Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why Is This So Hard!

I've had several people tell me that they are feeling totally overwhelmed with two kids and didn't know how I could keep up with 4 1/2. I've been thinking about that because I have felt overwhelmed at each stage of parenting.

Having a brand new baby for the first time is tough because it is all so new and you aren't used to living your life for someone else. The second baby is a kicker because it is totally overwhelming to double the work but at the same time it is really exciting because you know how great the first baby is. But your hands and days are full, and you are exhausted.

After I had baby number 3 a few things clicked in my head and heart and I think that's why it almost feels easier now (I said ALMOST). I think with one or two kids you still feel like you should be able to do it all. Have them and you dressed perfectly, have a spotless house, get to every function you used to, do all the shopping and laundry in a timely manner with a toddler and infant in tow, and possibly still have a career. After number three came along I realized I could not do it all. I had to let go of some things. There are days the kids are in their pajamas or a diaper all morning, there are (I'm ashamed to admit this) weeks that go by and the floor doesn't get mopped, or at times I send Mike to the grocery store with a list because we only have some old lettuce left in the fridge. And as hard as it was to let some of those things go, I guess I really didn't have a choice. It was let go or go insane!

If there is going to be any time for enjoyment or play with the kids, some things have to wait. I always want to have the house clean when they get home or before a holiday but guess what - they don't care! I still try to live in a clean and welcoming home but don't sweat it anymore when there are crumbs on the floor for a little while so I can do something important like read Goodnight Moon again or play legos. So, I guess I learned that I can't do it all - unless I can go with no sleep because if I utilized the time between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. better I could probably get a lot of cleaning and laundry done.

I also learned to choose my battles better with the kids. In some ways I've "quit sweating the small stuff". The other day Annie ran away from me mid-diaper change. I told her to come back and she crossed her arms, cocked her hear, furrowed her brows and glared at me. Now if my older two had done that I would have been irate, but I just started laughing. That is not how I should or would handle it normally (She does need to obey) but it was kind of cute and we still got the diaper changed. I felt a lot less stressed. I don't mind if nap time gets missed or changed anymore. My friend (a first time mom) refered to herself as the Nap Nazi! I just love that. I used to be that. There was no way anything could get in the way of nap time. (Usually it was because I needed a nap too). Well, now life happens and there are days it is late, non-existent or in the car.

We made gingerbread cookies last night. It was a total mess and everyone wanted to help. In the middle of it all we had to have supper. I found myself getting kind of irritated. But it was the process of doing it that was important, not how cute the cookies turned out or how messy everything was (there was green frosting everywhere!) It was something the kids wanted to do and we had fun doing it together. They were excited to have the finished product in their lunches today. I'll finish cleaning up this afternoon hopefully!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a clean house, routine, showers (for me) and discipline but when you have kids life can't always roll the way we planned. So going on to five kids in the house I just have to realize that there will be messes, chaos and hopefully fun. I think when I was trying to do it all, I was miserable and it made my family miserable.

So don't let the overwhelming feeling of dealing with your kids and responsibilities get in the way of enjoying the time. Find the things you need to loosen up on or let go of or get help with! My older ones that had me overwhelmed are in school full-time already! Those years went by in the blink of an eye. I don't look back and wish everything had been perfect, I'm glad for the time we spent together.

Ephesians 2:8-10
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -
and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God -
not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I know competition can be a good thing for business, but is it good for our kids? We are on the doorstep athletic and academic pursuits with our kids I am wondering if it is possible to raise gracious kids in our society. Doesn't it seem like all the kids around you have an attitude? I'm realizing that the problem doesn't start with the kids, it starts with the parents! Those of you that know me know that I am not a competitive person, I like games like LifeStories where we all talk and everyone wins, but the things I've been noticing lately seem a little over the top!

At Elementary Track and Field Day I seriously heard some parents yelling to the FIRST GRADER, Don't let those girls beat you - Run Harder!

At Gymnastics Parents Night there was a lady who was talking on her cell phone the entire time, however she did take breif time outs to yell to her daughter not to slow down on the way to the springboard and to jump higher.

The Elementary Basketball program in our little town doesn't seem to be highly competitive, but there have been parents calling coaches demanding their kids be moved up to a better team. They are obviously too good to be losing so much.

We have a friend, who is now well out of high school, and his mom once went into the locker room at half time to yell at him for how he was playing basektball. Wow!

So there are parents who push their kids during swimming lessons, push them to get the best grades, to be first in everything: first in line, first in sports, first in academics.

So, how do I raise my kids in this setting? I want to teach them to enjoy playing the sport and do their best and to do their best in school. But I don't want them to think the world will end if they miss a shot, or fall in gymnastics or get a few wrong on a test.

I think we have to teach them to truly value others as Children of God. They can learn to applaud the achievements of their teammates and classmates and not feel jealous. If their "self-esteem" comes from the fact that Jesus Christ has saved them and loves them and has a plan for them they won't need to prove to everyone how worthy they are. I can show them that our love, support and approval for them does not center around their achievements. No doubt, I am proud of them for their achievements but that doesn't make me love them more.

We've probably all seen kids either driven to total over achievement or feeling like they will never measure up so why even bother by the time they are in junior high or high school. I feel bad for some of these kids, they are being set up for disappointment. And you know our friend, the one whose Mom came into the locker room? He got to his first big time college game as a quarterback, blew out his knee and never played again. Had he not found Christ, what would his reaction have been? And all these kids are someday going to leave the little bubble of their home and their school and realize (to their shock) that there are people out there that are better than them! Can you believe it?

Here's another area where I have to infuse the love of Jesus Christ into my parenting. They need to learn to press on in the important things of life, their realtionship with Jesus. So I know we aren't doing the kids any favors by raising them with the "first and best" mentality, but sometimes I get tired of listening to other people pound their own drums so to speak and want to whip out my kids latest test scores or something. Maybe I'm more competitive than I thought!

Ecclesiastes 9:11
"I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everthing that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes of Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary or lose heart."

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm No Stallion!

I had the chance to go to a baby shower for a friend of mine from college this weekend. Several of my friends were there with little babies I had not yet met. We had a blast reminiscing about dorm life and pranks. As I was thinking about being a new mom I was reminded that God really works in us through mothering. The transition of realizing you will "accomplish" very little every day is tough.

One day a while ago I happened to have the Today show on and it must have been a slow news day because they were doing a story about Lipizzaner Stallions. They are the fancy horses that leap in the air. Did you know that they do not show the female Lipizzaner's - all they are responsible for is continuing the breed! Somehow I was able to identify with that. I want to be the stallion out there, all dolled up and leaping for the crowds. But it seems my job is actually just continuing the breed and caring for the young ones. It just doesn't seem fair!

Is there a bigger dose of humility that motherhood? I mean I can think of the times that I am honored for being a mother - Mother's Day and they days I have given birth. That's about it (ok - I'm exaggerating) but that is how it feels! Does anyone care that I have given up so much for this? All of a sudden the things you think need to get done have to take a permanent back seat to the needs of others. I've had some draining people in my life before I had kids, but there were boundaries. They didn't LIVE with me or walk into the bathroom while I was trying to take a shower.

So as I was remembering myself as the crazy college student, new wife, new mom I realized that I am really glad that I'm no stallion! I don't want to go back to the person I was (ok maybe the pant size I was). God has brought forth changes in me that are for the better big time. And as I think of the things that seemed so hard to give up at the time, they seem like little pebbles of sand now. This seems to be one of the ways God is helping me become more like Him.

Luke 1:46-49
"And Mary said:
My Soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me -
holy is his name."

Hustle and Bustle - Bah Humbug

I spent several weary hours shopping today - not even for Christmas presents, just for Christmas Dresses! One of my daughters won't even wear dresses and yet I trekked through the mall looking for one she would like. (And she didn't like it!) And did you know it is only two weeks until Christmas? Have you baked, sent cards, decorated the house (inside and out), bought and wrapped gifts, gone to all the parties and church events you could possibly cram into your schedule? I have found myself wrapped up in those feelings - how am I going to get it all done, I HAVE to get it all done! And then . . .

My Grandpa had a stroke, my friend emailed about the pain of their special needs child and how it is impacting their family, I learned that another friend had been in a terrible car accident on her way to the hospital to be induced and some other daunting news in our lives has all made me realize that none of that other stuff matters! It's not that Christmas doesn't matter - without Christmas we would be void of hope! But when Jesus came to earth it was the beginning of hope, the beginning of his plan to bring salvation to us. The hope of eternal life.

So, it's not that I'm going to avoid celebrating Christmas - in fact all this makes me want to make it the biggest celebration ever. But not with decorations, presents and activity but with rejoicing over God's plan for hope in our lives. Without it, there would be no reason to celebrate. Even if there was a big diamond ring under the tree for me (and Mike has assured me every time we see a Kay Jewelers commercial that there isn't), what would it mean without the hope of Jesus Christ?

So remember with me as we prepare our homes and families for this great time of joy and celebration the things in our lives that remind us of our need for Christ's hope. And even if you feel like there is no reason to celebrate given the circumstances you are facing, do we need any other reason besides Jesus? Silly question!

Colossians 1:27
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Monday, November 27, 2006


I love Thanksgiving! And I think I am a grateful person for the most part. I really am thankful that God has provided a wonderful family, a warm house, salvation and all sorts of other things. And who can't be thankful when it is over 50 degrees in Minnesota in late November? The kids played outside with no coats or shoes!

But this year I don't feel very grateful. I'm not sure if it is because of the chaos that consumes most of my life or the fact that I was more excited about the ads for Black Friday in the paper than I was about taking time out to think about being thankful. I realized that I spent most of the day strategizing and thinking about what I want to buy for Christmas.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can start worrying about where we'll be for Christmas, how long we should stay, and if everyone will like what we got them. My Dad was saying that when he was young getting a gift was a huge deal because there was less. Now, it is hard to find things to buy for people that they don't already have because we have so much. We can busy ourselves decorating, wrapping presents, baking, going to parties and programs. It will be so busy and crazy that it will just come and go in the blink of an eye and without a thought like Thanksgiving did.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but for me I have to put Christ back in the center of my life and my holidays. Sure, I'll tell you the holidays are all about Christ, but are they? When people watch me do they see the things I'm doing as worship of the Savior? I'm not sure they would.

I'm not going to stop baking or decorating or going to parties. As long as Christ is the center of my life those things all become acts of worship. I kind of hate the dorky saying "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" but it's true! Without him it is all empty. There's a great debate brewing over "Merry Christmas" and the switch to "Happy Holidays". The "Christian" community is saying they are taking Christ out of Christmas. I disagree, I think we are guilty of taking Christ out of Christmas in our hearts - yes, even Christians. Who cares which way you say it. If Christ isn't in your heart you may as well just say Bah Humbug! And on a brief sidenote, I think we are mistaken if we think that we will evangelize the world by forcing our stores and schools to use the word "Christmas". The Christ in Christmas is a matter of the heart! Okay, enough preaching!

We're also going to try to give more this year. We want to remember and help our kids learn that there are people in this world that are needy, they don't have food or houses. There will be no presents for them. We want to get our whole family involved in that kind of giving. It might even mean we have less to spend on our family and friends (who aren't very needy).

I think it is easy for me to let my eyes slip from Jesus and thus let all the joy and meaning of the holidays drain out of my life. What do you do to keep Jesus at the center? Is there anything you need to change?

Isaiah 9:6
"For to us a child is born,
to us a Son is given,
and the government will be upon his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Go Bug Daddy!

Here's a disclaimer: I think I have mentioned that my husband is a huge help to me around the house and I am really grateful most of the time. But, we were getting ready to leave for our vacation last week. I had a long list of things I wanted to get done running through my mind that morning. Some things were basic: shower, pack, dress the kids, clean up the breakfast mess, fold up a little laundry and leave the house "clean".

Well, Mike had his own list of things to do. Make pancakes, go buy dog food, pay bills (okay I know that one's important), do stuff in the garage etc. While I was still trying to complete the first item on my list (and I felt a shower was pretty important) the kids had a million questions, Abby had packed 10 pairs of pajamas, Annie was raiding the bathroom cabinet and dragging all sorts of interesting things throughout the house, someone couldn't find any clean underwear and all this while I was shaving my legs. I quickly got dressed and started throwing things into suitcases. Everything I put in, Annie took out. I went out to the kitchen to get something and would you believe there was still a mess of syruppy pancake plates and griddles all over? The kids were running around and I was cleaning up (I would have been happy with cereal)!

I looked over and there was Mike sitting in front of the computer with a cup of coffee! Then he proceeded to get up and grab his keys and head off on a dog food run. I was stunned! How can this be? Maybe there is an invisible bubble around Dads, I don't know. And this isn't the first time this has happened. He sits down to read a book and the kids come looking for me. I sit down to read and book and get interrupted so much that I read the first sentence 20 times before giving up. He shuts his eyes on the couch and we all try to be quiet. I shut my eyes on the couch and there are very urgent needs that can't wait. Whatever I am trying to do there is always someone underfoot, talking to me or bugging me. And believe me I have tried to ignore them like Mike does at times, but instead of giving up they just get louder and more demanding.

I want to yell, Go Bug Daddy! or for him to miraculously step in and h-e-l-p! But there are two lessons here. One is that he doesn't always think the things I'm doing are that big of a deal (and I think the same thing about his lists). He doesn't really care if the house is messy when we get home. I do, but I suppose I could learn to let go because when we get home with all our junk it gets messy again anyway. If we had taken a few minutes to talk about things that needed to be done before we left we might have been able to work on things together.

Secondly, this is my life. I'm the Mom. These are probably die to self times that I need to just accept the fact that my life is one big interruption right now.

But sometimes I think we create this problem ourselves. Maybe every little need and question of our kids doesn't need to be answered or attended to right away. I think that is why the kids don't bug Mike because they know I will drop everything and attend to their problem. Ultimately it's another area where I need to live in sacrificial service. It can be really frustrating but it's an area where I need to give over the God. He can help me be more of a servant. And I need His help not letting bitterness and anger towards Mike or the kids grow out of these times. I tend to find myself stomping around and stewing.

And just now I had to stop to help Annie and get her to bed and get Jenna calmed down while I was trying to finish this. Guess where Mike is? On the couch with his book (oblivious!) Come on Michelle, die to self! This is going to be tough!

Philippians 2:3
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fresh Eyes

I heard on the news that President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld felt it was time for "fresh eyes", meaning fresh perspective, in the war. I realized that God provides me fresh eyes through my kids. In the process of hurrying along through life, kids can slow us down (literally) and help us focus on the joy of life.

On Sunday night during Bible Study it started to snow. All the adults in the room rolled their eyes, dreading driving to work in it and the start of another long, cold Minnesota winter. Well, Monday morning when there was a few inches of fresh snow on the ground the kids were so excited they bounded out of bed and wanted to get out to the bus early so they would have time to play. When we got home that night after dark, they built a snowman, rolled a bunch of snowballs and made a snow fort. They are devestated that with the 45 degree temps today it is all going to melt.

We were running late on our way to gymnastics yesterday only to get stopped by a train in Carlton. I was annoyed - just what we needed! But the kids were excited to see the train. They didn't see it as an inconvenience at all.

I took the three older kids to a play on Saturday night. I was tempted to rush them along, but it was a special night out just for the big kids. Sometimes it is okay to just relax and enjoy the ride.

Sometimes we need fresh eyes in life, especially with our kids. When was the last time you giggled with excitement over the fresh snow and made a snowman or took the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of a passing train (without flipping through the radio stations or making a call on your cell phone)? Those are the moments that I hope to take advantage of with my kids. Just let go of everything else and share the joy with them. Who cares that we were a little late to gymnastics?

I wonder if someday when my kids are older or grown and gone if I will miss having someone sit with me at the train tracks? Or be sad there is no one to make a snowman in our yard and put my scarf on it?

I think I can learn, not only to enjoy my kids and our time together more, but I can also learn to enjoy God more. How else will I learn to slow down and gaze upon His beauty? I think I have some helpers for that right in my own house.

Psalm 27:4
"One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple."

Friday, November 10, 2006

The OB/GYN Office

Well, I finally had my first doctor's appointment. I have to go to a new doctor this time and she is located in a brand new building downtown. The waiting room has an awesome view of Lake Superior, pagers that buzz and light up when they are ready for you (like the Olive Garden!) and the lab has leather recliners! I'm not sure there is a more interesting place to watch people than the OB/GYN waiting room!

I could really tell which people were expecting for the first time. They were there TOGETHER and very excitedly reading all the baby and parenting magazines. Plus they had bright eyes and rosy cheecks! I can remember the first couple times I was pregnant: the wonder of a maternity shop with the belly pillows that help you try on clothes before you are showing (now WHY would you want to shop for maternity clothes any earlier than you had to?), the awe of a growing belly, looking forward to each and every doctor's visit and reading every pregnancy and parenting book I could get my hands on.

It became clear that the exuberance and excitement had pretty much all worn off on me by now. The doctor's appointments tend to get in the way of my schedule and take way too long, the only maternity shop I'll probably see this time is a box of old maternity clothes in my basement and my belly has already grown so much over the past four pregnancies that I pretty much look the same. That glowy, excited feeling just isn't there.

Well, I realized yesterday (I had a lot of time to think in the waiting room) that it is really a bummer to let all the touchy feely stuff alone be our guide. Even though pregnancy is definitely different this time, it doesn't mean I should enjoy it any less. Despite it all, I heard the heartbeat of a new little life and got a few hours to myself! How can I not enjoy that! (and I took myself out to McDonald's for lunch after - I am feeling better!)

I think we do that with a lot of things in life. Our marriages just don't have the excitement they did a few years ago (could it be because you have a kid in bed with you half the time and can't carry on a conversation without being interrupted by a little someone?)

And so it goes with our walk with Jesus. When it's not so new anymore and times are tough and it doesn't give us that glowy feeling, well, it just seems to be a burden?

I'm still excited about my marriage even after 10 years. Sure it's different, I don't blush when he walks through the door or get goosebumps when he calls anymore. But you know, in a lot of ways it's way better! The growth we've had together, the things we've been through, the joy of children and ministry have made our relationship a lot deeper and ulitmately that makes it more exciting.

And so it is in my relationship with Jesus. After being a Christian for a while those emotional highs can run low, but at the same time I am glad for all Jesus has taught and brought me through over the years. I don't want to stay a baby Christian or a baby in my marriage or pregnant with my first baby forever. Think of all the things I would be missing out on!

So don't let your enthusiasm fade! Remember the joy you had and keep having it. As we continue to keep growing closer to Christ and closer to our husbands it is only going to get better!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Psalm 51:12
"Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Beary Special

Abby came home from preschool with a Teddy Bear in her bag. She is the "Beary Special Person" this week. They get to keep the bear and keep a journal of what they do with it. It's a fun thing for the kids. When we were talking about it Abby said, "I'm special now." Mike replied you've always been special!

Isn't that the truth? She has always been precious and special to us and even more so to God. I think she knows that, but there's an interesting comparison to us as women. God thinks we are so special and precious. A lot of us have husbands, children, families and friends who affirm that in our lives. But we don't believe them. Oh sure, on the outside it seems we are special and loved, but on the inside we feel nothing of the sort. We doubt the love of God and our loved ones. We go looking for all sorts of cheesy little teddy bears to make us feel special when we already are treasured.

Whether our "teddy bears" are things, a job, a house, a food, a shopping trip, a fantasy, or a drink; the list could go on. However, it's all foolish in comparison to what we have in Christ! The God of the universe and Savior of the world created us as unique, special people. He gave us a purpose. Why do we look to other things to fill up what God has already provided?

Embrace the beauty of being special to God. Don't let anything or anyone replace it! Anything we try to replace it with is nothing more than a cheap little teddy bear.

Colossians 3:12
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassions, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

1 John 3:1
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Need or Greed?

Well, as promised, here's the story about my greedy little self. I usually don't consider myself a greedy person. Really, when you are a missionary how could you be? But doggone if it didn't rear its ugly head last week.

Out of the blue, I got a call offering me a job. It's very part-time and I could do some of it from home. I immediately said no, thanks and I'm pregnant. Then as we talked I said I'd think about it or think if I knew of someone else that would be interested in it. I think it would be a job that I would enjoy and the extra money would be nice! (Althought it really wasn't a lot - trust me!)

Then I had to go grocery shopping. I really didn't buy a lot of extras but I had a complete panic attack when I had to pay the bill. Someone needs shoes, someone needs a winter jacket, registration is due for basketball and the list goes on and on. So I began to think to myself, maybe I should do it.

Again let me reiterate that I don't think there is anything wrong with a job, what was wrong was my motivation. How do you discern the difference between a need and a want? Do we NEED that money? Has God not always provided us with what we need? What are the trade-offs for me at this stage in the life of my family? Is it worth the sacrifices we will undoubtedly have to make? I'm already having a hard time keeping up on things and I think I should add to it?

And the biggie for me is that God has placed ministry on my heart. There are people I feel burdened to reach out to and if I add anything else into my life that will fall by the wayside. So for us, at this time, it doesn't seem to be right.

The truth of the matter is that we don't NEED the money. There was a time in the past where I would have done it because we honestly needed it and our family was less demanding. (Although God provided for us in those times too). I feel like I need it and for what? So we can have more meals out, more clothes, more gymnastics lessons? There isn't anything wrong with those things in and of themselves, but is that my goal as a Christian? To amass more things and sell myself out for more when what God is providing is enough? If we all have a brand new pair of Nike's but have forsaken the call of God in our lives, what's the point?

I keep hearing about people (including Christians) that are so wrapped up in the more and materialism of life and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Partially because I realize that I am in the same boat in a lot of ways. But also because it has become so accepted, even in the "christian" culture, to be a success by the worlds standards. We need to get our kids to Disneyworld at least a few times and have to save thousands of dollars for Christmas toys because, you know how much our kids NEED more toys! Forsake serving Christ for a job that will afford you a bigger house or a Lincoln Navigator. Forsake any commitment to church to get your kids into the NHL. Forsake time with God and family for more "important" matters.

If we truly put Christ first, the worldly things become unimportant. I just heard a sad story of a family in which the patriarch was a great Christian leader in his time. He had a public ministry. However, the legacy he left behind with his family is just tragic. He continually bailed his children and grandchildren out by giving them every material thing they wanted. He's gone now, but their lives are a mess. Instead of teaching them to love and revere God, they learned to love and revere money and things. So what does it matter? If you achieve great success and wealth in this life and even in ministry, but don't follow Christ it's all empty. And how are we raising our kids? Maybe we're teaching them to be materialistic in a good "Christian" way.

And what is more important than serving Christ and passing our love and passion for Jesus onto our kids? Why is it so easy to get lured away from that? Can I have faith in God to meet our needs while we are doing His work?

Deuteronomy 6:5-8
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

Ephesians 5:3
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."

Ephesians 5:5
"For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Can Mary Kay Save Me?

Now, I'm not going to lie to you - I don't usually go to home parties. It's not that I think there is anything wrong with them in and of themselves, but, well here's my story. Several years ago things at our church were pretty tough. Few people had any time to give to the church, some didn't have any time with their families, some didn't have money to buy groceries. It was a depressing time and I felt bad. UNTIL, my neighbor had a candle party one Tuesday night, I didn't go because I had no money, but I swear there were 25 women from church there. (I just looked across the street and saw the cars!) So I went from feeling bad to feeling mad. Of course if you don't have time with your family or money for food, you have no business at a candle party! So, I've pretty much sworn off parties since then.

But last month I was invited to a Mary Kay party. I went because I am trying to build a relationship with the young lady that was hosting it. I didn't really want to go. I was feeling pukey sick (but still hiding it), I had spent all my money on back to school shopping and I felt like a hagard housewife. But I went (I left my checkbook at home just in case)! And guess what? Their products really are great. There was this microderm abrasion stuff that made my skin feel amazing. So it's pretty easy once you get away from the stress of your life and get romanced by all the stuff and have a nice dessert and chat with other grown ups to decide you NEED or DESERVE to have some of these things. Which is part of the danger for me and why I left my checkbook at home.

But that is not the worst of it. You know they always make you fill out the information cards. I did not want to put my phone number on it, but I did anyway since I had clearly checked the I AM NOT INTERESTED IN A CAREER WITH MARY KAY box. However, a few weeks later I got a call from the "district manager" wondering if she could ask me some questions about the marketing plan. I had no idea what the marketing plan was but figured I could be polite. Well, the marketing plan is the "opportunity" part of the Mary Kay system. As I explained to her that I was a Pastor's wife and didn't feel I could sell anything because I didn't want people in our church to feel obligated to buy stuff from me or feel that whenever I visited them I was really trying to sell them something. Which is part of it, but I didn't let it all out on her like I am doing here!

So here's where this lady crossed the line in my book. (And I think a lot of these type of businesses try to suck Christians in with this method). She told me that Mary Kay believes in God, Family, then work. It is really a step in discipleship. They pray at all their meetings. And you can turn yourself into an instant cash machine. So, I politely declined the opportunity. And please, don't misunderstand, I don't think there is anything wrong with selling make up. But to try to weave it into being a Christian thing and discipleship is over the top to me. How can we on one hand be out to turn ourselves into a cash machine, and also be disciples of Christ? Are we really serving others if it's ultimately only to benefit our bottom line?

What happens to your faith then, when you don't get a brand new car or have all the money that you want? Does that not become an issue of "where's God?" in life?

I came across some verses that brought it all home to me. It is 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. Go grab that Bible and read them. Verse 2 says, "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and THEIR EXTREME POVERTY welled up in rich generosity." So even though these Christians in Macedonia were under trial and poor, they gave generously. The passage goes on to say that they gave beyond their ability.

So, here's the deal. If we are focused only on how much we can get or make, how will we ever be able to give generously? We'll only be focused on getting more! The Macedonian's gave out of overflowing joy abounding from the grace of God. If we're looking to anyone or anything else to meet our needs and give us joy we are going to be thoroughly disappointed!

Just this week I was again tempted by greed (which I'm going to write about next). But what are the trade off's for the extra money? Where is my joy coming from - is it coming from the grace of God or am I looking for it in the wrong place? If it's not coming from God, I wonder if there is still an overflow of generosity?

2 Corinthians 8:9
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm Back!

I guess I need to explain my long absence from my blog. I'd like to blame it on my frustration with slow internet. I'm greatly anticipating having the opportunity to get high speed internet, but it's not quite available out here yet. But that really isn't the true reason at all.

My blogging time is usually between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. after the kids are in bed and I've had my night time snack. But that time has been cut out of my life for the last few weeks due to a sudden need to go to bed at 8:30 p.m.

Have you ever wrestled with a decision for a long time? Prayed about it, talked about it, asked others what they did about it and still felt unsure what to do? Well, since we had Annie we've been struggling with when to be done having kids. I thought by the time we had 4 kids it would be a no-brainer. This summer we decided that maybe we should be done and pursue our interest in adoption. So off I went to have a consultation with a doctor about making that decision permanent.

However I was unaware that I was already pregnant with our 5th baby when I went. Doesn't God just have a great sense of humor? Just when we think we are in control of the decisions and destiny of our lives he reminds us that we are NOT.

So I was thinking to myself, can I practice what I preach about having a heart that is soft towards God's plans for my life? For a long time I was feeling kind of despressed, not about having another baby, but I was dreading hearing all the comments from people who think we are totally insane! (However, I can happily report that most people have handled it pretty well - at least to our faces!) But starting over with another baby, more maternity clothes (gag) and getting big and trying to lose the weight were all the selfish things on my mind. But if I thought about the baby, a new life I had a totally different attitude.

My friend and I were talking about adoption and the outrageous costs involved. She said something that really struck me. She said once you have the baby you would pay a million dollars for it. Isn't that the truth? If you focus on the important things, the "meat" of the matter so to speak, all those other little things aren't so important. I'm thankful that God has blessed our lives with this new life.

And so what if I have to wear hiddeous clothes for one more winter (or the horror of a maternity swimsuit!), gain a little weight, have others think we are weird, have 3 sets of bunk beds in our house and the list goes on and on. I can remember the hard things that surrounded having my other kids; some were early, some were late, could we afford it etc. But when I look in their faces and their lives I think all those things were trivial and fade in comparison. They really are worth more than a million dollars each. So, bring it on number 5 - you're already worth more than a million dollars to us and to God!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Tough Subject

I don't want to participate in any Mommy Wars here so I think I better clarify myself from the What's Your Worth post. I don't at all think it is wrong to have a job, the danger comes in when we let it become a god in our life and we are using it to get the value we need to get from Christ. The Proverbs 31 woman obviously had business interests outside of her home, but she was praised for fearing the Lord.

Some Moms work because they have to, some because they need the interaction of a job and it actually makes them a happier mom and some stay at home full time. I think everyone has to do what works for them and what God has called them to. I have a friend that works, she would rather not but it is a submission issue for her because her husband wants her to.

The only thing I know for sure is that God has to be the center and most important part of our lives. When we let a job or anything else (even our kids) get in the way, we've got trouble!

Gentle and Quiet - Me?

I've been chewing on this for quite a while, let me know what you think! I've had a love/hate relationship with 1 Peter 3:4 for a long time now. I love it because I want to live God's way and anything that is of great worth to Him gets my attention. I hate it because I don't feel like I can do it. 1 Peter 3:4 says, "Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

For those of you that know me, it's no surprise that I find this a difficult thing to attain. I have a loud, sarcastic personality and a weird sense of humor. So I have been trying to figure out for a few years now why God would think this was very important and not even give me the chance to live up to it.

I have been wrongly believing that this gentle and quiet spirit is personality driven. It's not! The word used for gentle in this verse is the form of the word that is used in the Fruit of the Spirit. It means meekness toward God, a disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good without disputing or resisting. In the Greek Lexicon I looked up (I know - it's amazing what you can learn on the internet) it said that in the Old Testament the meek were those who wholly relied on God rather than their own strength.

Furthermore, in Holman's Bible Dictionary is said that meekness is a trait of gentleness and humility, the opposite of which is pride. It does not refer to weakness or passivity but to controlled power.

So what's my point you may ask? Well, I have been mistaken for a long time. This does not deal with my temperment or personality, it deals with my heart. And I need to have a heart that is willing to let God deal with me, that is humble and gentle.

It certainly eases the pressure on people like me. But I think there is another danger here. There are some people who DO have a gentle and quiet personality. You know, they wear jumpers (ok, not all the time), never speak out of turn and are always appropriate in every situation. But I think they could fall into the trap of feeling that they are all over this, but their hearts could be prideful and hard towards God's workings in their life.

So whatever your personality may be, God gave it to you for a purpose, so be yourself. But train your heart to be gentle and meek. I hope that I am known as a loud, boisterous person with a soft heart. I also hope that God will work in my heart so that meekness can smooth some of my personality's rough edges. I want to have a heart that is open to God's work.

2 Corinthians 10:1
"By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you . . ."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

What's Your Worth?

Where do you get your worth? You know, self-esteem, self-worth whatever you want to call it. It's hard to get any as a wife and mother. We will be praised far more for the things we do outside of our home even in the "Christian" community. The definition of worth is "the quality that renders something desirable, useful or valuable". And I think at times our families can give us worth. When our husbands and kids (hopefully someday) appreciate the things we've done for them and the time we've spent with them it feels worthwhile.

But, it is so easy to fall prey to those feelings on worthlessness while we are serving our families. Ladies, we HAVE to get our worth from Jesus Christ! It's in Him and His redeeming love for us that we find usefulness and value. If we put him in the proper place in our lives we won't have to fill our lives with other things to feel whole. Jesus loves and accepts us just as we are. He finds the job we are doing as mothers and wives very worthy of our time and effort.

Now here I go bringing up the pesky Proverbs 31 woman! Proverbs 31:10 says, "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." Get your Bible out and read to the end of Proverbs 31. This woman certainly had interests outside of her house but she fears the Lord and that is praise worthy. We have to put Jesus Christ first in our lives.

Jesus Christ has created you as an intelligent, beautiful, talented woman. He thinks that you are worth dying for. I think my family is worth benefiting from the time, talent and education Christ has given me. Why do we think we are wasting it when we are pouring it into them?

I've talked to a handful of women in the last few months that are holding on to their jobs not because of the money, but because of the worth and value the title gives them. It's okay to get fulfillment out of your job, but we can't let these other things give us the worth that needs to come from Christ in our lives.

So if you are seeking worth from someone or something other than Christ, RUN back to the Source!

Matthew 6:26
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store up in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Do They Ever Learn?

Our old couch in the basement is completely ripped and the stuffing is almost gone. I can live with that in the basement and the kids are free to use it as a trampoline, coloring book, snacking spot, balance beam or fort. But now, the upstairs couches are ripping. (Mike warned me not to buy cotton furniture again, but did I listen?) Today Annie was picking the stuffing out of a rip in our love seat. I told her no and she kept doing it. The punishment escalated at each offense and that didn't phase her. She just looked at me with her big brown eyes and went right ahead. This continued for a while. Finally, she relented and came crying to my lap. It's hard to imagine what must be going through their little heads when they do that. You would think they would just stop!

I've always thought the same thing about the Israelites in the Old Testament. They continue to walk away from God time after time, miracle after miracle. Exodus 16 is full of complaining, grumbling and disobeying. They had just been freed from slavery! (I boastfully believe that if I would have seen Him part the Red Sea I never would have wandered.) Yet he always takes them back, forgives them and helps them. I assumed God was way to soft on these idiots! Will they never learn to just follow God? But God's mercy and compassion is always there when they repent and turn back.

So, even today with Annie and the couch, when she came crying back to me I took her up in my arms and hugged her. Certainly it didn't stop me from caring for and loving her - although I was not going to stand by and let her rip my couch to shreds either! And that's the beauty of having God as an example. His mercy, grace and compassion knows no bounds. He had rules for his people, but when they repented he welcomed them back.

Sometimes it seems easier to just let my kids get away with things than using up all my energy constantly correcting them. But God demanded repentance and obedience from his people too. I think it's funny that he calls them "stiff-necked" because that kind of reminds me of a toddler and quite frankly, myself. But I think it is important for my kids to see their need for repentance, then they will experience that grace and compassion.

We have dealt with more serious issues than some stuffing from a couch already with our kids, but I'm sure as they grow the issues will get bigger and harder. But with God as our Father, his compassion and grace can overflow through us and into our kids. Even when we are fed up and feel like they will never learn, when God brings them to repentance we can be there with open arms.

And really, how could we not? I don't really like to admit all the times I have walked away from God. And yet, his love and compassion are abundant in my life. That's a lesson I need to use in my parenting!

Exodus 34:8-11

Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. "O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes," he said, "then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance." Then the Lord said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Am I Singing About?

One of my favorite worship songs is "Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt and Beth Redman. You know, Blessed be your name, when the sun is shining down on me, when the world is all as it should be . . . That's when it's easy to praise the Lord, when everything is as it should be or at least as I think it should be!

But then the song has to take a nasty turn to talking about the road marked with suffering and pain. Can't we just sing "Shine Jesus Shine" (you NWC alums have got to love that one!) and be happy? Actually, the authenticity of the lyrics is really what makes it great!

There is a part of that song that is taken right out of the book of Job. You give and take away, my heart will choose to say Blessed Be Your Name. When Job gets word that his children, servants and livestock have all been killed this is his reaction. "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; May the name of the Lord be praised.'" (Job 1:20-21)

I've lived a pretty happy-go-lucky Christian life so it is hard for me to imagine how I'd deal with extreme suffering. Sure, I've had some tough times but nothing like Job. I think it's awesome to read how he worshiped God. And I'm glad that God left in there that he tore his robe and shaved his head. That shows his emotions. He didn't just shrug and praise the Lord, he hurt! But amidst the hurt, he was able to worship.

So it seems to have brought to light a few things in my life. The first is my need for control! Sometimes it is the hard moments of suffering in life that God brings us to the realization that HE is in control not us.

Also, my desire to worship God is conditional a lot. I'll worship as long as he provides for all our wants and desires, as long as I can take a beach vacation every winter, as long as it's not on the same night as American Idol, and as long as I can keep having "me time" (what's that again?) and not be inconvenienced. I've got to be able to worship all the time. Even when I don't feel like it and even when I'm hurting.

And as I'm learning and thinking about this I need to let my kids be part of the process, so that they too can learn to worship with their lives no matter what is happening: if things are good, we're going to praise the Lord. If things are tough, we're still going to fall down and worship. And sometimes I've found the good times are even dangerous because it feels like I don't need God.

So, if He has given you something that seems beyond what you can handle or has taken away something (or someone) precious, can we like Job fall to the ground in worship?

Blessed Be Your Name

Blessed by Your name in the land that is plentiful,
where your streams of abundance flow, blessed be Your name.
Blessed be Your name when I'm found in the desert place,
though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be Your name.

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say,
"Blessed by the Name of the Lord, blessed be Your name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be Your glorious name."

Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me,
when the world's "all as it should be" blessed be Your name.
Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering,
though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.

You give and take away,
You give and take away,
My heart will choose to say,
"Lord, Blessed be your name."

by Matt and Beth Redman
c2002 Thankyou Music


When we got to gymnastics the other day, the teacher was impressed at how fast Annie could move. Grant proceeded to tell her that not only can she move, she can boogie! Everytime music comes on, she gets down. But that's not the kind of getting down that I want to talk about.

Generally, when I hear people say that God impressed something on them or told them to do something I'm pretty skeptical. But a few days ago, I was thinking about the kids while they were at school and kind of half praying and half hoping that they were doing ok. Well, I tell you what, the Spirit impressed on me to get my bible and get on my knees. And it was so strong that I grabbed my Bible that minute and hit the ground. (go ahead and be skeptical if you must!)

There was nothing really life changing about the few minutes I spent prayer, but it was an unmistakable compelling of the Spirit. I'm not sure if I have ignored those times in the past or if I have been so out of touch with Christ that I just didn't get it, but it was really exciting to be moved like that.

Maybe it was so strong because of my half-hearted attempts at worry/praying while I was doing other things. I'm not sure, but it definitely got my attention. It didn't tell me to change my life focus, move or anything that big, but it directed my heart to God which is right where I want to be. I hope that I will be aware of those times when the Spirit is compelling me to do something. Then I hope I will get down and do it!

John 14:26
"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you
of everything I have said to you."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

On Thin Ice

I never felt like I was an impatient person before I became a mother. But there are times when things are stressful and my teeth start to clench and I feel the temperature rising. This weekend a couple of the kids and I were sick. Cleaning up puke, a vicious diaper rash (who knew that could be such a trauma!) and a few other things made me feel pretty drained. Then back to school and back to waking up at 6:00 a.m. Mike's back to coaching football so he's been gone from early in the morning until after supper this week. My bible study plans for fall fell through so it's back to the drawing board on that. Abby is being extremely demanding. I have made a point to spend extra time with her this week. It seems the more I give, the more they demand. Annie is extrememly irritable and is only happy when she is sitting right on my lap. Today, she didn't get a nap, I didn't get the breakfast dishes cleared until after lunch and it all adds up to my patience skating on thin ice.

So when Grant and Jenna got home and started yelling and crying over a video game they were playing I lost it. I yelled that we weren't going to yell at each other. (Where's the sense in that?) They went off to their rooms crying and yelling and Abby was crying because of all the chaos. Not my finest hour as a mom. I think there are some issues that need to be dealt with in regards to video games in our house, but that was not the point. The problem was that all these strains of the last few days added together pushed me to the end of my rope and they took the brunt of it.

I don't know how to be more patient. But I do know that I want episodes like today to be extrememly rare in our home. I'll tell you what I learned about patience in the Beth Moore Bible Study Living Beyond Yourself, Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. It's been almost a year and hopefully I can apply it to my life.

There are two Greek words that translate to patience: hupomone and makrothumia. Makrothumia is the word found in Galatians 5:22. Here's the difference, hupomone is perserverance, endurance and bearing up under difficult things or circumstances inspired by a beneficial expectation. Hupomone is inspired by hope. (You can find hupomone in 1 Thess. 1:3, James 5:11 and the book of Job)

Makrothumia is patience in respect to people. Makrothumia is inspired by mercy. This type of patience, that is listed in the Fruit of the Spirit, is the result of the Holy Spirit in you. It is the most difficult and the most important.

(The previous two paragraphs are paraphrased from Beth Moore's bible study book - It's a great study!)

But what I realized is that I need to have both. I need to endure in tough circumstance like the last few days, keeping my focus on the future hope of Christ's glory. Hopefully as I look towards that and keep focused on Christ the demands and trials of this life will fade.

And I need to have compassionate mercy in the form of patience with my kids. This type of patience is not possible without the Spirit's power. I need to tap into that every day by spending some time in prayer and asking for patience.

I blew it. I asked them to forgive me for losing my patience. We had a good evening together and when we prayed I asked God to forgive me right in front of them. I think it is important for my kids to see me apologize and ask for forgiveness of them and God. It shows them the path to seeking forgiveness and restoration in their own lives.

Galatians 5:22-23
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

This Is Not What I Expected When I Was Expecting!

I thought being a mom was going to be fulfilling. Little did I know the only thing the baby would be filling was his diaper! When I envisioned bringing a baby home from the hospital it seemed like it would be loftier - I needed to be there to bond to my baby and meet his every need and thus save the world through my mothering. It would be so . . . unfulfilling!

Then the guilt sets in: I'm supposed to love this! How can I not love this? I didn't think a baby under six months did so little and demanded so much! Eat, sleep, diaper, awake at night! So monotonous, exhausting and stinky! It seemed anyone could feed the bottles and change the diapers and the baby wouldn't care right? My husband gets to escape to work - I'd like to shower, get dressed and leave the house sometimes.

I think it might be a lot more about what God is doing in me during those early months. He had to change my perspective and develop the care and compassion I would need to care for them. He taught me patience and perserverance. You need all those things when you are potty training a two year old or find someone has just colored all over your freshly painted walls. So as I learned to love and care for each child as a baby it grew right along with them!

It is such a dramatic change in life. I was no longer focused on myself and the things that used to seem important withered away. But at the same time I missed the old life: Shopping whenever, eating out, going to a movie on a whim, freedom, having money and not spending it on diapers! It seems that God keeps pressing me into this mold of His. Teaching me to quit being selfish and developing character in me that really is a miracle because I'm not naturally patient or compassionate!

However, I do think that we matter to them in the early months even though it doesn't always feel like it. When Jenna was born she was in NICU for a few days. I didn't get down there to see her until the next day. I will never forget when I sat by her bed and said, "Hi Jenna" she turned her head and looked at me. I might have had mommy mush brain but I think she recognized my voice.

I'll never forget the first time Grant smiled at me or when Abby used to cry with everyone else until I picked her up. That is what it's all about; through caring for a little baby, we see the work of God. And I find that very fulfilling!

Psalm 139:16
"All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

Loosening My Grip

Well, I did it. I sent Grant and Jenna off on the bus this morning back to school. On Friday, Abby will start pre-school. It seemed sad for summer to come to an end. We've been together so much (not always a good thing) and have had so much fun! Now they are under other people's authority and influence for 8 hours of their day. So am I letting go? I think God is just loosening my grip little by little.

It really all starts the first time you hold your new baby and realize there are things that are out of your control. The nurse comes and takes the baby away to the nursery and the grip lessens. Then they roll, crawl, walk and talk. Little by little they are leaving our grasp. They get involved in activities, with friends and would rather play in their room by themselves. I suppose as time marches on they will get jobs, go to college and date (scary thought!)

I don't think it's a bad thing though, I want them to grow up to be productive adults and maybe it's God's graciousness that takes them away just a bit at a time so my heart can adjust. But as I let them take those steps away from me, it seems like they are walking into the dark world and God has to pry my fingers off of them. However, I think they are ultimately walking towards Christ. They must leave us at times to grow, be challenged and be hurt so they can establish their own relationship with Christ. Not Mommy and Daddy's faith but their own authentic relationship with Jesus.

I'm not sure why I have such a hard time turning them over to Jesus at any given stage. Why I think I can love and guide them better than Him is beyond me. Jesus loves them even more than I do - and that's hard to imagine because I love them so much it hurts. But He does and He is always with them. He is in control of their lives not me. And that is a good thing!

So, whether you are watching your infant crawl or beginning a new year of homeschooling or home all the time with pre-schoolers there's always a new stage and the progression of life. We've got to begin to let go and guide them straight to Jesus - he'll never let go!

John 10:27-30
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Hair Salon

This was written by my Martha Stewart friend Heidi Jo Keranen. I'm kidding, but they came over for dinner last night and after we ate she got out her sewing. So I felt a little unmotivated just eating pie. Also, she was an english major in college so I added in a few misspelled words and typos so she wouldn't make me look bad! Enjoy!

The Hair Salon
by Heidi Jo

Today has been a rough day. The kind of day where I know people think I’m crazy and I start to wonder if they’re right. You see, I just got back from the hair salon with my four little ones. While I got my hair cut, my three 4 year olds ran back and forth between the glass shelves neatly stacked with shampoos (an accident waiting to happen for sure) and my 16 month old added to the atmosphere by screaming in his stroller. By the very end of my appointment things had improved. The older three were bribed into good behavior by a handful of suckers, and my baby was happily nursing under my salon cape. However, I’m sure everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we left. My hair stylist actually said, “I’m cutting it really short this time, so you don’t have to come back for awhile.”

On top of this, I got “the call” yesterday. The adoption agency we have been working with let us know that we have been chosen by a birth mom for a baby due at the end of October. If all goes according to plan, in three months I will have five little ones to take to the hair salon! I must admit that that prospect fills me with a slight sense of panic, but my excitement overshadows that. Just think, states away, a little baby is growing, wiggling, and sucking its thumb in the womb of a woman I know virtually nothing about. Only God knows if this little stranger will become my child-one whose voice, face, and characteristics will become as familiar to me as my own.

Adoption is hard. It requires every bit of faith I have and a complete yielding to God. I’ve gone through this before. My husband and I adopted our twin girls 3 and a half years ago. This time I’m more prepared for the uncertainty and the waiting, but I still find myself wanting to give God advice. “Lord, do you realize that this October due date is really convenient for us. Make this work ok?” Adoption is also easy. I already know that our next child will bring our family joy. We will laugh at her jokes and feel proud of her accomplishments. We will rejoice in the way God has brought us together as a family.

Sure, life would be hectic with 5 kids five and under. There will certainly be people who will think we are crazy. I may be one of them some of the time, but I know the benefits outweigh the hardships. My children have taught me the need to rely on God daily, to trust Him with my life even when it feels scary, and to let a lot of the little things go. Everyday I spend with them is an opportunity to mirror back those lessons. Before we dig into our peanut butter and jelly at lunchtime, I often thank God for the opportunity to spend the day with these little people whom I love with a depth I didn’t know existed before motherhood.

So today I pray, “Dear God, if 3 months from now I face the prospect of bringing 5 children to the hair salon, help me see it for what it is: a temporary inconvenience in a life filled with the blessing of children. Then help me find a babysitter!"

Double Time

Imagine you have a very demanding job. It requires you to work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week and often interrupts you in the middle of the night. There are no vacations, personal days, paid time off and absolulely no sick days. It is such a big and important task that it takes all of your mental and physical energy. It is all you think about.

Then imagine your boss comes to you and says he is doubling your work load. THAT'S how it felt when I had my second baby! How on earth am I supposed to take care of this infant when I'm already totally consumed with caring for Grant? He seemed to take up all my time and energy already. Plus, we loved him so much I didn't know how another baby would fit in.

I've always thought going from one to two kids was the toughest transition. All of a sudden the center of your universe splits in two. It feels like you are straddling the Grand Canyon.

I remember two really distince experiences right after we brought Jenna home from the hospital. One was sitting up at 2:00 a.m. with Jenna and Mike was on the couch with Grant. They were both wide awake (the kids that is) and we were looking at each other like what did we get ourselves into?

The other one is that we got new carpet when she was 5 days old. So I took both kids out to get some pictures developed and walk through a store to kill time. It was a totally horrifying thought to be out with the two of them by myself.

So, what's the secret to survival? Get a nanny. No, just kidding! It is a challenge but I think it taught me a lot. One of the big things was that I thought it would be a negative thing for Grant having someone taking my attention off him. It was totally the opposite. It was great because it taught him patience to wait at times until I finished with the baby, it taught him love and compassion for someone else, it taught him that he was NOT the most important person in the universe and it gave him a playmate which he still greatly enjoys to this day!

Most days I was totally overwhelmed. Trying to meet both of their needs, trying to get them to nap at the same time (ok that one was selfish), saving up money and clipping coupons for diapers and still doing all the other things I needed to do around the house was not an easy task. They were tough days in a lot of ways, but I look back and think about how sweet they were too. They are starting first and second grade next week and it seems like just yesterday I was pushing them in the double stroller.

Hang in there! I'm amazed at how he used these experiences to not only mold me in patience and humility, but also Grant. He's at work in our lives!

Psalm 138:8
"The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever -
do not abandon the works of your hands."

Investment Dividends

I have no idea what that means! If the stock market goes down, it doesn't affect me at all. I just thought it sounded really professional and you might think this stuff was actually worth reading! So I looked up the meaning of "dividend" and it is a share of surplus allocated to a policy holder or a resultant return or reward.

In order to get the reward, however, you must invest. Investment demands sacrifice. You make do with less now, for the purpose of having more or enough in the future.

We have not made any financial investments (except the minimum that is required by Mike's job - and if we think we are going to live off that we are in trouble!)
But I've realized that although there isn't a lot of extra cash flow right now to invest, there ARE investments I must make. They will also involve sacrifice.

My grandparents came to visit us last weekend. My Grandpa will be 90 in January and my Grandma is in her late 80's. They still live an active life, they drove themselves here - a 4 hour drive. But they are great examples to me of investing. Grandpa is a World War II veteran and after that he farmed. They had good times, but also hard times including a lot of health problems and the loss of a baby. But they didn't take that as a reason to become bitter or ingrown and pity themselves. They are people that live their lives for God and for others. Always thoughtful, hospitable, loving and generous. Passing on the love of Jesus to everyone they meet. They drive their friends to their doctor appointments, they still entertain lots of people who WANT to stop by for a visit (and they have a very small kitchen), they have a great relationship with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren because they are willing to give. They played with us on the floor when their backs hurt. They watched cartoons when they'd rather be watching the news. The times we visited the farm were so filled with fun and love. They will always be special memories. And now my kids are enjoying those visits to the farm as well.

I wonder, do you think in the last 80 years there have been times when they felt like not giving? It was probably difficult, exhausting, inconvenient and maybe expensive. I bet there were days. But now as they are aging, I can see the dividends. A life full of memories, joy, love, family and friends. They have been a major force and influence for Jesus in many lives through their service and generostiy. I'm not sure the world would think that they were wealthy (they do have a pretty nice car though!), but they truly are and I think they are smart enough to know it!

I want to share something that my Grandma wrote in her book chronicling our family history. She is writing this to the grandchildren:

"My constant prayer is that each of you walk in fellowship with God and claim Jesus as your own Savior. We know, too, that there are virtues that need to be present in our lives:

1. Hospitality - genuine caring open heart and home.
2. Generosity - not only give of our money but give of oneself.
3. Integrity - a genuine honesty in all things.
4. Purity - plain and simple, keeping oneself clean in life."

They have and are still living that out and I hope I have learned a few things by watching them. There's truly no retiring from the Christian life.

We have some friends that are adopting a baby. They already have 4 children: 2 natural, 2 adopted. They could have more natural children but this is their ministry. The costs are going to be beyond what they have. I would be jumping ship! We don't have that kind of money. But she said at the end of life what am I going to look back and say I wish I had spent my money on. Certainly it is this! So I am in awe watching them completely step out in faith for God to provide what they need. Most of us wouldn't think twice about taking out a $10,000 loan for a car, but for an adoption - are you crazy? Now that's an investment. The dividends will come in eternity when there is one more person that has heard about Jesus Christ because they were willing to take this little baby in.

So, where do I need to invest? My time is one thing. I need to use it to help and serve others. The most obvious is my own family (although they seem to be the hardest!). But there are all sorts of people around us that could benefit from our time. Listening, helping, encouraging and ultimately showing them Jesus.

My money is another part. Although it feels like we don't have any extra to give a lot of the time, we really live in abundance. We have two cars, a house full of stuff and food. We buy things and go out to eat - maybe I need to be more sacrificial with my money. It's easy to give extra money and not nearly as easy to sacrifice so there's money to give!

Hospitality, opening my heart and home to people. That one is tough for me. It doesn't come naturally. But I think I need to ask God to show me where he needs sacrificial investment from me. At times, it will be beyond my comfort zone but that's when I need to walk by faith.

I want my kids to learn to use the things God has given them for His work. Whether it is time, a talent, or money - it's all His. And I guess that starts with learning it myself and living it out so they can see it.

Our dividends for godly investing will not come to us in a nice neat portfolio with charts and graphs on it. In fact, we may not see them on this earth at all, but there is someone who watches and gives growth to our investments.

Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Psalm 62:10
"Though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Why Mommy?

"We have to go to the grocery store."
"Because we need more food."
"Because we ate it all."
"Because we were hungry."
"Because hunger tells us we need more food."
"We need food to grow big and strong."
"Because that's how God made us."
"Because he just did - now get your shoes!"
"Because you need your shoes to go to the grocery store!"

Anyone who has had a toddler can relate to that precious conversation. I find myself trying to reason with them a lot which only leads to more frustration. We all have a natural curiosity. I find myself asking God "Why?" a lot. I wonder how irritating I am? But I was specifically asking why in relation to submission.

There is a bigger picture than just the fact that God told us to submit. I can read and I know it is in the Bible. But, WHY? Did he just think it would be interesting to watch me try? No, I suppose He has a reason for it just like I had a reason to go to the grocery store. I am glad that God is so patient with my questioning.

I think He asks us to submit because it is one of the ways he is making us like Him. As I submit, I am putting aside my needs, sacrificing, becoming more humble and gentle and thus becoming more godly. The point is that he wants us to be molded here on this earth and this is one of the ways that he scrunches my selfish and prideful heart into his likeness. So, I feel a little better about submission just thinking that it is really for my benefit, right?

And I think there is an added benefit with my kids. As they see me submitting to their Dad and ultimately God, they see Jesus in me. It's not always easy and I think it is okay for them to see that too. I want to be genuine with them, at times struggling to follow and obey God is part of life here on earth.

I know a few women that are so good at the submission thing. I can see them doing things and going places that wouldn't be their first choice, putting their husbands plans, jobs, needs, desires, agendas and dreams ahead of their own. And guess what? It is not pathetic, like a little puppy dog on a leash, it is Beautiful! I hope God will help me shine that kind of beauty someday - the beauty of reflecting His glory!

Ephesians 5:1-2
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself
up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Foot In The World

The girls take gymnastics at an old school turned community center. The gymnastics academy shares a hallway with a yoga place. I laughed when I got there last week and saw a sign on the yoga door that said: "Quiet Please, Class In Session". You can smell the incense burning and they are doing what they can to relax, but all afternoon and evening there are over 100 aspiring gymnasts running, rolling, flipping and screaming up and down the hallways. Add to that the younger siblings waiting with their parents and it's total choas. I don't think the sign or the incense is going to make one bit of difference in the noise level!

I think trying to raise kids to be disciples of Jesus Christ in this culture is like walking around with a sign around my neck that says "I Love God" while the world rages on around us. It won't take too long to be overpowered by the noise. And although I say I am raising a "christian" family and we go to church, am I really truly cultivating an authentic relationship with Christ away from the pew? I mean, come on, I have at least 10 different bibles and I've read every James Dobson book on the market. But often my thoughts are not fixed on the long haul, the hearts of my kids. It is consumed with the here and now. And I want the here and now to be fun and comfy - like a pair of Tweety Bird flannel pajamas!

The grim reality, however, is that in many ways I am actually cultivating and encouraging worldly values in my kids. It has become so engrained in my psyche that I hardly even notice. I want my kids to have the things other kids have, to be liked by other kids, and not to do anything that people would consider "unusual" (However, all things 7 year old boys do qualify as unusual - and I hear it only gets weirder). Unwittingly, I'm guiding my kids toward popularity, materialism, and in turn downsizing their relationship with Christ.

Last year, I was challenged with a situation one of our kids was facing at school. There was someone we know being teased by our kid's friends. My first reaction unfortunately was for them to just walk away or avoid it. Why put their friendships at risk or get out of their comfort zone because of another child? What was I thinking? Of course, I should be teaching them to stop them, intervene and befriend the other child. Am I so consumed with my kids sitting alone at lunch or being left out by a group of kids that I am willing to sell out Jesus' teachings? Obviously, I was on the edge of that.

But I think we all buy into that so easily. We should love Jesus as long as He makes us happy, healthy, wealthy, and popular. Kids need to learn that there is a cost to following Christ and that no matter what happens, even if your friends disown you, standing up for Christ, and in turn others is what God calls us to do. Maybe I should learn that myself! How much cost have I had in my cushy little church life?

To live with authentic faith, being focused on Christ in all avenues of life: at home with their siblings, at school with friends and how they act when they play sports is what I desire for them. Is it more important, even at a young age, to stand right before our Lord or have someone to play with at recess? Silly question, right?

So how do I train my kids to live for Christ and sacrifice for Him in this selfish and cruel world? I think part of it for me is looking at the big picture. We aren't just dealing with elementary school issues, these are character issues. We aren't just living for the here and now, we've got eternity to look forward to. They need to develop this kind of stuff in order to grow into a mature disciple of Jesus.

If I don't change my mind set, in 10 years when they are teenagers I might look back and think, How did this happen? How could they have walked away? How could they be acting like this? We are a "good" church family. We have Jesus plaques and bible verses hanging on our walls (literally we do!).

I know a lot of faithful Christian parents who have lived authentic faith and taught it to their kids and their kids have still walked away. We are not in control of the final outcome, but we are accountable to live for Christ and teach them to do the same. Not just at church and bible study or when it is convenient, but all the time.

It's all about God, glorifying and enjoying him. It is so hard to keep that in focus living in this world. But I think that's my problem, I'm focused on THIS World way too much!

Romans 12:1-2
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -
his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Dirty Word?

Submission just sounds like a dirty word, doesn't it? For some reason it seems to leave a bad taste in my mouth. You can almost hear the snarl in the way people say it, "submissssssion". Why is it that I have come to loathe this biblical concept?

I don't think I have only a problem submitting to my husband, in reality I just don't want anyone telling me what to do! But it always comes to a head in my marriage. There are the big issues like having more kids, schooling and discipline. Then there are the minor ones like buying a new back pack, monitoring T.V. time and involvement in "activities". Either way I find it exhausting and frustrating. Why does he get to make all the final decisions? Who made him the king of the universe?

Well, the true King of the Universe put him in charge! If I am unwilling to submit to my husband then I am ultimately spitting in the face of God and walking away. I don't want to disobey God and be distanced from his grace and mercy. He has called me to submission and I think one of his reasons might be that it will help make me more like Jesus.

When Mike and I are butting heads over a certain issue -- certainly we should discuss it, but ultimately I have to give it over to God. The result is not bondage (as I think it will be), the result is FREEDOM! I need to get to the point where I can say, this is how I feel and what I think, now that ball is in your court. Then my job is to pray and commit it to God. THEN LET GO! I have a pretty tight grip sometimes so that is really hard!

It's never pleasant to go against Mike, our marriage suffers, our family suffers and our relationship with Christ suffers. Here's an example from a few years back. We had 2 little kids. There were a lot of things that were difficult in our life at the time, one of the big ones was our finances (or lack of). The more I spent, the more Mike tried to control. The more control he yielded, the more I wanted to spend. So, one day the kids and I trotted off to the mall. (I can remember that I liked to go there and look at all the things I couldn't afford and pity myself.) I decided that we should go out to lunch. I went to the cash machine and took out $40 - a lot of money! I was doing it out of spite, I knew he would find out but there would be nothing he could do about it.

I can remember it so clearly, I was pushing the double stroller and somewhere along the way I dropped the cash. My heart sank! The humility of dropping it for some reason convicted me. I honestly wasn't worried about the money, I just realized how wrong I was and that I didn't want to keep going in the direction I was headed. Well, a gracious woman behind me chased me down and gave it back to me. I did not spend a penny of that money and took it straight home. That was the beginning of being able to let go for me. I realized that my problem wasn't with Mike, but it was my heart - selfishness, pride and more were at the source of this hiddeous teenage-like behavior.

I had this paper from college. I don't know who wrote it, but it was life changing for me in the way I looked at submission. So here it is:

A Summary of the Special Biblical Secret:

-I Submit to God. I'll ask Him, and wait for Him to meet all my needs. (Psalm 62:1, Phillipians 4:6-7,19)

-I realize how valuable I am to Christ because he gave his life for me. (John 3:16)

-While waiting for my needs to be met through Christ, I'll attend to the needs of those around me. I'll forget about my needs because God is taking care of them (Ephesians 3:19-20), and I'll focus on what I can do for others. (John 15:11-12)

Wow! It doesn't seem like such a bad tasting word to me now! And I'm learning that I can submit and serve with Joy, not duty (ok sometimes it's duty). There were times in my life when I refused to submit to God and Mike. I thought I knew what I wanted and needed. The things I was seeking were and could have been devastating and disastrous. God knows our needs and how to meet them. How foolish I am not to trust that!

We choose submission out of reverance for Christ, we don't have do it because we are less. Jesus was a humble servant and submitted to the will of his Father. Is there anything better than to be like than Jesus? I've got a long way to go in this area!

Don't tell me you didn't figure these verses were coming:

Ephesians 5:21-24
"Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Most Important Place to Take Our Kids

Sorry, I haven't blogged in a few days. I suppose I could say I've been "busy". But actually I've had some technical difficulties with my computer. I've spent several hours working on my blog with nothing to show for it except my realization that I really know nothing about computers! Anyway, I'll get on with it:

We take our kids to lots of places: the dentist, the doctor, soccer practice, school, church, boy scouts, and piano lessons - just to name a few! But how often do we take them to the throne of grace, the most important appointment by far?

Why is it so hard to spend time praying for our kids? And even when I do pray for them I find myself praying things like: help them to have a good day, protect them and help them on their test or heal their ear infection. Those are good things to pray about - we should take everything to God. However, I desire to pray on a much deeper level for them - their hearts, sin, salvation and character. I feel kind of at a loss on how to dive into a deeper prayer life on their behalf.

I've tried to read some books on the subject, but they are still on the shelf half read. Then I found these little prayer cards from Pray! Magazine. They are called 31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children and Spiritual Blessings to Pray for Your Children. I can keep them in my bible and pray one or two virtues or blessings a day. I've been doing that this summer and it's been really helpful to me. It's simple and that's what I need. It just gets me right to the heart of the types of things I want to pray for and they all have scripture references. I am not sure if it is kind of a fast food approach to prayer, but I know that it is getting me started on the road I want to be on. I hope that they will be a means to my goal of a deeper prayer life for my kids.

When I met my mother-in-law 12 years ago, she told me she had been praying for me for 20 years. Each day she prayed for her children's future spouses. What an amazing ministry and testimony (I've added that one to my list). It's very humbling for me to think about that and the lack of dedication I've had. Our kids are God's and praying for them is like releasing them back to Him so He can fulfill his plans and purposes for their lives. Is there any better place for them to be?

Mike and I don't pray together as often as we'd like. Yesterday, it was our goal to spend some time in prayer for our kids and some other issues. He got tied up at the office and didn't get home until the kids were hungry for lunch. Annie was cranky and ready for a nap. Even with our good intentions it didn't seem like it was going to happen. After we took care of a few needs, we had a great prayer time together. Could it be that just like going to church on Sundays, there is someone who wants to stand in the way of our prayer time?

I'm trying to use some of the time I would ordinarily spend watching T.V. to pray. It's a discipline and I'm sure it will be a process to get where I want to be. But I desperately want to be there.

I ordered a bunch of the prayer cards and would be happy to send a set to you. Just email me your snail mail address at I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me!

1 Samuel 12:23
"As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you."

Romans 12:12
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Second Chance

I like Michael W. Smith. I've been a fan for probably 17 years. Go West Young Man was the album I listened to on my first CD player. I went to one of his concerts and his piano came up through the floor on a platform that spun around! So when someone handed us his movie, "The Second Chance" I felt as if I'd fallen off the Smitty bandwagon because I had never heard of it.

So, we popped it in one night for family movie night. (It is PG-13 but they are portraying and inner-city mission so it is part of the reality. There are a few mild swear words and some gang violence.) I'd tell you it was good because I cried at the end, but then you would have to believe that Cheaper by the Dozen and Homeward Bound deserve Oscars too. But it was good and I think it's worth seeing if you can get your hands on a copy.

It really contrasts the suburban mega-church with an inner city mission. The glitz and glamour of the big church with pastor (Smith) who wears gucci shoes and drives a fancy car. As opposed to the inner city pastor who is painting bridges and helping ex-gang members find jobs.

It is an interesting commentary on churches in America and it really made me think. I tend to long for the big fancy suburban church full of well dressed people with a program for everything because that's how I grew up. Mike grew up in a little church in Nebraska 30 miles from a paved road. He had a totally different experience and he loved it there. So, which is better? I think the answer is neither. God is bigger than all that. He can't be boxed in by the way we do church. He used both of these extremes to disciple us.

The other issue that hit me was materialism, which is something I'm realizing is a huge struggle living and raising kids in this culture. Michael W. Smith's character has all this nice stuff: car, house, clothes. But as he is forced to work in the inner city he starts to see the emptiness in all of it especially in contrast to the devastation and poverty of the people at the mission. I'm being challenged to think through what we have, what we buy, what we need. I don't think I've given my heart completely over to God in this area.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Ouch - That Hurts!

Don't you just hate being hurt? I'm not talking about a physical injury like my poor little foot that can be dealt with by a little antibiotic ointment and a band aid. I'm talking about heart hurt. And I think it stings more than any physical injury I've had. That is also why I think as parents we want so desperately to protect our kids from having to deal with the pain and sorrow of heart hurt.

I can remember the first time one of my friends didn't want to play with me or mean words from another child all the way back to grade school. It's a double whammy because I've got a long memory and I'm sensitive. Mike thinks it's crazy that I can remember all that stuff. Maybe more often for women they live with those memories and scars all their lives. People say kids can be cruel, but have they hung around any grown ups lately? News Flash: They can be mean too!

A parent of a little girl shared me this winter that there were boys calling her daugher "fat". My first reaction was anger! My second reaction was devastating sadness for her because she will never forget those words. They will echo in her mind for years to come.

But the reality is, we're going to be hurt and so are our kids. Sometimes it will be a direct result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is as simple as not getting invited to a birthday party.

I was licking my wounds today over a few recent things and it stinks! But do you know what it did? It drove me straight into God's loving arms: the only place that I know will truly provide refuge, comfort and healing. I shed a few tears, read the Bible and started to give it all over to Him.

And THAT is what I want to teach my kids. Not to avoid hurt, not to harden their hearts and hurt back, not that Mommy will go clean house on the playground, but to take it to God. And then, through His power, to turn around and love those people back. What an unbelievable lesson! It's one I'm still learning.

Psalm 18:2
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Matthew 5:10
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 5:44
"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mission: My Kids' Friends

My sister works in the children's ministry department at her church. She had this on her blog:

Top Ten Issues Facing Families

Monday Morning Insight quoted a study by Lifeway, identifying the top ten issues facing families.

1. Anti-Christian culture;
2. Divorce;
3. Busyness;
4. Absent father figure;
5. Lack of discipline;
6. Financial pressures;
7. Lack of communication;
8. Negative media influences;
9. Balance of work and family;
10. Materialism.

It makes me think of the kids that my kids are making friends with at school, at church, in the neighborhood and the community and what is going on at home for a lot of them. Here's another great opportunity for us to get our missionary capes on! Just having them over to our house and spending time with them is a great outreach.

And it's sad because usually I just think about all the extra work involved in having extra kids over. But I'm realizing that some of these kids, although they may have every material thing they want, don't have a close, personal connection with their parents. They are lonely and hurting.

I'm also envisioning friends that are in need of material things their parents either can't, won't or don't care enough to provide. Either way it is a huge opportunity to share the love of Christ.

I need to adjust my attitude! I want our home to be a place where friends want to come and hang out - a place of peace and refuge. May there be lots of cookies eaten, paintings made(messes made), bikes riden and joy shared!

What are your thoughts - how do you make your home a place of refuge - not only for your family, but for friends as well?

And a scary thought: how many of the things on the list apply to my family? Not all of them, but there are a few that hit home!

Matthew 25:34-39
"Then the King will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous man will answer him,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"
"The King will reply,'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."