Sunday, December 4, 2016

Persevering Mom

My girls went to a birthday party last night. It was held in a tiny starter church and the theme was Finding Dory, which they showed on a "big screen" (aka the screen for worship music lyrics). They asked the girls to dress in pajamas and bring sleeping bags and teddy bears. Oh the excitement!

Party hours were 4 PM to 7 PM, during which pizza, cake, ice cream and a snack table were available. Apparently, Mary had some of each because at exactly one in the morning she vomited big time and it was 2:30 before I got to sleep.

The sick ones always sleep in the king bed with me just in case they need assistance again in the middle of the night. I didn't know if this was a virus or a junk food hangover. Hubby set an alarm and slept elsewhere, waking us up at 6:50 as he got ready for church and spoke loudly in the hallway with Paul about the awesome Penn State football game.

Imagine my irritation.

I feel like a zombie and have to clean the house ahead of the daycare week, wash a bunch of linen plus the regular daily loads, and you're waking me and our sick daughter up because of football?

I got up, helped everyone but Mary get ready for church and later got the computer set up to listen to the live sermon broadcast. We watched that, while I observed to see if Mary could hold down sips of water.

The whole time I'm feeling like I'd just studied all night long for an 8 AM final exam. They don't tell you in college that much of your first 18 years parenting a child will mimic that feeling, except for a few summer months when viruses slow down.

Of course it isn't just the viruses. You'll stand in the kitchen and by the washer and dryer for much of the next 18 years, come rain or shine, sickness and in health, especially if you homeschool. The floor will need sweeping and the carpet a vacuuming when you're not by the washer, dryer, dishwasher or stove.

Relentless is the only word that covers it and yet moms don't quit. We persevere with some super human strength I am grateful for, but will never understand. Even us older moms. Even grandmas who are moms to their grandchildren. If we're bedridden, we find a way to mother and delegate from the bed.

Sometimes while sweeping the same floor hours later we feel like Cinderella, who works herself to exhaustion while the evil stepmother and stepsisters live active lives, well-rested and vibrant, always looking forward to something. Other people live life, it seems, while we enable their pursuits. We give things up day after day. The feeling of being passed by, of being unimportant, can be so strong sometimes.

Our Heavenly Father sees us and is well pleased. We work for Him and he says this is good work and I bank my life on that. The servant is blessed in the kingdom of God. The last shall be first. All the more reason to press on without complaining, rejoicing in the growth and beauty in our children's hearts and minds. Sometimes when they're being selfish it seems like we're going backwards, but persevere and trust. Together with the Lord, we're not just cleaning messes, but building a legacy.




Saturday, December 3, 2016

Crucial Situation for Compassion in India

They asked us not to mention this on social media for most of this year, but now that negotiations have failed, I can share that Compassion International's program in India is in jeopardy, affecting our long-time correspondent child, Divya, now age 13 and vulnerable as a teen in her society. Compassion now encourages sponsors to share the situation with friends on social media, asking friends to do the same.

Leadership changed in India early in the year, giving the government more control over which charity groups can work in the country. They put a block on Compassion's funds many months ago, but some Compassion Development Centers were able to keep operating until now.

Personally I can say if we lose contact with Divya, it will be devastating for us, as well as for her family of four. We have written her since she was eight years old and she feels like part of our family.

On Dec. 6, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hear testimony from Compassion about the situation with the Indian government. Please use the link below and five minutes of your time to write your local congressperson. The letter is written for you and putting in your zip code, electronically signing, and hitting submit sends the letter to your local congressperson. You can change the wording if you don't sponsor a child in India by just deleting a sentence about that and writing that you are concerned about Compassion's predicament in India. 130,000 of India's poorest children will be affected if Compassion has to shut down services in a country they have helped for decades under many different Indian governments. The statement and links below were penned by Compassion:

Today I will be short and to the point. I need your help. Compassion needs your help. Children in India and their families need your help.

To get the background on why we need your help, please read this post from the Compassion Blog.

Here's a quick snippet from that post,

"...as of today, many of our remaining partners in India have run out of funds entirely and don't have the benefit of our financial support and resources for their ongoing child development efforts.

We have been working closely with the Indian and U.S. governments and have respectfully complied with all requests from the Indian government. Additionally, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on our behalf with a key official in India. However, the restriction on our funds remains in place.

If a resolution is not reached soon, we will no longer be able to fund the child development centers operating in India. The ripple effect would not only impact the lives of more than 130,000 babies, children and young adults but also the lives of their family members and their communities."

There are two ways that we are asking people to take action.
Contact your Congressperson
Raise awareness on social media

Will you take five minutes out of your day to contact your representative and ask friends and family to do the same? On Dec. 6, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will hear testimony from Compassion about the situation with the Indian government so the timing of this is urgent.


Lastly, when you share about this situation, we are asking everyone to please be sensitive to all parties. Any questions about what to say or not say, do not hesitate to email me or ask in our Facebook group.

As always, thank you for acting on behalf of children in poverty!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Food Pantries and America's Poor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Children are resilient", people like to quote.

Not so much, really. 

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eight Years

Eight long years.

That's how long my 58-year-old husband has been underemployed. Anyone over fifty years old who loses a job faces an uphill battle. Sometimes, these people end up working a few part-time jobs to make ends meet--never again obtaining full-time work. They're overworked, under-paid, with no paid vacation, holidays, or sick time, precious little leisure time, and little to no money going into retirement accounts. What's more, their Social Security will ultimately be reduced by the underemployment, because your disbursement is mostly based on what you earn in the final years.

In all this time, I have persevered, believing my role is clearly defined by the Lord. My children and the home are my primary work. What's more, I believe marriage is for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, no matter how hard those predicaments are. If my husband suddenly became brain-injured, I wouldn't be looking for another husband.

Just more grace.

Our children are growing, needing more and more food, so last April I started babysitting. Still, we were barely making it to the next payday, despite visiting the local food pantry once a month.

Suddenly, change teased from the horizon.

My husband got a first and second interview for a very good job and I began to hope, feeling that surely now the Lord would bless us. Eight years is long enough to endure priceless lessons in humility, gratitude, and reliance on God.

Surely, right? It must finally be our time.

Despite fasting and relentless praying, they chose someone else.

I was so devastated, you know? I have another family member desperately searching for full-time work after fifty, and I feel her pain keenly. She's been searching for over three years, going on many interviews, working very hard to prepare each time. And still nothing. They always choose someone else.

How do you keep hope alive? How do you keep on keeping on, searching for work and fetching expired cans and rotten lettuce and stinky potatoes from the food pantry, without completely losing it? How do you smile for the children and quote uplifting scriptures? (We are not hungry. Do not gift us...just let me share my path and how I attempt to navigate it for His glory...okay?)

The truth is, the Christian life is like this. Couples pray for babies and remain barren. Sick and mentally-challenged people pray for healing that never comes. Workers pray for jobs that don't materialize. Pastors pray for a large flock...one that never arrives.

Some no answers are temporary, and some for a lifetime.

That's not to say that prayer is a waste of time. Prayer--communing with the Holy Spirit--reminds us of His power and our humble state. Communing with the Spirit is a gift in and of itself.

Jesus didn't die to become our bottled Genie. The Bible tells us that God gives his children good gifts, but a fat bank account isn't necessarily a good gift. We are what we focus on and most of us focus on material needs. We spend a lot of time acquiring and planning to acquire, because to have nothing or not enough seems inconceivable.

When we focus on the material, we'll never have enough.

But when we focus on spiritual gifts? We find a goldmine within our own souls.

I have a choice. I can adjust my gaze, either squarely on my self and my perceived lack, or on Him and his spiritual brilliance and abundance.

The fleshly me sometimes exits the grocery store wishing for a different husband. One who can provide all the food we want, handily. The highest quality available, no less. These are fleeting thoughts that I hold captive quickly, having decided a long time ago that I wouldn't hold my husband accountable for my happiness. Happiness--or joy, rather--is between me and my God, not between me and my husband. My husband has his own battle for joy, and yours does too. We can't add to that burden.

Life, and marriage, are unspeakably hard. Life has always been hard, for every generation, at every historical point. The reasons it's hard may change over time, but no human ever had an easy life.

In the past people died often and young from disease; loss was commonplace for everyone. In the past people depended on good weather for an adequate harvest, and going hungry or eating only the same couple foods over and over was expected at times. War and injustice have ravaged hearts and lands for generations.

Adam and Eve are the only humans who had it easy....until they got cocky and wanted more. Gratitude is the cure for a perceived lack.

But it's not enough to give thanks for your home and family, for your food and clothes. That's shallow gratitude. To feel really full, give thanks for Him. Give thanks for who you are in Christ Jesus.

Take time to dwell there, in His presence. He is your prize. He is the gift. He is the answer. He is the yes you were waiting for. Wrap yourself in His eternal promises. Be quieted by His love.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Empowered

When you are down, what's it really about?

Satan.

He is either accusing you...

Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

...or enticing you to serve yourself. 

Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

When you succumb to temptation (to Satan) and you end up serving yourself, he's telling you how rotten you are, and how you better just give up this Christian thing you've got going on, because you're no good at it.

What is the message of the Gospel? What is the message of Grace? I can tell you what it's not, first of all. It's not about condemnation. It's not about dis-empowering you.

What the Gospel does is empower. 

As Christians, we have incredible power in this world. Satan is defeated every time we worship God, every time we share God, every time we love one another, every time we surrender our will to God. Satan loses every time we say thank you to God, for his never-ending grace.

The answer to our shortcomings is not despair. It's not shame. It's not agreeing with Satan that we're no good at Christianity.

The answer to our sin is...

Thank you. Thank you for Your blood, Jesus, that covers me now and forevermore.

Thank you is a loaded uttering here. It means we know that without God, we are nothing. We can do nothing. It is a surrendering of our will, of our desires, and a heartfelt wish that God would give us his eyes, his will, going forward. Thank you means we understand our position before our God. It means we love Him first and foremost, and we're willing to follow Him anywhere.

Such simple words...thank you...but so powerful too...so beautiful.

The last thing Satan wants is for you to say thank you for the Cross. Because in that uttering, you have crushed the enemy.

Nothing can separate us from our God. Nothing can dis-empower us as His heirs.

Romans 8:35-39 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Appreciating Mom

I'm on my third day in bed with the flu.

Can you imagine what the house looks like?

Today I told the kids to catch up on the house first, and then do school with whatever time was left. I intuitively knew that if I didn't call a housekeeping day, then the house would be too far gone for me to clean up on Sunday night, ahead of the Monday daycare day. I'm sure my being off has incredibly inconvenienced the family I work for, but it couldn't be helped.

The boys made dinner the last two nights. Tacos by Paul, and gingerbread pancakes by Peter. They were delicious. I am not a failure as a mother; my children are doing alright with this sudden domestic nightmare. Our job is to work ourselves out of a job, and nothing tests that notion like consecutive sick days for Mom.

To save money, we don't buy many snacks. We bake our own, or make popcorn. There are no-bake cookies for afternoon snack, thanks to Paul. Peter is going to put a whole chicken in the oven at 4 PM, and four loads of laundry were folded and put away at Peter's direction to his siblings.

Peter rose to the occasion nicely. At first though, he knocked on my bedroom door and asked me to please give the kids jobs to do, because the cleaning wasn't getting done. I told him the first step is always the decluttering. An hour later he came and shared this with me:

"All I've been doing for an hour is walking around and putting a ton of little things away. I don't know how you do this everyday. Your job is a lot harder than I thought."

As much as I feel really lousy, and am shocked to have the flu in October--before we even got our flu shots--I can see the value in Mom being down for a week. Housekeeping is a thankless job. Rarely does anyone remember to say thank you for the many small acts of service we do.

And yet, so much of life rides on our shoulders. We're not engineering $25,000,000 stock deals, or meeting to discuss the next president's first 100 days in office, but we are the glue that holds it all together for the next generation. We're significant in immeasurable ways. Our contributions are astounding.

And you know what makes it beautiful, rather than just the work of cooks, maids, and executive secretaries?

It's the love. The self-sacrifice. Our services are free of charge, paid for with precious energy and time and heart. We could be doing so many wonderful things with our time, yet we choose to serve in lowly ways--to do the seemingly insignificant work of ensuring everyone has clean pants and shirts, and available Cheerios and oatmeal for breakfast. When it's time for a meal, the food is there. When it's time for a change, the fresh clothes are there. When it's time to be somewhere, Mom is on the case, five steps ahead of everyone.

When Mom is down, everything is down. When Mom can't go to the store, it's a crisis. When mom can't do the socks and underwear, all of life stops and there's scurrying around. Confused people wonder what to do first and next, because we make it look so easy.

It's beautiful what we do. We literally give our lives to serve others, with no promise of repayment, no promise of a nest egg waiting for us in retirement.

If you devalue what you do...if anyone devalues what you do, just wait. Your sick days will come too and you'll see the value of your contribution. You will be newly thankful that you have the energy and the love and the legacy-minded vision to get up and do the same thing every day, because you want to. Because you love to. Because you get to.




Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Real Reason for Discouragement

After a particularly hard week with too little sleep and too much turmoil, I had nothing left.

Just. nothing.

Most days I'd gone to bed utterly discouraged, feeling guilty that as a parent and wife, I was out of patience and ideas and grace. The stresses of my son's mental illness depleted my hope for the future, or even for the next day. Aggravating it was my sleep deprivation, hormones, and financial stress. Just like everyone else, I had multiple problems.

Pining for heaven, I understood once again what it meant to be broken. It's hard to grasp, isn't it, that the Lord wants us broken? Christianity can be a pretty hard sell.

Hey everyone...become a Christian so you can identify with Jesus' suffering in your daily life. Grace is a beautiful Christian word, but can suffering be beautiful? When witnessing to people we leave that detail out in favor of the enticing parts, like peace and joy and hope.

I became a Christian at age 31, but it wasn't until I lost my first child at 20 weeks gestation that brokenness entered my consciousness  I was 34 and it was the first time I'd wanted the Lord to take me home.

Three of my children tell me they don't want to go to heaven yet; they want to grow up and have families. Already they understand that the best part of an earthly life is loving and being loved, in the context of family. They know intellectually that heaven is better than marriage and kids, but they still can't imagine foregoing these perks of being human.

Peter alone perhaps, due to his OCD, knows what brokenness feels like. Inasmuch as his condition is a tragedy, understanding brokenness at an early age is a gift. It clarifies early that it's not about us. We aren't supposed to wake up each day expecting a smooth transition through the hours. We can't jump from one self-indulging ritual after another, expecting low resistance to our selfishness.

Instead, each day begs for self-denial. Joy does exist in self-denial, in following Christ, in embracing the messiness of life, but it's not a worldly joy.

John 14:27 tells us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I would have to describe the peace He gives as the best kind of fellowship we can ever experience. The peace He gives is a taste of heavenly joy. Peace is to be filled with His love. Family love is wholly insufficient for our souls. It will always leave us wanting, searching. Though beautiful and a gift from God, a healthy family can't be all that we hope for or pursue.

Our souls crave Him. He conceived and designed our souls and only He can fill them.

The Holy Spirit reminded me this week that my exhaustion and emptiness weren't actually because of OCD or ADHD or hormones or sleep deprivation or economic insufficiency, although they certainly made a compelling argument and defense.

The real source was too little time with Peace the Person...with the Lord my God, who promises to quiet me by his love.

I went to the Lord and read about his truth, his love, his faithfulness, his majesty, his grace, his love...and I was filled to overflowing, ready to dig deep for the patience, grace and love my family and community need from me. We give to others out of the abundance we receive from the Lord. If you're empty, it's because you're not filled. It's obvious, but also easy to forget.

These three gifts--peace, joy, hope--are not a mirage or a sham, but neither are they automatic.

Christ died for us so we could have life--so He could enjoy relationship with us. Believing on Him is our ticket to heaven, but not necessarily our ticket to peace, joy, and hope. Those come from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ--a relationship that is ongoing. They come from bathing in His Word, from crying out to Him in prayer, from worshiping him through song and from a quiet and receptive heart.

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Quiet Spirit Talk...And What's Been Going On

Hello Internet of Long Lost Friends. I hope you have been well. Here's what's been going on...

~ We go to homeschool Co-op every Wednesday now. My four kids take 5 classes each (i.e. drama, choir, art, PE, Home Ec, Math is Fun, Creative Creations), while Chase (the 3-year-old boy I babysit) and me sit with other preschool moms and play and talk. I help in one class and will most likely be asked to teach something next semester. My kids are over the moon excited about Co-op, and Mary has made a precious friend already (a friend of every mother's dreams, literally. The young lady is a true treasure).

Most of the Co-Op families have 3 to 5 kids each, so it's quite a large group.

~ Yes, I still babysit. Chase will be four in November. We also had his 5-year-old sister until she started kindergarten last month. Things are a little easier around here with only one daycare child, but with Co-op and AWANA both on Wednesdays, the weeks can still feel like marathons.

~ I'm 50-and-a half-years old, and I hate being the oldest mom everywhere I go. Currently more women in their forties are having babies than women in their twenties, but that doesn't seem to be happening in my area.

Other yucky aging news...The hot flashes, which had only come and gone for short periods before, have now been with me about six weeks. Some days I'm intensely frustrated and I don't know how I'll handle the hotness for another day. I'm afraid winter won't make a difference with this kind of heat. About 85% of women get hot flashes in the year or so after menopause; only about 45% of women get them prior to menopause, in the period called perimenopause. I'm one of the lucky 45% getting them in perimenopause. Does this mean I'll have fewer of them later? Here's hoping.

I take two showers a day now, but the relief they provide is short-lived. Another hot flash (intense heat, not just a little warmth) inevitably comes within an hour of my last shower. I have to stop whatever I'm doing and go stand in front of a large fan for 3 minutes, 10 to 15 times a day. Sometimes I sleep on the couch with the fan next to me, although I have fewer hot flashes at night.

This has changed my life enough that thinking about blogging usually seems like too much trouble, even though I miss the intellectual part of it and the interacting part. I'm kicking around the idea of a Twitter account, because you write in smaller chunks and you can have private conversations, versus interacting through blog comments which are public. Anyone on Twitter that reads here?

~ Mary still has her anxiety about the weather, and Peter still has fairly serious OCD--the weight of which also make blogging seem like too much trouble. I feel like I have nothing positive to share, so why burden people with my whining? Some stages of life you have something to share, and other stages are for hankering down and trying to run the race with as much grace as you can muster.

1 Peter 3:4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

Our pastor is doing a serious on marriage and went over this passage last weekend. He reminded us women that this doesn't mean we have to refrain from talking much. We don't need to change our personality to live up to this. It isn't about whether we're shy or gregarious, whether we're witty or the life of the party, or quiet and mousy.

Rather, it's about an inner stillness--a lack of inner turmoil. It's a gentleness, and a sureness that everything is going to be okay. It's a calmness, more than a quietness, though it's true that if your inner spirit isn't ruffled, you won't shout or argue or complain or speak harshly. So, yes, maybe you'll talk less as your inner spirit quiets.

Our Bible time and prayer can accomplish this calming of spirit, but we can't forget taking the time to just be quiet before the Lord also. A busy mom may carve out 30 minutes a day a few times a week for devotions, but she'll probably find it isn't enough. Try turning off the radio, the TV, the devices, and go to a quiet room to just sit and listen to anything the Holy Spirit sends your way.

He'll say things like....you put that pressure on yourself...it wasn't from Me...focus on the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you as well...give your children's futures over to me...give the health of your marriage over to me...come to me all you women who are heavy laden...I will quiet you with my Love.

So, what do you think? Is your spirit ruffled? What are you doing to quiet it? What is the source of the ruffling?

Often, it's Satan, you know. He is our accuser. He is the master of distraction and confusion. Most ruffling comes directly from his playbook.

I am learning. Live one day at a time. Hardest. Life. Lesson. Ever.

My gracious Lord holds it all, and he wants me to rejoice in the day he has made. Today. He gives me today, with no guarantee of tomorrow. Therefore, I offer Him my day, my hours, my minutes, holding the outcome loosely, not questioning Him about tomorrow.

When I regard each day as an offering back to Him, suddenly, the hot flashes and the kids' anxiety and the burden of having to babysit (though I love little Chase dearly) all become insignificant. They only carry the weight I assign them. They feel heavy only when I make them my focus. It's like Peter walking on water brilliantly, until he took his eyes off the Prize. I'm not supposed to focus on the details of my life, except when I'm expressing gratitude for them.

The gentle and quiet spirit? It comes from shifting your focus, your gaze, onto the person of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Of Great Worth in His Sight

I go to church service first and then a "small group" Sunday School class of about 50 people. The small group consists of women and men who range in age from 40 to 70, with most well over 50.

Thus, most of the women have raised their families and they have time and money to buy beautiful shoes, pay for great hair cuts and flawless manicures, buy nice clothes, etc. They look stylish and put-together, to put it another way.

I, on the other hand, buy thrift store clothes, get my hair cut far too infrequently, and have chipped, thin nails from chronic housework. I feel like a poor servant in comparison, especially when I'm seated next to a women with flawless toenail polish. I try to pull my long skirt over my sandaled feet as far as I can, and wish I'd taken an extra ten minutes to redo my toenail polish.

Sometimes, on my less-than-stellar emotional days, it's enough to make me want to become a hermit and forgo small groups. They're messy after all, compared to sitting in a large church service and then going home. No investment and no risk. Right?

But I know better.

I know when my thoughts need to be held captive, and I'm quicker to lasso them than I ever was before. By the grace of God.

I know that my worth doesn't come from my outward appearance--I know it with my head and my heart. I know that the finely dressed only give the illusion that they're put together. They aren't better off spiritually. The Kingdom of God doesn't care about their $100 outfit. God is not impressed. We're all messy people with messy problems, and stylish clothes and perfect manicures don't change that.

This seems to be limited to women, these silly comparisons on dress and nails and hair. I know it's silly, and yet at first I recoil, feeling less-than for five or ten minutes.

Do you know of a family who drives away from church in a $40,000 new car, bound for a leisurely restaurant and looking forward to the cleaning lady coming on Monday? They don't have it better than you. Really.

Live involves pain for everyone, no matter what they do for a living, no matter what they wear or drive or look forward to doing next. The pain is well hidden for some, but rest assured, pain is universal. The need for compassion and understanding, rather than comparison, is universal.

If it's respect we want, we're wrong if we think it comes from a stylish outfit. Better to be that person who smiles, who welcomes, who listens non-judgmentally, who is not afraid of the messiness that comes with relationship. The second part of the greatest commandment speaks of relationship. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Our humility earns respect as well. Not only do we need to behave compassionately toward others, we also need to seek compassion by sharing our burdens without shame. A rich relationship involves give and take, and we hopefully can be people and will find people who are capable of mature relationship within our churches.

Some groups are more troubled than others. Some are hungry for compassion and spiritual guidance, without being capable of a give and take. We would do well to make sure we have a little of both in our life. People to minister to, and people to minister with.

We are all equal in Christ. Our worth comes from his love for us. We are precious in His sight. That is enough, my friend.  To be precious to Him means we don't need to hide anything. We can live joyful and free. Free from the confines of social class. Free from the pain of the past. Free from shame.

If we perhaps already have respect and it's beauty we desire, we need to know there's a beauty that far outshines any outward feature. No matter how plain our face or form, it all transforms to beauty if we're gentle with a quiet spirit, which carries great weight in the Lord's sight. This is a rare kind of beauty. A rare beauty we should all covet.

1 Peter 3:4
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.


Do you ever feel less-than? What triggers it and how do you counter your distorted thoughts? Do you recognize them as distorted? 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Life Lessons Relearned

A couple people have written to see if we're still alive. It's not that I've lost my writing/reflecting voice, just that every time I think I need or want to reflect and write something, there's never time.

I'll just jump in and write about a hodgepodge of things that have happened, hopefully some that will help others.

1.We had our end-of-year portfolio review last week and we're on day four of the new school year. I have two ninth graders now, and two fourth graders, though everyone is at their own pace with writing. I've learned the hard way that kids (and Mom) thrive when there's on-going routine, with days off here and there, or half-days off when necessary, rather than an extended break. The neurological problems such as the OCD and ADHD do far worse with lack of routine.

2. I had my second routine mammogram and they called me back again for a diagnostic mammogram (next month for what looks like calcifications), which can include more pictures and an ultrasound. I got the same form letter saying I have dense breast tissue, which basically makes it harder to see things clearly. Last time I was fearful of this "diagnostic" mammogram, but this time I've barely thought about it, except to accept the fact that they'll probably call me back every time, because my paperwork indicates my mom had breast cancer at age 65. The dense breast tissue will get less dense as I age. Now that I do daycare, every appointment is a hassle to arrange.

3. If you subscribe to Netflix DVD, please rent The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry. It's a fantastic Christian movie that will spur your children on in their faith and in their Bible reading. I found it heartwarming, inspiring, wholesome, featuring a culture reminiscent of the 1950's. We also rented God's Not Dead, which I loved. The Christian movie choices are pretty good through the Netflix DVD program.

4. I have learned to love the two children I babysit. The five year old will go to kindergarten in about five weeks and we will all miss her. Previously I mentioned that the mother is having a baby in December, and that I said yes to watching the baby and the three year old, but I recently reconsidered that due to the little boy's challenging behavior. He is a nice boy, but stubborn and prone to fits like most 3-year-olds. I told the mother I could handle either the baby or her preschooler full-time, or both of them half-time, but not both of them for 45 hours a week. She is thinking of staying home after the baby comes, anyway. She is the main breadwinner, so it will not be an easy decision for them.

The five year old has learned how to pray, and she enjoys our morning devotions. Because I am an ex-Catholic and she goes to a Catholic church, I regularly tell her that we do all things through His strength, not through our own. I missed that as a Catholic and my experience was that it is primarily a good works philosophy of religion and salvation. She asked me recently what a Christian is and among other simple things, I mentioned that it means we understand we cannot be good on our own. We need the Lord to shine in any way. He makes us who He wants us to be, as opposed to us trying and failing again and again. I felt defeated by my own nature when I was going to Catholic churches. Now, I understand that I need the Gospel everyday. Not one day any less than another. I embrace His nature in me, rather than hating my own. Does that make sense? God sent these particular kids for a reason. They are hard work, but I know it is good work I'm doing. Loving a child is always good work, meaningful work. Introducing children to Jesus is such a privilege. We may only plant a seed with some of them, but every effort is beautiful.

5. My girls will be doing Sonlight Core D this year, which is American History Part 1. They can do all the readings themselves now for all subjects, which has been a blessing and a pleasure to see. I loved this core when the boys did it, and I am looking forward to it with the girls, too. My husband will have to share the read-aloud load with me, though. Sonlight usually assigns as many read-alouds as they do student novels.

I believe I already wrote about our choices for the boys' first year of high school, but since then we did decide on horticulture as their first elective class. We're reaping the benefits right now of their countless hours of research and time spent planning and planting. The garden is the best we've ever had, even though we've been in a sort of drought here in northeast Ohio. They already have a good head start on their horticulture knowledge.

6. I had a varicose vein stripping surgery on one leg and will schedule the other leg for sometime this calendar year. It wasn't an easy recovery, but there is far less pain in the treated leg now, and he tied off a golf-ball sized blood clot that formed after one of my miscarriages (lower inner thigh..a benign area for a blood clot). The scars take about a year to flatten and heal, but I am so grateful!

Here's the main thing I wanted to share, which might help someone:

Sometimes we have to wait on things we've prayed for, and in the meantime we can be very uncomfortable. This is a given for the Christian, but when it happens to you, it ain't so easy. Right?

Our culture doesn't like to wait, but learning to do so builds character, perseverance, and faith, especially when the wait is very uncomfortable--such as physically or emotionally burdensome, on top of the everyday burdens. Everyday of the struggle, we're reminded that we're still waiting for an answer. Some days, we wonder where God is and whether he cares at all. As I write this I'm aware that America-style burdens are of course much different than most of the world experiences. Our burdens are pretty light compared to the third world's.

And indeed, the less you have, the less you have to be burdened about. We worry about car repairs and they worry not so much about possessions, but about daily bread. A downed vehicle is nothing compared to a hungry stomach gnawing at you, but it's still possible for one to lead to the other here in America.

As soon as I started doing daycare, one thing after another broke around here, at a pace fiercer than before. If were were thinking that my job would end all our financial problems, we were dead wrong. Teens eat a whole lot, after all. By November I'll have two that need more and more calories, and calories are expensive! 

The used washer we bought three months ago started leaking in the bottom front. First a trickle, than a whole bucket-full of water during each load! The used appliance place kept promising to come and fix it for a fee, but they never showed and the 30-day warranty was up. With no hope of another one right away, my husband built a pallet and we put it up on that, catching the water with some tupperware and changing it often. Even looking online at videos, we couldn't fix it ourselves.

This went on for four or five long weeks and even though sometimes I wanted to cry at the level of inconvenience and waste, I couldn't do anything but persevere. If I didn't get there soon enough and the tray overflowed, I had a huge mess each time with six kids underfoot.

Finally, my husband found another washer for $75 from a Habitat for Humanity Restore. It's high efficiency, which I've never used, but it's a Maytag washer, used, for $75 versus the $200 we paid for the other used one. It works but it's loud on the spin, even though it's advertised as a quiet model. I don't know how long it will last, but my discomfort in doing laundry is over for now. I'm so relieved and my experience proves once again that God's grace is sufficient.

Every time I think I'm going crazy, I somehow bounce back and find blessings to count.

That's His grace at work.

I'm sure it seems like this is all so minor, but to a mom with four kids and two daycare kids, laundry is never minor.

Our lives aren't supposed to be easy and comfortable, as Christians. How does anyone grow when things are comfortable? Our journey as Believers is not about moving up in the world, or even having a smoother path, but about moving closer to Him. That's necessarily a lifestyle that should look different than the way your typical American lives.

If you aren't different, why?

Embrace your own discomfort, whatever it is, because God has a plan. Keep praying and believing and listening to the Spirit as to what you should do next.

Sometimes, the answer is just......wait.

Your spirit will want to fight that. It seems so passive and wasteful, this waiting. But putting your trust in God is not passive. It's an active endeavor to rest in Him. It's work to rest in Him.

Around the same time the washer started leaking, the $2000 water softener we bought 11 years old quit working. Because two major car repairs hit us in the same period, along with a broken garbage disposal, we had to let the broken water softener just sit, even though it's likely that the extremely hard water will ruin the dishwasher, which is only a couple years old. It ruined our drinking glasses within a week.

For the first week after the water softener quit, I was incredibly frustrated and depressed, while still believing that God is always good, always faithful. At that point I was just done being long-suffering. I was done with hassle, after two and a half months of babysitting and working my rear off keeping the house up, with only a couple hours on Saturday for relaxation. It seemed there was nothing to look forward to but more broken appliances and more car repairs and more cleaning.

The stress brought worsening OCD and anxiety in the kids, so I knew I had to learn to stay joyful and hopeful.

Devotions became my salvation. Praying with my family brought the only relief from problems and disorders. Discomfort sends us running to the Lord and loving our time with Him. He purposely, I think, contrasts that time with all the other hours of the day.  With kids there are always interruptions, but it's still rich. As they get older, it gets even richer to pray together.

My overall predicament made me appreciate women of the past, who worked even longer hours without the modern conveniences we take for granted. They had so much to do they were primarily workhorses, and I don't say that disrespectfully, but with admiration. They weren't sissies. They weren't weak or impatient. They couldn't be. Their kids weren't sissies, or weak, or impatient, either. There was still the upper-class who used servants, but I'm talking about your every-day American mom from over a hundred years ago and longer.

I'm interested in the history of modern household inventions, but if you aren't skip this entire washing machine section below.

Some backgroundBefore indoor plumbing, the housewife also had to carry all the water used for washing, boiling, and rinsing the laundry; according to an 1886 calculation, women fetched water eight to ten times every day from a pump, well, or spring.[1] Water for the laundry would be hand carried, heated on a fire for washing, then poured into the tub. That made the warm soapy water precious; it would be reused, first to wash the least soiled clothing, then to wash progressively dirtier laundry.
Removal of soap and water from the clothing after washing was originally a separate process. First, soap would be rinsed out with clear water. After rinsing, the soaking wet clothing would be formed into a roll and twisted by hand to extract water. The entire process often occupied an entire day of hard work, plus drying and ironing.
Margaret Colvin invented the Triumph Rotary Washer, which was exhibited in the Women's Pavilion at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia.

1910 advertisement
Electric washing machines were advertised and discussed in newspapers as early as 1904. Alva J. Fisher has been incorrectly credited with the invention of the electric washer. The US Patent Office shows at least one patent issued before Fisher's US patent number 966677 (e.g. Woodrow's US patent number 921195). The "inventor" of the electric washing machine remains unknown.
US electric washing machine sales reached 913,000 units in 1928. However, high unemployment rates in the Depression years reduced sales; by 1932 the number of units shipped was down to about 600,000.
Washer design improved during the 1930s. The mechanism was now enclosed within a cabinet, and more attention was paid to electrical and mechanical safety. Spin dryers were introduced to replace the dangerous power mangle/wringers of the day.
By 1940, 60% of the 25,000,000 wired homes in the United States had an electric washing machine. Many of these machines featured a power wringer, although built-in spin dryers were not uncommon.
Bendix Corporation introduced the first domestic automatic washing machine in 1937,having applied for a patent in the same year. In appearance and mechanical detail, this first machine was not unlike the front loading automatic washers produced today. Although it included many of the today's basic features, the machine lacked any drum suspension and therefore had to be anchored to the floor to prevent "walking". Because of the components required, the machine was also very expensive. 

It appears that it was after the 1950's before in-home washing machines began to resemble something like we use today. Poorer Americans waited even longer, and of course many apartment dwellers are still using laundromats, at about $2.00 per wash load! Sometimes they simply don't have that money and go without clean clothes.

It's astounding how easy a woman's life is now, in comparison. What do we really have to complain about? We lose our babies to diseases and infections far less often, and we have medicines to treat our own diseases. We know less inconvenience and less heartache. 

Our biggest problem is our attitude, I would think, and that we've lost a sense of what God wants from us, as women.

I still have a broken garbage disposal; I'm used to not having one now. The water softener still sits in a closet, unused, but I no longer lament about the dishwasher rotting away from hard water. 

I've learned to wait. I've learned anew that we must squeeze what joy we can from each day, like it's a juicy lemon. We're not promised our next breath, much less our next 24 hours. I've learned that God promises daily manna, not weekly or monthly or yearly manna. 

Or rather, I should say I have relearned. Such lessons are on repeat from the Lord, aren't they?

A woman who rests in the Lord, who trusts in the Lord, lives a 24-hour day. She laughs at the days to come.
I'm so grateful for the Lord's wisdom and love. He knows what lessons we need and He's faithful to provide.

 So rejoice in your trials. Rejoice!

Our children are watching and learning from us. Let's pray that we can model strength, faithfulness, perseverance, and a heart full of gratitude and charity and joy.

When we fail for a day or for a season, he's there waiting to move us forward.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
What exciting adventures have come your way this summer?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Glimpse of the Empty Nest

Dear Internet,

Help. I'm a mother with a one-fourth empty nest and I feel it keenly.

My boys worked hard to apply for Christian Camp scholarships, keeping up with deadlines and gathering all the required recommendations. God honored it with a huge blessing--an experience none of my children have ever experienced before: A week at camp.

We dropped Peter off at high school camp two hours ago, and I'm a basket case. I feel like my heart has been ripped out. I just miss him terribly. I've never been away from him for more than a few hours since 2005, when I flew to Ohio for a two-day trip looking for a new home. He was three and a half then.

I am praying harder than I've ever prayed...that his OCD will not ruin his time...that he doesn't fall off the zipline and get hurt...that he won't get a sunburn...that he will be a blessing to a lonely boy in his cabin...that he will make a good friend...that all my years of discipling will make him a world changer in cabin #12.

I trust him and I'm so proud of him, and I know he is ready to be sent out, to make disciples of every nation.

This is what the empty nest will feel like at first. Like my heart is being ripped out. Oh, mothers. Soak up every moment and speak Christ with every pore. We can't go backwards...

Signed,

A drippy-eyed mother

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Teaching Prudence to Girls

I'm catching up on news today and read three letters written in regard to the Stanford rape case--the victim's, the defendant's mother's, and the defendant's. In some ways, each letter appalled me. The victim's letter was outstanding. She knows how to show and not tell--something even successful authors sometimes fail to master--so that we the readers could feel as though we were right there with her, experiencing it as well. It was very powerful and I hope it's widely read, especially by men. Her suffering can't be fully comprehended by most of us, but we can come as close as possible through reading her words. She worked unselfishly in this case, enduring more pain through the trial to pursue justice, partially to give other women a voice and some validation. I salute her courage.

However, in trying to empower women and tell them they have worth, she failed in a most obvious way. What about..."You have worth. Take care of yourself in every way, including not consuming alcohol at coed parties. You are too valuable to feel you are entitled to drinking, just because it's a party and everyone is doing it, and you want to have fun."

The man who violated this woman is a criminal with no excuse. He should spend the six years in prison the prosecution tried to get. Not everyone is capable of such evil just because they are drunk. His actions were beyond horrible; he's morally bankrupt.

But in regard to all the women involved in these rapes I ask this: When are we as a society going to start advising women to avoid drinking at coed college or high school parties? Or with a man you can't absolutely trust? Isn't it obvious that this puts you at risk? Isn't it obvious that we live in a society where athletes are put on a pedestal, which appears to morally bankrupt them as they develop a sense of entitlement? Acknowledging this and warning girls is just smart, not sexist or victim-blaming. I don't blame the victim for the evil criminal mind of the predator. But how many girls' lives are going to be destroyed before we say publicly to girls--stay away from coed drinking parties? Why is this not okay to say, publicly? It's not politically correct and that is just tragic.

This, the victim's words: ...Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Sipping fireball is not your crime....Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

She is right that there was a difference, but she doesn't go far enough to empower other girls to avoid her fate. "Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal." Does this fully communicate to college girls and women about how dangerous alcohol use is in coed environments? Sadly, it doesn't, as inspiring as it may read.

If we want to empower girls, why not tell them they are worth too much to take such risks? For example, I don't put my girls in short shorts or short skirts because pedophiles exist and they are turned on by skin, and as an adult, I am supposed to accept that reality and protect my girls accordingly, at church, at the store and in my own yard and home. I am their protector and I take it very seriously, as I do the importance of teaching them to protect themselves. I know the world and I have to make decisions on their behalf, so they can remain children.

We shouldn't live in fear of criminals, but we should teach our children that they exist in all parts of society. Love yourself enough to exercise great care. Learn to survive in the society you do live in, not the one you wish you lived in. Evil boys and men exist and you'll find them in every college and at every party, and beyond.

Do my girls have a right to wear whatever they want? Yes. Should they assert that right? No. Wisdom says no. Do girls have a right to go to coed parties and drink? Yes. Should they assert that right? No. Wisdom says no. Whatever happened to raising girls with wisdom?

Don't misunderstand me. However much a girl drinks, or however much skin or curve she shows, she is still not responsible for someone else's criminal actions. And even a conservatively-dressed girl or women can be victimized, surely. Dressing appropriately is like sunscreen. It's a precaution not a guarantee. Never going out alone at night is a precaution, not a guarantee. But I will still preach the wisdom of both, over and over again.

This young woman will undoubtedly be stronger for what she has had to endure, but this pain is not what God intended for her life. It was avoidable and could have been avoided if in our politically correct society, we were honest with girls. Some men are predators, period. Living wisely is a virtue. Can we call prudence a virtue? Can we go back to teaching prudence as a regular part of parenting both girls and boys?

A whole other post needs to be written about teaching boys to respect women, but many other writers have already written it, including the victim in this case, who described the respect we are after pretty well, though with a secular flare. Whether or not a woman respects herself as thoroughly as she should, a boy should always be taught to respect all women.  While it's true that not all women are worthy of becoming our son's wife, they are all worthy of respect, earned or unearned. Every human being is created in the image of God, worthy of respect as His child.

The victim's mother's letter was disturbing because she spent most of it bragging about her son's achievements, as though they excused his actions, or as though they in and of themselves deserved to be given a chance. She appears to be a mother after the things of this world, mostly. She mentioned toward the end that she was proud of how her son treated the disabled, but that was all negated by how he treated the woman in question, who was disabled by alcohol.

It was a hollow, shallow letter, and seemingly one on which the judge put too much emphasis in making his decision. It made me want to weep for this mother, reading about how hollow her life is. She said they would never be happy again, as though it's only through achievement that we can gain happiness. This is a family without hope because they were without depth to begin with, not to mention without the One who is Hope. I hope her son doesn't commit suicide, but it's a possibility if they brought him up to value achievement and nothing more. Suicide is sometimes the result of mental illness, but it can also result from an upbringing that emphasized the things of this world, as opposed to the things of the soul.

Pray for the country and its young people, for they've been sold a bag of soiled goods from a country seeped in sin. We're failing them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Daycare House

My house has changed now that it's also a business. You can see here what we've been doing. My girls appreciate that we're doing more art projects now. 

I just heard today that a new baby sibling will be born in December, whom I will be watching! How blessed is that? The whole SIDS thing terrifies me, but I love babies and I'll try to get past that fear as a daycare provider. The five-year-old sister starts kindergarten August 31, and then I'll have just the 3-year-old brother until their new sibling arrives.










Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Housewife Gone Astray

It's Saturday morning. A few hours of heaven on earth in my life. Yes, I still have chores, shopping, and cooking weighing on me (ain't that the truth even on our birthdays and on Mother's Day?), but there is no exact deadline, other than hungry stomachs.

As a homeschooling mom, Saturday did have perks for me, but it's different now. Now it's a huge relief, like the last contraction of an unmedicated childbirth, or like the last hundred yards of a marathon.

Yippee!

And Sunday afternoon and evening? They've changed too. The stress starts to build as I run around, getting the house ready for the next day, knowing that if I don't use my time wisely, I could be up until 2 AM cleaning and planning lessons or crafts. I used to get the Sunday blues as a public school teacher, too, toward the end when I had a lot of behavior problems and dreaded the weeks.

Because non-paycheck moms don't live under intense time pressure (excepting those with kids in a lot of programs) it's easy to get too relaxed and waste time. Poor time management makes it difficult to be a blessing to our families. If we fail to listen to the Holy Spirit's prodding on this, God will correct us in uncomfortable ways.

He promises to make us a spiritual success so we can finish the race. He promises. We need only respond.

I'm about to reveal a sin in my life and encourage you to avoid the same path and stay on higher ground.

Are you ready?

I would recommend every stay-at-home mom make a list of her typical daily pursuits--not how the days would ideally go, but how they actually go. Then, analyze the list to check on your time management. Did you spend two hours on Facebook or surf the Internet too long each day? Did some other guilty escape occupy too much of your time?

Don't be ashamed, but do give this to the Lord. He doesn't ask us to be perfect, but he does desire a responsive heart.

Prior to being forced into this babysitting job, I was spending too much time reading political Internet news. It became a habit that I justified in the name of being a responsible voter in an election year. But really? I was failing to put things in God's hands, and I admired one political person too much, reading everything I could find on him. Twenty to thirty minutes of news a day was probably appropriate, but I let it get out of hand and I didn't respond quickly enough to the Holy Spirit's prodding, or I responded inconsistently--doing better one day and falling "off the wagon" the next.

I'm ashamed before God. I served myself, not my family. It haunts me that my having to babysit is somewhat of a punishment or a correction. I didn't appreciate enough my status as a stay-at-home mom. And in a sense I didn't fear the Lord.

Staying at home to care for a family is a privileged position, not a right. 

To whom much is given, much is required.

I feel utterly exhausted most days and there's not much pleasure in my life right now. There's a lot of dread. I'm not bitter, but I am very, very sorry. God is using this time in my life, creating in me a purer heart, giving me a greater desire to be a godly mom and wife, instead of one who feels entitled and eats the bread of idleness.

Dealing with hard physical or emotional issues can cause us to seek guilty escapes, and those escapes, unchecked, can prove costly. Sin is always costly. It is forgiven, but still costly.

God promises to give us an escape route when we're tempted, but first, we have to recognize and acknowledge our sin. Escape routes mean nothing to a person in denial. 

Live in the light, God commands. Don't hide sin, acknowledge it and let yourself be purified.

God knows women. He knows what reminders we need. Our culture would have us believe men and women are the same, with the same capabilities and faults, but God doesn't seem to teach that.

Titus 2:3-5  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.


Proverbs 31:26-31 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. ...

The Proverbs 31 woman, by the way, is not one woman. We can't all be great at everything. It's more of a list of admirable qualities we should pray into our lives. If you read it as a description of one woman, you'll surely get discouraged and give up.

A godly woman keeps a quiet time to center herself on Him. She gives the day's troubles to her Master. Like Mary, she says "Let it be to me as you say. I am the Lord's servant." She is unselfish and generous. She takes care of herself, but she doesn't indulge herself. She doesn't feel entitled, but grateful. She loves with her time, with her prayers, with her words and with her body.

When referring to God, godliness means perfection. But in humans, godliness is a submission, a humility...an acknowledgement of our complete dependence on the Savior and Master.

Our behavior is telling, though. It's an accurate picture of our spiritual state. We are told to look for fruit. When our time here is up, we won't be judged on the way we wanted to behave, but on how we actually behaved.

That's why I advise...take an inventory of how you spend your time. If you find error, there's a heart issue that needs revealing and cleansing. Every sin starts with the wrong attitude of heart.

Working moms are forced to be more time-efficient (unselfish with their time). They have a boss and multiple deadlines, at home and at work. A stay-at-home mom can potentially get more done, spiritually and relationally, but only if she lives each day as though God were watching.

1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I trust God in this, and I don't believe life will be this intensely hard forever. I thank Him for not giving up on me, and for loving me enough to die for me and remake me into His image. 

In the meantime, there are two children who come here for 45 hours a week. If my heart is right, I can introduce the Lord to them and encourage their parents, who really have their hands full with some high-needs children. 

Has the Lord ever corrected you with a major life change? Did you recognize it as such, and how did it come out?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Still Here...

I've been working full-time as an in-home preschool/daycare provider since April 11. I remember this exhaustion and hard work, having done it once before, prior to the girls' births. Using your house as a place of business is an intense practice. There's no relaxing of standards, no leaving things out, no waiting for cleaning until you feel better, or are more rested. There's no going to bed with messy floors or carpets or stray laundry.

There's no sleeping in late, or even getting adequate sleep for that matter.

I care for 3- and 5-year-old siblings who are both handfuls in their own way. I'm struggling to love the 5-year-old, who is extremely strong-willed and snippy. "Please" and "thank you" are not in her vocabulary, and she uses put-downs and sarcasm. While she could never be called sweet, she is fun-loving and sometimes my girls enjoy her company. Often they yearn for the quieter time, before daycare, but at the same time they feel less stressed because we're more likely to make our bills each month.

My kids help a lot and I've taken to giving each of them an allowance.

There are positive things inherent in our new situation. One is that I do enjoy teaching and I'm doing more of that, with two new students on board. Much of what I've done with the preschoolers in science, my own girls have participated in albeit at a higher level. We've done a weather unit, a rainforest unit, and we're now learning about plants and pollinators.

Another positive aspect is that my children are gaining more leadership experience. They're also sharing their faith, their possessions, their food and their home.

The three-year-old has a lot of speech issues, but he's learning his letter sounds, nevertheless. Puzzles are his favorite activity. You might roll your eyes at this notion, but he has what appears to be OCD. He lines up his shoes just so, can't stand any messes, and cries to have his clothes changed when they get even a drop of water on them (for example, from washing his hands). I often feel no wetness anywhere on his clothes. I try to help him realize how dry his clothes really are, but he has fits about this and demands to be changed. There could be other explanations, but even the parents suspect OCD, though for the most part they don't discuss anything about their kids, possibly so as to keep their caregivers.

I have worked hard in the past few weeks to remember boundaries, in that these are not my kids and most of my energy must go to my own children and my husband. It's not my job to transform these kids. or correct what I might perceive to be parenting errors. I'm only making $4.30 an hour, and some goes to food (2 snacks, drinks and lunch) and a bigger portion goes to craft and art supplies. I also had to purchase from thrift stores more preschool toys, since I had given my own away.

Though working on boundaries, I'm still mindful of being a good employee and a loving mentor to them. I'm hugging these kids when they need it in the absence of their own parents, I'm praying for them, nursing their cuts and bruises, filling them with good stories, and reading character-training books in the mornings (from Proverbs this month), followed by daily prayer.

They come from a Catholic family and attend Mass, but they came to us with no concept of prayer, even at meals. The first time the 5 year old heard us pray before lunch, she said:

 "Why are you thanking God, when he didn't even make the sandwiches?"

Her comment made me so grateful that I've been home all these years to disciple my own children. Here was a five year old with little to no knowledge of God. It made me devastated for her and her little brother.

During the first month, she was snippy and irritated every time we prayed. Now, all these weeks later, she often adds requests to our morning prayer time. She looks forward to devotions!

God is using their time here in ways I'm probably unaware of--both for their benefit and ours. My job is to submit and be the Lord's servant. I trust His plan, even if it's exhausting, remembering that many Christians over the centuries have experienced physical exhaustion. What I'm experiencing is nothing novel, and I daresay it's keeping my body fit, being this active.

His promises me everything I need, and I believe Him.

I still want to count my blessing on this blog on a regular basis, but I'm realizing outside of that practice, I can't keep up here anymore. I've tried several times to write in the last 7 weeks, but each time something more pressing weighed on me. I was faithful to the people counting on me here. I need to shift my blogging to shorter blurbs, or give it up. If you're still around checking this blog, I thank you and I appreciate you.

Luke 21:19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Guess What?

Guess what I've been doing? Working my tail off! I have two sibling children "enrolled" in my in-home daycare and preschool. They're three and five years old. We will only have the sister until fall, at which time she starts kindergarten.


Here is the little guy with the stuffy he brought from home. We are all in love with him already. The sister is nice and fun, but not quite so sweet as her brother. They are both bright and teaching them is easy. Speech is a challenge for the three year old, and we are still learning what sounds he is missing and what the substitutions are. One is /k/ and I'm trying to help him, but that's not an easy one to describe or show mouth position for.

My living room has become the playroom, the family room has become my children's school room, and half the dining room is the preschool room. Fortunately, my girls now read all their own social studies, science and literature, so that makes running a daycare easier than it might be. I have the girls narrate their assignments to me after they finish, and after the daycare kids leave at 5 PM (they're here full-time), I do writing and spelling with my girls. They boys just need me to check their assignment sheets and listen to them narrate, and of course I have to go over their writing assignments via regular writing conferences.

It isn't easy, and after three days I'm still getting the hang of it, but it's a blessing to have this necessary income. All my children love kids and they've been such a big help to me. They are learning how to run a business and be professional, and what hard work feels like. It's been a positive experience thus far, though I'm so busy I can barely check email once before bed. I've worked on this post a few minutes over three days, and don't expect to get back here very often.

And how are you, my friends? Anything new in your lives?