Friday, April 24, 2015

Pay Attention

I was bragging to a friend last week about how great our system of keeping up with library books was working. We've had almost no overdue fines and no lost books in a very long time. 

Well, I opened our library account yesterday morning and nearly cried. There was big red letters that said they had stopped adding up the fines because there is a limit as to how much they charge you. Did you know that the library puts a limit on its overdue fines? I was ever so grateful to learn that! I tried to renew our books, but it just said that I must bring everything to the library immediately. It was embarrassing and aggravating and frustrating and expensive and well..., you get the point, I'm sure. 

So, the whole day I was running errands and kicking myself for such negligence and ... get this, avoiding wrecks. I had three very near wrecks in the same day, all due to other people not paying attention. One was an eighteen wheeler, another the vehicle was completely in my lane coming at me head on.

I could easily get on my high horse and say I would never do such a thing. But then I remember that blinking red dollar sign. We all get distracted, these days more than ever. An unmanned car isn't nearly as bad as a maxed out library card, but it's still a bad sign, a sign of distraction. 

Lydia returning our massive load of books.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28 ESV)
I need this reminder today as much as anyone! The end of the school year is approaching quickly and I'm having trouble focussing on that too.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sarah's Take on Sisters

This is Sarah's response to the question we all got on how to get sisters to have a great relationship.


Sarah and Abigail
"Growing up with as many siblings as I did was definitely not the easiest thing in the world, but it definitely made other aspects of life easier! I am definitely closer to some of my sisters than others, but that's only because of circumstances. We were very blessed to have had such great parents to guide is in our relationships! Your question actually made me wonder also- how we are so close? I'd never really thought about the reasoning behind it before. 

The main reason I think we all really love each other is because of the way my parents brought us up with the Bible as the first source to go to no matter what circumstance. I remember short verses my mom would say to me when I was having a particularly bad time with one of my sisters- I still remember those verses. They're ingrained in my brain! 

We were also taught that family is always first after your personal relationship with Christ (which was above all else). There have been countless times when I have wanted to do something with friends but we hadn't had 'family nights' in a long time and I chose to do family night simply because they mattered more than my other relationships (given there are circumstances in which you choose to see a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, or there is a special occasion or a friend who is in need etc...) Even though I may not have wanted to hang out with my family more, it was just instilled in me that family is more important. And now, as friends have come and gone out of my life, I’m glad that I did choose family night over going to hang out with friends…and I have sometimes regretted having not chosen family time over a day with my friends. 

Whether it’s suffering, rejoicing, or whatever the case may be- it is done as a family. Through that we have definitely become closer because we know no matter how terribly we fight, how awful of things we do or say to each other, who we have with us at the end of the day is family. And that is a big part of why we are so close- I think. We really depend on each other. Part of being a good sister (which, again, I learned from my parents) is depending on God to give you the ability to serve each other. Yes, I fail countless times EACH DAY at being a good sister. I know that I do, and I know my sisters know! 

My mom talks a lot about how she feels like she can’t give each of us all the time and attention we need- and I feel like that as a sister a lot of times. That won’t always be the case with siblings- but because I have five sisters, that is 5 sets of emotions, heartbreak, struggles, triumphs etc… Not that I am so amazing at giving attention to needs of my sisters that there isn’t enough of me to go around- I’m not saying that at all. I just know that as humans, and girls specifically, we need someone to be there and attend to different things at different times. When I feel inadequate in this area, my mom’s words are always in my head 'be who God has called you to be'. She knows that you can’t do everything that needs to be done! 

All that being said, sacrifice is probably the biggest motion that brings us as sisters together. For example: Anytime Hannah takes time to watch TV with me or sit there and listen while I cry, I know this is a sacrifice. She barely has time to sleep, much less watch a silly TV show or listen to all of my life dramas. Another example of a sacrifice could be that I take Lydia to get a root beer because I know she’s always craving that. Even if I’m basically broke, I may pay for a root beer because I know that she’s having a bad day…It can be anything from cleaning Rachel’s house when she is overwhelmed- to reading a book to Abigail, or listening to Mary talk about a character in her book for the 4,000th time. I think that a big reason we practice the sacrifices that we do are because we know the Bible commands us to love each other and also displayed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus dying in our place. Not to say we think of this sacrifice every time we sacrifice something for each other- but I think our parents started teaching us from this knowledge and taught us the truths of the scripture that ultimately played out in actions. 

I know I probably said more than you wanted in a million years haha Don’t think that we don’t have fights and wars against each other- because there have been times all six of us were yelling at each other. There have even been a couple actual physical fights (embarrassingly enough, it's true). Also, it is not by anything good we have in ourselves that we love each other the way that we do…It is by God’s grace that we love each other and we have amazing parents who love us also! I know you probably know all of the stuff I just said, but that is just from my perspective!"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Different But Together

Sarah and Lydia
One thing that I think may have been the most damaging to my girls' relationships was to separate some of them into different bedrooms. When Rachel was ten, I let her move to her own bedroom across the hall from Hannah and Sarah. Though she and Hannah are the closest in ages of all of our children, this was the time when I saw the age difference the most. It seemed like a good idea at the time and it was to some degree, but I think it hurt their relationship more than helped. (Not that they have a bad relationship now.)

All girls are different and have different needs. As Christians we all need to live together in harmony. Now that I have six girls, five still living in our home, practically they can't all live in the same room. (Actually they could, but it would be very tight.) Based on ages and personalities, presently they are divided out with the two older girls living together, the fifteen year old alone, and the two younger together.

I gave Hannah and Sarah (ages 23 and 20) the option of their own rooms, but they still wanted to share. So much did they want to share that when we moved them to two rooms in the basement, they chose to have one room for a bedroom and the other for a "dressing room/ office." The before and after pictures tell a huge story in itself!

Everyone needs a little space of their own, but not too much. Sometimes it's difficult to even think with so many around. Each of us are individuals, not just part of a herd.  Their bedrooms were never off limits to the other sisters because of privacy and selfishness. For logical reasons the younger girls weren't allowed in the older girls rooms though. Make up, art supplies, electronics and textbooks are not for a four year old.

Mary and Hannah
It seemed wise to me for each of the girls to have their own private drawers and journals. These were things that no one would ever bother. I have never picked up one of my daughters' journals or notes and read it without asking. They know I have the freedom to and I would immediately if I thought there was reason. Snooping and parenting don't mix. (That's a different post.) It is important that no one intrude on those private thoughts without invitation, sisters included.

But the biggest reason for sisters to share bedrooms is late night secrets, whispers, giggles, pillow fights, counseling sessions happen much more freely when they are together. A bond is sealed when you are with someone at their most vulnerable moments. And who isn't vulnerable when they are sleeping?

Nightmares, sleeping walking, and monsters in the night are easier to carry with a sister by your side. The sleep talk recordings could only happen if their is sister there to film your silliest dreams. And stomach bugs are more endurable if you share them. Well, not really, but it still happens.

If I had a do-over with the three older girls, I would have had them all sleep in the same room. The room across the hall could have been used for a play room, schoolroom, dressing room, whatever the needs were based on their stages in life. I still don't want my fifteen year old in the same room as Abigail because I don't want to fight the issue of art supplies, books and makeup. But Abigail (3) and Lydia (11) share a room and they both love it. Tomorrow? We'll see when that gets here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

2 Corinthians 1:20-21

Are you making plans? I am, I have so many plans that my life could probably be an example of how NOT to schedule your days.

I am often finding myself disappointed that those plans don't work out the way I imagined. Recently, I've had trouble finding the time to get to my mom's to visit as often as I would have liked. This verse was so encouraging to me.
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
Paul had wanted to visit the Corinthian church but it wasn't to be. He was able to know that it was not in God's plan for him to go. He wasn't being indecisive about going, it just didn't work out for him to go. He was able to say, "Amen (so be it)."
That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
I frequently make grand plans that include more than I know I will be able to accomplish. I have to remember Who brings those things to pass.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21
May He grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans! Psalm 20:4

This clock is a special gift to me that I have planned to get hung in a very prominent place. I wonder how long it will take?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Some Things I Wish I Had Taught My Daughters About Sisters

This is more of my thoughts on the question raised from a young mother on how to help her daughters become close friends. I know that I still have some influence over my girls, but I wish I had started some things earlier, maybe twenty-five years earlier. In regards to their relationships with one another, we made many mistakes.
Sarah, Mary, Hannah, Lydia
Easter 2015

Looking back now, I would want to teach them to -

Love each sister for her differences, not for who they want them to be. "Thankfully there are not two of you. She is different and can compliment you. Do not try to change that. Sisters can't be friends if they are trying to make the others be who they want them to be."

Outdo each other in acts of service and love. "You can't help but love your sister when she is genuinely trying to serve you out of love for you and for Christ."

Do not dwell on what others actually do, because no one will ever work as hard as you do. (Notice the tone of sarcasm?)  "Who doesn't think they work harder than everyone else? A strong work ethic is vital in a family. Everyone has jobs, some jobs are harder than others. Children don't get to decide those jobs, parents do."

Know that each member is valuable for who they are in Christ, not for what she can do for you. "Just because your sister can be bossed around, doesn't mean that she should be. She is your sister and friend, not your servant."

Kind words are always the only way to ever speak to your sister. "Silly nicknames spoken now that could be harmful to one later should never come out of your heart (mouth.) And yes, if it's in your heart, eventually, it will come out."

These are a few principles that can be applied to our entire lives and to all people, but because our girls live in the same house, this is where they need to start with those principles.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sisterly Love

Hannah helped coach Mary's cross country team.
A young mother of two daughters sent a question to my three older girls and me on how to develop a special bond between her daughters. She saw our girls as having an unusual relationship of love between themselves and wanted that for her own children.

I was grateful to God for her question. Years ago, I set about to do everything I could to make my girls have the best relationships with each other that was possible. That question encouraged me greatly.

Some of the girls are closer than others, they go through seasons that some may or may not like the other, they sin against each other and bicker among themselves. Yet, I see a love and closeness that is God honoring.

There were a couple of things that I purposely remember doing with regards to this issue.

One of the first Bible verses they memorized was Psalm 133:1.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!
I often talked about how the Bible wants sisters to love each other. They knew from the beginning of their lives that God's Word is how we want to live our lives. When the first question out about any situation is, "What does the Bible say about that?" it gives the proper perspective of the importance of Scripture. (Not saying that always happens, but it should.)

Also, when the girls were very young, I tried to teach them compassion for and how to help one another.  If one was hurt, I would say, "Hurry, your sister needs you to love her and help her." The first response to any little one getting hurt is for someone to run to get her "bubby" to comfort her. When they are little, this is easy. But as they grow, it gets harder.

Time and schedules get in the way. Little boo-boos turn into big hurts and real life pains. Starting at very young ages and fostering great compassion is key to good relationships.

There is so much more I wish I had taught my girls. That will be a longer post for sure.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Relate to the Eternal Family

"Man-wife-children families are temporary blessings for this age. In the age to come, they will not exist (Matthew 22:23-30). But the church will exist as a family forever. This has profound implications...." John Piper This Momentary Marriage
What? This jumped out at me! I had to look up the verses. What does that mean about how we develop relationships that are in the church?

Families are temporary, earthly blessings. We spend a lot of time growing our family, training, eating, teaching, bathing, loving, etc... There is a lot of scripture to back that up as okay. It's a good thing to take care of your physical family.

But what does Matthew 22:30 actually say?
 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30
Then, referring to this verse, what about those families that aren't blood related, those in the body of Christ, but weren't born into our own homes?  How are we to relate to them? These are just a few ideas:
  • Philemon 1:22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through youprayers I will be graciously given to you.
  • I Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.
  •  I Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 
  • Romans 12:13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • I Timothy 5:10 And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.
  • Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  • Acts 2:45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all as had need.
  • Titus 2:4 And so train the young women to love their husbands and children.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hannah's Birthday

As the girls (and I) get older the birthday celebrations are getting more and more casual.
Susannah was clearly the kid to take pictures with on this fun night.


But Abigail wouldn't be outdone. She brought me these two blankets and asked me to dress her as Moses. She then walked around the table telling Pharaoh to let God's people go.

 
Hannah asked for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and that made for a really easy meal and something that we don't have that often.


 Josiah was here, but I guess he was hiding his cuteness from the camera.

Soy free brownie mix from Aldi is the best! And of course, Breyers ice cream.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The "H" Word

It's a word I truly cannot stand to hear! All my life, I have heard it as an excuse, a curse word, a scapegoat, a justification for sin. It's really a terrible word.

I've heard it from doctors when they didn't know what to say, especially in my teenage girls. In an especially frustrating week, I even growled at my chiropractor one day, "Don't ever say that word to me again!"

HORMONES!

You've heard it too.

The ebb and flow of hormones (pun intended) comes and goes in crazy cycles (and again) all of our lives. Women know that it's always coming.
Before Ray and I got married, he told me that I could never go through menopause. As a young mother, I read things about it and thought that it wouldn't be that hard. I would just have to remember that with age, things change. Having children later in life, I've heard, postpones the onset of the dreaded event.

Well, here I am! Growl intended there too.

The physical part is nothing compared to the mental part. I haven't figured out how to completely control the thoughts that come along with my changing hormones. But I am working on it.

This onset of emotions has me a lot quieter than I normally would be sometimes. If I don't keep my mouth closed, I am too tempted to say things that I shouldn't.

Feelings of loneliness, discouragement and despair are heightened. Though nothing has really changed in my stage in life, I "feel" like it has.

Anytime that the word "feel" comes to my mind, an automatic red flag flies up too. I do not trust my feelings, nor should I. My go to Bible verse is Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
If I can't get control of my mind, I will not have control of my mouth, hands, body. No one wants to live around an out of control hormonal woman. Thankfully, there is help in Titus 2:11-12.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (emphasis mine)
Training is the key word. I am in training. Grrrrrr....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Well.... Happy Belated Birthday Sarah!


I made this cake on the actual day of Sarah's birthday and took it to church. Yes, just like that! It fell apart, I didn't make enough icing to cover it and I didn't have time to fix any of the problems with it. Sarah thought it tasted good and there was enough caffeine in it to keep me awake for a big portion of the night.








Wherever she goes and however she gets there, she will always be "Sarahshine." She actually turned twenty, but since she didn't really want to, I had "19" put on the store bought cookie cake. (Which is what she requested, by the way.)

We celebrated the day after with homemade Chinese food and some good photo opportunities. 

Hannah and Mary


Abigail, Josiah and Susannah
Susannah has been really sick this week, so she didn't get to participate as much as usual.