Thursday, July 28, 2011

Set Apart

We had a day, seems like a long time ago, where we asked a number of older (read mature) women to share stuff they had learned in their lives in God about a particular subject. In one session three women shared what they thought they did right in raising their children. And I remember that the three of them had very different things they said. For example, my mother was hyper about how we looked (she was one of the women), regarding tattoos, piercings, even wearing the color black. Another mom had a bunch of boys, and I think all of them had something cool and spiritual embedded in their skin somewhere.

But that same mom talked about thinking probably one of the most significant thing they did in raising their children was that they left the country and were missionaries somewhere else for a significant part of their lives. They were set apart.

We chose, 8 years ago, to move to a part of town where we were and still are in the racial minority. There were several reasons for the move. Primarily, it was what we thought God wanted us to do. But one perk of the move was that we were set apart. We home school, everyone else in our neighborhood doesn't. We are (most of us anyway:) fair skinned, everyone else on our block is darker. We have 12 children, one mom and one dad, no one else has that sort of family.

Because we are not like everyone else in a number of ways, it seems to make sense to our children that we are not about what other people think, but are free to seek after what God wants. Our ties to this world are not quite as strong because we don't fit exactly anyway. It is easier for us to see that we are citizens of another Kingdom. We already are set apart.

I thought of this because today I heard about a friend who sent water with her children for their lunch at camp, rather than drinking the soda that is provided for them. It had never occurred to me! Not to drink the soda? It reminded me of Daniel and the boys in Babylon, not eating the king's meat or drinking the king's wine. It reminds me of Proverbs 23, think about what you are eating when you sit down with a ruler. And (although I don't really know why she is doing it) it strikes me as a way that her very young campers are set apart already.

It is as if that mom is saying: You can go, you can play, you can be part, but just because we are going doesn't mean we are going to automatically ingest and absorb and resemble everything we will experience. You are still in control of your decisions. You are still responsible for your actions. You are attending a camp, but you are still primarily a member of our family. My authority continues even when you are not in the same room with me.

Not drinking the soda that everyone else is drinking = set apart. Brilliant. It is training for that inevitable growing up thing that has to happen. It is practice following an invisible, higher authority than the one everyone else is following. It's also better for their little bodies. Bonus points!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why do little girls have to grow up to look like hookers?

I was saddened to see a young woman of maybe 16 recently who I hadn't seen since she was a little girl. And I was so sorry to see that she had grown from a lovely girl (with the kind of face that the rest of us put make up on to try to look like her), and now looked like if she happened to be standing on a certain corner in a certain part of town at the right time of night, I'm pretty sure she could get some work. Her clothing, posture, and face all said, "Come and get it."

It reminds me of a goofy song I wrote a long time ago but never did anything with. It's what happens when a married woman writes a song meant to be sung by a single guy. I can't record it myself, and can't find anyone else who will do it. Here are the words. I called it Putrefaction, from the N.A.S.B. version of Isaiah 3.


Well when God created Eve, He saw that beautiful was she
The most beautiful of all His creation
And I know there waits for me one just as beautiful as she
One whose spirit is like myrrh, not putrefaction

If He pulled out your earrings and shaved your head bald
If He washed all the color from your face
Would you still be a beauty dressed in sack cloth and ashes
With only a rope around your waist?

I can see you spent some time looking good on the outside
But did you pay enough attention to your soul?
You see, I'm looking for a bride who cares less about being mine
But has a zeal about belonging to the Lord

If He pulled out your earrings and shaved your head bald
If He washed all the color from your face
Would you still be a beauty dressed in sack cloth and ashes
With only a rope around your waist?

I want the beauty of an unfading spirit
In the quiet hidden place of the heart
I want the glow of a girl that loves Jesus more than me
In the quiet hidden place of her heart

Daughter of Zion, don't use your charm
To buy love that you cannot hold
Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness
Light your countenence with more than just
Makeup and gold

If He pulled out your earrings and shaved your head bald
If He washed all the color from your face
Would you still be a beauty dressed in sack cloth and ashes
With only a rope around your waist?

I want the beauty of an unfading spirit
In the quiet hidden place of the heart
I want the glow of a girl that loves Jesus more than me
In the quiet hidden place of her heart

The Octomom

I just need to go off about the Octomom.

On the one hand, kudos to her for not "medically selecting" which babies to put in the freezer, which to abort, and which to let live. Good. Not killing babies is good.

On the other hand, I just have to differentiate between her and me. I have 11 children that God gave me inside of a healthy marriage to one man, one at a time, spaced in His wisdom in an appropriate way. Granted, we did cheat on the 11th one. My sweetie that I didn't carry in my own body is artificially spaced 5 months from my youngest's birthday, a medical impossibility. But even then, it only happened because God and several humans said yes.

That is different than taking your body, removing your eggs and scientifically matching them up with God-Knows-Who's sperm and creating an unnatural number of children when you have no husband and so source of providing for the children.

So don't judge big families by the Octomom. Don't put married couples trusting God with their fertility on the same bus with an artificially inseminated mega family. God gave life to those babies too, and I'm sure He has a plan for them, because all children are a blessing. But I maintain that that isn't the most ideal way to receive those blessings.

That's all.

7,000 freaks

Elijah the prophet was man just like us. It says so in Hebrews. I heard a teaching about him Friday night at our local house of prayer. He was a prophet to Israel during the reign of Ahab, er, Jezebel. God had said not to marry foreign wives because they will lead you astray and cause you to worship other gods. He did, and she did, and he did.

So Elijah was sent to be a prophet, in Ahab's face, to the extent that the king gave him a nickname, "the troubler of Israel." His official job title might have been "The Pain in the Royal Behind." He boldly spoke on God's behalf against a king (who had subjected himself to a queen) who was picking off the prophets of the Most High.

The final straw for Ahab the Hen Pecked came when Elijah and the prophets of Baal staged the showdown of the century, where the prophets of Baal practiced self mutilation and Jehovah God answered with fire. The people shouted, "The Lord, He is God," killed the prophets of Baal, and Elijah scored huge with the return of rain after 3.5 years.

After his roaring triumph, Elijah goes and hides in a kind of suicidal slump. (Don't judge him, that's how it usually feels after you pour yourself out on the altar.) But this is the thing that got my interest (fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a hard right turn): he said to the Lord, Jezebel has killed all the prophets, and I alone am left. And God said, there are yet 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed his face.

I've been struggling with confidence, not in what I'm doing, but in how everybody else feels about it. I've felt like the troubler of Israel. My children don't attend public or private school. My children don't go to youth group. They don't go to junior high Sunday school. They will not date or have boyfriends or girlfriends or be encouraged to fixate on anything that awakens love before it is time. When they are of marrying age, we will partner with them in praying for and (for the guys) pursueing or (for the girls) awaiting a Godly courtship. We are encouraging our sons to pursue a future that equips them to provide for a wife and as many children as the Lord blesses them with. We are encouraging our daughters to follow God's leading, but without going into debt, to stay at home as long as they want to, and to put all their trust in the Lord and their daddy for their futures.

We are training our daughters to pursue the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, without a whole lot of external adornment. And we're ridiculous about it. So much of today's fashion is designed to emphasize necklines and bottoms. We're running away from it.

We're teaching our boys (and girls) to guard their eyes and minds and hearts, and to save all their imaginings and touchings and kisses for their one bride (groom). But our entire culture, from very young, gears for attracting and obsessing about the opposite gender.

Because these are our convictions, and the Word says that bad company corrupts good morals, and that you become like those you are with, we are very picky about who we spend lots of with, especially time without close supervision. We are trusting God to provide relationships for us, but we will not spend great amounts of time with friends who are not like minded.

And so few are like minded. It feels like Elijah - I alone am left - sometimes. But I have that story as my commission. 7,000 who have not bowed the knee or kissed the face. Hidden and set apart. In a culture filled with idolatry, immorality, we are hiding 12 set apart unto the Lord.

So ridicule me. Mock me. Talk to each other about socialization and how weird my kids are becoming. Me and my socially awkward offspring (may God give me a dozen more) are going to build a little house of prayer, and hide God's Word in our hearts and learn to love Him and each other better. Don't take in personally, we're not judging you. We're not mad at you. We're praying for you and blessing you and asking God to give you all the wisdom you need for the task He has given YOU. But as for me and my house, we will be freaks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On staying cool and being cool

I live in a place where it is always pretty hot in the summer, but this summer is exceptional. It is not hot. Not merely hot. It is dang hot. The difference between hot and dang hot is that when it is hot, you want a cold drink, you want air conditioning, you want to go swimming. When it is dang hot, you just want to die.

I have a friend from Kentucky who told me a log time ago (and regrets telling me, because I quote her every summer and attribute it to her) that when asked how hot it is, back home they say, "It's hotter than a firecracker stuck up a dragon's *butt* on the fourth of July in *hades*. We have changed that this week to say it is now hotter than a firecracker stuck up a dragon's butt on the fourth of July in a volcano on the sun. Which entirely accurate, but it is how we feel.

Now, I am an unregistered member of the polar bear club. I love swimming so much that I will swim in Lake Michigan in May in the 50's. I will get into a snow fed mountain stream that literally makes your feet hurt. When I go to the beach I have to wear swim wear because I can't help but wade my way in to all wet. I cannot stay in a canoe. But I don't have easy access to any regular swimming here. So I've been taking showers in the coldest cold water we have, but alas! It is only luke warm.

But there is also winter where I live. And I know for certain that it will come again, and there will be a day, not too many weeks away, that I will be sick and tired of being cold and convinced that I will never be warm again. It will be so cold that I'm afraid to go to the bathroom at night (for whatever reason, the air and heat work worst in my bedroom, nay, in my bathroom, so in the summer, there is no hotter place, and in the winter, no seat is as cold as my toilet seat). I know that will happen again.

I have spent a significent portion of the last 3 weeks at our church's camp. To clarify - it is not a camp you go to in another town and sleep in dirty cabins and get eaten by mosquitoes and eat eggs that seem like they never, ever came from a chicken. Rather, it is a camp because it is a way bigger deal than VBS and costs more and has way more attitude and consumes your life. You go in the morning and come home in the afternoon and just lay on the couch pretty much dead, moving only to eat huge amounts of food or move to a bed.

And at that camp, I've come into contact with lots of school aged children and little ones and adults and teenagers. The school aged children are the campers that the camp is for. The little ones are there because parents like me refuse to take them home because life is miserable without our big people. The adults do things like teaching and guiding and protecting. And the teens are what really make the thing happen.

I have 2 teenagers of my own, and a few more that are nearly teenagers. We don't groan because of our teenagers. We like them a lot. They are among our best friends. No kidding. They're terrific.

But teenagers that don't live at my house make me nervous, self conscious, and very aware that I am not cool. Not only am I not cool, I've never been cool, not even when I was a teenager, and being around them reminds me of it. I'm so not cool, I don't even know what they call it now. What we called cool, I'm sure there's a new term for it, a word or phrase that means you have that thing where you say the right thing all the time and are so popular that you don't have to second guess yourself and wish you hadn't said what you said or did what you did or wore what you wore.


I taught at said camp about confidence all three weeks (comical, isn't it?), but, as is usually the case, I learned about it as I went. I learned that God doesn't measure me like I measure me. He doesn't judge me based on what I look like or am now. He sees the long view. You know, the one I don't have access to except in glimpses He shows me that I have to receive in faith? That long view.

I learned that I only need to listen to what He says about me because He judges rightly, His judgements are true, and I can trust Him.

And I am in a more secure place today because He has been speaking to me lately about who He made me to be. And that's exciting. It's so exciting, it will probably be a different blog. But for the first time in a while, maybe ever, I'm pretty sure of me just and only because I'm quite certain of Him. (that reminds me of a winnie the pooh quote, "I just wanted to be sure of you.")

So even though I am not remotely cool on any level, neither temperature nor image, I am quite at peace. And I'll take peace over cool any day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Messed up.

This week we went to our church's day camp. So our little crew of home bodies was out and about from 7:45 a.m. till nearly 5 every day. We packed 60 or so lunches (at least one of the small people was committed to packing his own, er, "lunch" even though a big person had done it for him), washed everyone's uniform each night, took dimes on "dime day" and swim suits and towels on water day. We washed just enough dishes to get by, used disposable diapers, and were singularly triumphant in avoiding fast food all but one day.

Those were our successes.

We neglected our little world dreadfully, otherwise. We once again have a laundry hall rather than a laundry room, no counter space in the kitchen, and my bedroom resembles a clearing house of everyone's belongings. This morning was full of mournful cries, including but not limited to: can't find my crocs, can't find any shirts, don't have any clean underwear.

The eldest: I can't remember the last time our house was this dirty.

I cleaned the non-garbage disposal drain and found that something had sprouted, a seed of some kind. I should put it in dirt and see who it turns out to be.

Other things seem to have sprouted, as well. Like, the idea that life should be fun all day every day. Or, the notion that work is someone else's job. The little ones think they need to have shoes on before breakfast is over, they shouldn't let mom out of their sight, and first time obedience is a thing of yesteryear.

And everyone is exhausted.

Including me. I noticed one middle of the night that (t.m.i. alert) I had hardly any pee in me. It dawned on me that for days running, I had been drinking coffee and not water.

The principle was profound. I drank to feel better, not to be better. So I was worse. And the cycle continued. My body was needing hydration, and I was mistaking the cues.

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea (sarcasm.) of going to visit friends who live an hour away. It really was fun. And it really was stupid. My family needed to stay home and do nothing. We did the opposite.

I seem to have a messed up way of handling hard. I'm tired, so I drink diuretics. I'm lonely, so I eat. I'm frustrated, so I yell and scream.

Take a deep breath. Take a big drink of water. Take a small nap. Start over.

Children will do chores. Babies will take naps. Laundry will be cleaned, and sorted, and put away. Dishes will be done. The Bible will be read. Training will happen. And gradually, we will return to our version of normal and our rendition of order.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tired of me

Sorry I haven't written very much lately. I'm kind of tired of me. Tired of thinking my thoughts, tired of hearing myself talk, not interested in seeing myself write.

It's funny, because today I taught a couple hundred kids about confidence. And I don't have any right now.

I made 2 points: you can be confident because God made you, and He delights in you. Why doesn't that help me? I know God made me. I believe He delights in me. But I don't. I don't delight in me. I'm not very impressed with me at all.

Which isn't the same. God isn't "impressed" with me. He delights in me.

It's just hard to fathom. I'm so riddled with issues, past and present, so critical, so out of control, so overwhelmed and underequipped. How can He possibly delight in me. Heck, I don't know how He even tolerates me, let alone delights. I simply don't get it.

No wonder the children all had a blank look today. I don't get it myself.

The example I used with them was the way I feel about my children. I have an unfathomable love for each of my 12 humans. And I have the blessing of parents who, though critical of me, delight in me as well. I know what it feels like to have my parent's love.

But I have trouble connecting the dots.

God made me and loves me, yes, but then I sin, and I lack most of the fruits of the Spirit, and I talk too much, . . . and I know Jesus' blood covers my sin, but wouldn't that make God even more irritated with me - like He's saying, "My Son gave His life, for this?!" Like God has paid the ransom for my sin, and I'm pretty sure He has buyer's remorse.

Sometimes, even though I am sure all of my children are a treasure and a gift from the Lord, I'm pretty convinced that they, or really I am the bane of everyone's existence, that any hospitality anyone shows us is motivated out of pity, that no one actually enjoys being with us/me.

He delights in me. Seriously? Honestly? I can barely stand to look in the mirror. Getting dressed causes emotional trauma. He delights in me? This is beyond my quite vivid imagination. I cannot comprehend that the perfect can possibly delight in me, the epitome of imperfection.

God made me and He delights in me. I'm going to have to just concede on this, and try to meditate on it for eternity. Maybe someday when I'm 70 I will begin to comprehend something of the love of God. I pray that I'll get a glimpse.

Because obviously, I'm not going to be much good at communicating God's love to people who don't know it if I don't grasp it myself.

But I don't. Not really. Not today. Not right now.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Even in the presence of the King?

I am, among other things, a worship leader.

Once I was trying to have more men model worship in our church. We have several men on different worship teams, but the vast majority of them play an instrument. The few that do not play an instrument serve as singers. But I was hoping to get some men who are manly men, not necessarily musically inclined, to come an model worship. Men who are expressive in their relationship to God, not because they are expressive by nature, but because they really respond to the Lord when they encounter Him.

So I was on a quest, asking these godly, manly worshipping men to come on the platform with me and just do what they do, no microphone, but where people could see them. I was turned down flat. The reason given: I think it would just be too distracting with all those people looking at me.

That was understandable. But my problem was, look, buddy, I have to deal with those distractions every time I get up there.

There are so many distractions for people serving on the platform. Who is that? I've never seen him before. I need to remember to pick up this thing and drop that thing off. Did I close the garage door? I wonder if she is still mad at me? Am I flat? Is my skirt long enough? The lights are hot. I can't hear the bass. The drums are too loud. I can't hear myself. What do these words mean? I am so sick of this song. I sound terrible. I sound fantastic!

But isn't that true for everyone? Don't we all feel a barage of distractions during worship?

Last night I had the huge privilege of playing keyboard along side a favorite worship leader and friend, Mr. Chris DuPre. And I was fighting all the usual battles. And I felt the struggle between self-awareness and true worship. And I thought I heard, or felt, or was aware of another battle. A battle waged on my behalf.

Because, as I've said before, I not only believe in a real God, but also in a real satan. A real enemy who really hates God and gets at Him any way he can, often by taking shots at His beloved. And I think I heard my King, my Bridegroom, the Lover of my soul say to my enemy that line that King Ahaserous chastised Haman with long ago.

"Will you even assault the queen in the presence of the King?" Will you even try to wound and distract and take down my bride, even as she has come to worship me?

And it helped me to simply ignore everything but the face of my Jesus.

It was profound. I don't know that it will mean as much to anyone else, but for me, to know that He fights for me, that all power is His, that I have nothing to fear, that He wants all of me. I am content.

Friday, July 01, 2011

How you do it: meals

(Redundancy warning: if you've really read this whole blog, skip ahead).

In this era of reality TV that include Jon, Kate, the Gosslings and the Duggars, people are a little fascinated by a noticeably large family like ours. They have a variety of responses, which sometimes includes a barage of questions they wish they could ask the famous people. But sometimes they just say 'I don't know how you do it, I can barely handle my x number of kids!'

So a while ago I began an attempt to answer that question with a series of blogs. So here is one about chow time. I'm not saying this is a good way to do things. It's just how we do things.

I cut pizza with a pizza cutter. Not just into pieces of pizza, but into bites for littles. Sometimes I cut the very edge of the crust off so they can't tell which bites are *crust* bites. I also cut pancakes, waffles, and quesadillas with a pizza cutter.

I microwave tacos for small people with cheese and meat just enough to melt the cheese. The cheese becomes the glue that holds the taco together.

I cut little kids hot dogs long ways into quarters, then slice them.

I add a little baby cereal to baby food so it has a thicker texture and is easier to feed them.

Bananas can be subdivided into thirds longways, great fingerfoods for babies.

I don't buy juice very much. I prefer my kids to drink water and eat fruit. And I don't serve drinks with meals at all. If they want one, I let them get it. And I encourage cup sharing.

I feed my almost one year olds with soggy left behind cereal.

I deliberately make my oatmeal too thick and add milk to cool it.

When I pack lunches I buy big bags of chips or '-ito's (any snack that ends with ito, Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, and divide them into small bags. Or I make 'lunchables' with meat, cheese and crackers. Before our church's camp, when I'll make 11 lunches a day, I will make several packs up before the week starts. Then each morning I just throw them together. In brown paper bags.

I make baby food in my vita-mix. I just throw fresh fruit or veggies or both into it with water and blend. It makes more than I need, but I pour what I don't use into an ice cube tray in the freezer. I add a little baby oatmeal and formula (formula is optional) to it for thickness. I used green bell pepper and granny smith apple together. It was good, different, but fresh and I thought better than packaged stuff and easy. Before I had a vita-mix I had a mini-food processor, but I steamed the food first.

For a while I had a child who was allergic to eggs, and learned that a smashed egg-sized portion of banana could take the place of an egg in pancakes.

Babies who chew can eat anything you can smash with your fingers, and plain cheerios (not apple or frosted or honey nut) is good finger food. Also rice chex and crackers that melt easily.

You can slip a good number of carrots into a fruit smoothy and if your blender is worthy, no one will know.

When I make pancakes, sometimes I make bigger ones at first, then make small ones for 'seconds'. That way we don't have as many abandoned half-eaten eye-stomach disproportions.

I guess that's what I have for now. If you want to add a helpful meal tip of your own feel free.