Thursday, August 6, 2015

Talking to Your Kids About Same-Sex "Marriage"

If you are like me you may feel like the bottom finally dropped out of morality on June 26th. But the Scotus ruling and the inevitable head on collision with the Christian worldview is the climax to a steady course our country has been on for decades. Being a mother and therefore a person of immeasurable influence in the lives of the teens and young adults under my roof, my husband and I want to shepherd them well. They live in a world that is changing at lightning speed. It often feels chaotic and out of control. But where and how do we begin to guide them in regards to this new law?

First off, we must talk to them about it, communicating biblically. Staying silent on what has occurred isn’t realistic no matter what your level of sheltering involves. If we don’t inform them, they are sure to find information elsewhere. And if we are discipling our children as we should we will help them to think biblically, applying scripture to all areas of life, especially complex ones.

You can read the four truths we are teaching our teens and young adults about same-sex "marriage", over at True Woman.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pregnancy as a Chisel

I have had several requests for a pregnancy update. (((Thank you))) I think when one has this many children everyone suspects my head could pop off at the end. Recently I was reflecting on just how much of my life has been spent pregnant and I even shocked myself!  If you multiply 40 weeks by ten children you get 400 weeks.  That's almost 8 years of pregnancy.  And that doesn't include the "fourth trimester" recovery time.

Everything is going well at this point (22 weeks, picture was taken 2 weeks ago).  So far I have enjoyed better health with this pregnancy than the last two. It seems like with each pregnancy, I understand my own body a little better and how to take care of myself. More importantly, previous pregnancies have taught me that good health is not to be taken for granted and could change tomorrow. I am aware that my body and that of my baby's, is weak, frail and that it is only by the will and grace of God that I take a breath. 

But really no pregnancy is easy even on the "easiest" day.  It has a chiseling effect on us, as any change of life or health does, either forming us further into the image of Jesus or marring us into a fretful, complaining, distorted chunk of bitterness that makes us miserable, as well as those who have to live with us.  Some of the most humble and compassionate Christians I know, are ones who have walked through physical trials...or multiple or seriously difficult pregnancies, and emerged with lessons painfully learned and applied.

Not that pregnancy is a trial.  Not even close.  Bearing another human being made in the image of God, created to reflect his glory, bearing his signature, is an unmatched and unrivaled privilege. Though many have tossed the opportunity away, taken it for granted or realized too late that they can't snap their fingers and fashion a human at their own convenience, the fact doesn't change that bearing life is what God has called a great reward. So no, pregnancy is not a trial.  But growing and nurturing another human being with your own body does involve great toil, for some more than others.

“Our wants and our real needs are not always the same. We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity--but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, the giving up of things that we greatly prize. We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most for us, which will bring out in us the best possibilities of our natures, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.” --J.R. Miller
Pregnancy can be the catalyst of our temptation to doubt God's goodness.  I mean, if we are expecting a reward why does it have to be so hard?  So expensive?  So physically difficult?
God does not owe us an easy life.  Nowhere in His Word does he say that. And faith means caring more about what we can't see than what we can.

It is so easy to coast along in our own strength until we are brought face to face with our weakness.  And our physical health is so inextricably linked with the spiritual, that often when God sees fit to deal a blow to one, it affects the other greatly.

But anything that causes us to recognize our neediness is good, whether that be pregnancy, financial trials, an alcoholic husband, terrifying choices of our adult children, our health or the health of those we love most.  Trials will either drive us to throw ourselves into his loving arms, or they will make us bitter people.  We will be chiseled to grow in humility and thankfulness because of them, or we will be driven further into the growing abyss of resentfulness and self-pity. I have personally been an occupant of both those places.

As another author put it so well: The armor of God comes in maternity sizes.

God, help us put on our maternity armor. Make us steadfast in our faith.

When You Are Quietly Yelling, "Yes, I am Pro-Life."
Scripture Meditations for the Overdue Mama
Pregnancy Isn't Easy
Vienna Sausages, Big Lips and Elderly Multigravidas

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Monday, July 20, 2015

When You're Too Busy For God's Word

I was wrestling a toddler while waiting in the hallway of the church for my other three children to get out of their classes. I was a young, overwhelmed, and lonely pastor's wife. A dear older woman whom I had recently met and who I felt an instant connection with had begun reaching out to me. She had about twenty years on me. As we chatted over the noise, she asked how my devotional and prayer time was going. I knew the answer was far from impressive, and I rattled off something about being in a very busy season of life and how caring for my children had my days completely full. I half-heartedly added that I knew God was patient with me during this busy season. If I noticed a hint of something pass through her eyes, I misinterpreted it for sympathy. As the classroom doors flew open, children flooded out and there ended our short conversation.

I am honored to be invited to contribute an article at the True Woman blog today.  Please join me there!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When It Is Feeble and Flawed: A Woman's Obedience to God

This post written in dedication to a dear younger woman whom I love deeply, and who is struggling under the unnecessary weight that her Heavenly Father is never pleased with her.

This morning my three-year-old asked to dress herself. I had a pretty good idea of what the results would be but I told her yes. Several minutes later she emerged from her room. Her pants were on backwards. Her shirt was wrong-side-out and backwards. Her hair was a little matted and stringy from the work of it all. She also wore a big, cheesy grin.

This was a big step for her.  It took a lot of work. She was even a little sweaty from all the effort.

I was delighted with her success. Six months ago she couldn’t have dressed herself. It would not have entered her head to try. She has made progress. She is gradually maturing.

Sisters, do you get frustrated and discouraged in your slowness of spiritual growth? How those same old sins resurface and the same lessons must be repeated? So do I. But God sees our progress and delights in it. This may be hard for some of us to believe, deep down, especially if we have come to believe our Father is hard to please.

It is true that our obedience to His commands will never be perfect, but why do we tend to think he is hard to please? As if he tells us what to do, provides grace to accomplish it, but then He’s up there just watching us fail so we can then remember what losers we are? We equate obedience with perfection and it simply isn’t true. If walking in a manner worthy of my calling means I never misspeak, I am never lazy, I am always kind, I never doubt, then I am left feeling hopeless and I am tempted to throw in the towel.

But God is a gentle and sympathetic Father, full of steadfast love and slow to anger. He is pleased, because of Christ, to accept our sincere yet flawed acts of obedience to his commands. And even the smallest acts of obedience are worth celebrating.

Perhaps we are so slow to recognize the progress in ourselves or other Christians (like our own children!) because we don’t understand how bad we were. Our spiritual lives may seem tiny or slow in growth, and we get frustrated or discouraged about it. But when we consider that these acts of righteousness come from a heart that used to be spiritually dead, we should realize that any works at all are a miracle of God’s grace.

God is pleased with our efforts. Only the imputed righteousness of Christ will save us but that does not mean our good works don't please Him, imperfect though they be.

• Knowledge and wisdom are pleasing to Him (Col.1:10)
• Mediation on His Word is pleasing to Him (Ps. 104:34)
• Discernment is pleasing to Him (Eph. 5:10)
• Generous giving is pleasing to Him (Phil. 4:18)
• Praying for those in authority over us is pleasing to Him (1 Tim. 2:3)
• Providing for your own household is pleasing to Him (1 Tim. 5:4)
• Doing His will is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 13:21).

Consider: We tend to think that our effort at hospitality was not pleasing because we let a grumbling thought enter the mind.  Or we think that since we became impatient with the kids on Sunday morning, that the hard work of getting to church to worship Him, wasn't acceptable.  Or that because we got our feelings hurt when no one said thank you for the dinner we made, that it was a wasted attempt at serving God.

Every one of our acts of obedience to God are pleasing.  Even though every single one of them are flawed in some way.

What Kind of Father?

Last weekend the kids made a giant Father’s Day card for their Daddy. What kind of father would have rolled his eyes and pointed out that the color scheme was all wrong? What kind of father would have looked at the scribbles and misspelled words and tossed it back at them saying, “What, this old filthy rag?” No, this small act of love for their dad delighted him. Of course the flaws were there. But he saw the beauty in nine hearts of child-like, simple love that overflowed into effort and actions.

Our works are filthy rags in comparison to the fact that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone and adopted into God’s family. But many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy rags to God, they are precious in his sight.

Often I come before the Lord, weak and weary, and frustrated that the sanctification process seems to grow at a snail's pace. I am so saddened and grieved that I answered unkindly (again) during a stressful moment, or my pride discolored some good act I just did. But I can know that any good works I accomplished were accomplished by God’s glorious grace, they are accepted because of God’s glorious grace and, imperfect as they are, they are well pleasing to my Heavenly Father.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Is God Good?

"God is so good. Just when I needed that check, I opened the mailbox and there it was."

"My fuel light was on, and just as I pulled into the gas station, my car died. God is good!"

"I was exhausted and just as I reached the grocery store, the best parking place became vacant! Isn't God good?"

God is good. But life is not always good.

Is God good when a child is hit by a drunk driver? Is God good when your husband is unfaithful? Is God good when your teenager is suicidal? Is God good when a God-fearing father is killed in a tornado? Is God good when people lose their homes and lives to fires and storms? Is God good when yesterday you felt fine, but today you're told that you have cancer?

Yes, He is good. Because His goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. He is good because His character is all-goodness. His Word tells us He is good and so we believe it is true. In Him there is no darkness.

Clouds of doubt overwhelm us in the darkest of trials.  We weep, we grieve, we cry out that we don't understand. It has all been said and the feelings all felt, long before we existed (Psalm 88).  In this world we will have tribulation. We are wise if we become students of the Word and prepare for our times of crisis before they come, not being content to be hand-fed by others. Because come, they will.

Is God in control of these terrible circumstances? Yes. He doesn't sleep. Nothing takes him by surprise. He is good not because he didn't allow it, but because He is our stronghold in the midst of it. He is our shelter and under His wings we have a place to hide when we are overwhelmed with sorrow.  He is near to us when we cry ourselves to sleep. He keeps an account of the tears we cry. He sees us when we are soul weary and can only groan out an unintelligible prayer because the hurt is so deep.

We can't take comfort in stability of our lives because they can shift and change on a dime. We take comfort in His unchanging love and compassion. We remember that He has told us all things work together for good.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Psalm 56:8

When George Muller's wife of 39 years died, he preached her funeral sermon using the text Psalm 119:68:

"You are good and do good; teach me your statutes."

 He also spoke these words:

“I bow, I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly Father, I seek by perfect submission to his holy will to glorify him, I kiss continually the hand that has afflicted me… Without an effort my inmost soul habitually joys in the joy of that loved departed one. Her happiness gives joy to me. My dear daughter and I would not have her back, were it possible to produce it by the turn of a hand. God himself has done it; we are satisfied with him.”

Lives on earth are but a vapor.  And while we sojourn here, we do so through many dangers, toils and snares.  Our hope is in the finished work of our Lord Jesus.  He took the penalty for our sin, forgiving us even while we were still sinners.  It pleased the Father to crush him for our sake. If we are in Him, God sees us now through the righteousness of Christ. New creatures bound for the Heavenly City. This truth is our only sure foundation.

This post originally published Sept., 21, 2011

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When Dirty Dishes Are Where They Shouldn't Be

I have a love-hate relationship with my dishwasher.  It is only a year old so you would think it would be more reliable, but it isn't.  Just when I begin to depend on it, it lets me down, either giving up the ghost entirely or returning to me dishes that are only sort-of clean .  I'm pretty sure appliances aren't built to stand up to the usage that a family our size gives them.

One night as we were eating supper I noticed one of my Littles drinking water out of his cup with painfully slow sips and a horrified look on his little face. Sure enough I looked in his cup and discovered that it contained the crusted remains of blueberry smoothie. The unfaithful dishwasher strikes again.

That cup looked perfectly clean on the outside. I never suspected the filth that was inside.

Sometimes I am like that cup, with an outward appearance that gives no indication of what I'm harboring within.  Stuff that's real sticky and doesn't want to clean up. Stuff that's a good bit worse than crusted blueberry smoothie.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence."  Matt. 23:25

It is so much easier for us to get the outside of the cup looking good. The outside of our cups look great online or in those short times interacting with others in public. But behind closed doors we may be someone else entirely. 

We can all slip into this mismatch between good works and what is really in the heart because the mismatch is where we drift. Keeping the outward rules is so much easier than keeping tabs on the heart.

But we can't throw out rule-keeping. That isn't the answer.

Rules define every relationship. The Psalmist said,
 "My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times." Ps. 119:20 
"I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me." Ps. 119:30
"At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules." Ps. 119:62
"the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether."  Ps. 19:9
Yet having rules without a love- for- Christ motivation isn't an option.  David said in Psalm 24 we must have clean hands and a pure heart. Outward marks of holiness are beautiful marks of grace to be sure. But true holiness is heart-work. Our inside is more truly a reflection that the outside.
We may lose our hands and yet live, but we could not lose our heart and still live; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. There must be a work of grace in the core of the heart as well as in the palm of the hand, or our religion is a delusion. May God grant that our inward powers may be cleansed by the sanctifying Spirit, so that we may love holiness and abhor all sin. The pure in heart shall see God, all others are but blind bats; stone-blindness in the eyes arises from stone in the heart. Dirt in the heart throws dust in the eyes.
--Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David

Drifting is much easier than fighting against the current of our sinful flesh. But there is no drifting in the Christian life.  We have to make effort at all times and until we go Home. Loving God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength is a spirit and grace empowered work that lasts a lifetime.

And I am aware I am speaking to my fellow tired moms. I know and understand what types of things you have on your plate and the (usually needless) guilt you heap on yourself.  We forget that keeping the inside of our cups (our hearts) clean is where we find the true rest we need.  We forget we are grace millionaires and not spiritual paupers. Here is where we find rest from a struggle to perform for others, rest from the worry that you aren't enough for your children's needs, rest from fear of the future, rest from the guilt of being an imperfect and tired mom by the time nap time arrives.

Rest from all the mess inside your heart that clings like sticky blueberries to a plastic cup.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Large Family Homeschool: A School Year Re-Cap

So I'm going to share a little re-cap of our homeschool year: the victories the Lord has given us, progress that was made and blessings we received. And I know it is at the risk of sounding like we have it all together (a pitfall of blogging).  So I will just briefly add that yes, we had hard days.  Most days contained interruptions of some kind with chaos levels ranging from mild to DEAR LORD HELP US ALL. But God was faithful.  Here a little, there a little.  Just faithfulness in small things each day and before long, fruit is growing.

I love homeschooling and count it such a wonderful gift and privilege, even going on 16 years of it now. I recently read this from Edward W. Hooker (1794--1875):

"Your child will need a well-balanced and cultivated mind as much as a pious heart.  Let his desires to do good never be frustrated through your neglect of his intellectual education."

Re-Cap of the 2014-2015 School Year

  • Every day began with group time. As in, everybody. During group time we read aloud through about ten books varying in genre. We began most mornings with Proverbs, books, hymns and prayer. In the fall we went through Veritas Press' Old Testament History together.  When finished, we could put  the main events of scripture from Judges to 1 Kings in chronological order, and we had tons of fun doing it.  (Last year we did VP's Genesis to Joshua. Lord willing we will continue using VP's Old Testament History program next year.)


Shiloh getting a back rub from Serenity while I read during group time..

  • I also read-aloud another 5-7 books alone together with Stephen (8), Silas (6) and Shiloh (4) on Tuesdays and Thursdays, including their all-time favorite:  The Bears of Blue River by Charles Major (Each time we start a new book they ask to read that one again).  I tried to keep these book choices extra awesome.

(I must insert here, that it is easy for me to get discouraged in the amount of read-aloud books we can cover.  We used to be able to cover many more.  It has been a lesson in contentment the Lord has taught me, as well as trusting Him to bring the increase in my best efforts. And I mention it because I think it is a common point of discouragement for moms :))

  • On Mondays and Wednesdays I worked with Stephen (8), Silas (6) and Shiloh (4) on the Children's Shorter Catechism and group scripture memory.  We fell off the wagon on this several times and had to climb back on. This takes a total of about 10 minutes, but is very easy to let fall through the cracks.

  • Silas (6) and I worked one-on-one every day for about an hour or more, and he was able to finish the entire Hooked on Phonics program, the first McGuffey's Reader, a multitude of Mudge and Henry books :) and Abeka Math K.

  • Also during our time together Silas narrated many of Aesop's Fables to me and did copy work every day. He went from copying one sentence at the beginning of our school year, to copying paragraphs with more complicated punctuation, by the end of the year. He has also grown confident enough to write me notes and has begun to pen-pal with two other boys his age. Si made a lot of progress this year and I'm thankful to be the one to get to watch his mind open up so beautifully.

  • Stephen (8) has daily worked through a list of assigned books to read independently (that included science and history).  I required him to orally narrate to me from time to time, but I failed to do it as often as I intended.  Still, Stephen has grown in leaps and bounds in his reading fluency and writing ability.  He enjoyed his Handwriting Without Tears Cursive Book and finished it months ago. He copied good literature each day. He has three pen-pals and has begun writing the letters in cursive.  Stephen is still working on the Abeka math book 2 and will stop at the end of this month. 

  • Stephen (8) has been taking piano lessons from Shelbi for two years now, and, bless his heart, he's been real tolerant of the whole thing, never complaining (I think it's because he enjoyed the time alone with Shelbi).  But...let's just say a fire was never lit ;)  So I let him quit and he just started guitar lessons. He is definitely more excited about the guuitar!  And I don't regret the piano lessons for a second. Good habits of self-discipline were formed and he can read music now on a beginner level, and that will help him in any instrument he ever plays, as well as in singing. (Ya'll didn't know you were going to get a sermon about music lessons, did you?)
First guitar recital for Stephen and Seth with their new teacher.

  • Sarah Grace (10) worked more independently this year than she ever has before.  She worked through Rod and Staff Math 4 and I checked her work.  In the spring she needed more help and we worked 15-20 minutes each day until she got the new concepts.  Then off she flew again, finishing a few weeks ago. She completed the Classically Cursive book from Veritas this year too.

  • Sarah Grace has also read through a list of assigned books and has moved to written narrations.  I require one written narration of her each week, at least a page long, and we go over it together and make notes of the problems. These have steadily improved throughout the year. Occasionally, she will work on a lengthy copywork passage four days and on the fifth day I dictate it to her as she tries to write the passage without mistakes in spelling or punctuation.  (These are all simple and effective ways I have taught all the kids to write, and they are all strong writers).

A few on her list

  • Sarah Grace also has four pen-pals she exchanges letters with. She took off in hand skills this year as well, especially crochet. She started an etsy shop.

  • All of the kids have scripture memory goals that I give them and some make faster progress than others. A big part of their day is devoted to it.  But Sarah-Grace blew everyone out of the water when she finished memorizing the entire Sermon on The Mount last month.  That day called for excessive amounts of chocolate.

  • Seth (14) is independent in his work.  He comes to me when he has a problem and when he is hungry and we're out of food.  This year he finished a list of assigned books (many of them history), Editor-in-Chief workbook, Easy Grammar Plus for high school, numerous written narrations on the assigned reading, and creative writing that I insisted he do (insert evil laugh here), and Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1.  He moved on to TT Geometry and is half-way through it now. Seth also finished Apologia Biology.

Guitar lessons

  • Seth started Visual Latin this year and he and I both are big fans of this program.  He is about 3/4 finished with level 1 and next year I will get level 2, Lord willing.  He also took off by leaps and bounds in his ability on the guitar.  He has played for many years, but this year he became more passionate and naturally that took things to a new level.

  • Savannah (18) finished her last year of high school in March, the stinker.  Just couldn't soften the blow a little and wait until May.  This last year she only had a list of books I gave her to read, Notgrass Government and Economics and....that's it.  The rest of her requirements were met already.  Sniff.  (I could write an entire post on how it feels to graduate a homeschooler, but the lump in my throat always gets the best of me.  It is bittersweet.  And graduate number 2 hasn't been any easier! I already miss telling her what to do. Heh.)

  • Shelbi (19) graduated last year but I'm sticking her in here because old habits die hard.  Shelbi still has an insatiable appetite to read and learn and now she is the ones who recommends books to me.  Shelbi started CollegPlus in January.  It was a big decision for her and one we sought the Lord on for a long time.  In one semester she earned 18 hours of college credit through CLEP testing alone.  She is really enjoying and benefitting from the CollegePlus model so far.

All three of our teenagers are very busy and the Lord continues to provide them with so many unique opportunities.  It is an exciting time of life for them and we are thankful to see them maturing in the Lord and walking is wisdom.  That said,  miss them as babies.

God has been so good to us.  Homeschooling isn't always easy.  There are temptations of laziness for some and temptations of worry and fretfulness ("Am I doing enough?") for others.  Sometimes we fall anywhere on that scale at any time :)  But I'm convinced God will give us the grace to do what he has called us to do.

    What about you?  How did your school year go?  Will you keep up a summer school schedule or be footloose and fancy free? :)

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