What is Your Calling?

Today is cleaning day, and shopping day, and laundry day, and remodel the upstairs bathroom day. It’s busy. I am pacing myself. Or at least that’s what I told my husband when he walked into our room and caught me reading a book. Pacing! Honest! 

I have found in this marathon called life, I have to go slow and steady. So, I had already cooked breakfast for the family, cleared the table, taken two daughters with me and done a week’s worth of grocery shopping, came home, unloaded the car, supervised groceries being put away, checked to make sure that the kids’ bedrooms got cleaned…it was time for a break. And eventually, I put the book down, supervised lunch, got that cleaned up, set everyone to work on cleaning their “zones” (everyone gets a room or area that they have to clean), checked progress on that, and now, it’s time for a break again. 

This kind of leads into what I’ve been thinking about. How should we let the chaos in our country affect our everyday lives? 

I’ve been observing on social media the different ways that people have been responding to the recent chaos. Some people have completely withdrawn. Deleted their accounts, either to set up in a new place or be done with it once and for all. Some people are ignoring the situation completely, posting fun memes and things designed to uplift the soul. (I appreciate these posts!) Some people are sharing intelligent articles or essays that explain their positions in well thought-out prose. And some people are just very angry and it leaks out in everything that they say and post. 

In the last couple years, I have made it a point to tell my kids that it’s ok to be angry. Being angry is normal. Sometimes things happen that deserve our anger. But, you have to be careful what you do with your anger. You need to find a safe way to vent your anger that doesn’t hurt other people. Mockery, derision, name-calling, screaming, hurting…these are not appropriate ways to deal with your anger. Or at least, that’s what I tell my kids. I sometimes kind of want to tell other people that too. 

All of us are different. We all have different callings on our lives. I think this is a really good time to have an understanding of what God has called you to do. Are you a protector, an educator, a prophet, a nurturer, a peacemaker? A politician? We all have our callings. Me? My day job is a homemaker. I am a peacemaker by nature. I seem to have an inclination towards interceding through prayer. I try to encourage people through my blog. I keep an eye on what’s happening on the political scene. I write letters to my representatives about issues that are important to me. 

I have come to the conclusion that the things that are happening in Washington DC are not in my sphere of influence. While I continue to pray for our country, LORD! Your kingdom come! Your will be done! I have not felt led to join a political party or try to convince other people to join my way of thinking. I have not been put in a position to affect the federal government in any way except through prayer and my vote, and an occasional letter to my Senator or Representative. That’s me. Everyone is different. 

My sphere of influence includes my family of eleven children. My husband. My home. The social workers and various therapists and lawyers I have met on our fostering journey. The teachers and staff at my kids’ schools. My church family. My blogging audience. My social media friends. This is the circle God has put me in. This particular circle does not need to hear my views on Trump and Biden. They need to hear that I love them, respect them, care for them. They need to hear that Jesus is always the answer. They need to hear that I am present in their lives and that I hope that I can help them in some way. 

This is my calling. 

So, how do I let the chaos in government affect my life? More time in prayer, and then focus on doing my calling to the best of my ability. It’s all I can do. 

Thinking About Heaven

Today I was sorting clothes in my room, finishing up the great Seasonal Clothes Exchange, and I was bored, so I decided to listen to something off of Youtube on my phone. I normally don’t do this because I usually have so many interruptions that it’s impossible to really listen to something properly, but the kids had friends over, they were all playing outside, and I decided to chance it. I randomly decided to look for something by Tim Keller. I found an interesting sermon on heaven and settled in to enjoy it. One thing he said really stood out to me. He was saying that heaven is all about God’s presence. That’s the whole thing. Being in God’s presence. He said that people have criticized him for claiming that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, and he pointed out the question, Why would you want to go to heaven if you’re not in love with Jesus? Heaven is all about being with him! 

 

I really had to sit with that thought. If you’re not in love with Jesus, then you’re not going to like heaven. Cause it’s all about him. 

 

A couple weeks ago I was driving to another city in the car, solo road trip. I had a lot of time to just think. I was listening to the Christian radio and the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercyme came on. I love that song. It is essentially just imagining what it will be like when we get to heaven and see Jesus.  I was singing along and wondering myself, what will I do when the time comes? And then I thought about my children. And it was almost a fierce thought. My children must go to heaven too. I don’t know if it could be heaven if my children weren’t there. And I had this realization that if God had created some kind of system where we could barter our way into heaven, I would have unhesitatingly bartered my own soul to make sure my children made it into heaven. I love them that much. And I was thinking these fierce thoughts, and it was like Jesus just whispered, That’s how I feel about you. I wanted you in heaven so much that I came and died on the cross. And it suddenly occurred to me, That’s how Jesus wants us to feel about everybody. He wants us to love everybody with that fierceness that says, They’ve got to be there too!

 

That kind of rocked me back on my heels. I do not feel that way about everyone. Who do I fiercely desire to see in heaven? My husband. My children. Parents, siblings. Some extended family. A couple close friends. But, as far as exchanging my life for theirs if that were possible? Probably just my own children, if I’m honest. And yet, that fierce desire to see other people saved, in relationship with Jesus so that they too will go to heaven, that is what we are called to as Christians. We are called to that kind of deep love. 

 

And all I can do is say, Lord! Change my heart! Give me your heart for these people who surround me, my neighbors that I pass every day. The people of my community, my city, my state, my country. The world. May my heart be changed so that I long for the day when I can be in Jesus’ presence, but at the same time, I can say fiercely, I need these other people to be there with me! 

 

Here’s a link to “I can only Imagine” if you’d like to listen:

I Can Only Imagine by Mercyme

 

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. 

 

Drummer Boy, Scrooge, and the Christmas Party

Today we have been preparing for our annual Heneise Christmas Party. We’ve had one every year for the past 14 years, only missed once. It’s a special time for me as a lot of our old friends come who I sometimes don’t see at all through the year. It’s a day of family and friends and fellowship. I love it. But, today, we have been doing the preparing part. Not so fun. Trying to clean the house while we are still living in it.

cleaningoreos

I have a tendency to go a bit crazy when I’m trying to get ready for an event. I promise that I have improved over the years, but the tendency is always there and I have to do some exaggerated deep breathing, put myself in time-out occasionally, and do a lot of self-talk to keep myself from totally flipping out. Here’s a link to a Youtube video that really sums up my state of mind when I’m getting ready for some big entertaining at my house.

crazy mom cleaning for company

So today I made lists for all the kids which detailed what chores they had to do. Organized. Efficient. The kids all got to work and actually had decent attitudes about the whole thing. For the most part. So, my 9 yr old vacuumed the couches. The 11 year old swept/mopped/vaccuumed the living room. The little girls swept/mopped the hall. My 13 yr old swept/mopped the dining room. Many hands make light work. Right. So here comes the almost 2 yr old. He was sitting at the table chewing on a chunk of french bread. All is well. He is where he is supposed to be. Crumbs are being contained. I walked out of the room to do something and turned around and he’s following me, carrying his chunk of bread, shedding crumbs everywhere. I walked towards him with the intention of picking him up and setting him back at the table. He sees me coming, thinks this is some great game and takes off running. Through the dining room, through the hall, through the living room, throws himself on the couch, still holding the french bread which he is now mushing into the couch cushions. I lose it. I’m yelling, grab him, swat his behind and thrust him into my 16 yr old son’s hands. TAKE HIM!! GET HIM OUT OF HERE NOW!!!! I learned many many years ago that when you are angry at your child it’s better to get away from them for a while till you calm down. My son takes off with the baby and I grab paper towels and brooms and dustpans and attempt to undo the damage that little run through the house caused. I’m muttering under my breath. All the kids are keeping their distance. I decide it’s time to give myself a time-out. Go sit in a corner somewhere and get hold of myself.

I stomp back to my bedroom and sit in my chair. Take some deep breaths. Then I start feeling guilty. My kids don’t deserve this. They do not need me to be going crazy about keeping a house clean for the next 24 hrs until the party starts. I sit quietly and I hear the Christmas music playing from the living room. The Little Drummer Boy. “I have no gift to bring…pa rum pum pum pum…That’s fit to give the King… pa rum pum pum…” And I think. It’s true. I don’t have a worthy gift to give my King. Because of course, the sappy, pat answer is, I bring myself as a gift to the King. Well, here I am being grumpy. Yelling at my kids. Being a jerk. Not much of a gift.

I sit quietly a bit longer and then I start remembering the night before. My husband and I went and saw “A Christmas Carol” at the Clarence Brown Theater. It was a wonderful production. I was in tears by the end, truly moved by the story and the actors who portrayed it so well. One of Scrooge’s lines really stood out to me and I started thinking about it again.

 

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forebearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

Mankind. People. That’s what we’re here for. In Matthew 22:36-40 someone asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment and he says, Love God with everything you’ve got. And then love your neighbor as yourself. (a paraphrase). It came home to me once again. What is the meaning of life?? To love God and to love people. That’s it. What gift can I bring my King? I can continue to love Him and love the people around me. Love my kids. Even though I know they’re going to mess up my house after we cleaned all morning. Love my friends. Love my neighbors. Love the people I see in the street, at the store. That is the gift I have to bring. Love. When Scrooge has a change of heart, at the end, he starts the process of repentance, restoration. In the play he walks into the church. Standing at the entrance, hesitant, uncertain of his welcome. When I watched this I had a vision of the story of the Prodigal Son, when the father welcomes back his wayward son with open arms. And I found myself silently encouraging Scrooge, Yes! Go in! You are welcome! Forgiveness is at hand! That wonderful forgiveness that I need daily, hourly, minute by minute as I mess up over and over again. You are forgiven! You are free from the burden of guilt. Free to love. Get up, try again.

I relaxed my shoulders. I decided. Ok. Right now we are doing the deep cleaning. Tomorrow we will tidy up whatever messes have occurred. Keeping a clean house is not what it’s all about. Let’s go back out there, offer some apologies, and try being patient and gentle again. This is the way to live, open hands offering up a life that is full of love and repentance, and love again.

No Politics at the Dollar Store

I ran down to the Family Dollar Store, just a block away. We needed tape. My younger kids and I had just spent a happy hour cutting out snowflakes and we were now going to tape them all over our kitchen and their bedrooms. We love decorating for Christmas. Once we get started, it’s hard to stop.

I went into the store, stepping around the puddles that dotted the pavement. It was an unseasonably warm, wet December day. I grabbed a shopping basket and quickly got the tape, plus some treats that I would pass out for our daily advent readings. Some LifeSavers for the day we discussed rings and how Jesus is the Bridegroom of the church. Some candy canes for the day we discussed how Jesus was the Good Shepherd. I also got some candles to keep up the festive atmosphere I love to create during the Christmas Season.

Finally done with filling my basket, I went and got in line. There was only one line open, but only a couple customers in front of me. I started daydreaming as I casually watched the people around me. I found myself a bit curious about the two people in front of me. They were obviously together. Latino. He looked like he was in his early 20s, clean cut, quiet. She had long, thick black hair, maybe 10 or 11 years old. They moved up to the register and he put his purchase on the counter, a big jug of laundry detergent. The girl quickly laid a lollipop next to it. It reminded me of outings with my parents when I was a child, “One piece of candy…please??”

The lady at the register was a friendly girl. Pure country accent, messy blond ponytail, friendly smile. She looked like she’d been working for a while, her eyes tired. She rang up their purchases and then told him how much it was. He hesitated a moment and then pulled out a card and stuck it into the slot of the card machine. Apparently there was an error. He continued to try and stick his card in, nothing changed. I wondered if his card had been denied. It happens. It’s happened to me. I was preparing for an awkward encounter. The clerk leaned over the counter to see what the display was saying. Her face brightened up. “Oh! Look, you have to swipe that one.” The man stared at her blankly. “Swipe it! Swipe it!” She made a movement with her hand and his face showed comprehension. He swiped his card, a visa gift card with the activation sticker still on it, and it worked. Hurray! The screen continued to ask him questions and he hesitated again. The clerk leaned over and read the screen out loud. “Pin, enter your pin.” The man’s companion spoke up in rapid Spanish. The man slightly nodded and started entering in a number. Ah. He didn’t speak English. Obviously none at all since he was struggling even with purchasing something at a store. I had a quick flashback to the first time I went to Chile when I was 20.  I spoke no Spanish. None. Zip. Zero. Not even a high school Spanish class. I remembered the panic of trying to do simple purchases and hoping the person would just take my money, give me correct change and not ask me any questions. Now, watching this man, I felt myself tense up. Maybe I could help if he needed it. I had managed to pick up a little Spanish during my time in Chile. Enough to at least help out with a purchase if necessary. The clerk had picked up on his lack of English by now, and started saying things slowly and repeating herself. Giving encouraging smiles. The little girl interjected a quick comment every once in a while, giving me the impression that she was interpreting for him. Not surprising. Kids always pick up languages faster than the adults. She probably benefited greatly from being in school every day, whereas the grownups could hang out and work with fellow Spanish speakers and not have near as much pressure or opportunity to learn a new language.

Finally the sale was finished successfully. The clerk grinned really big, wishing them a good evening. I smiled, happy that it had all ended well. I paid for my stuff and left the store. I had felt a moment of connection. Strangers in a store, all poised to help the foreigner, wishing him well. And I hoped that maybe this really is the normal for our country. We see a stranger, a foreigner, struggling to make it in a new country. We don’t ask about their immigration status, country of origin, income level. We just step in and see if we can help somehow.

Sure, when we’re on Facebook, we have to raise all the questions. We have to choose our news channels with care. We have to speak up about our views on immigration and foreigners and people who don’t speak English. We have to contact our congressman to tell them our views in hopes that they will align their policy with our wishes. We have to write editorials and engage in online debates. I am not being facetious. Yes. We do need to do all these things. We live in a democracy where our voice is supposed to matter. We are supposed to take a part in our government. But do we let our politics dictate our behavior when we’re down at the store? Or do we let our religion have preference. That religion that says, Love your neighbor as yourself. And when questioned “Who is my neighbor?” the story was told of a foreigner who befriended a stranger, an enemy of sorts, simply because he was in need.

I am an optimist. I like to look for the good in people. I like to presume that my friends who are very concerned about our current illegal alien issues, that they are still ready to help when they meet someone face-to-face. They’re still willing to lend a helping hand. And I sincerely hope that all my friends who are so passionate for open borders, I hope that this passion translates into helping the foreigners in their midst, not just talking about it.

It’s a good way to start the Christmas Season. Let’s be ready to help whoever we see in need. Maybe, we can just leave the politics for social media.