Friday, November 1, 2013

Goodbye House

The time has come; we are finally moving on from "The House of Bad Dreams" (as Jack so eloquently calls this place).  The kids don't seem at all sad, as they waved goodbye forever with a joyful "Hurray!"  Once again, we find ourselves moving forward into the Great Unknown.  And so, without further ado:

Goodbye house with the big red room.

Goodbye bats with your flights of doom.

Goodbye crooked floors with your bounces and squeaks.

Goodbye mice with your drawer-dropped treats.

Goodbye little ants, with your armies amassed.

Goodbye termites who'll have the last laugh.

Goodbye millipedes, crunching under our feet.

Goodbye mold--we will not see defeat!

Goodbye spiders and your webs that anoint.

Goodbye breezes through the walls and the joints.

Goodbye insulation that didn't exist.

Goodbye to the problems the landlords won't fix.

Goodbye ancient carpet with so many stories to tell.

Goodbye ugly paint that makes eyeballs swell.

Goodbye creepy butcher shop down below.

Goodbye garage door that was too low.

Goodbye cupboard drawers raining sawdust flakes down.

Goodbye ancient oven and stove top in brown.

Goodbye tiny bathroom with leaks all around.

Goodbye lost toys which will never be found.

Goodbye house, with all your bad dreams. 

Your walls hold our memories; in this you're redeemed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Best Gift of All

It was kind of a special day today.  More than kind of…it was a really special day today.  Beyond it being my birthday, beyond the kind wishes and loving words and cards and cakes and dinners (which were all amazing and very special)…In my heart the day was marbled with times of quiet contemplation, and moments of deep fulfillment, and feelings of humble sadness that are always resisted and labeled as BAD on days such as one’s birthday.  But it was beautiful, because it was real, and it was the work of God, and in it all there was genuine peace, and more than that—gratitude. 

Every birthday as far back as I can remember has been plagued by deep, dark, agonizing, relentless depression, covered over by a mask of smiles and expected happiness.  Expectations arising out of a yearning to be special wreaked havoc on my soul…they were never met, never could be met, and each devastation piled burden after burden on my heart and sent me hurling into the abyss of perceived worthlessness…Until at some point, there just was plopped on my heart’s doorstep The Annual Birthday Depression for no particular reason at all.  It just came like clockwork, year after year, for no reason at all.  And each year it brought with it The Menace of bigger and grander expectations.  As I have discovered, the bigger the expectation, the bigger the devastation. But all of this carries a host of baggage that cyber space doesn’t need to know…and the point is:

The Menace was gone this year.  There was nothing I did differently, no special prayers or penance or exercises in optimism.  Definitely no illusions of personal holiness. 

But that humble sadness…that breaking of my heart in a way that makes it whole again…that sorrow that visits in the form of calm and peace, not in selfish anger, and leaves the soul feeling renewed and refreshed…That repentance.  Nothing happened to make me feel sad; there was no blinding awareness of sin to confess (other than the usual which I am faced with daily!)…It did not come as a verb to be acted upon, but as a state of being, as a gift.  And it brought with it the realization that I am nothing, while God is Everything, and he can fill my nothing with his everything.

Birthdays used to mean to me a sacred 24-hour period in which I could expect—and be justified in expecting—the world to revolve around me, to demand whatever I wanted, to indulge in whatever pleased me, and in essence, bask in selfishness while others tried in vain to meet the bar of my expectations.  Of course, that’s not how I thought about it in my mind, but that is the reality of it.  Reality is ugly.  And I’m okay admitting it because I’m understanding more and more that my “goodness” as a person doesn’t emanate from my own goodness, but from Christ’s.  And admitting that I struggle doesn’t reveal shocking weakness or failure, but a basic human struggle with sin that affects us all, and which Christ came to rescue us from!  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

And so my most precious gift today from my most Beloved—the Redeemer of my soul—was a gift of healing and freedom from selfish expectation.  It was beautiful to be truly thankful for the gifts I’ve already been given—the breath of life, grace and forgiveness, precious people in my life to love, and endless blessings in every direction.  It was amazingly freeing to enjoy every little thing that was said and done for me today without constantly measuring it up to some made-up bar, or comparing it to how others are treated better.  When expectations don’t exist, everything is special.

I’m not sure how it happened, and I’m not sure why.  Which is how I know that it was truly a gift: A gift of repentance and gratitude to gently lead my soul into peace.  There was nothing I did but accept grace.

Even the skies proclaimed the glory of God, and concluded this day in my most favorite way.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall-time Fun

We've been enjoying the beautiful fall weather!

Picnics and reading under the great Oak on a balmy late-September day...

Soaking in the enrapturing beauty of nature with hikes in the Adirondacks...

Getting one last dose of beach and boat...

Taking in the Fall Festivities...

And playing in the warm October rain...

How about you?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Unexpected Heart Birthday

What started as another mundane, slightly-frustrating day in which circumstances out of our control have dissolved any effort to accomplish The Daily Schedule...

...and I get around to making a makeshift, less-than-healthy lunch much too late in the day...

...and I sit there feeling defeated, yet determined to make good use of the remaining day, while the children chatter over marshmallowy hot chocolate and greasy grilled cheese...

And as I wonder how I'm going to redeem this day--Suddenly, Divine Grace swoops in, through the mouth and heart of a 2-year-old, and I don't have to do anything, because God redeems it...

And along with it--most importantly--two tender little hearts.

It all started when, over lunch, Safita (2 years 9 months) brought up the subject of heaven.  This topic is one of her favorites and she talks about it all the time.  This precious girl already has a very deep and meaningful love for Jesus and desperately wants to go to heaven so Jesus can hold her, rock her, and best of all, tickle her!  She asks often when she can go to heaven, and speaks of death (much to my dismay!!!) in positive terms: "When I die, and you die, and Jack dies, and Daddy dies, and Soren dies, we can all go to heaven and see Jesus!!"  We have asked her casually many times if she wants Jesus to be her Savior, and she always is quick and excited to answer, "YESSS!!!!"  Being only 2, though, we never took it much further, because we didn't know if she really understood what it meant (although we did make efforts to explain it)...and conversations would turn too quickly to really pursue it.  

Jack (4 years 9 months), has left us a little confused over the last few months regarding what is going on in his spirit.  He eats up talk about Jesus and the Bible, and loves learning the Bible stories, and has a basic 4-year-old understanding of theology down pretty good, and will occasionally "preach" to the youngers.  However, whenever we happen to be talking about it and ask if he wants to ask Jesus into his heart, he always will say defensively, "He already is!" but can't elaborate on when or how.  Additionally, when we talk about heaven and what it means (always in a positive way), he will get extremely moody and fall into an emotional abyss that lasts the entire day--which, as he communicates, is sadness over having to lose all his toys when he goes to heaven and fear about what it will be like there.  I get it...sometimes eternity is a scary thought for me too.  We've kind of been at a loss for how to respond, so we just comfort him and speak truth to him, and pray that Jesus will comfort his heart with the truth of Who He Is.

And then today, miraculously, heaven came up and there were only positive thoughts!  In the course of talking, I told them how Jesus has promised to come back someday, and will appear in the clouds and blast a trumpet...Safita looked to the sky and called, "Jesus, where are you?  Come on!"  But I was careful to gently remind them that in order to go to heaven, we need to ask Jesus to be our Savior (there were no guilt trips or scare tactics).  So we talked about what that means--what is a Savior? why do we need one? how does it change our hearts and behavior? since it's a covenant, what does God promise and what do we promise? etc.  These types of conversations are always good, but often the kids get easily sidetracked on silly bunny-trails.  It's an important decision, so we never push it, but try to just talk to them about it as far as they are ready.  We just took it a step at a time, and to my surprise, they both stuck right with me and seemed eager to hear everything I told them, responding with wide eyes and eager head-nods.  

So I probed, "Do you want to ask Jesus into your heart to be your Savior?"  Both eagerly said yes.  The response itself was so sincere, and different than other times we have asked the question.  But I wanted to make sure, so I reminded them what it means, and they still said eagerly "Yes!"  I led them in a prayer, sitting on the steps of the red room, stained with greasy fingers and chocolate mouths...and they both said it with conviction and sincerity.

Then we rejoiced with hugs and kisses and--of course--tickles!  And praised God with the whole host of heaven that a new son and daughter of God have been born!

Welcome to the fold, little lambs.

Monday, September 16, 2013

7 Things I Hate About Homeschooling...and A Bunch I Love

We have actually completed a whole week's worth of school!  We made it a whole week.  It's been a bit of a crazy, uncertain, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience so far, but just like everything else new in life, we're starting to get a handle on what works and what doesn't.  How to work our lessons into the kids' spontaneous play.  How to work with interests instead of forcing tasks.  I'll state up front, it's probably a good deal my own fault that we're struggling as much as we are, and here's why:
  1. I'm not organized.....Honestly, we didn't really plan to homeschool until a week before regular schools started; we put it off because we didn't know when we were moving or where we would be, and still thought we might try to enroll him somewhere when we settled (which we thought would be soon).  When I realized The Time was upon us, I did some frantic research and got myself nice and overwhelmed, and then sat on it for a while because I didn't know what to do with all the information, and wasn't even sure I could pull it off at all.  After the regular schools had been in session for a full week, I figured I had better get my act together, and it's been a bit of a "ready or not, here we come!" kind of week.  Emphasis on the "not."  I'm sure it will be a whole lot easier if I actually get prepared so that I know what we're doing and we can have some structure.     
  2. I'm not prepared.....A natural byproduct of being unorganized, I don't have many of the resources I need ready to go.  Each morning can be a bit of a scramble with mad dashes to the printer, or with me trying to think on my feet.  I think I cover my harried, stressed feelings okay, but the main point is that my unpreparedness translates to boredom for the kids.  It could be way more fun, and even spontaneous, if I knew ahead of time which direction we were heading.  
  3. I'm not sure what to expect.....I don't have an early education degree and haven't researched it, so I really don't know what is appropriate to expect from a kindergartener in terms of focus, which subjects to study, how much time to spend on each subject, and what he should be able to do with writing, reading, and math, etc.  Reading through several homeschool informational websites has been both helpful and confusing, because some say that for this age you should just read to them in an unstructured setting and have fun, and others say they should be able to read (on their own!) simple words and do basic addition/subtraction before entering kindergarten...and then everything in-between.  I do understand that trying to do too much will burn him out and suffocate his eagerness to learn.  I also fear being solely responsible if he fails to meet basic academic benchmarks on target.  It's extra challenging if I don't know what those benchmarks are. 
  4. I was leaning too heavily on free printables.....The existence of free printables is GREAT, no question.  However, you can abuse the value of them if you're not organized (which we've established that I am not); they just become random busywork instead of valuable teaching aids.  Also, the ones I had found were for the kids to color as we learned, which is fun...I thought.  Apparently, the black-and-white pictures and plain lined paper was just striking the kids with Boredom Bug like nothing else!  We went out yesterday and found Jack a brightly colored workbook that includes fun activities in addition to the lined writing, and is organized with a purpose to the activities(!), and we can hardly pry him away from it.  He sneaks off with his book and pencil at every chance he gets, and he begs, "I just want to play school!"  So there's a win.   
Okay, so now that we've covered my downfalls as a teacher, following is my list of frustrations with homeschooling...our flawed system, at least...I'm confidant that there's an easier and better way to do things, but we're still figuring it out!  In the meantime:
  1. It takes away my play time with the younger ones.....It kills me when--myself being in the middle of a lesson with Jack--I suggest to Safita that she work on a puzzle, and instantly her spirit perks, her step bounces, her eyes glimmer, and she rushes over energetically with that hopeful, excited twinkle in her eyes...and I realize, she took my suggestion as a much-craved invitation to play together.  And I can't say no to her--shouldn't say no to her!--but I'm in the middle of helping Jack with letters and also can't leave him to fend for himself.  What do you do???  How can you be fully invested in 2 (assuming the baby is asleep, otherwise 3) children at the same time?  I feel like I'm robbing precious time from the younger two, because when Jack was in preschool, I would spend the time he was away with Safita (baby wasn't in the picture yet); it was our special alone time, and she ate it up!  With homeschooling, not only is that special time for the young ones gone, but it's almost like they get more neglected because the older one is getting more attention.  How is this unfortunate situation balanced??!!
  2. It forces the younger kids to grow up faster by being immersed in school too young.....I don't think this point is all bad.  There's a part of me that thinks it's amazing and wonderful that my 2-year-old can count to 11 by herself and already knows a lot of the letters, and is perfect with colors and shapes, etc...But, related to the point above, she shouldn't have to be either bound by a schedule or sent off to play by herself for the duration of our school-day.  And the baby...he deserves more than being a fixture on my hip; he deserves intentional interaction and tickles and giggles.  
  3. Sometimes, I just want to be Mommy, and not Teacher.....I do love being so intimately involved in my child's education.  I love being so close to the learning process that I can see how he thinks, what excites him, what frustrates him, and watch the delight when he gets something right for the first time!  But there are lots of struggles throughout the learning process, and we all know that it's easier for a child to disrespect his mother than his teacher, and it's just downright confusing when they're one and the same!  For both of us.  I always try to be gracious, but struggle with knowing when to be firm (specifically with having him do things a certain way, like how he holds his pencil or the order in which he writes his letter-lines) without letting school become a time of discipline and negativity.  I also question what's the appropriate amount of praise to give him--as a mother, every new thing he learns is super exciting and I'm as excited as he is!  But I've read there is danger to over-praising a child...which I'm not sure I buy...perhaps in extreme cases: "Look how awesomely you dotted that 'i'!!!!!  That's the most amazing dot I've ever seen in my life!!!!...other than the last 10 you just did...which were equally awesome!!"  Sometimes, I just want to praise his efforts without thinking critically about his work, or address his behavior without fearing that I'll steal his zest for learning.  
  4. I don't want my kids to miss out on valuable respectful relationships with other adults.....Seeing Jack develop a deep affection for his preschool teachers was heartwarming; and watching him act respectfully toward them without instruction from me was amazing.  It was refreshing for both of us to have other adults in a position of authority over him with whom he had to interact on a regular basis.  I don't know that I want to lose that.
  5. I don't want my kids to miss out on valuable relationships with other kids.....Siblings are the best kind of friends, except when they're not--because it's just too easy act "real" (i.e., without restraint) with those to whom you're closest.  I'm not advocating superficial relations--not at all!  I'm advocating learning social graces that are easier learned with peers who aren't always in your face, pushing your buttons, and who don't know all your secrets.  The art of making friends, keeping friends, surviving in a social's hard to re-create outside of a school setting.  The social issues that might come up in school will be different than what would come up at home, and will provide invaluable opportunities to train our children in Godliness.  Also, I just want my kids to experience the joy of having good friends!  Just yesterday, while driving in the car, Safita (who is 2) lamented sadly, "I don't have any friends anymore."  Jack kindly tried to comfort her, "Yes, we do!" and listed off some of his friends from preschool with whom she had tagged along on play dates.  She knew better, and protested, "But I don't!"  My heart was absolutely breaking to pieces...It's true, and because we're always moving, there's almost nothing we can do.  But school could help, because kids are there.  
  6. It's hard finding the balance between requiring too much or too little.....And once I figure it out with one, the next kid will be different.  This issue also ties in with my comments above about not being familiar with standard expectations for different age groups or even just state requirements--a little research here would go a long way!  This point is a testament to my under-preparedness more than anything.  Still, I simultaneously feel like I'm either pushing too hard or completely missing the mark...or both!  My chants of "It's only Kindergarten...It's only Kindergarten..." are especially helpful during these moments of insecurity.  
  7. That nagging sense of utter failure if we can't or don't continue with homeschooling, or if we do it less than "well".....There seems to be an increasing mindset that homeschooling (and/or alternative schooling) is the better way--or at least an increasing number of people who do it.  I am definitely in favor of homeschooling, but I also think the best education for each child depends on many factors, including the schools available and the child's own temperament, wishes, and goals for the future.  There are some goals that simply cannot be achieved through homeschool.  And some that can only be achieved through homeschool.  It just seems that homeschooling--until you figure out how to not care--carries an extra burden of stress upon the parents' abilities to teach.  What if your kids aren't as smart as other kids?  How do you know if they have a learning disorder, or if you have a teaching disorder?  If that stress is fickle, there's still the deeper responsibility that you are in charge of enriching their young minds through a myriad of subjects, of which you have no capacity of being an expert.  As if it isn't enough to be responsible for their physical, nutritional, emotional, and spiritual well-being, you now also must stimulate and inspire them mentally!  It is daunting.  And it's only Kindergarten. 
I've made a pretty good case against homeschooling here, if I do say so myself!  But since that's not my intent, let me end by sharing all the things I love about teaching my kids at home:
  1. The excitement of learning, discovering, and exploring with my kids.....Life is a process of learning, and I get as excited (or sometimes even more) as the kids do about the various things we get to learn about.  The added bonus is, their excitement is contagious!  Homeschooling is like an organized fashion of doing things we already wanted to be doing together (quality time!!)--and getting credit for it!  I'm pretty sure kids learn better when they're having fun and interacting with the subject.
  2. I get to tailor their education to the things that interest them.....When we have a bat infestation in our house, we can study the benefits and habits of bats for our Science lesson.  When a thunderstorm scares the kids, we can learn about what makes them boom.  Best of all, when we learn in the History book about loom weights and flints used by people long ago, we can run to Daddy in the next room and ask him to show us a real one from his collection of ancient things (if anyone doesn't know, Daddy is an archaeologist).  
  3. I get to be intimately involved in what my kids are learning.....That all-too-well-known motherly question, "What did you learn at school today?" I used to think was just conversation fluff.  But now that I'm a mother, I DO actually really care with invested interest what my child learned at school.  The answers aren't always direct or informative, though, and with homeschool--it doesn't matter!  I know exactly what my kids learned because I taught it to them!  The added bonus is that it's also easy to build on certain lessons when life situations arise:  Because I know what we learned, when a perfect life example arises, we can emphasize what we learned.  
  4. I love seeing how their minds are working and processing info.....It helps me understand them better in general.
  5. It's flexible and allows for life to happen.....I, personally, prefer to have a rigid set schedule for school time--to do it every day at the same time for the same length of time, like a task that we can cross off when we're done.  That type of schedule, however, was not preferred by my 2-year-old and 5-month-old.  So, the other day at the beginning of school time, when Safita looked up at me with her big, beautiful, twinkling brown eyes and asked excitedly, "Can we play store?"  I hesitated, then said, "Yes, let's do it."  And instead of learning on paper, we learned colors, sorting, reading, and counting while we played shopping at the grocery store.  (The kids were none-the-wiser that we were learning while we played!)  It's also nice that spontaneous trips or fun outings are not problematic, because we can either take school with us or just push it off a day. 
  6. I'm sure there's a whole lot more, but I don't have the brain capacity to think anymore!  Leave your favorite things about homeschooling in the comments--I'd love to hear them!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homeschool Starts with "H"


It's been on my mind since I was in school myself, thinking ahead to my future kids and the pros and cons of educating at home.  I even wrote a college paper on it.  Despite being an introvert, I loved the social aspect of going to school, and couldn't imagine what I anticipated would be the extreme loneliness and boredom of homeschooling.  And, there are stigmas with homeschooling...

Yet, for some reason, I somehow always thought or felt that it was the way to go.  Especially when I decided during the course of my masters degree that it was essential to teach my yet-unborn children Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Historical Geography of the Bible--how can you add so much at home to their already heavy school schedules without completely smothering them???  Not to mention the anticipated resistance. 

And then I got married and had real kids about whom to make real decisions.  And my husband has his own ideas about what good education looks like, having attended a great school himself, and we have to wrestle together about what is best for our real children at this present time in life.  Ideals are great, so long as they work in real life!

Our oldest boy is very social.  He can make friends in 30 seconds flat, and they are important to him.  After 2 years of preschool, I really thought there was no chance of getting him to agree to homeschool, because he just loved his teachers and classmates so much.  However, our nomadic life being what it is--with another impending move to an unknown location--combined with his age (his birthday falls 2 days past the cutoff!), made it a little bit impossible to think about conventional school.  (We know he's young.  We were looking for a post-preschool/ pre-kindergarten type of program.)  We couldn't just let him languish for a year, so homeschool was our only option.

At first, the thought of it scared me to death.  I can't keep up as it is, so how on earth can I add such a huge, all-encompassing task to my plate?!  Then I started looking into it, and though still overwhelmed, I started to get excited, because it seemed that the curriculum and activities involved in homeschool were filled with exciting books and projects that I've already been wanting to do with my kids and just never got organized enough to do.  Hooray!!  Then I got excited thinking about how much extra meaningful time I would be able to spend with them, without the nagging thoughts that I should be doing all these other "useful" or "important" things--because school is useful and important, and you just can't argue with it. 

(Not to say that spending time simply playing with your kids is not useful or important, because it hugely is!!!  There's just something about unstructured play time that makes the dishes and the crumbs and the laundry shout a little louder.)

I knew I would never keep up trying to pick and choose from different curriculum and working out my own lesson plans.  But, we couldn't afford the all-in-a-box programs, and I wasn't super-thrilled with the free options we came across (although, to be fair, I did not explore them in any depth; it was more of a first-impressions approach).  So, our solution for the time being is to scour the book lists of highly-acclaimed curriculum and get the same books through the library, while adding in a few extra learning aids and workbooks.  There are only a few things we can't get, and I don't think they're critical. 

I have to admit, I'm feeling absolutely maniacally chaotic!   I am one minute overwhelmed with untamable excitement and fervor...and the next moment am a heap on the floor sobbing about how I'm failing my children in every possible way.  Yeah.  You never would've guessed, but sometimes I can be a drama queen. 

*what I'm afraid of*

Really, the only way I get through every day (whether trying to not push too hard or completely give up!) is to repeat to myself over and over and over:

It's only Kindergarten.  It's only Kindergarten.  It's only Kindergarten

We're going to find our way.  I'm sure of it.  With lots of help from those who have gone before, and most importantly, help from the Author of Knowledge. 

But not before I purge my complaints...
(stay tuned)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The American Dream, or the American Idol?

I have to say up front:  It is hard and stressful and, sometimes, downright impossible being destitute.

Destitute in an American sense, that is--where we can live well below the poverty line but still have a home and a car and everything that we truly need to survive. 

It's painful to write about our struggles; it's embarrassing to admit that we're struggling to even survive...But as miserable as it can be and as desperately as I hope this time to be over, God is teaching my heart some beautiful things through it, and I feel like I should share it...

Often, when we face difficult circumstances, we buckle down and try to hold on, to just "white-knuckle" it until we get through.  But that response is a form of self-dependence, and causes us to miss out on God-dependence.  Hard times--I'm starting to get it through my thick skull!--are like a personal invitation from God for us to come, sit, be still, and see His greatness.  To sit and watch in awe and wonder the power He wants to work in our lives.  If you've ever watched the Northern Lights dance across the night sky--so stunning, so amazing--I imagine it like that.  It's scary to let go--I know!  I'm your classic holder-on-er do-it-myself-er!

But even if we let go, He never lets go of us!

And it frees us to stand in awe of Him, to let Him work something more beautiful than we could have, and to well up our hearts with an overwhelming fountain of praise.

Our battle is not just against our own selves, however.  The enemy knows he is not as powerful as God, and so he tries to feed us lies about God. 
Is God really good?
Does God love us?
What have we done to deserve this?
God doesn't care about us...
The list is endless!

After 2 years of full-time job-hunting, in any field, across the globe, even being denied positions at fast food and factory and gas station companies, while many faithful Christians are praying for us...and the insecurity requiring frequent uprooting...we have fallen into discouragement about God's provision for us.  I wish we were stronger.  I guess we just got tired, and then confused, and then the lies started to sound too good to our sore hearts, and it got easier to entertain them.

For me, personally, one of the main lies I have entertained is that I have done something wrong or not been good enough, and this unending hardship is God's punishment for my spiritual failures, and it will continue until I can figure it out and get myself together.  It's so easy to believe sometimes!

But as our pastor stated today, "God is not a mafia boss!"  He doesn't come around checking to see if you've paid what you owed or behaved in the right manner, and beat you if you haven't!  He doesn't work like that.  The good news is, we KNOW that we've failed!  We fail every day of our lives, and there's no way we'll ever live up to God's standard.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

Yeah, that doesn't sound like good news at all.  But it is, because it means that our hope is not in our own goodness.  Our hope is in God's greatness!  The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God--all of life, all of everything, begins and ends with God.  It's not about us at all.

We often think--and it's so easy to--that we build up a moral rapport with God, and He is then obliged to bless us.  The reverse of that is that He will punish us if we are less than perfect.  In reality, we are morally bankrupt, and only Jesus offers us a perfect record, if we will merely accept His grace!

So, back to that American dream...It's kind of what I've been chasing and worshiping in my heart.  It's what I dream of to keep myself going each day, and I think, "When my husband has a job, and we have a home, and we can afford to pay our bills and provide good things for our children--THEN, everything will be okay."  I have idolized money, comfort, worldly security.  I am looking to things to save us.

Another thing our pastor said today that really struck a chord with me is this: "People get discouraged because they're chasing their idols, and come to church to learn how to pray in order to get their idol...They leave rejuvenated, but through the week get discouraged again because it didn't work, after all, and come back the next week to get another 'dose'...But make Christ your treasure, and the stuff won't matter!" 

It's not about the stuff.  You can have the stuff or not have the stuff.  God loves us and wants to give us good things, but it's our hearts that matter, and making sure our priorities are right. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Feel Like We Live in a Bat Cave

Today we finished the fourth and final round of the rabies vaccine, and I am SO thankful it is over!  We have shied away from the normal (aggressive) vaccine schedule because of concern over the potentially harmful side effects (from definitively harmful ingredients), and so giving these tiny children such an intense vaccine has been incredibly hard on me.  Stressful, scary, emotionally trying, a huge exercise in trusting God.

All this trauma is due to bats.  Ridiculous bats who think the foam ceiling in our big "red room" is a great place to call home.  The house we currently live in is old, and not well-built, and has holes and crevices everywhere...and so we've had a lot of problems with critters of all kinds.  We first were introduced to the bat problem last November, but we were able to catch the bat and remove it, and didn't see more for several months.  We heard them in the ceiling, but assumed it was mice.  We now know better.

this is how I envision the space between the ceiling and the roof!

The bats, of course, decided that the perfect time to reintroduce themselves was during the 2 1/2 weeks that Owen was overseas and I was home alone with the children.  And they opted for the big-impact introduction by waking me at 3am flying low circles over my head.  I think there were two, but honestly, I'm just not sure; it was pretty disorienting and I woke in a frenzy!  The baby had been nursing, and so, of course, was lying next to me.

Over the next couple weeks, they continued to come out at night, flying circles through the house, but also seeking me out specifically as if to taunt me or stake their claim on this living space.  I would immediately follow them to try to catch them, but they always disappeared into thin air.  One night, I was successful in locating their nest entrance, which is in the corner of the ceiling above Owen's office...where he often works at night...c  r  e  e  p  y...
I was grossed out, for sure, and dedicated to finding a resolution to the problem.  However, until several people raised concerns about our health and safety, I have to admit I hadn't really thought about that.  I started researching about interactions with bats, and grew increasingly alarmed at what I read!  The rabies scare was especially alarming.  So, I decided it would be best to just go to the doctor to talk it over, but our regular family doctor doesn't deal with rabies cases, so they referred us to the ER.  I felt silly going to the ER for something that may not even be an issue, but we went with it--better safe than sorry, right?

why are these guys so cute??

The ER had to call the Health Department, and the director there had to interview me about our situation to determine our need (because they help pay for the vaccines)...They determined that we should get the vaccine to be safe, because:

Bats are huge carriers of rabies.  Bat bites and scratches can be completely indiscernible, and can occur while you're sleeping without you even knowing.  By the time symptoms of rabies start to appear (anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months), it's too late to treat, and it's always fatal.  Since the disease attacks your nervous system, there is no test that can determine if you have it, except post-mortem.  Therefore, the vaccine is recommended to anyone, especially children, who have found bats in their room while sleeping...I also read somewhere (not sure of the source) that bat feces, if handled, can cause paralysis and sudden death, and we do have their droppings around...But on the other side, it's an intense vaccine that carries a risk of neurological damage.

how I think of bats right now, haha
I really struggled with this decision.  It seemed like an impossible decision, like a gamble with my children's lives!  How can I choose between death or permanent handicap?  I lose them either way.  Obviously, that is a worst-case-scenario mindset...It's possible the bats we have in our house don't have rabies.  It's also possible that the bats never touched any of us.  We just don't know.  So after much wrestling, and frantic calls for support, I knew I couldn't bear to live the next 6 months in fear, not knowing if one day one (or more) of my children would show symptoms of rabies, and die painfully before my eyes with me being helpless to do anything.  Every cough or sniffle or headache from here on out would have me paralyzed with fear...I couldn't do it.  We placed ourselves in God's hands and have been praying like madmen that He will protect us from any adverse reactions.  So far, we've all seemed well, until tonight, when poor Soren kept waking from sleep screaming and writhing in pain, unable to be comforted!  The kids get the same dose as I do, so I can only imagine how it's affecting their little bodies!

I'm scared.  I feel helpless.  It's my job to protect these little treasures, and it's killing me that I can't!  And so God is teaching me the hard way, that I must trust that He loves them more and He is able to protect them.  I must, not out of legalism, to merely obey the command to "trust in the Lord;" I must, because it's the only way I will survive.  Surely the One who grew their bodies one cell at a time and breathed the life into their bodies is able to protect and sustain them.  His call to trust and faith, I'm realizing in my need, is less an order and more a kindness--a promise that He is able and willing to help.  I'm trying to remember that my awareness of the danger doesn't change His power to protect us.  He knows, even when I do not; He knew the bats were there long before I had any idea, and He protected us all along, before I knew to pray.