Monday, October 3, 2011

The Light Switch

This is a true story:

One day, I don't remember which year it was, I stopped in front of a light switch and tried to balance it exactly in the center, right between off and on. I'm not sure how many times I flicked that light off and on trying, but it was quite a few. I thought if I could juuust hold it exactly there.... I'm not sure what I was thinking... that it would neither then be on nor off? (how does that work?) That it would be a dim light?

Another true story:

Money has been a challenge for me my whole life. A host of very important decisions and events in my life have been strongly influenced by my, shall we say, insufficient funds: college, business, houses, childcare, social things. The list goes on.

I once read about there being a "spirit" of lack. So I prayed about it- prayed that jerk right out of my life in the name of Jesus. Sure did. I'm not making that up. I also have thoroughly evaluated my intentions from a spiritual standpoint and have determined that I have very ambitious charitable goals, and reasonably modest material desires. In short, I would pass the Spanish Inquistion of Financial Intent, should there be one. At least I think.

This lack started out because of my family's financial situation- 14 kids on a mechanic's salary is a pretty big challenge. Even when I was making quite a bit of it though, which I was doing at a pretty early age, the sense of lack was still there. I wasn't where I wanted to be so I invested all of it into plans to try to move things in life along to where I did want them to be. The details are too many for this post to share, but I will say that the failures and disappointments were plentiful; but each led me to exactly the place I needed to be, which was prayer; and God finally getting his desire: to chisel me into a bit better image of him than what I was.

Which sounds lovely. If I learned my lesson and did that every time. But I don't. I wrestle with him. My name, Jacqueline, is the french feminine version of the name Jacob- the most famous Jacob being the one who wrestled with God in the scripture. Yippy to a great namesake.

I don't do it on purpose (wrestling, that is), by the way. Most people don't.

So, as you know life has gotten quite a bit better for me; but I, like many, have still been holding on to some things that I want- mostly not even material things, but things money facilitates: like more time with my husband, more time with family, etc. It's okay to want things but you can't let them be an idol. Here's a tip: It's hard for something you want not to become an idol. It is therefore very, very easy for something you want to become an idol.

So despite all the great things the Lord has done in my life and blessed us with, I have still been walking around with my breath slightly held. Anxiously awaiting the final steps and stages of what I think my life should look like.
(Funny that as I typed that sentence, I remembered on my last visit to the naturopath, she said my muscle test indicated I wasn't getting enough oxygen. hmm).

A few weeks ago I had a sudden onset of sustained discouragement. Not the clinical kind- never seen that kind- but my special kind, which goes like this:

1.)We'll begin this evening's meal with a lot of pessimism about how long things are taking.

2.)The soup for this evening will be an analysis of what you have done sprinkled with what else you could do; with a sprig of what everyone else could do.

3.)The main course will be a review of our financial outlook- always a filling dish.

4.)And for dessert we will wrap up with noting that unless some major upheaval occurs, it may be just like this next year.


So here is the good part. I've been through this enough that after eating this exact same meal for a number of days in a row, I start to get wise- hhheeyyyy, wait a minute where is this crap coming from?

This is when it starts to turn around. You know this, if you've ever countered spiritual attacks with the Word of God, which is what I did; but this particular time has had a unique twist for me.

I walk out in the yard on one beautiful late afternoon while the kids are playing and sit on the tree swing, quite over the weight of things, especially frustrated plans. The sunset shadows are already casting the long stretched silhouettes of the trees across the grass, even this early in the fall season. I notice this and start thinking about the sun. And do you know what came into my brain? Noon. Noon is the same as a light switch in the center.

Noon lasts one second. Not even that if you want to get scientific about it- splitting it into infinite divisions of a second. Noon is the exact second the sunrise switches to the sunset. The entire day is leading up to noon, or is leading away from it.

People get sad about the past and the future: "The past isn't what i thought it would be/ the future isn't working out the way I wanted it to be." They are looking for that perfect exact time where things are brightest, and their lofty plan is to grab hold of it and stay there. However, God's plan for the day doesn't include holding onto noon.

We get very close to it- glimpses of what it is very much like.

Life is a series of long sunrises and sunsets- they are quite varied and beautiful on their own merit. We should enjoy wherever we are in the process. Or maybe the even bigger lesson is that the perfection we are seeking isn't attainable while on this earth. In heaven, God's presence is the source of light, not the sun. According to the Word, there is no darkness nor shadow there.

I thought about this, and I thought, and I thought.

I realized that what I am grasping for cannot be found in the way I am thinking of it while I am still here on this earth. So the only way to feel what I wanted to feel was to do it now, with things exactly the way they are. I decided to be content- right where I am and with what I have.

Now, I have determined and willed before to be content, but never have I been, for more than probably a fleeting moment (if I were to take the time to really think about it). But this time, God did a work in me and I finally did it. Actually it was more like I didn't do it at all, because it was actually working- someone did it for me, as another gift. Then noon came inside of me- "on (the) earth (of my heart) as it is in heaven."

"Now Godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6.

I let go of something and then I got it? Yes. If I lose my life, I will find it, so sayeth the scripture.

Later on I took out my notebook and wrote down all the things I have to be thankful for and all the blessings God has poured out on me. It was such a good list I was embarrassed and ashamed at ever having asked for anything else. I have received more than enough if I never get one more thing. Then I wrote down all the lies I have been hearing to stir discontentment in me.

Satan is a bastard, by the way.

Then I wrote down the precise truths that counter those lies. It was an even more impressive list than the first one. Silence. Soaking in of the Truth. Better. Much better.

And that is enough for me to say; and very, very worthwhile to provide a testimony about. I could stop there. But then two more things happened.

First, I took action- it wasn't a big spiritual plan. I just decided to do a better job taking care of the stuff I already have- I started cleaning up- just something extra each day- cleaning out the kids toys, cleaning the oven, etc.

Then I decided to decorate with what I have. I began making the living room look more like a place a family lives, and less like a construction zone with a couch in it. With as little as I had after 8 moves, it is looking nice. Very us.

Now here is the interesting twist- and you can say what you want about it, I don't care- I'm going to tell you anyway. I've been weighing myself pretty regularly since Cory fixed the scale and put it in the bathroom; and I stay pretty much at the same weight- 20 lbs more than I want.

With absolutely no effort on my part, I began to lose weight right after what we'll call my "contentment shift." And it is still coming off. A day or two after I noticed the weight drop, (yes after so don't say it was the power of suggestion or whatever) I happened to read an article linked from another article from a weight loss trainer. Her method wasn't fully disclosed, but her article hinted that happiness makes your metabolism work much better and that her $500 per session clients pay her more for her counseling about being happy with themselves than a workout plan.[Obviously, like with anything, God's laws and design work for the benefit of anyone who applies them- Christian or not; that's why monogomous pagan couples have better marriages than adulterous pagan couples- both are pagans but one is reaping the rewards of following God's design for marriage, and one is not].

Interesting. Of course there is a connection between metabolism and stress, everyone knows that. But then conversely it makes sense that there is also a connection between metabolism and contentment, or peace. Holy Cow. Why do so few know that? This lines up with scripture as God makes it very clear that we take authority over the body with the spirit.

So you can do with that what you will.

I admit that I still have plans for the living room to look like an atrium in an English cottage- but I finally feel that those plans are now in their rightful place- which is not, by the way, first. I tried to put them (the plans) there(anyplace other than first) before, but my efforts never, ever work like God's grace. Um, that also sums up the Old and New Testament.

Anyway, the living room is looking better. And I am looking better. And our finances and circumstances are looking better too, but that is because I have a different perspective. Nothing has changed with them, but instead of viewing anything below my idea of ideal as lack, I am viewing anything beyond the abundance we already have as extra abundance. It turns out I am a very rich woman right now and have been too duped to fully recognize it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog blip, catching up after a looong break- part 2: Summer

All through the summer the house was still torn apart and I had banned all visitors. I wasn't happy about that, but I wasn't joking either. The level of mess we are living in is just shy of maddening to me.

Oddly enough, we had a couple show up on our doorstep one night because their truck had gotten stuck on the country road down a ways. They looked a little scared.

Right before they knocked, the chickens that were perched right on the front railing freaked the girl out. I could tell they had had the normal discussion any person would, in their situation, about a guy named Bubba who could very possibly greet them way out here where no one would hear them scream. (Cory likes to tell people when giving them directions to our house: "if you hear banjos, you've gone too far)...

They asked if we had a tractor (do we have a tractor?- of COURSE we have a tractor) to pull them out.
Instead of Bubba, they get me, which I actually think surprised them more than a toothless killer would have. I am starting to notice a pattern with that.

One day I was in yoga pants, sunglasses, slogger boots and a tanktop (that I had slept in) and this guy pulls into our lane (lost, of course) at the exact same time that I am putting water in the cow's trough. That particular day I happened to have twisted my hair up in these curly bun/pony tail things like a cross between someone from Sweden named Inga and Princess Leia. I could see him trying to register what he was seeing with all the previous files he had stored in his brain as he stammered to ask for directions. I think I am to country as Bubba is to city... but I'm not sure- it's just a feeling I get.

Anyway, according to my decision list that I TAPED TO THE REFRIGERATOR,

[so when I revisit (more regularly than I care to mention) the meaning of life, our purpose, and what we should be doing, I can save myself a whole heck of a lot of time by just looking at the list instead of going through all of that brain- wracking again. If I happen to remember the list is there, I can promptly see that we've already been over this ..and just do what is next.]

spring was designated home improvement time, and the end of spring marked the shift to stage two of my year plan, which is the summer schedule: continue homeschooling and actually begin to work my business.

The boys never have trouble keeping themselves busy

and honestly sometimes I feel I am interrupting their learning when I require that we do our academic work.

We had to buy a garden cart so that we could start rotating the cows onto different paddocks of grass. The cart would serve to keep their water and their hay and minerals within reach wherever they were. I let the boys take a crack at putting it together while Cory was at work and they did a great job. (I'm sure it doesn't hurt that there is a family of mechanics on their mother's side of the family).

I decided earlier in the year that it simply makes sense to do school when the weather is too severe to enjoy the outdoors (summer and winter) and have off when it is beautiful outside (spring and fall). Thus we have come off of a long and lovely spring break and are back to school.

Summer, for me, was very weird. It went by quickly in a sense, but in a way many of the days melted together in their likeness. I divided my time between business work and the daily chores of house and farm. Looking back, I'm actually kind of sad about it. I'd really like to bust my husband out of jail (his job) and get on a sailboat to an island some days, any island, so we could all just be together instead of our family - 1 the majority of the time....but I get motion sick.... which is a thorn in the side of that dream, but whatever.

Anyway, toward the end of the summer, we had three major happenings..

First, we had a nice visit from my brother, Paul; and his wife, Heather and son, Reese (he is as cute as pie!). We went crabbing and swimming together- the boys were really glad to get to play with Reese, have company, and do something different from our normal routine.

We also had Buttercup artificially inseminated. We found a bull who has A2/A2 genetics (MAJOR controversy over the A1/A2 thing, if you are into raw milk- definitely read about it). Then we found a nearby farmer, who raises angus actually, who is an AI tech. He came out when Buttercup went into heat (she BAWLS her HEAD OFF when she is in heat so it is pretty darn easy to detect) and did it. Prior to his arrival Cory built a headgate. When he got here he had a nitrogen tank. I got her into the headgate and with the boys help we fed her grain and held her tail up while he felt around in there til he got it done. That was a definite first for me. Never seen that done. Never thought I would. It worked the first time, so she is pregnant and due in May.

And finally, we were asked by another family farm couple to milk their cow one Saturday so they could go to a wedding. Their teenage kids prepared instructions and a checklist for me to be sure we did everything routinely, and we went a week prior to go through a dry run with them. And yes, I did it. I milked a cow. It actually wasn't that hard.

Believe it or not I got slack with picture taking and didn't get pictures of any of these things. Slacker.

That gets us to the final two events that have happened between then and now- the hurricane and the pig butchering. Oh, and I almost forgot the duck genocide of 2011. I'll fill ya in on those next time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blog blip, catching up after a looong break- part 1: May

I have taken a vacation from blogging, a 5 month vacation. I am at a place now where I can catch up, so I am sifting through some picture and a few old drafts to catch up the journal of where we are.

Most of this one was written in draft form on May 26th:

Things are kind of on auto-pilot around here. Cory is back to work and we are trying to fit in what we can on the weekend as far as the house projects go... that has ground down to extremely slow progress. Everything takes longer than we think and there is just too much to do.

This weekend we will need to close up the house and turn on the AC. We've enjoyed a comfortable 'window open' climate for a nice, long spring. Thank you Lord- I have really appreciated it.

May is my favorite month of the year. We celebrated Mother's Day

our 15 year anniversary

and Quinn's 11th birthday. He is growing into a sharp young man before my eyes.

The cows and pig are happily co-existing.

Don't let the background gross you out. I will spare you the methodology of accumulated winter bedding, but long story short- it was time to get all of that out. Cory drug a whole huge PILE of old manure out of there and left it next to our driveway (he ran out of time on a Sunday evening) and pulled the rest of it down to the lower fenced area for the pig and ducks to aerate and the sun to sanitize. Both did their job and quickly, the odor went away. That's right I am saying our **** don't stink (a favorite phrase of my brother Wess' from years ago... funny what you remember).

Piggy has also made friends of the chickens because when he roots they have immediate access to worms and bugs. They love to follow him as he works:

I like this picture because it shows how amazingly strong pigs really are. He is putting all the strength of his backside into the rooting he's doing with his nose... a very useful animal.

The flowers and grass are in full swing and our new arbor is filling out nicely with the wisteria.

The cows both had birthdays (in April) too. They aren't too thrilled about restricted grazing, but that is all we can do right now. I let them out in the afternoon for a few hours to graze wherever I can find grass, and the rest of the time they have to eat hay.

Feeding the animals has become really expensive. We are starting to get that "we aren't so smart" feeling.

The ducks and chickens have had little going on except for the one duck that got stuck in the fence and the subseuently was eaten by the pig (GROSS!!)... The pig normally leaves the ducks alone, but the stuck one was quacking and struggling. My brother said they will eat their brothers and sisters when they are little if they are squealing excessively for some reason. I hate noise too, but really? Piggy is worse than me. He obviously is not familiar with the handy device called the taser.

Did I mention I have never really been an animal person? Yeah.

We are getting a nice small but steady supply of old-school-tasting delicious strawberries

and already and I've made two dishes this week with the first cilantro I have ever grown- mmmmm. My potato patch seems to be doing well as well as the dill, cucumbers and romaine lettuce (all also a first for me). The beans are being assaulted by (I think) Japanese beetles. Not good. May need to pull out the huge Rose of Sharons (that I thought were hollyhocks) after all.

The birdies have nested in the birdhouse again and are faithfully feeding their babies:

The boys are enjoying everything about being boys:
(we actually witnessed this turtle laying it's eggs. If you look closely you can see one under her. This picture was taken while she was doing it):

and Sam lost his first tooth, which promptly caused me to launch into a mini-midlife crisis.
He's so handsome, just like his daddy.
To be continued...