Monday, March 31, 2014

Christian Hospitality

I used to be a painfully uncomfortable, inadequate hostess. For one thing I rarely offered hospitality, and when I did stress took over my life in the days leading up to the event. I spent so much time cleaning that things like having ice and enough drinks to serve, were overlooked. The food I'd hoped to prepare mostly ahead of time, allowing leisurely fellowship, was barely getting started when guest walked in. My husband would busy himself preparing a salad while I did the main dish, and the kids entertained the guests.

I tried so hard to relax, but it never happened.

Growing up, I can't remember a single dinner party happening in my secular, alcohol-dysfunction home, so I had no model for hospitality and no memory of its blessings. I didn't even bother inviting childhood friends over, partially because we were a military family who moved frequently.

Enter the Lord Jesus Christ, who never leaves us where we're at.

Do you remember the "Do You Have a Good Story" posts I wrote? We talked about the hurting Body of Christ and how lonely and painful life can get, even as a Christian. Hospitality is one of the answers. Besides prayer, I'd say hospitality is the main answer.

Opening our homes and hearts so prayer and the breaking of bread and the sharing of burdens can occur is a manifestation of Christ's mercy and grace. And I know it is inconvenient.

My 70-year-old friend from church is going through such a trial. Her 73-year-old husband fell on the ice two months ago and he's been in the hospital ever since. She visits him often until midnight, caring for him and comforting him during the depression that's developed from the extended hospital stay. Not to mention, they don't know how they'll pay the medical bills.

We were on spring break from AWANA and it was supposed to be a Sunday to relax, but as I talked with my friend on Saturday night I knew she needed the Body of Christ badly. While she has parents still alive in their nineties and a twin sister, she is estranged from both. Loneliness is a regular companion for this childless couple and along with the extended hospital stay, life feels so heavy for them right now.

The words "Do you want to come over for dinner tomorrow night" were on my lips, and while in the past I would have squashed them due to my own selfishness and feelings of inadequacy, I uttered them this time and my friend was thrilled.

It was a rushed Sunday morning because my husband was doing snow and ice removal at the church he's employed at, and I was teaching preschool in the children's ministry. Husband wasn't due back until about the time I had to leave for church. He arrives to our church late on these mornings, using his own car. Preparing four children for church as well as myself and gathering my lesson props, was anything but a relaxing beginning.

Coming home to five hours of preparation for a dinner party felt anything but convenient, but I knew God was in it and the outcome would be good. I could feel that this is what dying to ourselves means. This is being the hands and feet of Christ. I could feel it and it wasn't so hard after all.

But at first it feels hard, as our hearts reform and become more suited for servanthood. It feels hard to teach at church or work the nursery week after week instead of enjoying the music and relaxing in a chair for 90 minutes. It feels hard to have Bible studies in my busy home; it feels hard to make the time to call people when my to-do list is never ending...especially those who talk for forty minutes if left unchecked.

But this is what's missing in the Body of Christ. This inconveniencing ourselves to carry each other's burdens. Life this side of heaven could be better than all the loneliness and despair going on if we could only go beyond our comfort zone. If we could only get beyond the me-first mentality.

Our impromptu dinner party included a pot of 13-potato soup, turkey bacon cooked for a topper, bakery wheat french bread, and a batch of chocolate chip cookie bars, which I made while the potatoes boiled. I still forgot to make ice but she doesn't use it anyway, and I still only had milk and Country Time Lemonade on hand. I didn't go to the store for salad fixings or anything, but used only what I had on hand.

And do you know what? My friend--who has lost 15 pounds during her ordeal--ate two large bowls of soup topped with turkey bacon and cheese, and three pieces of french bread with butter, along with two cookie bars. I was so tickled.

I have plain dishes and few of my silverware match. My tabletop is veneer and it's deteriorating fast. Only recently do my glasses match and at the rate they're breaking, they won't much longer. I'm an unlikely hostess, but afterward my friend gave me a teary hug and said, "Thank you for being my family. It's been so long since I've felt part of a family. I can't thank you enough."

My Beth wore her ill-fitting princess dress and the hand-me-down ballet shoes a friend sent her, and she danced her graceful made-up dances and sang about Jesus to my friend. We watched a delightful old movie and Beth told my friend how nice she was, and could she cuddle next to her during the movie?

I was so proud of my family, who became this woman's family for four wonderful hours.

No, let me rephrase that to reflect more of the truth. I was so happy with my Jesus, who did many things in my heart and in my family's hearts in the past 18 months, making it possible for our family to become the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting church, on a Sunday we thought was for us.

It turned out to be a Sunday for Jesus and it was so much better than anything we could have put together ourselves. We did relax. We did rejuvenate. We did feel joy. All the things we wanted to happen on our Sunday off AWANA, happened, but not the way we planned.

Jesus never leaves us where we're at, and that's reason enough for joy. He has taught me so much and they have been gentle, incremental lessons, starting with the idea 18 months ago of starting a neighborhood Bible study in our home. That was the first step of obedience, and at the time I didn't know how I would manage. Life was already messy and it just didn't seem like the right time.

Honestly, is it ever the right time?

I don't know where you are in your hospitality and being-the-hands-and-feet-of Jesus journey. Most of you are probably farther along than me and have been hostesses for years. But for those of you for whom this is new ground, I want to say, jump in.

The Lord is gentle and his lessons are life-changing. Our only part, really, is obedience. And I know that's hard, believe me. In return we get to share in God's glory and that is better than anything we can put together ourselves. Nothing is more satisfying or fulfilling than God's glory shining through you...your family...your heart and home.

Open it and feel God's goodness. Open it and be His goodness.

1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.   

Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Titus 1:8 But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

Proverbs 31:20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another

Need a Getaway? {Welcome Home Wednesday Homemaking Link Up on Raising Arrows}

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Gospel of Married With Children

I'm not the fun parent; it's not me who makes sure the kids get to the park every week; not me who forsakes chores to play board games or otherwise entertain the kids. Since my husband works 54 hours a week (5 hours on Saturdays included), the kids entertain themselves mostly, and it's good for them to do so.

I read to them, cuddle with them, feed them, listen to them, and teach them.

My husband is the fun one, hands down. Not the always-laughing-tickling kind of fun, but the let's-amuse-ourselves-and-spend-time-together kind of fun, which almost always includes going outside. We have no entertainment budget so nature is our entertainer, along with the basketball hoop in the front yard. For two of my children, add art into that mixture.

If we could be flies on the walls in different homes, I suspect we'd find many parents who are opposites. Kids need both styles to flourish, and God knew what he was doing when he paired you with your spouse. As much as it may seem you're incompatible at times, that's probably far from true.

If we believe that God created marriage to reflect the Gospel--and I think he did--then it makes sense that marriage is both very hard and glorious. He also created it to produce and nurture children, in most cases, whether they be birth or adoptive children. So parenting partners are incredibly important to God; he takes the parenting business seriously and puts together the combination most likely to reflect the Gospel, so that our children can live it.

What does discipleship look like, exactly? How does it work in your home? Can you pinpoint how each spouse contributes, by God's design? Sometimes it can seem like it's not a paired effort, but when you look closely at who you both are, you'll find a complement, I suspect.

This month, our devotional schedule includes 4 days of Bible & prayer devotions with just Mommy in the morning, and 3 days of after-dinner Bible & prayer devotions with the whole family. It would be all whole-family devotions if Daddy got home earlier than 7 PM.

But discipleship is more than having regular devotions, and that fact is our greatest motivation for homeschooling. It's a lifetime endeavor, this discipling of children. The more time we have with them, the more we can do it effectively, for once they leave home the opportunities are fewer and the stakes are higher.

That's not to say you can't do it well if you don't homeschool. It's just that you have to regard the several hours before bed as very sacred, otherwise, and use them wisely as your window of opportunity, along with the weekends.

Being a quiet, reflective sort of person who's always thinking, I don't waste opportunities to impart wisdom. To give you a clearer picture, how about if I say my husband just lives, and I just think. As much as I hate creating such a boring picture of myself, I have to admit it's true. Most people who need or love to write would probably describe themselves as quiet and reflective. We like to figure life out, while other people just live it.

My husband disciples by his very living, while I put words to the lessons.

I take the opportunity of a dog who doesn't fetch sticks and balls, much to my son's disappointment, to say that someday your wife and kids will be missing something you'll feel you desperately need. But you have to love them anyway, generously, just as they are--not reminding them of what they aren't. Not constantly reflecting on what they aren't, but giving thanks for who they are.

Now my husband? His way, without even thinking about it, is to show love for me, despite my faults and idiosyncrasies. My children see him living the marriage gospel by loving me generously.

Again, my husband disciples by his very living, while I put words to the lessons. Children need both and that means having two parents, ideally, because where one of us is weak, the other is strong.

Without a gospel-reflecting foundation, our children go out into the world expecting excitement and/or success, not disappointment. But life is a never-ending series of both. Spiritual success entails dying to our own desires, when appropriate. Marriage and child-rearing are more about dying to ourselves, than about anything else. Getting along well in any interpersonal relationship is similar, though to a less-intense degree.

Reflecting the gospel entails accepting disappointment rather than fighting it. Growing up is growing in the ability to absorb disappointment without losing heart or gratitude.

Growing as a Christian is realizing that God is the perfect companion, the perfect lover, the perfect soul-filler. We must teach our children to accept no substitute. Teach them: don't get married or have children to fill something within yourself. That sets you up for failure. Do it for the Lord and with the Lord, knowing all the while that it will be full of disappointments.

The glorious part? Surely there's a glorious part? Emphatically, yes. That part comes out of the many daily acts of obedience and self-sacrifice. Marriage and child-rearing feel most glorious when God is at the center of them. The glorious feelings are a reward from a loving, faithful Heavenly Father who is pleased. When God is glorified, we get to share in it.

Now discontentment? What is that about? Most discontentment comes from the sinful part of us that's out for our own good. The more we look out for ourselves, the more discontented we are.

Don't fear that real-life gospel lessons are too heavy for children. Giving them the answers before they have the questions is good parenting. Your words and lessons will resonate over and again, year after year. When the problems of disappointment or discontentment arrive, they'll already know the folly of feeding them. They won't be blind-sighted by sin or obstacles you failed to prepare them for. Yes, they'll make mistakes, but the mistakes will only highlight your lessons, and strengthen them.

I think God had me sit down today to say three things:

1. Accept your marriage partner as God-given, and as a perfect compliment to your personality. Accept that marriage is not about you, but about God's glory. Accept the same about child-rearing. Accept that your rewards are divine, and come from your daily obedience.

2. Teach children to absorb disappointment well. Teach them that God is the answer to all their dilemmas, and that they should accept no substitute. Teach them that to marry and have children is to reflect God's glory, and that their contentedness shall be equal to their gratitude.

3. Pray your way through. Pray that your discipleship team efforts will include both living it and speaking it. Pray that you'll use your time with your children wisely, with God's glory as your goal.

Isaiah 26: 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Proverbs 14:14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Philippians 3:7-8 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Need a Getaway? {Welcome Home Wednesday Homemaking Link Up on Raising Arrows}

Friday, March 28, 2014

Homeschool and Mother's Journal Mar. 28

In My Life This Week:

I've enjoyed watching my children fall more in love with our new dog, Rudy. Even Paul, who isn't an animal lover, makes sure he spends time with Rudy every day, though not as much as Mary or Peter, who cuddle with Rudy like he's their newborn, cherished baby.

One thing disappoints Peter, who is Rudy's main caretaker: Beagles do not fetch. Peter's had dreams for years of playing fetch with a canine best friend. When he researched Beagles, it just didn't come up. I think he just assumed that all dogs fetch, and my husband and I, not being animal lovers, had no idea to the contrary. 
I used Peter's disappointment to point out that someday there will be things he doesn't like about his wife and children, but nevertheless, he can't trade them in for a more attractive model. Loving people the way they are, not for what we want them to be, is about courage and self-sacrifice, and it's the difference between a legacy of love and a legacy of self-indulgence. Self-serving pursuits are usually a mirage that just lead to more emptiness.

I didn't think I'd ever say this about a dog, but I love Rudy too. You can't not love this dog. He's the sweetest little guy. He gets right up on our laps and looks deeply into our eyes, almost like he's silently saying "I love you". Then he tries to give us doggy kisses, which we've not taken a fancy to yet.

In Our Homeschool This Week:

Writing Notes: As much as my boys sometimes whine their way through writing, they have a flare with words and use good sentence structure, and they combine sentences well. I often tell them they're both good writers, and I give them specific examples from their work to back up my praise. It's been slow, but today I began to feel the praise efforts have paid off. "I know I fuss a lot about writing, Mommy, but I actually like it, and I even think I'm pretty good at it." 

Of course, our assignments this week may have something to do with that. When the written narration required of them comes from a fictional story (twice this week it was Beatrix Potter), then the whining is light or non-existent. But if they have to narrate something about the French Revolution, or about Joan of Arc, they feel inadequate and the whining starts.

Going to college later will entail both types of writing. They have to be able to respond to both fiction and non-fiction comfortably. In most college classes there are numerous writing assignments, including sometimes the entire final exam. I am so grateful to be using Susan Bauer's writing resources. I feel they'll prepare my children well for what lies ahead. I don't use the resources exactly as Susan directs--I make it harder--but I still do no prep work at all.
Writing with Ease Level 4 Workbook   -     By: Susan Wise Bauer
Cheapest buying place is at christianbook, rather than the Peace Hill Press website, which is owned by Susan Bauer and her mother, Jessie Wise Bauer.

Sonlight Core F notes: The boys are reading Teresa of Calcutta, finishing up India, and have started a book about Saudi Arabia called Ali and the Golden Eagle by Wayne Grover. Our Sonlight Core F package has us studying the middle east for the next few weeks.

Overview of Ali and the Golden Eagle:
An American working in Saudi Arabia befriends a boy from a remote village and helps him train an eagle to hunt.

Overview of Teresa of Calcutta: The inspiring and challenging story of Mother Teresa who, for more than 40 years sought to be "the arms of Christ" to the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.
An unlikely hero who went against the grain of our me-first culture.

Notes about our year: It's been a wonderful ride this year for all of us, learning about the eastern hemisphere for the first time, really. Every year of Sonlight I'm sorry to see the year end. For us, the only problem is that we run out of books before the year is over, so I have to find more on the same topics. We're down to a handful left.

Or perhaps this year I will start the World History Part 1 (Core G) package early, since we already have the complete set on hand.

Trade Books to Share:

No Monkeys, No Chocolate, a new, 2013 book by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
No Monkeys, No Chocolate
Everyone loves chocolate, right? But how many people actually know where chocolate comes from? How it’s made? Or that monkeys do their part to help this delicious sweet exist?
This delectable dessert comes from cocoa beans, which grow on cocoa trees in tropical rain forests. But those trees couldn’t survive without the help of a menagerie of rain forest critters: a pollen-sucking midge, an aphid-munching anole lizard, brain-eating coffin fly maggots—they all pitch in to help the cocoa tree survive. A secondary layer of text delves deeper into statements such as "Cocoa flowers can’t bloom without cocoa leaves . . . and maggots," explaining the interdependence of the plants and animals in the tropical rain forests. Two wise-cracking bookworms appear on every page, adding humor and further commentary, making this book accessible to readers of different ages and reading levels.
Back matter includes information about cocoa farming and rain forest preservation, as well as an author’s note.

Talk about living science books! This is wonderfully written. Very engaging and fascinating.


Mumbet's Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle (Brand new, 2014 book)


Synopis: "All men are born free and equal." Everybody knows about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But the founders weren't the only ones who believed that everyone had a right to freedom. Mumbet, a Massachusetts slave, believed it too. She longed to be free, but how? Would anyone help her in her fight for freedom? Could she win against her owner, the richest man in town? Mumbet was determined to try. Mumbet's Declaration of Independence tells her story for the first time in a picture book biography, and her brave actions set a milestone on the road toward ending slavery in the United States.


Edwardo The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham

Edwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World

Overview: Edwardo is an ordinary boy who does his best to live up to grown-ups' expectations. So when they rant at him for being the clumsiest, noisiest, nastiest, cruelest, messiest, and dirtiest boy in the whole wide world, he becomes all those things with a vengeance, thus earning the title of the horriblest boy in the whole wide world. How Edwardo becomes the nicest boy in the whole wide world will be appreciated by ordinary little boys everywhere. John Burningham's amusing illustrations bring a lighthearted touch to the power of positive reinforcement.

This book is a wonderful reminder for every parent about choosing words carefully. They can speak so much life into our children's hearts, or so much heartache. The single most important parenting strength, in my opinion, is having sufficient control over our words.


Grandmama's Pride by Becky Birtha

Kirkus Reviews:
Young African-American Sarah Marie travels by bus from her Northern home to the South to visit her proud grandmother, both before and after segregation. Her first-person narrative conveys wide-eyed wonder, and each of the superbly detailed watercolor illustrations is a short story in itself. Sarah Marie and her little sister experience the fun of making paper dolls and playing on a rope swing and sewing with Grandmama and their Aunt Marie, but also visit a lunch counter and bus station torn by segregation. When she returns a year later, the separate bus station bathrooms have been eliminated and Grandmama's public face changed from a proud scowl to a warm smile. Bittersweet nostalgia and a gentle introduction to an important and painful piece of our national past. A lengthy author's note gives the story a helpful historical context. (Picture book. 7-10)

This is one of the best books I've encountered about the pre-Civil Rights Law South. Bittersweet indeed. I cried the last half of the book. A wonderful living history book for your elementary students.

Pictures for Miss Josie by Sandra Belton

Pictures for Miss Josie

Overview: This remarkable picture book tells the story of Josephine Carroll Smith (Miss Josie) and a young artist who, like many in real life, became one of her almost-sons. It's a story that starts with a train trip to a faraway city; it's a story about taking chances, and making friends, and believing in oneself.
Throughout her life Miss Josie was like a giant standing in front of the sun. Her achievements on the national stage were notable -- she was responsible for outlining the boundaries for the integration of the Washington, D.C., public schools. But it is her spirit and influence on a personal scale that this book celebrates. Miss Josie reminded the generations of young black men who walked through her door and stayed in her home to believe in themselves and all they could become. They did.
Illustrated with compelling collage paintings by fine artist Benny Andrews, Sandra Belton's intimate and inspirational story pays tribute to the much-loved Miss Josie.
When his father first takes him to meet Miss Josie, a young boy is somewhat intimidated by her, but through the coming years he comes to treasure her friendship and support and passes on his love of her to his own son. Based on the life of Josephine Carroll Smith.

I love this book because it reminds us to invest our hearts and lives into our young people, whether our own, our neighbor's, those in our church, those we sponsor, etc. Young people represent the future, yes, but they're also very important to Jesus, and what His heart bleeds for, ours must bleed for too. 

Homeschooling Advice to Share (literature versus skills):

It's so tempting to over teach, buying so much curriculum our heads spin. Knowing what to concentrate on is most of the battle, because clearly, we can't do it all well. 

Those who are parts-to-whole thinkers tend to emphasize the building blocks (skills), rather than the whole (a piece of literature). For example, they spend more time on grammar and related skills, than they do on putting many books into their children's hands and hearts, thinking that the books themselves can't do the teaching.

I have been teaching either first graders or my own children since 1991, and I can tell you that no matter the learning style, novels and picture books are outstanding teachers. Whatever skill work you assign, don't let it steal too much of your child's day (15 - 20 minutes is sufficient). Children should be reading an hour or more a day, and that doesn't include reading they do on skill worksheets. For younger children, break this hour up into 15 minute increments, if necessary. 

And parents should be reading to children at least 30 minutes a day, in addition to the reading the children do independently. I know it's hard to think that just reading is doing your child so much good, but time and again, I have seen this work...for every child.

Struggling readers may need more time, and they need the parent to read aloud more minutes each day, but don't assume that the slow progress means you need to invest in a bunch of skill-related curriculum. Be patient with your slower learners. Worrying or getting uptight with them is the worst thing we can do. They will get it with time, and with quality literature invested into their hearts and minds. The whole language of books is something our brains respond to strongly, but sometimes the payoff can take a few years. No one ever learned to talk by doing skills worksheets, and similarly, no one learns to read this way either. Language input = language output.

You know the child who utters few to no words before two, and then starts speaking in sentences? This is similar to the child who doesn't read independently by six or seven as expected, but soon after, they begin to read beautifully, and write well too. Trust me on this and get more books, not more worksheets. (I am no expert on dyslexia, but other learning disabilities are represented in my home, and worksheets have not helped. Literature has made all the difference.)

Our Gratitude List was shared in yesterday's Thankful Thursday post.

Quotes to Share About Children's Literature:

“A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.”
Astrid Lindgren

“Children's literature as a literary aberration or at best a minor amusement is a notion held most strongly by people who read the fewest children's books. I think it was Ruth Hill Viguers who compared this attitude with asking a pediatrician when he's going to stop fooling around and get down to the serious business of treating adults.”
Lloyd Alexander

“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child's need for quietness is the same today as it has always been--it may even be greater--for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”
Margaret Wise Brown

“Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. He [her father] said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em. He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times [in the Bible] to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it - SOME.”
Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna

“Be generous with your smile and try not to frown.
And you will see my children; your smile will never let you down ☺”
Benny Bellamacina, The King of Rhyme

“Come, my child," I said, trying to lead her away. "Wish good-bye to the poor hare, and come and look for blackberries."

"Good-bye, poor hare!" Sylvie obediently repeated, looking over her shoulder at it as we turned away. And then, all in a moment, her self-command gave way. Pulling her hand out of mine, she ran back to where the dead hare was lying, and flung herself down at its side in such an agony of grief as I could hardly have believed possible in so young a child.

"Oh, my darling, my darling!" she moaned, over and over again. "And God meant your life to be so beautiful!”
Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno

“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which
every chapter is better than the one before.”
C.S. Lewis

Thank you for reading, and how was your week, friends?

So You Call Yourself A Homeschooler?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thankful Thursday Kids' Addition

What are you thankful for about your family?
Beth, age 5
~ My family are my friends and they like me.
~ They always smile at me.
~ Mary always loves me.
~ They're sensational.
Mary, age 7
~ They take care of my cuts.
~ I have a nice, cuddly, cute dog.
~ They give me good clothes.
~ They take care of me and teach me what I need to know.
Paul, age 10
~ They are loving people.
~ With a big family there is plenty of help and enough people to play games with me.
~ They are very nice and kind.
Peter, age 12
~ My mom and dad.
~ My siblings.
~ My dog.
~ I have lots of love.
What are you thankful for about your home or country?
Peter, age 12
~ My house
~ No earthquakes
~ No volcanoes
~ Loving family here
~ Freedom of religion
Paul, age 10
~ Safest country
~ No one starves here.
~ House is nice and big and comfortable.
~ Plenty of things to do--toys, books, games.
~ Safe home that keeps us warm. 
Mary, age 7
~ No tornadoes
~ No hurricanes
~ No mud slides
~ No rock slides
~ No volcanoes
~ Nice soft furniture
~ Nice toys and a soft carpet
Beth, age 5
~ It has what I want and need.
~ It has all my family, who are my friends.
What are you thankful for about God, or about being a Christian?
Beth, age 5
~ You smile when you're a Christian (My little girl is a big smiler, and loves other smilers. Even at age 5, she wakes up next to me every morning, throws her sleepy arms around me, smiles right in my face, and tells me I'm the bestest mommy ever. She is a balm to my soul.).
~ God is nice and he helps us.
~ He loves us and cares about us.
Mary, age 7
~ He helps me through tough times.
~ He loves me.
~ He gave me good bushes to catch crickets, tree frogs, and a yard with toads and frogs.
Paul, age 10
~ I know God.
~ No worries about Hell.
~ God loves me.
~ I go to church and feel happy about it.
~ I go to AWANA.
Peter, age 12
~ God's will
~ God's love
~ Going to Heaven
Momma says...
~ I am thankful for a loving husband, for homeschooling, for cooking with my children, for watching my children enjoy each other, for devotions with my family, for our dog and how the children love him, for our Compassion children, for God's Holy Word and the way it heals, straightens, strengthens, and fills.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No-Bake Cookies

One of our penpals sent this delicious no-bake cookie recipe. It's fast, easy, and it will quickly become a favorite at your house.


3 T. cocoa
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 stick of butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
2 3/4 cups quick oats


In a small saucepan, add the cocoa, sugar, butter and milk. Stir well and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and oats. Stir well. Drop by tablespoon onto waxed paper, let cool. (I don't buy waxed paper, so we usually set them on foil and it works just fine.)

They harden and cool quickly. Oh, how mouthwatering they are!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Welcome Home Wednesdays

Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding God's Ways

Daily I'm confronted with two wayward souls, never satisfied, always pining for that one thing they perceive to be the answer. For one, it's living in the west where the weather is good, and having more money. For another, it's the perfect pet and money for all his hobbies--gardening, nature observation, nature experiments. Now that he has a dog, he thinks a bearded dragon lizard is the answer (today, anyway). The dog was supposed to be the end-all and completely satisfy his soul, though I warned as I do almost daily, that only the Lord satisfies the soul's longings. 

These beloved men in my life want that to be true for them, but the brain chemicals aren't listening and none of us know what to do. Lecturing about what's important in life is definitely not working. In fact, it only leads to more frustration because the control is not there.

And I'll say again, I don't know the answer. Both of them have stellar, well-balanced diets--the best diets in the family, partially because there are few things they don't like. So food is probably not the brain-chemical culprit, but I'm praying that God reveals any solution to me, whether it's the hormones in the meat we're sold, or the pesticides in the produce we're sold. Anything. I'm desperate for improvement in our daily life.

While working in the church nursery today, I cared for a two-year-old boy who is the grandson of my good friend--the good friend who had to give her 15-year-old son over to the State because he became too dangerous and defiant for her to manage, after her husband's death ten years ago. Her son had it all--ADHD, OCD, Tourette's, anxiety, autism, bipolar. She had triplets--two girls and a boy--and all of them have problems, her son being the worst off behaviorally. One of the triplets is a dear soul, who at the age of 21 is like a four-year-old child, though extremely calm and serene (the doctors told my friend to pull the plug on this one-pound baby, who would never amount to anything because of the stroke she suffered early). Another of the triplets goes to college, but has learning disabilities, mild cerebral palsy, mild OCD, and ADHD.

I love my friend and deeply admire that she's still standing, after having absorbed more of the sin curse than most of us could even fathom. Her triplets were born after three miscarriages. Besides the child-bearing difficulties, she has disorders of her own, and she grew up with a mentally unstable mother. Later, in her mid-forties, she was left a widow to care for four children alone, three of whom were equal to at least seven children, emotionally and physically (they all had seizures for years).

To say the two-year-old grandson is a handful is putting it lightly (the son of her non-triplet daughter). He engaged with the new-to-him toys in the nursery for 15 minutes, then kept us on our toes for the next 80 minutes, with defiance, hyperactivity, and destructiveness. We've cared for lots of two-year-old boys, but none like this.

As soon as my family was safe in our van after church, my tears flowed. I held in my shock well, but I couldn't any longer. How could God plague another generation of this dear family with mental/neurological disorders? Hasn't the family endured enough? Must the terrible, inheritable conditions of the brain keep on going?

Where is the grace in that? Where is the relief? Only that my friend is still standing and breathing? I imagine it's incredibly hard to watch her adult daughter struggle so with her son--much like my friend struggled with her own son at this age.

I tried so hard all day to understand God, even as I stared at the hole my own son put in his wall during the hellish week we endured (Strattera was increased to 18 mg five weeks ago, which needs to be taken back down to 10 mg to stop this anger side-effect) .

At the end of the day, emotionally exhausted, I came to a conclusion.

The sin curse is not equally represented in every household. In households with everyday struggles, rather than monumental struggles, it's easy to fall prey to judgement and puff up with pride.

Well, if only those other people had better nutrition, or didn't take drugs during pregnancy, or exercised their kids more, or cut out dairy, gluten, and sugar, and took away the TV more...blah, blah, blah. If only they were more responsible, they wouldn't have to live like that.

Our minds easily fall into judgement and pride as we try to understand the depth of human suffering around us. Placing blame somehow makes it easier to comprehend?

What is God asking of us? What does he expect from those who have it relatively easy? What does he expect from those who have the sin curse weighing on them so heavily, they can barely stand up?

Some of what God wants is the same for both parties:

~ Give thanks in all things.

~ Judge not, lest you be judged.

~ Don't grow weary in doing good.

~ Fight the good fight of the faith.

~ Be holy, as I am holy.

~ Remain in Me as I also remain in you.

~ Love your neighbor.

But more is required from some.

Luke 12:48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Just as God expects the rich to help the poor, he expects the mentally-fortunate to help the mentally-unfortunate. Usually, mentally-unfortunate people are poor. Their poverty stems from many causes, not the least of which are mental deficits.

Poverty has other, less-serious causes, too. Sometimes, people just haven't had a break from generational poverty--no opportunities, nutrition, education, hope--like with our Compassion children, but their mental potential is great. They just need a boost to get jump-started.

But in many other cases, even with a jump-start, there are mental conditions that must be endured for a lifetime, that will hold a person back, depending on the severity. Modern medicine helps with some mental conditions, but medical progress has been slowest, it seems, in the area of mental illness. Understandably, the brain is hardest to understand and alter. We have great strides to make in the world, in terms of understanding and treating mental illness.

If your family is free of mental illness, reach out. Share your wholeness with those who are less whole.

~ Prayer is the most important thing you can do. Pray for daily grace, healing, stamina.

~ Be cautious and pray for wisdom before you help, so that when you act, you are truly helping.

~ Offer to lighten the load in some way.

~ Be brave and non-judgmental. When we judge, it is really our own cowardice coming through. We have to seek to understand, and that takes patience and courage.

~ Sponsor a child and write to him or her, so you can stop the cycle of poverty. Speak life into your sponsor child's heart through your letters. Sponsoring a child is orphan prevention. Lack of hope is a terrible thing, leading to terrible outcomes, both mentally and physically. Stop that in its tracks. Change a life, a family, a neighborhood, a village, by sponsoring one child.

In my searching of God's heart, I remembered something Big.

I think God reconciles the hurt in the world by knowing what's coming. Judgement Day. We serve a just God, though we can't always see it right now. We will be held accountable for how we handled the gifts he allowed in our life--whether they be mental gifts, spiritual gifts, monetary gifts. We all have gifts, and we are called to use them for the Glory of God. We can't bury them in the sand, hoping they'll bare fruit and multiple.

So don't just feel fortunate if your life is better than some. Do something about it. Take on more of the weight of the sin curse by loving your suffering neighbor. No, I don't mean enabling them. If you suspect drug or alcohol abuse, pray hard and tread carefully. You can research how drug and alcohol rehabs are paid for, what insurances they take, make a list of some in your area, and then give that information. And pray that God pushes them to the edge, so they can see the light.

Look for opportunities to bless. Pray for opportunities to bless. Read Scripture so you are filled to overflowing, equipped to bless. And then act accordingly. 

I don't know what God will do on the last day. I don't know how crowns in Heaven are given out, and to whom, but I know what I want Him to say to me when my time has come.

"Well done, good and faithful servant."

I want to honor Him with my life, not wasting a second of the Gift.

Note: My husband never minds if I write about him, for if someone is helped, he is glad. He isn't a blog reader and prefers people interaction to quiet reflection, but he understands my need to write out my pain and path. 

My son, however, is coming upon an age where he may begin to care, so even though this is an anonymous blog, I should remain silent going forward. But please, we always covet your prayers, whether I speak of the hard fight nor not. Thank you and bless you, and let us know if you need prayer. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Parenting As Prayer, Not Talent

Some pictures from times gone by. How they pull at the heartstrings! They're so little!

Being a parent affords me many lessons on life and love and grace. My two boys are so different, it's amazing. Parenting them is like a daily Bible lesson.

Paul knew all his letters, sounds, and the numbers past 20 before he could utter a sentence (before age 2). Mesmerized by the parts that make up language and the building blocks of math, he's a parts-to-whole thinker. He's also very bright and he knows it. He loves God and he's thankful for his intelligence, but as with many gifted people, he struggles with pride over it.

Oh, but his pride makes me cringe as a mother. Learning is so easy for him and it's hard for him to put himself in the shoes of others who struggle or learn at slower paces. I pray for him and remind him that everything he can do, he owes to God, not himself. He gets that, but understanding it is not the same as thinking or living humbly. Being thankful doesn't necessarily put us in a humble spot, I'm finding, though it's a necessary first step.

Peter is also bright, but there are some central processing deficits that slow down his math computation (dyscalculia--lining up all the numbers correctly for long division and six-digit multiplication, and recalling facts quickly, for example). There are also central processing issues with spelling (though he's made enormous strides), handwriting, and organizing his thoughts for an essay (all part of dysgraphia).

We're not talking a little bit of frustration, but sometimes, full-blown-fit frustration, even though his end product is always fine. Thought formation for narrative writing is not a problem, only responsive writing. Interestingly, he can organize his thoughts in an oral narration just fine, but with paper and pencil in hand, it's a struggle. And learning to type has been very difficult (we're getting no where with it).

But processing disorders are not the same as the shady-80 issue (which is low IQ). Learning-disabled people can be very intelligent and have high IQ's, and thus, they live with a high level of frustration over their deficits. They know much, but can't get it out quickly and efficiently.

Peter's frustration is further confounded by the OCD and ADHD, leading to much anger, jealousy, and angst. He needs God, but he doesn't want to need Him this much. He doesn't understand how his siblings can be so well-behaved without the same desperate prayer, and the many mistakes that characterize his day.

I explained the other day, yet again, that God doesn't expect us to work in our own strength, and that it is good to need Him.

"But I want to be able to do it on my own!"

He sees his siblings sailing through life with few problems, at least from his perspective. It tears him up. Right now he's adjusting to new life with a dog, and while he loves the dog, change of any kind is terribly hard for him and magnifies his deficits, while routine minimizes them. Still, challenge is good. We can't know victory if we don't know challenge. We can't be humble if we don't know failure.

How do I teach humility to Paul, who rarely fails? If he gets even one problem wrong on his math, he struggles with tears because imperfection bothers him that much. He's used to 100%. If we aren't accustomed to imperfections and the trouble they get us into, we have a hard time understanding humility, much less practicing it.

When Peter uttered that desperate sentiment..."But I want to be able to do it on my own!"...the Adam and Eve story came to mind. Isn't that the fundamental problem with the human condition? We want to be able to do it without God. We want the control, the expertise, the glory.

In as much as Peter keeps me on my knees, and gives me gray hairs and headaches, I think he's better off than Paul in terms of ability to please God on the last day, provided he doesn't succumb to bitterness. The last shall be first. He who humbles himself will be exalted. 

If I were Paul, I would ask for a thorn, though who with skin on can make themselves do it? He has mild OCD, but compared to his brother's, it's barely a blip.

My prayer for Peter is to let God be his rock, with joy, not bitterness, and to relish that because of his weaknesses, he can shine God's glory. He gets to do that!

My prayer for Paul is that he will daily humble himself, even though his circumstances don't facilitate it. I want him to be able to fail and not fall apart. I want him to feel God's strength, rather than be so assured of his own. I want him to take risks and meet God in them, much like Kristen Welsh did when she started Mercy House Kenya.

Kristen grew up a Christian and had a lot going for her, but after going to Kenya with Compassion International in 2010, she realized her faith and her commitment to Jesus were weak. She was living the American dream with nothing stopping her momentum. When she saw intense joy in the lives of the Christian impoverished, and knew that her joy paled in comparison, she woke up to the real Gospel. Four years and much growth later, she lives for Christ and her joy rivals that of her sisters in Kenya (or at least on many days).

I want my boys to be used of God, and to know the true Gospel, before they chase the American Dream. I want their lives to be lived in the Gospel fringe, instead of the American Dream mainstream.

The lesson of motherhood--and what my boys have taught me--is that however hard I want this for them, I can't accomplish it. Defining my purpose isn't enough. God has to disciple them, and commission them, through us--the parents. It may come in spite of us, but never because of us. Parenting is a prayer, not a talent.

Prayer Time:

Dear Lord, thank you for parenthood. Thank you that it is so hard, with no true answers outside of your grace. Use us mightily. May our hearts and lives conform to your purpose and your will. May we labor for you and through you, for your glory. May we lead our children to the cross daily, and may they drink of the humility spoken there. May we drink of it Lord, as parents. May our children be interested in bowing low, not climbing high. May they meet you in their weakness (revealed by risk-taking for you), glad to be filled, so they can exalt your Holy Name.

In Your Son's Name I Pray, Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday 3/20

1 Timothy 6:12; "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called..."

The Greek language reveals that this verse is not a suggestion, but a command. The command is to fight (the difficulty), and to lay hold on eternal life. We are not actually fighting anyone or anything involved in our difficulty, though it may seem like that. We actually fight Satan and his lies, his discouragement, and his manipulation. It isn't the cancer, the difficult boss or child, the poverty or the hopelessness that beat us. It's Satan.

But in Christ, we are assured victory. Maybe you didn't win today, but the big picture is one of glorious victory.

I know you've got something tough going on right now. We all do, and I tell you, we will win.

Galatians 6:9 "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."

Jeremiah 20:11

But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one:
therefore my persecutors shall stumble,
and they shall not prevail:
they shall be greatly ashamed;
for they shall not prosper:
their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Part of the victory lies in submitting to the will of the Father, in all things. Each prayer is a small victory. Each gratitude list is a small victory. Each song sung to the Father is a small victory. Each opening of the Word is a small victory.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Gratitude List

~ The promise of tulips coming soon.

~ An aspiring reader sounding out three-letter words.

~ A beginning reader stumbling only on a few sight words.

~ A chicken roasting in the oven.

~ Spring Mix steamable-bag vegetables (I love them so!).

~ A clean porch and yard, even if it did come about as a consequence.

~ Four loads of laundry folded.

~ Mostly caught up on laundry, ahead of Bible Study Saturday coming.

~ An old friend coming to Bible Study.

~ The Word of God as a balm to my weary soul.

~ We are assured victory!!

What are you thankful for today, friends?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Making of a Boy

Stock photo of a Beagle, not our Rudy
Rudy the Beagle has been in our home ten days and he's rocking our world. I either have a sinus infection from a prior cold, or I'm allergic to his dander. Whichever is true, I love this dog and we're keeping him. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it! Not just because we love him, but because we made a commitment to him and we won't break his heart.

Now, consider that I never had a dog or wanted a dog, and I always turned my nose up at dog smells and thought people who treated their dogs as people were being ridiculous. Neighbor kids with dogs came over smelling like dog, and I couldn't understand how they stood the constant odor.

My firstborn begged for a dog for years and when he was 5 we told him we would get one when he reached 10. But when he reached 10, we had a three year old so we said she was too young and would mistreat the dog. (Plus we couldn't afford it.)

My son was appeased with a series of hamsters, a tree frog, and a corn snake (which is still loose in the house), but Peter never stopped talking about dogs, and every relative or neighbor with a dog, and every book or picture book about dogs made him pine more for a canine best friend.

We read a couple years ago that dogs can be therapeutic, and of course we knew they helped lonely people, including the elderly. A single 50-something man at our church brings in a therapy dog every Sunday, which helps him with emotional problems.

Peter's OCD and ADHD cause considerable stress around here, and when I recently added my girls to the daily homeschool load, that extra, along with the stress from Peter, made me feel like I needed to find solutions, and fast. We (and I) couldn't continue with the current level of stress, I was certain.

So, as we prayed about solutions, we considered a dog. ADHD children need a lot of stimulation and if they don't get it, they tend to bother their siblings and make a nuisance of themselves following a parent around (me) talking excessively, just to stimulate their brain. They can probably read social cues, but their impulsivity is so strong, they don't heed the signs of irritation. Negative attention is better than nothing, as it still provides stimulation.

As far as OCD goes, Peter needed a distraction to help him resist doing the compulsions. If he could stay busy and purposely ignore the OCD, he could win victory over it.

All this came into play, and we decided to get a dog, though neither of us looked forward to it. It was a last resort.

Now ten days in, I can understand how people come to dearly love their canine friends. There is something special there, I have to admit. God meant for dogs to comfort people, I am sure. They are dear creatures--loyal, funny, cuddly.

Now I have to admit the dog is running us ragged. We're in a period of adjustment, learning that Beagles, while being the perfect family dog--they are pack animals and love every member of the family--are also escape artists, as much as hamsters are (ask me how we know). He has escaped twice and I fear him becoming a stray again. His adoptive mother saved him at the last minute from dog death row, after six months at the pound. Beagles smell their way into homelessness, literally, being so intent on following a scent trail that they lose their way. Some family somewhere has been mourning this dog for eight months, and I'm determined to do right by this dog, who doesn't know his own nose.

As much as he's running us wild and I have three extra hours of housework weekly, we are learning fast. I put our refrigerator in front of one escape route, and a dresser in front of another, leaving us with one doorway into the kitchen, until a baby gate arrives with a opening latch to replace the refrigerator barrier. He isn't allowed in our living room, and that bothers him excessively, even though we make sure someone keeps him company most of the day, in the family room, mostly, but also the kitchen and dining room.

Truthfully, it feels like there is an 18-month-old baby here, with all the charm, giggles, and good times, along with all the headache of keeping the child out of danger, and keeping him entertained. He's not into the low cupboards yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

And just like when I had 18-month-old toddlers running me wild, I wouldn't trade these times. Rudy is a delight. A real peach. A good egg. An answer to prayer, albeit a labor-intensive one.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me profoundly yesterday about the Rudy and Peter.

I was exasperated because while Peter had two friends over, he got distracted and left the yard temporarily, leading to his five-year-old sister leaving the backyard gate open, and Rudy escaping. Fortunately, I check out the window frequently when Beth is out, and I looked, aghast, at the open gate and Rudy sauntering through it. Frantically, I opened the window, shouting at the kids in the front yard to intercept him ASAP.

Peter is grounded from having friends over for three months, partially because of this incident, and because of the friends, who also own dogs, trying out improper "training" practices on Rudy, like swatting him on the nose, however gingerly. Peter did not object strongly enough, in my opinion (like me, he is still learning assertiveness), though I warned him that the friends should not interfere with the dog. Peter also disobeyed me during this same time by going across the street to the drainage ditch, intent on catching fish and frogs with his friends.

Does that sound harsh? Three months? I don't think so, and I was glad of the opportunity to teach Peter that a life is in his hands. A dog is indeed like a toddler, needing a serious parental figure to love, guide and train him.

I wake Peter up every morning on time so he can let his dog out (if we had an extra alarm clock, I'd have him use it). I don't do any dog chores for him, and I gently remind him that the dog is his responsibility, but that I will help him create a workable schedule for the dog and for his school tasks, should he need my help.

Peter is, most of the time, doing a fantastic job, displaying a stellar work ethic. He even brings along a plastic grocery bag on every dog walk, telling me, "You know, Mommy, I actually like picking up Rudy's poop on the walks. It makes me feel grown up. And you wouldn't believe how warm it is. I never knew poop came out of bodies so warm. Steam comes up from it!"

The Holy Spirit clearly said to me yesterday, as I riled from the stress:

This dog will be the making of Peter, just you wait and see.

It is with tears that I write this, thinking of all that God did to bring this particular dog to us. The whole thing involves much sacrifice and expense (initial expenses, mostly), but just like most hard things in life, the pay off will be huge.

We've encountered several novels the last few years with similar themes--a dog being the making of a boy. Nothing grows a person like parenthood, and that's what dog ownership is for tweens. It forces them to acquire and practice growing-up skills. It provides an avenue for them to invest their hearts and time, working for the good of another.

Yes, I would definitely say God knew what he was doing when he created dogs to be a man's (and a boy-man's) best friend.

Of course, the girls here love him too. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Defining a Christian Marriage

What's the hardest thing about developing and nurturing a distinctively Christian marriage? If you had to take inventory of your marriage today, would you rate its Christian characteristics as strong, good, average, or poor?

How do we even define a Christian marriage? How is it different from a secular marriage?

Some might say the difference has to do with the husband's leading and the wife's submitting, since these concepts are scriptural marriage teachings. But truthfully, leading and submitting are ideals that take decades of work in marriages, depending on the modeling a person had growing up. I don't know how strongly these would define a first-generation Christian marriage, or even the average Christian marriage.

Let's suppose you're in a first-generation Christian marriage, having grown up with secular parents, or parents who didn't follow scriptural models. What should you aim for, with few concrete Biblical mandates to go by?

The Bible gives us a picture of sacrificial love in 1 Corinthians 13, and in Ephesians 5:22-33 we learn that a wife is to submit to her husband as to the Lord, and a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. These are classic marriage passages, but they don't come with examples. They fall far short of providing a vivid picture.

I think it's a good idea to pray these scriptures over our marriages. The Holy Spirit can mold us and direct us in ways the passages cannot. The Spirit makes the passages come to life, so to speak. He is with us in the nitty-gritty details if our hearts are teachable. God wants us to ask for wisdom and the Holy Spirit is faithful to provide it.

Never are we left alone.

Still, I think it's beneficial to think of marriage not in terms of our behavior primarily, but in terms of the purpose for our union. If we can't identify purpose, we'll have a harder time navigating the everyday landscape of our marriage.

The Bible, when taken as a whole, teaches that it's not about us. Everything we do is for God's glory, whether it be our marriage, our child-rearing, our jobs, our friendships...even our free time. So marriage is not a way to get our needs met. The primary purpose is to glorify God, not to stifle loneliness, have hot meals served every night, have steady sex, or be gifted with new jewelry every Valentine's Day.

Psalm 34:3: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!”

Marriage perks are nice and they may happen, but they aren't the purpose and they shouldn't be the primary focus. As Psalm 34:3 teaches, focus on how you as a couple can magnify the Lord.

Some marriages are plagued by frequent travel, some by excessive life stress, some by inadequate support. A myriad of things come along that prevent marriage from meeting our needs, and the survivors are those who don't look for what they can get out of it, but what they can put into it.

When we shift our focus in this way we don't have a laundry list of things we'd like to change about our spouse. Instead, we have a list of ways we can bless our spouse, for the glory of God.

Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He didn't wait for us to perform in some expected way before blessing us, and we must love our spouse in this same way--radically, undeservedly, graciously.

A Christian marriage then, 1) has a distinctive purpose (to glorify God),  2) has a sacrificial love.

Homework #1 : In your prayer or blessing journal, jot down 2 or 3 specific ways you can bless your spouse this week. It may seem like you don't have time for such a "game", especially if you have small children or many children. But do jot something down anyway, and pray that the Holy Spirit gives you the energy and drive to bless your spouse this week.

Make this a habit and you'll not only win over your husband, but you'll magnify the Lord as well. It all starts with one partner deciding to make the first sacrificial moves, with no promise of returned blessing.

Homework #2 : Pray the Ephesians 5:22-33 scriptures over your marriage so you can submit and respect, and your husband can love and lead. Without our prayers in this direction, I don't believe we will see progress in these areas. Women are not natural submitters anymore than husbands are natural lovers and leaders. We need the Holy Spirit to realize these ideals in our marriages. Pray also that you and your husband will pray together frequently. Don't nag your husband about this, just pray about it--prayer is the single most effective marriage counselor.

So pray, pray, and pray again.

And love, love, and love again.

In four weeks, rate your marriage for its Christian characteristics again. Is your primary purpose--which should be to glorify the Lord--strong, good, average, or poor? Is your sacrificial love strong, good, average, or poor? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

When our own children grow up, we want them to have a vivid picture of what a Christian marriage looks like. We want the marriage scriptures to come alive in our homes. What better wedding gift can we give our children, and how better can we glorify God?

What is one way you can bless your husband this week, friend? (Besides the obvious, which we won't list here :).

I will make my husband a pineapple-upside down cake, which is his favorite. And I will try harder to have dinner ready and the table completely set precisely at 7PM, which is when he walks in from work. When you're schooling four kids, it's tough to get afternoon chores and dishes done in time to start cooking from scratch early. Dinner is sometimes not ready to eat until 7:20, and he comes in mighty hungry. But I can do this, for the glory of God.

Welcome Home Wednesdays

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The One Thing We All Have Going For Us

Today was the worst day and it was supposed to be a day for me to relax, finally, with a book in my hands. It was a Saturday off from Bible studies and no company was scheduled. My cleaning and laundry load would be lighter, I told myself, so I'll sit with a book and give my energizer-bunny self a rest.

But then the tiny screw fell out of Beth's glasses, so that meant a Walmart Vision center errand. And the snake disappeared from its cage, so when husband returned from work after lunch time, he obsessed about finding it and tore part of the house up.

So much for my relaxation.

I came home from Walmart to find pee spots in the playroom. Without my reminding him, Peter failed to take Rudy the Beagle out every hour, and the rule is that the dog can only be on carpet if he is watched closely. Later, Rudy will bark his needs better, but right now he is quiet, trying to get used to his new surroundings and new family and new routine.

I came unglued too, when I saw evidence that Peter pulled triple the amount of paper towels necessary to dry his hands. He absentmindedly does this, and it drives me crazy because paper towels are expensive and I purposely buy the type that section off to save money. Not to mention, there is usually a kitchen towel available for wiping hands only. People with OCD wash their hands daily more than most people do in several days, so his paper towel habit is a nightmare.

More things went wrong, and my world came crashing down. I felt completely overwhelmed with all the responsibilities and hassles, on a day when there were supposed to be few.

I didn't wake up this morning and announce to everyone that I really needed to relax. I just assumed it would happen.

I lectured my son and got mad at my husband, for they both share very similar characteristics that make my daily responsibilities heavy. And I get so weary sometimes.

Finally, my husband, in exasperation, shouted that they don't mean to annoy me. "I'm sorry we aren't as perfect as you'd like, but we do the best we can. We can't help it that concentrating on many details at once, the way you do, is impossible for us."

I felt terrible.

Why do I assume that lecturing is going to change anything about ADHD? Instead of snapping at all the pressure, why don't I remember why it's there? Why do I bother getting annoyed at something that can't be changed, any more than a polio victim can get up out of a wheelchair and suddenly walk?

My son began fearing, from all my ranting, that he was never going to make it in life. That he was just too stupid.

I felt terrible.

My brain just wanted to explode. Living with neurological disorders is so hard. So excruciatingly hard for everyone involved, but not for the same reasons. My son and husband have to acknowledge at some point that they are hard to live with, and that as much as they need grace from me, I need grace from them, too.

The wife of an ADHD husband does an awful lot of work, not because her husband is lazy or tries to get away with doing less, but because he gets overwhelmed easily and can handle few details. Looking for a snake, being in the midst of four kids with Mom away, and making sure a dog gets outside every hour, is too much detail.

I told myself, inwardly, that when I am away, the dog goes in his crate after being let out the last minute before I leave. Rudy doesn't mind it at all; most dogs see their crate as a quiet, secure place, as long as the confinement period is just a couple hours. They can hold their urine quite a while, but dogs neutered late (after one year; Rudy was six years) tend to mark territory with their urine, so you have to keep a close watch and make sure they use it all up outside, for they purposely hold some in to use for marking. God is amazing, the way he created each animal with so many complicated and specialized characteristics.

But having to make this adjustment when I leave the house? It was annoying. There are so many many bases to cover before I can leave the house. Pressure. Always pressure.

I am grateful for my family and for having the privilege of caring for them. I am grateful to have a Christian husband who works hard and has integrity. I truly am, but that doesn't keep me from melting down when the pressure mounts.

The mother of an ADHD boy puts up with a lot of annoying daily issues. She hopes for progress. She hopes for an easing of symptoms, if only she can help her son manage the disorder well enough, utilizing all known helps.

But at the end of the day, the brain is still disordered. Medicine is no cure. Good management techniques are no cure. The disorder won't go away. Ever.

You can use words like special instead of disordered, but the daily reality doesn't feel so special. You can spin it positively on your best days, but best days don't come often. Neurological disorders stink. No one wants them and they struggle daily to endure them, if truth be told. Every day they wake up and life is harder for them, no matter what they do differently.

And because it's a silent disorder, not a visual one, few people understand the deficits.

Sure, developing coping skills helps, but they manage the stress involved, far more than they change the condition itself.

Whenever I get overwhelmed with this, I make my son and husband feel like they're no good. I give them the impression that I am better, smarter, more capable. But the reality is, I'm crumbling in my own weaknesses. I don't think they can put themselves in my shoes, perhaps because it's painful to do so.

No one wants to face that they have deficits that unduly burden others. This is a very human reality, true for all of us, but not fun to acknowledge.

At the end of long, cantankerous days, my son, overwhelmed and dejected, wonders how he will make it.

And I wonder, silently, how his wife will make it, for I know what she's in for. I also know my son is sweet, gentle, smart, fun, and charming, and a wife he will have. Someone will come along and notice that he is not cocky, but humble. That life has molded and shaped him by its hard knocks, and he's better for them. He will stand out by his good heart and good looks, by his allegiance to God, and the silent disorder will go unnoticed during the courting period, as it did for me.

And when the courting period comes, I must remain silent about the disorder and let God work. All my mothering years must be used to pray for a solid, compassionate Christian wife for who will kneel and pray for strength and grace, and give thanks for Peter's heart and humility, which please God.

Defeated and guilty, I responded to my son with the only truth I know.

"This has nothing to do with intelligence. You are very bright with many strengths. And you will make it in life, by the grace of God. In the end, Peter, we all have just one thing going for us."

"The grace of God."

"Look up to heavens and give thanks for it, cling to it, and spread it, for the glory of God."

If you know of a family dealing with neurological disorders, be it depression, ADHD, OCD, bipolar, Tourette's Syndrome, or autism...please pray for them? They may look put together on the outside, but truly, they need prayer for lifelong strength and grace...and their loved ones do too. Thank you.