Category: Untraditional Church

A letter to a friend about to lose her home

I wrote this in response to a friend who just found out she is about to lose her home, something her husband was keeping from her due to her panic attacks and fear. Their financial situation is much as ours was 4 years ago. They live on what work and finances God provides (which makes it tricky to work with the bank and government agencies), have been struggling for a while, and she was scared. This is now an open letter to those in that position, those who are struggling with crippling fear as they look at a future of change. Frankly it could be a letter to myself 15 years ago. And again at 10 years ago. And 5 years ago.  And possibly a letter to myself again in the future. 


You are NOT alone. We have been through it, Ame (one of several friends who  knew all that was going on during and helped me through) has been through it (and held my hand through it, including through the panic attacks), I have been through it, many of us have gone through or are in the process of it.  Many moe will find themselves in that place.

The panic attacks do come but once you let it out a bit (you need to let it out like steam in a pressure cooker or you will fall apart) you choose, you choose to stand firm, to be strong, to support your husband anyway- he was protecting you knowing you panic, knowing you can’t cope. He was trying to protect you. It is your turn to be strong anyway. It is your turn to help him and help your family by choosing not to fall apart. Yes, you will. It happens. But then you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do the next thing. No point in worrying about anything else. You can’t do anything else. All you can do is the very next thing.

I know about the not being able to verify financial info with the bank and government agencies- we tried to keep our house and because of our unusual income sources (how do you explain manna living to a bank?) we never could get anything to happen.

The thing is God is way bigger than that. Bigger than our fear. Bigger than our relationships with people. Bigger than houses and jobs and money and things. WAY bigger.



I know it is hard.

It is REALLY, REALLY hard.

This is where you get to tell Satan he is a LIAR and choose to ignore all the whispers and shouts he is sending at you.

You get to choose to be strong anyway.

You get to stop telling yourself all the things you can’t do and choose to say “I may not be able to do all that BUT I CAN do this, right here. Right now. I can be grateful for the things we have. I can be grateful that my husband loves me so much he tried to protect me from this knowing how weak I have been. I can support him anyway. I can show my kids how strong I can be and make them proud so they know how to deal with all this stuff that is bound to come at them in the future.”

Be brave, Girl.

You can do it!

You don’t have to do everything right now.

You don’t even have to apply for help if you feel God is not leading you to (we never did- God provided through other means and it was horrible and hard and amazing and miraculous) but you can choose.

You have a choice. Right now.

You can do the very next thing. That is all you have to do.

You don’t know what will happen in 5 years, a year, a month, next week, 2 days, 2 hours, geez- you don’t even really know what will happen in 2 minutes.

All you have is RIGHT NOW.

And that is ALL you have to cope with.

All you have to deal with.

All you have to be strong for is RIGHT NOW. Everything else is gravy.

God is good. He loves you. You are worth it. And He is a very ready help in times of trouble.

Just saw this this morning and it struck me as important:

I Will Go Before You

I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isa. 45:2-3)

God’s imagery of going before us lets us know that he desires us to go on a journey. This is not so frightening. Most of us are aware that the Christian life requires a pilgrimage of some sort. We know we are sojourners. What we have sometimes not given much thought to is what kind of a journey we are to be taking.

Not realizing it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. We know he is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.

As we stand at this intersection of God’s calling, we look down two highways that appear to travel in very different directions. The first highway quickly takes a turn and disappears from our view. We cannot see clearly where it leads, but there are ominous clouds in the near distance. Standing still long enough to look down this road makes us aware of an anxiety inside, an anxiety that threatens to crystallize into unhealed pain and forgotten disappointment. We check our valise and find no up-to-date road map but only the torn and smudged parchment containing the scribbled anecdotes and travelers’ warnings by a few who have traveled the way of the heart before us. They encourage us to follow them, but their rambling journals give no real answers to our queries on how to navigate the highway. – John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance.

Rethinking and Survivorship Bias

I have been thinking a lot about this:

When I first read this I was thinking “oh, I never thought about it that way, I need to redirect my brain”. Then I realized that no, this is how my husband and I see everything. (Caution, very long and wordy article. Good but wordy. The first half is more a history lesson, then a bit that is important to the article, and then the end comes back to that first half full circle. So iuf you are in a hurry skip down to the image of the bomber and read there.)

If it isn’t working for other people then we look for a different way to do things. Instead of looking at the few successes with any given thing (and boy do we hear about those- but it worked for so and so…so what, it didn’t work for 90% of the other people who tried it) we focus on why isn’t it working for all those other people, there has to be something better. Then we search until we find something that is working for us. Thus the radical unschooling, thus the home/unchurching, thus the natural remedies, the gentle parenting and so on. We tend to rethink everything. If it isn’t working then lets do something else- why continue doing something that is damaging us and our relationships even if it IS tradition or the way things have always been.

I remember a while back Jessica Bowman wrote a great post about not worrying about what they aren’t learning and repeated the “This is stupid, so I’m not doing it anymore.” Exactly. ( If something isn’t helping us or our family, if it isn’t making our lives better or doing what it is supposed to be doing, then why are we still doing it. “This is stupid. I’m not doing it anymore.”

Advice for a young, Christian geek seeking a relationship

A while back Shamus and I received an email from young Christian, geek gentleman seeking Godly council on seeking a mate. That email ended up in an email account that I “lost” when I upgraded my computer to Mint from Ubuntu. Shamus looked over my answers and gave them a thumbs up but never got around to sharing his own answers (it has been a super busy couple of months.) Today another young male geek friend asked for advice on marriage and it reminded me of the questions we received from this young man trying to figure out what to be looking for in a wife. I think my answers apply to both, especially as I have found myself repeating several of them in the last months in other places. So here you go, my advice,  after 16 years of marriage and 21 years of knowing each other as a couple of geeks and Christians all rolled in to one.




1) Has your relationship always been built on a strong Christian foundation, or were there some struggles in the beginning? I know that you mentioned you and Shamus argued a lot about the Bible 

and God. What kinds of things were deal-breakers for you both? How did you reconcile those differences? What do you still both disagree on to this day?

When we were dating I was Roman Catholic– a strong, determined, deep in the culture Roman Catholic. Shamus was a non-practicing Christian. I was actively seeking and gradually God brought me around through my study of the Roman Catholic Bible (slightly different– more books, but I had been taught had all the RC traditions within so when I looked and the Bible said the opposite of what I had been taught it lead to a crisis of faith.) A week or so after we were married I was baptized by dunking (rather than the dipping I had received as a child) and started diving in to the Bible wholeheartedly. At that time Shamus just kind of came along for the ride (he was working things out internally but I wasn’t seeing any changes so didn’t even know at the time.) . I was zealous and growing leaps and bounds every day and determined to learn all I could about this new thing. I was sharing all I was learning and at that time Shamus was happy to just sit back and watch. I am sure there were many things we disagreed on but he saw fit to keep his mouth shut except for in the things he felt were important. Shamus has been blessed with the gift of discernment for a very long time and in this, he knew it was best to keep out of it and let me grow. Later he went through his own growth spurts and yes, there are some things we are not in wholehearted agreement on, I am sure.

We have studied in different ways completely (I have read straight through multiple times and have a special heart for the Old Testament while Shamus has done in depth study via audio Bible of the New Testament so that combined with what the Holy Spirit has spoken to each of us colors our perceptions.) Instead of focusing on those things when one of us comes up with something we see differently we wait and pray and very seldom discuss except in a conversational tone. No point in arguing– in the end the Lord usually opens our eyes and shows us that we have both just been seeing the area from a different angle and that we actually are pretty much agreed.

2) I know that this question is cliche, but I still need to ask it. What would you tell yourselves before you got married, if you could? “Hey younger Shamus, don’t forget to pick up your socks”

I would tell myself to stop whining and complaining, to focus on the positive, to start changing myself instead of trying to change him. In fact just the other day I gave similar advice to a young woman who was asking about marriage and how people can stay in love for so long. My answer to her was the same: Recognizing that only God can change another person– you WILL NOT change them and if you attempt it they WILL resent it. Instead focus on becoming the very best person God has for you to be, follow His direction, pray for wisdom, pray for discernment, seek Him and He will work it out. Also, we all bring baggage into our relationships–our perceptions are colored by them. We have to recognize this and find out what the other person MEANT, not just how we perceived it. Nearly all the marriage problems we have had have come down to communication and perception. And talking to another lady married for the same amount of time to a completely different type of person, she said the same exact thing. So communication and perception- praying for wisdom before opening your mouth. That would be a huge thing I would tell myself (I was NOT wise, at all, so I really needed to pray for wisdom.)

(On a side note, Shamus STILL leaves his socks on the floor but now I understand why– so they can dry and he can put them back on because they got wet.:D)

3) Heather, where do you draw the line between supporting your husband’s passions, and pushing him to be more “grown up”? Some of the “Christian girls” I meet make it clear that this whole nerd thing is just a phase, and they aim to change that. Needless to say I don’t often go on a second date with those. But what qualities should I look for in a woman who can be both supportive of my passions, and still call me out if I’m being a child and playing video games all day?
Hmmm, I think comes back to this “not trying to change the other person” problem. This is something we females are excellent at attempting. Every fairy-tale, every princess, every romance– all come down to trying to change the other person instead of being happy with them as they are and with who you are.

I DID try to change him in this regard (I have a post brewing about that, about valuing another person’s interests because they have value to that other person.) Even though I knew when dating Shamus that he could spend 9 hours programming while I looked on, that he would stay up all night playing a video game without blinking an eye, it made me angry once we were married and had kids. I tried to force him to go out with me even when he had a brand new game or the programming bug had hit. Thankfully Shamus is strong in his passions and refuses to let others stand in the way of them and only gave in very occasionally. Those things that I did not value, that I thought were useless, those very
things lead to him being the person he is today, to the very jobs he does today. (It’s almost as if God knew what He was doing when He designed Shamus. ;P)

Now I recognize that playing video games all day can lead to great things and can’t imagine asking him not to or calling it childish. In fact, I, when I have time, like to play video games all day as well. It is a family activity for us, one that we all value and enjoy, and the growth and learning that has come out of it is one that I would not trade for anything.

On the other hand I have also learned that it is okay to let him know that I have barely seen him in a few days and that I am starting to feel unloved (if you get a chance and haven’t already, read The 5 Love Languages”. It has been a huge help in our marriage in understanding how each of us gives and receives love and how we perceive it. I am a “acts of service” and “spend time with me” person, Shamus is an “encouragement” and “physical touch” person. This made our early marriage life horrible as we kept trying to show love and get love in our own love languages and nothing was working.

Qualities? I would say valuing what others value because the others value it and not showing contempt for what you value. Those are killers in a relationship, regardless of the passions/interests involved. As I have discussed with my kids repeatedly– if someone can’t respect what you love regardless of what it is and how they feel about it then they are not going to respect you. Of course that goes the other direction as well, if you don’t respect HER interests then same thing goes. Either you will end up trying to change to make them happy (and likely will fail horribly and make yourself miserable) or you will spend you time fighting and miserable. Either way that is not how God designed marriage
to be. God is love, all the law comes down to love God and love others, where is love in contempt, whining, complaining, arguing, disrespecting others? It isn’t. That is not God’s way, nor is it God’s plan for us in our relationships.

So valuing others, having respect for other’s interests, not whining, complaining, putting down those interests, but honest when need time. Someone seeking God with all her heart and genuinely trying to get at the truth, not just trying to fit what Christian culture says a Godly woman looks like (my goodness do they have that one whacked out), those would be good qualities.
4) Do either of you attend a church? Or do you participate in a family bible study? How does your family pursue God?
The whole church thing was a huge point of contention for a long time (RC-me meant not going to church was a sin). God changed my heart on that and now has opened my eyes to corporate worship not = “the church”. The church is God’s people, wherever they are and wherever we find them, not a physical place. Physical place is fine if you want it or need it and don’t have natural fellowship with other Christians but is not necessary to growth. In our case it was only after we left the physical church (Baptist then Christian and Missionary Alliance) that God started really growing us individually and as a family.

We celebrate Saturday Sabbath (not all the trappings, just take a day of rest as a family) and try to at least have a time of listening to God’s word together then. We often will spontaneously do so at other times as well. We listen to the Bible, pause and discuss as anyone has questions or a revelation, then move on. We pray together regularly and with whoever is available anytime we feel the need– which is often, multiple times a day most days. We keep Bibles open in different rooms including the bathroom so it is always open and ready for reading. We discuss what God is doing in our lives all the time. He is a regular part of every day.

That said we do not do formal “bible study”. In general neither Shamus nor I finds reading what someone else says about God’s word, aside from information on original culture and meaning of words, is very helpful. There are very few authors that I have found helpful in my personal walk (Seth Barnes and John Eldredge as well as Elisabeth Eliot and Oswald Chambers being the few that I go back to.) Mostly I prefer to focus on God’s word and see what He shows me through the Spirit. Shamus is the same way. On the other hand there have been some excellent Christian books on relationships that have helped including “The Five Love Languages”, “Captivating”, and “Men are Like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti”.
546610_10151048843109335_607917733_n5) Biggest struggles? Another cliche question, but it is different from couple to couple.
Personality + baggage + love language= issues, definitely. The combination of my neediness (thanks to baggage from childhood and family relationship issues) and Shamus’ natural fear of failure and rejection (also baggage related) mixed with me being more extroverted than he and wanting to fix everything and him feeling I was telling him he had failed every time I tried to fix things, mixed up with our very opposite love languages made things extra complicated. Throw in a complete lack of financial wisdom on both of our parts, a very needy, very extroverted oldest child with health issues, our own health issues, and were it not for God’s grace it would have been a recipe for disaster. Instead God used it all to grow us up and change us and once we got over our idiocy bring us to a new place in our marriage that we never would have imagined possible in the first half (I would say the huge explosion that could have lead to our downfall but instead brought
about a renewed marriage was 8 years ago, so now half or marriage away and the second half has been amazing.) Yes, marriage is still work but we complete each other, hold each other up, encourage and help each other grow in the direction God is leading. I can’t imagine life without Shamus and I know he feels the same way about me.

6) Another other advice for a young padawan?

Seek God first. Focus on being the very best He has for you. Focus on hearing His voice (it can be awfully quiet at times), get to know Him through His Word and be open to where He leads, let Him show you His love– learn to see it in all the ways He reveals it.

Get to know yourself. Recognize your own struggles, sin areas, love language, and personality type (Myers-Briggs/Keirsey Temperament sorter is very helpful.) Look at your relationships, learn to be the best friend you can be.

Don’t go searching for someone to complete you, instead let God complete you. When the time is right He will bring the right person into your life, someone who will respect you for who you are without trying to change you, someone you can love as she is.


And once you are in a relationship recognize that love isn’t just a feeling. It takes hard work to maintain a relationship and sometimes you will NOT feel loving. Sometimes you will fall madly in love all over again but sometimes? Not. At. All. Sometimes she will make you crazy. Sometimes you will make her crazy. Push through and keep choosing to love her.  Keep praying that God would change the stuff that needs change in you and keep choosing  to love anyway. You WILL get through it. God will help you. You can do it. God bless you.

God’s Thumbprints

I haven’t talked a lot about it lately, well, because there have been so many other things going on, however a friend of mine started a monthly meme called “God’s Thumbprints” in order to remember to record what God is doing so, here I am.

For those who don’t know (and I know there are a lot of you now because of the  CU group) my husband went from full time programmer and full time writer a few years ago (the same week my mom died) to part time programmer and then this last summer switched to no time programmer (except for personal projects like the game he is still working on in his head) and full time writer.  This would be fine, really, because he gets paid to be a full time writer as well, except that he hasn’t been paid for being a full time writer, despite continuing to BE a full time writer for almost exactly a year now.  This means that since last July we have been living completely on what we had saved and God’s provision.  We are trusting that he will EVENTUALLY be paid by this company and if not that the Lord will provide from other means.  He has gotten us through in many amazing ways, from friends gifting us (both money and food– our friends are AMAZING!!!! and God has used them in many miraculous ways right down to the necessary ingredients showing up WHILE I was cooking), Google ads from Shamus’ site, donations from Shamus’ readers, web design and painting work I have done and miscellaneous other  sources.  You can read through my stories of how God got us through the winter here.

We haven’t been in as dire straights as we were this winter, mostly because the Lord provided that despite no  regular income we would get back almost all of the money we paid in taxes.  And due to small incomes from various jobs I have been doing plus Shamus’ Google ads we are leaking slowly instead of going through it all in 3 months as we expected.  We are, however, in a place where we really need to be careful and wise with our spending.  Not that we aren’t normally but extras are extras and we are avoiding those (we did use some of the money from our tax return to get some things we really needed and had been putting off).

So, God’s provision.  Well.

  • This last week I went to the farm to get milk.  I have been putting it off because other than a steady stream of ground beef and eggs we didn’t need as much from the farm with the GAPS diet.  I use milk only for making yogurt and kefir right now, so the 4 gallons I buy is lasting longer (4 gallons of raw milk for $16 is an amazing blessing btw– thank you Vicki!)  So last week I went not knowing how much cash was in my purse.  Poor Vicki is used to this– I remind myself of the missionary who found a bag of cash, invited some military men to breakfast, and then afterwards finally counted the money, praying he would have enough (true story– he did, right down to the tip though while he was praying and counting he asked God if maybe there might be a tiny bit left over for him– there wasn’t).    So anyway, I knew I didn’t have much cash as my grandmother has recently moved much nearer and now instead of once  a week I visit twice a week and often have to run out and get her things.  So, as usual, I started with the milk because I KNEW I had enough for that.  Then I got the meat, because I knew we needed it and I would just buy as much as I had cash for.  Well I had enough for 2 extra lbs.  Then I still had enough for 2 dozen eggs.  THEN I still had enough for 2 bricks of cheese.  It was like the cash was multiplying in my purse.  Vicki and I just watched it happen as I had enough for EVERYTHING I needed.  God is SO awesome!  Oh, and I had $3 left over. 🙂  (And if you go back and read some of my archives you will see that this is not unusual in our household– we have an AWESOME God.)
  • Another cool God thing that I haven’t had a chance to share.  My food processor died.  (So did the dryer, and the blender, and I swear everything in the house is dying.)  I REALLY need to get a good one.  I used to have a Bosch.  Loved it to death.  Literally.  It died after 10 years of daily use.  I didn’t know what to do because it was smoking and therefore I really shouldn’t use it.  So I prayed about it and prayed some more.  Then I realized that my grandmother had given me money for Mother’s Day.  Not enough to buy a good one but enough to buy a decent one on sale.  So I researched and found one that was almost $100 everywhere else, on sale that DAY at Target for $60–the amount I had.  The motor was slightly stronger than the one that just died on me after a year (never buy a Black & Decker food processor– the bowl was cracked into hairline fractures within a week of getting it and it just got worse from there.)  So now I have a working food processor again, which is necessary because I use it AT LEAST once a daily– usually more than that.  Someday I am getting a good one but for now this will do. 🙂
  • Another awesome God thing that happened recently.  Facebook transferred the old groups over to the new group format.  Suddenly the Christian unschooling group I created several years ago showed up and had people in it.  200 people!  200 people TALKING and loving each other and encouraging each other!  Of course I had the other group already and that was a bit of a mess but now that is mostly worked out and so we have a huge group of people to love and support one another which has been such a blessing to all of us.  And yes, there have been some hiccups but for the most part we all get along and treat each other with kindness, respect, and grace, which is awesome.  It also means that suddenly I have a ministry facilitating and leading women again.  I thought I was done with that when we left the church we were in and suddenly God thrust mew into this place again.  Let me tell you, it is hard even though this group is really great and loving.  I am not naturally a leader (I call it the church planter mentality– I like to start things then backup and watch them develop on their own, handing off administration to others).  Instead God has handed me this group of women to encourage and it is scary and amazing– because I am not such a great leader– my spiritual gifts (the ones I am sure of) are service/helps and knowledge– my HUSBAND has the gift of leadership, not me!  GAH!  Anyway, God is working and it is a beautiful thing and exciting to see so many new to CU being encouraged (and many are new to unschooling completely though there are a few of us who have been doing it for a while and are comfortable in our own skins.  Sometimes I forget how hard it is to be starting because I am so used to not fitting in.)

Now go visit Mandy at A Bona fide Life and share what God is doing in YOUR life!

Our First Passover

I am going to apologize in advance.  I will probably step on some toes here, and I HATE stepping on toes but I need to be up front and honest about where God has us and how we got to this place.  I am not at all saying that anyone else should follow our path, this is where God has lead us, very clearly and surely.  And truthfully– hrough many tears and ” but LORD I don’t WANT to”s.  Just giving you a heads up.  And may I say that one of the hardest parts of going Messianic (or Hebraic or however you want to call it– we are whole Bible including the Torah– not to be saved–that is only through Messiah who died and rose again but instead to show our love for the God who created the Torah in the first place including obedience to how He wants to be worshiped.  That said there are as many vehement interpretations of Torah and how to obey as there are types of Evangelical Christian and we have spent the last few months wading through all sorts of information and prayerfully separating the chaff from the wheat.  (There is so much more information still to go through but we are taking things one step at a time and applying as God leads not as people tell us we should.  If you are female, you may remember what it was like to be pregnant and then have a new baby and everyone under the sun was giving you advice on how to do everythign and what was healthy and what wasn’t?  Yeah, that is what it feels like.)  As soon as we figure something out God moves us to something else and as Shamus said the other day, it is apparent He wants us to stay on the edge and set apart– and it is like that for everything– our work life, the foods we eat, the way we learn, the way we live, and our life in Christ.

Our first Passover has been an interesting experience.  We are blessed that it falls the same week as the traditional Easter/Resurrection celebration this year as it makes things easier for our family– who all celebrate Easter/Resurrection Day.  We never went in for the bunny (or Santa for that matter) so that simplified things a lot but this year we are not celebrating the Catholic church’s holiday either (and Easter is the Catholic church’s holiday even though other Christian denominations have taken it on.  They are the ones who stopped celebrating Passover switching to Easter and changed the Sabbath day to Sunday and I left the Catholic church when I first married and see no reason to do things their way now.  We figure if we are going to say that the Bible is true then we are going to live by it fully and leave off the traditions of man unless they are something that Jesus specifically did (or that the disciples continued after His death and resurrection).

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHWH your God” (Deuteronomy 4:2).

This is the verse that the Lord has placed on my heart and this is what we are sticking to.  The problem is that there is so much out there and as we are only now learning Hebrew slowly  it is hard to be discerning.  So, this is where we come back to tons of prayer and step by step obedience.  As we obey in one thing He reveals another that we need to do.  It is so much like back when we were baby Christians that it  is just plain silly.

One of the things we did was clear out the yeast.  Since we are on the GAPS diet this one wasn’t that hard except for Shamus, or it wasn’t until we started realizing how far the yeast has traveled in our house.  You see before the GAPS diet saltines were a way of life.  They were cheap and easy to get a hold of in a form that no one was allergic to and the kids had a habit of taking them into other rooms.  There were cracker bits in every corner of the entire house and despite a deep cleaning and several sweepings I KNOW we didn’t get all the cracker crumbs.  It was an amazing lesson for all of us.  Every time we thought we found them all we would find more.  It is the same way with sin, as soon as you think you have extricated it you find another area that is even harder to reach and deeper ingrained.

After we spent the day (I had cleaned prior but the girls were very sick all week so we really didn’t get to it till Sunday) scrubbing and cleaning and scrubbing some more I found out that the day we thought Passover started wasn’t the same for everyone.  Some started on one date some another and I panicked thinking I had messed up, again.  Then I found out that we were all right, it was just another of those you say po-tae-to I say po-tau-t0 questions and we just needed to stick with what we started and we were fine.

Choosing the calendar is the next thing on the list.  Prayerfully and carefully choosing which calendar we are going by.  So I am reading up on the calendar and learning about the hows and why’s of the different ones.  Also looking at what others are using (but all of my friends seem to be using different calendars for different reasons.)

We did have parts of a traditional Seder–lamb, matzah (homemade), charoset, wine though we did not follow the traditional Seder prayers etc.  We have not gotten that far and have not felt led in that at this point.  We will see what God does in this area in the future, for now we are content to move as He leads.

The kids got multiple library books out on Passover and are more excited about celebrating this than they ever were about Easter/Resurrection Day.  As they keeping  saying, “It just makes sense, more so than any other holiday we have celebrated.”

Finally, today, after much prayer and watching several videos about the origins of various traditions, namely this and this–the firs tone is there as well but wasn’t nearly as interesting.  I knew most of these things from previous research but God convicted us all after watching these.  This is especially true as we just went through Judges, Chronicles, and Kings and over and over again heard about how despite worshiping God they “did not take down the high places”.  All of us had wondered aloud about this.  Why didn’t they destroy the high places, especially if they weren’t worshiping there.  Yesterday it finally occurred to us.  They were holding onto them because they were family traditions.  They weren’t hurting anything, they were just there, just like the idols that Rachel stole from her father’s house, and all the other idols that at first were just held onto and later became worshiped.  Today, after much prayer and discussion (and extreme conviction) we threw out all the extras– the Christmas decorations and very few Easter decorations.  We kept lights– we plan to use blue and white lights for Hanukkah and have promised the kids a real menorah and dreidel and presents for each of the 8 days– they are thrilled beyond belief and happily went through and removed the Santas, Christmas trees, and other Christmas decorations from the household.  It took a bit of tears on our part, especially mine as my mother adored Christmas and LOVED Santa, but all the more reason to remove them.  My kids never did Santa or the Bunny– we didn’t want to confuse them since Santa is so similar to Jesus, but he crept in and we had plenty of them around.  They seem innocuous but we have seen too many children confused by them (in fact I know a child who thought Santa was God) and we don’t want to add anything to God’s plan for worship.  Just like the yeast it is amazing to see all the places we found the decorations– we searched the house top to bottom and I am sure I still have missed quite a few.  So, as hard as it was, and as much as I know it will cause division, again– I swear everything we do causes division, it is done and we are doing it.  The most amazing thing was once we go past the initial “don’t wanna” it was relieving, even exciting and definitely freeing.  We didn’t give any of it away, we just tossed or burned it as material demanded.  And like I said, it was amazing to see how happy the kids were to do it–I didn’t expect that, I expected a fight or at least a few tears (there were a few but they were more about getting rid of things of my mother’s not about the celebrations or decorations themselves.)

This is not to say that we are telling anyone else to give up these things, it is what God has lead us to do.  As far as family goes, we are not celebrating but plan to get together per usual with family members around these holidays and will do gifts as they are called for (our gifts are always small anyway and the kids have never been used to piles of gifts at Christmas so that is not a problem.)

God is calling us to remove the high places in our lives, and get rid of our ancestors idols and this was an area that we felt led to do so.  No idea what He gives us next but it should be interesting.  We’ll just take things one step at a time–anything more would be too exhausting.  (And in case you are wondering–Shamus is 100% on board with all of this, I am just writing from my own and the kids point of view because he wasn’t actively involved in the great purging.)

The cool thing is that God blessed us amazingly today during our obedience.  After several hours and 5 huge garbage bags full of stuff and even more burning, we got a knock on the door.  It was the mailman bearing the sample of the card game I worked on (you can see it here) AND a box from a friend containing 2 laptops (one a tablet!!! and the other a gaming laptop!), 2 cameras, 2 memory cards, batteries and charger, and a mini tripod!  And then, as we were working some more a neighbor (the one who mows the back half of our property) came over and asked if we wanted the crab apple trees out back cut down and said he would do it!!!  YES!  This is something we have wanted to do  and have just been unable to do due to lack of funds.

So, God blessed us in our obedience to Him.  Some would say, well those things would have happened anyway– whatever.  I haven’t talked to this neighbor in over a year and though I knew the laptops were likely coming they weren’t supposed to come for sometime–I was just expecting the card game to come in the next few days.  And I didn’t know about the other things that came–which are amazing and a replacement for several broken items in the house.

Here are some of the sites that have been included in my research (don’t agree 100% with all –just some of the stuff I have run across and find interesting.)  There are tons more, these were just the ones I had open this morning while reading and praying over decisions.

Again, this is where we are and where He has led us.  We don’t expect you to do the same, it is just where He has led us.  And just like doing the GAPS diet it is HARD but the goal is not to take the easy way but to go where He leads us.  And it is nothing if not interesting and definitely an adventure. 🙂

God’s Fingerprints

So I mentioned in the last post that God has been providing in many amazing ways and always at the 11th hour.

Essie and I are making Indian food for Sabbath. We decided what we were making but weren’t thrilled with the combination. She REALLY wanted to make a recipe that called for coconut but we were nearly out so I was being careful. At that moment there is a knock on the door and my husband brings a giant box to the kitchen. The big box contained a box of organic unsweetened coconut and another box with Thai Kitchen coconut milk, a gift from dear friends of the family! So not only are we having veggie (WITH coconut) and meat samosas plus curry for dinner but we are also having our favorite coconut desert! The other two kids are going to be tickled pink when the get home! And I am near tears because not only did this gift make our meal better but it also made up for the fact that I didn’t have the money, gas, or time to go get raw milk this week which means we are nearly out. The kids will enjoy the change of having coconut milk instead and Shamus is thrilled to have some sort of sweet in the house.

The exciting thing is that we have been working our way through the Bible again, are because we ended early last year and started right in we are in Exodus. We left off right where God is giving Moses the dimensions and details of the tabernacle. I had been explaining to the kids (again for the older two but this is the first year Issac is really paying attention) that this part is important to me despite its tediousness because it reminds me that God cares about the details. He cares about the lampstands, the priests clothing, the very tabernacle itself, every little detail of how all of them are made so much that he gives EVERY detail while still leaving artistic interpretation for the artisans whom HE provided! I find this so exciting and todays gift of coconut stuffs is the perfect reminder (which WILL be brought up during tonights Bible reading. :))

So, thank you to the David, Ceri, and Smiley who have again and again blessed us not only with your gift but for allowing God to use you to remind us of His care even of the small things. You guys are awesome and such a blessing to us.

He is Risen!

My gift to you this Resurrection Sunday.

We don’t do much celebrating–a simple but special meal, a little candy (not egg shaped), 1 small present for each child that suits them to a T, reading His Word and praising God.

This year I also made Challah bread using the wonderful recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (that book is SO worth it.) It was a hit.
Challah bread
(This is our 2nd loaf and it was gone in minutes.)

Seasons of Devotion

When I was a young mom with little ones  I  struggled with finding time to pray and for devotions.  I was new to the Bible and new to praying (especially praying without ceasing and it not being repetitive chants–I grew up in a church where prayers were prewritten and repeated over and over).  I had no idea what daily devotions should or could look like so I attempted to model my own after those I read about. My times of devotion went through many seasons.

  • Randomly opening the bible to see what was there.  When I was a new Christian this was how I dealt with the Bible–and during that time God used it immensely.  My prayer was, “God show me what I need to see and help me understand it.”
  • Reading devotional books and the Bible while nursing a child.  This was the only time finding time for devotions was easy.  I read straight through “The Promise” (a modern day English version of the Bible–I still like it better than “The Message”.)  I also read Carol Brazo’s “No Ordinary Home” which appealed to me immensely though I now know that our home is never going to look like hers God used this book to really shape me as a Christian (and it occurs to me that my blog name probably was influenced by the name of the book.)
  • Once my nursing child was too active for me to read I took to praying in my head during those times, usually while listening to Classical music, and usually that I would have patience, and occasionally for my children’s future.  I also had a notebook that I quickly scrawled “Dear God” letters that upon looking back I realized looked exactly the same–I have 4 years of these journals, and they all read the same, every, single day, with very litle change.   At this time with each I was still trying to imitate what others said was a good devotion time and learning that a lot of what works for others doesn’t work for me.
  • For one season I had a child who always nursed at 5:15 am, which was exactly the time Elisabeth Elliot’s radio show was on and so I would nurse and listen and then pray when the show was over.  It is still one of my favorite memories and was   a time of real growth.
  • When my three were in diapers but no longer nursing I would wake slightly before them and quickly write in my prayer journal (it was rather repetitive and not really deep–I could usually hear my kids calling me before I finished).    This was one of the things that didnt’ really work for me.
  • I learned to keep a Bible in every room–this made a HUGE difference.  This has allowed me to read straight through the Bible multiple times because as long as I know where I left off I can continue anytime I have a moment of peace.
  • I have also read through online using both reading and listening.  I find that listening to the bible is great if you have a computer in the kitchen and can play it during breakfast or some other time when the kids are gathered but quietly occupied.  This also was the beginning of me exposing the m to God’s word daily.
  • It wasn’t long after my oldest stopped nursing that I finally got the pray unceasingly about everything.  We started praying for everything everywhere–a good parking spot was a favorite, lost keys, lost toys, whether to buy something, etc.  Having a child who is used to asking for things really taught me how to pray.  We seldom kneel to pray, usually we just take each other’s hand and pray if we do pray out loud.  And God is obviously present at these times, and more often than not His answer is yes and the perfect spot, timing, the thing we are looking for, regardless of the prayer it is answered.  This has done amazing things for our oldest’s faith.
  • We have also gone through a time of daily devotions as a family, it was nice (though tricky with a little one who couldn’t sit still), it taught the kids to love the Bible, but it was time consuming since we would read, pray, talk (and when I say talk I mean I would tell the kids all about some aspect that I noticed and the poor things were expected to sit and listen to what I said and then they would want to tell about what they got out of it and all in all it took at least 2 hours each day.)  I must say, however, that this gave the kids a good firm foundation in the Bible and we continue having these sorts of conversaations throughout the day with much less “me preaching” and a lot more back and forth.  It is amazing to me how a child can be immature mentally and yet very mature spiritually.
  • Another season I went through was taking an hour or so each morning for my devotions.  My kids were old enough to get their own breakfasts and happily did so.  I would lock myself in my room  with my prayer journal and Bible and have a time of conversation with God.  It was beautiful and wonderful and draining and time consuming.   I wouldn’t mind having that sort of time with God again but am in a different season and so am doing things differently.
  • This brings us to now.  now it is much more natural, as natural as breathing, as talking to my kids and husband, as natural as everything else in our lives.  Now I lie abed in the morning, spending time alone with God,  praying about whatever pops into my head that needs prayed over, asking Him to show me what I need to pray about.  I pray throughout the day as needed, with little or no ceremony.  In the evenings we read about 2-4 chapters of the bible aloud (this year we are doing it chronologically using the chronology listed on  Sometimes I read it all, sometimes the kids read, hubby usually reads it on his own alone.
  • We also still do church at home though now we have it on Saturdays (not for any doctrinal reason but because hubby and I felt this is what God was calling us to do.)   This is roughly half an hour long, includes reading whatever my husband feels led to read that morning, discussing what has been read, prayer, and some singing.   It is amazing how much all of us get out of this time.  And we look forward to church time now  instead of being miserable at the thought.  Also, the kids now attend my mother-in-laws church for Sunday school  on Sundays at their own choice.  My mother-in-law is their Sunday school teacher and they have friends that are attending as well.  They get frustrated because they know the stories taught very well, but enjoy spending the time with their grandmother and their friends.  They are also frustrated with all the extra “stuff” that happens during church that draws it out and not being able to talk and ask questions (one of the blessings of having church at home is being able to discuss what is read and sharing what God is doing and showing through it instead of being told what it says.)
  • I can’t say what the next season will be but it is always interesting to say the least.

I should mention here that this started out as a comment on Mandy’s site in response to her struggle with finding time for prayer and got so long I brought it over here instead.

Christmas gifts that give back

Several people have mentioned to me how this year they want to make sure the Christmas gifts they buy aren’t just extra stuff, they want them to have meaning.  Therefore, I thought I would share several less traditional sites (because everyone knows about Compassion International and Samaritans Purse) that have wonderful gifts that also help out those who are less fortunate.

  • My dear friend Roo has come up with a sweet way of helping out others.  Cinnamon with a Purpose is her project.  From her page:
    If you are interested in supporting this cause. The cinnamon bun platter will sell for $6. This includes 6 of the most amazing cinnamon buns you have ever tasted in your entire life for six bucks. (Don’t you think supporting an incredible cause makes all things taste a little better?) 100% of the proceeds will be sent to Shevet Ackim. And the fund raiser will end by December 15.
  • Another friend, Joyce, has an ongoing project called Bags 4 Darfur.  I want one of these bags so very much!  They are beautiful and fascinating and very, very fun.  From the about page: Some time ago, a blogger friend of mine provided a link on her site to the crisis in Darfur. Thus began an online conversation about our responsibility as being in the priveleged minority on this planet. God gave me a passion to create bags and send the proceeds to provide food and shelter aid to the peoples of Darfur, Sudan. This project seems to be exploding….Now skirts, jeans, curtains, quilts, tea towels, kitchen aprons, flour sacks, couches, belts, neckties, bedspreads, and table cloths are being casually slung over shoulders from across the prairies, over the mountains, and over oceans. The joy and connectedness spreads right around the world.  From off my shoulder and through my heart, welcome to the Darfur project.
  • Seth Barnes also linked to several wonderful ministries today my favorite being this one: Corridor of Hope, first because God has laid these women on my heart but also because the jewelry they are making is of the very style that I loved to do, and would still be making if my arthritis had not gotten bad.  These bags are also gorgeous and very tempting ( I am trying to think who is left on my list so I can buy them one.)

Chewy Thoughts

I have been gnawing on this bit from the previous post since I read it on Sunday night:

If you seek great things for yourself – God has called me for this and that; you are putting a barrier to God’s use of you. As long as you have a personal interest in your own character, or any set ambition, you cannot get through into identification with God’s interests.

And this bit has gotten some chewing as well:

I have to learn that the aim in life is God’s, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say – Lord, this gives me such heart-ache.

I have a habit of thinking “THIS is what God wants me to do” and then trying to focus exclusively in that area ignoring everything else.  I want to be like other people I see, with a clear focus for their ministry, and every time I try to go in a direction God says a very clear “No.”  No explanation, nothing, just suddenly I start getting pulled in the very direction I had thought was over and done for.

I am not differentiating here between my life work and my ministry because I have learned that whatever I am doing IS my ministry.  I am to do whatever the next thing is without having a business plan, without focusing on one thing, without going about things the way the world does things.  In fact, in chewing over and praying I have realized how much we, as Christians, miss out on when we treat ministry like a business.  We box ourselves in, we take God out of the equation, and isn’t this the very problem we are seeing in so many of our churches?

James 4:13-16 says:

13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.

I long for a clear ministry.  I long for a non-eclectic website where I know what I should be writing about and where my audience can show up and know what I will be writing about.  I long to know what direction I should go with my art, with my computer work, in my life.  Or do I? I long for those things when I look around and see other Christians who seem to have it all together and yet that is not what God has for me.  If I were in the same business with no changes for 10 years I would get bored out of my mind.  I LOVE change, I LOVE adapting, I LOVE standing on God’s promises in faith, jumping out and doing the next thing without worrying about tomorrow. (Ask my poor, long suffering, change hating husband.)  I live for that.  I hate plans.  I hate KNOWING what I have to do on this date and that date and where I have to be at this time and that time.  Why on earth would I want to live like that when God has formed me in such a way that I LOVE putting my foot in the water and seeing what God tells me to do next.

And yet, sometimes I forget.  Sometimes I see everyone else with their awesome one focus sites or their wonderful ministries or their incredible creative  businesses and think, “Me too?  Can I do that too?”  And the answer thus far is always no.  And would I really want to stick myself in that box so that God can’t use me in other ways?  I love being able to help others with whatever God has given me, not just the talents I deem worthy.  I love how God uses my experiences in a multitude of areas to allow me to help people in many different situations in many different ways. At another point Oswald Chambers said this:

If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what transpires in other souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 5

Make me useful and plan my days, God.

Yes, that is what I want.  I don’t really want to plan out my own days.  I love leaning on God and as Elisabeth Elliot says, Do the Next Thing.  It is just my longing to be like others, to not stand out and be different, to look like other Christians, that tempts me to plan and choose one thing instead of all the things God has given me to do.  So what if my ministry isn’t organized, so what if I have no clear direction, if you think about it, neither did Jesus.  He meandered, went from here to there with no obvoius plan, helping whomever God put in His way.  Who am I to do things any different.

*Isn’t it interesting how God drives a point home even when He has already explained it to us?  As I write my kids have interrupted me at least 30 times for things they really needed my help with, I have had 3 family phone calls,and almost lost the post once.   My plans for the day have been changed twice and my daughter has lamented with tears of frustration the changes in her own plans which had nothing to do with mine.  ANd now I have to run because my dad is here to fix a leaky pipe. 🙂