I hope you will visit my ministry website: http://ajourneyoffaith.net .
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Last week, Elijah (age 7) and I were riding in the car, listening to a cd. Suddenly, I realized that he was singing along, word for word. And, this was not a children's song; this was Jeremy Camp.
Clear as day, from the back seat, I heard, "There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears."
Before he could continue I asked, "Do you know what that means?"
"Yes, that will be the day when Jesus comes back."
"When will that day be?"
I replied, "God hasn't told us when that day will be; but, on that day, Jesus will come back and He will take us all up to heaven ... every person that has given his life to Jesus."
"Have I done that?"
"Yes ... remember?"
"Oh ... I wrote my name in the Book of Life at church."
"Well ... it's not really writing your name in the book that matters."
We were almost home, so I didn't continue the discussion right then. But, this conversation brought up a concern I had had for many years. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, the Children's Pastor that we had for the past 7 years. However, I have often been concerned about the practice of explaining the gospel to children, and then having them come forward to physically write their names in a big, Book of Life. I always hoped that the children wouldn't think that by writing their name in a book, that they were some how earning their salvation. (I have also been concerned because I know that many children write their name over and over in the book, every time the gospel is presented. So, they obviously don't quite understand the full concept.)
* * * * *
About 4 days later, Elijah came into my room early one morning, to snuggle with me. After a few minutes he got very serious and asked,
"Are there two ways to get to heaven?"
"No. There is only one way. Why?"
"Well ... I thought there were two ways."
"And, what were those two ways?"
"I thought that you could either ask Jesus to forgive your sins, or you could sign the book of life."
I held him close, as I explained, "No. There is only one way to get to heaven. The only way to get to heaven is to ask Jesus to forgive your sins, and to live your life for Him."
He was crushed. His heart was heavy. While he didn't know this term, it was clear that he felt that he had been taught a false doctrine. He had believed what he had heard in children's ministry ... and now I was telling him that this was not true.
Quietly, Elijah told me that he couldn't remember the time that he had prayed with me and Papa, for Jesus to come into his life.
I asked if he would like to say the prayer again. "No." I asked if I could pray and he could repeat after me. "No." He was truly devastated by this new knowledge.
I held him close, and finally said, "Maybe we can talk to Papa about this after he gets home from work." "Okay."
* * * * *
That evening, after putting the other kids to bed, I told Papa that Elijah and I would like to talk to him. Elijah and I proceeded to both share about the conversations that we had had. We asked a few more questions, and Elijah did tell us that the new director of Children's Ministry had prayed a prayer for the children to repeat after her. This is good. But, somehow, he had still believed that it was the signature in the book, that bought him his salvation.
After awhile, I asked Elijah if he wanted Papa to pray, and he could repeat the prayer ... and, he agreed. This was followed by a very sweet prayer time with Papa and his youngest son.
While I am not at all upset with our Children's Ministry. They do a FANTASTIC job with the 500+ children that come through their doors. I am left wondering ... how can we (parents, volunteer helpers, children's pastors, etc...) do a better job of helping children to really understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Both Elijah (7) and Josiah (8) attend "big service" every week (along with all of our other children). They don't want to attend the Children's Program during the weekend services. They want to hear our Pastor's sermons, and "learn more about God", as they often tell me. While they are both still beginner readers, since they were each 5 they have followed along with the sermon outline, filling in the blanks (with words that they can't even read). But, they have each personally desired to be as involved in the service as they could possibly be. They want to learn. They want to grow.
I pray that the Lord will continue to open up the opportunities for these great discussions, and that we will always remember not to make things "too simple" for them. God can, and will, give these little ones much knowledge ... if we give them the opportunity to learn.
I encourage you ...
... don't expect your children NOT to listen.
... don't send them away to be with the little kids, if they want to be in "big service" with the adults. (At our church, there are very few young children that attend the main service. But, that doesn't stop us. We take a whole row of chairs, right up front, with our extra-large family. We LOVE worshipping and learning with our children.)
... do include your children of all ages in spiritual discussions. (Some of it they will understand, some of it they won't.)
... do continue these discussions (with family devotions) throughout the week, not just on Sunday.
... do NOT simplify the gospel so much, that it becomes a false doctrine. Even if that isn't your intention, try to think about how your children might perceive the words that you say and the actions that you encourage them to take.
The next day, Elijah drew us a picture, of Jesus on the cross. He wrote, "To Jesus. From Elijah." And, he taped the picture on the middle of my bedroom door. Then he asked,
"Can you leave that picture on your door forever?"
"Yes. So that you and dad will always know that I love God."
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Oh no ... I just found out that I have a serious disorder ... I have an addiction ...
"Hi. My name is Laurel. I'm addicted to blogging."
Seriously, I just read an article that gives, "3 Reasons Moms are Addicted to the Internet". And, this is serious stuff. This article has quotes from the "professionals" talking as if this is as serious as a drug or alcohol addiction. Now, I am sure there are some women that are completely over-the-top, but I do fit their profile.
Let's look at a few snippets of the article ...
" ... my Internet habit was slowly but surely crossing the line. Sometimes I found myself up into the wee hours of the morning, surfing the web while my family slept. I read the news, kept up with friends, and looked up answers to endless questions. I wrote my personal blog and read dozens of others, just for something to do."
Okay, readers, be honest now ... how many of you fit this profile? Yes ... I am an addict.
"These moms are contributing to the growing global addiction. There's a movement among psychiatrists to recognize Internet addiction as an official mental disorder (just like alcohol dependency). And a recent Stanford University national survey found that 14 percent of Internet users find it hard to stay away from it for several days at a time; 9 percent try to hide their "nonessential Internet use" from their loved ones; 8 percent admit they use the web as a way to escape problems."
If I am at home 24/7 with 7 of my kids, yes, I would find it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time. Yes ... I am an addict.
"You're likely not the kind of addict that Moore has seen ... women who don't bathe and abuse drugs to help them stay "up" for more online time. You may have noticed, though, that going online has become an imposing part of your life, which, at least, means a load or two of laundry goes unwashed (and who cares about that?)"
Oh no ... I must be seriously addicted ... I have sat at the computer in my bathrobe (therefore, avoiding bathing). But, no, I am not abusing drugs. (Is Green Tea a drug? I'm addicted to that too.) Yes, I have probably neglected my laundry, too. But, there's always more, so why sweat it? Yes ... I am an addict.
"In addiction treatment, we talk about the fact that there's a void," says Moore. "Whatever that void may be ... whether it's emotional, spiritual, physical ... typically, we're trying to fill it." For many new moms, she says, that void is the isolation."
Yes, I admit it. I have a void in my life. I have the serious need to interact with people over the age of 15. I love my kids dearly, but I also need to interact with adults. So, yes ... I am an addict.
"Being a mom of young children can be very solitary," agrees Jay Parker, cofounder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services in Redmond, Washington. So, it's easy for them to turn online, he explains, to find other parents and create a world there where they are not alone. Once that world is created, it becomes an escape that moms may turn to whenever they're stressed, lonely, bored, or sad. In addiction, they become dependent on that escape."
I am so glad that a "professional" finally has realized that the career of motherhood can be very solitary. But .... WHY is it wrong for these lonely moms to find friendships online??? If we don't have stay-at-home moms next door, to share a cup of sugar with and chat over the white picket fence with ... because all of the women in the neighborhood are busy with their careers ... WHY is it a bad thing that we have found another way to find like-minded moms. (Yes, I realize some of my dearest blogging friends work full-time, so please don't be offended.) But, since I have not worked full-time this year, I have had much more time for my blogging. So, yes ... I am an addict.
Oh yes ... I was so excited to find out that there is an Internet/Computer Addiction Service in Redmond, WA. I'll make sure and pass the info. along to my husband, so that he'll know where to commit me when he finds me comatose on the keyboard. (Note to my big kids that read this ... you should probably make note of this resource, as I can't tell Papa about it. Remember, I must hide my "non-essential" Internet time from the man that I love.)
"If it were just an escape that moms were looking for, however, they could flip on the TV or pick up a book. But according to a recent Babytalk.com poll, more than double the amount of moms choose the computer over books or the boob tube during their babies' naps, showing that they're looking for something more than an escape: connection, yes, but also a way to express themselves."
Again ... WHY is this bad??? Ummm... the "boob tube" is a better escape? Because Soap Operas are so healthy??? Oh man ... confession time ... "Hi. My name is Laurel. I used to be addicted to Soap Operas. Now, I have transferred that addiction to my Blog." Yes ... I am an addict.
"I'm just a mother in real life, but online, I can be a whole person," says Ashley, a mom of 2 year old twins from Las Vegas, of her four-hour-a-day online habit."
This author sounds like she thinks Ashley should be committed to a treatment center and her children put in foster care. Come on ... I'm going to give Ashley the benefit of the doubt (which relieves some of my Addiction guilt), and believe that she is online during the kids' 2 hour afternoon nap, and again for 2 hours after they've gone to bed at night. Is there really a problem with this???
Did you notice where dear Ashley lives ... Las Vegas. Maybe she should head downtown, pop the babies into a double-stroller, and find some real addictions at the Casino. Would that be better?
Having personally been the mother of 2 year old twins ... I can understand her addiction. I can sympathize with her. When I had 6 children under 6 years old, I am sure that I would have been addicted to the Internet, if it had been invented. But, I had to suffice with my old "boob tube" Soap Operas. Did any of you see Luke & Laura's wedding on General Hospital? Yes ... I am an addict.
"Think you might be hooked? Try keeping a journal of how often you go online for a week. Then assess what you're missing out on when you do it ... sleep, family time, work? Also note in your journal what was going on each time you decided to sit down at the computer. Was it right after a fight with your husband? Were you bored? By figuring out the triggers that send you seeking refuge online, Moore says, you can come up with alternative activities that help you deal. If you're stressed, for example, you might take your baby out for a walk."
Moore also suggests making small weekly goals that get you involved with the real world: Join a playgroup or grab coffee with a friend. And if you can't control your habit on your own, talk to a therapist who deals with addiction."
Nope ... I'm not going to do it ... I am not going to keep a journal. (I'm a rebellious addict.) Yes ... I could be sleeping right now. No ... I don't use it as an excuse to get out of Family Time. (I LOVE Family Time.) No ... I am not missing out on work. Remember, I lost my job, which is why I now find myself "seeking refuge" online. Seeking Refuge??? Whatever!!!
Well, now ... I can't really find any playgroups for the 7-15 crowd. And, the kids are too big for McDonalds Playland. I do occasionally join the "real world" by grabbing coffee with a friend. But, is it really better for my family, for me to leave 7 children home alone, so that I can go have coffee with a friend, or for me to stay at home, and chat with friends online?
Nope ... I can't control the habit. And, nope ... I can't afford a therapist. Since I lost my job, which caused this addiction, I can't afford treatment at the Internet/Computer Addiction Service.
Looks like I'll have to create an online therapy outlet. Would anyone like to join "Bloggers Anonymous" with me? We could chat online everyday, just to make sure we're not spending too much time online, and to encourage each other not to be online. How's that sound?
Oh ... as for the "professionals". I have some therapy that I think they might benefit from. Why don't I trade places with them? I can go sit in their comfy offices, play on their computers, and chat with their business associates, while they come spend quality time with my kids (since I have neglected them due to my addiction). But, the only difference is ... we will make sure to unplug all technology while they spend a month at my house. No computer, no phone, no television. Just kids and books. Oh, and games. I'm sure my children will want to teach them Candyland and Yahtzee. And, they could bake cookies, too. I'm sure they'll enjoy it. But, if they get stressed, I can find a baby for them to take for a walk. They will feel so empowered by this experience that they will certainly choose to get rid of their own internet once they get home.
We got word this afternoon that Lindsey is safely back in Germany. Yea!
Thanks for all of your prayers, as we prayed for safety and for her to be able to get out of Bangladesh when they were on the verge of a civil war.
She has asked for prayer for a girl on her team, however. This girl lost her passport and was not able to return to Germany with the team. One of the leaders stayed behind with her, and they are in India, trying to work with the embassy to get a new passport. So, prayers appreciated for these two young ladies that are stuck in India. Thanks!
Only 5 more weeks until Lindsey is coming home. Yippee!!! We haven't seen her since September, and before that, she hadn't lived at home since last April. So, we are looking forward to having a big sister at home again.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
My sweet blogging friend, Pam, is celebrating her one year blogging anniversary with a whole week full of blog give-a-ways.
You might want to pop on over to her blog, I'm Gonna Miss This, to win ...
... a Coffee Mug and some Starbucks Coffee
... a fabulous Cookbook
... several different Beth Moore Bible Study items
When you visit Pam's blog ... just tell her I sent you. :)
I wanted to let you all know that the March edition of Serious.life Magazine is online today. And ... I am one of the featured writers. Yea! Not only do I have an adoption article published in this issue, but I have 3 pictures published in the photos section, and I also have a full-page ad for my ministry.
I am hoping to get a little ministry business through this avenue. If you want to help me out, you could give a little heads up on your blog, pointing people to my article in Serious.life. Thanks!
Serious.life magazine includes a lot of feature articles, photos, and blogging commentary. It has articles about interesting people, families, adoption, personal finance, spiritual life, humor, and all sorts of everyday life "stuff".
Serious.life magazine is published by Brent Riggs, an adoptive father with 7 children. Brent is a faith-walking believer, and he gives away a lot of ads for charities and ministries. This magazine truly is a ministry, and not just a business.
The subscription for Serious.life is FREE, and I know you'll enjoy it. So, take a minute to check it out today, and sign up to get future issues at: www.seriouslifemagazine.com
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post, here, that introduced you to the older half of our family. Today, I would like to introduce you to the younger half.
Benjamin (15) ... This young man has a servant's heart like I have never seen in a teenager. I KNOW God has amazing stuff planned for his life. Ben loves to run track and cross country, and he LOVES to do photography. He is about to get two business licenses, to start his own businesses. One will be a photography business, and he already has his first "shoot" lined up. The other will be a lawn care business, which he also has work lined up for. Ben is a hard-working, money-saving teen. Just after his 15th birthday, he had saved enough money to buy a $1,000 Nikon D80 camera.
Hosanna (12) ... This young lady jumped from "little kid" to "big kid" in the course of one month last spring. As the 3rd youngest of 10 bio. kids, she had always been a "little one". However, less than a month after bringing home 3 "littler" kids from Ghana, both of the at-home big sisters left (for Germany and Argentina). Suddenly, Hosanna was the oldest girl at home, and she was sharing her bedroom with two little sisters. Then, after Jeremiah headed to Jordan, Hosanna became the 3rd "big kid" at home, rather than the 3rd youngest. She stepped into the role of "big kid" very well, taking on much responsibility with the little ones and becoming an amazing Mama's Helper. This little lady can put on a full meal deal for all 10 of us at home ... no problem.
Jacob (13) ... While Jacob is a few months older than Hosanna, age-wise, he is definitely one of the "little kids" still. Not only is he very small for his age, but he has not yet caught up emotionally, academically or spiritually, either. However ... Jacob has come a long way since arriving here a year ago. Jacob is a hard worker, and he enjoys helping Ben on some of his lawn jobs. Jacob wants to learn, even though it is very difficult for him. And, Jacob loves to color and draw.
Sarah (10) ... is a very hard worker, and is always willing to help around the house. She has learned much from Hosanna this year. Sarah has a very gentle spirit, and gets along well with everyone. She is an amazing artist, with much talent for drawing. Sarah, too, has learned so much this year, and we look forward to helping her continue to mature in every area.
Josiah (8) ... is a sensitive young man, a deep thinker and a deep feeler. Josiah has always loved artwork, so he has really enjoyed having Sarah to work alongside. While Josiah can play quietly by himself for hours (building with Legos), he is also a very outside, athletic little guy. He loves to run, ride his bike, rollerblade, and build things in the backyard.
Rachel (7) ... is either very happy or very sad. You never have to wonder how Rachel is feeling. Overall, she is a fun and bubbly little girl, who LOVES her "virtual twin" Elijah. They are two peas in a pod ... full of life, energetic, and fearless. Rachel thinks she can do anything any of her older siblings can do, and she is not afraid to try.
Elijah (7) ... is cute, cuddly, fun, bubbly, goofy, fearless, and athletic. Elijah loves to play strategy board games (the ones meant for the 10 and above age group). He plays Settlers of Catan, Chess, The Farming Game. He also loves to play outside whenever the weather permits. And, "E" as he is often called, is our most computer savvy kid under age 15. Seriously, he was surfing the web when he was two years old. Elijah is also a very deep thinker when it comes to spiritual issues, and we have great conversations with him about our pastor's sermons each week. Elijah came face to face with God, twice, while he was in a coma when he was 3. So, he had a taste of heaven, and wants to learn all he can about the Lord.
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know our family a little better through these posts. If you'd like to know more, I encourage you to hop on over to my ministry website: http://ajourneyoffaith.net where you can visit our family page, find out more about each of us, and view a family slide show.
This is a continuation of the previous 2 posts ...
so you'll probably want to read them first.
As I read through the last 2 posts, I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to show a concrete example, of choosing which lens to see life through.
A Bad Situation
At the beginning of January, I was going through a very difficult time in many areas of my life.
#1 My husband had hurt me deeply, which had created a brick wall in our communication.
#2 I had had a conversation with my son and his fiance where I finally had to excuse myself saying, "I am going to leave now, because I don't want to say anything I will later regret." (Later explaining to my son that the situation with Papa had created very raw emotions, and that I was unable to communicate clearly at the time, without emotion.)
#3 After a whirlwind two months, with visits from Carissa (3 weeks), Cassie (10 days), and Jeremiah (1 month) ... I was physically exhausted. During the same two months, I had also gone on 3 out-of-town trips, and we had had other out-of-town guests as well. While I LOVED having the big kids home, and entertaining guests, I was just plain tired.
#4 After a very difficult fall of homeschooling, and a relaxing winter break, I didn't know if I was ready to jump back into the difficult homeschooling that lay ahead for the spring. Although I have homeschooled for 18 years, our new children have presented QUITE the challenges academically (as I've shared in other posts).
So, which lens did I choose to look through when I viewed the facts of the situation?
The "Poor Me" Lens
#1 My husband is so mean. I can't believe he did that to me. I don't deserve to be treated that way.
#2 My son's fiance is so wrong. I can't believe she's mad at me. I haven't done anything wrong.
#3 Why do I have to keep entertaining my children's guests? Why won't they just give me a break? I just wanted to rest all of Christmas vacation.
#4 My children are so dumb. I can't believe they don't understand what I'm trying to teach them.
The "Why me?" Lens
#1 Why did I marry such a jerk? Why is he treating me this way?
#2 Why are my son and his fiance fighting with me? What could I have possibly done wrong?
#3 Why did I ever want so many children? They just wear me out.
#4 Why did I possibly think I could adopt 3 new kids. Why didn't I get some that I didn't have to work so hard with?
The "It's All About Me" Lens
#1. Doesn't my husband realize how wonderful I am?
#2 Can't my son and his fiance see that I'm always right?
#3 Why can't I just plan my vacations around what I want to do?
#4 I think I'll just throw all of the kids into public school, so that I can do what I want to do with my days.
The "Help Me Lord" Lens
#1 Lord, I know that communication is a two-way street. Please show me how I can break down the brick wall that I've erected between me and Papa. Forgive me for the anger that I have held against Papa.
#2 Lord, I know that I have a lot to learn as a future mother-in-law. Please show me how to break down the wall between me and Heidi. Forgive me for "losing it" during what could have been a helpful conversation for all of us.
#3 Lord, thank you for ALL of my children, and ALL of their friends. Thank you for giving us a house big enough to host all of our kids' parties and overnight guests. Help me to show my kids how much I love them. Help me to get the rest that I need, so that I can enjoy my time with my children and with their friends.
#4 Lord, thank you for these 3 precious children from Africa. Thank you for their desire to learn. Please, Lord, give me wisdom in how to meet their academic needs. Give me the energy I need to meet the needs of all 7 of the children that I am teaching at home this year. Thank you for the opportunity that I have to teach my children. Thank you for the blessing of homeschooling the past 18 years.
Everyone of us has the choice to make, daily, about which lens we choose to look at our life through. In January, while I definitely had a few of the "poor me" thoughts, and the "why me" thoughts ... I CHOSE to focus on the "Help me Lord" perspective.
When I wrote the post on January 4th, about "running away from home" ... I chose not to "tell all", and "air my dirty laundry" ... I chose to tell you that I was "exhausted and at the end-of-my-rope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually." I didn't "run away" in order to make my husband feel bad ... or to make my children feel bad ... I "ran away" because I knew that I needed time with the Lord, time to rest, to pray, to think, to plan. (Which is what I shared with you all on my blog.) I chose to focus on what I needed to do with the Lord, and what He needed to do in ME, rather than focusing on what I wished the Lord would do with my husband, my son's fiance, my children, etc...
As I said in my previous post ...
I am not responsible for other people's actions.
I am responsible for my reaction.
I hope that you will make the choice ... today, tomorrow, and next week, to CHOOSE the "Help Me Lord" perspective, when you face trials of all kinds.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. ... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:2-6, 12
Monday, March 9, 2009
When new readers leave comments, I always try to hop on over to their blogs, to meet them. So, this morning, when I read a comment, I went blog hopping and found this post, which included comments about me and my blog.
I checked my profile this morning for some reason and noticed that 35 people have looked at it. None have returned - I can see why - I really just use this blog as a means to vent. Of course I write about the good things happening as well - it's just that there have been a lot of negative things going on. I wonder if it is the same for all the other bloggers but they choose to write about the positive side of life. I can get bogged down in the day to day worries. It surprised me to see one woman with 13 children mention that her son nearing 18 moved out because he thought they had too many rules. Her family sounded perfect in every entry. She hadn't mentioned her kids thought they had too many rules. She just included this detail in regard to speaking to your kids as they get older. Blogging helps me to keep track of things going on and to have some outlet for my frustration and worry. If I tell friends the things going on they tend to avoid me as there is always something!
Wow! There are so many thoughts running through my head. I think I'll start with what she said about my blog, and then write a separate post about how our perspectives on life can cloud our views ... 2 people can go through the exact same experience, but could view life completely differently through the experience.
"Her family sounded perfect in every entry."
Wow! I have certainly tried to NOT make my family sound perfect. Yes, the Lord has blessed me with an amazing husband (but, he is not perfect). The Lord has blessed me with amazing children (but, they are not perfect either). I would hope that my husband and children would be able to honestly say that the Lord has blessed them with an amazing wife and mother (but I, too, am certainly not perfect).
If you've read my blog for any length of time, I hope you have seen two things ...
#1 We are a family that does have issues, and we do go through times of trial.
#2 When our family walks through the tough stuff, our focus is on what the Lord has done, or can do, in each situation. (More on this in the next post.)
Let's take a quick look back at just a few posts from earlier this year. Have I written my blog to come across as a fairy tale? I think not!
January 4, 2009 "Yesterday ... I ran away from home. Yes ... I really did. I told my husband that I love him, but that I needed some down time to rest, to pray, to think, to plan. I didn't want to start the New Year exhausted and at the end-of-my-rope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually."
January 8, 2009 Do Your children Ever Need Discipline? (This post looks at this whole topic, and explains that "No, our children are not perfect. Yes, they need discipline."
January 15, 2009 "I love my children, but I don't always appreciate their behavior. My children love me, but they don't always appreciate my rules ... our relationships are far from perfect. I am not the perfect mommy and they are not the perfect children. But, we each love the Lord, and He continues to refine our character, and clean up our imperfections."
January 19, 2009 "While I want to be honest, and definitely want you to know that my children are not perfect, I also do not want to focus on those imperfections, nor make light of the imperfections ... while looking at this list of examples helps you to see that we are not perfect, we do not want to be content with those imperfections ... While none of us will reach the level of perfection that we desire, we must continue to strive to be the very best parents that we can possibly be; and we must ask the Lord to teach us through our imperfections and the imperfections of our children."
This woman went on to say ...
"She hadn't mentioned her kids thought they had too many rules."
The incident that she is referring to is one that took place 7 years ago, with our eldest son. I did go into details on this post, to explain some of the really tough stuff we have walked through as parents, but it is not a current situation that there would be need to mention over and over (unless, of course, my mindset was to dwell on all of the bad things that have happened in the past).
I believe I have also mentioned all of the trials our family is currently going through ...
#1 Gregg and his fiance broke their engagement and she moved back to Oregon.
#2 Lindsey was "trapped" in Bangladesh last week, while the country was on the verge of a civil war.
#3 Carissa is ministering in Argentina, and is in need of financial support.
#4 Jeremiah is ministering in Jordan, and also in need of financial support. His money for food and rent will run out next month.
#5 I lost my job.
#6 Our children lost the school that they had attended, and therefore lost the majority of their friends.
#7 Our savings account is running low, and we don't know how we are going to pay our bills within a few months.
No ... life is certainly not perfect at the Big D house. Life is not always easy, as a mother of 13 children. But ... we don't focus on those things. I don't spend my days moping around the house, saying, "Poor me." I certainly don't write this blog in a way to portray that we don't have any problems. I write this blog as life happens, and I write it from the perspective that I view life from on a daily basis. I don't focus on the problems of life, I focus on the JOY that the Lord has given me to walk through each and every trial that comes my way.
I'm not at all angry with the woman who wrote the post. Obviously she sees that her blogging is negative. And, when someone sees life through a negative lens, than it is easy to believe that other's lives couldn't possibly be as joy-filled as they portray. ("This must be a fairy tale. She must be hiding the real life at her house.")
I am going to contact this woman. I am going to pray for her. I am going to try to minister to her, and to share the love and the joy that Christ has given me. I am, also, going to suggest that if she is in need of a "place to vent", that she might want to buy a personal journal rather than to write her woes on the world wide web.
This is a continuation of the thoughts shared in "Negative Chatter".
In the last post, we looked at the thoughts of a woman that thinks my blog portrays a perfect life with a perfect family. I shared that, on the contrary, our family has gone through many trials, and continues to face difficult challenges. However, our focus in life is not on the challenges, but in the hope that we find in our daily relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have met many people over the years, who see life through a negative lens ... their perspective of life is based on the "poor me" thoughts, looking at the negatives, rather than looking for the positives. Every life has both negatives and positives; and we must choose which we focus on.
I have met many people over the years that are trapped in a life of anger, and bitterness over the things that have been done to them. They can't seem to get past the ugly stuff, to find out what Christ can do for them now.
My childhood had a LOT of ugly and tough stuff ...
1. Abuse as a child.
2. Sexual abuse as a teen (by a friend's brother).
3. My parents divorce as a teen (where I had to testify).
However, when I was 16, I was able to fully give my anger and bitterness to the Lord. I phoned the abuser, asked to meet for lunch, and told them that I forgave them. They did not ask for my forgiveness, and did not acknowledge the abuse, but all that I was responsible for was for asking God to cleanse my heart, and to fill it with forgiveness for this person. The Lord gave me this thought, and I have held tight to it for the past 30+ years.
I am not responsible for other people's actions;
I am responsible for my reaction.
It doesn't matter what anyone does to me. What matters is how I respond to what has been done.
Now, in addition to dealing with the things that are done to us by other people, we also must choose to decide how we are going to respond to circumstances beyond anyone's control. Are we going to live a "why me?" lifestyle; or are we going to give each circumstance up to the Lord to see the beauty that he can create despite the pain.
Here are a few of the difficult life circumstances that I have had to navigate in my adult life:
1. Endometriosis, and the possibility of a hysterectomy, before I had any children.
2. Thyroid Cancer when I had 6 children under 6 years old.
3. A serious car accident (where the children and I had 105 doctors appts. in the first 5 weeks.)
4. Living in 10 houses (4 different cities) in the first 10 years of our marriage.
5. Major financial difficulties.
6. A 3 year old son with a life-threatening disease (in a coma for a week).
7. An 18 year old son serving 2 1/2 years in Iraq, facing the possibility of death on a daily basis (and watching close friends die in the street in front of him).
None of these were easy situations. Any of these could have caused me to lose the joy in my life ... IF I had allowed it. But, the joy that I have is not based on outward circumstances; it is based on my personal, daily walk through life with Jesus Christ. He is there with me ... through thick and thin ... through the tough stuff and the fun stuff ... through the ups and the downs. ONLY with the help of the Holy Spirit, can I keep my focus on the positive rather than the negative, when I am navigating life's challenges.
When I had 6 little ones under 6 years old, one of the most common comments I heard from strangers was, "You're still smiling." No one could understand how I could keep a smile on my face with all the craziness of 6 preschoolers. Every day I had to choose whether to focus on ... the diapers, the dirty dishes, the endless laundry, the messy house, the crying, the ear infections, OR ... to focus on the fact that God's Word tells me that "Children are a blessing." Children are a blessing ... all day, every day ... not just when they are clean and sleeping. I CHOSE to focus on the blessing that God had given me. I did not see my children as some type of curse (as many parents tend to).
When Gregg was serving in Iraq, I could have spent my days worrying (as many military wives and mothers do). However, I chose to believe God's Word that tells me not to worry.
When we had our car accident. (A semi-truck hit us going about 60 mph, when we were stopped.) I could have focused on the physical pain, and the frustration of the doctors appts., insurance issues, attorney situations, etc... But, I chose, instead, to be "Thankful in everything." I was thankful that none of us were killed. I was thankful that we all had our seat belts on. I was thankful that we were homeschooling so that my children didn't have to miss school for all of their doctors appts. Seriously, I found so many things to be thankful for.
When Elijah was in a coma and we didn't know if he would live, I had a choice to make. I could choose to wallow in the "why me's?" or, I could focus on the things that I could be thankful for. I was thankful that he hadn't died in his sleep before we took him to the hospital (as the nurses said he would have died if we'd put him to bed that night). I was thankful that he didn't die in his car seat while driving 30 minutes to the hospital. (I learned later of a little boy his age who had died on the way to the hospital, with the same disease.) I was thankful for our church family, and the AMAZING LOVE that they poured out to us. I was thankful for insurance, and that I didn't have to even think about what the hospital bills would come to ($230,000). I was thankful for the Ronald McDonald house. I was thankful that we could track down Gregg in Iraq, and bring him home to be with us during this difficult time. Now ... was it still difficult? Absolutely! Did I have a smile on my face all day ever day? No. I cried out to God in my darkest hours, and fiercely prayed for my little boy to live. While the situation was very intense, and scary at times, I was not consumed by the knowledge that my little boy might die.
The things that our family is navigating right now, while difficult, are nothing compared to the stuff we have already walked through. That doesn't mean that life is easy right now; it just means that we KNOW that God will walk us through this tough stuff, too.
If you are walking through some tough stuff right now, I hope you'll pop me an email (listed on the side bar). I would love to pray for you; and I would love to share with you more about how God has shown me how to see life through a positive lens.
Yes ... life is hard ... but God is good.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I found a link on someone's blog a week or so ago that took me to the ... "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food, at Home, at Four Levels, November 2008".
This form gives the average food costs, per person (per age, per gender), per month, for each member of your family. So, you just add all of the figures up, and come out with what your family should spend on food.
The chart is also broken down into 4 categories:
And ... the grand totals for our family of 10 (at home) ...
Thrifty Plan * $1,519.30
Low-cost Plan * $2,010.00
Moderate-cost Plan * $2,496.10
Liberal Plan * $2,970.30
I just don't understand. I wouldn't know how to spend that much money if I had unlimited funds. Our family not only wants to keep our budget low, but we eat a healthy diet as well. Now, these budgets claim that they are based on "a nutritious diet", but I can't imagine how they could be. Wouldn't it take a lot of prepackaged, sugar sweetened, fat loaded STUFF to add up to that much?
Even on the Thrifty Plan, this form says that we would spend $550.80 per month on just our 4 youngest kids (ages 7, 7, 8, 10). That is more than we spend per month on our entire family, which includes two hungry, athletic high school boys and a 6'2" athletic Papa. What could I possibly feed the 4 little ones that would cost that much???
We are tracking every penny of our spending on food ... we are keeping it under $500 per month. All of our kids are BIG eaters, and we make a wide variety of meals (30 separate dinner menus and 8-10 breakfast menus that rotate).
Stay tuned ... coming soon ... the 4th Edition of "What's Cooking: How to save money at the grocery store and time in the kitchen." I have been working on the revision, and am glad that I found this information before publishing my new books.
A very sad decision had to be made for the Big D family this year ... "There will be no baseball this spring, for any of the D children." Sad ... very sad, indeed.
For the last 20 years, we have spent our springs on the baseball fields. Some years we've only had 1 or 2 playing, but most years we've had 5 or 6 teams to cheer for. This year ... none ... nada ... not one ... Seriously, I wanted to cry when I came to that realization.
There have been so many changes for our family this year. Not only did we add 3 children to the family dynamics, and I lost my job last summer, but our children also lost the enrichment school that they had been a part of for 5 years. For 5 years, our kids had attended classes twice a week. They had made many friends at their homeschool school. This year ... we've all been home alone, all year. I know that the kids were looking forward to getting back out on the baseball fields with their friends. But, it will not be ...
Last year, we had 4 baseball players and 1 running track. This year, it was supposed to be 6 baseball players and 2 running track. But, with the economic realities of my job loss, the dwindling savings account, the lack of painting jobs, and the lack of ministry income ... the reality became that baseball was something that we just couldn't afford to do this year.
Not only would it cost $240 ($40 each) just to be on the rec. league team, but then we would need 4 or 5 new mitts ($100), 6 new pair of baseball pants ($100), and 4 or 5 new pair of cleats ($100). Then ... we would be "doing baseball" 6 days per week (in addition to the track meets for our 2 high school boys), which wouldn't give me any time to focus on my writing and speaking ministry (which we still believe is what the Lord has called me to do this year).
When we calculated it all out, we knew that we couldn't drain the dwindling savings account of $540, and add the craziness of keeping up with 7 separate spring sports teams. So, the decision was made. Then, we had to figure out how to explain it to the children, who really don't have any concept of the value of money. As I was trying to explain the situation, Ben came up with the best analogy. He told the kids that it would cost more than we pay for food for a whole month. So, I asked the kids, "Would you rather play baseball, or eat next month?" They all decided that eating was the best priority. Jacob added, "If we play baseball, and we don't eat, then we won't be able to play well because we will be hungry." So, I think they understand. But, we are all sad.
Jacob, Sarah, and Rachel arrived in town too late last year to sign up for baseball (but they were here all season to root for their brothers and sisters that were playing), so they had been looking forward to it all year. We were so sorry to have to disappoint them.
One friend, who's 2 children played on teams with 2 of ours last year, actually asked if we could allow just those 2 to play this year. (She didn't want her children to play, if ours couldn't play with them.) I was very surprised by the lack of understanding of our new family. How could we possibly think of differentiating between our bio. kids and our adopted kids, in this way? It really made me sad that she didn't understand this. In reality, maybe we should let our new children play, since they haven't had the opportunity before, and let the bio. kids watch. (I would never actually do this, but I wish I'd thought of it to share with that friend.) Nope ... our kids are our kids ... and family decisions must affect each of the children equally (no matter their skin color ... no matter how long they've been a part of our family ... no matter who their friends are). Because our younger kids are 7, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, we pretty much need to make decisions as a group, rather than trying to differentiate by age.
On a side note ... yes, our big boys will be on the high school track team. They both pay for their own ASB card ($30), which is required. And, they both buy their own running shoes and spikes. So, we are excited to go out once or twice per week to be their cheerleaders. We will definitely make those days Family Fun Days, as we snuggle up under blankets and drink our hot chocolate in the stands.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
When I gave Jim a birthday card today, I wrote in it, "I look forward to the next 49 years with you." And, I thought, "This could seriously happen." Then I realized that if we make it another 48 years, we will celebrate our 75th anniversary. Wouldn't that be cool? I can't imagine how many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren we could have by then.
I've actually been thinking recently about the amazing blessing of longevity that both of our families have.
One of Jim's grandma's lived well into her 80's. And, all 5 of her siblings attended her 80th birthday party. I thought that was pretty amazing.
And, I have a history of longevity on both sides of my family:
On My Mom's Side:
My great-great-grandma lived to be 87
(quite old for someone born in 1872)
My great-grandpa lived to be 94.
My grandpa lived to be almost 93,
and played golf about 2 weeks before he died.
(His 3 siblings all celebrated his 90th with him.)
My great-uncle (grandpa's brother)
is still living an amazing life at age 99.
My great-aunt (grandpa's sister) is still around at 94.
On My Dad's Side
My grandma lived a full life until about 92.
(She was playing the organ for her retirement center worship services until just a few weeks before she died.)
My dad is 90, and doing very well.
(His only major health problem has been macular degeneration.)
My uncle (dad's brother) is 87 (?) and doing pretty well.
(He flew up from Arizona for dad's 90th party.)
All this to say ... since I recently turned 47, and Jim turned 49 today ... I had begun to think that we might be "getting old". Then, I realized that we may only be at the 1/2 way point in our life journey. This has encouraged me to stay healthy, and enjoy each and every day. We are not on the downhill side of life yet.
My cousin and I were recently discussing the longevity of our family, and the fact that our amazing 99 year old uncle is still living a full life. Just last week, Cousin Linda tried several times throughout the day to get ahold of him, and was a bit concerned by 9:00 that night that he hadn't returned her phone calls. Come to find out, he missed the morning phone call because he was out on his daily 2 mile walk. And, he missed the evening phone call because he had driven into town to watch the high school basketball game. Isn't that crazy?
While several family members have gotten dementia in their last years, Uncle Claud has been able to avoid it. So, I asked Cousin Linda what she thought had helped Claud to live such a healthy life. She then told me that she and her sister had decided that he had avoided dementia because ... "he never had children."
"If it is the lack of children that has kept Claud from getting dementia," I told Linda, "than I think I'm in trouble. I'll probably get it by the time I'm 50."
To which she reassuringly responded, "The good news is that you'll have lots of loving children to tend to you!"
Our kids like to make greeting cards for people ... anyone and everyone. But, they especially LOVE making birthday cards for each of the family members.
Here are a few quotes from today's birthday cards for Papa.
"dad Happy Brithday Hrarry Hrarry"
Jim read it and said, "Hairy, Hairy???" (He may be almost bald, but he does have a lot of hair on his arms.) I finally had to ask the dear one what, exactly, she was trying to say. We all had a good laugh when she said, "Hooray! Hooray!" I think Jim's new nickname will be Hairy Hairy.
"I hope you have a Good day I hope you ar haven a Good tame techin your clisse And I hope you lack this kard I Love You"
"I hope you have a good day. I hope you are having a good time teaching your classes. And, I hope you like this card. I love you."
"You are the funnyest Dad I have ever had in my life on earth."
Versus the dad they had in the life they lived on the moon prior to this life on earth?
"God loves you and He is always with you were ever you go. He loves you even when you do something wrong. I love you too. Have a nice birthday."
Jim is a beekeeper, and this card had 49 bees drawn on the front.
"happy birthday dad I am glad that today is your birthday. guss how old you are you are 49 year old. dad you are my wonderful father. have a good day."
Yes ... Papa had a good day. We went to dinner at some close friends' house. I made his favorite apple/blueberry pie for dessert, and bought Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream to go on top. (Papa is not a cake man; he's got to have his pie.) Then we came home and gave him our cards and presents.
I bought Papa the most romantic gift ever ... a new barrel for his paintball gun. Nice, huh? Yes, I had to ask one of the big boys what type of paintball equipment Papa would like, and I had to take big boy shopping with me, so that I would buy the right thing.
Hosanna bought Papa a Stephen Curtis Chapman cd, "Cinderella". When Papa first opened it he thought it was the Cinderella story as a book-on-tape. He was a bit confused. Then, after bedtime prayers and lots of hugs, as Jacob left the room he said, "I like the Cinderella movie." Oh dear, he probably thought, "That is a very interesting birthday present for Papa." I guess he didn't understand when we explained to Papa that it was a music cd. Now, Jacob will want to watch Papa's new movie tomorrow.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Today is Papa's Birthday.
Papa is ...
An Amazing Husband
A Wonderful Daddy
A Hard Working Provider
The Spiritual Leader of Our Family
The Most Awesome Teacher
(just ask any of his students)
A Wise Bible Study Fellowship
Substitute Teaching Leader
Papa is ...
Papa Loves to ...
Take Road Trips
Go to the Beach
Work Out at the Gym
(at 5:00 a.m.)
Thank you, Lord, for giving me such a Godly man to spend my life with.
Thank you, Lord, for the amazing life journey you have taken us on.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Jacob turned 13 on Thursday ... his first American birthday.
We surprised him on Wednesday afternoon, when Papa took him and a friend bowling. They came home to a pizza dinner, and a birthday cake made by Hosanna.
Happy Birthday, Jacob!
One of my dear blogging friends, over at A Place Called Simplicity, started a special type of blogging post last October, called Thankful Thursdays. This is a time when she puts aside the worries of her everyday life, and concentrates on what she is thankful for. When she started this, in October, Linn had no idea of the tragedy that lay ahead for her family. In January, Linn's family lost just about everything, in a house fire. While they are still walking through the pain and grief of their loss, Linn has continued to write her Thankful Thursday post.
So, if Linn can still come up with a list of things to be Thankful for every week, I think we all should be able to. This week, I am going to join Linn with my own Thankful Thursday list.
1. I am THANKFUL for all 13 of the precious children that the Lord has entrusted to our family.
2. I am THANKFUL for the most amazing husband, who is fully in support of the crazy journey that the Lord has taken our family on.
3. I am THANKFUL that Lindsey is safe in Bangladesh, and Thankful that the borders are now open, so that she can return to India this weekend. (Praising Jesus! Thanks for your prayers!)
4. I am THANKFUL for each season of the year. I LOVE summer and winter, and know that fall and spring bring me closer to the seasons that I love.
5. I am THANKFUL for the freedoms that our country enjoys, and THANKFUL for the
soldiers that give their lives to ensure our ongoing freedom, and THANKFUL that the Lord brought our dear Gregg home safely from 2 1/2 years in Iraq.
6. I am THANKFUL for pictures, and cameras, and the creative gift of photography that the Lord has given to Cassie and Ben. (And, I am sooo... sad that Linn lost years of photos in their house fire.)
7. I am THANKFUL for all of the modern appliances that we have ... dishwashers, giant-size washers and dryers, rice cookers, blenders for my favorite smoothies, crock pots, electric griddles, etc... (When we were in Africa last year, we learned what life was like without all of these things that we take for granted. When we told the children that we had a rice cooker at home in America, they thought that we hired someone to come in and cook our rice.)
8. I am THANKFUL for cars, and for insurance. (One of my "adopted young adults" was in a car accident last week and the insurance totalled his big beautiful truck. But, they will give him money to buy a new truck.)
9. I am THANKFUL for Skype and video chats, to keep in touch with my big kids all over the world.
10. I am THANKFUL for a roof over my head, carpet under my feet, food in my belly ... and all of the other blessings that the Lord has provided for us.
I hope you'll share your Thankful Thursday list in my comments section, or write your own post and then tell me about it.
Oh dear ... I seem to have been misunderstood. And, if one person misunderstands me and leaves a comment, I am sure that more have been upset or offended without leaving comments.
First of all, I want to thank Heather for leaving her comment (even if I said, "Ouch" when I read it). I want to know what my readers are thinking. I want to dialogue with you. I want to know how my words have been perceived. So, thanks Heather for speaking up!
Okay, what did Heather say? You'll have to read the comments section for Racism Update to read her entire point, but I'll share a few things here, in order to continue our dialogue.
"I think your first post is well-written, and brings to attention some very important points regarding how we relate to families who have adopted.
However, I think that it's a misnomer to call it reverse racism. It's a misunderstanding of racism, for one thing, and it rather diminishes the profound and long-reaching effects racism has had, and continues to have, in our society.
When a new baby is born to a family, the same scenario is often enacted. The new baby gets the attention, the other children are ignored, .........
But such is life in general. Compliments are not equally given out. .... Even as a parent, my attention is never equal to every child at any given time, and I don't want my children to believe it should be. ...
... I disagree with calling it racism. It's not, in any way shape, or form. Racism is not just ignoring. ..."
First of all, I need to point out the misunderstanding. I have referred to "Reverse Racism" in multiple posts in the last year. I came up with this term on my own, so I can't look up a definition for it. But ... let me try to define what I have meant by it.
Racism ... is the common word used to define when people are treated in a negative way due to the color of their skin.
Reverse Racism ... is the term that I came up with to define the times that my black children have been treated in an overly positive way due to the color of their skin.
Heather, and I am sure others, thought that I was using the term Reverse Racism to define the treatment of my white children. ("Racism is not just ignoring.") Oh no ... not at all. The point of my posts was not to feel sorry for my white children, but rather to raise the question of why my black children would get such preferential treatment, solely due to the color of their skin. Even if I did not have little white children right alongside my black children, I would be concerned about the preferential treatment that the black children are getting. I do not believe it is healthy for them to be treated either positively or negatively, just because of the color of their skin. I do not want Jacob, Sarah, and Rachel to believe "I am special because I am black." I want them to know, "I am special, because I am a child of God." I hope that someday soon, people will begin to see them as Jacob, Sarah, and Rachel ... not as, The Big D Family's Little Black Children.
I also want to address Heather's comments about the attention that newborn babies get. Many of you have shared those thoughts on my posts about Reverse Racism. As the mother of 10 biological babies ... I do know full well that babies get a bit more attention than the other children ... for awhile (especially, adorable little identical twins). However, the attention that our African children have received has been over the top ... NOTHING like the attention that a little baby will receive. When I had my cute little babies, not once did a complete stranger come up to me and give me a basket filled with extravagant gifts. Nope, not once. And ... NEVER did this special attention last for a year. Never did anyone at church talk to my cute little baby for a year without ever speaking to me or to the rest of my children. Yes, the cute baby might be the instigator of a conversation, but the conversations always moved towards an introduction to me and to the rest of my family.
The "ouch" of Heather's comments came when I read, "it rather diminishes the profound and long-reaching effects racism has had, and continues to have, in our society." That was certainly, absolutely, not my intent. I felt horrible when I realized that others had perceived that from my words. I was in no way making light of the realities of racism. Please read the post below, to learn a little about my background with race-related situations.