Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weight Watchers

That is, my weight watchers. This is not a weight loss blog. Except when it is. Unfortunately for the reader, this blog is not topic specific. So today, I'm writing about my perilous fitness journey.

I haven't written for a while, which either means I'm doing terrible or wonderful. Hooray, I'm doing well. I've lost 33 lbs since whenever I started in the spring or early summer - I can't remember.

I'm probably doing it the wrong way, in that I haven't started really exercising yet, I'm just eating differently.

First, I went off sugar and refined flour. Then a week ago, I dropped coffee and limited my carb intake. I'm sort of following the "eat right for your type" blood type eating guide. I'm an O, I think. But I honestly think the whole thing is hogwash. The reason people lose weight if they do that diet is because the portions are specific. I'm convinced that you could follow any of his plans, A, B, AB, or O, and lose weight. But perhaps some foods work better for some than others.

At any rate, the eating structure for people with blood type O is just a restricted Atkins diet as far as I'm concerned. With these exceptions: he rates foods as beneficial, neutral, and to be avoided. And those guidelines are pretty much for life. He says type O people need to live in a pretty much constant state of ketosis, not just to lose weight. When you are not trying to lose weight, you can eat more of the highly beneficial and neutral foods, but that I shouldn't really ever eat a whole lot of avocados or bread. I'm okay with that for the most part. Here is what I'm eating each day, roughly:

4 protein servings (almond butter, eggs, meat, poultry, fish)
4-6 vegetable servings
1-2 fruit servings
1-2 whole grain servings, but not every day
1 butter or cheese or milk
green tea, at will
coffee once a week
lots of water

I had a small piece of cake and a very small amount of ice cream for my daughter's birthday. The cake wasn't good to me, so I only ate half. The ice cream was delicious.

Having the mind set that my body doesn't process those "bad" foods properly means I can do it every so often, I just won't lose weight then. It is a little less foreboding than seeing foods as never or always. I still think I need to avoid sugar and white flour as much as possible because they start my craving engine up. But I was not afraid to celebrate the birthday.

Mostly, it feels good to be free. I do not feel like a slave to my appetite.

Some of my clothes are getting pretty big. I am only about 1/4th of the way to what I believe is a truly healthy weight for me, based on what my mother weighs. I don't know if it is realistic, but I think it is right to try to get there. If I start looking unhealthy as I get closer, I'll reassess. If I really get to my goal and like myself there, I will have lost nearly half of myself. And I hope my skin will keep up.

Plans to start moving are small. I'm going to try to go up and down stairs 10 times each day, do 3x20 sets of push ups and crunches or weights each day, and hopefully get on the treadmill 10 minutes each day. If I did any of those any day, that would be an improvement.

So there's your update, in case you wondered.

He must increase, and I must decrease. Literally.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

White pride

Okay, first of all, I am going to be politically incorrect here and use the terms White and Black because a) I have read and heard a number of Black people say they prefer those terms and b) it is faster and easier to type. Please know that when I say Black, I mean a person of African ancestry with brown skin, and when I say White, I mean a person lacking melanin of some European ancestry with much, much lighter brown skin.

The other day I did something that, in retrospect, was quite ironic, but it was what it was, and it's been bothering me, so I'm writing about it. (This is, by the way, my 3rd attempt to write about it, and I'm not sure this will get published either.)

I went out of my way to say hi to a Black lady at soccer. Not because I am a genuinely friendly person, but because she was the only Black mom there, and I didn't want her to feel a certain feeling I like to call I-was-the-only-Black-person-there-and-not-a-single-soul-talked-to-me.

It was one of the coolest conversations I was ever a part of. Not cool as in awesome. Cool as in, frigid, Antarctic, penguin exhibit cool. Cold.

It rapidly became apparent that this classy beautiful woman with her ducks in a row and every hair in place DID NOT NEED my condescension. She didn't need my pity. She certainly didn't need me to be the ambassador for all the White people, the trans-racial welcome wagon.

I only went over because she was Black. She knew it, and I knew it. It was a racist gesture. Well intentioned, but racist. Putting people in a box with everyone else who looks something like them, even if it is a much better box than they were in 50 years ago, is still racism.

What made matters worse was that I was a lousy pick for ambassador. I was looking pretty much my worst. I had a trail of small people following me that were probably dressed for warm, not for style or matching for that matter. And I was carrying the delight of my life, whose hair had not been washed or styled, clothes not matching, looking very uncared for.

I was a fat frumpy White woman with a passel of children, fresh from the shoe, carrying my unkept Black daughter, fairly screaming, "I THINK I AM BETTER THAN YOU!"

Part of why I keep rewriting this is that I don't have an end, a moral, a lesson. I only know that what I tried to do backfired badly.

It is agonizing - I want to make racism go away, and yet, with my very actions, I reveal myself to be a racist.

Skin is skin. I know. When my daughter has a scab and it comes off, her skin is the same as mine. We are the same. All the people in my house (even before she arrived) are different colored and have different noses and eyes and lips and hair. Not one of us is the same. And it doesn't mean anything!!!!!

Help, God. Help us to love each of the people You made because You made them. Help us stop trying to measure and categorize each other. Help us to walk in humility and wisdom. Help us forgive each other. Forgive me for my arrogance in thinking that woman needed me. Bless her Lord. Fill her tank with Your beauty and Your love for her. Help her forgive the arrogant White frumpy chick who tried to make her feel comfortable. Give me wisdom next time around. Make my heart line up with Your heart regarding all of our differences and samenesses. Amen.


One thing I have to really guard against is self-pity. Not large scale - I don't feel sorry for myself because of what my life is in the big picture. But, for example, last Tuesday, my big kids were doing a thing, Dad was picking them up, so I was home alone with the youngest 7.

No don't get me wrong, #3 son is a dreamboat. He is really helpful. So is son #4. They are probably way more helpful than the first few were at the same age. (Or not, I honestly don't remember what happened 7 years ago.)

But being home with just the youngers was still rough. And the temptation is to pout. My husband got to leave the house that day, alone, in a car, and pick what he listened to on the radio, and not break up any fights on the way to work. No one screamed at him or bit him or sucked on him all day. And here I was with the young ones while he is on holiday with the big 5.

The reality, of course, is that he would have loved to be here, not at work. And my life is a delightful gift. I just have to deliberately remember that.

Joy is a choice. Gratefulness is my option. I can be thankful. Or not.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's been a year

A year ago today our precious birthmom endured an agonizing labor and nearly lost her uterus all for the sake of giving her baby the best possible home in her eyes: ours.

A year ago today I waited to learn if her sacrifice of months of her life to give us that baby would cost her ability to have another. It didn't.

A year ago today, precious friends and family caught the call to pray in the middle of the night for miracle after miracle. They did.

A year ago today, a tiny five pounder was born, not breathing, with an apgar score of 1, was whisked away to be bundled up and held safe by a bunch of machines and wires, pausing only for a brief photograph.

A year ago today, I went to visit our tiny little one in a NICU that seemed hostile to the idea of a rich white pregnant lady with 10 kids coming down here to take this poor woman's child out from under her.

A year ago today, a doctor was kind, a nurse was kind, and I began to learn what length our journey might have.

A year ago today, I saw her, touched her, prayed for her and sang to her and loved her, our darling baby girl.

A year ago today, I wept for her birth mom, for the heartache she endured, for what she experienced, for what she gave us. Her trust, her life, her child.

Today we celebrate, not just a healthy strong one year old, doing all the things one year olds do, measuring in at the 97th percentile, smiling, eyes shining, initiating games of hide and seek, singing (sort of), loving and being loved by brothers and sisters, the apple of her daddy's eye, making her mama's cup overflow with joy, but also, and just as much, the enormous sacrifice made and gift given by another beautiful wonderful amazing girl. Both strong, both precious, both amazing, both very near to God's heart.

Love. It can grow so much in a year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I went to the dentist today . . .

I took my second son to the dentist today, again. Last week we had a morning of dental check-ups - 10 children's teeth were cleaned and examined. The next day, two went back for fillings, and I took the 4 smallest so the big kids could "get something done", but all they got done was help the younger, more dependent schoolers get their stuff done. So today I took one for fillings, and 7 of the youngest 8, with everyone's phonics, handwriting, spelling and math in tow.

Normally when I go to the dentist office I don't talk to people very much. They usually just stare and try to figure me out while I take care of my babies and watch the movie without sound and try to figure out what is happening. But today there was a delightful woman sitting next to me, and we quickly found a great deal of common ground, home schooling, knowing some of the same people, adoption interest, and she had had 5 kids in 4+ years.

Also there was another very pleasant lady who noticed and counted my children and commented frequently, and positively, about our size and how cute they all are and how I'm a saint for having so many.

All good, right?

In the context of these really enjoyable conversations with very positive and gracious women, I bumped into two cultural points of grief. I'm calling them cultural, but really they are just abiblical concepts. They might seem logical, but they are not what the Bible says. Here is the first:

Birth control is like a seatbelt.

I do not know how to spell the agony I feel at this idea. Let me 'splain. A seatbelt keeps you safe in the case that something bad happens. It keeps you alive and in your vehicle and hopefully prevents some whiplash. By contrast, birth control keeps you from having a baby when something good happens.

So in that analogy,
driving a car = a healthy marriage relationship
wearing a seatbelt = birth control
being fertile = a car wreck
getting pregnant = a bad injury or death

Right? Am I missing something? A baby is compared to something really bad. This is very sad and wrong. Babies are not, contrary to popular belief, valued based on how much you want them. Babies are all equally valuable before God!!!!!!! People are all equally valuable to God! Aren't you glad? Maybe you were conceived by "accident". Aren't you glad you are not less valuable???

Second grievious error: you should only have the number of children that you can both provide "comfortably" for and send to college so they can continue in that "comfort". Sigh.

People who grow up having everything they want seem much more likely to go into debt as adults. That's anecdotal, yes, but I bet research would back me up.

Both ideas seem pretty rational, but are not Biblical! The Bible does not teach that prosperity is the ultimate decision making factor. Remember the guy who wanted to follow Jesus, and was told to go sell everything he had? Jesus didn't see earthly wealth as a deal-breaker. At least, not the way we do. In fact, He said it was hard for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That would be us. Wealthy. So I am sorry, but my children's relative wealth is not a determinant for reproduction.

Like I said, these people I talked to were delightful - not unpleasant at all. They were completely positive about my children and children in general. (except for the whole the-good-thing-about-grandchildren-is-that-you-get-to-give-them-back thing . . . by implication, I would like my children much better if I could just send them away when they are bad, which is a whole nuther can of worms) But these sad "truths" were expressed during our conversation and made my heart sad.

Here is what the Bible says:

Children are a(n) heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. The Lord opens and closes the womb. Be fruitful and multiply. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. I have been young and now I am old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging bread. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

Without bias, without deciding ahead of time what you want it to say, search the scripture and see what it says about babies/children/people. God calls them good gifts, ever, only, always. We do not wear seatbelts to protect ourselves from good things.

"Put your seatbelt on honey, so you don't get a raise." "Don't forget to fasten your seatbelt dear, you don't want health and happiness." "Hey, why aren't you wearing a seatbelt, we don't want to be blessed beyond measure, do we?" See, those are ridiculous statements, aren't they? But it's essentially the same thing.

If we had a God with limitations, or no God at all, if life really was measured by how many toys you have at the end, or the cost per plate at your children's wedding receptions, or by how soon you get your kids out of the house, or by how young you retire, if money really did make people happy, then it would make complete sense to limit the size of our families based on money. But none of those things are true.

Seatbelts. Really.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Learning to walk, learning to drive

One side effect of having 12 or so children is that you have some children who are older while some other children are younger. I have students studying Physics and Phonics. My eldest daughter is learning to drive while my youngest daughter is learning to walk.

When our eighth child was born, I felt this straddling of generations very acutely. Junior high, pre-Algebra, hormones, nursing problems, tiny 6 pound baby, jaundice, with everything in between, it seemed. Children learning to read, learning to study independantly, learning to solve problems without hitting or screaming.

It is the nature of having a lot of children, or widely spread children.

I have a dear friend whose children are wider spread than mine. She just had her tenth, several months AFTER her first grandchild was born. And people are giving her a hard time about it. We live in a culture that values other things more than life. Certainly people as old as we are (I am 40, my friend is 42) shouldn't still be having children. Our bodies are less cooperative than they used to be. My hair is gray and getting grayer. (My husband had some gray hair when I met him 23 years ago, so I see no reason I should color mine.)

For my part, I have Mary and Sarah and Elizabeth as examples to follow when experiencing a surprise, unwanted, culturally inappropriate pregnancy. I'm not pregnant right now, as far as I know, but if the Lord does allow me to carry another treasure into the world, there is a part of me that wants to hide it as a secret between the Lord and me for as long as I can. My own private miracle.

Joy unspeakable. Every new life, every HUMAN, every person He trusts me with is the greatest treasure ever, and worth every, every, every effort and sacrifice. There simply isn't anything more wonderful than another life inside mine. Every person He makes is a magnificent masterpiece, and how incredible if He were to entrust another one to me!

Morning sickness, exhaustion, weight-gain, swelling, incontinence, pre-eclampsia, labor? Worth it. Baby food, baby spit, teething, crawling, walking, diaper changing, diaper rash, potty training? Worth it! I have 4 children right now that I have to teach not to bite each other. Worth it!

On the other end of my vibrantly diverse parenting spectrum, I have this gnawing heartache brewing, knowing that a day is coming, an inevitable, horrible, appropriate day. The day will come when I will get up in the morning and, one by one, my daughters and sons will not be here. My children will grow up. They will not all be here always. They will get married, or go to school, or pursue a life in some other country, or city or part of town. This difficult but dreamy existence will not last forever.

Even in the hardest moments, when three babies need me at the same time, or my oldest children give attitude that breaks my heart, speaking hateful and unforgiving words to each other, even then, I cherish the moments when they are near, because they won't always be.

And beyond the stretch of all the different developmental phases, I have the high priority of my calling: that my children would know Him. That my little ones and middle ones and big ones would encounter Him, would see Him through and in spite of my example, would love Him. And that is the greatest ache of all.

Because sin isn't mostly something that comes from without. It is in them. They were conceived in it. It was a gift from their father, Adam. (As in, Adam and Eve, not my husband.) It is where each of us begin. There is no such thing as an innocent child. And each of them must find their Savior, one at a time. I cannot do it for them.

I hope to give them a testimony they cannot argue away. (My Uncle Jim gave me one.) I hope to shield them from much of what would tear them away. I hope to give them ample opportunity to experience His Word, His presence, His beauty.

And I pray. I pray that they would see Him. I pray that when they encounter their own sin that they would run to Him. I pray that their time in church and in the house of prayer would draw them to Him. I pray that His beauty and glory would be magnified in their eyes, and that the weaknesses of my life and in the church would be diminished. I pray that the Word that is being fed into their minds would take root and bear great fruit in their hearts and lives. I pray that they would have a relationship with Jesus that would outshine any hardship or persecution, loneliness or turbulance, victory or utter defeat they may someday experience.

For those learning to walk, and those preparing to leave the nest, my prayer is the same. That they not fall, but if they fall, they fall into His arms.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Joy in the morning

There was a time, several years ago, when all my big people were small, and all my little people weren't people yet, that I woke up angry almost every morning. It seemed I could never get enough sleep. And I woke up to needs everywhere. I was overwhelmed by the needs for diaper changes, drinks or food, supervision, and freshly ironed shirts.

I had the privilege to go to a meeting where there was prophetic ministry, and received a word from God that went something like this: in the movie Mary Poppins, there is a scene in which Jane and Michael and Burt are laughing uproarously floating near the ceiling at Uncle Albert's. Mary Poppins has the choice to either spoil the party or really make it grand by bringing the tea and table and all right up to the ceiling. She does the latter.

I was/am like that. I can ruin the party at my house or I can make it. I can enter into the joy my Father has for me, or I can be grumpy and angry with everyone.

One way I have found to enter His joy (my strength) is to sing a little song my brother's choir at Azusa Pacific University sang years and years ago. I have never heard it since, and I'm pretty sure I have some of the words wrong, but here it goes:

I speak His Name and a hundred million angels start singing
He calls to me and the freedom bells of my soul start to ringing
He gives me joy in the morning
And gentle peace in the evening
He gives me joy like I never knew
He's been my friend, He's always been true
He is my life, He helps me make it through.
He gives me joy.

He is my secret weapon. He gives me joy in the midst of chaos, rebellion, and a thorough coloring of the new (to us) couch.

He gives me joy.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


We have family photo that was taken at a wedding a few years ago, when our tenth child was just a month old. Today my eldest was looking at it with the four year old, pointing out each person in it. Of course he could identify everyone except the baby, who he assumed, as all people his age do, that the baby in the picture was the now baby, #12. She said, no, that's not him. His next guess was #11.

Funny thing is, #11 is adopted. She has rich beautiful brown skin. The baby in the picture was quite fair. She has tight black curls, the photo baby was bald. She has eyes the color of dark chocolate dreams. #10 has almost transparent blue eyes. If he thinks about it, he knows this. He probably remembers she had darker skin even when she was tiny. But it didn't make it to his conscious thought. She is his sister, same as the other one. He is colorblind.

Last night around 9:30, my husband took a kid from our neighborhood to his sister's house, where he was to stay. He didn't take his fancy GPS smart phone, only a dumb phone - just for calling and texting - and he got turned around (a.k.a. "lost"). He drove a bit before getting his bearings, and in the process found himself in a less happy part of town. At one point, he was talking to me on the phone and said three men had approached his car, and one was yelling at him outside his window. They were not colorblind. My husband was a man who reminded them of people who have treated them or someone they know poorly, he was in the wrong place, and he was not welcome.

We have been going through our books, and my second daughter was telling me about a book she read recently, The Well, describing it as a good book. Do you think your baby sister would like to read it when she is older? Probably not. How did it make you feel? Not good. We decided that I should read the book to decide, but I know that some of the characters are not colorblind.

I have been told that I will need to prepare my beautiful daughter for the day that may come when she is judged based on someone else's experience or knowledge regarding people who look similar to her. I have to prepare her for the fact that the world is not colorblind.

And while I am sure that is right, I will need to give a similar lecture to my other children. Someday, you may be judged by someone who doesn't know you, but assumes you are like other people they know, or have heard about, people who look or act something like you.

You may be hated or despised or looked down on. You may be judged because you are White/Black, or homeschooled, or are not fashion conscious, or not peer driven, or because you have never been kissed or had a boyfriend or seen THAT show.

But you will also be weighed someday by One who measures rightly, and if you are weighed according to your own merits, you will be found wanting. Only by being seen through the blood of Jesus will you measure up.

And the cool thing is that, not only does He give us His righteousness, but He also gets that 'being judged' thing. He was weighed and measured and found wanting, and crucified. He was despised and rejected of men. He made Himself of no reputation. He endured the cross for the joy set before Him.

Jesus was hated by His own, His people, His leaders, even by His brothers, for crying out loud. He knows about racism, about slavery, about oppression and discrimination. He was a man who walked here and felt all those things.

So, while I will train my children to be prepared for different kinds of persecution, I will, more importantly, teach them that there is a Redeemer, a Savior, a great high Priest Who identifies with us in our affliction. He gets it. And His love is big enough to heal every hurt. Mine isn't, but His is.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


We were talking with a friend several years ago about what our children were doing for the summer. He described a full slate of activities, such as would make my head spin. Granted, their family is considerably smaller than ours, but it was enough busyness to keep them on the move constantly. At one point, he acknowledged that it was overwhelming, but then he shrugged and said, "I want them to have a happy childhood."

I, on the other hand, have frequently given my children the following lecture over the years: I am not responsible for your happiness. I am trying to keep you healthy, fed, clothed, sheltered, to train your minds and bodies and spirits, and teach you about Jesus. Your happiness is between you and Him.

It was a drastic contrast.

What are our parenting goals? I think we may have stated goals, and then we may have real goals. Two of my favorite parenting books, Shepherding your Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp) and Family Driven Faith (Voddie Baucham) address the subject directly and indirectly. I also like George Barna's book, Revolutionary Parenting.

There is a quippish quote floating around in the unreachable parts of my brain, something like: if we aim at nothing in particular, we are likely to hit it. I guess I would say that we live in a hostile culture with an enemy, and if we do not fight, both in the natural and in the spirit, for our goals for our children, we will most assuredly lose.

Here are my goals:

1. That my children know Jesus, His Word, and have ample experience practicing hearing His voice and being with Him. That they taste of the goodness of God in a thorough, continual fashion.

2. That my children are good at loving and forgiving, and at seeking God when they are hurt or treated poorly.

3. That my children are great at math, great at thinking and communicating, and enjoy reading and learning in general. That they be mentally and spiritually prepared to go wherever God sends them and do whatever He gives them to do.

4. That my children are prepared for a healthy, Godly marriage by keeping their hearts pure and taking their thoughts captive, submitting themselves to God and parents.

5. That they learn to live within their means and be in debt (slavery) to no man. If they pursue a college education, that they would go somewhere they and we can afford to pay as they go, and not finish with a prohibitive debt.

6. That they, with my decreasing assistance, use self-control in making all kinds of choices - what they eat, who they hang out with, what they read and watch and do, redeeming the time and living more for eternity than for the moment.

These are my hopes for my humans. What are yours?