Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A 17th Century Weekend Produces Grateful Hearts

Our family has done some crazy things in the past. We love to change it up now and again to gain a new perspective. Friday nights are family nights in our house. We have stayed in with popcorn and a movie or stepped out for dinner and a walkabout at the local book store. My hubby, Bob and I had an idea for a 17th Century weekend. It was years ago and worth doing again, now that we have more children. We prepared the menu and entertainment then informed the kids. You would have thought we took away their toys and TV. Oh yeah, that is exactly what we were doing. The moans were loud and clear from the children. The older the child, the louder their moaned. We had our work cut out for us.

Bob and I set the date, and the told them it was on! We didn't want to hear anymore about it until after the weekend was up. We hoped that would be the end of it, but children have a hard time controlling their expressions of discontent. We would be pointing that out to them later! The Friday rolled up and we explained all the rules. We would not be using any electricity after 5:00p.m. and dad and I had picked the activities for the first night. Their faces winced a few times before they caught our expressions. We expected full compliance.

Bare with us, we were not trying to be mean or unjust. We just wanted them to learn several things about the times they live in now in comparison to our ancestors. We hoped they would learn the proverbial 'don't judge the book by it's cover' when we were done. Also we hoped they maintained an adventurous spirit while still submitting to authority.

I will continue. The sun set faithfully behind the mountains and we lit candles throughout the house. For our youngest(age 3 at the time), we gave her a baby size battery operated lantern. This was just for safety. She would travel on her own with this instead of a live flame. The glow of the candles warmed the faces and shadows of the rooms. We would walk by each other enjoying the new atmosphere. I think they were surprise to see what it would look like. The stew in the crock pot was unplugged promptly at 5:00 and the table set by lots of small hands. The plates twinkled in the light and we bowed our heads in prayer as Papa blessed the meal. The conversation at dinner grew livelier by the minute. Maybe the idea of eating in the dark was actually exciting. They did not even noticed how much they were enjoying themselves. Papa and I did.

After dinner, we cleared the table together and cleaned up. Moving to the living room, we pulled out the familiar game, Sorry. We had a great time playing. Laughter filled the air as we competed against each other. Eventually someone would said they needed to use the restroom. I would say, 'take your light and head out 50 yards from the house'. Everyone knew I was joking, but it reminded them that they have only to walk down the hall, when our ancestors walked out in any kind of weather to an outhouse.

We asked the children to get ready for bed. We made sure they understood they need to dress warmly because there would be no heat tonight. No matter how the fireplace roared the heat would not reach their bedrooms. They ran off with their little lights. Papa and I stayed by the fire. We warmed our toes and watched the flames dance off the wood in the fireplace. We could hear the children talking to each other. "I can't find my... I need my light, I have to brush my teeth...Don't take your light, I wouldn't be able to see in my drawer..." and on and on it went. When our children were at our feet again ready for a story, we had to bring up how exciting the discover of electricity was to our ancestors. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin discovered that electricity could be harnessed but it would take over 100 years later before Thomas Edison would invented the light bulb. We explained further that they were born into a time where you can walk over, flip a switch and wha..la Light! Our good humor boy(then about 7) ran over and mocked flipping on the switch. We shook our heads no. Then our teenage girl (about 15) made a case for how much harder it was to complete the simplest of tasks.

Papa began reading by candlelight with fire crackling in the background just added to the drama of the story. Reading out loud to kids, sometimes it is hard to grab their wondering mind. But there in the small circle of light surrounded by darkness provided them will a place to focus their attention. Papa's face was animated with the shadows and lights bouncing about as he dispensed his tale on the edge of his chair. Oh they moaned a different song, when Papa finished the chapter and told them it was time for bed. "One more Chapter!" chanted around the room. It was a long time ago...I don't remember if he read another chapter. I do remember how grateful they were to hear the story.

The Fireplace glowed in orange and red tones with our feet extended towards the heat. Cuddled up in our living room, the children settled into their beds, we could still hear them chatting. It went something like this..."That wasn't so bad...I liked it...I can't wait to flip the switch on the wall(the boy), Can you image going out side in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom?(one of girls!)...I want to do it again."

The next night, the children made lots of suggestions for the activities for the evening. We settled on a few including reading a story by the fireplace. When the weekend was over, we all experienced the same gratefulness of switching on a light, flushing a toilet, doing a load of laundry then a piece by piece experience, we could cook instead of eating a lot of cold foods, and so much more. I especially liked how much we depended on each other. Modern convinences can create independence. I can play on the computer, watch TV and cook without someone else. You need extra hands for all the daily life of the 17th Century.

Life gets busy and we haven't done that in a few years. It might be time to do it again. Maybe invite my grandsons to join us. I'll ask my hubby to see what he thinks. If you do something similar or end up doing one of these weekends with your family, tell us about it. What did you or your children learn? Did you have fun? It is winter time, the sun sets early and the fireplace is glowing. Try one night and see what happens!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hope the boy listens now.

Hi my name is Joanna. I am in the 4th grade. I love horses and bubblegum. I want to share a time when I told a little boy at the grocery store about the Hedge Of Thorns. We were shopping in the produce section when my mom saw a young boy trying to climb out of the cart. My mom rushed over seeing his mom busy with picking out veggies. She quickly made him sit down properly. When this caught my eye, I hurried over. Then the mom turned around to witness the trouble happening.
" He never seems to listen to me, I tell him to sit and he won't". His mom said. My mom struck a conversation with the lady. When all of a sudden there was little voice behind them...me! I began to tell our adventures at the park and the reading of the Hedge Of Thorns. The boy listened very carefully and seemed to understand. Not only did it effect the boy, but also his mom. When I was done the boy said "Thank you very much". The lady said with appreciation "Thank you". I grab my moms hand and we were on our way.

I have learned that this can really effect someone by just hearing something I could use. It is a great book to read to your children. When they are not listening or are leading someone else into danger, they might think about this story. Thank you. I am now going to have a piece of gum.

Monday, January 18, 2010

No Ordinary Day at the Park

The girls and I left the park and went to the grocery story. We needed some bread and fresh produce. We ran around the produce section to pick up fresh fruits. I came around one of the bins of fruit to see a boy trying to climb out of the seat of the shopping cart. We have all seen it at least a thousand times. We cringe and think the child is going to fall and crack his head open. I ran over and told the boy to have a seat. His mother was preoccupied at the moment collecting some veggies and returned quickly to our side.

My little Joanna is eight years old and had followed me over when I moved to instruct the young boy. The mother was explaining to us that he would not listen to her and stay seated. I began to concur with her about the safety of staying seated. I heard a small voice start to talk to the boy. The mother and I stopped our discussion to turn to listen in.

Joanna proceeded to tell him about the Hedge of Thorns. A smile crept across my face realizing how much she had gleaned from this story. She explained about the path the parents told the children to stay on. How when the boy decided he wanted the apple from the other side of the hedge, his heart made a plan to not listen to his parents. She continued to talk about the sister who was really hurt because the boy would not listen. The word "listen" came up so much, this mother standing next to me, confirmed Joanna's words at every chance she could. The mother was clearly engaged as well. I stood back to see the three of them all chatting. Joanna talked directly to the young boy and pleaded with him to listen to his mom.

The mother was tender and very appreciative towards Joanna. She asked her son to say thank you. He had not said anything until then. With a sweet disposition, he politely answered, "Thank you very much." Joanna and I asked how old he was. He said he was four. He was so pleasant to engage.

We said good-bye and Joanna slipped her hand in mine when we walk away. I remember the warmth of her hand, but I will never forget her warm ministry to this young boy because of one story she heard at the park that day.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hedge of Thorns at the Park

Southern California is going to have abundant rain for the next week, so I asked everyone to come to the park. I decided to bring a picture book called Hedge of Thorns written in 1611 by a man name John Carrol and rewritten by Mary Hamilton. Emma had heard the story years before, but it was little Joanna's first time.

At first Joanna was laying down on the blanket seemingly uninterested. I opened the book and the writer invites the reader to join him on his porch and enjoy his garden. This is when Joanna sat up and peered into the book. The beautiful illustrations kept Joanna anticipating the next page. After we were done reading this valuable story, the author asks us to learn this painful lesson from him to be spared. He says, "never go beyond the boundaries that God has set for you, because you will harm yourself and those you love the most." I explained to the girls how God has parents placed over the children for their safety, guidance, and to love them as Christ loves us (Romans 5:8).

When I was done, the girls ran off to scouter and climb the jungle gym. You wonder, watching them play, if the story had any impact. Time will tell if it was an "ordinary day" or "no ordinary" day at the park.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It Was Worth My Time.

Hi my name is Emma. I am 11 yrs old and in the 6th grade. My mom asked me to write a blog about my perspective of A Stranger At Home. This book is very heart- felt and what I call a "crying" book. I like this book because it tells us that we need to be humble and we need to take "no" as an answer. I didn't think I was going to like this story at first, just because it was written in the 1800s'. But it was worth listening to.

If I had decided to refuse to listen. I would have never change the way I think about receiving the answer "no". When I hear the answer "no", I don't take it very well. All I need to think about is that God has a purpose for it. If I do this it makes me feel better so I can have fun with my family, instead, of being the person no one wants to be around.

I also learned that being humble is important in this story and in life. The main character in the book is figuring out that if she would have been humble none of her troubles would have happened. I think that children around my age would love to hear A Stranger At Home. Don't forget to build a fort.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Is the word "No" necessary??

After reading, The Stranger at Home, I have been watching to see how my children respond to the word NO. I did not do it to tempt them, nor did I do it to test them. I simply responded to the issues before me as I would any other time. But now, with this story so fresh in all of our minds, I was seeing how we were all doing in this area.

Now I must include my own heart in this matter. If I am not able to show my own response to "No" with a willingness to trust the Lord in all areas of my life, I could not expect my children to follow in my footsteps. Or maybe the footsteps they would be following would be the ones I was bringing to their attention in their own lives. This would have left them bitterly frustrated with a double standard.

So, do I handle my "NO's" well??? Most of the time I can place my trust in what the Lord is working out in my life, but there are other times I am arm wrestling with the Lord. Too many times my heart's first response must be subdued and taken captive to the ways of the Lord. Oh how sweet the victory when I know I am submitting to him and how deep the depths of personal shame when I have my fist upward towards God in my heart. Yet, He continues to lead me so kindly into places of repentance and sweet fellowship with Him again even though my earlier determination was to dethrone Him over what truly is a trivial matter in light of the glories of His sacrifice and eternal gift.

Now what...I must show my children not only their attempts to dethrone Him by their desires but to know Him such as Romans 2:4 states "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?". Will they, like me, struggle from time to time with the word "NO". Yes! But each time I will be there and be grateful I can point them to the one who sacrificed it all to inherit a sinner like me and them as well.

I will then testify, the word "No" is a measuring rod. It will tell us if we are willing to lay down our life, pick up our cross and follow Him. All of us must be reminded, encouraged and strengthen by the "one another's" the Bible speaks of. Each time, even more precious with our own children, we must love the opportunity to point them to such an amazing, stead-fast, never changing, ever present Holy God...who tells us "No" when it is necessary.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Family Fort

The Children

I have been advised by some friends that I should share some of our family adventures. We are not unusual in some special way. We are just a family. I spend everyday with my children from the morning hours until the sun sets behind the horizon. Sometimes, sickness or a scary dream calls me from sweet slumber to nightly duty.

This week the children and I have built an adventurous fort in the lowly corner of our living room. Sheets and pillows were dragged from the hall closet. Chairs have been arranged and my oldest son, Jack, retrieved clamps from his Dad's faithful garage supplies. The sheets were laid across the backs of the wood chairs and the clamps clipped on to secure their fate. The old dust broom handle, saved for such an occasion, was placed in the center of the fort and pushed the sheets towards the sky. The pillows were arranged around the interior designed to offer comfort. Then we climbed in. When I settle in with a book in my hand, I calmly arrange myself only to burst forth with words upon the page. When the book introduces a new character, sometimes he or she will inherit an accent. The giggling for the children keeps me enjoying the story as much as I suspect they are. I wish to share this weeks story with you.

I began to read The Stranger at Home by Mrs. Sherwood (Lamplighter Publishing). There was no room for an accent and no room for giggling. This book takes you down a more serious path and confronts its listeners with the realities of an obstinate heart created by the seeming innocents of giving a children everything their hearts desire. How will a child withstand or even understand what it is to be denied by man or our heavenly Father, if not by the words sometimes necessary, uttered by their parents lips... "no".

As I read this heavenly present, we could safety observe and not carelessly live, if per chance, we desire to escape its snares. My little ones ears stayed glued to the story line, as I tested from time to time , by questions I posed to them. Even my 8 year old understood the depths of the situation and the folly that bore heartache fell from my lips as I continued to plunge even deeper into the story.

We kept the fort up for three days. Each day visiting the fort to finish the story. On the final day, we could see that the only hope Elvira, this little one in the story, had was to turn to God in full repentance and place her heart in His hands. I dare not tell you how the story ends on the pages of this special book, but I can tell you of the impact on my children and their hearts.

It is sometimes hard to see the sin we wear each day. In a story, you clearly can see how it looks on someone else. I include myself in this statement. For my blindside is as big as the ocean. I began to inquire with the children as to their take on such a story. Each having a clear understanding of the consequences the story presented and the course it took, we parted and put the fort away.

Then one morning, a few days later, I was talking with one of my children. This child was struggling with taking direction. I was asking for something simple. I was delaying something that the child wanted. To my sweet pleasure, I was able to reminisce about a certain young child in a story. It did not take my child long to run the scenario through the child's little head to understand what I was seeing in them at that moment. I remind them that God's mercies are tender every morning, repent, turn and love the Lord.

I think stories have a valuable place in our lives. I could not have turned on the TV and three days later say, you remember when so and so did such and such?? It would be far too trivial.