Tuesday, July 26, 2016

FROM FLEETING TO FOREVER

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What does God’s Word say about this world?
What is truly important and where do our desires lie?
Who (or what) holds our hearts?


According to the Word, this world is passing away: “For this world in its present form is passing away…” (1 Cor. 7:31). Even significant things--spouses, kids, careers, noble endeavors--are not the end-all goal and purpose in life. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his [family]—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26 AMP).


This world is fleeting: passing swiftly, vanishing quickly.

All we so closely cling to is actually worth nothing in the end. Our hearts want to rise up and say, “That can’t be true!” and “How can Jesus say to hate our family? My work is worthwhile; my family is precious to me.”

And yet the Apostle Paul considers all that which is fleeting to be as loss to him. “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as one combined loss for Christ's sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish, in order that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8 AMP, emphases mine).

Paul’s prestige, his titles, his learning, his training, his connections, his heritage, his zeal for doing the right thing, his accomplishments--Matthew Henry says that Paul, “…counted [all of] them loss; not only insufficient to enrich him, but what would certainly impoverish and ruin him, if he trusted in them, in opposition to Christ. . . . He not only counted them loss, but dung . . . thrown to dogs; they are not only less valuable than Christ, but in the highest degree contemptible, when they come in competition with him.”

This world is passing away--fleeting.
But Jesus is FOREVER.

This world is to be considered as loss compared to knowing Jesus. Winning Jesus. The Apostle Paul says: “For my determined purpose is that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10 AMP). Jesus is the answer to what is truly important, what our heart’s desire most. He is the One Who should hold the place of greatest worth within us. He must be our One Thing.

Let us consider if we can honestly say with David: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek, inquire for, and insistently require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord in His presence all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4 AMP, emphasis mine).


All I know is everything I have means nothing, Jesus,

 if You're not my One Thing, everything I need right now.

All want is everything You are and nothing, Jesus,

if You're not my One Thing, everything to me right now.

Let's not be afraid to search within and ask hard questions of ourselves. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal fleeting pleasures and pursuits in your life. Is the Word piercing your heart and revealing to you places where Jesus is not Lord of your life? Is your “determined purpose” in life anything less than knowing Him? Is He truly your One Thing? 


Thursday, July 21, 2016

HE'S MY FATHER TOO

So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; 
and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir. 
Galatians 4:7

God is our Heavenly Father.

We sing of a "Good, Good Father" and my soul clings to the words on behalf of hurting children, fatherless children. (And by "children" I mean those who are young, as well as those who are grown up but still missing their daddy.)

I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching for answers only You provide
Cause You know just what we need before we say a word


We all have such different experiences of earthly fathers:

Absent Dad
My three foster children most likely didn't know the love of a father, until they entered our home. I wonder if their hearts still ache with some sort of void . . . formative years without a father's protection and care. And so I trust God and pray on their behalf, believing that He is more than enough to fill their little hearts.

Missing Dad
My heart hurts for those who have lost their fathers recently or don't enjoy a close relationship with their dad. So I pray for them too, that they may know the deep, true love of our Father God and hold on to Him in trust, even in the shadow.

My Dad
My growing up years were beautiful. How I love my earthly daddy. Still remember like yesterday the time he sent me flowers on Valentines Day during my freshman year of college. Far from home and no boyfriend in sight: those flowers meant the world to me. He took care of me so well.


Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts,
the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."
Galatians 4:6

Our God is a wonderful Father for others--yes, this is true--and I can pray to Him as a Father on their behalf. In the midst of these long days of being constantly in "parenting mode": training and teaching and taking care of children, He has spoken quietly to me. This wonderful Heavenly Father has encouraged me to take a deep breath of surrender and relief, to remember that He is a Father to me as well.

I am God's child. He relates to me as a loving Father and I am His beloved Daughter. He sees me: the sometimes fearful nights, long days with five under 5, and the struggle to get everything done. My Heavenly Father is interested in the details and the everyday. I am redeemed and saved--claimed as His own. And He delights in me.

He is my Father, too.

I'm no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God
From my mother's womb You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I've been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins


Friday, July 8, 2016

CHILDREN NEWS // JULY 2016

So many children now....so many updates hanging over my head. A smattering of memories and moments with our five will have to do. This will probably end up being way too long, but trying to remember so much from these precious days with littles.

Miss S - Words that characterize this 4.5 year old: spunky, determined, outgoing, and goofy. She loves to laugh and smile and interact. She and JD are always pushing each other to succeed at the next thing. For example, JD was already riding a bike without training wheels (he learned last summer), so within 2 months S learned how to ride a balance bike and then a bike with training wheels for a week or two and then she was determined to get those training wheels off like JD.  Now they cruise around the cul-de-sac together. Same with swinging themselves: JD learned and then within a week or two, S picked it right up too. She loves to find bugs in the backyard and to sneak up on birds and to watch Daddy work in the garden.

She also loves to help cook and always has a million questions when we're cooking in the kitchen. It seems like she hasn't had much exposure to simple kitchen processes that I take for granted learning. Once a week a play therapist comes to work with S and she enjoys all of the little games and activities. They have seen great improvement in her in the last year. It's so fun to see her dancing around (especially hip-hop music gets those feet moving) and telling stories with great animation and drama. Such a different experience to have girls in the house now!

Reading with Mema before bedtime.

After day camp for S and JD at Eagle Creek Park.
Justus - A word to describe him: observant. He's learning so much now--can count to 50 with a few promptings and does so well memorizing Scripture verses for his class at church. As mentioned above, loves to ride his bike and swing and attempts to climb the weeping willow tree in our backyard. But not just the willow, this boy climbs anything and everything--like father, like son. His favorite activity these days is building spaceships with legos. The creations are getting rather large, detailed and are usually perfectly symmetrical.

Lately he's started eating like a champ--no prompting or prodding. It gives us hope for the rest of the kids someday! Earlier this summer JD wanted a "haircut like Dad" so he got the buzz cut and it sure makes showers easy. He's got quite the farmer tan going already--also tans easily like Dad. Last week Justus turned into a little fish with his Puddle Jumper floaties: figured out he could do it all by himself and was "swimming" all over that pool.

He and S both help with tasks around the house: cleaning up (they all do that), feeding the dog (JD in the morning, S in the evening), emptying the dishwasher, and putting clean clothes away. Usually once or twice a day the kids need a calming down time, so they know the drill: to the couch with a book or two! It helps! One more story for the two of them: I ran two miles the other day and they both biked the whole way with me! I planned to drop them off at home halfway through but they wanted to keep going. It was hot and muggy--about 3/4 of the way through JD said: Oh boy, I'm going to need a shower.


Very proud of their "tall tower"

Silas - This little fella is sweet, silly and sometimes quite the stinker. One of his favorite phrases currently: "Don't touch my duff" (meaning "stuff"). Silas has always been a collector but now he carries around a lego container or plastic bucket full of an odd assortment of toys for the entire day and gets quite upset if anyone gets near his "duff." He's my early riser: I get him out of the crib around 5:45am and he heads right to the living room for his bucket of precious toys. Yes, still in the crib. He wouldn't stay in bed but stays in the crib and falls asleep so much faster--win/win. Still loves his blue crochet blanket and it can often be found sitting on top of the bucket of toys to protect everything.

I love having a little companion in the morning. Silas knows that it's mama's time, so he snacks on cheerios or raisins, playing with cars or legos quietly beside me. Sometimes we fight over the end table: I want it for my coffee and he wants to line up his toys. (It's my "pot," Mom.) Around 7 he usually starts saying: "I'm very hungry, Mom" (but "very" sounds more like "wherey") and asks for "yogurt bunny" (yogurt and honey). We do give him the beloved yogurt and honey, but have switched to lactose free milk the rest of the time and it seems to help his tummy issues a little. Silas is our little singer. At the most random times we'll catch him singing: Trust & Obey; Holy, Holy, Holy; Tis So Sweet; or Hallelu, Hallelu. Most of those songs he learned as Bible Study Fellowship last year.


Playing in the backyard at Grana and Grandpa's house

Miss A - I haven't quite figured this little one out yet--sometimes outgoing, sometimes shy. Sometimes snuggly, sometimes standoffish. Sometimes plays well by herself, but most of the time just likes to annoy her siblings and follow them around. She is only 5 days younger than Silas, so they truly are artificial twins. When they get into a good "groove" of playing together, it's so adorable. Until she starts bossing him around. A's key phrase in this season: "Me don't want to." Classic two year old. We usually correct her grammar and then proceed to say, "It doesn't matter if you don't want to, sweetie."

Usually every Friday morning is Hair Time. This is a 2-3 hour process: take out previous style, wash hair in the kitchen sink, comb out and then restyle. She sits pretty well (sometimes the end gets a little teary) and all the kiddos enjoy the special PBS watching time. I feel like my fingers are getting a little faster at cornrows and twists. Back in May, I think, we decided to tackle potty-training--mostly just because I was tired of changing diapers on three children every day and she had already been partly trained at the previous home. Within 3-4 days we had a pretty good schedule down--overall, she's done pretty well and it's so nice to just have two in diapers again. Cute things she says: when she first came, she called the refrigerator a "fridger." Any sort of lid she calls a "cap." JD she usually calls "Sadie." And whenever she wants to be held she says, "Will you please carry me?"

Hair time! Washing in the sink...



Big D - The nickname doesn't fit so well anymore--this little guy's growth has leveled off and he is now around the 30th percentile (right on track with Miss A, his full-blooded sister). Since he started walking around 13 months, he's thinned out even more and looks so strong and tiny. As a crawler he already climbed onto everything (climbed up the backs of our black leather chairs as high as he could go and bounced on the back) but walking just brought an extra amount of freedom and quickness and he's pretty steady on his feet! D especially loves to escape out the back door and take off into the backyard as fast as he can go. He would play out there all day if I let him: doing laps around the yard, exploring, trying to climb the slide, or playing with the toy mower. One day Bryce found him up in the play set--he climbed up all by himself--and one day I found him in JD's top bunk, but thankfully they were flukes at this point and he hasn't climbed back up either since.

His first clear word was "JD"--I wonder what he hears yelled all day long (mostly because the other kids are calling for him). Next came kind of a moaning/whining version of "Mom/Mommy" since that's also what he hears a lot of. He'll also say Daddy, ball, and dog, and will growl on command. I love it when D snuggles on Bryce's shoulder--he gives good snuggles when he wakes up from a nap. He still naps twice a day, usually for about 2 hours each time and goes down at 7pm with all of the kids and I get him up around 7:30/8am. Can't complain about that schedule! I know we're going to need to drop the morning nap soon with activities for the older kids but it's sure nice right now. He has 5 teeth and half a molar--it seems like his teeth seem to like to come in odd numbers. The big 5 teeth grin (3 on the bottom) is adorable.

D-Man likes to put legos in and out of the bucket, roll a car around and make noises, deliver the dog bones to me, and be loud. Someone asked me recently if, being the youngest of five, he just sits back and observes and takes it all in. Oh no! He wants to be heard and noticed, so at the dinner table his voice is usually the loudest and most insistent. When he learned to sign "more please" that definitely helped cut down on the whining and yelling; now we're working on "all done" and "thank you." He's the only one of our children who has learned to hold his own bottle. For the others, I never taught them since it was coveted snuggle time, but sometimes the fifth child just needs to do his own bottle--sorry little guy. He's a great eater for the most part--loves pizza, olives, yogurt, pb&j sandwiches, most fruit, broccoli, and animal crackers. (His diet is more balanced than that, I promise, but those are the standout favorites--perks of having lots of older siblings.)




Thursday, July 7, 2016

GOOD READS

Here are some good reads from the past few months.
Prepare to be challenged.
You have been warned.

God Doesn't Owe Me the American Dream
I've forced my American dream into my consciousness, cut it apart, and analyzed it with Scripture.  God does not owe American Christians anything.  He does not owe me a savings account or health insurance.  He does not guarantee that my children will have the opportunity to go to college and become prosperous citizens.  He does not promise religious freedom, or pleasant vacations, or safety on American streets.

Bryant Birth Mamas: a love story
I don't mention this to draw attention to us, only to tell you that you CAN experience suffering and pain and the worst outcomes imagined, and still have JOY beyond what you could ever imagine. That is what Jesus provides. And I am so happy to tell you that you can have that.

Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible
The things we invest most in become most precious to us. If you spend minimal time in the Bible don’t expect it to be precious to you. But if you spend hundreds of cumulative hours storing large portions of God’s word in your heart so that the word of Christ dwells in you richly, it will become a precious part of your essential life.

Why the Message of "Me Before You" is So Dangerous
Made in the image of God, disabled lives are no less important or valuable than anyone else’s, and we should afford them real dignity—not a false “Dignitas” that shames them into death, but a real, lasting honor and respect.

Comfort might be the patriarch of the “church approved” sins family. When the church becomes comfortable, Christianity starts to die. Christians must be extremely intentional with their thoughts and actions to avoid comfort. If not, you become resistant to change. You start making secondary issues primary. You begin to see the mission as catering to insiders rather than reaching outsiders.

So if Hillary and Bernie and Donald want to bear the weight of the world for the next four to eight years out of man-centered, philanthropic motives, I find my seventy-something zeal for Jesus heating up. They only get to be president of a tiny territory called the U.S.A. I get to be an ambassador of the Sovereign of the universe. They only get to change the way some people live for a few decades. I get to change the way some people live forever — with a lot of good spill-over for this world in the process.

I know your eyes need a break from all those words...

I Never Felt Called to Adopt
Until that moment, I didn’t think much about the profound loss that an orphan feels. After that moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I saw it on Bing’s face in the cafeteria. I saw it in the fatherless boy who called my husband ‘daddy’ and jumped in his arms. I saw it in the six year old girl who squeezed into our family photo, and in the two year old boy who pulled me toward a swing and asked me to push him too.
It’s a stage of life where you are overloaded. Constantly. You are overloaded with questions. Your children never stop asking them. You are overloaded with touch. Someone is constantly wanting to be held, holding on to you, hanging on you, touching you. You are overloaded with to-do’s. There is so much to do. It never ends. You are overloaded with worry. You are overloaded with THINGS. Your kids have way too many toys. You are overloaded with activities. You are overloaded with THOUGHTS (thoughts about how to not be so overloaded, perhaps?).

All those years – my entire teenage experience – I never realized I was entrenched in a spiritual battle. I fought emotionally, physically, and mentally. I set boundaries and goals, made charts and checklists. I confessed and repented – and did it all again the next week. After years of this, I couldn’t believe God would forgive me for the same sin committed into oblivion; how could He? Here I was, taking advantage of grace like it was a gas station commodity. I doubted my value. I doubted God’s love. 
I find myself stumbling over answers because the question is all wrong. It infers that the reason for having children is to fulfill something in us, and people should only have the minimum number it takes to be personally satisfied.
When people say to me, “Don’t you have enough kids already?” the assumption is that I am somehow unfulfilled by the number of children in my home now. I need more children in order to be happy, and isn’t that selfish and irresponsible of me?
Why on earth would I want more?
The simple answer is, I don’t want more kids.

Several years ago, I realized that for all my advantages in life—all the opportunities denied to my grandparents that I eventually enjoyed with their encouragement—I could not match their simple happiness. I realized I would never find the happiness they enjoyed until I voluntarily chose the restraints of family and community. So I did the best I could: we moved to my wife’s hometown.
Not only do I, and perhaps even you, sometimes tout our busyness around like a trophy, we also use it as a scapegoat. It's not me, we say, it's my busyness that is preventing me from really engaging my neighbors, pursuing my dreams, plugging into my church or really giving myself over to worthwhile things I'm passionate about - things we would most certainly do if life just weren't so crazy busy all the time.
To watch parents act as if they are helpless in the presence of disobedient children is pitiful. God requires that children obey because it is possible for parents to require obedience.