Beer cans and Icecream.

What do bags full of empty beer and soda cans have to do with icecream?
Let me explain. 
Yesterday while we were sitting around the table talking about our upcoming, still in the planning stages, trip to Mexico, the kids decided that they wanted to save up enough money to take each of the kids at the orphanage out for icecream.  They also came up with a lot of other ideas on how to treat their amigos to something fun, show the kids at the orphanage that we care about them, and provide for some basic needs for their friends  not living at the orphanage but who are living in poverty.  
I just sat back and listened...smiling.
This is part of why we do what we do.  It's so great to see the fruit starting to form.  

After they made up their plan to start an "Icecream for Orphans Fund" they found a jar, ran and got whatever change they happened to have in their rooms (which is all they have) dumped it in their jar and then decided they would need more.

Thus started the list of ways to earn, and raise money.

This morning these three walked around our little village asking neighbors if they had any cans or bottles they would like to donate.  They pulled a wagon and carried a homemade sign (a piece of construction paper with "Ice cream for Orphans" written on it and drawings of icecream cones all over it.)

These kids walked around carrying arm loads of loot for over two hours (while I stayed home).   Then they spent a couple more hours sorting and stomping all the cans.  
Just look at the satisfaction on those little faces.   It really is the only time I'll see my child hugging a liquor bottle like it's his best friend and smile.  
I am so proud of them.  Not only are they understanding that it's important to be generous but they are making it personal.  It's a hands on project that they have sacrificed for and are pouring some sweat equity into.  They are doing it all of their own initiative, for the benefit of someone else.  

It's so incredible to see God taking our flawed feeble efforts as parents and covering it all in His grace.  
It's profound to see Him working in their hearts.  

In other news...

It is that time of year again.  Harvest 2011 has begun.
I'm not part of the work crew this year but the crew is working hard, long hours.  I should have a husband again in about 6 wks...and then I'm hoping that we can escape for a weekend together in the city.  (Honey if you read this...that's a hint...nudge nudge...wink wink)

Canola or Wheat anyone?
Sorry India, no lentils this year.


Freedom fighters, duct tape and Fishermen

I love the way God made children.   Their ability to create, imagine, and play remains so untainted.
My 3 oldest kids have been playing outside most of the day, lost in their imaginations, the story line of some great adventure.
Unstructured, child led, unplanned, unscheduled, unplugged play.

Silas' pose might lead you to think that play time is miserable.  They were having a great time but this child is good at looking (and acting) like he's miserable at any given moment.
 I guess I would be unhappy to if I was imprisoned by Nero the evil Roman Emperor.

That is indeed what they were playing for hours this morning.  They were "freedom fighters" hiding from the maniacal ruler,  and trying to survive under his murderous regime.  

They survived in the first century A.D by taking out their little fishing boat to catch fish.   Roman (appropriately named)  informed me that he also did Blacksmithing on the side.
Of course he also had an assorted arsenal of wooden swords to protect his family.  

They  dug a well.  A really deep, big hole in the backyard sandbox.  They haven't found water yet...but I may find small neighbor children trapped in their pit at some point.

We live in a culture where kids are sterilized,  institutionalized, and every minute of their days are scheduled with activity.  It's so important to reclaim and protect the lost art of mud pie making, epic battle fighting, and tree climbing.

Playing isn't time wasted.  Playing is learning, experiencing, processing, building, creating, and experimenting.
Education is very important but in an effort to compete, protect, and provide "every opportunity", we forget that play is a vital part of their education.   We, as a society, have replaced imaginative childhood play with lessons, sports, activities, classrooms, and running around at a manic pace.  None of those things are bad for kids, in fact some may be beneficial, but when the balance is lost our burnt out, over burdened kids suffer.   

Childhood is so short.

Too short to waste time putting on shoes. 
Let them make messes.
Let them get dirty.
Let them climb trees, ride bikes, and fly as high as they can on swings.  

(It kind of looks like Roman was beheaded in this photo.  I suppose that wasn't unlikely considering they were living under the rule of Nero.)

  Break out the dreaded things like sand, dirt, garden hoses, glue, finger paint and playdoh and let them be kids.  
The things they come up with when you leave them alone with their imaginations may impress you.

I for one, would never think to build a jet out of Popsicle sticks and duct tape.  

We are soaking up the last days of curriculum free days.  Our new "school" year will be starting after the long weekend.  I've been sorting supplies, organizing books,  and mentally preparing to reign in these little freedom fighters so I can teach them how to multiply fractions.


Imago Dei

Imago Dei.   A fancy Latin way of saying
Image of God.
It's kind of fun to say, and may even make you sound smart which is important if you're blonde.

Imago Dei is a foundational belief in Christianity.  When it is understood and applied it effects how we  live and reflect God's image.

Why do I value it?

As a human race we are creative because God is creative.
We love beauty because God loves beauty.
We have a sense of order and justice because God does.
We love to laugh because God is fun.
We strive to do good, because God is good.
We seek meaningful relationships because God is in perfect complete relationship within the trinity.
We crave communication because God communicates and revealed himself to us.

We ALL mirror his image, although we have become shattered mirrors distorting what was.

We are made in his image but we are not, and never will be, gods ourselves.
There are  many attributes of God that are unique and belong only to Him.

If we genuinely believe that humans are made in the image of God, that we mirror his attributes, that we are created intentionally, with eternal significance, than it will change how we treat each other.
How would my life look different?

If we truly believe the doctrine of Imago Dei then there is no room for racism or bigotry.   There is no room for "I am better than you", "don't waste your money"  or "They aren't worth my time" because Jesus died for all people, each shattered reflection, so that we could once again mirror his glory and receive a  reconciled relationship with him.

If we could  look at the weak, poor, young, old, black, white, unborn, sick, and disabled in light of the very basic doctrine Imago Dei how different would our lives and priorities be?

It would mean that we  honor and give dignity to all human life.  The homeless guy on the corner.  The drug addicted baby abandoned in a hospital.  The emaciated child dying alone in a foreign country.  The person living with a debilitating disability.  The infant waiting to be born.  Why?
Why are they worth my time,
In the worlds eyes, in terms of evolutionary progress, we should leave them behind.
Let nature take it's course.
Eliminate those that are not planned, perfect, and productive.
Sacrifice some for whatever we see as the "greater good" of human progression.

Even the baby boy who will never utter a word , or stand on his feet, reflects something of God to this Earth, something that we will miss if we cast him aside, or have him exterminated.

 We are also commanded to reflect God to him with mercy, empathy, compassion and love.
In doing so we are not only honoring that life but we are honoring the one who created it.

 In order for this doctrine to become more than just cold  knowledge,  in order to have more than just good intentions,  I need to have God's authentic love breathing through me.
Loving the unlovely takes more than mere human effort.
Even then, I am only a vague reflection.
I so  often overlook  opportunities to reflect Him, because I'm so focused on my own reflection.


Summer is almost over...but I'm not letting go without a fight.

Last week harvest officially began.  For us that  signifies the end to summer festivities and the beginning of a new season.  The Hubster is starting to work long hours again so we won't see him much during the next couple months.   The exception being Sunday, which is the day that the tractors are parked and my man spends much needed time with his family.   Our day of rest.
 This week we are having some wonderfully hot summer weather despite the late season so we kept our Sabbath holy by enjoying each other out in God's creation.  Living, loving, and thanking God for sunshine.

I love just sitting back in and watching my family interact with each other.   So many unique relationships within one 6 member family.

A good Daddy listening to a weeks worth of important stories and events as told by a pre-teen who thinks everything is important.   

I love watching my children play, get filthy, and use their imaginations.
I love that beach days get me away from the house work and distractions so I can  fully enjoy each little moment. 

I love summer.
(and I'm not acknowledging that it's nearly over)


Fo' Realz

Courtney over at Storing Up Treasures challenged us to post about nitty gritty real life.
It looked like fun being the exhibitionist that I am.

Although it's my husband that I'm exhibiting. 

Why, yes, that is my husband in a hole
and no he's not mining for coal, or digging to china.
His eyes plead for escape but onlookers only mock and take pictures.

He's trying to figure out why we don't have a functioning sewer pump.
Balancing precariously on a bar gazing into the tank o' poo.  

$200 giant vacuum rental.
$600 new sewer pump.
multiple trips to town for parts.
hours and hours of work...
equals one crappy day.
Actually it was a few days worth of fun.

Toilets that flush a washing machine that drains and the green light to shower again.

That's life Fo' Realz.


Sacrament of the Mundane

I was told recently that it's sad that I'm using my writing talents for such an ultimately useless topic as theology.
I guess I should consider it a compliment that I am perceived to have "talent"...and that my ramblings could even be considered theologian-ish.   Not bad for a barely educated housewife I suppose.

It did make me think though.
Should I be writing about something other than the trivial topics of life, death, love, family, and eternity?
Those topics do tend to make people uncomfortable.
I suppose I could stick to writing about housekeeping, recipes and gardening.
It would be safer and more comfortable
but you know me too well.   I don't do safe or comfortable.

Today I'm going to smash the two worlds together.  Instead of categorizing this post as either ordinary secular house-wifery or matters of theology I've decided that for me the two are intrinsically linked.

As I trudge through each day with it's endless stream of diapers, laundry hampers, and slimy dishes it's easy to feel like nothing more than a maid with no pay.

  I often feel that there must be something more valuable, more extreme, or more radical than pulling weeds and dispensing time-outs.  
Doesn't God have something grand for me to do? 
If only I had less house work and more kingdom work.  
Less time with kids and more time with God.   
 I am not free to do nearly as much "missions" work or church ministry as I would like.

As a full time mother, home-school teacher, and farmer's wife...I don't have time or money for those "mountain top experiences",  conferences,  fellowship outings,  or serene moments in some exotically divine location to connect with my Creator.

Sometimes all this leaves me feeling like I've been benched.

God reminded me today that the two worlds of the domestic and the divine are not as separate as I often think they are.

Each bit of drudgerous labor can be an act of worship.   God doesn't require great things of us, He desires us.  The great things sometimes happen as a result.  

I can choose to be in the presence of ,and in communion with God, from the moment I wake up with a little finger tapping my forehead saying "mommy wake-up, mommy wake-up, mommy wake-up..."
to the minute I drag my weary self to bed.

It is a very good thing  that "God with us" isn't confined to worship conferences and hours devoted to intensive Bible study.
I meet God while I kneel over the tub to scrub out the dirt ring.
I pray for endurance while I wipe up spilled milk.
I discover  fleeting moments to read God's word, like nuggets of gold, hidden throughout my day.

With each load of laundry I fold and batch of dishes I wash I offer myself up in a most non glamorous, inglorious, undramatic, seemingly insignificant act of service.

I bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is gracious enough to meet me in a messy house filled with rowdy kids, who shows me just how strong he is when I feel so weak.

Even a hectic day can be infused with joy,  peace and purpose.
Each day can be  a sacrament.  An outward sign of an inward grace.  A mysterious significance.
Something sacred.

Each night that I tuck my 4 little ones into their beds I am filled with gratitude  (partly because my ears are so completely saturated with noise and nonsense that I want to rip them from my head, and the thought of an hour without children makes me giddy) but mostly because I am thankful for another day with them.
 I am thankful for the great privilege and responsibility of raising a new generation.  Four people that I pray will shine light further into dark territory than I ever can... in a generation that may face more persecution than we will ever know.  That is terrifyingly humbling and a challenge beyond my ability.  It is a calling I don't know that I'm equipped for.   This is where I learn to trust and lean on the One who calls me.

So, with each story I tell, with each bottom I wipe, and with each moment I stop to listen to the tales of a child....I am not just providing childcare.  I am preparing a battalion.

So you see,
my day may seem like nothing more than a repetitious monotony of runny noses, muddy feet, and crusty dishes....but, shhh, that's just my cover.
 I'm doing kingdom work on the down low.


I Love my Quirky Kids

"Do not disturb playing video games".
This shirt should say 
"do not disturb I'm obsessed with video games."
More specifically my new/old game boy that my cousin gave me.

Miss sentimental is enjoying her cozy new quilt.  
Thanks Auntie.

You okay under there Roman?

No he's not injured...
or being punished in some bizarre illegal way.

The day this was taken was an hard day.
He was moody,  melancholy, and fidgety.
Somehow he discovered that this helped him feel better.  
His own little decompression, self regulation chamber.  
After the chair experience  he spent time lying under an overturned coffee table.   
He was devastated that I wouldn't let him take the table to bed and sleep with it on top of him
...on the top bunk.  
He asked me if I could  make him a bean bag the size of a blanket so he can sleep under it.
 That sounds like a LOT of beans.  Whatever works.

Some days they make me so proud to be their mom.  Some days I wonder if we'll all survive.
Either way...gotta love 'em.
Just look at those faces.


The Mercy Quilt

A quilt lovingly, painstakingly, patiently cut, stitched and embroidered.  
Hours spent kneeling.  Hands cutting fabric and a spirit deep in prayer.  
Boxes full of seemingly useless clothing salvaged,  a reminder of a life as vibrantly complex and contradictory as the mismatched patterns and colors stacked and waiting to be sewn.   

The hum of a machine that once belonged to the owner of the clothing now being used by an only daughter to sew a quilt for a granddaughter.  Two sets of freckled hands, two women with an ability to create beauty, united for a moment.  
Three generations being stitched back together in one quilt.

Grief untangled like thread woven  through knotted generations....   

 Severed mother/daughter relationships going back 6 generations. 
Women broken under their burdens.
Curses uttered with painted lips.
 Scars well masked and covered from sight.  

Daughter wounded and abandoned
turned to Mother who wounded and abandoned.

Each one tries, Lord knows she tried...but the well was dry.
Each woman sought to fill the well with something.

Like patterns laid on top of fabric each generation imprints their own pain on next.
Patterns are difficult to alter.  What has been cut is hard to mend...
but not impossible.
God is intricately piecing lives back together.


Stitched into each square.
Random and uncharted beauty.  

Memories of women long gone.  
Forgiven, loved, and freed from the chaos they caused,
and the carnage they chose to overlook.  

Reality forgiven,
to free the future.
Bitterness, longing, hurt released.

Fabric embracing three generations of women who  never once stood in a room together. 
3 generations of females who never celebrated Christmas in the same house...
are now bonded in this quilt.
A mother.
A daughter.
A granddaughter.

A reminder of God's mercy
and renewal.
Mercy that we all so desperately need.   Mercy that we can now freely give to others. 

New beginnings,
with new patterns.
Beauty out of suffering.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!
All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting men's sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors,
as though God were making his appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ's behalf:
Be reconciled to God.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him
we might become the righteousness of God.   
2 Corinthians 5:17-21


"I took you from the ends of the earth,
from the farthest corners I called you.
I said "you are my servant" I have chosen you 
and not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"
Isaiah 41: 9-14

"Therefor, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of you mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -
his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12: 1


Kids who still get excited about escalators go to the big city fair

Yesterday was our first time going to "The Ex"  the annual summertime fair/ carnival/ chance to wear your short shorts, cowboy boots and fanny pack.
Sadly I don't own any of those things and really didn't fit in all that well.

We began the day by arriving in the City bright and early to take my sis-in-law and her son to the airport. 
They have spent the last month visiting from their home in Seattle...although after the first couple weeks our living situation is more like co-habitation rather than a visit.  We were one big household of eight.   People had the hardest time figuring out our crew.  Two kids that just didn't match the other three or appear to match the adults, 2 women and 1 man.  I wanted a shirt that said " No we're not sister wives...we're a sister and a wife"  

It was sad to say goodbye but it is nice to be back to just us.

We spent the day doing some shopping, eating out, visiting my Grandma and waiting for the fair to open it's gates at 3pm.    We just happened to be in the city on the opening day so we decided it was the perfect chance to check it out.  

The kids were all great...there were no tantrums thrown by child (or adult), no one got lost, no one was assaulted or kidnapped by a creepy clown... it was a raving success.

Escalators may have lost their luster after this outing...

{at the airport, sad that Auntie was leaving}

Cotton candy helped them to forgot their grief. 
Sorry Brook ,cotton candy wins.

Roman couldn't get enough of the thrill rides.  Finally his height caught up with his desire for adrenaline.
Aili tolerated a few.  She surprised me actually.  Can you tell by the look on her face that she's getting braver? 

Miss Cece, the animal lover, enjoyed the petty zoo.  
 Not so sure that the animals enjoyed her as enthusiastically.

Roman loved reptile world.  He was in tactile euphoria.

Speaking of euphoria, look at Roman's face in the pic below.
The Dad is not so sure....

This is the ride that hoists them all the way up to the clouds and lets them free fall down toward the earth easing them into a grinding stop before the moment of impact.

I wish I could have captured (with my little crappy point 'n shoot camera)  the look on Roman's face as he re-entered the earths atmosphere.  Shear shock and horror...that dissolved into a demented giddy grin.
He bounced and shrieked his way off of the platform  "That was awesome! I thought we were dead for sure!"

My husband and his spine weren't quite so impressed.

Me and my Littles on the carousel.  The only ride I went on.   Somewhere around the time I became a mother I stopped enjoying rides and began to loath them.  I don't know if child birth changed my equilibrium or just increased my survival instinct over my desire for a thrill.  It is quite a phenomenon really.

It was Miss Cece's first ride.  She smiled ear to ear the whole time.  

Yes, that is my head in the lower right corner.  

I really love family fun days.  

Today we're celebrating our 15th anniversary by fixing our septic pump.   
I am happy to report that after 3 days of no functioning septic system we can now shower, do laundry, wash dishes, flush toilets....

It was a great gift. 

Who needs flowers and chocolates when you can have a new poo pump?  

We were contemplating leaving the kids with Grandma and Grandpa and taking little drive into town but as of this morning the hubster has a throat full of razor blades, and glands that make him look like Frankenstein.   
It appears that between sewage and sickness our 15th won't be very romantic.

Oh well, if there is one thing I've learned in 15 years it's that flexibility, a sense of humor, and a lot of mutual grace is the only way to survive marriage.   Putting the kids to bed early and snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie sounds good too.