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The sweet little bo-peep has made her arrival.  Our sixth child, our second daughter, first fixed her eyes on God’s beautiful world—a winter wonderland here at our new home in Fenwick, Ontario—on February 4, 2013 and was baptized Havilah Noëlle Horton Sunday, February 17th.

Havilah’s name which means “circular” comes from Edenic geography in Genesis 2:11 where the Pishon River encompassed this land known for its good gold.  We pray that Havilah likewise would be planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1), bearing fruit in season, and being endowed richly by the Lord, in turn, bless His kingdom, the world with her gifts.  Her middle name comes from the French/Latin meaning birth and this name celebrates our joy at Christ’s birth and incarnation and the joy of the rebirth in which we participate being bound up in Him.

Thank you to all those who have prayed for us throughout this pregnancy and our move to Canada. We are so thankful to the Lord for a sustained pregnancy and safe delivery.  I’m especially thankful for a family-full of enthusiastic helpers who have spoiled me silly with some ‘honeymoon’ postpartum days with my new girl, tons of amazing meal contributions from my sister-in-law and mother-in-law, great midwives from La Sages Femmes Rennaissance (Welland), and for my favorite fellow-labourer in Christ’s kingdom (and my beloved water-birth labourer and coach, baby catcher, and cord-cutter to boot), my husband Chris.

Here are some pictures from Havilah’s birth, baptism feast, the house, iceskating, and our Ball’s Falls outing.

Havilah Noelle… you are loved in all these arms, and arms bigger than these you cannot see:

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Love this quote?

Then I bet you’ll love the free itunes lecture:

 http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/n.t.-wright/id404625689

Sound familiar?  I’ve posted this quote before at:

h u n g r y    f o r   c h a n g e:   t o l k i e n,   f a e i r e s,  &   f o o d

 It’s the last day to view the movie freebie, Hungry for Change.   www.HungryForChange.tv/online-premiere     J.R.R.Tolkien would no doubt be highly disturbed at our loose use of the word “food” to label the odd chemical compounds and un-nourishing concoctions which we insert (with hopeful nutritional urges) into our mouths.  In correspondence with a friend, Tolkien bemoaned changes that had already occurred in his own day with synthetic foods when he wrote with a prophet’s imagination of  “days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood—they were not mistaken for there was in a sense real (not metaphorical) connections between them and the countryside.  What had been earth and air and later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardized international diet… are articficial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth.  We are synthetic men, uprooted.  The strength of the hills is not ours.”

From Tolkien’s letter to Authur Greeves.  Clyde S. Kilby, Tolkien and the Silmarillion.

The problem with home schooling is that there are, at every given moment, too many good books to read, too many interesting things to do, and too many lines of thoughts interacting with each other whether in harmony or counterpoint.  At present we are reading II Corinthians, memorizing James, listening to N.T. Wright’s lectures on Romans, reading Primeval Saints by James Jordan, and covering the Babylonian time period with Vision Forum History of the World Lectures (see the end of this post for a great giveaway offer).  My mind is having a conversation about one book, hopping to another author’s point of view about a related topic, wondering what this author would think of that one, etc…

Reading James Jordan’s Primeval Saints aloud to the children, we have been analyzing our family’s thoughts, words, and actions, through the series of contrasts between the way of the pagan and the way of true faith presented in the introduction to his book Primeval Saints, an introduction which, in my opinion, begs to be classified as both poetry and prayer and, well, a beautiful, convicting rebuke (see here for more). And now, he’s got us analyzing our mealtimes, our arguments, and our schoolwork in other ways too.  In the first chapter, Jordan delineates an inescapable six-fold rite in which we engage throughout life:

 I. Laying hold of

II.  Giving thanks

III. Breaking down and restructuring

IV. Distributing work to God (tithe), self, and others

V. Evaluating by God, self, and others

VI. Enjoying the work by God, self, or others

      I particularly like this observation he makes:  “Adam’s sin lay precisely at the second step of his rite.  He refused to give thanks to God, because he could not do so.  With the forbidden fruit in his hand (the act of taking), and intending to eat it (an act of restructuring), Adam could not give thanks to God.”  This giving-thanks theme is also woven into N.T. Wright’s lecture pointing out the connection to Adam and Eve in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  It is also woven into what we are studying about the Babylonian Empire, of Nebuchadnezzar, thanking himself, glorifying himself for his impregnable city walls; of Belshazzar, his son, laying hold of the plundered Israelite tabernacle goblets and thanking gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

    In contrast, God calls us, his creation stewards, to lay hold of this world and give him thanks—not to abandon it to the pagans, who can’t and won’t give him rightful thanks. Do we engage in this task?  In his lectures on Romans and elsewhere, N.T. Wright correctly scolds that we Christians too often have been mis-occupied with an ethereal heaven in the sky, and not engaged in the task before us— “heavenizing” the physical world, or, in more familiar phraseology, Thy Kingdom Come on Earth As It Is In Heaven.  And so, Christians unwittingly embrace pagan gnostic philosophy, mindlessly muttering excuses like, “Oh I don’t care about that, it’s not going to heaven…”, and shamelessly living out “I’ll Fly Away” theology, abandoning our God-given task to lay hold of and to take dominion of the cosmos.  (Wright humorously states that when folks insist on saying that they are going to heaven when they die, he rebuts, “Yes, but you won’t be there forever.” 🙂 See his book Surprised By Hope)  We are called rather to actively lay hold of this real, physical, fallen-but-being-redeemed garden-world, and after having laid hold of all that is ours in Christ, albeit broken by the Fall—the arts, the sciences, culture, politics, architecture, technology, medicine, business, homemaking…the whole wide world—we are called to give him thanks for it, break it down and restructure it, gift it to him, to others, and ourselves in order to bless the world, so they can evaluate and enjoy.  World Transformation in Six Easy Steps, One Task at a Time.

     In Chapter 2 Jordan points out that, helping to restore us to our God-given pattern, our weekly worship is centered around the same six-fold rite of sacrament and Word. And, essentially, through worship, God ultimately is laying hold of us and restructuring us (God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword) as we are broken down, reformed/transformed more into his image, and delivered back into the world  as a restored  new (re-) creation, again, and again, and again.

 I. Laying hold of bread, wine, and God’s Word

II. Giving Thanks for it

III. Restructuring (breaking & renaming bread & renaming wine, breaking the Word)

IV. Distributing (giving bread, wine, delivering sermon)

V. Evaluating (Tasting, Psalm 34:8, hearing the word)

VI. Enjoying (integrating resurrection, life, & applied Word into the lives of self & others)

       Christ’s body and blood (communion) and God’s Spirit-Sword (the Word),  continually come to us, breaking us down and recreating us, transforming us week to week, year to year, from glory to glory.  And more than that, he sanctifies the humblest of callings and accomplishes world transformation through all his image-bearing children with these thousands-of-times-repeated, sometimes mundane, six-fold processes in real-world-time (not I’ll-fly-away-to-glory-time).

     I am a homemaker.  My social security update rates my contribution to society for the last fifteen years at an echoing zero decimal zero zero US Federal Reserve Notes.  I cook, I clean, I organize, I teach, I love, I scrub mud and grime off tubs, toilets, small feet, and stinky bums.  I even leaf blow and mow sometimes.  So, theology like this, to me, is utterly practical and essential.  Why?  It’s essential because, while my government tithing statement says I’m not delivering a recognizable contribution to society, books like this one remind me that God is the One for whom I ultimately labor.   So, laying hold of a dish rag, laying hold of a book, laying hold of a bad attitude, laying hold of bread dough, laying hold of a cup of cold water to distribute to a little one—in laying hold of these small things, and in giving thanks, I take part in the recreation dance of heavenizing earth.  Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!

* Here’s something to lay hold of:  Vision Forum has a Christmas giveaway going on.  What a great way to stock your personal or church libraries  with rich resources and Christian Books.  Helping families seeking to be transformed by the renewing of their minds!  For more information, go to Raising Olives!

reeling in the year

r e e l i n g   i n   t h e    y e a r
We’ve been reeling figuratively and, well, literally too.
 Hold my hand and swirl through time,
Jigging and blogging in my reeling rhyme…
Consider this poetry in motion:  a crude word-and-picture dance—
(words first, 99 (!) photo gallery at the bottom) to make grandmas giddy—
My poor excuse for not keeping up with all  the happenings around here.
Suffice it to say: Good times have been had by all.
I’m not sure where to pick up…April? May?
Bike rides and fractures in the leg (Matthias),
Lightning and Falling trees,
Hail storms (golf ball size), Tornados,
Huddling under beds and mattresses, and blankets, fervent prayers,
Ruined gardens, Massive cleanup of leaf debris that rivals all autumns together,
Boys go backstage at the opera, Puritani, where our neighbor performs,
Weddings and Picnics,
A field trip to Koetter Woodworking in Indiana (very cool),
Visits from the Canadian grandparents…
Picnics and hiking.
June–our 12th year wedding anniversary,
Eden turns two,
A new roof, compliments of hail storms,
A John Belden visit and a tutorial for making slick bows at the wood shop,
Painting and miscellaneous home projects (to minister to the gritty old woman).
Summer–excursions by boys, two-by-two, with Grandma Gail and Papa Ken:
Davy Crocket Homeplace & Museum, Museum of Aviation,
Fort Loudon, &  Tellico Lake,
Unto These Hills, an outdoor drama about the Trail of Tears in Cherokee, NC
Hike to Clingman’s Dome, Tellico Lakehouse…
July–Chris preaches at CREC, Greenville, SC, a great excuse to visit friends,
Shakespeare on Market Square, Knoxville,  Othello and Comedy of Errors,
Sparklers and swings,
Family Hike up, up, up House Mountain, watercolor painting at the top,
Blackberries and huckleberry treats all along the way,
Diverging trails, some people go the way less traveled by,
Trails, lush with poison ivy.
Swimming, Swimming, Swimming,
Beginning Piano Lessons, Beginning Karate…
August–Six Flags, Georgia. Eden rides the crazy ferris wheel!
Bubbles, Tea, and Silly Times with Aunty Deb and Grandma
Spur of the moment visit from the Pitt Family
who broke down in Knoxville (along with their lizard),
—Splashing in Creeks and Hiking Railroad Tracks at Ijams Nature Center,
Making Renaissance Outfits with Grandma Gail
Holding Strangely Tame Butterflies,
Park visits with friends, Racing Earthworms, Botany studies together,
September–
Chris gone for another long stint, eleven days, (Austin, TX),
We fill days here with adventures (but still miss him),
Wedding of college friend, Mamie Hite, Tybee Island, GA,
New times with good old college friends and their kids.
1st exposure to the Atlantic Ocean and Crab Shack culture for the boys,
Seashells in our pockets, dolphins and ocean, lighthouses,
Shrimpers and crabbers, seaweed and salt and sand,
Very uneventful hermit crab races,
Fort Pulaski and cannon fire, beautiful brick arches, spiraling steps,
Hide-in-go-seek earthworks, watch the moat!
Travelling—flat roads without curves, alligators,
Cacti (ouch), and jellyfish (ouch, Josiah!) everywhere.
Medical Treatments for Nathanael in St. Augustine, Florida
A vitamin and homeopathic regime to follow. Results quickly (We praise God!),
Visit to Vero Beach, Florida to visit van Eyk friends, Two birthday boys,
Home again, home again, unpacking, laundry, laundry.
October–Local Camping trip to Big Ridge with supersized local Christian Families
          (that make our family look like a happy-meal (:.)
The Mackeys from Greenville, SC—gardening in the dark,
Sharing life—plants that nourish, heal, and soothe in teacups,
(Did they survive our hasty night uprooting?)…
Camping in the Barn Loft, Camping in the Front Yard,
Camping on the Backporch, Under Stars…Campfires,
Reformation Party, Bonfires, feasting, games, and dancing—really reeling—
Fall Festival more bonfires, tractor rides, games, and swinging and reeling,—literally again—
Elijah adventures to Utah with Grandma and Papa Ken to visit Uncle Rusty and Aunt Deborah
         ( biking, batting, putt-putting, shooting, laser tag, traveling in airplanes…)
Bible studies and community group gatherings, psalm sings,
And the ordinary swirls of ordinary life:
Cleaning, food prep, chores, home schooling, reading, singing, praying, snuggling,
Algebra, Atoms, Molecules, and Science Experiments,
Phonics (Eden starts her short vowels), Scales & Chords.
Latin, Greek, Drama, Poetry, Music, Art,
Catechisms, Memorizing James together ( & Eden’s revised versions),
Literature & History: God’s Story From Creation to Now,
Reverberations of His Glory in Creation—
The Pulsing of Psalm 19 all about us—
Today—Sledding on Leaves, Hiding in Piles of Leaves
                            (to startle Dad when he comes home),
Reeling, reeling, reeling together in leaves, in life, in laughter, in love.
Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good news; good Brother pluck it out of thy bosom and try. — from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

(An open response to a comment, hopefully for our mutual encouragement):

 

First, have you seen Voddie Baucham’s dvd  Children of Caesar?  It’s so encouraging and insightful. Here’s part of it I found online :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuXFGsy6UBY  

 I mention this because in it there were some very inspiring statistics that I think Christians need to heed regarding the success of children who are home schooled  by moms with “only” a high school education.   So, if your feelings of inadequacy stem from a sense of academic inadequacy, I think that watching this dvd in its entirety may put them happily to rest.
Secondly, if you are like me, academics is less my ‘Giant of Despair’.  Trying to juggle homemaking, cooking, cleaning, all alongside of teaching minds and hearts (especially my own!) to love Christ, each other, and His world seems a well-nigh impossible task most of the time.   In my ideal world, I’d love to be supermom, able to do it all effortlessly on my own and still have time for a long steamy bubble bath everyday [sigh].  But, in God’s wisdom and grace…I can’t get it all done, and in order to even attempt getting it all done, I necessarily have to involve my kids.  But  this turns into blessing too— that my inability to do it all makes more room for them to learn. They have to learn how to deal with me and siblings in a biblical manner, we have to learn how to serve others, arrange priorities, cook, clean, adjust schedules…  It looks different for each family, but far beyond mere curriculum, the process of being and learning and doing together are developing in ALL of us skills, teamwork, problem-solving, relationships, and most importantly, a Christian worldview, which should be the ultimate goal and priority for Christians.  That doesn’t displace academics or skills or service—it justifies them, inspires them, produces them.  Look at the statistics yourself.
 I don’t exactly feel encouraged in my culture or even the church at large regarding this calling and I know many families who feel similarly discouraged.  That doesn’t help when we are in the midst of feeling “How can I possibly do this?”.  I’ve bought many encouraging friends (books) to advise and counsel me when I am discouraged (ultimately pointing my thoughts to The Good Book).  I think one that provides a very convincing logical and biblical defense of home schooling against all other educational options is Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns.  And when my feelings aren’t lining up with the biblical reality that this is kingdom work of highest priority, thinking through the arguments biblically and logically helps to revive my faint spirit and to spur me on in this great task, relying on God’s strength, grace, and that Key in my bosom called promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock.  More and more, my children themselves are becoming encouraging friends to me as well, a glimpse of some fulfilled promises incarnate, reminding me to give thanks for what God has already done and encouraging me to keep persevering.
 I think home school parents do feel the weight of this calling acutely because we necessarily can’t assume anybody else is going to take care of our responsibilities that God has laid out in His Word.  And we should feel the import.  We have every opportunity we want.  We can choose any educational philosophy or method or curriculum we want.  We can study ANYTHING. And we can do it ANYTIME we want.  Amazing freedom with amazing responsibility.   Both.  We feel it, don’t we?  And we own that we will be held accountable.
So here come all those overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. Whooosh. And on one hand they are right and true feelings…  we are  so hopeless on our own.  And on the other hand, don’t we know by now (with 8,000 years of history to boot) that God loves to lift up the bent, broken, weak, frail, and stumbling so He can resurrect and renew and bless and get the glory?  It’s a glorious opportunity set before us to prove our inadequacy and prove His strength in our weakness. And usually it involves waging ongoing aggressive wars against our own idolatrous thoughts of what education really is and being willing to submit to God’s wisdom in training up our children in the fear and love of the Lord.

t h e   h a r v e s t   o n   m y   l a p

The culture says you can’t do it (it’s too hard) and it’s not worth it (it won’t make a difference).  It appeals most effectively to our own selfishness: (send those kids to someone else to deal with; take care of yourself; get more me time).  Or  it nurtures our fears and falsely decries our ineligibility for the task…(you’re not qualified to parent/teach…a professional needs to do this for you).   Bosh.

I’m so thankful for those women who have the conviction to speak and live out the reality that home schooling our children is doable, that the lived-out-day-by-day gospel does have power and does make a difference, that more time for “me” is merely an utterly captivating invitation from Satan as enticing as his proposal to Christ to receive from Satan “all the kingdoms of the world”  without the ‘burden’ and ‘suffering’ of  the cross.  We aren’t really surprised at that  savvy ancient sales pitch, are we? All the blessings without the sacrifice?  All the harvest without the work?

 That’s always the temptation.  Glory–hold the cross–if you don’t mind, please.  In fact, I’ll order two or three of that kind.  But not for Christ.  He spoke meek syllables of warfare with the doubly-sharp sword of the Spirit Word and plodded on.   Easy was not the way Christ chose.  Christ did receive the glory, and the power, and the kingdoms, but not through abdication of His calling to be sacrificed, to bear the humiliation of the cross.  He endured insult and accusation even for the hurt He healed and the hunger He satisfied.  People smothered Him, surrounded Him, hardly respected His “me” space or time (sound familiar, moms?).  There were times of getting away and prayer, but not weekly visits to massage His body, His ego, His appetites.  He gave up Himself thoroughly, completely.  His schedule was highly affected.  His entire life.  Even his young death.  And probably his hair and nails and shopping habits as well.

Nurturing children in the fear of the Lord is a privilege, a calling, a ministry, the responsibility of Christian parents, and one for which God has and will fully equip parents.  We can sing and boast all day long about contrived, glamourous crosses we elect to erect for our own memorials (bible studies led, foreign mission trips…); the challenge is embracing the not-so-glamourous ones God has called us to carry for Him:  the commonplace, real, rugged, splintery, mundane crosses—the ones that our culture and our own selfishness and pride despise.  Among them, this one: parenting, teaching, laboring in our child-harvest with biblical deliberateness.

There are a million enticing opportunities in this world.  But there is a harvest right here on my lap, sucking her thumb and pulling at my hair and looking into my eyes with her near black ones, exchanging kisses with me, and now pulling the tape out of my desk drawer and wrapping it messily around her head.  Sisters, harvest with the workers in your Kinsman-Redeemer’s harvest as Ruth did.  He will see our  hands full, our aprons overflowing with His fruit.

The harvest is plenty; shall we surrender our responsibility and privilege of laboring for it?  And if we do, will those who take our place in training up the hearts and minds of our children do so to the glory of the Master?  And when the Master comes, will he say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when He reviews how we have invested what He entrusted to us?

These reflections follow observations and conversations my husband and I have shared over the last few weeks; and these articles below, sent to me by a friend this week, echo the same ache we feel as we pray for more laborers in a largely neglected harvest .