Jehosaphat (Part I)

This morning I read our eldest the story of Jehosaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Jehosophat, and not simply because his name is Elijah Baley’s favourite swear word (you need to be an Asimov SF fan to get that reference).  He is one of the few “good kings” of Judah.  He’s not a “really good king” – he still lets the people worship at high places, and is rather too ready to ally with Ahab’s Israel (much to the detriment of his own family), but his heart is at least in the right place – he himself is loyal to the LORD,

The story starts like this:

“After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle.
Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi).
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.”
(2 Chronicles 20:1–4 ESV)

Jehosaphat is afraid.  Being an earnest follower of the LORD does not remove fear.  But he knows who is really in charge (which is kind of appropriate, since Jehosaphat means something like “The LORD rules/judges/delivers”).  So he does what he is supposed to do, he calls all the people together to seek help from the LORD, indeed to seek the LORD.  What are the challenges we face?  What are the challenges as a church?  What is our first response?  How rarely mine is to seek the LORD – yet that is what we need to do.  If our church faces a crisis our first response should be prayer.  Only then should we turn to strategies.  It’s why I was a bit hesitant to read about the CofE’s new plans for growth, inspired by various business leaders.  It’s not that planning for growth and changing dead structures is bad – the church needs to do lots of it, but what I missed was the call to prayer that needs to go with it and before it.  I trust that those involved prayed, and prayed lots.  But I think the church as a whole needs to be called to prayer.  I also know that I need to be called to prayer.  I need to seek help from the LORD.

Then we get Jehosaphat’s prayer

“And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.””
(2 Chronicles 20:5–12 ESV)

Here Jehosaphat goes back to the LORD, and he prays.  Here is the King doing what he should do.  He builds a case before God, based on God’s rule, and God’s power and God’s concern for his people.  He reminds God of the purpose of the temple, to be a sanctuary for God’s name.  To be a place where God’s character is known and displayed.  And since God’s character is one of unlimited grace and mercy he knows he is on solid ground as he prays.  Finally he draws the attention of God to the immediate threat – that word “behold” sounds archaic, but it would be better translated as “Look!” or “Pay Attention!” in this case.

Finally the one whose name means “The LORD judges” prays “LORD will you not judge them?”  Jehosaphat knows that the LORD has to act, because he is powerless. Judah is in a corner, and with words that echo into every hopeless situation, and every desperate cry prays “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” – we are looking to you to act, because we do not know what to do.  Those words echo in my heart as I struggle to finish off a PhD, and then we face an utterly uncertain future.  We do not know what to do.  We do not know how to do it.  May our eyes be on Him. This is the prayer for when we do not know what to pray.  We simply lay out the situation before God and say “Help: we don’t know what to do, but we are looking to see what you will do.”

In a future post at some other point when I need a break from PhD rewriting and editing I will post the LORD’s response – or you could just go and read it now. I promise it will be worth the read…

reflections on our home learning journey 39

I cannot believe we are 39 weeks along this journey. Tonight I am feeling out of my depth though as a mum watching Bob wrestle with some hard choices and consequences and the discovery that mummy cannot fix everything. I knew I couldn’t do everything but it has been easy to deny or avoid that fact while your children still believe fully in you. But today Bob’s curiosity of a how a much loved new toy worked led to the toy being taken apart but sadly it is unable to be rebuilt to a fully working standard again. He pleaded with me to fix it saying ‘but you are mummy you can put all things right and fix things’ as he flung his distraught body across the sofa. He is also pushing boundaries in regard to how he speaks and relates to us which is leading to a negative cycle of conversations at the moment in our house which I  am struggling to find a way out of. While I don’t feel I know how to resolve matters I am continually reminded of a post I read recently where family is described as an action verb. So I stay put, I don’t run away which I want to do, I join my eldest boy and his distraught body on the sofa, we keep evening meal time as it always is on a Friday with pizza and a DVD. I initiate a family walk. I sit with him and read at bedtime, I invite him to join us on the sofa.

Lessons wise I have decided to cut us all some slack over these next few weeks while Mark finishes up and that is our focus. And with the end being 4 weeks today the big question of what is next is also weighing on our minds and Bob’s too. Right now we are simply putting one step in front of the other with no great expectations or pressures on any of us beyond Mark’s PhD being handed in. This is good on one hand as it frees us up but it also makes it hard as routine does help Bob and myself but neither he or I do transitions, especially unknown transitions well and this is one very big unknown transition and lessons in the midst of all the unsettledness is not a good combination. What has got Bob’s attention though this week is poetry and we have spent many an hour having great fun reading poetry which has been a delight.

Zog has worked his way through reams of paper and artwork as per normal, he just loves to find a corner where he can be left in peace with his markers and paper and draws away to his heart’s content. Kanga is never far from her beloved brothers and her adventurous spirit continues to show up. She may not have many clear words yet but she can clearly communicate her needs and once those are met she is content to get on with life. She is very enthusiastic to help me with all the housework and aware of what is going on in the house and whenever one of her brothers is struggling or having some time out she loves to come along side them and sit with them to comfort them. They are not always so appreciative of this on the surface. Zog also struggles when others especially his hero Bob is sad or struggling and it has been interesting in working out how to navigate moments with both the one who is having the eruption and the other who is sad because the other one is having a hard time.

There is part of me that is noticing we have not got through all the lessons for this year, and will not have by the time we finish up and so working out have we covered enough to jump on into next years material or do we just keep going. Then on the other hand there is part of me that is very grateful that we are where we are and we can have give ourselves the freedom to say right now we need to cut ourselves some slack and we can pick things up again in August and with Mark around then Bob and I can really give time to finishing up well even if that means not finishing up every lesson for the year.

reflections on our home learning week 38

Summer happened this week which Zog was delighted at as he perishes at anything under 18 degrees and Bob hates as he melts when temperatures tumble over 20 degrees so we have a narrow window when both boys are happy to be out and enjoying the world. Kanga. well she is just too little for heat and so has held onto me most of the week for the majority of the time. This week though has marked a step forward for Bob learning to know how to respond and listen to his body as he was able to understand why we wanted him to play in the shade and not out in the hottest part of the day. He was happy to be a book-worm creating lazy afternoons finding quiet corners out of the sun with a book. Zog though could not understand why we were not doing lots of activities and was for ever wanting to go and play at the park so we created a park with climbing frame and slide inside with the helpful addition of a mattress and lots of pillows and cushions and all the windows open to create a pleasant through breeze.

Maths took on a new look this week with the family classic of Continuo which Bob decided covered both Maths and History as there was lots of counting as we made long lines and patterns with coloured blocks but it was also like making mosaics which the Romans did. He has also been running a market stall in the garden selling various food items using recycled containers. This has been great for hundreds, tens and singles placing and addition of more than two numbers.

Art involved shaving foam and food colouring and lots of messy play for all three and then long showers and baths to get cleaned up.

Reading as already mentioned was done throughout the afternoons in an attempt to cope with the heat and humidity.

Writing, well one day he will see the need for it and his body and co-ordination will be ready for it. And in the mean time I will work on my patience.

And as the heat provides a challenge personally there have been many character learning moments for all of us.

Tuesday French and Pitville Park was as usual a highlight of the week, though I think it was topped today by Forest School when they got to make a fire. And though I was not there I heard that Bob came alive and his passion poured out ‘in a  good way’, Bob is fascinated by fire at the moment and being a fire fighter which has provided an unexpected tool in helping him in moments of challenge as we remind him when he starts to fizz that firefighters cannot do that, they have to remain very calm and in control and sharp. This has been a helpful tool for us all in navigating days when things are not running so smoothly. Wherever we go now he likes to check out the different types of fire extinguishers and while I know that water was not what was needed for an electrical fire I did not realise that there are for classes of fires and fire extinguishers.

It’s not been a week of major structure and ticking lessons off but as ever when I look back I can see how learning has been happening in all sorts of ways and not just for Bob but for all of us.

a safe place to be creative buddies walking home ed climbing tree

reflections on our home learning journey weeks 36 & 37

Finally after a long grey close day there is a breeze in the air and the sun is shining. Two little ones are actually asleep and eldest is just back from youth group and so begins the journey of helping him unwind after a fun evening when he is running short on sleep and is heavy-headed with hay fever. Of the three so far Bob is the one for whom transitions are hardest and switching from one activity to another needs time but when that is coupled with tiredness and hay fever it requires from one or other of us the need to dig deeper to make that journey smoother and doable for him. He stops thinking in terms of connection to this world and the people around him and we have to keep bringing him back to reality as he spins off in outer space, at times in a solar system all of his own.

It has been interesting observing the three of them and watching how they all relate to their surroundings and the complete differences between them all. Bob is our wordy one who loves history and science and a new love for languages and is found dwelling inside books in some other solar system. Zog lives within our own solar system joining in the creative work of God adding colour and glittering sparkles to anything that stays still long enough for him to put his creative touch to. This has meant walls have been worked on too, not the best when you are in a rented house that has been thinly painted and so as soon as you go to clean the wall the paint comes off. Zog loves the picture a story paints and is fascinated by art and numbers.  He has started to write numbers much to my surprise when this morning he proudly presented me with a piece of paper with the numbers on it. Tonight in the bath he put up all our foam numbers counting down from 10 and declared that these were space numbers as they went the other way to our numbers. He can generally be called back to earth without it throwing him for a loop though it may take a time or two of addressing him to get his attention. Kanga lives fully and whole heartedly on this earth and as though she knows how it should be run. She is the first to be ready at the door with necessary footwear if I mention that we are going out and she is up and straight to the door when Daddy comes in and acknowledges his departure with waves and often tears. The boys may or may not now register he has even left when he walks back in some hours later.

Each are so different in personalities and yet to see them they could never disown each other. It is a learning curve for both of us as we seek to raise them and know how best to journey through each day to ensure each one is allowed to be themselves within the context of family life when inter-relationships matter and actions are not taken in isolation in different solar systems however far off one may feel one is actually living. The rewards though are massive when we are able to get alongside and track with each of them exploring the world around them.

Lessons have been ticking along most days but the evidence for learning is often not in those moments but at other times such as conversations in the car or from comments others say to us when they have spent time with our children. There are days when lessons can seem so futile but then a later conversation comes along and you realise in that moment that they are all learning and growing and seeking to make sense of the world around them.

What has been encouraging, exciting and somewhat daunting to this non linguistic parent is Bob’s emerging love of languages. He is already doing French and has decided that maths in French is far more fun and he has no problems with addition in French. He also loves to do bits of Hebrew or Greek with his Daddy and this week has decided that he wants to learn Latin and Spanish. I don’t want to squash his enthusiasm and need to work out how best to do this and find ways of exposing him to language. Any suggestions/recommendations that are not going to break the bank would be greatly appreciated. Think I might need to see what there is out there to watch or listen to that he would enjoy.  I regret my lack of langauge skills and if he is to take after his Grandpa and his enjoyment of languages I do not want to stifle it.

I still struggle with the total brick wall we hit as soon as he needs to write anything but Mark keeps reassuring me that he never did and still probably does not like actual pen on paper writing and as he is completing a PhD I probably don’t need to worry too much. All momentum of an encouraging morning can be lost as soon as a pencil/pen is produced. It is more to do with my own personal pressures and expectations and defensiveness when it comes to what other parents with children at school say. What I do wonder at times is whether we should teach him to type yet to give him a way to express the overflow of words his brain has? Any thoughts from folk who have been down this road would be appreciated. I suspect we will not have the same battle with Kanga as she has total melt down as soon as we remove a marker from her hand as she walks through the house with her forbidden treasure. Whereas Zog may move off paper onto walls through creative forgetfulness, Kanga is delighting in forbidden treasure.

We have all learnt lots this year both in and through the journey of home educating and so I am wrestling at the moment of how to adapt and move forward next year as we do not yet know where we will be and so knowing how our days will look and what there will be to be involved in restricts my need to plan and organise which is hard going but it is also a time to trust and keep walking these days out faithfully, living and learning in the moment.

reflections on our home learning weeks 34 & 35

The rain is falling softly and steadily this evening and in many ways that sums up our learning journey over the past two weeks. Lessons, life and even some glimpses of sleep have been happening. As I have been pondering what to reflect on over these past two weeks it is that life and learning have been simply and gently rolling through each day and at times nights in more hands on ways than I would choose. Each day has looked quiet different and so there has been a tension especially for Bob and myself in the uncertainty of each day which we are having to navigate through. I have been a less than helpful companion for him this week with that as I am still playing catch up (if one ever can) on a complete lack of sleep for two weeks as Zog recovered from surgery. On that front thanks to our wonderful osteopath we are turning a corner there.

It has made me more aware of the unsettledness I am feeling as we live in this season of asking ‘ what/where is next?’ Bob keeps asking where are moving to and what we could do in our new garden, he is keen to create a wildlife haven, while Zog is consistent in his desire to move to Africa so he can see a buffalo. I am also longing to know where we are going to be so as to know what we can be involved in within the home education community and to plan how our days will look. Yes I am still wanting to plan and create a routine to our days though I know only too well that life brings with it plenty of invitations for different ways days can unfold. That said I still hold to the idea of having a plan in place which can be flexible rather than just winging it which does not work well for us.

All of these ponderings have had the question of what I would also do with my days thrown into the frame. We met with a couple who are walking this season with us and I was asked the question of whether I felt fulfilled. This question has got in under my skin and has continued to make me feel uncomfortable. For as long as I remember all I wanted to be was to be a wife and mum. And so right now I feel a tension within myself because I do not feel fulfilled. There is a sense of betrayal to my long held dreams come true and yet I also feel that in having children there is a laying down of many of my dreams even if just for a season and for us home education means a prolonged laying down of dream, for to do it well it takes time, my time, in preparation. I would not do it differently as it is right for our children in this season. I think my regrets go further back as I reflect on the choices made since finishing school. I have wandered for 20 years and my hope for our children is that while they do not need to know at 16 what they want to do with the rest of their lives that they will be more aware of their options out there and be confident to be more creative with the paths they follow. To not do the assumed right thing but to seek God’s will, considering all that God has given them and the way He has created and wired them to be. God has worked all things for good for me but that still leaves room for me to which things had been different. The question now for me as they watch and learn from me not only the ‘school’ lessons, is how do they see me live out a life in Christ, being all that I am made to be in Him and to show them that it is never to late to step into all that God has for us to be and the difference between a life lived out on the wings of the Spirit and one that talks the talk but is still grounded in the nest. (yes Bob and I have been hooked on springwatch for science the past three weeks and have watched many birds’ nests.) I have two different trains of thought going on as to what I would love to be doing.

Back to actually what Bob is covering, history has now brought us to Ancient Rome which he is very excited about and has many building/craft projects planned. Maths continue to be an area he is not patient enough to work out the right answers and writing is less than loved. Reading is going really well and so history and science are favourites as there is much reading to be done around topics of interest. Despite heading into the summer and Bob doing well with reading I have introduced a new reading programme into our days this week. We had been using one but the way it was structured did not work for my with my dyslexia, so Mark had to do it and finding time was hard and Bob was bored by it but I do think it gave him a great initial spring-board and because he has an incredible photographic memory he is able to learn many words by sight. So wh introduce a new programme at this point in the year?  I was looking for a good spelling programme for next year and came across All About Spelling and its companion All About Reading which because of their multi-sensory styles of learning work to the strengths of the dyslexic with others I know giving it great reviews I decided to start on level 1 of the reading which feels somewhat redundant but I was aware that Bob was reading based on sight recognition of his words and not through sounding out words. This is just like myself and means it is very easy early on to make amazing strides with ones reading only to hit a massive wall further down the road and so to try to help avoid that hurdle which I have never got over, we have gone back to level 1 to learn sounds and lots of basic skills. I suspect we will be ready for level 2 early on next year and he is really enjoying the activities each day that the lessons include.

So yes, like the rain softly and steadily falling learning is going on, questions from all of us are being asked and God is sowing seeds deep within all of us for a new work that He is preparing us for.

(computer is still being unhelpful hiding photos so once again there are no pictures)

Not really a PhD update, but kind of…

Hitting the wall – it’s how distance runners talk about that part of the race where you feel you just can’t run any further. When the body is screaming, and every fibre of your being wants to give up. At least so I believe, but I’ve never run far enough to feel like that.
However on many levels life right now feels something like that. In terms of energy levels, in terms of sleep deprivation, in terms of work for PhD and in relation to figuring out what next. We’re coming to the end of the three year chunk of time we’ve devoted to getting PhD done, and on almost every level of life it feels like these last few months are just such hard work. With two out of three children not sleeping solidly through the night, each night is interrupted in one way or another, and when that is combined with number 2 having his tonsils out this week tiredness rockets. Job applications have been made, and we wait to hear. We try to live now, but the next steps take the energy.

So my plans to do a PhD update have never quite reached fruition. Every time I think about it, I think I could actually do some PhD work instead. Right now however my brain is not up to any actual work, but I need to process my thoughts somehow in this crazy time – so this is a kind of processing related to the process of a PhD.
The PhD is “nearly” there. All the blocks are waiting for the final assembly process, and some of the blocks need some reassembling. I’ve got an overall summary done, I know what the conclusions are I’m working towards. It does all make sense – but all the pieces need their final crafting, and some things need to be cut out. When my head is panicking it feels like I’m playing a game of Tetris with the pieces, at the point when the speed is advancing and the screen filling up fast – and that the pieces are starting to be those rather long awkward shaped ones and I don’t have the space to rotate them properly.
It seems to sum up the rest of life really. Just as we think we’ve got a space, a time to regroup, something altogether new and different falls from the sky, and we’re wondering how on earth this new piece is going to fit. In the midst of all this I’ve been reading Proverbs recently and as I reach chapter 9 I’ve been really struck by the call to search diligently for wisdom and insight. I’m also really struck by the way in which this wisdom and insight begin with the fear of the LORD, and the knowledge of the Holy One (9:10).

It is summed up in the familiar words of chapter 3:15 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart (intellect and emotions together in the Bible), and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” I do not have all the information I need to make sense of what God is doing and how he is doing it right now.

I’m in a similar place to our 3 year old. We took him to hospital yesterday morning – he was fine. Mysteriously he was then taken to a room, fell asleep with a mask on his face, woke up in a strange room and then woke up again in a bed. Now his throat feels like agony, and he’s distinctly groggy and whoozy. What has happened? We know he’s had his tonsils out and will feel better in a few days/a week or so, and that he won’t get tonsillitis again every month for the coming year. But he doesn’t know that right now. Right now it’s just a bit confusing and it hurts.

So with us. And so often in life this is how it is with God. We don’t have the information. We just have to trust – and keep moving forward. Right now it is really, really hard to do that. I was encouraged, and almost brought to tears singing these words recently in church:

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory (Aaron Keyes)

Vital words – and having been buried in Exodus 32-34 for a while reminding me of the vital realities, that above all else God is compassionate and kind. He is good. Most wonderful of all his glory is his goodness. He displays his glory to Moses by showing him his utter goodness. He displays his glory most fully to us by his body stretched out on a cross for us.

For now what we need is the wisdom to trust, and the strength to put our feet forward for another day. That is what we need this night, and that is what we need in the new day. Wisdom and strength that come from the God who holds us and loves us, even as he carries out his surgery on our lives.

reflections on our home learning journey 33

Really, it is Friday again. Not sure where this week has gone. Lessons have happened thought it feels like a week of walking through treacle and that is not just the children. I think part of it is that I had anticipated this being recovery week for Zog as he was due to have his tonsils out but a bed shortage meant it is not till next week. Grandparents had been lined up to visit and we all decided just to keep those visits in place so that was fun.

Zog has started to insist on helping with the preparation of every meal which is lots of fun but also means one needs to allocate extra time and extra cheese and peppers to any meal as they get nibbled along the way. It is great to see his love of cooking emerging as we know Bob loves being in the kitchen. And then if Zog is in the kitchen Kanga needs to be to and no longer in a high chair off to the side but on a proper chair like her brother so cooking means a helper for both hands. It is also a telling sign of how Bob is growing as he now is basically able to stand at the counter and work without a chair to stand on.

Bob continues to walk around this life with a book in hand and is reading signs whenever we are out and about and comes out with comments that take you a minute to register that what he has asked or questioned is because he has just read something you never noticed before.

All the material I had ordered for next year has shown up which is exciting and it has been fun to browse through. Still need to get the science material though, Mark needs to steward a few more weddings and baptisms first. Having learnt the hard way this year that I am not a computer person and computers are not reliable and how little printing you get for a cartridge even if you do run it right down we have pushed the boat out and bought hard copies of the material so everything is to hand wherever we find ourselves.

It has been a very ordinary week, I have been able to tick things of my redundant list, it has been very low key. There has been lots of play in the garden and Bob has got in some good cycle rides. It has been life and I am thank for it.