Sunday, December 20, 2015

Elizabeth's story

Hello, my name is Elizabeth, wife of Zecharaiah. We have a small home in the hill country of Judea. First, let me tell you a little about me, and then I will tell you a little about why you should know me. My husband and I have waited for years to have a child. Never did God choose to bless us with a baby of our own. I am well past the age when a woman can have a child, and yet, now of all times, God has chosen to give us a son. A beautiful healthy baby boy! Nothing is impossible with God. We were told of his coming by an angel, the angel Gabriel himself. He spoke to my husband and said we would have a baby even in our old age. And, we should name him John. After Zechariah heard from the angel he could not speak, not a word,  until John was born and he wrote that his name would indeed be ‘John.’ That was the talk of the countryside for a while!

Before John’s birth, when I was yet expecting, I had a visitor. A young woman, my relative. Now, her, I am sure you know. She is young, about 15. She came to visit me, and stayed with me for a few months. She also was pregnant at that time. Hers also was not an ordinary pregnancy. Just as Zechariah had been visited by the angel Gabriel, so was this young girl. You know her now, don’t you? Yes, Mary. She had never been with a man, had no husband, and yet the angel said she would have a baby. How can that be? He said the child was there of the Holy Spirit. This would be the King that we had waited for from almost the beginning of time, from Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden of Eden.

All my life I waited for this promise, this prophecy to be fulfilled. I am not a student of the Law and the Prophets, what you call the Old Testament, but I know the promise of a savior. I want to share with you some of the prophecies that we have held to, longed for, for many generations. These are just some of the promises of God, spoken in the Old Testament, and then they came true in your New Testament. This savior would come from a woman, descended from Abraham. The prophet Micah told us he would be born in Bethlehem, in Genesis we read he would belong to the family of Judah, an heir to David’s throne. Somehow he would come out of Egypt, according to Hosea, and yet be called a Nazarene. He would be presented with gifts, come as a king riding on a donkey, and on and on. God gave us many promises all throughout the Bible so we could recognize this promised Messiah who it says will take our sins as a sacrificial lamb. Does that mean no more sacrifices in the temple? I can’t understand all of that, yet, but Mary has been told that this baby is to be the One. He will be called the Son of the Most High. To think that small baby growing inside of her is God Himself.

When Mary arrived on my doorstep and I heard her greeting, my own baby, not yet born, jumped within me. I suddenly felt filled of the Holy Spirit and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary rejoiced as well and worshiped God who had chosen her. I know that through the rest of time people will know her and recognize her special role as the mother of Jesus.

She stayed with me for a few months, until the time that my baby, John was born. He too was prophesied about, he is to prepare the way for his younger cousin, the Messiah. He will be a voice calling in the wilderness, “prepare ye the way of the Lord.” He will call to repentance the people of Israel and point the way to the Savior, the King of Kings.

But, now let me tell you of the birth of Mary’s little boy, Jesus Christ, the Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the baby, born in a manger.
The ruler of this day, Caesar Augustus (the stories I could tell about him!), required everyone to go to their home town to register for a census. Poor Mary! She is soon to be married to Joseph. He was so confused when he heard she was expecting a baby. He knew it was not his baby, and he almost sent her away quietly until an angel appeared to him and said this angel was indeed from God. So, trusting, but still unsure of what this all meant, Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem, the city of David, Joseph’s family town. Imagine that journey, expecting a child any day.

Well, they did arrive in Bethlehem, along with hundreds of other people. All there for the census, and no room in a hotel left for Joseph and Mary. They ended up in the stables, basically a dark, dirty cave they kept the animals in to keep them out of the weather and away from the guests. Of course, while there, Mary’s time came to give birth. Joseph didn’t know what to do. There, in a strange town, away from their home and neighbors. But, you know God is in control. Everything was fine. Mary delivered a healthy, baby boy. Her first born son. They wrapped him in cloths. He was beautiful, a healthy cry, amazing. Where to put him to rest? Well, the only thing available was the feeding trough for the animals, a manger. At the time of his birth angels appeared to shepherds in the field watching their sheep in the still of the night. I can tell you, they aren’t used to getting heavenly visitors. Is it obvious yet that this is not an ordinary baby? An angel delivered the birth announcement. He said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds got up right away and went to find the baby and they told everyone about it.
The shepherds were not the only ones who traveled to see Jesus. Wise men saw a star celebrating his birth and traveled a great distance to see him. They brought expensive gifts and worshiped him as well.

I still don’t understand it all. How can this baby be the promised Messiah, the Savior, the Lamb of God that will take away the sin of the world? What part will my little John play in this amazing story? What I do know is that God has given us the greatest gift, that we could spend our lifetime learning about. In Jesus Christ we have a life lived out on earth of how God would actually live when faced with tempting situations, with bad days, with false accusers. I pray that my story will make you want to know more about this baby born of my relative, Mary. Read His story and think about God’s greatest gift during this Christmas season.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first of many good-byes

Something just doesn't feel right. Even when a good-bye is the best thing, the timely thing, it cannot feel completely right.

An almost empty room. empty shelves, sheetless bed - the same mattress we bought for his first "big boy" bed at 2 years of age.

The memories well up. Odd ones, random ones, peppering the day. . .

Your obsession with "Hoppa-doppas" (helicopters)

The brightest smile in the room.

Figuring out on your own how to count by tens to 100 before kindergarten, while still struggling to tie a secure knot in your shoe.

A dozen big brothers five days a week.

Proud big brother in the hospital greeting sibling after sibling, after sibling.

Cubs colored rubber bands on braces.

Baseball games, all star tournaments, lots of frozen burritos as we rushed out the door.

Forts in the great room.

Learning patience with siblings.

Swimming in the summers whenever you possibly could.

A math brain I could never out-teach.

Owning your faith.

Struggling to find your life direction with college a few years away.

Pouring out skills and gifts for God.

First job, and an even better second job.

Saving every penny.

Determined to meet every goal set.

Independently driven.

Remembering the times that you pulled and we pushed, the times you questioned and we encouraged, you hesitated and we prompted,

. . . and somewhere along the way you took it all and ran with it following decisively as God directed you better than we ever could have.

And we just watch and marvel at the man you have become.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Silver Lining

Looking for joy in the times of challenge. Cultivating that grateful heart.

It's a lifelong process and one that progresses at the rate of rock climbing rather than strides on a treadmill.

And yet, as God teaches, and opens my eyes more each day, the gratitude springs up in unexpected places.

Grateful this week for . . .

  • Free antibiotics at Meijer pharmacy
  • A simple ear infection and clear lungs
  • Flexible older kids that can wait while I drop them here and there and drive back and forth to get everyone where they need to be, usually for longer than they need to be there
  • A letter for 17% off that arrives the day before we take our car in for $2k worth of repairs
  • Sleep, in uninterrupted chunks of time
  • The quiet snuggles of a fevery child
  • Spring break for many around us so the doctor had lots of appointments available
  • A steady job that provides insurance and income for our family
  • Daily homeschool flexibility that allows school to somehow stay on track despite fevers and earaches and meetings and schedules and red-eyes and energy-zapping illness

And, above all, thankful for a Savior that endured the cross on my behalf, not looking at the pain and agony of the moment, but lifting His eyes to the greater prize, the greater love, the greater purpose, He finished well.

As my not-much-longer-to-be four year old says, "Happy Great Friday!"

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why I homeschool

Although the calendar says March, the winter doldrums still hold us firmly in their grasp. Snow everywhere, very few days over freezing, and everyday -- school, school, and more school.

Now and then I dream of a "free" day. Rush around like mad for an hour or so and shuttle kids out the door to school. Then, settle into a truly quiet devotional time. A couple hours of cleaning, run some errands, prep an amazing dinner and then warmly greet my children with a plate of fresh home-baked goodies as they return. Seems like such a carefree existence, but I know I'm looking through rose colored glasses.

Then I am reminded of all I would lose in that scenario, and I need to remember the cost so I stay the course.

So, here are the first of literally thousands of reasons why I homeschool:

Academic excellence. No class of 30 students, or even 15, can come close to the one-on-one time that my kids get each day. Specifically tailored to where they are and the pace they learn at. The bar set as high as they can reach, no higher and no lower.

Spiritual excellence. Even a Christian school can have teachers that vary in their theology or their depth of spiritual insight. I don't know every answer, but we dig them out together as needed along with that constant reminder that God's Word is the ultimate authority and has the final say in everything.

Social excellence. A room full of junior highers makes me cringe. Their expressions, their clothing, their topics of conversation, their standards, etc., etc. Is that really the ideal learning environment? My kids see enough of it during a couple hours of youth group to feed our conversations the rest of the week. I'm sure there will be moments of social awkwardness here and there, but overall, they have greater opportunity, adult-mentored not peer-mentored, to gain understanding of social propriety. 

Psychological excellence. Okay, no studies that I know of prove this, but I find this interesting subtlety in the typical homeschool personality. A kind of confidence, maybe at times bordering on naivete, but a free-ness to be whoever they truly are. As they spend their days in a loving home, they have a freedom of expression unknown in a roomful or hallwayful of kids ready to deem them "uncool" or "weird." They'll learn soon enough and a little more gradually that some behaviors are unacceptable to their peers, but in the meantime they stay young a little longer, explore life a little deeper, and enjoy a little more freely.

Familial excellence. I'll be the first to admit that my kids probably fight with each other a little more since they are around each other 24/7. However, at the end of the day we know each other. We talk, text (yes, even while in the same house), laugh, interact, ask, listen, argue, learn, cry, grow, and eat together all day long, pretty much everyday. There is no amount of quality time that can trump the quantity of time that we have together.

I feel better already. A little less hypnotized by that dreamy image of traditional school. And I have just scratched the surface of the many, many reasons that I homeschool.

Why do you homeschool?