Friday, March 10, 2017

A Meaningful Celebration of St. Patrick's Day!



I pretty much like to celebrate everything.
Snow, losing teeth, baby animals, an accomplishment...
and certainly, holidays!

However, St. Patrick's Day has not exactly been an important one for me.  Clearly, Easter & Christmas are the best because of their religious significance.  Others have a cultural base or a historical base that resonates with us.  But St. Patrick's Day?

When I recently stated that I'm not Irish & feel no connection to this holiday, my father corrected me that I actually do have an Irish heritage.  Even so, I am not connected to this holiday!



And yet we've done all the regulars...
~St. Patrick's Day books from the library, (always about pots of gold & leprechauns).
~Reading an online article about who St. Patrick actually was.
~Wearing GREEN. 
~Making & eating real Irish food as well as St. Patrick's Day-themed food.
~Making shamrock crafts.



Oh, and of course allowing my pre-teen daughter to Irish step dance at bars!  You know, the regular stuff...

A couple of years ago, during my last year of homeschooling, when the kids were 11 & 13 years old, I wanted to go a little deeper.  (No shocker there if you know me!)  I was quite surprised to find very, very little in my research.  There are many articles about St. Patrick & they all say variations of the same thing.  There is information about the symbolism of St. Patrick's Day.  And there are pictures of green beer & American St. Patrick's Day parades & frankly just not much else. 

No suggestions on how to have a meaningful celebration of St. Patrick's Day

So I came up with a missionary theme for this St. Patrick's Day.  It makes sense.  St. Patrick was a missionary who converted many Irish people.

I purchased the book St. Patrick:  Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh and we read it aloud at Tea Time.  Reading this book was a good resource for who St. Patrick was.

Taking the missionary theme a step further, I bought the kids each a missionary biography.  They often like to read before bed.  Micah read Brother Andrew:  God's Secret Agent  by Janet & Geoff Benge.  Noelle read David Livingstone:  Africa's Trailblazer by Janet & Geoff Benge.  Biographies are powerful!  YWAM Publishing has a long list of biographies in their "Christian Heroes:  Then & Now" series.  We have read a number of them and they are very good.  We also love the missionary stories that CEF puts out.


If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day from a missionary angle, there is no end to how you could do that!  Write letters to missionaries.  Pray for them.  Send care packages.  Learn about the missionaries that your church supports.  Let your children choose a country, or a time period, or a profession, and see how that applies to missions.  (And don't forget to wear green and eat fun food too!)


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sabbath Rest: Not just for Kids and Christians. Small change with Big Benefits. Screen-Free Days.

If I were asked for my very TOP parenting advice, asked what I have found to be the most helpful and effective, taking a "Sabbath Rest", or- "Screen-Free Sunday" would be in my top 3. 

It's not just for kids.  
The benefits are not exclusive to those who are Christians.  
It doesn't have to be Sundays.



Advice:  Take one day a week and set it aside as screen-free.  Set it aside for rest.  Set it for family & friends and pursuing healthy habits & hobbies.  Set it aside to focus on God.  A Sabbath Rest.  A Screen-free Day.

This is far from a new concept.  It is modeled in the Bible.  We are told to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."  (Exodus 20:8).  (Note:  I am not speaking of being legalistic about the Sabbath.  I am not suggesting we cannot mow our lawns, hang laundry, or go to a store.  Galatians 3:10 gives some insight into this.)

I am suggesting, heartily, that it is worthwhile to take approximately one day a week to REST.

Personally I do not admire the habit of being busy.  I do not strive to be pushed to the brink of exhaustion.  I cherish adequate sleep.  I have discovered all that is good about having a slowed-down lifestyle is amplified on the Sabbath Rest days.

Most students and parents love snow days!  Students love them primarily because it means that they don't have to go to school.  :)  Students love them because it means they can be outside enjoying the fresh snowfall.  My teenagers love them because it means they can sleep in and they will have more time for reading and relaxing.  I love them because when they fall on the right day, I get to stay home and be with my family. 

Taking a Sabbath Rest Day is like a snow day.  It's a day when you don't do what you normally do, (go to school, go to work), and instead you take time for family, rest, and play.  This practice has been a true joy for our family.

Spiritually speaking, taking one day out of every week to focus on the Lord helps us be less likely to drift.  (Like church being a re-set.)  More about that here:  http://carmelhillbillies.blogspot.com/2016/11/today-i-am-weary-of-people.html

"This spiritual rhythm indicates a clear love for God and His way of living and bears the fruit of relationships and health in the family."  -Brian & Angela Haynes in Relentless Parenting

Spending one day a week for worship and Scriptures with the faith community as well as rest, play, and time with family is halfway done if you are already in the habit of attending church every Sunday.  Our family regularly attends Sunday School, morning church and evening church.  Attending these services and traveling back and forth take up the majority of our Sundays.  The dialogue and discussion while driving as well as at the lunch table are usually lively and lengthy!  We discuss what we have learned but also just about anything else that is on our minds!

**But I did say that this isn't just for religious people.  It's not just for people who want to set aside a day of their week to primarily focus on God.

I believe the principle of a Sabbath Rest and its benefits are applicable to EVERYONE.
That is also why this is not just for kids.  In fact, when we started doing Screen-Free Sundays we told the kids -the truth- that this is just as much for us as it is for them.

We often do a family activity together on our Sabbath Rest Day.  We might go for a bike ride, kayak, or a walk.  We might visit a museum.  We usually are working on a book as a family, reading aloud.   We play games.  We might do a service project together, or even a group chore, such as piling firewood.  We like to use our Sabbath Rest Day as a day to have company over for a meal.  We are in no hurry to leave the table and we eat slowly, we talk and listen.  We might take a walk with our company or play a game. Sometimes both!  We might visit a neighbor or family or friends.

It is counter-cultural to intentionally have a slow-paced day.  It is absolutely fighting upstream.  But it's worth it!  In our family, it makes a marked & noticeable difference.

For us, a Sabbath Rest is heavily intertwined with the necessity that it be a screen-free day.

My personal observations about screen time, particularly individualized screen time which is usually social media on a personal device, but can include TV and movies too:
  • Screen time can be a time waster.  
  • Often if given the choice of a screen, we will take it.  Therefore we often choose not to engage in conversation.  We choose not to pursue healthy habits & hobbies.  We might not even sleep as much as we should.
  • Screen time can aid us in being selfish.  No longer do we have to listen to the variety of songs the radio provides or what someone else in the room is listening to.  We can put our ear buds in so that we only have to listen to what we want.  
  • Screen time gives us instant gratification.  There are very few things we have to wait for.  
  • Social media can cause us to compare, bringing discontentment and depression.  
  • Although a genuine relationship in real life can carry into social media, social media should not take the place of face-to-face interactions and conversations.   
I certainly did not anticipate what a parenting challenge "Screen Time" would be.  For years we had dial-up internet.  Our three children PLAYED.  A lot.  They used their imaginations.  They spent hours & hours in the woods, in the playhouse, role-playing, building Littlest Pet Shop worlds, and decorating Playmo-Merica!  (The part of the basement with all the Playmobil, a favorite toy!)  All three of them love to read.  We play games as a family.  We love to spend time outdoors.  Sleep has always been a top priority.  There was a time when our weekly screen time included Little House on the Prairie episodes on Saturday nights and one or two PBS shows during the week.
 
We are now quite removed from that time!

Personally I would not have given my children smart phones, which they both have.  We are not unique in our blended family/ co-parenting struggles!  However, looking at the positive:  My children are learning responsible use of these devices while they are still in my home.  It needs to be said that if I were not co-parenting, it is likely this would be easier.

The difference I see on screen-free days is HUGE.  Well worth it.  Here are some benefits:
  • We pursue healthy habits & hobbies.  This was my primarily purpose when we instituted screen-free days.  What does that look like for us?  We read more.  We are outside more.  We are more likely to take a nap.  I have observed a significant difference.  I go to bed earlier on screen-free days.  Screen-free days give us a "forced freedom" to pursue learning a musical instrument, writing, baking, etc.
  • We are more creative.  Or perhaps, we have time to be creative because we are not being constantly entertained and distracted. On a good day, we have time to be bored!
  • For one day a week we are putting a halt to the negative effects of screen time.
  • In putting aside the negative effects of screen time we are improving our social skills, our conversational skills, our real-life relationships.
 



I am not militant about Sabbath Rests and/or Screen-free Sundays.
Being inflexible & uncompromising may get me the outward behavior and adherence to rules that I desire, but it does nothing to keep my child's heart, which is far more precious than not looking at a screen for a day. 

Yes, you may Snapchat for a minute so you don't lose your "streak".  (The things I never knew I would encounter!)
Yes, if we required most of your Saturday- With chores or a conference or family time, you may have your screen on Sunday.
Yes, if you need to, you may do homework on our Rest Day.
Sometimes my husband needs to work on our Rest Day, particularly during hunting season.
Usually I will allow 10 minutes at the end of the day for phones to be looked at and messages to be returned.
Often we allow much more than that and plenty of weeks we don't quite have a Sabbath Rest or a Screen-Free Day.  It happens. Often.

Maybe for your family it can't be Sunday.  So choose another day.  Maybe it can't be a whole day.  Maybe for your family taking the first two hours of the evening, each day, will accomplish the same benefits.  Maybe the thought of mutiny causes you to be too afraid to try it!  Perhaps you can start out with one Sabbath Rest Day a month, or two Screen-Free Days a month.

Please know that I get flak.  I get push-back.  And yet, each picture placed in this blog post is from just this past year.  My teenagers, too old to really 'play', have benefited greatly from restful, God-focused, screen-free days.  As have I.  And you can too!  I highly recommend it!  Not once -ever- have we regretted a Sabbath Rest or a Screen-free Day.  Quite the opposite.










Saturday, January 28, 2017

Perspective

"Were we ever somewhere else?  You know, it's hard to say..." -Shawn Colvin


The snow right now is just right so that even I can walk on top of it without falling through.  So today I took my walk in our yard, walking around & around the house and by where the pumpkins grow and near Narnibithia, (our make-believe woodsy world) and across from the pasture and over the "slug rock".  My intention was to pray over our home and our family.  Yet with each step I took the memories sprung forth and all I could do, with tears in my eyes, was thank the Lord and praise Him for His faithfulness.  

Lord, thank You for the wild strawberries & roses, family dinners on the porch, campfires, children playing on the lawn & digging in the dirt.  Lord, thank you for our little road & healthy legs & bikes that work and for the 1,000 times we have gone for walks & bike rides.  Lord thank you for Time:  The time you have allowed me to be present & home & creating & soaking in memories.  Lord, You have protected us and provided for us here.  Lord, You are faithful, sovereign and good. 


We see what we choose to see.  Not long ago a walk around our 7 acres would not have brought praise to my lips, thankfulness to my mind and joy & peace to my heart.  It's the same yard.  But I would have walked by the clothesline and remembered a big blowout.  I would have stood in the driveway as the bitterness crept in.  

I am not denying the bad things.  With my personality, it seems that I couldn't even if I wanted to!  There has been genuine brokenness.  Hurts that cut deep and regrets for what could or should have been.  There still are devastating disappointments and we continue to live together as imperfect people in an imperfect world.  "There's bound to come some trouble... there's bound to come some tears up in our eyes.." (Rich Mullins). That's what makes this change in perspective all the better- It is clearly from the Lord.  There is truth in the idea of positive thinking.  "Whatever is true, whatever in honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

A New Perspective started to creep in the day of my Gram's funeral.  September, 2012.  I walked around my grandparents' farm for the last time:  All the parts that were packed with memories.  Packed.  I was sad for this chapter of life to come to an end.  To my surprise the "Glad that it happened" overshadowed the "Sad that it's over."  This does not come naturally to me, but the groundwork was laid with time to breathe, spiritual health and the warmth of family.  As I walked through the apple orchard and fixed in my mind this beautiful barn & yellow house, my mind shifted toward our home.  Our beautiful home!!  I started to stop mourning my own 100-year-old yellow house on Pearl Street with its perfect bathrooms and how I could walk to parks & live in a neighborhood.  I took the first baby steps toward contentment with my country, taxidermy home!!  With fresh eyes I appreciated the amazing house-less view and the privacy we have. 

There is hardly a square foot of this place that I do not have pleasant memories attached to.  That is a gift!  And it continues.

The wind and the waves are still present.  (Matthew 14).  I can still become frightened.  But Jesus has his hand stretched out.  I am learning to focus on Him and not on the wind & the waves. 


Friday, November 11, 2016

Church!


Today, I am weary of people.  
I am weary of myself!  
I am worn out not just by the political dialogue, I am irritated by my tenants and I am burdened by discord and I am discouraged by my own impatient responses to my husband and children.

I am so glad that Sunday is right around the corner.  
Sunday School and corporate worship and the joy of serving.

There is no substitute for being in the house of the Lord with His people. 
I have supportive friends and a loving family,  but the worship and fellowship with my fellow believers re-sets me each week.  I do not find even the needed, warm, instructive and accepting environment of a small group to be a replacement for weekly church.

Attending church isn't a Magic Pill.  It's not even the heart of my Christianity- Christ is- and I have everything I need - My Bible, the Word of God- to know Him, love Him and serve Him, even if I never entered a church.  Yes, it is true, as a rebellious teenager will sometimes shout:  "I don't have to go to church to be a Christian!"

Although it is community it is much more than community.   Although it is instruction, opportunities for service, prayer, and praising God with worship songs, it is much more than these things.  These things result in my heart feeling loved.  These things result in my actions, thoughts, and words being challenged.  These things result in conviction and change.  These things result in motivating me to dig deeper into the Word, to love better, to serve differently.  Regular church attendance helps me sync my life with what God wants for it.  It creates a weekly "re-set".

I am 41 years old and I have likely attended 4,250 church services, plus approximately 2,000 Sunday School classes.  Do I just have this habit because it is what I grew up doing, what I know to do?  My answer is that I could not be more thankful that I grew up attending church and praise the Lord there has not been one part of my adult life when I have decided that I don't need it.  

Many Millennials have opted out of regular church attendance, citing hypocrisy in the church, in part. They feel that church is not relevant to them, not necessary in their spiritual growth.

Now I could attend church weekly and have a heart of stone.  "Being in a barn doesn't make you a cow."  Like all things, it is a matter of the heart.  I am not suggesting rigidity or church attendance as a measuring tool for godliness.  

But I will not disparage the humble habit of weekly church attendance.  I will not regard as inferior the small, basement Sunday School classrooms, smelling of vanilla wafers, with middle-aged women who open The Word and use flannelgraph boards.  I will not lift up or put down the Biblically-sound megachurches with their concert-quality musicians and their cafes and catchy slogans.  

These are the rooms where my faith was built and my mind and heart have been fed.  And even after a difficult choice to change churches and even when I don't quite feel settled yet- even after several years- I feel loved and I am fed and I love attending my church!  It is my weekly re-set.  It is noticeable when we forsake the assembly and it is immeasurable when we don't.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

One for the Mamas!

Some days are all glory and flowers.  Hope & peace & joy & fulfillment. 
Some days are not!


Some days are carefully constructed "Thankful Trees".
Some days- The pumpkin sits with no words written on it.

Even though this was the plan:


Some days we adjust.  And we throw our plans out the window.  Because some days our children need remarkable crafts from us and devotions that inspire and activities that become catalyst for thought.  And some days they need to be picked up early & they need a hug, some medicine, some essential oils & to be tucked in.  And some days they need to see that we can change our plans because we need to rest, or they need to rest, or a neighbor needs us.  

Mamas, one of the primary ways you are being salt & light in this world is by being a mama to these people you call children!!
And, oh to realize that it looks almost nothing like you thought it would, like you think it should, but that it is everything that it is supposed to be.  

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary."  -Galatians 6.

"Perfect thankful trees are deceptive and thankful pumpkins are fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."  -Proverbs 31.  Or something like that!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Moms: We Can't Do It All!!!

No question is worse to me than being asked,
"Have you been productive?"
"Have you had a productive day?"
[cringe]

Well, what do you consider productive? 
Are you asking if my laundry is done, my dishes are done, my house is clean?
Are you asking if all of these are done- at the same time!?
Are you asking if I exercised & had my devotions?
Why in the world are you asking me that?
Maybe you are asking because I've shared that I struggle with balance & feeling frustrated when my house is messy. 

Is it considered "productive" for me to sit in my car in the driveway for 45 minutes after I arrive home because this is the exact time that my teenager needs a listening ear? 
Is it "productive" for me to REST?
Is it "productive" for me to rest, even if my house is still messy?  Even if there is still more to do?

Like most moms I am really hardest on myself and it is with my self that I need to reconcile the reality that I cannot have it all, I cannot do it all. 

Recently I mentioned to another mom that it was so much easier for me when I was homeschooling, (and working!).  Now that I am working 5 days a week I find it very challenging if not impossible to find time to clean as much as I would like to.  When I homeschooled we had adequate "family time" because we were together all the time and fitting that in came easily.  Now, we look to weekends and evenings for family time, leaving me even less time for cleaning!  I really appreciate how the mom responded.  She said that she thinks it is harder to homeschool than to work, and reminded me that our personalities, preferences and giftings play strongly into which we find more rewarding or more challenging or more natural.  This is very true.  I am personally most satisfied when I get to spend lots of time with my family and lots of time at home.  That's not true for everyone. 

Today I took a day off work because I was desperate to "curb the crazy chaos" that is my house right now!!  Why is my house a crazy, chaotic mess right now?  Mostly because I can't have it all!! 

I can't possibly work 5 days a week, drive 2.5 hours a day, make homemade meals, have goats & chickens, attend church on Sundays, enjoy my hobbies, invest in my marriage, spend time in the Word & in prayer, wash dishes & laundry, run errands, have a garden, spend time with friends & family AND have an immaculate house.  I just can't! 

Moms, the first step is realizing that we cannot do everything. 
We all know this in our heads.  We all know that we can't, but then we go ahead and try to do it all anyway!!  We secretly think that somehow we are different . We can do it all.  Or just as wrong- we think that we should do it all.

The second step is to prioritize. 
Priorities often change with the seasons of life.  Maybe you are taking a child to speech therapy three times a week and physical therapy three times a week and between that and all it means to have a baby and a two year old, you are exhausted!  Maybe you are in an important stage of your career and right now your career needs more attention than you have had to give it in the past.  Maybe you are in school.  Maybe you are emotionally and/or physically exhausted from an illness, a difficulty, and most of your output goes to that, leaving little left for other things. 

What are your priorities for right now, based on your personality, situation, preferences, etc? 
Maybe having a spotless house is non-negotiable for you, and you don't work outside of the house, and you can make that work.  Great.  Maybe making homemade meals isn't important at all to you.  Don't stress about it- that's fine!  Put your energies elsewhere. 

Comparison destroys contentment.  Don't compare your weakness to someone else's strengths.  I personally will stay up all night making cake pops, knitting a sweater, scrapbooking, getting ready for a Field Day.  Those types of things energize me and I enjoy them greatly.  I am terrible at decorating.  Not only am I lousy at it, I honestly don't really care.  I don't even have curtains at my house.  20 windows in my house and only 2 have curtains.  I just don't even think they matter!!  But I could start feeling quite cruddy about myself if I thought I was supposed to- Celebrate holidays, (a strength of mine), AND be an awesome decorator.  I'm not.  I'm just not!  God didn't make me that way!

So at this stage in my life my priorities are:
  • Sending both my kids to Christian school.  
  • Homesteading:  Maple syrup, Gardens, Foraging, Dairy goats & chickens, etc.
  • Investing in my marriage.
  • Quality time with family.
  • Time with God.  (Church, devotions, ministry.)  
  • Hobbies.  My hobbies are very good for my self-esteem.  They are a creative outlet.  
At this stage in my life, some non-negotiables are:
  • We live a solid 30 minutes from school/ church.
  • I have allowed my child to get a job.  My child does not have a license or a car.  This means that either I'm going to make an extra round trip to home and back each day my child works OR I am going to stay in town to conserve gas/ money.
Moms, step three is to look at your priorities, look at what must be done, and learn to let some things go.  And to not feel badly about that!!!  Why don't we feel badly about this?  Because, Moms, we cannot have it all!  We cannot do everything!  It is impossible.  For everyone!!  If I want my kids to be in a Christian school, the fact of the matter is that I am going to have to work 5 days/ week.  So I can either submit to that or I can fight that, always feeling frustrated that I can't be home.  If homesteading is important to me, than I can expect that the summer and fall are going to be a busy time for me, and that I will have even less time for extra things.  If I am working so my kids can be in school and I am spending my early mornings and evenings canning food and weeding the garden and picking berries, (because I want to), and I decide to make a bunch of knitted gifts, (because I want to and I find it relaxing and a healthy hobby), and I decide to knit:  4 long infinity scarves & 7 baby hats & 3 winter hats & a baby sweater & several dishcloths all in less than 3 months, then-  my goodness!!!  Of course my house isn't as clean as I would like it to be!!  (Yes, this has been my last three -joyous- months.)

Fourth:  If we are not expecting ourselves to do it all, then we had better not be expecting other moms to do it all.  [Don't judge.]  We have ALL done it, so let's not pretend we haven't.  We see how messy another mom's house is and at best we secretly judge.  At worst, we tell someone else that their house is messy.  We attend a child's birthday party and judge the store-bought cake.  (We would never have bought a cake.  Homemade- always.)  In this case, we compare our strengths to someone else's weaknesses. 

How about instead of judging- judging ourselves as well as judging other moms- we offer acceptance.  That alone is often enough because it is not always offered!!  Maybe we offer help!  Maybe you love dying Easter eggs and making gingerbread houses and maybe your Mom Friend feels like she is supposed to want to do these things but she cannot-even-handle-the idea.  Maybe you can dye eggs with her kids and make gingerbread houses with them and hey- maybe she will clean your bathroom!! 

Moms, cut yourselves an ENORMOUS break.
Moms, do not believe that you are supposed to be good at everything and do everything.
Moms, evaluate and make adjustments when necessary, (like taking a day off from work to get some cleaning done!).  Try to shape your life so that it is working for you and the way that God made you and the current situation you are in.
Moms, encourage other moms.  
Moms, be productive in the manner that God has called you to for the hour of the day that you are in!!  And remember that not only is this different for each mom, it will be different for you too- depending on the day and the month and the year and the season! 

As for me, it has been great to be home today!!  Brings joy to my heart!  (Still had to drive 2 hours, but- time in the car with my kids is something I will never complain about!!  But that is for another blog post!)  Even though haven't an immaculate house is not a high priority for me right now, having a decently clean one is, so it's been good to get closer to this goal!  But even then, I took the time to write this post, (my creative outlet for today), as well as play a game at lunch time with my husband, (part of my quality family time for today.) 




Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hard Realities and the Growth that Comes as a Result.

Today I dropped my kids off with their dad.  For the rest of the summer.  They will come back just before school starts.  We have a new custody arrangement, one of the results of a divorce modification which culminated in a trial nearly a year ago.  Their dad asked for 8 weeks in the summer.  I countered with 3 weeks.  The judge decided on 5 weeks.  This is the most time that they have ever spent with their dad, post-divorce.

I didn't have children to not spend time with them.  It's unnatural. Sad.  Hard.

My kids were 1.5 and 3.5 years old when their dad decided to leave.  However, it wasn't until they were 2.5 and 4.5 that I had to drop them off at their dad's apartment for overnights.  I am telling you~ That first time that I packed their little backpacks and drove across town and walked them up the stairs and drove away:  I thought I was going to die.  It was very, very hard.

Being divorced and having your kids go back and forth between homes is a hard reality.  I have known today's extended visitation was coming, and I knew that it would be even more challenging because my daughter, Noelle, just arrived home 2 days ago from a month in Africa, only to turn around and leave again.  I had a little cry/ release about the whole thing today.

But, if we as parents think this is hard, we can't even imagine how it feels for our kids.  The kids of divorce are always the losers.  All they want is to love their Dad and to love their Mom and to have their Mom & Dad be together and to be able to be with both parents at once.  Divorce crushes kids.  It's not just something that they have to deal with in their childhood, the pain is long-lasting and the effects go on for a lifetime. 

When my husband told me that he was leaving, I remember calling my pastor and just crying.  Naturally I was devastated for myself.  My dream of a godly marriage and lots of children was ripped away.  But that night I remember mostly talking to him about my kids.  "What about my kids??", I wailed.  Every single life event from then on was going to be different.  Not to mention daily life.  They would never again come home to a mom and a dad.  Just horrible. 


Now let me say, I am truly thankful for what I have.  I have children- I am so thankful to God for that!  I have had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with my children, (for a divorced parent.)  I don't have to look far to see the pain from a lack of time with your child.  For the past 2+ years, my husband, for years the primary caregiver for his daughter, has spent very little time with her.  That is very painful.  Raw. 

So sometimes it's hard to be too sad about any part of my situation when comparatively, his is much harder.  I have a friend who helped me with this perspective.  At the time, her son & my daughter were both in physical therapy.  Noelle had multiple speech therapy and physical therapy appointments a week, on top of neurologist appointments and issues with her asthma, allergies & eczema.  But- My friend's son had severe issues.  A feeding tube.  Vomiting.  Autism.  Many more therapy and doctor appointments than Noelle and much harsher medical realities.  When we hung out and my friend would ask about how Noelle was doing in therapy, I would say, "Oh goodness.  We are fine!  She is fine!  She doesn't have a diagnosis!  What we are experiencing is nothing compared to what you are experiencing!"  My friend stopped me.  She said that just because her "leg is amputated" doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt when I break my leg, or stub my toe.  What a friend! 

So yes, sending my kids off for the rest of the summer is a hard reality.

However, everyone has hard realities.  Difficulties with health, finances, relationships.  Everyone.

The treasure is that it is usually through these difficult times that we grow in our faith.  We draw closer to the Lord.  My relationship with the Lord is absolutely, without question better and stronger because of the trials of my life. 

I had to learn to let go.  Funny, how we think we are keeping things in place or controlling anything at all!!  That week, years ago, when my husband left, I remember one day very specifically.  It was a Wednesday.  My one year old and my three year old were playing in the living room and I sat on the couch all day long.  "What am I going to do?"  Oh, that cry out to God.  The anguish.  The Spirit interceding for me with groanings too deep for words.  (Romans 8:26).  "Well, God, you are going to have to figure this out."  It was a release of control.  It was a spiritually significant day in my faith journey.  And as my mom said, "That's how God wants us to always be!  Not just in crisis, but all the time.  Letting go of trying to control our lives.  Releasing them and yielding to the Father." 

So, in hard realities we can be thankful that they are catalysts for growth.  Maybe you didn't grow up in a Christian home.  Maybe your husband doesn't lead you spiritually.  Maybe infertility has left you in a state of grief.  Maybe you are caring for an elderly parent and the struggle is very real.

I am so thankful that God has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10.)

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  (Psalm 34:18.  The Bible is full of comfort for us.  Also, God can use anything that is meant for evil against us, for good.  (Genesis 50:20).  

Whatever our situation, it is important to come to an acceptance of it.  Definitely change the things you can, but accept what you cannot.  Acceptance has been a big part of my spiritual journey.  

My daughter has asthma.  She is, of course, wise to be knowledgeable about asthma.  To be aware of her triggers.  To take her medication and follow expert advice.  It would be unwise to act as though she didn't have asthma- To try to climb a mountain without an inhaler, to push the limits.  My daughter has to have an acceptance that she has asthma and this may limit her in a few things.  


We all have to accept our limitations and not endlessly struggle against them.  Certain stages of life limit us.  Health problems can limit us.  The acceptance that this is my situation and I need to live within these confines helps me to move on and LIVE!  To be intentional with what I have.  To be thankful!  

And the peace!  Oh, the peace.  God tells us that we have access to a peace, a peace of God that surpasses all comprehension, guarding our minds and hearts!! (Philippians 4:7) Wow!  

And then we can say: 
"....Blessed Be Your name.  When I'm found in the desert place.
Though I walk through the wilderness.  Blessed Be Your name.
Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say-
Blessed be the name of the Lord...
Blessed be Your name On the road marked with suffering. 
Though there's pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name.
...You give and take away, My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name."  (Matt Redman.)

Is it a hard reality?  Oh yes indeed.
But God provides growth and acceptance.

I hold my children with an open hand.  They are God's kids, not mine, and it's easy to forget that.  Sharing my kids with my ex-husband helps me to remember that.