Thursday, March 31, 2011

making disciples v. impressing the world

Evangelism is not one of my gifts.  Opportunities seldom present themselves, but when a small window does open, I find myself tongue-tied. I'm not a talker; I write.

While a new Christian I made a mess of evangelizing my best friend and my family members.  It wasn't a fire and brimstone message, exactly; I don't remember what I said those fourteen years ago.  I just know it flopped.

April, my friend--neutral to religion--quickly forgave me.  Family members decidedly hostile to the Christian faith didn't disown me, but neither did they ever trust me again, or understand me.  The more I've embraced Christ the more brainwashed they've supposed me to be.  After all, who incurs $26,000 in debt to become a teacher, only to give it all up and live in poverty, married to a janitor.  Only a simpleton--and a brainwashed one at that. Poverty is the ultimate failure, the ultimate humiliation, to many non-Christians who've experienced it in childhood.  My family came from poverty.  To say they were eager to distance themselves from it is an understatement.  I can understand their feelings to an extent, by trying to imagine myself in their shoes.

I explained to family those twelve years ago, why I was marrying my betrothed.  I married him solely for his commitment to God.  Income and status made no difference.  His God-commitment, strong and sure and tested, was all I needed. While I liked other things about him, they were of lesser importance; I could have found them elsewhere.  His commitment to God was--and still is--extraordinary. Husband's experiencing a low point now, but he'll emerge with an even greater commitment.  God will accomplish this.

I have other family members completely neutral to faith experiences; it makes no difference to them how I live my life.  With them, I'm at peace.

But perhaps it should be the other way around?  Should their lack of interest bother me more?  Are those angered by Christianity closer to embracing it?

Changing gears a little here, and hopefully tying some ends together at the close....

I read The Misplaced Aims of the Tiger Mother yesterday from Albert Mohler, president of one of the largest seminaries in the world.  Are you familiar with Amy Chua's New York Times Bestselling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?  Ms. Chua, a professor of law at Yale Law School, used cruel and unusual means to ensure that her two daughters excelled at school and in music.  They were not allowed to be anything but the best.  Sophia and Louisa, her daughters, are now highly accomplished adults.

Ms. Chua opines that American kids are lazy and unaccomplished because American parents expect too little--putting high value on kids' feelings and happiness, rather than on accomplishment.

Here is an excerpt from Albert Mohler's piece:

In her book, Chua begins by describing just how radical the Tiger Mother approach really is. With language calculated to reach the nerves of reading mothers, Chua announced that her daughters had never been on a sleepover, acted in a school play, gone on a playdate, watched television, played a video game, or received any grade lower than an A. They had also never been allowed to be anything less than the top student in anything other than gym and drama. And she means every word of this. What she presents is nothing less than a monomaniacal approach to mothering that is intended to produce superior progeny — and that means superior in terms of academic and artistic achievement.

While many are impressed with this book and buying it in the droves, others are disgusted and dismayed.  I haven't read it and don't plan to--I fall into the dismay camp.

Notwithstanding his own dismay, Albert concedes that some of Chua's claims ring true:

There can also be no doubt that Christians should share many of Amy Chua’s concerns about the dominant style of American parenting. The Bible makes parental authority a matter of clear concern and priority, and the discipline and nurture of children are clear biblical mandates to parents. Christian parents reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother will share many of Amy Chua’s complaints and concerns. 

He goes on to express concern at how terribly one-dimensional Chua's goals are:

 All that seems to matter to Amy Chua is that her daughters gain entry into one of the world’s top universities, make a name for themselves in their chosen (very serious) profession, and marry someone of equal achievement. Now, there must be more to her concern, but, if so, these larger concerns do not appear in her book. Nor does it appear that other concerns can have much of a place in the lives of her daughters. There is no spiritual or moral concern expressed in the book.

He contrasts Chua's goals with those of Christian parents:

....A life lived in service to Christ on the mission field would be considered an embarrassment. The heroic service of a mother in the home is displaced by professional status. Parenting for deployment in the Kingdom of Christ is not even on the screen and would not qualify as a serious concern. The Christian worldview honors achievement and the stewardship of gifts, but not at the expense of faithfulness to Christ. Achievement, as the world sees it, may at times be a stumbling block to Christian faithfulness.

Do you know what surprises me most?  It's that her book is currently number 12 on the NY Times (hardcover, non-fiction) Bestseller's list.  To say it's struck a cord in America is putting it lightly.  I find it profoundly sad that droves of Americans would look to Amy Chua for parenting advice. Are we spiritually dead in this country--like Chua's book?  Are we so ego-obsessive that being on top is everything?

In a godless world, I suppose this makes sense.  My only consolation is that Ann's book is still number 11 on hardcover advice books!

The same day I read about Amy Chua, I also read this from Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest (February 15 entry):

Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people?  For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers.  We "sit together in the heavenly places..." (Ephesians 2:6).  "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it..." (1 Corinthians 12:26)  If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer.  But you ask, "Who is sufficient to be able to live up to such a lofty standard?"  "Our sufficiency is from God..." and God alone (2 Corinthians 3:5).  "You shall be witnesses to Me..." (Acts 1:8).  How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ?  That is what God means when He uses the word witness....Why has God left us on this earth?  It is simply to be saved and sanctified?  No, it is to be at work in service to Him.  Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him?  Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone--to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ?  My life of service to God is the way I say "thank you" to Him for His inexpressibly wonderful salvation.  Remember, it is quite possible for God to set any of us aside if we refuse to be of service to Him--" lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27).

What a contrast these two ideas are!  Talk about an upside-down world! On the one hand you have Amy Chua telling us we should stop at nothing to make our kids the best. And on the other hand we have Oswald Chambers telling us that we, and our children, should focus on this one thing:  "to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ."

Whether or not we have the gift of evangelism--and as I said, I most certainly do not--we are still called to disciple.  The first step is to look at our own walks with Christ.  Are we bearing fruit?  There's so much in the world to distract many standards to measure ourselves against, as Amy Chua's book illustrates.

Are we keeping our hearts pure and focused on Him?  What should we throw out, give up, reject, so that fruit is forthcoming?

I've long since given up talking to my extended family about the ways of Christ.  And honestly, I'm conflicted about my silence.  Is it the easy way out?  Am I so concerned about my own hurt that I can't tough it out for Christ?

Oswald reminds me here that I can show them Christ, by being "broken bread and poured-out wine".  "By having no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone."

But will they notice?  That part is up to my Lord; I believe the answer is yes--eventually.  At a time appointed by Him.

Oswald also reminds me of what my focus needs to be as a parent.  We need constant reminders of this, as we strive to obey God in an increasingly godless world.  Discipleship, not achievement, is our parenting goal.  We parent to please Christ--as a thank you to Him--rather than to impress the world.

So what's my battle hymn, as a mom?  While Amy Chua concentrates on extracting something from her kids, I do the opposite.  I try to pour something into mine.

I pour myself.

My sacrificial offering of time, energy, heart, pleases God.  My offering is to God, most of all.  I don't behave sacrificially because my kids deserve it.

The word disciple is both a noun and a verb.  I must be one, before I can make one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

let the peace of Christ rule; and be thankful

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Expressing my thankfulness here today!

* My nine-year-old boy has dreams.  He wants to be a farmer so he can work beside his family; togetherness is everything to him.  Or he will be a forest ranger, helping people discover nature.  On the side he will do nature photography and write for nature magazines, and also write books for kids interested in nature.  These thoughts swirl round his head and I'm blessed to listen to his dreams.  I know his God-given passions will take him far and my Momma-heart is happy.

* The roaring din at the table is too much and I'm desperate for some verbal order--as in, taking turns to speak.  Asking probing questions always lowers the headache-inducing noise :"If you were given $100 what would you do with it, Paul?"  He answers:  "Save it!"  I ask it of Peter:  "I would buy some bird feeders and give the rest to the Lord."  Their answers bless me.  Mary would buy some birdfeeders for Peter.

* Beth is nursing in the rocker after her nap.  I can't resist.  I whisper it.  "I love you, Beth."  She stops nursing and comes up to kiss me, smiling I love you too.

* Cuddles with all four in the big bed.

* My nine year old taking third helpings of crockpot ham and potatoes

* Sons reading Scripture at the table.

* Jack the hamster soothing Peter's nerves, providing loyal, sleepy love in the middle of the day.

* Seven- and nine-year-old boys appreciating Momma's soul-soothing rocker.

* A husband who's strong when I'm weak and always ready with grace.

* Ann writes on page 180 of her book: "This is the way a body and a mouth say thank you:  Thy will be done.  This is the way the self dies, falls into the arms of Love."  In Luke 1:38, Mary, mother of Jesus, says, "Let this happen to me as you say!"  Ann writes of Mary: "In Mary's humility--her willingness to die to her expectations and plans--God exalts her.  In her submissiveness to His will, He fills her emptiness with fullness of Himself.  Her refrain of humble, surrendered gratitude quietly sings through all ages."  Aren't Mary's words some of the most beautiful in the Bible?

* Sweet emails from a friend over the weekend. (Thanks, Connie!)

* Peter reading Goodnight Moon to Beth, freeing Momma to prepare dinner.

* Mary mastering most of her letters and sounds without a single lesson. When they're on fire for learning, we just need to facilitate by having materials around.  I love that about young children! (ABC puzzles, foam bath letters, magnet letters, simple ABC books, print on the walls)

* God changing my heart so profoundly these last three years.  I don't resemble what I once was. He seems to peel off layer after layer, even while we daily struggle with sin.  He picks a few things to work on at a time, and when fruit appears, he goes on to another area.  He really does do all the work!  We can rest in that.

* Writing my heart out on this screen these last thirty-nine months--1026 posts in all, between my starter blog and this one.  God speaks to me here and I can listen well in the quiet of the late night.

* Peter and Paul choosing to read for pleasure twice today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

well with my soul

I'm sitting on his bed, reflective.

He's at the computer, working on a Teaching Textbooks lesson on right angles, line segments, rays, and how to name angles.

His fingers are in his mouth, then out.  He's sucking on his sweatshirt collar, then back to his finger.

A rash is developing around his mouth, from chewing so frequently on toys, clothes, fingers.

My heart aches as I watch him.

Is this a Tourette's tic?  Is it the OCD?  Is it the ADHD?  Is it the anxiety?

He seems happy today.  Relatively calm.  So why the chewing?

Last night after church husband shared news about the car we hope to buy from his friend.  His friend's mother died in February 2010 and it took the law firm thirteen months to finish work on her uncomplicated, uncontested will.  Her estate was worth $35,000 cash, plus a duplex in PA.  The lawyers took $7000 for their fee.  This sickened the family.  She saved all those years, so that lawyers could make $7000?

Surely there must be a better way to leave a parting gift to your loved ones?

Anyway, husband shared his discouragement.  About our van not always starting when he needs it to.  About having to enter the van from the passenger side door, rather than the driver door.  About the exhaust problem we obtained a hardship extension on last July.  We're required to spend $300 to try to fix our emissions problems or we can't renew the van registration.

The car we hope to buy is twenty-five years old but with relatively few miles. James, husband's friend, will sell it to us for $200.  We just found out it has to be inspected before we drive it out of PA and all necessary repairs have to be made.

I'm sure all this regulation is good for someone.  Just not for the working poor.  Regulations choke the poor.

Husband wonders what it means that God only gives good gifts.  What does it mean that God always provides?  This is providing?  A van emitting illegal exhaust is providing?

He is angry, confused. He drives at least 300 miles a week.  He needs a good vehicle.

Why has obtaining this car become such a nightmare?  Is it not God's will? How expensive could it get?  And what if the car only runs for five months, after all this effort?  Since it's not insured or registered, James starts it up every couple weeks, but he doesn't drive it. It hasn't been driven for two years.

Husband is thinking of having his nephew, a car mechanic in PA, look over the car to see if the effort is worth it.  But will the nephew follow through? He has a myriad of problems in his life.  It's possible that a dealer would charge a fortune and conveniently find a lot of repairs.

Husband wonders what God expects from us.  Why is everything a hassle?

As he talks, I think of Peter.  They are so similar.  The low frustration threshold.  The anger.  The always counting hardships, never blessings. (Although Peter may be changing in that regard.)

I hear this about ADHD sufferers.  They see the world as glass-half empty. Waiting is agonizing. Everybody else has it better.  Anger boils under the surface.  Frustration abounds.  They lock their keys in the car.  Lose their keys.  The pace of life overwhelms.  Expectations choke.  They disappoint others, then themselves.

I listen.  I empathize.  I pray while he talks.

God does give good gifts.  No one will convince me otherwise.  I reject any other notion.....though I keep this to myself.

My son continues to chew on his badly chapped hands as he works through the problems.  They're easy for him.  He's enjoying math today.

I won't pity him, Lord.  I won't.

I won't pity my husband.

I won't be dragged down into the pit.

I want to comfort them, love them, mercy them.  But not go into the pit with them.

God only gives good gifts.  ADHD and it's ugliness?  OCD and it's ugliness?  Anger they can't seem to stifle, no matter how hard they try?

They're all good gifts.  And I mustn't pity.  Love, mercy, grace.  But not pity.

Lord, help me listen in love.  Respond with grace.

I can't make it fair.  I can't sugar-coat something I don't understand.  I can't make someone say yes to disorder.  Yes to an unreliable van.  Yes to two years and counting of underemployment and stress.

I must trust you to take care of them. Trust you to flood them with your lovingkindness.  Trust you to minister to their innermost needs.

What does it really mean to suffer with someone?  How deep do you go with them?  This is a question for anyone who resides with struggling loved ones.

I believe we must suffer with them in love, but not go into that pit of despair. Our own joy, our own peace, must remain intact.

They must wrestle alone with God.  They must come to terms with this life, with God's upside-down world.  We all do this God-wrestle, at some point in our lives.  No one can take our place in the ring.

The outcome?  Hopefully, full surrender.

The man who wrote the hymn It Is Well With My Soul suffered a tragic loss days before penning the hymn.  Here is the story (source found here):

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.

At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family's ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.

This man's journey with God amazes me.  I love reading this story over and over. I want to live like this. Feel like this. Journey with God like this.

During yesterday's church sermon the pastor showed us a video clip of a 33-year-old aspiring pastor who had just taken a job as an IT guy at a mega church.  He and his wife and three kids were ecstatic.  For three months they were on top of the world.

Suddenly, after a life of perfect health, the young man was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  He was confused, dazed.  Why now?  Why me?  He had surgery and four months of miserable chemotherapy, which completely eradicated the cancer.  He was cancer free.  He and his family spent a glorious month celebrating.  Then, a month later, they learned the cancer had come back elsewhere.  He learned nothing more could be done medically. Do you know what he said in the video?
 "I'm praying that God heals me, but I know I may not live to see 2011.  I want to see my daughter and sons walk down the aisle.  I want to grow old with my wife.  I hope God heals me.  If He does, then He's a good God.  If He doesn't heal me, He's still a good God.  Through this experience, I've become a better father, better husband, better friend, better employee, better Christian. God has been glorified.  God is always good."  (Not an exact quote, but this is how I remember it.)

The young man died in May, 2010.

God is always good.

I want this kind of surrender in my life. In my son's life.  In my husband's.

And for you, friend.

May it be so Lord!

(Details shared with my family's permission.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

the blessing of a simple life

It was ten o'clock on a Sunday morning.  My children had already had 25 minutes each on a computer activity.  They had already had a morning snack.  The little one had already viewed half a Barney video.

 It was in the low 30's outside and windy, as it had been for several days.

My children were dangerously bored.  I had no car.  Daddy wasn't expected home until 3:00 PM, and shortly after that, our day would speed up with dinner and baths and church prep.

I had a lot of folding to catch up on, and I wanted it done before the school week began.  Entertainment director?  No time for that.

Part of me felt sorry for my kids.  Other families, the ones with decent jobs and/or dual careers, were out having family fun, while we were spending another day at home.

Were my kids disadvantaged?

In my heart I knew the answer was no.  I pushed aside all thoughts to the contrary.

My kids have an intact family with loving--not perfect, but loving--Christian parents.  They have shelter, food, safety, clothes and freedom to worship.

It may be years before they'll know what a vacation is like.  Or what a decent restaurant is like.  Or what a new car feels like.  But where in the Bible does it say we're to provide those things?

The world's way is so provocative and convincing, isn't it?  Since when do kids need anything at all, except for love, shelter, food, clothes, and safety?

I told the Lord I didn't want the computer or TV on and would he please help me?

Just set things out, he whispered.  Let them do the rest.

I set out cardboard to cover the table.  I set out glue, markers, paper, tape, pencils, pens and scissors.

They created.  We prayed.  They watched birds out the window.  They read books.  Daddy came home and did model painting with Paul.  Next he took them for a walk while I prepared dinner.  They got baths and played with the foam letters.  We had taco bake together, followed by church, then home at 8:30, followed by pajamas, brushing teeth and bedtime.

No, it wasn't the best day of their lives.  But after my prayer, they didn't mention boredom again.

I remembered Sally's loaves and fishes and I gave the day over to Him. What do you want me to do next, Lord?  I'll do it, whatever it is.

One of the things he spoke to me today was this:  Don't worry about giving them things or experiences.  Those don't make a life.  They are fleeting. Instead, show them how to live for me--how to be worshipful, faithful, sacrificial, long-suffering, and thankful.

Material wealth creates distractions.  It provides too many choices--go there, experience this, buy that. When it comes to building a foundation of faith and agape love, simpler is better.

Other than a joyful personal relationship with God, do you know what I hope they leave my home with?

An open, thankful heart for whatever God gives.

God only gives good things. If they get an old, two-hundred thousand mile van, instead of a new Lexus, then it's good.  It's better.  Accept it with thanksgiving and praise.  I want that kind of faith for them.  That kind of gratitude.  I want them to live in this world, but not be of this world.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday's grace - dancing

Momma and Beth, dancing to Jesus music

Miss Beth saw me turn up a Christian song on the radio.  That was her cue! When Momma turns up the radio, it's time to dance!

Sure enough, Beth's face lit up.  She ran over and asked me to dance with her.

As we danced, I knew.  This is God's grace for me, for this hour.  Oh, it was so lovely!

Peter was a nervous, hyper handful all day, following me around talking incessantly about birds, detailing all the things he wants to buy to attract more birds.  He gets a lot of expensive ideas from bird books!  He's taken to praying several times a day, in a pleading voice, that Daddy gets a better job, so we can buy more bird paraphernalia.  Poor Daddy!  Sure, we all want a better job, but this whole bird thing makes husband feel more pressured than ever.

I don't have a good camera for distance shots; sorry about the blurriness.  We've been getting a lot of red-winged blackbirds lately, and lots of different woodpeckers.  We all enjoy the view!

Peter put seed all over the yard, hoping to attract more friends.  It worked!

ADHD children hover around you most of the day.  It's like having a perpetual shadow, except when they get engrossed in something.  I loved it when Peter read for a few hours a day, but since encountering the OCD difficulties with repeating words and phrases, he's never gone back to devouring books.  I remember how he used to say, "Mommy, I just love to read!"

I wonder if I'll ever hear that again?  I thought we had beat this, but it's only when he reads Scripture that the repeating goes away.  I'm still praying and trusting, but this saddens me--not the Scripture part, of course.  That's a wonderful blessing.

I love Peter's enthusiasm for life science, but if he had his way, I'd never spend a moment with my other children.  His lack of impulse control renders him selfish, unfortunately.

God did apply some grace to this problem, earlier this week.  I don't remember why, but Mary followed Peter around for an hour.  Finally, exasperated, he said to me, "Is this how it feels to be followed all day?"

That made me smile.  He's really a sweet boy!  I just hope he finds a long-suffering, sweet wife!  May it be so, Lord!

So far he hasn't found the impulse control to stop following me, but at least he can relate to the fatigue I feel.

What in the world is this?

Well, so many people stare at me funny when I have my kids with me, that I decided to take a picture of myself in different lights, to see how badly I'm ageing.  This is bathroom lighting.  The acne scars make it far worse; they look like wrinkles. Being tired doesn't help either.

Lord, may my own daughters not get acne, please?  It's an emotionally painful condition, as some of you may know.

This is living-room lighting, with light coming from the window.
 Can you imagine this face yelling at you, because after being asked to dress three times, you've still not put on your pajamas?  (That would be Paul, my absent-minded professor.)

Ugh!  I'll never yell again. How scary!

The solution to my homeliness woes is to smile.  I need to smile most of the time.  

What my face can't provide, my spirit can.  

Children love smiley moms--even 45-year-old ones.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

my precious girls

On Tuesday we made chocolate chocolate-chip cookies, without the chocolate chips, because, once again, I ate them.  Not by myself entirely, mind you.  Every time I chew chocolate chips, stealthy stolen from the baking cupboard, someone sees me, or smells them, and asks for some. And I can't say no, because doing so would undermine my credibility--making me a hypocrite.  I hate the word hypocrite; I don't want to be anything that starts with hypo.

So, between the five of us munching on chips from the baking cupboard, we can only hope to bake with them within 48 hours of buying them.  Beyond 48 hours, forget it.

You're about to see an insane number of pictures of Mary and Beth and cookie baking.  Why?  Because I love baking with these precious girls. 

- I love that Mary dutifully makes balls with her dough, while popping a bit in her mouth only intermittently.

- I love that Beth really wants to be a Momma's helper, but ends up eating more dough than she rolls (yes, I worry about the raw eggs).  She is like her Momma.  A cookie monster.  I love that about her.  I watch closely, because she'll ruin her next meal if I'm not vigilant.  I put 13 cookies on her pan myself, to her 3. Then I help Mary finish filling hers, before taking away the dough and pans, and releasing the girls.  I finish the baking tasks myself. This saves them both from gluttony and malnutrition, because we bake twice a week.  Don't ask what saves me from cookie gluttony.  Nothing, right now.  Breastfeeding burns calories in Momma's body; it's good for both of us.  When Beth decides to stop nursing, I'll have to give up cookies and eat carrots and celery.  God help me love them--carrots and celery, that is.

- I love how their eyes light up when I announce baking time.

- I love how dutifully, cheerfully, they go and wash their hands.  Not all directions are followed cheerfully around here, but washing hands to help in the kitchen is always done joyfully.  I love that.

- I love how they dip their hands into the dry ingredients, feeling all the different textures.

- I love how the boys, mostly uninterested in helping, always manage to make their way to the kitchen, just as the first batch comes out.  I really love that. Cookies, made with love by Momma and sisters, are one of God's graces to our family.  They bring joy. That new, bisque-colored GE range in the background there, also brings joy.  It heats to 350 degrees in four minutes!

- I love how Mary and Beth put their hands over mine when we use the electric mixer.  I love how they giggle over the vibration.

- I love that Beth copies everything I do--including turning the bowl as we mix.

Tuesday it was chocolate chocolate cookies, Friday it was oatmeal raisin. Beth eagerly started, measuring out some rolled oats before Momma even gave instructions.  Does she have it memorized?

These little girls are in bed, long asleep.  How I want to scoop them up from their beds right now and rock them in my rocker--drinking in their milky skin and eyelashes, trying to etch each curve into memory, for when they're grown and gone, leaving me to rock alone.  They are the sweetest blessings!

God knew!  He really knew!  We tried to get pregnant when we had our boys, but not so with our girls.  We just didn't do anything artificial or fool-proof.  I didn't want to be an old Momma, but I can't imagine life without these girls.  It would be so heavy here without them. They are God's grace to me--to this household.

May I give unsolicited advice?  Go ahead and throw an egg at your computer if you want. Let the babies come!  God knows what's in store for you.  He has perfect plans for every moment of your life. If he wants to give you a baby, let Him.  I promise you, there will never be a baby in your life who won't bless you.  Even a baby lost through miscarriage still blesses.  No, you can't do anything about your husband's vasectomy choice, but you can keep your own heart open.  Though my husband had the vasectomy, I believe God will still bless my open heart--my heart for His blessings, for His open hand, no matter what the hand holds.

No, there is nothing glamorous about people always staring at me with my kids, wondering if I'm the grandma or the mother. That hurts sometimes. But it pales in comparison to the blessing that these girls are--born when I was 40 and 42.

Rearing children is hard.  Gruelling even, at times.  But remember Sally Clarkson and her fishes and loaves?  Nothing forces you to give God your fishes and loaves, daily, like mothering does.  

It's the most beautiful, most worthwhile, most world-changing thing you'll ever do.

And no other endeavour changes--sanctifies, even--your own heart as much as mothering does.  This is true whether you've given birth, or opened your heart to an orphan.

 "You didn't eat more dough, did you Beth, after Momma asked you not to?"

Do you think that's a guilty face?  That full mouth giving it away?

The counter and the floor are always messy afterwards--far messier than if I'd done the baking myself.  But looking at this mess, I feel so blessed.  It doesn't get any better than this.

I don't want tidiness or perfection.  I don't want a fat savings account or manicured nails or exciting adventures.  I want an abundant life.  A messy, poured-out life, lived by faith...full of thanks-giving.

How about you?