Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lord, Where are My Keys?

Ten o’clock Sunday morning, and we were ready to head out the door. We were on schedule to arrive 15 minutes early to church—unusual for us, on its own, and even more unusual considering I had singlehandedly gotten four children and myself ready for church. Not just “average-day” ready but looking nice! 

My husband was playing guitar on the praise team for the first time at our church, and I was looking forward to hearing him play.

“Let’s go,” I announced.  “Where are the keys? Who took the keys?”

No answer. Repeated a little more loudly and frantically this time, and the next, and the next… Finally, the culprit confessed (or his brothers confessed for him).

“Where did you go with the keys?” I asked, with increasing inflation in my voice (obviously not as calmly as I would have liked, if I could do it over).

“Outside, in the garage, and downstairs,” he responded.

Lots of ground to cover there.

Out I went to search, while urging the troops to come search with me. I wish I could say I acted like a loving coach motivating them to action, but it was more like a stressed-out mom on a rant about why we have rules that kids do not take keys, why we don’t lose keys, how we won’t be going anywhere until we find the keys, how we’ll probably be missing church and hearing Dad play guitar, and how we spent all that time getting ready and it was all a waste, since someone decided to run off with the keys and lose them.

We looked through the garage. Under and over things and in the minivan. We searched outside, around the house, the patio furniture, in the grass, in the window wells for the basement, and around again (I think I even checked in the mailbox). We searched downstairs. I searched the main floor and upstairs for good measure. No luck anywhere.

We spent the better part of 45 minutes looking. (The “better part” is an interesting phrase, since no part of those 45 minutes were in no way “better” than how I could otherwise be spending them.) I encouraged my son to pray and ask Jesus to help us find the keys. Crying, he said, “I did pray, but He’s not helping me, because I can’t…[out-of-control crying] find…the…keeeeyyyyyys [more out-of-control crying].”

My son was crying so hard that he summoned the attention of a neighbor, who came out to look at why this boy was wailing uncontrollably. Partly it was because he felt sad for losing the keys, but mainly it was because his sensitive spirit couldn’t stand that his mom was upset at what he thought was him, but was really the situation (good luck explaining that to a five-year old).

Finally, I gave up and sent everyone to their room. “If we aren’t going to church,” I said, “you aren’t playing” (in case it was a con to get out of going).

I went outside to read my Bible, reflect, and pray.

Here’s what I was thinking about: 
  • Just because I wasn’t spending those hours in church on Sunday morning didn’t mean I couldn’t worship God
  • When you don’t get to use your time the way you thought you were going to use your time, how do you respond?
  • What was God trying to show me through this?
  • If I was upset that we were dressed up and looking nice but with nowhere to go (and no way to get there), is this not pride?
  • If I was upset that I had spent my time getting everyone ready, which seemed to be a waste of time, was this not a trivial thing to stew about?
I’m glad that even in my frustration and anger, God gave me the grace to hold my tongue. I wanted to go into a tirade about why they are never, ever to take my keys. The accusation--“because you’re not responsible”--was wanting to leave my lips. But God’s mercy and grace helped me to picture what that would do to my child’s spirit. I remember what it felt like to receive stinging comments as a child.  Luckily, I refrained.

The Lord brought to mind the parable of the woman who searches her house for her lost silver coin. It’s in Luke chapter 15, along with a parable of the shepherd who loses one sheep out of a 100 and searches for it, as well as the parable of the prodigal son.

My sons came up from their time-out, and I read them these parables. We discussed how, even though we had lost our keys, it is more important that our souls are not “lost”, that we find Jesus, and help others find Him, too, and that even someday, if we get “lost” from Him, that we—like the prodigal son—find our way back.

Right at that very moment, my son exclaimed, “Mom! The keys!”

They were sitting on top of the barbecue grill right next to me. I can’t tell you how many times I had looked on and around the grill. It was as though the Lord had blinded my eyes to the keys the whole morning, up until that moment.

Why? I don’t know. Perhaps there would have been an accident on the way to church. Perhaps there was a lesson I needed to learn. Perhaps it was a lesson one of my children needed to learn. Perhaps the story is something someone needs to be encouraged by. I don’t know.

I just know it was ok with God that we weren’t in church that Sunday morning, because He kept us home.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What's On My Floors Could Be the Death of My Daughter

My three sons have learned a new phrase in the past few weeks:

Choking hazard.

A curious, crawling eight-month old baby loves to find things and put them into her mouth--things that I might miss, that the boys lazily leave lying around. Things like candy wrappers, coins, band-aid peels. Things that could easily cause a baby to choke.

We've had a few incidents.

The first involved the peel from the back of a band-aid. I didn't know one of the boys had gotten a band-aid, unwrapped it, and left the wrappers on the floor. Little Lauren was crawling around the kitchen, and suddenly, I heard her gagging. Nothing puts more panic in the heart of a momma than to see her baby's face turning red as she's gagging and struggling to get air.

I turned her over my leg, thumped on her back several times, and prayed. Fortunately, a few days before, I had asked my husband what you're supposed to do if an infant is choking on something, if turning them over and thumping them on the back doesn't help. He reminded me that you're supposed to look in the mouth and finger sweep the item out if you can see it or feel it.

That's when I could see the band-aid peel stuck far back on the roof of her mouth, going down her esophagus.  I prayed that I could quickly get it out, without pushing it down further.

Doing this on a frantic baby is about as easy as it would be on a cat. It was sight unseen, but it worked. The wrapper came out.

It took all day for my nerves to calm down.

Since then, we've had another scare with another kind of wrapper or piece of construction paper(I can't remember what it was; I only remember the gagging and turning red). Just today, I had to fish a Hershey's kiss foil wrapper out of her mouth.

While extremely scary, these ordeals have been a great kick in the pants for the boys to learn better habits. They cannot be so lazy, for lack of a better word, to just peel something and let the wrapper drop and lay. They cannot take coins out of their piggy banks and leave them on the floor. Everyone must pay super close attention to what is on the floor and remove anything that could be a choking hazard.

As for me, I need to diligently sweep the kitchen and vacuum other rooms, watching closely for little items that may not be a big deal normally but are a huge deal with a baby. 

Looking on the bright side, having a baby can be a huge motivator to step up one's home management.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Home-SCHOOL or HOME-school?

Homeschooling is about so much more than the academics. Certainly, there are those, but more broadly, one of the reasons families choose homeschooling over traditional public or private schooling is for the opportunity to be together all day. You really get to know your kids and have plenty of opportunities to teach and train their character.

At the start of this week, I envisioned such a fabulous Monday. I ordered a new homeschool curriculum book (KONOS Volume 1--character-driven unit studies), and I had spent time Sunday planning out what we'd study and some fun activities to go along with it.  The day ahead held so much potential.

But it totally flopped.

My kids just like the spring-like weather too much to stay inside. From the time they woke up, they were outside (even in their jammies). Jump on the trampoline; come in and eat breakfast; go back out and ride scooters around the house; come in and get dressed; go back out...

I decided I could work with this. It's not important where they do their work, as long as it gets done, right? So I brought handwriting and phonics pages out to the trampoline along with a pencil. I told my son he could work on it outside.

Several minutes later, I checked on him. The pages were blank. "My pencil led broke, Mom, so I couldn't do it."

This was just the tip of the iceberg. When I called this son in for his reading (or even to listen to me reading to him some of the books I had picked out about birds, which is what we were supposed to be studying), he seemed to be deaf. The hysterical thing is this first unit focused on ATTENTIVENESS. They were being attentive alright, but not to their studies--to their scooters, to the trampoline, to the tent Dad had set up in the yard for them to play in, anything but what I wanted them to be attentive to.

Suffice it to say I felt totally discouraged. We had a big talk when my husband got home, and I shared that homeschooling is not going to work if they won't cooperate with the schooling part. 

Later that night, I flipped through some books, searching for encouragement and advice. In I Saw the Angel in the Marble, I found a helpful perspective. You can focus on the SCHOOL part of homeschooling, or you can focus on the HOME part of it. Essentially what the Davis' were saying is--if you believe God has called you to keep your children home as opposed to sending them away to school for the majority of the day, then relationships--learning to live together as a family--becomes a higher priority than academics.

Monday, the academics didn't happen the way I originally pictured. The joyful, cooperative spirit for studies was absent from one of my sons. But...we managed to accomplish most of it anyway, just far below my ideals for a bright, sunny, warm-fuzzy day of learning together.

The more important thing, though, is we had a huge talk about character. Even if the day had been worthless on a scholarly scale, a lot of learning happened after all. HOME-school learning, learning for life.

One other note...

It was helpful for me to think about Jesus' education (or anyone's education years ago). As the Son of God, being in the exact nature as God, He is the source of all wisdom. Do you think Jesus as a boy grew up going to the Nazareth one-room schoolhouse? Or did He learn everything He needed to know as a man in the context of day-to-day life, living with His family and in His community? (A theological note: He knew everything anyway, of course!) My understanding is that boys in biblical times would receive tutoring in their adolescent years. But their early years? Probably spent with their families, learning to live and work.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that education has not always looked the way it looks in modern culture. And that's ok.

"Families are returning to that road whose name is Life As It Was Intented To Be."
"...your child was born with all the talents, giftings, and callings put into him or her since the foundation of the world. Find out what these are and let your child become truly good at what you find."--Chris and Ellyn Davis, I Saw the Angel in the Marble

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Monday, April 9, 2012

The Big Meltdown

“Cook for two minutes, turn over, and microwave for two minutes more,” read the instructions on the bag of chicken tenders. Easy enough. A multi-tasking mom, I ran to the bathroom while the chicken was warming in the microwave and came back to a kitchen filling with smoke. Looking around, I didn't see anything on fire. Was there an electrical fire behind the wall that I couldn't see? Then I remembered the chicken in the microwave.

I found charred chicken tenders and a plastic plate with a hole completely melted through. All in two minutes. Impressive, even for our out-dated '90's microwave.

Then it hit me: this was the perfect picture of my day. I was just a few minutes away from my own meltdown, but, unlike the microwave, in my attempt to be a better mom, I was fighting hard against it...

Continue reading at The Better Mom, where I am guest posting today on "The Big Meltdown."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Growing in Patience

Update: Jessica, congratulations! You won the drawing for the 100 Days of Blessing devotional book. Please email me your address (cheryl@momsinneedofmercy.com), and I will order that for you.
This weekend, we celebrated Easter. The Resurrection offers tremendous joy and hope for believers in Christ, as we know: 1) Christ is who He says He is--the Son of God, 2) what He said is true, and 3) He overcame sin and death and gives us the power to do the same. We know we will live forever with Christ and loved ones in a beautiful place after this life is over.

The Resurrection also provides hope and joy for us as mothers.

"Do you need more of God's power in your life? Do you need more of His power to help you mother each day? I have wonderful news for you. As you allow Him, God's power is working in you mightily. Not ordinary power, but the dunamis power of God, the power of God which releases miracles. It is the dunamis power of God which was poured out upon the disciples when they received the Holy Spirit to take the Gospel to the uttermost part of the earth. This is where we get the word dynamite--explosive power!...

Do you have trouble being patient? Are you plagued with anger? You do not have to be defeated any longer. Jesus died on the cross to give you the victory. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did not die in vain. He died to not only save you from your sin, but to deliver you from your 'self' nature and to change you into the image of His Son. His dunamis power is working in you mightily to reveal God's nature and character in you and through you--to your husband, your children and to the people you associate with in your life.

Let Him work in you mightily. Jesus' blood has been shed to give you a new life. You can have patience because Christ lives in you and He is patient! You can have long-suffering, because Christ in you is longsuffering. He does not fly off the handle! He does not scream and shout! He has long patience and forbearance. And His wonderful life is living in you!...

Not only is Christ living His patient and longsuffering nature in you, but He enables you to do it with joy and thankfulness. Christ in you is joy. In the flesh, you live in defeat, but in Christ, you can bear your burdens with joy. You can put up with those who would naturally drive you mad. You can be patient with your children. You can endure as the power of God works in you mightily!"--Nancy Campbell, 100 Days of Blessing: Devotions for Wives and Mothers
Here are some of my favorite posts that share some practical ideas for growing in patience:
(I realize there are several here. I encourage you to read through them this week as you have extra time. I hope they will bless you.) 
Because I have been so blessed by Nancy Campbell's devotional book, I would like you to be encouraged by it, too. As an Easter gift, I will order a copy for one of my readers. Please leave a comment on this post if you would like to be entered. The winner will be posted next Monday.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Replacing "I Can't" with "I Can"

"Mommy, will you build a castle tower with me?" asked my little three-year old buddy.

"I can't right now," I was about to say, but I stopped myself. Why couldn't I? What was I about to do? Putz around the house and look for stuff to pick up? Load dishes into the dishwasher? Throw laundry in the wash? Important tasks, yes, when it comes to keeping our home running smoothly, but so important that I couldn't sit on the floor and build a castle tower with my son?  

On the heels of my friend's post about playing with our kids, I resolved to say, "I can't" less and "I can" more.

We sat on the floor with the instruction booklet, and we built the castle out of blocks. It really didn't take that long (maybe 15 minutes), and it was actually quite fun. The laundry didn't mind waiting. My son treasured his little castle that he built with Mom (until baby sister crawled over and knocked it down).

Yesterday, after the boys woke their baby sister up from her nap too soon, I was rather frustrated. "Will you read me this story, Mommy?" one asked. Feeling a little grouchy, I was about to respond, "I can't right now; let's go downstairs." But I stopped myself and tried the "I can" challenge.

We all curled up on the bed with pillows piled all around, cuddled up together, laid with heads touching and read Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?

I realized then that it will be the "I can" moments that reward us with the sweetest memories of motherhood. We can so easily miss out on them with two seemingly simple words, "I can't." Yet, they'll rob us of the joy we could experience in everyday moments at home if we resolved to say "I can" more often.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13).

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