Friday, February 28, 2014

February gifts: blue ribbons and pink cast

I've neglected my 1000 gifts list here on the blog for a long time... my mother-in-law started hospice care in February, and she died in March; then I had another tough loss in May. I've actually still been writing gifts on my calendar, but typing them up here to share was just too hard.

But I feel ready now, and so incredibly blessed that God gave me so many gifts to keep us going through times of grieving. Here are my gifts from God to add to my 1000 gifts list for February, 2014: a record for my family and another offering of thanksgiving to God.

788.  First place in the regional AWANA Bible quiz
Both my daughters' teams won first place! Here's Blaze (on the left) with Jaye, and below that Dreamer (on the right) with Makiah


789. remembering Lake Peignur
Just love those moments when Blaze gets excited about something at school. While studying about solutions and how salt dissolves in water, she remembered seeing a video of a lake that sunk into an underground salt mine; she looked it up and found it for us!

790.  Photo book and hand drawn pictures of all the things I love
My four girls drew me pictures of horses, unicorns, maps, globes, lizards and Grandma helped them put together with some recent photos in a photo book  for my birthday

791. two sets of flowers
Birthday presents both from B. and from Stars

792. orange creamsicle cake and Greek spanakopita
Two more of my favorite things, my mom made these for my birthday

793. left-behind treats
Stars moved to Washington and told the girls they could have anything she left behind in her room. Hair decorations, sun glasses, purses, odds and ends... the girls were down there for days poking around! I myself discovered a special treat: a jar of Nutella

794. antique map notebook
Blaze used her prize points in AWANA to get me a notebook instead of something for myself, because she knew I would love the antique map cover (and I do!) 

795. Bible hangman
Those two words don't seem to properly go together, Bible and hangman, but it's still a great word game that Blaze and I play sometimes

796. Amazing laparoscopic surgery
Serious took a fall off one of our horses and broke her arm, which ended up requiring a ambulance ride all the way down to Children's Hospital in Denver because the break was too complicated for local surgeons to tackle. Three pins later, we marveled at how such a bad break was fixed with noninvasive surgery!

797. 4H carnival duck shoot
The girls' 4H club designed a mechanized duck target for rubberband rifle shooting for our 4H carnival. Even more impressive were all the decorations! A giant cardboard alligator and dozens of ducks, frogs, hunting dogs, etc. (the theme was Duck Dynasty). 

798.  Job 38: 1-8
These were the verses that God used to speak to me personally, to prove His existence to me, over 20 years ago. A few months ago I shared these precious verses with friends in my Bible study... recently one of the ladies grabbed me at church and said, you have to hear my daughter's story!!! Her 14 year old daughter had just got saved reading the SAME VERSES. 

799. the infinite universe
When I do Bible study with Blaze and Dreamer, I've noticed what my girls really get interested in is when we talk about heaven... and space... or where heaven might fit into space (or not). We talked about how mind-bogglingly big the universe is, and it's a good thing we get to live forever because it will take forever to explore our infinite universe

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mom, I don't want to go to church

After posting on my "theme for 2014: surrender" in January, I have some follow up observations.

This is how I ended the post: "right away I was faced with having to Surrender something to God - or otherwise fret over it and try to control it.  My 12 year old daughter has developed a bad attitude about going to church with us, and when I questioned her more about it, she said she has no interest in the Bible or learning more about God or Jesus."

This is my struggle: facing a bad attitude every Sunday when I tell her it's time to get ready to go to church. She's bored there; she wants the time to pursue her own interests instead. I tell her that sometimes I don't like going to church either, and I try to be honest with God about that.  I admit to him, okay, I'm bored at church, but I don't want to be; give me a heart for worshipping you; give me a heart to look to your people today instead of myself and what I want.  I believe we should give a special time to God for worshiping him and learning about him with other believers. God gives us so much, I believe it's not too much to ask to give him and his people a couple hours of our undivided attention.

She's not impressed by my thoughts on this. Lately I've just wanted to give in, let her stay home. It's hard to face arguments about it every week; it threatens to drain my own enjoyment and worship at church. I don't like conflict. I'm not even going to try to talk about the difficulty of doing Bible study as part of our home school.

Why not just give up the fight? Why not let her go, stop controlling her? Completely surrender her?

Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I think there's an important balance here, in this verse. We can't just give up having them do certain things because they don't like it, just like we don't let them stop going to school. God says its important to discipline and instruct them in His ways, which includes gathering with other believers.

But the other side of it is, don't exasperate them, don't provoke them.  I know I get exasperated when I feel like I'm being ignored. So I've been praying for patience to listen to my daughter and her complaints and her arguments.

Sometimes I even remember to use the powerful communication tool of repeating back her words, e.g. "so what I hear you saying is....[rephrase her arguments]... did I get that right? I want to understand your point of view." Even though she still has to go to church, I think it helps her frame of mind to know that I'm listening and valuing her frustrations about it.

But while I'm trying to patient and understanding on the outside, on the inside I'm fretting and crying with frustration. I've shared this frustration with my prayer group and I am strengthened and encouraged by their prayers, and also relieved when the older ladies share their own struggles with their children... I'm not alone. My husband also stands firm with me on this issue. It doesn't bother him like it does me; I'm more prone to fret on this than he is (he frets about other things, like the kids' safety).

So what it really boils down to is, fretting.

And God tells us not to fret... not to be anxious. To cast all our cares upon him. To surrender our fears to him. Ah yes, that theme of surrender, again.  Truly it is a daily thing.

Here are three things that help me keep my perspective (along with prayer, of course).

1) Remembering that I was adamantly opposed to the Bible and church for many years.  I resented when others tried to force their beliefs on me. I still remember how it feels. I still remember how I respected the Christians who were firm in their belief, and accepted me just as I was even though I disagreed with their beliefs. I will always, absolutely, accept and respect and love my daughter no matter if our beliefs remain different the rest of our lives.

2) The second thing is from Mere Christianity, where C.S. Lewis talks about the importance of church:
Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, "Do you really mean, at this time of day, to reintroduce our old friend the devil—hoofs and horns and all?" Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is "Yes, I do." 

3) And the third is this blog post I found, I am cutting and pasting it on this blog to have a copy in case this post ever disappears (because that has happened before - I've gone back to find encouragement from an old post and the link leads nowhere!).  Attribution and full credit to Adam McClane.

My kids don’t get excited about going to church most Sundays. That’s putting a nice bow on it, isn’t it?
Let’s take the pretty bow off for the sake of this post.

They hate going to church.

Yesterday, I sat in the car with a child who refused to participate. Not all Sunday’ are like that. But sometimes the feet literally stop moving and the tears start flowing. It’s hard to look in your child’s eyes and see them tearfully say “please don’t make me go,” and then force them to go.
I can’t stomach it. That is, clearly, not the type of relational connection I want my children to have with Jesus.
To my dismissive friends– it’s not just our church. It’s pretty much any church we’ve tried out. Trust me, we tried to blame the churches we attended. It’s not their fault. And it’s been going on for a very long time. Yeah, they even hated churches I worked at.
I don’t know any other way to say it. They hate going to church.
[Insert our painfully banging of heads against the wall.]

As a parent I could get lost in the emotions of this. I mean, how is it that mom and dad can have a first love… Jesus and his church… and our kids aren’t loving what we love?
This is where the rational side of our brains takes over and comforts us.
  • We don’t want them to fake it for our sake.
  • We want to raise independent, critical thinkers. That includes giving them the freedom to question us within the boundaries of our authority over them.
  • We believe Jesus wants to capture their heart, not their body. It’s OK if that takes time. Jesus’ offer to love the church stands the test of time, he is patient.
  • We recognize that there is a difference between rejecting Jesus and not liking the action of going to church. They don’t hate Jesus, they hate going to church.
  • We believe ultimately that it’s more important that the kids go to a church their parents love than one that the kids love and the parents tolerate. I find church strategies that try to hook parents with a McDonald’s approach to kids ministry often have equally crappy methodology elsewhere.
  • We recognize that some of the reason they don’t like church is that daddy used to work at one, like 60+ hours a week. And repairing the equation that church equals dad loving other people’s kids and making other people’s kids a priority over them will take years to repair.
  • We are willing to find expressions of church they might love. We’ve introduced Awana on Wednesday nights. It is is so developmentally appropriate for them that they are really digging it.....And this summer they will go to camp.
  • We are willing to look in the mirror enough to recognize that being compliant at church does not equate to loving church. When I went to church as a child, I hated it and swore that I’d hate it forever.
  • We aren’t going to give up simply because they don’t count down the days until Sunday. Their attitude towards church doesn’t drive us to make stupid decisions as parents. So it’s not like we’re going to stop going to church as a family.
  • We are willing to lose the occasional battle for the sake of hopefully one day winning the war. That’s a crude way of saying we don’t force them to participate. We expect that they will, but allow them some ability to say no.
Maybe I’m not supposed to talk about this? Maybe writing this makes me look bad? Or maybe, just maybe, my kids are normal?

I am so thankful Adam took the time to write about this... and was willing to be transparent about his heartbreak and concern.