The Flower of My Youth

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I planted mint, I planted sage, 

I even planted rue,

But the fairest one I planted was the flower of my youth.

Yes, the fairest one I planted was the flower of my youth.

–Lithuanian folk song

I wish you could hear the tune, lilting and carefree. I heard it first in a compilation of children’s songs I played to amuse my children while I worked. Somewhere, slogging through a week’s worth of laundry with four children running circles around me, having just left my twenties behind, the song brought the wisdom of a Lithuanian granny into my life.

I could see her in my mind’s eye while I yanked up stubborn weeds. She ruminates while she sits outside the sun-bathed front of her ancient house, kerchiefed, shelling peas, a small garden of herbs by the front door. She remembers when her waist was tiny and her hair brown–when her husband brought her to this very house. They had nothing–only a few farm implements, some kitchen necessities and a few precious linens embroidered with love from her mama and aunties. He would leave every day to fight for their living and she tried to make what he earned last. And while the baby napped, though she ached with fatigue, she planted her garden. Everything she grew helped.

Her garden is still there. The babies have grown. The herbs still grow, a bower of blossoms. But she sees a plant unlike any other there too, waving its gentle limbs, full of leaves and heavy with flowers. It is invisible but everything else exists because she tenderly laid it in the soft earth of this place. The flower of her youth is here, roots stretching down for fifty years now. She devoted her best, strongest and most beautiful days to this a small, ignominious place. Yes, this flower is the fairest one of all.

She helped me. And she is right. I am fifteen years past the birth of my fourth and last child. My children are all taller than me, growing strong and brave and beautiful.

And I’m in the same little house. But it has changed over the years. Hands that were twenty planted and painted. The rose bush is stretching higher. Its blossoms did not really begin to grow two weeks ago. It is the work of years.

Dear sisters, years count. If your feeling tired, just remember that. Keep on in faithfulness to your calling or to your vows. Do not despise the day of small things (Zech 4:9)… because, in actuality, there are no small things.

All our decisions grow.

Elizabeth Hiett

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A New School Year…A New Chance to Show Your Love…and Courage

Ok. I know it’s still July, technically. But it might as well be August. Every mom can sense the oncoming juggernaut of the new school year like the Native American could tell the White-Man’s train was coming when it was miles from view. What happened to school in September? What happened to Gumby and Pokey? Lost forever.

This school year I will be holding ground for the kingdom of God here in my neighborhood.  You will be too. Your little spot of earth, your home, your family, is where God has strategically placed you for the furthering of His kingdom. Every lesson faithfully done, every meal cooked, every load of laundry washed and folded is a valiant stroke against apathy, laziness, disorderliness, and essentially against selfishness. Selfishness makes an ugly home, a home that does not honor God nor serve His purposes–except maybe to show what home should NOT be like. When we do what we ought to as mothers and fathers we are winning for God’s kingdom and above all we are showing our love for God.  Christ Himself said the same thing in His own way, “ but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:31) Our work is our chance to show God our love! Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Right now I have boxes of next year’s curriculum stacked in the hallway and last year’s Spanish to grade. I still have all the housework to oversee and a drama program to help run. The yard needs constant care and every new movie needs to be vetted. Kids need to be corrected, encouraged, and held to task. It’s a big job I’m doing on a smallish lot in big city. But it’s my spot. The ground God expects me, with His grace, to hold for Him.

And I want to–to show my love for Him.

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:21

Who’s Kid Are You?

 “Are those awful kids yours?” One time I had someone say to me that my kids were the worst ones they had seen in 70 years of their lives. Seriously. Really. No kidding. The infraction: running around at John’s Incredible Pizza. Granted, they were running in the dining area….more like trotting and I was just a little too tired to scold. Besides with Sponge Bob blaring on the T.V. screens (notice plural) I figured how much of a nuisance could four happy kids be? In my heart, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have tolerated them out of their seats on a regular visit to a restaurant–but today I was out with other moms and, well, their kids were “trotting around” too. Peer pressure. Apparently, an elderly mother-daughter combo had decided to luncheon at John’s Playground of Chaos. On my way to take the kids to play in the game room the eldest woman stopped me and gave me a piece of her mind.

I mumbled a word of apology…and felt thoroughly humiliated. My kids? I was more used to people stopping me and telling me how GOOD they were. I’ve even had complete strangers ask me for parenting advice! Well! As a walked away from them I mumbled less charitable retorts I wasn’t brave enough to say to their faces. Then the Holy Spirit started working on me.

In the end, I returned to the ladies and issued a more sincere apology with the very true confession that it had been against my better judgment to let run about. Their response was much more gracious than before. The elder lady did admit that she noticed how quickly my children obeyed me when I told them to sit down…so I must not be all that bad as a mom. Ouch. But, I thought to myself, at least if she shows up at the Bible study I am leading, I can look her in the eye. Small price to pay.

But what if someone asked whose kid I was? What would my behavior indicate? In 1 Samuel 17, David and Goliath have their epic battle with David showing himself brave, full of faith, and innovative. King Saul asked his men, “Whose son is that?” Saul was more interested in knowing who David’s dad was then in David’s own name initially. I hope that as I live my life, and yes, raise my kids, that I am brave enough, faithful enough, humble enough, and even crazy enough to make someone ask the same question. “Whose kid is that?”  and have their answer be, “Oh, she’s just God’s kid.”

Crazy-Making

Who needs the zoo? Grocery shopping is all you really need to do if you are hoping to observe unique and unusual sights. As a mom, I shop regularly so I am often treated with delightful exhibitions of parent-child interactions that truly bewilder, amuse, and provide food for thought.

My kids are not grown so I hesitate to critique others but I just can’t resist wondering what’s going to happen to some of these children I see– ones with indulgent parents who don’t tell their children to sit in the cart, not open food containers before they pay for them, or use full sentences to express their desires rather than grunts or yells. It’s crazy–or crazy-making.

Crazy-making is a term used in counseling to describe what happens when someone who has been wronged is led to believe by the actions and denial of those around them that the wrong didn’t actually happen. Even though common sense says they were wronged, the people around them pretend that it isn’t a problem and the individual wronged begins to doubt their perception of reality–they start to feel like they are crazy. Hence the term, crazy-making.

What are these children without boundaries learning? Their parents are creating a false reality for them. They live in a world where you stand in the cart if you want to, you eat whatever you want when you want to, and you yell for what you want and someone else will try their best to figure our what you are saying. Their whole reality is really a lie. There ARE rules and there IS such a thing as private property. I suppose they will learn these lessons somewhere but they won’t have many friends until they do–neither will they be very happy until they understand these truths. So the irony is that these indulgent parents are really being selfish…putting off the discomfort of challenging their children’s bad behavior and giving them a false sense of reality.

I suppose the most frightful possibility is that they won’t learn these lessons. They won’t learn to sit still–so they will fall behind academically or be mis-diagnosed with some developmental delay. They won’t learn to respect others and their property so they will be unpopular with other children. And as an adult? What do we call someone who acts according to a false reality? Foolish at best, crazy at worst. Crazy in the making.

The Day That Finally Came

I knew this day would come. I thought about it ten years ago when we decided to homeschool our oldest. It took ten years to happen but happen it did. The New Year’s paper declared it to the world: gay-lesbian-transsexual-bisexual education is officially in California school systems at last. To some it is a cherished victory, to others it means finally admitting that privately educating their children is now a must. It is also the mother of all discipleship opportunities.

Historically, the church in America has been a champion of education. Schools and universities in early America rose almost as fast as the corn grew. The importance of having a hand in the education of its citizens was not lost on the Church. Somehow I have to wonder where that enthusiasm went. By the time it came for us to look at education opportunities for our own children only three options existed. Fearsomely expensive private education was one–high enough to force most mothers trying to stay home with their children back into the workforce. The public education system was another–a place of undoubted opportunity but also littered with land mines many parents wonder if their kids can navigate around–drug use, sexual experimentation of all sorts, a God-less worldview, etc. And behind door #3? Homeschooling. Homeschooling? A private education for a fraction of the cost–in money. In time, in love, in patience, the cost is high. We believed that a mother at home was ultimately more important than anything so we chose homeschooling. I thank the Lord that we could.

But what about those who can’t? What about parents who are sick or alone? What about the unemployed or the underemployed? What about those in a dysfunctional marriage or with a substance-addicted spouse. Or the homeless? Should a Christian education be only for the wealthy and the healthy? How many kids will stay in the government school system simply because a parent can’t get them out? Why should these children not by discipled? Because that’s what Christian education really is–teaching someone over time to see the world like Christ does and to act within it as He desires. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But anytime someone helps someone who needs help it is always two things: a ministry and a sacrifice.

So here’s my challenge to Christian leaders–guys with vision who champion causes that further the proclamation of Christ and the reconciliation of souls to Him. What can we do as a church about these parents who need help?  What five loaves and two fishes can we offer to the Lord for Him to bless for the feeding of many? Many parents will be looking for options. Can the Church be one?

“X” Marks the Spot

“X” marks the spot. The spot where you are. The perfect spot for you. The spot He has planned for you to be in. I learned that the way I so often learn new things…after descending to the dumps where God never fails to shine a light to help me.

After the holidays there is always a let down of some sort for me. After the family leaves and the pretty packages are exchanged for a few new piles of stuff to organize, the new year looks daunting and gray like the fog that envelops our neighborhoods in the early morning. The challenges of the new year come to the forefront of my mind and I survey my surroundings and resources with a critical eye. That dastardly spot on the carpet that will not come out laughs at me knowing that the family budget allows him at least one more year in my house. Lesson plan books lay waiting for me to fill in their blank squares and I feel more than a little overwhelmed knowing that four growing children depend on me to chart a course for their spring. Couple that with the ever encroaching realization that my daughter will be graduating in two short years, the pressure to make the most of these precious moments gets to me. I usher in the new year shedding tears of frustration with the inadequacies of myself and discontent with my resources. It’s this stinkin’ thinkin’ that got me in the dumps. Acts 17 got me out!

Here’s a great thought for the new year. God has preplanned your environment especially for you. Yes. Your little house crammed with kids, your quiet house without them, your too-small budget, your city, even the time in which you walk across this stage called Life. He didn’t plan it that way so you would have a chance to do something awesome…He did it with one goal in mind. To have you meet Him. Pretty amazing! In Acts 17 Paul shares that God ” made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” And isn’t that what should happen? When we face our weaknesses and the shortcomings in our environment–it’s really a chance to meet God and get to know Him better. How blessed we are that God desires us and wants us to find Him! So this year, let’s not yield to frustration with where we are and what we have, but seek God and invite Him into our lives. By the end of the year, we’ll know Him better and be stronger in 0ur faith because of it!

Dad-Hero Times Three

Is it rude to say, “My dad is cooler than yours”? I suppose I could say, “My dad’s the best” and it would sound better. Either way, I’m pretty sure my pop is tops. Let me tell you why he is so awesome.

You see, my dad gave me life three times. Yes. He’s triple cool. First of all, he gave me, with mom’s help, my physical life. He always wanted a large family and it feels neat to have been the first child he ever had. Like any first-time parent, I’m sure my arrival was a watershed event for him. But he got more than he anticipated with me. I came with a few problems—some pretty glaring ones.

In the days before ultrasound, parents couldn’t prepare themselves for a child with birth defects. It must have been shocking experience. In my case, I came with a cleft lip and palate—a defect right in the middle of my face—the first thing every parent longs to see of their child’s. At some point, soon afterwards, my parents were approached with the option of relinquishment. They could send me “somewhere” if they wanted to. That’s when dad gave me life a second time. He kept me. I’m so glad. He gave me love and a home and a lot few er issues to deal with.

The last life he gave me was the best of all. In his own relentless search for truth, he introduced me to my Lord Jesus Christ. Through him I found my Eternal Father and salvation. He put me in the path of truth and, by the grace of God, my heart comprehended it.

Dad, you are a life-shaper as surely as Michelangelo carved the David. The stonework of my very self was formed by your decisions. You are my hero and now everyone can see why.