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!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Food Pantries and America's Poor

I've participated in canned food drives since my childhood, but it's only in the past year my eyes have been opened regarding food-insecure households. There's a better way to help then donating expired or nearly-expired cans--the undesirables from your pantry.

Before I give recommendations, let me explain what a "food pantry" is. It's an inspiring story worth reading.

John Arnold van Hengel (1923-2005) is the “Father of Food Banking.” In 1967 van Hengel, a grass roots activist and entrepreneur, founded the world’s first food bank in Phoenix, Arizona. His efforts were blessed, as you will read in the following history, from Feeding America's website:

"For 35 years, Feeding America has responded to the hunger crisis in America by providing food to people in need through a nationwide network of food banks.

The concept of food banking was developed by John van Hengel in Phoenix, AZ in the late 1960s. Van Hengel, a retired businessman, had been volunteering at a soup kitchen trying to find food to serve the hungry. One day, he met a desperate mother who regularly rummaged through grocery store garbage bins to find food for her children. She suggested that there should be a place where, instead of being thrown out, discarded food could be stored for people to pick up—similar to the way “banks” store money for future use. With that, an industry was born.

Van Hengel established St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, AZ as the nation’s first food bank. In its initial year, van Hengel and his team of volunteers distributed 275,000 pounds of food to people in need. Word of the food bank’s success quickly spread, and states began to take note. By 1977, food banks had been established in 18 cities across the country.

As the number of food banks began to increase, van Hengel created a national organization for food banks and in 1979 he established Second Harvest, which was later called America’s Second Harvest the Nation’s Food Bank Network. In 2008, the network changed its name to Feeding America to better reflect the mission of the organization.

Today, Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization—a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country. As food insecurity rates hold steady at the highest levels ever, the Feeding America network of food banks has risen to meet the need. We feed 46 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. Learn more about how we get food to people in need in our "How We Work" section. Support Feeding America and help solve hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate.

It's far more efficient and sustainable for private citizens like Van Hengel to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, than for our government to do so. Millions of single mothers would be hard pressed without the nation's food stamp program, but if we--especially Christians--could innovate a way to help needy families through a non-profit organization, the country would be stronger both spiritually and financially. Families could be holistically assisted using a model similar to the highly successful programs Compassion International runs.

Mental health issues, for example, are common among the poor and without donated medical services many are never helped. The nation's Medicaid program is a blessing but very few doctors and dentists and therapists take the insurance, and eye glasses are not covered, leaving many children suffering poor vision through their school years. (FYI: Walmart Vision Centers allow you to donate discarded eye glasses).

A better medical solution would be a non-profit organization of doctors who donate a day per week or month seeing needy patients for free. Understandably, younger doctors are paying back hefty student loans, but older, established, or retired doctors would be ideal for such a program.

With innovation and dedication wealth can be shared voluntarily, blessing both the givers and receivers. Tax-payers are not blessed to give, correct?

Over the past year we've needed to visit our local food pantry several times, so I'm very grateful for Mr. Van Hengel's dedication and innovation. All it takes for some payday-to-payday families to become food-insecure is a major car repair or paying for those eye glasses Johnny broke in the latest bike crash or wrestling match. Sometimes, it's simply that essential toiletries or replacement clothes compete for food money. Every fiscal month has enough trouble of its own.

Local businesses, such as Starbucks and Panera, use Feeding American to distribute food they would otherwise throw away. A visit to many local food pantries includes fresh, delicious Panera bread--from a restaurant the poor could never frequent. 

Meats nearing their sell-by date are discounted by grocery stores, and if they still aren't sold, they are frozen and distributed to the nearest Food Bank (one of 200 across the country). Each food bank serves many surrounding areas, distributing the bounty as needed.

We've received quality food mixed with some clearly rotten food--things that would have sickened us, if we dared eat them. Nevertheless, my children never had to really wonder if there's something for dinner. There was always something I could throw together, thanks to the food pantry.

So, how can you help? Give money to Feeding America, not food, when you can. For every $1 donated, 11 meals can be distributed (including soup kitchens) because Feeding America has amazing buying power. They make your ten dollars stretch far further by working with off-brand food companies and local farmers, allowing needy families to receive fresher foods that don't make them feel worthless and discarded. Believe me, expired food cans given as gifts make the receivers feel crushed. Their thin clinging to hope is dashed when they're given the message they already suspected...that they don't matter.

If you're spearheading a donation effort ask for money or staples like peanut butter, jelly, tuna, dried or canned beans, oil, condiments, and other alternative protein sources, etc. Needy families have to make meat stretch so they can always use alternate protein sources. Toiletries are expensive and always needed too.

The actual money you spent on that generic peanut butter at Walmart would go further than the one jar of peanut butter, however. This is crucial to share with the people you are soliciting help from.

Another blessing would be to donate your time toward cooking classes through your local food pantry so families can learn how to use bagged dry beans and rice to maximize their nutrition. Sometimes they're given donated meats they may not choose to buy themselves, or know how to prepare, such as chicken sausage or roasts. 

Whatever you do, don't forget your local food pantry this holiday season. You may even be able to sponsor a local child for Christmas through your pantry. Food pantries do more than just provide food, depending on who is running the local efforts. When we visited the local pantry in October after a $200 essential car repair, they asked each of our children what they wanted for Christmas. Local people in our community pick ages and genders to help bless with new merchandise. The giving is anonymous so children are not embarrassed by anyone personally knowing their situation. Anonymous giving is a unique blessing because accepting help is excruciatingly hard, and yet parents have to make practical decisions that bless their children, rather than constantly working to preserve their own pride. Love is like that sometimes.

Local people helping local people is the best model for spreading the love of Christ. Needy people fit in with the crowd pretty well, often wearing decent, even designer clothes from local thrift stores. You can go to church with or stand behind a food-insecure family in your community and not even know it.

And if you are aware, don't begrudge them that Netflix subscription, okay? Books and cheap movies at home are often the only entertainment low-income people have. Everyone needs to be distracted from their problems for a time. Vehicle gas always has to be figured into entertainment costs, too, and internet service?  It's essential for keeping on top of job offerings.

The reasons people become food insecure vary wildly, but underemployment is common. Some, like me, are desperately clinging to an ideal--that of raising and pouring heart and mind into my own children so they can be lights to the world--valuable, capable even, for a hurting world desperate for sustainable solutions to both spiritual and practical problems. 

My reasons for accepting help (and not working) will undoubtedly be judged, but my heart is and has always been soft for children--my own first, and then all others. Someone has got to pour into the nation's children. Jesus is our first and eternal hope. Children are our second hope, but their spiritual and emotional needs are often put last in our culture. Sometimes well-meaning parents pour into their kids financially, forgetting that a child's spiritual and emotional needs are easily crowded out because kids can't always tell us where their lives are lacking. A supportive extended family helps safeguard many children, but not all children have that.

"Children are resilient", people like to quote.

Not so much, really. 

Proverbs 22:9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”