Thursday, May 31, 2012

Simplifying the Mother Load


This motherhood job is hard (good, glorious, and hard) and it helps me to call to mind the simplest, most essential aspects of this privileged responsibility.   Even if the periphery of our lives is sometimes dusty, sticky, piled-high, and undone, Lord help me to hit the heart of the matter in my job as mom.
If only I could set this tiny sermon to be like chimes on a clock that would ring every 15 minutes or so in my home...  somehow I need this truth awakening, refocusing my soul at least that often:  
My kids are my job.  Love them.  Serve them.  Lay down your life for them, Jill.  Don’t rush them along- through breakfast or through their little years- so that you can get to other things, “better” things that aren’t at all as important as these little now, but eternal lives.  Don’t fall for the lie, don’t be deceived!, that I’ll be more satisfied if I can finish my list, write more, give so many gifts, or host so many others....  
Let your kids be your main thing (til Daddy comes home in the evening).  They won’t always be, but they are right now.  Let them be.  Enjoy them as such.  Lay aside all the other junk.  Train your heart to take joy in your job to serve your children.  Strive hard to stir up their joy, enter into their joy, let their joy be yours, and serve them, serve them, with joy.  
For, in fact, all my service to them, is service to God.  I am not serving our kids so that they can repay me one day or so that I can please God (he’s already perfectly pleased with his Son who I am hidden in by faith!)  But I am serving them as an act of worship to God.
All this- the messes, tickles, quarrels, learning, growing, living- is grace from God.  
Praise, praise be...




Related Reading:  this post has stuck with me, challenging me, for years...
A Mother's Work:  A Model for True Work, from Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Selections from The Companion


Karen Andreola’s book The Charlotte Mason Companion:  Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning has been a delight to me this spring.  I’m so grateful to have seen it on a friend’s bookshelf... a kind friend who was willing to let me enjoy it for a time.
From all that I’ve read of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, I am blown away by the goodness and excellence of providing this kind of education for our kids and shaping our home, our minds and our lives together with this kind of living.   And now I’m learning from Ms. Mason and Mrs. Andreola in this latest volume.   The descriptions, in my opinion, are sometimes not the very best, (the superlatives and “guarantee” sounding stuff is a bit unfortunate) but still these thoughts are immensely helpful and wise and good for me to consider.  
Here’s a few of the gems:
Andreola quotes from Henry Clay Trumbull’s book Hints on Child Training (Trumbull lived from 1830- 1903 and is the founder of the American Sunday School movement) 
“A parent looses his opportunity for good to his child, if he fails to have sympathy with this child in that child’s weakness and follies and misdoings.  It is in every child’s nature to long for sympathy at the point where he needs it most;  and when he has done wrong, or has indulged evil thoughts, or is feeling the force of temptation, he is glad to turn to some one stronger and better than himself, and make confession of his faults and failures.  If as he comes to his parents at such a time, he is met with manifest sympathy, he is drawn to his parents with new confidence and new trust.     (p 52)
Here Andreola writes her own paraphrase of Ms. Mason’s teachings:  
“The two main causes of family bickerings are selfishness and harsh judgement of others.  No punishment is of the smallest use to combat these.  In fact, punishment may awaken resentment and arouse greater spite against the person on whose account it is incurred.  It will never diminish the selfishness.  Penalties will suffice for the moment, but another kind of correction is needed. 
“Virtues, like flowers, grow in the sunshine.  You can cultivate them or draw them out with love and reason, but you can neither force nor whip them into existence.  Try to do so and the virtue you want will come forth in the guise of it’s corresponding vice.  Instead of truth-speaking courage, you will get a lying cowardice, instead of obedience, obstinacy....
“...Never be angry when the children are cross, and never add a harsh word of reproof when a child is still sore under what it feels to be an injustice.  This is often difficult to do because it is our natural response to control his temper with a stronger one of our own.  Yet I recommend you work against any tendency to overpower the child in this instance.  Gently draw the belligerent’s mind to the fact that he is feeling very unhappy, that this is merely the natural result of saying unkind things; and that as it would not be fair to make everyone else unhappy too, he must for other people’s sakes go away from the room, or leave the game till he can be pleasant.”  (p 58-59)
And this is my cherry-on-top favorite.  Andreola shares, (p 61-62)
“I once read about a large family in which bickering was unknown, though at one time there were signs of great friction among the members.  The mother weeded out the thorns of family upsets by working with each child’s imagination.  She set them up to fight giants.  Her lessons began with a parable, for there is no moral teacher better than the parable.  The mother, apropos of the Jack the Giant Killer, gave a sketch of the giants that beset the young people, and morally devour them, such as Self-Love, Vanity, Obstinacy, and Falsehood, and she excited their interest by telling them that these giants were so curiously huddled together that if one were conquered, the others would probably flee.
“As the Advent season was upon them, she told them that it would be good to think of giving secret gifts of abstaining from personal faults that rubbed the other family members the wrong way-  and to do something good in place of displaying that fault.  She told her children that in order to do this, they would have to fight a battle with a personal giant- a spiritual enemy.  Each child was to keep his own secret, and whisper into Mother’s ear the particular giant he wanted to fight, and she would give him the right weapons for it.
“One by one the whispers came to her.  Cubby Susie said she thought she was “dreadfully greedy for sweets,”  and she would fight that ogre.  Mother would do her best not to have so many Christmas delicacies around the house, but keep to the traditional Christmas pudding only.  A more nervous member whispered that she did not want to “feel so cross at johnny,”  whose teasing jokes always seem to bother her.  A third confessed that their enemy was “Vanity.”  she did not “want anybody to do things as well as herself.”  And a fourth sighed that it was “very hard to keep one’s temper” when everybody seemed so aggravating.  That evening Mother came up with her weapons:  seven Bible texts, one for each child for each day.  
“If by Christmas the giants are not dead, at least they will certainly be wounded, and have less power, “  promised Mother. "

Monday, May 28, 2012

sixteen again... it's a whole new world

Matthew got his China driver's license!  Congratulations my love!

Friends gave us the 1500 test questions that we'd need to study to pass the test and Matt knew he needed to get 90 out of 100.  But the questions weren't looking like anything worth storing in long term memory so Matt decided to take a stab at the test after just one read through to see how it would go.... and he got a perfect 90!   JOY!!

This past Saturday afternoon we rented a car and made the best possible use of those 24 hours.... half hour drive Sat evening to these beautiful mountains!  It was the second time we've been to this area (in 2.5 years we've lived here) and it was indescribably good for our hearts to be outside, in green and dirt, to smell plants and see a wide sky unhemmed by rust-stained concrete.  This was wonderful...

Matt commented how often we try so hard to plan a fun outing or a sweet date and often we only end up with failed attempts to find taxis, delayed buses or babysitters or no access to any place to go...  but not this time.  We had barely thought of where we'd go... we just wanted to drive...  And we found this!!  Couldn't have been a sweeter evening- dinner for the fam $9 at tables under an apricot orchard, and then a walk along a path at the base of these small mountains.  Thank you Lord.

Next time I'll try to get a few more pics of something besides our kiddos....  there's a whole world out there Jill!  I'd love to share more pics of the beautiful place we live, the beautiful people that live here.... if only I can find a way to share the lens love a little.  Hopefully it will come!

it's wheat harvest time... the local farmers used the road as space for their harvest work so the road was one lane for stretches to share with oncoming traffic.  Traffic flows like water here... and it usually work.










Buddies


Last weekend we visited dear friends of ours from our Beijing days.  This family is so precious to us!  Being with them is like getting a jolt of soul nourishment and encouragement.... we are so blessed by their friendship and example to us of loving the Lord, His Word, His people..

And we absolutely delight in these kiddos.  What a joy for us that our kids can grow up close (enough) to these guys.  May they have life-long friendships, packed with fun memories, and grow zealous for the Lord's glory together.  

picnic near the Yellow River
couldn't be fun without getting in the mud!   Hudson, their big guy - Isaiah's best friend, is there on the right


Gracie Jo (GJ) and May

Vivi and Aber (Abraham)
We finally got to meet their littlest!  This guy at the river was almost as delighted with him as we are :)
the sweet daughter and wife of the man above
the kids table... missing Abraham
the girls
Tito (Titus) and John
the way there....  this wasn't her very best moment 
nine hours of villages
and more beautiful villages to see before we got home

Peacemaking Authority


The book of James has been getting deep under my skin lately, sweet hard challenges to my heart as a mom.  I yearn to be a mama who demonstrates good conduct in the meekness of wisdom (James 3:13), who leads our kids to repentance by kind (Rom 3:19) and patient (2 Peter 2:4) care, and who makes peace and reaps a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18).   Oh... and I'd like a heavy dose of laughter and joy for our home too, please :)

My main trouble is the whole first-time obedience deal.  I've been thinking over the issue for weeks and I've written way wayyy too much for the sake of helping myself process these concerns and questions and needs.  And in the midst of this writing process I’ve met a friend online through posts she’s written about parenting.  Her words are so sooo helpful and, what’s super important to me, is that Katherine’s writing has been lived out in experience.  She told me that she first wrote (her sheltering posts) when her oldest daughter was 12 and now she’s 18.  I asked her if she’d tweak her advice there, change anything?   She said no.  
Friends... here’s the gold to share with you.   If you have, like me, struggled with what kind of authority you want to demonstrate in your home with your kids, if you have been confused over the issues of protection, obedience and control, these posts might just hit the spot for you like they have for me.  
http://www.raisingfive.com/2007/06/shelter-is-not-place.html   {I was streaming tears when I read this one.  Oh... if I might have grace to raise our children like this....  most especially like her dad showed grace to her, when Katherine was 13.}
I’ll post my thoughts soon too but all that I have to share is basically repentance and prayers, from lousy (legalistic) parenting toward more-of-Christ parenting.    So much of what I tried to say, doesn't need to be said now after reading these posts from Katherine.

UPDATE:  In case you're crazy enough to be interested....
here are my thoughts:  Peacemaking Authority - Thoughts on Kind Parenting from a Recovering Obedience Addict.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mama

Ann Voskamp has invited her reader community to post their tributes to their moms and her family wants to respond with generous giving to a maternal child heath project in Haiti with Compassion.  I love it.  Love my mama and helping other mamas...

But in this season of motherhood for me, I just can't set aside a month to write a tribute that might just pass as barely worthy of posting in my mom's honor.  There will never really be adequate words from me....

I was born out of my mom's brokenness, neediness while she searched for love.... and found only a chincy knock-of of the real deal.  He was married and I don't think he ever looked at me (I met him when I was 22 but that's a different story.)  My mom raised me alone.... except that with all the weight of new mothering responsibilities she decided she needed some help and started visiting churches for a free hour of babysitting; she could sit still and think for an hour every Sunday morning.   By the time I was seven (yes, it took that long) she heard the Gospel on a Sunday morning:  that God has provided for our sin by giving Jesus.  And my mom and I trusted Christ together.

My childhood is best told in this picture:  my mom and I flying downhill on a bobsled, wind in our hair, smiles and eyes all alight with joy.  She was a flight attendant so we travelled (for free... snatching up any empty seats) to Mexico, Hawaii, London, Budapest, Bombay.

She was broken and I was broken and we grew in Christ together.   She shared with me all she was learning from radio Bible teachings during her commute to work, she shared and modeled how she was learning to give of herself in every way.  She sent me off to the ends of the earth and supported me in every way I could dream.

And there was conflict and continued giving (Such Generous Giving!), there was hospitality and hostility, and forgiveness.... There was great forgiveness  (Thanks be to God!)  and great joy (pure gift!).  There was always an adventure.  Soon after our wedding she hinted at her hope for a grandchild.  And then too soon there was the unexpected, sudden heart trouble and now there is the legacy and the longing....  me longing for her friendship, advice, encouragement, help, love.  She would have been here with us probably every month for those free tickets of hers and she would have eaten up these four grandkids of hers.

Oh I love, I love, I love and I miss my mama.

I'm glad she told me she loved how I called her mama.   And I praise God that she is LIVING now more than she ever has, with Him.   And I rejoice that we will be together when we see the Lord.



my mama in the middle with her two sisters, (L, R) Blythe and Gayle
a good fun old photo booth strip with her little brother Brian
(who I grew up thinking just might be the tallest man alive)


I am so happy Matt got to meet my mom.  So glad my best friend knew my first friend.  Oh how she shaped me!  How gracious the Lord was to draw us to Himself together!

Mama, I'm so very grateful for you, so grateful the Lord gave me to you.  I wish I had words to thank you and honor you more as you're due...  I love you and miss you so...

This is post is for the  The Thousand Moms Project.... 
in the community of blog friends who gather at  www.aholyexperience.com


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ian & Larissa


I watched this short documentary a few days ago and I’ve been sleepless long stretches of the nights since then.....  just thinking over this. incredible. beauty.  

 


This is rare, full of splendor and glory kind of love.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  And I think John Piper’s words about this couple, this video are crucial:  

“Desiring God exists to help people everywhere understand and embrace the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And I would add, especially in suffering.
Being satisfied in God (or anything) always seems easier when all is going well. But when things you love are being stripped out of your hands, then the test is real. If God remains precious in those moments, then his supreme worth shines more brightly. He is most glorified...
I tremble with the glad responsibility of introducing you to Ian & Larissa Murphy in this video. Tremble, because it is their story and so personal. So delicate. So easily abused. So unfinished. Glad, because Christ is exalted over all things.”

At the wedding, their pastor, Mark Altrogge, read this quote from the book Momentary Marriage, by John Piper:



Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children. Being united to Christ by faith is a greater source of material success than perfect sex and double-income prosperity.
So it is with marriage. It is a momentary gift. It may last a lifetime, or it may be snatched away on the honeymoon. Either way, it is short. It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed. The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.
Altrogge wrote about the beauty of this couple's love as a covenant keeping love.... but what is astonishing to me is that they demonstrate faithfulness to a covenant not yet made, a covenant intended.  That is what makes me weep and stare at the ceiling all night long.  And that this is only a glimer of all the faithfulness and ardour and undeservedness of the love of God for us?  I am Trembling In Awe.


And one note from me:  When we first watched, I got the idea that Ian has less abilities than he really does.  Since falling in love with this couple and being up too long thinking of them, I’ve found their blog (www.prayforian.com)  and wedding pictures (every cute magazine would be jealous, this was beyond pintrest’s best), and it seems to me that this wonderful Desiring God video perhaps doesn’t do justice to Ian’s progress and healing so far.  He wrote his own wedding vows.  He’s limited greatly from his accident, but he’s more able to express things than I understood from the video.   One of the latest prayer requests from Ian is that he would be able to walk again.  
Larissa has written a follow-up post “Why We Got Married” too, if your interested.    She wrote: 

Even though we chose marriage, we chose it sadly....   

We know that we have made a covenant to each other, just as Christ made to the church. The church that He made that covenant with is so imperfect, and sorrowful, and disabled. Just like our marriage. This church, and this marriage, are hemmed in by Jesus and eagerly long for heaven.


And more on this topic, from her post on Jan 18, 2010, as they counted down to their wedding day, 


... why get married? Well, as simple as it is, because we love each other. And we enjoy each other. And we believe that Ian was created to be my husband and me to be his helper. Our marriage will look way different than we imagined four years ago. But it must mean something that I can't look at Ian without smiling. And that he has struggled every day for three years to get better- for me.


I echo what their photographer wrote about this being one of the most beautiful testimonies of love the world has ever seen. 


Ian and Larissa, your love sparks me worship God.  
May the Lord be your great strength, Larissa, 
your continued Healer, Ian, 
and may your lives together be filled with the exceeding joy of no regrets and lavishly  beautiful love.  
May your joy be rooted solid in the living hope of what is yours only in part now... but will echo whole for all eternity in Christ.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

our littlest splasher

 our littlest splashy fun sweetheart goofball precious girl

 her "are you going to join me for some bath fun?" invitation face
"You're still taking pictures mama?"   

See... leaving toys strewn about makes way for some sweet photo opps!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Life of the Beloved

Somewhere along the line I came across the title Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen, and thought it would be worth it’s wait in luggage to have it carried over the Pacific for us.   But despite it’s assumed preciousness, it lay unread until yesterday.  And when I finally read it, it broke my heart.  
Don’t most of you reading this love the book The Return of the Prodigal by Henri Nouwen?  Matt and I read it years ago and I’ve heard plenty of friends mention how sweet a book it is.  I was pretty sure Life of the Beloved, “Nouwen’s Greatest Legacy,” would be a gift to unwrap as well.  
In the prologue Nouwen wrote about his friendship with a secular Jew named Fred who implored him to speak into his life and the lives of his secular group of friends, to share something that they could understand, to teach them about the spiritual life.  This book was Nouwen’s reply to Fred’s question.  
Nouwen opens the first chapter with the scene of Jesus being baptized and hearing the God’s voice proclaim, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you.”   Then he dives straight into his application: “Fred, all I want to say to you is “You are the Beloved (p. 30).”  

The rest of the book Nouwen teaches how to live out this belovedness with four words that have become very precious to him as a priest, words that he lives and speaks daily in every Mass he performs as a Catholic priest.  The words are Taken, Blessed, Broken, and Given.  Nouwen suggests these words as characteristics of the journey of becoming the beloved. (We already are the beloved and yet we also still need to become the beloved, says Nouwen.)  

“You are the beloved”.  It’s like taking a check that’s been written out for $50 to the bank and asking them to cash it for the amount that’s printed at the bottom of the check... the bank routing number:  186675490317.  Those words that God spoke over Jesus don’t get to be applied wherever, however we choose.  Would anyone say that these words that God spoke to Jesus could be applied to Hitler?  No.  It couldn’t count for Hitler not because WE decide that the words don’t apply to him, but because that was not the context of those words God spoke.  I’m sure we can agree that this is a common courtesy to give to anyone’s words:  apply them according to context.  God said them to Jesus. Yes there is some truth to be extrapolated from it for us, but let us be careful to honor the meaning of the words as they were spoken.   Doesn’t God’s Word deserve at least this common courtesy?
I will still say though, that there were some sweet spots in this book for me.  Several, actually.  I love the idea that we can pursue knowing, embracing our blessedness in these two ways (p 78-80):  active attention to, or meditating on Scripture (which I would define as the Bible, but Nouwen leaves open) and practicing the presence, which is “attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day, year after year” (p79).
But reading Life of the Beloved really grieved me.  Did this priest, this beloved writer-teacher, just tell a man, “you are the Beloved” with no thought of this man's unity with Christ, the One to Whom those words were said?  And in the whole book does he ever dare to write “You are God’s beloved”?  No .... just “the beloved.”  I’m guessing that if the statement was more directly connected to God, then it would have to be followed up with “and what kind of God is he?... Who is it that calls me this, that loves me so?"  

But we’d better not ask that because we would too quickly find other words of Jesus, other truths in His Word, like “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”  John 3:36.  
I don’t want to loose any reader-friends for the misunderstanding that I am suggesting or that the Bible says we are not loved by God.   Untrue!  We are most radically, wildly loved....But God is not a partially blind, semi-holy Grandpa in the sky who we can fool on the issue of our guilt and sin.  He most assuredly loves.  But in all rightness and holiness, he does not accept as his beloved children, sinners in their sin.  Please read on, friends. 
In the epilogue, Nouwen humbly includes Fred’s response when he read the manuscript of  this small book.  Fred said to him “Long before you start speaking about being the Beloved and becoming the Beloved, you have to respond to some very fundamental questions such as:  Who is God? Who am I? Why am I here?  How can I give my life meaning?  How do I get faith?  When you do not help us answer these questions, your beautiful meditations on being and becoming the Beloved remain dreamlike for us(p 144-145).”  
How bizarrely, heart-breakingly sad.  Does this priest of God really need to be begged by an unbeliever to be told the answers to those questions?  Did this priest really think that “good thoughts about yourself” heard from deep within (p 76) would satisfy a thinking man more than answers from God’s eternal, authoritative word to these real and honorable questions from his friend?  
At the very end Nouwen concludes that this friendship, Fred’s question, and his own unsatisfactory answer to Fred are “the mystery of God using his secular friends to instruct his disciples.”  He says this because while the book wasn’t helpful to Fred, it was found to be a great help to many believers in his community of faith.  
But I have to ask, how is this helpful?  How is this really helpful beyond feel-good, rootless (truthless) happy thoughts?    If Jesus gave up his divine privileges  and lived in our filthy world, a finite life in the flesh, healing and loving and serving, and ultimately dying for us....  was this all some tragic, unnecessary loss for God?  Poor God, he didn't have to do that.... kind of thing?  God turned away from the Son with whom he enjoyed eternal fellowship and darkness covered the earth at the death of Christ... and for what?  Was it not needed?  Was the cross a wasted sacrifice on God’s part?  Can we be the beloved of God apart from trusting in and being united with God’s Eternally Beloved Son?
No.  God demonstrates his love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!  God's Savior has come for us!  (We Rejoice!)  He took the record of our sinfulness- all the sin of all those who trust him- and nailed it to the cross and we get the perfect, sinless record of Christ.  He has pursued us,pursued us to his own death and then beyond death to defeat it, that he might give us his love and forever life with him!  We Are Loved!  We are loved by This God!  All who abandon their self-defined notions of finding meaning in vague, non-relational belovedness, all who flee from deceptive lures to a satisfaction or completion from any other Source can discover LOVE beyond everything in this world.  The Eternal Love of God.  
How sad to hear this priest of God who I admired and esteemed lead people towards a spirituality that is not of God, but instead brings them straight into condemnation from God.  “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  (John 3:18).  

This book by Nouwen has many parallels to Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, where she also writes about the greek word "eucharisteo" .  Voskamp writes for word appreciators (her style is something of alphabet art) but she also demonstrates committment to bringing her words into submission with the hard and radical truths of the Bible.   The theme of Eucharist, which Nouwen enjoyed or expressed, with very slack attention to honoring the whole of the Word, Voskamp unpacks with greater diligence and adherence to the actual meaning of the text, the Word.  
And perhaps Ann Voskamp has learned about writing and rewriting things with greater clarity.   Even she has improved her own words lately.  Where she used to sign off “All's grace,” she now writes “All’s grace, because of Christ alone.”  
Amen.  All’s grace:  our taken/ chosenness, our blessedness, our brokenness, our givenness.  All is grace, because of Christ alone.  
We have the Savior from God, Jesus the Christ!  He has been given for us!  We have life in Him!  All who trust in Christ are the beloved of God!   (I John 3:1-3, Ephesians 3:14-19)

Faith in Christ or faith in self or possibly no faith at all.... these things matter.   And apart from the Word of God, we have no standard by which to judge any piece of life at all.    May we endeavor to be a people who strain hard after What is True? and live radically the implications of the Truth and Love of God toward us and toward the world.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Ends

Not long ago we were introduced to a tremendous new blessing in our lives.  Jeanne spent her childhood far from her home culture and now she has a great big heart to bless kiddos in those same shoes today.  She's started up a small company (non profit?) that sends books to the ends of the earth and she has Blessed. Us. So. Much.

Perhaps not all of America is so crazy about second-hand clothes, books, toys, furniture, everything but I can tell you this:  we are big fans.  It works great for our family!  But that leaves us in a bit of a pinch, because China doesn't do second-hand.  Things are mostly either worn thread bare or given to family members or just plain trashed when they're done.  One friend told me a second-hand clothes store would never work here because Chinese would all wonder about every single item "has anyone died in this?"

Regardless of "previously owned" taboos and superstitions, English books are just hard to come by.

Enter "Book Ends".



I am so grateful for this friend and mentor in my life!  Jeanne loves to bless folks like us who work overseas by sending books for kids.  She has packed 2.5 boxes for us now and I'm sure the box had to inhale when she cinched down the last rounds of packing tape.  Chocked full, those boxes:  Well over 100 books, and then bubble gum, math manipulatives, and stickers filling every crevice.   She's as good as my mother-in-law.  (Honest, these ladies could win millions if only there was a reality show at the post office!)

Here's how Book Ends works:  Email me (or leave a comment with your email address- I won't publish it!) for Jeanne's contact info and she'll let you know how to search for books or author's she's got on hand.  And check our her generosity here:  you pick the books (or let her), she packs the boxes and ships them to you, and you pay only half the cost of shipping.

Write to her dear international friends!

And if anyone of you stateside stumbles across an amazing library sale, maybe you could contact Jeanne to donate some books to Book Ends too?  I think she's up for receiving donations, just like she's always so delighted to give!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

late April pics

big bro/ baby sis
together
when do the bath time/ towels shots have to end?  (I hope no time soon!)
Vivi's first ride in the back seat
lunch on the street
little big brother love
a little hot for April (riding home from church)
so big already? (she snoozed on that hot ride home from church)

John likes chicks
silly slider (in the fishy shorts of course) 
I'm unbalanced here.  Bummer.  I guess that means I'll have to do some more photo shoots with the big two and the little love to make up for this all this John-ness (that is still so precious to me!)  

More photos coming soon :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Peacemaking Authority.... the long thoughts


Peacemaking Authority:
Thoughts on Kind Parenting from a Recovering Obedience Addict
A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 3: 18
Somewhere at the beginning of our parenting journey I got some words stuck in my head that I think I’d be better off having never heard.  I could tell you the exact books and one talk that I heard around the time that our big guy was two.  I was gearing up for a hard course, but I was sure we would find a way to make it smooth sailing through these terrible twelve months.   Our big boy was giving us a few good practice runs, tantrums that stunned and stumped his starry-eyed mama, and just as I was more scared and feeling more ignorant than ever, these teachings landed in my ears and pierced my heart...
Perhaps it wasn’t so much a matter of the exact words I heard but just that the sinfulness in my own heart twisted and misapplied them according to what I felt like I could handle as a mom.  From several sources, the message seemed to all boil down to this one thing:  Teach your kids to obey.  Teach them that they need to obey the first time, every time.  Teach them to obey because obeying is a blessing for them.  Disobedience leads to death.  Disobedience kills.  Give them the blessing of learning to obey no matter how much discipline it takes.  
Clearly there is blessing in teaching our kids to obey.   Not only does the Word of God, which is our absolute, gracious, perfect authority, teach us this (Ephesians 6:1-3) but common sense and real-world life makes it plain and clear too.  “Sweetheart, please don’t put your fingers in the electric socket.”  Kids will have the blessing of no electric shock when they obey.   Needless to say, I want this blessing for our kids!
And yet, when I come at my role as mama with immediate obedience on the tip-top of my mind, and the plan set that firm discipline is The Way to teach it, I get tense and twisted fast.  Obedience should bring blessing for them and blessing to our home.  But if I am pursuing perfect obedience (read ‘perfection’) in our kids (or in me!) I’m not pursuing Christ.  If that’s so... then I loose everything.   And if I am pursuing obedience with a heart that is earthly and unspiritual (James 3:15) I will not arrive at Christ, nor bring my children to him.  
Pursuing Christ with them, in them, for them, means that I aim and train towards obedience (submission, righteousness, sanctification) like He does with me.  Pursuing Christ is a matter of the Spirit... walking in the light as he is in the light (1 John 1:7), abounding with the fruit of his Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).    It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  It’s his patience that leads us to salvation (2 Peter 3:19).  And it’s his ways that I want to employ to work towards the goal of delighting in God and honoring him above all things....  or, we could say, towards the goal of “obeying from the heart.”   That’s the very thing I’m after here... 
I’ve written this way-too-long post for my sake.... to unpack these twisted thoughts, to lay them before my Savior and share them with my husband, to call to mind truth from His Word to repair my brokenness and recover His heart, and to help me be mindful to pray pray pray as I seek to move forward as a loving gentle mama to the precious children that I am so blessed to call mine.  
The Ugly Ambition-Roots
We’ve already covered this:  it is a blessing to teach our kids to obey.  But the trouble is that way too often when I am obedience hunting in them, I’m doing it because (a) I want my kids to be pretty near perfect so that other people can see what kind of good parent I must be (b) if they disobey, I want them to see how very responsible and diligent I am to teach, train, discipline our kids however swiftly and seriously the crime deems, (c) I want our home and our day to run conveniently according to my plans, so they’d better keep in line with my agenda (think tyrant in pursuit of total power).
Gross.   I wish it was never true, but I have disciplined and reprimanded our children with these motivations driving me way too much.  Oh God Forgive!
James 3: 16 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”  Yep.  Those ambitions, they’re exactly what James is talking about.  
However, it also seems to go the other way as well... so that aiming at and hanging everything on outer obedience from my kids fosters and enhances the sin in my heart too!  But as I’m seeking the Lord for grace to redefine my primary goal, humble my heart and accept the process that my kids and I are in together, I am helped, and am more so anchored in His peace.   
Two Changes
I’ve called myself a “recovering obedience addict” and that does sound right in many ways.  It sounds right when I think of the common sins in my mothering as an addiction.  In retrospect, most of my terrible low points as a mom have come when I’m kind of intoxicated with false ideas of perfect obedience, perfect children, a perfect home.  Lies that it’s achievable.  That it determines my worth or value as a mom.  That it’s all that matters.  All of it, lies.  
So I’m hoping this little writing project will help me break this addiction.  But I must be clear on what is changing in me.  There’s mainly two things:   1) my attitude (perspective on my role as authority and expectations of our kids) and 2) the methods I’m using to train our kids. 
A Renewed Mind:  What kind of Authority?
I’m not writing about a new goal for our parenting.  I’m not abandoning obedience.  We will still be aiming for it, training towards it.... I just don’t want obedience to be the only thing, the highest thing I aim for.  It’s too narrow a target when the glory of God beckons us to much more.  It smacks too close to the “don’t just wash the outside of the cup” words with which Jesus confronted the Pharisees.  
So I want to bless our kids to raise them with healthy expectations and guidelines for them to live in, I want to teach them to obey me because God has made me their mama to bless and serve them as their authority.  I want to provide a safe structure where they can grow strong and courageous.  Tedd Tripp points out that our culture is very resistant to being under authority and even to being in a position of authority.  So we have lots to learn.... and I have lots to relearn, to correct, about my notions of authority.  
If I take “authority” to mean that I am above our kids, I set the stage in our home for Me Against Them.  I am not on their team.  I am out to correct, confront my children.... continually.  Sometimes I take it on myself to save them from every danger, every harmful anything, and separate them from every evil.   
Now, Jesus wasn’t leading twelve children... but really, how far off were these disciples of his!?  We don’t see Jesus leading his disciples like a drill sergeant, opposing them on every slip of the feet, loosing his cool over their slowness to understand.  (And they were very slow!)  They were downright ridiculous sometimes but we still don’t see Jesus embarrassed over what ideas others might have thought about him because of them.   He knew they were but dust.  He’s never urged to action out of fear of others’ opinions or desire to defend himself.  We don’t see him using force, pressure, or intellectual stun guns to intimidate his guys.  
Jesus came along side them to teach.  Russel Moore points out in a talk on Biblical Manhood how Jesus persevered to carefully, thoroughly, lovingly, teach his disciples.  Peter tells Jesus that he doesn’t want his feet washed?  Well, Jesus kindly doesn’t let him refuse.  He gently, lovingly let him know that not being washed was not an option.   
He wasn’t hovering over them and he wasn’t giving orders from the sidelines.  He was right in the mess with them.  He led from within, through relationship.  He was a clear authority He was the framework, the support that would hold these men up and lead them- through relationship- to grow into strong witnesses for him, strong servants of the church.
I want to lead and serve our kids like Him.  They’ve been made in the image of God and I’ve been given front-row seats to see His image in them unveiled.  They will be unique.  They will be different from me.  And I am unspeakably privileged to know each one of our kids, to see them, to be a part of their growth and transformation in Christ like this. 
I’m on the road together with my kids, all of us pursuing Christ, being transformed into more and more of his image.  I am with them, a join-heirs with Christ, a fellow traveller, seeking first his righteousness and panting after his holiness and pleasure and fame with them, and sometimes for them (as I lead them).   
Sanctification is the daily reality for followers of Christ.  It’s the stuff we’re commanded to work out with fear and trembling.  (Phillipians 2:12).  It’s not as if obedience is a matter for children and sanctification is a matter for Christians (or for adults).  Since obedience is a critical concern for mature Christians too, why not treat the obedience issue as the one ongoing reality that our children are engaged in now: growing and being refined in the likeness of Christ?  It’s a very good, humbling, sweet-pain realize I am with my kids in this.... 
My Job Redefined
A dear friend wrote to me “From the time when our children were young, I would say, "okay, time to pick up blocks" and if they didn't start on their own I gave them a
nonthreatening choice about doing that alone or with help.  Sometimes needing help meant holding their little hands and moving them to put the block in the bin.  The point was teaching compliance, not to bully them into clean up, and as they got older they needed help less and less.”  
No decent Christian parenting book out there would advocate that we use “bullying” to train our kids.  But when my gaze is locked on first-time obedience every time, my focus tends to sag and drift from the ideal “obedience from the heart” to Nike style “Just Do It-ness”.  And then when and swift and severe discipline at every infraction is the way after this goal, I sputter and spark flames quickly when my instructions are not being obeyed by the little people.  Telling them something like “Honey, I love you and I’m not angry with you but I am going to teach you” is going to be flat-out insincere.  I will be angry and I will feel wronged, when I’m already breathing out the death fumes of  “my word must be obeyed or you will die!”  
Know this though, I’m not advocating a limp-wristed approach to instruction.  I know what the Word says about the wages of sin (Rom 6:23), and the way that seems right to man (Prov 16:25)... It’s a big deal.   But I’m also majorly comforted by God’s own patience with me in the midst of the dark backdrop in the world that we live in, and the very dark roots in my own heart.  
So...  what is my job then?  How am I to instruct our kids to godliness, to delighting in and honoring God, and how ought I respond to disobedience?  If I can trust God’s powerful grace at work both in them and in me, that helps me can keep calm about disobedience.  I need to stay anchored deep to the truth that teaching my kids to obey can be done positively, constructively and not just by means of discipline.    
One day, as I picked up our kiddos from morning preschool, a teacher met me with a world of disappointment written all over her face.  (We’ve had some experience with this well-intending teacher before...  She’s got some tough standards. Once she wiped off Marian’s nail polish because she personally didn’t like it.)  She told me our boy had played too roughly with others, not listened to her words and kicked a friend’s hat across the room in jest.  She was aghast.  
And he was annoyed.   He walked out the door and did not want to stand by me for the minute more I needed to hear from his teacher.  He wasn’t cooperating well when I asked him again to stand with me till she was done.  This happened to be the morning I had spent a good chunk of time writing this.... and I decided I’d try to put kindness into practice even here.  
Too often in the past, I would have met my son with firmness that overran his annoyance.   I would have told him a bit louder than normal and much sterner than he can make his voice, “young man, you can and you will stand right here by me, right now, for one minute.  ”  But, this time, I knelt down and looked at him in the eyes.  I told him, “Buddy, I hear you.  I know you’re not happy right now and I want to hear from you about it.  But I also need to hear from your teacher and I want you to stand with me for this, to honor her and to honor me, ok?”  He did.  I wouldn’t say it was the five star “obedience from the heart”... but it was better than we were looking just a minute before.  
It reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer calling Jesus “the man for others.”  Lord make me like you:  a mom for my kids!
Discovering this new job description is like unwrapping the gift of freedom in mothering.  For so long I’ve felt like my highest obligation is to teach my kids to obey.  I would never want to raise up little Pharisees so I would have said that my goal was to teach them to ‘obey from their hearts.’  And, as it seemed from what I was reading, the only way for Christian parents to teach their kids this was by firm, fair discipline at the very instance of any glimmer of disobedience.  
Pressing after obedience like that leaves me pretty high strung when it comes to the amount of instruction, correction and discipline needed.  Motherhood like that strains me and usually twists me into a less gentle, less happy person.  But when my job is redefined to center on kindly leading, tenderly confronting, lovingly serving our kids, I am freed up to delight in them much more often, much more easily.    What a gift!
The Music of Home
Rachel Jankovic pointed out (and I wrote it on the window in our kitchen) “It is no abstract thing.  The state of my heart is the state of my home.”  When my heart is humming “obey, obey, obey” it’s pretty much a funeral dirge on a loud speaker and no one is happy to hear it. The tone of our home is set in stone: drone drone drone.  
Yucko.
Not so is the tune of our King.  Psalm 100 sets a bright and cheerful scene in the throne room of our God.  I can’t help but smile as I read it aloud to our kids.   It’s really ridiculously good, isn’t it?....  We worship so great a God that he delights in, equips us for, and even commands our joy in Him?  We’ve got it too good to be so loved by such a joyful God.
It makes me think of Rachel Barkey (www.deathisnotdying.com) who chose four words to be her life motto, (I like to think of it as a battle cry) To Serve With Joy.  
Joy.  Serve with joy.   That’s just so much like Jesus.  (Mark 10:45 and Hebrews 12:1-2 )    There’s music in that.  “Serve the Lord with gladness!  come into his presence with singing!... Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise!”  Music in my heart... and music in our home.  Music to dance to.  The music of our King.  

A Slow Matter
It’s no accident that the verses on wisdom and meekness, on peacemaking and reaping righteousness in James evoke the image of a farmer in the soil with his seeds and his crops.  It’s slow, hard, dirty work for a farmer and a parent.  It’s not a harvest we’ll be able to reap tomorrow after tossing seeds out today.   Obedience isn’t an issue they learn at two and are then done with.  They will learn it and relearn it daily.  (At least I know do.)
When I can keep in mind that we are headed in the right direction even if we don’t reach our goal this instant, I’m doing well.   I’m especially doing well when I remember that how we journey, what spirit I speak and serve out of when I confront and correct my kids, is more important than any particular words or parenting methodology I serve up for them.   
Wisdom from Above
Yes, a wise woman should choose her words carefully (Proverbs 31:26) and she also delivers them kindly.  The wisdom and the kindness is a package deal and the whole thing is my job.  I can’t loose sight of this!  How wisdom is delivered, imparted matters everything.  
I could lay my wisdom down and Wap Bam Zam!  I could zing them with questions that bind them tight in little straight jackets of no escape.  My infallible wisdom and inerrant perspective stunning them like a tazer.  Or I could, perhaps still use wisely prepared questions to guide our kids, but be even more mindful of seeking to demonstrate my wisdom with love and understanding in meekness.    As Ann Voskamp says, “guide them gently.”
We are told plainly that the “wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”   Oh God make me wise according to you, to the character of your heart, the fruit of your Spirit, the Truth of your Word.  Don’t let me bank on psychological or proof-texted Scriptural wisdom if it’s not all of you.  
“Who is wise and understanding among you?  By his good works let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”  (James 3:13)
Some Practical How-To’s
I remember too well when Isaiah was not quite two.  He wanted to be with me in the kitchen and I was busy making dinner.  I asked him to sit on the rug so that I could get around him with knives and boiling water and not trip over him.  But he was too curious.  He got up and I swatted him hard.  He got up and I swatted him again.  And it went on and ridiculously on.  
What about teaching him to obey by sitting next to him on the rug and tickle-giggling with him for a moment?  I could have started like that (if I made that my first effort it probably would have lightened me up a good bit too!)  and then drawn his attention to the sharp things I would need to use and the boiling water we’d need for our noodles.  I could have nibbled his neck with a few more kisses and told him kindly and seriously that I need him to obey or he will not be allowed in the kitchen with me.  
That would be training him to obey, helping him to obey, modeling obedience, enjoying him, establishing my love for him and explaining good reason for my instructions.... and it would’ve been fun and we could’ve been happy.  Even if it was only a moment of happiness before having to send him out of the kitchen and deal with the wailing that would no doubt ensue after that.  Still, I like this plan much better than the continual swat approach.  
And I know... even for me, when I reread my own words here, I think “yea, right!”  When we’re in the midst of some parental pressure point I almost always run with the notion that I’ve got to speak quick, act quick, deal quickly with every one, and try my darndest to fix every need.  There are some moments when that’s true.  I must address an urgent issue.... but Lord help me to do that kindly, firmly, humbly.  And for the times, much more often, when I actually could take time to be with my kids to teach them a good lesson, please help me to love them in the moment, speak kindly, tenderly, firmly, and be patient with my little loves.  
Like Christ, I want to lift up the weak hands, bend low to look into drooping eyes and sad faces, I want to listen to their hearts and gently care for these precious gifts.  I want to remember that I am on their team and I really want that truth to reverberate in their whole soul.  They are the tender little lambs that have been entrusted to me by my Gentle Shepherd and my job is to bring them to Him.  
Sovereign Protection
One of the easiest triggers for a grumpy spring from my heart is when my kids are hurting each other or being unsafe.  Katherine’s post, Sheltering Is Not A Place, is a must-read for me on this topic.  (See several links to her parenting thoughts below.)  
It is so good for me to be humbled to know that I am not omnipotent or omnipresent to protect my kids from everything, all the time, everywhere.  I have got to take his yoke upon me, learn from him, trust him.  He alone is able to save.  He alone has perfect plans for their good, plans which he is unhindered from fulfilling.  
And isn’t it good that being humbled, lifting my eyes up to him with trust that He is the ultimate protection for our kids, that this will bring me grace!?  Ahhh.... that’s the very thing that I need.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”  James 4:6
Bearing the Reproof
Rachel Jankovic writes in her must-have for every mother of young kiddos book, Loving the Little Years, that motherhood is a “wonderful opportunity for repentance and growth and not an opportunity for us to exact penance. (p 14)” She goes on... “When they disobey, do you talk about your own hurt?  Are you pointing to all the work that you have to do now that they screwed up?  Do you want to elaborate at all on how bad, bad, bad a particular thing was?  Do you want to see them feel bad, or see them with a clear conscience so you can have a little snuggle tickle-fest?” (p 18-19)
Tim Keller points to this same need when he exhorts us to see the debt of our sin against God and the wealth of God’s forgiveness and grace.  He then applies Christ’s forgiveness to us to how we ought to serve up the same generous love and forgiveness for others... paying the debt out of the wealth of God’s love for us in Christ.    Christians are called to pay the price for each other, and Christian parents especially get to do this for their kids.   (http://timothykeller.com/media/  click on The Prodigal God to see the sermons in this series).
Katherine wrote about this in her own story with her dad, at her blog, Raising Five.  She shares how his kindness and patience and gentle communication won her over...  
When I was about 13, I had cultivated a nasty habit of rolling my eyes at everything my dad said. Now, my dad is a big jokester, but I was intent on letting him know in no uncertain terms that I thought his sense of humor was lame, and that his constant comedy was a complete embarrassment.
One day he went on an errand and invited me to come along. At one point the stopped the car, looked over at me and gently said, “Is there a problem between you and me?”
Of course I denied it, but I knew exactly what he was talking about.
“Well, I love you so much and I just wouldn’t want anything to come between us.”
That day, I believe, was a turning point in my relationship with my parents, forever emblazoned on the heart of a would-be sarcastic teenage rebel. In one day I went from thinking my dad was the stupidest man in the world, to thinking there was no one greater.
He could have forced his paternal authority over me and made me stop acting like such the defiant teenager that I was intent on becoming. Instead, he came to me with gentleness. He came to me because he loved me and valued our relationship.
He came to me in a way that represented God to me - a still small voice inviting me back into relationship with him.
Katherine’s dad bore the reproach she was giving him.  He could have nailed her for her disobedience, but her bore her reproach.  Christ is the Savior and we will never be savior to our kids.  But this is true of us:  
“...to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”  I Peter 2:21-24   
What if, in some way, this characterized me as a mom?
As I think of it, this has got to be one of the central characteristics of my heart and work as a mom if I am following Christ.  This was The central characteristic of his life and mission in our world:  He paid the price for us, not because we deserved it, but out of his limitless wealth of love and compassion and all for his glory and for our joy.  He is able and desirous to provide for us, to serve and care for us, and he gives strength to all who trust in him so that we might give to others in his name.  Oh God, so work in me that I might pay the price for my kids... to show them your love and lead them to You!
What will it be then?
What will this look like?  Really?  On the hard days, the everyone’s in a bad mood, sky’s are grey, power just went out (China style), and the fridge is empty days?   We’ve had our share of all that and I know every time, every moment is a battle for God’s glory in our kids lives, in my life, in our home.  Some battles are harder than others and some days there will be bloody wounded hearts.  But... there. is. hope.     
Honestly I don’t know what all these words might bring, but I do know this one thing:   that I want my mothering to be distinctly marked with by my own attitude that speaks and demonstrates clearly for me kids “I’m on your team.  I will be firm and loving and fun with you and for you.  And we will grow to love and honor God together”.  I want them to see and know that their mama will get dirty in this life-battle with them and for them.  Their mistakes won’t be shame that I will shun... and shun them.  I’ll run to them and embrace them in their pig slop clothes.  I’ll serve them, teach them, bless them and let every day end in affirmations of unconditional love.   
And, I’m going to have to swallow my selfish ambition.  Better yet, I yearn for that ogre to be nailed to the cross.  To open our home to a more tenderly loving, kind approach to parenting means that I’m going to have to lay down my hunger for a crisp clean home and kids that make me look like a A+ mom.  I’m going to have to let it be loud and (at least sometimes) let them be silly even when it annoys me to the bone.  
I’m even going to have to let them be angry, frustrated, and sometimes moody (just like their mama!)  A dear friend told me about Families Where Grace is in Place and how she read there about the healthiest families being the ones where faces are most connected to behavior and mood.  If you’re feeling grumpy, your face can look like it.  Don’t make the kids be fake!
There will be times when I’ll have to ask them to sit on their bed to get out their frustration over something, so as not to drag everyone else into their gloom...  but give them grace for bad days and let them be real.  Real does of course mean messy and loud and it will take more, (probably much more) time from me to deal with well in relationship with each kiddo... but I do think it will be worth it.  
Years ago I read this section entitled “Teacup Theology” from Linda Dillow’s book Calm My Anxious Heart and it has stayed with me in a very powerful way.  It seems entirely applicable to my parenting neediness, so I will include it here:
“God has lovingly assigned each of us to be a uniquely special teacup.... Then God fills our cup with our portion, what He determines best.  Our portion is our physical and emotional being, our abilities, circumstances, roles and relationships.  
“Sometimes we don’t like what’s been poured into our cup.  Remember the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?  When He saw the suffering He was about to endure, He pleaded, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”  (Luke 22: 42).  Christ grasped the handle of His cup and lifted it to God and said, “I accept my portion.  Infuse me with Your strength that I may drink it.  
“Every cup - whether dainty china or rough-hewn pottery - has a handle.  God has placed our portion in our cup.  We either choose to grasp it by the handle and lift it to Him, saying, “I accept my portion;  I accept this cup,”  or we choose to smash our cup to pieces, saying, “God, I refuse my portion.  This cup is not the right size for me and I don’t like what You’ve put in it.  I’ll control my life myself.” (p18)
Oh God, You have first loved us, first laid down your life....  You have given your strength to us, you infuse us with your grace and power to mightily work within your followers.  Would you empower me to receive what you have given and all the daily difficulties you allow.  Help me to accept it all as your design, your choosing- through which you will work my sanctification and my kids and through which you can gain glory.  
Give me a love that resembles yours... that sacrifices like you. Enable me to lay down my life for these little ones, for your glory God!  And may there be a harvest in their lives and in our home, fruit that will last and will brightly ring with your praise for all eternity!
Related Reading:
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/parents-beware-proverbs-are-not-promises  {needed wisdom, needed confrontation to my proud tendencies to think that I can train perfectly obedient children (hello, sin nature!?)  and to think that obedience is all that matters.}  
http://www.itakejoy.com/?s=obedience%2C+really%3F    {Yep.... this is one to reread every time I find myself in the storms of that addiction to perfect behavior & obedience}
http://www.itakejoy.com/creating-spaces-of-personal-time-focussed-on-hearing-hearts/  {Just sweet to read and refocus on the glories of this job of motherhood... such a privilege!}
http://jenwilkin.blogspot.com/2012/05/its-not-personal.html   {so grateful to find this wise and articulate woman.  Well said parenting advice here, kick in the pants style}
http://www.momheart.org/just-guide-gently#.T7UAX5jro20    {From Ann V.  Oh Yes, Lord, make me like this!}


http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/06/prodigal-children-john-piper-you.html#more

http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=859

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/03/where-do-introverts-fit-in-the-church/
{The point in linking this to this topic list is that introverts are as much at place in the church as extroverts because gregariousness is not a fruit of the Spirit but kindness is... and kindness can be demonstrated one on one or to dozens...  the point is kindness, kindness, kindness.} 
People are born with different temperaments, which is all part of God’s rich and beautiful design for His body, but kindness is what we’re all called to.
Kindness is what God is working in us through the implanted seed of the gospel.” - Adam McHugh, guest writer @ www.aholyexperience.com
Rachel Jankovic.  Loving the Little Years:  Motherhood in the Trenches. Canon Press:  Moscow, Idaho.  2010.    {My favorite parenting book yet.   Matt and I read portions and laughed aloud together....  an absolute must.}
Karen Andreola.  The Charlotte Mason Companion:  Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning.  {Honestly, these were the quotes that got me thinking about all this in the first place.  I am so grateful for Charlotte Mason not only as a first rate educational advisor but as a parenting teacher too.  Oh.  So.  Profoundly.  Grateful.}