Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas Letter 2018

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you enjoyed a merry Christmas with your loved ones. Today, December 26th, I’m finally stealing time from children, chores, and ministry to reflect on 2018.

For our own family and for some of our relatives, there was loss and grief. My husband’s father passed away in January. He was 95 and lived a life that was hard, grief-filled, but faithful to the God he met as a young man. He suffered mental illness but despite that, I heard him quote a line from Scripture he obviously took to heart. Philippians 4:11 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” His wife died 44 years ago, and their first child, a baby daughter, died at 8 months old. His mother and sister suffered mental illness and he lost them to a mental institution a very long time ago, so his was a lonely life. Though he was not a perfect father, he did his best with the tools a broken world handed him; he improved on the previous generation, securing for my husband and his sister more stability and faith, and even more love, than he had in his own youth. In death he left behind my husband and our children, my husband's sister and her son.

My aunt E, my dad’s sister, lost her husband, D, 76, in September, after 58 years of marriage. My aunt Dorothy, my mom’s sister, lost her husband, R, in later fall, at age 83, after 63 years of marriage. Both men had large families and their lives touched many; both suffered painful deaths from cancer and fought courageously, thinking of the families they were leaving, and the legacies they wanted to bless them with. Their long marriages, their faithfulness to their children and families spoke volumes to the present and coming generations. Please pray for my aunts as they grieve and find strength for new routines, new inspirations. Incidentally, they are good friends, having met in the early 90’s because their mothers were roommates in the same nursing home. Their mothers died a couple days apart, and their husbands two months apart--once again, they are a comfort to each other.

My husband and the kids took trips twice to Pennsylvania to see his Aunt D and Uncle B and Cousin Shawna and her family, meeting up with his sister also, and staying with good friends Jim and his wife in Allentown, PA. A great time was had by all. Peter has struggled psychologically for most of the year and I needed a break from that, so I stayed behind to deal with home repairs and homeschooling paperwork. Peter started a new, safe medicine last month which is for bipolar (though he may or may not have that). The med has been a game changer and an answer to prayer. He still has bad days, just fewer of them.

My house full of children is changing. All are in adolescence and becoming their own people; my job is now about guiding while staying out of God’s way, as he molds them into who He wants them to be, and as He prepares them for the work he has for them. Our church’s high school youth group is offering the teens a week-long mission trip to Costa Rica, encompassing a few hours of morning construction work, followed by running a daily Vacation Bible School for an inner-city church. The emphasis is on the teens running it all, not merely helping the adults. It’s about learning to be leaders, as well as expressing God’s love and mercy.

Imagine the flags that went off in our parental heads at the mention of a Central American country, though Costa Rica is not one of the most dangerous. The mission organization employs armed guards to protect the teens while they work, but nevertheless as a mother I fought hard to come to yes regarding this trip. Something Peter said finally decided it; while I was Googling San Jose, Costa Rica for as much information as I could gather, he commented, “Well, those kids have to live there, so it has to be safe enough for us to visit.” Oh. I can’t tell you how those words hit me. Immediately, I imagined another Christian mother, sitting in Costa Rica, praying. If God saw fit for another mother’s children to live in those conditions, and for her to pray with faith every day for His protection and blessing, I could certainly go out of my comfort zone to share my children’s love and talents, and my prayers, with that faithful mother and her children. I tell other people and my children how big of a God we serve--how powerful and faithful he is--all the time. So how could I say no to an opportunity for God to demonstrate that power in a tangible way? God willing, they are both going.

The drug lords are winning in Central America, corrupting the politicians, the police, crippling the countries, causing significant migration. I know it’s only God’s power that can eclipse the evil. Addiction and trafficking threaten to steal our worth. The message of both is that we are worthless--God’s message is that we are priceless. Our Creator gives us our worth. He, who knit us in the womb and knew us before we were born. He, who thought we were so priceless and beautiful He was willing to give it all for us. I want my children to be part of His message of love and worth. Some problems require a spiritual lead first, not a political one. Without the one, the other will fail.

There were changes in ministry this year. I helped in middle school AWANA for three years, and while that wasn’t my area of giftedness, I did learn to love those kids, after discovering you need to connect one on one. In their mob, they’re less than pleasant, but the true person comes through when you get them away from their peers. 

After the AWANA year closed in May, I asked the AWANA commander for younger kids, and ended up taking a co-director position for the 3rd-5th grade AWANA club in Sept. It was a more ambitious position than I really had time for (the other co-director is burned-out after many decades of ministry), but I didn’t want another year in middle school. I teach most weeks and send out weekly newsletters to parents and volunteers, work individually with kids, and plan reviews. It’s a bit like a part-time job and the books we use change every year for a three-year cycle. But it’s so fulfilling! The kids look up at you with eager faces and hearts, hungry for the teachings of God. Beth is in my club, Mary is in the middle school club, Paul is a verse leader/occasional teacher in my club, and Peter is in his third year as a leader in the preschool club. He loves it. Paul and I both think the 3rd-5th kids are such a blessing. I hope we pour as much love into them as they pour into us.

There have been changes with our Compassion International children; we now have two--one young girl in Uganda and a teen boy in Columbia. We used to have more, but a few moved into areas that Compassion doesn’t serve, one moved out of the program because her family was doing better, and one, sadly, (our first-ever Compassion child, Divya) became a victim of India’s new leader, Modi, who cracked down on Christian ministry in India. In March 2017, Compassion International was forced to pull out of India entirely after 48 years, closing 589 Child Development Centers serving 145,000 of the country’s poorest children. India has since moved to number 11 on the Open Doors World Watch List (annual list of top 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus). In 2017 they were number 15 on the list, and in 2018 they moved to number 11, so it’s very alarming. 

It used to be that outside of North Korea--number 1 on the list for 18 years--that the worst areas for persecution and violence against Christians, and particularly Christian women, were Islamist extremist areas, but now Hindu/ethnic extremists, like Modi, are also a major problem. Please pray for Divya and her family, who we and Compassion no longer have any contact with. She has our personally-written letters, which all Compassion children treat like gold because of the hope and love they contain. She participated not only in vocational, health, and tutoring classes, but in Bible studies before Compassion shut down. Her personal letters to us indicated a relationship with God. Whatever they might do, they can’t take Him.

Now for the kids here at home. Mary is a soulful, passionate child and music is her spiritual language. She loves a lot of Christian music, but the Australian-American band For King and Country produces great content that she adores--and they’re not too bad on the eyes to a 12-year-old girl, either. They sing, do lots of concerts (not near us this year), write their own music, do music videos, and the song/book/movie Priceless, about trafficked women. She hasn’t seen the movie due to mature/emotional content, but when she’s older she will. It’s outstanding. She likes to hear the stories behind every song they’ve written. Each story is compelling. I hope her love for music will inspire her to manage her storm phobia, which is still a very serious problem in her life. Overcoming fear is a common theme in Christian music.

Mary also loves to read--I can’t keep enough literature in the house for her! Missionary stories are favorites, as well as adventure novels with inspiring, courageous characters. She still reads a lot of historical literature as part of our curriculum, too. She loves the power of story and I believe someday she’ll harness the power of story to charge hearts and lives. I bought her Katie Davis Major's two books for Christmas, which are really impacting her (Kisses for Katie, and Daring to Hope).

She loves fishing, and card and board games with her siblings. She loves her middle school church class and gets along well with boys, since her two brothers were her first companions. She usually has one girl she likes in each class. If you asked her what she wants to do with her life, she’d probably say, “Go on adventures.” She has prayed about becoming a missionary to China or another land. More recently China is cracking down on the underground house-churches, which have been very successful in growing a very large Christian population.

Paul is 15 and a hardworking student, blessed to have many things come easily to him. He excels at writing--essays, narrative and expository, and occasionally poetry, while still finding math second nature. He wavers between career choices, sometimes wondering about journalism, or being a pollster or statistician, or an engineer. He enjoys politics in a Carl Rove way, but he doesn’t engage in an emotional way. He read a large volume of articles and checked the stats every day of the midterm election season and could tell you who was running in each toss-up state for what race and what their chances were, and what scandals were brewing. He gauged the day to day chances of a Senate or House takeover and would tell me all about it; I majored in political science and, thankfully, although I never used the degree, I never lost interest. 

As a teacher does, I considered that a future president or other major leader might be in my class, so I shared bits of wisdom to shape the journey forward. Mainly, that politics shouldn’t be taken over by a we’re right/they’re wrong dynamic, but be a civic practice aimed at achieving balance in our republic, with the respective branches of government staying true to their charters. I told my future voters to read every quote from candidates before voting, looking for the one who serves God--not a faith borrowed in time for the election, but a true faith, because a leader needs strength most of all, and true strength doesn’t come from man, but from God. Man’s strength is borrowed, begged, or stolen, and always withers with enough pressure, but God’s strength is bestowed and then managed by God. And then, look for humility, because with that comes gratitude, and together they’re the foundation for a lot of other virtues. Also, that in the political process there is no room for bitterness, because ultimately, God is sovereign, and he gives and takes away power from man for purposes not known to us.

Paul still enjoys chess, gardening, baking, cooking, board games and card games with his sisters, going to local college football and basketball games with his dad and sometimes his brother, going to high school youth group, playing Christmas Carols and a few other songs on the piano, practicing basketball outside with a friend or his brother, but more often making baskets by himself to blow off steam. Paul is the quickest to offer help and sympathy when my day has been difficult; in short, he’s a giver, while still being able to compartmentalize stress and get necessary things done. He relies on the Lord for strength and hope.

Peter will be 17 in a couple weeks. He enjoys nature, many types of Christian music, fishing, and chess. His favorite school subject is history. In fact, he’s always detailing for me what he’s reading in history, expressing amazement at something from the past. He says he was born in the wrong era, except for the advancement of antibiotics and the abolishment of slavery (though we still have trafficking, he knows). A gentler time, when people honored God more, is his desire. His is a tender, very old soul.

Peter is unsure what he wants to be. Missionary work fits his gifting, as demonstrated by his work with his friends and at church, and he hasn’t given up on that idea, but his OCD obsessions obscure his real desires and he hasn’t taken control of his illness. I can’t help him beyond praying for him (we’ve done therapy). It’s harder for him to concentrate on his studies due to obsessions, but he’s a capable student and could do well in college, otherwise. Right now, he’s considering vocational work, which keeps his mind clearer. Entering a vocational high school might be a good idea for him next fall, so he can be employable right out of high school, while he matures and hopefully finds the inspiration to take control of his illness. Your prayers for him would be appreciated. Mental illness is heartbreaking and takes acceptance of/responsibility for the burden first, and then courage for the way forward.

Beth just turned 10 and had a rough year with her arthritis. She was doing so well in February that her doctor gradually took away one medicine at a time to see if she had grown out of her autoimmune disease (JIA). In June, the disease came back worse than before. She’s on three immunosuppressants right now. We’ll drop the prednisone in about five weeks, but the Orencia and methotrexate she’ll be on indefinitely.

Beth, like Paul, works very hard in school. She’s serious, but tenderhearted, always ready with a smile and hug. She loves writing and is always working on a story. The sentences come together naturally for her and she’s a good storyteller, even researching her settings online. She dreams of seeing her name on the cover of a book someday. She loves reading as well. It gets stressful around here, and Beth’s escape is to go outside, enjoying fresh air and God’s creation, which is a reminder of His presence and love. She loves studying different animals and learning about conservation, and enjoys hiking with Daddy in the summer, while the other children fish.

My husband and I will reach 20 years of marriage next July. We got married July 3, which means we almost always forget our anniversary. I will try to dissuade my children from getting married near a national holiday! The days have been long, but the years have passed by so quickly. I’m excited for my kids because they’re excited about becoming adults, but there are tears, too, when I remember all the little-kid times that have passed away. My husband, for his part, just wants his wife back. He’s still at his same two jobs working 55-60 hours and he keeps very busy as a father, taking the children individually on outings to speak love and value into their hearts. He’s a keeper! We are both growing old and not finding it easy, but God’s loving message of our worth helps, especially in our youth-obsessed culture. May God’s strength and blessing be with you all in 2019. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reflection Time: 364 Days

A new year is more than just another holiday--it's a new beginning too, a fresh start, even for those resistant to self-reflection. Can you really put 365 days behind you without some meditation on the trials and triumphs experienced?

What purpose did God have for them, we have to wonder? Did I drift farther away from Him, or grow closer?

Sometimes it's so messy, complicated, hard.

We put it off and convince ourselves it's just cliche anyway.

I don't want to, but I think the Holy Spirit is forcing me.

I lost my voice a year ago. Nothing seemed appropriate to say here; I knew what ailed me, but I was ashamed to admit it.

Discouragement had taken root and I couldn't put one foot in front of the other anymore to rid my heart of it. I still did devotions with my family, and still read my Bible, but I didn't work on my discouragement through writing, which is what always worked for me. Writing is a hard process whereby I would only start with an idea and the Holy Spirit would then take over, and by the end, I felt lighter, more at peace with the Lord and with my walk and with my circumstances.

Unsaved family can't be a support because they can't understand my choices or circumstances, and my husband already has enough on his plate with a 55-hour workweek and the mental disorders our kids face. Any personal discouragement was always something I had to deal with on my own with the Lord alone--and anonymously, I suppose, with anyone reading here (but really, the words were for the Lord).

Part of the reason, too, that I stopped writing was this: I felt like I'd written the same types of things over and over and how many times could I keep repeating them ad nauseum?

My answer today is: As many times as my heart needs them!

I commune with the Holy Spirit much more efficiently through writing than through prayer. This year confirmed that. Writing is my authentic personal prayer, I suppose, minus the supplications.

Remember that prayer is the Holy Spirit communing with our spirit? It's not just us telling God what we want. The Holy Spirit does much of the work involved--although we think all the work comes from us.

Have you ever noticed that the hardest part of prayer is starting the first word?

After that He is sitting right there with us, happy we chose to spend the time (or that is what I imagine). Each word after the first flows better and better.

The chromebook died in March and that made it more difficult to even think about writing. The PC is used for four children to complete math and spelling, and the two boys to complete Spanish and writing. Soon, though, we get another one and I can write at night again. For now, I can write on the weekends.

Isaiah 40:30
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Happy New Year! May you grow ever closer to Him, reflecting this weekend on what might be standing in your way in 2018.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas Letter 2017

Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We hope 2017 brought abundant blesses, new friends and more love into your lives.

We’ve had blessings and challenges in another whirlwind parenting year. Having four kids was a real physical challenge 9 years ago when Beth was born; I had four kids ages 7 and under. I’m not sure which is more challenging—that phase or having two teens and two tweens and being emotionally wrecked. Someone once told me you don’t get any more sleep when they’re older because they need to talk…a lot. We have some of those heart to hearts during the school day, thankfully, but yeah--parenting isn’t for sleep lovers.

Peter turns 16 January 11th; Paul is 14; Mary is 11; Beth is 9. I’ll fill you in on what we’ve been doing collectively and then tell you a little about each child. Homeschooling eats up traveling money, but this year we did, with husband’s sister’s help, make it over to Lemar, Pennsylvania for the 4th of July to see my husband’s aunt and uncle, with his sister meeting us there. Adding our four to their cousin's grandkids, there were eight children in all, making it a blast getting reacquainted with my husband's family. We’re praying we can take the drive more often. Aunt Dot took us to see her delightful Amish friends, where a large litter of puppies and kittens greeted us. Every child’s dream! Peter and I talked farming with the homesteader while Mary and Paul took pictures of the animals, later entering them in a library photo contest and winning $75 between them, with Mary taking the first prize!

We’ve continued with the AWANA program this year, which runs from September until early May. Peter is in his second year of helping in the preschool class, and Miss Jill, the teacher, loves him. He’s gaining valuable experience in how to control a group of squirrelly kids by staying a few steps ahead of them, and he delights in the funny things they say and do. Peter has always appreciated children—it’s an unmistakable love that comes from a person’s core and causes the spirit to lighten whenever children are near.

Paul is in his last year of the AWANA Trek club (grades 6-8); Mary is in her last year of the Truth and Training club (grades 3-5), and Beth is in her first year of Truth and Training. I help with the middle schoolers, which uniquely connects me to what kids are going through in the public schools as the kids share their prayer requests and their trials and triumphs. I still love working with kids of any age really. This experience, though, helps confirm that homeschooling is still the right choice for each of our children going forward, although for a time we were considering putting Peter in a career vocational high school for his last two years, partially because his OCD gives him so little peace and working helps with that. We’ve all decided against that approach, however.

All four children work with me as door greeters at church, which is part of a push to have whole families serving together as much as possible; my husband works the information booth between services. The elderly people especially enjoy my girls opening the door for them, and will ask where they are when it’s the boys’ turn. If you have a picture in your mind of my girls standing there like model citizens, smiles awaiting, erase that picture. Beth twirls around like a graceful ballerina and Mary looks for bugs in the flowerbeds while they wait for people to arrive. I often have to cue them that someone is coming. Sometimes the overly heavy door gets in the way of remembering to smile, but still, they charm the socks off the cheerful people. And the grumpy people? After six months of door greeting and seeing the same families/people continually, I’ve decided that grumpy people probably don’t know another way to live. They’re the people who harbor irritation over the whole concept of door greeting.

Who knew how telling this job would be! The most joy-filled people who come through my door? They’re the kids and parents of kids ages birth through 12 years…and the more kids in the family the happier they are. Society sells lies about kids—they’re too expensive, they’ll make you slaves, you’ll lose your identity, you’ll have no retirement—and for the first time ever, Americans are having less than 2 children per family. That’s a lot less joy all around. According to statistics, I predict that quality of life and health will suffer in the long term.

This school year has the boys immersed in Spanish 1, Classical Literature and Composition, History of the Christian Church/Medieval History, Geometry/Algebra II (Paul), Algebra I/Geo (Peter), Biology with Lab, Career & College Readiness. In high school my lab partner (who I might have had a crush on) did most of the dissecting and this year my husband (who after eighteen years I sometimes still crush on) will be supervising the dissecting. Our literature class, always my favorite, encompasses some poetry, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, The Merry Adventures of Robinhood, a biography of Pontius Pilate, Pilgrim’s Progress in Today’s English, Robinson Crusoe, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Twelfth Night, The Screwtape Letters, and ten other less famous works.

The girls, also taught together, are finishing a long (2.5 years) study of American history. In March they’ll begin a yearlong study on Eastern Hemisphere literature and history, followed by two years of world history.

Last Spring we used Wednesdays for a Homeschool Co-op, but in the teen years mental illnesses often worsen. This fall we declined Co-op to concentrate on seeing a counselor for Peter’s OCD, ADHD, and new disorder developed in March, called Trichotillomania, which is a subset of OCD (a hair pulling disorder). By June, Peter didn’t have many eyebrows left and was pulling out his eyelashes and through the summer was working on small bald spots in his head. Mary’s had a storm phobia for a number of years and this year, instead of improving, it worsened. She started seeing a counselor in August, and Peter in September, after being on a waiting list for a few months.

When we found these two counselors, I thought things would improve for us. Maybe Peter’s counselor could at least help with ADHD life coaching and the hair pulling, I surmised (OCD therapists are $100+ an hour). I’d become stressed and worried about so many things, including suicide because anxiety is extremely draining and kids don’t tolerate it as well as adults, which our culture doesn’t understand; I knew I had to keep a very close eye on them. Mary’s counselor, although pleasant, planned things that were more appropriate for a younger child. Mary didn’t improve and claims she got nothing out of it.

And Peter? I sat in on those meetings per the counselor’s request. I got an upfront view of the process, which was not the case with Mary. The counselor ending up knowing less than I did about some of Peter’s issues and had nothing to add, other than to ask Peter each week what worked when he experienced this or that symptom. He then wrote the things Peter narrated on a notecard and sent it home with Peter. He didn’t teach. As an educator, that irritated me. If you really want to help people with emotional disorders, you want to teach them about the mind, don’t you? How is your mind tricking you? What must you do to counter it so you can go on with your life?

Now, Peter still does therapy, but at home with me and Mary and Paul. They’re learning that anxiety is nothing more than your brain telling you lies. And their job? To practice catching the lies and replacing them with truth.

I watch them closely and no one is ever left home alone, but I’m learning to give them over to the Lord, knowing he has every hour of their lives planned according to his purposes, and that I can’t save anyone. The best parental move is not healing your own children, but introducing them to the Healer. We replace the lies in the brain with His truth…that he loves us with a perfect love, that we are worthy because he gave us our worth, that he is mighty to save, that he doesn’t make mistakes, that he is working all things according to the good of those who love him. I can see the peace in my children now after one of our counseling sessions, which marry Christian counseling with what man has learned about the mind. Biblical counseling sites provide storehouses of valuable materials for free online. While I provide sound advice for their souls and minds, it’s still up to them to make choices for themselves going forward. Ultimately, for my own peace, I have to remove myself from their choices and keep on praying. Wellness from emotional disorders is always a choice—it’s a daily choice, a fighting choice, but still a choice. Anxiety takes many victims and I choose hope. I have warned them of the pitfalls—that people will tell you, take this or that to relax--that America has an addiction crisis primarily because of untreated anxiety and don’t ever say yes to artificial relaxation. Go to the Prince of Peace.

Beth, at 9, is very loving and affectionate. Just this morning she declared she’ll be a librarian or a teacher. While skilled at writing, she says it’s not her favorite. She enjoys dancing, reading, drawing, stuffed animals, swinging at parks, hiking, talking to her friend Isabelle on the phone, and playing make believe with her sister, who only sometimes obliges now that she’s eleven. What stands out about Beth every morning is that she starts school immediately, even before breakfast, and stays focused until she’s done. I asked for a new rheumatologist for her several months ago—a young doctor from Turkey who is fabulous. Previously on three drugs for her rheumatoid arthritis, she is now on only one (Orencia administered via IV once a month) and so far, there are no problems associated with dropping the other two. She requested a guinea pig for Christmas and Daddy compromised with a hamster, who will be joining our family shortly—one just like her sister’s long-haired Syrian hamster.

Mary, at 11, became a real bookworm this year. She enjoys reading, hiking, inventing new things using motors from discarded toys (pleads with Daddy to take her to the junkyard for raw materials for her inventions), and caring for her hamster. Fishing has become a real summer highlight for her! The children go fishing with Daddy (who hates fishing but likes birding) nearly every weekend in late spring through the fall. Sometimes Paul stays with me, but often he goes fishing; Mary always catches the most fish. Mary’s an able athlete and fierce competitor in sports and in board games with her siblings. The boys are heavily into chess and she goes to a chess club with them once a month, just starting to improve her game.

Mary’s greatest storm fear is that the roof will blow off the house and she’ll die. Every bad storm or threat of a storm is like the last day of her life; it’s a huge weight to carry and distraction is all that works at the present time. The hardest thing is if I’m on a grocery run and a storm brews up, my husband calls me to calm down what looks like a panic attack starting in her. The breathing exercises work, but she needs to learn to do them solo; Peter is good at working with her if we’re driving and a storm brews.

Paul loves chess, attending and following our local university's basketball and football games with his dad (who often gets free tickets), playing basketball in the driveway, attending youth group and AWANA, math, cooking and baking, playing Christmas songs on the piano (for fun; he doesn’t take lessons), and somehow he enjoys taking practice SAT tests wherever he can find them. He wants to do something with engineering someday. Paul and I are partners in trying to stay sane around here; he encourages my heart and always has something nice to say, even though he has struggles of his own. I’m careful to remind Paul that God’s got my back. It’s easy to feel like a huge failure when you have kids with mental disorders. I have to drown out a lot of noise to hear the truth…that God loves me, that I am not a failure as a mother, that God has a purpose for our struggles, a purpose bigger than we are, a purpose that will bring Him glory and our hearts closer to Him.

I think of Martin Luther, Father of the Reformation, who suffered from OCD, Bipolar Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder, none of which God healed. No one knew about OCD (he had the same type as Peter) or Bipolar in the 1500’s (Luther was accused of a lot of things due to his peculiar behaviors). God used him mightily, flawed, sinful man that he was. He was no hero, just God’s instrument. The OCD that tortured him from an early age? It was the catalyst for his rebellion against a saved-by-works heresy, against indulgences and a rich Church that used poor believers mercilessly. The big picture was that God wanted the Bible in every home and Luther was the man he chose to do it—though it was the Church’s greatest fear: that the common people would know Truth. The Bible, which Luther took ten years to translate into the common language, then became the catalyst for literacy. God loves us perfectly, scandalously, yes, but we exist for his glory and that’s a hard concept when you just want your healing prayers answered so you can live comfortably. Living joyfully as God’s instrument is a desire the Holy Spirit grows in us over time.

Peter loves fishing and chess equally—one to occupy summer and the other, winter. He enjoys fixing things and career assessments point to technician, or agricultural worker, etc. He’s had his own lawn-mowing business since age 13, now working with five neighbors. He keeps a used lawn mower going, ordering and paying for his own parts. Farming is something he keeps coming back to in terms of career, but it’s hard to say what he’ll choose. Ohio State offers two-year agricultural degrees, which is a current goal, with the aim of working toward owning his own farm.

I've been absent a long time from this blog, and I haven't read any blogs, but I've thought of you and I've wanted to get back here. I just lost my voice, so to speak. I wish you and your family a blessed 2018! 

Merry Christmas!

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Persevering Mom

My girls went to a birthday party last night. It was held in a tiny starter church and the theme was Finding Dory, which they showed on a "big screen" (aka the screen for worship music lyrics). They asked the girls to dress in pajamas and bring sleeping bags and teddy bears. Oh the excitement!

Party hours were 4 PM to 7 PM, during which pizza, cake, ice cream and a snack table were available. Apparently, Mary had some of each because at exactly one in the morning she vomited big time and it was 2:30 before I got to sleep.

The sick ones always sleep in the king bed with me just in case they need assistance again in the middle of the night. I didn't know if this was a virus or a junk food hangover. Hubby set an alarm and slept elsewhere, waking us up at 6:50 as he got ready for church and spoke loudly in the hallway with Paul about the awesome Penn State football game.

Imagine my irritation.

I feel like a zombie and have to clean the house ahead of the daycare week, wash a bunch of linen plus the regular daily loads, and you're waking me and our sick daughter up because of football?

I got up, helped everyone but Mary get ready for church and later got the computer set up to listen to the live sermon broadcast. We watched that, while I observed to see if Mary could hold down sips of water.

The whole time I'm feeling like I'd just studied all night long for an 8 AM final exam. They don't tell you in college that much of your first 18 years parenting a child will mimic that feeling, except for a few summer months when viruses slow down.

Of course it isn't just the viruses. You'll stand in the kitchen and by the washer and dryer for much of the next 18 years, come rain or shine, sickness and in health, especially if you homeschool. The floor will need sweeping and the carpet a vacuuming when you're not by the washer, dryer, dishwasher or stove.

Relentless is the only word that covers it and yet moms don't quit. We persevere with some super human strength I am grateful for, but will never understand. Even us older moms. Even grandmas who are moms to their grandchildren. If we're bedridden, we find a way to mother and delegate from the bed.

Sometimes while sweeping the same floor hours later we feel like Cinderella, who works herself to exhaustion while the evil stepmother and stepsisters live active lives, well-rested and vibrant, always looking forward to something. Other people live life, it seems, while we enable their pursuits. We give things up day after day. The feeling of being passed by, of being unimportant, can be so strong sometimes.

Our Heavenly Father sees us and is well pleased. We work for Him and he says this is good work and I bank my life on that. The servant is blessed in the kingdom of God. The last shall be first. All the more reason to press on without complaining, rejoicing in the growth and beauty in our children's hearts and minds. Sometimes when they're being selfish it seems like we're going backwards, but persevere and trust. Together with the Lord, we're not just cleaning messes, but building a legacy.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Crucial Situation for Compassion in India

They asked us not to mention this on social media for most of this year, but now that negotiations have failed, I can share that Compassion International's program in India is in jeopardy, affecting our long-time correspondent child, Divya, now age 13 and vulnerable as a teen in her society. Compassion now encourages sponsors to share the situation with friends on social media, asking friends to do the same.

Leadership changed in India early in the year, giving the government more control over which charity groups can work in the country. They put a block on Compassion's funds many months ago, but some Compassion Development Centers were able to keep operating until now.

Personally I can say if we lose contact with Divya, it will be devastating for us, as well as for her family of four. We have written her since she was eight years old and she feels like part of our family.

On Dec. 6, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hear testimony from Compassion about the situation with the Indian government. Please use the link below and five minutes of your time to write your local congressperson. The letter is written for you and putting in your zip code, electronically signing, and hitting submit sends the letter to your local congressperson. You can change the wording if you don't sponsor a child in India by just deleting a sentence about that and writing that you are concerned about Compassion's predicament in India. 130,000 of India's poorest children will be affected if Compassion has to shut down services in a country they have helped for decades under many different Indian governments. The statement and links below were penned by Compassion:

Today I will be short and to the point. I need your help. Compassion needs your help. Children in India and their families need your help.

To get the background on why we need your help, please read this post from the Compassion Blog.

Here's a quick snippet from that post,

" of today, many of our remaining partners in India have run out of funds entirely and don't have the benefit of our financial support and resources for their ongoing child development efforts.

We have been working closely with the Indian and U.S. governments and have respectfully complied with all requests from the Indian government. Additionally, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on our behalf with a key official in India. However, the restriction on our funds remains in place.

If a resolution is not reached soon, we will no longer be able to fund the child development centers operating in India. The ripple effect would not only impact the lives of more than 130,000 babies, children and young adults but also the lives of their family members and their communities."

There are two ways that we are asking people to take action.
Contact your Congressperson
Raise awareness on social media

Will you take five minutes out of your day to contact your representative and ask friends and family to do the same? On Dec. 6, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hear testimony from Compassion about the situation with the Indian government so the timing of this is urgent.

Lastly, when you share about this situation, we are asking everyone to please be sensitive to all parties. Any questions about what to say or not say, do not hesitate to email me or ask in our Facebook group.

As always, thank you for acting on behalf of children in poverty!