Saturday, January 21, 2017

Children are Savages

Beautiful, adorable, amazing, made in God's image creatures, but they are still savages.

Susannah
Consider the newborn that has just emerged from the womb, the toddler who hasn't had his nap, the older child's eyes rolling... those are just a few ways that reveal the savage heart of a child.

Those little savages are slowly and gently turned into respectable grown adults. But it's a long hard process. Parents must be diligent and seek wisdom.

Going from the mother gently bouncing a crying newborn to the parent patiently listening and advising a young adult is a very long process.

For the parent it involves a laying down of themselves. To be a parent of savages requires diligence. There isn't a day when you can say, "Today I am not a parent, someone else can take care of them." Even though, I have (jokingly, of course) told my children that my parenting button is off after 9:00 pm and that I'm done with them for the night.

Sometimes parents need a break, to recharge, to breathe air that doesn't smell like dirty diapers and sweaty socks. But there is never a time that they can turn off their parenting buttons. If those buttons are paused, they and the children need to know the clear boundaries of where everyone is supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing.

I can't tell you how many times I've failed his myself. I am praying for wisdom and the strength.

I know God has blessed our home tremendously. I am reminded that without His great mercy and grace, we would be in utter chaos.  I was told years ago that it's impossible to do this job (of parenting) without Christ. How true! Follow Christ first and foremost, He will lead you to parent your little savages.

Adrian and Josiah
Here's a few pictures of some of my favorite "savages" during our short blast of Winter. Rachel and Adrian are doing a great job of raising our grandchildren. What a privilege to be a part of their lives!


Caleb





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Do You Feel Peace?

The following was written by a young woman and sent to me to share with others. It's a message that our self-help, feel-good society needs to hear.
A rare view from our living room window recently. 

I have peace. I do not feel peace. I have peace because Jesus lives in me. This does not mean that I always experience peace. I don't. But Jesus is peace and I have Him and He is enough-even when I don't feel peaceful. One day we will experience the feeling of peace, but that day may not be today. I've been told so many times that if you don't "feel a peace about it" then it's not God's will. Or as a true Christian you will feel peaceful even in suffering. Or that if you pray then God will give you a peace that surpasses all understanding. I believe you have hope in the midst of suffering; I believe you have peace (Jesus) but I don't believe that you always feel peace in it. 

Hearing these thing made me feel like a bad Christian or not a Christian at all. What was everyone else doing that I wasn't feeling this peace? I prayed all the time, yet I still felt stress. Then, the pursuit of peacefulness and feeling good became my idol. Finally someone told me, stop worrying about that feeling and just pursue God. Embrace Him no matter how you feel. 

Jesus is the prince of peace. He didn't live in turmoil. But, when Jesus went to die on the cross, I don't think He felt a peace about it. He was sweating blood. He suffered anguish (Luke 22:44). Yet, He obeyed the will of the Father. Sometimes you won't feel a peace. You may be called to give your life away. That doesn't always feel good. I feel like in my job I serve all day long. I love my job, but it doesn't always feel good. It feels exhausting. But I know that the Bible calls me to serve. I will continue to serve regardless the risk and regardless how much peace it brings me. 

So here's my confession. I often don't feel peaceful. But I do know that God has called me as His child and Christ took the punishment for my sins and Christ rose again. Because of this I have the living Jesus alive in me. He is my peace and even if I never feel peaceful, He is enough. 

No doubt you are, or you know a person, who struggles with anxiety or over thinkers or even someone who is really sensitive to all the pain in the world. There are benefits for those people. They are often very compassionate, very aware, servant hearted, and very gentle. However, in my experience, they very rarely feel peace. Sometimes they feel a lot of darkness because they can't stop noticing all the pain. They help people a lot but the pain seeps into their mind and it can be very dark. Know this, it takes one light to break darkness. 

Think of the most compassionate person you know. Compassion is painful and that person may feel a lot of darkness and little peacefulness. You can be that one light to break through their darkness. Show them some of the sensitivity that they have shown you. I have found light in something someone says to me or in a song or in a book. That song or person or book can put me back on track when I start to fall apart. But, no matter how much you care, you are human and you can not be a perfect light. 

Jesus is light and He is a perfect light. That's why I cling so hard to the promise that Jesus lives in me and won't stop living in me no matter how much darkness I allow in. He is light and He is peace and that is enough to give me hope even in my darkest moments. And when God looks at me, He doesn't see my sin. He sees Jesus in all of His perfection. That is what picks me up off the floor after I've been throwing up, gets my weak body showered and takes me to work, allowing me to serve all day. I haven't felt the peace that surpasses all understanding a lot, but I have felt a strength that surpasses understanding very often. Notice what God is doing for you and thank Him for that. Realize what He has done for you and embrace that as being enough. 

All this is not to say that it's okay to be living in darkness and anxiety. It's not. It's painful and no one should. I can't lie to you and give you eight steps to live a stress free. I'm not sure how to make it stop. I've tried everything that people say and there is still often this mental turmoil that I can't shake. There is still a lot of dark times. There are times when it feels like my mind is twisted up and screaming even though there is a smile on my face. I look for any bit of relief I can get in the moment. 

I've kind of stopped pursuing that peaceful feeling. Instead, I've embraced the fact that Jesus is a light in my dark mind and that He offers me hope that one day in heaven there will be no darkness and fullness of peacefulness. In Him, I will wait. I will grow weary, I will be stressed out, I will have panic attacks, I will fall into depression, I will look for relief in sinful places, I will fail. Thankfully, my assurance is not in my abilities but in His strength. Thankfully, "even the dark is light to Him" (Psalm 139:12). I will wait and I will hope in Him regardless how I feel. 

And I will stop condemning myself. If you are a struggling with anxiety, if you feel like a second rate Christian, if you're praying but not feeling peaceful, know this: "God is not disappointed in you. Because what disappointment means is that there are unmet expectations. God had no unmet expectations about you. All the expectations for righteousness and for your debt have been fulfilled in Jesus." (Elyse Fitzpatrick) 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Christmas Program

One of the highlights to our Christmas very year is the church program. Abigail was "Mary" this year and did a beautiful job. Everyone actually did great! One of the best sounds in the world is hearing children sing!


The morning following the performance, Abi had a little trouble coming to grips with reality. She was still in the actress mode, and felt the need to sit on the kitchen counter to eat.


Family Gatherings

Abigail loves to sit with Nana (Ray's mom) and Mr. Walter.
Hannah, Sarah, Lydia and Mary with Nana.
Papa loves to read to the littles.
Grandma (my mom) with Sarah and Brewer (my niece's son). Brewer fell in love with Sarah this visit because he found out that she's an EMT and gets to ride on an ambulance.
We had planned on having Christmas with my family at our house this New Year's but my mom got sick and couldn't travel. 


Christmas Morning

 We have the usual messy hair and pajamas pictures as everyone else. But I wanted to share a few of my favorite Christmas morning pictures.
When twelve people wake up to Christmas morning, the tree is going to look like we overdid the presents thing. This year we spent less, gave fewer gifts, and had a much more meaningful gift giving experience. 

Susannah and Josiah loved the playhouse.

 This gift was the the highlight of the gift giving all December. Someone learned that it had been Lydia's dream to play the cello. They bought one for her and gave her a year's worth of lessons. 
 She was blown away on Christmas morning when she found out.
The gifts didn't necessarily have to be so amazing as a cello to bring about great joy. Abigail, Susannah, and Josiah loved the box of peanuts that the cello came in. We had to literally drag them away from it to open presents.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Christmas Baking

I really like to make pretty food. When I started making a special cake for Christmas every year, I realized it was my favorite thing to cook. I've been using different recipes, some very detailed, some not. This year, I decided to make the easiest one I could find with the fewest ingredients -a vanilla cake with a buttercream frosting and we gobbled it up at our church Christmas dinner.

The day after Christmas, I was lamenting that I hadn't gotten to make any other desserts or special foods this year. I asked the girls what the one dessert they missed getting and without hesitation, they all agreed on pumpkin pie. I made one immediately and it was a huge success. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Ornaments

There is a love/hate relationship with putting up Christmas decorations at our home every year. We love to see them up, but really dislike putting them out. We so dislike putting them out that this past year, we only put out half of them. 

But there's no doubt, one of my favorite things is the memories that each ornament brings. I have the ornaments that my mom bought in bulk and no longer wanted, the sweet handmade beauties from the girls, the silly elf-like things that are hidden on the back of the tree, photo ornaments that remind us of our aging, and precious gifts from friends and family. 

The girls each have a collection of ornaments that they have been adding to every Christmas. When they leave home, they'll each have a short lifetime of ornaments with which to begin their own trees. In this photo, I can see a glimpse of each of those treasures.

This funny looking bird was on a floral arrangement at my brother's funeral twenty-eight years ago.

Yes, I know Christmas is over, but I spent most of Christmas doing things other than blogging.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Happy First Birthday to Caleb

Caleb was born right after Christmas and we thank God for this sweet little boy. 

Grandparenting is great!







Thursday, December 01, 2016

One Star, One Child, One Night

In all of history, there has never been a star like the star. 
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 
Matthew 2:10
In all of the billions of babies born, there has never been born the Son of God.
 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 
I John 5:20 
Except this one night. 
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11
This night in history, a star appeared. And a baby was born, the one child, on this one night.

I am in awe.

I painted these canvases to give as gifts last year with this saying on them. I hope that they are received as what they are - not a work of art, but a reminder to worship the One True God who gave His Only Son on this one night in history.


Merry Christmas from the Rhodes Family



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Old Salem

In early October, we made it to Old Salem, NC for a short trip to play in the field and eat way too much junk food. Some traditions are too good to stop. Every girl needs a serious game of kickball every now and then. We missed Rachel and Adrian's family with us.






Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Happy Fifth Birthday, Abigail!

Five years ago, God showed us great mercy in delivering to us this child. Abigail was born while Ray's daddy was suffering cruelly with cancer, we were getting ready for Rachel and Adrian's wedding, and  Sarah was on almost complete bed rest due to concussions. As I look bad at those days, I wonder how we survived. The presence of God's hand on us was never more real than at that time in our lives. We are so thankful to God that He chose this little princess to to be born to our family.




















We got some new pieces for the playground because it's in need of an update. Adrian gave everyone a ride on the swing inside. The next day I came in and she had made a "car-sled" out of the pieces. The swing set may never get the update...

Abigail and Susannah love Frozen and play princess a lot!

Friday, November 04, 2016

It's a Birthday Party at the Rhodes House

Ray turned fifty-five in October and we did a lot of cooking. He likes lots of options on the table so for his birthday, that's what he got - fried chicken, fried eggplant, potato casserole, roasted cauliflower and zucchini, and crusty bread. Dessert was a pound cake with strawberries and homemade whipped cream. He usually likes healthy eating, but he didn't get that.

An activity he really likes is something we've been calling the read a line game. Everyone in the house gets a book that they've been reading lately and reads a line, a paragraph or a page from it. I'm always impressed by what the girls find meaningful that they want to share. I wish we did it more often.




I love that the little ones wanted to read books that they have memorized. Their sweet little voices have already gotten the hang of the sing-song rhythm of reading aloud. Josiah chose Little Blue Truck, Susannah read If You Give a Pig a Pancake, and Abi read The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.

This is the first time Rachel and Adrian played with us and we couldn't get her to stop reading. We should probably come up with a few rules like-
  • pick your portion before anyone starts
  • no reading silently while others are reading aloud
  • have a question or comment about each person's reading
  • there should probably be a time limit too
It's a good thing to enjoy books and reading!