I’m Playing Chess With Life

I’ll form a plan and see it through,
Make my move on timely cue,
Take stock of assets, route my path,
Prepare to challenge my rival’s craft–
For I’m playing chess with life.

Marble statues, checkered floor,
I know I’ve seen these patterns before–
Black and white like day and night;
I won’t go down without a fight
When I’m playing chess with life.

Checkmate or a draw,
It’s not my opponent’s call,
Not when answers I can find,
Diving in the labyrinth of the mind
While I’m playing chess with life.

Inside out and upside down,
I scan it all from top to ground.
The answer’s here I have no doubt,
I’ll find it quick before I’m out–
‘Cause I’m playing chess with life.

The smart and clever can pull the lever,
Outwit opponent’s sly endeavor.
Just give me data–it’s all I need;
I’ll take control with facile speed–
For I’m playing chess with life.

It all makes sense, it all connects;
Facts and gen esoterically intersect.
Life’s an equation–just work out the figures;
With numbers and logic compute, configure–
I’m playing chess with life.

Clock is ticking, time is twirling,
This blitz has got my mind a’whirling.
Queen takes bishop, pawn, then knight,
All I need is shrewd insight–
While I’m playing chess with life.

Wait! What happened? I didn’t see
The move that swiftly cornered me.
Was sure I’d think my way through this;
“Mind over matter” can never miss–
Not when I’m playing chess with life.

I move my pawn, my desperado;
I can’t fail here in victory’s shadow!
With reasoned logic I’m on the beam;
The match is close now it would seem–
As I’m playing chess with life.

But facts and logic, plans and schemes
Can fall apart like shattered dreams.
I’ve learned a lesson here today:
I’m not the master of my way–
I thought I could play chess with life.

But I’m not the sovereign One who rules it,
Planned it, made it, orders, keeps it.
I must trust the wisdom of this Lord;
So on bended knee I yield my sword…
To the Good King of my life.

*****

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

Got Hobbies?

Art. Writing. Photography. Reading. Research. Scrapbooking/journaling. Music.

Borrowing a line from a song in The Sound of Music, cheerfully sung by Julie Andrews, “these are a few of my favorite things.” Among many others, of course. 🙂 I have many enjoyable hobbies, but it seems like there is never enough time to do everything.

How about you? Do you have things you love doing, but hardly seem to find any time for as a wife and mommy?

Not long ago my own mother, who homeschooled my four siblings and I, gave me a little piece of wisdom. She told me that during the years she was schooling us, she put all her own hobbies and interests aside. Almost completely.

But she was wrong, she said.

Today she regrets that she did not carve out a little time for doing the things she took an interest in. Her advice was to make time for some of those things, even as we take care of our children, our husbands, and our household duties.

But how do we do that?

It will look different for every person and every household. For me, I have found that an afternoon “siesta” works beautifully. Every day at 1:30 in the afternoon, the house practices “quiet time” for awhile. During this time, the children can play, read, or do homework quietly in their own rooms. This is the time I use to work on my projects and hobbies.

This is not merely beneficial to me. Studies show that having a silent, disengaged period of time actually helps build brain cells (okay, we’re talking kids here so achieving “silence” may be a stretch). But at least by having a quieter period during the afternoon the children have time to disengage from all the noise and excitement of life, relax while they engage in quiet, productive activities, and then return, rested and refreshed, to the bustle of life later in the afternoon.

Everyone wins.

It’s also possible that we could include our children in some of our interests. Do you love preparing gourmet meals or baking fancy desserts? Maybe the kids could help. Do you love reading? Share that love with them.

When I started a travel journal I gave both my older two kids their own book to record stuff in. When I sat at the table working in mine, Brianna sat with me, using my stickers and decorations as she drew and worked in hers. It even became an educational project, as we researched facts about the state and drew pictures of state symbols.

One of the best ways to encourage our children to develop skills and creativity is to model an interest in and love for these things ourselves. When we love learning and doing new things and we share that excitement with them they will love learning and doing new things, too.

Everyone wins.

We certainly do not want to neglect our household duties or the care of our family. Then everyone loses. Priorities must be examined and time managed well. But perhaps there are still ways to work in time for gaining and developing Christ-honoring skills, knowledge, and creativity as we practice good stewardship with the life He has given us.

How would this look for you and your family?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

“Art of Homeschooling” Part 2

This is the second post in a two-part series “Art of Homeschooling.” These notes represent ideas I had for implementing the principles taught in Mystie Winckler’s e-course. You can read the first part here.

Connecting with my Children/Starting the Day Off Right

Our daily schedule looks something like this: We get up, we eat, we do chores, then if I am still busy with chores the kids play or do other activities till it’s time for school. After school they may play. In the afternoons they have quiet time and work on school assignments; after supper in the evening they
play, we read together, etc.

GOALS:

I think I need to stay on top of their time between eating breakfast and starting school; they could be more productive and efficient except that I am distracted and not doing as much directing.

Make sure they are staying busy with chores and not piddling.

If they have free time, channel it properly (suggest exercise outdoors, take a nature walk, or give them an assignment indoors—puzzle, coloring, art, reading, etc.). Help them to see that this time in the morning is already planned and we are just to work through it steadily together.

Teach them to come to me after they complete each assignment. Their day is not their own till after school.

The daily habit I can practice in order to affectionately connect with my children each day is to greet them warmly in the morning with a smile and a hug, and (if I have time the evening before) to write them a “love letter” in their journal.

Laughter throughout the day is another good connection. And when there is time for it, extra fun, games, crafts, and reading. School should not be the only time I spend with them intentionally and meaningfully.

In order to help us be on the same team, working toward the same goals, we can start our day by hugging, holding hands, discussing the plan, and cheerfully encouraging one another to complete it
well. Make eye contact and commend them for something. Notice when they are working together and working well and commend them.

Motivation and Responsibility

I discourage the children’s responsibility by not staying on top of what is happening. If it’s okay for them to just putter out and off and do their own thing while I am busy, I am not requiring responsibility. I’m making it too easy for them to be irresponsible.

The kids are most prone to dawdling in the morning before school, and then sometimes during school (if distracted by something else going on). I don’t detect any specific motivation other than wanting to do whatever is “fun” or “interesting” at the moment.

I am most prone to dawdling in the morning before chores, and in the evening after supper (when I should be doing chores or could be spending time with the kids).

GOALS:

For me, first steps in our home will mean I must have them give an accounting regularly. If I give a directive, I must come back and see that it is followed. I must check their progress and their work. There will have to be a lot of hand-holding at the beginning.

If there is something to do that can be done by one of them, rather than shouldering the brunt of the work myself I should mete out more to to them in age-appropriate segments. I should not clean up after them, or let responsibilities I have assigned to them “slide.”

I tell them being an adult is a lot of work and responsibility. I should also express to them that there is joy/reward attached to that responsibility when carried out well.

I “check out” too often with Facebook or something else I can use as a distraction when I’m feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed. Rather than catch me doing this, they should see me cheerfully plugging along with a song, fulfilling my responsibilities without complaint or irritation. Limit internet
time in morning to a few minutes. NO internet in evening till kids are in their room.

When Cliff asks me to do something I need to be sure I fulfill it right away, setting an example for those under my authority.

Talk about the results of dawdling versus diligence. The natural consequences that result from
dawdling include not getting to have time later to do things we enjoy doing because our tardiness put us
behind and wasted our time that could have later been spent at (guilt-free) leisure. Dawdling goes against what we know is right, and so we sin against our conscience. It steals our leisure time, makes our chores and responsibilities more difficult, and makes us less appreciative of our free time.

Dawdling/laziness does not glorify God. Diligence gives us a good conscience. It permits us to have leisure time when the work is done. And that time can be fully enjoyed, guilt-free.

Persistence and Faithfulness

The feelings most likely to drive me off course are feelings of frustration with how the day is going, and anger and irritability when the kids (or circumstances) aren’t cooperating. Bickering kids, unexpected interruptions, extra work, etc. trigger these feelings.

I am most critical of myself when I am lazy or angry. I am most critical of my children when they are lazy, angry, or rowdy.

GOALS:

How can I respond? Remind myself of what a successful day really looks like: faithfulness. Fruitfulness, rather than perfection.

Attending to the needs of my children in all areas—physical, spiritual, in admonition, discipline, love, training, laughter and good will—is more important than completing a to-do checklist like math, spelling, and laundry. Seeking to worship Christ when a curveball is thrown in my day is worth more than dusted furniture and completed math pages.

I need persistence when the day doesn’t go as planned and I get thrown a lot of extra stuff. Then I’m tempted to give up because I’ve been set back. It was like having the goal in sight and then having someone move the marker while you’re running on the track. I can choose a calm, intentional response by examining my list to see if everything really must be done or if I’m being a perfectionist, then choosing to do the things that are truly a priority with a good attitude—even if it cuts into my “free time.”

I need to learn to have greater flexibility—and that comes by relinquishing control to God rather
than trying to keep a tight fist on it myself.

The feelings most likely to disturb Brianna and Marcus: anger, boredom, frustration. Anger, when they have a conflict together, or when they have been disobedient and require correction. Boredom, when they are confronted with the daily grind of school and chores. Frustration, when they feel overwhelmed by their work or feel like they can’t do a good job with it.

I can help them calm down and learn self-discipline by:

• Learning to stay calm, be cheerful, and be self-disciplined myself

• Teaching them truths about God, themselves, and life (motivate in proper ways; teach Scripture and life truths; give admonition and correction when needed)

• Doing what I can to help them avoid/redirect them from unnecessarily tense and frustrating situations (oversee their work together instead of leaving them alone; designate responsibilities when I am busy and cannot help them; give the right amount of help and encouragement at the right time)

I can trade harshness for humor by bringing the kids to the couch for a talk, ending with tickling/joking so we may leave in good humor.

One specific area the kids and I can practice persistence in together is Bible time. We will start there. We will try to be faithful with devotions every day, not just school days.

*   *   *

What habits have helped you motivate yourself and children, Mamas?

Rachelle

I think I felt the urge to push this time.”

I was leaning over the birth ball, trying to focus on deep breathing through a painful contraction when I felt that familiar sensation that signals the beginning of the end.

This was exactly what Cliff did not want to hear. He glanced out the window into the darkness, nervously scanning the driveway for the expected car lights.

Nothing.

Holding onto my hands, he began his own deep breathing as I entered another contraction…

* * * * *

I had given birth to two children at home with a midwife. This was my third, and though I had a history of quick labors (at least from the point that the contractions actually became painful enough I felt I was in serious labor), and though the midwife lived an hour and a half away, I was determined to have another homebirth.

I had had a good pregnancy. Having struggled with some health issues after my second child, I had taken the time afterwards to try to rebuild my health. Eventually I had gotten the “green light” from my doctor. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, this had been my best pregnancy.

Of course with a due date at the beginning of September (Labor Day, coincidentally), July and August were extremely uncomfortable months to be carrying a third trimester baby. As the time drew near I grew more anxious to meet her—and to have my hot, tired, bloated blimp of a body return to normal. 🙂

One night I awoke in a cold sweat, shaking and feeling nauseated. Having had something similar happen a few days before labor with my second pregnancy, I knew this time what was going on. My midwife then had explained that I was having an unusual hormone surge in preparation for labor. She assured me that though it was rare, it was okay.

This time I moved to the couch.

And promptly puked all over it.

After this I knew it would not be long. As the hormones began to change toward the end I felt emotional and weepy, and as the reality that it was really near sank in I began to struggle with the typical mommy doubts and fears: Would the baby be healthy? Would the midwife make it on time? Would my labor go smoothly? Would I be able to handle the pain again? Would everything work out alright? Would I be able to remain healthy after birth?

It was at this time that God began to comfort me from the Scriptures with the image of the Lord as our Shepherd. Passage after passage seemed to leap off the page at me or come to my mind as I turned to Him for peace in the midst of the mommy hormone storm. Isaiah 40:11 had been particularly relevant and comforting:

He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

He shall gently lead those that are with young. I clung to this picture of His tender care, and when my anxious thoughts multiplied within me, His consolations delighted my soul (this verse from Psalm 94:19 had been sent me by a friend).

On Friday the 24th of August I began to have fairly frequent (though mild) contractions. I called the midwife and she was soon on her way.

But after six hours of very mild labor, my contractions weren’t getting much stronger and I wasn’t dilating very fast. In fact, it all just seemed to fizzle out around midnight. The midwife didn’t think the baby was ready yet; she would not engage and stay down in the cervix. The midwife left shortly after that.

Frustrated and disappointed, I knew I would just have to wait a little longer.

Nothing happened the next day until 4:00 in the afternoon. Mild contractions began again—a little stronger than the day before (and some of them actually rather painful), but not strong enough or consistent enough I could be sure I was in labor.

And around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. they seemed to be getting ready to fizzle out again. I was tired, weepy, sore from the many contractions, and feeling anxious at this point. It was then a friend messaged me, letting me know she was praying for me. I messaged her back and admitted to feeling anxious and discouraged. It so happened that she was with my sister-in-law at church that night and she showed her the message.

Soon I got a text message from Robyn who wanted to check up on me. Instead of responding with a text message, I called her.

“Would you come over and pray with me?”

“Yes, I can do that.”

By the time she got there sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. the contractions were becoming more painful, but I still didn’t think I was in labor yet. I thought I was “done” for the night. Robyn saw my distress and gently massaged my back through these contractions. Cliff was asleep in the bedroom.

But the contractions didn’t go away. They became stronger, closer together, and lasted longer. After Robyn had timed them for awhile we decided it was time to call the midwife again. She woke Cliff and together they took turns massaging my back through the contractions while we waited for the midwife to arrive.

When she was still about 20 or 30 minutes away I first felt the urge to push. For Cliff this was deja vu—my first labor had been fast and furious and I had been ready to birth long before the midwife arrived (fortunately I had been able to hold off and slow it down by pant-breathing till she got there). He tried to remain calm as he and Robyn continued to work my back. My contractions were extremely painful at this point, and I began to pant-breathe (as per the midwife’s hurried instructions to Cliff). Robyn assured me everything was okay—if the baby came we would just deal with it, lol.

At long last the midwife walked through the door at 11:48 p.m.

The baby was born at 11:50 p.m.

Two minutes. One hundred and twenty seconds. That was it. But we’d made it!

I found out later that my midwife had been stopped by the police for speeding to make it to my birth, lol. But everything about the birth had worked out so perfectly. Robyn had been there when I needed her (even though neither of us knew I was going to need her that night!). She had been able to stay and witness the birth, and she told me later that had been a very special thing for her. It was for me, too. Then the midwife was able to make it in time—by the skin of her teeth!, but in time.

 I got to hold Rachelle Adrienne Alloway in my arms for the first time that Saturday night.

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It only occurred to me later how fitting her name was, as the picture of the Lord as our Shepherd was a continuing comfort to me in the days leading up to her birth.

Rachelle means “little lamb.”

Know ye that the Lord He is God; it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Psalm 100:3

lamb-2216160_1920

No, Death is Not Beautiful

It was 4:00 in the morning. The phone call and recorded message jerked me awake. I shook Cliff.

“Your mom says your dad fell out of his chair and needs help getting back up.”

Cliff stumbled out of bed and sleepily put some clothes on. A few moments later he headed across the yard to his parents’ house with flashlight in hand.

Too awake now to fall asleep again immediately, I got up and sat on the couch waiting for him to come home.

Then I heard the sirens.

Hurrying to the window, I saw the lights flashing in my in-laws’ driveway. The first vehicle was joined by two more.

It seemed an eternity before I finally saw Cliff coming toward the house again. I met him at the back door…and knew the news was not good.

He was stooped as though having a difficult time breathing, heaving in deeply with tears pouring down his cheeks as raw, visceral emotion was released.

“I think he’s gone.”

We held one another and cried.

* * * * *

Our kids were blessed to live so near Papa they got to see him almost every day. They have some wonderful memories to treasure. Papa would bring Brianna home from work (Daddy sometimes takes her with him in the mornings) and he would always stop at Braums first to get her an ice cream cone. He taught her to play checkers. He sat with the kids this last 4th of July as they squeeled at the sight and sound of the fireworks. If they were involved in a play or presentation with the homeschool group, he was there.  Many times I would look out the window to be greeted by the sight of my son or daughter working alongside their papa in the yard or garden—hauling brush or sticks, cleaning up this or that, carrying firewood to the house.

Despite his failing health, Dad stayed active and industrious. I’ve never seen such a work ethic.  Rain or shine, good health or poor, Dad never let any excuse keep him from working hard and beiproductive. He instilled this strong work ethic and a sense of integrity in all four of his children. As his health failed he never complained about anything. But he had never been a complainer, simply
taking life as it came.

He was a man of few words, believing actions spoke louder. Accordingly, he was well-reputed for his generous support of Christian ministries and missions around the world. He usually had his Bible laid open on his desk where he had been reading it. He loved sitting in his chair, listening to great hymns of the faith, or preaching and teaching.

He had been listening to the preaching of J. Vernon McGee when he passed away.

* * * * *

At 6:30 that morning, our kids (aged 7 and 6) awoke. I wasn’t sure exactly how they would take the news. We sat down with them on the couch and broke it to them as gently as possible. I was surprised that they both took it without any show of emotion. I think they were in some shock and did not grasp the reality of it at the time. But later in the day Bri walked off by herself and cried. The next morning my sister-in-law saw Marcus sitting in a chair, staring at a picture of him and his grandpa together. When she asked him if he was okay he burst into tears, buried his face in the picture, and sobbed his heart out.

The funeral was delayed for a week because one of Cliff’s sisters and her husband were already scheduled to adopt a girl from an orphanage in Bulgaria. Just two days after they all arrived back in the States, we laid Dad’s body to rest. What made it poignantly painful and beautiful at once was to
observe the cycle of life: just as a family member left this world, another was added to the family, and yet another will soon enter (child #3 is due in just a few weeks!).

Death is not a beautiful thing. It’s wrong. Horribly wrong. In trying to come to terms with it the modern consciousness has tried to accept and embrace it as a “normal” and “beautiful” part of life.

But there is nothing inherently normal or good or beautiful about growing old and dying. In view of all life declared “good” in the Garden, it should not be. It is part of the curse that sinful man brought on himself. Death entered through the first Adam.

But the believer finds hope and reason to rejoice—even in death—because Life has come through the Second Adam.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…(…For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Romans 6:12, 17-19

As believers, we sorrow when our loved ones pass on. But we don’t sorrow in the same way as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Christ has triumphed over death—it is described
as an enemy He will destroy at the last (1 Corinthians 15:26). Those who believe in Christ and trust Him for their righteousness have everlasting life. And when believers die they are simply shedding the shell of death which is under the curse and exchanging it for life.

In our morning devotions together the kids and I had just started into The Attributes of God for Kids about a week and a half before Dad passed away. The first one we read in the book is that God is unchanging, therefore we are secure. I had sent the kids out to bring back a piece of an evergreen tree and a leaf from a deciduous tree. We compared them and talked about how God is like the evergreen tree which never fades. We, however, are like the leaves that change and fade with the seasons.

Remembering our little lesson in the week before the funeral, I realized just how timely and appropriate it was. The two pieces of greenery were still sitting in the kitchen so I retrieved them and
sat down with the kids. We compared the two again: the needles from the evergreen looked about the same, but the leaf was curling up and dying. We talked about Papa. And about Jesus. How we change, fade, grow old, and die, but He is unchanging and eternal, and we can put our hope in Him for eternal
life.

Later Cliff talked with them about putting off this old “tabernacle” to be clothed with new life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 2 Peter 1:13-14). What we would see in the casket would not be Papa. Papa was with Jesus. He had left the body of death behind. It was a “tent” he didn’t live in or need anymore.

Brianna understood. She excitedly exclaimed, “Just like a bug sheds its ‘skin’!”

From the adjoining room where I overheard her I had to smile to myself at her analogy.

Yet, crude though it may be, it’s not a bad one.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?…But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:53-55, 57

No, death is not beautiful.

But the Life Who conquered it is! And Papa is rejoicing in Christ our Life now…