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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Perspective on Praise [Guest Post]

Today I wanted to share with you some thoughts from a friend, Jesse Johnson who, together with his wife, lives and serves in Burundi, Africa.  Thank you, Jesse, for letting me share this with my readers!

My thought for the new year: thanking God for his composite blessings for our integrated life

"You died for my sins, Praise Jesus,
Cleansed me within, Praise Jesus."
"I got a new car, Praise Jesus,
Now I'm riding in style, Praise Jesus."
My initial thought was: "What a shallow view of spirituality!" I heard this in a gospel song televised at a black church service from the united states. The problem with this kind of language of course is that it seems to represent a materialistic view or outlook of Christianity, and it seems to be saying that spiritual life exists to benefit the physical. Or that spiritual life is here for the sake of the acquisition of material things. The next thing that bothered me was the fact that true spirituality, in my upbringing, in the way I thought was consistent with the Bible, could be summed up by this little saying, namely that "God doesn't so much want us to be happy as he wants us to be holy," and I heard that many times in my life. But the more I reflected on this and why that song bothered me so much "praise Jesus, I got a new car; praise Jesus, I got a new house," the more I realized maybe that this perspective (present in much of African-American Christianity, and to some extent in Africa as well where I live and work) isn't necessarily a health and wealth gospel (though there is plenty of that around the world). Neither is it necessarily the sign of a mere materialistic spirituality. Maybe I was too quick to judge. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe it was actually a more honest and complex perspective, a more integrated perspective.

"How on earth could you think that," you are wondering; well, let me try to explain a little bit. I'll start off by saying that I think that many of us, in our own minds, in our churches, have divorced God's area of activity from our physical lives, we've narrowed it down to our hearts and our inner beings and we haven't let him actually be Savior and Lord of our whole lives, spiritual and physical. Of course you say the spiritual is more important and I agree. Many people live for the physical plane alone, and they are lost. But for those of us who are saved, spiritually, we may have unfairly banished God from the physical realm of our lives. The best way I can think to illustrate this, is to flip the assertion of the song, "I got a new car, praise Jesus." Well, if it's unholy to thank Jesus for a new car, who are you going to thank?

Many born-again middle-class Americans are buying new cars with all the latest options and the question that comes up is this: "if it's true that God does not so much want us to be happy as he wants us to be holy, and if we should be desiring as God desires, then why do we go out and buy a new car with all the latest options in the first place?" We are obviously placing a high value on and desiring physical comfort and high standards of quality, and we, like the singer of the song are probably pleased with our purchase. Yet it won't do to praise God for it. Doesn't that seem a little hypocritical? Or maybe we don't want to associate God with our purchase because we feel a little bit guilty about it, or that he is only capable of being involved with our hearts. Well our hearts have everything to do with new cars being purchased, by the way.

God's arena we've limited to the spiritual part of our lives and we have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord so that we can have the spiritual blessings of knowing him, but then when it comes to having a new car we don't think it has anything to do with God.
So here goes the question: got a new car, who should I thank? 
Or, because we feel so guilty for having bought a new car, or because we think Jesus isn't concerned with cars, new or otherwise, we are afraid to thank Him for His provision? 

Is this perspective really better: I'm still going to buy my new car because of my desire for a comfortable, useful, and stylish mode of transportation, but it's unspiritual to praise God for it so I won't. 

There are roots to the perspective within much of African Christianity and (through preserved elements of worldview) within the African-American church as well. Within an African worldview (speaking very broadly of course):
1. The physical and spiritual realms themselves are not as separate as we would like to think in the West: in the African perspective they intermingle freely. 
2. Personhood is not a neatly divided pie chart of body/soul or body/soul/spirit as much as it is an integrated whole so that the spiritual and physical aspects of one's life overlap and are in constant and complex interplay. 
In this way you cannot talk about physical life without the spiritual dimension, or spiritual life without the physical dimension. You certainly cannot talk about them as if they were completely distinct. This seems to me to be closer to the nature of reality and personhood as described in the Bible, (though to look at the biblical evidence would take more space than my purpose here would allow) and in that way, this perspective can be instructive for our neatly filed strict western categories through which we view our Christian lives. 

So my question for you, as this year comes to an end is this: "if God has blessed you with a new (or new to you) car but you think it's unspiritual to praise him for it, who are you thanking for it?" Maybe it's time you invited God into the material world of your own desires because though he'll sift them a bit, He deserves to be there because He certainly is the source of all blessing spiritual and physical of our composite, spiritual/physical life. It's not necessarily unspiritual to shout "I got a new car, Praise Jesus."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On Birthdays and Christmas - which is better?

One of my children recently asked me, "Which do you think is better: your birthday or Christmas?"

I hadn't thought about it that much - really.  I didn't have an answer right off-hand, but on further thought, I do.

In her mind with my birthday being exactly one week before Christmas, I had a lot of fun experiences to compare.  I had never spent much time comparing.  The farthest I'd gotten in my ponderings was to realize how self-centered I tend to be and that God, in His great wisdom, allowing for my me-centeredness, placed my birthday one week before His incarnation so as to make sure I didn't dwell on my own importance for too long.

To a child, birthdays and Christmas can be extremely similar.  Both have gifts, both have treats and goodies.  Both are celebrated and anticipated.  Both are delightful and possibly stressful at the same time.  But there the similarities end.

Because Christmas is something the vast majority of the world participates in - in some way.  The festivities abound far beyond a birthday celebration.  And Christmas is about Someone Else, and not about me.

As I thought about it, I realized that what matters more to me is Christmas - hands down.  Christmas is SO much better than a birthday.  Christmas has meaning whereas a birthday just changes the number I fill in on required forms.

Today I am 37.  Big deal.  My life may have significance and meaning.  But not without Christmas.

The birth of Jesus makes all the difference in every detail and aspect of my life.  I'd even say 'blue is bluer and green is greener because the God Who made colour entered our world and came to be with us.'

Someone else said the same thing:
"Heav'n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o'er-flow, Flow'rs with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know as now I know, I am His and He is mine."
(George Robinson)

So to celebrate my birthday I will share with you the best of Christmas:  Not only that Jesus came into our broken and suffering world, bringing hope and divine peace that only He could bring.  Not only that the marvel and wonder of God-made-flesh would be beyond our ability to grasp and comprehend -

"Our God, heav'n cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heav'n and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate, Jesus Christ."
(Christina Rossetti)

Not only did He come.

He came in love.

And not just fluffy-feel-good love - nebulous, unspecific, without substance or meaning.

The joy of Jesus birth for me is that He was born for me.  The best news about Christmas is not that Jesus came.  But that Jesus came, and He loves me.

Christmas is awe-inspiring because God, enmeshed with humanity, becoming present in our own skin and DNA, welcomes me as His child, because He loves me.

This love,
                              this gift,
                                                    this grace 
                                  can be yours this Christmas too.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fighting Discontent: Complaining, Be GONE!

I write off and on about contentment because the lack of it irritates me in others so frequently and there's no better fuel for a writer's fire than negative traits in others!  (Dear friends of mine, please know, I don't judge you or see discontent in your life...)

I just had to field a comment that went like this, "Well, it does seem that you could use more space in your kitchen."  This, after I didn't have a good answer for "Where do I put this?"  These types of comments drive me nuts.  They require composure and a tight lip.  We went through a long process of looking for a house that would meet our needs - NEEDS - mind you - not wants.  And yet I know full well that our needs would be met in a house half this size or with a miniscule kitchen - because what we need and what we think we need are really two different things.  But I digress.  My response (cool, calm and collected, by the way - congratulations welcome in the comment section), went like this: "This kitchen is more than adequate.  It merely lacks order.  I lack organizational skills which is why I don't have a particular place for this basket.  If I ordered my kitchen well, I would know where to put it."  And I was told how having more space is better and all the reasons why.  As if I need convincing!  This was when I started to get frustrated.  Because discontent is always possible even if you have no-one there trying to advertise it to you.  It made the battle all the harder because I am determined to be grateful, content and joyful and appreciative of the many comforts and provisions that God has supplied - going above and beyond my needs to even my wants.  I am not entitled to these.  No one had better tell me I really 'need' this or that.  Scripture tells me that with food and covering I'll be content and so that's what I shoot for.

The outward sign of discontent is complaining.  Complaining comes in many forms.  Not merely whining which is so unattractive in our kids.  It comes in comparing ourselves to others.  It comes in coveting others stuff, strengths and situation.  It comes in dwelling on how to make things different/better - and striving towards that with a zealousness that borders on obsession.  And yet improving our lives is not a bad endeavour.  Simplicity is good insofar as it lends itself to a greater portion of our lives being devoted to what really matters.  And it isn't the stuff we tend to orient ourselves around that really matters.

I answered that the answer to logistics can be more space, but often it is that the answer is more order.  I lack order and so I suffer space issues.  It is not the stuff's fault.  It is not the space's fault (for not being more spacious).  It is my fault and I will take responsibility for my over-cluttered space and personality.  At the root of my clutteriness however, I see a glaring fault - and that is discontent.

Why do I have no place to put this basket?
Because I haven't allotted it a spot.
Why has it not got a spot?
  Because I have put too many things in my kitchen.
Why are there too many things in my kitchen?
Because I lack the discipline of simplicity.
Why do I lack the discipline of simplicity?
Because there is niggling discontent in my spirit that whispers the lie that, "I need that!  I could use that!  I can have that and not have things overwhelm me by their presence!"
These are truly lies.  I am overwhelmed by too much stuff.  And I need to work towards simplicity and contentment.  It is no wonder discontent irks me in others.  Because it irks me in myself.  It makes me cranky.  It makes me downcast.  It steals my joy.  Therefore I want to banish discontent in myself and in those around me.  Since I can't control others I'll just have to be content to banish it in myself.

 (As for the others, they can read my blog and learn from my ongoing struggle!)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Apologies for Being Obnoxious

Dear Readers of my Blog,

It has come to my attention that I have let my thoughts leak out in a potentially offensive manner.  So I want to issue a formal apology to my audience.

You need to know that I only write a smidgen of what goes on in my brain because I really do want to steer clear of controversy and not be a thorn in people's side with my ramblings.  I really don't want to hurt people's feelings with the things I write.  I don't intend to be judgemental, harsh, rude or nasty.  I hope you know me well enough to know that.

I also want to say I didn't write my 50 Reasons to Leave a Church to point at anyone in particular.  I myself have said some of those very things.  Some of them are ridiculous.  Some of them are valid.  And some are in between - neither ridiculous nor valid or invalid - they just are.

I have been a part of seven churches in my life of 36 years.  Three of them are in Hong Kong.  Two of them in college.  Two of them since then.  No matter the circumstances for leaving a church - down to even moving from another country - it is a painful process.  I don't want to minimize that.  It is a burden and weight to be removed from one flock and drawn into another.  As I always say, "There is no pain like Church pain."  If you have experienced it, you know what I mean.  It is tempting to become a pew-warmer and yawn and detatch in order to not to experience the grievous Church Pain.  But we know that is not our calling.

So, I am SORRY.  I was making observations of life and maybe I wandered into hot-button territory - needlessly.  I was going to just take it down, but words spoken are like water poured out on the ground.  So I'll leave it there and issue my apology.

Please know I don't judge you or anyone for leaving a Church.  It is your business and not my place to judge.  But I do know some people DO leave for amazingly petty reasons.  And if love covers a multitude of sins, certainly love covers the offenses of people running churches not asking me how to do it.

So, there I said it, again.  Maybe I'm stepping on toes again.  Maybe I'm just too obnoxious by nature.  But I do want my readers to know I don't mean to bludgeon you with words.  I just have a nasty habit of letting my thoughts be known and I was not blessed with the gift of diplomacy.  Some day, maybe I'll learn.

Love to you all, no matter what Church you attend,


Monday, October 7, 2013

50 Reasons to Leave a Church

Disclaimer: I'm not saying these are the reasons you should leave a Church.  Just throwing out a bunch of reasons why people DO leave churches.  I'll let you guess as to what the legitimate ones are.

Here we go: 50 Reasons to Leave a Church

1.  You changed your religion
2.  They wouldn't let you paint, "Smile! God Loves You!" for the gym floor mural
3.  It's no longer a democracy, and we all know democracy was the heavenly prescribed best method for how to govern a church
4.  They removed that stained glass window you so liked
5.  The music is rock-band style
6.  The music is not rock-band style
7.  You are allergic to people
8.  They're not spending money the way you want them to (and we all know that how a church divvies up funds is the crux of everything so you will vote with your feet and dollars and go elsewhere).
9.  The preaching is dry and boring
10.  They don't have a program for everyone in the family
11.  It's too big
12.  It's too small
13.  They wouldn't let me do my song and dance on stage
14.  They didn't support you in your marathon for (insert pet cause here)
15.  They have too many potlucks
16.  They never seem to have potlucks - and we know fellowship is all about the food.
17.  They're always telling you what the Bible says - where's the pop-psychology and pep-talk, man?
18.  They never tell you what the Bible says - Why is it all pop-psychology and pep-talks these days?
19.  Leaders will not hear an honest, humble, Biblical rebuke
20.  Heresy
21.  They tolerate open, unconfronted, unrepented sin among its members on an ongoing basis
22.  People aren't willing to gossip with you anymore - so it's time to find a place with more gossipy people so you don't have to change your conversation style
23.  Churches are for seasons - this one is good for this season, that one is good for another.  In this season of my life I'll go here - when I wear out the novelty, I'll go there.  It's a consumer society after all.
24.  They are too seeker sensitive
25.  They are not seeker sensitive at all.  They need to talk to me about the perfect balance - but no one asked
26.  Someone wore perfume without asking about your major allergy to the stuff.  Surely there is a fragrance free, democracy style, music to my preference, Bible teaching to the degree I like (as long as no mention of submitting to spiritual leaders is mentioned), dress-code Church around here somewhere?
27.  They changed the carpet/wall-colour/bathroom tile/curtains/light fixtures (etc). without asking your permission
28.  When you volunteered to bring cupcakes to the 3 year-old Sunday School class, they turned you down.  'I'm so out of here!' you said.
29.  The pastor isn't gregarious enough
30.  The pastor doesn't wear a tie
31.  The pastor uses a preachy voice
32.  The pastor is too casual/formal/uptight/loose/trendy/awkward
33.  The pastor didn't come when my Aunt Bertha had surgery on her big toe
34.  They turned down my offer to teach Sunday School, start a Ladies' Aid Society, host a Purple Hat group, start a soup kitchen, announce/collect for a food drive...
35.  They won't let my kid play violin with the other musicians
36.  They didn't give me double votes even though I doubled my giving
37.  It isn't meeting my needs (Right now I need encouragement and the messages are too convicting...Right now I need support/help but we're being challenged to give more...Right now I need someone to hold my hand and teach me the basics, but they're feeding us spiritual solid food - meat, even!)
38.  XYZ Church over there has a new happening thing going on, and I want to get in on it.
39.  My kid broke up with his girlfriend in the youth group and it's just too uncomfortable to go there anymore
40.  They are not practicing what I consider to be the only right way to run 'church' - they use the wrong lingo - they say, 'church' instead of 'meeting' or 'assembly'. They have a clergy/laity divide.  They have a pastor or they don't have a pastor.  They let women audibly participate in worship or they don't let women audibly participate.  They are not practicing what I consider to be New Testament Principles (There's a whole list of them if you're interested).
41.  They didn't kick so-and-so out of fellowship though she gossips and destroys unity in the church.
42.  They kicked so-and-so out of fellowship which is so judgemental of them
43.  They practice church discipline (we should just love everyone and accept them even if they are unrepentant of confronted sin)
44.  They don't practice church discipline
45. I didn't marry the church, so it's not like I'm divorcing it by leaving
46.  The leaders are stubborn, belligerent, unapproachable and iron-fisted
47.  They choose leaders by the worlds standards: success in business or politics = potential church leader.
48.  They choose leaders by the Biblical standards: godliness, temperance, able to teach, humility, devoted.  The leaders they picked don't have the clout and acumen among the big-wigs of the world.
49.  There was a scandal.  They didn't handle it right.  I'm outta here.
50.  I just don't like it anymore

So, these were all I thought of off the top of my head.  Can you think of any others?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sun Shine Down: Q and A with Author Gillian Marchenko

I recently had the privilege of reading a powerful memoir. It so powerfully moved me that I felt it was important to expose all my readers to her heart - her life.  I loved how she drew me in and made me feel I was walking with her on her journey through hope, depression, acceptance and joy.  Her honesty is refreshing - and so often I felt myself nodding along with her experiences - both positive and negative.

Here Gillian shares with us some responses to questions she's received - let it whet your appetite for this book and look for an upcoming giveaway on this blog!

Gillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband
Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry
Press in the fall of 2013.

She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression,
imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago
Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today's Christian Woman,
MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record.
Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together.  She speaks for the rest of

Why did you decide to write this story?

E.M. Forster said, "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?"  I am a life-long journal keeper, but after the birth of my third daughter and her diagnosis of Down syndrome, writing became necessity.  The first year of her life I wrestled a hallowing grief over the child I expected and the mother I was to become.

My journaling delved deeper as my daughter grew.  Images, situations, and details bobbed up to the surface of my conscious.  A fear of brokenness; broken people, broken things, and ultimately, my own broken heart, had been tucked inside me since childhood.  I wrote, and a thought nagged.  Perhaps these words were meant to be read by others?

A memoir emerged.

You are a pastor's wife.  Was it difficult to share the hard parts?

While I was writing, and throughout the process, no.  But I have to be honest, once the book published, and my struggles and sins were out there for all to see, yes.  In the beginning though, when my husband Sergei and I agreed I would mould my writing into a book, we also agreed I absolutely had to share the hard parts.  Without hard parts, the good parts aren't as good.  Without darkness, the light is not as bright.  Grace lives in hard parts.

What do your husband and children think of the memoir?

They are excited and supportive.  My daughter Zoya told me the other night, "I don't know what I am more excited about, Mom.  The fact that you published a book, or the fact that my name is in it."  I'm thankful they are fans of my words.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working on two projects.  One is about my personal struggle with depression as a pastor's wife and a missionary.  With this project, I hope to convey that just because people of faith struggle, it doesn't mean they are not people of faith.

I also have about sixty pages of Evangeline's (our adopted daughter with Down syndrome) story written.  I do believe those who loved Polly's story will one day (God willing) get to read Evangeline's story as well.

Would you recommend this book only to special needs moms?

No, I think this book resonates with all sorts of people.  Of course, special needs parents, but also anyone who has been taken by surprise in life.  And who hasn't?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Gillian!  I look forward to reading more of your life in the near future!

You can link to Sun Shine Down on Amazon here:

Sun Shine Down by Gillian Marchenko

And here is a link to Gillian's Website:

Gillian's Website

Monday, September 9, 2013


The old-school thinking was along these lines: My private life is private.  I keep it to myself.  I don't share much of my struggles or burdens.  No-one really wants to hear about that.  People want to hear what's positive.  So I'll share what's positive of myself, of my life.  That way, everyone can get along and enjoy life.  Blah blah blah.

New-school thinking is more along these lines:  Everyone is interested in me.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  So what if there's more of the bad and ugly?  I'll just share it all - hellooooo world!  Here I am - warts and all!  Like what you see?  If you tell all like me then you can join me in my misery, self-absorbed, how-open-I-am kind of life!

Now let's talk about transparency.  Let's make that TRANSPARENCY.  With CAPITALS.

I wanted to title this 'integrity' but thought 'transparency' fit better.

Transparency means allowing people to see us as we are - even if that includes some of the struggles we face, some of the besetting sins in our lives and some of the better things - like what we're good at or how God has enabled us to grow.  Transparency means I'm really not hiding anything.  There is a dignity to transparency - we don't share every little thing or every failure.  But if someone came across our path who witnessed or knew of one of these moments, if we are transparent, they wouldn't be surprised.

We shouldn't be afraid of being 'told on'.  What do I mean?  Well, in families sometimes one person is nasty to another.  Someone is hurting and cannot confront the nasty person.  So they share it with someone else for their help.  Then the nasty person is all offended and feels 'told on'.  The point really is - shouldn't we live in such a way that there are no nasty secrets?  That if we do treat another poorly, that we repent and apologize?  That if we are 'told on' it is not the telling one's fault, but the fault of the offender for being slow to listen?

Transparency requires something the UN-transparent don't get: an understanding of, and reliance upon GOD'S GRACE.  If I felt I had to perform for you and keep my nasties hidden from you, I would be relying on my need of your acceptance.  I would be fueling an idol - the idol of my reputation - how you think of me etc.

If I rest securely in God's grace it means I know I need it.

It means I am willing to let the world hate me because I have Jesus, and He is all I need.

It means I know I am a sinner and have fallen on His Grace for Redemption.

In knowing this, in resting in this, I can be transparent.  It means I still have nasties in me that are shameful and embarrassing.  But because of Grace, I can let that be seen - I can turn from it and repent and apologize.
I can rest in God's acceptance and love even if you reject me.

Often we fail to be transparent because we are keeping hidden idols.  But idolatry is hard to hide.  It creeps out into the open and we'd like to pretend we love God most when really we have all this other stuff we hang onto and woe to anyone who gets in the way of our idols!  Idols tend to be more along the lines of control - control of stuff, time, energy, resources.  I want my stuff and don't get in my way - it's my idol and no I won't be transparent with you if you want to talk me out of hoarding my stuff - go away - I don't want a lecture from you... etc.  These are the messages of the non-transparent.  Those who hide.  Those who sacrifice anyone and anything that gets in their way.  These are those who cannot rest in the merciful grace of God.

I have these issues - don't we all?  I am not always transparent.  Sometimes I want to hide.  I'm embarrassing in my failures.  But how can I enjoy the healing and joy of Christian community and fellowship if I don't share these?  How can I bless others and become healthily interdependent if I don't share these struggles?

God didn't design His body to function as little islands where we promote positive thinking and anything negative will suck bad energy from the room.  He designed His body to be fueled and energized by our mutual cares, failings, struggles and victories.  We are meant to function transparently so that the body can be strengthened.  We are supposed to be transparent so that accountability can flow into our lives in a natural way, so that we are reticent to live as if no-one is watching.  It should be a joyful thing to know God always sees us - and sometimes a fearful thing.  Knowing He sees me lose it with my kids should send warning flashes through my mind.

 I shouldn't fear the unleashing of His wrath upon me (though I deserve it) but I should be reminded that He paid dearly for my sin of lack of self-control and do I want to abuse His gift by continuing to sin?

So, be transparent.

Don't live in fear.

Treat others as if the world is watching.  Even if they aren't, God is.

If you aren't willing to be transparent, just watch idolatry grow in your life.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Yes, Jesus Loves Me

Hannah has been slow to talk.  This is no surprise as all but one of our kids was behind.  But she seems to have perfect pitch.  Before she could say a word we knew what song she was singing.  It was unmistakable.

When we went to the airport when she was about 10 months old, to pick up Grandpa from Hong Kong, she would not settle.  She didn't like staying in her seat.  She squirmed and began to cry.  Her cries escalated.  At some point Grandpa decided to sing her his favourite song.  She quieted immediately.  Every time he stopped she'd start crying again.  So he sang and he sang and he sang.  Somehow that song has bored its way into her memory and we continue to have to sing it to her, over and over.

She now can talk some and has some of the words - which are barely recognizable.  She will sing when she's bored, when she's doing something, when she's sick and weary.  She will sing the same lines over and over.  And she will be singing truth to ears that need to hear - like mine.

When I'm stressed out and overwhelmed, I hear a little voice singing, "Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!"

When I'm frustrated and annoyed I hear a little two-year-old voice reminding me: "Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong."

When I'm ready to throw in the towel and wondering why God has put certain things in my life at this moment Hannah will wander through my wonderings with: "Jesus loves me this I know,  For the Bible tells me so."

Last night she had a fever of 102.  She was lethargic and whimpering all day.  I had to hold her most of the time.  She was half asleep and snuggled in bed with us.  Sometimes she would groan.  But then she started to rasp in her weak, frail voice, "Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus love me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so."

Until the last day or two I've just seen it as a cute passing phase - this singing of Jesus Loves Me.

Sometimes my ears are slow to hear, my heart is reticent to understand.  Sometimes I miss the messages of love God is sending me.

It is as if He couldn't shout it any louder:  You are loved!!!  You are weak!  I am strong!  Listen to the voice of your child, who doesn't know, who doesn't understand but who speaks truth!  Listen, and hear.

So, I share this message with you today.  Maybe you don't have  two-year-old wandering through your days declaring this truth.  But in case you miss other reminders, let this be one to you:  Jesus loves you - this I know.

Jesus loves me when I'm good
When I do the things I should,
Jesus loves me when I'm bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.

Jesus take this heart of mine,
Make it pure and wholly Thine,
On the cross You died for me,
I will seek to live for Thee.

I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus likes to hear me say
That I love Him every day.

Jesus loves me this I know -
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong -
They are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me He who died -
Heaven's gate to open wide.
He will wash away my sin -
Let this little child come in.

Jesus loves me He will stay
Close beside me all the way.
He's prepared a home for me,
And someday His face I'll see.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Discipline of Children

Whenever we hear the two words 'discipline' and 'children' in the same sentence we immediately think about all the ways in which children are under or over-disciplined.  We think of the debates raging on forms of punishment, punishment at all, training, nurturing and the like.  We get tied up in knots over the best and right way to discipline.

Recently I was reflecting to myself on all the things having children has done for and to me.  All that it has taught me - how it is shaping my life.  And the phrase that summed it up for me was 'The Discipline of Children.'  Having a child, or many children has instilled in my life certain disciplines that were near next to impossible for me to learn in any other way.  Many people learn these disciplines without the aid of heel-nippers.  But for me, these were a necessary part of my on-going education in the art of living.

The presence of children in my life has introduced many aspects of discipline into how I function.

Having children has disciplined my time, eating, spending, speaking, work ethic, entertainment choices, temper, habits, cleanliness, order, sleep, priorities and values.

My children, by God's grace, are disciplining me.

My nature is to eat, sleep, spend, and while away the hours however best suits ME.  When you have children, that model doesn't work so well.  Especially if you love them and long to see their lives formed into vessels of grace.

Before kids, I viewed all waking (and even sleeping) hours as my own to do with as I saw fit.  If I wanted to shop, I would.  There were no time constraints.  I could peruse aisle after aisle in search of a perfect pink blouse.  I was never in a rush if I didn't have to be.  Shopping was a pleasure.

I could go to social events and hang out until the wee hours.  I could read books at the library or at home after it closed.  I could watch movies, talk on the phone and surf the internet.  I could do all these things in the disposable hours of my days in whatever order I so desired.  Children don't suit that model.

I learned the discipline of time usage.  I'm not saying I've mastered it.  Or that I've arrived.  Or that the presence of children magically instills this discipline.  But it sure helps.

On my own I would eat whatever I wanted.  I wouldn't cook proper meals, except on the rare occasion that I felt like it.  It just doesn't seem right to drag kids into this kind of model.  Who serves chocolate chip cookies to kids for dinner?  Nope - never done that.  Being a Mom means some of our sloppy habits have to be waylaid - at first I thought 'for a while'.  Then I changed my mind and decided eating cookies for supper should never be a way of life.  It took me having kids to learn some of these obvious things.

Without kids I would sleep in late and go to bed late.  I would take naps if I wanted to.  I would enjoy my sleep and probably over-indulge.  Not possible with kids.  Unless you have some kind of miracle child(ren).  I have had to learn the discipline of going to bed whenever I get the chance.  And of waking up early enough to fix lunches and get them out the door.  This Mom thing is like having a full-time job.  Oh, wait.  It is a full-time job.  It's more than that.  There are hour limits to most jobs.  Being a Mom means you never clock-out.  Like being a Dr. on call.  Except you are counsellor, medic, dietitian, tutor, laundry-maid, cook, and policeman all at the same time.

Oh, and lest I forget, the discipline of children in my life has meant that I spend money in ways I never would naturally choose.  I have spent precious dollars on diapers, happy-meals, juice boxes, toy-treasures, art supplies, shoes, kid books, doodads and trinkets, fire engines that make blaring noises, legos that I'm going to step on (barefoot!), kitchen snacks and treats, dress up clothes, birthday junk food...the list goes on.  Spending money on some of these things has hurt my frugal feelings.  But it has been a joy and pleasure to grow in thrifty-ness and to delight my children with some of these material blessings.  Spending on me has become less of a priority as children have wiggled their way into my heart shifting my desires to theirs - no matter how small or ridiculous.  (And in this matter, haven't I grown to see how an abundantly gracious Heavenly Father must delight to lavish gifts upon His children?)

How I speak has come under some heavy-handed discipline.  My temper rages at times.  And children can raise my ire.  I come unglued.  I lose it.  I blow up.  But after this happens I reflect in shameful remorse and realize I don't want my kids to live with this kind of Mom.  I don't want my nastiness to be a shaping influence in their lives.  I want my speech to be more disciplined.  My temper to be tempered.  If kids were not in my life, my temper and speech would probably go untested and also un-disciplined.  The discipline of children has taught me repentance, humility and the need I have for a Redeeming Saviour, every day, every hour.

I am not very clean, orderly or organized.  But I am far more than I ever was before.  And I am always growing in these things.  Having children has pushed me to be more clean and orderly.  And I'm still miles from where I should be.  They are teaching me the need for discipline in my home.

Yes, the discipline of children is indeed a marvellous thing.  Just look at all the discipline I'm learning.
On a daily basis.

Won't you join me on this adventure of parenthood - where our children are gifts from God, in part for the disciplining of our hearts?

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Pet Kid Penguin

So lately Timothy has taken to wearing a penguin outfit.  You know - the plush, zip up costume generally sold in the month of October.  He discovered it during our unpacking recently and put it on and has barely taken it off for the last few days (except when I've made him).  I wonder if it has some kind of sensory effect - the tightness of it - the thickness - the warmth and the novelty.  Either way it has made for some entertaining moments over here at the Logan residence.

He also loves mowing the lawn.  Even if it doesn't need to be mowed, I will start it up for him and send him off.  In the fall it is raking leaves he loves and in the winter, shovelling snow.  (Neighbours: keep this in mind - when we run out of snow to shovel come by and see if he'll jump at the chance to shovel your driveway!)

This past week he was in his penguin outfit and wanted to mow the lawn.  Why not?  Who else in our neighbourhood has a giant penguin mowing their lawn?  We could even start a trend.

Later he was watering my plants.  Someone turned off the hose and he was not happy.  In fact, he really began to scream and cry and have the beginning of a meltdown.  I was chatting with a neighbour in our driveway when this happened and just turned to her and said, "Well, it looks like I'm going to have to go deal with an angry penguin..."

Today my dear sister-in-law took the four kids to the zoo for a fun outing.  You know what Timothy was wearing.  Sure enough, our little penguin got to visit the zoo.  Turns out a stranger thought he was so cute he asked if he could take his picture.  He is a smiling toothless wonder, cute as can be with a penguin hood and bright blue eyes shining out from under a huge yellow beak.  Too bad our camera is on the airplane with Sam just now, or I'd post a picture.

This evening Timothy and Priscilla were making a birthday card for Grandma.  It is has been a few hour project.  Gotta be quite a spectacular card to occupy two kids for an entire evening!  It's amazing what the need for a card can do to sibling squabbles - suddenly all whining and jostling for position came to a halt and discussions of what colour to put where became of utmost importance.  They generally get along, but today there were a few scuffles.  I kept commenting to Priscilla, "Isn't it fun to have a pet penguin for a little brother?  Isn't he so cute!?"  Sure enough, these comments took root and after the card making party was over, I found them dancing, hugging and cuddling together because who can resist hugging a big, giant, fuzzy penguin - especially if he's your little brother?

So, here in this blog I share the challenges - but I would be only sharing half the story if I forgot to include these brighter moments.  Our family isn't always crazy and difficult.  Sometimes we're just crazy and fun.

Suddenly, the idea of dressing like a penguin seems quite appealing.

Are Short-term Mission trips a waste?

Lately I've seen a bit of hubbub discussing the value of short-term mission trips.  Seeing as Intercultural Ministries was my major in college, I feel qualified to speak on this subject (as well as many exposures to missionary work - long-term, short-term and everything in between).

Talk to lifetime missionaries and they will give you mixed reviews.  Yes, they can be a waste.  If they're done sloppily and the people travelling from the U.S. think they're on some kind of glorified vacation.  Yes, that would be taxing on the hosts to put up with them.  That would be draining on the resources being spent of travel and lodging.  So, if you want to stop there and answer the question simplistically - then, yes.  Fine.  End of discussion.  Right?


Sorry, we don't get to stop there.

Let's look at it at a purely financial standpoint - you know, the bottom-line.  Ooh.  This is where it gets good.  Great, preach it Sarah, and I won't have to give one more penny to short-termers who fund-raise for their pet project.

I hate to disappoint you, but financially, I really believe the $3,000 summer mission trip IS a good investment that will pay dividends far beyond what we see initially.

Let's say 12 year-old Caleb goes on a summer trip to, say, the Philippines.  Let's say it costs around $3000 for the trip, give or take a few hundred.  (It really costs less).

Let's say 20 people give towards his trip.  Let's say each of those 20 takes an interest in what is going on in the Philippines.  Let's say they naturally become more curious and involved, prayer-wise with the needs in South Asia.  And let's say they are so blessed by hearing of the fruit of this child's gift of time, encouragement, service and involvement to the Filipino's that they joyfully increase their giving to mission work overall.  I'd say that's an initial dividend.  Money in the Kingdom Bank.

Let's say said 12 year-old grows up to NOT become a missionary.  Let's say he works in a profitable business of some sort.  And he remembers his experience and exposure to the poverty and need of those in another country.  Let's say this memory and life-altering experience ends up causing him to increase his giving towards mission work in general or/and towards the same location he went to before.  The increase in his eventual generosity can be traced back to the initial investment of $3,000.  Chances are, his lifetime giving will exceed that $3,000 - so I'd say the investment is a good one.

Now, let's say he tells his classmates and friends about his time in the Philippines.  Let's suppose others grow in their interest to invest in God's kingdom - as they see the joyful fruit of one child's labours and experience.  These dividends cannot be counted.

So, just give up this stuff about short-term missions being a waste and couldn't the money be better used elsewhere!  In some cases, yes, it could.  But even then, don't you think God can redeem the sloppy short-term trip too?  Don't you think He could and would use it somehow to further His kingdom?  Yes, let's be responsible about it.  But let's not shrink from going and seeing, and knowing and giving and rejoicing and uniting in fellowship with others around the globe.  Let's not think these trips are a waste.  Because they're not.

And that's all I have to say about that.  For now.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Crazy Life I Live

It's been a stressful week for me.

Let me just say to all single parents out there: I take my hat off to you - in the most powerful, non-literal sense I can muster.  It is such a challenge to parent single-handed.  To think there are parents out there who do this all the time is mind-boggling to me.  You have my utmost respect.

Sam and Caleb are on a trip to the Philippines with a team from our Church.  And I encouraged this.

What was I thinking?!?!

Well, I was thinking it would be good for Caleb.  It would be good for our family.  It would be good all 'round.  And it is.  In ways I never imagined.

It is good for me to experience these almost two weeks without the help of dear husband.

It is good for me to see what I take for granted.

It is good for Sam and Caleb to experience and serve in a far-off place.

It is good for my children to grow in grace with me.

It is good for me to see my shortcomings even more than I already did.

It is good for me to struggle, to question and to lean hard on God.

It is good...

But it doesn't always feel good. 

Many people think more of me than they should - like that I'm a 'great Mom' and all.  Well, whatever.  There are moments when no amount of singing my praises can convince me - like when I've yelled in frustration at my kids and they are all in tears, sobbing because of my harshness and then I think, 'Yup.  I'm the worst Mom ever.  She didn't deserve that.  You lost control.  You let anger win.'  And on and on the self-abasing talk goes.

This kind of guilt - guilt I call: Legitimate guilt - is okay.  It isn't the fake Mommy guilt of 'oh, my kids stayed up 20 minutes past bedtime and they didn't get their bath tonight...I must be such a bad Mom.'  No - I'm not talking of that.  That's another issue.

I struggle with anger rage.  I guess anger means you're an angry person, which I don't think I am.  It's the eruptions of rage that I fight against.

It has to do with expectations.  Like, I expect my kids to obey - and then they don't.  Or I expect them to keep track of their stuff, and they don't.  Or I expect them to put stuff away, and they don't.  Or I expect them to help each other, not fight, pretend to be polite, do my bidding, work hard, eat what I serve, never complain... and then they don't, or they do, or they do whatever I wish they wouldn't.  And then I lose it.

I think I am justified in losing it - when I'm losing it that is.  Later, I realize I wasn't as justified as I thought.

I am tired, disorganized and trying to unpack in a house we moved into a month ago.  I am living with a Mother-in-law and four children from 10 down to 1 in the middle of summer with no school in session except Latin class for Priscilla.  Many Moms can handle this.  What's wrong with me?!

Two nights ago it was getting later and later.  I was trying to get the kids down.  But it wasn't working.  In frustration I said to Hannah, 'Sorry, honey.  You'll just have to cry.  I've tried to help you settle but you're not working with me.'  Five minutes later she puked.  Everywhere.  On the bed.  On the floor.  All over herself.  In her hair.  It was nearing midnight.

I start by stripping the bed.

I take her to the bathtub.  I ask Timothy for his help.  He says he'll help her in the bath.

I get the laundry in and start scrubbing the mattress.  I clean up the floor.  I check on Hannah every couple minutes.

She's crying.

It's cold water.

'WHAT?!?!  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?!  Why would you bathe her in cold water?!'

'She turned it on herself.'  Great.  And why didn't you just turn it off, I wonder to no-one in particular.

I take her out.  Priscilla holds her while I finish the clean up.  The laundry had begun and used all the hot water.  Hannah is shivering.

I boil water on the stove.  I make a warm bath - 2nd bath of the evening.

She bathes, with help from older siblings.  We get her dressed and ready for bed, again.

Then I smell her.

'Priscilla - did you wash her hair?'

'No, I thought Timothy did!'  Here we go again.  I am so tired.  When do I get to go to bed?

By this time the hot water had kicked in.  Bath no. 3 was started.  Hair was washed.  Back to bed.

1 a.m. How will I make it through this week?!  How will I get up before 7:30 and get Priscilla up and out the door to Latin class? 

Then the thought hit me:  God was not surprised by the evening's events.  In fact, He ordained it.  He knew how little sleep I would get.  He knew the challenges I was facing.  He knew the frustrations I was up against.  He knew.  He allowed it.  Therefore, He would enable me to get through.  I must be able to live on less sleep, or God wouldn't have allowed this... I thought to myself.

Sometimes I think, Why did God trust me to be Mom to five kids?  I am in over my head.  I've bit off more than I can chew.  I don't feel capable.  I'm afraid these kids are short-changed a more normal, enriching childhood!  

Then I have to stop myself.  It is not that I need to depend more on God.  I already AM completely, utterly, helplessly dependent on Him.  It is more that I need to see how dependent I am.  To trust Him in the hard moments.  The moments when I'm thinking, "I didn't sign up for this!!!"  In these moments I can do nothing but rest on the small understanding I have of His sovereign goodness over every detail of my life.

He gives grace for each moment.  Even the moments when I'm sinning.  When my temper flares.  When I ought to be empowered and submissive to His will to control my frustrations.  These are the moments when I need to remember He is in control.  My expectations were misplaced.  His sovereign hand is in this moment of chaos - and it is a good, guiding and merciful hand.

And I throw myself on that mercy to take me through another day, another hour - another grace-filled, utterly dependent moment.

And at the end of the very long day I thank God that my single-parenthood is very short lived.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Worry: An Expression of Doubt

Sometimes I worry.
Sometimes I fear.
Sometimes I fix my eyes on what is seen rather than what is unseen.

 Some people say,
"I worry all the time...if it's not my kids, it's my spouse,
 if it's not my spouse, it's the house,
 if it's not the house, it's my job,
if it's not my job it's my health,
 if it's not my health, it's the government,
if it's not the government it's chemicals in our food..."

You get the picture.

Recently we've been hit with expenses - some expected, some not.  A new transmission in the car.  A new well pump and all that goes with it.  School fees - even though we get super great financial aid.  Sam and Caleb's mission trip expenses (they head to the Philippines next week).
We know we will face more in the near future - and seek to plan as best we can for both expected and unexpected expenses.

Aside from expenses, we have time management.  Priscilla was saying, 'How am I going to get everything done?  With Latin, piano, schoolwork, will I have any time for anything else?'  I told her I don't have enough time to change Hannah's diaper, discipline Andrew, make the meals, do the laundry and keep my sanity.  Somehow what needs doing gets done.  I don't know how.  But God enables even in my failure to carefully plan and organize...

Then I thought about worry.  At the root of worry is doubt.

I doubt God will be good to me.  I doubt His ability to provide for ALL I need.

Worry doubts God.  Worry opens our eyes to the immediate, pressing need, and shuts our eyes to the Eternal Grace of God.  Worry says, 'I don't trust You.  I am afraid You don't have my best interest in mind when You allow me to face these things.  I'm not sure You are good.  I'm not sure You will listen to my prayer.  I cannot be still and 'fear not'.  I can only go, go, go - in a million directions with my mind following every dreaded path...'

Worry reveals our heart and ultimately our theology, whether good or poor.

What do I worry about?
What does my worry say about what I believe - about God, myself, trials, life, responsibility and control?
Do I believe I control everything?  Do I believe God does?

The answer to these questions reveals the roots of doubt in most cases.

What do you doubt?
What do you fear?
What does your worry say about you?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sarah's Fairy Tales

Two nights ago Priscilla and Timo asked for a bedtime 'Johnny and Suzie story'.  These are the names my Dad used in telling stories so I carried on the tradition.  Here was my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-imagination story.  (I didn't think it was great, but they laughed and laughed and told me to post it here for future reference):

Once upon a time there was a boy named Johnny - sometimes known as 'naughty little Johnny' - and he had a sister named Suzie.  Suzie was Johnny's older sister.  ("Hey!" they chimed in - "that's wrong - Johnny was always older!" "But this time it's different.  In this story Suzie is older."  Little did they know I tailor made their ages to fit the audience).

One day Suzie and Johnny were out in the backyard in their little play house.  They were playing house and Suzie was being the Mommy and Johnny was the Daddy.  Before too long they started to fight.
"Quit telling me what to do!" said Johnny.
"I get to tell you what to do because you're supposed to help me make supper."
"No you don't.  You always boss me around."
"No, you just have to learn how to play house."
"Well, I don't want to play with you.  You're always mean to me."

And on and on their bickering went.

When all of a sudden...

Grrr... Woo woo!!!

A scary sound outside.

"Johnny, did you hear that?!"
"No, you're making things up.  You just want to trick me.  You're always teasing me."
"No, really, I heard a noise outside."
"C'mon Suzie.  You're just trying to get me to do what you want.  Well I'm not gonna."
"Johnny!  I heard a noise outside!"
"I don't want to play with you bossy-pants.  I'm going to go and tell Mommy!"
"Don't go out there Johnny!  There's something out there."
"I'm going.  You can't tell me what to do!"
"Don't go!!!"

But Johnny didn't listen.
He opened the playhouse door.
He went out into the yard.

And sure enough...

A coyote scurried right up to him and gobbled him all up.  And that was the end of Johnny.

The End.

Thoughts on a Walk

Today Hannah begged me to take her on a walk.  So we took a leisurely stroll to a cemetery nearby, and I saw the lovely Oak Trees and couldn't help but to jot down my thoughts:

The stately Oak Tree stands towering,
Tall, unmoved -
Arms outstretched
Strong and firm.

Full clusters of leaves
To catch the faintest summer breeze,

Amidst the graveyard of souls long gone
Whose mark on earth
Mysteriously begets

Beneath the Mighty Oak
A lone stone sits.
One year engraved on the weather-worn canvas -
Solitary on that sad monument
Recalls a child whose name unknown
To us
But known above
Yet now lives to glorify
The Maker of Oak Trees,
Stones and

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is Being Chronically Late Selfish?

I was pondering lateness recently - since someone used the term 'unfashionably late'.  I ended up with a thought conversation with myself, which I am apt to have going on in my head at any given time.  Here is what it looked like:

Hmmm... UNfashionably late implies there is fashionable lateness.  Well, I guess I qualify for both categories since I'm usually late to things.  Oh well.

What do you mean 'oh well,'?!  Many people consider lateness to be rude, selfish, thoughtless, and disrespectful.

Well, they're just on the Western end of the cultural spectrum.  I just happen to be at the other end.

Hey, don't excuse yourself so easily!  Cultural or not cultural, do you want people judging you by your lateness?

No, I don't.  But it's their problem for being so snooty - and might I add, just a wee bit self-centered too since they imply the late person is so selfish for making them wait?  Because no time is wasted if you have an engaging mind and something to do.  If you're waiting for a late person, that time could be used praying or observing the sunshine or snow and thanking God for it.  The concept of wasted time is really for the un-imaginative soul.

Well, that may be true, but you should probably not add to the judgements heaped upon yourself by being late all the time.

Okay, but now, let's actually consider: Is is selfish to be late?  My answer is NO.  It may be poor planning or scatterbrained-ness but unless you know or have inside knowledge into the late person's heart, it is unfair to label their lateness as selfish.

Why do I say that?  Because while being late may inconvenience others, and this is an oversight on the late person's account, late people in general (at least the ones I know of) are not late because they want the world to revolve around them.  They are not late because they think of self so much.  They are late because they don't plan well.  This does cause others grief and inconvenience.  But it offers the others the opportunity to be gracious and grow in patience and kindness.  And while we're laying blame here, let me add a doozy to the mix.

I believe the Self-Righteous Whiners About Late People are actually guilty of the greater fault.  They judge.  They think of themselves as better, superior, of greater wisdom and kindness than their less-organized friends.  They are guilty of a greater fault: Pride.

Yes, I need to work on lateness. But my lateness has humbled me on more than one occasion.  The 'have-it-all-together' types just don't have opportunities for growth in humility like I do.  So they need to work on their pride.

And now that I have judged them, I guess I'm guilty of pride too.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Purity and Prayer - a Link

I don't normally post links on my blog, but sometimes I come across something worthwhile and think my readers would appreciate.  So here is a link of a beautiful wedding photo as well as the story behind it.  Maybe you'll be blessed by it as I was:

The Power of Prayer

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When Words Do Damage - 7 Tips for Communicating during Conflict

Today I'm linking you over to A Biblical Marriage Blog where I wrote very honestly about my struggles in communicating in marriage.  Maybe you will relate to my tendency to fury and passion - and the lack of self-control!

As always, I enjoy hearing from you in the comments!  Thanks!

Loving and Communicating Hand in Hand - Part 1

And here is the link for Part 2 where I give 7 tips for communicating in marriage:

Loving and Communicating Hand in Hand - Part 2

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Prayer of a Modern Pharisee

Oh Lord,

I thank You for the redemption I now have which, though a gift from You, came by my choosing.  I am so glad I was able to see the light and have chosen well.

Others aren't as blessed as I am.  I thank You that I can live at peace knowing I have crossed every 't' and dotted every 'i' in the realm of spiritual living.

Thank you for my freedom which I use so wisely and that I don't live as a slave to my job or to money or to my hobbies but that I give myself to much worthier pursuits...unlike SO many others.

Thank you for helping me to see the better way and please help me to instruct others accordingly, because I know they will be so blessed by my superior knowledge.

For these things I thank you,

Do I need to comment on the above?  I hope not.  I hope it is apparent what I mean by putting this out there.  Don't our prayers smack of this sentiment sometimes?  Instead, let our prayers reflect the sentiment of the tax-collector who knew the sinful condition of his heart:

Oh Lord,

I am sorry.  I fail.  I have no hope in this life but You - You only can meet me in my need.

You only can satisfy me.

I have pursued other things.  I have wasted myself in ungodly endeavours.  I have not loved You with all that is in me.  Help me.  I am desperate for You.

Only by Your mercy can I dare to lift my head.  In Your holy presence I shudder.  I have no worthiness to seek You.  But Your Son has opened the door.  Though undeserving I have accepted His gift.  But without Your life-giving Spirit I could not know You.

I thank You for seeing me, in all my ugly filth, and coming to me anyway.  You stooped down to rescue a wretched sinner.

I am grateful.  I am needy.  I am dependent on You.  For all Your grace, I thank You.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Cuando estás en el final de la cuerda Parenting

Ayer fue difícil para nosotros. Uno de nuestros hijos tenían percepciones por fusión bajadas continuas y el mal y nos hizo nuestra cena en tiempo casi insoportable. Otro niño enchufado orejas y dejó la mesa en un momento sólo para escapar del caos.   Sorprendentemente , no perdió los estribos. (Inserte aquí aplausos). 

Admitir esto al público es algo atrevido, y si yo era el tipo sensible que no podía hacerlo . Todo el mundo piensa que saben cómo manejar a un niño con necesidades especiales ... hasta que lo tiene. Yo confiaba en mi crianza hasta que la vida nos lanzó una curva.  podría haber aconsejado a todos los padres por ahí exactamente cómo manejar cada acción disciplinaria posible imaginable.Yo era creativa, valiente, inquebrantable, obstinado incluso.   era una mamá a tener en cuenta.

Y luego tuvimos un niño que no encaja en el molde. No rodar con los golpes.  Él no 'get' nuestro método.  Él no conforme, presentar, responde o parece incluso entender la causa y el efecto de la disciplina! Si alguno de nuestros hijos demostraron la rebelión en contra de nosotros nos diéramos cuenta y fue abordado inmediatamente.   Con un niño con necesidades especiales a menudo se da cuenta de que, aunque sus respuestas son inapropiadas, que a menudo su respuesta es el dolor o malestar en vez de un centro de rebelión.  

Cada niño es único y este es el punto exacto de la dificultad de ser padres. Un modelo singular - que apunta a resultados como galletas - no es 100% a prueba de tontos. Uno de los a-ha! momentos para mí fue cuando vi a un niño menor de nuestro supere una más antigua en la estabilidad emocional y la madurez.   De repente me di cuenta de que el nivel de desarrollo en uno de nuestros hijos fue año tras otro!   Y sin embargo, yo había esperado que él responde con la madurez adecuada.   

¿Me excuso su mal comportamiento?  De ninguna manera. ¿He entendido de manera diferente que antes?  .  ¿Cómo uno se ocupa de un niño de dos años de edad, será diferente a veces que un niño de seis años de edad. Pero si su hijo de seis años de edad, no está avanzando más allá de dos emocionalmente, volviendo al modelo de dos años de edad, puede ser una opción. 

Yo ni siquiera me gusta el término 'necesidades especiales', pero voy a tener que utilizarla para mayor comodidad. Dios diseñó cada uno completo con nuestras fortalezas y debilidades. Sé que tiene razones de esto. Independientemente de las razones, que sólo puede ser agotador a veces.

Cuando miro a nuestra situación y quiero quejarme me reprendí a mi espíritu. Es agotador. Es más creo que puedo manejar. Rezo por la sabiduría.  Rezo para el cambio . Rezo por el crecimiento - a veces más por mis hijos que para mí ("¿No estoy hecho cada vez más, Señor ¿no crees que ya he tenido suficiente de crecimiento por ahora?" Y casi puedo sentir su sonrisa amorosa que Él oye mi del corazón). 

frustraciones vienen porque la vida no es lo que esperamos.  Queremos diferente. Por lo menos, yo sólo quiero un descanso a veces . Esta es la disciplina de tener hijos - que a veces hay tramos largos sin interrupciones. Las familias aseado-little-ordenada-paquetes que hacen todo bien y la vida orquestar para ejecutarse en un horario totalmente predecible han recibido una gracia especial de Dios misericordioso que elude el resto de nosotros. (¿Existen esas familias? Tal vez, todavía estoy buscando!) Rutinas, la organización y los horarios son grandesy todo ... no me malinterpreten. Lo que quiero decir es que a veces la vida se complica aún, se cae a pedazos y los niños siguen haciendo las cosas mal el uno al otro y que, ya menos que usted vive en un cuento de hadas que se a veces dan ganas de gritar y tirar de los pelos - no, lo dicho: tire su  . pelo 

En esos momentos yo estoy orando por la paz y la calma y la presencia de ánimo . 'Stay encima de la refriega "me digo. 'No te arrastrado a esto. " "Que el drama permanecer donde está - con ellos. ' " Alguien  tiene que mantener la calma. Que sea usted como mamá. " 

Pero al final del día puedo no tener todas las respuestas.  Puede haber un tiempo para simplemente mételos en la cama, orar por ellos y rascarse la espalda, inclusocuando no lo hacen merecerlo.

Y me recuerda que sus misericordias son nuevas cada M orning. 

Grande es su fidelidad ...

Incluso cuando usted es una mamá que lucha.

When You're At the End of Your Parenting Rope

Yesterday was hard for us.  One of our children had continual melt-downs and wrong perceptions and made our dinner-time almost unbearable.  Another kid plugged his ears and left the table at one point just to get away from the mayhem.  Amazingly, I didn't lose my temper.  (Insert applause here).

Admitting this to the public is somewhat bold, and if I was the sensitive type I couldn't do it.  Everyone thinks they know how to handle a special-needs kid...until they have one.  I was confident in my parenting until life threw us a curveball.  I could have advised every parent out there exactly how to handle every possible disciplinary action imaginable.  I was creative, courageous, unyielding, stiff-necked even.  I was a Mom to be reckoned with.

And then we had a child who didn't fit the mold.  He didn't roll with the punches.  He didn't 'get' our method.  He didn't conform, submit, respond or seem to even understand the cause and effect of discipline!  If any of our kids demonstrated rebellion against us we knew it and it was addressed immediately.  With a special-needs child you often realize that though their responses are inappropriate, that often their response is from pain or distress rather than a heart of rebellion.  

Each child is unique and this is the exact point of the difficulty of parenting.  A singular model - that aims for cookie-cutter results - is not 100% foolproof.  One of the a-ha! moments for me was when I saw a younger child of ours exceed an older one in emotional stability and maturity.  Suddenly it dawned on me that the level of development in one of our kids was years behind another!  And yet I had expected him to respond with appropriate maturity.  

Did I excuse his misbehaviour?  Absolutely not.  Did I understand it differently than before?  Yes.  How one deals with a two-year-old will be different at times than a six-year-old.  But if your six-year-old isn't progressing beyond two emotionally, going back to the two-year-old model may be an option.

I don't even like the term 'special-needs' but I'll have to use it for convenience.  God designed each of us complete with our strengths and weaknesses.  I know He has reasons in this.  Regardless of the reasons, it can just be exhausting at times.

When I look at our situation and want to complain I am rebuked in my spirit.  It is tiring.  It is more than I think I can handle.  I pray for wisdom.  I pray for change.  I pray for growth - sometimes more for my kids than for me ('Am I not done growing, Lord?  Don't you think I've had enough growth for now?'  And I can almost feel His loving smile as He hears my heart).

Frustrations come because life isn't what we expect.  We want it different.  At the very least, I just want a break sometimes.  This is the discipline of having children - that sometimes there are long stretches with no breaks.  The neat-little-tidy-package families that do everything right and orchestrate life to run on a thoroughly predictable schedule have received a special merciful grace from God that eludes the rest of us.  (Do those families exist?  Maybe, I'm still looking!)  Routines, organization and schedules are great and all...don't get me wrong.  What I'm saying is that sometimes life still gets messy, falls apart and kids still do wrong things to each other and to you and unless you live in a fairy tale you will at times want to scream and pull your hair out - no, I take that back: pull their hair out.

In those moments I am praying for peace and calm and presence of mind.  'Stay above the fray' I tell myself.  'Don't get dragged into this.' 'Let the drama remain where it is - with them.'  'Someone has to keep calm.  Let it be you as the Mom.'

But at the end of the day I may just not have all the answers.  There may be a time to simply tuck them in bed, pray over them and scratch their backs even when they don't deserve it.

And I am reminded that His Mercies Are NEW EVERY Morning.

Great is His faithfulness...

Even when you're a struggling Mom.

Monday, April 29, 2013

2nd Biggest Frugal Tip EVER!!!

Just over a year ago I did a post called Biggest Frugal Tip Ever and so far it has been my most popular one yet.  Which got me to thinking...what would be my 2nd Biggest Frugal Tip?

Being frugal usually means I'm looking to spend less, save more, re-create and re-purpose things... I'm trying to stretch the dollar and other resources and make do with less - that sort of thing.  And I thought of certain recipes I do and how I go meatless often and extend ground beef with this and that and use cloth diapers and such.  And how I budget for groceries and make it work somehow and stick to it and sometimes have enough to splurge on things like juice on occasion.

And suddenly it dawned on me.  My SECOND biggest frugal tip ever.  We learned that the first biggest frugal tip is really summed up in one word: contentment.  With a foundation of contentment and rejoicing in the providence of God for all that I need I am then able to go on to implement the next step of frugality.

Scroll down please...


Wait a minute (I hear you say).  I thought this was about being frugal.  What does generosity have to do with saving money?  EVERYTHING.  Because I find that being frugal can lend itself to being stingy.  To being penny-pinching when it comes to the outflow of resources.  In being frugal I can become almost TOO aware of the limits of my resources.  In being too aware I can forget that God is liberal in His grace and lavish in His blessings.  I can forget that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the earth and everything in it (including me, by the way).  People who are frugal are often conservative - somehow thinking that conserving things is so wonderful.  I suppose it is, but when it comes to generosity I'd like to err on the side of liberality.  Because in being generous I somehow become more frugal.

How does that work?  For me it works in that as generosity flows out I learn greater disciplines of frugality - I learn how to stretch things to make it work for us.  And if I run out of what I think I need I am challenged to either rely on God's provision of our needs or to re-evaluate what I deemed was a 'need' in the first place.

Frugality is good.  By all means, stretch your dollar.  But not so that you can hoard your stuff.  Stretch yourself so you can give more.  I guarantee that in increasing your generosity you will grow in leaps and bounds in frugality in ways you never knew was possible.

In generosity you discover more of the heart of God Who lavishes blessing upon blessing upon us in abundance.  He came that we might have life - and life more abundant.  Not life more stingy.  Not life more fearful of looming disaster and, 'will we have enough canned goods and bottled water?'  He came to bring life free from fear and worry.  Look at the lillies of the field and birds of the air - aren't they better dressed than we are?  And He feeds and clothes them.  And we think we need to scrimp, scrounge and save because He can't handle our day-to-day needs? Really?

Try a little generosity and then get back to me with the results.  I'd like to see how your frugality grows when you become more generous.  Because for me - generosity opens my heart to receive from God His abundance, not just materially but spiritually as well - as I discover what a good, kind, loving, gracious Father He is.  He gives to me without withholding. Oh to be more like Him.

Channels only blessed Master but with all Your wondrous power -
Flowing through us You can use us, every day and every hour!

Emptied that You should now fill me - a clean vessel in Your hand!
With no power but as You give me - perfectly with each command!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How I told Sam about #5

I was just reading someone else's blog about how they found out they were pregnant.  And since I've had five experiences of this sort I thought I should make a record of them.

So it was January of 2011.  Andrew was just shy of 2 years old and we were feeling the exhaustion of being parents of 4.  Sam and I were just beginning to discuss if we were a) believers in birth control b) willing to act on that belief c) ready to act immediately and declare ourselves through with childbearing.  We were unsettled on all three.  But we prayed...and discussed.

Did we want another baby?

Well, I secretly did.  But I couldn't say that directly.  I really wanted another girl.  I'd look at other families and if there were just two kids - two girls, I'd think, 'She has something I don't have!'  Is that coveting?  I didn't feel it was.  It was a matter of laying my heart bare before God and letting Him know my longing and trusting Him with that.

I do know that you can get pregnant with umpteen babies and they all turn out boys.  I am also well aware that my heavenly Father knows my heart and desires and chooses what is best for us.

Though I did want another baby, I wasn't sure my body could take it.  Gestational diabetes was worsening with each pregnancy.  I wasn't sure it was wise to embark on another pregnancy.  So I wasn't sure we would have anymore.  I knew I could be content with the children God had already blessed us with.

Sam and I discussed in bed many evenings - should we?  Shouldn't we?  Why?  Why not?  Sam would talk of being old and frail when going to our kids high school graduations.  He talked of them shooting hoops and us having arthritic knees.  I talked of never regretting it.  I talked of the benefits of large families.  We gently laid out the pros and cons carefully.

I had some mild bleeding which I chalked up to a regular cycle.  But it stopped short - only a day or two.  A week later I got a bad headache.  An ice-cream headache, very reminiscent of pregnancy for me.  I thought, 'I just had a period.  There's no way...'

But the headache didn't let up.  'I know, I'll just grab one of those dollar store pregnancy tests out of the back of the closet from three years ago.  Then at least I'll have peace of mind.'

Well, what was supposed to give me peace of mind - it didn't.

I really only took the test to make sure life was still on the 'normal chaotic' setting.  Though we were discussing the matter, we had not come to any decision and we weren't in the market for an immediate answer to our debate.

The two lines appeared almost immediately.  My thoughts whirled.  This is crazy.  Who has five kids?  People who don't know any better, right?  Four is scary, five would be overwhelming.  What will we do now?  How will I ever tell Sam?  Andrew was a surprise too - do you get to have two surprises?!
Guess it's too late now.  But wait, I had bleeding.  Maybe something is up.  I don't know how to tell him...  I'll wait and pray.

And wait I did.




Yup, I kept it a secret that long - longest time I've ever kept a secret.  (I'm terrible at secrets, just so you know).

But the two weeks were well spent.  Knowing what I knew I was able to carry on in the discussion throwing in my nonchalant two-cents in favor of more babies.

Yes, this is manipulative.  This is not what I would recommend.  It's better to be open and honest always.  It is probably terribly mean of me to have kept it from him.  But I was just more than a little freaked out.  I hate being pregnant (other than when people ask when the baby is due, there really is a baby due - that part I don't mind).

I get sick.  Tired.  Irritable.  Temporarily and dangerously diabetic.  I have to diet.  Scrupulous carb counting.  Stair running after meals to keep sugars in check.  Oodles of Dr. visits.

I finally couldn't hold out any longer.  I was gaining a very guilty conscience about my deception (my omission of telling Sam the reality of the situation).  I thought I should figure some special way to tell him or who knows... but the urgency was building.  The longer I kept the secret, the more urgent it became.  Then, how would I tell him how long I'd known?  This is why it's a bad idea.  It just was not good.  Don't do it if you're in this situation!

We were again talking about, 'should we have more?' and we had always talked about what God might want for us.  Would God have anything to say on the matter?  And that night, two weeks after I found out I said, 'Sam, I think God has given us His answer.'

And that was all it took for me to tell Sam that baby #5 was on the way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Steel Cut Oats for Breakfast [recipe]

This morning as part of our discussion on nutrition I showed Priscilla 4 forms of oats: a whole oat grain (represented by a barley grain since I didn't have a whole oat laying around), steel cut oats, old fashioned rolled oats and quick oats.  I demonstrated how the body breaks these down and the larger the particle the slower the process and the less impact it will have on energy surges and crashes (sugar highs and lows).  I showed how the fat grain of a whole oat takes longer to reach the middle and completely break down into sugar/starch than the quick oat - or even if it were ground to a pulp as oat flour.  We talked about fiber, fat and protein as beneficial to maintaining steady blood sugar levels.  Neither of us is diabetic, but it runs in the family so I figured an introduction to the subject matter was warranted.  In order to steady blood sugar levels I said, 'Add some fat, fiber and protein.'  So we made steel cut oats for breakfast.  With butter-sauteed pecans for pizzazz.

3 cups water
1/2 cup steel cut oats
2 T brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. vanilla
2 T half & half

Let that all simmer for about 20 mins - less for a bit of crunch, longer for a smoother texture

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, put about 1/2 c. broken pecan pieces (chop a few times or just bang on a counter inside a baggie), 1 T brown sugar and slowly raise the heat.  Watch it or it burns quickly!  As soon as the sugar is melty and bit brown, drop in 1/2 T. butter.  Let it melt and stir quickly.  (Should sizzle a bit).  Don't let it burn!  As soon as butter is melted, stir it into the oatmeal or just spread on top.

Serve immediately with a nice hot cup of tea.

(We had strawberries, blackberries and grapes as a side).

Happy Homeschooling!!!