Thursday, August 30, 2012

Calm Me, Lord

An appointment this morning with Beth's rheumatologist, four kids in tow, then later a trip to the pet store for supplies, four kids in tow, followed by a little one's nap in my arms in the easy chair (a wonderful prayer time for me), along with visits from Lexi...all together ending in Momma being seriously behind on chores and starting dinner.

Nothing frazzles me more than stuff on the floor, stuff on the counter, stuff on the dining-room table, laundry needing shuffling, kids asking can I do this or that, or have him or her over, and dinner? Not even started.

It's not uncommon for me to throw my hands up toward the heavens on such days and say to the  kids, "Can't you see I'm a little overwhelmed?!" 

I've learned to delegate and diffuse the time bomb inside of me,  by asking them to put away everything that's on the floor, and to fold whatever is their's from the pile, before they start asking for time-consuming activities or to have friends over to play.

Optimally scheduling errands helps prevent overload too (like not on an appointment day), but some errands come up suddenly. Such is life. I get behind. 

My task as a Christian mother? Let the Spirit calm me so I can be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. I believe if we ask for a Spirit filling--or whatever you want to call it--with a pure heart, wanting to live God's will, peace will be granted unto us.

A stash of scripture cards ready-made is just the medicine we need on these days, along with our prayers.

Try these?

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6)

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Cast your anxieties on him, for he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:5-6)

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Just the fact that a disordered house bothers so many is testimony to this: Our minds were created for order. Still, we needn't fall apart in the chaos. 

~ Pray for peace

~ Delegate chores

~ Recite verses

Families should work together. It bonds, teaches, brings harmony.

Side Note:  Our new hamster is recovering from whatever mishap befell her. Suspecting a girl, Peter named her Rebecca or Becky. I predict a full recovery within a week. Last night she stood straight up and climbed the cage. We are still praying.

I gave thanks to God and looked into Peter's eyes. "Do you realize how miraculous her recovery is, Peter?" I don't think he did at first. Peter needs instances like this, in which God clearly and miraculously answered a prayer, to look back on in times of turmoil. 

We should all record these answers for ourselves and for future generations of our family to feast on, yes? What a gift that would be!

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Hamster Teaches Life

Today I wonder, when life hands you a Plan B, how do you step up and shine anyway? How do you gracefully dance to another tune, though it wasn't the one you wanted?

Two months ago the water bottle attached to the hamster's cage leaked. Husband bought another and I recommended the children immediately change the cage.

"We will...right after we finish this game," they answered.

Jack, our hamster, at that time perfectly healthy, didn't occupy their minds as much as Lexi, their neighborhood friend.

Previously...Jack? Peter cuddled with him, gave thanks for him, loved him, showered him with attention. But then came Lexi, interesting, animated, fun. Poor Jack drifted into the background of Peter's heart.

The board game, finished, went back on the shelf, Jack forgotten. And my mind, occupied with the present care of children and home, went on to the next thing, Jack's cage forgotten.

At regular cage cleaning time two days later, the children discovered mold clinging to one of the cage toys. How long had it been there? How long had that water bottled leaked? How could the children fail to notice such mold, for surely it hadn't developed in two days time?

Not long after, Jack aged before our eyes, laboring to breathe, slowing his daily activities. His furry chest made heartwrenching motions as his breathing faltered. we mourned, husband and me, especially after research taught us that Jack probably suffered from a respiratory illness, possibly brought on by moldy bedding.

It hit us. The leaky water bottle! We hadn't caught it in time, and the boys hadn't listened to my warning to immediately change the cage, as they attached a new bottle.

We are the adults here, ultimately responsible for every pet brought home. We can train, admonish, but as the only adults, the outcome depends on God and our responsible supervision.

We failed.

A few days later, Jack took his last breaths, my husband holding and comforting him in the last moments. Peter just couldn't do it. Jack became part of our family in December 2010, gracing us with a lot of sweet, even funny, memories.

Though he seemed in mourning, Peter wanted a new hamster within twenty-four hours. He'd never liked Jack's color and he looked forward to picking out his very own hamster...not one chosen by his brother Paul, who subsequently decided hamsters weren't his thing.

But that Jack? He was the picture of gentleness, never biting, and Peter easily put the black color and rodenty face into perspective, declaring love within the first week Jack dwelled here. I tell you that hamster seemed to purr like a cat when handled, especially while sleepy. For our family he was the perfect pet.

Fast forward two months, an acceptable time to mourn Jack and learn our lessons. Wanting to extend the same grace our Lord extended to us, we agreed another hamster could share our home, so long as the care remained exemplary and voluntary on Peter's part.

A two-month's wait proved long and in his typical ADHD way, Peter obsessed for days, knowing his mourning sentence drew to a close soon. He searched Internet hamster photos, read up on care and caging, talked incessantly of the upcoming day.

When at exactly two months there were too many appointments to make a pet store stop 30 minutes away, he got ugly, following me around the house, pushing, in typical ADHD fashion. If you ever find yourself feeling unduly pushed by someone who can't seem to fixate their mind on anything but what they want, you may have an ADHD brain in your midst.

No, they don't mean to drive you into despair and frustration. Usually. Yes, they might feel guilty about your stress, though still not stopping. The impulse control to stop their obsessing is absent from their brains and even kids who are medicated only improve in hyperactivity, usually--not in impulse control. This self-control lack in the brain is the hardest thing to treat. There are advantages to this state of mind, just not interpersonal ones.

And the truth is, they're driven crazy as well by their desires, exhibiting stress signs and other physical symptoms, such as taking in too little food and water and sleeping poorly while their brain obsesses. It's a heartbreaking cycle--the more tired and stressed they are, they more their brain obsesses and the more you feel like you're trapped in a nightmare.

Last Sunday after church, with the neighbor kids going back to school and Peter needing a distraction to prevent him from bugging his siblings incessantly, Daddy and Peter ventured to the pet shop, bringing home an orangy brown hamster with a face not quite so rodenty and eyes nicer than all the others in the shop.

As hamster began settling in its new cage, moving the bedding around just so, Mommy and Daddy went about preparing for our beach trip. Our son was instructed not to pick up the hamster the first day. We already noticed it didn't exhibit Jack's gentleness. A bite on the hand was likely if we didn't give hamster a day or two to acclimate.

But this is Peter we're talking about, who unfortunately doesn't learn from his mistakes...namely, that obeying your parents in the Lord helps things go well for you.

He picked the new hamster up, bringing him onto the carpet for some Jack-style cuddling. I caught him, telling him to immediately put it back.

Twenty minutes later husband peaked at the little guy in the cage, right before we headed out to the beach, saying goodbye in an affectionate way, though he isn't especially fond of little furry things, after being bitten badly by a gerbil two years ago.

Noticing a funny gait, he brought the hamster out, putting him on the carpet to inspect his walk.

Immediately we noticed both back legs dragging around, though it moved at a quick pace and didn't appear to be in pain or notice the handicap. Having seen the hamster perfectly healthy in the store, husband fell to the carpet in grief and frustration, asking God how this could happen to us, scarcely an hour after purchase.

I shared in his moaning and disbelief.

Peter, also upset at the sight, told us he'd dropped hammy from a short height but it seemed fine when it scurried away. Apparently it nipped at Peter, shocking him and causing him to drop the hamster from a 15-inch height onto the carpet. Normally, a fall from a height like this does no damage. Hamsters crawl to the top of their cages and fall down all the time, and this hamster was not a baby...probably 3-6 months old with an adult body.

Peter mentioned he'd seen it go down backwards in the cage tube, and maybe the feet had gotten stuck?

Swearing the hamster appeared paraplegic, husband wondered sadly at God's will. And we were both frustrated at Peter's disobedience, offering no further grace should this hamster die. No more fragile pets.

Like so many things in our lives, Plan B stared us in the face with this hamster's injury. Hamsters can live in this state, apparently happy, unless they begin chewing their back limbs off from nerve pain. Antibiotics might become necessary for possible urinary tract infections and self-inflicted wound care.

Not what we all had in mind, when Peter ecstatically brought home a new furry love.

It might recover, just as humans sometimes do from paralysis. We're praying and God will decide.

And if Plan B remains? What then?

Peter is faced with a parenting reality much like my own. A situation he never would have chosen.

Having an ADHD child after an affected student in 1999 basically retired me from teaching? So not in my plan. That student was so difficult, my heart feared having another one like him.

I'm done with public-school teaching, I told my husband in 2001. I could never endure more of that stress.

And yet God gave me just that. A child for whom I have endless love, but one who makes my life a daily gospel. Sometimes I lay my life down and accept it in love. Other times I want to get in the car and drive 5000 miles away, alone.

This Plan B life I lead with Peter renders me a vastly imperfect parent.

I'd waited so long for marriage and children and I wanted to be a good parent. An exemplary one. By handicapping all of our nervous systems, driving them beyond their design most days, Peter's brain changes the quality of daily life here, through no fault of his own. It doesn't take long for guests to notice his differences and rarely does anyone stay more than a few hours, though Peter is loved by all. All would agree his heart is soft and golden.

Who better qualified than me, to guide Peter in how to love this imperfect hamster?  Right?

But I falter and fail in this job, apologizing often, asking Him for mercy daily.

How do I guide my son, then, on the road to "parenting" success? What bullet list of tips can I give?

Just this:

1. God
2. God
3. God
4  God

Lean on Him
Talk to Him
Ask Him
Let Him

Plan B? It was the right one in the first place. Right for God and his Glory.

The best plan we can have? Stay in the back seat.

Go forward in thankfulness, my son, with Him leading.

Let your heart soar in praise and worship of the Almighty Living God, your Father and Redeemer, not because the plan looks like what you wanted, but because the plan ends with Eternity. 

~ Practice obedience over and over.

~ Confess when you take a selfish detour.

~ Live a life poured out.

~ Set your gaze on Heaven.

~ Give thanks.

And when all else fails, just sit and cuddle with the little guy, watching the clouds sail by.

God photo credit

Monday, August 27, 2012

Multitude Monday, 8-27

Multitude Monday

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

Dear Lord, thank you for these gifts:

~ That even in the midst of sorrow, there are blessings to count, like little girls in pigtails in the scorching heat at the country fair. And I give thanks for the eight consecutive years we've been to this fair--years that passed far too fast--at which I've been pregnant twice, held babies in a sling twice, watched three little ones take their first ride, and introduced four children to the wonder of cotton candy. And finally, watched an enthusiastic husband dine on fair food with all the joy of Templeton the rat, one of Wilbur's saviors.

  ~ That ten-year-old Peter allows me to comfort him. He loves the animals and the food, but the crowd? It makes him exceedingly anxious. He worries that one of the children will get lost. He holds their hands fiercely tight and makes sure everyone has a buddy. My heart aches for him in his anxiety, but I rejoice that I have prayer power and the ability to comfort him.

~ For pigs. Enough said. We love them!

~ For Paul's joy on the bumper cars...the first year he was tall enough.

~ For a little girl thrilled at her guaranteed win. We now have an inflatable dolphin loved by all, despite its pink color.

~ For the faces God put on all his animals. The faces intrigue me most.

~ Even those only a mother could love.

~ For spouses to cuddle next to, who comfort us in our sorrow and share our joys.

~ For the wonder of lizards.

~ For the quietness and gentleness of bunnies.

~ Kids who giggle at the lake, loving every second of the experience.

~ For a little girl finally gaining a pound or two. I had to buy her a 4T top and a matching bottom in size 18 months. She's tiny but getting her muscle tone and healthy fat back

~ For siblings to share the joys with. They teach us how to live in harmony with a spouse some day, and for that I'm forever grateful.

~ For a little girl who will finally bend her knees outside of the therapy gym. She is getting better, praise God. We pray that fall, winter, and early spring don't bring back the pain, weight loss, or muscle atrophy.

~ For the many grand cloud formations at yesterday's lake trip.

~ For the light and the One who created it and recreates it in us.

~ For the comfort of Bible verses. They speak love and strength and guidance into our frail hearts. What a gift to hide them in our hearts and be able to retrieve just the right one at the right time.

~ For a very sweet letter from our Divya from India.

Romans 15:4
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Deuteronomy 29:29
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

2 Peter 1:20
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.

What are you thankful for today, my friend?

Linking with Ann today and other thankful ladies. What a gift!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mourn With Those Who Mourn: What Does It Mean?

When my babies died in my womb, when my husband lost his job, I walked around in a mourning-daze, unable to concentrate or sleep. I cracked eggs and absentmindedly put them down the sink instead of in bowls. I drove past my exit on the freeway and went to the store for a certain thing, only to come home without it. When I didn't have a duty to perform, I sat and stared at walls.

I couldn't smile or read and I prayed in words or groans, not sentences.

Last Thursday something emotionally devastating happened to someone whom I know very well. I'm in that mourning daze once again, though this time the tragedy isn't mine.

I asked myself 48 hours in, am I over identifying with this? Is that the problem? Am I failing to trust that God will redeem it and raise up the oppressed? Do I lack faith?

Certain scriptures came to me then, on the third day. Next, a modicum of peace arrived, not taking away the despair, but lessening it. This peace came quite suddenly, as though someone had prayed and God heard and he washed His spirit over me.

What does it mean to mourn with those who mourn? Simply to feel sad that the world is so broken, and to increase your pray for someone? To make a meal for someone or send a card? Maybe it depends on whether you're in their inner circle or not, but one thing I've learned is this:

We're not meant to push away these all-consuming feelings or simply "snap out of it". We need to walk through it, in solidarity with them.

Hebrews 13:3
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Job 30:25
Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?

Ecclesiastes 3:4
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance

Job 2:11
When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.

One of my prayer partners and I are praying one specific prayer right now, and I invite you to join us. 

Financial devastation due to the slow economy, and now this emotional devastation, both loom large right now and things could easily get too dark for this person. There appears to be no hope, on any front. She already lives too solitary a life, with too much time alone. Please pray: That God will give Person A tangible evidence that he exists and he loves her.

Thank you, friends!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Meanest Mom on the Block

Well friends, I acted assertively in two instances. I knew it had to be done but I feel sick to my stomach, even two hours later, and my kids? They're slowly coming to understand why their mild-mannered mommy had to be so "mean".

The 12-year-old babysitter left her house to play outside for an hour and a half today with her 9-year-old brother, leaving the 4-year-old and 5-year-old still inside their house. I thought maybe the mother had come to get them for an appointment, so I didn't say anything to the 12-year-old.

They did come out eventually, so I had to assume she left them either sleeping or watching a movie.

When they emerged the little ones immediately came over here and the 12- and 9-year-olds went to the drainage ditch to catch frogs. This ditch is across the street from my home (their house is also across the street and two houses down.)

I had to go across the street with the young ones in hand and tell their sister I had paperwork to do and couldn't have them on my property, because they might get hurt and then I could get sued. I used this language deliberately, not knowing whether she would understand or not, but with the hope she would repeat it to her mother later. I told her the kids wouldn't listen to me about staying with their sister, and would she please take control of them and keep them off the property?

The worst that can happen is they'll think I'm a fickle witch--nice one day and mean the next--and decide not to go to our church. The best thing that can happen is they'll be forced to act more responsibly.

A person who takes responsibility for others inappropriately, is called an enabler. And I won't go there. Enabling doesn't help's emotionally unhealthy for all involved.

But, I hated rejecting those little ones. I'm still sick to my stomach.

In other news, our neighborhood friend Lexi ran away last week. The grandfather came to our door looking for her. He had no idea where to look except at our house, so Peter gave him a few other ideas. She hadn't been here that day and we were worried sick about her until we saw her in her front yard a few hours later.

She said she was grounded when Peter drove by on his bike a day later.

Anyhow, since then I've asked that she bring a note with her from her family, indicating that she's allowed to play here. She isn't allowed out of her yard but when she leaves it defiantly, they won't go after her. They're completely non-assertive, choosing instead to continually take her bike away, rather than go and retrieve her. This young lady is strong willed and after telling her three times today to leave, I come in shaking from stress. She kept saying it was okay and her mother didn't have any paper to write a note, but after I came inside and she began walking home, she told Peter she didn't think her mom would give her permission.

So friends, this concludes the story about the balmy August day in which I became the meanest mom on the block.

A Conundrum

Friends, I scarcely know where to begin.

So much to process tonight.

The neighborhood situation? It's changed in the last couple days. Turns out that the girl watching her three siblings, ages 4, 5, and 9? She's not 13 years old. 

She's 12.

And today she fell asleep on the job. The 9-year-old, Aiden, left the house with his two younger siblings while the older sister slept. They came over here, where they know food and drink are available and where they can play with toys and books in a clean house. (Yes, the house has been very clean lately.)

And someone will smile at them here. And maybe pat their cute little heads and tell them their painting has a lot of vivid colors.

Today, I was not ready to host any children. I'd taken Beth to therapy and had chores to do, paperwork to catch up on. Neighborhood children had taken up my time the two previous days and I couldn't dedicate three days in a row to it.

Sounds reasonable, yes? Except that the more I do for this family, the less they do for themselves. The more I've loved on these children, the more the 12-year-old sister ceases to be a babysitter and just becomes a kid who wants to have her own fun. Which is to be expected. She is a kid!

She goes around the block on her bike, leaving the 4-and 5-year-old siblings to fend for themselves. Once the 4-year-old followed after the older sister, in the middle of the street, even turning around a bend from the middle of the street.

He disappeared from my view, and then I saw the 12- and 9-year-olds appear in my driveway from the opposite direction. The 4 year old doesn't have a regular bike, but instead rides one of those low-to-the-ground big wheel bikes. This makes him less visible to cars. He went around the entire block by himself, knowing no bike safety rules. He doesn't stop at stop signs, look both ways, or stay to the right side. No one in this neighborhood wears helmets (except for my children, with the neurotic parents?) There are no bike or motorcycle helmet laws in Ohio.

Last night I received another note from the mother. Could I come over when the gas company gets there the next day, because an adult needs to be present for them to turn on the gas? According to the 12-year-old, the mom didn't pay the last couple dollars of the bill, so the gas got shut off.

My husband went over to their house, mostly outside where the men were working, while I was at therapy. He had to stay 90 minutes because the gas company ran into a few glitches. The 12-year-old did nothing to control her siblings. They kept getting in the gas man's way. The house was in horrendous shape, or so I'm told by my children, who were in it about 20 minutes.

Windows wide open with no screens, flies everywhere. Bedrooms in the worst shape my kids had ever seen, with the 12-year-old's being the worst. The parents didn't have a bedroom or a bed, and one of the children didn't have a bed. The house is a three-bedroom. With two girls and two boys, there should be enough room for everyone? The girls both had their own room.

Also last night, two hours after the note about the gas company, I got another visit. The 9-year-old comes over to ask if his mother can borrow some kid movies. At 8:30 PM. We only have a couple of DVD's, because I happen to prefer videos. I gave him what I had, leaving out the letter and number learning DVD's, which I need intact for my preschooler.

The mother also asked if she could text my phone, because she prefers that to talking. Her son taught me how to text, except that we don't have a texting plan. Who knows what Verizon charges per text! I'm probably going to regret that this woman has my phone number.

I wonder about the mother's overall maturity. When she arrived home from work (she's gone from 9:00 to 4:30) the kids met her at the end of the driveway, excited to see her. She let the three younger ones get on the hood of the car, and the older one get on the back of the car. She proceeded to drive up their driveway this way, and not particularly slow, either. If one of the kids had fallen off the front, she couldn't have stopped in time to prevent an injury.

This mentality is foreign to me. I'm trying to give these folks room to be different, but I'm struggling. Is it my age? I'm probably ten years older than this mother.

I was horrified at this stunt, friends. Seeing it, I immediately panicked about this family. Yes, I'm probably overly conscientious and maybe not the best judge. But this mother is as neglectful as I've ever seen. She must want to be their friend, instead of the adult.

Will I one day have to call CPS about child neglect? How bad can things get? Should I try to do as little as possible to avoid being taken advantage of, and further putting the children in danger? If the 12-year-old thinks I'm watching them, and I think she's watching them, then they're less safe than ever.

I have weeks of homeschooling to plan, leaving me little time to think about keeping the neighbors safe.

What does God want from me? To learn to be assertive? To speak to the mother about her neglectful 12-year-old daughter? Something tells me the mother wouldn't even agree that riding in the middle of the street is dangerous.

The four-year-old now comes whenever he feels like it, whether my kids are out or not. Several times I had trouble getting him to go home after I brought my own kids inside. He came even after his mother arrived home.

Most of this is none of my business, I realize. This is a personal-freedom lovin' country, and thank goodness. You can be a messy, permissive parent if you so desire. CPS, whom I would only call if things got far worse, would probably think me crazy even calling about this family. They see far worse conditions. As a teacher I learned that there almost have to be feces everywhere or obvious physical or se*ual abuse, for children to be removed.

I asked my husband tonight this hypothetical question. Which is best? To have parents you love who neglect you? Or to have foster parents you don't love, who take good care of you? He thinks the latter is best...because love is a verb.

But foster kids can be mistreated and some people take them in just for the extra money--money which is not always spent on the children.

What do I think is best? I don't really know. These children obviously love their mom very much, and for the most part they're all very nice, notwithstanding the 9-year-old's occasional anger fits, and his intermittent disrespect toward adults (is there any wonder?). He probably gets angry because his life feels out of control. No structure. Nothing he can count on.

How many times have they moved? Possibly, three different fathers are involved. Were they evicted and that's why there's very little furniture? Did they move away from neighbors who reported them? Are they recovering from losing their house? Both the mom and the step-dad have jobs, at least right now.

It's so hard, isn't it? These sad situations tare at your heart and how do you process them? This isn't the third world...these children look well fed (though probably not healthily fed). The 12 year old is quite overweight (Childhood obesity is heartbreaking, and on the rise).

Again I ask...what does God want from me? From us? That we all learn to be assertive--something which is hard for all of us (except for my husband)? I'm assertive with my kids and with younger kids, but other people's children? I tend to mind my own business when I can get away with it.

I should have spoken to the 12-year-old right away when she emerged from her nap, but I didn't. I just stewed instead, about this whole predicament. I want to help these children and love them, but that seems to have made the situation worse, not better. Now I almost have to watch them all the time, or not at all.

Setting limits? This family is used to a limitless lifestyle.

Tonight, I blew up at my own kids over the stress of it all. I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed and rotten right now.

Dear Lord, speak to me. What must I do? Help me to see, Lord. You care about souls. I know this. You don't want a single one to perish. Is this only about souls...and not about whether I have time to minister? Is this mother doing her best? Am I the problem? Am I here to fill in the gap until school starts for them next Tuesday? Is that what you want? For me to babysit for free, no matter the inconvenience? No matter that feeling of being taken advantage of? Am I supposed to gently correct in love? Oh, but how I dislike that! I'm no supervisor or counselor, surely Lord?

Speak to me, Lord. Which scripture answers my conundrum?

Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Is this the one, Lord?

Friends, what would you do?

The last thing I heard tonight, as my children came in for the night, was Aiden asking Peter: "Where do you go to church?

Peter told him the name of our church--the one that meets in the elementary school--and Aidan said, "I'll see you there, then!"

He will? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Multitude Monday: Gifts in Isaiah

I had a wonderful time in Isaiah last night. So many rich verses to underline and absorb. When the Word washes over me, it's a tidal wave of relief as intimate details of the Lord's loving kindness envelope me, leaving me at perfect peace. On this Multitude Monday, I'd like to highlight those that really spoke to me. Thank you, Father, for your Word! What a beautiful grace it is.

How can we ever stay away long, when the Bible has this rich soul food for us? I read Isaiah 57 through 67 and it flowed so wonderfully. Such an intimate picture of our Father and what he wants for us...what he desires from us.

Scripture in red, my words in blue.

Isaiah 66:10-14

10“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,

all you who love her;

rejoice greatly with her,

all you who mourn over her.

11For you will nurse and be satisfied

at her comforting breasts;

you will drink deeply

and delight in her overflowing abundance.”

12For this is what the Lord says:

“I will extend peace to her like a river,

and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;

you will nurse and be carried on her arm

and dandled on her knees.

13As a mother comforts her child,

so will I comfort you;

and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

This picture of God's heart? How deeply he wants to comfort our souls? How thorough he wants that comfort to be? So very beautiful. 

As thoroughly as a babe is comforted at his mother's breast...that is the Father's heart for us. That kind of all encompassing love.

Isaiah 65:17-20

New Heavens and a New Earth

17“Behold, I will create

new heavens and a new earth.

The former things will not be remembered,

nor will they come to mind.

18But be glad and rejoice forever

in what I will create,

for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight

and its people a joy.

19I will rejoice over Jerusalem

and take delight in my people;

the sound of weeping and of crying

will be heard in it no more.

20“Never again will there be in it

an infant who lives but a few days,

or an old man who does not live out his years;

The sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more? Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days? The Lord hears our cries, our despair! He has compassion on us and weeps with us! He loves us and plans to take all sorrow away! 

Wait on Him. He has it covered, yes? We can trust him with our deepest sorrow, our complicated troubles  

And for these gifts too, Father, I thank you:

~ For the perfection of your design. The beauty in your art work all around us. 

~ For a little boy of eight, who knows you and worships you.

~ For the gift of their smiles. For their wonder on a walk in the woods.

~ For every creature, even those clothed in black.

~ I'm amazed and horrified at these beetles. Thank you for the wonder of them.

~ For little boys and their toys. And the big boy who took the picture. 

~ Conner, the other new neighborhood boy (age 11), played with my boys until 7:30 PM, at which time Paul said he had to go in and read his Bible and shower. My boys know that the earlier they're ready for bed, the more reading Daddy can do. When they stay out late, they always mourn the short reading time. 

Peter said he had to read his Bible too. 

Conner looked at them curiously. 

Conner: "You have to read the Bible?"

Paul: "Yes, I read it every day."

Conner: "You do?"

The boys felt Conner looked more curious than anything else. I told them how proud I was of them, that they weren't afraid to reveal faith matters. 

Dear Lord, thank you for their boldness. May you magnify Conner's curiosity, giving him the desire to ask questions and read your Word too.

~ Washing Mary's hair last night, I heard her say something almost frightening.

Mary:  "Mommy, I really love Conner. (Who had come in to eat dessert with us earlier) Can I marry him when I grow up, if he still lives here?"

Mommy:  "Yes, if he's a Christian by then. The Bible says that a Christian must marry another Christian."

Mary:  "It really says that? (Pausing to reflect) That's a stupid rule."

Mommy:  "Mary, everything the Lord commands, he commands for our good. If you marry a non-Christian you will have a very unhappy marriage. Your husband will not share your love for the Lord, and your children may not follow the Lord, either. A husband who follows the Lord is very important for helping children develop a desire to follow the Lord. It will get very lonely and sorrowful for you if you marry a non-Christian."

Mary:  "I still thinks it's a stupid rule."

While this horrified me, I also felt gratitude. The Lord signaled me that I must pray fervently for Mary's heart, every day. He verified for me that, yes, this girl of mine is very stubborn. I must pray that obedience will become like a comfort to her, not a burden. That her strong will brings glory to God, like the Apostle Paul's did. She loves the Lord and seeks His comfort and prays for herself and others. She has that relationship, but obedience? It will be her sticking point. Lord, may she never be a carnal Christian, but one who trembles at your Word!

What are you thankful for today, friend?

Linking with Ann today for Multitude Monday.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday Devotions: Empty to Fill

Four of them, hair combed, clothes neat, shoes dry and clean, to the pediatrician for two physicals, and then to the pharmacy for eczema cream.

A pouring out.

Home for lunch.

A pouring out.

Four of them to Aldi's for meat, bread, eggs and other staples. Then to the rummage sale around the corner, searching for a new-used girl's bike.

A pouring out.

Four kids who usually get along, but cranky now from errands, fighting, with one carelessly tossed hand causing a bloody nose in the van.

A pouring out.

Dishes, laundry, paperwork, while fielding nearly constant interruptions.

A pouring out.

Evening meal, more laundry, dessert, baths, stories, teeth brushing, riding herd on kids who don't really want to go to bed.

A pouring out.

Listening, worried, to details about Husband's possible nerve pain post-surgery. Reading afterwards that the nerve pain takes time, often much time, to improve.

A pouring out.

A three-year-old unable to discern dream from reality, waking three times in the night, once telling me she never wants to eat cake again. Another time telling me she didn't get any gummies. A third time she gets out of bed, stumbles, crying, on her way to the playroom for her piglet--the one her dream convinced her she'd lost forever.

I keep soothing her but each time, it takes time for her to settle. She doesn't believe me that her thoughts? They're but dreams.

A pouring out.

Finally, I have nothing left.

Just emptiness, a watering can long dried out.

And there's still the dinner dishes, soaking, waiting for me to go out at some time during the wee hours to finish the job.

Before it all starts again for another day.

As hollow as a long-fallen log. That's me.

And I rebel in my emptiness. I complain. Thankfulness? It's out of my reach, like the supple skin from my twenties. I need quiet time so badly, I tell my husband. Uninterrupted quiet time. Time with the Word, so my thoughts and God's heart can intermingle.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19

So I can be filled. Filled with all the wisdom and loving-kindness I'll be called to pour out in the next 24 hours.

Life, it feels unbearable, doesn't it, when we falsely assume we're bottomless pits of giving?

We run out of love. We really do.

But God, he never does. He's always there, ready to fill us to overflowing. If we'll just make that full stop.

Isaiah 66:1-2, it tells us who He wants to fill.

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.  Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?  “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.  “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:1 – 2) 

The Lord wants to dwell in whom? In a humble person with a contrite spirit. Is that me? Is that you

Do we get it that we run out of love? Do we really get it that without God, we're nothing? Do we get it that we're too sinful to pour out for others, outside of his grace and filling?

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1 - 2)

Contritefeeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming

Humble = not proud or arrogant; modest: having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, low in rank, importance, status, quality

Our decision to make a full stop and sit at the Lord's feet? It comes out of a humble and contrite spirit. Exactly the person He wants to fill.

For what were we created?

For Love. To receive it from our Creator, then to give it out to the created, in awe and humility, out of a reverent heart and a contrite spirit. God desires this intimacy with us--this mutual giving and receiving. He gives love and we give him our hearts, then we glorify him by loving others in His name.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:7 - 8 7)

Your quiet time with the Lord? It isn't just another thing you should do.

It's what you were created to do.

photos here

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

“I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship! And I can't worship without giving thanks. It just isn't possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance, that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.” 
― Nancy Leigh DeMossChoosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy

Dear Lord, thank you for these gifts:

~ Danny's Drawing Book is about Danny and his yellow drawing book. He goes to the zoo with a friend and draws pictures of what they see. Together, the two friends pen imaginative stories about the animals Danny's drawn. Fun and different, this book inspires children to draw and pen their own stories. It opens up young minds to the possibilities.

Danny's Drawing Book

~ Riki's Birdhouse is for the nature lover in your home, especially. Riki designs plans for a birdhouse and builds it himself. The book takes the reader through every season, describing what Riki does to take care of the birds. My kids couldn't take their eyes off this book--it's that engaging! And packed with elementary science information!

Riki's Birdhouse

~ Lexi came to the door just as we were having a scripture reading after dinner. Peter told her he could come out after our reading. In her signature way, she walked right in, asking if she could hear the Bible with us. We hadn't seen her in awhile so I suspected her mother returned to the volatile boyfriend's house again, with her two kids. This did happen but now they're broken up again.

It happened that while Peter read the Bible, he simultaneously prayed that the words would "penetrate Lexi's heart." I was doing the same thing in my mind, using exactly the same words! After she left Peter said, "Mommy, can you believe she came in exactly when we were reading the Bible? I prayed that it would penetrate her heart." 

Some things are so assuredly God-incidences, they make you shudder...with awe and joy.

This little girl has gained a lot of weight this summer and I fear some bullying when school starts for her. She previously had a little belly only, but now the situation is much worse. Her peers will notice the difference and  it could get rough for her. She has already, in her ten-year-old life, dealt with more than most of us could endure. Please pray for her and her health? Thank you.

~ Cooler days making rides in the van far easier.

~ Paul loving his piano lessons and new found love of instruments.

~ Watching my husband read to the kids on the couch. Never love him more than those moments! He understands more than most people that time is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. It helps that quality time is his love language, of course. :)

~ Bounty from the garden--with enough to share--and the kids asking, "Can we have a bigger garden next year?"

~ Paul telling me he wanted to bake something challenge himself. He looked up fillings and made chocolate cupcakes with a filling. He combined two recipes and it didn't work out, crushing his perfectionist spirit. But it brought good discussion about innovation, experimentation, taking risks, and the good things that can come from failure.

Oh...I have more but it's time to make dinner. Love to you friends! What are you thankful for today?

photos here

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Gospel and Neighborhood Life

He appeared in my driveway this morning, this Aidan who moved in across the street. He's nine and macho, always shirtless and about to lose his pants. He builds bikes and changes tires and he offered just today to take the training wheels off of Mary's bike. He'd teach her to ride without them, he told Mary.

I like him.

Standing before me, his sun-bronzed face sported three fresh red scratches and two swollen eyes. He'd been crying earlier.

Peter learned that Aidan, before ten o'clock this morning, had an altercation with his 13-year-old sister, who babysits him and his two siblings--a 4-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl.

In a hurry to get Beth to therapy, I could say but little to this boy who pretends to be a man.

"Honey, are you okay today?"

He nodded. But more tears? A dam held them back. A quiver in that macho chin did not escape my notice.

"Let me know if you ever need anything while your mom's gone, okay?"

He nodded again and I drove off with Beth, leaving my other three with Daddy, who comes home a couple hours on Wednesday mornings to cover the therapy appointment.

A good drive ahead of me, I mourned this mother's need to be away at work. No mother would choose this, I knew. To leave three children in the care of a thirteen year old? Only desperation would create a scenario like that.

A day ago, Aidan came with his little brother and sister. My kids asked if they could all play in the playroom. So I cleaned it up good, and invited them all in.

From the front window I could see the 13-year-old sister come out their front door, wondering where the kids were. Earlier they'd been in the middle of the street, unsafely riding their bikes and I didn't know what to do.

In my mind's eye I could see their bloodied bodies on the street, downed by a teenager driving too fast. My mind always draws these pictures for me, and I respond quickly. But these kids? They're not mine and they wouldn't listen to my gentle warnings to ride in my driveway, instead. Or in their driveway.

It took my breath away, every time they'd rode around with abandon in the street.

I gently told Aidan how dangerous it was, and could he teach them to ride on the right side only?

But 9-year-old Aidan, their big brother? Just the day before I rode away to get groceries. I watched him peddle fast into the adjoining street without looking, almost hitting a car.

There's a reason my eight year old doesn't ride in the street without us, and why my ten year old can't turn onto other streets by himself.

Seeing the sister look for them just then, I quickly wrote a note for Aidan to take over, giving her my name and cell number, letting her know the kids were in the playroom and I would send them home whenever she needed me to. She wrote her cell number down, telling Aidan I should text her if she didn't answer.

I had to smile at that. A teenager asking me to text her.

I haven't the slightest clue how to send a text. Yes, I admit it. I've never texted.

Halfway to Beth's therapy appointment, my mind turns to their mother again. She'd sent me a note last night, telling me thank you for letting her little ones play here the day before, and did I have any fever reducer her five year old could use? She also wrote down her phone number and said I should call her if I ever needed anything.

And do you know? It thrilled me to receive this note. A neighbor asking for my help warmed my heart, for the days of borrowing cups of sugar are long gone. It tickled me to grab my generic children's tylenol, give it to Aidan, the messenger, and tell him we'd pray for his little sister.

But that word...pray.

He'd looked at me funny when I said it.

I closed the door after he left, reminding myself not to be ashamed of the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

The gospel can invite trouble, I know this afresh. For the woman two doors down? The one I invited to dinner along with her grandson? Not only did she never respond, but today Peter saw them both out and waved and waved. They both stared at him from their driveway, and it took three times before Landon waved back. The grandmother? She didn't wave.

"Mommy", Peter told me afterwards, "That really hurt my feelings. Why wouldn't she wave? She used to wave, before we invited her to dinner."

"It's very hard to understand, Peter. Somehow, she was offended by my invitation. I don't know why, except that maybe she's been hurt by other Christians. Some people think of Christians as Jesus-freaks--people who aren't really of this world. They don't want to get too close. It's a sort of fear. Prejudice is always rooted in fear. And honey, we really aren't of this world. And no matter how much it hurts to be rejected, we can't try to hide the fact that we're Christians. We can't be ashamed of the gospel."

As Aidan rode off on his bike last night with the fever reducer, I wondered what he would say to his parents. 

Would he mention that word...pray? And what would they think? Would we hear from them again?

I prayed. We all prayed.

What else can a Jesus Freak do next, but pray?

Prayer Time:  Dear Lord, Thank you for plucking me out of this world. Thank you for making me a Jesus Freak. I want to spread your love and your Truth, so others can feel what I feel...this deep, wild love for you. Help us all, Lord. Give us wisdom in our interactions, and give us strength through rejections. Thank you for never leaving us nor forsaking us. I love you. Fill my children up, Lord. Thank you that this summer they're learning to stand up for you. Thank you that I'm here, able to disciple them through it all. 

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Multitude Monday: Receiving Him

It's Multitude Monday, in which we focus on thanks-living. But what does thanks-living really mean? 

I can answer that by describing its opposite.

When I wish Peter didn't have ADHD and its accompanying comorbid disorders, I'm wishing an experience away.

Not me, Lord. Don't let it be my son.

When I wish Beth didn't have arthritis in her knees and left ankle, and eyes that are vulnerable to inflammation and accompanying damage, I'm wishing an experience away.

Not me, Lord. Don't let it be my daughter.

When I wish Beth didn't have strasbismus (wandering, or lazy eyes) in both eyes, which could mean surgery this fall, I am wishing an experience away.

Not me, Lord. Don't let it be my daughter.

When I wish three of my kids didn't need speech therapy, and my son didn't need fine-motor help such as handwriting clinics, necessitating more appointments, I'm wishing experiences away.

Not me, Lord.  

When I wish we weren't low income and I didn't need to spend hours looking for used curriculum, and then more hours waiting for the sellers to check their e-mail, I'm wishing an experience away.

Not me, Lord.

When I wish the house stayed clean and orderly for more than an hour, I'm wishing an experience away.

When I wish I had more time for this or that, I'm wishing now away.

Pain and disease and toil arose from the sin curse. God didn't wish sorrow or toil upon us.

But He is powerful. He is the Almighty Living God who created everything. He can change our reality, if he wanted to.

When I open my hands to His blessings, that's easy. Everyone loves a blessing.

When I open my hands to sorrow and toil, what am I receiving, really?

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

I submit to you, I am still receiving blessing. I can open my hands with the same joy, with the same assurance, because of His promises.

When we tell a fifteen month old not to cross the street, he can't understand why. When the economy tanks and we lose our home, we can't possibly know the outcome. We're as blind as the fifteen-month-old baby. 

But God. 

He tells us His grace is sufficient. He tells us he works all things for our good. He tells us he'll never leave us nor forsake us. He tells us he's preparing a place for us in his Father's House.

I believe all His promises. Do you?

Thanks-living is opening your hands to all the blessings--the ones that taste like chocolate cream pie, and the ones that taste like lima beans. They're all good. 

He promises.

So thanks-living is believing. It's seeing with His eyes. It's saying yes to now. It's receiving Him. 

In every moment we don't wish away, we're receiving Him. 

Not just so we can feel happy, but so we can bring Him glory. 

In receiving Him, we bring Him Glory. 

So thanks-living is a moment to moment receiving and giving, at the same time. It's full communion with the Father.

It's beautiful.

My thanks-living list for today:

~ My three-year-old playing in the mud happy as a lark, looking for worms. 

~ Peter reading about bees and telling me how amazing God is. How brilliant His creation is.

~ Peter transplanting things in our garden, and coming in for his evening shower, telling me how hard he worked and how much he loves gardening.

~ My five-year-old daughter telling me that most of all, she wants to me a mom. And then maybe babysit other children.

~ The teacher we met with last week asked Peter why he wants to be a farmer. Peter answered, "I think it's what God wants me to do."  (His soul soars when he works the land, so I tend to think Peter is right.)

~ Paul whipping up some pumpkin muffins this morning, healthy ones suitable for breakfast, and telling me with a smile on his face, "Mommy, I just love to bake."

~ The Holy Spirit speaking to me right away, every time I wish a hard moment away.

~ Homeschooling; I've never spent a single moment regretting homeschooling.

~ 17 novels for $42 from one seller, and then another seller selling 4 more (exactly the ones I needed) for $14. The cheapest you can get any novel from Amazon, used, is $4 all included. Not all novels sell this cheaply on Amazon--$4 is the best case scenario. And buying individually requires a ton of time

The way it worked out? A God thing. If I'd had the money to click a few buttons and buy them all new from Sonlight, what would God have received? Not this due glory. When money is abundant we tend to think we earned it. That we deserved it--discounting who created us with the talents, skills, country-of-origin, and family situation, which all worked together, facilitating success. This is why it's written: Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

~ That I need God. I really need Him.

~ That hard times work out for my good, and if I open my heart to them, I'll taste the chocolate pie instead of the lima beans. (Forgive me if you love lima beans).

~ That every time we go to the doctor, we have opportunity to spread the Gospel. To point the way to Him.

~ That Peter asked his new neighborhood friend, Aidan, if his five-year-old sister could come over as well to play with Mary and Beth. Aidan's parents said yes, and five-year-old Vanessa came over. Miss Mary was so excited, she ran up to me after they'd played a bit, hugged me tightly, and said, "Mommy, can you believe it? I have a new friend!" 

~ My husband loves his children and lives for them, too. Gives all of himself for their good, just like their Heavenly Father does. Amen!

linking with Ann today