22 June 2012

A Party and A Test of Faith

This year Danika and Andrew’s birthday party was a true test of faith, and once again God showed me He knows best and I can afford to trust Him - with everything! Even something as insignificant as a birthday party.
Six of my 8 children’s birthdays are in the winter months, and since we live in the Western Cape of South Africa, we not only suffer icy cold temperatures, but rain, rain and more rain!  Over the past 18 years, I got used to pray for sunny weather, weeks before birthday parties and always had a plan B up my sleeve.  Many of these party dates happened to be cloudy, rainy days, but God was always faithful - not one single time did it rain during the two hours of the party!  

Since the older three children started tennis in September last year, there is constant tennis fever in the house!  In February the children persuaded me to also get a tennis racket and tennis outfit and in March, Danika, Andrew and David started their tennis lessons as well!  In the beginning of the year Danika and Andrew, who have their birthdays one day apart, begged me to have a tennis party this year. I thought it a brilliant idea, but oh, it is the middle of the winter. Not quite the right weather for a tennis party!

Despite all this, we decided to go for it and prayerful planned the party.  Two weeks before the party I started to check AccuWeather. Saturday, the 9th would be a cloudless, sunny day!  But as the 9th approached, the weather changed. On the Wednesday before the party the clouds picked up, by Thursday it rained non-stopped and we measured 35mm in one day.  Friday wasn’t much better and according to AccuWeather the constant rain would become showers only by Saturday afternoon, and the sun would shine by Sunday!

I really tried hard to keep my faith and hope, but by Friday morning I had to face the facts.  The most interesting of all was that everything else about the party was playing out perfectly.  All the special friends could make the party. The party would be a celebration for 4 children’s birthdays. One, the boy of a Friend, who would have a newborn baby the next week. 

So there was no way we could move the party. I was stressed out. How would we be able to keep 30 children busy in the tennis club house, while it was pouring outside?  And what about Andrew en Danika who were passionately looking forward to their tennis party?

After crying it out on my dear husband’s lap, I realized I can do nothing about the weather, I prayed without cease for days and just have to trust the Lord and enjoy the preparations and the day with the children. 

With all the discipline inside of me, I managed to have an exciting Friday with the children, decorating the cake and cupcakes.

All the time I was waiting, hoping, trusting for the miracle. God opening the clouds and sending a bright, clear sky on Saturday morning. Came Saturday morning the first thing I heard after the alarm went off, was the sound of rain…  It rained even more than what was forecasted!  I started the morning like usual with my Hello Mornings Bible study - Love Like Him, and the whole time prayed that God will make a way, or give me peace to accept it and miraculously let the children still enjoy the party.

Came 9:30 the boys were sweeping the court and trying to get the excess water off the courts!  In this they were having a ball, even more when the party friends arrived, who grabbed more brooms to sweep the court, while it started to drizzle!

10:00 came and a sliver of sunshine broke through the clouds and the rain stopped.  We decided to take the chance to play outside and CJ, Heidi-Mari and Josua started the games.  

The children loved it and it struck me, that the weather actually didn’t bother them.
Twenty minutes into the games, it began to drizzle and soon it was pouring.  We quickly went inside the clubhouse and started the party, blowing candles, 

prayed for the birthday children,

handed out cupcakes.

Soon the children formed groups and were having fun, chatting and munching away party food!  

Half-an-hour later the clouds opened and the sun brightly shone down on the wet courts, all the children were out in seconds and the games started all over again.

It didn’t rain again, and by 11:30 the sun was shining warmly and the courts were dry.  The children had a blast and they were not bored for one moment or even concerned about the rain, to the contrary it added to all the excitement.  The rain was only bothering me…  It was my faith that was crumbling under my expectations.
This just reminded me again that God is more concerned about my holiness than my happiness.  God wants each of His children to grow in faith, hope, love, holiness - becoming mature Christians lacking nothing, who can go out and change the world.  
I experienced this first hand with my children.  When I’m only concern about keeping my children happy, I’m raising spoiled brats.  I want to raise young, content adults who show the fruit of the spirit, and that is not possible if I jump to every demand they have. Not long ago I read in an Above Rubies magazine, “Say No to your children, more.” The focus when raising children is not to keep them happy at all costs, quite the contrary.  They are born with the tendency to preserve themselves and be discontent - the sinful nature.  We as parents can only break that disposition by training them to lay aside their selfish nature and model to them a content, satisfied and peaceful character in every situation.
But do we as parents allow God to train us into content, satisfied and peaceful adults?  Aren’t we even worse than a two year old throwing a tantrum when things don’t go our way? I almost felt like a two year old who wants to throw all her toys out of the cot, when it seemed like God wasn’t going to change the weather! I had to remind myself quite a few times to practice patience and believe that God would turn this out for my good - He has a plan, clearly not my plan, but it is the best plan.
I think unknowingly we believe that when we are Christians all things will go well in our lives (after all God is on our side, isn’t He?) and we will not experience difficulty and hardship when we follow His plan for our lives.  When reading John 15 it is clear God prunes us to bear more fruit. Pruning isn’t without much pain and distress. When God prune us, He is taking away things in our lives, which we still like, so we can focus our lives more to Him.  Do we resist when God prunes us, or do we allow Him to take away what isn’t important in His eyes and be content?
Then we read in James 1 we ought to count it all joy when we fall into various trials to test our faith.  This is exactly what happened to me. God was testing my faith big time, through something as insignificant, but important to me, as a tennis party for my children.  How often does God do this?  The God I know does it quite regular in my life.  My response can be to throw a tantrum, make a new plan, compromise... or I can submit to God, which will produce patience and a growing in faith experience.  In 1 Peter 1 we get even more information on this testing of our faith.  It will only happen if need be, to test the genuineness of our faith, like the purifying of gold through fire.  A few verses further someone who submit to God in testing periods, is called an obedient child, someone who does not conform himself to his former lusts in ignorance.  He calls such a person, holy!
I am a mother, and I believe most of my readers are mothers, so in your lives most probably too, children is God’s main tool of putting me through trials and tribulations to test my faith. This makes me holy and prune my life from unwanted and unimportant activities. This isn’t surprising as we read in 1 Timothy 2 women will be saved (become more holy and content) in childbearing (accepting their role as mothers) if they continue in faith, love and self-control.
Therefore I want to encourage every mother who is giving her life to bear and train up Godly children, to lift your head up high! Your are doing a great and mighty work.  You are tested to your limits, but the reward is more than you can think or imagine! God began a good work in you and will continue this great work in you (Phil 1:6) if you allow Him. 
Don’t compromise dear mother, don’t fall for worldly solutions to fix you trial, keep your eyes on Jesus and He will bring it to pass. 
Danika, Andrew’s, DuPré and Yaron’s birthday party was a huge success! 

The children could easily play for a few more hours, especially after the two days of pouring rain! 

And I …
I have grown up a little more too!
Much love

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12 June 2012

How do I kindle the Homeschooling Passion?

I’m passionate that each person on earth should know the calling on his/her life and walk in it.  God intends for each human being to have life and that in abundance.  For this reason we chose to homeschool our children. Through homeschooling we’re able to expose our children to real life in a positive learning environment. This way we can use their childhood years to investigate all their interests and they can enter adulthood with a balanced self esteem, a sure knowing why God created them and fulfill the Godly calling on their life.  My oldest will be turning 18 in a few weeks, homeschooled since his first grade, and never longed to be in school. With 7 siblings following in his footsteps, I praise the Lord for the learning lifestyle established in our home over the past 12 years, which makes my children flourish and blossom into young adults who is confidently taking their first steps into adulthood with courage and boldness.
Sadly homeschooling isn’t always experienced by parents and/or children as a positive experience and some often loose their passion for being at home.  I receive countless letters from Mothers who just can’t cope with the discouragement of homeschooling, their children bored to death, longing to be back in the school system.
Over the years, I have observed a few important elements which if not taken care of, can easily discourage parents and children to enjoy home schooling to the full.

  • Learning Style
I remember years ago when we decided to homeschool. The number One point of discussion was Curriculums!  What kind of curriculum are you using?  And until today it is the most frequently asked question, when people notice we are homeschooling.

By God’s grace before I could even start to investigate curriculums the Lord miraculously sent a lady over my path, who introduced me to Learning styles.  Martie Du Plessis, analyzed Christo, myself, CJ (then 6) and Heidi-Mari’s learning styles.  If I had to choose a curriculum, I would probably immediately have chosen the safer, more structured curriculum.  But CJ and Heidi-Mari (though in a lesser degree) would wither under a formal, ‘School at home’ curriculum. 

Over the years I realized, not withstanding the fact that I would most probably have chosen a formal curriculum in the beginning,  would also have gone limp within a year or two.  We are all visual, kinesthetic learners.  We learn with pictures, moving around and in a spontaneous environment.  I didn’t know that for a start. Therefore it is crucial for families who want to start homeschooling, to not rush into curriculums, but observe their children, and themselves in the learning environment. Enjoy life together for 3-4 months, without curriculums. Study them while they explore, keep track of how they explore, what they explore and then make a curriculum choice.

  • Keep it Fun

I’m a fun girl, BUT in a controlled environment. So though it is a stretch for me to do fun things in the easily chaotic homeschooling realm with eight children, I do know it is the single most important ingredient that keep my children’s hearts at home. 

The moment we are too structured for too long, I can sense the restlessness in my children.

  • Better Late than Early

For me part of exploring the learning style of each child and keep homeschooling fun, is to believe better late than early and let my children play for their first 8 years of life!  Most of the time my children will be the last ones in their age group to start reading and do simple maths.  Though 2-3 years ‘behind’ in the beginning, it is interesting how quickly they catch up in the next two years and by the age of 11 they are at the same level or more advanced than their age group, without frustration.  Children need free play.  

I have often noticed my children to be very eager to learn at the age 5-6.  They will keep asking when can they start to ‘learn’, but as soon as we start, it only lingers for a month or two and then they lost interest.  When that happens, I leave them, I put the books away and allow them to play with whatever they want to and we explore what they are interested in, for the short period they are interested in something.  This is when I make use of the opportunity to make lapbooks, giving them a fun, colourful, spontaneous learning environment.

  • Living the learning lifestyle

In all this our home has become a learning lifestyle.  In a sense we will look like an ‘Un-school’ family, though not.   Maths, languages and science, especially for the children grade 6 and up, needs to be done everyday.  But, the children’s interests are all built into these basics, revolving around whatever we do and with the fun things done periodically. 

Heidi-Mari doing a Lindt chocolate class

CJ on one of his Stunts

This inspires them be their own motivation.  Since it is not school at home, with a time schedule and deadlines, it is stimulating and rewarding for me to be the centre of our learning lifestyle. I love to observe each child’s learning style, adjust our curriculum to suit their styles and see them blossom.  

  • Conviction

The last, but most important part for me as a homeschooling mother, is to hold fast onto the conviction that God and my husband, asked me to homeschool our children.  There will be tough days, there will be dead ends, there will be days I don’t know how, when and why, but in this all I know God is busy working in me, as well as in my children. My husband cheering me on all the way. 

I don’t need to know everything, I don’t need to have it all worked out, I only need to be available and teachable, with a soft heart for God and my children.

"But seek first the Kingdom of God
and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added to you."
Matth. 6:33

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With much love

07 June 2012

Molding and Filling Chocolate and Children - All the Same!

On Wednesday the 30th of June, Heidi-Mari and I did the Molding and Fillings Lindt Chocolate Class.  By now we feel like part of the Lindt Chocolate family in Cape Town.  :-)
The beauty of it all is we are now really beginning to understand the process behind chocolate.   Not everything Scott and Dimo explains is all new anymore. After every class we come home and experiment a little more, become more confident, have more success.   

This class about Moldings and Fillings was the most enjoyable class for me we did over the past 8 months.  The previous classes were a stretch for me, though not at all for Heidi-Mari.  She has a natural feeling for chocolate and interesting her hands are just the right temperature.  

Not the case for me!  Every time after I handle the piping bag, the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes too runny -  hands too hot!  
I loved the creativity of this class and the end product is absolutely breathtaking!

I’m always drooling over these, almost too beautiful to eat chocolates, and could not imagine it is actually possible to make these in an every day home kitchen. 

Scott did an excellent job, explaining everything in detail from the buying and taking care of the molds, 

through the intensive process of tempering chocolate, 

making mouth watering garnaches, 

coating and filling the molds, to the storage and shelf-live of the chocolate. 

In September we did a class on tempering chocolate, but we struggled to master this delicate process of making professional chocolate.  Doing it all over again with this class, we could pay attention more closely, ask relevant questions and when it was our turn to temper our own, it came out perfect.  
I absolutely love messing around with the chocolate - must be why I enjoyed this class so much. This is a messy class!  

You cannot do it without having chocolate all over the place! We even created chocolate rain while coating the molds.

During our Truffle class we learned a few ganaches, and with this class some more.  We can now distinguish between the inside of a truffle and the inside of mold-filled chocolates and know how to make the difference consistencies. 
But the best of all was the painting of the moulds before we coated them. 

Oh, there are countless ways to paint/decorate these beautiful molds! 

We had such a fun day together, Heidi-Mari and I!  I never would have imagined what a blessing it is to have a growing-into-a-young-woman daughter and what memory making moments we would share.

We obviously went home with quite an amount of chocolates and the men and Danika, marveled at our chocolate creations!  
As I was watching them as they hovered over the chocolate boxes, undecided which one of these luscious chocolates they must choose, it struck me how Christo and I, day after day have the privilege to mold each of these precious children and fill them consciously and unconsciously with things we do together, feelings we create in them and thoughts we kindle in them.  What a responsibility!
Do we know what mold we are molding them into? 

Can we distinguish the molds of the world and society, from the molds Christ would like us to mold them into? 
Are we just using the same mold we were molded into, and since we turned out more or less okay, we think the mold is okay for our children too?
Or do we seek the Lord constantly about which mold we should use, even though it sometimes are uncomfortable and unknown molds to work with.  
Then there are the fillings…

We filled our chocolate moulds with a Vanilla ganache, a praline chocolate ganache, an Amarula chocolate ganache and a fruity mango ganache.  For each of these ganaches we had to follow a specific recipe. The fruity mango ganache was more runny, and though not quite the consistency it should be, gave a very interesting look and taste.  

Each child’s personality is like a filing: not one child is the same.  I can tell you, there isn’t just 4 personality types, there are at least 8! Each of my children need a different filling, mixed in faith, to make them the person God intend them to be. 

Do I seek the Lord on the recipe for each child’s filling, or am I just pushing through with one recipe and hope for the best.  On the other hand a filling can easily turn out totally different from what it should be. Like the fruity mango ganache, we might actually think something went wrong while ‘mixing the filling’, and want to figuratively speaking, throw away the filling!  And now I’m speaking for myself.  The Lord doesn’t want a balanced, one size fit all child. He loves Out-of-the-Box Individualists, who can go and change the world for Him.

The piping of the filling into the mould is another challenge. You have to take great care of piping in just the right amount.  

Do I take enough care in filling the little molds entrusted to me? Do I use compassion, sweet and kind words, encouragement, a soft heart, a positive learning atmosphere, praises, hope, forgiveness, unconditional love and you can add more, to fill their little molds?

I’m looking at my children and I see all kinds of different molds, decorated by God in a very special way, with mouth watering fillings inside each one of them. 

They truly are going to give a special taste every where they go, IF I am willing to surrender their upbringing to the Lord.

How are you doing in molding and filling your children?

With much love

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