Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Has the World Changed...Or is it Just Me?

Lately, I’ve noticed that something is different. Things I used to enjoy no longer bring me pleasure, and in fact, leave me feeling uneasy and sometimes even defiled. Has the world changed that much, or is it me? Or is it just that I have changed in my perception of what is acceptable?

Last week, we took the kids to Disneyland while on our vacation in California. We happily walked up to an attraction that has been at Disneyland as long as I can remember. The Haunted Mansion was decked out in some new displays in honor of the upcoming holiday…Halloween. It was renamed “A Haunted Mansion Holiday” and had a new storyline. While we were waiting in the entryway (which appears to elongate and take you down into the depths of the mansion), a story was told about Halloween colliding with Christmas. It was a “Grinch who stole Christmas” type of story, with a character named “Jack” who came to ruin Christmas. People were laughing and pointing as we traveled through the mansion in “doom buggies” and watching as Christmas packages opened to reveal skulls and other scary fare.

All through the ride, which I’ve previously enjoyed many times (although without the added Halloween twist), I felt a coldness in my spirit. Watching “ghosts” travel around and seeing an animated head purportedly telling the future, I seemed unable to laugh. Looking around at the darkness and the portrayal of a spirit world, it struck me. Here was yet another instance of the world taking something dark and vile and turning it into entertainment for the masses. I could only look around and picture a laughing Satan and his henchmen, rubbing their hands with glee as unsuspecting people were taught to view something scary and evil as light and fluffy entertainment. It felt somehow sinister to me, like there was something roiling just under the surface that no one could see.

In the last couple of years, I’ve come to view Halloween much the same way. In previous years, we participated in Halloween, allowing our children to dress up in costumes and trick-or-treat in the neighborhood, without thinking too much of it. Then a few years ago, a friend gave us a pamphlet to read detailing the origins of this holiday. Halloween has its origins in the religion of Druidism, which is a pagan religion involving worship of evil spirits, particularly those believed to dwell within trees. As we learned more about this, we began to feel more uncomfortable with this holiday and whether or not it was appropriate for Christians. Finally, last year, as a family, we made a joint decision to no longer participate in this event. It gave me much peace to make a break with this tradition, feeling that we could no longer participate in it with a clear conscience. Even though I had previously viewed those who wanted nothing to do with Halloween as “extreme”, I now count myself among their number. The Bible is very clear about our having absolutely nothing to do with the occult (Deuteronomy 18:9-13). How can we claim to be Christians and then participate in a night that glorifies Satan?

In the same way, I’ve noticed that movies or books I enjoyed in the past now leave me with a bad taste in my mouth…particularly if we have chosen to share them with our children. Several times lately, Alan and I have rented a movie that we remembered enjoying as children, only to be appalled at the content when we tried to watch it with our kids. Movies that I remember seeing (sometimes more than once) as a child, and which were billed as family movies, are full of profanity and other unwholesome material. I’ve been surprised several times, as I don’t remember that being true (and I know that my parents were very careful what we watched). Obviously, the movies haven’t changed in the last 30 years, so it must be…me. I guess my ears are more sensitive to the sounds of foul language or the Lord’s name being taken in vain. I find myself more aware of the spiritual content as well, such as my recent experience at Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion”. Maybe you’ll think I’m just turning into an old fuddy-duddy, but I think there’s more to it.

I’ve started to see that we gradually become coated with thick, hardened layers of shell the longer we are exposed to the world. It dulls our senses to what is impure and we are unable to even notice when things are not as they should be. Lately, I feel like God is patiently peeling off those layers, one by one, and leaving my sensitive inner soul exposed to the foulness of the world. In some ways, this is good, as it makes me more aware of the world’s influence on me and on my children. At the same time, though, this is painful, as it makes me feel like a foreigner in my own land…uncomfortable with all that I see around me. Maybe that’s what God is trying to teach me.

For more information about Halloween, please visit Ben Alexander’s website: http://www.espministries.com/topic_halloween.html

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marlin and Me

We just came back to our condo from our first ever “Dive-In” movie. The resort where we are staying had a special showing of “Finding Nemo” shown on a big screen at the edge of the swimming pool. The kids thought it was quite unique to float around in the pool while watching one of their favorite movies. Alan and I enjoyed lazing in the beach chairs and watching our little fish and enjoying one of our favorite movies.

I had forgotten what a great message can be found in this charming movie. I can so identify with Marlin, Nemo’s father. At the beginning of the movie, he is shown to be an overly protective, somewhat neurotic father. He is so afraid of harm coming to his little fish that he prevents Nemo from experiencing much of anything. He is constantly warning Nemo of the dangers to be found in the ocean, and telling him all the things that he can’t do. Nemo finally rebels against this suffocating parenting style, and his rebellion gets him into serious danger. The movie goes on to portray Marlin’s desperate search to save his son and the lessons they both learn during their time apart.

I remember the first day we brought Molly home from the hospital. Alan and I looked at each other with a great deal of fear and trepidation upon realizing that we, alone, were now responsible for this tiny, fragile being. All of a sudden, we were the ones charged with the task of making sure this little person had food, shelter and all the emotional and spiritual nurturing necessary to grow them into a successful adult.

I remember the first time I held my son in my arms as he suffered from a serious asthma attack and as he struggled to breathe. I was filled with terror as he gasped and coughed, feeling helpless to provide his most basic need for oxygen. Many more of these nights occurred before Noah finally began to outgrow his very serious asthma.

I remember when the pediatrician came to me in the hospital and with tears in his eyes told me that my newborn daughter had a serious hole in her heart and would probably require open heart surgery a few months down the road. I looked at her perfect, tiny body and held my hand over her chest, feeling that heart beat and wondering if it would continue.

I once heard motherhood described as living forever with a part of your heart walking around outside of your chest. The fears and anxieties we struggle with as parents can paralyze us. We can be so consumed with the “what ifs” and the frightening possibilities, that we completely miss the joy and excitement of watching our children learn new things and celebrate new experiences. There came a point for me, as a new mother, where I literally fell to my knees and surrendered. I had to let go, and give God my children. They belonged to him anyway, and I had to learn to believe that He loves them best. I had to learn to trust Him with their lives, and with their futures. As hard as it was for me to accept, He loves them even more than I do, and He loves them perfectly. Psalm 112:7 became something to cling to: “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”

Does this mean I no longer worry about all those horrible things that can happen? Unfortunately, no. Just ask my children…they will probably tell you that I constantly remind them to “lock the door” when I leave, rarely let them go to the restroom alone in a public place, and am frequently heard saying, “Be careful”. It’s an ongoing process, this letting go…and it doesn’t happen easily. But I believe that, ultimately, my children belong to God, and that He has good plans for them and that they are safe in His loving care. So, I’ll try to curb my Marlin tendencies, and give them room to grow…but I will gladly cross the ocean, just as he did, if my little fishies should need me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Take Time to Enjoy Them

I am writing this blog while on vacation in sunny Southern California with my family. We are enjoying about ten days of relaxation together as we get away from “real life” and spend some time playing together. Yesterday, we enjoyed a day together at Legoland, riding the rides and viewing the amazing Lego creations located throughout the park. While partaking in one of my favorite hobbies, people-watching, I was saddened to see how few people seemed to be enjoying themselves. I watched as harried mothers spoke sharply and unkindly to whining children. I saw disengaged fathers talking on Blackberries and ignoring repeated questions from their frustrated children, who got louder with each repetition of their unanswered question. I saw children begging for their parents to buy them something, and parents giving in just to make the demands cease. I saw brothers and sisters treating each other rudely, pushing and shoving and calling each other ugly names. Here we were, in a magical place, and people were so intent on hitting the next ride or buying the next toy that they weren’t even having any fun.

In contrast, we were having a great time. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. The park was uncrowded, since it was a school day (one of the benefits of homeschooling—you can vacation when nobody else does!). Our kids were excited to return to a place they had been previously and enjoyed a great deal. We weren’t on a schedule, and didn’t have any deadlines. My husband was NOT talking on his Blackberry and we felt free from all outside worries and responsibilities. The kids were having fun together, planning which attractions to ride, and which to skip. We felt unhurried and relaxed, just enjoying a day together as a family. At one point, as we were watching the kids ride something together, Alan turned to me and said, “You know, the next time Molly (our oldest) comes here, it could be with her own children.” The thought brought a pain to my heart as I realized how few family vacations we really have left with all five of us. It made me all the more determined to make the most of this trip, and to treasure these moments in my heart’s memory.

Life is so busy, and moves so fast. Sometimes we seem to forget that we really do only have our children for a season, not forever. In the midst of diapers and late-night feedings, it can seem endless. In the whirl of activities when they are older, it seems to slip through our fingertips like a wisp of smoke, gone before we can grasp it. I think Satan’s greatest tool to ruin us as parents is busyness. He distracts us with so much activity (even good ones) that we don’t realize how much time is slipping away from us. All of those important things we need to teach our children, or say to our children, or show our children are forgotten in the daily rush to get to the next soccer game. If he can just keep us busy enough so that we don’t focus on what really matters, he will win our children. And we make it so easy for him…

I challenge you today to look at your family life. When was the last time you just had some fun with your kids? When was the last time you gave your child your full attention as he told you about something that really matters to him? When was the last time you had a night of relaxing together, or playing a board game, or reading a book out loud instead of rushing off to sports or dance or a church activity? Look at your schedule and see if perhaps you need to make some changes. If you feel worn out, frazzled and unhappy, maybe there’s a reason. Make a pledge to take back your schedule and refuse to let the world dictate how you spend your time. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses—prayerfully consider what activities God wants your family to be involved in. Don’t fall for Satan’s lie that you are a bad mother if you don’t give your children all the opportunities that “everyone else” has. I remember facing a lot of criticism from others when my children were little because I refused to put them in preschool. I felt that it was more important for them to be home with me in those few years before they started school (we hadn't yet decided to homeschool them). I can assure you that my children bore no ill effects from the lack of preschool in their lives…in fact, they all learned to read before kindergarten.

Remember, God gave us these children to teach and train, but also to enjoy…are you enjoying yours or just rushing them from one activity to the next? All too soon, they will be grown and will lead busy lives of their own. Make sure you don’t miss out on this very precious time…and now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go have some fun with my kids out in the California sunshine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blinded By Darkness

In a recent sermon at our church, our minister made the statement that darkness not only hinders sight, it causes blindness. I wrote that statement down so I could ponder it later, knowing that my over-forty brain wouldn’t remember it until I got home. Later, it came to me that I had once learned about a type of fish that originated in the dark caves of Central America, and that no longer had eyes to see because they had lived in total darkness for so long. Their bodies had adapted to the darkness all around them, and done away with a sense that was deemed useless. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that we, as Christians, are also living surrounded by darkness, just of a spiritual type rather than a physical one.

We are surrounded every day by images, music, advertisements and temptations that are the antithesis of the holy life we are supposed to live as Christians. Turn on the TV for just a few minutes and you will be appalled at the immoral messages being conveyed during prime family time. If the shows don’t disgust you, just wait for the commercials! As I was watching one of the few acceptable shows left on TV with my children tonight, we had to loudly cover up a commercial that was definitely inappropriate for little ears (and maybe mine, too!). I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems as if the boundaries are pushed farther and farther from what is pure every year. I remember as a child, my parents were very strict about what we were allowed to see on TV. While all my friends were watching “MASH” and “Three’s Company” and other such sitcoms, we were prohibited. My parents were very vigilant about what went into our minds and hearts, and for that I will be eternally grateful. What scares me is that now those shows would be considered very innocuous and innocent compared to today’s offerings, such as “90210” or “Sex in the City” or “Desperate Housewives”. Looking back, I can see that the darkness has gotten darker…and I fear for our vision as Christians and as parents. My husband and I have discussed how we constantly discover things that are in our worldview (how we perceive the world and right and wrong) that conflict with God’s teachings, yet we were unaware because they were so skillfully and deceptively introduced into our lives.

I fear that we have become numb to what is acceptable and holy in God’s eyes. Are we protecting our children from the darkness, or do we just say, “Well, that’s just how the world is…I can’t do anything about it.” Are we becoming blind to Satan’s tactics to win our children’s hearts? My husband and I have tried valiantly to protect our children from the world’s influence. We carefully monitor the movies, books and entertainment that enter our home. We homeschool our children so we can educate them in a God-honoring environment. We refuse to buy clothing for our children that we deem to be immodest or disrespectful. But is this enough? How do we counter a culture that is saturated with darkness?

There is only one answer...the only thing that drives darkness away is light, and the Bible tells us that Jesus is the light that shines on the “land of the shadow of death” (Isaiah 9:2, Matt. 4:16). It isn’t enough to simply shield our children from the darkness; we must also lead them to the light and teach them how to battle the darkness. As our children have gotten older, we have not just protected them from the world, but taught them how to deal with it. We often will discuss with them what we see or what we read in newspapers and ask them what they think of it and how they think God views it. We look at Scripture together to see what a Biblical worldview looks like and teach them how to deal with temptation and peer pressure. We are not na├»ve—we know our children will have to face living in the world as adults. We would be doing them an injustice if we simply sheltered them all of their childhood and then turned them loose in the world. Our vision for our kids is bigger than that…we want to raise world-changers, not world-avoiders.

I challenge you to think carefully about what you allow into your home. Take the time to talk to your children about the things that they see and experience and help them to develop eyes that see the world through God’s perspective. Evaluate your own worldview, and make sure it lines up with God’s word. Don’t be surprised if you find things of the world that have permeated your life…you are living in a land of darkness, and spiritual darkness causes spiritual blindness. Ask God to show you anything in your life or in your children’s lives that needs to change, and ask Him for the strength to do so. Decide to stand firm against the culture, even if it leads to judgment or ridicule from others. Don’t be like those fish…wait too long or be too indifferent to the world’s influence, and you, too, will lose your sense of vision.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

His Name is Noah

Eleven years ago today, my son was born. After fifteen long hours of labor, a very still, very blue little boy made his way into the world without making a sound. The doctor rubbed him vigorously, disentangled the abnormally long umbilical cord from around his body and handed my beautiful baby boy over to a nurse, who performed the preliminaries, let me hold him briefly, and then whisked him off to the special care nursery. His Apgar scores were low and his muscle tone pitiful. It would be an hour or two before I would see him again and be assured that he would be okay. When we went in to see him, he had a “cake pan” on his head (delivering oxygen) and he looked so tiny and vulnerable. While he was just under a healthy eight pounds, his entry into the world was scary. If it hadn’t been for the wise doctor who delivered him (and who talked a very determined woman into an epidural), we very well could have lost him. The umbilical cord was around his little body and the prolonged labor was weakening him and causing his heart rate to drop. Once the epidural was in place, the labor progressed quickly and our baby was born within the hour. As we gazed at him in his bassinette in the hospital nursery, we stroked his tiny feet and thanked God for saving his life.

Throughout my pregnancy with our son, we knew that God had plans for this baby. We had several scares of threatening miscarriage and yet peace prevailed in our hearts. God gave us the strongest sense that everything would be fine, even when it seemed to defy logic. At one point in my pregnancy, my brother put his hand on my burgeoning belly and prayed for this child, voicing his sincere conviction that this child was going to have a special purpose designed by God. A few months into this rollercoaster pregnancy, my husband came to me and said that he knew what our baby’s name was. When he told me, I somewhat doubtfully said, “maybe”. A few days later, standing in line at the pharmacy to get some medication for our older daughter, who was ill, I picked up a baby name book and idly thumbed through it. I turned to the name chosen by my husband and read: “Noah—meaning peace, comfort and rest.” A shiver went up my spine and a thrill through my spirit. “Okay, Lord, I get it. His name is Noah.” My husband and I had often talked about the unusual peace we felt during all of the stress of this uncertain pregnancy. Although we had not been told the sex of this baby, I felt pretty sure at that point that it was indeed a boy…and his name was Noah.

Noah has lived in our house and our hearts for eleven years now, and I am still filled with wonder at God’s hand upon him. He is a special boy, with many talents and a heart full of love for his Creator. He is a talented musician, both on drums and guitar, a gifted actor and a whiz with computers. He is creative, artistic and intelligent. He is sensitive, and reads his mom like a book. He seems to sense whenever I am down, or worried, or sad. He loves to help me with whatever task I am working on, and loves to spend time with his dad. Is he perfect? Of course not…just ask his sisters! But what gives me the most joy is watching his growing love for his Heavenly Father. Three years ago, he gave his life to Jesus and I’ve watched him grow in his Christian walk and learn to share his faith with others. It really doesn’t matter to me whether he grows up to be a famous musician or movie director, or a scientist who cures cancer. It only matters that he stays on the path of truth and never strays from his commitment to Christ. If he accomplishes this task, then the words of Proverbs 23 will hold true for me: “My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad…my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right…The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him.”

Those tiny feet we lovingly stroked are but a distant memory…I can now slip my feet into my son’s shoes to run to the mailbox. He almost reaches my shoulder and his voice no longer sounds like his sisters’ on the phone. He can do so many things, some of them far better than I can. But he is still my little boy, and I will always hold that picture of him in my heart. I know that God has great plans for him, and it thrills me to know that I get to be a part of raising this little boy into a great man of God. So, today, on his eleventh birthday, I will say a prayer, thanking God for letting me be Noah’s mom, and giving me the awesome gift of sharing in his life. Happy birthday, my precious son…your mom loves you very much.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weeping Over Jerusalem

Tonight I am suffering... my heart hurts, I feel sick to my stomach and I feel overwhelming despair. No, I haven’t come down with the flu or any other form of illness. Tonight, the pain is in my soul. Our evening started out on a high note. My husband and I left for an evening out together, to enjoy one of our favorite pastimes. We had tickets to a local dinner theater and were happily anticipating a play we had never before seen and that was touted as one of the funniest and most enjoyable plays to grace the stage. We have season tickets to this dinner theater, and have enjoyed many date nights together watching a play and talking over dinner and dessert.

The play began, and in the first five minutes, my spirits sank. The language in the opening song contained several profanities, the costumes were less than modest and the dancing provocative. As the story progressed, things went from bad to worse. There was more profanity, promiscuity and homosexuality portrayed with each scene. We sank down in our seats and refused to applaud, waiting for the end of the interminable first act so we could pay our bill and escape. As I looked around me, my heart began to ache. The room was full of people laughing and applauding, greeting each new disgusting act with hilarity and approval. In the front row sat a family with a 10-year old girl, celebrating her birthday. I watched as she took in things that were utterly inappropriate for her eyes, and as her parents howled with laughter. A feeling of nausea rose within me, as I realized that we were perhaps the only two people in the entire theater who felt offended by these acts portrayed on the stage. As the first act finally, and thankfully, came to a close, we quickly ate our desserts, paid our bill, and fled. As we walked out into the cool night air, I felt defiled and overcome with sorrow. I thought about Jesus as he wept over Jerusalem, and I began to cry as I mourned for my city.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the children present in that theater, and the awful things that had been implanted in their brains and presented as “normal” and acceptable. I thought how they had seen something that God had created to be sacred and beautiful profaned, both by the immoral sex presented and the rampant homosexuality. I looked at my husband and said, “I hate that this is the world we have to raise our children in!” Now, I’m sure that most of the people in the theater tonight were nice people, many of whom were possibly even Christians. Yet, they were so numbed by the world to what is profane, that they laughed at and enjoyed the spectacle, just like anyone else. As far as I know, we were the only ones to leave the theater at intermission…why wasn’t anyone else offended? I’m sure that some would label us old-fashioned or even judgmental for our disgust. Yet, God makes it clear to us that we are called to be holy and set apart and that we are to have nothing to do with the darkness.

Alan and I have commented many times lately that the older we get, the more conservative we get. As our children have gotten older, we are even more concerned with the things they are exposed to and how to counteract the culture. We have less and less desire to be a part of this culture, and more and more to know God and to live within His parameters. We see that this world has caused nothing but pain and sorrow and regret, and that only by shaping our lives to His will can we truly have peace. As we were getting ready to leave our table tonight, we overheard a comment by a lady at the table below us. She said to her companion, “Isn’t it wonderful to have an evening out filled with laughter.” Laughter that stems from polluted thinking isn’t refreshing to the soul…it is like the hysterical giggling of an overtired child which often deteriorates into tears.

It was an eerie feeling tonight…looking around the room at a bunch of people lost in hilarity and feeling like the only sober person in a room full of drunks. I felt as if we were the only ones who could feel the darkness and see that the man behind the curtain was really a horrible and bloodthirsty demon named Satan, instead of a nice, safe, “Wizard of OZ”.

I definitely don’t think we’re in Eden anymore…and I can’t imagine how Jesus must weep over us when he looks down on the moral cesspool we live in, full of people who are selling pieces of their soul for a little entertainment. I am so incredibly weary of having sin shoved down my throat every time I turn around. I am tired of being sold a bill of goods that says that promiscuous sex and homosexual relationships and anything that makes you feel good is okay. I’m tired of seeing children exposed to ugliness and profanity and immersed in darkness instead of light. When will we stand up and say, “Enough!”?

I feel a little like Dorothy, wishing I could tap my heels together and say, “There’s no place like home…” and be transported to heaven, where all is pure and holy, and laughter springs from the joy of being with our Heavenly Father, not from something that leaves us feeling defiled and unclean. Tonight, I am weeping for Fort Collins, and for America, and I am certain that Jesus is weeping with me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Glimpses of Beauty

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to a definite conclusion…sometimes, life is hard. I’ve watched loved ones suffer, watched the world deteriorate and felt the pain that life often brings. But, in those times of darkness, I’ve also seen real beauty…the glimpses of something radiant through the rain. Those glimpses seem to shine all the brighter in the midst of suffering, like a vibrant rainbow visible only after a storm.

Beauty is my friend, who patiently cares for her husband, who is dying of ALS. It is the pain on her face as she agonizes over wanting him to linger forever, and wanting his suffering to end. Beauty is the love that shines in her eyes as she tends to his physical needs and tries to keep their family functioning.

Beauty is my mother, enduring breast cancer without self-pity. Beauty is her enduring painful recovery from surgery without complaint, then turning around, as soon as she is able, to pass on the kindnesses she’s received to others who are hurting.

It is watching my church family rally around someone who is struggling and meeting the needs of those who are suffering. It is the Sunday school teachers who patiently teach each week, loving the children and teaching them about Jesus. Beauty is watching the faces of those gathered each week to worship together, lifting their hearts and voices in praise to their Creator.

Beauty is the look on my husband’s face as he gazes on our sleeping children. It is the patience as he gently teaches them to play a guitar chord, or change the oil in a car, or to fix a computer. It is the tenderness in his hands as he gathers them close for a moment, to hug, or tickle or tease.

I saw beauty in the lines on my grandmother’s face, earned by years of loving her family and providing for them, no matter what life brought her way. It was in the wrinkles on her hands from decades of hard work, serving those she loved. It was the gray of her hair, witness to the many trials she bore with grace and courage.

Beauty is a young mother, too exhausted to even sleep, yet patiently tending her children with a loving and gentle spirit. It is in a prayer offered up for guidance, feeling overwhelmed and yet determined to be all that her young children need. It is choosing to read one more story, give one more hug, instead of rushing off to fold laundry or wash dishes.

Beauty is my parents, celebrating almost 48 years of marriage, and the spark that still lights up their hearts. It is my father, tenderly caring for his bride when she is healing from surgery. It is my mother, meeting my father’s needs before he is even aware of having them. It is the beauty of commitment promised and honored without flagging.

None of these things would exist without the beauty of the One that surpasses all of these…a God who loves without failing, forgives without limit, and gives grace without recompense. They are a testament of who He is, and how He reaches down to each of us, in tenderness and compassion. So the next time you are overwhelmed with the difficulty of life, open your eyes a little wider and look around you…there is beauty to be found here on earth, in the shadow of heaven.