Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kids Don't Need iPads, They Need Us

Among the many hats he wears, my husband manages almost 40 rental properties. So Saturday mornings will sometimes find our family cleaning up a home that has recently been vacated, and preparing it for new renters. This was one such Saturday. It was decided that I would stay home with the 5 youngest children (to clean our home) while Daddy and the 4 oldest kids went to work cleaning the rental.
These are great opportunities for earning money while working as a team, as well as spending time with Daddy. Not to mention, hot and sweaty manual labor tends to bring character issues to the surface where they are more clearly seen. (This is a good thing ;)) 
But this particular Saturday morning I was tickled with Sarah Grace, 9.  Kevin warned the kids that this house would be more time consuming because the renters had left a lot of junk things when they left. He and the kids would have to go through it all and throw everything away. Being familiar with this scenario, my mind began complaining about the extra work, while the wheels of her mind were turning in a better direction:

"Ooooh, I'm going to go through that stuff and find things to sell in our garage sale next week."   

And with that, I thanked the Lord that the seeds I am scattering, and often think are not going to take root, are settling into the fertile young soil of hearts and minds. Because as others have mentioned in recent years, one of the greatest issues of youth in our day, is that young people do not take (or even recognize) simple opportunities to earn money. They feel entitled to have everything handed to them without working for it.  

Just a generation ago, it would have never crossed anyone's mind that you get something just because you were a child and somehow deserved it simply because you breathed air.

Hard work is good for us all. When we work hard, as unto the Lord, and are compensated, it brings real, deep-down satisfaction instead of instant gratification. It also makes us tired, thereby making rest more restful. It makes good gifts even better, when it took the sweat of your brow (or mind), to get them. More gratitude, less selfishness. 

We all struggle with entitlement, however. Parents included. Scratch that--parents especially. I have it and have passed it on to my children (that's why Saturday morning was so encouraging). I am constantly tempted to make things perfect for my children, or at least as perfect as I can, and hand them material things they haven't earned.    

I want to give good gifts to my children. I want them happy. But if I am not careful I will hurt them in the long run. The best gifts we can give our children are not ones that keep them happy, but ones with eternal value. 

As my kids grow they will need the fortitude to live a life that will never be perfect. When they are adults no one will care about their self esteem. No one will pay them for doing nothing. And sometimes the best man doesn't win, or get the best job, or any job. God has never promised that everything will turn out alright. He did say we will have trouble and tribulation though. (And that there is grace. And joy in trials if we'll look for it. But perfection? No.) Perhaps this is one reason why we see the staggering statistics of children who refuse to grow up. Who in their right mind would want to trade childhood perfection for responsibility, self-esteem boosts for the hard knocks of life and Ramen noodles for the steak that mom and dad have provided all these years? 

So I continue to fight against my own moments of senseless ovarian guilt in this child-centered, you-get-a-trophy-just for showing up culture. I didn't get an iPad until I was 38. My children won't have one until they can pay for it themselves.

And has anyone noticed but me, how the birthday and Christmas gifts we lavish on our children grow more elaborate every year? When my 19 year-old was 6, we had a birthday party and played traditional games like pin-the-tail-on-the- donkey. But now six-year-olds now have parties with bounce houses, elaborate themes, rented venues, and fancy goodie bags for each guest. And it's not the parties that have my unmentionables in a knot (we enjoy going to them!) it's just the mentality of these over-the-top events and how easy it is for other parents to place that same expectation on ourselves. What happened to kids who were happy taking turns running through a water hose at a birthday party? My theory is, those kids still exist. It's the parents who have changed.

It's like we're all going bonkers. And part of it is driven by guilt that parents feel for not actually spending time in real relationship with our kids. Our children shouldn't have to choose between quality or quantity time.  Instead of time and respect, parents give them more stuff, take them more places and do everything humanly possible to carry on this fa├žade of providing a perfect life for them.

Then, though we all say we don't have to keep up with the Joneses, to a degree we still try to. Especially when it comes to what we provide for the kids. And the cycle continues.  

As a result we end up with young adults who feel entitled AND whose souls are starved for parental love. Because no amount of iPads or Disney vacations will satisfy that kind of hunger.


Friday, August 15, 2014

If You Are in Need of Homeschool Encouragement...

Glory to God, we started our full school schedules back this week and everyone is still alive.  More than alive.  We had a great week and the few tweaks I had to make to my plans, were easy to set in motion for next week. Thankful for the Lord's help in this glorious privilege, yet great responsibility, of teaching our own children.

With that I would like to list a few homeschooling articles I've written before, the most widely read ones, and maybe they will be of some encouragement to you. 

When You Want to Know How to Get it All Done: "How do I teach each child their lessons AND cook 3 nutritious meals a day AND nurse the baby AND keep everyone in clean clothes AND keep the dust bunnies at bay, all on very little sleep?! Did I mention that right now I'm only teaching 3 out of my 6 and we are focusing just on phonics and math?"

Why I'm Thankful for Homeschooling:  "Yes, there are hard days.  But they have become easier as the years have passed and I have relaxed.  When my younger children were small, I was so afraid they would fall behind.  Fall behind whom, I don't know.  But just as the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt when times got hard because it was the only thing they had ever known...I relied on my own experience in "Egypt:"  the government school. That was my measuring stick."

Ten Reasons to Homeschool:  "1.) No debt-inducing back-to-school shopping..."

Can I Homeschool for Free?: “The All New, Ultimate and Fantastic Guide to Braniac Writer’s Curriculum! Buy it now for the low, low price of $499 and you too can have children that will write award winning novels by age ten!"

What is Education?:  As Charlotte Mason said, "It is an attitude, a discipline, a life."

Secular Knowledge or Fear of the Lord?:  Spurgeon speaks :)

Homeschooling in the Midst of Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers:  "If you are smack dab in the middle of your son's math lesson, and you just know he is on the verge of finally getting it, and you notice the two year old has pulled off his diaper and is putting it on his sister's head, you have to stop the math lesson."

Baby Missionaries: Should Children be Salt and Light in the Government's Schools?: "Many Christians would say if there was ever a little boy who was spiritually ready to face a kindergarten class this fall, it would be him. But he’s not ready. And he won’t be for many years."

Happy homeschooling, friends.  May the Lord encourage and inspire you with the strength, energy, patience and creativity to fulfill the call he has on your lives.



Friday, August 8, 2014

Treasure in Mother's Jar of Clay

Hebrews 6:19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Over the last six months, our lives have taken twists and turns.  God has given grace and sometimes I reach out and take it, while other times I reject his goodness and instead, edge closer to that deep pit called Self Pity.

A cycle of sleepless nights, tears, doubts and anxieties have hit me like a ton of bricks. I have spent more time in the Word and prayer, even when it seemed pointless.  I have rejected real feelings that I knew weren't true, but feelings that threatened to destroy the sound mind I've been promised, nonetheless. 

I've cried out to God, remembered that His Word sustains and asked others to hold me up in prayer.  And I think that is so very important.  To admit weakness and frailty isn't glorying in sin or making light of the grace of God.  It is giving others the opportunity to bear burdens.  To weep with those who weep.  We don't give others a true picture of gospel grace if we never allow others to see that we too have issues and that we must hold to an anchor.  Why would there be any need for an anchor if we could hold steady all on our own? The treasure we have in jars of clay is to show the surpassing power "belongs to God and not to us."

So I am here today, to do just that.  No blog, no book, no human being however wise, can anchor our souls but Christ Jesus, especially when seasons change, afflictions arise or the soul is downcast. And what's more--we must remember that we battle not with flesh and blood. 

This morning, my husband sent me this quote below.  Since "there is nothing new under the sun" I know there are others of you out there who may need this good word too.  And Kevin added some thoughts at the bottom as well, so please read to the end.  (He said I could include it if I didn't make him sound like a better man than he is, in this blog post. So I tell you, he is not perfect, but his love and understanding, and bearing with me as a weaker vessel, has encouraged me so greatly today).

Since the first hour in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has never ceased to be true in spiritual experience, that Satan hinders us. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the vanguard and in the rear, at the dawn of day and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders us.
If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the ploughshare;
 if we build the wall, he labours to cast down the stones;
 if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict- everywhere Satan hinders us.
He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ. Fierce conflicts we had with Satan when we first looked to the cross and lived. Now that we are saved, he endeavours to hinder the completeness of our personal character.
You may be congratulating yourself,"I have hitherto walked consistently; no man can challenge my integrity."Beware of boasting, for your virtue will yet be tried; Satan will direct his engines against that very virtue for which you are the most famous.
If you have been hitherto a firm believer, your faith will ere long be attacked;
if you have been meek as Moses, expect to be tempted to speak unadvisedly with your lips.
The birds will peck at your ripest fruit, and the wild boar will dash his tusks at your choicest vines.
Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. He checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss the blessing. Nor is Satan less vigilant in obstructing Christian effort.
There was never a revival of religion without a revival of his opposition.
As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labour, Sanballat and Tobiah are stirred up to hinder them.
What then? We are not alarmed because Satan hindereth us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord's side, and are doing the Lord's work, and in His strength we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.
--C.H. Spurgeon

This made me think of your labors here at home. Anything worthwhile for the kingdom of God will be opposed. Thankfully we have the encouragements of scripture to spur us on.

Galatians 6:9 'let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.' 1 Corinthians 15:58 'therefore my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of The Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in The Lord.'

The Lord is your help. He takes your efforts performed in faithfulness and multiplies their effectiveness for His own glory. You may not see fruit of your labors now, but in time, there will be a season for reaping. Remember, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. I love you. Will pray the joy of The Lord will be your strength today.

Thankful for you,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Not When He is Four

This birthday post is overdue, but life here is just nutty lately. I have good intentions of documenting each of the kids' birthdays as they come.

Our sweet Shiloh turned four years old last week.  There are a lot more than four things I love about Shiloh, so I'll just get after it and see how many I end up with.

I love his name, "Shiloh Knox."  I think we can all agree that "Shiloh" is cool, yes? However I think we all know that "Knox" is just the height of awesome.  Back when Kevin blogged with me, he wrote a post about Shiloh's name.  It's right here.  It teeters on boring, but perhaps you'll read it anyway.

I love his I'm Trying-Not-To-Smile-Smile.

Shiloh is on a never ending quest to keep his adorable grin concealed, always biting his lip or jaws.  On his birthday he was successful in this endeavor until the point his brothers gifted him with real handcuffs.  And then he cut loose. I mean when you know everyone is going to be extra nice to you because it's your birthday, and you have handcuffs in your possession, it's hard to hide your delight.

I love that Shiloh is the self-proclaimed Defender of All Doodle Bugs. Because everybody knows that little doodle bugs never hurt nobody.

I love that he earned the title of Biggest Moore Baby Ever (and at 10lbs, 12oz I do hope he always keeps it), and yet now he is so slim and trim I'm forever begging him to eat more.

That's a big baby, ya'll.

I love the way he loves Serenity.  As a matter of fact, as a symbol of their devotion, the two decided to tie the knot. We were all outside one evening recently and they disappeared a moment and returned with the news that they went and got married.

And Shiloh is a good little husband to his wife.  The other night she was giving him the what-for and he calmly said, "Renny, the tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but a house of fools pulls out some follies."  Well, it was close.

I love that Shiloh is concerned about safety.  The older I get the more I am tempted to worry and fret over every little thing.  When someone says, "What's the worst that could happen?"  Just ask me, cause I'll tell you.  So Shiloh is a breath of fresh air because he is Mr. Caution.  Note the example below.

Along with that timidity, Shiloh is also shy and if adults he doesn't know well try to talk to him, his philosophy is, "If I ignore this, surely it will go away."  We're working on that.

Shiloh has a laugh that I wish I could record and play for you here.  It sounds like it must be fake, like one of those ring tones on a cell phone.  It's a little rare to get to hear it outside of home, but when you do, you'll never forget it.

His favorite game is Hi-Ho Cherry-O.  I love his sweet little mind and am thankful for the example of humility that God gives us in little children, especially this age.  I cherish these days that he believes plastic cherries sitting in cardboard holes, is exciting.  I found this game at a yard sale and he has played it and played it.

He loves to read.  He loves to sing.  He loves to dig in the dirt. He likes his milk extra-chocolaty. He loves to draw and will fill pages with "writing" he has done and then "read" to me what he's written. He loves Olaf the snowman.  He loves to sit on my lap first thing in the morning while I drink coffee.  He likes to say he's cold in the mornings, even when we both know it's warm outside.  That way we can get a blanket and cover up. Wish I could slow down these days.

Not When He is Four
Now is the time to get things done....
wade in the water,
sit in the sun,
squish my toes
in the mud by the door
explore the world in a boy just four
Now is the time to study books,
how a cloud looks;
to ponder "up,"
where God sleeps nights,
why mosquitoes take such big bites.
Later there'll be time
to sew and clean,
paint the hall
that soft new green,
to make new drapes,
refinish the floor--
Later on...when he's not just four.
--Irene Foster--

Friday, July 18, 2014

Seven Reasons to Avoid Family Camp

This post sponsored by Renewing the Family Camp

I don't know who invented summer camp, but it was a good idea.  Except for the part that only kids get to go.

Our family has gone to Renewing the Family Camp twice and it was a great trip. We'd like to go again.  However, it isn't for everyone.  In fact, you may want to avoid it altogether.  Here are seven reasons not to go:

1.) Don't go to Family Camp if you're determined to spend a lot of money.  Not only are there affordable lodging options, especially for a large herd like ours, all the activities are free too.

2.) Don't go to Family Camp if you want time alone away from your kids.  Most of the activities can be done as a family and are suitable for different ages. My kids particularly enjoy the water activities and it's nice to see a reliable standard of dress around the lake.

3.) Speaking of activities, you really shouldn't go to Family Camp if you have a fondness for boredom.  Because at Family Camp you're liable to bump into a playground at every turn in the bend.  And if you are an indecisive person you will run into trouble deciding between the climbing wall, the water slide, the skating, the tubing, the old fashioned ice cream shop, family baseball games, archery and even impromptu astronomy lessons. Rumor has it there have even been dodge ball games in the gym at midnight.

4.) Don't go to Family Camp if you like to plan, cook and clean up three meals a day. Because we all know how relaxing that is for the ladies of the family. The meal plans are, again, affordable--just a few bucks per meal.  And the food is good!  All served buffet style in a cafeteria setting.

5.) Don't go to Family Camp if you like a highly structured, fast-paced schedule of organized events.  If you enjoy running around like an insane person, dragging your tired kids behind you, with all manner of quiet entertainments stuffed inside your diaper bag to keep them still so that you can listen to hours of sermons and seminars, well I'm sorry.  You will be disappointed in this setting. There is a lot of free time and the atmosphere is light-hearted and laid back.

6.) Don't go to Family Camp if you aren't interested in making friends and enjoying good fellowship with other families.  There is a lot of chin wagging that goes on at Family Camp.  And if you're not a chin wagger, chances are you will eventually run into someone like me who gives you no choice.

7.) Don't go to Family Camp if you are trying to avoid strengthening your family relationships.  Because if you travel somewhere, away from the distractions of regular life, making memories, gaining more time for interesting discussions, listening to sermons and learning new praise songs...well, I'm sorry.  But it's bound to happen. 

Renewing the Family Camp is scheduled for August 4th-8th in Maxwell, Nebraska. Our family may be there.  Let me know if I'll see you there.  I'll be that lady with a drool spot on my shoulder.

Monday, July 14, 2014

God's Provision for Another Homeschool Year

Last week I was a bit inwardly whiney. I was working on our homeschool schedule for next year and pining away after some books I was wanting. I don't use a ton of formal curriculum, but I do need to buy a few things each year.  Mostly, I just enjoy adding to our home library of good books to read, and with catalogs arriving in the mail often this time of year, the itch becomes almost unbearable. But there wasn't any wiggle room in the budget, even for the needs.

I prayed and gave myself a pep talk.  It's easy to homeschool for free.  And it's important to remember that we don't homeschool primarily for academic reasons, and the shiniest and "this year's best" curriculum, is not, ultimately, going to make a wise adult.  (Read: How to Produce Godly Children. From One Homeschool Zealot to Another).

But I wanted to share with ya'll how God did provide for our homeschool needs because I know many of you are probably in the same boat or could be someday.

I had prayed about it and resigned myself to making do, when out of nowhere I received a check from my home business, Lilla Rose, that blew my socks off.  Almost to the penny was the overage that I needed to buy the few things I had my eye on. Additionally, I was able to get it all deeply discounted by getting it used on Homeschool Classifieds. I'm so thankful to the Lord for providing in this unexpected way.

Like all of you, I'm running a race of faith here.  And tests come up often, don't they?  It is easy to get so concerned about material things that we crowd God out and just give way to worry.  When the truth of the matter is, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" Psalm 37:4.  Also the words of the apostle Paul are excellent: "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11- 13

Many times in our adult lives Kevin and I have had all that we needed ahead of time or else we could easily see when and how the needs would be met. Other times God has provided material goods far above what we would ever dream we'd be able to afford.  That's a great blessing.  But there have also been many times that we haven't known and couldn't see any hope of obtaining what we needed, yet "the Lord is faithful who has promised," and our needs are always met in one way or another. And as a matter-of-fact, I have found that many times when we have nothing, we are the happiest. During those times:

We are leaning most heavily on the Lord and His promises.

We are discovering how wonderful it is to trust Him fully.

We commune with Him in prayer more steadfastly.

In short, God has never wasted a financial trial, in the sanctification of our hearts. The reason many of us are irritable and miserable is because we have piles of this world's junk and we can't see God for the piles. I'm thankful for another opportunity to give Him glory, for displaying His faithfulness and proving His Word true to us, even in this small thing of homeschool curriculum.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

When You Need Grace to Make Chicken Salad

Motherhood is hard work. Much grace is needed. Just when you think you have things pretty much under control, it’s like the rug gets pulled out from under you. Last week was one of many such occasions.

I fed the baby and she went down for a nap. I was glad. I wasted no time heading to the kitchen to make the chicken salad for lunch. I had one hour before I was to leave to take the littles for a special lunch date. In those 60 minutes I had to prepare food for the other children staying home, make sure said littles were wearing matching shoes, as well make a rare make-up application to my face. Doable. Completely doable.

So when my big-little girl who never loses an opportunity to help in the kitchen asked to do the chicken salad all by herself, I hesitated only slightly. Taking a quick glance at the clock and knowing the baby would sleep at least 30 minutes, I judged that I had plenty of time to let her make lunch "alone."

After we retrieved the cans of chicken I took out the hand held can opener. And this is where everything started going wrong. Who knew can openers could be so evil. She tried, I coached. She tried some more, I gave pointers. She kept at it and I sensed that tears could appear soon. I began to beg God for supernatural intervention. Ten minutes later He answered. One can down, four to go.

The clock was ticking.

Soon the other kids discovered us in the kitchen and things officially began to spin out of control. One of the boys ran through cheerfully laughing as he pursued his brother with a sharp object. Toddler brought the gigantic Moses basket into our small kitchen and laid it down at my feet and then climbed inside, making it impossible for me to move. My phone started going off with texts from my husband, wanting my opinion on a business decision he was making. Teenagers came into the work area to loiter and give verbal notification of their impending death due to starvation. You know what happened next.  The baby woke up. Everyone needed me at one time. And we still couldn’t get the cans of chicken open.

I suddenly felt very hot and wanted a Frappuccino.

These are the Calgon moments of motherhood. The rock tumbler as one mom called it. We start to smash into each other and painfully get our rough edges knocked off. The surprise of it is like being in the wave pool at a waterpark. You’re having a great time and then out of nowhere one of those big waves hauls off and hits you right in the face, stinging your eyes, burning your throat and you’re having a difficult time finding your feet.

Overwhelming scenarios like these are when we must remember the gospel and choose to live in light of it. We must not think the gospel is too big for these little circumstances in our lives that present themselves without notice. The gospel is for every moment, big or small. Our homes are a mission field, after all. Just as important as what goes on in foreign mission fields. We must apply to our families what we know about God and our communion with him through Christ. Communion with Him means becoming like him. We must use what we know about God’s extending hand of mercy, grace and loving kindness. In times like these we make the effort to abide in the Vine, take the grace our Father has bestowed on us, and be a channel of that grace toward our children.

Being a mama is full of difficult moments that require extreme amounts of physical and emotional energy, sometimes when you least expect it. But because we are Christ’s we have everything we need to master these moments with grace. We can answer with a gentle tongue. We can press through the heat of the moment without sinning against our family, barking at them. We can have joy in the work that God has given us to do. We can give thanks in all circumstances. We can laugh.

The gospel is not just for Sunday morning evangelism updates or quiet moments of private devotion when we pour out thanksgiving for our salvation through the blood of Jesus. The gospel is also for times of contrary can openers, time deadlines, muddy shoes on freshly mopped floors and for when you just heard a tone in your child’s voice. It is for potty training, diaper blow-outs, midnight vomiting and for counseling teenagers. It’s for Daddies who have bikes to fix after a long day at work and for husbands who lead family devotions when their flesh cries out for downtime and ESPN. Because of the gospel we have fellowship with Christ who enables and empowers us to press on in the sometimes weary work of discipling a family.

And what’s more, God is teaching us, refining us, increasing our faith, through our kids. Not a correction or discipline do I give, that I do not recognize the same sin in my own life, and how my Father deals mercifully with me.

Of course, none of us will do this perfectly. There will be times that we fail and say things we ought not, give way to self-pity, grumbling inside about all the work we do and how no one notices. But when we sin against our children, we can ask their forgiveness. In this we aren’t detracting from the message of the transforming power of the cross. We’re illustrating why we need it. And so whether we emerge from the Calgon moment victorious or if we fail and altogether blow it, we still return to this truth: The gospel is for the everyday, in every moment because we live in light of it. Especially while we’re making chicken salad.