Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Perils of a Large Family

Things you only hear from kids who are raised in a big family (and always using British accents):

Mary: Her name is Chrissiana. Her name is Giselle. Her name is Merida. We have so many children!

Leah: How many do you have?

Mary: 26.

Leah: Maybe you should get rid of some. You should drop some off at the orphanage because we only have one. Are you going to have more?

Mary: Oh yes.

Leah: Has your uterus ruptured yet?

Mary: No, not yet.

Leah: Then you can give me your next baby since you are going to have another one.

Mary: Okay. But only one, because I love them so much.

Leah: Oh, of course. I wouldn't have asked you for one of your children if I didn't think you loved them.

Mary: Alright. I'm so glad you asked. Now I need to go because I have so many children to fix dinner for.

Leah and Mary with an orphan-cum-sister, Phoebe

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jesus First

One might say that Phoebe has "come into her own." This little exchange occurred the other night while Bethany put lotion on Phoebe after her shower.

Phoebe, please stand up.

Hmm, I'm going to need to ask Jesus first.

Phoebe takes her spiritual fervor seriously.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Charisma For Hire

charisma: \kǝ-’riz-mǝ\ n. 1. a special magnetic charm or appeal magically arousing enthusiasm for a person 2. Caleb

A taste of several gifts given to Caleb by complete strangers.

Our son regularly returns home from an afternoon in our neighborhood laden with gifts. And not just small trinkets and throw away junk. Everything from a 4-person inflatable raft freshly out of its package to a metal lock box have found their way into our home. Why? Because Caleb has a level of charisma not often seen in someone outside of the White House. He gets paid $10 to wash a car that wasn't really dirty and whose owner wasn't really looking to get it clean in the first place. Then he gets offered $10 more from the same people to wash their Jeep - just because. The neighbor who drives every deal to its final penny during his garage sale offers to give Caleb whatever he would like. He mentions fishing and suddenly a fishing pole surfaces from someone's back room, in mint condition. Then freshly caught fish emerges from their freezer. He has sisters, so beautiful china dolls in full costumes are unwrapped and tucked into his arms. While chatting with several college students at church he is warmly invited to join them at the beach later that day. The list goes on...


In the beginning we were convinced he was begging off of people for their scraps. He must be telling our neighbors that his family is too poor to afford any toys. He must be blackmailing them, holding their mail hostage and extracting one gift for each registered letter containing the specifications of their rich uncle's final will and testament. There had to be an answer for the seemingly endless stream of goodies parading towards our address.

So we did what all sensible parents would do. We threatened. We doubted. We refused to take his word that these were gifts given from honest generosity. We sent Caleb out to return the gifts.

He came home with more.

We finally decided it was time to investigate this ourselves. It just so happened that one of the gifters stopped by that very afternoon. He was dropping off an entire golf caddy with accompanying clubs to finish outfitting our son after the putter he bestowed upon Caleb the week before. He apologized that it had taken him so long. He explained that the clubs were in the back of his storage unit and took some time to get. He handed over his only child's prized jr. golf set with a broad smile.

Was he sure? Absolutely.

He warmly explained how enjoyable it was to chat with Caleb in his driveway each weekend. He chuckled at the numerous schemes Caleb shared with him. He assured us that it was his pleasure to give the clubs to him.


We thanked him for his kind words and chuckled under our breath. Obviously our son had a special gift to enchant and charm. His easy going personality and conversational prowess allowed him to fit into just about any situation. We finally accepted it.

Now we're working on an angle to make a profit off of him.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

I'm A Mexican Drug Lord

I thought I was the only one until I found this meme expressing the ubiquitous truth under which all parents live:

Through trial and error here are my 6 fail-proof tactics for smuggling out all those little treasures:

1. Whenever possible avoid any inside trash can. Your safest bet is to dump last year's science project in the outside bin the morning of trash day and then take your family on a 4-day trek into the wilderness. When you return and the project is noticed missing you can honestly say you don't know where it is... after all, you really don't know exactly where in the landfill it currently resides.

2. If you must throw the painted macaroni picture frame with only 3 crusted pieces of pasta remaining on it into an inside trash can then make sure you have no less than 3 pounds of cooked spinach to cover it. NOTE: Do not use junk mail which can be salvaged by your 9 year old son for airplane models. Do not use old bill envelopes which effectively outfit your 6 year old's play office. Do not use catalogs from 9 months ago because your teen daughters are still "reading" them. They themselves will be rescued from the trash delivering the crushing blow to your children that their prized lima bean statuette hiding underneath is no longer treasured.

3. Never throw your kids' stuff away on the same day you are cleaning out your own closet. Your children are insanely adept at picking up the "throwing away garbage" vibe. They will become freakishly paranoid of your intentions towards their ripped 8th place ribbon from their game of pin-the-hydrant-on-the-blaze during the great Fire Department Safety Day of 2007.

4. Do not let one child catch you throwing away another child's stuff. They will rat you out faster than you can say, "grimy Chuck E. Cheese game token with dried gum on one side."

5. Either keep the hubster entirely in the dark or schedule Summit 2013 in order to clearly explain exactly what is being thrown away and why. There is nothing worse than having Daddy innocently ask you why Betty Sue's broken baby doll stroller is stuffed into the trunk of his car during dinner. And because of Murphy's Law this will be the one time your prearranged "we'll talk about it later" look will go entirely unnoticed.

6. Bribe 'em. If you can coerce them into throwing away their own junk then you have mastered parenthood! Going out for ice cream is my favorite because it doesn't involve replacing the trash with new junk. What good is a bribe if it is a net loss? Go for the consumables and you will have a win-win every time.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Higher Calling

I love women's ministry. Everything about it just calls to me: the word of God; real fellowship and community with other imperfect women willing to be vulnerable; transparency and accountability to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ; and the laughter that reaches beyond age or season to envelope everyone in the room. Yep, it is good.

I also have a particular connection to women's ministry because God has graciously allowed me to teach bible study in many different settings and churches over the past 19 years. Preparing, studying and planning are simply a part of my life - like breathing.

I assumed, like breathing, that it would always be this way.

Someday I'll stop making assumptions.

You probably picked up on this long before I did, but in between my passion for teaching women and changing diapers I somehow missed the amazing serendipity (I love that word - even though I don't believe in happenstance or mere chance) of birthing six daughters. Six little women! As my daughters came I pictured us enjoying deep, theological discussions together. I imagined them in bible study as adults, but somehow I completely skipped over adolescence. After all, that was why churches had youth ministry and not simply men's or women's ministry. The needs of jr. high and high school ages created such an altogether unique dynamic that it required an entirely different model of discipleship.

Or at least that's what I assumed. (See note above about what I need to do with my assumptions.)

Hannah (14) - Phoebe (3) - Me
My eldest daughter joined our church's official youth program a couple of years ago. At that time my husband began to serve as a leader in the youth group. Week after week I quizzed him on what was being discussed during the teaching time for Hannah's class. Week after week Christopher shared with me the gist of the topics and conversation until I began to see a pattern in my reaction. I loved that Hannah was getting a chance to hang out with her friends. I thought the games the youth played were often imaginative and developed great team spirit. I was glad she was being challenged to think on her own about concepts from the bible. But I also recognized a growing disappointment that the lessons often scratched only the surface of genuine Christian character and godly lifestyle choices. 

The group was mostly made up of other boys and girls from similar backgrounds. Many of them were churched meaning they, like Hannah, had grown up attending Sunday School and VBS and usually knew the "right" answers. They were also questioning, often for the first time, the concepts taught them through childhood and beginning to decide if the faith their parents ascribed to was going to be their own. This all seemed normal. And so did the awkward, embarrassed, sometimes confused ways the group interacted as the individual trajectory of puberty and personality began shaping each member into their own unique person. But the very same factors that made it "youth" ministry were also keeping it from being entirely successful in effective ministry.

How transparent can I expect my daughters to be in front of a bunch of kids who are struggling just to understand their own bodies, let alone their deeper purpose and unique calling in this world? Growing and maturing takes discipleship. Or at least it does if I want my girls to transition through adolescence  gracefully and without unnecessary heartache - which I do. So, mentoring becomes invaluable. I want my darling girls to learn about femininity from the heart of great women (and men) before they have it compared to the likes of Lady Gaga. I want them to engage in open conversations about difficult subjects with candor and respect before they learn all the street slang for what they should do if they really "love" that boy. And most importantly, I want them to understand what the bible says about the beauty and value of their womanhood before their peers define it for them. 

Youth ministry, alone, can not achieve these goals. Why? For the same reason elite athletes don't train with amateurs, and why virtuosos don't practice with beginners - we can not grow in maturity when consistently surrounded by people as immature as ourselves; and we do not learn to stand out by working hard to fit into the mold. One or two adults working to shepherd a roomful of rambunctious teenagers isn't a ratio built for success. 

Bottom Center & Clockwise:
Phoebe, Hannah, Mary, Leah, Bethany, Me, Evangeline

So, I'm quitting what I love in order to love what I'm called to - women's ministry. The ministry of making women... making godly, honorable women who are strong, capable thinkers in a world filled with relativity and subjectivity. By the grace of God I have the privilege of sharing my passion with six of the most amazing girls I have ever known.