reflections of our home learning journey 6/2

Well lets just say the week started off brighter and more sparkly than the end of the week. Mark has begun his new job which is going well and we all did great the first 2 days home.Then they all had to come with me to ladies bible study on Wednesday morning. While that did not in itself present any problems as they got to play in the Little Gem’s room and have a ball doing so, the disruption to routine began to take the week of course. This was followed yesterday by Zog having an osteopath appointment and again the other two needing to come. Again the appointment itself was not an issue as they all love her place and the toys they can play with. Zog made it plain and clear to all on the way home he had no intention of going to Pitville park for our nature walk. Thankfully Emma the star of the day was able to give Bob a lift so he did not there and then fall apart. That has happened today. Zog though of course decided that at 3:15 just before Bob was due back that infact he REALLY DID WANT to go to the park. ARGHH

Our week saw our numbers increase as we included Justinian and Theodora, Emperor and Empress of the Byzantine Empire who changed outfits as regularly as Kanga does.

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The new routine of Mark at work with new fixed hours is new for all of us as a family and is going to take time to get used to. So my pride of how well we were all doing on Tuesday is getting some reshaping. I am also shattered at this end of the week and while we have much to be thankful for in sleep from the children for once, there is still a big adjustment going on for us all. Mark asked me if I was alright with him going out last night to a meeting and I said yes but in hindsight with all that was going on for both myself and especially Bob having him come home and then turn round and go out again was too much this week and we are reflecting that today in the choices we are making.

My intention was to pick up with lessons this morning and keep going but the break in routine and the lack of bread for toast which was on the printed menu on the fridge(to keep me on track not a must do rule)along with porridge was the last straw for Bob and he and I have not only not been on the same page for reading but not in the same book. He needs his routine and if something like a menu is written down then it must be followed otherwise the world itself tilts off its axis as far as he is concerned. We also have some fun trips out planned for the weekend and as so often happens with hopes he then blows off because he cannot believe they will really happen so why risk hoping when you can just mess up big time and lose the possibility of the trip out so you can get on without needing to hope. This breaks my heart beyond words. He is only 6, he shouldn’t need to worry, he should be able to look forward and hope. I remember the first time I saw hope disappear from him. He was two and we had just lost Elisabeth and Noah a few months before that. His friends were all having siblings and he was not and he really wanted a baby. I remember him holding our friends’ second child and his eyes filled with joy and sadness because this was what even in those tender years wanted. And hindsight can tell me all this but sadly in the moment I fight back, longing for reasoning, longing for a way in to his hurt but lashing out desperate to reach him and failing completely.  Along the way other moments of hope not realised have built up and on days like today that shows.

But that little boy who wanted to have a sibling has been amazing this week. Kanga who is very much her Daddy’s girl has gravitated to Bob in new ways this week. It is his hand she holds when we are out walking the in the village and last night at bedtime when they all had a sleep over it was his hand she went to sleep holding. He has taken all this in his stride as though it is the most natural event ever. In the moments of everyday play there can be the usual sibling rivalry but in the moments of security and tenderness sought out then he has been right there for her never questioning it and clearly loving being able to provide for her in those ways.

We didn’t know when this week of Mark starting work was going to happen till just before so there was little time to prepare, to think through and so as with Bob when my plans and expectations get messed up I react, i dive deeper and ever deeper into the routine and schedule that I have drawn up and cling to it desperately while using the other arm to stay afloat by whatever means I can think of. It makes it a hard place to be a small child when the adult is flailing too in a new situation. I heard a single woman recently talking about how she is using this time to prepare herself for her hope of being married one day, sorting out her finances and debts, of going through counselling to reduce the baggage she would bring into a marriage. it was the first time i heard someone so clearly articulate that and I wish I had had the courage to do likewise, as I think it would significantly change I parent.

Next week is going to be another week of disruption with dental and hospital appointments and an interview. I need to take some time this weekend to pray and think through what we can aim to achieve this next week and cut us all some slack. I want to give my children reason to hope, to let them dream, I also know how crucial routine is and work out ways to help them when that is unavoidably disrupted.

In the meantime we come back to the cross, to repentance and forgiveness and taste God’s grace and mercy (bread plaited by the boys) and enjoy the beauty of the autumnal colours caught in Bob’s bowl he made over our break.




God comes down

I’ve been reading through Revelation recently, and have at last reached the glorious words of the start of Revelation 21.  But to get to there you have to go through some tough and bizarre passages.  Revelation 12 tells of a dragon, Revelation 13 of two beasts.  Bowls of God’s wrath follow as judgement ravages the earth.  Finally comes a vision of a woman, a city, Babylon, who rides on the beast, drunk on the blood of the saints.  These lurid visions are followed by chapter 18 where there is a call to rejoice over the fall of Babylon.

It sounds harsh – rejoicing over the fall of human beings.  But Revelation 17-18 tell us of the seriousness of the sin of Babylon.  Of the wealth and riches built on human trafficking. Of the blood of the saints spilt in that city.  For John’s 1st century readers Babylon would surely be Rome.  For us it is any system of human government and economics conducted without reference to God. It is any system which bows to the beast of human power, or to the beast of false religion. It is any system which oppresses those made in the image of God.

These systems are literally beastly.  We don’t have to look far in our land to see the results of abandoning God.  To see the rise in cruelty, the desire for ever more enjoyment now.  We don’t have to look far to see this coupled with false religion which makes it all about our best lives now.  All of that is part of the beastly kingdoms.  The beast can look dangerous and frightening like a crazed dictator bent on wiping out the church.  The beast can look harmless and comfortable like our western wealth built on the oppression and poverty of others.

It is the fall of such beastly systems that we rejoice over.  The fall of all who oppose God and his plan of redemption, his plan of rescue, his plan of making the world right and new.  There is a judgement day coming John tells us through his Revelation, and at its bottom that is fundamentally good news.  It is hard for us to hear because humanity as a whole has chosen rebellion against God’s purposes, and needs to turn back to the living God.  But there is no other way for God to save his world and his people except through the judgement of those who oppose him.  What the beastly visions of Revelation do is give us the correct glasses, the correct lenses through which to see the world in focus and realise the horror of what opposition to God means.  It is literally de-humanising, of self and of others.

The fall of Babylon is followed in John’s vision by a vision of the last battle – John’s vision isn’t always consecutive – sometimes we see the same thing from several angles, or through several images (a good simple guide to this is Michael Wilcox’s The Message of Revelation in the Bible Speaks Today IVP series, or at greater length from a similar angle “Discipleship on the Edge”, a series of sermons by Darrel Johnson – Regent College Publishing). The last battle has all earth’s armies gathered to oppose the white rider (not Gandalf, obviously).  There is no lurid account of an actual battle being fought – the rider, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, wins the battle by the sharp two edged sword from his mouth.  Think Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and it is obvious.

Jesus wins the battle simply by speaking.  As he calmed the storm from the boat, so one day he will speak and every storm will be stilled.  Every opponent crushed.  Every wrong righted.  John goes on to describe the day of judgement when the books are opened, and every deed is laid bare. All the dead raised to be judged.  The sea, death and Hades (equivalent to Sheol in the OT, the place where souls were believed to go after death) give up their dead, and all are judged. Then the sea, death and hades are all thrown into the lake of fire.  The sea here is not a nice place to go for a holiday.  It is a place of chaos and turmoil, a place of risk and a place of likely disaster.  A place of monsters.  A place that claims lives.  It needs to go for God’s new creation to come.

And we dare not miss that also destined for this lake of fire are those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life – those who are marked with the mark of the beast – those who have not bowed the knee to Jesus as Lord.  Willing submission is needed to Jesus.  CS Lewis put it something like this “There are only two groups of people: those who say to God ‘your will be done’, and those to whom God says ‘your will be done'”. Those who refuse to bow the knee to the King cannot be subjects in his kingdom, and are shut out for ever. (A good place to go to read more on thinking through the issues this raises is “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis – I don’t think the book is intended to be read as Lewis’ final word on the subject, rather it is useful thought experiment to read with Bible in hand and brain engaged – rather in the way of approaching any  book – or blog post – really!)

Then at last we reach Revelation 21.  We see that there is a new heavens and a new earth.  The chaos has gone, and God’s new work begins.  That is why there has to be a judgement.  And then we see a good city, the right city, the true city.  A city bowed to God’s will.  A city with human input and glory involved (look at Rev. 21:26), but fundamentally a city that is God’s.  A city that is also a bride dressed for her husband.  And then in the midst of the picture John sees comes a voice declaring these words.

“Behold, the dwelling place* of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,* and God himself will be with them as their God.* 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

The word that caught my attention as I read was “with”.  God’s dwelling place is with people.  He dwells (“tabernacles” – like in John 1:14 where the word became flesh and dwelt among his people) with them.  He himself will be with them.  He is with us now by his Spirit, but then he will be with us in person and we will see him – Revelation 22:4 – We will see his face.

Stop and think about that for one minute. The face of the creator. The face of the Law giver.  The face of the one who, when he came down on Sinai, Israel could not approach, and whose presence was veiled in thick darkness and unapproachable light.  Moses was only allowed a glimpse of the back of God’s glory because “no one can see my face and live”. And yet we will see his face and live forever.

This God of all glory and splendour and majesty will wipe away every tear from every eye.  I set up the church for two funerals this week.  The second was for an elderly great grandmother who died secure in Jesus’ love and knowing where she was heading.   I was almost undone during the tributes read from her grandchildren.  I had noticed her year of birth, and realised that, had she not died of cancer my own grandmother would have been the same age.  At the age of 17 I thought she was old when she died.  At the age of 39 I realise how long she could have lived.  She could have seen our children, could have been at family gatherings with great grandchildren gathered round.  Death once more seemed so unfair.  And yet reading Revelation 21 I remembered my reaction when I realised she was going to die.  I remember reading these final chapters of Revelation with my sister.  I remember highlighting chunks of these chapters and knowing that she would be with Jesus.   That is the peace.  That is the assurance that these verses give. Death is not the end.

One day all of us who have trusted in Jesus will stand before his throne and see his face.  And he will wipe away every tear.  Death itself will be no more.  No more crying or mourning or pain.  The first things have passed away.  God makes it all new.  The day that all creation longs for with eager expectation.  It caught me afresh this morning.  This is reality.  We live in a world saturated with self and saturated with instant pleasures.  A world that promises much, but delivers little.  Reality is set out in the images and pictures of Revelation, and in the words of the one who is seated on the throne.  We need to listen.  And we need, and I need, to re-orientate our lives around the reality that Jesus is coming back.  Around the reality that “we will see his face, and never never sin, and from the rivers of his grace drink endless pleasures in” (Isaac Watts).

The first hymn at the funeral on Thursday was a wonderful reminder of how the one who stilled the storm with a word will one still every storm:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

(Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel)

reflections of our home learning journey 5/2

I cannot believe we have reached our first break of the year and have not totally fallen off track. Friday finished with forest school and youth club and a late night drive across to grandparents, hence the delay in catching up and reflecting on all that has gone on.

It was a gentle week as colds were hovering and lurking, impacting sleep and over all attitude and enthusiasm. We got there though, and we even began multiplication. That sneaked up on me as I had not been so organised in my weekly preparation and resting on the confidence of how well and on track we were doing i was confident maths would just carry on and then suddenly there it was 2 times 6. It has been interesting to watch the links being made in Bob’s mind as he gets his head around the difference between plus and times but I do think it may well be helping him with addition and anchoring 2+2 and so on. I have to admit because 2+2, 5+7 etc were not always concluding with the same answer, I was unsure that we were ready for times tables yet it seems to have been the piece that was needed to help cement the concept of addition. Has anyone else found this to be the case?

I was also reassured in talking with my maths teaching brother in law about number lines that he had been fascinated by research that someone he knew had done on the different ways people approached a number line. To me a number line seemed very simple and straightforward and yet whenever Bob uses it I have to look away. I will want to correct him but if left to his own devices he gets the right answer. Apparently this research indicated that people had many different approaches to using the oh so simple number line. So next week when we pick up lessons again I will take a deep breath and let him work it out himself and sit on my hands and bit my tongue and enjoy the mystery of the wiring of each of our minds.

Kanga was most bothered by her cold on Thursday so leaving her with Mark I took the boys to Pitville to catch up with friends and have fun out doors where the older ones started building a dam with great team work and passion. While it is the highlight of the week I still wrestle with managing all three children. Bob is self sufficient in many ways, just need to know where he is, Kanga when with us is not willing to be constrained to the stroller and has a passion to climb and explore every place out of sight and Zog has his limits for out doors but is also struggling to find his place because for lots of the time his playmate is Bob but on Thursdays he cannot quite keep up with all the older boys but has not connected with the younger ones in a group setting so goes deep inside his own world and fights everything that breaks into that world and interrupts it in order to move on/go home.

One of the activities we learnt about at the park was how to make leave bowls. So we gathered lots of bowls and on Friday morning Bob and I made ours. I was thankful that Mark had taken the other two to the new local farm shop as it was a lot more messy than I was anticipating. We have left it to dry and this afternoon I will see how it is getting on. If it all works out our plan will be to fill it with autumnal nuts we have also gathered and have it as a table decoration.

Spelling is progressing and I am pleased with our investment in both the All About Spelling and All About Reading material as progress is being made. I needed to adapt part of the spelling lesson this week. Bob was getting confused moving counters as he segmented sounds in words. So instead I got him to just give me the sounds in order and I wrote them down. This helped us both as I could check what he was saying and he could see if he was saying what he was thinking in his head. Again part of the mystery of the wiring or our brains and dyslexia. He is still to be tested but for me the sounds mean nothing and so I need to see the letters to know we are on the right page.

It is nice to be able to slow down this week and take a deep breath and allow all the things we have been learning to sink in and permeate. It also gives me time to stop and consider the next 5 weeks especially as we all adjust into a very new way of doing life with Mark in his first 9-5 office job since we started this road of parenting over 6 years ago. No longer will he be able to be flexible as he was, start later. Appointments will see me navigate all three children. I realise we have been extremely blessed to have had the past 6 years for the flexibility it has given us as a family and that for the majority of folk what we are stepping into is what parenting and homeschool family life looks like. We are grateful for this temporary contract Mark has got and continue to trust God as our provider for each step.