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."