Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Molly and her big...

We are in our second week of homeschooling and I am loving it. If I'm completely honest, I probably love it way more than Pearl and Darla do. My sister and I have worked it out so that I have her 1st grader and my kindergartener about 3 times a week for a couple hours. During those hours the girls get to do work together in History, Reading, Writing, and Science. My boys are learning to adjust (and I have stocked up on play-doh, built sweet train tracks, and designated them "helpers" for school time).

There are definitely moments already where I've wondered if it's worth the hassle. As I have two young boys hanging on my legs, piles of laundry undone, books strewn over the kitchen table, and soon I'm wiping a toddler on the toilet while calling out spelling words, I think there are probably better ways to hang on to my sanity.

But then there was Wednesday. The girls (and my boys) learned about carnivores and herbivores. We looked up some links that led us to videos of leopards. All the kids were fixated, firing questions away about the animals, answering my questions, and loving science.

Then the girls were snuggled up on the couch reading to each other as I reheated (for the fifth time) my cup of coffee. They read the sentence, "Molly had a big hat, but..." and for some reason they thought it said, "Molly had a big, hot butt."
I heard giggles...and giggles...and then some snorting with the giggles. Pearl is much like her mother when she giggles- if it comes on strong, sincere and out of control the whole room catches it, too.
When I asked what was so funny Darla said with big eyes, "Oh mom! This book is about butts!" I said, "Darla I think they mean, 'but, then something else'".
"Oh no Mom. It says Molly had a big hot butt!"
Pearl couldn't stand it- she was doubled over with laughter.
I explained their misread but to no avail. Finally Darla said, "Pearl, we have to go to the next page or we'll never stop laughing!"
They did.
Pearl read the page perfectly.
Then Darla added, "AND...MOLLY HAD A BIG HOT BUTT!"
We were forced to commence reading for the day.

How great is it that I get to hear this stuff firsthand instead of over the dinner table after the fact? I either truly have the best job ever or I need to let my humor mature past 5 year old level.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

60 years and counting

An August highlight was celebrating my grandparent's (Pake and Beppe) 60th wedding anniversary. We had all the elements of a spectacular Tadema party: lip synching, dancing, making up songs to tease....I mean, honor... Pake and Beppe.
(Here are a few of my awesome cousins in a hilarious dance/song number:)

Tadema parties also consist of food (the best if Korean family members cook!), a lot of coffee, and powerful times of prayer and stories. This particular party had beautiful hymn singing into the night.
Volleyball is also a tradition...and it's remarkable we've all stayed close with how competitive it can get.
Here are a few of the great-grandkids. There are 39 and counting so this is a tiny representation. I would've loved a good picture with all the young ones there but it's not possible to keep them in one place at one time.
And the guests of honor, my Pake and Beppe (or "Her Majesty" as he affectionately calls her).
I love my Pake and Beppe together. They give me hope for marriage. It's not because they are perfect for each other. I cringe when I think of what it must have been like in their first years of marriage. He was an immigrant from the Netherlands who had survived WWII, but not without emotional scarring. She was a farm girl determined to be a missionary. They had cultural differences, language barriers, school yet to complete. He loves theology, knowledge, and preaching the Truth (with fire!). He comes from a conservative background and is at his best when he is bringing spiritual awakening to Reformed churches. She is all heart; a masters in counseling, artistic, and compassionate. She loves praying for physical healing and witnessing miracles.
They give me hope in marriage because they didn't rely on compatibility or how happy they felt. They delved into their responsibilities and life work with passion and excitement, not because of ease but because they loved God and loved people. It took them to Nigeria with small children. It took them to various churches and communities.
It led them to adopt two boys, to start a non-profit when everyone thought it was crazy and the money wasn't there, and to serve as an army chaplain.
After the weekend of celebrating God's faith I was blessed to have Pake and Beppe come over for coffee before leaving town. It was only my sister and a cousin (and our 10 small children playing in the yard) so we were able to hog Pake and Beppe and glean some wisdom. They shared about marriage; about God meeting the needs you wish your spouse would, how looking to Christ to be the perfect love frees you to enjoy companionship of a husband. They shared about their adoption journeys, with tears, as we watched Gage and Jude meld into the yard full of blondes. Pake told me stories about starting his faith-based ministry; how the people you think will give won't and the people you never expect always do. He shared about God's faithfulness time and time again when he was having his own doubts.
Sitting on the patio with hot coffee reminded me of Moses telling the Israelites, "take heed yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren." Deuteronomy 4:9

I am soaking it up. I realize that I am abundantly blessed to have grandparents who are not only alive but have a visible legacy of lives lived serving God. I see their 8 children, 46 grandchildren, 39+ great-grandchildren and am humbled to be part of the story. Not only do I experience their story, I get to hear from them what their eyes have seen.

And it gives me something to shoot for. If S. can keep up with me I'm aiming for at least 60 years.

Sink or Swim (Or...walk)

I was folding laundry while the kids watched a movie about Jesus' Miracles. It's one of these extremely cheesy, poorly animated movies where Jesus is embarrassingly white (along with the rest of the characters).

The story narrated was of Jesus walking on water to get to the disciples' boat. Dear, faith-filled, zealous Peter says, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
So He (Jesus) said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God." Matthew 14:28-33

I found myself in heaps of towels and shirts fighting tears at overly-white Jesus and Peter's situation. When that storm came on and the boat was being tossed around, the disciples had already seen some crazy stuff. They had just left five thousand people on land who had just been fed using only five loaves and two fish. Jesus had been healing people. John the Baptist had been beheaded for his faith. Things were heating up and the disciples were in the thick of it.

Peter is ready for more miracles. Bring it! He wants to be with Jesus and he's ready to throw himself overboard to prove it.

Then his feet hit the water. Reality sinks in..oh, and reality is causing him to sink. He has a "What was I thinking?!" moment and yells for Jesus to save him.

I used to think it was harsh for Jesus to say "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After all, Peter took the jump. He gave it a shot! He just buckled momentarily.
But as I watched Peter on the video in his fuzzy bathrobe with his animated scared face, I realized he should have had big faith because he had seen big things. He knew who Jesus was, he had experience that proved Jesus is faithful and able to do amazing works. Yet he still doubted. He sunk.

I relate to Peter's passion and willingness. I have flung myself from the boat loudly proclaiming I'll do anything to be closer to Christ and to share in His work. Then I have looked at the waves of instability and financial distress. I've heard voices saying, "What are you doing?!" and I've taken my eyes off the one I jumped to. The wind is too much. My feet sink. I'm wet, miserable, cold, and it takes me too long to shout, "Lord, save me!"

And I envy Peter because he got back in the boat. Jesus pulled him out of the water, proved Himself, caused the wind to cease, and dried off.
I am in a perpetual state of sinking, walking, sinking, walking and I would love to get out of the water! A boat? Anyone?!
I have these fantastic moments where I am walking on water and my eyes are locked with Christ's. I think nothing can drag me under and I am giddy at what will happen next.
Then I hear something, see something, remember something, that pulls. Suddenly I'm frantic, exhausted, treading water. In that moment I forget that I have seen great things. I know who Christ is, I've experienced that He is faithful and able to do great works. Yet I can't recall a single thing when I'm sinking.

I am learning to say, "Lord! Save me!" He pulls me up; through His Word, through groceries, through the faith of my husband, through words He speaks to me as I go to sleep. Up I come again... looking for that boat. For whatever reason He sees fit to keep me on the water awhile longer.
There are days I think, "Forget walking on water- it'll be a miracle if I make it out of bed!" Those days are often followed by miracles, progress, excitement at what the Lord is establishing in me.

The most challenging aspect of my life today? Is to scan the horizon for the face of my Savior instead of scanning for a stable, dry boat to scramble onto. I'm certain if He isn't yet providing a boat to dry off and rest in, we must have some face-to-face work still to do here in the water.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bloody & Bruised- Nothing Beats a Brother

The crying wasn't easing up while I was trying to get things put away in the kitchen. I relented and went into the living room. I found Hudson laying flat on his stomach crying and yelling. Everett had a small stool that goes with our drum set on top of Hudson. Everett was then laying across the drum stool, successfully pinning Hudson.

I told Everett to get off- wrestling is over. Hudson looked up and with a big cry, blood started trickling out of his mouth. I could clearly see a bottom tooth (which was not loose previously) hanging crooked.

I grabbed Hudson, a towel for the blood, and we sat together for awhile. He cried. And cried. And cried. I knew it must have hurt awful because he is not a crier. After half an hour he managed to tell me that it was the drum stool that hit him square in the face. Apparently Everett knew that wrestling his big older brother wasn't a fair fight and swung that thing clear around to nail Hudson in the face. To Everett's credit, he was apologetic. He thought it would be a good move and didn't quite understand the pain he caused.

Hudson wasn't about to pull the towel out of his mouth. He wouldn't take the tylenol and he wouldn't let me slip some ice into the towel. Finally, I snuggled him in bed before he fell asleep for naps. As he was relaxing he pulled out the towel to say something. I couldn't pay attention because all I could see was a new gaping hole in the top of his mouth and two now-crooked teeth on the bottom. Good night-I have a 4 year old hockey player!

By the time naps were over he was over the injuries. In fact, he is quite proud that he looks like a hockey player and is waiting for people to mistake him for a 6 yr. old. His gums are still blue and swollen three days later. Here we are at age 4: one tooth missing from running into a wall, one tooth loose from a "head" on collision with a cousin, one tooth missing from the Drum Stool Incident of 2010, and two loose teeth also from Drum Stool Incident of 2010. I pray this boy learns coordination (and self defense) before his permanent teeth come in!

After church on Sunday Hudson came running out, smiling toothless, holding a picture he colored of two men. He said, "Mom, look! I'm pretending this guy is me and this guy is Everett!"
The picture was labeled "Cain and Abel". Oh, sheesh.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

1300 square feet

Our house isn't big compared to our 2100 square foot farmhouse we used to own. It's also not small compared to the 860 square foot home we bought when we first married. Because we have the perfect chunk of yard, which happens to share our private neighborhood park and also has our very own basketball court, I am able to look past bright 70's countertops and light fixtures that still exist inside.

When it is sunny I never want to be anywhere else. We take our bikes around the private loop in our quiet neighborhood. The kids climb trees, swing, slide, and shove pea gravel into their pockets for me to find in the wash machine. S. and I use the phrase "crystalized moments" when the world seems to freeze in a particular sweetness that you wish you could bottle up for a sad day. This place has filled our lives with crystalized moments.

When it rains I wish I were anywhere else. I know that our house is huge compared to what most of the world lives in and I kick myself when I'm frustrated. I know how abundantly blessed we are. However, our kids are Taylors which means they are louder than most. I have two boys who love anything having to do with weapons, jumping from high places, and pounding on the drum set. We homeschool and we spend a LOT of time at home. I love quiet. I love privacy. Neither of those are easy to come by here. I would love a salad spinner, some crafty items, and an insulated laundry room so my detergent wouldn't freeze in the winter... but I don't have space for those things.

So as the weather is turning and fall is upon us I've realized I can't keep giving baths in the kiddie pool and we will have to resume eating meals inside. I'm getting creative. I also am recognizing the benefits of living in a smaller house. Such as...

* When vacuuming, I only have to use one outlet in the living room and can reach all the rooms.

* We never needed a baby monitor or to "check to see if the baby is awake." If someone needs us- we hear them.

* My kids rarely say "I don't want to play outside". The doors open and children pour out.

* I don't keep things I'm not using. I don't even keep things I just like.

* Only people who really, really love us stay here. They don't get a guest room, a bathroom, or privacy to themselves. I miss hosting but in this season of our lives it's been healthy for us to keep to our little selves.

* It may take mere seconds to make the house a huge mess...but it also doesn't take long to clean it!

* Using the stove or oven heats up our entire living space. That's multi-tasking.

* The kids have to work out their issues. There is nowhere to hide. Heck, S. and I have to work out our issues!

* I wash my windows regularly simply because it's not hard to do when you only have 8 windows and one level.

* I've heard about people who have dining rooms or formal sitting rooms that they don't use. Our sitting room has my "office" (small desk), a "school room" (children's table and chairs), "library" (bookcases), "living room" (couches), "mudroom" (sliding door w/shoe cubbies) and an "entertainment center" (another bookcase with TV). How's that for multi-function? (The humorous part is when S. gives a tour and he actually acts like all of these places are separate rooms to show.)

In fact, I was able to write this little blog because the rain finally let up. As soon as it did my kids were pulling on shoes and beelining for fresh air. My only interruption has been to supply them with bug jars (the rain has brought out some seriously fat worms and the excitement has now attracted the neighbor kids).

***Final count: 2 tree frogs, 9 worms, and a beetle. Oh, never mind. I was just informed that one of the 4 year olds stomped on the beetle. Apparently just guts left over.

All or Nothing

"We all know that Christ has, in effect, been eliminated from our lives. Of course, we build him a temple, but we live in our own houses. Christ has become a matter of the church or, rather, of the churchiness of a group, not a matter of life...
However, one thing is clear; we understand Christ only if we commit ourselves to him in a start "Either-Or." He did not go to the cross to ornament and embellish our life. If we wish to have him, then he demands the right to say something decisive about our entire life. We do not understand him if we arrange for him only a small compartment in our spiritual life. Rather, we understand our spiritual life only if we then orientate it to him alone or give him a flat, "No."... The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one's bread; on the contrary, it is bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian."
A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer- 1928

I've noticed that our culture has quite a strange way of compartmentalizing life. We have a family box, a work box, a church box, a school box. Then we have boxes within those boxes. In the school box we have smaller boxes that contain science, then reading, then math, then "character education" (I can't say "character education without laughing"... are we serious that we made a box for this?!)

Perhaps our ability to isolate areas of our lives, to believe that one won't bleed into the other, is what leads us to the absurd notion that we can have our houses to ourselves and keep Christ in the temple.

If Bonhoeffer's words don't speak definitively and profoundly to the heart, his life should. A professor in Germany, he had multiple chances to keep quiet in his opposition to Hitler and chances to flee the country. He refused both, believing that only if he spoke truth and suffered with his people would he have a leg to stand on when it was time to rebuild Germany and share Christ with a broken country. He was executed after serving time in a concentration camp, shortly before Hitler committed suicide.

Lord, what parts of me beg to stay silent as to not create opposition? What parts of me attempt to flee? Is my expectation for Christ to 'ornament' my life or is He my life?

Jesus is clear to those wanting to follow him, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mark 8:34). He challenges all to not look back or be held back but to "Follow me".

Perhaps we think "God so loved the world" therefore He must be tolerant of us just taking what we want of Him. He loves us so therefore He must understand us wanting a little piece of everything...surely He knows how hard true surrender is?

Yet if I applied this idea to the weak, human example of my marriage I know it is not true. Do I say "I love S. therefore I'll take what he's willing to give and let him farm out the rest of himself where the wind blows"? Absolutely not. Because I love S. it's all or nothing. He can choose intimacy and exclusivity with me. If he wants to compartmentalize our marriage then he gets none of me. It is not a compliment if he only takes part of the deal; it defiles me and the covenant of marriage.

How much more do I defile Christ and my covenant with Him if I select what I give to Him?
If we wish to have him, then he demands the right to say something decisive about our entire life.

I began this post merely to share the passage I read today. Yet, somehow I ended up tacking on plenty of my own reflections. Enough of that...enjoy the thoughts of Bonhoeffer- a man who lived out his contemplations even to death.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Manna & a Taste of Humble Pie

Early in my life I heard people say definitive things about their lives and then get "surprises" later. It caused me to try hard to not say definitive things that might cause me to eat my words later. For example, my Aunt Billie who always speaks with conviction and charisma, announced when she was young that she would not be a family woman with a station wagon. My dad always liked reminding her of her definitive words because she ended up driving not only a station wagon but later a large air-porter van to tote around her 23 children.

Recently I got a humble phone call from my "we're-definitely-done-having-kids" little brother saying he and his wife are expecting their third baby in the spring.

I tend to hold things fairly open handedly and have learned that my plans usually get rocked anyway. However, there was a moment when I said "I will never". It was a few years ago when we were visiting close friends from college. We were talking about non-profit evangelical organizations. They were asking if we would ever want to do something full-time a little unconventionally.
I answered, "We will never have a job where we have to ask friends for money or fundraise a salary." Then (gulp), "What are we? High school graduates who want to go to YWAM? We have a family to support and I don't want to be one more thing for people to feel guilted into donating to. I don't want to think every time I buy a coffee, 'is this really how I should spend Joel's money'? How awkward is that?!"

I didn't realize that I was about to get a dose of humble pie...until the friends we had that conversation with a few years ago were the first people to donate a monthly check to Big Oak.

As Big Oak has begun, we have not asked friends to donate. S. has mostly met with business people or others who have expressed interest in donating straight to the ministry. Yet voluntarily we have had dear friends send monetary support along with prayers. Big Oak's Open House was last week and I found myself in tears when I realized how many people (most of whom don't have extra money hanging around) gave something to propel the ministry. We watched a community come forward to help us network, give ideas or resources, bring cookies, and on and on. Every time I think all my pride must certainly be stripped...

S. and I have been able to do little aside from laugh when we walk into our kitchen this week. Someone wonderful made a trip to Costco for us last week and brought many of our favorite things. Two different people came with vegetables. (Looks like I'll have enough zucchini for bread until next summer!) I have nowhere to put some of this manna- and can I just say how thankful I am that this is not real manna? Really, zucchini, a Costco loaf of cheese, garden fresh onions, beef, pork... we're hardly eating drab bread every day!

My sister and I went down to Hillsboro for one day over the weekend to help our cousin pack up her house. The trip was intended to bless my cousin by working our tails off. However, she was emptying her pantry, loading us up with clothes for our 2 year old boys, and filling the back of my van with other things she didn't want to haul or store. On the way home Jasmine commented, "I think we made money on this trip. So much for being the ones going above and beyond."

I realized that in the past 2 months each of my kids has received hand-me-downs from unexpected friends. Someone snuck Safeway gift certificates into S.'s car (see...there is a good reason to leave doors unlocked!) When S. preached at MVCTK last weekend we were blessed with people praying over us, encouraging us, slipping a couple checks into S.'s pockets, and stockpiling our car with vegetables.

My Aunt Julie made a comment to me about how we as people always want to look for provision to come from the hand of man; a salary, benefits, a contract. Isn't it interesting that we believe that to be more secure than daily receiving from the hand of the Living God?
I'll chew on that...along with my zucchini and humble pie for dinner tonight.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little nuts with dreams of growing into big trees
This is the link to the website and video that explains a little bit about our new ministry. S. had an Open House all week at his new office to show potential donors and friends the adventures we hope to do full-time. Take a look!

Customized Education

I'm spoiled. All week I've heard parents lamenting about watching their children disappear into classrooms and school buses while they stand at a loss. I don't have to do that this year. Darla is now a kindergartener and I get to be her teacher. I never thought about homeschooling even when I majored in Elementary Education...but here I am.

My sister and I came up with a term we like much better: "customized education". When you hear "customized education" I hope you hear what it's about- education. Having Darla home is not due to wanting to shelter her from a big, scary world. It's not an attempt to make her socially awkward or to shield her from anything aside from my hippie world view. It will not require her to only wear denim.

"Customized education" reflects my goal as a mom. I'm not pro-homeschool, pro-public school, or pro-private school. I am pro-picking-what-is-best-for-each-child. In my 17 years of formal education (including college and kindergarten) I attended 4 private schools, 3 public schools, and sort of homeschooled part of 5th grade. I also did teaching internships in both private and public schools and am now taking on the teaching-at-home endeavor.

My own experience coupled with conversations with experienced moms and a lot of prayer have led me to the "customized education" idea. In choosing schooling for my kids I want to consider what is best for them (the season of life, their giftings, desires, and personalities), what is best for our family, and what will give them the best education- specifically the tools and passion to always pursue learning. It will probably be different year to year, kid to kid, but that's why my goal is to be intentional and not default to what 'everyone' does.

I absolutely believe it is not up to a school district or government to educate my children. If I choose to delegate part of my job to them, fine. But ultimately I am accountable and responsible for my own. I cringe at what we require our schools to do that we as parents neglect implementing at home.

Like many things that I contemplate... I came to a point where I realize, "Eesh. Now this requires action." It all sounds noble and then comes time to put feet on it. Suddenly I'm cross eyed from looking at curriculum and trying to plan my days to not only maximize Darla's learning time but also to make it meaningful for my boys. I talk to friends who have time on their hands as their little ones are in school and I evaluate, "How strong are my convictions? Is it really that important that I do this?"

For this year and this daughter, I believe it is. Homeschooling is opening us up to be flexible in other areas. Darla is starting ballet and the school age program at Bible Study Fellowship. She can get class time for all sorts of creative projects and the district will even pay for us to visit the zoo! To add to the fun, Darla's cousin Pearl is home schooled in 1st grade this year. They get to do some classwork, ballet, and Bible Study Fellowship together.

Yesterday was the first day of ballet. Darla counted down the hours all day long and was giggly, giddy on the drive there.
When I picked her up I said, "I want to hear everything. Was it all you expected?"
"It was even WAY funner than I thought it would be, Mom. It was probably the funnest thing ever."
(Mental note: teach Darla that "funner" is not a real word.)
She's been practicing 'first position' and 'second position' quite seriously in front of a mirror and this morning did her 'stretches'.
One of her first assignments this week is to make a calendar. Instead of asking me every 10 minutes when she can go to ballet again, she can refer to her calendar. See how handy this homeschooling thing can be?