Friday, September 30, 2011

This Wild Ride

If you really  must know what life is like in a large family, I'm here to spill the beans.  It's not all glee and giggles, but it's also not always messes and noise, either.

When I decided to have a large family (and my husband, surprisingly agreed), what I signed up for and what I received, was much more than I expected.  I was picturing a serene, homey, "Little Women" sort of family - my children adoringly crowded around me in front of the fireplace on a cold winter's day as I read classical literature.  Instead, today as I read a chapter of a biography to my older kids, I was interrupted a minimum of 32 times by the following:

"Mo----ommmmmm!  I'm done!!!!" (yelled from the bathroom, by my 3 year old.)

"Can we have a snack????  Mom, can we have a snack?  Mom, I'm hungry!!! Can we have a snack!?"

"Mom-meeeee!  She took my toy!!!"

Then there was the very bad, very horrible smell coming from the vicinity of the toddler...

Then some spilled water, another bathroom break, the breaking up of the younger siblings' squabble and.. finally, we were done a chapter!

Speaking of interruptions at inconvenient times, I've often wondered how many diaper changes has our family has gone through over the past 12 years.  Given that there has NEVER been a period of time with no diapers, and that we have had significant stretches of time with 2 children in diapers, I am guesstimating that we have gone through at least 30,660 diapers!!!  (Before you freak out about how our family has single-handedly filled up the space of a small-town's landfill, I have tried to be kind to the environment and have used a mix of both cloth and disposable diapers.) 

Besides the thousands of diapers, there are the immense mountains of laundry, the gigantic grocery bills, the endless crumbs on the floor and the fight for the use of the bathroom that occurs on a daily basis.  Yes, having a large family is expensive - but I will argue that it is not so much in a monetary sense, but in the areas of time, emotions, commitment and responsibility.

These are the areas which I didn't envision in young motherhood.  When we had our fourth baby - who was content and sweet, and hardly any trouble at all, I was quick to sign up for more!  Suddenly (I think it was about 2 years ago), we had 5 kids, I was 7 months pregnant, getting ready to move into a VERY unfinished home and our 1 year old was the most mischievous trouble-maker I had ever seen!  I was trying so hard to keep in a state of calm.  I counted my blessings continually.  I closed my eyes to the mess around me.  Most of all, I just tried to survive!

While many of you are probably ready to write me off as insane, I do have a point to make.   Raising young children (and raising many young children) is a lot of work.  However, on the plus side, my organizational skills have grown by leaps and bounds!  I have the ability to multi-task in the worst of situations - chaos and screaming can be all around me, and I can still answer the phone, stir the pot of stew and hold the baby on my hip; all at the same time (while giving my children a glare that invokes their silence).

Besides some fantastic skills, my children are an endless source of comedy, companionship and cuddles.  As they grow and their personalities become more pronounced, I am astounded at their love and care and how they are so different from each other and from me!  Six children means that I have way more opportunities to be proud of my family; having so many kids to watch excel in different areas of life!

Large families are bustling families - and there is always someone around to talk to, offer a helping hand or just keep you company.  Holidays like Christmas are full of joy and happiness and the house is brimming over with excitement.

If I were to think more industriously about my large family, just consider of all the little workers I have in my home.  (Sweat shop, anyone?)  We can make up our own sports team in a church tournament or even play music together and start a traveling family band - more like a circus, really!  Okay... I'm getting a little ridiculous now!

In the end, I can conclude wholeheartedly that raising a large family and being in a full house is hard.  Sometimes really hard.  You have many opportunities to lose your temper and feel selfish.  Sometimes you just want to be alone, and there is a little person who needs you - again!  Sometimes my husband and I wonder, that with all the emotional output required for our children, how we will ever have time and energy for each other.

Yet it is in the challenge that I am stretched, and my patience increases, and I grow.  I invest, and the returns will come back to me for generations.  Too soon, I will be visiting my children's homes, allowing them to cook for me and serve me.  Their lives will become wound up with the demands of young families and I will be winding down; basking in the warmth of grand-babies.

Raising a (large) family is truly like a wild ride in an amusement park.  You basically climb in, buckle up and hang on for dear life.  Sometimes you feel overwhelmed and you think you're gonna barf - other times, you are taking it all in, eyes wide open, experiencing the many thrills of child-rearing. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Inspired By "Captain America"!!!

There are two sides to a super-hero story.

First there are those who yearn to be saved by that knight in shining armor or the handsome, muscly man in red or yellow or blue tights, namely the common folk who are oppressed or in danger.  Then there are those who secretly wish to be that hero; the underdog who came out of nowhere, who was bestowed a super-human gift of strength (or some other extraordinary ability) and becomes the awe and inspiration of the downtrodden. 

My hubby and I went to the cheap theater and saw Captain America last night.  Now before you laugh and dismiss my blog posting because you think that movie was "so lame" or predictable, I must say with all honesty that I quite enjoyed the movie and it sparked a deeper message within my heart, beyond the money-making, mindless entertainment than I expect the producers intended.

Right off the bat, you are reluctantly drawn into the story of the good-hearted yet scrawny young man named Stephen, who wishes, more than anything, to become enlisted in the army during WWII.  He's so awkward, nerdy and dejected, in fact, that I found myself impatient for the part of the movie where they change him into something great;  transforming his body into that of a full-grown, good-looking man so I wouldn't have to wince at his puny stature and all-around pathetic-ness.

I won't get too much into the story, but based on Stephen's character, not his physical stature, he is finally accepted into the army.  The night before the procedure, the scientist (who pulled the strings to get Stephen accepted) explains that he has chosen him to be transformed into the super-soldier because what matters most is Stephen's heart.  Stephen understands what it is like to be weak, and will not forget it.  His objective is not power and control, but compassion for those bullied by the Nazis.

The next morning, Stephen is taken to a top-secret laboratory, strapped into a machine with tubes and wires and all sorts of fantastical gadgets, and there is success:  In walked a shrimp - out walks an over-sized Calvin-Klein jeans model (not like the waifs that are favored these days, but a manly-looking man with a six pack and bulging biceps). Stephen's new-found strength is immediately put to the test with twists and turns of conspiracy (as can be expected) that cause this honest, genuinely caring American boy to transform into a hero, overnight!

I won't get any further into the story, as I wouldn't want to give too much away, should you decide to see the movie for yourself.  So what is it about this Hollywood blockbuster that captured my imagination and heart, you ask?  Well, if I admit it, I've always wanted to be one of the heroes.  I grew up with a compassion for the losers, nerds, fat kids, underdogs - you name it.  In elementary school, I was was voted more than one year as "Student of the Class", namely for my popularity - not because I dressed the best or had money or was the coolest - but because I continually expressed care and extended friendship to all my fellow classmates.  Anyway, I'm not saying this to get brownie points or anything - but I think perhaps the fact that I have experienced hurt in my past has caused me to turn around and have a passion to help those who are hurting.  I hate to see people feel left out or alone.

Super-hero Me!
That being said, I'm no super-hero.  I get grumpy and selfish with the best of them and when it comes down to it, I don't know if I am willing to pay the price of laying down my life for others!  So I'm left at a quandary.  Apart from being bit by a radioactive-spider or being selected by a mad-scientist to be magically transformed, I doubt I'll ever be able to attain the heights of wonder-woman on my own.

This is what captivated me about the movie, Captain America.  It was pointed out, more than once, that Stephen was weak and pathetic.  Yet it was his weakness that made him a candidate for super-human strength.  It was his scrawny little arms and his asthma-weakened body that prepared him to operate in the capacity of America's hero.

The Bible talks about a surprisingly similar principle when it comes to accomplishing great things for God.  1 Corinthians 1:27 tells us:
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 
 It seems that the best place for Christ's power to be displayed is through my weakness.  (See 2 Cor. 13:9)  When you have a chance to see the oppressed, weak and weary rise up to do something incredible, it brings much glory to God.  Then you have witnessed a miracle - the miracle of God's power at work, and His strength shining through human frailty.

Furthermore, those who lack great abilities; intelligence, strength, prowess and even popularity - possess a humility when given the opportunity to succeed.  This sort of person KNOWS that they have accomplished something beyond their means, having risen above their circumstances and they are unassuming enough to not take the credit.  The best sort of hero is a humble one, not allowing arrogance to defile their pursuits. 

-but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.  (Daniel 11:32)

Monday, September 26, 2011 don't know what you got till it's gone...

I've lost my Bible.

It's not that I don't have other ones - I even carry the Word on my phone, and it's just a click of the mouse away on the computer - but I've lost MY Bible.  The one that is written on, highlighted and marked; with pages bent and many of them tattered and torn by busy little people's hands.  This is the book that I've dropped my precious tears onto... found clarity, peace, hope, light when no one else could speak to my pain.

I haven't read it as much as I should.  I haven't drank in the words - God's poetry - nearly as often as I should.  I already miss the caress of the love-story, written with me in mind.  I miss the fatherly, heart-felt discipline that it spoke to me whenever I was floundering.

How often to we overlook the precious?  How often do we miss the treasure, sitting right in front of our eyes?

I'm sobered with the reality of that which I have taken for granted.  Blessings are the things which we acknowledge gratefully - our eyes wide open with clear vision; not clouded by the mundane.  Whether it is our children, family, homes, the sunshine and the trees - or, a favorite book - count each blessing!

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got till it's gone 
-Joni Mitchell

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trying, Failing, and Needing Grace

They know how to push my buttons.

What starts as a minor sense of disgruntlement, quickly shifts to intensely frustrated, reactive behavior.

And sometimes I wonder how on earth someone so much younger, less wise, and so small - can manage to control me so easily!

So I walk away from another fruitless, ineffective lecture; flustered and worn down - and I retreat, hiding in my room; face-down on the bed, begging God to help me, change me...

I can't do this "mothering" thing.  I don't say the right things and I am overcome by my selfishness and pride when I should be the one teaching and leading and guiding my kids into maturity.

I'm immature and I overreact.  I feel like I need to have a tantrum! and really, I just need to disperse of the yucky, sinful, me-focused person that wants to rule my emotions and behavior.

On Sunday, it was explained that the purpose of Christianity is primarily 'dying to self'.  The whole point of serving Jesus, is not that we get whatever we want, and that we get to be immune from this mucked up, sin-diseased world, but we are now fully His (our lives belong to Him) by a choice to believe and SURRENDER.

I was reading 1 John 2, and was drawn to verses 3-5 which say:  
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
Often, I've read this passage and told myself: I must not love Jesus enough... I'm so far from being like Him and His character just isn't evident in my life!  This seems even more obvious when I think of how often I lack grace in my reaction to my kids and my spouse.

So I press into the idea that I MUST become more obedient. That's the ticket, isn't it?  Even non-believers can agree that Jesus taught principles for living that can benefit all of mankind.  Selflessness, sacrifice, giving to those in need, and laying down my life... if I could just follow all of the guidelines, then I would be better!

This just isn't how it works, though.  What I saw in these couple of verses was not an accusation and demand for more obedience.  What I am dealing with isn't an obedience issue!  In actuality, my issue is concerning love

If the love of God was truly within me, then I would treat others respectfully, be patient and kind and I would raise my kids with an abundance of grace.  When I attempt to "do" all the right things, and tell myself to act a certain way, to "obey" all the New Testament guidelines, I am, as they say "putting the cart before the horse".

Love is what must dictate my actions.

This leaves me exposed, naked and helplessly human - for I know that I simply can not do this (be a mother, friend, lover) by stubbornness, will and determination.  I am parched soil, desperately yearning for the gift of God's love and grace to be poured out upon me.

As I cried out my frustration this morning, instead of asking God to change my children and stop them from being "brats", I asked God to just LOVE me.  It's me who needs a revolution.  I'm the problem!  I'm insecure - and out of my brokenness, I lash out at others when I should be leaking out the love and grace that was freely given to me through the cross.

Additionally, I turned to gratitude.  Part of knowing His love is seeing the blessing that surrounds me.  It's seeing those loud, healthy, lively children with their keen minds and quick wit and even when I feel at the end of my rope, they are still a blessing.  By gratitude, I begin to see God clearly, seeing all that He Is and has given to me, and I will be settled and made secure in His love.

The biggest issue of all, is my belief in His love. 

This song "The Love Of God" played by Ascend The Hill, seems to encapsulate the message I'm wrestling with today.  Sometimes we just need to steep ourselves in the very idea of God's love, accepting it and allowing it to wash over our worn-out emotions.   I recommend that you close your eyes, listen, and allow the words to penetrate your heart... that you might glimpse and retain the reality of God's love for you.

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." (Jesus, John 15:9)

 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19)

Do I, and will I believe?

Desperately driven by my desire to change, I must believe.  It's my only hope!