Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dancing in the Sonshine

Last night was my first opportunity to explore the library. Alone.

O, mother of multiple young children, have you ever wondered what it would be like? I enjoyed myself thoroughly! Though I must say it does not outshine the glory of seeing my brood eagerly rifling through masses of peaceful activity. However, the peace of lingering; and of seeking literary treasures that might otherwise remain hidden behind the distraction of looking 4 ways at once, was truly a delight.

Driving along I-70 toward home, I was greeted with a most peculiar sight. In the truck slightly in front and to the right of me, a man leaned out of the driverside window. As if this weren't a dangerous enough feat when driving, this man's arm was engaged in vigorous activity. The kind of shaking, finger outstretched, that goes on when one is scolding a rather naughty child. It took me a moment to realize that I was the subject of this dreadful chastisement. In a flash, I realized that I was driving home in the darkness. Literally. I had forgotten to turn on my headlights! The interstate and prior roads were well enough lit that it wasn't immediately apparent. Whatever happened to getting behind someone and flashing your lights? I immediately flipped on my lights and proceeded with chagrin, hoping that this crazed gentleman would not deem me worthy of further attention.

Humbled and thankful, I pondered the incident on the drive home. What would have happened if I had proceeded without my lights? Driving in the dark I may have driven over or into something in the shadows. But it was more likely that another would have run into the invisible darkness of my forgetfulness. Headlights are for seeing and being seen.

I wonder if my light is being seen. Surely not on the Interstate (harhar)! But do the little eyes that watch me see the light of my Lord? Are they drawn to His warmth and glory? As a flower turns it's face to the sun, so will a child be drawn to one who radiates the light of Christ. I want my child to see that light in me; to see me in that light. I want him to see me dancing in the Sonshine. My heart beats for those sweet moments of recognition, along with all mothers in the Body of Christ. We are surely recognized only as we bask in the Sonshine of God's glory.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 1:7

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. " 2 Cor. 4:6

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Adventures in the Dark

I remembered that the frogs came out after dark, so I gave the oldest two children a special dispensation to be night owls (and you thought I wasn't a dispensationalist!) :-) I hovered in the background while they scampered into the backyard, eagerly scanning for hopping shadows. In the meantime I dodged the swooping bats, which my husband assured me were not actually trying to nest in my hair, but were merely attacking the mosquitos hovering near my warm form (yikes! hurry up kids!). It wasn't long before they both ran back to me, eagerly holding up their treasures. Then they were off again to put the frogs in the special habitat they had created in the woods. They returned with two more frogs, and I reluctantly allowed them to camp out in our cooler in the garage (but really they were more reluctant than I:-). The only fresh food we could find were June bugs, so we settled them down with some water, a rock, some leaves and said bugs. We found out in the morning that frogs don't like June bugs. Or maybe they just don't eat them until July, when they are cheaper. Anyway, here's a picture of the kiddos with their prisoners....

David, Deborah & Frogs

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Childhood In Color

Yesterday we spent quite a bit of time outside. I weeded the garden and finished mowing outside, while the kids took turns riding with me on the mower and playing in our little "forest".

The children caught several frogs at different times and their delight was contagious! They created a special frog habitat, replete with rocks, leaves, branches & an ice cream bucket prison. I was their "get out of jail free" card when we came inside, having persuaded the kids that the frogs may need to take care of babies or fulfill other familial responsibilities ;-).

When we came inside last night it was almost dark. David and Deborah were both excited beyond containment. Deborah kept telling me over and over again...."Mama, I can still feel the frog in my hand! O, Mama he was sooo cute!" David proceeded immediately to his little Z-50 computer and started a document called "Frog Thoughts". Within this document, he typed items from his Children's Dictionary that he hoped to build for his frog tomorrow.

As I pondered this it became clear that this is a very special moment, worthy of framing. All of the vividness and wonder of childhood is being experienced RIGHT NOW! I'd better make sure my priorities are straight because I don't want to miss it :-).

[We'll post some pictures of the frogs and kids soon if I can capture them.]

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Deborah and I rolled through Walmart together recently. She was so excited to be there, and soaked up any interesting experience she could find. She exclaimed over the beautiful fish and lamented at the poor lobsters whose claws were rubberbanded shut. I, on the other hand, was very much lost in my thoughts and the misery of my cold. Toward the end of our shopping excursion, my attention was finally drawn to Deborah, who was acting up in the veggie section. I realized in a flash that the quality time I had meant to spend with DJ had been lost in my thoughts as well, and that she had noticed.

Defined as "giving care or attention; watchfulness," attentiveness seems to have a greater meaning than I initially attributed. Here is the meaning from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1340, from O.Fr. diligence "attention, care," from L. diligentia "attentiveness, carefulness," from diligentem (nom. diligens) "attentive, assiduous, careful," originally prp. of diligere "value highly, love, choose," from dis- "apart" + legere "choose, gather" (see lecture). Sense evolved from "love" through "attentiveness" to "carefulness" to "steady effort."

I think of my military days of "ATTEN - TION!" and it takes on a more dramatic connotation. It can be practiced, but is not useful unless it is acted on. For example, I may notce this mispelled word, but if I am too lazy to fix it, then I have not used my attentiveness for good. ;-)

There is an aspect of preventiveness to the word attentive, which applies to all facets of life. Being attentive can mean the difference between life and death, between happiness and despair, between marriage and divorce. Attentiveness to the picture your child painted could prevent the world from being deprived of a great artist :-) It may also prevent a host of emotional difficulties that an emotionally ignored child may face for years to come.

Attentiveness is a quality which has an outward focus, like most character qualities. The etymology above states that the sense of it originated with "love" and evolved into "steady effort". This is fascinating in that the origin of this word is tied to the greatest Christian virtue of all.

"4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (1 Cor. 13)

I think that attentiveness must hover near the eyes of the body of Christ, urging them to see. Sometimes it takes a great effort to really focus on the needs of others; to draw ones attention away from self and into the needs around them. Christ epitomized this great effort in Gethsemane, when He asked God if the cup of His suffering could pass away..."Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42)

Paul also spoke of this effort in Philippians 2...

"4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

How can we emulate such devotion? Certainly it is unlikely we will have to choose death in order to meet the needs of those around us. But Jesus wants us to have that same mind that He has. The mind which is able to focus steadily away from self and to be obedient unto the most difficult of callings...even death. But the needs that we have to meet usually just mean one thing...that we may not be able to do the things that we want to do. In motherspeak: read a story instead of cleaning the floor; fix a meal instead of reading a book; involve toddlers in the slow process of getting the laundry sorted instead of whipping through it yourself (which is so much faster and easier!); talk to the daughter who is shopping with you instead of thinking about your next project; focus on the husbands needs for a time in the evenings instead of working, reading or sleeping.

It is not possible to have such a mind unless you are present in the body of Christ. After all, His mind is in His body :-) I believe one of the most successful ploys of the enemy is to cause believers in Jesus Christ to think they are separate from Christ, effectively cutting them off from having the mind of Christ.

I ponder all of this today because I am the queen of distraction! This is a fruit that those around me need to eat more of (I know, attentiveness is not listed in Galatians 5, but I am certain it must be a genus of the family of love :-))

Lord, I turn my face to your sunshine this morning, wanting to grow! Help me not to be distracted....

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sweeping to Glory

My husband once explained to me an approach used in computer programming, called the iterative approach. Here's how it works: the programmer erects a basic program framework with minimal functionality. He then begins to pass through the program, increasing it's functionality with each iteration. When he shared this with me, I recognized myself and said "hey that's ME honey! That's how I do things!"

At the time I was packing up our little ranch house in Iowa and preparing to move to Missouri. Nathan had "moved" down there already, into Uncle Perry's spare room, and I was left with the exhilarating challenge of caring for 4 children 6 & under while fixing up, packing and selling our house (FSBO - to save money). I had realized that I didn't stand a chance of being completely organized unless I had gone through everything before sealing up a box, so I left open boxes all over the house, and each time I "swept" through the house, I would put things where they belonged. By the time I had "swept" through 5 or 6 times, I felt that order was the prevailing force and chaos was receding. Hallei-lu-ia! [If you didn't sing that, then read it again for proper inflection.]

Incidentally, I considered this time to be one of the best I can remember with my kids for the simple reason that I had packed away every single toy and they only had library books, their favorite stuffed toy and some paper and crayons. Oh, the simplicity of it! It was marvelous indeed :-).

This sweeping process has greater application to our lives than just packing. As I began to ponder it's greatness, it became clear that the "all or nothing" mentality that I've always associated with my psyche, was simply not helping me to be the person Christ wanted me to be. For instance, in my early twenties I would put myself on a workout program and become immediately discouraged and give up when I missed a few. Or when I wanted to wake up earlier in the morning for special times with the Lord, I would sleep in a day or two and then conclude that I was useless and not even try to wake up early the next morning. I was holding up standards for myself and then failing to fulfil them. I felt that I had to do it right the first time and I had very little grace for myself. Paul speaks about this standard in Romans; showing us that even our efforts apart from the law, to hold up our own standards, fall far short. We jump like dogs through our own hoops, trying so hard for that perfect performance, while the perfection of Christ lies undonned. "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." (Romans 13:14) The Body of our Lord, worn in full assurance of faith, is certainly the only way to walk in holiness for the Christian.

I believe that there is a distinction between character flaws and "sins of the flesh". The distinction has to do with our will. The Psalmist writes "keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." (Psalm 19:13) When we react to a situation with impatience or irritability, rarely is it presumptuous; in fact sometimes we are not even aware of it until afterwards. But when a woman sits down to eat an entire chocolate cake, or when a man heeds Satan's call on his computer, it is a choice made to fulfill the lust of the flesh. This is where freedom in Christ shines forth in a believer who has realized his liberty from the bondage of sins of the flesh, and is great cause for rejoicing.

The former consideration, that of character, is what I ponder here, for this has been a struggle for me as a parent. I have realized that this iterative process which gave great results while packing my house gives great results in my character as well. Each week I start out, sweeping across the chords of patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. But it is not long before a note of dischord is heard. In fact, hearing it sometimes discourages me from trying further.

I must stop here and give praise to my sweet husband, who has helped me immeasurably with his simple encouragement: "Just apologize. And try again." This leads to praise for my Lord and his "won-derful words of li-fe". He is the one who told me to listen to said husband. But I digress.

My point is simply this: The Lord taught me to keep on keepin' on. He taught me to persevere in my desire for Godly character; to keep practicing the chords in my quest for sweet music. Have I arrived yet? By no means, but I have changed and I rejoice greatly, for "we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18) Hallei-lu-ia! :-)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Snapshots from Yesterday....

The green mini-van still hadn't moved. The children were loaded, but that crazy mother kept opening and closing the garage door and running in and out of the house! It was baffling...first she brought out a gigantic green bag, then a basket overflowing with books that she almost couldn't carry, and finally after backing away and closing the garage door, she stopped again and ran in for something small and round. Hmmmm. Wonder what it could be...

Yours Truly:
Honestly, they were all important! The green bag? It was the diaper bag, and since I have a two-year old in diapers, can surely see the necessity there. And the basket of books? They are all library books, and since they are due and we are going to the would surely be a catastrophe to leave them behind. No, the small round thing was not a donut, though it did have a hole in the middle. We stopped eating donuts around here months ago, on account of the hydrogenated something-or-other in them. I'll have you know it was a CD with Galations 5:22-26 sung on it. My daughter requested it, and this kind of fruit is something that I refuse to deny my children, no matter how many pieces they've already eaten.... ;-)

The child flung open the restroom door, stuck out a naked hip and whined "Mama, I've got an owie....right thew." The mother examined the spot, and leaned over to remove something from the child with a device from her pocket, which she then flushed down the toilet. If that was what I think it was, then this woman must carry around tweezers in her pocket!

Yours Truly:
In reality, it was a fingernail clipper. I know, Jeanna, I'm supposed to gently grasp the head with tweezers, but the tick showed up in the library of all places, and I just didn't have a pair lying around.

At the check-out counter, a little boy had his head in a book. The librarian requested it and he reluctantly handed it over, only to grab another book out of the basket and stick his nose in. Suddenly the mother turned around and said, "where's my son?" The lady behind them gestured grandly to book-head. "No, my other one." The librarian said, "how old is he?" The mother replied "two" and proceeded to search the surrounding area. He was spied in the lounging area nearby and an older sister retrieved him. I'll bet her hands are full....

Yours Truly:
He really is a very good boy, better trained than any child I've had. It's just that he's getting used to his surroundings. He thinks of the library as home:-) And book-head is....just a little distracted, that 's all. He's got prizes in his eyes...the ones he'll win from the library reading program. :-)

Observer at Verizon Wireless:
The lady walked in right before me. She had FOUR little kids in tow and I thought, "Oh, great!" They all carried books, the youngest one a sippy cup. At her request, they settled down against the wall and proceeded to read their books. I thought, "Ok, this won't be so bad." After awhile, that lady spoke quietly to the children, and then she kept tilting her head and wagging her eyebrows at them. "Why doesn't she just leave them alone?" I thought. They are being so good....

Yours Truly:
I knew that it would be a long wait, so I told them to bring the books. But then I began to ponder the word "interminable", and I decided book-head had better read to the younger kiddos to keep them occupied. When I gave the request, he looked decidedly unhappy and shook his head. I persisted. "The Eye", punctuated by wagging eyebrows didn't do the trick. I think he was just not wanting to read to an audience, for by this time the line had increased. Sigh. Your're right, they are being so good.

Observer in Walmart:
I saw them three times in the store. The first time all four children were gazing raptly at the fish tanks. I faintly heard labels of "Dorie" and "Nemo" accompanied by little fingers pointing at the tanks. The next time they were in the shoe department. It appeared that the girls were getting new sandals while the boys played. The oldest boy was letting the baby grab his hair and found it so hilarious that he was squealing loudly. His mom kept grabbing his nose and twisting it. How odd. Then the little girl, she must have been about 3-years old, put her sandals in the cart and began leaping off of the bench at the end of the aisle. It's getting a bit noisy around here.... I caught a glimpse of them again near the checkout. They were walking along, the 3 year old was in the baby seat, the baby was walking beside his mother with his hand in her pocket and the older ones were holding onto the cart. Then they spied the candy...

Yours Truly:
I know, you thought from my previous post on Walmart that I had this all under control, but now you know I'm a real person :-). But before you jump to the assumption that I always buy candy for my kids, please know that I only bought that pack of Rolos because my two-year old opened it (really). And I didn't even read the label to check for hydrogenated evils (forgive me Nathan?)... besides, the children had already seen me put the package of Dove Chocolates in the cart, so my reputation was already ruined (I did it all wrong, shopping hungry). Maybe next week I'll get it right.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Itching Ears

Last week I was coming down with an ear infection, and had an awful stomachache. I walked downstairs to visit my ever-busy bookend, hand on my brow, and explained to him that I simply must retire early, due to my tiredness and pain (do I sound as pathetic to you as I do to me?). He was very understanding and sent me off with 2 instructions: #1) Clean out your ears with peroxide #2) Drink a glass of water with some peroxide mixed in. I thought he sounded a little crazy, but I obeyed anyway, knowing that he'd been reading up on the health benefits of peroxide. I cleaned out my ears, drank my peroxide mixture as I listened to the bubbling chorus in my eardrums, and lay down, eager for sleep to overtake me. As I lay there, my stomach joined the bubbling chorus, and the bubbles seemed for a moment to be getting out of control. Wanting to contain the party, I wandered into the bathroom and read the peroxide bottle: "Contact the poison control center immediately in case of ingestion"! I was anxious only for a moment, until prayer and petition with thanksgiving overtook me, and I settled down to sleep. When I woke up, I felt so wonderful that I didn't even remember that I had been sick. :-)

Now, before you wander off, wondering what this has to do with itching ears, let me explain. Peroxide is a very basic medicine that's been around for a long time, and yet it seems that it is being overlooked as a potential help for many ailments. Many people, myself included, have run to the doctor when sickness strikes, wanting something (anything!) to fix the problem as quickly as possible. Doctors are very quick to prescribe an antibiotic or give suggestions for over-the-counter drugs which treat symptoms. They will do what they can to make your "pain" go away. But is it possible that they, in their quest for new and wonderful medicines which will take care of our physical woes, may not know everything? I believe that doctors and patients alike have too much confidence in our system. After all, if that worked, everyone would be doing it, right? I believe that we are missing out on many tried and true natural remedies because of misplaced trust and a desire for that "quick-fix". If you will, we have "itching ears", always looking for that new thing that will cure our physical woes, when often the solution is right there before us. We limit its usefulness because we don't believe it could possibly work.

A more perfect example is the salvation and blessings available to all who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and Him alone. I believe it is taken for granted by much of Christendom. We trust in Him for the ticket to heaven, and then begin searching again. We search for some way to be victorious over sinful flesh by taking seminars, self-help books and various other well-meaning solutions provided by Christian authors (which, by the way, I am not knocking - there's a lot of good stuff out there today!). I believe that this can be a great distraction from Jesus Christ, in whom are all of the mysteries of wisdom and knowledge. In whom we are free. In whom we are dead, buried and raised again to newness of life. But we limit His effectiveness in our lives due to lack of faith. We don't believe He could possibly be the solution because it's just too simple. And oh, the aching ears today! (mine ache a lot, do yours?) If I don't scratch this itch, I might just pass out from the sheer pylethora of temptation assaulting me.

I have learned that taking my eyes off of the simple answer is often detrimental to myself and those around me. As my husband often says, "there is nothing new under the sun." :-)

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Naughty Baby!

My little boy has always been so easy-going. Rarely have I seen him angry. Until today, that is, when his rage literally bowled me over. He was standing in the kitchen by the refrigerator, and his cup of water was walking away from him in the hands of his 3-year old big sister Rebekah. He had set it down on the counter and she rushed in and picked it up, thirsty as usual. But Joshua was not going to stand for it, and I watched the transformation in horror. His little body stiffened and his color intensified. I could see little veins standing out on his neck and his pudgy little arm shot out, finger outstretched as he shouted, enunciating as perfectly as any two-year-old can - "NAUGH-TY BA-BY!" It was more than I could bear and I covered my face, hiding my tears of laughter. :-)

Thank you Lord!

Thursday, June 2, 2005

On Training With Joy

Joshua was playing in the bedroom when I called him. I tried to use just the right tone of voice - not loud enough for him to think I was emotional, not so soft that he couldn't hear me. He peeked around the corner at me, somewhat hesitant. I was a little disappointed that he didn't immediately come, but when I smiled my biggest smile at him, it was just what he needed to push him in my direction. The smile changed it from "I know she wants me to come, but I really want to be in the bedroom" to "I know she wants me to come and I want to go and be with her because she enjoys me!" This may sound like a trivial distinction, but when you consider that training is merely building habits of obedience into little hearts and minds, it becomes an essential tool. Add to the mix that the parent, in focusing on the smile and enjoyment of the child, is training a habit in themselves of reacting to that child with enjoyment - there is truly a recipe for successful training.

On the other hand, if the child is trained without joy, he may learn to obey most of the time, but I am convinced that this a sure way to lose his heart. He won't be obeying out of love and a desire to please you, but because he wants to avoid negative consequences or pain.

The power of it is overwhelming! To think of a child who is raised with a pattern of wanting to please the parent who takes great delight in him! In the hands of the Lord, such a child would truly capture the heart of God. Who knows? Maybe that's how King David was raised.

I am certain that such an attitude was not bred into me, but by the grace of God I am what I am. I have seen that will to please the Lord in myself, and the fruit it has produced in my life. This bears witness that there is a God who has made provision for us in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. "...we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6)

Being joyful at all times is something I have by no means mastered; but it remains a main focus, and I have observed something worth noting about patterns of behavior: They are unique to each relationship. Building a pattern of relating with joy to your 2-year old does not mean that you can, humanly speaking, turn to your 8 year old, with whom you have a pattern of relating with criticism, and suddenly relate to them the same way. So, early attitude training becomes vital, because it is a much more difficult endeavor to suddenly change all of your patterns at once than it is to build each pattern correctly from the beginning.

I can sense the questions... How can I build this pattern? And how do I change wrong patterns of relating to my children? The book To Train Up A Child by Michael & Debi Pearl is the best book that I have found on child training, and they emphasize the joy aspect like no one else. They also have lots of great articles on their site and they were named by The Old Homeschool House Magazine in 2004 as having the best character training material available. So I defer to the experts. :-)