Monday, January 29, 2007

Things I would have missed, part one

I was getting kind of grouchy last week. I've had a sinus infection that I just can't seem to shake and coupled with the utter exhaustion and nausea of early pregnancy, I was just miserable. In the back of my mind I was thinking, "WHY am I doing this again so soon?"

And God showed me some beautiful things that I would have missed if we didn't have kids quite so close together.

I heard Abby and Anna giggling in their room and just grinned thinking of the special bond they have. We put them in their beds at night, but by morning they are huddled in a little nest of blankets together on the floor like a pile of puppies.

I saw Luke stand up for the first time and Nate ran over and kissed him. He said, "Oh, Lukey, you stood up! I'm so proud of you! You're going to be such a great walker."

I heard Nate explaining a Bible story to his sisters when he thought I wasn't listening. I had been telling him about perseverence and he was repeating the lesson to the girls.

I sat on the couch with the kids all around me and read books.

I nursed Luke and Abby came over and rubbed his hair and kissed him.

I heard the kids playing pretend. Nate was a knight and was trying to rescue his princess sisters from an evil dragon.

I saw the kids help care for the baby. Abby brought me diapers and wipes. Anna looked at a book with Luke. Nate tickled Luke and blew raspberries on his tummy.

I heard Nate explaining to Anna that Jesus lives in his heart and that if she wants Him to He can live in her heart too. He told her that Jesus will never leave her and that she will never be alone.

I enjoyed a puppet show with 6 puppets dancing madly. And one baby sitting in front of the stage chewing on a seventh puppet.

I am really, really blessed. My kids love each other and enjoy each other's company. That's why we are doing this again.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Planned? By God.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5

"Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in His ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands:
you shall be blessed and it shall be well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD."
Psalm 128:1-4

"Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
The fruit of the womb His generous legacy?
Like a warrior's fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children.
Your enemies don't stand a chance against you.
You will sweep them right off your doorstep."
Psalm 127: 3-5

Recently, Philip and I found out we are expecting another baby. While we were indeed more than a little surprised at the news, our surprise quickly turned to joy and grateful anticipation of the newest blessing. We are thrilled to know that God has trusted us with another soul to raise up for His glory and we know the kids will be delighted to have another brother or sister to play with. We have found that God is faithful and has always provided for the increasing needs of our growing family. (We may have struggled financially at times, but this is more a result of our failures and poor choices than because of the blessing of children.) The only thing we have not been looking forward to is telling our friends, family and church. This may seem odd, but we have found that the reception we get when announcing a pregnancy has grown noticeably less jubilant with every successive child. It seems that the first two children are wonderful, the third is acceptable, and from four on your sanity is questioned. This mindset comes from our culture, not from the Word of God.

The Bible clearly states that children are a blessing. It never qualifies this with "children are a blessing, if they are convenient and you planned them and you feel like you are ready for them". It simply says they are blessings. I have never known a Christian to refuse any blessings from God except the blessings of the womb. If God wanted to give you a large chunk of money you would accept it right away. Yet the love of money is called the root of all evil (I Timothy 6:10).

We don't despise anyone who feels that God is calling them to use birth control (though we believe Christians must take a long, hard, prayerful look at the use of hormonal birth control as it can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg around 5-15% of the time), and we know there are times that birth control may be necessary. We would hate to say that God never leads a couple to prevent conception. However, we are frustrated by the fact that even in Christian churches using birth control seems to be the default position. If we have truly died to ourselves and are raised in newness of life to serve Him, how can we assume that changing the way our bodies work to refuse His blessings is the way to obey? Should we not prayerfully seek out God's will on the subject, assuming that we should be open to children unless the Spirit leads another way? Why do we allow the voice of culture to speak louder than the Voice of God? Barrenness in Biblical times was a curse, and yet our culture tells us it is prudent to pursue surgical barrenness. Many Christians will use verses on stewardship to bolster their arguments for a smaller family. We have not found a single verse that contextually supports this idea. The Bible speaks often of spending the resources that God has given you wisely, but never of refusing to receive those resources.

Maybe this is because, at the heart of the matter, we have believed the world's lie. Though we may not consciously even realize it, we do not believe that children are a blessing. Our culture views children as a burden, a responsiblity that we must shoulder before we can get on with our lives. I have talked to so many women who can't wait until their child goes to school so they can get "back to their lives." Several of my co-workers look forward to the day that their children leave home so they can pursue more schooling, more job skills, more pampering, and more elusive "fulfillment." Maybe we should ask the Lord to reveal to us His Heart towards children. Get on our knees and pray until we realize that children are a gift and that when He trusts us with them we are indeed blessed.

We do not know if this child will be our last. We believe that God will lead us by His Spirit. Even though this child was not "planned" by us, we know he or she was planned by God. That before He even began to knit this child together in my womb He had a purpose and a calling on the child's life. We know many people who love us will be concerned. We ask that if you have prayed and believe that God has told you we should stop receiving His blessings that you would also pray that He would share this with us. We want to be open to His leading and listen to His Voice.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Moving day!

I recently purchased a book by Randy Alcorn called "Heaven." It is one of the best books I have ever read and I encourage everyone to read it. It will really change your views and get you excited about our future home. Being filled with joyful anticipation of being with God in His place, Heaven, can certainly change the way you think about today.

He gives the example of moving day. When we built our house almost 5 yrs ago I was thrilled. I poured over the plans constantly. I drew up diagrams for furniture placement. I saved money to buy new things for the house. When the studs were up we came and wrote Scriptures all over the wall and on the concrete flooring. We prayed over the house. We saved and scrimped and sacrificed to get into the house.

Heaven is our destination. Our new (real) home is being built there. Jesus promises in His Word that he is preparing a home for us. And yet we often fail to plan for our new home. We don't desire it, we dread it. How crazy is that? The Creator of the Universe is building a place for us and we want this sin-drenched, broken-down world instead.

Suppose that after we had begun to build our house I had come into some money. And instead of saving it or investing it in things for the new house, I had bought some lavish embellishment for my rented apartment. Would that have made any sense? Jesus tells us that the wise man stores his treasure in Heaven. The wise man knows this world is, at best, a rental house, and it would be foolish to waste our resources, time or talent on things that will only be good for this world. A wise man devotes his time and energy to planning for Heaven.

So cheer up! Wise up! Live in thoughtful, joyful anticipation, making the most of every opportunity! Moving day is coming!

Gifts for the kids

Recently, a single friend and I were talking about children. He said that he wants to wait until he is older and then have 1 or 2 kids, so he can "give them everything they need." I said that we decided when we first married that we would like a large family. He asked if we were worried that we wouldn't be able to give them everything. This really got me thinking.

It seems that most families ultimately come down to this dilemma. You can have a very small family and have more money to spend on each child. Or you can have more children and have less money to spend of each child. At first glance it seems like the best thing for a child would be for mom and dad to have plenty of monetary resources to spend on him or her.

But in the long-term scheme of things, is this truly best?

What do more toys, clubs, and activities do for a child? A toy will break someday, and constantly getting the "newer, better" model of toys and playthings simply teaches a child to be discontent and covetous. Clubs and activities (sports, lessons, etc) are great, but many moms spend so much time running children from one lesson to another that all true family time is gone. The backseat of the minivan becomes the family meal table and the child's true teachers and mentors are his coaches or her ballet instructors (instead of mom and dad). A family life that is centered around the child's schedule and the child's activities (with mom as the chauffeur and dad as the bankroll) teaches a child that the world revolves around them.

What does a sibling do for a child? It gives him a friend for life (both here and in Heaven). A sibling teaches patience, cooperation, forgiveness, gentleness and kindness. Not getting everything a child wants teaches the child to value what they have and work hard towards goals. Having a larger family teaches a child that they are a valued part of the whole, but not the entire focus. The world does not revolve around him or her. Moms of large families generally are more focused on teaching their children home skills and helping them develop the capacity to keep house and be responsible.

I am grateful for the training I received as the oldest of six children. When faced with the decision between giving my children more "stuff" or giving them a brother or sister, I will choose a sibling every time.