Saturday, January 23, 2010

Children of God

I actually thought of many things to title this blog post. "Kids and the Holy Spirit," "The infinite wisdom of children,"....and a few others. I don't really have much of an official "intro" for this one, so I am just going to dive right in. Bear with me if you can, because I do have a direction for this post, and think I will eventually arrive at it. Anyway, let's get to the "meat and potatoes," shall we?

My son's name is Seth Gabriel. We named him that for a reason. His first name means "consecrated to God," and his middle name means "messenger of God." In Bible history and geneology, parents would name their children based around characteristics they wished to bestow upon them, aspirations they had for them, physical characteristics (Esau means "hairy" ), or pregnancy/birth circumstances (Jacob means "heal snatcher," because he came out of the womb grabbing his brother's foot, and lesser-known name, Jakin, from a geneology listed in Genesis, means "to writhe in pain). I decided I wanted to find a name for my son that meant something special, something that spoke of the character I wished for him to have. We want him to be a young man who sticks close to the Lord, and is unafraid to be His messenger. I can only hope and pray he lives up to that potential.

My son is an interesting child. He's very sensitive, very emotional, and at times very challenging, and pretty high-maintenence, but he is also very kind and loving, emapthetic, and has a very big heart.

Okay, before I proceed, let me state for the record that I understand most of the verses I am going to quote are shortened, and maybe a bit out-of-context, but hear me out. I am not trying to falsely quote or interpret the Word of God, and I believe I will be able to pull this all together in the end.

Its funny... We expect our children to learn from us, and for us to guide them and steer them along in life. Biblically-speaking, "foolishness is bound in the heart of a child...," (Proverbs 22:15) and therefore it is our duty to lead them and teach them what is acceptable and right in this world, and what isn't. So when we are actually ministered to by our own children, it is quite eye-opening, humbling, and stops you in your tracks. You feel the love and the heart of the Lord in a whole new and different way.

Okay, I need to slow down here....

While, yes, a child's heart is indeed foolish (I think its safe to say anyone who's a parent - Christian or not - would agree with that), the Bible also says,

Mark 10:13-16 (New International Version)
13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

I interpret this to mean that, while "foolish," with so much more about the world to learn, children actually know a lot more about how to operate in faith than adults.

Think about it logically. Children are completely uninhibited with what they say, what they do, and how they feel. Sometimes to the embarrassment of their parents even. Young children haven't yet experienced enough judgment, ridicule, or fear of repurcussions for what they say, do, or feel yet, so they don't know any differently. What may not be seen as "socially acceptable," is perfectly fine when its said, done, or felt by a child. Children don't censor, because they haven't been socialized to need to yet. In a way, I actually think this can be a blessing. Sure, sometimes kids don't know when to quit, and that's a bad thing, but it can also, at times, be a good thing. Kids have the blissful boldness, tenacity, perseverance, and utter unawareness that they are stepping over social boundaries.

In regards to faith, children aren't afraid to speak in truth, because they aren't aware that others may not want to hear it. Kids don't really rationalize, talk themselves out of things, or worry about what others will think of what they say or do. They just follow their hearts.

Getting back to my son....

A month or two ago, I had a day where I was hit with some horrible stomach cramping. It got so bad that I couldn't even take Joy to dance class because I was in so much discomfort. I took it easy for a while, sat and sipped some water, and cuddled gently with the kids. After a few hours, I was up and functioning again, so Seth asked me if I was feeling any better. I told him that I was feeling much better, to which he replied, very matter-of-fact, "Good, because I prayed for you." I had not asked or prompted him to pray for me. He just took it upon himself to do it. And God answered his prayer.

I learned a lot from that. First of all, how many times have I forgotten to pray for my kids when they are hurting? Put it this way....a LOT more times than I have remembered to! Secondly, I learned that no prayer is too small, no prayer is unimportant, and no prayer goes unheard. God listens to everyone, even little children. Third, we should pray as openly and uninhibited as children do, trusting fully in the Lord, and knowing he hears us. Praying selflessly, expecting nothing for ourselves, only for His help for someone else. (Mark 10:13-16 again.) Jesus loves kids because they aren't afraid to love Him, talk to Him, commune with Him, ask of Him, or occasionally even be His vessel to minister to others.

Now, onto last night....

Yesterday was a bad day for me. You know how sometimes you have those days when life just feels like more than you can handle, and you feel buried in your less-than-ideal circumstances, to the point that, for a short time, you lose sight of the forest through the trees? That was where my head was. During dinner, my husband noticed I was very quiet, so he asked me what was wrong. Against my better judgment, I began rattling off everything, and ended by saying some things about myself that were highly dramatized, mostly untrue, and very self-depracating. Rationally, I knew none of these things were true, but at the time, I said them anyway because I felt so overwhelmed. It was neither the time nor the place to say these things in front of my kids, and for that I feel rather ashamed. But what's done is done. Anyway, after my rant, I walked into the kitchen, crying. My son came over, wrapped his arms around me and said, "Mom, you are special! You have 3 great kids, a nice husband, and a good house. You have friends. You are a good mom." Wow! Convicting and healing all at the same time!! I immediately felt an indescribable calm come over me (the Lord, for sure), and almost instantly, I began to feel better. My son was right. I can dwell on all the things that aren't right, but the bottom line is, I do have 3 great kids, a nice husband, a good house, friends, and I am a good mom. Really, what else matters?! All the rest pales in comparison!

I am still in awe over the fact that I got such a huge, comforting word from the Lord through my 8 year old. And it just confirms that I DID pick the right name for my son. He really is a little light in this world. A young man, a CHILD, who is dedicated to praying the prayers the rest of us think are too small, and boldly speaking words of wisdom from the Lord. I am immeasurably proud of my son, and if he is this amazing at age 8, I look forward to what more the future holds for my boy, and how much more he is going to teach me throughout our lives.

I guess my point is, like Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:2 (NIV), age is irrelevant. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. The old has an obligation to teach the young, but the young can sometimes teach the old. And its humbling.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My hodge-podge of thoughts for this lovely Tuesday

This is a 2-fer-1 deal, or something like that. Instead of one big blog, here are a few smaller ones I have been constructing in my head over the past 24 hours or so.

Mary Had It Easy

Suffice it to say, yesterday was a VERY challenging day with my lovely eldest child. I love that boy so much, but there are days when he and I just don't mesh, and he is all drama. Some days, there is just something that gets him into this wierd mode where every little thing he does pushes my patience to the brink.

It all started out with the fact that he had as many math papers to do as there are letters in the alphabet. He was out sick 3 days last week, plus last week's homework got neglected since I wasn't going to make a kid with a 103-degree fever do homework. I'm mean, but not THAT mean! He has been having some serious struggles with math this year, which always gets homework off to a bad start to begin with. Couple that with the fact there was sooo much of it, and yeah, it kind of set the tone for the entire day. Arguing, convincing, trying to build his confidence in his own math abilities, bribing, went most of my day. When he is upset, he whines. And whines. And whines. And ignores me. And whines. And whines. And lays on the floor crying. And whines. And whines. get the point. After about 4 hours, any parent would be wearing thin. I tried to be reasonable and give him a half-hour break for every 3 pages he finished, but even that didn't help much. The day started at an okay pace, but the arguements became greater and the pace got slower as the day wore on. We were both getting frustrated and tired of the whole thing.

I had to take Joy to dance class in the afternoon, then decided while I was out, I would run a few errands. We got to the dance studio, and the first thing I said to the kids was, "There is a huge puddle. Please walk around it, not through it." Joy complied, but Seth "accidentally stepped in it because he was trying to jump over it and couldn't make it." Yeah, uh huh....riiiight. I saw the whole thing, and wasn't born yesterday. I know accidental puddle stepping from purposeful. But I wasn't going to make a huge deal out of it in the dance studio parking lot.

After dance, we drove up to drop some things off at the Goodwill truck. That went fine because the kids stayed in the car.

The Goodwill truck is parked in the grocery store parking lot, so I decided I would pick up a few groceries while I was there and save Jeremy the trip later in the evening (which he appreciated). I don't know what came over them, but pretty much the second they both were out of the car, the two older kids were at eachothers' throats, arguing and yelling at eachother. I tried to keep my cool and help them work it out, but the bickering kept up pretty much the entire shopping trip. We got to the cracker/snack aisle toward the end, and Seth noticed there were some Fig Newtons. While I have trained him well to only look at things with sale stickers, they were still 2/$, $3.50 a box. Graham crackers and Cheez-Its were both on sale for $2.49 a box, and you got more quantity. So I asked the kids to pick whether they wanted Cheez-Its or graham crackers. At this point, Seth throws a box of Newtons into the cart and says, "No. We're getting Newtons!" I told him that, no we're not, and to put them back. He refused, so I had to resort to counting. Reluctantly, he put them back. I then told him that because of his defiant outburst, Joy got to choose which snack they were getting. She chose grahams. But he wanted Cheez-Its, so he proceeded to lay down in the middle of the aisle and glare at me. Unfortunately, in the day and age of "no public spanking or harsh raising of voice in supermarkets or any other public place without fear of it being construed as abuse and therefore having CPS called," I just ignored it, and pushed the cart on toward the check-out lane. Eventually, he got up and followed us, but when we got to the lane and I started unloading groceries, he sat on the floor again and glared at me, then started dramatically hitting his head on the drink cooler next to the aisle. (For some reason, he likes to hit his head on stuff when he's really worked up. I have no idea why.) At this point, I was mortified, and frustrated, trying to just get the heck out of the store, and trying to pretend like he was just "some kid," and not my kid. When we got to the car, he got a talking to. Then, he and Joy started up again, and I spent most of the ride home playing negotiator, trying to get them to agree to get along.

When we got home, the whining, arguing, and ignoring about homework started up again. At 5:00, I was on the phone with Jeremy, telling him I needed reinforcement. He is usually better with our son when he gets like that than I am. But of course, as Murphy's Law would have it, he had mountains of paperwork to do before he could come home. So I had to endure another hour and a half of it! By the time Jeremy got home, I had a stress headache, and knots in probably every muscle in my back.

To top it all off, Seth spent the entire dinnertime complaining that he didn't like chicken salad. Which on top of everything else, was sort of the last straw for me. Fortunately, Jeremy could see my frustration, so he took over with Seth for the rest of the evening.

Once the kids were in bed, I was able to objectively reflect on the day, and I realized something. Mary had it sooo easy!!!!

Can you imagine having a kid that never argued with his siblings? Who always did his chores and studies without arguing? Who never laid in the middle of the supermarket aisles or banged his head on a drink cooler when he was told no? Who didn't complain about food he wasn't fond of? I love my son dearly, but yesterday, it would have been nice to trade places with Mary for the day. Give me a sinless, obedient-in-all-things child, just for one day!

No Child Left Behind - Can we pull the plug yet???

All this struggling with Seth with his homework has just reinforced how much I HATE NCLB. WHAT A JOKE!!!!!!! I was talking to Seth's teacher the other day when I went to pick up his work to do over the weekend, and she told me that he isn't the only kid struggling with math, and that she wishes she could slow down and let all the kids catch up, but that state mandates require that she just push through. So, this so-called "No Child Left Behind," in reality is turning into, "Push the cream of the crop forward, and let the rest be left behind." HOW is having mandates that push our kids too hard too fast helping?!?!? If teachers themselves hate the system, and its failing our kids, then why are we still doing it???? WHY are we following a system that is hurting our kids more than its helping, and burning out the teachers and the students???

I have a friend who is a teacher and has been out of work for about two years, aside from a few subbing jobs here and there. Crummy economy aside, she said that had she known then what she knows now, she would have chosen a different career path, because teaching is no longer about the kids, its all politics.

With such an awful program in place, that turns teaching kids into politics, and pushes kids too hard too fast, its no wonder that the vast majority of teenagers can't spell or use proper grammar! If we are pushing them so fast that they don't have adequate time to fully learn things before moving on to the next phase, then how do we expect them to perform? We went at a much slower pace when I was in school, and yet, just about everyone I graduated with has excellent spelling and grammar, and most have decent enough math skills that they can get by in the real world.

In a nutshell, this NCLB thing is a joke!!!! In theory, "on paper," it may have seemed like a good idea at the time. But its not working!!! Its taking a lot of the joy of teaching out of teachers, and failing our kids by leaving the vast majority in over their heads without a paddle! I believe in public schools, I believe they can produce intelligent, well-equipped kids, BUT with this current system in place, our kids aren't getting what they need: adequate teacher-child ratios, the help they need, the ability to learn at their own paces, and teachers who love and are passionate about what they do.

Ol' Bushy may not have been able to swallow his pride and pull the plug on this thing, but maybe with new administration, the plug will get pulled. I'm certainly not counting on it, but hey, I can hope, right?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The "race card"

Probably against my best judgment, yes, I'm going there. I will probably get some backlash, being a full-blooded white girl (English and German mainly...about as white as white gets), so according to some, I may not understand this from the point of view of someone who isn't, but I feel like the things I need to say need to be said, so here goes. I will try to stick to the facts, and back them up, as best I can though, so hopefully that will eliminate the possibility of conjecture.

Again, these are only MY opinions, and if you dispute them, PLEASE do so with respect, remember that I am a REAL PERSON with REAL FEELINGS, and back them with facts. Thanks!

Its no secret to anyone that a lot of racial remarks have been in the news as of late. Everyone, from the political left to the political right, has an opinion, and many are all up in arms over it. My husband had the TV on for a while last night (I forget what show it was, though he assures me it was NOT Fox News, as I originally though), and pretty much the entire hour was spent discussing (more like having a hoot and holler fest over) the whole Harry Reid remark that Obama is a "light skinned African American....with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Okay, so yeah, the comments were in pretty poor taste, and pretty tacky, with outdated terminology (Negro...?!? Are we back in the 1800's?!), but do I believe he is a racist? No. Do I believe he should lose his job over a tasteless remark alone? No. And more importantly, does President Obama, whom the remarks were made about, take it as a personal attack or hold a grudge? No. So then, WHY all the media attacks and scrutinies? I do think Obama and the African American community at large were owed an apology, but Reid has apologized, and Obama has accepted the apology saying it was no big deal (quite a few times now!). Also, it has been stated by numerous sources, including Reid himself, that the comments were actually meant in a positive light and were taken out of context. Again, that doesn't negate the fact they were horribly tacky, but their true intent wasn't to be hurtful or offensive. So....can we just drop it and move on already?!

This has opened up a can of worms, an "investigation," (and in my opinion, a modern-day witch hunt) into all other "supposed" racial remarks made by politicians, including Bill Clinton's comment about Obama to Ted Kennedy that, "A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee." Okay, again, maybe not the most couth thing to say, but let's face it, its the truth, no?! Prior to the Civil War and the life-long work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless others, that would have been the case. Anybody who knows anything about American history knows that. I would venture to say even my 8 year old knows that! (I will come back to that point in a minute.)

Then there's Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who made the off-the-cuff comment that he was "blacker than Barack Obama", which apparently was meant to mean that Blagojevich grew up under poorer circumstances than President Obama did. Again, tacky and tasteless, yes, but HELLO, it was a JOKE!! Comedians make worse jokes than that ALL THE TIME, and people don't call them out for it!!

For example, there is this sketch by Dave Chapelle. (Watchers beware!! Your jaw just may hit the floor!) Are you KIDDING me?!?!! HOW is that less offensive than the remarks of Reid, Clinton, and Blagojevich?!?!!

Ohhhh...riiiight, because it wasn't made by a white person!

There is this new term now, when referring to racism, called "reverse racism." I find this term completely outrageous, and here's why. Racism is racism, is racism, is racism!! Whether it be by a white person toward a black person, by a Native American toward a latino, by a latino toward a Middle Easterner (sorry...I can't remember the PC term...whoops), or a black person toward a white person! In any and every context, its NOT right!! Its demeaning and degrading!!

Here's a prime example for you. When my brother was a sophomore in high school, he decided to spend a semester in North Carolina with my grandparents. The high school he attended there had a much higher population of African American students than the school he attended in Eureka, California, where we grew up. There was a black student there who pretty much made it his job to torment my brother with all sorts of racist, derogatory remarks, such as "f-ing cracker," among other horrible things. And this kid got away with it because, if my brother had retaliated and called the kid an n-word, it would have gotten him expelled and or beat to a bloody pulp (or both). But because it was from a black kid directed at a white kid, it was considered no big deal, and there was nothing my brother could say or do except ignore it and bite his tongue.

While we all say we have moved past racism, and are living in the "post-racial era of Obama," let's face it, there are still stereotypes and what I believe to be 150 year old grudges being held. I'll admit, us white Americans tend to have a bad history of being bullies toward other races. We came to America and pushed the Native Americans out of the land they had been living on for centuries (perhaps even milleniums!). We captured African Americans out of their homelands, brought them over on crowded boats in horrid conditions, and bought and sold them as property. That NEVER should have happened!!

However, what people forget are all the lives of white American settlers who saw that this was wrong, and sacrificed their lives trying to remedy the situation during the Civil War. And the outcome of that war was the first huge step toward equality for all. Did things change overnight? No. Did countless activists such as Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have to take up the fight many years later? Yes, they did. And what were the results? Hightened equality for all.

Today, America is probably the biggest "melting pot" in the world. People come here, sometimes risking their lives (those who fled Vietnam are the first to come to mind....I have friends and relatives who can tell some very harrowing stories!), and often leaving their families behind, in order to have a life of prosperity in the "land of the free and home of the brave" established in our Constitution. They know that here they will be free, safe, protected, prosperous through hard work, and equal. People know here they will be free of oppression. Yet, I believe many keep themselves oppressed.

The African Americans of today, to touch on one just one of many races, have been offered all the same freedoms and benefits of the rest of us; the right to education, the right to work hard and prosper financially (hello...Oprah!!), the right to safety and freedoms. In fact, with the outdated, unfair implementation of Affirmative Action (I won't even go on that tangent!), perhaps even MORE! Yet, many take that for granted, in my opinion. They still "fight" against the oppression of their ancestors. WHY?!? These individuals say they want to move forward, and that they want equality. But how can you move forward when you are stuck trying to get retribution, even revenge, for things that happened waaaaay before they, or their parents, or their grandparents, were even born?!? Or take every single little thing ever said against, or even percieved as against, your race, personally? (And every race does this, not just African Americans....just so we're clear on that.) People say and do stupid, hurtful (whether intentionally or unintentionally) things every single day, its a fact of life. Get over it! We can't erase the past, but we can forgive for it and move forward, accepting and exercising the freedoms we are ALL afforded in this great nation, which include the same rights for everyone across the board; every religion, every race, every sexual orientation (save the right to marry), every age, every political affiliation, every economic bracket....

We SAY we have arrived at equality and put race issues to bed. We say everyone is created equal. We say that we have entered a new era. But have we?? We should have gotten there by now, but we haven't, which is really sad, and a slap in the face toward EVERYONE of EVERY race, and certainly toward all those in American history who have fought for it! If we haven't moved past it, then we are keeping ourselves stuck in the notion that everyone is NOT created equal. But we are. The Bible says it, our Constitution says it... What more do you want?!! There's nothing else we can do or give, its just a matter of embracing it now. Its a matter of forgiveness, and offering the olive branch to others, even those whom we don't fully understand or see eye to eye with. Its about respect and love for your fellow man - no matter what they look like or where they come from. And really, is that so hard to do? We ALL need to see EVERYONE through the same eyes. No enemies, no oppressors, no "less thans." Only people who, like you, want freedom and equality to prevail, and are willing to put their differences aside and work toward the common goal.

Come on, America! We've fought tougher battles than that, so let's reach that goal, shall we?!! :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"A time for everything..."

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

The past 24 hours for me, has been a real testimony to Solomon's famous words. Yesterday afternoon, we welcomed the arrival of my husband's sister's 3rd child - all 9 lbs 14 oz and 22 1/2" of him! Mom and baby are both doing great, so we are thrilled.

But, on a more somber note, we received word this morning that my grandmother had passed away. While she had been declining for a few years now, and we all knew the end was eminent, of course there is a sadness that comes when someone you love passes away.

I was never all that close to my grandmother - they lived on the East coast, us on the West, so I only saw her but every few years for a few days. But still, she was my grandmother. She was the woman who toiled tirelessly over every last detail, making the perfect bridesmaids' dresses for my wedding. She was the woman who made me the most wonderful party dress for my 6th birthday party. She was the woman who let my counsin and I spend almost an entire week turning her attic into a playroom, and probably spent a week putting it all back in order after we left. She was the woman who spent every afternoon for a week taking walks hunting for pinecones with my son when he was 3. She was the woman who rarely had a strong opinion, but when she did, would defend it with passion. She was the woman who made the world's most delicious muffins. She was the woman who loved her blue Cadillacs, but was gracious when my sister's bloody nose stained the bright white interior. The memories I have are few, but they are meaningful. She was my grandmother, and she will be missed.

But while I have a heavy heart, I look forward to the blessing my new little nephew will be. I look forward to hearing him laugh, and watching him run around with his siblings and cousins. I look forward to all the muddy boots and dirty overalls, and watching him take tractor rides with his dad. I look forward to walking down crowded streets with him dressed up for Halloween. I look forward to seeing the man he will someday become.

So yes, there really is a time for everything. A time to be born, a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. I mourn, but yet, I rejoice. I am sad for the season that has passed, but joyful for the season to come. God's timing is funny sometimes, but it is perfect, even when we don't understand it. For me, I think this is His way of reminding me, and hopefully reminding all those who read this, of the bigger picture. Life is unpredictable. I know it sounds cliche, but we should never take our time with others for granted. We need to cherish the moments, and create the memories. We must never forget the past, but always be hopeful for the future. We must look at the bigger picture, that for every sorrow, there is also something joyous. Even in our darkest hours, there is hope. I know, at least for me, these are easy words to hear, but harder to apply. May we all cherish the people around us, care for them, and uphold them in love and grace. That, to me, is the bigger picture.

Written in memory of my grandmother, Ruth Terry, and in celebration of my new nephew