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!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Choose You

Last week, our family traveled to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. We were thrilled to have some family time together and couldn’t wait to meet the newest member of our family, a little girl named Emma. Emma is the second child to be adopted from China into our extended family. Emma’s new mom is my sister-in-law’s sister (confused yet?), so technically she is no relation to me. But I have never been one to care about the “rules” that define a family. My husband and I are close to Emma’s parents, having known them most of our lives. Our kids call them “aunt” and “uncle” and we fulfill the same role for these precious two little girls from China. We mutually decided that we were family and our kids were cousins. So it was with great expectation that we drove the endless miles to Indiana, anticipating the first time we would hold this amazing gift from God.

The first time we saw Emma was when we met at a portrait studio, hoping to update the “cousin” picture that we each have hanging in our homes. The studio was crowded and noisy, being the day before Thanksgiving. Little Emma, who is twenty-one months old, was very overwhelmed by the crush of people, the flashes of light and all these eager relatives wanting to hold her. She is still adjusting to her new life, having been with her new parents only a few months. She was seventeen months old when they got her, and was very attached to her caregiver, making the transition a painful one for her. Many, many tears were shed over the next days and continue to be shed as she adjusts to her new life. While I wanted desperately to hold her and kiss her, I held back, seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. I waved at her from afar, delighting in her sweet face and adorable, toddling steps. The photo session will go down in our family history as quite an experience…the best one we managed to get was all the other kids smiling and Emma screaming her head off. All that mattered to me is that we managed to record a moment in our family history—the addition of a new cousin. The kids will always treasure that picture and tell of that picture shoot forever, saying, “Remember when?”

The next few days, the closest I could get to Emma was when I offered her a finger to hold as she toddled around the house. She wouldn’t let me hold her, but was delighted to go walking, holding on to my outstretched hand. We walked, back and forth, through the house, again and again. My heart was full as I memorized each precious feature of this miracle baby who had joined our family. My arms ached as I longed to hold her, but I determined to be patient and give this little girl what she needed until she felt safe enough to accept me.

Finally, on our last night in Indy, as I was sitting on the couch at Emma’s house, she came into the room, carrying a book. She looked up at me and smiled her beautiful, sweet smile. She reached up and handed me her book and then lifted her arms to me, asking to be held. I gently picked her up and placed her on my lap and she snuggled deep into me and looked up at me with that angelic smile, waiting for me to read to her. I literally felt my heart melt with love for this child. I held her close and read to her for as long as she would sit. We read about Australian animals over and over and over and I sang a silly song to her about the Kookaburra, delighting in her laughter. With that moment, Emma was sealed forever in my heart as a member of our family.

As I’ve pondered this experience, I had a moment of clarity. While Emma is not biologically a part of my family, she is now a member in full standing of the Blake/Richardson/Metzger clan. Her parents chose her, took her in, and love her completely. Her aunts and uncles adore her and her cousins delight in her. What a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. While we were sinners, having a nature that was completely opposed to His, He chose us to be a part of His family. He loves us, adores us, and delights in us. When we lift our hands to Him, His heart melts with love for us, just as mine did for little Emma. He has given us full standing as sons and daughters of the King and is preparing a home for us to live with Him forever. He has adopted us into His family and given us everything that we need. Just as Emma’s parents took her into their lives and their hearts, God has taken us into His. What a precious gift little Emma is to our family, and what an overwhelming gift God has given to us by choosing us to be His children. Thank you, Emma, for coming into our family and for showing us a picture of how very much our God loves us.

“God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” Galatians 4:5

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why We Homeschool

To me, the beginning of the school year is somewhat reminiscent of New Year’s Day. It is a time of planning, reflecting and setting goals for the next year, a time of evaluating why we homeschool and how to do it more effectively. It’s a time for remembering how and why God called us to homeschool and a chance to reestablish His sovereignty over our home and school. It’s a time to pray, to dream, and to renew our commitment to educating and discipling our children.

There are many reasons why we have chosen to home educate our children. When we began this journey nearly 6-1/2 years ago, our primary motivation was to give our children a better education that was more suited to their particular learning needs. Our school principal was the one who suggested that we consider homeschooling, as he felt that the school could not supply the academic challenge that our children required. After much prayer and research (if you want to hear our story, click here), we made the choice to remove our children from the public school we attended, and to continue their education at home. We determined that our children would be better off academically to have a customized program, designed to meet their individual interests and needs. Six years later, however, our primary motivation has changed. While we still aim to provide an excellent academic program for our children, we now have become convicted that our primary reason for homeschooling is to have our children in an environment where God is sovereign (not the government), so that we are able to disciple our children in His ways and prepare them for life as whole-hearted, sold-out servants of Christ.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I had the profound experience of hearing a man named Voddie Baucham speak. I can still hear his passionate pleas for parents to wake up and devote themselves wholly to raising children who fear and love the Lord above all else. His main argument for home education was the very familiar Scripture which states “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”. He stated that our children belong to the Lord, not to the government, which seeks to educate them in a humanistic, and oftentimes atheistic environment. He further stated that we should not be surprised that when we give our children over to “Rome” that they are returned to us as “Romans”. This man’s words resonated in our hearts and inspired us to devote ourselves even more completely to homeschooling our children. My husband was so inspired by this man that he began to involve himself more fully in our children’s education, in spite of the fact that he works very long, very stressful days at his job. We firmly believe that our children belong first of all to their Creator, and that He instructs us to teach them His ways all day long, in all that we do. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” If we intended to take this seriously, we needed to spend as much time as possible with our children in the short time that they are under our roof. For us, this seems impossible if we are sending them off to school for 6-8 hours per day.

While our experiences with our public school were relatively good (with one major exception—our oldest daughter’s fourth grade year), we still spent many hours undoing what had been taught, both academically and behaviorally. We watched as our children began to respect their teacher’s authority above our own (one of our children would constantly argue, “But Mrs. X does it THIS way”), learned to look down on children of other ages, and picked up worldly attitudes and ways of treating others. In spite of being in a school that valued “Character Education”, their character was being slowly eroded. Because this character education was taught apart from the character of Jesus Christ, it failed. (For a very interesting look at this topic, please watch the movie “Time Changer”). While our children had opportunities to be a Christian witness at school (and accepted those opportunities gladly and effectively), there were many more opportunities to be affected by the worldliness surrounding them all day long. It was like being the only little fish trying to swim upstream in a torrent of fish racing the other direction.

Another Scripture that we firmly believe in as the basis for our homeschooling is Proverbs 13:20-- “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” While many people argue that our children will suffer from the lack of “socialization”, we believe God’s word teaches us to be selective in our children’s companions. If they are constantly surrounded by foolishness, they, too, will become foolish. If we surround them with children who are well-grounded in God’s word and who also love Him wholeheartedly, and also provide them with adults who are wise in their walk with God, we believe that they, too, will grow wise. In my experience, most of the homeschooled children we have met are very poised and well-spoken. They know how to converse with adults and children, and are compassionate to those younger than themselves instead of looking down on them. Our oldest daughter’s employer has stated that he prefers homeschooled children because of their polite and respectful manner and strong work ethic.

Another reason we choose to homeschool is that we believe that by educating our children at home, we can be much more effective in raising our children to be world-changers instead of world-conformers. We can choose materials that teach the TRUTH instead of having them subjected to such lies as evolution, revisionist history and humanism. We can teach them history with a view toward God’s providence through the ages. We can spend quality time each day teaching our children to read and cherish God’s word, praying together and giving them opportunities to develop the gifts and talents that God has given them. We can educate our children in light of eternity, not with an eye toward attaining all the standards set by some school board who doesn’t share our faith or our goals for our children. Instead of hoping our children will grow up to have a successful career, or make a lot of money, we pray that our children will grow up to give themselves over to God in whatever arena He asks them to serve. As God makes His plan clear to our children, we will do our best to equip them to follow His will.

Our family has been blessed beyond measure by our decision to homeschool. Our relationships are closer, deeper and more meaningful because we spend so much time together. Our children are more obedient now because we’ve had the time to faithfully train them. Our life, while still busy, is now more flexible because we are not at the mercy of an institution’s schedule. Our children are happier, more contented and more confident without the constant crushing of their spirits by other children’s cruelty and spitefulness. Does homeschooling make family life suddenly perfect and without conflict? Of course not…it would be ridiculous to expect that. It does, however, give us the tools and relationships to deal with whatever arises in our home.

I will be forever grateful that the Lord led us to homeschooling, in spite of our strong resistance to the idea. He knew what was best for our children, and for our family, and has bountifully provided all that we’ve needed to prosper as a homeschooling family. I know that when our children were involved in the public school system, I felt threatened and judged by our many homeschooling friends. I felt that they looked down on us for choosing public school and deemed us “lesser” parents for our choice. I resented their judgment and did not listen to what they had to share. I now know that I was mistaken, and that I misjudged them, as well. I took their intent to be judgment, when instead they just wished to share the glorious blessings they had found by entering into homeschooling. They were passionately in love with the path God had set them on and wanted us to share in it, too. Now that I am on the other side of the fence, so to speak, I understand their heart. I, too, have been falsely deemed “judgmental”, when all I wanted to do was share my heart. My prayer is that we will all be open to God’s calling for our children, wherever it may lead us, and that we will listen to each other with open hearts, instead of defensiveness and anger. For those of you reading this, please know that my intent here is to simply share why WE have chosen to homeschool and how much it has blessed our family. It is in no way a judgment or condemnation of your choices. God has entrusted your children to YOU, not to me, to decide what is best for them. My earnest prayer for you is that you will passionately seek His will for your children and be open to His leading…for He alone knows exactly what they need.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Becoming a Parent Who Prays - Praying for Our Children Part I

This summer, I am spending a lot of time studying the idea of being a parent who prays. My mother and I are teaching a class at church for mothers and grandmothers who desire to learn more about how to pray effectively for the children they love. As usual, we are the ones who are learning the most! My next few posts will be from materials put together as we teach this class…I pray it will be an encouragement to you and that it will inspire you to pray fervently for your children.

The first thing to understand is what God says about prayer. There are many verses in the Bible about prayer, which teach us how to pray, what to pray for, etc. He tells us to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17), to not give up (Luke 18:1), and that nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). He also tells us that we have a helper to intercede for us (the Holy Spirit) when we are so upset or confused that we don’t even know what to pray. He gives us an example in Samuel, the Old Testament Prophet, who tells the people of Israel that it is actually a sin NOT to pray (I Samuel 12:23-24). My favorite hidden treasure that was uncovered in my studying, however, was the fact that God says He will answer even BEFORE we finish speaking (Isaiah 65:24). What a comfort to know that God is listening, He knows our needs even before we finish telling Him, and that He even helps us to be able to pray in our time of need.

So why is it important to pray for our children? If God knows what they need anyway, why does it matter whether or not we pray for them? I believe it does, indeed, matter. In fact, I would venture to say that it is our most effective parenting tool. I don’t know about you, but I can readily admit that I am not capable of being the perfect parent. I make mistakes, I lose my temper, I make wrong decisions all the time. The good news? There is a perfect parent who is waiting for us to ask for help, and when we ask, He promises He will answer. Instead of turning to the latest parenting “experts” (whose advice seems to change every few years!), we can turn to the real expert…the One who created our precious children and knows them better than we do. When we are struggling to figure out their behavior, or what makes them act the way they do, He already knows. And He is more than willing to guide us in our parenting…all we need to do is ask.

I also believe it is important to pray for our children because our prayers unleash the power of God in our children’s lives. When we are willing to admit our helplessness, we are becoming the vessel through which God’s power can act. It is a stepping out of the way so that God can work. Instead of blocking His power with our stubbornness or pride, we can humble ourselves and let His power and wisdom have their way in our children, and the results will be beautiful. How could we possibly know better than the very God who made every aspect of their character?

Another benefit of praying for our children is the effect our prayers have on Satan. If we are protecting our children in prayer, his power over their lives is lessened. By putting up this shield around them, we are freeing them to be able to make right choices and follow God’s will for their lives. We should remember that when we are praying for our children, we are actually doing battle for their very lives. Satan has determined to see them fail. He wants desperately to devour our children and keep their hearts from God. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that your prayers are insignificant. While God has a good and perfect plan for your child’s life, Satan has an evil and devastating plan for them. Your prayers may be the weapon that keeps Satan from having his way with your child…what could be more motivating than that?

One of the beautiful blessings of being a praying parent is that God will also fill our hearts with peace as we trust His path for our children. We will be freed from the anxiety and unrest that comes with trying to control the lives of our children and keep them from all harm. Whenever I find myself worrying about a specific aspect of my child’s life (such as their health, or who they will marry), I remind myself that God already has it all worked out and that He loves them…even more than I do. What could be more reassuring than that?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Gift of Motherhood

When my husband and I first married, we dreamed about what our family would look like someday. We’d talk of little girls to dress in pink, and boys to dress in blue. We agreed that two would be nice, a boy and a girl, or just maybe three…we’d have to see. We decided that in three to five years we’d be ready to start this family that we dreamed of…of course, I meant three years and my husband meant five. When three years rolled around, I decided I was ready to take this next step in our lives and start a family. I talked to my husband and was surprised to find out that he had really meant five years…I couldn’t believe he wasn’t as ready as I was to begin this new journey. So we waited, and we prayed, and we discussed what having a baby would mean to us. And then, one day, while we were on a vacation touring the East Coast, he gave me a card and said…”I’m ready”. My heart was overjoyed, and I immediately began making plans. I couldn’t wait until the day that we found out our wish had come true.

So we waited, and we prayed, and we discussed all the ins and outs of adding a baby to our family. And then we waited some more. And some more. And some more. Suddenly, this dream of having a family seemed a little farther out of reach. I began to cry, every month, when our dream didn’t happen. And I began to resent the hurtful questions thrown at me every time we went to church. “When are you guys going to start a family?” “Hey, you’re getting behind…your brother already has two…Don’t you want to have a baby?” As I pretended to not care, my heart was breaking. My whole life I had dreamed of being a mother. I decided not to go to medical school because I wanted to be a mom. Suddenly, I began to wonder, “Who will I be if I can’t be a mother? It’s all I want…I don’t dream anymore of a big career. I just want a baby to love and raise.” The months went by and nothing happened. Finally, the doctor I was seeing agreed to help us (their policy was you had to wait a whole year before they would intervene). After several more months of treatment, and several more negative pregnancy tests that absolutely broke my heart, and after switching to a much more compassionate doctor, we received the news that, at long last, we were expecting.

The joy that filled my heart was indescribable. I walked around in a daze for several weeks, in absolute disbelief that God had answered our prayers. I remember thanking God over and over again, delighted that we would finally have our family. As the months passed and my belly grew, I laughed in delight at the miracle inside me. And when that amazing day finally came, and my sweet little daughter was placed in my arms, I was absolutely overcome with gratitude toward the God who had allowed me to become a mother. I knew without a doubt, this was the best gift in the world, and I was ready to give everything I had to protect and cherish this tiny little girl named Molly.

I didn’t know if we would ever be able to have another child, but God was gracious to us. Almost four years later, He blessed us with a son, and two years after that, He blessed us again with another daughter. I look at my precious children and I am so thankful. I can’t imagine my life without any of them. Our children are a priceless gift from the Lord and we are humbled that He chose us to raise them.

When I look around at our society, and I see babies discarded as unwanted trash, and children being treated with harshness and impatience by their mothers, my heart grieves. I believe that God views children as a blessing, and we often receive them as a curse. He intended for us to love and cherish these precious little ones, and to honor the role of motherhood. Instead, our society has deceived us into believing that we should value careers and money and possessions over the noble calling of motherhood. We’ve devalued something that God says is beautiful, and elevated worthless things in its place. What a shame…I wonder sometimes what blessings we’ve missed out on because of these choices.

So, this Mother’s Day, I will hold my head high and be proud of the role I have chosen. I will look at my most precious gifts (named Molly, Noah and Lexi), and I will thank my Heavenly Father from the bottom of my heart for the incredible privilege of being their mom. I will also thank Him for the lovely lady that I call “Mom”, and for all that she has taught me about being a godly mother who delights in her children. And I will do my very best to teach my children to embrace God’s view of babies and motherhood and pray that someday, they, too, will accept with joy God’s calling to be parents.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Amazing Love

I grew up with a mom and dad who loved me very much. I never doubted their love, yet I don’t think I really understood the depths of that love until one very specific moment. I remember sitting on the couch with my mother, holding my precious newborn daughter. We were doing all the things you do with your newborn baby…examining her tiny little toes and fingers, rubbing her soft little head and gazing at this miracle that God had given to me. All of a sudden, an overwhelming wave of love swept over me and I was absolutely consumed with the knowledge that I would do anything to protect this tiny little bundle in my arms. I began to weep, and I looked at my sweet mother and said, “You really love me, don’t you?” All at once, as I experienced this amazing love for my new daughter, I completely understood how my mother feels about me. It was a defining moment in my life.

As I grew into my role as a mother and experienced that mother-love for the first time (and then for a second and third time as well), I began to understand something else. It was as if a veil was lifted and suddenly I could see that the all-consuming love I felt for my baby is but a dim reflection of how God feels about me. Now I grew up in church and always knew that “God so loved the world”, but this was different. This was personal…this was knowing that God looks at me the way I look at my children. He rejoices when I learn something new. He grieves when I make bad choices. He covers me with His love and protection and forgives me over and over and over again.

This weekend we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. We celebrate that Jesus has freed us from the power of sin and given us the hope of eternal life in heaven. None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for the amazing love of a Father who was willing to sacrifice his precious only son…for me. Long before I was even born, God knew that I would be. He knew the color of my hair, the shape of my face, the quirks of my personality. He loved me so much that He made a plan to save me and bring me into a relationship with Him, even though it cost Him everything. He loves me…He really loves me.

And if that isn’t overwhelming enough, then I think about Jesus. He, too, was willing to sacrifice everything—even his very life—for me. He let people beat him, curse him, mock him and nail him to a cross. Worst of all, he suffered the unimaginable pain of separation from his Father, bearing my sins so that I could be forgiven. Understanding that kind of love is a humbling experience…it brings me to my knees as I realize the depth of his love for me.

This Easter, I am grateful. I am grateful that God is not an impersonal God, but one who loves me with an all-consuming love. As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday, my heart will be overwhelmed by the awesome and amazing love of my Savior…in the words of Charles Wesley in a beautiful old hymn “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God should die for me?” I will marvel at the agony of the cross, the three days of despair, and finally, in the glory of the resurrection…He is risen indeed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Too Small Shoes

Have you ever had the misfortune of a pair of shoes that just doesn’t fit? They pinch, they poke, they rub in all the wrong places. You may like the way they look with that certain outfit, but somehow, they just don’t feel right. No matter how many times you wear them, hoping to “break them in”, they just never acquire that feeling of comfort that makes them a favorite. Lately, I’ve been feeling this way…but it has nothing to do with shoes.

Right now it seems that no matter which way I turn, something is chafing at my spirit. I’ve been facing conflict in relationships, health problems for me and my family, and just plain feeling like I don’t belong. The more I come to know what God wants for me and my family, the stronger that feeling becomes. The more convicted we become about how to raise our children (differently from what the world views as “normal”), the more “flack” we take from others. The firmer the stand we take, the more people want to convince us that we are wrong. We make choices that apply only to our family, yet suddenly we’re viewed as “judgmental” by outsiders. We’re accused of things we haven’t done, blamed for things that are not our doing. And suddenly I feel far less comfortable in this world I live in than ever before.

I’ve been pondering this quite a bit…why does the world seem so much stranger to me now? Why do I feel like an outsider in settings that were previously very comfortable? I’ve come to a conclusion…these shoes no longer fit, nor are they supposed to fit. As Jesus said in John 15:9, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” I am not supposed to be comfortable here because this is NOT my home. And the more I grow to understand and reflect the Father’s heart, the less comfortable I will be and quite possibly, the more I will suffer. As I watch my children grow spiritually, I will also watch them suffer the injustice and cruelty of this world…and that hurts even more. My comfort lies in knowing that they are in God’s loving hands, and that He is preparing them for something that matters much more than anything they can find in this world. He is molding and shaping them to be ready for their eternal home in heaven. And there, we will finally feel at home.

Living here on earth is like having your feet crammed into too small shoes. You begin to ache for the moment you can shed that painful footwear and bask in the pleasure of running barefoot through the grass. Ah, what a wonderful feeling that will be.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Are You Feeding Your "Teenager"?

I see a lot of articles in the newspaper these days about teenagers and their diet. There are articles decrying their lack of nutrition, citing fast food lunches and hurried dinners and numerous sugary soft drinks consumed during the day. There are articles about childhood obesity, as well as those about eating disorders. While these are very important issues facing American adolescents today, there is another issue that I feel is even more critical. We may be failing our teens in what we are feeding them physically, but I have to wonder, what are feeding them spiritually?

When I enter a bookstore or library and browse the Teen/Young Adult section, I see one predominant theme…darkness. I see books about vampires, werewolves and other creatures of the night. I see books about teen sexuality and suicide. When I open the newspaper and see the movies that are being marketed to our adolescents, I see more of the same. When visiting the videogame section, I see titles full of violence and sex, marketed as fun and games. If I dare to turn on the television during prime time (which I rarely do!), there are TV shows full of teens in immoral relationships, drinking and making foolish choices. And we wonder why the teen pregnancy rate is so high, or why so many teens commit suicide each year, or why so many are killed in drunk driving accidents.

Did you know that the word teenager has only truly been in use since just after World War II? Before that time, there were two classes of people—adults, and children. You were either one or the other. When you were no longer a child, you were an adult (a young one, no doubt, but still an adult). When you were a child, you were being trained to be one thing…an adult, capable of providing for a family or running a home. There was no such thing as the long years of adolescence (which social scientists now say are sometimes lasting even into the 30’s), where you weren’t expected to be productive or make wise choices. Young people did not spend hours playing violent games or reading material containing dark and ungodly images. Instead, they worked, studied and were taught by their parents how to become adults. Of course, they had fun, too, but fun was not their primary reason for living.

In our house, we try to raise young adults, and not teenagers. While many look on us as odd, or overprotective, you will not find the latest vampire books being consumed in our house, nor will we be attending the latest teen culture movies. We also try to avoid treating our children as “teenagers”. Our oldest child, our sixteen-year old daughter, refers to herself as a young adult. She has a job, works hard at her studies, and plans for her future…as an adult. She helps me around the house and chooses carefully what reading material and movies she places in her mind. We try to give her a steady diet of Christian worldview, godly influence (by godly people, mostly adults) and to teach her what she needs to know to be an adult who can have great influence for Christ.

What are you feeding the children in your house? Are you carefully choosing what goes into their hearts and their minds? Are you giving them deep spiritual truths to sustain them as they become adults? Are you growing young adults…or just teenagers?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's Time for a Vacation!

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about vacations. Maybe it’s the cold, gloomy weather or the long stretch until spring arrives. Maybe it’s that I’m looking at my children growing up before my eyes and wondering how many more family trips we’ll manage before our oldest flies out of the nest. Possibly it’s the incredible Christmas gift given to me by my awesome husband, who sorted, edited, printed and placed into beautiful albums ten years of family photos, which included many pictures of fun family trips. Whatever the reason, vacation is on my brain. I’m longing for sand, palm trees and sunshine and time away from the hectic freeway that we call life in the Metzger household.

Vacations are something that I hold very dear. I grew up with a father who placed paramount importance on taking his family to different places to enjoy time together “away from it all”. While we did not have a great deal of money, somehow he always managed to make it happen for us. Our trips weren’t always glamorous, but they were definitely memorable. They usually involved a road trip, a cabin and lots of time spent playing games, swimming and exploring new places. I remember trips to places such as Hard Labor Creek, Georgia (my favorite, believe it or not!); Branson, Missouri; DisneyWorld; Cape Cod; Yellowstone National Park; and many places up and down the East Coast (during the 3 years we lived in Connecticut). We saw historical monuments, beautiful scenery and man-made theme parks. Often we went with dear friends; sometimes it was just the four of us. The one thing that these trips all had in common was this: uninterrupted togetherness. We played together, laughed together, ate together and explored together. These times are some of my most treasured memories of my childhood and the end result of these trips (whether to places near or far) was a family closeness that I now know was far from ordinary.

When my husband and I first started a family, one of the things we agreed upon early on was that we wanted to make vacations a priority. It was worth sacrificing other things to make sure that we made these family times happen and happen as often as possible. We’ve taken our children to places such as California, Florida, Arizona, and even Hawaii (which definitely required the saving of our pennies!) and once or twice even “vacationed at home” when money was tight. It thrills my heart to hear my children relate stories of our various trips, usually predicated by “Remember when…?” While sitting at lunch with my kids the other day, we began the game of “remember when?” They reminisced about trips to Legoland and Disneyland, climbing rocks in Arches National Park, sunny afternoons on the beaches of Kauai, and even the not-so-wonderful-but-definitely-memorable trip to California that ended up with Noah in the hospital with a severe asthma attack. They laughed and told story after story and I felt my heart swell with mixed emotions. It brought me so much joy to hear their special memories and so much sadness to feel the end of such times drawing near. I made sure to impart the hope that they would continue such traditions with their own children someday.

What makes these times so special? Is it the location, or the lodging, or even the amount of money spent? I don’t think so. While we’ve been blessed to take some pretty nice trips with our kids, I know that what really counts here is the uninterrupted family time. It is so wonderful to be away from the ringing telephone, the demanding schedules and the constant distraction from what is important. To have an entire block of time where your only commitment is to spend time enjoying each other is a slice of heaven (well, most of the time anyway!). Conversations are held that might not happen at home. Silliness and laughter occur and siblings discover the joy of playing with each other and with Mom and Dad. Kids are given undivided attention and love, which they all crave so desperately. Dad is able to disconnect from work worries and just play. Mom can leave behind the mountains of laundry and household tasks that demand her attention at home. In our overscheduled and hectic lives, family vacations may not be a luxury, but a necessity. It seems we’ve forgotten how to enjoy each other. My son recently overheard a conversation in a store where one woman said to another, “How can you stand to take a vacation with your family every year? That would be terrible!” The other woman replied, “Yeah, it’s really hard, but we live through it.” How sad is it that we view family vacation as something to “live through” instead of enjoy?

In our house, vacations are long-anticipated and oft-remembered. I pray that when my children are grown and have families of their own that they will make family vacations a priority, too. The benefits of this time together will far outweigh the sacrifices necessary to make a vacation possible. It isn’t about money…it’s about time. So now, please excuse me…I think I’ll go work on planning our next vacation.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Simple, But Profound

I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions. There have been many years that I have vowed to lose weight, exercise more, or get up earlier, and by the end of January, I have already failed at those resolutions. This year, however, I have one resolution that I feel that God has given me to work on. It’s simple, but profound. A few months ago, I was struck by a verse in I Thessalonians 5:20-21: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” As I pondered this verse, I thought about what that meant in my everyday life. It means I should carefully think about everything that I do, and everything that I choose to bring into my home to see if it meets God’s standards. If it does, then I should hold on tightly. If it doesn’t, I should flee from that thing. So what is my simple but profound resolution? It can be summed up in one word: THINK.

I have lately been convicted that what ails us most as Christians and as Christian families is that we fail to think…we just aimlessly follow whatever the world throws at us and never pause to consider the impact those choices might have on our families or on others around us. The latest movie craze? We’re there, buying tickets with everyone else, no matter what the topic. After all, the effects are great, the stars are unbelievable and everybody else is watching, so why not? The hottest books? We’re pre-ordering with the best of them, anxiously awaiting a story to draw us in and help us to escape the real world for a few hours. The latest fashions? We let our daughters wear them without concern for how the boys are viewing them and treating them as a result. In fact, maybe we’re even wearing them ourselves, whether or not they are modest…after all, they make us look good, right? How about the latest video game? Okay, so it’s rated “T” or “M” for violence and gore, but it’s not real, right? It won’t hurt that little boy who is watching over your shoulder, will it?

I recently had someone ask me in deep anguish over a hurt inflicted by the choices of other Christians, “Are Christians just lemmings who don’t think things through?” This echoed in my brain and my heart over the next few days as I wrestled with her question. I desperately don’t want this to be true in my own life. I want to grab hold of that verse in I Thessalonians and be able to say that I used wisdom and discernment instead of blindly following the world over the cliff of destruction. Even more, I want to know that I made wise choices where my children are concerned, and that I didn’t lead THEM into a life of sin and bad choices. So my goal for this next year is this: I want to think carefully about what we choose to participate in, whether it is movies or books or video games, how we dress or how we talk or even how we treat other people. I don’t want to just “follow the crowd” but instead I want to follow my Lord. I want to listen carefully to his voice and choose the paths that will lead my children to purity and peace.

Over the last few years, God has slowly brought us to a place where we have realized that some of our choices needed to change. We no longer watch many movies that we would have watched a few years ago. We have cleaned books out of our bookshelves, realizing that they are inappropriate reading material for Christians and a bad example for our children. We guard our family time much more carefully and are very purposeful about spiritually training our children. We watch little to no television in our house and refuse to have cable because of the vast amount of ungodly and inappropriate matter offered up for viewing even to young children. We have tried to replace worldly movies and shows with more wholesome viewing matter, especially movies that have a message that we can discuss with our children. We have tried to discuss worldview a great deal with our children, so they are aware that everything they read or watch has a worldview and an influence on their thinking. We use the newspaper to help them recognize hidden agendas and worldviews that are opposed to a biblical worldview.

Have we arrived? Unfortunately, no…we have a long way to go. I’m certain God has only begun to make us aware of the things we need to change. But the more we ask for His wisdom and discernment, the more He provides and the more our eyes are opened. It isn’t easy, by any means, for our family’s choices have sometimes made us unpopular or misunderstood and have even been viewed as judgmental. It’s sometimes hard to give up books or movies that I previously loved, and to admit that maybe I was deceived. It’s difficult to look back and feel ashamed of choices that I made, knowing that they may have had an impact on my children, or on others around me. But when we humbly repent and ask God to change us, He does. And the fruit of an undivided heart is beautiful indeed.

I don’t write this blog to condemn anyone reading it or to point fingers at anyone and make them feel guilty. My only intent is to share what God has placed on my heart this year and to hope to inspire you to join with me in my new resolve: to THINK before I accept anything into my heart or my home. Is it something that is wholesome and good? Then let’s grab hold with both hands and never let go. Is it harmful, or even just questionable? Then let’s turn our backs and refuse to take part. Just imagine the impact we could have on our children, our homes and our world if we just took this seriously…it’s simple, but profound.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thessalonians 5:23

“To live as though we had all the same values as the world would betray [Jesus]” –John Piper

Friday, January 15, 2010

Worldview Everywhere

The following blog was written by my ten-year-old daughter, Lexi...

Recently, I was watching a movie called, “Barbie and the Three Musketeers.” It’s all about how these four girls want to be musketeers. Everyone doubts they can do it. They believe they can because they think females have just as much power as males. However, the Bible says that men should be the head of the household. In the movie, there’s a plot to kill the prince. In the end, they’re out on the roof battling. The prince has no weapons when being attacked. Just then, the girl comes out and finishes off the bad guy. She defends the prince, who is just standing there, completely defenseless.

Many girls out there are watching this movie thinking they can dominate. SO many girls grow up and get married, still thinking they can take control. This could lead to a relationship when both husband and wife are controlling. I’m afraid to say that there is worldview everywhere. These movies are meant for younger girls. Most of these young girls are quite impressionable. I’m not saying all movies are bad, I’m just saying be careful. There can be worldview anywhere, even where you least expect it.