Friday, June 17, 2011

Tribute to my children's daddy

It is a couple days before Father's Day, and so I wanted to take a moment to honor the man of my dreams.

He is tall (well, tall to me anyway), fair, and easy on the eyes. He is more handsome every year. He has wonderful blue eyes and a fantastic smile.

He is an excellent worker. I tell him that if I had a company, I would want to fill it with employees like him. He is conscientious and diligent. He never makes excuses, and even when he has a good one, he doesn't use it. He takes good care of people and things. He is always gentle and kind.

He is passionate, especially about God. He has a look that he gets, when I know he has heard from the Lord. It is at those moments I love him the most, and am glad to follow him anywhere.

He is a great daddy. He loves his children tirelessly, denying himself over and over again to fix a bike or computer, to go back for something forgotten, to carry a sleeping child (or four) to bed, up and down the same flight of stairs several times.

His favorite way to spend an evening is snuggled on the couch with a kid on each side and a couple on his lap watching a movie with them, listening to them laugh and watching them dance during the credits. He doesn't have a desire to get away from them. He loves his children.

And even though I know I am his helpmeet, I have to say what a gift he is to me.

Thankful for my husband.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Love and Admonition

Bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That's what it says, probably in Proverbs, though I'm not going to look it up right now.

I was thinking about those two words.

Nurture. Tenderness. Mercy and kindness. Hugs and kisses. Holding when hurt, listening, compassion, understanding. My little one has a hurt toe, I hold him as long as he lets me. My young adult daughter is having a tough day, I hug her until she's done crying and talking. Feeding, diaper changing, clothing, bedding, bandaging. Nurturing.

Admonition. Correcting. Training. Shepherding their hearts. Pruning. Directing and redirecting and redirecting. Giving boundaries and reinforcing them. Disciplining. My 3 year old son is fighting with his 5 yr old sister continually, he is spending time in a chair and learning this is unacceptable. My older daughters are having difficulty completing their work, they will miss the movie tonight. I will discipline the ones I love.

But I also want them to know His nurture and admonition through my parenting. I want to point them to His beauty and love and compassion when they are sad or hurt or scared. I want to direct them to His statues, His perfect law, His righteousness, His holiness.

But His law is a tutor to point us back to His cross, His mercy, His everlasting love. I hold up His standards, unachievable, and then show them the way to repentence. I don't give them an easy attainable set of rules. I want to set the bar high. In fact, it's not my bar. I'm a steward. They belong to Him. So we have to use His laws.

Honor your mother and father. Be ye kind one to another, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven you. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth except that which is useful for building up and edification. Do not sin in your anger. He who hates instruction is stupid. Love your enemies.

Those things are hard. Especially to a 3 year old. But they are the law. The little kid version is this: I have them hold up two fingers. Obey and be kind. How do you solve problems with a sibling? Hold up two fingers. First, speak kindly to them. If that doesn't work, call in help.

What I'm asking of them is hard. It's impossible. But that means we have ample opportunity to practice repenting, practice being forgiven and asking for help. We are wearing a path to the cross.

The love and the admonition (and the love) of the Lord.

Monday, June 13, 2011

5 minutes in the morning

First of all, I really should apologize for the redundancy I am certain is rampant in this blog. I'm probably cyclical, so that if you have read back to a certain date, I begin to repeat myself. So, if I've said all this before, sorry. I just write what's on my mind, and I don't always remember what was on my mind before.

I suppose this falls in the "how do you do it" category, although no one really asks me, "Hey, how can we have a great marriage like yours?" Actually, they make flippant comments like, "Don't you guys have heat?" or, "Don't you have a tv?" or, "It figures you have a lot of kids, your bed is so small." Stuff like that.

But we do have a good marriage, I think, or, at least, a better marriage than we began with, and a better marriage than we once had. There are a couple things that have made our marriage a good place to be that are maybe worth mentioning, since some 60% of marriages end in divorce, and only 10% are happily married. So here is my salient wisdom. Who am I kidding? I don't even know what salient means.

1. Access. Intimacy is not a favor my husband has to earn, not a privilege to give and take away, not a weapon I use to get what I want from him. The Bible clearly says I am his and he is mine. Only in the case of fasting is it appropriate for me to turn him away. Certainly we need to work through other marriage issues, but not in that context. I can say, "Honey, I would really enjoy our time at night together more if we were able to have a little more eye contact during the day," or whatever it is I need to say. But I belong to him. God will help me work through whatever issues and help me to forgive, even if a situation stands unresolved. I know that's hard. But God is really that big. Really.

2. Honor. I will honor my husband to his face, in front of others and behind his back. He is a gift given to me by God, actually, the other way around. I will honor him in my heart and to my children. I will speak well of him and kindly to him. When he has areas that need improvement, from my point of view (because I also have so many areas that need it), I will speak to him respectfully and will pray for him, also with respect. But I leave whatever changing of my spouse that needs to be done in the hands of God.

3. Pray. We started praying together before he leaves for work each day a few years ago. And it has made all the difference in the world. I don't know why. Well, I mean, I guess I know why. We connect. In that 5 minutes before the throne, before the day really gets rolling, even with a kid or 4 interrupting each sentence, we commune with each other and the Lord, bring our needs before the King, lift each other up for the day's labor and ask God to bless. Our prayer is full of blessing. I bless him, his work, his relationships, his time in the car. I pray for God to be his conscious companion, for him to be wise and win souls, to have opportunity to give account for the hope that is in him. I pray for him to have creative inspiration from the Lord on how to solve problems and deal with people at his work. I pray that God would speak to him about our family and would teach him how best to lead it. I honor him in the place of prayer.

Five minutes. Every morning. Makes a world of difference.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fasting for kids

The Bible talks about solemn assemblies and fasts as things that include children and even nursing babies. I would love to know what that looked like exactly.

But fasting is something we do in our house, sometimes to take part in a corporate fast with our church, sometimes when we are making a big decision, or even because dad says that is what we are going to do. So here is what it looks like in our family.

We have done a lot of different things. Most often, the young ones fast sweets or technology. Sometimes this means no desserts, and sometimes it means we really go without sugar for a period of time. Technology means no t.v. or movies or playing games on computer or Wii or hand held devices (my phone!). Usually we still use the phone to talk and the computer to do school.

That can be tough for littles, especially depending on how much they do that stuff. They ask frequently for whatever they are missing. And that moment of asking is the golden opportunity to pray together. Here is what our echoed prayer might sound like (for a 2-5 year old):

Dear Jesus, Dear Jesus,
I want to watch TV. I want to watch TV.
I really like TV. I really like . . .
But mommy says You are better than TV.
And I want to know You better.
Please help me know You more.
Please help me know You are better than TV.

Something like that.

We have done longer fasts that were tiered. Maybe the first week we start with no TV, the second week we add no desserts, the third week we don't have sugar at all, and the last three days we just eat rice or oatmeal.

My older children this time said, we don't want to do a kid fast. We want to do something more. So they are trying a Daniel fast. One is doing bread and nuts with it. The other one tried just fruits and veggies and then added nuts. Another is fasting lunch each day; he doesn't eat between breakfast and supper.

Another couple are going to do no sugar until the last day, and then try to really fast that day.

Throughout the week, one of my jobs is to continually steer their attention away from what they and each other are not eating or drinking and toward the Lord. This is a big effort, and a constant one, but it is a good battle to fight and worth it.

We continue to live a normal life, do what we would normally do. School, chores, responsibilities all still have to happen. And attitudes need adjusted as well. I frequently send the big ones out of the kitchen and to their rooms with their Bibles or to their instruments to play it out.

Another difficult thing is when not everyone fasts the same thing. It is best if we prefer each other and don't openly eat what someone else is fasting. But that is not entirely possible, and is really part of the fast, part of the training.

But the hardest thing for me is that I am fasting more than whatever I choose to fast. Because if a big kid is only eating fruit and veggies, I'm not going to ask him/her to cut a toddler's pizza. I'm on my own in a lot of ways this week. I will ask them to suck it up sometimes (because I have to and it is a good skill to learn) but I am not asking as much as I normally do.

In fact, I barely even knew what I would fast this week. I'm fasting husband and big helpers. I'm fasting the sugar and coffee, isn't that enough?

We often, during a fast, have a family meeting each evening. It helps us remember why we're fasting, it gives us something to do instead of watching t.v. [disclaimer: we rarely watch actual programs on tv; but we do allow small people to watch a dvd or netflix thing in the evening more often than we should], and it provides a forum to talk about if we're hearing from God and praying and worshipping together. And I felt last night, listening to what my big kids were hearing from God, that I will get out of this what I put into it. So I'm kind of combining what my biggest kids are doing, modified for a nursing mom: eating fruits, veggies, lean protein, dairy, and skipping lunch.

There are lots of different ways to fast, and whatever you fast, if you miss whatever you're fasting, it is a real fast. I think fasting for small people is a good thing to learn/experience. I think it gets them ready to do it better when they are old enough to get it more. It teaches them, and us, to make our flesh submit to our spirits. And that's good. It's a fight worth fighting.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Last week was crazy. My husband has been fasting, which tends to mean he disappears around meal time. Then Monday and Tuesday my older kids were at a training. Often times in our big family, if you extract a kid or two or three, the rest of them mellow out considerably. Not so this time. The younger nine were pretty much all maniacs.

Then today we began a family fast of sorts. Which means we are doing several fasts, a liquid, a Daniel, a modified Daniel, some no sugar, one skipping lunch, some no sweets. I am not even sure what I'm fasting. I have been fasting having a husband. Now I think I'm just fasting normal.

So today, right after I returned from Aldi where I bought what must have seemed like a months supply of fruits and veggies for the Daniels, with my supermom shirt on and wacky pigtails in my hair (to stay cool)(as opposed to hot, not hip-cool), our standardized tests came in the mail. Nine of them.

We're trying desperately to finish school for the summer. Having increased our family by two this year, we are really scraping in an effort to have a summer break. So we are doing testing and the motivated ones are still doing school after.


Tomorrow an appliance repairman is coming to fix my dishwasher. Isn't it sad that I am going to be up late making sure I don't have a pile of dirty dishes?

Summer is crazy. I don't know why. There are, I guess, millions of cicadas flying around the county (though not by our house) and my kids are either terrorized by them or obsessed with them. My oldest son wants to tie a string around one and fly it.

I have mostly weaned the 2 year old. But here is how I'm not crazy. I'm not potty training her. Not yet. Not ready to have her be in charge of when and where. Not yet.

I am crazy in another way. When things get really bad, really crazy, I sing. "He delights in you. He delights in you. He delights in you. He delights in you. Let the heavens be glad, let the earth rejoice. Tell all the world that Jesus is King. Blessed be the Lord, our Father and God, from everlasting!"

Now that's crazy!

Headlines don't sell papes. Newsies sell papes.

I've had prodigals on my mind a lot lately. Thinking about children of friends who have taken a walk. Thinking about young people who were raised by parents who did everything they knew to do. Kids who grew up in church, who knew God, and walked. Away.

Most families have at least one who goes his or her own way. That's normal. I mean, even Jesus lost one disciple, right?

It doesn't matter. It's like saying that someone who has a miscarriage should just enjoy the children she has. Losing a child before they're born or losing a child to the world both equal heart break.

And I've been afraid. I have a lot to lose. And I'm looking at these older parents and wondering how, if they lost a kid or two, who am I kidding? Why do I think I can do better?

Now, in the same way I hope my children will learn from my journey, my mistakes, and improve on the model they were shown, certainly I can learn from those who have gone before me. They both set an example of what to do right and they give wisdom about what they would like to have done better.

And I can learn from those rare families who haven't lost any. I am walking in their footsteps, standing on their shoulders. I'm drafting. But drafting is dangerous. If I follow someone so closely, I can't see what's ahead. No, I have to have my head up and be able to see what is ahead myself.

Now, I live in a city where there are a few growing houses of prayer, places where people from any denomination can come and pray, open many if not 24 hours a day. And I have a little unofficial half set, an hour once a week when I go play the piano and sing to God. Usually there's almost no one there. That's fine with me. If people show up, my attention is sometimes a little divided.

So yesterday, at my little Tuesday 3 o'clock moment, I was singing to Him. It happened to be the monthly 'Global Bridegroom Fast', the first Mon-Wed of each month, so I was singing about longing for Him, yearning for Him. Even so, come. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. The Spirit and the Bride say come.

And when I sing that, come, I am longing and asking for Him to come and return and take His Bride (the church), to be with Him face to face. But I am also asking Him to come here, come now, come heal, come deliver. And I was singing to Him to return the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

He is the Father of the prodigals. He is watching and waiting. He never rests.

And this is the revelation I received, which may not sound like anything as I try to communicate it here, but was perhaps one of the most significant moments of my life. I will not win my children to Him by what I do or do not do (not that I shouldn't or won't do everything I can). He will win them because of WHO HE IS.

Headlines don't sell papes. Newsies sell papes. In one of my favorite movies, Newsies, one of the newsies, a news boy in New York City, early 1900's, is telling another, new newsie that headlines are not what sells the newspapers in New York. They do. The boys on the street hawking the papes are what makes the money.

God is God. He will draw all men unto Himself. I will continue to pray, believe me, I will, that each of my children, and the sons and daughters my friends have lost, will have a revelation of Him. That the Word planted in their hearts would spring up and bear fruit. That their Creator would call them and draw them and lead them out into the wilderness if nessessary to turn their hearts to Him.

I will guard the gates - the ways different influences come into my children's lives. I will feed them good things, mind, body and spirit. I will give them every opportunity I can to encounter Him who my soul loves. But it is ultimately He who will draw them to Himself.
And He will.

I can't describe the peace I felt and still feel at that knowledge. It is possible that some of mine will take a good hard look at the man Jesus and reject Him outright. But He is magnificent. He is astounding. He is holy.

I think holy is the word I come around to when I'm trying to describe the indescribable. God is so . . . so . . . so . . . holy. I hope with each day, each hour, that my children will encounter One so lovely that they can not help but to love Him. And that His Awesomeness will burn in their hearts so deeply that if they walk away someday, that He will draw them back.

It's not me. It's Him. Headlines don't sell papes. Newsies sell papes. I can't save them. I can't win them. I can't draw them. He can. He does. He will.

Monday, June 06, 2011


I have a new song, but can't figure out where and when to play it. It is called 'Mercy', but it starts out all about judgement and wrath.

I have this image in my mind of Esther every time I hear the song 'Majesty' (not the Jack Hayford one, the Delirious one). I see her, you know, in this long beautiful gown, looking a little kinda Julia Roberts vulnerable, you know, approaching the throne, knowing she is transgressing the law, hoping against hope that there is enough love there to keep her alive.

She finds mercy. He extends his scepter and she touches it. Intimacy. Intimacy that breeds intimacy - a private banquet. Which breeds another intimate dinner. But that leads to petition.

That's the image I have of us in the house of prayer. We are worthy of judgement before a holy God. Righteous One, You are worthy to judge. Holy One, we are worthy of wrath. Without defense, without excuse, will not the God of all the earth judge rightly? Yeah. He will judge rightly.

We are Abraham, God's friend, saying to Him, pleading with Him, yes I know You are right to judge, but would you spare the city for the sake of fifty, for forty, for thirty, for twenty, for ten? We are Daniel saying WE, God, WE have transgressed Your law. WE have sinned.

And in Joel, we see that question, Who Knows But He May Relent? We repent. We repent and rend our hearts, who knows but He may relent? We humble ourselves before Your mercy. Walking, slowly, hesitantly, but confident in love, confident in Him, and He reaches out His scepter. He reaches out in love and intimacy and mercy.

Would You extend Your scepter to a people who once loved You?
Would You release Your mercy to a nation who once feared You?


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Weaning, stretching and other types of training

It's not easy, and I'm not going to lie to you. It's ugly here. The 2 year old insists on taking off her diaper. Okay, I say, then it's time to potty train. Which, in my opinion, goes hand in hand with weaning. It just seems like a logical break. You are two, you are old enough to take off and put on pants, you are old enough to say, 'baby all done', and 'I want to nurse, other side', you are old enough to be done. I know there are die hard la leche gals who say, don't ask, don't refuse . . . but this child will continue to nurse until I refuse. Especially since she is watching baby brother continue.

So all day the first day she asked, and all day I said no, that I would nurse her at bedtime. And there was sadness in the land each time I said no. But then, guess what? At bedtime she curled up in my arms while I read the bedtime story (Missionary Stories with the Millers, from Sonlight Core 1) and DID NOT ASK TO NURSE. She never cuddles without nursing!

She has nursed in the morning and at bedtime for the last 2 days (partly for my comfort) but is accepting the change.

Potty training is not going well, I think. But that's partly my fault. The best way I know of to potty train is cold turkey, naked, and staying at home. Especially for a little fart like her - she knows when she has pooped and has peed, but not when she is pooping or peeing, let alone when she is about to poop or pee. And they figure it out best naked.

My problem is that I didn't really want to start until after the last day of soccer, which is tomorrow. (Because I know from experience that trying to take a little one all the way to the bathroom, which, by some international law of soccer MUST be at least a quarter mile away, before they have done something they don't even know they have to do yet is a virtual impossibility and can dampen the hopes of the most experienced potty trainers.) But she insists on taking the diaper off. So we're starting.

My other problem is that I sometimes leave the house or leave that child in the care of her siblings or father, who, if frustrated, would put a diaper on a five-year-old if he thought she might have an accident while in his care.

So I have not been able to fully commit to the cold-turkey-naked-stay-at-home plan. As a result, she knows nothing except that when she sits on the pot we give her chocolate chips and that after she sits for a random amount of time, she should use tissue which she calls a towel to wipe somewhere below her belly button and drop the tissue in the toilet and flush.

My second daughter is in a delightful pre-teen life phase. Being a brilliant and experienced mother of a dozen, I had the phenomenal idea of having her take on two really difficult things at the same time. She has started lessons on her instrument (on a limited basis because it is expensive) and has had to learn and do stretches on orders from her P.T., which stands for physical terrorist, for the purpose of increasing/maintaining the stretchiness of her Achilles tendons (recently acquired by wearing a series of casts, which we do not wish to repeat - all because of being a toe-walker).

I'm basically spending most of my days torturing her. In the process of dealing with all that horror, 5 different sets of stretches, 2 sets of orthotics (day and night), and at least a half an hour of being forced to play scales and riffs over and over, I have learned that her work ethic is less zealous than I had assumed. This calls into question many other assumptions about her education. At the same time, her motivation to do all those other things I'm assuming she's doing well has gone down to low.

So we are in training. We are training to comfort without nursing, training to not walk on our tip toes, training to put our pee and poo in the pot, training to play mixolydian and phrygian scales. And I am on day 3 (is it only 3?) of reading my Bible each day. The stretching is pervasive.

Stretching and training and relearning something you've done wrong all your life is hard. I tried on swimming suits last night. The one I wore last season was pre-pregnancy, 38 or so lbs less. Not gonna work this time. I walked into the dressing room, clothes still on, and nearly gasped. I thought and almost said to my daughter, 'you let me leave the house like this?' All those mirrors provided a vision of pure agony. Egads. I've never been so mortified by my own reflection. Grotesque.

But I'm not making another vow right now. I have made a commitment to read the Bible every day. I hope that washing my spirit with the Word will flow into healthier habits, that I will take care of the body God made for me by drinking more water, by eating more veggies, by eating only what I need because my spirit is stronger and healthier for the time spent with my Maker. But my focus and hope is set in Him, not in making changes myself. As desperately as I want to look different than I do, I will set my heart and fix my gaze on a higher prize.

Stretching is painful. Sometimes we have to be made to do it. Weaning ourselves off of something we gain comfort from is difficult. Sometimes we have to be forced to do it. Learning to walk and live differently is difficult. Sometimes we have to be forced to do it. All discipline seems unpleasant for the moment. But afterward it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.