Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Homemade Walls

Train:  To direct the growth of; to form by instruction, discipline, or drill; to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient; to make prepared      

      For many years, Scott and I were involved in children's church ministries.  The Lord pulled us out almost a year ago and told us to place more focus on our own children and marriage.  It took the Lord several months to convince me that it was truly Him and not the devil telling us to leave these ministries.  Why would God tell us to stop teaching His children at the church?  Wasn't that a good thing?  God responded that we had been doing a good thing - but that His plan for us to leave was better than good.  Since then, I have experienced an entire paradigm shift in my feelings about children's and youth ministries, education, and about why many of our children and youth abandon their faith once they leave home. 
     I am convinced that many Christian families today are more influenced by our American culture than by the Word of God.  As a result, many parents don't train up their own children anymore - either academically or spiritually.  Women and men have lost their way in our androgynous society.  Mothers are convinced they must leave their homes to survive financially when the Scriptures clearly tell them to be homemakers (Titus 2:5).  The men are convinced their wives must leave as well.  Are there exceptions to God's Word when the economy is bad?  On the contrary, we are to expect testing.  Can God set a table in the wilderness? (See Psalm 78:19).  Beware of panicking in disbelief!  There is no orderly haven at home anymore.  Everyone is gone, busy, preoccupied.  No one is nurturing the children.  The spouses are too exhausted to nurture each other.  Christian families are falling apart.
      "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)  Most Christian parents have memorized this verse - and yet they allow the world to train up their children - and as the Scripture promises - their children are faithful not to depart from serving the world that trained them.  Forty hours a week, thirty-six weeks a year, thousands of Christian children are receiving intense teaching and modeling from strangers in the public school system.  And now there is a chance that school time is going to increase.  There are some Christian children who have been educated in the public school system and have remained in their faith, but they tend to be more tolerant of behaviors and ideas that contradict the Scriptures because of constant exposure and erosion.  I remember debating with a group of them at our Wednesday night teen discipleship class at a former church about whether or not it was okay to marry outside the faith.  Despite being shown the Scriptures, the kids just wouldn't accept that "being in love" wasn't enough.  They also had blurrier lines about what was considered "modest", dating issues, and acceptable language.  Simply put, they were "worldlier".  There are Christian parents who have their children in public school who strive to remain in constant communication with their children, provide home studies, and prayer; and see this as a great opportunity to reach the lost, but the focus of academics is much easier for your child (and you) if he is not bombarded with temptations and false teaching all day.
     To be fair, there are also children who have been homeschooled all of their lives who have abandoned Christ and fallen terribly.  In these situations, it is important to examine the other areas of these children's lives.  Not all Christian homeschooling families are healthy.  Just because Christian parents homeschool does not mean their children are being trained, nurtured, protected, and prayed for in a Christian environment.  Academics is only one component (albeit a major one) of your child's training.  I encourage both parents to prayerfully seek God's best for your children, but don't be surprised if the Lord tells you that you are what's best.  I taught public school for ten years and pursued a future as an administrator.  My father was an elementary school principal.  The fact that I am even homeschooling is an act of God.  Less than ten years ago, the idea of homeschooling was appalling to me. But as I continued to feed on God's Word and grow - and listen - the Lord changed my heart. 
     Pray for and with your child daily and specifically.  Don't just pray for safety and good behavior.  You must pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to your child personally so that a relationship will develop between your child and God.  Your child will never feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit and be led to resist and repent if he never develops this relationship.
     But my child will be a light to all those unsaved children in his schoolI want my children to relate to those who need to hear the Gospel.  These are major arguments of proponents of public schooling Christian children.  Unfortunately, they are not Scriptural.  Jesus didn't start His ministry until He was thirty.  I am not suggesting that our Lord wasn't mature or capable enough of beginning His ministry at a younger age, but the Bible states that Jesus is our example.  The Lord sets the timing for the ministries for which He calls us and He prepares us before sending us out.  Jesus was tested in the wilderness immediately after His baptism, Moses was sent out into the wilderness for forty years before he was sent back to deliver Israel, David was pursued by Saul in the wilderness and tested before stepping up to his position as king, the apostles walked with Jesus for three years before He ascended, and 1 Timothy states in 3:10 that all deacons must first meet specific requirements and be tested before being allowed to lead.  Our children are simply not ready to be thrust out onto a battlefield before training and testing.  The war is for their very souls and we greatly underestimate the wiles of the enemy until it's too late.  It isn't until our children leave the church that we ask, "What happened?"  We must train.  We must protect.  We must interfere and rebuke.
     Desiring for your child to relate to the lost will happen as he grows in Christ in God's timing.  Kids are born sinners, but the conviction of his own sin has to make its mark before he can discern what behaviors from his peers are acceptable for modeling.  Being immersed in various and sundry behaviors via school, the Internet, or television and video before one has a clear picture of right and wrong is confusing and promotes that sin is "not that big of a deal.  Everybody does this....."  It is written, "Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (First John 2:15) The ministry of the apostles was powerful (especially when the fear of the Lord came on everyone - see Acts).  Jesus dined with, taught, and ministered to many steeped in sin, but these were ministry encounters.  He was not being taught by these people, nor was He becoming good friends with them.  The good friends He regularly dwelt with saw Him as the authority.  The teachers in your child's life are the shepherds, and your child is the lamb.  It is dangerous to place your child under the authority of an institution that refuses to welcome God into the classroom and practice His ways.  It is also unwise to immerse him in a peer group where he is largely outnumbered by those who are not interested in pleasing the Lord.
     Some feel that their children must "experience" sin in order to be a convincing witness. This is ridiculous.  Though a virgin Himself, Christ was followed by former prostitutes.  We must walk in holiness if we are to make an impact, and still find sin utterly sinful and shocking, so we will see it, grieve, and intercede like we should.  We must remain salty.
     When speaking of the Messiah in His childhood, Isaiah stated, "Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good."  (Isaiah 7:15)  If you want your child to choose the good and refuse the evil, train and protect him until he is a "wall".  The Song of Solomon describes two types of young brides, "If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; and if she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar." (Song of Solomon 8:9)  Children, especially teenagers, can be doors.  They let in and let out.  A wall doesn't move.  When the bride is a wall, she is ready for battle.
     But Timothy was young and Paul told him not to let anyone despise his youth.  Paul wrote, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers......" (1 Timothy 4:12).  Flip over to second Timothy 1:5, where Paul refers to the faith of Timothy's mother and grandmother.  Timothy was not being trained by a public institution.  He had been reared by Godly women in his life and was being mentored by the Apostle Paul himself.  Timothy wasn't your ordinary teenager.  And if you train yours Scripturally, yours won't be either.  Timothy had not only been trained by the best before being given authority, he had also been ordained. (1 Timothy 4:21) Most of all, Paul was exhorting him to be an example to the other believers - not a high school.        
     When you feel confident it is time to pair your child up with another teacher, mentor, etc., be selective.  Not only is it important for your child to be accountable to others, but there are wonderful teachers/parents who share your values, are trustworthy, and have more knowledge or skills than you in a particular subject area.  It is your responsibility to protect your child in extracurricular activities as well.  I am not promoting isolation by any means.  I am encouraging more parental leadership and discretion.  "Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33).  It matters who your child's friends are and the company he keeps.  You are expected to evaluate and even interfere with his social circle until his choices consistently reflect wisdom.   Eli and King David refused to interfere with their sons, and there were terrible consequences.
     In addition, many young Christians today are allowed to have "boyfriends" and "girlfriends" in a dating style relationship.  I encourage you to seek the Scriptures on this one.  This is a worldly behavior.  Opening this door before the age of marriage is asking for trouble.  No one needs to "practice" marital intimacy in this way.  A child who is starving for affection and love will be far more determined to seek outside satisfaction too early - so prevent that hunger!  Other reasons your teen may be overly interested in seeking a girlfriend or boyfriend may simply be because his/her peer group expects this behavior.  In addition, a teen may also have his curiosity stimulated through exposure to pornography.  It is a myth that teens feel an innate need to couple up.  These desires are often stimulated from an inappropriate outside source.
     In addition to your child's training in academics, it is also extremely important to evaluate your child's training in the church.  Many youth leaders come to the position with a teenager's perspective instead of a parental one.  Those "teenage friendly" leaders will be more likely to provide entertainment for you child rather than discipline and sound counsel.  Many are frequently trying to be a friend with your child instead of being a mentor.  I remember a time when the Lord had rebuked me and I cried out to Him, "I thought You were my friend!"  His reply was, "I Am, but I'm your God first."  Friendship is secondary to a leader's willingness to rebuke and even remove a contentious teen from a meeting.  (Yes, this Scriptural!)  Paul spoke of himself as "being in childbirth" and John referred to the church as "my little children".  Mentoring and leading any part of the church is a form of parenting.  We are the Bride of Christ.  The bride is the Mama. I'd like to pose a controversial question.  Should we even be having all of these youth activities?  Once again, to whom should the primary responsibility of the spiritual training of these kids belong?  Should our children even participate?
     There is a clear difference between supporting one another in training up our children (as Sunday school teachers, etc.) and being the primary source of that training.  Unfortunately, these intended positions of support often become the only consistent training many children/youth in the church are receiving.  The Lord made it clear to me that the seed I was scattering in my efforts to train up the children of others in various church ministries wasn't bearing as much fruit as I thought it was.  I'll never forget the morning I asked my Sunday School students to share what they had read in their Bibles that week and not one child had read it - and this was during a church wide push to get the congregation to read the entire Bible in a year. (I was still shocked that so few had already done so).  Although I was passionately encouraging my students to read and pray, there was no one supporting this the remaining six days of the week.   It is no wonder that so many Christians are more influenced by the culture than by the Bible.  They're not reading it! 
     I could see that my own children were losing their focus on the Lord and His Word as they were being led - yes, led by the church to be more connected and intimate with their peers and youth leaders than to their own parents.  I had asked a youth leader if my husband and I could attend his Sunday school series on finances with our daughters so we could follow up at home and do this as a family.  He actually discouraged us to attend because he feared parental input during his teaching. 
      My young sons were becoming more and more excited about seeing their friends and attending "fluff" events.  Their behavior began to resemble that of unchurched, undisciplined urchins.  The Lord had my attention, and after seeking Him about this, He told me there was a better way to bear fruit - at home.  "Bear fruit that will endure.......pour into your own children instead of hopefully pouring into the children of others and enabling their parents to continue in their disobedience....."  I am well aware that new Christians need to be discipled and are often clueless as to how to train up their children in the ways of the Lord, but the church is not teaching these new believers how to train up their children and encouraging them to do so - they are attempting to do it for them - and exhausting healthy families in the process.  Although some parenting classes exist, they are not made a priority in the church and the efforts to train them are undermined by offering options to escape that responsibility.  
     It is only the older women (not those with children at home) who are exhorted to teach in the Scriptures - and then they are only supposed to be teaching other women. (1 Timothy 2:12)  The Bible even explains what they are supposed to be teaching.  They are supposed to be teaching the women to stay at home! (See Titus 2 and 3) Even then, those younger women should not be spending so much time in their support groups and classes that "their feet never stay at home".  I speak from the experience of being a very enthusiastic volunteer from everything from teaching Sunday School to AWANAS to vacation Bible school.  In my sincere desire to serve, I was actually being disobedient to the Scriptures and was neglecting my family.  I was no longer my husband's helpmeet.  He had become mine. When my household began to fall apart, the Lord showed me my mistake.  Those families (like ours) who have already been discipled are not passing the torch to their own children; they are dropping them off in classrooms taught by others and the disconnect is growing larger.  In our case, we were having other people teach our kids so we could teach theirs!   Despite the genuine concern and silent disapproval we felt from the brethren we truly loved, we pulled away - not from attending church - just from attending all the crazy busyness that was consuming our time and keeping us too stressed out to "be still" and really hear God - as a family.
      My husband and I sought a more quiet, focused approach.  We pulled the kids out of all the "events" and "clubs" and collaborated on how we could take back the reins of our own family, become less scattered as we sought the Lord together, and model our family life after the Scriptures rather than after all of our peers.  We began "Humble Tuesdays" - a day devoted to prayer and committed our Thursday evenings to family Bible study/worship.  We continue to homeschool the children and started attending a very conservative church that does not have a youth "program" and strong worldly influences.  Although I feel that we have grown during this time, I can see the danger of becoming too inwardly focused and yearn to continue some type of outreach.  This blog is one of the ways I try to do that.
     My husband and I know now that we have not been called out of children's ministry, but more deeply into it.  It is called parenting.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Ticket

Leviticus 4:13-14  If the entire Israelite community sins by violating one of the Lord's commands, but the people don't realize it, they are still guilty.  When the people become aware of their sin, they must bring a young bull as an offering for their sin and present it before the Tabernacle.

     A couple years ago I was driving my oldest daughter to a concert.  As I turned down Ladson Road, I realized I had not gone that way in awhile and wondered what the speed limit was.  Noticing the newly expanded, multiple lanes, I figured it must be 55.  Comfortable with my decision, I chose that speed and chatted with my daughter as I continued to drive along.  Within minutes, a police officer shot out of a subdivision as though he was waiting just for me.  I quickly pulled over.  To my horror, I discovered the actual speed limit was only 40 miles per hour on that particular residential section of Ladson Road.  I had been clocked going 57.  This was 17 miles per hour over the speed limit.
     Even though this was bad, I was fairly confident I would just receive a warning.  I honestly did not know I had been speeding and the Lord knew I never exceeded the speed limit when I knew what it was.  He had convicted me of speeding years ago.  In fact, I had never received a speeding ticket before in my entire life.
    When the police officer asked me for my proof of insurance and registration, I had difficulty locating it, because I didn't know what it looked like.  The officer went back to his car and started writing, and writing, and writing.  My daughter slowly began to sink down into her seat and smiled weakly.  I called my husband on my cell phone.  When the officer returned, I received a ticket for $180.00 and a warning for not having my paperwork.  Although I had located it with my husband's help, it was too late.
     For days I grieved and fumed at the injustice.  How could this happen to me?  It wasn't fair!  In fact, I had just reminded my husband to slow down on a 35 mile per hour road near our house only days before.  The Lord knew I sincerely tried to be careful.  He knew I was obedient to the law.  This must be the devil, I decided.  While I convinced myself I was being persecuted, I was interrupted by the Lord. 
He simply stated,
"You think I'm unfair." 
I became very quiet and listened. 
"I gave you that ticket, Jennifer Wand - not the devil." 
"Why, Lord?  You know I'm innocent.  You know I never speed.  Why on earth would You give me a ticket?"
"Were you driving the speed limit, Jennifer?" 
"No Sir, but I didn't know the speed limit." 
The Lord repeated His question. 
"Were you driving the speed limit, Jennifer?" 
"No Sir." 
"Then you are guilty of speeding.  Was the speed limit posted, Jennifer?"
"Yes Sir, but I didn't see the sign." 
"Did you look for the sign, Jennifer?" 
"No, Sir." 
I began to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
     I had not checked the sign because I had felt comfortable with my choice.  I had believed my speed was reasonable.  I then began to think of all the unsaved friends and family I knew who were not interested in reading and obeying the Bible because they felt comfortable with their choices.  God showed me that my ignorance was chosen.  The signs were posted, I just wasn't looking for them.  Chosen ignorance is no excuse with the Lord.  I was still guilty of speeding.  
      I went to court in hopes of having my ticket reduced.  I repented to the Lord and prayed for mercy.  I became a very careful driver.  As I sat before the judge, I thought about Jesus and all the people who would have to stand before Him.  I looked at all the faces around me.  I listened to others talk to the judge.  I listened to excuses of those who were convinced they were innocent.  They too, believed their tickets were unfair.  I looked above the head of the judge and felt a surge of delight as I read "In God We Trust" in large letters above his head.
      When it was my turn, I walked up to the judge and pleaded guilty.  The judge simply asked me if I was polite to the police officer.  "Yes, Sir", I replied.  The judge smiled and said that he was reducing the speed on my ticket from 57 to 47 and changing my fine from $180.00 to $65.00.  Instead of taking four points off my license, he took two.  I was so grateful!  When I left the courtroom that day, I rejoiced because although I was guilty, I had received mercy from the judge!
       Now, more than several months later, I realize that I haven't been as concerned about the speed limit as I was several months ago.  It is only now, as I write this, I understand the importance of reliving events so I can remember the lesson of the ticket and drive accordingly.  I must also review and obey the signs and warnings the Lord has written in His Word.  When Jesus took the bread and cup, He said, "Do this in remembrance of Me."  I know that in order to walk as a Christian in a way that is pleasing to God, I must also relive and remember another far more wretched night - the night when Jesus paid my ticket.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Traveling The Wand Way

     I'm driving.  Scott is sitting in the passenger seat with his laptop at his side, ready to work on spreadsheets for work while we travel.  Our children are seated with electronic games and books resting in their laps.  We say a prayer while I pull out of the driveway.  We're heading to North Carolina to visit my brother and his family.  Our sons share a birthday and we are going to celebrate it together.  Only a few weeks ago, his wife gave birth to their third child, a girl, and we can't wait to see her.  The Wands love babies.
     We're so happy.  We love road trips too. The first stop is going to be at the gas station 'cause the Wands can't travel without snacks.  On the way, we pass a large cemetery.  And then it begins.  "Do you know why there is a fence in front of the cemetery?" asks my husband.  Heads pop up.  "Because everybody is just dying to get in!"  Groans.  "Do you know how many dead people are buried there?"  Silence.  "All of them!"  Giggles.  I give my husband a slightly amused look.  Jokes.  He is turning into his father.  Scott is grinning.  I think of an excited puppy with his head hanging out of a pick-up truck window.  Scott especially loves to travel while I am driving. 
     We pull into a Mom and Pops style, rural, convenience store.  Daughter number two walks in with us while the rest of the herd waits in the van.  My husband wanders over to the back and begins to fill his arms with various bottles of orange soda and Sierra Mist while I look around for a cappuccino machine.  I can smell smoke and I see a lady sitting at the back of the store working in books while a cigarette dangles from her lips.  She looks up and nods at me.  The entire place has a musty smell. I can't find a cappuccino machine and then notice a diner attached to the back of the store.  I order a small cappuccino and am handed a rather large Styrofoam cup filled to the top.  I take a sip and it is really good.  
       As we climb back into the van,  Scott begins passing out drinks.  This is exciting for my children.  They are only allowed to have one glass of decaffeinated soda on Fridays.  This is a Saturday and each child is receiving his own little bottle.  The sound of "psssstsss" from all the tops opening happen simultaneously.  I barely pull onto I-95 when Scott pulls out a bag of caramel "Bulls-eyes".  He begins throwing them to the kids like a fireman in a parade.  I shake my head.  It is only 9:30 in the morning. 
        I glance at Scott and still see his laptop on the floor next to him.  He pops in a Disney CD and begins to read the newspaper.  I am sipping my cappuccino (this is a treat for me too - did I say it was really good?).  "Lion King!"  My husband blurts out after the first few notes.  The music continues.  Scott smiles at me triumphantly.  I smile back.  He always does this.  He is playing his own little game of Name That Tune.  Game shows.  Did I mention that he is turning into his father?  It is a good thing that I happen to really like his father.  "Tarzan!"  He shouts without looking up, still turning the pages of his paper.
        The "Pedro" signs for South of the Border begin to appear as we draw closer to North Carolina.  The laptop is finally opened.  Scott is deeply engrossed in his paperwork.  The song on the CD is from Mulan.  "Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?" he sings along.  He is oblivious to the fact that he has been singing several princess songs in a row and this line finally makes me burst out laughing.  He looks up and starts looking around for what I am laughing at.  Pedro continues to call to me from the road, the CD is now turned off, and Scott comes up with another way to entertain himself.  "You need a GPS", he announces.  "A Yoda GPS."  He begins his Yoda impression.  "Turn right, you will", he commands me in his Grover-like voice.  I am tempted to just let go of the wheel and use the force to teach him a lesson, but I manage to resist the temptation.  After about ten minutes of this, Scott receives a warning look and turns the "GPS" off and the radio on. 
         A bag of peanut M&Ms is opened.  Daddy counts out little piles of five candies for each child and passes them back to the kids.  Daughter number two quickly devours hers and I see her ever so carefully slip her little paw into the M&M bag for more.  She knows I can see her and is peeking at me hopefully in the rear view mirror.  The Mama is sneaky too.  I grab her wrist unexpectedly and startle her.  This convinces Daddy that everyone needs another handful.  Three cheers for Daddy!  Eager hands reach from the back of the van.
          We pull into my brother's driveway.  The side door of the van slides open and three little boys spill out and land on top of each other on the the front lawn.  They scramble to their feet and race to the door.  "Don't ring the doorbell!" I yell as I race ahead of them to the entrance.  "There is a baby here, now!"  We briefly compose ourselves until the three boys begin hammering on the front door with all of their might.  My brother's twelve-year-old sister-in-law opens it, and my sons run past her to excitedly pounce on their cousins.  While introducing myself to my brother's mother-in-law, I hear a little commotion behind me.  "Is the baby in here?" child number five excitedly questions while grabbing the doorknob to the master bedroom.  Child number four is at his side.  I  fail to stop them in time.  The door flies open and reveals my sister-in-law, Regina, sitting in a rocking chair breastfeeding little Clarissa.  Luckily, she is well-covered, but my boys are undaunted.  They crowd up to her and try to move the blanket away so they can see the baby.  I block them.  "I remember those", my five-year-old announces while pointing towards her chest."  (He does?  Then I recall that it was only two short years ago that he had stopped nursing.)  I shepherd the boys from the room, cross my eyes at Regina, and manage to shut the door.  My brother arrives.
      Regina's mother, Josie, is only five years older than me and speaks very little English.  She leads me into the kitchen to show me our lunch, "Filipino spaghetti".  The pots on the stove look like something from the back of a restaurant.  They are huge.  A large platter is placed on the table and we gather, bless, and devour quickly.  The spaghetti is tasty.  My sister-in-law translates the ingredients to me as her mother tells them to her.  Ground pork, a mysterious sausage, chopped onion, two heads of garlic (not cloves), a large can of tomato sauce, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and two bottles of banana sauce.  There is a familiarity to it, but I can't place it (a Chinese restaurant?, a stir fry?).  My mother and step dad arrive.
    Later, there is a snack of "sweet rice".  Josie pulls out an enormous wok-like pan and boils two cans of coconut milk until they reduce.  Meanwhile, in a separate pot, she adds a little water to "hard brown sugar" purchased from an Asian grocery and melts it down to a caramel.  I sample a piece and it tastes like  molasses candy.  She adds the rice to the syrup and coconut milk, and just when I think it is almost over, the work really begins.  The tiny little woman with two large tools begins scraping and tossing this heavy, rice mixture for about an hour, until it becomes a large, caramel-colored sticky mass of goodness.  Daughter number two is hovering over Josie.  She is a fan of rice pudding and is anxious to sample this.  Finally, the treat is spread into a serving dish for all to enjoy.
    My step dad, brother and I make a run to the Wal-Mart to purchase one more birthday present and dinner.  As we stand at the counter of Poppa John's, the cashier refers to me as my brother's wife.  Kris and I look at each other and exchange an "Ew!" expression.  I then enunciate very clearly that I am this man's older sis-ter.  My brother begins chatting with the cashier.  He is explaining to her how he handles women.  "Let them think they are always right."  She smiles at him politely and looks at me.  I read her face.  "Is he for real?"  I smile back.  "Don't fall for it."  As we leave, I ask my brother if there is anyone left on this planet that he has not offended with his torments.  He has to think about that one.  We pile five large pizzas next to my step dad, who has graciously insisted that I sit in the front seat.  My brother teases me the entire way home by responding to everything I say with, "You're absolutely right, Jenny."
    Two little birthday boys are anxious to open their presents.  We sing, open gifts, and eat ice cream cake.  Eight children, a baby, and and seven adults scatter around my brother's house engaged in various activities.  My now eight-year-old nephew is playing with his new "Sorry" game in a corner with his twelve-year-old "auntie" and teenage female cousins; while my now nine-year-old son is playing with his new Star Wars flight simulation game thingy on my brother's humungoid television.  There is a small line of boys and two grown men waiting for their turns at the game.  The women are cleaning up from all of the eating and chattering in two different languages.  Baby Clarissa is being continually passed from person to person - the best new toy of all.
    Bedtime.  The bathroom lines begin.  Kids are running through the house in jammies, the sink seems to be continually going, and Regina and I are arranging blankets and pillows all over the family room floor.  When preparations are complete, my mom and step dad are in the guest room, and Josie and sister-in-law are sharing bunk beds with my brother's birthday boy.  My brother, Kris, and his wife and baby are in their room, the Wand kids and one escaped cousin are scattered on the floor, and Scott and I are surrounding them on the couches.  Little six-year-old cousin and my five-year-old are inseparable and way too silly for bedtime.  The lights are off and cousin keeps getting up and pretending to bump into furniture because it is dark.  My son finds this hilarious.  I use my nicest, firm warning voice, and get them back down.  But now they are thirsty.  I climb off the couch and two shirtless boys in their practically matching Star Wars jammie bottoms patter behind me into the kitchen.  I give them each a plastic cup, fill them with water, and scoot them back to the floor.   Finally, the giggles and squirming subside and the sound of gentle snoring drifts into my ears from various locations of the house.  It takes me awhile, but I finally doze off.
     I wake up first and use the opportunity to read and shower before the bathroom line begins.  Afterward, I begin waking up my kids one at a time and have them do the same.   Soon, the rest of the family awakens and Regina and I begin breakfast.  I crack about two dozen eggs into a couple of bowls with a shot of milk and a bag of cheddar cheese while Regina pops biscuits into the oven.  We work as a team to scramble the eggs, place them in a large serving bowl, and then rip into two packs of bacon.  While Regina begins sausage gravy, I flip the bacon with tongs in two large frying pans.  I look behind me and see Josie leaning up against the sink watching me.  I start to laugh.  I point the tongs at her.  "You are lost!" I tease while Regina translates.  She is a Filipino Mama and someone else is in the kitchen.  "My tongs!  My pans!" I tease. I do a little victory dance in front of the stove.  I offer to let her hold a spoon to make her feel better while I cook.  She giggles, but does not move from her spot.  I suddenly begin to feel self-conscious.  I try to turn the bacon as professionally as possible.  I reheat my leftover cappuccino from the gas station while my step dad spikes his coffee with chocolate powder. 
      My brother enters the kitchen.  He is a man who is used to being in charge.  He is an Army Major who will soon be attending Lieutenant Colonel school, and when he uses his military command voice, his sons rethink whatever it is they were getting ready to do (and so does everyone else for that matter).  He is inspecting the sausage gravy.  He clearly adores his wife and his voice is gentle as he tells her how to multiply the gravy with a can of cream of mushroom soup.  His directions are very specific.  "Stir the gravy at twenty second intervals.....(in the microwave)"  He repeats them about three times when I threaten him with my tongs and chase him out of the kitchen.  He walks out backwards, still reviewing the directions......
      After breakfast, the family begins searching for Nerf suction cup darts that go with my son's new over sized gun.  Three are still missing.  The darts have been stuck everywhere from the doors to the foreheads of all the boys (and some of the girls).  My brother finds two protruding from the front door and my oldest son finds one in a plant in the backyard.  Soon, the van is packed, and kids are sitting on the couch posing for a picture.  Regina announces, "Everyone say Filipino spaghetti!"  The kids obey and pictures are taken.  We are given a cooler filled with leftovers and begin the journey home - right after we stop at the gas station.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We Start School Next Week and Snuggling Ain't Always What It's Cracked Up To Be

     I'm bathing baby number five and washing his hair with dishwashing liquid because I am out of shampoo. We've just finished our discussion about "which body parts you should wash first with the same washcloth", and now I am patiently waiting while he hovers over the edge of the tub dripping in his towel. We are waiting for most of the water to go down so we can watch the "tornado" swirl around the drain.  Just as I'm starting to get into it, he tugs on my arm and says, "I think it's over, Mom."
     His clothes are waiting on the bed and he inspects the Huggies body lotion (we still have some luxuries in stock). "Mom, is that the cucumber and green tea one or the other one?" "It's the cucumber one." "Good. 'cause I like that one." (Me too. I've been using it since I ran out of my Olay Body Quench). After I run a brush through his hair and part it the way he likes it, he scampers off into the living room. Uh oh. He's crying. The floor rug tripped him up. "My leg is broken." "No it's not." I lift him up and sit him on my lap. We examine the leg and soon he runs off again.
     My iron is low and my head is aching.  I had gone running this morning so I'm feeling really pooped.  Everyone seems to be occupied.  I pull the afghan from the foot of my bed and try to sneak a five minute break. Wham! The door bursts open. Remember Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley? "Hel-lo!" That is what Scott and I say to each other every time our door flies open with boy number four (He's blond, so he's Lenny) or boy number five (He's brunette, so he gets to be Squiggy). It doesn't matter how many times we remind them to knock gently.....
     Lenny climbs up next to me and starts rubbing his cold feet all over my legs. "You're so warm, Mom!" Actually, I'm not because he stole my afghan. Squiggy comes in carrying his stuffed ducky toy and hops in on my left. His elbow digs into my stomach. They begin a tug of war with my blanket. Squiggy gets an epiphany. "I'll get another one!" As he abruptly hops off the bed, I am catapulted into the air.  He quickly reappears with another afghan, flops back onto the bed, and rolls himself into it like a burrito. Lenny pulls the original one all to himself.
     I start to close my eyes when I feel Lenny's breath on my face. "Mom?" "Hmmmm?" "Did you know your teeth are crooked?" "Yes."  Pause. "Your nose is kinda big. I mean, not your nose - the holes in your nose." Now I feel Squiggy's breath on my face.  He wants to look up my nose too.  I open my right eye and peek at Lenny. "Those are called, nostrils." I'm beginning to feel like the Big Bad Wolf.  (My what big eyes you have!)  "Son, would you like it if someone said something like that to you? Can't you make some nice observations?"  Pause. "Well, your eyes are kinda pretty." I am about to thank him.... "But not that pretty. I think your eyelashes help 'em out a lot."   
    "You know, boys, I think I might be warmer if I had some socks." I look at Squiggy and he obediently hops off the bed.  He opens my sock drawer and begins to rifle through it.  "WOO HOO!  What is this?"  He dangles a tank top.  "Put that back!"  He bends down and reaches his little arm into the farthest corner of the drawer where my socks from, like, high school, have been stashed.  He victoriously pulls out a pair of red socks and a pair of pink socks.  He throws the red pair to Lenny and begins to pull the pink pair onto his feet, heel side up, all the way to his knee caps.  "You're right Mom, that's better."  I'm lying there, staring at the ceiling, with cold feet and no blankie. 
      I close my eyes again.  Lenny leans over and calls to Squiggy.  "Hey, can you do this?"  He begins to cluck with his tongue.  "Cluck, cluck, cluck."  "Sure!"  Hollers Squiggy.  He clucks back.  "Cluck, cluck, cluck."  As the boys lean over toward each other, furiously clucking their little tongues in a newfound competition, spit is flying from their little faces and landing on mine.  "Boys, that is ENOUGH!  It is time for you to GO!"  "We'll be good, Mom!"  Both boys flop quickly onto their backs like dead men.  For about twenty seconds.  Squiggy leans over, plops his stuffed ducky on my stomach, and loudly whispers, "Hey, do you know what my duck's name is?"  Lenny leans over me, "No, what?"  "It is, DUH-UH-KEE-MO-MO!"  Lenny sings back, "DUH-UH-KEE-MO-MO!"  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  I am about to yell when, the door gently opens.  Daughter number one quietly whispers (she's been trained for sixteen years), "Mom?  Do you mind if I watch a movie?"  "No, go ahead."  "Movie?!"  The boys spring off the bed and two afghans settle on me.  The door slams.  I grab a pair of abandoned, faded, red socks from my right and slip them on.  Life is good.

My Rooster and Me

                                                                 Our rooster, Edward

     On one of the red walls of my kitchen is a painting of a rooster standing in front of a horse.  The horse has its head down, eating grain, and the rooster is standing on its feed box, watching it.  In the bottom of the painting is a signature of the artist and the year, "1970".  My grandparents gave this to me a few years ago and it has two special meanings for me.  I remember seeing it in my grandparents' farmhouse as a child and that comforts me; but it also has a spiritual significance.  The spiritual lesson came, coincidentally, while my family and I were living in my grandparents' lakehouse during the construction of our current home.  My grandparents were staying in a cabin in Wisconsin at the time.
     Being a homeschooling mother of five children pretty much consumes one's day.  It starts with, "Momma, I'm hungry", and ends with "Would you sing me a song?"  There isn't much quiet time.  After praying about this situation, the solution came to mind.  Get up earlier.  Yuck.  I wanted to have quiet time with the Lord.  I needed it.  I can't tell you how many times I have read just the right passage, heard the perfect encouragement or correction in that Still Small Voice of God, or simply prayed in the nick of time.  Most of the time, these experiences are the most profound in the wee hours of the morning.  I've frequently sat in front of the window after a meeting with my Savior, snuggled in my prayer shawl, watching the sun rise, with tears running down my face; deeply moved and ready to take on the day with a new strength only God can give.  But then there is that nice warm bed.
     There are usually a couple kids in it.  Baby number five, who also happens to be five years old, always manages to wiggle himself in between his parents at some point in the evening; and after Daddy leaves for work, the other two boys manage to take over his spot.  This is one of those happy, lovely memories I shall always treasure.  Each time that little one burrows his head into my armpit and those lanky, warm little legs flop on top of mine, I just don't want to move.  I remember my two little girls doing the same thing only a few years ago.  One daughter in each armpit; their little nightgowns tangled in mine.  It was like a tranquilizer.  When they were babies, they would fall asleep at my side, nursing.  The thought of them growing up and the loss of that snuggle time makes me want to cry.  But  if I am going to be the Mama I want to be - I need that time with the Lord.  If I am going to be the Mama He wants me to be....I gotta git out of that bed!
     So I had missed a couple days.  I chose snuggling over God time, but I was there this morning; Bible ready.  John 18.  Judas betrays Jesus and Peters denys Him: three times.  I was shaking my head and my heart was breaking like it always does when I read these passages.  Just hours before, Peter was making commitments to Jesus, "I will NEVER leave you!"  Now, he is pretending he doesn't even know Him.  The next thought that came to my mind was surely delivered by the Holy Spirit.  He said simply, "There are many ways to deny Jesus."  Uh oh.  I had missed two meetings.  I had slept during prayer time - just like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He didn't have to say anything else.  The tears sprang into my eyes as the conviction hit home.  Point made. 
     John 21, Jesus reinstates Peter.  He asks him if he loves Him - three times.  This is actually a very interesting conversation in the Greek.  The first time the Lord asks Peter if he loves Him, he uses the word "agapao" (agape) which means to love much from the heart.  Peter answers Him with the word, "filio", which basically means, I have affection for you.  I love you like a friend.  After each reply, the Lord commissions Peter with a pastoral ministry; "Feed My sheep."  The third time, the Lord switches His term of love from "agapao" to "filio"  "Do you filio Me?".  (Okay, Peter, you're finally telling Me the truth.  You were just boasting several passages ago that you would die for Me - and we saw what happened.  Now you've learned something about yourself. You're not as passionate as you thought you were. You've learned to be careful.  I'm okay with the fact that you don't love Me the way I love you yet. I just want the truth.  But Peter.  That's gonna change.  There will come a day, Peter, when you will willingly die for Me.  There will come a day, when you won't even feel worthy to die for Me.  But for now, filio is enough.  Feed My sheep anyway.....) 
     By the time the Lord asks Peter the third time if he filios Him, Peter is a mess.  The Bible states, "He is grieved because the Lord asks him the third time........" Is it because Peter catches on that it is the third time like that rooster's crow, or is it because He changed His word to filio and Peter hates himself for having to use it?  Perhaps Peter is moved by how Christ is willing to accept so little (filio love), when He has given so much more......So there I was, sobbing over this passage.  I'm so much less than Peter - yet relating to his passion so deeply (real passion?)  Wanting to give so much more - but wrapped up in this sleepy, indulgent flesh.  Maybe if I had a rooster..... 
      The Song of Solomon compares the "Shulamite" or the bride of Solomon to a "filly" or a young mare (Song of Solomon 1:9).  Most commentators agree that the bride in the Song of Solomon is the bride of Christ.  If you know your Scriptures, you'll see references in there that make that obvious - but the passages are so romantic - so intimate - that most devout ones feel a little well, uncomfortable, about the whole thing.  Kinda like Peter.  (I, uh, filio You......)  The Lord desires and seeks "agape".  Marry Me love.  Die for Me love.  Love the unlovables for Me love.  Forgive the unforgivables for Me love.  And one of the most difficult: Overcome your sin for Me love.
    The rooster in my painting is watching the filly.  (Will she stop eating that grain and look at Me?)  That's me, chomp chomp chomp......My rooster dishes are displayed in the curio.  And if that weren't enough (I'm all about visual and auditory cues....), we have about twelve chickens in the backyard.  And those biddies were pretty nasty to each other til the rooster showed up.  He set the whole place straight.  They eat when he tells them (but he always watches them while they eat first - noble rooster).  He calls for them when we let them out to eat the bugs and when it is time to go back into the pen.  And those ladies don't bicker anymore - not around the big boss.  Mr. Rooster's call is a call to "Wake up!", "Pay attention!", "Look at me!", "Obey!"
     There have been a couple mornings; Scott has left for work, and I start to consider.....Maybe I could just crawl into that bed for just a few more minutes.........
Okay.  Maybe not.
     I'm sitting at the table.  Too preoccupied to be still and get some counsel from the Lord.  I look up and see it.  That rooster is staring at the filly.  "Look at Me."   I look down at my plate.  There he is.  "Focus, Jennifer.  I'm here.  I'm always here."  "Yes, Lord.  I love You too.  And I know I can't feed Your lambs unless You feed me first.  So I'm here.  I'm up.  I'm listening."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Those Ridiculous Pine Nuts

     I looked heavenward, shook my head, and laughed.  "Ridiculous!"  Child number four, age 8, was running with me, when he saw the pinecones.  "Mom, look!"  He stopped, bent down, and scooped up two tightly closed pinecones and rolled them into his shirt.  "Honey, why don't you just leave them on the side of the road and we'll pick them up on the way back?"  "No, Mom.  I'll just keep 'em.  I'm going to save them until they open up and the pine nuts come out."  That silly child ran two miles holding pinecones rolled in his shirt.  I waited for the Lord's nod in agreement from the heavens.  "Ridiculous!" I'm convinced He agreed with a smile.
     The pine cones were my fault.  I had wanted to make a pesto and I needed pine nuts.  I knew from experience that the cost of a dinky little bag of pine nuts at the grocery store was also "ridiculous", so I began to research how to harvest them myself.  Child number two, my thirteen year old daughter, the gardener of the group; was helping me.  Pine nuts, I discovered, were a lot like sunflower seeds in their shape and shell.  Simply gather the pinecones, place them in a burlap bag, and wait a couple weeks until they open.  Then, simply shake the bag and voila, pine nuts.  The conversation continued at dinner.  "When I was little, I used to watch them flutter down like helicopters in my backyard", my husband mentioned matter of factly.  I looked up from my plate.  "Those are seeds from maple trees.  The pine nuts don't come in helicopters."  Scott looked surprised. "Yes they do.  We didn't have any maple trees in our yard, Jenny."  The kids were watching us.  I sighed.  "But I saw a picture online of the seeds coming out of a pinecone, Scott."  Then I dropped it.  Sort of.  After dinner, I googled everything I could find out about pinecones, pine nuts, and helicopter seeds and showed my information to Scott.  There were no pictures of pine nuts in a helicopter shape and I even found the picture I had seen of the explosive looking pinecone on Wikipedia.  Scott was unmoved.  "They come in helicopters, Jenny."
    I had learned to be careful when disagreeing with my husband about something.  When I first became a Christian thirteen years ago, I made a commitment to read the Bible from cover to cover every year.  It is amazing what you learn when you read it word for word yourself.  I remember the first time I came across Scriptures about marriage.  "Wives, be submissive to your own husbands." (1 Peter 3:1)  When addressing modesty and beauty, Peter continued, "let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror." (1 Peter 3:4-6)  I looked up the Greek translation for "lord".  It means "master".  I tried to think of my husband as my master.  It was a foreign concept.  "My master, Lord?  I know that YOU are my master - but Scott?"  In response, the Lord made it clear to me that the American culture I was living in and had been influenced by was a sharp contrast to God's Word.  I continued to find confirmation in the Scriptures of God's plan for a happy marriage.  I learned that this submission thing wasn't because the Lord loved men more than women.  The Lord exalted women to a position far above what the common man during His time on earth had ever given them.  He instructed them, revealed Himself to them, healed them, cried with them, and died for them.  I simply had to accept the fact that the Lord had a plan for His creation; and it wasn't the same as a woman's.  He made man first and then created the woman to be his helpmeet.  She was made for man. These Scriptures tested me greatly.  And I tested them back.
     As I sat at my computer researching pine nuts, I remembered one of my first lessons in submission.  Scott and I were driving home from West of the Ashley.  Scott and I often have different routes to the same place.  I like the straight shot and he tends to take winding back roads.  He'll "clock" the mileage, but I try to factor in traffic, stop lights, and logging trucks.  I don't like to TURN because then you have to SLOW DOWN.  That is why I RUN.  Walking is TOO SLOW.  I was convinced during this particular drive that MY route home was faster than Scott's.  I decided to push - just a little- to get my way.  "Honestly, Scott.  This way is faster."  He sighed and acquiesed.  During our discussion, Scriptures came to my mind about marriage.  I was reminded that my submission to my husband was in reality an act of trusting God (1 Peter 3:5), but this was different.  I was RIGHT.  Surely, you only submit when there is a chance you could be wrong.  But I KNEW I was Right.  So I pushed.  Scott took my requested exit.  Within two miles, we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for at least an additional hour due to an accident on the Interstate.  The Lord had every intention of protecting us from the inconvenience of a major traffic jam, but I had interfered.  It didn't matter if I was "right" about the distance or not.  All that mattered was that when I had taken authority of the situation away from my husband, it was an act of disobedience to God's Word.  There are ALWAYS consequences for disobedience.  I shared that lesson with my daughters.  "Marry a man you respect.  Find someone who is smarter and wiser than you are so it will be easier to look up to him.  And when you do, you must pray when you disagree with him before you open your mouth.  Even if you are convinced you are right, the Lord will humble you if you challenge His plan for authority."
     So I have learned not to argue with my husband.  He is a wonderful man - REALLY easy to get along with.  He never says, "I told you so."  He just looks at you with those eyes - like he did in that traffic jam. Those eyes that simply ask, "Why?"  The pine nut thing.  It wasn't an ARGUMENT.  It was simply a DISCUSSION.  This mystery had to be solved.  Why was my husband CONVINCED he saw helicopter seeds in his backyard as a kid?
     We went to a reunion picnic at Scott's parents' house.  I was sitting next to my father-in-law and quietly asked him.  "Pops, did you have any maple trees in your backyard before Hurricane Hugo?"  "Nope, but our neighbor did."  "Scott is convinced he saw helicopter seeds in your yard when he was younger and I was wondering how they got there."  "Well, I suppose they could have blown over the fence."  Ah ha!  That MUST have been what happened.  I hadn't mentioned the helicopter seed thing in several days, but I had good news for Scott.  He HAD seen helicopter seeds after all!  They just weren't from his yard.  I excitedly shared my discovery with him as he drove home.  He didn't say anything.  He just smiled, shook his head, and looked at me with those beautiful, blue eyes.  "Why?" So I let the whole thing go.  I was satisfied. 
    Then it happened.  My son's pinecones opened up.  Five children ran excitedly into my bedroom.  "Mom, look!"  Helicopter seeds filled with pine nuts were being thrown into the air all around me.  My little one announced loudly, "Mom, you were WRONG.  Daddy was right!"  I looked up toward my ceiling and pleaded to the Lord with MY eyes, "Why?"  My husband was at the opposite end of the house.  I would have to face him soon.  He walked in a few minutes later.  Smiling.
     Several days later I was running with daughter number two.  We came to the mailbox where we stop running and walk.  In slow motion, a helicopter seed carrying a pine nut drifted in front of us both.  It was saying, "Look at me!  I am a PINE NUT.  I can FLY.  Isn't God PRACTICAL?"  My daughter laughed.  "Hey Mom, you were RIGHT!  God really does humble you when you challenge Dad."  Oh, the pain.  I looked heavenward and heard it.  "Ridiculous!"  He said with a smile.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This Little Light of Mine

     I was running.  We live on a street where the neighbor on my left is a mile away and the other is blocked by trees and a swamp.  It is one mile from my house to the stop sign and I run to it and back twice for a total of four miles.  I don't run alone anymore, but when I did, I would often spend the process thinking, talking aloud to the Lord - or even singing to Him.  This time I was thinking about moving near some water.
   My husband, Scott, is a water baby.  He grew up on James Island with a dock in his backyard and there are several pictures of the Wand boys leaping off into the waves in their cut offs.  He had been praying that the Lord would miraculously put a lake on our property and I was thinking about him.  I wanted him to have that lake.  I had recently seen some property on the web near our home on eighty acres.  We couldn't afford it, but I was thinking about it anyway.  It was then I heard the still, small voice....."What is YOUR dream?  If you could live anywhere, where would it be?"  I stopped in the middle of the road; startled by the question.  Wow.  I suddenly remembered.  I would live in Montana.
      I had been a teenager looking at a calendar.  The pictures had beautiful landscape photographs of selected American states.  It was then I saw the picture.  It was labeled, "Big Sky Country".  I stared at it for a long time.  It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  Snow capped mountains in the distance, white, humongous, cumulus clouds covered the bright, blue sky.  Sparkling water rippled over pebbles in a winding stream.  I gasped at the beauty and wished I could live there.
     I started running again.  I wasn't a teenager anymore.  I was 43 and had five kids and no money.  "Lord, would You do that for me?  Would you be willing to take me to Montana?"  I began to think of other dreams I had shelved.  I started to think about my dream house.
     Later that night I sat at the computer and looked at properties in Montana.  Scott sat by my side.  I had forgotten that I had told him about this dream.  He surprised me when he said, "Well, we've always wanted to live there."  "We?" I was thrilled and moved that it had become "our" dream.  We ahhhhed and ooohed over the gorgeous properties and my heart began to ache.  Soon, I was looking at house plans.  I found my favorite and I've memorized it.
     The other night I was looking at chandeliers on the Internet.  My girls were huddled next to me.  We love to look at beautiful things.  There is a large rotunda where the staircase sweeps up in my dream house.  It needs a large chandelier and I wanted to see some.  I was taken aback at the beautiful works of art - art that distributes light in the most spectacular ways.  Some dripped with crystal, some were very modern, and some flowed like waterfalls from the ceiling.  I saw black crystal chandeliers for the first time and others with Spanish names.  Some were sold in dollars and others in unfamiliar currency.
      As I had devotional time with my children the following morning, I found myself flipping to the Book of Revelation in the first chapter where Jesus walks through the seven lampstands.  The lampstands, we are told in chapter one, verse twenty, are the seven churches.  It was only the night before, during our weekly family Bible study that we read in First Peter that as individuals - we too, are churches - spiritual houses (I Peter 2:5).  I realized that I was not the only one who wanted a dream house.  The Lord wants one too.  He is trying to turn ME into one.  I need lots of renovating, but He is determined to finish me.  He and I have different ideas about what His dream house should look like.  I'm thinking I need to be some type of palace with chandeliers; but I'm beginning to learn that the first humbling renovation is for me to be satisfied with simply being one little candle in His majestic masterpiece.   He has been hammering away at my vanity and it has been painful.  I haven't decided yet if He wants me to be willing to give up my personal dreams to better serve Him or if He wants me to have the faith that those dreams are all a part of His plan and it is time to believe that He is not only able - but WILLING to make them come true.