Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Distracted Mother

The only picture I could find of myself 'distracted'!
Have to smile at this - I was reading 'Good Wives'!

'Mum you will never believe what he just did!' The excitement was evident in her voice as my daughter went onto to tell me how her baby brother at just fourteen months old, had been playing with his wooden farm set and had sorted and set out all the animals in groups - the cows in one corner, pigs in another, the horses, ducks and cows. Wanting to witness this for myself, I raced over to where my mini mathematician had been playing at being a farmer but by the time I arrived he had mixed the farm animals up again and no matter how many times I pleaded with him, he simply would not repeat this feat for my benefit! I had missed a very special moment and was so annoyed at myself for being so distracted.

What had kept me so preoccupied? I was in the same room for goodness sake! I had been shining my sink. Yes, shining my sink. That fly lady has a lot to answer for and I really need to ignore that ad with the housewife who states so emphatically 'I don't just want my kitchen to be clean, I want it to shine!' Perhaps I had been looking at one too many blog posts on kitchen sinks that week which showed off sinks that were not just clean and clear, they were positively sparkling and reflecting the glow from the candle set out next to a snowy white cloth and the cute little wooden brush that had obviously never been used by a child to scrub out a bowl of cake batter. I hadn't quite reached the stage of trying to transfer my washing up liquid into a crystal decanter as I once read Martha Stewart does (not such a good idea with wet hands and/or children doing dishes!) but here I was with dishes washed, dried and put away but still irritated by the dullness of the stainless steel and on my quest to make it shine - so preoccupied by a homemaking task, I had allowed myself to become the distracted mother.

You see, you don't have to be absent from the home to miss out on the moments. I shared in my previous post how I missed out on so many moments in the early years of my first born child's life by working outside of the home but I was to learn and I am still finding out that there are many things within the home that demand our time and attention as mothers. They may be good things, worthwhile things, even wholesome things but if we are not careful they can be the very things that steal our moments and pull us away from the people that matter most.

This is my distracted mother list - the following in no particular order, are the distractions that I am aware of in my own life. The activities that have the potential to draw me away both outside and inside the home. Some I have dealt with, others are new distractions courtesy of the technological age which promised an easier life but entice us to escape for even longer periods. This post is all about recognizing the distractions - I'm sure you will identify with some of these!

1. Housekeeping and homemaking
Keeping a home clean and orderly is a worthwhile occupation and I am not for one moment suggesting that we let things go and become slovenly in our housekeeping habits. However, if we are prone to perfectionist tendencies and long for that 'home beautiful' look we see in magazines and on some blogs we need to be careful that we do not strive to replicate the 'look'. Even the romantic Victorian paintings and vintage images of 50's housewives that beautify blogs can tempt me to over allocate time to my home rather than the people that live there. I'm aware of it and have to be so careful and remind myself that it just an image and purely for admiration and inspiration. We compare our own home and sigh at our apparent shortcomings and then race off to unclutter every closet, deep clean every room, rearrange the furniture and reorganize the pantry yet again. We raise our own bar from clean to immaculate and find ourselves immersed in a housekeeping task as a child tugs at our skirt and asks for a story and we find ourselves saying 'Later Mummy's busy right now.'

2. Homesteading/Gardening/Self sufficiency
Another worthwhile occupation that can, if we are not careful consume us. I've included it here because it is something which is growing in popularity - if you go by the number of blogs that cover these subjects there are many mothers, myself included, who want to make everything from scratch. I am excited about this, I am in love with the idea of growing our own food and making my own soap, cheese, clothes, honey and half a hundred other products but know that there are not enough hours in the day to master all the different skills. I want to learn them all but I also want to spend time in the garden with my children just being with them and watching them play - not always weeding and working. But the weeds are calling my name and very soon I am distracted and have forgotten that we actually came out to harvest beans and then watch them tumble on the trampoline. A promise broken for the sake of a few weeds that needed to be removed but not right now.

3. Hobbies/Interests/ Books
First of all let me say I believe every mother should have at least one hobby or pursuit that allows her to express her God given creativity. I have a few hobbies myself and if you follow my blog you know it involves a certain time of the year. If I am not careful though, I can become a very distracted mother as Christmas draws near and the glue gun and the decorations come out of storage.

If you are a reader of novels you will know that they offer escape and it is very hard to concentrate on what is going on around you. I'm all for losing yourself in a good book from time to time but if reading is a bit of an addiction for you, be on your guard and choose your reading time carefully - don't sacrifice your real life story for works of fiction. I'm not a reader of Christian romance/fiction and prefer to immerse myself in a good memoir, biography or cook book but even my non-fiction books can become a distraction. I check out less books from the library these days and don't put pressure on myself to finish books if they need to be returned.

If your hobbies take you away from the home and you cannot take your children with you keep a check on how much time you devote. Are you using daycare or babysitting services on too many occasions? Or leaving the husband with the kids as you take off to yet another craft night? The monthly book club starts meeting weekly, two gym sessions turn into five. Sometimes our hobbies and interests can take on lives of their own. If our children are older this may be less of an issue but let's not forget our husbands too. Are you pursuing your hobbies in the evening and leaving him to sit alone on the sofa?

4. Church Ministry
This used to be a major distraction for me and I had put my involvement in various ministries ahead of my family. Please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that we should withdraw from serving in the church but as a mother of young children I had said yes to too many requests to be involved in ministries and activities outside of the home and I was over committed. I had taken on leadership responsibilities and with that came numerous meetings. I rarely had a free evening at home - my calendar was packed. The other distraction which came hand in hand with this were phone calls. I was compassionate and a good listener and I had allowed women with deep seated emotional issues to call me. I didn't know how to turn them away - one woman in particular would ring me and talk for hours about her problems. My housework suffered, meals were not being served on time and I was robbed of many moments with my young children until she misinterpreted something I had said, took offense and stopped calling. A burden was immediately lifted from my shoulders. When she stopped calling I realized just how much of my precious time I had allowed her to take from me.

5. Hospitality/preparations for guests and events

If my list was not random and in order of 'distractedness' this would be near the top for me. It says in the Bible about Martha that she was 'distracted with much serving'. This tells me that she was going to a lot of trouble. I guess that details mattered to Martha. Everything would have to look right, taste right, be right for Jesus. It reflected on her. And Jesus recognized that her effort to take care of all the details would cause her anxiety, for he says 'Martha you are worried and troubled about many things.' I imagine Martha worrying about not just the meal she would serve but about everything in her house and its appearance. Hospitality is a wonderful thing - we are commanded to do it, I'm all for it but know that before guests arrive I become very, very distracted. The more guests, the more distracted we can become - more people that might look up and notice those cobwebs in the rafters! And if it is an important event such as a wedding or special birthday the possibility for preoccupation with the preparations is huge!

6. Studying/ home businesses

I've seen young mothers take on studies at home who thought they could work around their children. ' I'll study when the baby sleeps' one mother once told me. In reality it didn't work out like that and she put herself under enormous pressure to get assignments completed. If this is an area we are venturing into - tread carefully even with a home based business. It has the potential to become a major preoccupation, particularly if our business and customer base grows. More hours at the sewing machine once the children are in bed or decorating cakes into the wee small hours may not steal moments with our children but will rob us of sleep. Guard your sleep dear mothers - it is vital and what refreshes you for the day that lies ahead. I don't want to be a weary, irritated mother, so for now my plans for my little business are on hold. There will be plenty of time for such a venture when my children are older and begin to leave the nest.

7. Television and Technology

This distraction is massive! I do have great admiration for those who have chosen not to have a television in their homes but as I have a husband who enjoys watching sport (usually only on one evening a week during rugby league season) that is not a reality for this household. Once upon a time we would say there is so much rubbish on television it is not worth watching. However, if you sift through the trash you will be aware that there are quite a number of lifestyle programmes which hold great appeal to the homemaker. Cooking shows, home renovation shows, gardening shows and my goodness how many we have to choose from! Masterchef took Australia by storm and encouraged people to get back into the kitchen and start cooking real food for their families. A good thing indeed but even the good shows can distract us. We may all be watching a show together but not communicating. If you have seen the movie 'The Blindside' you may recall the scene where the mother played by Sandra Bullock sees her family sitting around the television eating and watching sport - on Thanksgiving! The young man she has taken under her wing and into her home is sitting alone at the table eating his meal. A moment of realization hits. She turns off the television and beckons her family to gather around the table. That scene spoke volumes to me.

Once upon a time Godly women authors counseled us to be careful about how much time we spent talking on the telephone. I remember reading Emilie Barne's advice to have a phone with a long cord that you could take into the kitchen! Then came cordless phones - I wonder how many mothers had stiff necks from cradling phones as they prepared dinner! How many times I discovered my children getting into mischief because I had been distracted by a telephone call. I was careful not to make too many calls but people tended to call me. It was easy to cut short a salesperson or survey, much harder a friend. Thankfully, we had no major mishaps but if there is any one distraction which causes us to neglect our post and take our attention away from our children I would say communications is it. We run the risk of mishaps and accidents but also the risk of missing the moments. The computer beckons us away - we escape into blogland, facebook, emails, twitter or whatever it is that you give your attention to. If you are reading this right now can I safely assume it is blogs and blogging that is your distraction? I know it is mine.

Which is why I must draw this post to a close and leave the steps I have taken to remove, reduce and rectify the distractions in my life for another post. This is still a work in progress. The first step though I believe is recognizing the distractions - those activities which draw you away for longer than you intended and make you miss out on too many moments. This is why I have written out my list - your list may be similar or different to mine. Some may be less of an issue for you because you are at a different season in your life - you don't have to worry about little ones getting into mischief as you sit at your sewing machine and stitch that quilt!

But for me right now with my children around me all at different ages and stages, I want to stitch memories. Homemade and pieced together together with love. The unfinished quilt made of cotton squares sits in the cupboard and waits for a day when it will not cause me to be a distracted mother and give up my most important work. The patchwork I'm working on right now is of people's lives. Lives that have been entrusted to me by God - their character and their destiny is in my hands and it will all come together to be something beautiful for all eternity.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't miss the Moments

Milestones - written into health record books or carefully recorded in a journal designed for that specific purpose of recording significant events in the life of a child. First smiles, first tooth, first steps, first words. They are important and as a mother of seven children I'm far less anxious about time frames these days. I have to say I was either far too excited or far too busy to stop and record the actual dates for each and every milestone of each and every child. They all crawled and I knew that once mobile I would be busier than ever chasing them around. I know the children who walked before one and those who walked after one. They all talked and don't I know it and 'dad' was their first word except for my seventh born who said 'mum' first at six months of age but soon added dad (pronounced with great excitement I have to say!) and car to his vocabulary - he's 18 months old now and starting to talk in sentences. Wow! I'm impressed but not surprised, there are chatterboxes all around him.

I do sometimes wonder if all those milestones recorded in keepsake books are actual eye witness accounts. Sadly, many may be secondhand information passed on by a relative, friend or childcare worker in a daycare centre. I know what it is like to be in that place. I returned to full time work outside of the home when my first born was just 7 months old and did not give up work until he was two. I missed out on so many of those firsts - my husband who was caring for our son at home let me know at the end of each day just what our boy was achieving but it was not just the milestones I was upset at missing - I've realized now that it was the moments. It is the moments that matter.

Life they say is measured in moments. Songwriters write songs about them and the memorable ones such as 'From this Moment' by Shania Twain become anthems for weddings. You may not recall every detail of your wedding day but you will most likely remember moments - the moment when you first walked into the church, the moment when that ring was slipped onto your finger. You were present - you had to be of course and if you were not too nervous you were trying to smile and breathe and just take in every moment of that very special day in your life. As I sat next to my husband in the church and listened to our wedding song 'Truly' being sung by a guy at our Baptist church who sang just like Lionel Ritchie, it was one of those 'forever moments'. I wanted it to last forever but it didn't.

Another significant moment in the life of a couple is the birth of a child and for this you also had to be present - even if you were under anaesthesia for the birth you had to be there! You are probably happy to forget the painful moments leading up to the birth but that moment when your child is placed into your arms for the very first time and you look into his or her eyes and gently touch their sweet little cheek and admire those fingers all curled up. It's hard to describe - a moment in time of absolute, wonderful, incredible exhilaration, sheer delight and joy. I'm certain these are the same emotions experienced by adoptive parents too, when the child they may have already seen in photographs or met previously is placed into their arms or embrace and they realize - he/she is ours. That moment when we we meet our child for the very first time is so special - we will never forget this occasion, no matter what.

So many more moments are to follow - the first one I usually recall is the day I come home from the hospital. I've had two home births which were very special experiences but I also remember with fondness the moment I stepped through the door of our home after giving birth in hospital. It felt warm, so right, wonderful and as we all often say on returning to our place of abode after time away 'It's good to be home.' Home is a sweet place indeed and so many of the memories we recall are associated with home and family.

So why would we want to miss out on the moments in the life of our children? I've asked myself this question time and time again, particularly over the past 18 months. You see my 7th born son looks so much like his older brother who will turn 19 next month. There's a certain look in his eyes which transports me back to the early 1990's especially when he wears an outfit that his brother also wore as a baby. A sense of deja vu at times and at others, a deep sense of regret because I missed out on so many moments by making the choice to work outside of the home. How many smiles did I miss? How many stories or simple interactions between a mother and her baby son?

Oh yes, you could blame the economy and at the time we did - when we bought our first home, interest rates were over 15 per cent. We thought we could not survive on my husband's wage as a mechanic and the offer of a senior position for me in a desirable seaside city was seized upon. There were other reasons too - position and status. I had totally undervalued motherhood but deep down was a nagging sense of guilt and I felt it acutely when we traveled to the interview - our baby's first plane trip would be for the purpose of leading his mummy away from the home and sacrificing her God given calling. I don't remember all the details of the 2 hour interview but I do recall the moment I fed my 3 month old baby son and handed him over to my husband, smoothed down my clothes, put on my professional airs and graces and walked into the room where a panel of senior medical staff were waiting for me. I can remember thinking 'I hope I don't hear him crying and leak breast milk during this interview- that would not be a good look.' It's a moment I don't want to remember but I do because it happened and the moments I want to remember of a mother enjoying her first child at a very precious time of life were few and far between. Yes, I was there each evening and on weekends but I was often too tired and too stressed to even stop and think about just enjoying the moments. Those evenings were a blur and Monday morning and another working week would arrive too soon. I thought I would juggle it all and achieve the perfect life/work balance. Being organized was the key I thought - at home and at work. If I'm organized all will run smooth I told myself but I had just forgotten that babies don't always follow agendas and I had not for a moment given thought to how missing out on the moments would affect me. You cannot schedule moments or make them happen again for your benefit.

By swapping roles we had placed unnecessary burdens upon each other. My husband was not out of work. There were positions in his field available but we had made a decision based on our own perceptions of the economic climate. Our discussions as a couple often started with the question 'How are we going to afford to.....?' We had not yet learned to trust God - we were doing the opposite of what God's word exhorts and were leaning on our own understanding. I didn't fully understand what it means for a man to be a provider and how it affects a man when his wife steps into that role. I also felt cheated of my homemaking moments. I would walk through the door and long to smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. I didn't expect my husband to bake bread or arrange flowers, he was doing a fantastic job looking after our son and I didn't want to ask too much of him but as the months went by I realized our home did lack a woman's touch - my homemaker's signature so to speak but more importantly, our son as much as he was loving being with his dad, was missing out on so many mothering moments - those nurturing moments because I was away for most of the day.

His second plane trip, this time an international flight to England. On our return to NZ from this trip for my sister's wedding I would be staying home. No wonder I was happy! This photo was taken in Japan. I still remember how much he loved that souvenir plane set!

I am glad to report that I came to my senses. When I discovered I was pregnant with my second child I made the decision not to take up the offer of maternity leave. I was leaving for good and returning to the place I knew where God had called me to be - at home to be what He had called me to be - a wife and a mother with no extra titles. It wasn't easy - there was a period when our income was nil until my husband found work. We had no choice but to trust God and He brought us through and provided for us and has continued to show us that He is faithful to His promises. I can testify to the truth of 'where God guides He provides'. Through His grace He was going to grant me many more moments of motherhood. Many more children to raise and what's more He would call me to educate them all at home. He was giving me even more moments to enjoy because they were here at home with me and not away for hours each week day.

That is for me one of the greatest joys of this life - I have my children around me and I share in so many of their moments. The moment that reading just 'clicks' for them. The 'wow he gets it moment'. The chocolate cake smeared face moments. The race to the door to meet dad moments. The laugh yourself silly moments when keeping a straight face is near nigh impossible! The 'caught in the act' moments. The moments of quiet observation of a child's wonder and fascination. Too many moments to list but all too precious to miss. I want to be there for all of them, to remember many of them them and hold onto them but because they are moments they cannot be relived.

Next time Part 2 of 'Don't Miss the Moments' - 'The Distracted Mother' and how preoccupation can steal your moments.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Feminine Home

When I was a young woman living in England my favourite shop was Laura Ashley. I just loved browsing the rails of floaty, feminine dresses. Each time I visited a different city I would look out for the familiar green shop window and sigh as I stepped through the door. I always remember my first visit to a Laura Ashley store that also had a home wares section. The furniture, the wallpapers, curtains and cushions all spoke one word to me - feminine. It stirred something within me and I knew at that moment in time, that when I married, I wanted a 'Laura Ashley' home. Simply put, I wanted to express my femininity within my home.

Alas I could not afford to shop at Laura Ashley. I only ever window shopped and my visits were purely for inspiration! So you imagine my squeals of delight as I unwrapped the wedding gift from my parents - the sight of a large green box embellished with that most feminine of names - and inside folds of crisp, white tissue paper, a cream lace bedspread. Exquisite - it graced our bed for many years. We also received as a wedding gift, a set of Laura Ashley lace napkins which still sit in the drawer where I store table linen and candles. The only other authentic Laura Ashley decorator touch we could afford was a floral wallpaper border which added a most romantic touch to the living room walls of our first home - remember when wallpaper borders were all the rage? I understand they are coming back into fashion and wallpaper is back and walls are once again being festooned with floral designs. I have kept a sample of that Laura Ashley border. It is tied up with yellow ribbon and is stored in my memory box.

I'm not about to whip out the wallpaper paste and some of those new floral designs are just a tad too bold for me but I love to express my femininity within my home and today I would like to show you just one of those ways.

I say it with flowers! I don't have the time to arrange elaborate bouquets or the finances to purchase big bunches of flowers, so I have to use what is in my garden. We grow more vegetables than flowers but each winter I rejoice as the camellias come into bloom. I stepped outside into the garden today and snipped a few blooms. A shallow glass lid sits in this urn and it took just minutes to tuck in a few flower heads. The decorative urn cost me nothing - it was plucked off the 'free stuff' table at a garage sale last weekend by my eleven year son who knew I would like it! Like it? I love it and can also see it being piled high with limes or used to hold a pillar candle at Christmas surrounded with roses and greenery.

Even single blooms placed in a bottle or even a jam jar can add a feminine touch. The white camellia in the reproduction green glass honey jar is scented. A clear glass milk bottle is perfect for a camellia bud. Both these vintage style vessels were gifts from a friend, so thank you Michelle - I wanted you to see them on my blog! I usually display them together to remind me of God's promises to His people about the land that He would bring them to - a land flowing with milk and honey. Simple visual reminders of God's blessing and His goodness to my family.

If you have no flowers in your garden and cannot afford to buy bouquets you can still enjoy their beauty portrayed in paintings and of course on fabrics. I just love roses on everything but if that is all too much or too busy for you (I'm English and a lover of Laura Ashley remember!) just an occasional floral embellishment here and there can add that feminine touch. Did you notice the picture frames alongside my displays of camellias on the top of my piano? Roses on the border of the ceramic frame, roses in the design of the little pewter frames? Roses in the bouquet of my wedding photo and in the cross stitched 'Home Sweet Home' plaque. It is all deliberate! They also appear on the frame which graces my bedside table - a painted butler's tray which also also has some decorative floral folk art touches - not painted by me, it was a garage sale find. The lamp with its little touch of crystal was also found at a garage sale and given a new pleated shade from Target. I could not resist setting out the camellias I arranged today for this picture.

Here's a few more ways in which flowers are used to bring femininity into my home.

On my favourite china - a wedding anniversary gift from my husband and it is not roses but rather camellias and pansies which decorate these plates. One day I will find the perfect dresser on which to display this dinner service. I used my special china to create a backdrop for an Easter craft post for my blog and it is always my china of choice for a romantic anniversary or Valentine's dinner at home! I found the perfect flowers in my garden to create a centre piece - once again no skill required - just snip blooms and pop into a bowl and admire!

If you are a regular visitor to my blog you will know how much I love Christmas. This is another time of year when flowers come into my home - silk flowers embellish garlands and add a pretty finishing touch to gifts. It's just another way in which I use flowers to express femininity at home.

I also wear flowers! Love how just a little floral embellishment on clothing can express femininity. I was just days away from giving birth when this picture was taken. I always feel more feminine when I wear flowers!

Even when gardening!

I bought these lovely rose embellished gardening gloves for my aunt on the occasion of her diamond wedding anniversary. Are not they just delightfully feminine? My aunt told me she would wear them with her little black dress and pearls! She is in her 80's but has such a sense of humour! The trowel is engraved with their names and the date of their anniversary and hangs on the wall of their conservatory to remind them of their mutual love of gardening over the years.

Homemaking I do believe is in the heart of every woman and even though we may have different tastes, I think every woman wants to add some feminine touches to her home. Even the modern minimalist interiors on the pages of magazines will often feature feminine touches - the spiky leaves and a colourful bloom of a tropical plant in a tall vase set out on a hall table - plants and flowers are often what the stylist chooses to 'soften' or bring a feminine touch to what can be a stark or masculine look.

I just love what flowers bring into a home and for me they truly are an expression of my femininity. Their colours, their shapes, their scent, whether in an elaborate mixed bouquet or just a single bloom, immediately uplift the senses. And as I have shared, even when there are no fresh flowers on display, I can still enjoy their beauty in the adornment of fabric, china and on other accessories found in my home and yes, I can even accessorize myself with flowers and feel more feminine, with my choices of clothing, with perfume (love perfumes with floral notes!) even when wearing gumboots in the garden, or an apron in the kitchen! The expression of femininity is experienced in the everyday life of my home. In those simple little touches - I'm aware I live with a man and I want him to feel comfortable here too, so I 'm careful not to go overboard with frills and flounces but those feminine finishing touches make even the most mundane of chores a more pleasurable experience.

How do you express your femininity at home?

With Love and Joy,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Somewhere More Holy by Tony Woodlief - A Review

Survival stories - what comes to mind when you hear that? People being pulled alive out of the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake or tornado when it seems unlikely that any more survivors would be found? Hikers lost in mountains, jungles and in all manner of inhospitable terrain without provisions for weeks on end, who somehow hold on and against all odds come out alive? 'Somewhere More Holy' by Tony Woodlief is a survival story but you will not see it featured on the Discovery Channel. It is the story of the survival of a marriage, the preservation of a family and in my opinion, that is just as miraculous. It all depends on your definition of a miracle.

I know when a book is impacting my life when I reach for a highlighter to mark the passages and even more so, when I know that what the author has written on the page will be copied in my own handwriting onto the page in my journal set aside for inspirational quotations about the home and family life. I did not have my journal with me when I first read 'Somewhere More Holy' by Tony Woodlief. I was on a long train journey and had just commenced the introduction when I began to tell myself to take mental notes of the pages. 'Pages 30-31' I kept reminding myself as I read further. At one point he uses the analogy of a train station - I was actually in a train station at that very moment and knew then I was meant to read this book. If not for myself, it would be to recommend to others who are facing trials or in circumstances that could tear apart their family.

It was not a quotation or an observation that had me wiping away the tears from my eyes as the knot in my throat became tighter but a list of medications on page 20. A list of medications for a three year old girl who was in the most horrendous pain from a brain tumour that would soon claim her life and leave her parents devastated and their new-found faith floundering. Tony Woodlief kept that medicine diary in his dresser drawer and tells us that sometimes when he thinks his paltry troubles are overwhelming he digs it out and thumbs through it. I had to ask myself why on earth would you want to keep something that would be such a painful reminder of what your child endured but I have never been to the place that he and his wife have been to. Their days he informs us 'were framed by her suffering.'

He keeps telling himself that he was going to be strong, the rock for his family but the truth was that the rock was crumbling away. The author's deep shame and regret does not prevent him from letting us know just how far he fell - the anger at God for letting his daughter die, the frustration directed at his wife - never fists but as he states 'words can do plenty of damage on their own.' Finding his solace in a bottle of scotch and sliding downwards to the act of ultimate betrayal.

A book for my journey about the journey of a family

I've already told you that this is a survival story. The phrase 'God's grace at my place' comes to mind, for the breakthroughs did not come in the counselor's office or in healing meetings in a church building - the realizations of God's incredible mercies poured out for wounded people occur in the home - in the everyday happenings of family life. In sword fights (with rubber swords that really do sting!), in the gentle touch of a forgiving wife and in conversations with a two year old. 'Sometimes' he tells us 'God is in the whisper of a little boy.' We are invited into his home and taken into every room. The living room is affectionately referred to as 'The Ring' where nothing is too precious and boys are allowed to be boys. We are beckoned to the table for a family dinner and regaled with wonderful and often hilarious stories of meal times. 'Every Day a Baptism' is an accurate description for their bathroom. 'A bathroom not a playroom' he tries to explain to his sons! I've said this to my children too, then realized that I supplied toys that squirt water! And I truly did appreciate the chapter on the home classroom - for this family has now taken on what he describes as 'an experiment'. That is what I termed our home education venture 13 years ago!

Perhaps the hardest room for the author to describe is the master bedroom. The room where a couple watched their daughter die and held her in their arms for the very last time. It is in this chapter about a room for intimacy where a father shares his most intimate thoughts about his daughter's death and the aftermath. A significant room - you do not have to lose a child to realize the truth in his observation, that the very room where we create a family can be the very place where that family is undone. The raw and honest revelations will find you asking yourself 'How did this marriage survive? There are no neat or easy answers or principles to apply, this is not a survival manual for marriage but as those who have been reconciled can testify 'where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.' Grace is what saved their home - God's amazing grace which seeped into their lives and was evident in the faces of their children and a wife who deserves to be called most gracious. It is beautiful, restorative and healing grace and it is seen and experienced in the home - a place 'Somewhere More Holy.'

For every moment of shade in the story there is light. As I came to the closing chapters, I knew I had just read a very special book. A book about family and the importance God places upon the home, a book that offered hope for those in despair. And it is for this reason, I had to review this book at my blog. I do not know who it is for or who will be encouraged after reading this book but someone will. For me personally, it is still the writing on pages 30-31 that has impacted me most. Here are some of my favourite quotes from these pages, a very short sample of the writing that will delight your soul if you choose to read this book for yourself.

'We forgot that home was meant to be a sacred place because we were meant to be sacred.'

'Yes, we can go to churches and temples to seek Him out, but I wonder sometimes if our homes are not just as sacred as these buildings.'

'If God is not in such a place (the home), in the muck of our daily existence, in our beginnings and endings then He is nowhere.'

' We used to understand that home is sacred ground and a place of sanctification. We understood that it is where the sacred and mundane meet, which is to say, where the hand of God touches the broken heart of man. We used to know these things, and so we laboured and we bled to build our homes, and to protect them.'

- Tony Woodlief

If you have read this book or purchase it after reading this review, I would love to hear how it helped you. Your testimony may be a blessing to others. I must add that this is my own personal review and I was not asked to review it on behalf of any publisher or seller. For those in Australia it is available through Koorong.

With Love and Joy,


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