved to spend time with my Meme.  What little girl doesn't?  She was loving, patient, and very giving.  Although she was a little rough around the edges and occasionally let out a few choice words (to which she would immediately turn to me and say "Excuse my French, Allison"), she was mine and I loved her just the way she was.

We actually didn't know about many of the things that she did to give herself away during her life.  It wasn't until after her death that stories emerged of things that she had made and given to people who were needy in one way or another.  She was living out the scripture "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing"  Matthew 6:3.  I knew this verse well.  It was a verse from one of the many large passages of scripture that I memorized as a homeschool child.  Somehow it came more alive to me after my Meme's death than any other time.  She had been doing just that.

Here is a picture of me sitting in my Meme's lap with my older brother Scott, and Big Mama (Meme's mom...the name is a story all of it's own).  Ahhh, look at those dresses and hair styles...theirs, not mine:)

Here is a picture of Meme holding my newborn brother Adam. (And, look how sweet that baby is!)  I love the look on my face as I am looking up at her.  Admiration in my eyes?  Yes. 

 And, here is a picture of my Meme with all three of us kids.  She was a regular part of our lives and lived only a couple of miles away.  Wow...that wallpaper...and those glasses!

 She was an artist.  She loved to create and she loved to give. I still have many things that she made for me as a child and can remember all the special treasures that didn't survive the years. 
She taught me how to crochet, knit, quilt, and she enhanced my knowledge and experience in sewing.  As a teen, I would occasionally go with her to the little shop where she worked.  I would work with her when the owner wasn't going to be there.  It was a craft shop.  I can't even remember the name but, I can remember the place.  It was full of so many wonderful craft items and instruction books.  I think that she mostly brought me along because she didn't want to be lonely all day and she didn't like to balance the books at the end of the day...haha.  (Back in the day when you actually had to do math and not just press buttons on a computer.)  She would give me the account book and say that it was my homeschool lesson for the day...but even back then, I knew that numbers were not her strength.  I loved her.  Loved spending time with her.  And, still love her to this day. 

She was a mystery.  She had lived alone since my Pawpaw passed away over a decade before.  She lived a simple life in a little apartment full of priceless memories and old treasures.  One such treasure was a letter from my Pawpaw that my mother found in her bedside table after she left this world.  It was written before they were married and while my Pawpaw was serving our country in the military.
I stayed with her for a week one time as a teen, in that little apartment, when my parents were going out of town.  She insisted on giving me her bedroom and she slept out on the couch.  It is a week that I will cherish for the rest of my days.  Just Meme and me in her little apartment.

So, now as an adult, words cannot describe the roller coaster of emotion that I ride each time that I pull out her old sewing machine.  I kept it put away for many years so as not to damage it.  Then, I thought that she would really prefer that I use that old machine not store it in my closet.  So, I pulled it out and sewed curtains and things for my little apartment in Virginia where Peter and I lived shortly after we were married.  (We lived in Virginia for four years while he earned a JD and a masters degree in Government.)

A few years ago, I decided to trade the old machine in along with the machine that my parents bought me for my tenth birthday.  I was hoping to upgrade to something fancier and more modern.  As I was checking through to make sure that all the parts were there, I noticed something scratched into the machine.  It was in plain view and I can't believe that I hadn't seen it all those years.  It was her initials.  Mozelle Virginia Harvill...MVH.  As I stared at it, I was pulled through time and space to see her sewing with this very machine in her little apartment all those years ago.  No, I couldn't sell this machine.  Call me nostalgic, but this machine will forever be in my home.

Here you can see the tape that she placed on the machine to help her keep her fabric straight as she fed it through the machine.

 I have used that machine to make curtains, bedspreads, baby quilts, little matching shirts for birthday boys, frilly little dress-up dresses, Halloween costumes, to decorate burp cloths, and most recently to create my own cloth diapers.

My Meme, did not get to hold her great-grandchilden but she has been a part of their lives through the gifts and lessons that she gave to me.  So, every time that I sit down to sew, crochet, or do any type of craft, (which isn't that often these days...haha), I think of my Meme and the way her hands not only created but how they willingly gave as well.

Making it fun.

This morning after breakfast as all the kids were doing their morning chores (or rather they were supposed to be doing their chores) it hit me that somehow none of them were actually doing their chores...and they hadn't been for a while.  Well, that isn't all together true.  They had been eventually doing them...just not right away and with a cheerful heart.  As I thought about this, I realized that they had been slow to obey in other areas too.  How does this happen?  It's not like I had been letting them disobey...was it?  Hmmm.  It is amazing to me how I can be just going about my days and then, all of the sudden, I realize that we are pretty far off in one area or another.  It is a slow happening in our family.  It is like the frog who will boil to death, never realizing that he is in hot water, as long as the water is gradually turned up...slow over time.  That frog will just sit there and boil to death.  I am so glad that I am not a frog...haha.  But, all of the sudden, I realized that the water of distraction and disobedience had become pretty hot and I needed to jump out and pull the kids with me.  I was being distracted and they were disobeying.  I do have plenty of things to distract me and it is a real challenge to stay focused on each small interaction with each child but, somehow, I had to make the change.  Reminding them over and over to do their chores and obey immediately wasn't really making for a peaceful house nor was I winning their hearts in the process.  It was creating lots of stress.

At six, eight, and almost ten, my older three children should really be capable of being independent with their chores.  The chores are age appropriate and should take about ten minutes.  I even have a check list for them to refer to in the mornings (I'm a list person and they can all read.  When they are too young to read, I make a list by pictures.  Watch for a later post on this.)  Even my four year old is capable of doing a chore that is appropriate to his age.  (My little boys are currently buddied up with an older brother to start learning a chore.  It is fantastically cute to watch the older two boys teaching the little two.)  But, it wasn't working.  I have plans to order "Managers of Their Chores" by Terri Maxwell to see if it will help me manage their chores...haha:)  But, until then, something had to change...and fast!

So, it was time to sit everyone (the older four actually) down and talk about the change.  I told them that we needed to make some changes.  Kids were not getting their chores done or obeying in a timely fashion and mom was having to remind them too much.  It was making us start school later in the morning which, in turn, eats away at their free time in the afternoon.  They perked up at this point but, I could still see the fog in their eyes so, after explaining the consequences of disobedience in our home, I decided to make it fun.  Kids can accomplish SO much when you make a game out of it.

There are five basic things that I would like them to remember when asked to do a job or chore.

1. Smile at mom (or whatever adult is giving instructions)  This is actually very important because it causes them to immediately check their emotions and helps them to practice self-control in the physical.  Even if their hearts aren't there quite yet, it is about being polite.
2. Say "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to".  Yet one more check that allows them to practice self-control in the verbal.  I am from Texas and really like for my kids to show respect to all adults by responding with "yes ma'am" or "yes sir".  This is definitely not one of the Ten Commandments or anything...I just like it.  It's polite:) We are not totally there yet, but we are working on it.  It also goes far beyond just obeying by speaking (the spoken word is VERY powerful) aloud that they will be happy to obey.
3. Go do the job or chore (obey) very quickly.
4. Check to make sure that the job is done completely and well.  We call this "Checkity-check-check-check".
5. Return to mom (they may have to find me as I rarely stay in one place very long...haha) and report that the job is done.  This keeps me from having to keep asking about chores which can wear on them.

We repeated these five steps together several times...over exaggerating each one.  You should have seen how big these kids can smile and how sweetly they can say "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to"!  Even my eldest, who is shy and slightly above this sort of silliness, (in his own mind anyway) joined in.

Now comes the fun part.  Being that all of my children are still in the "front nine" they really need to practice this to help them remember.  I have found that they remember so much more with repetition and getting up and moving while they learn.  So...I called out instructions and they would go through all five steps.  We again, over exaggerated each one of the steps and they each got their turn to be silly and to laugh at their siblings being silly.  Smile.  "Yes ma'am. I'd be happy to.", run do the job, checkity-check-check-check, Report back to mom.  It went like this.  "Brennan, please go lock the back door."  Brennan responds with: Smile. "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to."  Run lock the door. Checkity-check-check-check.  Report back to mom.  "Mom, I have locked the door."  I gave them quick jobs and some silly like "Go stand on that rug and jump ten times".  This is an especially great one to give to any little boys who are having a hard time sitting still...and I have five boys:)

We did this for a while so that each of them had several chances to participate and then, when I could see that they had it down, we switched it a bit and kept practicing.

We did it "Army style".  The boys especially loved this and it went something like this.  Mom says, "Private Abby.  I have a mission for you.  Take that webkinz and put it away in the loft".  Abby responds with: Smile.  "Yes ma'am, I'd be happy to"...saluting as she speaks.  Run to put away the toy.  Checkity-check-check-check.  Report to mom..."Sergeant Mom, I have completed the mission". 

So, we started our "academic school" very late today and didn't get everything done that was on my list before we had to leave for PE.  But, we had fun and laughed together, we worked on character and heart issues, and the kids now have defined steps to follow when I ask them to do something.  There can be no doubt of my expectations. 

*I did steal this idea from the Duggar's book "20 and Counting" but changed it to fit the situation for our family.

*If you are looking for a list of "age appropriate" chores for your children, I would recommend "The Homeschooler's Book of Lists" by Sonya A. Haskins.  Our local library has it...your may too:)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Boy

When Wesley was a baby, we used to call him "Wesley Micah Pumpkin Boy Gentala".  How's that for a nick name...haha.  Sometimes, it was just "Wesley Pumpkin Boy" or shortened even more to "Pumpkin"...pronounced more like "punkin" than "pumpkin".  I can't even remember how this nickname started but it was just one of those things that stuck.  Even some of our close friends would call him "Wesley Pumpkin".  Then, when he was about three years old, he was convinced that his name really WAS Pumpkin!  Haha...how cute is that:)  He now refuses to let us call him Pumpkin.  But, every once in a while we do it anyway just out of nostalgia...and to listed to his cute little four year old voice explain that his name really ISN'T Pumpkin:)

I was remembering this Sunday afternoon as we had our "Sabbath Fun". 

We decided to buy six pumpkins to carve and let each one of the kids design their own.  We obviously didn't need to buy one for either of the babies as they would NOT be carving a pumpkin but something made me get them each one anyway.

So, we began this afternoon of fun and mess.  The first thing that I did was put both babies down for a nap...haha.  Then, I had the older four kids draw on a piece of paper the face that they eventually wanted on their pumpkin.  This was really a tough step for some of them as they just wanted to dive in with the chopping:)  But, I thought it would be a great time to practice patience and self-control.  So, they each drew out a face to carve.

Next, we cut open the pumpkins and let them each clean out the insides...reserving the seeds for a cooking project and snack later...yum!
Let the cutting begin!

We cut the bottoms off first (Peter's idea).  This really helped to make the pumpkins more stable and stand up well.  I had always cut the tops off first but then they would roll sideways...unless you picked the perfect flat bottom pumpkin (which is hard to do when you are choosing six pumpkins with six monkeys with you).

It was quite a messy undertaking and even the boys were a little grossed out by the stringy, sticky mess.

Haha.  I love that priceless expression.

This was really NOT Abby's favorite part:)

After cleaning out the pumpkins they could either draw the face on the pumpkin or just try to cut like the picture that they had made.  This was SO much fun!  It just really isn't that often that we let them all have sharp objects and chop away at things.  Ha!

  It's neat to see how each unique personality is exemplified on the face of the little pumpkin that he/she carved.  Here are a few shots of the final pumpkins.

This was a great project that brought some family fun into our Sabbath.

Now to hide the carving instruments so that nothing else gets carved:)

Here are the pumpkins together.  Peter and I will carve the large pumpkin and hopefully get around to carving faces on the two little pumpkins for Seth and Ransom.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Homeschooling...You've come a loooong way baby 1.Legal

I can still remember my mother's instructions.  "If a truant officer comes to the door, ya'll (I grew up in Texas) are to go out the back door, over the fence, and to the neighbor's house" (who happened to be a state representative...probably my first introduction to politics).  It was the fear in her voice that really caught my attention.  You see...we were homeschooling.  My parents had made the decision to pull my two brothers and I out of a local Christian school and teach us from home...for more reasons than I will go into here.  I knew that some of our friends had been taken to court for homeschooling but, as a child, I really couldn't comprehend what the fuss was all about.  It all seemed so distant...so far removed from the reality that I was living.  I was never afraid, but I knew that my parents were.  Fear was menacing and stalking at every daytime errand.  They trusted God to protect us...but nevertheless, we rarely went out during the day. 

At one point, we had several homeschool families join together to form an "umbrella school" in an effort to insure that were legally covered.   This was just a legal song and dance and we all continued to homeschool by families in our own homes.  Although, there was discussion of schooling together if it came down to it.  (Translation...us kids were able to run all over the back rooms of a local doctor's office...who was a homeschool dad...while our parents had regular evening meetings.  That is a blast for a 10 year old kid!  Not to mention all of the lollipops that we devoured.)

In addition to this, my parents had a "last resort" plan to move across state lines, if homeschooling became illegal in Texas, to Louisiana where my dad could still commute to his job.  As a child, it all just sounded so exciting and adventurous.  I could just imagine us stealing away in the middle of the night evading police as the Von Trapp family had done so many years ago...haha. 

However, this was the 1980's and we were in the United States of America.  It wasn't legal...or illegal to homeschool.  There were really no laws and no legal precedents concerning homeschooling.  Someone would have to set those precedents and introduce legislation to protect the rights of parents to educate their children.

25 Years Later...
Fast forward twenty five years and here I am, homeschooling my six children (well...really only three are officially schooling but the little ones think they are too).  Denim jumpers and fear of truant officers are a thing of the past...Haha!

The idea of getting into trouble with the law no longer seems exciting and adventurous to me.  I love these precious little people that the Lord has entrusted to me and I want them here with me.  I now understand fully the fear that I could sense in my parents so many years ago.  (Amazing how much better you understand your parents after having you own children!)  So, it would seem that love and fear are intertwined...twin emotions that will forever accompany each other because with love comes fear of loss.  The Lord is teaching me how to trust Him with my kids in all areas and follow after Him with "reckless abandonment"...not that I am reckless or abandoning my kids:)

I am grateful that I have been given the privilege to homeschool without  fear of my children being taken away.  A gift...neither fought for nor earned by me...freely given and yet not freely won by those who have come before me.  I am truly grateful for those trailblazers (and proud that my parent and in-laws are a few of them) who came before me on this homeschooling journey.  I am also grateful for those homeschool advocacy groups who watch legislation that may affect homeschoolers and step in when necessary.  I would really never have the time to do this myself.

EVERY freedom that we have, has been won through one type of battle or another...some physical and some legal.  Homeschooling is now a freedom that many Americans enjoy.  I am ever grateful to those who fought this battle for me and those who continue to work to safeguard us so that we can legally homeschool our children.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting to the BOTTOM of it.

I have wanted to cloth diaper my babies for some time now...since Wesley was a baby, actually.  I'm not sure why.  I'm not overly concerned about the environment.  It probably has something to do with my love for living natural and being self sufficient...saving on the grocery budget is a plus as well!

I can remember, as a child, going to stay a week with my cousin who had a baby in cloth diapers and another on the way.  I was really fascinated by cloth diapers as I had never seen them before.  Of course, back then it was HUGE diaper pins and plastic pants on top.  I loved cloth diapering even way back then.

When Wesley was a baby, I couldn't get Peter totally on board with the idea.  There is quite a "start up" expense to cloth diapering and it can sound overwhelming.  So, I waited.  After Ransom joined our family (two babies later) I tried again to get Peter on board.  This time he was more willing to give it a shot...after all, nothing can be worse than the Delve diaper studies (where you have to return the used products!) and we had done quite a few of those.  With Peter on board and willing to invest in the idea, I was ready to start.

Phase one: Research.  I was looking for the type of cloth diaper that I felt would fit our lifestyle (busy!) and yet allow me to be more natural and self sufficient.  Oh, there are so many different options out there for cloth diapering these days and many of them are really not much more work than paper diapering.  However, the prices of these AIO (all-in-one) diapers are still quite expensive.  Hmmm.

Phase two: Shopping!  I really didn't want to spend as much money as I was seeing cloth diapers listed for so, I decided to buy a few of the brand that I liked and use them for a template to make my own diapers.  I needed to purchase PUL fabric, no-pill fleece, terrycloth or hemp, velcro, and elastic.  Amazingly enough, Joann's Fabric just happened to have their PUL and fleece fabrics on 50% off that week.  So, I was able to use my 40% coupon on another item.

PUL is an amazing fabric lined on one side with a pliable plastic that keeps diapers from leaking.  (I have also found it good for many other uses like changing pads, bibs, and wet bags.)  The diapers that I wanted to make would have an outer layer of PUL, be lined with fleece (to keep baby dry), and be stuffed with "soakers" or absorbent fabric rectangles.  I chose my fabrics and was ready for the fun to begin:) 

Phase three: Sewing:)  I love sewing.  It reminds me of being a child and watching my Meme's hands create.  She could do it all...sew, crochet, knit, quilt, and much more.  So, after prepping the fabric, I pulled out her sewing machine (watch for a later post on this!) and went to work.

I pulled out a large roll of brown paper that I keep around for the kids art projects and began tracing and cutting out my templates.  If you are trying this, know that the template will look huge but not to worry when all of the seems are in place it will be much smaller and you can always bring it down to size with elastic later.

Next, I traced the newly made template onto the PUL and fleece fabrics and then cut out my diapers.

Here are some pictures of the PUL cutouts.  Aren't these fabrics just too cute?

I then placed the PUL and fleece right side together and stitched around the edges, leaving an opening in the back, just as you would to make a pillow.

After flipping them to the right-side-out position, I did a quick zig-zag stitch on the edge of the exposed fleece and folded down the exposed PUL, stitched across, and inserted some elastic to give the diaper a snug fit.  You can see the plastic interior shinning in this picture.

 Next, I inserted some elastic (through the opening in the back) and placed it in the area that I wanted to stay snug around the legs.  I stitched across the elastic on one end, along the side of the elastic (careful not to stitch on top of the elastic), and then pulled the elastic to the desired length, stitched over the other end of the elastic, and cut the elastic.  Here is a stack of diapers awaiting elastic. You can see where the elastic is around the legs in the picture below.

 Lastly, I need these diapers to stay closed!
I decided on Velcro over snaps as I haven't had much experience applying snaps in many years and this wasn't the project where I wanted to practice.
I sewed the Velcro (fuzzy side) across the front and (scratchy size) onto the two side flaps.  I then added a piece of "fuzzy" velcro on top of the tab and used a zig-zag stitch to attach it only on the inner most side.  This is to "close" the tabs during washing and protect the diapers.

**On the next batch of diapers, I added a layer (scrap piece) of fleece behind the long, front Velcro strip for added strength.  I also sewed the Velcro on first (before stitching the PUL and fleece together like a pillow).  This way, the inserts can go all the way to the top of the diaper.**

The diapers are now complete and I need to make some "soakers" to stuff inside.  I chose terrycloth this time but would like to try a few other absorbent fabrics as well.   Again, I laid out the purchased soakers and traced around to make a template.  I made my soakers four layers thick, but three would be sufficient.  Just one of those things that I learned in the process...haha.

Here is a stack of soakers waiting for the zigzag stitch around the edges.  I don't have a serger so I purchased an industrial strength needle for my Meme's machine and did a zigzag stitch around the edges.  Finally, the project is complete!

Phase Four: Diaper the babies. ...and start saving.


And, as long as I am leaving paper products in the dust, I decided to make a few "pull-up" style pants for my little one who needs them from time to time at night.  These were a little tricky (and I am still trying to come up with a better way to make them) but they have the same basic idea with a layer of PUL, soaker stuffed in the middle, and fleece to keep little bottoms dry and rash free.


Goodbye, Huggies!  I enjoyed you but am happy to move on..haha.

To sum it all up: I spent around $75 and made 14 diapers, 14 soakers, 4 night time pants, a large hanging diaper pail, changing pad, and several bibs.  That sure beats the $20+ per diaper...yes, you read that right...PER DIAPER price of buying them from a manufacturer.
So far they have held up great and I am really happy with the outcome.

The first batch (jungle animals) that I made turned out way too small for my two year old so, I put them on the baby.  I then made the green ones a little bigger and then the monkey diapers even bigger:)  Peter even joins in the diaper changing and was pleasantly surprised by how easy cloth diapering is.
We now save about $100 each month in paper products and I do one extra load of laundry each night.  (We already do 3-5 loads each day, so what's 1 more?)  And, because I make my own detergent (watch for a later post on this) and hang them to dry (heat damages the PUL fabric), that doesn't really increase costs much:)

I like to think that my Meme would be proud to know that her machine is now sewing for six of her great-grandchildren:)

Update:  12.2011  It is now five months later, and the only issue that I have had with these diapers is that I laid a few of them flat on top of the dryer to dry and the heat from the dryer damaged them.  The PUL from Joann's seems to be more heat sensitive than the ones from the manufacturer.

Update: 4/2012  I recently looked at newer PUL fabric at Joann's and it is a much higher quality.   I helped a friend make diapers for her coming baby and was amazed at the progress in the PUL.  Joann's has tons of super cute coordinating fabrics, patches, snaps, velcro, and much more for diapers.  I wouldn't advise stitching patches on diapers however because you would be punching holes in the PUL.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Mommy, find my heart"

"Mommy, find my heart", I heard my four year old say one afternoon.

     Now, to give you the full picture I should let you know that I was standing at the kitchen island deep in thought making out my grocery shopping list (which is no small feat for a family of eight and requires a significant amount of concentration).  My first thought was to say "Oh, there it is" with a half hearted tone and return to my very important grocery list (said with much sarcasm of course).

     I turn to see him holding up a toy stethoscope in his dimpled little fingers, looking up at me with his big blue eyes and the Lord spoke to me in that moment.

     "Allison", I heard him whisper to my heart, "find that little heart, gain that little heart, and keep it...at all cost!".  I took a deep breath to help contain the tears that were welling up inside of me, pushed the grocery list aside, turned to this precious child who was asking for my love, accceptance, and attention and found his heart.  I couldn't help but smile, as I listened to his little heart beating, at the powerful message that he had just delivered without knowing it.

     The Lord had been speaking to me about gaining the hearts of my children for several weeks.  He first pricked my heart on the issue when I read a blog post by Josh Harris, where he re-posted (haha...this modern age) from a homeschooling father's blog.  Josh's blog is entitled "Homeschooling Blindspots" and is quite powerful.  Here is the link.  http://www.joshharris.com/2011/09/homeschool_blindspots.php
     You see, I too was homeshooled.  As I read this blog, I could relate as a child who had been homeschooled.  I felt myself saying "yep, yep, those are blindspots".  Then, I came to number nine in the list "Not Cultivating a Loving Relationship With Our Children" and BAM!...I was convicted.  Was I cultivating a loving relationship with my children?  I have to admit that I had never thought about it in those terms before.  I read it over and over again allowing it to really sink in.  I then emailed the list to my husband, who, amazingly enough, was also homeshooled.
     Since that day, the Lord has been sending this same message to me through  sermons, books, conversations with my husband and other dear friends, emails, blogs, and now...from the very mouth of one of the little blessings that He has entrusted to my care.  Here is one of the quotes that has really meant a great deal to me recently from The Resolution for Men, p. 105-106.

"People tend to embrace the teaching and beliefs of those who love them the most. And your children are no different. They are much more likely to accept the truth you teach if you deliver it to them within a loving, heart-to-heart relationship. Whoever has their heart has their ears. . . .

Dr. S.M. Davis wisely explains it like this: “The key ingredient in raising good children is to get their hearts early, keep their hearts, and be extremely vigilant not to lose your children’s hearts. If you do lose your child’s heart, then quickly  find out where and when you lost it, and put into action a plan to get their heart back no matter what it takes to do it. No matter how much time or trouble or money it takes to get back your child’s heart, you must decide ahead of time that you will be willing to pay the price.” . . . .

Despite this, fathers are notorious for doing things that anger their children and lose their hearts. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” Before telling us to train and instruct our children, we are warned not to frustrate or embitter them. Why?

Because if we lose their hearts, we lose everything. They simply won’t listen to us. This is so important that if it is not heeded, fathering (and might I add...mothering too) will fail."

This message came by way of email from our former pastors in Virginia, Brad and Alyson Shedd, who have us on their mailing list.  How timely this message was!
 As my four year old and I took turns "finding each other's hearts" I silently prayed that the Lord would give me wisdom to recognize how to gain the hearts of each of my children and that He would help me to keep their hearts.  I believe that all of our children are saying to us "Mommy, find my heart!"



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints"

Psalm 116:15

Tonight I was meditating on this verse and the implications that it has for death and how our Heavenly Father views dying. As I look back over this last season of life, I see the ways that death has touched our lives.

Death has reared it's ugly head more than once in my circle of friends and loved ones recently. We said goodbye to Chris Klicka and Tom Flavin, both amazing husbands, homeschool fathers, and friends and mentors to many (many more than they knew) when illness ended their lives. Then we said goodbye to Darly Martin, (http://heartfireintl.org/2011/09/daryl-video/) also a husband and father who was serving on the mission field in Malawi with his family when a tragic accident occurred.

Death has made his way into my homeschool curriculum and thus discussions with my children as we read Patricia St. John's Tanglewood's Secret. (Her books explain amazing scriptural truths in simple easy to understand ways right through the story. I highly recommend reading them with your family, by the way! Here is a link http://www.kingsleypress.com/patricia-st-john.html)

Death has even made his way into the John Piper audios that Peter and I have been listening to over time. (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/victor-watters-converses-with-death)

Ugly. This was how I had always looked at death. I had seen him before and he was ugly, scary, and intimidating. During my teen years, I lost three great-grandparents and three grandparents along with several close family friends. I also lost a friend that had been an elementary school mate of mine in a tragic car accident at the age of 15.

Peter, too had experienced death in his childhood with the loss of his big sister, Christy, whom he admired, looked up to, and loved. The playmate and friend of his preschool years who left this world at such a young age. (We gave her name to our only daughter, Abigail Christine).

Then just a few years ago, we relived that pain when we experienced two different miscarriages, lost my precious niece, Olivia at just a few days old, her little brother Ryan before he was born, and my cousin, Danny.

Over the years, I have not been able to see much but the pain of these losses. Knowing and believing with all of my heart that God was (and still is!) in control and that He had (and has) the master plan, I trusted but still had a negative view of death.

Ugly was the only word that I had to describe death. I...well...I hated him! He had caused much pain. And yet, as I look at what scripture has to say about death...it is quite different. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15. Precious...how could death be precious? Here I was confronted with a serious conflict between what I thought to be right and what scripture was plainly stating. Precious was not a word that I would have ever used to describe the death of a saint.
As I pondered this thought and meditated on what it means to be “His saint”, the Lord really changed my view of death.

As a mom, I know what it means to have someone “belong” to you...in a since. My children are...well... mine! I love every one of them with a love that cannot be explained. I remember the anticipation that Peter and I felt as we prepared for each one of those precious little lives. We knew about when they were coming and we gathered things together, communicated with friends and family about their arrival, and anxiously awaited the day that we could hold them in our arms. Finally, the day came. As they left everything that they had ever known, we rejoiced in their arrival. We gathered each one in our arms as they were born and then took them home. And, yes, it was precious!
So, this is the mental picture that the Lord gave me as I was dwelling on what it is like when one of “His saints” dies. It is more of a birth really, than a death. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for that day when He will call home His child. He prepares and waits for that perfect moment...and then finally, they are brought home. One at a time He welcomes them into His arms. At last He has His child and it is precious! “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Precious. Precious. I read that over and over and it means more to me each time. Precious. It truly is precious.
Now with an incredibly different view of death than I have ever had before, I can honestly rejoice as loved ones leave this earth...everything that they have ever known...and our Heavenly Father holds them in His arms and carries them home. Rejoice. Celebrate. It is precious!

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting?” I Corinthians 15:54b-55a
Now, for the first time in my 36 years, I can say this verse with confidence. 
Thank you Lord for changing my earthly view of this eternal celebration.