Monday, February 18, 2013

Tea Time at the Abyss

"Stand at the brink of the abyss of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little and have a cup of tea" ~Elder Sophrony of Essex

Being a tea drinker I can certainly appreciate this quote. Being a wife and mother I can appreciate it even more. I have stood at the abyss of despair. I'm sure you can recognize the look if you take a moment. A face with eyebrows knit together indicating one more step will push that person over the edge. I have one friend who I can tell what kind of day she's having based on where she rubs her face. If she rubs her chin she's doing okay, but if she rubs her forehead she's standing with an emotional toe hanging over the cliff. It's always bad when I ask her how she's doing and she goes straight for the forehead and it's only 8 a.m. 

We do not want to take tea at the very edge of the cliff, but, as Elder Sophrony says, "draw back a little." But how does one accomplish this when you go to bed later than planned and the baby wakes up an hour later demanding attention and you know it's only a few short hours before your own personal tornado (the 8 year old) sounds the alarm to announce his arrival to the morning.  How do you stay in the present when it's a school holiday and you know the personalities mingling together throughout the day is more likely to prove explosive than enjoyable? 

My mother reminds me often that tea has a way of keeping you in the moment. It's not like coffee which in our society is meant to keep you always moving forward. Tea encourages the partaker to sit down and rest a moment. It is a sort of "reset" button for the weary.  If we push ourselves beyond what we can bear for the sake of being strong, we will fall over, teacup and all, and find staring up from the darkness of the abyss is far more terrifying than standing at the brink.  Let us step back and take tea together as mothers.  Of course we may not be able to sit at each others tables and sip a perfectly steeped pot together, but we can pray for one another and be an encouragement.  We can make a pot of gratitude for all the Lord has blessed us with and sip it throughout the day through prayer and the reading of His Word.  We can choose to face the difficulties, in the strength of Christ our Lord, and lay down the idea that we must somehow bear it all.  How freeing is that thought alone?! 

May we find a moment, or, rather, many moments each day to step back and drink in Christ for He promises to quench our thirst and give us His peace.  Thank God!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pole Dancing!

So, dear friends, the appraiser came.  He was very nice and thankfully he has two sons of his own because my 8 year old followed him around the house with his mouth going probably two miles a minute.  My son showed the appraiser the plans we have for our micro farm and told him if he didn't score us well we'd end up on the street (thank you 10 year old brother!). It was amazing what my son fit into a 10 minute interaction.  Up to this point while he had been talking this poor man's ear off he had not said anything particularly shocking.  But we weren't finished yet.

I learned a lot about appraisals and how FHA guidelines differed from conventional guidelines.  I learned what a conforming window really meant and what actually counted as a bedroom.  We were almost free and clear but just as he was slipping on his shoes to leave my son said "I want to be a pole dancer when I grow up." WHAT?!  Then he added enthusiastically, "And my oldest sister told me she secretly wants to be one too!" The man just looked at me and smiled and told me it was okay before he headed out the door.  I asked my son if he even knew what a pole dancer was.  "It's someone who dances on a pole." Hmmmm.  "Like at the circus where they climb up and down the pole and do tricks?" I asked.  "Yeah, just like that!"  Of course the appraiser didn't get to hear that part.  All that poor man knows is that we are a extra large family with children who aspire to be pole dancers!

Thank you Lord for the innocence of my son!  I hope you enjoy this little chuckle today!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Balemtimes Day!

It will start at 8:00 am tomorrow morning and be over by 8:30 am.  We are cleaning and dusting and painting, but somehow there are still finger prints and signs of eleven people living in our house.  Our appraiser comes tomorrow morning so we can, hopefully, refinance to lower our interest rate.  But how can we accomplish all we have to do? Just today there is occupational therapy for one of the two year olds, a visit for the 5 month old, a sick 17 year old, doctors appointment for the 8 year old, plus schooling at home and picking up from school.  There still needed to be breakfast and we must have lunch and some sort of edible something for dinner.

Today is Valentines Day and all this craziness is proof that there is love in my home.  When people think of the Valentine's Day kind of love it is usually the smooshy romantic gooey kind of "love".  Those can be very strong feelings but that is not love.  Love is cleaning the goobers out of my 10 year old's eyes and prying his eye open so I can administer eye drops.  It is holding the door open on a very cold day for my husband to be able to make accurate markings for the doggy door.  Love is my wonderful godly husband standing in the middle of a mess in the living room to pray and later taking the busy 8 year old with him to Home Depot so I can get more things done.  Love is my 15 year old burping a baby she knows will spit up on her and telling each of the little loud cranky two year olds that they're cute.  It is my 19 year old dropping her siblings off at school each morning and calling before she goes out to make sure we don't need help with something.  Love is my 12 year old taking a moment to tell his sister "good job" when she has gotten a good grade on her report or telling me I'm beautiful when my hair looks like a large brown brillo pad and I haven't showered in several days. And love is my 10 year old making sure his younger brother got a Valentine even though he doesn't go to day school.

I have a sign that says Love is Spoken Here...I always add "Loudly". Sometimes I forget what love looks like in the middle of all the chaos, but it is here and it is big and it sure is welcome :)

May your day be full of the LOVE of Christ!  And as my 8 year old says "Happy Balemtime's Day!"

Friday, February 8, 2013

"No Mama"

By obedience a man is guarded against pride. Prayer is given for the sake of obedience. The grace of the Holy Spirit is also given for obedience. This is why obedience is higher than prayer and fasting. (St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XV.4)
"No throwing." I say calmly.  My two year old narrows his little eyes, pulls back his little hand and without taking his eyes off of mine defiantly launches the toy phone over the gate to the tile floor below.  I walk over and open the gate. "Pick it up" I say quietly.  No movement.  "Yes Mama" I prompt.  "No Mama" he replies.  I crouch down at his level and look in his eyes.  "Yes Mama" I repeat.  "Yes Mama" he finally concedes.  It is quite a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, thing to watch a two year old exert his will. It may be cute on a two year old but and eight year old, twelve year old, twenty year old...not so much.

 I have always thought we must look like that little defiant two year old to God and I think it's usually not until you are a parent that you understand the importance of obedience. Before I had children I couldn't understand why my mom made such a big deal over me being a few minutes (or hours) late.  I didn't understand the importance of cleaning a bedroom that was just going to get messy again anyway. It wasn't until I became a parent myself that I understood the verse that says obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).  Within two days of my first child being born, I called my mom and apologized for all the stress I'd put her through in my life.

How do we teach our children obedience?  Partially through raising them up in the "training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) but also by example.  How can we expect them to obey if we do not first model it through our own joyful obedience to the Lord and by honoring the authorities we have over us. Obedience is so much bigger than a clean room or being on time. Our training is not only to have a more peaceful home, but our homes are the "bootcamps" the Lord has provided for our children so when they are finished they will know Who they serve and they will know how to obey His commands to fight against the enemy of their souls.  

O Lord my God, fill me with Your love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and mercy as I train my children to be obedient to me, and more importantly to You.  Instruct me in denying my own will that I may walk in obedience.  I confess I rely on my own mind and my own understanding often and attempt to train my children in my own strength.  Forgive me and be a bright light to my path, take me by the hand and lead me to walk in humility so my service to You may benefit my children.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Widows and Orphans

James 1:27 reminds us of the importance of looking after or visiting, depending on the translation, widows and orphans. This action, we are told, is what God considers pure and undefiled religion.

I remember after having my third child people coming up to me and my "large family" and asking how I did it.  They would say, "I can't even handle my two." Then as my family grew I was called The Old Woman in the Shoe by complete strangers.  When they found out some were foster or adopted children I suddenly became a "saint". 

Recently I've met some other foster/adoptive parents who get unusual comments from friends and strangers, or they get completely ignored (by friends and strangers) as they go through the struggle of raising and caring for these children. There isn't a whole lot of support because I don't think there is clear understanding of who these children are or why we would purposefully choose to jump into these uncertain waters, so I thought I'd explain my reasons.

I have always loved children.  I remember being 5 and going to the nursery at church to ask if I could be a helper.  I was told I couldn't until I was 16.  I was heartbroken.  Then, when I was 8, I briefly went to a church at the end of my street that allowed me to help in the nursery.  Within a week or two they let me work by myself! (crazy times!) But life circumstances changed and we moved and I was out of the babysitting loop for a few more years.

Once I was old enough I always babysat or helped in the nursery at whichever church we attended.  In high school most of my friends ended up living with us at one time or another because of the dysfunction that ruled our small town.  With all that experience, and some well placed examples, is it any wonder that I would grow up to care for own and many bonus ones?

But this still doesn't tell the why, it only tells what got me here.  The why came with our first foster baby, a 6 day old precious blond hair blue eyed baby girl.  She was not some little deformed monster who screamed all the time (which wouldn't have changed my love for her if she was), she was a temporary orphan.  She had no one, outside of our home, to care for her, hold her and love her until she could return home or, in her case, into the loving care of relatives.  Our second, third and fourth placements have become our sons and have their own stories I will not share now.  Number five was born addicted to heroine and spent the first two weeks out of the hospital going through withdrawals.  He didn't scream or cry alot, he would just shake or twitch.  Number six was on morphine for the first several months of his life because his withdrawals would have been too painful.  Little Mr. Seven was only 5 weeks old.  I went and picked him up from the Children's Hospital near us.  There, in a huge hospital bed, was a tiny little guy wearing a splint because he had two broken femurs and a broken tibia.  Number eight was a delight and would start smacking his lips as soon each time he saw his bottle. Number nine just needed a place to "hang" while his mama did some hard work.  Number ten had been thrown off a balcony and came to us, 18 months old, with 26 staples in his head after brain surgery. Numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen were only with us for a few days each because family was found quickly.  Number fifteen was also on morphine for her first few months and was our last baby in California.  We had the blessing of seeing her get adopted by her wonderful aunt and uncle on the very same day we adopted two of our boys.  Number sixteen was 18 months when he came and very detached.  It took three months to get him to smile. Number seventeen stayed only two nights, Eighteen stayed three months and Nineteen stayed a year. A brother and sister came as Twenty and Twenty-one and oh what an adventure that was! Busy Mr. Twenty-three took our family on quite a roller coaster ride with developmental delays and huge family issues.  Twenty-four was so tiny until we plumped him up.  Twenty-five and twenty six may become permanent members our family.  Twenty-seven and twenty-eight were twins, one who had had a heart attack at 5 months old, and number thirty is just a sweet little pink rosebud my 8 year old has decided to call Rose or Princess Celeste...though neither are her name :)

That is why I do what I do.  I live for the first smile, laugh, developmental or emotional hurdle reached. Each of these children has been an orphan whether for hours, days, months or permanently.  And because they have been in our home, each of those children is prayed for for the rest of their lives.  All but number seventeen made it to church to hear about Jesus with their precious little ears and to, hopefully, make an impact on someone in the church or the community who will have a little place in their hearts for these little ones who are so close to the heart of Christ.

I do not think everyone should do foster care or adopt children, but everyone is charged to care for the widows and orphans.  You may fulfill that charge by praying for them, babysitting for a foster or adoptive family, listening with compassion to the trials many of us face by bringing injured (emotionally, physically, mentally or physiologically) children into our home. The call is not only to those who take these children physically into their homes, it it for all of us.  Let us all be willing to answer that call, for, as God's children, we also have been adopted and made sons and daughters of the King of Kings. :)

Psalm 127:3a
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD…