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...


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.


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 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.