The Costs of Childcare: Heavily Reliance on Prayer and Christ devotion.

A friend recently fell ill and is unable to watch my daughter Willow now.  Willow will be returning to the care she had prior to this friend homeschooling her.  It is more convenient, but not ideal.  I am on a hunt for very specific criteria.  Sadly, the facility that meets my criteria isn’t available until January.  Baby 3 arrives in March and then we will need to terminate any childcare because it will be too expensive.

My wishlist:

1.) Bible verse memorization and Bible study

2.) Multi-age (I don’t want kids divided by age group.  I don’t like this in schools and I think it is a horrible model for real life.)

3.) Heavily focused on outdoor play (even in “inclement weather”; my philosophy is that there isn’t bad weather, just inappropriate attire for the climate).

4.) Montessori or child-led learning (work in the interests of the child…if they aren’t feeling it, let them stop and come back until focus can be had).

5.) Teaches basic living skills: hygiene (nutritious eating, teeth brushing, hair combing, using the toilet), cleaning, and cooking

6.) Exciting field trips—fire stations, zoo, etc.

7.) Teaching basic finances (that money doesn’t just come on trees and so you have to work…like chores)

8.) MINIMAL SCREEN TIME (THIS INCLUDES IPADS, COMPUTERS, PHONES)—MAXIMUM 2 HOURS A DAY!!! (PREFERABLY NO MORE THAN 30 MIN.)!!!!

Preferably, cost would be around $200/wk (max $400) if the provider offered meals and was willing to do cloth diapering for infant/non-potty-trained children.

God performs miracles and since I have spent nearly the whole day perusing options, it appears that this is an instance where I need a miracle.  Sometimes trust is easier in theory than it is in application.

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Weaned for Witness: Letters of Gratitude and Charges to my children

I didn’t know it when you entered this world.  “They” always said that God’s timing was perfect.  When you are in the throngs of sorrow though, that isn’t what you want to hear.  In hindsight, it is so true.  You were and are the child we prayed for, that our hearts yearned for.

To my eldest daughter, Willow:

We waited four long years and suffered a miscarriage before we got to hold you.  Your smile brightens up the darkest hours.  You are incredibly jovial with such zest for life.  Enthusiasm is infectious and you spread it wherever you wander.

I could never have anticipated how you’d bring me closer to righteousness though.  Yes, parenthood helps us to understand God better because we understand him as our provider, care-taker, and nurturer.  However, I didn’t know I’d encounter grace when you convict me of sin.  I didn’t expect you to have a greater handle on theological concepts than I do.  Jesus did though.  “He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matt. 18:2-4.  

When we are in the car, I sometimes get agitated, borderline road rage filled.  When I grumble or yell, you’ll perk up.  Sometimes you shout and sometimes you whisper, “Mama, stop being so angry! Slow down.”  I take sharp curves a little too quickly and you’ll utter, “Whoa! Easy!”  In those moments, I am reminded to slow my pace, that I don’t need to rush, but to embrace the sacred moment of the present.

Occasionally, you catch me venting of a person who has frustrated me.  I’ll spiral to the pit of gossip, but just as I’m teetering into that gorge, you call out randomly, “We must obey God, pray for each other.”  You are most likely reciting those verses from route memory because it is part of your homeschooling curriculum.  However, God brings them to your mind in the hour I need to hear them the most.  While I might get frustrated that you have caught me in sin, I am grateful.

When I am sick, you throw a bag of candy into the grocery cart.  Apparently, I need it because I’m nauseous, or at least that is what you tell me.

You snuggle up next to me and pat my back when I am in pain.

Sometimes, when the back pain is severe enough, you offer to give me a massage.

When your sister is crying, you say, “It’ll be alright Fiona, you don’t need to cry.  I’m here.”

My heart swells and I couldn’t be more proud.  I pray you continue to act with such compassion, such tenderness, and such conviction.  You have been my remedy to sin malady at times.  Yes, I know it is God doing the work, but he really does use vessels and I’m glad it is you speaking to me.

To My Fiona Joy:

Willow was a long awaited prayer.  You are my most blessed surprise.  Your giggles penetrate somber air and morph the ambiance to joy.

Most of the time you really are your name.  You radiate pure joy.  You are contented to play with a toy for hours, studying its intricacies.  While I can’t know it yet, I have an inkling that you will be predisposed to mathematics and science, towards logic and reasoning.  It is my prayer that you would use it to speak truth with grace.  Continue to spread pure joy as you rest in the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You are young yet, but I can see the buds of faith.  One of your favorite songs is the B-I-B-L-E.  You shout the word with such gusto!  You are drawn towards the Bible and flip through its pages with cheer on your cheeks and a smile stretched across your lips.  Quietly you listen to prayer, absorbing all that you can.

My daughters, God has blessed your father and I so richly.  It is our prayer that you continue to walk with the Lord, growing closer to him each day, and one day will spread this good news with others through love, hospitality, and service.  It has been our prayer that you would do a great work for the Lord together.  I can already see amity between you two; I pray it continues with richness and depth.

As we prepare to meet your sibling in March, we pray that amicable relationships will develop between all three of you.  We would love for all of you to pursue the Lord without abandon.  May you minister together as a tight knit group, a family entrenched with love.

We are excited to see this new dynamic. It’ll be interesting to witness how God continues to work through and in you all through your encounters with us, each other, and the world.

Go forth in love dear children knowing how deeply you have been loved and longed for.

 

*We: Your father and I

#howiwillchange

There are many men being mocked for realizing how they might have contributed to sexual harassment, assault, or rape and saying they want to change/modify behaviors and attitudes.  Sadly, the mentality of “boys will be boys” is rampant in the world.

“Boys will be boys” doesn’t take into account that some behaviors should not be tolerated.  I don’t want my daughters to violate other people.  Should boys be permitted to do this simply because they have been labeled “more visual”, “more physical”, or “more active”?  There are biological differences between men and women.  Yes, men, on average, tend to be physically stronger than women.  It is a byproduct of increased testosterone.  These differences do not excuse inappropriate behaviors or attitudes.

When we tell women to buck up, to just accept this language, we do a disservice to both men and women.  We aren’t challenging men to be better and we are making women endure objectification.

“Locker room talk” doesn’t have to be crass.  You can talk about beauty in non-lustful ways.  For those who are Christian, we are charged to do this!

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Eph. 4:29-32 (NRSV)

https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Bible-Verses-About-Foul-Language/

KJV

Ephesians 5:4 – Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Colossians 3:8-10 – But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  (emphasis on filthy communication)

Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

2 Timothy 2:16 – But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

Matthew 12:36 – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

James 3:10 – Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.

Can we make jokes and have humor?  Yes, but as we see in Eph. 5:4, we are not to have filthy jesting.  I have partaken of such humor unfortunately.  I am called to repent and be transformed in the renewing of my mind though.  I need to do this.  If I make crass jokes am I being loving? No.  I am known as a Christian through love, self-sacrifice, and encouragement.  It is necessary we do this.

We should not sit idly by and accept lewd speech as acceptable “male” talk.  Even women can foul in this area.  Women shouldn’t objectify men either.  We are to be self-controlled in word, deed, and thoughts.

The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good andhonorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow ofhis heart.” Lk. 6:45 (biblegateway.com)

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

-Ps. 51

When we alter our thoughts, our words will change because our hearts have been revived towards purity and holiness.  When our words change, we will begin to see our actions following suit. Then society will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and his immeasurable grace.  Praise be to God, the author and perfecter of our faith.

 

#metoo

Sitting and leaning against the silver railing, perched on the step,

while a friend was cross-legged on the ground.

Intrigued by her story, the naive girl leaned forward.

A curious boy next to the girl.

Slowly, finger tips slid up the shirt then trailed down,

dipping into jeans and then underwear.

Here was the friend regaling a tale.

Surely his hand couldn’t be slapped away or words cried out without drawing attention to the situation.

Silently she sat, biting the inside of her lip.

She didn’t want it even though she grew moist with each twirl of his digits.

Her body lying to him about the pleasure she wasn’t experiencing.

The story concluded.

Sadly, the damage of the experience did not.

The girl took a trail of self-deprecation, loathing, and wounding until freedom was found in surrender.

Freedom was finally gained in admitting the pain, forgiving an abuser, removing the masks, and clothing herself in the identity of a royal’s daughter.

She’d have to forgive again to the teen who tried, but without satisfaction, to lick between her legs, and to a lustful guy who broke her heart because she refused to give him a bouquet and a pearl.

Those moments left scars oozing into a marriage and into its sacred bed.  The knight cradled her gently, to no avail.  She tried and she tried to relax in his embrace.  Friends told stories of extreme pleasure, but while content, still has yet to experience that joyous release of building, intentional, satisfying tension.

Not until the media’s wall was plastered with signs did she have the courage to confess the history, the path towards forgiveness, and the adoption of a true identity.

Perhaps now she’ll no longer be a captive of these negative antics, but instead relish in her husband’s compassion and finally squeal in being set free.  She will be free to enjoy the removal of guilt when indulging in romance; free to know tainted memories do not define her.

Christ’s strength is made perfect in human weakness; the testimony of restoration is a most gorgeous tapestry.

 

Tongue and Cheek

Bucking, spitting the bit;

but how smooth the Spirit would be

if only the metal tamed and bridled

this furious rush.

Flames follow

burning any resolute chance in its quake.

Such is the venom which flows from a restless,

disquieted, envious, grumbling soul.

Purple pulse’s call

A blade shakes,

light dancing on sharp, rusting metal.

Silent screams

echo endlessly

until porcelain cradles rose draped cream.

Momentary relief bows to eternal regret.

The tale’s regaled.

Hearers cloak themselves in velvet,

burying in black

a once vivid dreamer now burned to ash.

 

World’s Wanderers

*My titles are in serious need of revisions these days…

Assuage anger.

Beaten,

Chastised,

Derided.

Escape Forlorn Glory.

Hang Insipid Jest.

Kneel, Lament, Mourn.

 

Negate Opulence .

Permit Questions,

Reasoning Salvation.

Try unifying vagabonds

wagering xenial, youthful* zeal.

 

(Hopefully the addition of youthful doesn’t jeopardize the meaning/context or the flow.)

Ultimate Protection

***The title could use work and I’m sure my grammar is atrocious!

Even if we wrap ourselves in padding, we can not escape the blows of life.  There is conflict, physical ailment, and emotional upheavals.  It is in these moments that we realize, no matter how hard we try to deny it or control it, we have no power to stop “bad” things from happening.

1.) The Las Vegas shooting

2.) California wildfires and the hurricanes

3.) Our children’s falls<– The one that affected me most this past weekend.

We can hover over kids, put blinders over our eyes, cover our ears, but maladies still transpire, evil still runs rampant.  We are fallen.  Sin captivates and tempts.  Until Christ returns, we will not experience a life without pain and heartache.  It is in these moments that we are tested.  Will we admit our inability to control life, that we have chosen separation from God repeatedly, and ultimately, that we need a Savior’s redemption?

Now, confessing sin, repenting, and trusting God does not mean that we will be without trouble.  Anyone promoting that gospel is packaging the truth of grace in a spoiled wrapping.  However, by pursuing Christ, we can have a blessed assurance, a peaceful hope that the circumstances in life are not without purpose.  We rest secure that there is something beyond ourselves and the constant stream of struggles.  Eternity will come and one day, we won’t have the sorrows of today.

“he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

I wish I could have protected my eldest from her fall.  She bit her tongue and it bled, a lot.  She is too little to stay still for stitches so we were given antibiotics and Tylenol to alleviate her pain, then sent on our way.  Thankfully, it is healing well.

However, that moment was a stark reminder that accidents do happen.  We can try to prevent falls, but they will still occur.  Sometimes, hovering and constant fretting can actually lead to a greater accident.  Also, it doesn’t help to blame others or yourself in the event of an accident.

Forgive the “offender” or even yourself.  There is so much relief and freedom when we forgive.  Forgiveness is contrary to our human nature, but God operates on another plane.  He calls us to the difficult and in finding our weakness, we discover his strength to persist.

Since it was purely accidental, I feel no need to blame my friend who was watching Willow at the time.  Instead, I can use the experience to remind myself that try as I might, my children belong to God and their lives are ultimately his, like all of ours are.  It is my duty to continue thanking him for the blessing to raise them, praying I’d be equipped to parent well, and that he would keep them close to him at all times.

Also, perhaps I shouldn’t be praying for safety.  Why should we be privileged to such things?  Can safety also deter us from recognizing our need from God?  Instead, I find that I should rather be praying for greater revelation of God and his power in all things.

Thank you God for preserving my daughter for yet another day.  I pray you would please prolong her days that she might worship you and that her worship would be infectious to those whom you have her influence. Thank you for the opportunity to care for this invaluable treasure.

May all our moments, joyful and hurtful bring us deeper into your fold.  Help us to recognize your power and glory in all situations.  You are completing a good work in us.  Your strength is made perfect in our weakness.  There is ultimate good for those who lay down their lives and follow you.  We do not mourn as those who have no hope.

Everything has a purpose for God’s glory and our good and may we revel in that.  There might be a dark shadow today, but in the end, sorrow is eclipsed by glory—a Savior who died but rose again and gives victory over death!  One day, when we dwell with him at the end of our days, there will be no more suffering!  Let us continue to hold onto that!

Yes, we can cry when we are sad.  I assure you I certainly did (once my daughter slept so as not to alarm her).

When we cry though, we must remember, this is not the end.   Sometimes, things could be far worse than what they were, but they are not nearly as great as what lies ahead!

 

A heavenly brew

Steam rises off muddled liquid, thick in ivory cups.

Spittle specks poke holes in frothy foam.

Comrades commiserate.

Some speaking in hushed tones and others in jovial spirits,

fellowship encircles the room-

low lit with acoustic guitars strumming in the background.

There are friends and acquaintances,

meetings and informal parties.

Every individual with their own story,

brought together by this common interest,

the idea of bonding through the energy granted

by this intoxicating bean.

 

 

Happy National Coffee Day—September 29, 2017

 

The Best Laid Plans

I announced it.  #3.  That’s right.  We are expecting baby #3.  After years of infertility struggles and a miscarriage, we are anticipating the arrival of our third child.  Five years ago, sitting in a fertility clinic, we never would have guessed this day would come.  We were shocked to even receive our Willow blessing.  Now we have Fiona and “Caramel”.

We were told that we had a five percent chance of conceiving naturally.  There are some friends and family who said we didn’t conceive because we were stressed and when we stopped worrying, it happened.  I can assure you, I was worried it would never happen after our miscarriage.  I was wrought with anxiety and stress then.  Yet, we conceived Willow during that time.  The stress argument I find debunked, especially with medical diagnoses that show we had legitimate fertility problems.

Anyways, I say this simply to state that I am amazed at God’s power and the fruitfulness he has graced us with.  My heart is overjoyed.  Sadly, I get the sense that few share the excitement sentiment.

It is true what they say “there isn’t much fanfare after #2”.  In fact, while it wasn’t an outright choice to have our kids so close together, they are.  Some people think this unwise.  They ask how we can afford them, what are we thinking, etc.  They think I’m not giving my other kids enough attention by having them so close together.  Some people think us absurd to want 4-5 (in theory) children.

[Americans don’t appreciate kids, or at least that is what I have found.  We glory in the 20-30s: a carefree, entitled, and over-worked young adult.  America prides itself on industry and individualism.  What is better than a young adult with nothing to live for but the company?  Children and the elderly interfere with that.  Anybody who chooses to have more than 1-2 children are considered irresponsible and a societal burden.  It didn’t use to be this way.  Large families were the norm.  Nowadays, the biblical idea of being fruitful and multiplying is being crushed and trampled on.

I have always been drawn to counter-cultural behavior.  Oh, what a radical rebel I am.]

We live in a 700 sq. foot house.  American mentality dictates that a family of 4 or more should live in 2000+ sq. feet.  I get asked how I am going to fit my children in my house all the time.  Do we not realize that often the space we do have beyond 200 sq. feet is excess?  How often do you spend time in every single room?  You don’t.  Typically, you spend time in your bedroom sleeping, in the kitchen cooking, and in a living room type set-up.

Honestly, most families could get by with 3 rooms maximum.  Yes, privacy is nice.  Since when did it have to be a whole room?  Can’t we carve out a bunk?  Also, instead of sedentary practices of finding alone time at home, why not go for a walk alone?  Surely there is a whole world of space you can find to yourself.  Who says it has to be home specifically? Isn’t home for my family?  Maybe I am being too nit-picky, too opinionated.

People ask what are plans are.  I realize they did this with the first.  I get criticized for wishing our daycare options operated differently.  Look, I didn’t choose this because I wanted to work.  I chose it because I HAD to work.  My plan was to stay home once I had children.  That plan didn’t work out.  Three years later, I can say that I do want to work some out of the home by choice.  However, I want to work about 10-15 hours, not 40.  Full-time employment was never my plan.

After four years of infertility and a miscarriage, three kids was a dream but certainly not a plan!  What are plans anyways?  Plans are human constructs that become God’s cosmic joke.  Any time I made a decision, God had a bigger, grander idea for his kingdom’s growth.

I didn’t plan to live in NJ for 10+ years.  However, I met the most incredible man here.  I married him and couldn’t be more grateful for the marriage I have.  I have the most amazing and helpful community that is found only in dreams, really.  My kids have a great life here with lots of friends and activities.

I reluctantly admit, NJ isn’t that bad and I have even toyed with the idea of staying longer.  I have become content with the idea of staying here forever (this side of heaven, of course).  Yet, I can sense a stirring in my soul that is calling me to move.  I feel that a move is coming, just when I feel bent on setting deeper roots here.  God’s will and movement is funny.

So what are my plans?  I’m not sure.  I plan on seeking community that will continue to help me stay firm in faith.  My plans are to try and be flexible with where God is leading, wherever and for however long that might be.  I’ve come to realize that my plans get foiled.  I will make them, but I have to be willing to adjust them.  Seasons change and so do our lives.

It is best we stay flexible, malleable to the Spirit’s whims and all the while, shining for God’s glory.  May this child, and all my children Lord, pursue righteousness, walking in your ways.  Equip us to parent them in that measure.

May we all who call on your name be willing to seek your plans as greater than our own.