August 23, 2007

Yes, I can post a short blog. Or is it blog a short post?

The other night, (When the boys and I were discussing "glorifying and enjoying the Lord" I told Benjamin and James I was so proud of them. When I look at them I think of that bible verse that talks about the Lord "taking the foolish things of this world to confound the wise." I told them it is a miracle to me to think about my life and who I am and then see the way our 4 sons are turning out!

Benjamin said, "Mom, actually God knows boys are easier to raise than girls. He just looked at you and dad and said, 'Here. I'll give you 4 sons. All you have to do is feed them and they'll grow."

August 22, 2007

Role Reversal

Ever since James told me he was moving out, I've had a lump in my throat. Finally, the other night I couldn't swallow it one more time and I erupted. James wasn't home for the initial crying jag and I was hoping it would be over before he did come home. I do not want to make him feel guilty for living his life!
However, he did come home before my red nose and swollen eyes could get back to normal and he asked me if I'd been crying. I nodded. "Because of me?"
Mike had gone to bed because he didn't feel well. Benjamin was up and overheard James and I talking. So, then both boys tried to reassure me that James' life is in God's hands and when he dies it will be because it was God's timing.
"Guys, I am not crying because I'm afraid of James dying."
I went on to tell them all my thoughts.
I'm wondering who is going to take care of James when he gets home from work and discovers he's too tired to cook and there's nothing in the house to make.
Who's going to give him 7-Up and applesauce when he has the flu and every time he moves he throws up?
Who's going to finish folding his laundry because he's been too busy and tired to do it himself?
When people start decorating for the holidays he's going to go home to a dark, empty apartment with no little brothers to pester him and no homemade cookies or Christmas music playing.
I was thinking about him being lonely and missing out on playing chess, and bantering with his brothers like he used to here at home.
I did admit I have some fears about his life, but that's not my primary concern.
"Boy mom, you're making me feel real good about moving." he grinned.
We went on to talk about my selfish thoughts. With my babies moving on I'm starting to feel like a cow whose milking days are about over. Time to put the old girl out to pasture, don'tcha think?
It's hard to know who or what I am if I'm not a mom. In my mind that's why God made me. It's my purpose and if my kids don't need me, my life is just about over.
That's when the conversation got interesting. I'll start with James.
He emphatically said that he needs me. That he'll always need me. That I'm his mom and he loves me. That he is not moving out to reject me. He and Benjamin both said that. They both also said that when kids move out it's like the family is branching out, not dying. They told me I should look at it like our family is a spider plant, and now the shoots are starting to "shoot out".
I know all that but it still hurts. The pin hole thing, you know?
Then Benjamin started talking. He said that he's just been realizing in the last 3 weeks that our purpose is not functional. God made us to glorify Him and enjoy Him. The 3 of us sat and discussed that for awhile. We've all 3 viewed "glorifying God" as either becoming more like God, or living our lives so others see Him and want Him in their lives, or serving others to show God we love Him and want to glorify Him. But Benj. said that lately he's been realizing that if he were in solitary confinement with no bible, he could still fulfill his purpose in life. He could sit in that little cell and glorify God. My relationship with Him should be like that. Just me and God, face to face. Me adoring Him and loving Him and praising Him. That that is why God made each of us. To glorify Him and enjoy Him. No strings attached.
After we chewed on that for a time I asked them if they thought that meant I'd made our little family an idol in my life. Silence. Then they both said they thought if I'd done that there would be anger involved in James' leaving. I'm not angry, just sad.
Those 2 thoughts are huge, and I think they're going to be life changing if I can ever "get it".
Do I have idols in my life? If I base my importance on how I perform as a wife and mother and homeschool teacher and call that glorifying the Lord, that means I've put ME on the pedestal, or the boys, or Mike. My motive isn't honestly to glorify Him at all. Does that make sense?
So, how do I Stop and glorify the Lord? Do I enjoy Him?
Some of this seems like just basic stuff, but I'm thinking that to "glorify and enjoy the Lord" has many levels to it. I want to see the deeper and deeper parts of what those two words mean. How totally selfish of me to think that what I "do" glorifies the Lord. If I wanted to be glorified, I'd want someone to just look me deep in the eyes and say, "I love you. You are the best and most important person in my life. I want to be with you every minute....." I'd much rather have that than someone running around cleaning the house for me, or cooking dinner for me, or working on lesson plans for school. I'd want their undivided attention.
Anyway-I see a lot of thinking, praying, and bible study in my future.
For the last week I've been wishing at least one of my parents were around to help me through this time. Well, it wasn't an older, wiser person who comforted and advised me at all. It was my kids.

August 20, 2007

James, James, James

He is sweet and tender. Strong and independent. Compassionate. He has a dry sense of humor. Very funny. Giving. Willing to give up his time or energy even when he's tired. Sensitive to the needs and moods of those around him. Stubborn.
As a little guy he was accident prone.

As an infant he:

  • got his foot stuck in the ring of a crib toy that hung in his crib
  • got the HANDLE of his pacifier stuck in a vertical position in his mouth
  • received 2 black eyes from his big brother in about 3 days
  • was pinned to his diaper on both sides during the same diaper change
  • got his head stuck under his crib
  • had his fingers slammed in the car door
  • crawled under a double bed and got stuck in the far back corner of the room
When he was older he was the first boy in our family to get stitches. And the first to have a concussion.
Even as a baby James was independent. He wouldn't nurse to sleep. He'd nurse, then squirm and fuss, or even cry until I put him in his crib. He'd then sigh like he was happily melting into his mattress and go to sleep.
He hardly ever wanted to cuddle. Even before he could walk or talk he preferred a pile of toys in the corner to being held, kissed, or cuddled.
It seems like he's always been in a hurry to grow up. The minute he started walking he gave it up and starting running. On his tippy toes. With a tiny toy gripped tightly in each sweaty little hand.
When he was about 4 his grandma bought a tricycle for him. We lived in an apartment at the time and everyone but yours truly worked. That meant the boys had the entire parking lot to themselves all day. Roller skating, bike riding, playing day I put a jump rope down in a line to show James where his tricycle riding boundary was. He sweetly rode his bike within that area until I had to run inside for the phone. As I came back out, there was James, skooching the jump rope over with his little foot. He knew better than to cross the line, but he sure didn't have a problem with moving it.
One afternoon when he was 3 we went for a walk in a nearby cemetery. There was a 12" cross on one of the graves. James quietly studied the cross for a bit, then said, in his sweet, little
Elmer Fudd voice, "Daddy, look at dat cwoss. Jesus wasn't vewy big, was He?"
When James was a boy we lived next to a 3 acre pond. James would spend hours and hours and hours out there in the row boat, alone, looking for turtles, fish, bugs, birds and anything else that moved. He was thrilled to be alone, in the quiet, dreaming and thinking James' things.
During those first few months of being James' mother, when I finally figured out, "Hey, this baby is extremely independent..", my heart developed a tiny, quiet ache. I knew right off the bat this boy would be the one to leave the nest first. I managed to ignore the little ache, or at least bury it beneath the hustle of raising 4 boys and homeschooling. We focused on building a close relationship with the boys, and finding the balance between being their parents and being their friends. We did indeed manage to find that balance, by the Grace of God, and we are good friends with each son.
I had a little poem tucked deeply in my heart, right next to the ache:
Love them.
Listen to them.
Give them deep roots.
Give them wings.
During the moments when I wanted to clobber any of them, or run away from home, that poem would come to the surface. I'd sigh, pray, and try to listen to the wisdom of it. Of course there were many times I blew it, but all in all, I think it turned out OK.
James found an apartment about 10 minutes from where he works and will be moving in the next week or so. The final line of that poem has taken a prominent place in my thoughts this week.
Give them wings. Give them wings. Give them wings........
I'm so proud of James and so excited to see him loving Jesus and wanting to serve and follow and obey Him. It's wonderful to see his strengths being used to show Jesus' love to the hurting little boys he works with at Wheeler.
At this point motherhood feels like a pin cushion. I'm not sure how to explain it....I think when he came home last week and told me he was moving out it felt like I'd been stabbed by a pin. But seeing who he is, and what he's doing, and watching God work and move and breath in that boy's life takes the sting away. Now I just have a hole where the pin was.
Give them wings...Give them wings....
Lord, give me strength.....

August 6, 2007

For Me and Anyone Else Who's Weary in the Trenches

When I was 19 I went to a missions meeting in Denver. There I heard about something wonderful called Homeschooling. I knew instantly that that was the mission field God was calling me to. It wasn't deepest, darkest Africa, like I'd been fearing! It was my children God wanted to send me to.

So, a year later, as Mike and I found our relationship deepening and the word "marriage" began to enter our conversations, I talked to Mike. "Mike, God told me to homeschool my kids, and it's something I want to do too. Is that OK with you? Because if you have a problem with it we need to end our relationship right now." (I'm SO thankful he didn't have a problem with it! :-) )

Tomorrow I will start my 17th year of homeschooling. If you add up the individual years I've taught each child it adds up to 37 years!!

I'm more tired, weary, and unmotivated this year than I think I've ever been. I had a fun, relaxing, busy summer and I don't want my free time to end. It's not that I want to quit homeschooling. I just want to postpone starting indefinitely.

This morning I sat down with my bible and some notes taken from homeschool convention workshops I've gone to to refresh my memory on why I do this. Hopefully this will help me face tomorrow!

#1. God told me to do it.

#2. Our children are never dying souls entrusted to our care. (Quote from Chris Klicka) that quote sings to my heart.......

#3. 1Cor. 15:58 says: Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

I have the advantage of being half-way done. I can look at our 2 oldest and see the truth of that verse.....

#4. Ps 127:3-4 Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior so are the children of one's youth.

This verse presupposes there is a spiritual battle and in my mind goes right along with

2Cor. are our letter written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are a letter of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, that is on the heart.

My goals for homeschooling have never been primarily academic. That was always secondary to the goals of raising boys who:

*love Jesus most of all

*reflect Jesus' love to those around them

*are bold and courageous in their faith and won't give in to peer pressure

*are wise. I want them to know we have an enemy who wants to share an eternity of hell with them. I want them to not only recognize his lies but know the truth and how to share that truth with others.

*be men like God with "staying power". Not giving in to their feelings but strong in conviction. Men like their dad who love their wives and children and are willing to lay down their lives for their families..

#5. I feel very close to our 2 oldest sons. That came through spending TONS of time with them, not through scrapbooking, making yo yo quilts, or beaded Christmas tree toppers.

These are the verses that really jumped out at me this morning:

Ps. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Phil. 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

3rd John 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

2 Cor. 3:4-5 ...And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God...

2 Cor. 12:9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness....

2 Cor. 10:5...casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ......

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

2 Thess. 3:5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the patience of Christ.

Matt. 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

My prayer for the boys is Ps. 119:97-101:

Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word.

These are too long to write out but they also spoke to my heart this morning:

Eph. 4:11-16 (Another prayer for my sons)

Ps. 78:1-11

I also think of Sam and Frodo during times like this-I picture everything they went through to destroy "the" ring. I especially picture their faces and the pain and the weariness and everything they gave up for their friends. Then I remember 2 Timothy 4:6-7:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

The battle I'm in is not as hard or terrifying as the battle Frodo and Sam faced. Nor as hard as the things Paul went through for the sake of the gospel...but this is my battle and I do want to fight the good fight. I want to finish the race, not sit down wearily and wait for the finish line to come to me.
Lord, give me your joy! Help me to praise You and have a thankful heart for the boys, the race, and the freedom to spend all day every day with my kids!

August 1, 2007

Showdown at Sundown

When I was 3 my brother Jimmy, my parents, and I went on a vacation. At some point we made a stop at a chicken farm. (Please don't ask me why!) Anyway, because of my small stature I couldn't see where we were when my dad stopped the van. (Yes, there were vans back in the dark ages.) When my dad opened the van door I froze, petrified.
"Daddy? Are those dangerous chickens?!"
While those chickens proved to be docile and kind, I later in life met some that were not.

From the dictionary: Bantam. Any of numerous small domestic fowl that are often miniatures of members of the standard breeds.

And from a website regarding Bantam Chickens as pets:
Chickens make rewarding pets - I've never felt so much like Snow White as when sitting on a stool with a chicken on each knee, each shoulder and one resting comfortably on top of my head. The chickens on my shoulders rubbed their heads around on my neck, tasted my glasses gently and played with my earlobes. The chickens on my knees wiggled as I petted them and played with my ring. The chicken on top of my head just made me a little nervous. I could sit in the sun and watch those hand raised chickens scratch, bath and eat for hours.

When our 2 oldest sons were quite young they were given a tiny incubator as a gift. We did hatch 2 quail successfully and released them into the wild when they were old enough to fend for themselves.
Years later, when our oldest son was 13 or so, he decided he wanted to hatch another quail egg. After a long search, we found a farmer who had quail for sale. So, we all piled into the van and drove over to this guy's house to see if he would be willing to sell 1 (Please note I said 1. ONE) egg to the kids so they could use their incubator again. The man was incredibly nice, and very persuasive. After a brief tour of his farm he somehow managed to convince us of the fact that if watching 1 quail egg hatch was exciting, imagine how breathtaking watching 27 Bantam chicken eggs would be!
"Well, we don't have room for 27 eggs in our little incubator."
"Oh! That don't matter. Look! I have a large, portable incubator you can use! Just take it home and when you're done using it, bring it back. And really, you don't have to worry. I don't think all 27 eggs will hatch. I reckon only about 9 will actually be fertilized."
Deciding it would be futile to argue any further with this kind man, we caved and took the eggs and incubator home.
I imagine by now you can guess what happened, and you're right. All 27 eggs decided to hatch.
It wasn't long before we had 27 tiny chicks peeping at all hours of the day and night, begging for food. And the box they resided in was in our son's bedroom! After about 2 days of that racket Mike and the boys went out and built a makeshift chicken coop behind the garage. I had visions of one of us heading out to gather eggs and then all of us sitting down to a delicious scrambled egg breakfast every morning. There were 2 problems with this scenario. One, do you have any idea how tiny Bantam Chicken eggs are? It would take about 5 per person to equal 2 regular chicken eggs. The other problem was, it seems that most of our chickens were roosters.
Not only that, but they were mean, ferocious, and dangerous roosters! They were so mean that after a couple months they'd managed to kill about half their brothers and sisters in bloody chicken wars. Talk about sibling rivalry!
Winter came and went and by the following spring we were down to about 15 chickens total. All of them roosters and all of them mean. Every time the boys went out to play they were chased and attacked by those nasty little chickens.
It wasn't just their beaks the boys had to look out for. It was the spurs on the chicken legs that proved to be the most painful. Every time the boys were outside to either play or feed the chickens they'd come in with tears in their eyes and bloody scratches on their legs.
I finally gave the boys my permission to kill the chickens. I just didn't want to know how they did it. Every once in awhile I'd hear a whoop from outside and I knew the boys were one step closer to being free of fear and pain.
However, there was one afternoon James came in and his legs were a mess. Blood trickling down his calves and tears streaming down his cheeks. I was furious! I'd had enough of those chickens!
I marched down the hall, grabbed a 22 and a bunch of bullets and went outside. In my fury I managed to shoot and kill all but one sneaky little rooster. The meanest one. He was mean, but he wasn't brave, and he hid high in a tree. I wasn't about to go shooting a gun into the trees, so we left him up there. That evening when Mike got home the boys told him about the last remaining bad guy nobody could get.
That was all Mike needed to hear. He put his chaps on, pulled a bandanna down over his mouth, tipped his Stetson down low over his eyes and sauntered out to the barn. I mean garage. There in the corner was his weapon of choice. An antique weed whacker that looked more like a dilapidated machete than anything else. We all waited for an eternity, and finally the chicken came down out of the tree. After all, it was getting dark and it was time to be fed. We all watched breathlessly as Mike casually walked over to the beast, the weed whacker hidden behind his legs. Then, with a stroke Mike's golfing dad would be proud of, Mike swished the weapon through the air and thwack. A hole in one! The boys yelled and cheered. I swooned at my hero's feet. Mike picked me up, blew the smoke off the barrel of his weed whacker and strolled back to the house. He sat down at the table and slammed his fist down.
"Give me a shot of whiskey, Woman!"