Thursday, February 19, 2015

Forgiveness, Mercy, Grace and Reconciliation are steps to eternity...

It has taken some time to decide if this is a post I wanted to share.  It is a peek into my heart.  A summary of some life lessons over the last 30 years.  Then, there have been the recent conversations with various kiddos, discussions about what lessons can we learn from each experience, because God can use everything.  In each experience, we can choose to be bitter or better.  Then, the encouraging words from one of the few people I shared this post with, I just want to give them a glimpse of the work God has and is doing in my heart because they see me walking a hard road.  The final bit of encouragement came when discussing those lessons that can be gleaned from each experience with my kiddo(s) and God whispered in my heart that sometimes, they aren't new lessons but "drills."  Much like math drills and fire drills.  The kind that keep your skills sharp and honed. It isn't about learning the lesson so you don't have to learn it again. Our Spiritual skills need to be practiced and honed in such a way, that we develop "spiritual muscle memory".  So our first response/reaction is what Jesus would literally do, extend grace, forgiveness, patience, mercy, understanding, kindness.  So here goes...

In my quiet and prayer time as I wrestled out yet another issue with God, He whispered a memory from my adolescent/teen years. 

It was a season, I loved to read. I read anything I could get my hands on.  I especially liked Reader's Digest and Guidepost.  Fortunately, my mom was willing to renew the subscriptions for me for years.  I have no idea if she ever read them, but I did, cover to cover.  This memory God whispered was of a story of a man who forgave the murderer of his child.  Not only did he forgive the murderer, but he would eventually begin to visit the prison. He developed a relationship with the person who tore his family apart, shared the Gospel and eventually led him to Christ.  When it came to the time for his release, he was there and welcomed him into his new life as a free man and into his home.  The memory God whispered was the silent prayer in my very naïve teen heart...I want to be that kind of Christian.  A noble prayer for a young, un-experienced in life teenager.

But God didn't stop there.  Because before He started down the memory lane with me, He was reminding me of His Word.  You see there was Saul (Paul).  He was despicable.  He persecuted Christians, until God shook things up and got his attention.  Saul (Paul) who eventually led many to Christ, shared the Gospel, suffered for his faithfulness to Jesus.  He became the persecuted and counted it joy.  But there is another story that fits right in the middle of there, maybe not chronologically, but fit it does...the point where there is sinning, recognition and repentance happens.  It is the story of the Prodigal Son.  At the point when he is in the pit of his sin and God reveals to him His love, grace and mercy.  Saul (Paul) returns to his Creator (Father).  A celebration happened, and not every one was happy about it either. 

God started showing me that although the "stories" in His Word don't reveal all that was happening at that given moment, when looked together as a whole and individually, you can get a pretty good grasp of humanity from all different perspectives.  We all sin and are in the muck of it when God grabs the opportunity to get our attention, He offers us the possibility of returning HOME because working for Him is better than eating after the pigs.  He will celebrate and rejoice on our return, while some will grumble.  They might grumble because they fail to see all sin is sin...they may grumble because they have forgotten where they were once before, or maybe they don't want to remember.  Or they may grumble because they are in the season of realizing the importance of making good choices and the consequences of not doing so and their focus is so intense on these new convictions they are unable to step back and see all the different "projects" God has happening.  It is easy to not realize we are all in different stages and the lessons of life do not happen in a particular order.  As a result, sometimes others are unable to rejoice at the time.  But Saul (Paul) and the prodigal son don't allow concern for what others will do or say stop them, they listen to God and trust Him and move forward.  It is so easy to just look at one story and see the "simple" lesson revealed.  You can ask yourself am I the prodigal son?  the brother?  the father?  Am I Saul, the murderer and persecutor?  Or am I the persecuted?  How does this apply to me today?  All very good questions.  But looked at together, you see the same story being repeated from different perspectives, with different words but speaking the same message of forgiveness, mercy, grace and reconciliation.

And I consider the memory of the naïve heart that says, I hope I can be that kind of person if I ever were to find myself in a situation like "that."  Easy to think as a teenager, because that is the season of invincibility and nothing like that will truly happen.  Translated it looks like being a kind, generous, tender hearted and noble person.  To be that kind of person the father was, to have that kind of heart, means a special kind of journey.  One that is not easy.  The story makes it all look so neat and tidy.  It doesn't give a lot of background.  The story fits neatly in just a few pages, and is inspiring.  Faith like that father's is a process.  He has been in the pit with the pigs.  He knows forgiveness.  He knows what it is like to be not forgiven and to be forgiven.  He knows estrangement and reconciliation.  He also knows grief and loss.  He knows anger and the desire for life to not be so hard.  He has wrestled with the letting go and not having control.  He knows the love of His Heavenly Father and to who He belongs.  But he doesn't just know these things, these things were wrestled out with His God.  It isn't a humanly natural thing to embrace the murderer of your child. Not when you are faced with daily reminders of what will never be experienced.  Not even when you fast forward into the future and are faced with the grandchildren you will never have and all your friends are sharing the pictures and stories of theirs, and there is a twinge and longing that dares to surface.  A voice that begs to remind you of what was lost and an inner discipline that chooses to not look at what was lost but at what has been gained.  An inner discipline to choose to have an eternal perspective in the midst of a mortal life.  There was a soul searching, on your knees with God work being done process.  It didn't just happen in the days after the murder.  It was the sum of his life experiences and walk with the Lord from whenever it started.  Forgiveness, mercy, grace and reconciliation are learned through experience.  They are practiced in the little things when we recognize our own guiltiness of doing the same things.  They are stretched and strengthened through the tougher challenges and are only possible because of God and His love for us.  Then when a day comes and you are faced with what many would declare, "you are perfectly in your own right to practice some but not all four of those acts," you realize that in of yourself you can't, but in God you can.  You can release the person, the situation into God's very capable hands because He loves each and every one of His creations.  Each and everyone of His children and they were fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made. If He could use Saul (Paul), then it isn't for me or you to say He can't use this too.  It isn't easy, but all that practice of turning it over to God is what has been training me/you for this day.  It is possible.  While many may ponder and wonder, a simple truth I learned not so terribly long ago is what I reflect on, His Grace is sufficient for each of us in the measure we need it for each circumstance.  His Grace, His Manna, He provides for each of us according to our need, each and every day.

And then God fast forwards me to the story of the father who made a hard choice.  His son and son's friend were in the sea and there was only one life preserver.  Only one could be saved.  His son, knew Jesus well.  His friend did not.  He made the choice of eternity.  His son, entered eternity with his Savior and the friend, as a result, experienced forgiveness, mercy, grace and reconciliation.

Then He reminds me of the season of nightmares.  The kind that shook this very young, at the time, momma to her knees.  Always the same theme...  Persecution at its worst in my dreams.  Prayers to God to take the dreams away.  Then asking what it is He wants me to know or learn?   In these nightmares, I face a choice.  A choice that demands I deny Christ or my child/children will be killed or tortured in front of me till I submit....the scenario always a little different.  I. Just. Can't. Deny. My. Savior.  and I always wake up at the point where I am looking in their eyes wanting them to understand why.  Why I can't save them.  Why I can't deny my Lord and Savior.  What bothered me the most was the question, do they understand why?  Do they understand I love them with all my heart, but this one thing I can not do for them?  I asked God how could I face such a horrific moment and my children not feel rejected, not cry out in anger and rage and rebellion.  How to prevent them from becoming angry and rejecting HIM themselves and not be bitter from my choice.  Then He whispered this answer: Live your life in such a way that they know.  They know you love them.  They know you love Me.  Teach them, mentor them, raise them up in Me and then you have nothing to worry about because I will take care of the rest.  Raise them up with an eternal perspective.  I work all things for good for those who love Me.  He taught me to focus on forgiveness, mercy, grace and reconciliation.  To look with an eternal perspective, knowing that God works all things together for His Glory... and in the end, that is what happens when we all gather together in eternity, we give Him the Glory. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Think... Another new thing in our house AND it is working in UnexpectedWays!!

I have heard this acronym over the years.  But several months ago, it was revisited in our house. 
Before that even happened, last summer became the summer of "stop and think." 
Kids were doing crazy, reckless things and oopsie daisies were happening and I thought I was going to go bald from pulling my hair out before I ever turned gray!
A kiddo, a dear sweet lady and I visited about this months was like aha light bulbs went off.  Life was good.  Then fast forward and some of my kids hit new stages in personalities, quirks and behaviors.  The kind that can blind side a mother and she has NO. IDEA. HOW. TO. RESPOND.  It is wrong, but how to explain it?  How to teach something different?  Some concepts are big and vague and hard to explain to kids.  Hard for adults to discuss, there is just a knowing. 
So visiting with this dear sweet lady and she remembers "THINK" from our months ago conversation.  HUGE LIGHT BULB moment.  LIFE. HAS. NOT. BEEN. THE. SAME. in a very good way. 
All the kids have been taught it.  When there is an annoyance, we just say "Think."  Sometimes, it is pretty easy to figure out, but other times it takes some thinking. 

Is it True? is pretty clear cut. 

Is it Helpful?  or sometimes Is it Honest?  There is a difference between True and Honest sometimes.

Is it Inspired? but that can be difficult for a kid to grasp the concept of so we added Is it Important? 
One of our issues is correcting a slip of the it really important to address every little slip?  Does it derail the flow of things?  Which leads into...

Is it Necessary?  Maybe it is True, maybe at times it could be Helpful, and Important but is it Necessary?  In our case, sometimes it is a distraction, slows progress down, just don't need to go there right now.

Is it Kind?  How is it making the other person feel?  All those other questions come into play as well...distracting? slowing things down?  preventing things from happening?  Frustrating someone else while doing all the above? In this case, how can we do/say this and be kind?

Loving it !!! 
Only a few eye rolls have happened so far. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Something new we are trying

I have a kiddo that desperately wants to earn money.  I struggle to think on the spot.  I struggle with consistency and memory issues.  For instance, how much was the job worth last time???
I, also, want balance.  There are different beliefs regarding kids and chores and allowances and do we pay them for chores?  Well, I haven't had a clear solution or hint of what to do in 18 years of parenting, that is till this weekend.  
The challenge?  Coming up with a solution that addresses the personality and heart issues and needs of multiple children in the home.  For instance, I have one or more that would be all over getting up in the morning and working for money.  Meanwhile, regular chores and school work wouldn't get done.  

So I finally had a "duh!" Light bulb moment. I posted rules for earning money.  I posted jobs available to be worked for money, and kept the amounts low and affordable for me.  I made sure there were jobs that would need to be done frequently.  I, also, put in a stipulation...An act of kindness stipulation.  For every job done to earn money, an "act of kindness" needed to be completed.  I want them to experience the balance of just doing because it is right and good.  What never fails to amaze me is the "blindness" to things on the floor or odd little tasks that need doing and NOONE. notices. them.  The glazed over zombie looks when I point them out just causes me to shake my head.  In the last few weeks, I have heard, "but you didn't asked me" or "you didn't tell me to" more times than I care to count.  Even once is one time too many considering the age of the culprits.  So I am hoping my plan will encourage initiative and thoughtfulness and a change in attitude.  I, also, left a post-it notepad nearby to jot down job ideas to stick to the posters.  The kids were quick to notice jobs not mentioned, cleaning the car and vacuuming the upstairs.  Post it notes have been added.  I, also, created a note for the Christmas nativity.  It needs to be put away with love and care, so it is stuck to the acts of kindness chart.  What isn't pictured are the cards with their names on them and their "assigned" chores, individual to them.  They each have a couple of jobs to do on a regular basis throughout the week.  I haven't decided how frequently I will swap those out, but for now, I am hoping this works.

A little funny tidbit to add.  My college student walked in while I was hard at work creating my posters.  She got super excited!  Couldn't wait to join in on this new endeavor.  Apparently I got a little distracted and my cent signs were switched to dollar signs... Cleaning the entryways was suddenly worth $75 each and the pantry was worth $50.  She was ready to get busy!   Eye rolling commenced and I quickly burst her bubble.  She made my point!  And I quickly fixed my mistakes.  Amounts may need to be tweaked, but I would rather increase rates and create cheering than decrease and experience mutiny.   

Before I could post this, we also encountered another heart issue.  There was an offense.  A big hurt.  It wasn't the kind of hurt that could be resolved by buying a replacement tangible restitution could be made.  Apologies were made.  Forgiveness given.  But how does one demonstrate regret and love??? I am not all about earning forgiveness and grace, but there are times when a personal effort can go a long way.  Since creating the assigned chores and the charts, an INSpired Idea hit me.  An "act of kindness" which I called an act of "redemption"/"repentance" could be done.  I suggested to the offender that since I had to take the sibling away from the house an act of kindness could be done by completing a chore that would become a hardship later in the day... leaving the house always means less time to do school and chores, especially when there is a desire for "free" time. Translation...less free time.  My kids don't think "free time" spent at doctors' and other appointments is all that much fun!  Go figure?? :)  Before I left I heard the "offender" declaring "I HAVE to do..."  I quickly responded with "No, you don't have to, you get to choose. This is something you get to choose to do to show love and repentance and kindness.  No one says you have to, it is your choice.  I think it is the right thing to do, but it was only a suggestion.  So only do it, because you choose to do it."  Out the door I went.  My heart soared much later, when I discovered the job done and nothing more was said. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Paracord for Antigua

The last couple of months I have struggled. 
I have struggled with this mess...
And this mess...

My 10 year old disappears for hours on end to his room.  It is a strange and unsettling feeling to not have him underfoot, running in and out the door.  A little frustrating when there is math to do or books to be read.
Then there are the nights, I go into peak on him and discover him still awake.  Hard at work creating or researching and learning a new pattern.  
But my through it all my heart swells..

Ever since the missions team visited Awana one night to explain their upcoming trip to Antigua to build a hard court at a church he has been a man with a mission.  Their visit to Awana was to drum up excitement for the missions offering to be collected for a month.  They happened to mention that some of the money would be used to purchase prizes for a carnival night during the mission trip.  My young man dreamed of making para cord bracelets for the team to give away.  A dream he has not let go.  So while I do ask for the occasional clean up and vacuum and insist on lights out, I am very proud of this young man.  He willingly takes breaks to do some math and read when I request him to, but when my requests have been fulfilled he is back to work.  He is a young man with a very big heart, generous and thoughtful.  He even sold some creations as a fundraiser to help pay for all the supplies.  Sometimes, he just couldn't help himself and he would just give away his creations just to love on someone.  Each bracelet has a story.  Each made with love and thought to the color combinations and type of pattern.  Though each child may not know all of this, it is our prayer they will be blessed and feel the love of the Lord

His endeavor has created a bond with his oldest sister as she is going on the trip.  They have brainstormed together.  She has patiently listened as he explained each bracelet to her.  She has encouraged him as he questioned whether each was of high enough quality to give as a gift.  Would the color combination be liked?  Earlier this week she took him shopping to buy more para cord.  Something this Momma has stood back and watched.  I have held myself back, not interfering, because it has been a beautiful thing to watch unfold.  To be honest, sometimes when Momma gets involved she redirects and changes the flow unintentionally.  It is a wondrous thing to provide tools, encouragement and stand back to see what will happen.  

There are only a few hours left, and more will be added....  And I am sure I may have to say lights out at some point tonight, but this is what is flying to Antigua tomorrow.  The attached verse is: 
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
One of the very first verses children learn in Awana...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Teenager Theory

I have this theory.  I have, even in a brief embarrassing moment for my daughter, spoke to another teenager about my theory at an athletic event in Oklahoma.  Amazing what conversations can be had in a hotel elevator.  He nodded his head and agreed I had a point.
What is this theory?
Take your teenager's age and subtract ten.  That is their true age.  You just thought when you made it through the 2s and 3s life was going to get better.  Think crazed psycho laughter coming from me. 
The joys of 5 children in 10 years.  When my first was thirteen the last was 3.  I saw first hand one day when they both CHOSE to have a tantrum within minutes of each other.  Now I must say my oldest and youngest have a lot of similarities in their personalities.  That was my aha moment.  5 years later it has been observed by this Momma to be true more than not!
Today my 14 year old gave me flash backs to his younger years.  Gave him a job, took a shower and came back and it wasn't done.  Deer in the head lights look.  You meant now??  (or rather then?)  Now he did apply some critical thinking but his critical thinking led him straight back to the same choices he made when he was 4.  Look charming and absent of his mind!  I watch my younger two closely... 8 and 10.  I. IN. FOR. IT!!!
Today the 8 year old is crying because I set a timer for a handful of problems to be done in 30 minutes.  He would rather do the soccer homework for his coach on You Tube.  Yeah, whatever.  While he cries, he announces..."My head hurts!"  "There is no way I can do this!"  and the clincher, "I Hate my life!!!"  To which the almost 18 year old giggles and says, "I hate mine too." 
The 8 year old asks, "Why, because you are short?" 
The almost 18 year old, "NO, because, I am almost 18 and have to pay bills and work!" 
The almost 18 year old at some point also rolled her eyes an sighed..."The drama!!"
Yeah exactly!
So all you moms of youngers....I am warning it, enjoy them as they are cause they are who they are and are and they only get older... the drama gets more dramatic, the tantrums only get bigger and cluelessness loses some of its charm. 
We won't even discuss the prayers I say regarding the 10 year old.... He has his own set of books belong in the closet and clothes belong on the bookshelf.  Beds are not for sleeping in...
At least, I get a good laugh now and then. 
Lest you think it is all bad, it isn't.  They reach a certain wonderfulness between 9 and 12...They are helpful and capable and sometimes want to learn new things around the house.  Then they regress....A LOT!.  While they may act like the youngest you once knew ten years ago, you can have more intelligent conversations with them...just not when they have relapsed 10 years for whatever hormonal or emotional reason at the moment.  Deep breathes.  LAUGH!! it helps, just not when they are in their hide in the closet and laugh like a crazy person!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ummm, what happened to all my plans???

It is Spring Break for all around us here locally.  We weren't going to take Spring Break....

I had plans:  Lots of school catch up would get done
Lots of EBay would get listed
Garden would get planted
Daily chores would be done
Garage sale would be had or we would go garage sale-ing
Graduation to do's would be done
Meals would be cooked

It seems school breaks never quite pan out to be what I hope them to be...

This weekend while out of town, a sick kid...No big deal right?? Except I sleep on a COT with him NEXT to me.  Okay when he was 2,3, 4 years old...but now he is bigger.  Since the sleep study and changes made in life, THE MAN is growing and well, sleep is over rated anyhow. Right?  If not on the cot, then not at all.  Or maybe in a hotel chair.  Or maybe on the floor next to him, on an air mattress...which just isn't the same when you are 40.  He feels better.

So we are home and my body rebels on Monday. Huge knots that my daughters can see all over my back.  Exhausted, I sleep, nap, stare off into distance.  He feels better. 

Tuesday comes and maybe things won't be so bad, garden is cleaned out.    But he is wheezy.  Breathing treatments.  NO time outside is I spend all my time policing him and trying to get him to stay inside.  The garden is beckoning.  NOPE!  Dad comes home, I get the shopping done for the garden, take big brother to golf practice and do the parent meeting thing.
Then nighttime rolls around.  I can't sleep.  His breathing is off.  He is restless.  Talking, crying, and teeth grinding in his sleep.  I snuggle and pray over him.  Watch him relax as prayers are answered.  More breathing treatments in the night.  Constant running of the diffuser...RC Young Living Essential Oil.  He says it helps some. He relaxes and sleeps for another 15 minute spell. I realize why people like their e-readers.  No lights need to be on.  My IPad is my other companion through the night.  Might as well do something since I am NOT sleeping.  He finally relaxes and breathing easy.  I dose off, but not for long.  Gut wrenching body wracking coughs.  I can hear deep down in his chest.  This is NOT good! I work to convince my body I was just joking, we weren't really going to sleep.  Good news, it is 7:30.  Another breathing treatment.  Now I can call the doctor's office. 
Appointment made, teenagers woke.  Dad called at work.  Oldest drives the zombie mom to the doctor office.  Pneumonia!  Ear infection! 
The best part....My teenagers are well trained in caring for the sick. :)  Home and I go to bed.  I am awaken a few times.  I have no concept of time.  Just crazy spy riddled dreams...guess what they were watching on tv??? 4 hours later I am staring off into nowhere trying to decide if I am awake or asleep still and wondering what happened to my Spring Break??
I realize another crazy school break.  I wonder about taking next week off so I can get my to do list done.  And I realize this is the twisted pattern of all of our school breaks and why our breaks always end up extended.  Just want my "perfect break". 
Then I hear the whisper: "For I know the plans I have for you...."
I choose to not ask why my plans can't be accomplished.  I suck down my Pepsi.  Yep, it is back but not to the extent it used to be, I think today is considered special circumstances.  Grateful, my kids hop to it when I assign chores.  My obnoxious pre-teen quits badgering me about when I am starting school because I tell him to go get the lesson plan book.  I think I hear angels singing Hallelujah!! 
There is still time this week for the to do list. 
This blog post wasn't on the list but maybe it will help someone else. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sleep Study Results are In....

This has been a journey in of itself. 
Starting late last Spring/early Summer. 
We were looking into some oral therapy for one of our kiddos.  Mild speech issues no one has been able to figure out a cause for, but as this child has matured learning to compensate and overcome.  As we were setting up an evaluation it was suggested we have the whole family evaluated.  Often issues are congenital and multiple family members have issues.  The therapy cause correct issues before they become issues later in life.  Worth looking into.
What we weren't expecting was concern regarding another child's palate.  We were aware of the issues, but no one had suggested anything else.  The quirks in his behavior we dealt with, thinking it was just the way this child was created.  Such as this child doesn't like to sleep in bed, always sleeps in recliner and/or couch.  Frankly, I don't care where my children sleep as long as they sleep these days.  Life is busy and some things I just don't have the energy to argue about.  Even if this child starts in bed, always ends up on the couch, either due to sleep walking or just waking up and wandering there after a bathroom trip. 

Next stop was the doctor to check adenoids and tonsils.  Nothing remarkable, so a sleep study was requested.  We were put on a wait list and I received a call just before Christmas for after New Years.  After our initial appointment, the PA agreed our kiddo was borderline and would benefit for a sleep study to either confirm/diagnose an issue or it was behavioral and we would decide what to do regarding behaviors. 
Best part was there was a cancellation and we were asked if we could return later in the week for the sleep study. As we hadn't been able to restart school, I said sure. 
I wish I could post pictures of all the wires.  While I was allowed to take pictures for Dad I was forbidden to share them with anyone else including siblings.  Which is why I also am being very careful to not suggest which child went with me to KC to the Children's hospital.  While there is noting to embarrassed about, I am trying to respect wishes here.  So if you do know who I am speaking of please, request my child's desire for privacy.  I am posting results only because so many have been praying and asking. 

So the results:
Airway is clear! No apnea!  No issues with orthodontics that need to be done. Wahoo!!
Diagnosis:  Periodic Limb Movement Disorder which causes brain arousal during sleep and causes low levels of dopamine in the brain. 
In our case, the disorder is being caused by iron deficiency.  Which also means there is a ferritin deficiency.  Since this child is a carnivore I asked what could be lacking in the diet to prevent iron absorption.  Vitamin C.  Said child does not care for produce!!  Lesson is being learned that Mom's balanced meals are meant to allow for maximum nutrition.  Each food is reliant on another food for maximum nutrition and health.  While this child consumes produce, it is not varied enough.  Understanding that athletic performance and overall feeling well and happy is dependent on diet, there is a willingness to try and eat more variety, albeit reluctantly.  We will need occasional blood tests as a result of the iron supplements, but in time we should hopefully be able to discontinue the supplements and just eat healthy!  Praising the Lord! 
We also discovered the child is lingering too long deep 3 sleep.  An indicator of not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.  Wiggling around in bed, procrastinating, asking all those late night questions.  You get the idea, all the stuff that drives a parent nuts when they just want their children TO GO TO BED!!! 
Well now, the child has heard it all from the doc!  Sleep and eat your veggies!! Amazing how much more validity there is to the mantra when it isn't the parent saying it!!