Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Battle or the War?

I want to win both, thanks for asking. Especially when it comes to my kids.

In the end, the war seems to matter most, but each individual battle has it's own potential victories and defeats and then consequences of either.

The particular battle I had yesterday with Joshua had to do with school, but it could have been anything else. It could have been his hair. It could have been his recollection of my exact words. It could have been green or purple. Really, with this strong-willed boy, it could have been anything else. But it was school.

Since I homeschool, this is a battle that makes me shiver when I see the inevitability of it all. Joshua is very bright and especially has an aptitude for math, so one would think he could have reasoned the conclusion when he waged the battle. One would be wrong.

After breakfast and our Advent devotional, Rachael got started on her workbook material while I was going over some math word problems with Joshua. He disagreed with my explanation of the first word problem. He is bright, but he is seven! His temper got the best of him, so he was sent to his room with instructions to come back downstairs when his attitude improved.

After about 20 minutes, I decided to check on him. He was just lying in bed, as there are no electronics in his room, only books and a few toys. Lying in bed was not accomplishing much, so I had him come back downstairs. His mood had improved, but he did not want to get back to his school work because he was "hungry." Never mind that he had eggs, grits and toast less than one hour before. (Yes, he has a wonderful mother.)

I then told him, "You will not eat anything else until you feed your brain and do your schoolwork." There it was. My cannon shot back. The battle is on.

With a little grin on his face, thinking he was getting away with something, he said, "I'm not really hungry anyway."

"You will be later."

"But you'll forget."

"Oh, no I won't."

Then Rachael felt the need to give Joshua some strategic sisterly advice, "Oh, Joshua, I know who will win."

"Who?" he asks, as if he really needs to ask!

"Mom will.

"Oh no."

"Oh yes."

The battle continued, though pretty much amicably, until around 4 pm when he conceded, did his work pages and was allowed to have a piece of toast left over from breakfast and a Cutie clementine.

I won that time, but the battle has given me much food for thought for the long war ahead. It's my job to help my son learn how to put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature. Col. 3.5

I'm glad Joshua and I are ultimately on the same side! He is a formidable foe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

He Would Have Been Three

He was due October 1, 2005. He arrived way too early for my plans on May 6, 2005 at about 20 weeks. But he was just on time for God's perfect plan. He was 8 1/2 inches long, weighed 10 ounces and was fully a little boy. I remember vividly that he even had the shape of his daddy's mouth.

Never had I been through so rough a journey. I was sad. I was mad. This was the first pregnancy I had without the aid of fertility drugs. Why give a gift if you're just going to abruptly snatch it back? I was mad at God, even to the point of wanting to turn my back on Him. I'm so glad He didn't turn His back on me.

My hard journey only served to highlight the contrast between the light and the darkness. God brought me through to the other side of grief where I am sincerely joyful for my son. God has brought me to a place where all that I truly want is to be where He wants me, doing whatever He wants me to do.

One of the things that I'm obedient in (finally!) is writing. I submitted my very first devotional to Proverbs 31 Ministries and it was accepted! Exciting, but humbling! But I know I'm being obedient to his call.

1 Peter 4.11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

A couple of resources that were extremely helpful in setting my mind on the eternal during my journey of grief were the books Through a Season of Grief by my friend Kathy Leonard, also a former North Waker and Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Through Mr. Alcorn's research of scripture, he was able to paint a picture that helped me know that Jonathan is truly in a better place.

He would have been three, though, and I still miss him.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

From There to Here

Whoa! What happened? How did we get from there to here? And in such a rush? That's what I think when I see my first-born, Sarah, who did look like this just yesterday morning when she was 19 months old.....

We woke up this morning and found out she's been 19 years old since May.....

She's traded in her blue hoodie for blue hair.....look carefully, it's there. She's got style despite the fact that she was homeschooled! The hair changes are frequent since she is employed at Douglas Carroll Salon after completion of her cosmetology program.

Hair is not the only thing that's changed as Sarah has grown up. She doesn't suck her thumb anymore.

But she does still have her blankie....the comforter I made from white eyelet fabric to complete a handmade crib set so I'd have it for all my children. Sarah latched on and carried that big, bulky blankie everywhere, even to the blueberry fields. She carried it to Belarus on a three week trip when she was 15. It is now in shreds but she still sleeps with it. None of my other children ever used it.

The blankie is not the only constant in Sarah. I so admire her ability to hold her tongue, even when others, including her mother, don't hold theirs. She is a quick thinker, so I know she could retort in a flash. But she doesn't. That makes it easier in some ways for a mom raising a daughter, especially through the teenage years. But it sure does challenge a mom when the daughter is doing a better job than she.

Proverbs 15.1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Dear God, I thank you for Sarah's ability to answer softly and sometimes not answer at all, and I thank you that our journey from there to here has been such a pleasant one. May all her days be blessed, and may she continue to be a picture of your grace.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Candle Fell Off

Why am I so easily distracted? By silly stuff?

Sunday we had a lovely service at North Wake Church with white candles burning and filling the stage with light. White candles of all sizes and shapes with simplistic beauty. There was such a worshipful attitude even upon entering the worship center (actually, sanctuary would be a better word to use for this day.)

Candle groupings were everywhere, seemingly random groupings, but also some symmetrical ones, especially the votives that sat on either side of the "T" of the large rough-hewn wooden cross that graces the back wall. The music as always was great and drew us further into worship. candle fell off. Not just any candle. It was a candle that sat on the right side of the cross. It left a big gap. No more symmetry on the cross. I was annoyed with the open space, but also kept watching the bottom of the cross to see if flames were going to erupt that might cause the worship team to evacuate the stage.

As much as I love symmetry (can you spell OCD?) I may not have noticed if I had not seen the candle fall. Right in the middle of the song. It was one of those "look around and see if anyone else saw it" moments. I should have had my eyes closed. I should have focused more. But now I was distracted. Mostly I was distracted by my annoyance that the gap was there, but I was also distracted by a potential fire that might happen.

I had to ask for forgiveness.

Something so silly had taken my focus off worship. It made me think of the things in everyday life that "make" me take my eyes off Jesus. I say that my focus is on Christ and His will for my life, but then stuff happens. I homeschool, the kids argue, I commit to too much, there are many chores (that I don't get to,) and don't forget this new thing called blogging. Before you know it, I have short-changed my quiet time with a five or ten minute glance rather than really spending time digesting God's Word, causing me to be more and more out of focus.

Colossians 3.1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Fortunately, Justin the Intern who spoke that day was quite engaging (no small feat for an intern) and drew me right back to where I needed to be. But I'm still more than a little ashamed that my worship of my Creator suffered Sunday morning all because one candle fell off.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Would Have Picked Them

My in-laws, Ron and Sue, are nowhere to be found in this crew, but the picture was taken in their backyard on a hot July day in 2007. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see this photo is how well my in-laws love. They love their grandchildren. They love their children. They love their sons-in-law. And they love their favorite (well, only) daughter-in-law, a term which they revised almost 25 years ago to be daughter-in-love.

They love people they know and they love people they don't know. One is immediately accepted by them simply by the virtue that one is living and breathing.

Sarah at Hashbrowns issued an intriguing assignment. She asked those who read her blog to post the sixth photo from their sixth folder (for some reason that reminds me of the Sheena Easton lyrics from the 80's "You're the seventh son of the seventh son...." ...long time ago...anyway...) This is the photo that won that lottery.

The kiddos in the pic are 57% mine....the two tall ones back left and the two short ones front right. The other three are cousins, but not all grandchildren of my in-laws. But you know what? It doesn't matter to them that we bring extra children along. In fact, when we do they are treated like family. It doesn't matter to my in-laws that one of the other children is from my side of the family. They are genuinely happy to have a "family portrait" that includes any of God's creations. They show love to all they meet!

I've witnessed that over and over again, beginning with their acceptance of me when Mike first took me home to meet them. I've witnessed it as they accepted our adoptive daughter during her very first visit to our home when adoption wasn't even on the radar yet. They have accepted my little brother, my nephews, the kids we kept each summer from Belarus, and my niece in the picture. Each one of them was welcomed enthusiastically to the family.

They are a true picture of God's acceptance of us, and so a witness to all who meet them. There are lots of great qualities about Ron and Sue and this is just one of them that, again, immediately came to mind when I saw the sixth picture in my sixth folder.

I'm so glad they had Mike and raised him to be the man of God, the man of character that he is today, and I have always told friends and family that if I were looking for in-laws instead of a husband, I would have picked them.

What's your story about the sixth picture in your sixth folder?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crispy Socks

Not to be confused with Krispy you want, the other you don't....actually, come to think of it, at my weight I'd rather have the socks...

Last Monday (yes, I'm a slow poster) as I was helping Joshua clean his room, he suddenly yelled in disgust, "Ugh, mom! Crispy socks!" He found them hidden behind his perpetually open closet door. Left over from football, no doubt. They had once been wet and muddy, but were now dried and stiff and were, well, "crispy."

So we talked about what happens when things get hidden and don't get cleaned the way they should. We then talked about how our hearts get "crispy" sometimes when we ignore what God tells us is the right thing to do. Or sometimes we let the muddy and wet sin get hidden, and we just forget about that it's wrong because it's been there so long.

Just as we found the "crispy socks" hidden behind the closet doors because we were looking for things to clean, I told Joshua that's one of the things we need to pray to God about. We need to pray and ask God to show us any part of our heart that might be getting "crispy" and then ask God to help clean it. We need to ask Him to show us our sin because we do not want a crispy heart.

I love "shema-mmy moments" (pronounced shmommy), and yes, I just made the term up so I won't have to explain it next time I write about these teachable moments when we can do what Deuteronomy 6.6-9 says:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This part of the Jewish shema (rhymes with ma with a sh in front of it) is a plan for passing along our faith to our kids all the time....which means God's commands must be on our hearts and minds all the time.
No pressure.........but is that a "crispy sock" I see?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Told You So

I told you my Rachael is creative. Here are some photos from the budding photographer. She is wanting to submit some nature photos to a kids' contest, so she took tons. I can't help but think of Hashbrowns when as I post the flowers.

These, and many more, were taken at in the garden at The Hermitage, the home of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, near Nashville, TN.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sweets Made By the Sweetie!

Creativity is something eleven year old Rachael enjoys. She spent a Saturday afternoon at her Mama Basham's house and, to her joy, got to practice decorating cakes. Mama is a pro, and she's passed down her cake decorating talent gene to Rachael. Rachael completed this all herself. And, yes, it tasted as yummy as it looks.

But it wasn't as sweet as Rachael!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are You Ready For Some Football?

I’ve always been a huge non-fan of sports, especially football. It makes no sense to me, and I’ve never even wanted it to. (And don't get me started on "student athletes" in our college systems.) My husband tells everyone that I root for the clock. And how long are those football minutes anyway?

But gradually over the last two months, football is starting to get to me. Does it have something to do with this guy?

He’s seven (and a half!) and lives for playing tackle football. Saturday morning was his first game at 9:00 am. He was quite giddy when he went to bed the night before, just squealing with delight that seven year old boys can still do.

He was so excited, he was out of bed by 4:30 am. Fortunately he went to Rachael’s room first, but landed in our room just before 5:00 am. Mike finally asked him at 5:30 if he would like to go downstairs and watch some football. A loud yes (as in finally, something) and he jumped out of our bed and went downstairs with dad for the next two hours before he had to leave.

I’ve never seen this kid have so much energy. He played the entire game. His team, the Saints, lost by mere inches really, 13-7. Even in defeat, you couldn’t stop the smile! He is already looking forward to next Saturday.

On the way home he matter of factly announced that when he is grown, he will play in the Super Bowl. And I know at least one fan who will do everything she can to help him get there.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I’m Proud of My Daughter

Turning 21 is a milestone! The parents and the child have all survived (albeit sometimes barely) the teen saga, and life starts to make a little more sense….a little more. Direction may or may not be there, but the foundations of who you are and who you will be have been laid. This is how parents view this milestone.

Taking those foundations for granted, though, could be a mistake. Our oldest daughter, who is also our oldest child, turned 21 this week. We are planning a nice family dinner to celebrate whenever it works it her schedule.

What I didn’t realize, though, until now, is how her peers view this milestone. My daughter mentioned to me about how many of her friends have asked her if she planned to get drunk to celebrate. In their view, she is now of legal age to do this, so it is a rite of passage. (And as is the case of some of them, she is old enough to buy alcohol to pass along to them, her underage friends.) She then proceeded to tell me how stupid she thought that was.

She came home confused last night by the gift she received from two of her Christian friends….a Tic-Tac-Toe drinking game set that involves shot glasses with X’s and O’s. I have to admit I was confused too, and I want to point out that she arrived home early and sober.

Had I known this was the prevailing attitude towards turning 21, I would have given her warning. Had I known, I could have been praying specifically for her protection and the protection of her friends through this time. But she did great even without my warning. And although extra prayers never hurt, she did great by praying for strength and wisdom on her own.

She thinks because she has a very difficult time in her college classes that she’s not smart. I think she is one of the wisest 21 year olds I know to recognize the folly of poor choices at any age.

I am proud of my daughter.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

LOVED - My She Speaks Experience

I sat and stared at the laminated Scripture card I held in my hand. That verse in no way relates to the fear and doubt I had written on my response card that was now lying beneath the wooden cross where I had made the trade: response card with my doubts written on it traded for laminated card that had reassuring Scripture that God would use to speak to me about those doubts and fears.

Being a woman who friends describe with words like “steady” and “calm,” I’m not overly emotional and I was never a big fan of the weeping sessions that take place at women’s events. Mostly I just avoided going to the conferences and retreats in the first place. But She Speaks seemed different. I was confident God had something there for me to learn. I should not have been surprised that I would end up knowing Him better, and learning how well He knows me.

So, the laminated Scripture card…. As I had written my doubts on the response card, I had written a secondary fear, maybe even tertiary. I could not bring myself to write my primary doubt, as the entire weekend conference had brought message after message addressing that doubt. Pride prevented me from writing that doubt down, since with all the teaching I’d heard, that doubt should have been decimated, annihilated, demolished, destroyed, killed, massacred, butchered, slaughtered, and whatever other forceful synonymous verbs there are in the thesaurus. The teaching was that good!

But, the laminated Scripture card….I looked at the verse and read it again. “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43.4a) The tears fell fast and furious. Didn’t see that coming! I realized that God was not speaking to my secondary fear that I had written on the card, but to the fear that always crept to the top of the heap in my heart. God knew my heart!

Growing up in backwoods West Virginia was not that bad. I didn’t know I was poor until I was old enough to go to school and found out all the other kids had indoor plumbing instead of an outhouse. And they had running water instead of a well with a bucket. They probably didn’t have cardboard walls either, but there was no way for me to know as I was never ever invited to a birthday party or sleepover.

God did, however, gift me with the ability to succeed in school. And He did allow me to be born into a loving family. But once you think of yourself as a second class citizen, those feelings are hard to shake, and here at the conference they were again worming their way to the surface. I will never be as useful as the other women here. Why would God even want to try to use me as a speaker and writer?

The laminated Scripture card….there it was, “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you.” Precious and honored. Me! Highly valued. Esteemed in God’s sight. Precious enough for Him to give His only Son. Precious enough that He wants to know me and spend time with me. I am precious enough for Him to use this ordinary woman to do extraordinary things for Him….through whatever avenues He will use in the future. In a word, I am LOVED.