Saturday, May 31, 2014

Confessions of a Resentful Mother

Confession Time. I think I am mad at God right now. I don't exactly feel mad at God, but it's no secret from my last few posts that I have not been thrilled at the idea of giving up my career. I know that it is ultimately my choice, but I feel like a sulking child who knows that I don't really have a choice. I have noticed I just feel indifferent right now which is sad and a little scary especially in admitting it to others. I want to be passionate about God, not indifferent.

So what makes me say that I am indifferent? First of all, I have not been praying regularly and have not tried as hard lately to fit in my study time. I guess maybe I should more accurately describe it as giving God the cold shoulder. I'm mad about my new circumstances, so I'm just not talking to or listening to God. Which is absolutely ridiculous. God does not need me. He doesn't need any of us for that matter. But I do need HIM. Especially now.

I've heard lots of people describe humankind as not caring about God when times are good; when everything is going well people feel like they can take care of themselves and are doing just fine without God. Then when they hit a bump in the road, they are begging for God to save them from whatever mess they are in. Well I am apparently completely backwards. I am so close to God when everything is going well in my life. It's like I can see so vividly all His love and care and compassion for me. But then, if things are not going my way, I get mad at God. I pout. I feel like the sinner in Luke 6:33 who does good only to those who do good to them. Apparently I'll praise God and love God as long as He doesn't ask too much of me. But perhaps somewhere down deep I feel God has crossed the line by requiring me to sacrifice my career. I'm embarrassed that this is how I am feeling. I know it is wrong and He loves me and cares for me through the good times in my life and especially the tough times. In fact, I am pretty certain giving up my career will make me a better mom and draw me closer to my children. I think God allows us these times in our lives to stretch us, allow us to grow. I know I will be better off and so will my kids. But I'm like an adolescent child who will do what is asked, while kicking and screaming. I am kicking and screaming in my heart.

Now, let me preface this by telling you that I have been very careful where my children are concerned in all of this. I do not want them to know how I have struggled with this. I'm trying to keep them from witnessing this battlefield I'm on. Maybe this is wrong of me. But I don't want them to see homeschooling as something Mommy cries about or is mad about. They are excited about it and I want them to stay excited. I haven't felt like they would understand fully and I don't want them to confuse my tears over my selfish struggle with being sad that I'll be home with them. So I have kept that hidden. They will be allowed to believe mommy is happy to homeschool them (and I am happy we have the opportunity to be able to do what we need to do) for now. Maybe one day the time will come to share this struggle with them so they can apply it to something they are going through, but not now.

So back to being mad. Like I said I'm not sure it's exactly anger. I guess it's almost like I'm determined to do this with the right attitude but without God. Why? It's foolish. I cannot explain to you how I can logically know the right course but allow my emotions to mislead me. One of my fears while making this decision has been that I would resent my children for needing me so much that I had to give up my job. Instead, the last few weeks have shown me that this is not the case. Instead I have resented God. What a fool I am. So right now I am doing the only thing I know to do. I'm leading my mind and my heart with my actions, not my emotions. This is nothing new to mankind though, really (Jeremiah 17:9). Following our hearts through emotion can get us into all kinds of trouble. I have had to do this before, with anxiety. I had to lead myself to move forward when my heart was afraid until my heart was no longer afraid. This time I will move forward, praise God, thank God and start forcing myself to communicate and listen to God even though my heart wants to ignore Him and pout. I will ask God to help me let my walls down and to accept this new trial with grace, humility and with an open heart. Because my heart cannot be trusted right now, I need to instead trust Him with my heart.

I share my confession with you because I hope you will be challenged to look into your heart and see any areas in which it may be misleading you. Perhaps it isn't misleading you now, but maybe this confession will remind you to guard your heart from wayward emotions that threaten to take you down the wrong path. And when you find yourself in that position, do not give in to your emotions. One thing is for sure, God transcends emotion. He is truth. He is love. These things are not dictated by emotion. They are facts and choice. So I will choose to believe the fact and continue to follow God and love God. I will acknowledge the facts that He is righteous and has the right answers. For now I will do these things because He has loved me and I choose to do so; even if I don't feel love, I will act out love. And hopefully in time I will quit acting like a child and be restored fully to the type of relationship I truly desire with my Father.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Forgiveness or Permission?

I read a blog entry the other day that I loved as it was challenging to modern day Christians. Many of us who wear the title of Christian struggle with gray areas and he addressed it beautifully here. In case you didn't go read it, in a nutshell he speaks about the attitude that accompanies the question of whether a Christian "can" drink alcohol and if so how much. Essentially what I believe he was really getting at was for us to examine what our hearts are telling us when we ask these types of questions. Perhaps instead of asking if we can, he points out, we need to ask whether we "should". His entry spurred me to explore this a little further and I think in so many ways this applies to all sorts of areas of our Christian walk. Maybe you don't see alcohol as a gray area. But more than likely the real issue that he is dealing with applies to ALL of us who strive to follow Christ.

For example, if you are a woman, you may struggle with modesty. Instead of asking if we can wear this or that type of swimsuit, skirt or blouse, we need to ask if we "should" be wearing it. What is acceptable in our culture does not make it right for us to exercise Christian liberty. There are so many sins that can arise both in our own lives due to immodesty and in the lives of those around us due to our immodesty. Never mind whose 'fault' it is (I'm not interested in blame or pointing fingers) - things happen due to questionable (or even what we may think is not questionable) attire. Any young man or woman on planet earth can likely identify with asking where the line is in regards to how far they can go before marriage. Yet if our heart is striving after the answer of how far we can go, it is likely we will be lead much further than where we originally thought our line was drawn. The state of our hearts is the issue that really determines how close to the fire we will get with any issue of potential sin.

In high school I first heard the adage "It is easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission." I think this reflects the attitude of our hearts when we ask "can I?". There are times this is acceptable - maybe when spending a little extra money or deciding whether to eat your spouse's leftovers from the night before. But in all spiritual matters, it seems ungrateful at best, completely unacceptable and sinful at worst to error on the side of asking forgiveness rather than seeking out with an open heart whether our actions are permissible. The price of our mistakes are too high to elicit such a flippant attitude - after all we were bought with Christ's life. Are we weighing our questions against the price paid or the pleasure we gain? And what about our influence on others? In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul addresses the Christian liberty in terms of our impact on those around us and he concludes that just because we have the right to do something that isn't sinful doesn't make it okay in every circumstance, especially where we may trip up another soul.

In all of these circumstances, no one can directly answer these questions for us. There is no verse that says your skirt should be at the knee or how many drinks are too many or whether kissing is the only acceptable activity unmarried men and women can participate in. In all the gray areas we face as Christians, we must carefully ask whether our hearts are seeking permission, or seeking to avoid any appearance of evil? Are we seeking what we want or what will bring glory to our Father in order to bring others into a reconciled relationship with Him? Proverbs 16:17 warns "The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives" (NIV). And while these examples I quickly looked at may not apply to you, I challenge each of us to examine our hearts to be sure that our culture has not allowed us such freedoms that we have lost our salt and light.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

When we started this parenting thing Before we started this parenting thing, we knew it would be difficult. But we jumped in anyway knowing the joys of parenting and the rewards would be better than the challenges. Right now we are in a part of our journey that is nothing but challenge. Nicolas, the oldest, the one we are basically learning on needs us so much right now and we are really feeling at a loss as far as how to parent him. He needs our attention (he is the only boy after all), he needs our unconditional love and most of all he needs our full on guidance. We have struggled the last several years with how to meet his needs and keep his heart open but guarded. And as many steps forward as we take, there have been huge signs this year that have been warning us that it's not working, that it's not enough. That is why we are taking drastic measures to try to intervene before he gets too old for our guidance. Before he knows way more than us and is too cool to want to spend time with us. Before he doesn't want us to intervene. By now you are probably wondering what on earth I mean by "drastic" measures. In a word: homeschooling.

Some of you are probably thinking that's not so "drastic" and some of you may be thinking, "Whoa, that's a little too drastic, don't you think?" In fact, most of those who know him best most likely feel that he is not that bad, doesn't need that much intervening, but there are things that I won't share that worry us. Worry us enough that we are not willing to wait any longer to see if our baby steps are working. So we are pulling him out of public school and going to devote our time to being sure he gets the right teaching, enough attention and the constant guidance we feel like he needs.

I know there will be those who question our decision. But I know it is the right decision. How do I know we need to do this? Because despite the many, many tears I've shed, I have not waivered upon the course of action that Richard and I have decided upon. Despite the pain that I've been fighting with, the war in my soul that stems from my own selfish desires to keep the career that I've worked my whole life to have, for now, I am willing to walk away from my career for my son. In a short few years he will be out of my house and I will find work to do. But now is the only time available for intervening. After we've walked down the path with him, there are no do-overs. There is no way to take bigger steps down the road. The big steps must come now. The most painful steps must come now in order to prevent more pain from a wayward child later that is undoable.

There is one more way I know we are doing the right thing. Perhaps the most important way I know what we are doing is right. In Deuteronomy 6 we find the instruction God gives the Israelites. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

For some kids, it is possible to impress upon them the right values during the little time they spend with their parents outside of the school walls, the words from the doorframes of home are enough during the seven to eight hours they are away, and the symbols on their hands are an effective reminder when they enter those playgrounds. For others, the influence of the world at a young age is too much. This is where we believe we are with him. Most likely we didn't give him enough of a foundation before school started. But the world is also different. Schools are different and it is too much for him. We are not willing to stand by and let him go down a well-intentioned but misguided path. Our hope is that eventually he will be able to return to public schools and be a light to friends, but we also recognize that it may take the rest of his school years to prepare him to navigate the pitfalls of our society on his own. Either way, the most important purpose of life is to glorify our maker and to introduce others to Him. We feel like we are failing in certain areas with our own son and we want to rectify that before it's too late. I refuse to stand before God without my entire family next to me without a fight. I refuse to let Satan claim the souls of any of my children without a fight. We know Satan is on the prowl and searching for those precious souls that he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). We will not make our children easy prey.

In sharing this hard journey with you, I ask for a few things in return. First, please pray for us. For me, specifically as I take on this ginormous task of educator in addition to being Mom while attempting to put him back on the right track. For Richard, as he leads our family and shows our little guy what being a man in today's society is really all about. And that it would not be too late for us to counteract the not so good job we feel we've been doing the last eight years. Please pray that he will feel the love we have for him in giving up everything required to be sure we are giving him what he needs. Secondly, I ask that if you cannot manage to speak words in support of our decision, that you say nothing at all. This has been an extremely difficult decision for us, one that we weren't prepared to make previously, and one that we've closely guarded from others at first. We need more than anything the support of those around us. If not for us, most importantly for Nic. So far, he is excited about Mommy being his teacher starting this fall. Please don't discourage or take that from him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Curveballs and Casting Off My Right Arm

I generally feel like this stage of my life is devoted to my kids and while I do not come anywhere close to having the parenting gig figured out, I mostly feel like I am thrilled to be mommy and all that comes with it (including the days where I'm at my wits end). But as any of you who are parents know, there is always, repeat always a curveball. Every time things seem to start to level out on a good, even keel, whizz, another curveball.

I'd say our first curveball came when my husband was in basic training and the Twin Towers fell. Yeah. THAT was a curveball. Then when he was in an apprenticeship as a carpenter; the economy had just started to tank and as apprentice, you are high on the list of workers to be let go. So for 16 months he was out of work. Not quite four months after we welcomed our second child, oops, I was already pregnant again! Curveball. Then, we were "done" having kids, but we found out we hadn't planned well enough because I was pregnant with baby #4. There went another curveball. The newest curveball has affected me as deeply as allowing another human being live off my body for nine months and has caused my hormones to go as crazy as much as any pregnancy.

Curveballs are fine and manageable when you've allowed for them in your planning. However, they are really hard to face head on when they require the complete torching of what all your hopes, plans and dreams of motherhood had shown. Well, because, me being the planner I am, I had this carefully constructed idea of what motherhood looked like. How my life would play out. I thought I was sacrificing when I chose my major in college, picking one that would allow me to hopefully work from home or part-time so I could be with my kids as much as possible. I gave up the pursuit of other, higher profile careers that didn't fit in with my idea of motherhood. Come to find out, the major I thought I was settling for was actually the best fit for me and has opened so many doors for my family. And there have been other sacrifices that really didn't cost that much as well. Especially since all along my story had been playing out as planned. More or less. Yes, there had been our curveballs, but things were still on track.

This last curveball has required me to prove to myself that I am all in with this mommy thing and put my money where my mouth is where sacrificial love is concerned. It's not that the sacrifice I'm being called to make is really all that big of a sacrifice to anyone but me. But it is at the heart of what so much of my life has been about. There are only a few extremely important things that I allow to define me (maybe more than a few, but that's another post) and I'm being required to give up one those extremely important-to-me things. Think about what you need to survive - air, food, water, right? But it is really nice to have both arms and both legs in life, right? Well, I'm having to give up my right arm. My dominant arm. No, wait, not really. I'm not cutting off my right arm. But essentially I feel like I am. I am literally in mourning over the death of my right arm. I'm being a bit too dramatic perhaps, but that is how I feel. I don't know how I will feed myself without that right arm. Seriously, what I get for myself out of this right arm helps nourish who I am. Who I have been. Who I thought I was. I don't know who I am without this right arm.

And maybe this is how it should be. Mark 9:43-47 reads If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell

Perhaps I need to cast off my right arm (at least for now) in order to save my children. To be the best mommy I need to be for them right now. Although the right arm is not the offender, perhaps it's a distraction from more important things. Because let's face it, it would be worse to know my children were suffering than for me to actually suffer. Hell is more than the suffering I would experience if I wound up there - Hell would be knowing I hadn't done EVERYTHING I possibly could do to train my children in life's real purpose - to glorify God and bring others into reconciliation with Him.

So, obviously for now, I'm not ready to share more specifics, but I will soon. There will be more to come as I come to grips with our new curveball. And so if we are talking and I start crying and blubbering over the loss of my right arm, you'll have to excuse me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Love Wins.

So there's this chick with a better blog than mine, her name is Jen Hatmaker. And in so many ways she is what I want to be when I say "I'm a Christian." So to all who have read any of my posts about homosexuality, her post wins. Please read it here but read it in its entirety. This is what a true Christian looks like. We do not wish to condemn. We should be peacemakers, caretakers and lovers of the souls of others. Know this is my heart as well towards any who bear the shame and guilt of sin just as I do. Relationships win. Love wins.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How My Celebrity Boyfriend Makes My Marriage Stronger

So I love Facebook. It's my kryptonite. But that's a whole other post. You probably have all these crazy, silly quizzes that pop up in your news feed, just like I do, when your friends take quizzes and then share their results. Well I just love a cheesy quiz. So the other night I couldn't resist when someone posted the "celebrity boyfriend quiz". Curiosity always seems to get me. I go through all the questions (half of which typically have NOTHING to do with whichever quiz I'm taking) and click to see my results. Here's what I got for the latest one: Vin Diesel. I loved it. He's manly, daring, protective, everything a girl wants in a man, right?! (Well, this girl anyhow.) Here's what the blurb explaining my celebrity boyfriend was : The guy for you is a man's man with a whole lot of muscle - and a passion for dancing to Beyonce. He's a tough guy and a lovable goofball who'll keep you warm at night. Just make sure to always buckle your seat belt, because you're in for a wild ride."

That's my husband to a "T" - well except dancing to Beyonce; we prefer dancing to One Direction with the kiddos. But I digress. I took a snapshot of that and sent it to him, to which he responded by letting me know he was now ignoring me. Okay, fair enough. If he had a celebrity girlfriend, I'd be mad, too (his by the way would be Kate Beckinsale, I already know that's a fact). But in all fairness (to me) I really just wanted to show him how awesome he was when I sent him that snapshot. You see, I may tease him about stuff like celebrity boyfriends, but to me, HE IS the Vin Diesel of my life. First a Marine and now a policeman, he is certainly tough like my celebrity boyfriend. And he is definitely a goofball (although you only get the privilege of seeing this side of him if you're in his inner circle). Man's man? Check. He loves guns, the outdoors, can survive out in the woods (I think his zombie apocalypse quiz said he'd survive like 170 some days? - oops sorry babe, just gave away that you're cheesy, too!), can start fires without matches or lighters, purify water, keep warm, etc, etc. And although the blurb above doesn't use the word "hot", my man is that, too. While I definitely described him as "hot" in our high school days, before I had any gray hair, and when he had hair (oops, sorry again babe), he is even hotter now. He is hot not only because he is handsome, but because he puts his daughters' hair in ponytails and he teaches his son about guns and gun safety. He is hot because he doesn't just pull people over by using stereotypical profiling as some law enforcement officers do, but makes sure he is fair in the means he uses for getting a stop. (He could increase his numbers by doing so and impress the brass, but as he says, that is just wrong and not fair to those drivers.) Swoon. He kisses hurts and dances with daughters and passes along manly things to our son. He gives me a day off to spend with a girlfriend when I'm about to lose it from correcting so many temper tantrums and implementing so many training sessions that I can't remember if I brushed my teeth that day. He works full-time, aces his college classes and still finds time to help the boy scout troop, shovel drives and serve our family in Christ. So when I post that my celebrity boyfriend is Vin Diesel, I do so knowing that no one can compare to my real life boyfriend, my husband. The one who cherishes me and protects me. The one who loves me when I'm cranky and stinky because I haven't slept or showered because our children have been unusually whiny due to new teeth, or a bad day at school, or the flu, or etc., etc., etc. He is hotter than any celebrity, hands down, because he provides for his family, sacrifices his sleep, his truck, his vacation days to serve us. He is hot because he understands the strength it takes to humble oneself to the Creator of all the earth in obedience and to lead his family in the way we should go in the face of a society that says that's not politically correct.

So when I post about my celebrity boyfriend, it only makes my marriage stronger because it gives me an opportunity to tell him how much hotter he is than any celebrity, any day, hands down. And plus it gives me an opportunity to tease him. Which is what dating couples might do - and I never want to stop dating my husband. Now it's your turn : what fun ways do you tease your spouse to show him/her you still love and adore them?

Monday, March 17, 2014

UPDATE

Wow, wow, wow. That's what God leaves me saying over and over. You'll understand that we have been praying for Paislee's eye for months. You'll remember from my post in November that Paislee had two issues going on in her eyes, both extremely rare. We had surgery in November to remove her natural lens which had a cataract and to replace it with an artificial lens. She was seeing 20/100 in her right eye prior to surgery. I am happy to tell you that her doctors are absolutely thrilled that she is now seeing 20/40 out of that eye (with glasses). We will continue to patch 4 hours a day, at least until our next appointment towards the end of April. But that is not what I am so excited to share right now. At our last appointment (which was a few weeks ago - sorry) they noticed that the Duane's syndrome is improving. They are perplexed. Don't you just love it when even doctors are stumped by our God's power?! I love it. My sweet little one's left eye is the one with Duane's syndrome and it was not severe enough for them to intervene with surgery, but God is intervening. They are going to watch it but they were all noticing that it was better! I had no clue. I've been so preoccupied with her right eye which had surgery, that I totally missed what was going on under my nose. God just never ceases to amaze me and I always forget to quit putting limits on Him. When will I learn? Anyhow God is good, Paislee is doing much better and we are in awe yet again.