These days have been full! Full of children, full of needs, full of wants, full of hard, full of prayers, full of miracles, full of gratitude, full of change, full of “the same,” full of conviction, full of repentance, full of forgiveness, full of my lack, full of His grace; and because of all this – full of JOY! (And when I say joy, I do not always mean happiness! There have been many unhappy moments, but the moments that followed those opened up into joy – be it because the husband, the children, or THE GOD (One and Only)!)
Summer is drawing to a close, and around here we begin school before the leaves begin to turn (not my choice – thank you District 49!)! We homeschool and public school and both can be equally overwhelming. Homeschool gets better every year, but there is always the transition time when we are trying to get into the school year rhythm while also trying to hang on to the few days of summer fun that are left. It’s a glorified mess, but this year I have already experienced His provision, grace, and strength! Public school for our Timothy is something we pray about yearly. Ever since we found out God blessed us with a boy with autism, we have constantly sought God on what He would have us do in order to lead Timothy to be the Timothy God wants him to be. We truly believe God placed us in the exact place we needed to live in order for him to receive the services he needs. (And it’s at little or no cost to us!) Every year we see growth and remain thankful. (Albeit sometimes it’s a two steps forward, three steps back, repeat…) So far he is loving third grade and doing great! Hannah is doing more Preschool this year; she wants very much to have her “own”. She wants her own chores, her own notebooks, her own Math, her own class, etc. She adores her brothers and sister, but she is also adjusting to all of the new in our lives. I can tell by the attitudes, the pushing of limits, and sometimes the blatant disobedience, that Hannah is not blind to the changes even she is being required to make. (Change is usually both embraced and denied.) Ruthie is two months, between 13-15 pounds, almost sleeping through the night, smiling and cooing, and…has a dairy and a gluten intolerance! I haven’t had to deal with allergies until this baby. (Though looking back, I think Timothy probably had intolerances or allergies as well. Oh, and Christopher and Ruthie also have allergies to the Colorado air…sigh.) Limiting my dairy and gluten is probably a good thing, but it’s tough! Each of these Fabulous Five have individual stories from these last few weeks, and I hope to record them soon ’cause I just don’t want to forget! (Our Father keeps our tears, so I know He must also hold dear our times in between. I just want to do the same.) Needless to say, my life full of children provides volumes to write about, but if I took the time to write about it all, I’d be missing most of it:) So, I’ll go on living in relationship with them all of the time and I’ll write about it some of the time.
Well now, is it any surprise at all that there are those?! It’s life for us all, for goodness sakes! Still, I thought I’d jot some down just to show the goodness of God. Some may think I’m crazy, and sometimes I think I am, but we have started cloth diapers with baby number five. I wouldn’t have ventured into this world except I have some really great friends who have blazed the trail for me. And not only have they gone before me and taught me, they have also blessed me by providing me with all I need. I am using two different kinds, which cuts back on how often I need to wash them. (And by the way, have you googled cloth diapers recently? It’s as overwhelming as looking up homeschooling resources! Oh, and it looks like we might be ordering a third kind, too…I love me some options!) We still use regular disposable diapers at night because I am in no condition to think at night and I literally can change a regular diaper in my sleep! But, only using them at night has really helped our budget.
Recently our microwave died. Now, for those who know me, you may not be surprised that I didn’t automatically suggest we go out and buy one – we are missionaries after all! What may surprise you is that my husband didn’t suggest we go out and buy one right away! Some time this year Nathan took over the finances, and it has been the best thing for him and I individually and as a married couple. Him having a greater understanding of what we have per month to steward has given him a greater wisdom to steward it. So, for about a two weeks we used the stove and oven for all our warming needs. (Two weeks, I know right…suffering for Jesus:)) Anyway, I was on one of my “Prayer-Runs” and happened to say something like, “Please find us a good deal or one for free.” Later that day we were at the mall with the family (’cause there are moments when our minds fail us) and Nathan suggested we look in SEARS. I had absolutely no desire to walk into that store; the only things I had ever seen in there were too expensive. Low and behold, God proved He is not cheap. Nathan turned the corner and found a microwave that usually costs over $500 for $200. What’s even better is that Nathan has been getting a $200 check for the last year due to a website he built for a realtor. So, it’s a wash! I’m happy to say I can pour a full cup of coffee again! (I had to cut back to a third of a cup so I could drink it all before it went cold. Pouring it in a pot to warm on the stove seemed very nostalgic but quite an inconvenience!) (Also, you should have seen our kids after Nathan installed the new microwave; they just stood in front of it and “oooed” and “ahhed” like we’d never bought anything new before. I loved it! Just shows how not buying every little or big thing we want can create a wonder all on its own!)
Okay, let’s see, some other random things: had to get a new weed-eater (man, I am so an adult now), Nathan got a website contract renewed so we continue to get a little extra each month, my sweet man bought me some very pretty flowers for the back yard, and my dream of having a front porch has finally come true…sort of;) We are planning on redoing some things next year, but until then we have moved two of our court yard chairs to the front. I’ve already had coffee with my husband and a morning of devotions out front sitting in these chairs. I love it when we’re resourceful!
The Hard, The Prayers, The Miracles
Throughout my Ruthie-pregnancy God decided to work on more than just a beautiful life inside of me physically; He also began working on creating a beautiful life inside of me (personally) mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. My girl pregnancies have been altogether tougher for me than my boy ones were. Daily sickness, extreme exhaustion, hacking up-coughing up-blowing out stuff, joints and back pains like never before, emotional/mental issues having to deal with my vanity, circulation issues in my legs, and this time (and truly like never before) extreme swelling that I think put my body in pain and shock. By the end of my pregnancy I wasn’t able to fit into many of my maternity clothes, but who wants to go out and spend that kind of money when baby will be born in a few weeks! Also, in the last trimester alone, I went through a time of elation and acceptance of my growing baby and body that turned into a bought of depression for a good few weeks over that same body that turned into anxiousness to get this thing over with that turned into contentment to wait on her arrival. (Poor husband and children…they may be the ones who need therapy!) I haven’t been silent about the mental struggles I have had over my 30 years of living concerning self/body-image, and I also haven’t been silent about how I want to pass on a better legacy to my girls and boys about what this body is really meant for…how a life is really valued in God’s eyes. But like any legacy, it comes from the example of a life not mere words. So, Papa set about correcting my sight, transforming my mind, and renewing my soul. Nathan prayed over me a lot during this pregnancy and the days that followed Ruth’s arrival. (I just didn’t bounce back like I have in the past. And to boot, I had to share the first part of my post-pardum self with my in-laws. Bless their hearts, they love me anyway!)
Now, for the miracle part…well, first maybe the hard reality part. Want to know the real, despicable me (not at all as funny as the movies)? Apart from seeing myself through the lens of the world and stating ugly and/or flawed what God designed as beautiful and “good,” apart from being jaded and deceived, yes, apart from all this, I had another demented twist to keep myself pinned down. You know how much I love missionaries, right? How I see myself as one because aren’t all Christ-lovers meant to be Christ-proclaimers?! Well, what you may not know is that I didn’t always look at the heart of the missionary to find their worth and beauty either. No, sometimes, I looked at their waste and thigh size, their naturally beautiful face, their beautiful-messy bun and I counted that as part of their missionary status and worth, and then, I tried to match that too. I held what they did and who they were in high esteem as well, but I just couldn’t not look at the skin. I was Samuel looking at Saul and all of David’s brothers, but in the end the facades all faded and there was no keeping up. I fell, I struggled with God like Jacob, and I did feel wounded…maybe even unfairly so. But God…God never does anything without putting His Whole Self into it…that means when there is discipline there is also much grace and love to cover! What about this miracle, then? Well, somewhere along the way, after morning after morning of sitting on that chair, wrapped up in His Word and arms, I began to…rest…and believe…and trust…and accept…and truly see. And what I saw wasn’t all the mess of me, but all the glory of Him. Then, because His lessons are never just about us, I began looking at other girls with the same view. I looked at different bodies and saw the beauty in the curves, in the marks, in the dimples, and in the sizes. I looked at my own body and saw not the way life has marred it but how life has blessed it. A stretch mark here, a blue vein there, wider hips, less of this, more of that – all of it now told a story of His grace in my life. I saw back to when I carried 5 new lives within me…my body definitely tells their beginnings…and I can finally rejoice in that Joy! I can look at certain curves and tell where a girl became a woman. (The husband says he prefers it this way;).) I can see worn and torn places and see the lovely way life is because of them…how they brought healing and peace and wholeness in the breaking. I am the blind man given sight; I am the bent woman given strength because He knew I was there and that I just had to touch Him! I am His. There is my worth. There is yours. (It’s pretty amazing when you feel the miracle occurring. I wonder if it something like the blind man and the bleeding-bent woman felt?)
Full of Change and the Same
So, besides the obvious change of there now being a “fabulous five” instead of a “fabulous four,” there is now a change of diet. Yes, my daughter seems to have an intolerance to dairy and gluten. (How will this girl from an Italian background make it!?) Someone commented on how quickly I was getting back into shape on Sunday and all I could do was say through laughter, “It’s because I’m hungry!” Truly, it is a small price to pay for the health and ease of Miss Ruthie…unless you count how expensive it is to go gluten-free;) Other than that, really a lot has stayed the same; we’re just learning how to go back to normal with one more. Days include devotions, exercise, schooling, frustration, lack of self-control, asking of forgiveness, handing out of forgiveness, laughter, happiness, sadness, praying, singing, laundry, meals, sweeping, dusting (ha, yeah right), shooing dogs, changing diapers, brushing teeth (hey, I’m countin’ it!), being exhausted, kissing my husband, kissing my children, falling into bed feeling like I haven’t accomplished a thing, and getting up hopeful that I might today.
Full of Conviction, Repentance, Forgiveness
Ever had one of those Sundays when the words you are singing are also stinging you? Ever have them every Sunday? Yeah, me too. And when your husband is the Worship Minister and he asks you if you were able to worship that day and you stand a bit tongue-tied at all the ways you worshipped that day, because it did contain conviction, repentance, and His forgiveness. Then you try to explain it all to him and you wish you could make it clearer or that he could follow the ever so many lines of thought you were trying to express in order to make it all make sense. (Kind of like I’m doing now.) And then you’re just hoping that maybe he has had some of these same convictions too, so that living them out will be a strengthening thing for everyone instead of a battle of the wills. It’s been like this for atleast the past seven years we’ve been here. Sometimes God has us both in the same “place” and other times we are trying to find a place to meet. I think we’ve had a bit of both this time around, but what’s most encouraging is that we can share it all with each other. With this freedom to share, we also find another way to express our love toward one another by joining the other in their convictions. (In the past we’ve kind of nodded our heads at one another and voiced some prayers for one another but haven’t really joined each other. It’s selfishness, really. There is victory when we stand side-by-side, as “two are better than one.”)
My Lack, His Grace, My Gratitude
Nothing quite points out your lack like being a mother of five children all under the age of ten, who stays home with them and tries to school them, guide them, and disciple them, all while also trying to be a godly-good wife who can get up early and then stay up late in order to spend time with her husband, all while desiring to be a good friend and minister and steward of all those God has placed in her path, all while trying to be joyful and happy and thankful and smiling. I think I can understand those families who either avoid people by staying away in their own utopia of life or those families who allow themselves to be so busy that they also kind of avoid people – it’s because it is just not possible to do it all and have it all and be all…but the world, it says you should and we believe it. We who are mature Christians believe immature thoughts and philosophies on how we are suppose to live our lives, delve into our days, and please the people. In the end, it all leads to how I found one such mom on a Sunday afternoon, as I dropped something off for her little boy. She was on her knees, folding clothes in her entry way, while her husband and kids stood talking to me for a few minutes. She had decided to go back to work after child number three and also try to keep up with the pace of her life…multiple sports for kids and husband year-round, housework, status, etc. She looked up to me and said something along the lines of “It’s just really hard to try and do it all.” Yes. Yes it is! Jesus said, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” So what does this really say? We have believed and then lived a lie from the enemy. God’s expectations of us are quite simple and peaceful and “easy and light;” so, when we’re feeling like we’re buried under all those piles, we need to realize they are not from Him! When there are days that I feel a bit overwhelmed with all that my life holds, I thank Him for all these big things. When there are days that I feel a bit under-whelmed with what my life is all about, I thank Him for all these little things. Then, in all my days…over and under…I find His grace and glory.
And the truth? I absolutely love my simple life and all that God has entrusted me with, and I am content living with what He has withheld.
(It has literally taken me three weeks to get this done! So, I’m gonna be done! I pray that we are all enjoying our full days and lives and hearts and blessings!)