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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.