Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Strength

The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
Exodus 15:2

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Wrong Photo

Earlier this week I mentioned a wounded butterfly I'd photographed. As I looked back tonight, I realized that I'd posted a photo in which it wasn't possible to see the torn wings I alluded to as a representation of what my anger can do to my children.

Here it's more obvious:


My first try at something "artsy" with a photo.

 I played with these black and whites after finishing the family's homeschooling schedule (Feeling Overwhelmed) this reward to myself :). God was so very good to help a very complex document fall into place! What relief I feel! Monday morning doesn't look so scary now.

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Absurd Response

Lately I have found myself correcting my children with irritation when one of them gets angry with another. Since the thesaurus lists irritation as a synonym for anger, this would mean that I am living just what the following proverb prohibits:

"Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him." (Proverbs 26:4)

When one of my children is frustrated or exasperated (also synonyms for anger), they don't need the same from me. They need to see that there is another way to respond to being wronged--God's way. They need to be corrected by me with gentleness, self-control, humility and meekness.

The Bible articulates what we all know deep down to be true: "Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood" (Proverbs 27:4a). Anger destroys whatever is in its path. Look closely at the butterfly above if you haven't already. This poor creature that I caught on film (so to speak in the digital age) was managing to float from flower to flower but in a torn, wounded condition. I don't want to be a mom who shreds her children's souls with anger. In addition, the Bible teaches that "...the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). My angry response to their anger is NOT going to help my children become Christlike. Since that is the ultimate goal of my parenting, I must think before I speak and be like my Saviour, rather than imitating the child who just demonstrated anger.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

To My Man

To My Dear and Loving Husband
by Anne Bradstreet, 1678

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heaven reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

To God be the glory!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feeling Overwhelmed

I feel overwhelmed today, and I feel surprised to feel overwhelmed today.

My husband and my oldest son are home safely from a trip to a very exotic location in Central Asia to drop off our daughter, Jaynie, where she will be a homeschool helper.

Jaynie called today, and she sounds so happy. She's also updated her blog (See Z). Reading her words, she seems remarkably content and fulfilled to be where she fully believes she has been called by God.

Joe, Jaynie, and their dad just before they said their final good-bye

Our daughter, Lissie, is doing very well on her trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. She left on Saturday for an 11-day trip to minister to orphans there. (See Impassioned Purity).

An orphan who attached himself to Lissie for the day

Our oldest daughter, Anna, continues to be thrilled with her new role as wife to a man she loves passionately and respects deeply.

Walking up the aisle as brand-new husband and wife
God has been so good to our family. He has been so good to me as a mother. So why do I feel overwhelmed? I think that at least part of the answer is that with Anna happily married, Lissie's trip underway and Jaynie's settling in going above and beyond all we could have hoped for, the other 11 of us can now settle into routine.

The problem is that I no longer know what routine looks like. Since October:
  • our oldest daughter has gotten engaged
  • Jim and I have traveled to Russia to go to court to petition to adopt three additional children
  • our entire family traveled to Moscow to spend time with the newbies, Daria, Alexander and Oksana and bring them home
  • our oldest daughter has gotten married and moved 15 hours away
  • our 18-year-old daughter has moved to central Asia to serve American families living there
  • our 19-year-old daughter has traveled independently to St. Petersburg to minister to orphans
My energy has been so focused on holding the family together while the preps for these huge milestones were going on that I hardly remember how to have a "typical" homeschool day.

On top of that I don't really know how to proceed with Daria, Alexander and Oksana's schooling this year. They've learned so much English in the past 10 months. Yet, their vocabulary isn't full enough to allow them to study their subjects at the level they would if they hadn't switched languages.

Age 16

Age 12

Age 7
As I process all this in writing, I know that I need to do to relieve the sense of being overwhelmed.

I need to begin this school year where I started when we began homeschooling 15 years ago. I need to cry out to God for wisdom. I need to cry out for wisdom every day. He will provide!

In fact, He already has provided the springboard of wisdom I was missing earlier today. I need to do what I did when we added our first trio of orphans to the family--I need to develop a schedule for our school days. At that point, we were doubling the number of our children from three to six. This time the change is different but no less impactful. We've added three children, two of our kiddos are in college from the home and manage their own time, and two of our children have moved to new locations. Our old schedule won't suffice.

I also need to keep doing what we've been doing since our very first day of homeschooling, way back when we lived in England. I need to keep reading aloud--a lot. This will help develop the vocabulary our newest three need while also making each school day fun.

I feel unoverwhelmed now. (And, yes, I know I just invented a word :)) I have a purpose tomorrow--create a new schedule. All the kids have enough school work to keep them busy while I work on that. From there? I'm not certain yet. but I am certain that I worship a God who will provide the wisdom. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There are many things I know to be truth because the Bible tells me they are true. However, knowing they're true and "getting" them can often be two very different things.

Sometimes I go ahead and put these bits of scripture on my digital creations because I long to "get" what the author knew that I have yet to learn. For me, working with the photo and manipulating the words helps me meditate, thinking deeply about the meaning. It also gives me the opportunity to pray, asking God to change my heart and mold my mind so that my life better reflects the wonders of His word.

God is good and does good,

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Touch of Joy

Last night, our friends, the Henns, came over. Layne helped Lissie with some significant computer issues that have arisen since her dad left with her sister, Jaynie, for Central Asia. The computer problems would have affected her ability to do her college work while on her trip to St. Petersburg, Russia (see our family blog and her blog, Impassioned Purity, if you would like to follow her journey to work with vulnerable children).

While my dear friends were here, I had the chance to take photos of one of my favorite subjects, Layne and Tanya's 13-month-old daughter. She was enthralled with our crated dogs, and her interest in them gave me the chance to capture many of her expressions. I found joy in the opportunity to photograph her, and it just so happens that her middle name is Joy.

Lissie has been a babysitter and mother's helper to Tanya for several years. Lissie was quite happy last night to get one last snuggle in with her favorite baby before traveling.

Thanks, Layne and Tanya, for the last-minute computer help, the support and encouragement during this challenging time for our family, and the opportunity to photograph your little beauty. As friends, you ROCK!  Denise

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cheerfully Fighting On

A powerful reminder from a favorite book:
"A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ's person, work and office, is the life, heart and mainspring of the Christian soldier's character.
"He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God. He sees Jesus and clings to Him. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul.
"He sees his own many sins, his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil, and if he looked only at them he might despair. But he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathizing Saviour -- His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood -- and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him, he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that he will prove more than conqueror through Him that loved him (Rom. 8:37)Holiness by J.C. Ryle, pgs. 56,57

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Photo of the Day: A Good Listener

This photo of our youngest two daughters was taken in April, just after church. We'd had our first thunderstorm of the season the night before, and it was the first storm of that type since we'd adopted Oksana (r) four months earlier.

Here, Oksana (6) had just used hand motions to describe the thunderstorm to Amy (8). Amy is demonstrating an understanding of what her sister is trying to communicate, despite Oksana's lack of English. Oksana's face radiates her sense of satisfaction in Amy's response to her narration of the lightning flashes and thunder booms.

Amy's ongoing ability to "get" what Oksana is trying to say even when some of the rest of us don't has cemented a strong friendship between them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

An Unusual Sunrise

As I was reading my Bible this morning, I glanced out the window and saw...

I hadn't been reading the end of Noah's story just before I beheld this unusual sunrise (actually this is the reflection of the sunrise looking to the west). However, I did just read:
" are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9,10 emphasis mine)
God is so good!

Bathed in His light,

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Photo of the Day

Our new daughter, Daria (15), on her first "date" with her first and only daddy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Protection on the Journey

Our daughters Lissie (19) and Jaynie (18) will both be traveling internationally to different locations within the next 10 days. I'll share more on this in future posts. (See our family blog Unto Him We Live for pictures of the girls.)

Tonight I want to capture a short bit of a prayer I just stumbled upon in The Valley of Vision (see my book list). These few words fit the cry of my heart as we send our babies off. (I've substituted the word "her" for "me".):
"Afford her all the direction, defense, support, and consolation her journey requires, and grant her a mind stayed upon thee." (pg. 119)

Their Season Over...Their Beauty Lingers

These photos of purple cone flowers, a common perrenial around here, were taken over the past few weeks. These same beauties are now tired and faded. However, I wanted to enjoy them one last time.

On the glorious splendor of Your majestey
And, on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
(Psalm 145:5)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Could I Have Forgotten So Easily?

Yesterday morning didn't go well around here. The only reason the afternoon went better was that I had several errands to run and was out of the house.

The whole morning was focused on what was going wrong around here. Let me rephrase that...I spent the whole morning focusing on what the kids were doing wrong around here. And when you have eleven children living at home, there are a lot of folks who can do a lot of sinning.

There's a problem with that last thought. In our home, there are perpetually a lot of folks who sin. Every day there are eleven children living here. So what made yesterday morning worse than any other morning?


Me. Me. Me. Me.

I was critical.
I was on a hunt. I wanted to "solve" the issues in our home--like messes left where they shouldn't be and children not focused on their schooling when they should be. And, of course, the axiom is true--when you look for the worst in people, you'll find it.

I ended up spending the entire morning in my bathroom, the correcting spot in our home, that place to which our children dread being summoned. Yesterday, I'd correct one child, step out of the bathroom and spy the next wrongdoer in action. Then we'd start all over again.

I was forgetful
In the midst of all the sin going on in our house, I forgot something utterly important--I'm a sinner, too. I forgot how easily I stumble and slip and slide my way into doing what I know to be wrong. And when I forgot yesterday morning, pride simmered quietly inside me. This is the kind of pride that feeds thoughts like, "Not this again!" "I've corrected you for this same issue _____ times, and you've done it AGAIN?!?" "I can't believe you'd treat me--your mother--this way!"

Oh, they were just quiet thoughts. They didn't get spoken yesterday. But because I forgot that I'm a sinner, too, these ugly, haughty thoughts, and others like them, were somewhere inside me fueling sinful disgust with my children.

I was Resistant
Because I became so easily focused on my children's sin and so forgetful of my own, I resisted doing things God's way. I didn't even come close to living what Paul says in these three power-packed verses yesterday morning:
"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1,2 NASB)
As I've already said, I wasn't humble yesterday morning. When humility departed so did gentleness of spirit and patience and tolerance.

And without the meek, long-suffering, tolerance borne of love necessary to being a godly mom, I also resisted using my tongue as God commands:
"Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, that it might benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)
I've learned it takes work to find things I can say to each child that builds that child up. I've also learned that the effort necessary pays off in a thousand sweet ways. However, yesterday I wasn't willing to work at encouraging my children. In my place of quiet, destructive pride, I viewed my kids as unworthy of the effort it takes to build them up and encourage them. This was rebellion against my God. What irony! Numerous times yesterday morning I corrected a child for rebelling against me.

I was Wrong
How do I make today different?

First, I confess to God my sins of yesterday. I get humble by remembering how often I "mess up".

Second, I seek the forgiveness of the kiddos I hurt and offended.
Third, I obey the Lord. He is all-wise and knows how a group of people--like moms and their children--can function well together. He has shared the secrets to peace in the home in His Word. Today, I'm determined to obey God.

I'm going to offer my kids the grace I withheld yesterday. I'm going to look for everything I can find to offer praise to them. The smallest tidbit of right behavior on their part will work.

I'm going to tell them thanks for helping no matter how minimal the effort is on their part.

I'm going to tell them where I see them maturing. I'm going to encourage them when I catch them interacting in a good manner with a sibling.

I'm going to tell my kids repeatedly that I love them--whether they do right or wrong.

I'm going to embrace all of them. I'm going to tickle the little ones. And the older ones? I'm going to place my hand on their shoulder in a way that says, "You're a blessing from God."

I will do all this utterly, fully dependent on God to provide strength and endurance to this perpetually tired mom.

A Better Morning
I'm thankful to God for a new morning with new mercies. I can start over. I can lavish love on my kids. I was a forgetful mother yesterday, but I'm determined to remember today.

I'm going to remember that over the course of several painful years I've learned that when my children get encouraged rather than torn down by their mom--the best comes out of them. I don't need to correct nearly so much. How could I have forgotten so easily yesterday?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Feeling Awe

The book of Acts in the Bible tells the story of more and more people being saved following Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension. Chapter 4 says of this phenomenon, "Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe" (verse 43).

Although the context is utterly different, my obsession with taking close-up photos of flowers and wild grasses this summer has grown out of the sense of awe for God that swells inside me. When I see the details of the plants enlarged many times on a computer screen, I feel overwhelmed by the creativity, majesty, power and lovingkindness of the God who is the Master of such beauty.

I've been awestruck by my God more times than I can count this summer, and I'm grateful to my Creator for the gift of a hobby that leads inevitably to worship.

I share the photos hoping that you, too, might just find yourself feeling a sense of awe and worshipping God in response.

Awestruck by my Maker,

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Beautiful Change

July 4th, 2011 -- I love this photo of Daria (age 16, adopted from Russia in November) pushing a little one on the swing whose family immigrated from Ethiopia. She tickled her fancy by tickling her bare feet between pushes.

This reflects God's amazing work in Daria over the past few months. When we first adopted her she had little interest in small children and limited exposure to people of other races. Now she seeks them out. Praise be to God!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Photo of the Day

What an unusual lily! What an amazing God!

Where are You Investing?

This morning I read Proverbs 23: 3,4 (NASB):

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it,
When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.

In Proverb's warning against pursuing wealth to the point of weariness, I was struck by the phrase, "When you set your eyes on it...." This passage is about mistaken priorities.

While we obviously have to earn a living, our eyes are to "be set" on God...and God only. Nothing else endures. Not wealth. Not health. Even our children will "make themselves wings", as they grow up and carve out their own lives.

In addition, nothing else will satisfy long term. Whether its wealth or health or people, all that this life holds will eventually disappoint...sometimes to the point of dispair.

But when we "set our eyes on" God, we're making an eternal investment. When we invest our time and energy in knowing Him, we're making a permanent investment. He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

We're promised lasting satisfaction when we "set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on the earth" (Colossians 3:2). How do we do this? By "letting the word of Christ richly dwell within [us]." (Colossians 3:16)

Here are some practices that have made a difference for me in dwelling on His word:
  • Spend extended time feasting on God's word first thing each morning so that the whole day is viewed through the lens of thinking His thoughts
  • Post 3x5 cards with Scripture on them in strategic places
  • Memorize verses, passages or even whole books of the Bible and meditate on them
  • Listen to music with lyrics taken directly from Scripture
  • Journal about God's word
If you've found other ways to "set your eyes" on the Lord, I'd love you to comment on this post and share those! That way we can all be wealthier, setting our eyes, mind and heart on riches that will never "make wings like an eagle" leaving us deflated and disappointed.

Dwelling on Him,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Double Celebration of Adoption

I have much to discover about blogging and ask you to bear with me as I learn. I just posted but did so on my "Photos" tab. Here's a link, if you'd like to take a peak: What a Smile!

Samuel Barros and me way back in January 2010. The group we were with celebrated that month's birthdays.
Also, please take a look at the past few posts of our friends the Barros. We've mentioned them several times on our family blog. You may have met them or at least seen them at Anna & Aaron's wedding.

Their new son, Samuel, was in the same orphanage as our three newest children. In fact, he was born in the same Russian town as our Daria.

Tomorrow is the end of the beginning and the beginning of forever as they leave Russia for America.

Having met Samuel in Moscow in January 2010, I can't begin to imagine a teen boy who could possibly be better matched with his parents, even though Marcos and Jamie have never parented before! Isn't that just like our wonderful God?!? The three of them became a family in their hearts a year-and-a-half ago. To use the cliche, it was love at first sight! Starting August 4th, they'll be carving out life as a family in central Illinois under the watchful care of the God they love passionately. I know they would be grateful for your prayers.

I'm rich, Rich, RICH!!!

A friend just texted me this precious reminder of my life's reality:
"For You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Are you rich? Are you enjoying riches beyond comprehension?

Jesus became poor for your sake. He endured poverty so that you might enjoy riches beyond comprehension.

He gave up every treasure in heaven to walk this earth. Then after living a sinless, perfect life, He sacrificed Himself on a cross, an innocent man taking on the filth of every sin of mine and yours. Believe, and you, too, can be rich, Rich, RICH!

Rich in Him,

Monday, August 1, 2011

'If Momma Ain't Happy'

I am slowly rereading a book I first encountered about a decade ago. At that time, my dear friend, Sheila, recommended the Christian classic to me. Holiness is a weighty book that isn't a quick read, but the meaty content is worth the effort.

The book's full title is: Holiness: Its Nature, Difficulties, Hindrances, and Roots. It was written by J.C. Ryle in the late 1880s. As I'm working my way through the chapter called "Holiness", I have been quite challenged by much of what I've read. However, nothing has touch my heart like the quote below. How glorious my Saviour is! How little I am like Him, even after being one of His followers for 35 years!

I can easily recognize how my living like Jesus in the way that Ryle so articualately describes would make such a difference in the "temperature" of our home. While its a somewhat crass saying, it is certainly true that, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." The joy I wish to exude in my home and shower on my husband and children can only come from my saying, "No," to me and "Yes" to living humbly and selflessly for the sake of others. I pray the Lord will work the holiness Jesus exemplified into my very soul. I pray He will conform me into the image of His son. Then Momma will be happy more of the time and so will everyone else who lives under the same roof with me.

Ryle writes:
"A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labour to have the mind that was in Him, and to be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

"It will be his aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us; to be unselfish, even as Christ pleased not Himself; to walk in love, even as Christ loved us; to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself.

"He will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth; that He came not to do His own will; that it was His meat and drink to do His Father's will; that He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others; that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults; that He thought more of godly poor men than of kings; that He was full of love and compassion to sinners; that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin; that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it; that He went about doing good; that He was separate from worldly people; that He continued instant in prayer; that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God's work was to be done.

"These things a holy man will try to remember. By them he will endeavour to shape his course in life. He will lay to heart the saying of John: 'He that saith He abideth in [Christ] ought himself so to walk, even as He walked' (1 John 2:6)..."