Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me

After posting earlier this week about what a bad day I had, it seems appropriate to write about today. 

 

I woke up in a good mood. 

 

Let’s say that again.

 

I woke up in a good mood.

 

Wow! 

 

This does not happen often! That’s not to say that I wake up in a bad mood every day. It’s more like I wake up with a mood of determination. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. And I keep saying this as I stagger around early in the morning and get dressed and fix breakfast and wake up kids and drive them to school and then feed the younger ones and get them settled. And then I finally sit down for a little while and I relax a bit and just try to get comfortable with being awake and up and moving. 

 

But today, I woke up in a good mood!! 

 

It was pretty crazy. I was cheerful with my children. Efficient. We quickly got all our chores done without me yelling and then made plans to go out shopping with the family for various seasonal things we needed: shoes, socks, underwear…Fun stuff. Though, my husband surprised me and got me a little three gallon aquarium in which to keep my baby guppy that I rescued a while back. (Baby guppy has been living in a large glass kitchen bowl). 

 

The day went smoothly. We got home from shopping, grilled hot dogs, then the kids played with their neighbor friends. Andy and I were able to just hang out together, talk, catch up after a crazy week. 

 

It makes me think of Psalm 23. The kids have been memorizing that psalm on the car ride to school every day. We just finished up the last verse this week. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

 

It’s been a tough week. It’s been a tough season. Sometimes I think it’s more like, It’s been a tough life. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” It seems like a lot of times it feels like we’re walking through dark valleys. But then the rest of the verse happens, “…I will fear no evil for you are with me…”

 

I feel like God has definitely proved himself over and over that He is with me. I do not have to be afraid. But, you know, even when you’re sure of God’s presence and his working in your life, it still doesn’t mean you feel cheerful. Determined. Yes. Encouraged. Definitely. But cheerful? That one seems to be a lot harder. 

 

Today I felt like God’s goodness and mercy were poured out on me.

Here. Here’s a glimpse of joy. Here’s a glimpse of heaven. Waking up in a good mood. Spending a good, relaxed day with your family. For a moment in time, simply narrowing my vision to my immediate surroundings, forgetting all the turmoil that is waiting out in the world, just consuming the goodness that has been laid before me: a bright Fall day, beautiful family, wonderful husband, God’s bountiful provision for all our needs…”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

 

I shared my bad mood with you this week, so now I will share my joy with you. God is good. 

How do I Parent?

Recently I had my parenting questioned. It’s kind of hard when you feel like you have been judged and found lacking.  It always sends me reeling a bit. I have to really think about what was said. Is there merit? Is there truth? Am I wrong? Should I change things? 

And then, I have to just stop. 

 

The truth of the matter is I am merely human. I am not perfect, nor will I be any time soon. In fact, not on this side of eternity. I am a flawed human being trying to raise ten other flawed human beings. It’s a recipe for messiness. 

 

Then you have to consider all the different goals parents set for themselves. Am I trying to raise a child prodigy? Am I trying to raise an athlete? Am I trying to raise an activist? Every parent you talk to is going to have a different set of goals in their parenting. And that’s because each of us are different with different strengths and talents that we hope to pass down to our children. 

 

Even when we have what seems like the same goal, “I want to raise Godly children”, the way we envision that is very different. The way we hope to implement that is very different. 

 

For some people, raising Godly children means that they are going to keep their children from being exposed to ungodly things. For some it means that they are going to immerse their child in the scriptures until they can almost recite the entire Bible. For some it means getting their children very involved in a church community where they live, eat, and breathe church. For some it means awakening a heart for the lost, encouraging their children to pray for the nations and look for opportunities to reach out to the lost whenever possible. 

 

I can guarantee that whatever area you as parents decide to focus on, that is probably an area that is close to your heart and an area where God has done a lot of work in your life. We naturally want to pass on to our kids the things that we know and are learning. 

 

So, here is what God has been working on in my life. Grace. No Fear. Love your neighbor. 

 

Grace. It is imperative to me that my children know that God loves them, he has forgiven them, and he is the only one who can enable them to walk the Christian life. Their own will power will never be enough to keep them from turning in the wrong direction. Only God can save us and then change our hearts. 

 

No Fear. It is imperative that my children not be afraid. Not be afraid of losing God’s love. Not be afraid of losing my love. Not be afraid of being rejected. Not be afraid of people who don’t believe the same as them. Not be afraid of going out into the world and sharing love with whomever they meet. Not be afraid of making mistakes and not being perfect. Fear not. I believe that phrase is repeated a ridiculous number of times in the Bible. 

 

Love your neighbor. It is imperative to me that my children learn how to love their neighbor. Though this is an action that we need God’s grace for, I need them to keep asking God for grace and keep pressing in to this. Keep trying to understand the people around them. Keep seeing each person in their life as a highly valuable treasure that God loves. Keep on learning how to love. It’s the second greatest commandment. First, Love God, second, love your neighbor. 

 

How do you teach your children these things? Beats me. I’m not the parenting expert. Each day is me fumbling around in the darkness, trying to do my best on my good days, on my bad days, just trying to keep everyone alive. I have no idea how to raise Godly children. But, thank you Lord, God does know. He gives me just enough grace for one day at a time. And one day at a time I try to model a complete dependence on God. I try to model Grace. I try to model No Fear. I try to model loving my neighbor. That’s about all I can do. The rest is in God’s hands. 

 

May we have grace for each other as parents. Instead of getting caught up in the comparison game, let’s just encourage each other. 

 

A Boy and His Kitten

kitten

We got a new kitten this weekend. Or rather, my ten year old son got a new kitten this weekend. Because of course, that’s what this crazy house needed, another pet.  

 

But, my son has been asking for approximately two years now for a pet. And I’ve been putting him off because his brothers had pet ferrets and a pet dog, I had a pet cat, his dad had pet fish and I didn’t feel up to taking on more than that. In fact, I have been pretty emphatic that we were done with getting pets. In fact, my husband said, no more pets unless some of the current pets find a new home. In fact, we were united in our stance against new pets.

 

But he kept asking. Pleading. Coming up with all kinds of creative ways he could manage a pet so we wouldn’t even notice it was around. We tossed around the idea of him getting a fish. No. He wanted something he could cuddle. Then I suggested that he take part ownership of the ferrets and dog since his oldest brother was very busy and was on his way to being gone for a year. No. He wanted his Own pet. 

 

And then a week or so ago he told me that his friend who lives down the street had kittens at his house…could he have one of the kittens? And I thought about it and really couldn’t think of any reason to keep saying No to this poor child, and so, I ended up saying Yes. (And his father grudgingly agreed.)

 

Why? Because he’s quirky and I think he needs his own special animal friend. Why? Because  he is not wired to enjoy school work and yet his teachers tell me that he works hard and is a model student in their classes. Why? Because I let my older children have pets and I want to be fair. Why? Because I secretly like kittens and while he’s at school, I’ll get to hold it… 

 

This parenting thing is complicated. Finding the balance between not losing your own sanity, making sure your kids are happy, and making sure they’re also learning how to be responsible. Not killing their dreams, but not spoiling them. 

 

I love my son. He’s very different from me and I have found it a challenge to meet him where he’s at, instead of trying to force him into a mold that is easier to handle. And that is the essence of parenting. Learning how to let go of your own expectations and instead work with what you’ve got. 

 

What I’ve got is a highly intelligent, creative, business-savvy boy who tends to create waves amongst his siblings, who loves to learn new things, (just don’t ask him to read it out of a book), who knows how to wrap his teachers around his little finger, but struggles with the daily playground politics. He’s a kid who is willing to work hard if he’s going to be compensated. He can take a cardboard box and tape and turn it into anything you want. He is a Master Lego Builder, and the arch-nemesis of his younger sister. He frustrates me and delights me. He’s a boy. 

 

And now he’s a boy with a kitten. 

 

And my pet tally has now gone up to: 

 

1 dog

2 ferrets

2 cats

5 fish

3 crawdads

 

I have a feeling those numbers will change again. 

 

A Poem by My Daughter

Something a little different today. We just found out that my thirteen year old daughter won a prize in a writing competition held by the Knoxville Writer’s Guild this past May. I’m so proud of her. She finally let me read her poem and I thought it was beautiful. I asked her if the poem proceeded from an in-the-moment emotion or if it was a place that she stayed in. She said it started off as an in-the-moment emotion and then it just morphed into describing other girls she knew and Middle School.

 

She’s a Girl

by Ruth Heneise

 

   This day 

That the lord made,

 She needs first aid

Cause she’s dying 

Of fright

She lives in the dark of night

 she lost the spark of light

And of potentiality 

She no longer wants to be

A doctor, dancer, astronaut

she stopped tryin to dream, stopped tryin to flaunt

Her body and her vocals

      You wonder why the locals

Don’t know she exist

Its cause she didn’t persist

They think she’s thirteen and lean

But she’s lanky and she’s cranky

Her feelins

Are wheelin

Out

And about

She’s beat on the street

Beat down she’s gonna drown

Cause she’s sinking

Cause she’s always thinking

Trapped

But overlapped

By the hope

That she could cope

With humanity

But that future is grim

As dim as

The light (that ain’t bright)

Behind the eyes

Of the girl in disguise as

A person

But the truth is worse than

The fear.

It’s clear

To see

Cause,

She doesn’t

Just 

Have fear of isolation

She isolates herself

Removed from the shelf

Of comfort

 which is dirt

Dirt cheap

She got her clothes from her bros

And her charm from karm

karma(if she believed in stuff like karma)

Would be on the down side

Of good to

AT LEAST I TRIED

But she’ll pause this ramble

Cause you stopped trying to unscramble

The message behind

This waste of your time

So she’ll give the explanation 

To satisfy your expectation

And she is

A poem

A world

    the essence

The presence 

Of words so beautiful

Words so tactful

Words so thesaurical 

The world is a poem

The poem is a world

She’s the world

She’s a poem

She’s a girl

 

The Committee Meeting

As I was mopping my floors for the first time in a long time today, I had a funny thought. What if God had done interviews of my family and friends when I was somewhere around 19 years old. And he said, Hey, I’m looking for someone to have 10 children and run a household and keep everything in order. What do you think about Esther? I’m pretty sure that none of my family members or friends or roommates would have nominated me for the job. Esther? She’s rather messy. Housework and Esther? Nah. She’s kind of absent-minded too, not real detail oriented. Honestly, I don’t think Esther is much of  kid person, I don’t think she’s even babysat much, and she never tries to hold other people’s babies at church or anything like that. She’s not exactly the crafty, fun, play with kids type. She’s rather sarcastic, that surely can’t be good for raising children. All Esther wants to do is play her piano and read books. I can’t see her taking the time away from that to raise a family. 

 

Ok. So probably my friends and family would be too diplomatic to voice their true feelings, but I’m sure they would have thought at least some of that. 

 

I am visiting, once again, the amazing discovery that God doesn’t always match our callings up with our gifts. Or, to put it another way, we don’t need to work on the areas we are strong in, we need to work on the areas we are weak in. 

 

I can just see it: A committee meeting. God proposes to a couple angels, I’ve got a position open for Stay at Home Mom of Ten, I’m thinking that I’m going to put Esther in this position. The angels raise their eyebrows (I’m going to presume they have eyebrows) and look cautiously at each other. Umm. God, we know that you know everything, so you must be right, but we really don’t see how this is a good fit. Can you explain? 

 

Then God would say, Look, you see how she has been lazy and selfish about helping her mother out with washing dishes for her entire life? Every time she has to wash dishes she has a temper tantrum. See, I’m going to put her in a position where she has to wash up the dishes after 12 people, 3 times a day. She’s going to learn how to change her attitude, stop treating it like a death sentence, and in fact, one day I will teach how to make that time of serving her family, a time when she can put on worship music and worship me. 

 

The angels nod in amazement. Wow, Esther washing dishes and worshiping? Is that possible? 

 

Then God would continue. You see how she’s really messy and doesn’t take care of her belongings? I’m going to surround her with a houseful of people who are equally messy and who also don’t take care of their belongings. She’s going to learn how annoying that is and start taking steps to change it. She’ll also have the ironic position of trying to teach her children how to take care of their belongings. Esther’s mother will find the whole situation very amusing. 

 

The angels grin, yes, I’m sure that will be good payback for her poor mother who’s had to deal with her mess for years. 

 

God will smile, and continue. Yes, and you see how absent-minded she is? I’m going to make her have so many details to keep track of that the only way she’ll be able to do it is by clinging to me and my strength and power every day. She’s going to become a lot more reliant on me. 

 

And you see how she doesn’t even notice the existence of children? I’m going to change her heart and make it so child-focused that she won’t be able to enter a public place without seeing all the kids. And she’ll have a heart for them. And she’ll start praying for them and being kind to them. Only I can change a person’s heart like that. And I’m going to use her own children to make this change. 

 

You see how proud she is? She thinks she’s really smart. I’m going to let her be a mom to ten children and she’s going to learn very quickly that she really doesn’t know much at all. And instead of trying to do everything out of her own ability, she’s going to learn, slowly, how to rely on me for wisdom and direction instead of her own intelligence. 

 

I’m going to take this girl and make her a woman with a heart for me. 

 

The angels get all excited…How long is this going to take God? 

 

God smiles, Her whole life. But what a journey it’s going to be!

 

 

 

Masterpieces in Progress

I take my daughter to Nashville tomorrow morning to send her off to Alaska for a year. I have been thinking about what to write today, but have drawn a blank. As I was driving in the car, I realized why I can’t think of anything to write. All weekend and this week I have been systematically shutting myself down emotionally. My oldest kids are leaving the nest and this is a good thing for them. It’s the natural next step in our parenting journey. And it’s painful and I hate pain and I hate goodbyes, so I seal myself off. I’m a missionary kid. I’ve been saying goodbye to people on a regular basis since I was two years old. After a while, you just naturally learn how to distance yourself so that it won’t be as painful. 

 

We’ve been living in the same city for almost 16 years now. I haven’t had to say nearly as many goodbyes. Mostly it’s just saying goodbye to friends of mine who have moved on to other places. You would think that I would have softened my approach over the years. Allowed myself to feel some of the emotions. Let myself cry. You would think. 

 

But, even though I have not reached the place of emotional honesty, where I allow myself to feel the emotion, experience it, and then move on, healthier because of the experience…even though I haven’t reached that place yet, I am at least at a place where I can recognize what I’m doing. Oh look, I am shutting down because I’m about to say goodbye to my daughter. It’s progress. 

 

In the meantime, I will drive my daughter to the airport three hours away while it’s still dark outside. I’ll walk her to the security gate. I’ll hug her as long as I can, pray over her, bless her, and send her on her way. And I’ll shed a couple tears which I’ll quickly sniff away, go get back in my car and make the long drive back home. 

 

Then a couple months from now, I’ll suddenly think about her and burst into uncontrollable sobbing and then have a day-long depression while I finally start processing all the emotions. And then I’ll feel better. 

 

This is the way I deal with emotions. I’m going to make a guess that I’m really not the only one who does this. So, for all you other emotionally awkward people, it’s ok. Fortunately there is no set mold on how to to do life. We all have our stories that have shaped who we are and how we interact with the world around us. It’s been my experience that as I have explored these stories and spent some concentrated time analyzing my behavior, it’s helped me to change some of my negative patterns, some right away, others very slowly. 

 

We are all masterpieces in progress. 

 

 

Car Trips, Sick Kids, and the Effects of Worry

This week has been a bit tough. My husband has been gone for a whole week (gets home tonight, yay!). He and my oldest son went on a road trip to Montana where my son is going to be at a Bible School for a year. They took a bit of time so they could visit Yellow Stone National Park and camp along the way. It was their “We Did It” trip that we are trying to have with each of our high school graduates, celebrating their success at graduating, and our success at keeping them alive for this long. They had a good time and I’m glad that they were able to take the trip. But, it’s been a long week. 

First of all…My son who just left has a driver’s license. I am now taking over all the driving that he did for our family. Yikes. I had no idea I had become so reliant on him to drive my other teenagers to all their events. It was usually not a big deal for him because he was attending the same events, but still, I had no idea. I am suddenly living in my car. 

Second…My two year old waited one day after his dad left, and then proceeded to get some kind of stomach problems that has had him throwing up every night and having crazy-crazy diarrhea. Also occurring at night. During the day, he runs around laughing and playing, eats ok, has a couple diapers that are bad, but then they become fine. Then night time hits and once again he is projecting body fluids everywhere. I finally took him to the doctor today and her opinion is the initial bout of stomach sickness messed up the balance of his guts and so now we’ve got to work on getting that back into order. 

In the meantime, I’m walking around half-dead because all night long I’ve been jerking awake wondering if he’s about to throw up on me. Because, of course, a sick baby’s place is with his mom, in her room, on her bed. The first couple nights I didn’t know he was going to get sick and he came and found me in the night in distress. After cleaning him up, I laid him down next to me in my bed. Watching over him. Making him feel safe and secure. Except that I was then a nervous twit all night. Every time he would cough or sneeze or moan or even roll over, I was leaping from the bed, ready to run him to the bathroom as fast as possible. I had special blankets laid out on my bed. Here, this is your blanket. If you throw up or your diaper leaks, it can all happen on this easy-to-wash blanket. Except, of course, he didn’t want to stay on his special blanket and he would keep rolling over and snuggling up to me and I would just lay there, eyes wide open, feeling like I was holding a ticking bomb. Needless to say, I am on the third day of having to strip my bedding and wash it. 

Third reason it’s been a rough week…Today I went down to the gas station to buy a container of Gatorade for the sick boy.  I opened the little fridge door at the gas station, reached in to grab the drink I wanted to buy, and something went POP in my neck and I was suddenly in very bad pain. Because, you know, reaching for a drink is very strenuous on the body. Good grief. So I then spent the morning heating and icing my shoulder as the pain continued to spread. It has eased up a bit as long as I don’t turn my neck to the right or the left. Who needs to turn their neck anyway? 

I’m trying to have a sense of humor about all this, but I’ll admit my stress levels have been a bit high. I find myself worrying a lot. It’s very possible that my neck popped because my muscles have been in a constant state of tension from trying to carry the weight of the world. 

As I sat here icing and heating my shoulder, God reminded me of something. This is his family. These are his kids. This is his house. He’s in control. He’s got this. Me getting all tense and stressed is not solving a single problem. He has helped us through all kinds of crazy problems in the past, and the current things I’ve been worrying about, he’s going to take care of those too. Right now, all I need to do is take it one moment at a time. It’s going to be ok. 

So, I’m going to sit here and rest my neck. Get my kids to help with the immediate chores and just try to relax for a bit. God is good. I can rest.