Monday, January 31, 2011

Big Things, Part Two

Last week I decided it was time to celebrate and give thanks for the Big Things  God has done in my life.

Here is part two:

I needed a change after teaching first grade for nine years in a difficult area. My last year in the regular classroom was the year I lost my first baby, Isaac.  It happened right before Thanksgiving.  Neither doctors nor a geneticist could give me an idea why a baby who looked healthy and active on an ultrasound at seventeen weeks, would end up passing away by week twenty-one.   I thought it might be stress.  Unlikely, of course, but certain stages of grief make you desperate for answers.

I grew to hate my job that year, but living on my husband's income was impossible; I had to work.  There were student loans and other things weighing us down.

A colleague of mine became a principal for a small, science and technology charter school, which at the time provided enrichment and core classes for homeschoolers, and fulfilled State requirements for monthly, credentialed-teacher homeschooling meetings.  You can file an affidavit in California to homeschool on your own, but not all families are interested in that kind of isolation; many wanted the free curriculum, free classes, and free guidance, provided by umbrella organizations such as this charter school.

In late spring I applied for an open position at this science and technology school--not feeling positive about getting it.  My expertise, if you will, was reading and language. Although I loved teaching science to first graders, I was no lab coat and beaker kind of gal.  Plus, I hated computers and technology.

I still abhor technology, actually.  For example, my cell phone has texting capability, but I haven't a clue how to do it.  And the other day I accidentally pushed some button that brought up the World Wide Web on my cell phone.  What!?  What is the Web doing on my cell phone?  Is that some service I have to pay extra for, I wondered at the time.  (Husband, who also doesn't text or use the Web, tells me it's standard for cell phones now).

Back to that job....

Between the time I completed the lengthy application and got called for an interview, I found out I was pregnant with Peter--which was another answer to prayer!  I told my colleague-turned-principal about the pregnancy during the interview, even though I thought a pregnancy would disqualify me (not legally, of course).

Also weighing heavy on my mind was this:  I just wanted to be a Mom!  The thought of giving my baby to a daycare provider made me sick to my stomach, literally.  For so many years, teaching was my passion.  I spent hours and hours in my classroom--nights and weekends.  My job defined me.....until I became a Christian at age 31.  But even then, I never thought I'd leave the profession.


God had other plans for me.

My last two years in the regular classroom brought serious behavior problems--leaving me no time to teach or enjoy the kids.  I went home emotionally drained every night.

Hope was not mine....

Until I got the job!  Instead of leaving the classroom kicking and screaming, I sprinted my way out.  Phew!

When God wants you out of something you love, He makes it very clear. You'll find yourself more and more uncomfortable.  Peace leaves.....hope leaves....until you make the change God desires--either in your heart, or in your circumstances, or both.

My new boss probably regretted her decision, at least in part.  I had a difficult pregnancy, with a scary ultrasound at 21 weeks, monthly and then weekly ultrasounds, and preterm labor, which dilated me two inches at week 30.  I was put on bedrest for the last eight weeks, with Peter safely in my arms at 38 weeks gestation, after my water spontaneously broke at home, two hours after an OB check-up.

Long, long road.  I thought I'd never have a babe in my arms!

Those battling infertility have a much harder, longer road.  Few things compare to that pain, in my view.

Before my bedrest, my boss said yes to some very crucial questions. Questions I dreaded asking.

It felt like my peace as a mother....as a women, hung on the answers to these questions.  God gave me the ideas, and the words.

- Can I drop some classes and some families and work part-time?

- Can I bring my baby to work?

- Can I work at home, except for my two remaining K-1 reading classes (1 hour each), and my sixth grade social studies class (90 minutes), and my monthly family meetings (twenty individual meetings, half-hour each)?

Yes, yes, and yes!

God provided!

It was a difficult schedule, but I had full care of my sweet babe.  I had peace--even though he was constantly filling his diaper when it was time to leave for school!  :)

It all seemed like a miracle.  God worked out every intricate detail.

A college student--a daughter of one of my homeschooling families--starting coming to my house to watch Peter for three hours, two days a week, once he was too squirrelly to go to work with Momma.  She was lively, sweet, and wonderful!

Husband, at that time, worked four, ten hour days, so he was off all day alternate Fridays, which helped a lot.  He brought Peter to campus for nursing time, in between my monthly family meetings.  I did most of those  monthly meetings during the two Fridays he watched Peter.

God can change things very fast.  Job loss...pregnancy loss...answered prayer....dreams coming true.  All of it is His timing.  His purpose.

Ultimately, we learn not to trust in our plans.  In our hopes.  


We learn to trust in Him.

To be continued...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

painting joy


The weather outside is frightful.


 But inside?


 Well, it's delightful.


My girls, my beautiful girls,


paint their dreams,


and teach me....


to love wildly, hope deeply, and live fully.

Is there anything more precious than a child's painting, coloring your walls, your heart, with joy?

precious storybook for nighttime fears

I go through about 15 picture books a week for bedtime story time for my little girls, ages 2 and 4.  We read at least three per night--usually rereading our favorites several times.  I'd rather read ten a night, but our evenings are spent with Momma as the sole parent--meaning reasonable bedtimes depend on my restraint at story time, as much as on their cooperation with hygiene tasks.

Some of you are with me on this: The dinner and nighttime details involved in caring for young children are time consuming and exhausting.  Only by God's grace has story time--something I consider foundational--survived at all.

My boys, ages 7 and 9,  listen in, too, at picture book time, but they also have their own story time after the girls go to sleep.

Of the fifteen books, we generally find two to three real keepers.  Tonight we read Teddy Bear Tears, by Jim Aylesworth, 1997, which I'll review tonight.

I can always tell when the book will be a favorite.

All the wiggles stop.

The room quiets except for my story voice.

All eyes and minds are in the book, as though we've traveled to the setting. (Don't imagine my two year old staying in my lap, mind you--seven minutes tops!)

About halfway through, one of the boys will declare in a knowing, literary-lovin' voice, "This book is really good!"

When the last page is turned, and we realize we've reached the end, Mary can't take it.

"Read it again, Mommy!"


I will never tire of reading picture books to children.  When I'm far older and white-haired, I'll beg to read daily to my own grandchildren, or even to children at the local library.

Teddy Bear Tears, tonight's favorite, is about a little boy with four teddy bears.


"The little boy loved them all very much, and every night they slept together in a big, cozy bed.  
And some nights, there were tears."


Each teddy bear starts crying, in turn, about some nighttime fear.  The boy listens attentively, and then he turns on the light, patiently showing the scared teddy that there's only dust and puzzles pieces under the bed, or that there's only moonlight, moths, and wind outside.

"Don't be scared," said the little boy, getting out of bed and carrying Willie Bear to the window.  "See how pretty it is out there in the moonlight?  See how the stars shine and how the wind moves the trees?"  

Willie Bear nodded.  

"Well, that wind makes noise, but it's nothing to be scared of.  And sometimes there's a cat out poking around, or maybe a moth bumping against the screen.  They make noises, too, but there's nothing out there that would hurt a little bear."

The bears' fears, of course, are really the boy's fears.  He soothes himself as he comforts his beloved bears.

Finally, after the last bear has been soothed and tucked close to the boy, they bid each other good night, and the boy falls fast asleep.

"He tucked Willie Bear up real close on one side and Fuzzy up real close on the other side. Ringo and Little Sam he put up on top.  Then he put his arms around them all.

"Good night, you guys," said the little boy.  "I love you."  

"We love you, too," said the bears.

And then, after only a moment more, the boy was sound asleep....and dreaming very pleasant dreams.

What did I tell you?  A real keeper, huh?  We loved it!

Enjoy!  And have a nice weekend!









Friday, January 28, 2011

my sticky life with a toddler

If your two year old isn't driving you crazy, she probably isn't learning as much as she could be.

We all need the reminder to just let them play--mess and all!

Toddlers and preschoolers learn a whole lot through:

- exploratory play (even from getting into things, or from trying on pieces of that laundry you just folded  :))

- interactive language exposure (Play that involves make-believe is great for language development, such as playing with a kitchen, dolls, a mailbox, train tracks, etc. ; TV doesn't count for language development, since it isn't a back and forth verbal exchange.)

- music exposure

- movement experiences (Hokey Pokey, Ring Around the Rosy, and other simple dances, jumping, twirling, hopping...)

Lately, glue, glue sticks, and scissors have been my two-year-old's obsession.  After a month of cleaning glue off of multiple surfaces, and stressing about her finding the scissors while I was out of commission (going potty, that is), I finally got smart.  I cut up diaper boxes to put under her while she glued to her heart's content, and I bought preschool scissors with a covered tip and limited movement (Walmart--I hadn't seen this type before).

It drives my husband crazy that I don't try to micromanage art and craft time around here.  I facilitate by getting out materials and giving an idea or two, and then I watch from afar. Husband sits with them and tries to make their creative time productive--meaning he wants them to create something display-worthy.

As usual in parenting, children benefit from both approaches.

Anyhow, with my two year old, I couldn't seem to drive home the point that glue is for sticking two things together.  She just kept using it as though it were a decoration in itself--kind of like her view on chapstick.  :)

I decided it was time to do a little micromanaging, at least with the glue; I cut simple shapes and taught her how to put glue on them and slap them onto the paper.  Like any toddler, she really liked the SLAP part.

That activity lasted all of six minutes.  In what might be another smart move, I didn't actually put her materials away.  Instead, I set them all on the cardboard, knowing she'll be interested again in about twenty minutes.

When I get through the twos and threes--for the fourth time--I'll add to my resume:

Raised four toddlers--and lived to write about it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

post referrals - Albert Mohler

Recent good articles from AlbertMohler.com:

Chilling Beyond Belief 

"Now it is the Other Way Around" -- The Moral Revolution in Full View

Intellectual Discipleship--Following Christ With Our Minds

Big Things

It's time to remind myself of the big things God has done in my life.  Do you ever do that--make a list of the miraculous things he's done over many years?  Without such a list it's easy to forget what a faithful, omniscient God we serve.  Feel free to make a short list from your own life in the comments section?  It would bless others!

God's miraculous works in my life:

- A very small percentage of people come to the Lord after age 18.  The Lord grabbed hold of me at age 31!  I still cry tears of joy over it, knowing how blessed I am.

- When I was thirty-two years old, a wonderful Christian man stepped into my life.  We met during a church hiking event.  Nine months later we married--me at age 33, him at nearly 41--first marriage for both of us.

- I was engaged twice in my twenties, while a non-Christian. The Lord kept me fickle and single for a purpose.  I thank Him often for that, even though it's painful to look like I could be my two-year-old's grandmother.  Divorce is one of the ugliest things humans do, and as Christians, we have God's power to avoid it--to forgive and persevere through His power, not our own.  (I don't mean to imply here that you should stay in a home with an abusive husband.  Be safe.)

- I have four wonderful children who bless my socks off every. single. day.--despite the fact that I started baring children ten years later than most women, and in my teens through my late twenties battled a nasty case of endometriosis (thank the Lord for blessing me with a laparoscopy and a good OBGYN surgeon).

- I had $26,000 in outstanding student loans when I married in 1999.  My husband hated that debt and prayed regularly that we'd be able to pay it off in a lump sum, by some miracle.  I thought he was a bit crazy to keep praying that, but in 2005 the housing market had boomed enough in California that we were able to pay it off with the sale of our first home--a home we'd owned less than four years!

- I lost my first baby and two months into the grief, I wanted the Lord to take me home.  I hurt and I didn't feel I had anything to live for.  Not too many years after that, I thanked Him for that experience--for the heart-wrenching pain of lying in a maternity ward, knowing I would soon be dilated enough to deliver my dead baby at 21 weeks gestation, while all around me on that hospital floor, active, loud heartbeat monitors advertised the joy that wouldn't be mine.  I knew I'd be going to a funeral home, making arrangements, while the other women learned to nurse their beautiful new babies. Yes, I still thank Him for that experience.  It was a gift--changing me in ways I could never have willed to happen in my own heart.

What kind of God turns some of the worst pain you can imagine, into a conscious blessing?

My God!


John 20:30, 31 “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name.”


Rom. 10:17 “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”


.....to be continued.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

blessings and a Good Samaritan

My heart is thankful, so thankful today, for...........

- anger outbursts (Peter's) that disappeared as mysteriously as they appeared (Praise God for peace!)

- siblings involved in imaginative play, thanks to brother Peter, who leads them and concocts wonderful playtime scenarios

- that there haven't been any new white hairs in my head for awhile.  I think I'll be okay without color for a couple more years, maybe?  Grace of God, that is, since I don't have the money to color my hair right now!

- paint, beads and other crafts--they delight my children so much!

- Geronimo Stilton chapter books, which we found just as Peter was finishing up all the Magic School Bus Chapter books.

- Beth's excitement over training diapers she can slip on and off easily.  Makes things easier for Momma, now that Beth has taken to stripping down naked many times a day!

- My Mary's many hugs.

- the Good Samaritan we encountered at the library last Saturday.  Our van has 200,000 miles on it (I just checked today and was shocked)!  Two door handles have broken from the outside, the second of which is the big slider door handle--happening as we were getting the troops out to enter the library last Sat.  Husband was beside himself with frustration, because we couldn't close the door and it was 5 degrees outside.  This happened two days after a flat tire occurred on a bitterly cold night on his way from one job to another, with no flashlight in the car, and only one glove available.  The spare tire was ancient and he wasn't sure it would do him any good, but it held up well enough to get him through his graveyard jobs and back home.

Anyhow, we took the kids into the library and then he went back outside to continue working on closing the door.  I think he was frustrated enough to almost cry, to tell you the truth. Life is very complicated right now, due to things breaking frequently in the house and with the van--and no money for repairs.

I was thinking to myself that there was no way God was going to leave us with a van--our only vehicle--that had a broken slider door.  I spoke these words into my husband's ear as he left the library.  I think a frequent visitor to the library, who has seen us several times on Saturdays, heard part of the conversation (husband's voice is prominent when he's frustrated).  He watched my husband go back outside.  He then quickly checked out his books and began helping my husband.  Twenty minutes later they learned how to close the door without the handle, which was problematic because the inside of the door has broken parts and is really just a shell of a door (we've been living with that situation for awhile).

Sorry for the long story, but it taught husband and me so much!  Faith is a day by day walk--sometimes even moment by moment.  We mustn't lose heart!

Monday, January 24, 2011

He said Yes!

Praise God!  He said yes to our prayers!  Ann Voskamp's newborn niece has recovered.  Her sister writes so beautifully of the journey here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm crazy about my two year old

Why I'm Crazy About My Two Year Old

- She is potty training herself.

- When my Mary, age four, asks me to turn on the bathroom light so she can use the bathroom, Beth, age two, comes running, excitement spilling over, yelling "I do it!''.  She hoists her tummy up onto the bathroom counter and turns on the light for big sister.

- When I announce a meal time, Beth squeals with glee and runs to her booster seat, trying so hard to fasten her belt by herself.

- When Momma sneaks a handful of chocolate chips from the baking cupboard, Beth instinctively knows, and must have her share.

- She's a crazy sleeper, moving every which way, sometimes even plopping herself onto my shoulder or chest as though they were pillows--giving me the gift of a long, long hug.  All daytime hugs are short....far too short.  Though it will feel good to really sleep well again one day, I'm not in a hurry for her to leave my side at night.  God's grace prevails, knowing I particularly need these memories more than a prescribed amount of sound sleep.

- Her curly light brown hair bounces down her back as she scurries around the house, getting in mischief.  Her scurry is a gleeful gallop--one I'll fondly recall.

- She pushes the wet laundry into the dryer like a champ.

- She removes clean dishes swiftly from the dishwasher, forcing Momma to hurry with the breakables before Miss Beth grabs them, too.

- She colors for three minutes, paints for ten minutes, builds train track for two minutes, plays tea time for six minutes, folds washcloths for four minutes, and finally......she tries on and changes outfits found in her pajama drawer for twenty minutes!  Will she love fashion, do you think?

- Her smile is one-of-a-kind adorable, memorable, dreamy, melting every heart.

- She stays with me most of the day, helping, getting into cupboards and drawers in whatever room we're in, wanting to be a Momma herself.

- When she wakes up in the morning she crawls out of our king bed, grabs my slippers, and either puts them down on the floor just right for me, or, if I don't spring out of bed fast enough, she throws them at me.

- When she strips herself naked, which lately happens seven times a day (remember she's potty training herself?) she loves to run through the house squealing, buck-naked.  At two, she thinks she needs to remove all her clothes to use the potty.

- She dangles off the bathroom counter and puts the toddler toothpaste on the brush herself, brushes, rinses, spits, and then allows Momma to brush them again, for good measure.

- She listens attentively to every word around here, and if leaving the house is talked about, she grabs me and inquires with fervent hope in her eyes, "I go too?"

- She prays at every meal, and though we don't understand most of it, she is delighted with herself and her Jesus.

- She wakes up in the middle of the night at least twice, saying so sweetly, so sleepily,  "Nurse, please?"

Now the tears are flowing..........

The average age to self-wean (worldwide) is about four years old.  I hope my little one will give me at least one more year of sweet nursing memories.  Sigh.

Is there any better companion than a two year old?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

grief beautifully expressed; God in the words

Remember the mother who lost her toddler in a horrible, heavy-dresser accident?  She writes of her grief, of her hope for the future, so beautifully.  Her blog is now on my sidebar:  roscommonacres.com.  I don't actually get to many of the blogs listed there myself, but if you have time, hers is so worth the time.

It probably seems strange for me to refer you to a grief blog, but even as raw as her pain is right now (pray for her!), I still see Jesus in her words.  Expect to see Him reveal Himself through her story, more and more each post.

repetition

A quote from A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent
More than anything else I could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them.  For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me.  When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad.  I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials.  The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.

If you've ever suffered through a difficult trial, you know the truth of this passage--it's truth is written on the tablet of your heart.

I knew this truth.

But when, in recent weeks, my son's anger continued to escalate in the midst of all the other trials, I lost the perspective revealed in this passage.  In my heart, I guess I believed it had limits.

Surely feeling afraid of a nine year old--my own son--is an unfair tribulation. 

What child tantrums off and on for a couple hours over being told "I'm sorry, you can't go outside today.  There's a windchill and the temperature is too low."


What child slams his bedroom door over and over, throws things against a wall, and jumps around like a lunatic, screaming, over being told, "We can't go to the library today because last night Daddy got a flat tire. He has to hurry and replace the tire before he leaves for work.  That leaves no time for us all to get to the library.  If the errand doesn't take as long as expected, Daddy will run in after he's done and get you enough books to last until Saturday."


Whether the increased explosiveness is caused by medication, a lack of sleep due to OCD, or another problem, I don't know.  I only say no when I can't say yes.  This child has very reasonable expectations placed on him.

I now anticipate this turmoil every time I say the word no, but I don't let it run me.  He mustn't think it's gaining him anything, for as sweet as I think he is at the core, he's still a child, and children manipulate when they can.


The ability to absorb disappointment, while always impaired in my son, is now completely lacking.  He functions like a two year old--only he's a big, strong, scary two year old.

First, I warn him that his anger is escalating quickly, and I ask him to do something that he knows will calm him, such as read a book, draw, or build something.  He is usually too angry to do these things, so next, I try to get him to his room as quickly as possible, so that if property is destroyed, it will be limited to one room.  And if things are thrown, they won't hit my other children, or me.  This type of display puts the whole family into fight-or-flight mode.  It isn't healthy.  Hearing him go berserk from afar is better than witnessing it with our eyes.

When the explosion subsides he is very remorseful--confused and scared by his lack of control.  He clings to me, wondering if I still love him.

He is tormented by the presence of his brother, who is happy, smart, likable, well-behaved.  I hear frequently now, "Everybody is happy but me.  I hate Paul."

This, coming from a child who's heart is actually very soft.....from a child who loves God and clings to his truths.

Like me, Peter is having trouble persevering in the midst of what seems like an unbearable trial.  Like me, he wonders how God could stoop so low, as to stack one boy's deck with so much, and leave another, under the same roof, feeling cursed.

I read this tonight to my three older children, from The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams:

     "What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
     "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
     "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. 
     "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
     "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up." he asked, "or bit by bit?"
     "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

I have always thought this a beautiful story.  I cry whenever I read it, as I did tonight.

This time, though, I cried because I saw human suffering in the words.  I saw Peter's struggle, my struggle, with the cup we've been given.  Can God give one child four neurological disorders--rendering standard drug therapy so problematic it's useless?

Yes.

Is it fair?

Yes.  Because of the cross, it's fair.  We were given a gift while we were still sinners--THE CROSS.  Whatever the Creator sees fit to do with the created, is fair.

What does Peter get in return for his struggles?  What do I get--who must care for him and spend 24/7 with him?

We get to be REAL.  And what is "real", for the Christian?

Paul the Apostle had the answer.


Here are examples of his suffering: "beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among the false brethren; I have been in labour and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure" (2Cor.11:24-27).


What conclusion did he come to?  


"Therefore", Paul says--because we will one day be raised with Jesus(v.14)--"we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2Cor. 4:16)


In Romans 8:18, Paul says, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us"


"momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison"(2 Corinthians 4:17).


2 Corinthians 12:7-10
"...Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."


Philippians 1:21
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."


I continually lose site of eternity, and then have to preach the same things to myself, over and over on this blog. I wrestle with God, who merely wants to make me REAL--real useful, real godly, real Kingdom-focused.


Sorry about the repetitious lessons, folks.


God is faithful to reveal Himself and His purposes again and again, as he did tonight though The Velveteen Rabbit.  I have to trust that just as He ministers to me, he also ministers to Peter.  Daily.  Hourly.  


I can feel that His grace is enough.  And when my eyes are heavenward, I tap into even more grace!


I have to trust that Peter, even at nine, can feel sufficient grace from his Father in Heaven--that he can understand the truth of these words:  For when I am weak, then I am strong.


These are beautiful words....words we mustn't fight.  I can only show Peter how he can love these words, by loving them...living them, myself.
      

Friday, January 21, 2011

fun learning for kids

Peter and I were looking for information this morning and found this fun kids' site:

kidsbiology.com

There are links on the right side to other subject sites.  Paul, my geography buff, is really enjoying the geography games this morning at kidsgeo.com. The main educational site--publishing these others-- is kidsknowit.com

Thursday, January 20, 2011

more midday anti-insanity

My spirit is low.  Son's AD/HD-related anger scares me in my own home. God, hear my prayer! Heal at least the anger, if nothing else!

When a problem has no solution......gratitude must prevail all the more.  I am thankful for....

- snow, beautiful snow, clothing lifeless, dormant trees.....reminding me of God's provision

- grace to move forward, doing the next thing, when all I really want to do is cry

- chocolate chips

- washer, dryer, dishwasher....it could be so much harder without those blessings

- a Veggie Tale movie from the library, enabling me to take this short anti-insanity break

- books, which keep my affected son calm and quiet for two to three hours a day (he devours them!)

- soft baby skin to kiss

- more to add later....toddler is now awake

some gratitude to fight fear

Tough days here with the special needs.  So hard not to worry that my son will end up on disability, unable to work because of OCD rituals, or that his AD/HD-related anger will someday send him to prison.  AD/HD is very common among prison inmates.

I suppose because of natural maturing, Peter tells me he sometimes doubts that Jesus exists, and wonders if there really is eternal life.  I know him to have a strong relationship with God--one that doesn't merely ride on the coattails of my God-relationship.  I tell him this doubting is normal, and that he should pray, "God, I believe.  Help me with my unbelief!"

Although I think it's normal, especially in a boy of nine, to question spiritual things, it's hard not to add it to my worries.  Will he always love God?  Will he choose to spend time with Him, seeking a deeper relationship?

Time to count blessings to help relieve my fears:

- Shepherd's pie

- homemade cranberry sauce

- homemade applesauce

- laundry caught up

- cuddling in the rocker/recliner for lap stories with my girls during the day

- couch picture-book stories with all four at night, before the girls go down

- chapter books at night with my boys, after girls are asleep (Enjoying Stuart Little, by E. B. White)

- my Peter's insatiable desire for reading (There aren't enough books published for his age group!  I hate weird sorcery/magic-themed books.  There are a lot of those to choose from)

- enduring love for husband

- toddler nursing, for so many reasons.  The hormones released sure calm my spirit, and hers.

- my two-year-old's independent, helpful nature (aren't they all helpful at two?  So cute :)

- Beth stripping her clothes off and putting herself on the potty.  She wants so much to be like big sister.  Since there are no babies around to be jealous of (this time around), I just might get lucky in the potty department.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

post referrals

The Simple Homeschool Blog has been doing a series of "day in the life" posts.  I haven't had time to read most of them, but tonight I caught this one, written by a mom of six--ages 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13.  She did a great job on the article, so I visited her personal blog and found this great post about that end-of-my-rope feeling we get when the kids are constantly underfoot.  She shares her feelings with her husband, and he gently reminds her of what's most important right now.  Very good post most moms can identify with!

How these busy moms find time to maintain a well-trafficked blog--she also maintains a food blog and writes for profit--is beyond me!  I'm far from putting any real thought into my posts, which are mostly knee-jerk reactions to my days.  Anyhow, she seems to have plenty of honest, down-to-earth wisdom to share.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

the best chili and marriages

My cousin made chili for us last night.  It was the best I'd ever tasted!  He doesn't use recipes.  He just enjoys designing anything, including food.

I spoke about him briefly on this blog one other time.  He owned a custom landscaping business in California, not far from where we used to live.  The housing market crashed and never recovered there.  He lost his home and business--he is 48, making this a bigger tragedy--and had to move back here last year to live with his parents and his wife of two years.  They bought a fixer-upper home--not inhabitable yet--that he's busy renovating.  It had to be gutted so the process is a long one.  It will be a nice 2200 square-foot home when the work is complete, not including the large walk-in basement.

His parents are now wintering in Florida--probably a blessing.

His wife is a Christian; he is not.  Her husband passed away about five years before she met Rick.  I am hoping we can be friends, and that my husband can mentor him and counsel him in his marriage, which isn't going well.  Counseling and one-on-one discipleship are my husband's greatest strengths.

Please pray for them?  Like many Americans, they are having to make difficult adjustments--challenging their ability to meet the ingrained needs men and woman have in their marriages. Men, above all, want to be respected and appreciated.  Women need to feel loved and cherished. When a crumbled economy challenges a man's ability to provide, he finds it harder to do the cherishing.  And when the man isn't providing, for whatever reason, the woman finds it harder to respect and appreciate.  Put a sense of hopelessness in the mix and you have quite the recipe for disaster, unless God is supreme in the marriage.

Now, on to that recipe.

I don't usually have time to chop anything--all my cooking is done while chasing a toddler--so unfortunately we use powered spices most of the time.  This chili, however, is worth the effort!  Perhaps I'll have to make a batch after the kids are in bed.

Rick's Chili

1 lb. leanest hamburger
5 links hot and sweet sausage (casings removed, most of fat drained after cooking)
1 15 oz. can chili beans
1 15 oz. can white beans
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1 can tomato paste ( I forgot to ask, but I presume the 8 oz. size)
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz., approx.)
1 can water (depending on consistency you desire)
 spices to taste (garlic powder, Mrs. Dash, parsley, chili powder)

I didn't write down many directions, but I think he said he saved enough liquid from the meat to soften the vegetables, then he added the meats back in, followed by the rest of the ingredients.  He cooked it for three hours.

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Paul's writings (grade 1)

One day there was a boy who liked football.  His fovart taem was Arkansas.  He liked to cheer and he watched it and learned more and more.

The End

________________________

A Poem

Our hamster is so funny
He's better than a bunny
For good sakes his name is Jack the Black!
He is so gentel
Better than a mule
He's not such an eater
he doesn't drink that much
But he's still the perfit pet

________________________

One day there was a butterfly and a ladybug.  The butterfly was blue and red.  The ladybug was black and yellow.  They liked kickball and soccer.  They got some friends to play with.  There names were Fastfly and Big-bug and Go-bug and Go-fly.  The butter-flys team won.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

a tragedy needing prayer

I came across this post about a three-year-old who died five hours after a heavy dresser crushed his head into the concrete floor. Oh, please pray!  This happened on December 12th, and the mother continually goes over in her mind how she could have done things differently that night. Prayers will help restore peace in her heart.

The father, in deciding whether to buy the dresser, stood on it and other things to make sure it was sturdy enough to withstand a toddler's abuse. They had put their TV on it because it was the sturdiest piece of furniture they owned.

Furniture can be so dangerous!

self-pity, a grave sin

Sometimes, when I proclaim my happiness to my housemates, they say, "But you don't seem that happy."

Ouch.

How it grieves me to hear that!  I know my heart.  I am a fulfilled woman.

So why doesn't my happiness convey?

Because in the course of a day I become irritated by all that is demanded of me--the constant messes, the dishes, the laundry, the discipline and training of imperfect children.  I may have joy at my core, but outwardly my circumstances get the best of me, to my shame.

What I most want is to be the face of Jesus in the lives of these children, this husband.

But how?

I think I've found my answer, again--I've found it before and lost it!--in My Utmost For His Highest, a devotional by Oswald Chambers.

"....you may be partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter1:4)
 May 18 entry, text as follows:
We are made "partakers of the divine nature," receiving and sharing God's own nature through His promises.  Then we have to work that divine nature into our human nature by developing godly habits.  The first habit to develop is the habit of recognizing God's provision for us.  We say, however, "Oh, I can't afford it."  One of the worst lies is wrapped up in that statement.  We talk as if our heavenly Father has cut us off without a penny!  We think it is a sign of our true humility to say at the end of the day, "Well, I just barely got by today, but it was a severe struggle."  And yet all of Almighty God is ours in the Lord Jesus!  And He will reach to the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us if we will only obey Him.  Does it really matter that our circumstances are difficult?  Why shouldn't they be!  If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we remove God's riches from our lives and hinder others from entering into His provision.  No sin is worse than self-pity, because it removes God from the throne of our lives, replacing Him with our own self-interests.  It causes us to open our mouths only to complain, and we simply become spiritual sponges--always absorbing, never giving, and never being satisfied.  And there is nothing lovely or generous about our lives. (bold text my emphasis)
Before God becomes satisfied with us, He will take everything of our so-called wealth, until we learn that He is our Source; as the psalmist said, "All my springs are in You" (Psalm 87:7)  If the majesty, grace, and power of God are not being exhibited in us, God holds us responsible.  "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you......may have an abundance..." (2 Corinthians 9:8)--then learn to lavish the grace of God on others, generously giving of yourself.  Be marked and identified with God's nature, and His blessing will flow through you all the time.

As soon as I let self-pity out of the box, I cannot be the face of Christ, even for a moment.  He has paved the way for me to partake of his divine nature.  All of the Almighty God is mine in the Lord Jesus!

Self-pity is my enemy.  Raising young children is a life of physical service.  There's no question that it's exhausting, but as time passes their emotional needs will far exceed their physical ones, and I'll no longer feel like Cinderella.

In the meantime, I need to recognize God's provision for me, letting his divine nature flow through me, as I wipe up oatmeal and peach juice off the floor, glue and peanut butter and jelly off the table, while kissing boo boos, changing diapers, feeding bellies, teaching, and maintaining the steady hum of the washer and dryer and dishwasher.

I need not sink into self-pity by 10:00 a.m., because God has provided for me!

Friday, January 14, 2011

update from last night's "deep thanks" post

I was undone yesterday reading that Ann Voskamp's newborn niece might have meningitis.  This morning I put the water on for our oatmeal, then read this encouraging report from Ann's Friday post:

May we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your prayers for my niece? While she’s still being treated with antibiotics and is in the critical care unit, the doctors have ruled out meningitis (He hears and answers your humble prayers! Thank you, Lord!) Her oxygen levels are the current concern but we are all so hopeful. Yesterday was encouraging — your prayers, His goodness, give courage. Today, to gather up her sisters, the cousins, from my Mama’s to come for a day at the farm! We’ll just keep making love lists…

Praise God!  Such a relief!


When I was twenty-one weeks pregnant with Peter I was told during a routine ultrasound that he had hydrocephalus and swollen kidneys.  I drove home in a tearful daze, wondering if there was a God at all, for less than a year earlier I had lost a precious son at 21 weeks gestation (from unknown causes).  


Delivering the news, the doctor on duty said to me, "You were brave enough to get pregnant at 35, so now you can use that same strength to deal with this."  (Yikes!  Age 35?  Since when is that ancient?  I wish I could go back and tell that guy about the babies (Mary and Beth) I had at age 40 and 42!)

I was still working as a teacher at the time of this ill-fated ultrasound, though I had switched to a charter school catering to homeschoolers. So many people prayed for us and for our precious Peter!  Three days later we saw a specialist,  who said there was no hydrocephalus at all!  Peter still had the swollen kidneys (hydronephrosis) up until birth, but there was no evidence of it following his birth.

I really believe in the power of prayer!  God doesn't always say yes, but when he does, we need not assume it was just a coincidence.

deep thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.



Tonight, I am thankful for.....


- physically healthy children


- for the comment below found after this post, and Ann's Thursday post, all reminding me that having healthy children is not my right.  I need to give thanks every day that my precious ones are lively, loud and alive.

I’ve been plumbing the depths of these and other questions since my infant son (our first child) died at 16 days old in early October. Reconciling the apparent discrepancy between our deep human pain and God’s goodness is a philosophical-theological question, and even if we receive an answer that satisfies the intellect as true, the heartache remains. It’s not so much that the answer doesn’t help at all — it does ease the mind that believes — but I came to see that what I really wanted was not the answer to the question so much as for Him to ease my heartache, to unbreak the world a little just for me, in short: to give me my son back.
In other words, I wanted Him to make an exception even though I couldn’t think of a single good reason why I should be spared what so many others suffer.
Gulp.
Even though He promises suffering over and over, I continue to be surprised at it when it comes and ask “Why, God? Why?”
Brokenness is painful and perplexing, and it is so redemptive — I’ve seen Ewan’s life and death purify not only my own soul, but so many others as well. This terrible ache acquaints me deeply with myself, and ever so much more deeply with the One who loved us enough that He spared Himself none of our pain.
Even with all the good I’ve seen come from it, my heart still aches and asks the questions. And so now I find myself trying to make peace with the mystery.
this grieving mother's blog link here:  Team Ewan

- the dreamy act of watching my baby (okay, my 25-month-old) sleep.  She is so beautiful to me.

- my husband's warm arms, his kiss hello

- Magic School Bus Chapter Books for nine-year-old Peter.

- a better night for my Peter.

- frequent hugs from Mary

- laughing at Mary in the bath tonight.  As I washed her hair I told her she was beautiful.  She responded, "Nonsense!  You're beautiful."  As much as I want her to receive my praise (we'll work on that), I found it so funny hearing her say the word "nonsense" in that bossy tone.  It's not a word used frequently around here.  Funny what things they pick up!

- deep finger marks in the pumpkin pie cooling on the stove (that would be Mary).  She came into Beth's room as I was nursing Beth to sleep:  "I leally want some of that pie!" (She doesn't form "r" correctly yet.)  I asked her to wait until I was done in Beth's room.  As she left the room I said to myself,  She's going to go dig her fingers into that pie.  I walked into the kitchen fifteen minutes later, noting the three lines of finger marks in the center of the pie!  Now, why did that make me smile so?  Because as I grow old older, I will always remember my Mary putting her fingers into every pie and cake.

- that one of seven-year-old Paul's missions is to cuddle with you in a way that leaves the littlest room possible between you and him

- sister hugs six times a day

- craft books from the library and the crafty mess they instigate in my dining room

- Jack Black, the hamster, for continuing to delight our family with his gentle ways.  He is evidence of God's grace toward Peter.  Each time Peter plays with Jack, I hear  "Isn't he just the nicest pet, Mommy?"

- the pleasure of knowing these wonderful children a little better every day.

- snow-capped evergreens, soothing my soul, reminding me of His creation and love and grace

- lots of snow once again, though I may be the only one here appreciating it (children are beginning to dread all the bundling required to play outside.  They keep talking about spring and summer.)

- my kids dancing up a storm to Christian CD's (They still love it, Sandi!)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jesus Storybook Bible - a review

Excerpt from the Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones (forgive me for the length--it's good stuff!)

     As soon as the snake saw his chance, he slithered silently up to Eve.  "Does God really love you?" the serpent whispered.  "If he does, why won't he let you eat the nice, juicy, delicious fruit?  Poor you, perhaps God doesn't want you to be happy."
     The snake's words hissed into her ears and sunk down deep into her heart, like poison.  Does God love me?  Eve wondered.  Suddenly she didn't know anymore. 
     "Just trust me." the serpent whispered.  "You don't need God.  One small taste, that's all, and you'll be happier than you could ever dream..."
     Eve picked the fruit and ate some.  And Adam ate some, too.
     And a terrible lie came into the world.  It would never leave.  It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God's children, "God doesn't love me."
     And it wasn't a dream.  It was a nightmare.
     A dove flew from Adam's hand.  A deer darted in a thicket.  It was as if they were frightened by something.  A chill was in the air.  Something strange was happening.  They had always been naked--but now they felt naked, and wrong, and they didn't want anyone to see them.  So they hid.  
     Later that evening, as God was taking his walk, he called to them, "Children?"
     Usually Adam and Even loved to hear God's voice and would run to him.  But this time, they ran away from him and hid in the shadows.  
     "Where are you?" God called.
     "Hiding," Adam said.  "We're afraid of you."
     "Did you eat the fruit I told you not to eat?" God asked them.
     Adam said, "Eve made me do it!"
     And terrible pain came into God's heart.  His children hadn't just broken the one rule; they had broken God's heart. They had broken their wonderful relationship with him.  And now he knew everything else would break.  God's creation would start to unravel, and come undone, and go wrong.  From now on everything would die--even though it was all supposed to last forever.
     You see, sin had come into God's perfect world.  And it would never leave.  God's children would be always running away from him and hiding in the dark.  Their hearts would break now, and never work properly again.  
     God couldn't let his children live forever, not in such pain, not without him.  There was only one way to protect them.
     "You will have to leave the garden now," God told his children, his eyes filling with tears.  "This is no longer your true home, it's not the place for you anymore."
     But before they left the garden, God made clothes for his children, to cover them.  He gently clothed them and then he sent them away on a long, long journey--out of the garden, out of their home.
     Well, in another story, it would all be over and that would have been.......The End.
     But not in this Story.
     God loved his children too much to let the story end there.  Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan--a magnificent dream.  One day, he would get his children back.  One day, he would make the world their perfect home again.  And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes.
     You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children--with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.
     And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God's children would miss him always, and long for him--lost children yearning for their home.
     Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: "It will not always be so!  I will come to rescue you!  And when I do, I'm going to do battle against the snake.  I'll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here.  I'm coming back for you!"


And he would.  One day, God himself would come.  


We bought the Jesus Storybook Bible for our daughter Mary, age 4, for Christmas.  As you can see from this rather long excerpt, it is powerful.  Every story does indeed "whisper his name", as advertised on the back cover.  The coming of Jesus is mentioned in some form at the end of each story, such as in the ending to this tower of Babel story:

     You see, God knew, however high they reached, however hard they tried, people could never get back to heaven by themselves.  People didn't need a staircase; they needed a Rescuer.  Because the way back to heaven wasn't a staircase; it was a Person.
     People could never reach up to Heaven, so Heaven would have to come down to them.
     And, one day, it would.


This book is advertised for ages 4-7, but both my husband and me feel this age range is too low.  Our four year old can't really understand the deep meanings contained in these stories.  Over time, of course, she will, and I'm very glad I bought this book!  I think kids 6 and up will get the most out of these stories, written in this form.

My husband doesn't care for the melodramatic prose.  He thinks it makes the Bible harder to understand, rather than easier.  I think it's always better to go straight to the Bible, but having other things around the house for devotionals is a good idea, to spice things up, if you will.  This particular storybook bible is unique in trying to highlight the great hope of the whole Bible--Jesus.  It's definitely worth reading to your kids.  I'm enjoying it myself, actually, and I'm way over the age range!

Paul (age 7) and I both cried at this version of the fall of man. Actually, I guess we cry at every version we read, but this one in particular really gripped our hearts.  I wanted so much to comfort my son, but I was so overcome myself, I couldn't come up with comforting words, until much later.  The story of the fall is so heavy, so wrought with tragedy, it's hard not to feel a sense of devastation each time I read it.

Paul is a very bright boy and he really feels this story.  Keenly.  He said to me, through his tears, "How could God allow Satan to do that!?"  I think somehow he understands it--the magnitude of it--better than my older son, who just turned nine.

Thankfully, the stories are hopeful.  They do whisper His name.  Paul has started taking this book and reading it on his own.  He is hungry for that hope, especially after that first night of tears.

I hope this text brings us some help, some comfort, in regards to the suffering experienced on earth. Peter asks me often now, "Why did Jesus make me this way?!"  His OCD has become just awful at night time.  He fears there's a bomb in his closet (along with a host of other irrational fears) and starts dreading the nighttime as early as 5 p.m.  He gets thoughts that I'm going to harm him (detonate the bomb in his closet, for example), but I'm the one he also must have for comfort, to finally get to sleep.

OCD people are not delusional or psychotic.  They understand completely that their brains are playing tricks, but they still have to do the compulsions for comfort (i.e. washing their hands for contamination fears, checking doors for burglar fears, checking that the stove is off, etc.)  Peter is mainly battling the nighttime fears right now.

Each night drains me beyond belief.  I no longer assume Peter will lead a normal life.  He has so much to deal with, and my telling him that Jesus has special plans for his life--special plans to use Peter to touch others and bring glory to God--doesn't bring as much comfort now.  Specific obsessions and compulsions come and go, I know.  We're praying that these specific nighttime fears subside quickly.

Anyhow, in relation to the Jesus Storybook Bible, I'm hoping that Peter will learn to take comfort in the Great Hope of the Bible--Jesus, and the promised return to Paradise.

We suffer here on earth greatly, but time is fleeting.  Heaven is near.  Only God understands how fleeting. That's why, I believe, he can stand to let us suffer at all.

Psalm 39:4-5
O Lord, help me understand my mortality
and the brevity of life!
Let me realize how quickly my life will pass!
Look, you make my days short-lived,
and my life span is nothing from your perspective.
Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

don't evaluate on the fourth week

Post Script to the previous post:

Do not try to evaluate your marriage, or any other aspect of your life, in the fourth week of your menstrual cycle.  Indeed, mark it on the calendar as a reminder.  No evaluating this week!

My dear husband, with whom I have very little conversation these days due to his work hours, said to me while we spoke for five minutes in the bathroom the other day:

Husband:  "Honey, we really need to get together and talk about ways you can be happier in this marriage."

Me:  "What are you talking about?  Honey, I love you very much.  I'm happy with you and everything about my life. It's just keeping up with the house right now that rattles me to the core.  And that's just a season, I realize."

This conversation occurred about three days after the hormonal upheaval ended.  This didn't dawn on me until I'd finished my last sentence.

Do I clue him in, or just let it go?

"I know it gets confusing Honey, and I'm sorry.  I was having the "Adam and Eve curse of childbirth" angst last week, remember?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

seeking Christian help for your marriage

In my last post about the importance of offering marriage counsel to hurting, confused Christian sisters, I indicated my desire to follow up with guidelines women might consider when looking for help.

Seek counsel from one woman, or from a couple, rather than from a women's group.  The more people involved, the more likely you are to be judged, ridiculed, or gossiped about.

The best counsel will be from a woman who:

- is older than you
- is mature in the faith
- has a gentle and quiet spirit
- is a prayer warrior
- has a happy marriage that has been tested (difficulties in the past)
- has not had an easy life (hardship grows compassion)
- is not prone to gossip--even the subtle type
- knows the Bible
- knows you and your husband
- is positive and encouraging
- believes in sanctity of marriage

Find a Christian couple if your husband is living in sin; a man should address your husband's issues.

When should you seek counsel?

- when your husband is living in sin (infidelity, pornography, emotional cheating (too close to women at work)
- when your husband is abusive--verbally or physically (leave home with children if you don't feel safe)
- when you feel overwhelmed with the demands of the relationship
- when intimacy slows down or stops (not caused by health issue or childbirth)
- when walls of resentment begin to build
- when you can't forgive
- when strife becomes commonplace (in the absence of a crisis)
- when the grass starts looking very green elsewhere

Building a counseling relationship with a hurting Christian sister:

- listen without interruption
- avoid judging statements or body language
- start each session in prayer
- give thanks for the counseling relationship
- pray before, during, and after the session
- go slowly, hearing all the grievances first, over several sessions if necessary
- offer praise for good things the sister has done to improve her relationship
- offer help with childcare so couple can talk in private
- once you have a grasp of the problems, develop a plan to address each area--starting with the most dire issues, one at a time
- prepare Scriptural support for your counsel, give sister a copy each time
- give homework designed to improve the sister's relationship with Christ
- teach her to pray for her husband, confess her own sins, and to pray specifically for their relationship

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is marriage talk taboo among Christian sisters?

A few days ago I read a thoughtful piece Amy Scott wrote about expressing compassion toward women experiencing difficult marriages.  There's an unwritten rule in Christian circles that a wife shouldn't air her marriage grievances, since doing so could dishonor her husband.  Amy's article happened to center around a wife experiencing verbal abuse. Several of the blog comments were so judgmental of Amy's piece that she later wrote an "I Messed Up" piece.   For the record, I thought Amy did a lovely job on her original article; I know God will use it to bless many women.

While gossipy talk about husbands is certainly unwise (referring to "he never takes out the trash" grievances, here) have we, in Christian circles, forced confused, hurting wives into emotional isolation, thereby allowing their marriages to get worse--leading to a Christian divorce rate of around 50% (roughly equaling the secular divorce rate)?

It's often when we share with the wrong person and get burned, that we learn this important "no sharing" rule, in regards to marriage.  I keep mum about my marriage except on this anonymous blog.  Anonymity is so important to me that I plan to always write with a pseudonym, whether for pleasure or for a paying market (should I ever have time to develop marketable writing skills, that is).

Writers write what they live....what they know.  My desire is to write truth--to glorify God by proclaiming his miraculous works in my heart and life.  If I'm compelled to alter or filter my words too much, I end up saying nothing.  But, I would never want to hurt anyone with my words, either.  My husband is tough and gives me permission to write my heart--telling me he has nothing to hide.  He is a man of contrasts, for sure.  While exuding confidence in a job interview is challenging for him, he does have personal confidence in who he is in Christ.  He has never cared what anyone thought of him, whether it be about his clothing, his vehicle, his job, his status.  However, other people in my family, including my children, may not have that same toughness, so anonymity seems the merciful way to go.

Since I got married at 33, I had plenty of time to contemplate what kind of union I wanted.  Peace, honor, and trustworthiness were most important to me.  My hunch then, and still today, is that highly confident, successful men struggle more with infidelity, addiction, insensitivity, selfishness, and a sense of entitlement.  Their success leads to feelings of invincibility, making them feel they're exempt from decency.  My own father, who didn't raise me beyond the age of three but with whom I had regular contact, was cocky, confident, successful after 40, and a shameless philanderer.  He is five years into his fifth marriage, at age 70. (Yes, he's an extreme case.) Certainly there are successful men who are also exemplary husbands and fathers, but I find them to be the exception, rather than the rule, partially because their balanced personality type is less common.

People who come from dysfunctional families tend to have dysfunctional reasons for choosing their life partners, although at the time of the wedding, they're unaware of this.  Later on, this makes for some complicated marriages--not doomed, just more problematic than money squabbles and time and space issues.

Whether a woman has married a good provider, a good partner and father, or both, she is bound to encounter confusing stages of marriage. Especially if she didn't grow up in a Christian home, there are a lot of qualities she'll need that won't come naturally to her.  The younger she is, the more this may be true.

I think the key to saving marriages is to get to them before the thick walls of resentment set in--before a couple wakes up every morning with the same relational problems...the same hopelessness.  Women need support in their marriages!  And that support often needs to be more specific than mere Bible verses provide.  Godly women need to be willing to hear grievances and, without judgement, assist confused, hurting sisters (using God's word, and specific counsel, encouragement and accountability).

In the past, I would have suggested here that women go to their pastors for this counsel.  That may be a winning choice for many.  Last year I saw my pastor for counsel on how to deal with a substance-addicted relative.  It was a positive experience.  However, my husband went to the same pastor for counsel on dealing with the depression and hopelessness of underemployment, and his experience was terrible.  He still cringes when we're face-to-face with that pastor.  Unfortunately, it was my idea for him to go see our Pastor; I was worried about potential suicidal thoughts, should the depression continue.  I was wrong.  Husband is stressed and battles recurring depression right now, but it's under control.  It's to be expected, under the circumstances.

How I wish I'd never suggested counsel!

Anyhow, on my next post on this topic, I want to follow up Amy's article by brainstorming a list of qualities a woman should seek when looking for wise marriage counsel from a fellow Christian sister (or Christian couple).

Have a good weekend, friends!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

the unforced rhythms of grace in parenting

In my signature neurotic, conscientious way, I worry about how much sleep each child is getting.  I have the pediatric sleep chart memorized for each age range.  Yeah, I know.  That's really neurotic.

I know the folly of letting a child get over-tired and wired.  I know the value of predictable bedtime routines, which ease a child into sleep.

When each child awakes in the morning, I note the time on the clock and count backwards to the time they fell asleep the night before.  Did they get their required hours?

Despite my Herculean efforts, bedtime doesn't always go smoothly around here.  Sometimes, in fact, it goes so horrendously, I wonder why the heck these silly rules are even written!

When I first started parenting, I bought the line that if you just show 'em who's boss, everything will go smoothly.  They'll fall in line like faithful soldiers.

Now, I see their little hearts.  I look into their eyes and want to know them. Sometimes they feel good and want to please me.  Other times, they don't know why, but they just can't fall in line.  They're off somehow.

How often does that happen to adults, in regards to Heavenly Father's wishes?  How often do we fail to fall in line?

Mary was off at bedtime tonight.  She whined, fought, felt sorry, then hugged me.  Then she struggled again, with some disrespect spilling from her angst-ridden face.  She cried, grabbed my neck, hugged me wild.

Was she over-tired?  Getting sick?

Instead of discipline, GRACE.  Not always, and God will lead the way in this......if we seek His face.

Things often don't go as formulas--like sleep charts--would have us believe.

Because we're raising up souls, not soldiers.

I want to be a haven of rest for them.  The face of Christ, above all.

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (Peterson, 1993)
"Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Matthew 11:28-30 King James Version
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

neurology and the Beatitudes

Peter's neurologist today confirmed what the pediatrician and I have suspected over the last two years--Peter has OCD, Tourette's Syndrome, Hyperactive/Impulsive type AD/HD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (all related in terms of brain chemistry).  He suggests keeping Peter on 10mg Strattera for the hyperactivity/impulsivity.  He wants to order an MRI and stress test to rule out ominous reasons for the onset of migraine headaches in Peter.

Several research articles I read tonight indicated that MRI is called for in children who have chronic progressive migraines--migraines that are increasing in frequency and severity, and in children with migraines who also have an abnormal neurological exam--possibly indicating brain tumor or increased inter-cranial pressure (i.e. hydrocephalus).

Peter's physical exam results were normal and his headaches are not increasing in severity or frequency.  We both feel the MRI and stress test are unreasonable in Peter's case--probably ordered to protect the doctor in case Peter later dies from an undiagnosed brain tumor.  Without a doubt, Peter would probably refuse to get into an MRI machine.  We are going to hold off on this test and the stress test until Peter's headaches increase in severity or frequency, or he begins to display other possibly-ominous neurological symptoms

I have daily migraines that I wake up with or get by 10:00 a.m.  Excedrin taken at the first sign of pain takes care of the headache before it becomes debilitating, 90% of the time.  I believe the frequency of mine are due to overuse of acetaminophen over the years, which causes rebound headaches.  If you use acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain several times a week, you are likely to get chronic rebound pain as a result.   Multiple pregnancies and subsequent nursing periods have prevented me from using other migraine medications.  When Beth stops nursing, I will start using a preventative migraine medication instead of over-the-counter Excedrin (my Excedrin is a combo of acetaminophen and caffeine).  This preventative strategy should over time eliminate my rebound headaches.  No one has ever ordered an MRI on me!  There is a strong family history of migraine and even though mine didn't start until age 26, I do have cousins who started migraines in grade school/middle school.  Migraine is less common in boys, which is why we won't rule out the MRI indefinitely.

The Strattera (a non-stimulant AD/HD medicine) can aggravate Peter's anxiety at times, but without it he isn't productive.  He won't sit and read a book long enough to enjoy it, or build a train track or anything else for more than a few minutes.  When the hyperactivity goes untreated, Peter can't fully live his life or pursue his interests or do his best in school.

He is too young for psychiatric drugs, so treating the OCD isn't desirable at this time.  Only in debilitating cases would drug therapy be used in children.  I believe that as an adult, if Peter controls stress in his life, his OCD and Generalized Anxiety will be manageable without meds.

Tonight I read the Beatitudes in The Message (Peterson, 1993).  The text reads as follows:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule."  


"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."


"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less.  That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."


"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat."


"You're blessed when you care.  At the moment of being 'care-full', you find yourselves cared for."


"You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world."


"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete and fight.  That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family."


"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom."


"Not only that--count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens--give a cheer, even!--for though they don't like it, I do!  And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble."


When I read this and think of the life Peter will lead because of his special-needs status, I am far less panicked.  I am encouraged.  He is already very close to God, for his age.  I believe because of his struggles he will remain close--after God's own heart, even.

Also, as the mother of a special-needs child, I know coping effectively means that I must remain close to God--our entire family must, for that matter.

Taken this way, disability is not a curse, but a blessing.  It's a life of grace--received and given, renewed every day.