Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Take No thought, what you shall eat or drink...

Oswald Chambers Challenged me today to take no thought for my life; what I will eat or drink, or what I will wear.

It is easy to think that God doesn't understand, or that my cares are not really concerns or worries. Am I truly to take no thought at all? How literally should I take this instruction: Take no thought for your life...

Not too literally, I should think. I have to take some thought. I have discovered poor planning costs me more money, time and stress. Responsibility means considering in advance what I am feeding my family. I do not think this is what is meant. Jesus, when he was preparing for the last supper, instructed his disciples where and how to find the room and the meal they were to share.

Once again I turn to my children to learn these lessons. It is said that unless we have the faith of a child we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. So I watch them, and they rarely give much advanced thought to what the next meal is going to be. Only when their little tummies ask first.

I dare say they don't give any concern at all to whether or not there is going to be food in the house. Red flags are raised if a child is obsessed with whether or not there will be food. The secure child gives no concern to these things.

When we brought one of our little ones home at the age of 2 yrs old he did show signs of being concerned over the next meal. He would eat 6 bowls of cereal for breakfast for fear that would be his last meal. It took him a solid 6 months, if not more, to be retrained that the next meal was coming. And even longer than that before all signs of concern had disappeared.

The Real Estate market has been really tough the last two years. We have 8 mouths to feed in an all-commission business. No salary for real estate agents. Yet I can testify that our Heavenly Father knows our every need, and meets them accordingly. I would like to testify that I never worried. But I can testify that I learned that worrying does not speed up God's timing. I don't always like His timing. More often than not He waited until the 11th hour to provide. Multiple times I received food on the day we ran out, or paid a bill the day something was to be turned off.

Why does he wait? Because he wants us to know that He is Jehova Jireh: our Provider.

Take no thought for life because I am Jehova Jireh.

Let the attention we focus on our sustenance be given to Him. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you as well.

This is not to say we should not pray for our daily bread. Even Jesus, in the model prayer, prayed for daily bread, did He not? He also said that man does not live on bread alone, but on doing the will of the Father. Take no thought means that our central focus is not the bread we eat but the Bread that is from Heaven...


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Equal portions....


One of the happenings in our family that gives me cause to pause and wonder about the rules we create for society is how often the children cry foul when it comes to food distribution.

We have a 17 year-old male in our family, followed by five females aged 15, 9, 8, and 7 yr old twins. Then a 6 yr old boy and 5 year old girl. It is not possible to determine how much each of these children eat based on their gender or ages. It is not even possible to determine based on their likes and dislikes. Yet, Regardless of whatever factors might come into play, the younger children insist that they all be given equal portions of everything served or it's not "fair".

There is, however, one factor that matters, and that is whether or not I am the one serving the food. This is intriguing to me...

If I am doling the portions out it better all be the same portions, and they all develop an eagle eye for fairness. If I place the food on the table and they choose what the portions are there is little thought given to who gets what - unless there is obvious greed over particularly scrumptious fare. Through instruction they have learned to wait for a third helping if someone else has only had one. I have noted it's never a problem for someone else to have more for those who are already satisfied.

So it seems with the Government, that when we are all working hard to earn our living, there might be covetousness over the neighbor's belongings, but we don't generally cry foul. Those are different. Only when we adopt a welfare mentality - that there is a limited amount and they have what they do because someone gave them an upper hand somehow, or gave them more - only when we have the expectation that someone else is in control of the coffers do we begin to develop the eagle eye for fairness.

This is the danger of losing the entrepreneurial Spirit and trading it in for the welfare mentality: when we do not earn what we have we are never satisfied with what we have, because the issue is not what we have but whether or not we are treated fairly. Only when we realize we are able to choose do we become satisfied with what we have, which frees our neighbors to have more, or less if they choose...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Government and the Cradle

The rallying cry goes forth from the kitchen: "Brownies!"

Like a swarm of ants returning to their nest, little ones scurry to the table and find their place among the other wide eyes and salivating tongues. One is particularly energetic; he has been making regular journey's to worship at the brownie pan since the night before. His hopes finally realized, he intensely tracks knife to plate waiting for the turn to be his. At last, one chocolaty-brown-fudge-filled rectangle of pleasure is delivered to the round altar before him,

"Hey! She got more than me!"

Knife returns. Sliver of brownie transfers from his plate to "hers". Tears well up in light of the horror before him,

"You're right. She does. "

The protest storm gathers strength as accusations of unfairness threaten to cool the warm motherly winds. I reason my way through his complaints, as best as I can reason with a six year-old brownie worshiper.

"I try my best to be equal. Life is not entirely fair. Would you rather have less brownie or no brownie?"

"Less."

It took brownie worshiper ten minutes to eat his brownie. He must have been considering if he would rather rule in hell...He doesn't know how close he came to losing it all together.

I have determined a long time ago that I cannot be the arbiter of fairness in our house. I really do my best, but sometimes fairness is in the eye of the beholder. Different cup sizes, different plate sizes, different circumstances give the appearance of unfairness when in actuality what the child got was more fair than what they were asking for.

All of these issues regarding fairness, equality, social justice, individuality, the common good: I have been asking myself how all of these issues are dealt with in the realm of society and government.

A new U.S President was inaugurated January 2oth. In the course of the election the debate over what kind of country we had/have/want reached near fever pitch as accusations abounded as to what kind of principles each nominee had lived by, in an effort to foreshadow what kind of leader each would become. Taking a cue from the axiom, "World peace begins with my neighbor." it occurs to me that many societal rules practiced in the home might also be applicable on a larger scale. How much can I learn about society and government by raising a large family?

There is a running commentary in our family as to what type of "Government" runs our household. Are we democratic, socialist, or benevolent dictator? The election and inauguration has caused me to revisit this question. It has been said the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. What are we teaching our children? Why do we lead the way we do? What has the cradle to say about ruling the world?

The question of fairness comes up frequently in our house. With two teenagers, then six very close in age, I find myself in the constant state of balancing fairness with function, and individuality with the common good. While the analogy breaks down, because I don't see government as playing the same role as parents, I do think there are some lessons that can be learned about the nature of people and the need for boundaries in society that enable us to maintain our freedoms and to enhance the common good.

In the case of the brownie, the brownie worshiper was free to desire whatever sized brownie he wished, but I was the dictator in that I determined when, how, how much and so forth. He did not earn the brownie. He did not deserve a bigger or smaller piece. He is not a free agent in that regard. He was free to protest, but not without consequence. Had I rewarded his protest with a bigger piece another, and then another, would have protested that he got two and they got one, and we would have found ourselves in the direct path of Hurricane Mommy.

In this democracy we live in we are relatively free agents. But those freedoms seem to be slowly eroding as more and more people look to government to play the role of parent in their lives (socialism). What we already see happening is that Government, mostly via the courts, then becomes an arbiter of fairness between parties, which is next to impossible to do while maintaining our individuality. This is the claim I make as a mother; the Government is too big, too distant, and too imperfect to accomplish such a task. They must even the playing field, give us all a number, look at us blindly, to treat us all "fairly" which inherently leads to unfairness. This is the beauty of our democratic republic. We are given the freedom to live as individuals and the responsibility to live for the common good; we work in conjunction with the Government, through voting, to balance the two.


If everyone does as he sees fit (anarchy) it is only a matter of time before a conflict will arise. The freedoms of an individual can only be realized as long as there is no interaction with any other individual. The minute another is introduced the art of politics begins: how can we live together in harmony? What rules of engagement can we set up so that we both may live together?

This is so much easier to see as a parent looking into the child-world than in dealing with the adult world...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fruity Pebble Moments

My husband inquired of me the other day, "Do you remember the fruity pebble incident?"

Some family moments become legendary; the fruity pebble incident is one such moment in our family.

It began one evening at bedtime: 4 year old dutifully brushing teeth. Father dutifully checking in on brushing four year old notices something amiss in the food pantry as he passes by. Cereal bag, turned just so, opened just a crack, a still small voice whispers to dutiful Father, "Check the brushing child."

Momentary argument, "She's already brushed any sneaky evidence away."

Still small voice,"Check anyway."

Upon inquiry dutiful father is reassured by brushing child, "No Daddy, I didn't sneak into the fruity pebbles.

"Are you sure?"

After several such reassurances, dutiful father mercifully chooses the bottom of the grave being dug by brushing child. Lo and behold brushing child has indeed left evidence of her sin. There, hidden from her sight, under her chin, is a purple fruity pebble.

The fruity pebble incident has carried on in infamy in our family as the moment our children first learned that God loves them, and is watching them, and will occasionally even tell on them. We, as parents, inquire of a living God who speaks to us and reveals to us those things they intend to hide.

"In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a groom coming from the bridal chamber; it rejoices like an athlete running a course. It rises from one end of the heavens and circles to the other end; nothing is hidden from its heat. "

This is the fruity pebble lesson: God sees all...and occasionally He tells.

Brushing 4 year old is growing older - unfortunately as of yesterday she is still learning the fruity pebble lesson. Yes, I remember the fruity pebble incident. Dutiful Father is still hearing the still small voice,

"Check the child."

Deception and lying take many forms: sneaking, outright lies, withholding necessary information, cheating. It is an insidious sin, because it must be caught and confronted. The nature of lies are that they are intended to hide the truth; hence they are notoriously difficult to catch and confront. We catch our children in deception because our heavenly Father sees all and whispers to us the right moment to check. Why does He do this? Because He loves them, and He loves us, and He wants the best for us all.

If it only it were still fruity pebbles...as we grow so do the weight of the decisions we make.

I am grieved that my little girl is still eating on fruity pebble lessons rather than leaving the milk and moving on to more meaty lessons.

I am deeply grieved and prayerfully heaving big sighs as I wonder if my fruity pebble girl will ever see the pebble, admit it's there, and not forget what she saw when she walks out our front door to live her life.

The evidence in my own life that I am born of God is that I desire deep in my heart to live a transparent life, and to no longer lie or manipulate or hide. He has made me a new creature. I want that new creature-ness for my fruity pebble girl.

How many other purple fruity pebbles are there in my life, hidden under my chin from me, but in plain sight for the rest of the world to see? It scares me to think that there may be any there at all. But if they are there I want to know so I can live a life that is pleasing to my heavenly Father.

"Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults. Moreover, keep Your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule over me. Then will I be innocent, and cleansed from blatant rebellion. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer."



Scripture taken from Psalm 19. HCSB.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

transformation

It is a challenge raising six kids that are only four years apart from each other. Each phase has challenges of its own and requires ingenuity, creativity and patience. Changing diapers and keeping little tots safe in the house was different from the challenge of schooling and chores. I have recently reestablished a strategy that I used when they were young, and it has transformed the way our house is running.

When they were small I lived by the "divide and conquer" method. Setting two at various stations (a coloring table, a dress up room, a painting station, playdough, free play...) kept them occupied. We switched every 1/2 hour. That was about as long as their little attention spans could last. I don't know when I stopped doing this, but I have rediscovered it and "divide and conquer" has once again transformed our once chaotic lifestyle into an orderly and productive home.

The stations have changed: they are now chores, school and free time. Not only do I have time to instruct the two doing school, but the one in leadership doing the chores has had to become a better leader as they are responsible for getting their partner to follow in completing their chore in a timely manner, and I don't spend NEARLY the time settling arguments and counting heads to make sure no one is getting into mischief. No longer do I have to drag the ones away from some project they had begun, because they understand from the beginning they get 1/2 an hour, like everyone else.

The chore list is preset, and the pair with the dishes always has chore first so the kitchen is ready for lunch. Free time has to be quiet or in the back yard in order to not disturb chores and school.

We always begin with Bible reading or studying for AWANAS, taking the time to set the wind at our backs. I have set my jaw to persevere, set times, and set sights on how long and how what will be done, and set out each day. So far it has been a happy new year...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

God in the inbox

I have to confess: my spiritual life has been somewhat lackluster lately. There just didn't seem to be the passion there to keep going. I was being smothered by daily life.

Sinking in the quicksand of indecision, I was losing day after day as laundry and dishes and children sank deeper and deeper with me...

I wanted God to be my Mary Poppins, to pop in and sing me a song and quickly make it all right and whisk me away somewhere lovely and happy.

But that is not His way. He is faithful, even when we are not, and hears our deep sighs....

Without fanfare or umbrella He did arrive one day; in His own fashion He arrived in my inbox.

It was right before New Years and Ann Voskamp wrote a piece on the grace of God as he fills in the old tracks we have laid for ourselves and she gave some very prudent advice on how to proceed to lay down new tracks for the new year. Grace covering yesterday's mistakes (yes I like that) and 5 steps to lay new tracks for the new year.

No New Year's resolution has ever worked for me. I just don't bother. But there was something about what she wrote that rang so true - and God was there, in my inbox, His hand moving me along like I do my little ones who lag behind. This is for you, He said.


So I blew the dust off a day planner and began with setting my goals. What did I want for January, 2009? To exercise, to get school done, to have my house in order, to be back in a close walk with the Lord? Too much for one day. So I began with what was already in place, the kid's chore list, and I wrote it in. Everyday we will do chores.

and sit-ups: 15 minutes of exercise. Prayer. As I followed Ann's other prinicples:

set wind at my back - start the day with a prayer. "Lord, lead me through the day"

set Jaw to persevere - I will do chores and sit-ups. Mark it off the list today.

set times - done.

set sights - Day planner with January's goals and today's tasks.

set out - one foot in front of the other. No tracks without footsteps.

The pieces began to fall into place, and much more quickly than I thought they would.

Today is January 13th. This week most of these have been added to my list, because this process worked for me. This was good, solid advice. And the wind is at my back. I am not pulling my hair out everyday and wondering how I will make it through tomorrow and the next day. My devotional life is getting stronger as I have more mental and emotional space to seek God.

I realize it will not happen every day, and there will be grace to cover where I get off track, but I have tracks to run on and the future is looking a little brighter because God met me in my inbox.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Presenting our gifts

Mid morning, house a-buzz with the energy of the day, 5-year- old traces well-worn path to mama's room proudly presenting one of several like-gifts of the day:

"Mama, look what I have for you."

A page brightly and carefully colored, all 5-year-old.

Temptation rises: another color page. I get several a day from 5, 6, 7, 7, 8 and 9 year old.

The temptation to minimize her gift fades with the realization of her true gift: eyes meeting I give a little thank-you -for thinking -of -me hug nestled in a word of praise. A moment to show her that she matters to me as well. The gift, if I am present in the moment and not caught up in the chaos around me, is oh so much more than a paper with colors.

She is thinking of me.

Racing through the day, do I pause and receive the ordinary gifts God gives, the ones I have several of already; meeting His eyes, giving him a little thank-you-for-thinking-of-me hug nestled in a word of praise?

Am I present in the moment?

Or do I run by and think another ( mouth to feed, meal to cook, dish to wash, room to clean, shirt to fold, bill to pay...)?

These gifts are only routine and ordinary if I focus on the ordinariness of the gift and forget to pause and look into the eyes of the gift-giver and give Him a thank- you- for -thinking- of -me word of praise.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Discipline

Discipline: The practice of putting one foot in front of the other long enough to look back and see a trail.

I can choose for a moment to do what needs to be done, but to do it day in and day out, with routine regularity, laying down long furrows of discipline - only this will produce

a harvest of righteousness and peace...

Another short post, but I was here. Day 2

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Discipline

Discipline: The practice of putting off procrastination.

The need for discipline is everywhere - in my home, my marriage, my kids, my body, my church- even in sleep.


Discipline is not pleasant at the time but painful...

The nature of discipline seems to be that it requires some crucifying of me. My flesh must go,

Therefore I beat my body and make it my slave...

My discipline for today was to write. I have sat down here several times and this is as far as I got. Now it is bed time and nearly not today anymore, so perhaps there will be a continuation as I discipline myself to write tomorrow.

These are my reasons for not being here more, too busy tending the Garden...