Monday, November 4, 2013

Paved With Good Intentions

A while back, I started another blog. It was my intention to share more about Jesus, the lessons I learn, and less about kids and motherhood.

I wrote one post. I haven't been able to write another post there, or here, since then. I've been afraid. Have you read the comments on blog posts and articles of just about anyone? People can be vicious!

There is also the inescapable truth that family life and Jesus are intertwined for me right now. They go together, and for this season in my family, they are meant to.

I learn things about Jesus, but in turn, I learn things about how I respond to him. I learn about how my responses to Jesus effect my family.

So, there will be no separate blog, for now.  This one will be a crazy mish-mash of the things I learn that work well, and those that don't. There will be recipes and links to amazing healthy living posts from other blogs. There will be praises to Jesus, and kid stories. And questions. Loads of those. I have a lot to learn!

While my blogging 'career' has been paved with good intentions, I've found that sort of road crumbles easily. And my children are older. And I have a Youngest. That's new and different for us!

There is always transformation going on, someplace, in someone. I hope to see it and share it with you, here.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Who's Raising Your Kids?

I bet you think this is going to be another one of those Mommy Wars blog posts, where moms bash each other about staying home to raise kids or to go to work and put the kids in day care.

Nope. This isn't about that.
It's about something even more controversial. It's about the church.

I've been a mom for 17 years. I've been in the church almost since birth. My parents have held both paid and volunteer positions at church buildings and/or for other church related events. I have held many positions for church events. Guess what most of those positions have been, in the past 17 years.

Most of you guessed nursery care or Sunday School, right? You're right. That's where I've always been. You don't see me in church service? That's because we're teaching Sunday School! You don't see us at small groups? That's because we are always down the hall taking care of our kids. Or because we stopped going because we were neither contributing to or taking anything away from small group meetings.

Guess what our ministry is right now? Our kids.

Now, let me pose a question.  Is it considered a free hour of babysitting to send our kids to Sunday School on Sunday mornings while we listen, for that hour, to someone sharing something they have learned on an adult level?

I guess that could be the same attitude as considering public school to be free babysitting for six hours a day.  Ooooh, I totally felt many of you shoot the hate right through the computer screen.

Here's where I am with this idea of Sunday School and me not teaching it.

It isn't because I don't like kids. Okay, I kind of have a problem with liking some kids. It's totally true. I do love kids. It's been a learned thing. I mean, c'mon. Kids are loud and messy and always need all sorts of attention. They jump around and ask a lot of questions.

Let me be clear. I love my own kids like a momma bear. It's other people's kids that I need to make an effort at loving. And I've done it! I mean, God gave the Holy Spirit to guide me and remind me. He gave me the capacity to love children. Even the tough ones.

Maybe you have trusted me to to love your kids while I taught Sunday School.  Let me ask you another question. Did you think I was going to teach them every lesson about God and the Holy Spirit, Jesus, love, wisdom, etc. that they need to learn all while in Sunday School for about and hour each week?  No? Okay, good, because I didn't.

Here's what I DID do. I loved your kids.  I had a lesson plan to work through, you know, because it is, after all, Sunday School. I used it as a guide to keep things moving along and to reign in the chaos that grows inside a large group of like-aged kiddos.  When your kids had questions, or testimonies or...other..stories to tell, I listened. I told them about Jesus' unconditional love. I told them about being respectful, and being a good friend. I told them about making wise choices. I told them about how much I love Jesus, and how sometimes I, too, make unwise choices and how Jesus loves me anyway.

I bet you tell that to your little pun'kins all the time. How many times do you think they actually hear you? After a while, I bet your voice sounds like white noise to them. They've heard your sound, your tone, your phrasing so many times, they can probably tell you what you are going to say.  This is good. It means you are being consistent, and you mean what you are teaching.

It also means that children might hear the exact same thing from someone else just one time and they will suddenly grasp it. They might even be excited about it, sharing with you this amazing bit of wisdom that they learned from such-and-such fantastic person.

And then we are exasperated because it's what we've been hoping to get them to understand for their entire lives thus far!

Wait. Exasperated? We've been hoping they'd learn it, then we're irritated when they learn it from someone else?

Yeah. We are. Why?

So, I'm not teaching Sunday School any more. Not forever, just for now. It's not because I don't love kids anymore. It's because I have kids in every Sunday School class age bracket. It's because my kids need to hear YOUR voice. They need to hear from other people that love Jesus, and love them.

Are you part of a church that has baby dedications?  So far, every church I've been part of does.  Part of that dedication ceremony involves the parents asking the congregation to come along side the family and being purposeful about helping them to raise the child with a biblical world view, to teach them to love Jesus and to be an honorable, virtuous person.

How many of us are doing that? Do we just smile at the cute babies and then shake our heads when a youngster appears to be headed straight for hell in a handbasket, clucking our tongues about how their parents should really be laying down the law and making a better effort?

Are we really coming alongside parents and being another example of someone that is trustworthy and Godly? Are we ready to help out with mentoring biblical values? I'm not talking about offering to babysit (although I really wouldn't mind, and you can message me if you feel so moved...). I'm talking about taking someone else's kid to a ballgame, or out for a burger.  I'm talking about people who don't have kids or who's kids are grown up.

You still have something to offer in your church community. It doesn't have to be all about singing on the worship team or keeping the church kitchen clean!  There are relationships to be had with some amazing young people, and YOU could be one of the people in their lives that guides them to greatness!

Talk to a parent. Ask them how they would feel about you spending time with their child. Tell them why you want to do it. Tell them your life verse and explain that you want to share with their kid some testimony in your life about the tremendous transformational power of Jesus Christ.  Let them know that it is your intent to be involved in their kids life as someone who longs for their soul to be forever in the Kingdom of God. Even if it's just to meet up a few times a year for a Dairy Queen treat.

And I'm not speaking only to those that aren't already involved with kids.  Families...I'm talking to you, too. Make a list of men and women that you would like to see mentoring your kids, then ask! See if you can get five people to join you on this journey of raising awesome children of God!

I've contacted some ladies to come along side us with my teen daughter, and we are compiling lists for the other kiddos, too.

Make your list, contact people, tell me how it goes!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From The Tiny House Files: Suffering Rejection

I know, it sounds earth shattering. Perhaps we are all wallowing in the depths of despair here in the tiny house. The teeny tiny house. The teensy weensie, itty bitty house with all the people.

Here's the scenario : A mom approaches me, anxious to set up play dates with her marvelous munchkin and mine.
Here's the conversation. Almost verbatim, every time:
Her: Hi! You must be (kid's name) Mom! I'm Boy's mom. How nice to meet you!

Me: Hi! It's good to meet you, too. Kid talks about Boy often. They seem to be getting along nicely.

Her: I'd love to set up play dates for Kid and Boy. When works best for you? We can chat over cofee while Kid and Boy play. My other boy will be busy with his whatever during that time.

Me: Oh, that sounds lovely! I would probably have to skip the convo and coffee, though, and drop Kid off for the play date. I have six more children to care for.

Her: Oh. Oh my. Oh, well, um, maybe we can come to your house for a play date!

Me: Ok. That sounds fine. It is January and it's been raining for days on end. Since the outdoors is a large mud slick, we will all eleven of us be inside our one thousand square foot house.  I'm sure the children will have fun with board games, and we can still have that cup of coffee.

Her: Oh. I see. Well, um. Sure! Ok. Um, I'll be in touch!

Me: *never hearing from Her again

I'm not kidding. This has happened three times this school year all ready. I'm not looking for people to feel sorry for us.
And, yes, sometimes I am relieved when people don't come over, because, hey, we live in our house.
It's cluttery and messy most of the time.

There are moms that ask me all of the time "How do you do it all?"  These moms tell me about hey they have to leave their children in the care of someone else at school (we are supposed to be onsite with our children that are under the age of 12) so that they can just 'run home real quick and run the vacuum and dust' because that is absolutely the only time they can get it done, and 'Wow! I only have three!'.

Okay. When I had our fourth baby, I had just quit working outside the home, and the older ones were at school. Our has was pretty sparkly clean for about two years. Then came babies Five, Six, and Seven.  Now we keep it organized enough to function, clean enough to keep from getting sick, and tidy enough to keep from breaking legs tripping over things.

When there are seven children, there is a lot of time spent on correction and discipline.  Sure, the children all have chores. BUT. Most of them still need to be supervised, or are in training learning new chores.
It isn't as though I have seven little minions whistling while they work and I am humming a merry tune twirling my skirts in the midst of all the happy chore joy.

We have changed our decorating style from cute little things that people gave us for wedding gifts cleverly displayed to shelves up every wall possible, cramming things as attractively as possible in every little niche available.  It's all about function. It isn't pretty.  Lots of things just don't have a home. If it's something that is being used temporarily, it's home is probably on top of the printer on the kitchen counter.

People don't like this. It makes them uncomfortable. It seems to them that I am a lackadaisical housekeeper.

I guess I am. If my children's upbringing is more important to me than having a home that others approve of.

So, my children have to deal with having their siblings as their closest and best friends. There can't be anything wrong with that.

I mean, who else will stay your friend after you let rip some raunchy gas during a board game?


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

I cleaned my shower today.
Yes. This is not only note worthy, but blog worthy as well.
My shower gets cleaned on the quarter year. I know. I KNOW!
My shower surround is textured. It has little, bitty, teeny, tiny, pinpoint dimples over the ENTIRE surface.
I'm not kidding.
Cleaning this shower isn't as simple as using a squeegie, or even a rag. One absolutely must use a powdered scouring cleanser and a brush. Every single time.
Then there's the floor. There are little raised circles all over the floor. They are very close together. It provides a nice non-slip surface. It also provides a perfect 1/8" high circular wall every 1/16" of an inch for mildew to climb. And it does. Fast. The floor gets cleaned more often then the surround, just in case you were judging me. Again.
I know a man chose these materials. He also used the same thing on the countertops in the kitchen and around the bathroom sinks.
It was obviously a man, because a woman would have known upon seeing such evil surfacing materials, that they would be difficult to keep clean.  A woman wouldn't have chosen such monstrosities. In fact, I am certain that not only did a man choose these materials for my house, it was also a man that designed them.
Men, I know you have a lot to think about. Right? I know you do. Mr. TheZoo is a thinker, so I'm guessing it applies across the board.
Think about these details, please.  I have ungodly thoughts about the man that put our shower surround in. I do. In my mind, I use words that I don't use out loud in a silent, one-way conversation with this man.
*Sigh* So now it's clean.
I do realize that this is February. It isn't a quarter through the year yet.
A friend told me that tomorrow is Chinese New Year. She is opening doors and windows and sweeping tomorrow to get rid of last year's bad luck.
I'm hoping that since I opened the door and window in the bathroom and scrubbed until the bone and muscle in my arms were reduced to jelly, that I rinsed all of last year's bad luck down the drain.
I'm hoping Mr.TheZoo will see this post today and bring me a box of Whoppers and a movie.
He'll have to feed me the whoppers, though, since I no longer have the use of my arms.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Church Hopping

 Church Hoppers. I am certain that's how several local congregations know our family.
It isn't that we are hopping from church to church, like some dissatisfied, entertainment seeking bar hopper.
We've always known the reasons why you do and don't choose a church body. We grew up in a church culture. The rules were clear. Then, when we needed to explain to the children that we don't choose a group to worship with based on how much candy is given out in Sunday School, or how fun Sunday School is, we also had to focus on what exactly it is that we are looking for.
We won't be basing our decision on decor, or music, or even the cleanliness of the bathroom.
What was it about the church you currently attend that prompted you to choose that one, and, in essence, reject the others that you visited?

TheZoo is currently blessed to belong to a body of believers that does more than sit around believing.  They do good work for God's glory in ways big and small.  We love our church. But, they moved. Their location used to be closer to the community where we live, halfway between our city and the next one over. They chose to move into the heart of the next city over. As a result, TheZoo is looking to worship with a body of believers in our community.  We haven't visited churches with any idea of long term commitment for over ten years.

Since we've had to re-examine reasons to choose or not choose a church, we  came up with a short list. We'd like to find a body where there is a ministry for our family to be involved in. Or one that is open to members ministering in ways that haven't been formally established already.  We are hoping to find a body that physically serves their community. Also, we'd be thrilled to find a bible believing, bible preaching, bible living group of Jesus freaks.

Here's what we've found so far:

1. A church whose leader is completely dedicated to denominational pride.

2. A church who's Pastor is excited about God and sharing what he has learned about God. It is obvious that this man lives for Jesus and wants to share the love of Christ with everyone he comes across. The rest of the church just didn't seem to feel the same way. When the music leaders sang a song that included the lyrics "It makes me want to shout! Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!" There was not even a hint that anyone wanted to shout anything at all. This is what you might call a 'sleeping church'.

3. A Hipster Church. They do everything differently than anyone else. Bouncy Houses and video games for the kids. Greeters standing out front handing out coffee to visitors. No children allowed in the auditorium. Low lights, fancy cool stage set. Music that no one knows because it was written by the music leaders in the church.  This church is so big, they have eight locations, each with a campus pastor, and one lead pastor who's message is video fed to the campus locations each Sunday.

4. A church that can give you a first hand experience to what it means to treat someone coldly. A smallish congregation, in which the only greeting we had was from the door greeter that handed us a bulletin when we arrived. We have seven kids. No one mentioned anything about Sunday school or any kind of children's ministry. That's ok. Not all churches have them. When we went into the auditorium, though, we found that we were the only ones with kids in there. After the meeting, people actually averted their eyes and walked by us. Now, I am not averse to introducing myself, but when someone pretends NOT TO SEE ME, it's a clear message that they don't want to speak to me. It's pretty tough to miss a family of NINE people new to the existing group of 50.

If I ever wondered before why there is an oppressive cloud of  despair over the city where we live, I don't any more.  The churches in our community must reach out in some way. I just don't see how a city of less than 10K people and so many churches is still so hopeless. The four houses of worship that we visited are just a small fraction of the local congregations.

What if we didn't have a choice? What if we just had to find people dwelling nearby that also want to worship, and get together. What if we couldn't choose what bible translation to use? What if we didn't have professional musicians to lead us in song, or passionate sunday school teachers to make the bible come alive for the kids. What if we just ministered by loving and serving people because there was no way to form programs?

So, then, do we just walk into the door of any church and commit ourselves to worshiping there?
Please be in prayer with TheZoo as we make the decision in where to worship. 

At this point, it seems like it would be less trouble to sell our house and move to the next city over!

By the way, hipster church, my kids LOVE the bouncy houses. A lot!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Guiding our Young Adults to Find a Job

Kids, don't settle for just any job. Do what drives you. Find your passion and pursue it.

I've read a few impassioned blog posts of late, and watched a couple of videos on youtube that eloquently stir our children to dream of how they might best live their lives and touch the lives of others.

Currently, I am guiding a 16 yo in her last year and a half of childhood, helping her to prepare for whatever adventures the future may hold. The six children behind her will be glad that there was a guinea pig gone ahead of them!

It is absolutely true that I want my children to live a life that is fulfilling and happy. That they are pleased with their pursuits. I desire for them to discover their talents and hone them. How wonderful it would be for a parent to see each child succeed in becoming masters at whatever they choose to set their hands to.

There is, too, absolute truth in the fact that we must do unpleasant things. While charging our children with the arguably daunting task of achieving master status, success and happiness in their lives work, it is important that we include the whole of the message. That we cast the light over the entire pathway, that they may see there are places where the shoulder is soft, or not there at all. That there are places not clearly marked where one must turn around, that there are sharp turns and high earthen walls that hide from us what lies ahead.

It is with urgency that I plead with parents to remind children that there are times when we will not be doing with our lives what we dreamed in our youth, but we will, instead, be fervently asking God to give us passion for the work that we have been given to do.

I beg you parents, don't forget this. Someone must raise the children. Someone must scrub the public toilets. Someone must clean barnacles from the boats. Always, someone must do these jobs that are difficult. That don't require an Ivy League education. The irksome tasks that offer a paycheck, but no artistic venue. People must continue to fill these positions.

Truly, because my human Mommy heart wants only the best for my babies, I would hope that it isn't one of my beloved steaming gum from the busy city sidewalks.  Who's call is it, anyway?

If you've been around TheZoo any time at all, you'll know that we believe wholeheartedly that God is the author of the universe. That when we choose to put ourselves at his mercy and follow his guidance, we will have what we need. When our children pursue their dream as it is coincides with God's direction, their pursuit will be blessed.

Be careful, parents, here, too. 'Blessing' doesn't ensure financial security and happiness. It doesn't guarantee there will be enough food every day, or a closet full of snappy clothes.

Let us be clear with our children that pursuing their dream isn't always the same as pursuing a passion that has been grown in their relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Let us be clear that peace is a gift from God, and happiness is an emotion and a choice.
Let us be especially clear that  our first priority in preparing for the future, is preparing for the Kingdom.

Let us guide our children to pursue their passions as led by the Holy Spirit, to glorify God.