Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Day I Marched My Kids to the Public School


They screamed, they begged, they pleaded with me not to do it.  My husband was angry.  I was depleted and numb.  He gave the final word, something that was in my head for several weeks but I couldn't bring myself to do.
"Take them to the public school and ask how they can get enrolled."
Tears rolled down cheeks.  One boy ran out the door with a stuffed animal and said he was running away (He never left the yard).  I told them to get in the van and we were going to ask lots of questions and they could see for themselves how the majority of their friends and people in our community are educated.  The public school.
We did the tour, got the talk, were handed materials for enrollment and I walked away with three less terrified, but also sullen boys, and a little 4 year old girl who had not a clue what was going on.
"What do you think?"  I asked them.  We talked about pros and cons and the kinds of changes they would face in their daily lives if they went.  We talked about how much Mommy and Daddy love them and that would never change.  We talked about what it was like to sit in a desk for 6 hours a day, and ride in a bus for an hour each way.
They cried some more.  They promised to change.  They pleaded with me to not do it.
What kind of a mom was I for doing this to my kids out of frustration with them?

Lets go back about a year.  I have three sons.  One is gifted with some dysgraphia.  One is dyslexic, slow working, yet very determined.  The third is strong willed with a serious case of ADHD.  My daughter is an eager beaver and very compliant at 4 years old.  We have a second daughter of an unknown age who God will bring to us in His timing. Teaching doesn't come naturally to me.  I studied to be an RN and a missionary, not an educator.  I also have ADD and can be easily distracted on a typical day. This does not make for a smooth day teaching all of them in their different levels, abilities and learning styles.  I often get migraines and force myself to teach through them when possible.
I've changed schedules, given rewards, made curriculum easier or harder, pushed or given breaks, you name it we've tried it.  Yet my kids often thought that obedience was optional.  They rushed through a subject and retained nothing, teased and taunted each other to the point of chaos, couldn't sit in a chair for 60 seconds without crawling on the floor and sneaking around with toys as I read a story, and whined about everything they thought was too hard or boring.

I had it.  I was so tired, so burned out, and I wanted an out.  If I couldn't teach these children effectively and it was causing such a strain on our family, then someone else could do it.  I'd hand them over to the school system to do it for me.  That's where most kids do school anyway, right?

Oh, the freedom I'd finally enjoy!
I could have time to volunteer at our local crisis pregnancy center and do ultrasounds again.
I could go back to being more involved in my church,  rejoin the hispanic ministry, get back in the choir, teach a class, be a part of the women's missions group and go to their meetings and outings, even have lunch and visits with people during the day!
I could have better meals cooked at dinner (no more school until 5:00) get everyone to their evening activities without rushing to wrap up study time, and have a neater and more organized home.
Oh, the money we'd save!  Between saving on curriculum, breakfast and lunch food, gas and field trips we'd save thousands a year!
Fewer migraines, better overall health from eating and resting better, and a chance to exercise whenever I chose!
I could even go back to working as a nurse part time and do what I studied to do 16 years ago.  Again, more income!  More missions trips for us!  More adoption money!  More opportunities!

To be free of homeschooling meant so many open doors for me and freedom to serve and work like I never could before!

These thoughts flooded my mind after that school tour, but as I thought more about it, everything seemed to come back to one thing.

ME
All about me.
All about Mommy
All about what I could benefit out of this change.

What about the kids?
What about my number one calling in this season?

It's gut wrenching, y'all.  It's hard to face your selfishness.

So here I am, in our classroom.  It will remain our classroom for the time being.
We have changed things up.
The kids have more chores to help mommy.
Mommy has promised to be more focused in school and is eliminating distractions.
Mommy goes to bed earlier so she can wake up earlier and school time can start earlier.  An early start gets everything going in the right direction in the morning.
No more goals to finish curriculum this year.  It has been a pain.  A royal pain and pressure.
If we have something coming up and have to crunch to get work done, we limit the work.  Mommy doesn't need to get a migraine over a history lesson needing to be read before jumping in a van to go somewhere.
We are focusing a while on character building, respect and obedience more than knowledge acquisition.

This life is hard.  If you are a believer in Christ, you have been called to something.  It is likely not something that comes easily or naturally to you.  I'm learning more and more that God doesn't want our callings to be natural, because then we don't trust Him to carry us through the difficulties we face while following Him.  We get glory, not Him.
Momma out there who wants to throw in the towel for something that just seems more rational, more financially feasible, less demanding of your time and energy, don't do it.  Don't give in to the temptation of taking the easy way out.  Keep the course.  Satan comes to us as an angel of light.  He wants something to look attractive to us and lures us to places away from God's calling, trying to convince us it's the best way.  It's not.  If you find yourself inserting "Me", "I", "Mine", in all your reasons to quit, it's probably not of God.  It's focussed on you, not Him.

I entertained the thought of taking the easy road.  The temptation almost took me somewhere I know I would eventually regret going.
My kids, my calling, my heart.
God's glory for all of it.
Eternal joy knowing I fought the fight and finished the race well when I hand them their report cards as both their teacher and proud Mommy.

This post is not something that was easy to write.  For one, I know many people who are very supportive of public education, some for good reasons and some for not so good reasons.  I am not intending to offend or demean your choice to send your kids there.  This is a post about the struggle of my heart and calling and an attempt to encourage other mothers who may have similar struggles.





Saturday, October 10, 2015

Get Some Bread or Give Some Bread and Support Our Orphan Hosting!

I've been trying to come up with an idea to get more awareness and support of orphan hosting going while generating income, and feel the Lord has given me this vision:



Get Some Bread


OR


   Give Some Bread!




Bread is a staple to life.  We all love to eat it and enjoy it over the table.  Another staple to life is experiencing the love of a family.  In order to understand the love of God, we as humans created in His image need to experience that love in order to understand how God loves us.

I grew up in a home-based bakery.  When I was growing up my mom baked and sold bread, and I learned a thing or two about baking sourdough bread from her.  This is my third year selling bread, but this year it will be with a different purpose.





"L" Needs to Come Home Again!

I want to work this holiday season with a purpose: to earn the approximate $3,200.00 in fees it costs to bring "L" into our home this Christmas.  I can't think of a better reason to be baking.









So...You Want Some Bread?

Want to Give Some Bread Away to Someone in Need?

In the past I've had lots of inquiries by people out of the area to buy bread products.  Unfortunately it is difficult to ship freshly baked bread around the country, but you can give bread and help an orphan at the same time!  When you make a tax-deductible donation specifically for "L" on New Horizon's For Children's website,  I will then personally bake that dollar amount of bread. Depending on the week, I will deliver the bread to a need in my community.  It would be one of these places:

- a local church meal serving ministry
-a local prison outreach program
-a public nursing home facility
- a grocery-delivering ministry at Christmas
-OR I will deliver it myself to a needy family and personally have the chance to share the love of Christ and the Gospel message with them this Christmas season.  

This gives me a chance to minister to others, but YOU are supporting us while I do it!  It's a WIN-WIN!

The size of your gift will directly go to the quantity of loaves/pans of rolls that it would buy, no matter how small or large.  I can make 35 pans a day, so big donations mean a mini-van load of bread will be going out that week!

Please don't hesitate to share this page with others and direct them to my Facebook Page, Christmas From Scratch Baking Event, to see what's going on week by week in this bread-baking venture/ministry!


I will be giving step by step instructions on how to donate to New Horizons with "L"s code number so it will fund her hosting and you can receive a tax-deductible receipt for your support.  We will periodically be made aware of the total amount given for "L"s hosting and every donor's identity will be kept anonymous. 


****If you love sourdough bread and live locally, of course don't hesitate to order it for you and your family!  My prices will be the same as last year.


Here's an itemized list of items for sale:

Sourdough loaf of bread (typical loaf size): $7.00
Sourdough dinner rolls (pan of 8 regular or 12 mini-sized for making
finger sandwiches): $5.00
Sourdough cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing and optional pecans (pan of 8 regular or 12 mini-sized for bite-sized treats): $7.00 *****


I am so excited to see how this event will bless others, including those who are going to be giving and eating this bread!  I am also excited about the message of orphan hosting spreading to people and places where it otherwise wouldn't reach.  Orphan ministry is close to my heart, and so is sharing the love of Christ.  These two passions will go hand in hand this Christmas season!  Let's keep my oven baking all through October, November and December!


John 6:35:  Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never by hungry again.  Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."





Saturday, October 3, 2015

Adoption is My Marathon, Not My 100 Yard Dash.

My 9 year old son Josiah has discovered he has a natural ability to run long distances.  He amazes me with his endurance and speed without tiring!  Since I ran track and cross country in high school, I thought I'd teach him a thing or two about stretching, breathing, pacing, strategies going uphill and downhill, how to pick off competitors in a race, etc.  I had an amazing coach in high school and still remember what he taught me.  Having 3 babies, getting a bad back at an early age, and not being able to get away from young children has held me back from running again, but Josiah's eagerness to run in 5K races has motivated me to be his coach and companion when he runs up and down the country roads by our home.
Today we ran our second 5K together.  The first 5K was a spur of the moment decision brought on by the coaxing of a good friend who wanted us to support her St. Jude fundraiser.  I was terribly out of shape but still gave it my all and finished with my pride intact.  Josiah got first for his age category without blinking.  After finishing I got a migraine headache and was out for the count for the remainder of the day.

Today's 5K was different.  We have spent 3 weeks running every weekday, keeping track of our pace, increasing distance every day to develop endurance, and we arrived at the race prepared.  However, I was more anxious.  I remembered what it was like to fight for my breath, to wince through the pain in my chest and to feel like I was passing out as I crossed the finish line.  While I knew we'd do better (he shaved 4 minutes off his time and I shaved 3 off mine) and I would have an easier time recovering, I still knew the reality of what it was going to be like.








I honestly don't enjoy running.  I'd rather be hiking a trail with a backpack, doing aerobics in my living room, or taking a swim in the pool for my exercise.  Running a set distance doesn't leave space for slowing down intensity (unless you want people to pass you), taking a break, grabbing a drink of water (unless you have stations along the way or run with your bottle) so it is harder on my body and requires more dedication and toughing it out.
As I've run I've had time to think about how this is a mirror image of our adoption journey.  We can see our race to the "finish" of taking home the daughter (or daughters) God is preparing for us as a sprint like some people have experienced.  Many parents I know have "fallen into" adoption.  They may not even have a home study ready yet, and a baby is offered to them.  They may have just put in their paperwork and get a call that a child is waiting for them.  I am so happy for those families.  They don't have to wait months or years to finally have their hopes and dreams come true.  They get to rush to a hospital or quickly make arrangements, grab supplies at Walmart, and come home with their child just as fast as they have found out about him/her.  It is a whirlwind of emotion and an adrenaline-pumping adventure.

For some reason God hasn't given our family a 100 yard dash adoption journey.  It took 11 1/2 months from start to finish to bring Anna Faith home.  While we were on a set time line and expected our journey to take that long, it still was an agonizing process and the months went by slowly as we waited through paperwork and approvals.  With this adoption, it is even more agonizing.  It has been 7 months now. We don't have to wait on paperwork, we don't wait on approvals, and there is no time line.  There is silence.  Complete and utter silence.  When we explored adopting "L" after hosting her, thinking this may be God's answer to the silence while waiting to adopt domestically, that was also a dead end, at least for several months.  Again, more silence.  She doesn't even communicate with us despite all our attempts to get her to do so.  Now that she is coming back for Christmas, we know decisions will be made after she leaves in January.  This may be followed by more silence or, if she is favorable to it, we can finally begin pursuing her adoption which would begin another long, agonizing international process.

Here's where I apply running to adoption:

-When I run, I must be in shape and know my limitations.  If I run longer than my body can take (like my first 5K in 20 years done from a spontaneous decision) it will damage my body.
Adoption: I must realize I am human. I am a sinner in need of grace.  Coming into the adoption process blindfolded, out of shape spiritually, and unprepared for the difficulties ahead is unwise.  It damages the heart and everyone involved.  We have had our hearts broken.  We have experienced rejection.  Now that we have learned how difficult this journey can be, we are stronger and more prepared to take on the challenges ahead.  Will we get injured again?  Most likely, yes.  But we will be prepared and prayed up more the next time it happens.

-When I run, I don't look back.  Looking back messes up my focus and slows me down.
 Adoption: Don't regret past decisions made.  Don't keep your eyes off the end.  God will complete what He has begun, and turning your eyes off it will only lead to discouragement and anxiety.

-When I run, I don't slow down.  I run a steady rhythm, only speeding up at the end so I can finish well.  This is what my coach taught me to do, as many runners slow down near the end and I can pick them off and finish even better.
Adoption:  Keep pushing, realizing it is a long journey.  Be patient, and know that the end will come when the timing is right.

-When I run, I focus on my breathing.  Getting the much needed oxygen to my muscles to keep me going is key to not wearing out.
Adoption:  My oxygen is my relationship with God.  Getting in His Word, claiming His promises, bringing my requests to Him daily, and asking for His grace to get through the discouraging and dark times are vital to continuing the adoption process.  Without His strength to go on, my "muscles" will give out and I'll stop running.  I'll want to give up and quit.

Maybe your race isn't an adoption journey.  Maybe it's cancer, a chronic illness, getting through school, a difficult relationship, preparing for ministry and not knowing when there will be a breakthrough and open door to walk into.
Not all of us are given 100 yard dashes.  We don't understand God's reasons, and even when we get to the finish line, we still may not understand why the race had to be so long and hard.
But God knows, and He can be trusted.
With His strength, we will endure.  We will finish.  We will complete the race.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us





Saturday, September 26, 2015

When Answering the Call Isn't Easy: Our Journey With "L" Continues


     The email we were waiting for came to our inbox last night.  I was out getting groceries with all four kids and returned an exhausted mess.  After gathering enough strength to put up dozens of bags of items and helping get the kids to bed, I caught up with Kris' day as he had recently returned from another 14 hour day in the field.  An hour later, he mentioned "You do know L got approved to be hosted again?".  My mouth dropped.  I smiled, sort of, and asked why he didn't tell me sooner, but in reality I already knew why.  It was good, but hard.  It was heavy news.  Reality gave a smack down. The door we are cringing to walk through has opened.  The first time, we were oblivious.  We were excited, anxious, and hopeful.  This time, we are guarded, heavy hearted, and holding on for dear life.  We know we need to do this.  We know we still love her.  We still want her.  Deep down we are glad we'll see her again and have her safely in our nurturing home where we want her to belong.
This hard reality we are facing is what Jesus faces with our hearts every day.  He knows the pain of rejection.  He stretched out his hands on that cross and gave His all for the redemption of mankind. He left the glory of heaven, perfection in the presence of His Father, to be with us.  To be a sacrificial offering on our behalf.  He did it, and He knew in advance what it would cost Him:

-Rejection
-Lack of gratitude
-Doubt
-Opposition
-Pain and suffering on all levels
-The weight of our sin on Himself

He knew that more would reject His love than accept it.  But He did it because He was obeying His Father.  He loved us enough to take it.  He knew that His Father would be glorified.

I can only strive to model Jesus by doing this.  We are putting a lot on the line for L.  We are giving up a lot to have her here, and by saying "yes" to hosting her, we are saying "no" to adopting and/or hosting others who are praying and pleading for a chance at having a family.  Yet God chose her for us.

It doesn't make sense.

But we don't know the end of the story.

We don't know what her life will look like 7 years from now when she's on her own.  We don't know if the time she spent with us will change her life forever or not.  We don't know if she will embrace a relationship with Christ as a result of seeing Him in our family.  But we do know we must give her another chance.  We told her we love her every day for five weeks.  Love does not give up easily, despite an answer of "I don't know" when asked if she'd like to join our family forever.

We were told "many children say that- there are so many reasons".  We understand, really we do.  But even when the mind understands logic, the heart still hurts and the grief is still there.

Is God a God of second chances?  Absolutely.  Should we model after Him and open our hearts again after our love has been rejected?  In this situation, this is what Kris and I feel He has confirmed in our hearts we must do.

She will arrive about a week before Christmas and stay about four weeks.
This may be one of the most joyful Christmases we've ever had, followed by a very difficult January when we say goodbye.  Will she say "yes" to adoption this time?  We don't know.  That's what's so hard.  If she says no we know God is still good, and we know our time with her not only has changed her life (hopefully for eternity) but has changed ours to become more like Jesus as well.

Adoption is messy.  Adoption is heart wrenching.  Adoption reminds us of the sacrifice of our Savior. May God receive glory in whatever the outcome of this hosting period, strengthen us and give us hope for the days ahead.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When God takes the little we have and it hurts a lot: a summary of our orphan hosting experience

For five weeks we have loved.  An 11 year old girl who has no memories of her mother who died while she was young and has no father in her life has been a part of our family for this brief time.  Reality is sinking in, especially when she stated what she saw coming a couple nights ago.  During our nightly routine of each child and parent stating what they were thankful for that day, Kris said "I'm thankful for my family today."  On hearing this she drew an imaginary line around all of us but herself and said "August 2, this your family".  Oh my heart.  

 She mentions it all the time...August 2, August 2, August 2.  She points to it with a forlorn face on the calendar and asks "How many days?".  Yet she never cries.  We've never seen a tear this entire hosting.  She has toughened the walls of her heart to not let the vulnerability be exposed. She has
set up just a big enough wall to enjoy us, laugh with us, make memories with us, but not to throw her heart out.  Orphans have learned out of hard lives neither to trust or attach.  Trusting gets you hurt.  Trusting disappoints you.  Trusting means you can't rely on yourself anymore.

"L" is a diamond in the rough.  When she arrived, she was as quiet as a mouse, careful not to say a word except "Yes" or "no" for an entire week.  She didn't even tell us when she had to use the restroom! She was so patient with our noisy, energetic children and tried almost every food and activity we asked her to join us in, didn't protest to routines or outings, and even helped around the house.  By week 2, we started to see her personality.  We discovered that she's goofy, loves to laugh, and enjoys getting out, especially to shop or go to McDonalds!  She feels safe with boundaries and schedules. She loved to dress up, get her nails painted and feel pretty, yet we noticed her self esteem is so low.  She refused to agree that she's beautiful.  She didn't believe anything we complimented her on.  She came lacking confidence to as much as play an iPad game or walk across our shallow pool.  By week 4, however, we could see confidence emerging.  She learned to swim and before long was going down slides, doing handstands, and swimming underwater. She began using short sentences in English, even if some grammar and words weren't used correctly. She sang songs she was hearing on the radio, even if she didn't know what the English words mean, and she even smiled when we say she's beautiful!  We have loved seeing this gradual change in her personality.  The best thing this last week is that she's now hugging us back at bedtime when we hug her goodnight.
Spiritually, she claims she has accepted Jesus as her Savior and has already been baptized.  However, we have not seen evidence of a heart that yearns to fellowship with God and learn about Him more other than the fact that she reads her Bible we gave her in her language when she's bored.  Crossing the language barrier and trying to get in a deep conversation with her about her walk with God is difficult.  We have prayed over her every night that she will truly be a follower of Christ.  The fact that she has a hard time trusting an earthly father figure makes it difficult to trust a Heavenly Father.  I wish I could have a heart to heart with her about this, but it probably won't happen until her English is better.
She tells us she doesn't want to go back.  She has asked us if we are going to have her back this winter (there are 2 hosting periods a year, one in the summer and one over Christmas).  We have been told by our hosting program to answer her "We love you and want to have you back, but it is up to the government of your country to give permission".  That way she knows she is wanted and loved, but the situation is not in our hands.  
We have had several families inquire about adopting "L".  Sadly, we still have no answer to give them as to whether or not she is adoptable.  We will not know that answer unless we inquire personally after she returns.  Another big factor is we don't even know if she wants to be adopted.  To leave everything that you have ever known behind, albeit void of nurture and stability, is still a very frightening thing to do for a child when they are her age.  It is very different for a little preschooler or toddler in an orphanage to want a mommy and daddy than for a tween or teen to pick up their life and move it to an entirely different world.  She doesn't know the statistics for girls like her who are orphaned and have no outside help when they age out of the system.  She doesn't know that at 18 she will be on her own, likely with no job skills, no way to pay to further her education, no housing, and no family nearby for support.  Her dream to be a history teacher may likely never come true if her life continues in its current trajectory.  She doesn't know that 60% of girls like her will find themselves in the sex trafficking industry within 2 years of aging out of the system in her part of the world.  She doesn't know that 15% of orphans where she comes from commit suicide shortly after aging out of the system.  She doesn't know that her life expectancy is 30 since she is an orphan in Eastern Europe.  All she knows is that there is an American family she is leaving behind who loves her to the moon and back and considers her a part of their family.  They don't speak her language, don't eat her food, and while in America all her friends and people she lives with are back in her familiar part of the world.  What would I do if I were in her shoes and didn't know what my future looked like?  What would I do if I was asked at 11 years old "Do you want to be adopted and move to America?" after 5 weeks in America experiencing the love, safety, and security of a family?  I honestly don't know.  And we don't know what she will say either.

And here's where it gets even tougher......

I know what many of you have been thinking, whether you have asked us point blank or not (and many have, not realizing it is against policy to do it in front of her!).  Are we going to pursue adopting this precious girl who is about to carry a piece of our hearts back to Eastern Europe?  We can't give you that answer because we don't have it.  Only God knows.  We are willing to walk through any door He opens for us, whether it be to continue to wait for a baby girl here in the U.S.A. or start the process to adopt "L".  
I have struggled deeply with this, as has Kris.  We committed to hosting with a different purpose in mind, and now we are at a crossroads. There have been days during this hosting period where I couldn't take the torture going on in my heart anymore, and have had to leave the house when Kris came home.  One night, as I was sitting in the car crying, I screamed out to God "LEAVE ME ALONE!".  My heart couldn't take the pain of separating from this girl God has placed in our family, the stress of not knowing her future or ours, the burden I was carrying of trying to love her to pieces in this short time, the expectancy I felt of being the most "perfect" mom I needed to be for her and not blow it (yes, going against my determination to not have this mentality before hosting began).  I wanted God to stop.  I wrestled with tears and pounded my fists, pleading with Him to take the weight off of me.  I couldn't bear it anymore.  His response was simply peace.  Peace in the midst of not knowing, peace that He can be trusted and He will work it all out in His time.  Peace is a wonderful thing.

I feel like I'm dumping out my heart on this computer screen.  Many of you have been through difficult times of waiting on God, getting either answers to questions, direction for big decisions, or for Him to open doors.  We are now entering that time.
If you see us in person, please show us grace and offer a hug, no matter what face we're putting on that day.  I'm good at holding it together in public (except those mornings when I've exploded and haven't put the pieces back together yet!), but deep down we need understanding and grace from our friends and family.  We are hurting, and we don't have any idea how deeply "L" is hurting, which makes it even worse.  Our kids will be hurting.  They are losing a sister they have temporarily gained.  Our family will be feeling a deep void for a long time, and until many of the questions are answered, there will be confusion with especially our younger kids as to what is in store for our family.
I could share story after story of how God has used "L" in our lives this summer.  This has been quite the "missions trip" (whether others acknowledge it as one or not).  It is an inverted, or backwards in location missions venture, but nonetheless we consider it our missions commitment for the summer.  Any other 5 week missions trip ends with tears, hugs, and farewells to people we have gotten to know, bless and invest in. However this trip a child who has become a part of us will be getting on a plane, and we honestly don't know if we will ever see her again.  We don't have a report to share with our local church, photos and an inspirational video to play, items to sit on a table and display about the local culture of her country, but we do have one thing: changed hearts.  We hope and pray hers is changed forever as well, especially in her relationship to Christ.  Whatever the outcome of her life, we have been faithful to obey this call and know that God has and will continue to accomplish His purpose.
Thank you for encouraging.  Thank you for blessing her with your gifts and your time. Thank you for all your prayers, and please don't stop when she's on that plane on Sunday.  Pray God's will is done, pray for peace for all of us, and pray He will receive the glory He's due through it all.

If you or someone you know has heard about our hosting experience and want to know more about hosting a child from Eastern Europe for either Christmas or next summer, go to nhfc.org.  You can then contact a regional coordinator who can answer any further questions and assist you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I Don't Want to Be a Super Mom Anymore.


    "How do you do it all, girl?"  

                                               "You are amazing!"  

        "Where do you find all the energy?"

                                      
           "I couldn't do what you do"

Yes, I've heard them all.  At first it pumped me up, and made me feel I was worthy of praise,  or maybe deserving of a nomination for the "toughest mom award" or something comparable.  I would reply "God made me with lots of energy" or "You just see the good stuff on Facebook, but I do struggle too!" or "You're amazing too!" but do I really need to hear those kinds of comments?
We moms play the comparison game WAY TOO MUCH.  Most of the time we don't want to compliment the other mom on her amazing Pinterest accomplishment, her unwavering determination to get through a tough season of baseball while juggling so many other tasks without a hitch, or her Barbie doll figure she maintains from getting up at 5:00 to go to the gym and still manage her home in a seemingly flawless manner.  We look at her and then ourselves and wonder "Why can't I get my act together and be like that?"  The guilt creeps in, then the envy.  We may resolve to try what they do: maybe take the same supplement that gives them energy, maybe get a membership at a fitness center for a month, maybe experiment with a style or hobby like theirs so we can see if we can do it too.  Or maybe we just block them from Facebook in order to avoid seeing all their accomplishments splattered all over our newsfeed.  On occasion, when we are feeling confident ourselves, we may compliment them and say "You are amazing, girl!" and watch her beam and maybe return a compliment to us.  
Is this the cycle we want to continue?  Is this what Christ wants of us?
I recently saw this chart and couldn't get it out of my head.  In a world where being a "super mom" is a goal, why don't we try to be an "Abiding Mom" instead?  I love how this chart brings to light how a Supermom is one whose life revolves around her works.  She finds fulfillment in accomplishments and good behavior.  However, an Abiding Mom is focused on grace.  She knows she will fail no matter what her abilities are, and she relies on the strength of the One who loves her, has saved her, and holds her imperfect life in His perfect hands.  She also focusses on her kids hearts, not their accomplishments and on relationships, not activities.
It is so easy to fall into this trap, moms.  I am so guilty of this.

Credit: abidingmom.blogspot.com

I recently read the book Mom Enough that was written by 8 different women who all address the issue of being the Mom society expects us to be, and how we can deal with the "Mommy wars" that are going on around us.  I highly recommend this book!  It gives deep Scriptural wisdom to the Christian mom who desires godliness in her own life and her children's lives.  Here are a few of my many favorite quotes from this book:

"In God's economy, our weakness is one of our greatest assets...what weakness does-like nothing else can-is draw our attention to the One who never grows tired or weary"

"God is not in the business of making my life comfortable and free of stress.  He has something greater planned for me: my holiness"

"Motherhood provides you with an opportunity to lay down the things that you cannot keep on behalf of the souls that you cannot lose.  They are eternal souls, they are your children, they are your mission field"

As moms we have such a huge responsibility on our shoulders.  Sometimes it seems to weigh so heavy that we feel we can't do it anymore.  That is just what God wants us to feel!  It is at that moment that we realize that He must increase and we must decrease, that He must take our burdens and we must hand them over willingly, not begrudgingly. When our kids see our willingness to give up the super mom fight, to demonstrate to them a desperation for God's strength on difficult days (like stopping to pray with them before leaving the car because you are on the verge of a panic attack), that models to them that Christ is our cornerstone and needs to be theirs too.  Actually, it's not just a model to our children, it is a model to the world around us!

Sweet mom reading my amateur blog, I don't understand all that you go through on a day to day basis.  Sure, many of us have the same stressors in common, but we are also each in unique circumstances that expose each of our weaknesses as we parent our children.  Those weaknesses and inadequacies that the world around us wants to shame us for are actually a gift from God.  They are there so we can pursue Him!  

So the next time you find yourself aspiring to be like that "super mom" over there, remember that is not the goal.  Holiness is.  Push towards that, live for that, model that, and watch God do wonders in your heart and the impressionable hearts you are raising.


Just say NO!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the Brink of Hosting: Inner Turmoil, Our Purpose and Our Mission.


Waterfalls remind me of the awesome, sovereign hand of God.  
On Friday our lives will change.  A little 11 year old girl with big blue eyes and a crooked smile is going to enter our lives, and they never will be the same again.  I am so filled with different emotions it's hard to put what I'm feeling into words.  Anxious?  Definitely.  Excited?  You betcha.  Fearful?  Somewhat.  Hopeful? Yes. Joyful? With all my heart.
Will she be comfortable calling us "Mom" and "Dad"?  Will she trust us at first...or eventually after she tests us to see if we're the real deal?  Will she open up to us or hide from us emotionally?  Will she want to be hugged or shrug away from us?
I have recently met another host mom from afar due to a connection with a mutual friend I went to college with.  She is hosting again for the 6th time.  If anyone has felt these emotions, she has.  She shared some amazing wisdom with me when I asked her for advice as we prepare for "L" to come into our lives.



"Hosting and adopting an older kid is really an entirely different world than adopting a baby or younger child.  So much more of their worldview has been shaped and I think what I have been told and now tell is that we aren't there to fix them"


"L" isn't our project to repair and mend so she can be a normal kid for the first time in her life.  She is what this broken, fallen world has made her.  I can't patch up the broken pieces of her heart and send her on her way in life a restored, confident, loved and secure young woman.  The only thing in me that can make a difference in her life is the poured out, unconditional love of Jesus that dwells in my heart.  Fun trips, bonding times, generous gifts, hugs and kisses, adventures, pillow talk, it all is great and a blessing to her, but it won't change who she already is.  I am still struggling to accept this, as all I've ever heard and read is that parents are supposed to mold and shape their kids' characters from day one.  She is 11.  She's already been molded, and that breaks my heart.  Her only hope is to have the opportunity to hand over those broken pieces so Jesus may restore her and make something beautiful out of the ashes.  If she is adopted or not, she will still struggle in this life.  She will still carry many, many scars.  Adoption could be wonderful, hosting is going to be amazing, but it isn't the cure.

How can I best show her Jesus in 5 weeks with a language barrier?  The answer lies in my past.  I have showed Jesus to so many without the language or acquisition of culture before by simply living out who He has made me.  It just gives the Holy Spirit a chance to get even more credit!

He is our Peace when the waters rage.
How can my heart bear to fall in love and then have to let go?  I've done that before too.  Kris visited me from across the world 13 years ago.  We were in love, planning to be engaged, and I had to put him on a plane, knowing I wouldn't see him again for 7 months.  The Lord taught me how to find peace, to finally stop crying and find the strength to go on serving Him even though a part of my heart got on a plane and left the country I was living in.  He saw me through then, and He will see me through this, as hard as it is going to be.

Why did we decide to do something like this instead of just going on a missions trip?  We have met some criticism, indifference, and lots of questions about our intentions with "L".  Is this a bad idea, to be putting so much stress on our marriage, our children, our hearts, when we could have used the money to go overseas and love on orphans in orphanages, helped feed the homeless, canvas a neighborhood, provided materials for the needy?  I struggle with these thoughts at times, wondering why God has led us to do this instead of doing what "normal" missionaries do.  As Kris has recently told me, we are weird!  God has no cookie cutter way to be a light to the world.  He only wants our obedience when given an open door to walk through.  This is our open door.  This is our chance to make a difference for eternity in not only the life of an orphan, but in the lives of all who will be touched by her.  We hope that by being "weird" we can inspire others to explore the possibility in being host families in the future as well.

I can't wait to hug that little neck and cry tears of thankfulness that she's safely here.  I can't wait to see the love poured out of my children as they desire to serve her and learn sacrifice and living out the Gospel as they share their lives with her.  I anxiously wait to see what God will teach me and how He will make me more like Christ as He stretches me and uses me in a way I've never experienced before.

Friday's coming, y'all.  Friday's coming.  I just hope my heart doesn't explode before it gets here!

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to be a blessing to a hosted orphan

The top bunk in the girls room is ready to be occupied this summer!
I am loving the feedback from many of our friends who think hosting an orphan with the goal of sharing Christ's love and connecting them with their forever family is a great idea.  We are so blessed to have this opportunity, as I (Tonya) stay at home with my kids, we have an extra bed, we have space in our vehicle, and we have the resources to sponsor and provide for an extra child for 5 weeks.
We want as many people as possible, who have a heart for orphans and evangelism, to have the opportunity to bless our "L" while she is here.  Blessing a host child (and indirectly, our family as well) can come in many forms.  Another seasoned host family has listed some ideas they have given their supporters that I thought were wonderful, and I'd like to share them with you, followed by a list of items "L" will need both while she's here and also to take back to her country with her.

1: Be a part of our prayer team.  We need prayer support!  If you want to be in a group that receives texts about specific prayer needs as we host "L", please let me know.
    a. Pray for "L"s salvation.  We are buying her a Bible in her language and will be trying to find as many opportunities as we can to communicate both verbally and by actions what the Gospel means to us.  Pray for creative ways for us, for understanding for her, and for the Holy Spirit to do an amazing work in her heart.
    b. Pray for "L"s adoption.  We still don't know for sure if "L" is adoptable or not.  There are many children who are hosted that easily get adopted after they return to their country after prospective families inquire of their government about them.  However, others are not allowed due to red tape and possible issues with the birth parents not relinquishing all of their parental rights, even if the orphan is considered a "social orphan" in the system.  Pray that if "L" is meant to be adopted, that this process will be simple and the family called to adopt her will be able to do so.
    c. Pray for our family structure.  We don't know yet how "L" will adapt to our family, or how our family will adapt to her.  There may be some rivalry, jealousy, frustration over communication issues, and disappointment if she is not the host sister the kids are expecting her to be.  Pray we will all learn from each other and show lots of grace with the changes we'll have to make as we adjust.
    d. Pray for our other pending adoption.  We have had our profile viewed by at least one birth mother recently, and were not picked.  We have peace in the process and know God's timing is best.  Pray for His perfect will to be done and for the heart of the birth mother who will choose us.  We don't want to be caught up in emotions over adopting another child while "L" is with us, but if the Lord so chooses to bring a daughter into our lives while she is here, we know He knows best! *I am forming a text group so let me know (if you haven't already) if you want to be added- this will be for private prayer requests regarding "L" while she is here

2: Provide a meal.  "L" has said she loves chicken and potatoes.  We have learned that kids from Eastern Europe love lots of fruit as well.  If you want to provide a meal for us, either by a gift card to Chicfila, KFC, or Zaxby's, or to bring something over one day to take the load off Tonya, it will be greatly appreciated!  You are welcome to eat with us when you drop it off as well, and get to know "L"!

3: Provide the gift of entertainment   "L" has said she likes to go out and have fun during the day, but stay at home in the evenings.  If you'd like to take her out to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, roller skating, bowling, come with us to the Discovery Park and pay for her pass, pay for her ticket to Venture River Water Park (we're going sometime in July with her and hope to go with a couple other host families in our area), any of these gifts would be a blessing!  We can't send her out with a family without either Kris or I accompanying her due to policy, but we'd love to work something out for you to love on her in the form of a fun outing.

4:Babysit our other kids.  Seriously, we'd LOVE to have some time alone with "L".  I'd love to take her shopping, get her hair and nails done, or just go get a sandwich with her on an afternoon every once and a while.  When all of our kids go with us together, she will not have any special alone time with her host parents.  She said in her interview that she's happy to be around younger kids, but we want to have special time with her when possible.  By babysitting our other four, you really are being a blessing to her and us!  *two families have come forward to volunteer, but we won't turn down more offers!

5: Just ask/show you care.  If you want to offer something not listed, please just ask.  There has been a great amount of care demonstrated already by our local friends, and we want all of you to be excited and in prayer for this special girl who God has brought into our lives.

6: Lastly, we need material items.  I've tried to compose a list of needed items and will check them off on this blog as the need is filled.  If it is just an item we'll need to borrow for the summer, I'll list it with (borrow) next to it.  As shared in our announcement blog post, please do not give "L" gifts in person without asking us first.  It will probably be OK, but we need to know what the item is and if it is allowed for her to return back with.  Bringing back a prohibited item (an Apple product, a frame with glass in it, expensive electronics, etc.) can really cause problems with the hosting program's relationship with the orphanages/governments involved.   Thanks for your sensitivity in this!

-gently used or new summer clothing, either size 8/10 or 10/12 (we don't know her size, but she will be 11 in June).  If you buy it, leave the tags on with a receipt so if it doesn't fit we can take her shopping and exchange it.  If you give it to us used, please label the tags with your initials so we can return it back to you if it is the wrong size so you can give the clothing to someone else.  Also, please make sure the clothing is modest for a tween!  In her culture, short shorts are not very appropriate.  Longer shorts and shirts with straps wider than spaghetti straps, no halter look or low back, etc. are acceptable.  Keep in mind skirt/dress length to be modest and to around the top of the knee or lower (assuming she is an average height for her age).  She has mentioned she would love a pink bedroom, so if you shop for something specific, keep in mind she probably likes pink clothes too! We have received items from two families with two other families committing to provide clothing items as well.  

-a bathing suit- must be conservative (no belly showing) 

-socks and underwear (4 pair of each)

-shoes, including flip flops, tennis shoes, dress sandals for church, and house shoes.  We honestly don't know what shoe size to get....if you have a daughter around 11 years old who is average that's a good place to start!

-hair accessories- she has long straight brown hair. (ties, bands, bows, etc)

-a girl's bike ,18" or 20"(borrow) (pending)

-a bike helmet (borrow)

-a back pack for travel/flying back

-hand towel/washcloth (for taking home)

-brush/comb

-toothbrush

-memory book/photo album

-journal

-good winter coat, scarf, gloves and hat (for taking home- her country has long, cold winters)

-low-cost jewelry, stationary, low-cost MP3 player (for taking home)

Thanks so much for your support of our "L"!  She will arrive June 26th and be staying until August 2nd.  We are excited and hope you are too!  Caring for orphans is something very special to our heart, and we pray by your involvement with "L"s time in our family, you will gain the same love and passion as well.





 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Have mercy on me, oh Lord! When your strong willed child is just like.... you.

He wanted to do the laundry...himself.
I was never told I was strong willed.  NEVER.  I thought those kind of kids were the rebellious ones, the trouble makers, the kids who were constantly getting grounded and were defiant with their parents in public.  I was always the A student, the best behaved little girl in class who never had to sit out during recess, and though I got lots of spankings for mostly sibling related offenses as a child, I was never labeled as a "problem child", at least to my face!
However, when I see one of my sons, I see me done all over again.  His stubborn determination, will to do it HIS way or else, and persistence to carry through every one of his plans whether they are allowed or not by his parents are a direct representation of his mom's genes.  I read somewhere that the child who is the most like us is the one we will have the most problems raising.  It can't be more true in my case.  This kid has caused me more anxiety, migraines, embarrassment, junk food binges and fits of rage than my other three kids put together!  In addition to the strong willed character, he is also hyperactive, highly emotional. and seems to have the characteristics of a child with ADHD.  When, out of curiosity, I recently took the test for adult ADHD, guess what?  Yep, just like my boy.
I asked my mom recently "Was I a strong-willed child?" and she laughed and said "Well yeah, of course you were!".
So how on earth did I turn out OK?  I look at this child and have thought many times "He's going to be the one I blow it on".  I really think that a lot.  I feel like I can't get control of him.  He repeats offenses over, and over, and over and probably outgrows bad behaviors before he's corrected enough to learn they aren't good ones!  For example, for 6 months this child at 3 1/2 years old would poop his pants, put the contents in the toilet and flush it, then clean up the evidence and change clothes.  The only way I knew what had happened was when I did laundry a few days later.  Why go through so much effort when you can just go to the toilet?!  He had control, that's why.  Then there's the period when he would climb all over the countertops by scaling them, starting at 12 months old (I have photos to prove it) just to investigate what food was up there.  He didn't want to ask because then he wouldn't have control.  He will only do work in school that fits his interests.  No bribe, reward, punishment, or praise will change his mind.  However, when he sets his mind to learn it, there's nothing he can't master.
When I read what I just typed, I shake my head.  That's me.  I'm raising a mini-me.  Alright, I don't think I've ever pooped my pants to have control, but you get the idea.  Let's not start any nasty rumors about me now.
So why does God want to punish me with....me?

Well, I think He's trying to teach me something.  Go figure.

When one strong willed person tries to lead another strong willed person, sparks fly.  It doesn't matter if one's a parent and the other's a child, they will butt heads constantly.
A strong willed person wants to be respected and given a choice.  When they feel boxed in and oppressed, unable to use their ideas, determination, and desires, they explode.  I think I've done that once or twice, or hmmm....maybe one hundred times?


I need to model to my son that no matter how strong willed I am, I must yield.  Yield to God, yield to my husband, yield to the authorities God has placed over me, and sometimes, when appropriate, even yield to his desires.  If his character is to become like Christ, He must learn that like Christ He must submit to his Father's will:

Philippians 2:5-8: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! 

Obedient to death...now that is true submission.  Would I really lay down my desires to that degree?  If I want to be like Jesus, I must be willing to.

Our kids will only learn by the example put before them.  If I want my kid to turn out "right" I need to change my heart as well.  For those strong willed parents out there, I know.   It is stinking hard.  It is a battle of the heart versus the instinctive desire inherent within us to do it "our own way" (I have been labeled many a time as a girl who does just that!).  It is a battlefield that we must hand over to God so in turn, the precious ones He has entrusted to us will follow in our steps and do the same.

Those kids.  They always point out the worst in us.  But praise God- they are pointing us to more sanctification!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

She's coming, she's coming! But who she is may surprise you!

You all know we are in the process of waiting to adopt a baby girl domestically.  So far there has been significant movement to confirm to us that there are birth moms out there, but they aren't the mother of our daughter....yet.  So just to keep from leading you on, NO, we have not been matched with a birth mom at this time!  It could come at any day, any time, but THE phone call hasn't come to us.  It's God's perfect timing and perfect plan, and we are OK with that.

Eastern Europe
We do, however, have some special plans while we wait to see who the daughter God has in store for us is.  The doors have opened for us to host an orphan from Eastern Europe for five weeks this summer!  I can not share publicly online which country she is from and what her name is, so will simply call her our "L".  She is 10 years old, soon to be 11 this summer!  We have had our application to host approved, and are now awaiting further information about her file to be sent to us.  We are hosting with the organization New Horizons For Children.  They are a Christian based hosting group, not an adoption agency. Their goal is for each orphan to not only be exposed to the love of God through sharing and living out the Gospel to him or her for 5 weeks, but also to give the orphan hope in this life.  Many of the orphans hosted find their forever families while they are in the U.S.!  It is our prayer that we can not only lay down the foundation to teach her about Jesus, but also be instrumental in her finding a forever family in our area.

"The only thing God asks of me every day is to show up and bring my little bit of willingness"- Lisa TerKeurst

That is where YOU come in!  Kris and I want the word to spread like wildfire that we have a beautiful, precious girl coming to stay with us this summer.  If you are a part of our church or local community, we need YOU to help us love on her!  We will need help collecting either gently used or new clothes and shoes for her to wear while here and bring back to her country. Ask us about a general size (we have to guess based on her age and the fact that she's likely smaller than the average American girl).  She will need friends around her age to make her feel welcome when she participates in church activities.  She will need patience as she doesn't know much English.  Our family would love to have over any family who potentially would like to adopt her, whether we know them or they were told about "L" by word of mouth.  I will be able to share her picture when she arrives, but we have to follow specific guidelines for her privacy and the protection of the hosting program.  Please do NOT share her name, country, or photo on ANY social media outlet.  Never, ever, use the word or allude to adoption when in her presence (this is a strict rule we have promised to abide by).  Never give her a gift unless Kris and I know about it ahead of time and give permission (we also have been given strict guidelines regarding what she can bring back with her).
This is a new concept to us, and another step of faith.  We know it will be heartbreaking to put her back on the plane in early August.  We know our kids will get attached to a "big sister" for the summer, especially Anna Faith.  We know there could be a lot of stress if she comes with baggage, which all orphans have.  We know we may have a newborn baby girl come home while she's here (potentially) and our home will be turned upside down!  However, God doesn't call us to be comfortable.  He doesn't call us to play it safe and never take risks at loving and giving.  If we don't take this risk, there is a 60% chance "L" will fall prey into the sex trafficking industry when she ages out of the Eastern Europe foster/orphan system.  There is a 15% chance she will commit suicide within 2 years of aging out as well.  Just one summer of being exposed to love, stability, and family can completely transform her life, even if she isn't adopted later.  It will potentially give her hope and a future.

"You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced." Ann Voskamp

Please pray with us for "L".  Pray for her heart as she will undergo lots of changes, culture shock, and challenges.  Pray for our family as we prepare our hearts to take her in.  We would love to talk to anyone who is interested in hosting and point you in the right direction.  Most hosting programs for this summer have deadlines in May, so if you feel God is leading you to do this, you must act quickly!  The website for New Horizons is http://nhfc.org
I will close with a quote I was given at an Adoptive Mom's Retreat I attended last weekend (it was awesome by the way!):

 "Peace is submission to authority, not resignation from activity....  God is working in the waiting".

 I love this.  We are waiting for so much God has in store for us, but that doesn't mean we have to stare at an empty pack n' play in our bedroom.  We need to continue to see God working.  I am confident He is already, and will work in and through "L's" life and ours.  It's going to be a crazy, wild ride, but simply amazing!


Monday, April 20, 2015

10 benefits of big bouquets: how having lots of siblings is actually a GOOD thing (contrary to popular opinion)


What if I were to say this about a large bouquet of a variety of sizes and colors of flowers on my table:
-There is no space for them in that spot
-They are squished together
-This isn't fair to the first couple flowers that were in the vase
-They are ugly because they look chaotic
-There shouldn't have been as many picked so they could have been spread out to other people
-It was irresponsible of the picker to put that many flowers in there.  What was she thinking?

Sound a little ridiculous?
This is similar to criticism I hear about having lots of
children.

While getting a physical for our current home study, I was examined by a physician I never had met before.  She was from the Philippines and came from a family of 9 children.  When I started to tell her our family's story, she beamed with excitement that we are a growing family.  Since families of more than 2 or possibly 3 children are often criticized in our society, having the four we have has already brought on stereotypical responses reflective of a judgmental attitude toward families like ours.  Many people on the outside believe we have our brood of kids due to either irresponsibly choosing to or out of poor moral choices.  I'm not going to quote the negative comments of people we know, but here are just a few of the comments I've received in public:

"I would never have thought you have four kids.  You don't....."look" like you have four kids"
So what am I supposed to look like?  A woman in sloppy clothes or pajamas walking around in Walmart at 11:00 p.m. with a glazed over look on my face?

"They are all yours? Wow...."  (The expression is made with furrowed eye brows)

Then there's the all-time favorite that Kris was asked at Walmart by an old friend "Wow, four!  How much do you get each month for them?"

So I asked this doctor, who came from a very large family abroad, what she thought of having so many siblings growing up.
"Did you feel you were at a disadvantage?", I asked her.
"Absolutely not!  I loved having such a large family!"  was her reply.
 "Did you feel you weren't getting the attention from your parents that you needed since they had to split all their time between you?"
She laughed.  "Of course not.  I felt loved by my parents and never felt like I missed out of a good relationship with them".  She added "Having a large family helped my character a lot!"
 Our conversation ended with a clean bill of health for me and encouraged hearts.

With all the bad rap we receive from either people we know, strangers we meet, or society in general, I've come up with a list of 10 ways children of large families are benefited  by having multiple siblings.  I'm in no way coming down on small families.  Please don't think I'm trying to relay the message that if you have one or two kids that they can't be as much like Jesus as kids in larger families.  I just want to bring to light that having multiple children is a good thing when a Christian parent wants to see them grow in their character and as an end result, in the Lord.  Please understand I do not condone irresponsible parenting in our society. 

1. First of all, children in large families learn sacrifice.  There have been countless times my older kids have had to give up going to birthday parties, special church events, invites to others' homes, and trips to have fun altogether because of a younger siblings' needs.  They give up space for their things, and have to share time with their Mom and Dad.  And they certainly have missed out on being spoiled like many children in small families!  They can either choose to become bitter about having younger siblings, or they can recognize that they must yield their interests for the interests of others.  As they grow older, this trait will be evident in their walk with God in so many aspects, as well as in their marriage and parenting.  The more sacrifices due to multiple siblings, the more the building of this character.  Are they missing out on a great life of fun and adventure, socialization and building of friendships?  Maybe a little, but it is more than made up by their life lesson that life doesn't revolve around them.  They must lay down their opportunities and desires for the needs of others.

2. My kids learn about grace from each other.  A whole LOT of grace!  Imagine my five year old's reaction to his sister sneaking into his play space and knocking down his lincoln log castle by accident.   How about a sabotaged artwork of an 8 year old big brother made more "pretty" with magic marker scribbles by a toddler sibling?  Then there are interuptions in sleep, school work, loud behavior and grumpy attitudes while concentrating on something important, temper tantrums over dinner, potty training accidents on a brother's bed, I could go on and on!  Our kids learn what grace is: giving someone something they don't deserve.  They want to smack their siblings over the head sometimes (and they succeed often) but they are also learning what grace is all about.

3.  My kids learn about leadership.  If I let my kids outside to play and no one takes the lead in an activity, there is chaos.  Usually my oldest will come up with rules, structure, and instructions on what they will do in their creative world they enter in the backyard, but other times a younger sibling wants to initiate an activity and the others follow.  I love watching them develop this skill, as they will need it as they grow into adulthood.  Without followers, you can't be a leader, and what better followers to learn from than your siblings?  They are learning how to not be dictators, how to compromise for the greater interest of others, how to be structured in their play, and how to make peace when things get hairy.  This will take them a long way in life and in Christian leadership in their adult lives.

4.  My kids learn how to be mediators.  I have two middle kids right now, soon to be three.  Middle children are typically the mediators of the family, but that isn't always the case.  They want to advocate for each other when they are in trouble, or vouch for the other when we need "witnesses" to a punishable offense.  They stand up for the other when they need someone to defend them.  It is precious to see my older children already develop this trait they acquired from having siblings by using it outside our family.  They are already finding ways to help orphans, pray for the lost, and identify those who are in need.  It is a beautiful thing as a parent to watch.

5.  My kids learn compassion.  The greatest life lesson for my children in compassion has been learned through their little sister.  It is not uncommon for a brother to run to hold her hand when she's afraid, pick her up when she's tired, calm her down when she's crying, or fix her a cup of milk when she's hungry.  This compassion is now bleeding out into the world around them.  They hear about persecuted Christians and immediately are burdened to pray and take action.  They have huge hearts for orphans and will not hesitate to take any opportunity given to pray, give and go to help them.  Seeing needs in their own siblings and reaching out to them has fostered this compassion in a big way.

6.  My kids learn humility.  Pride is a problem for all people, but it is an especially difficult struggle for the strong willed child who never wants to yield their right to be right and have their way.  When a sibling has to lay down their rights and opinions so they can serve their brother or sister, it is breaking that spirit of entitlement in their hearts.  They learn that being second and their sibling being first is actually not so bad of a place to be.  Carrying a humble heart into a marriage relationship, into parenting, and into ministry as a Christian is immensely important.  God is using their siblings to help teach them these tough lessons on humility development early.

7.  My kids learn perseverance.  Imagine a big lego project continually being torn apart by a little sister.  How about a little brother having to try over and over to ride a bike like his big brothers, or swim, or climb a tree so he can be "big" like them?  My children don't want to miss out on opportunities to achieve, so they have learned to work at it until they do.  A lot of this is due to having siblings, and this character trait will carry them far in life.

8.  My kids learn how to encourage others.  For years my little boys would pick on each other, aggravate the snot out of their siblings, and laugh at their mistakes.  However, as they grow, they are learning to encourage.  I thoroughly enjoy overhearing an older brother lavish compliments on his younger brother or sister when they start to read a book, recite their math facts fluidly, or make a beautiful work of art.  The encouragement builds up that sibling twice as quickly than if it had come from me, because while they know Mommy will encourage frequently, when it comes from a big brother it must be REALLY a big accomplishment.  What greater training ground to learn encouragement than with your family at a young age?  This spirit of lifting up others will benefit them greatly as they use it in other relationships in their lives.

9. My kids learn to work as a team.  As they grow, I see my kids pick up on each other's strengths.  When they do chores, they know who accomplishes what task the best and most efficiently and work together to get it done.  They each know how to compliment each other and get along when needed.
"Team Dixon" works as a unit, and that bond grows stronger as we grow in numbers.  When they go places where there are other children, they typically like to stick together.  This isn't from not wanting to be social, but they consider their siblings their best friends and comrades.  That spirit of teamwork will be a tool they can use in the adult world to accomplish much.

10.  My kids learn self-reliance.  As we've added more children to our family, it has become a huge task for me to care for my kids like a typical mom would.  At a young age my kids have learned to fix their own breakfast and lunch, feed their younger siblings, help with potty training, and help with multiple jobs in the home that a typical child their age from a small family wouldn't normally do.  At the age of seven, my oldest was thrown into changing his sister's diaper once.  He actually thought it was great!  Having lots of siblings doesn't increase the burden on my kids, it teaches them self-reliance so they can feel needed and valuable to our family.  Without each one of them, certain things would not get done during the day.  This gives them a sense of belonging in our family and teaches them to be depended on.





Many families have little bouquets.  They are pretty, neat, and tidy.  However, placing flowers in a big bouquet doesn't detriment them.  They still blossom, they still can be individually appreciated, and they actually are able to lean on and support each other.  They should be seen as a beautiful thing.  The bigger my bouquet gets, the more I notice that beauty is constantly growing in each flower God places in it.  I hope that by reading this post, others can understand just a little glimpse of what a blessing and advantage multiple flowers have when they are placed together!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The More Kids, The More Sanctification: 10 flaw indicators in motherhood that point me to Christ


The more children I have, the more I realize my need for Christ-likeness.  I don't necessarily mean "I'm so desperate for some of God's peace because my kids are driving me crazy" type of need, but an understanding of my sinful human nature and how the only way I can improve my character is by striving to be more like my Savior.  With every child we add to our family I discover more about myself that needs to change.  Each one has a different trigger that stretches me and makes me want to implode with anger, react with spite, and show my ugly sinful self in all its nastiness.  It's as if God has so many rough edges He's trying to smooth out of my heart that He keeps giving me more kids and pushing me in more ways to change my character to be more like His.
Many of you can relate with similar scenarios of days that drive us to our knees, either physically or figuratively, to a greater realization of our need to be more like Jesus.  If you don't understand because you either never had children or are still single, let me enlighten you on common moments in my home.

-Screaming, wailing and gnashing of teeth over having to do a sheet of 25 arithmetic problems, 5 days a week
Girl drama.  
-Shoving, hair pulling and teasing/jeering from the back of the minivan as we go down the road.  If that's not occurring, then fighting over an electronic device, complaining about the volume of the electronic device, complaining about the temperature in the vehicle, or whining about a tummy hurting.
-Seeing my favorite flowers out of my flower bed butchered and in the hand of a proud child who wants me to have them.
-discovering muddy footprints on the floor, cabinet doors, and countertop just after cleaning the entire kitchen from top to bottom
-vomit on a Sunday morning.  Don't need to go into detail on that one.
-finding fecal matter on the carpet.  Better yet, in the tub!
-hearing a child scream they can't find their shoes when we are running late.  Or discovering two of the boys didn't comb their hair as we get into the van.  Or noticing someone is wearing a pair of pants two sizes too small and never even realized it until we got to church.
-constant fighting over whose turn it is to pray, recite this week's Bible verse, or lead in the pledges to the flags.
The chaos.  And the nakedness.  Sigh....
-sneaking of candy, then the candy found on the bedroom floor covered in ants.  And it has melted.  Into the carpet.
-arguing and whining over chores.  Every day.
-screaming at the top of their lungs while I am writhing in a headache.




These are just a few of the moments I've had when I can either choose to blow it and react like a heathen or choose sanctification.
I have made a list of 10 ways that my beautiful, gifted little blessings are pointing me to achieve holiness.  With every day I spend with them comes a moment at least one of these reminders comes to light.

At her very special, unforgettable big (happy?) birthday party.  
1: I am impatient.  I find it ironic that many people have told me in public "You are such a patient mom", or "You homeschool?  You must have a lot of patience!".  The answer is No, No, No!  I am constantly aware of my impatience, and though I've come a long way in 9 years since our firstborn came into our lives (bringing with him colic and sleepless nights for the first month), I still need to become more long suffering like our Lord.
"The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression." Numbers 14:18a

2: I am selfish.  I want "me" time.  I shush my kids away when reading a great article I see on Facebook.  I never can pull myself out of bed before at least a couple boys have awoken, because I want a few more peaceful moments of rest before facing another day.  Being a mother can tempt me to feel like a martyr (remember the house-arrest post I wrote a few months ago?)  or remind me of a Savior who laid down His life for mine. "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood- to be received by faith." Romans 3:25a 

3: I am in need of help.  Remember the song "I am a rock.  I am an island?"  That's all me, folks.  I refuse help unless I am in absolute desperation.  Got kids like mine?  You'll find yourself in absolute desperation fairly often.  Jesus came to save those who realize their need of Him, knowing they can't do it on their own.  If I am to strive to be holy, I must realize I need Him, every hour.  "The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one." Psalm 28:8

4: I am weak.  I crave sleep, chocolate, and coffee, not necessarily in that order.  I can't tote my 3 1/2 year old around on my hip, cook dinner, and talk on the phone at the same time (though I've attempted it for short periods of time).  I get headaches and have days when I am literally dragging me feet from either emotional or physical exhaustion.  I have limitations and can't carry the world on my shoulders.  Realizing my weaknesses makes His strength more apparent in my life.  "In the day I cried out you answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3

I can't stand dirt, boogers, and other substances on the french doors.
They get nasty every.single.day.
5: I am never going to be perfect.  No matter how many times I try to implement the latest Christian parenting technique, how many new teaching pointers I get from endless sources, and how many sermons inspire me to godliness, I will never have it all together.  That's the curse of a sin tainted world.  We can try all we want, but we still will mess up.  This points me to grace.  A life lived in constant realization of the grace of God is a life growing in sanctification. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me". 2 Corinthians 12:9

She may look cute, but she was sitting in a puddle of urine when I took this.
6: I need forgiveness.  I hurt my kids, a lot.  They always manage to forgive me, even when I'm too proud to ask for it.  Since I'm around my kids more than any other group of people and show the real me and not a glazed over, well-composed woman who can put on a smile in most any circumstance, they see my ugliest side on a regular basis.  It reminds me of my sinful nature, and points me once again to the one who forgives me every time I fail Him.  "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

7: I don't have all the answers.  No matter how educated I become, how many books I read or degrees I earn, I can't answer every question my children throw at me.  It's humbling, since I've accomplished so much educationally in my past.  This pushes me to the one who is omniscient. "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit." Psalm 147:5

Mud.  I HATE mud.
8: I am a control freak.  Drop a wrapper on my floor or yard, I'll smack you upside the head.  Well, only if you're my kid, and it's more like a smacking with a tongue lashing.  If a child wakes up sick on a day I have plans, I fume.  If their behavior warrants a punishment that changes our plans, I want to explode.  I know in my heart when these events happen, I must let go.  The Lord wants control of my days, and I must submit my plans (and even the orderliness of my life) to Him.  "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes His steps." Proverbs 16:9

9: I am proud.  I expect my children to make me look good when we're in public.  When they disgrace me and Kris by yelling out in church, biting another kid in the nursery, or throwing a tantrum in the hallway, it enrages me to no end.  God desires brokenness in my life, not an attitude of wanting to be praised and admired for my wonderful parenting success.  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.  A broken and contrite heart, Oh God, you will not despise." Psalms 51:17

Yes.  Micah said he hated the cave trip.
Only because he had to take a picture with his little brother.
10: I am unecessary.  The mentality of "my kids can't make it a day without me" isn't true.  They don't need me to survive.  Yes, they need a caregiver, and yes, they need someone to point them to Christ, but if I was gone, God would still fulfill his purpose for their lives.   The only person my children can't live without is Christ.  They need Him, and I must remind my children - and myself- that my parenting, educating, shepherding, and discipline aren't what sustains and makes my children thrive.  It is the grace of God, poured through my life, impressing them to also live for Him that molds them and points them to godliness. "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God." 2 Corinthians 3:5  

The bottom line is we all need more sanctification.  We can't stay satisfied with our present heart condition and spiritual maturity, but we must constantly push toward holiness.  For me, four kids going on five is the toughest and most effective method God is using in my life to remind me of that.
Maybe for you it is a difficult job situation, a rocky marriage, or a relationship with your family that is constantly pushing you to become more like Jesus.  For me, it's my kids.  I can either be grateful or I can push these reminders away and sit in complacency.

Fellow moms, I hope this encourages you.  I hope you can see through the aggravations, exhaustion, and errors, and notice what God is trying to use to make you more like Jesus.  There is a high purpose in all the madness of mommy hood!