Friday, March 26, 2010

Transition! (and roller coasters)

I just hear the Fiddler on the Roof music in my head but instead of Tradition it's Transition ( my kids stare at me blankly as I walk dow. Everyone in my house is transitioning one way or another. Some are still transitioning from the move from CA to CO. Some are transitioning from teen-hood to adulthood. Some are transitioning from temporary members of our family to permenant members (woo hoo!). Some are transitioning as they learn to process information differently to make their lives easier. The baby is transitioning right before our eyes from the quite little cutie who just stared blankly to a real little person who can really interact with her surroundings.

Somehow growing up I had this false idea that as a Christian it was possible to "arrive". You know what I mean. To get to that place of spiritual success coupled with just the right amount of Holy humility. On the one hand we were always told that we never "arrive" this side of heaven, but then there would be some big deal made over a book or speaker or type of prayer that would change our lives. It was always implied that if you read the book, listened to the speaker or prayed the prayer you would "arrive". "If you can just apply these three pricipals"... Our life in Christ is all about transitions. The simple act of learning is transitioning from ignorance to knowledge. These transitions are not one time events. Each day we die to self and pick up our cross we are transitioning from the old man to the new man.

With all these transitions taking place constantly in our lives it can feel like a driverless car careening out of control as we sit helplessly duct taped to the passengers seat screaming for our lives! (okay that might just be me...especially the duct tape part...) But it doesn't have to be that way. I see it more as a roller coaster I've never been on before. Some of the twists and turns are familiar, I can remember them from other rides. Some of the loops and tunnels throw me for a loop because I either didn't see it coming or it seems too dark for there to be any way light will be present on the other side. There are those relaxing times when you just lay back and let the roller coaster climb and the surprise of the big drop that always seems to show up just when you were starting to get comfortable. But what we need to remember about the roller coaster is that the engineer who designed it designed to with each of us in mind. Each one has the perfect specifications to inspire growth, humility, peace and obedience (keep your hands and arms inside the ride at all times). Each "transition" in the track, as it curves and loops, is preparing us for that glorious end when we can finally meet that Engineer and thank Him personally for His amazing design. From ground level you just can't imagine how gravity is going to hold you on that ride, but His designs are flawless:)

May God grant us the strength to stay on the ride, accept the transitions and embrace Him with joy at the end of the ride!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Marrying Young

About a year and a half ago a concept was brought to mind that I hadn't considered much and that concept is marrying young. It was introduced to me by a wonderful Monk who talked with the teen girls at a homeschool event about how blessed it is for them to be young women and purity and...marrying young. When people ask my children what they want to be when they grow up my eldest has always answered "a wife and mother". She generally gets that blank stare or the long pause waiting for the "and" followed by the important profession she's supposed to desire. She even started making up a false answer to satisfy friends and family members.

After the teens left I had an opportunity to ask the Monk more. He told me about Monks. What on earth can Monks have to do with marrying young or marriage at all? Well...when an older man becomes a Monk he is faced with challenges a young Monk may not experience in the same way. An older man has already had many life experiences and tends to be set in his ways. He feels challenged or becomes defensive when presented with new ways to do things or new lessons. A young man, on the other hand, may have some big ideas but without the life experiences to act as cement he tends to be more open to the new ways of doing things and grows in the process and often this growth produces great fruit and deep relationships with his fellow Monks.

All marriage is a challenge and truly a martyrdom as both husband and wife learn to die to self and live for the benefit and edification of the other person. There is potential in all marriages to live selfishly. My eldest daughter asked me that day if we would allow her to marry at 17. I said yes. Now don't freak out! Let me "splane"..."no that would take too long. Let me sum up". Christianity today said "Most young Americans no longer think of marriage as a formative institution, but rather as the institution they enter once they think they are fully formed. " and "... the focus of 20-somethings has become less about building mature relationships and fulfilling responsibilities, and more about enjoying oneself, traveling, and trying on identities and relationships. After all the fun, it will be time to settle down and get serious." Marrying young presents a wonderful opportunity to learn early the joy of martyrdom. I don't mean the self proclaimed martyrs, but rather the joy of hard work and the benefits of working out ones salvation with fear and trembling as you grow along side another. It can be a wonderful "formative institution". It can be a wonderful place to learn selflessness early and about the "bigger picture".

Now I'm not foolish enough to say that we should turn our 16 year old daughters out into the arms of the first seemingly kind Christian young man that comes her way. I'm not suggesting we force them to feign interest in homemaking alone as if that is all they're good for. I don't want my sons running off and marrying with no plan and vision for the future. Or place them into a relationship with some unsuspecting young woman so they will have the chance to grow up and get a life. But I am saying that there can be wonderful benefits. If I can prepare my daughters to seek the Lord and not become easily offended... If I can challenge my children to embrace purity both physically and emotionally... If I can encourage my sons, even at this young age, to see the value of women and take pride in caring for them and honoring their unique God given function... If my daughters can learn the value of biblical submission (not read as doormat but rather as unto the Lord) and understand their amazing worth in this Holy calling... If both my sons and daughters view marriage as a worthwhile challenge and blessing... I will be overjoyed and open to whatever age the Lord opens the door for marriage.

In our walk with the Lord great faith is required, fear of the Lord, the seeking of His wisdom even if it is in conflict with worldly wisdom. Our walk is step by step and we can not see the future but we should be ready for it nonetheless.

I have no particular plans concerning a specific age I hope my children to marry. My only hope is that they follow the Lord completely. Whether they are young, old or God leads them to remain celibate I pray that their lives are spent in His service running with perseverance the races the Lord has set out for each of them. I do not presume to know where their individual courses may lead them, but I can be their faithful coach as I run my own race.

May the Lord have mercy on us all :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Giving Birth to Adults

Oh, just the idea of pushing out an adult instead of a baby makes one shudder! I just picture a poor mama pushing and almost splitting in two! What a mental picture. Yet, as parents that's exactly what we're doing with our teens. We are in labor all over again! At first we're excited and look forward to each movement, kick, hic-up. Then as the teen year progress and we find ourselves in the late 2nd early 3rd trimester we realize how hard it really is. We're huffing and puffing more. We find ouselves having more trouble sleeping at night and needing more naps during the day. We find it uncomfortable and not quite what we exprcted. As we progress even further we find ourselves wondering if we've done all the right things or prepared them well enough. The thing is...just like with child birth, whether we feel ready or not that birth day is coming.

Thankfully we are not giving birth physically, but the emotional birthing process can be exhausting. I'm learning to breath:) Learing to remind myself and my teens that we are going toward the same goal and that we are on the same team. With child birth we have to work with the contractions not against them. It is often difficult to tell the difference between the braxton hicks contractions as they prepare our bodies for the future. What our teens go through and the challenges and even the challenging of authority are like those pre-labor contractions that help prepare us for the real thing. They help our children take ownership of what they really believe so when they emerge from the womb of our home they will be ready to cry out to our Lord and to seek Him for nourishment:) That knowledge doesn't make the contractions any less uncomfortable but it does help us to know they have a real purpose. May the Lord be glorified in our efforts:) Know that the birth into adulthood is coming and let us ebrace the time we have left to influence our children in such significant ways:)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Praying for Friends

When my children were little I'd ask them to pray for all sorts of things. If I lost my keys, which was very often, we would all pray together and rejoice and give the glory to the Lord when they were found. There have been so many of those moments over the years. Finding shoes, praying for a home for a lost puppy, praying there would be enough food in those early extrememly financially tight days:) And through those prayers they were able to see the Lord work in many mysterious ways.

Those "car key" moments really were instrumental in preparing my daughters to pray for very serious situations that have arisen(the boys are still finding car keys...or hiding them...). It is such a blessing to be able to share my heart or share the burden someone else is bearing and see their willingness to be co-laborers in Christ. Those "little" prayers have been slowly preparing them to truly intercede on behalf of those who are experiencing sorrow or loss. They help stand in the gap for those who are opressed. Though some of the requests are troubling I find them faithfully praying through the night for the suffering. What an honor to behold this amazing growth in their lives.

I look forward also to how these bigger situations will prepare them for the future. Maybe this will strengthen them for their years as wives and mothers praying for protection over their families and strength for their husbands. Perhaps they will do better than I have and have a stronger foundation which will motivate them to seek Christ immediately when trouble arises and to glorify His name when there is no trouble in sight. Perhaps they will retain some of that "car key" faith as they enter adulthood and face new challenges and attacks from the enemy of man's soul. Perhaps they will have the courage to be soldiers for Christ because they had their first experiences in faith finding lost shoes.

No moment is lost when teaching our children. It may not seem important but it is truly like building a house. From the outside the framing and drywall, windows and roof may seem most important and what's holding it all together. Yet none of it could stand, at least not for long, if not for a secure foundation. And may the Lord grant me the strength to keep building into the lives of my children until all my "little houses" are complete:)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Three Musketeers

Last night we got a puppy. Yes, we have another puppy. 7 children 12 chickens, 3 dogs (one is only borrowed), 1 cat and a ferret! Still waiting for the partridge ina pear tree:) Oreo is 1/2 lab 1/2 border collie. She's a very sweet dog and knows how to hold her own, which is important with an insecure dominant male lhasa apso/cocker spaniel mix.

I am so blessed to have these animals for a number of reasons. First I think of the blessing of animals as sweet creatures God chose to create and call "good". He even made the covenant between Noah AND THE ANIMALS (Genesis 9:11-13)! Though they were not made in His image, as we were, they are still precious to Him and so should be precious to us and cared for by us as a service to Him (even if we don't choose to have a million in our own home:).

Secondly, the animals we have are either compaions or somehow productive members of our family. The chickens produce eggs for our family to eat and, I must say, they are quite entertaining. They're good at helping with insect control and contributing to the compost pile (they can become a bit canabalistic too,but that's another story). The dogs are a pleasure to have as playmates and protectors. We always know when someone is coming. Now, all they'll do is lick the intruder to death, but the intruder doesn't know that:)They have big barks and that's all that matters.

Finally, it is a wonderful experience for the children to have someone to be responsible for, someone who won't argue with them, someone who loves them no matter what, somone who is SO excited when they walk through the door. My children are learning the value of caring for others. They see the benefit of "growing" their own food. Of course everything is a little crazy with all the feet and paws and claws running arond on our property, but I think all that chaos provides some great memories and keeps me young:)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Weeds in the Garden

The parable Jesus tells of the weeds in Matthew 13 is a real picture of what I want for my home and how to combat the pests in our "garden". In the parable the farmer sowed good seeds but in the night the enemy sowed weeds among those good seeds. As the good seeds grew so did the weeds. As our children grow so do the Godless influences surrounding them. Unless we live in the absolute middle of nowhere our children are going to come into contact with weeds. We can't lock them away and forbid outside contact, but we CAN nurture them and train them and prepare them for the harvest that is coming. Christ owns all the land these little ones are grown on, and as His undergardeners we have been given the sacred task of tending each and every plant He has given us and seeking Him for whatever is needed to make them thrive.

I've been blessed with 6 stalks of grain, so far, with the possibility of a 7th on the horizon:) I'm finding each plant has different needs. Some plants have had their roots mingle with the roots of the weeds and require stakes to hold them up. Some of my plants grow slowly with weeds seeming to block out the Son which is so important for their growth. Taking the time to get to know our crop and what its specific requirements are helps us to become more successful as the undergardeners of our children's hearts. Our children (and grandchildren and great grandchildren) are the grain offering we are providing for the Lord at His altar. It can be so dicouraging and even terrifying to see those weeds growing up next to our precious stalks. There are so many what if's that plague us and sometimes distract us from managing the task at hand. If we can focus as parents and plow our own field instead of becoming overwhelmed with all the rocks that need to be cleared, or the weeds that spring up, or the hail storms that may come seeking to destroy our crop, we will be successful in the task we've been given even if we are struggling to the very moment of the harvest. If we can remember that Christ is the owner of all the property we farm then we can trust that He is prepared for any foul weather, He knows just when to harvest and He knows how to manage the weeds at that harvest. He never grows weary of us asking for help and instruction. He is never angry if we seek Him in the middle of the night...He'll bring the flashlight and direct us on how to repair a stalk when it has been damaged. He comforts us when we believe the crop is beyond salvaging and shows us how to carfully tend the soil to regenerate the plants. He has compassion on us when we are in despair and certain we made a mistake and should have taken up basket weaving instead of farming:) He is SO good to us.

May you find joy in tending the piece of earth the Lord has entrusted to you and may you find hope in Him.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Motherhood is Next to Godliness

I just received the best most humbling compliment from my nearly adopted son. He came up to me and told me I was the best Mommy in the world, then paused and said I was the second best. I was curious about who he considered the best. I figured it was probably his biological mom because he's so proud of her for getting and staying clean even though that wonderful transformation happened after it was too late to get him back. There were a few other wonderful mother's I could think of who he might choose as best. Moms who aren't as loud as me, as bossy as me, as chubby as me... Moms who go on lots of field trips, are smarter, funnier, just plain cooler than me. So I asked him, "who is the best mommy?" He looked up and me and smiled, "the Theotokos." He placed me second to the mother of our Lord! How unworthy was I of such a standing in his eyes! She was the first to say "yes" to Jesus and I have said "no" to Him so many times. She cradled Him in her arms and followed Him to the cross in sorrow and humility. I've run from that same cross when small things seem hard to bear. But she was prepared from childhood to be the mother of our Lord. She said yes in so many ways before she even knew what/whom she was saying yes to. She truly was one full of grace as the angel Gabriel told her (Luke 1:28). She really was and is blessed among women as Elizabeth proclaimed (Luke 1:42). All generations should call her blessed as she attests herself and the Holy Scriptures record for our instruction (Luke 1:48).

In a way I've been prepared from my infancy for the joy, sorrow and chaos of raising many children, including children not born from my body. My childhood was fill with watching my family show hospitality to the poor and needy. Caring for the broken and downhearted. All of those lessons taught to me by demonstration slowly prepared me to be able to want and truly love the children our Lord has brought to our home. When a child innocently compares you to someone who is Holy it is very sobering. It really makes one think of all the mistakes made. The times I've owed an apology but was too proud or lazy to seek the child out and ask for forgiveness. The times I jumped too quickly to a conclusion or exasperated my children. The times I've set a bad example or proved what a hypocrite I is enough to make one fall deep into despair. But if we can crawl through that tunnel of despair and step out on the other side there are treasures there as well. If one can't be perfect then those treasures on the other side prepare us for success in the future. Gems like humility, long suffering, perseverance, edification, joy, love...these all fill our treasure troves to the brim so we can had these gems to our children. Of course sometimes we find that we hand out plastic instead of pearls. When we find ourselves there, through prayer and repentance, we can replace the imitation with the real thing producing in our children treasures our grandchildren can then inherit.

Let the treasure hunting begin:)