Weekend Update

On Friday, my Lila graduated from preschool.

On Saturday, we had dinner with some friends and I don’t have a picture but it was the highlight of the month of May. We laughed and ate amazing food and just had the best time!

On Sunday, we celebrated Kristin’s upcoming wedding!

And then it was Memorial Day!  We went to Mom and Dad’s and had so much fun being outside!  Kids in the creek, kids in the wading pool, crabbing, tubing, playing corn hole, laughing, eating so many good things!  The weather was beautiful and everyone had fun.  It was excellent.

And then last night, I finally sat down to jot some things into my thankfulness journal, because I hadn’t had the time all weekend.  After finally finding a pen, I wrote and wrote and wrote…filled three pages full of good, good things.

Good gifts.

And one of the things I love the most is being able to go back and see them again.  To remember his goodness and his mercy.  It seemed fitting to think of it this way, at the tail end of Memorial Day which is all about remembering those who have given all.

Jesus has given all.  I remember His love and His mercy.  And in my little book are more than five hundred good gifts.

This little book is my monument, my Ebeneezer to the goodness of God.

This is a short post today…I’m so tired from our whirlwind weekend that I just don’t have many words to share.  But I want to ask you:

What are you thankful for from this past weekend?

Judge Not

Yesterday I had a mini epiphany.

We all know that we have no business judging each other, right?  We’ve read that in the Bible, we’ve quoted it to each other, to ourselves, maybe even with a wagging finger to our judgey loved ones.

We know why we shouldn’t judge.

We shouldn’t judge because we’re all sinners.  We’re all on our own journey.

And we don’t have the right to decide who is worthy of His grace and who isn’t.

And I actually do get that.  I have plenty of planks in my own eye that need to be tended to.  I believe strongly that there’s much more power in love and encouragement than in judgement and discord.

All week this week, I have struggled.  Remember the day that Discouragement came knocking?  Well, she got creative this week.  And I think it’s because Poor Me and Selfishness were already sitting around my dining room table, commiserating over coffee.

You know how sneaky Poor Me is and you know how manipulative she is.

I’m pretty sure that one or the two of them let Discouragement in the back door.

And she sidled up beside me and whispered discontent in my ear until, before I knew it, the house was filled with these malicious, malignant bedfellows that are really not friends to me.

But oh, how quickly they convince me that they are.

Discouragement told me that I would never be able to get the support for Peter and the Good Samaritan Orphan Homes that they need.

Discouragement told me that I would likely never finish the book I’ve begun…because everyone knows I never finish anything.

Discouragement told me that my back was just going to continue to ache and continue to trouble me.

Discouragment told me that I’d never be the mother I’m supposed to be.

And for a while I argued with her, because I didn’t want to feel discouraged.

But then she upped the ante.  “You’re not going to be able to raise the money for the orphan homes…you’re not like World Vision, you don’t know enough.  You’re not missions minded, like so many other Christians.  And anyway, you’re always going to struggle financially.  You don’t have the sort of blessings that this friend has…”  and she named names.  And she called me out to judge my circumstances against those of my friends.  I shook my head in dismay but began to wonder why I don’t have the same blessings as this dear friend or as that one.

“You’re not going to finish your book.  You’re not like…”  And then she named names.  She listed bloggers who are changing the world with their words, bloggers who are writing books, who are using their influence for so much good.  She shook her head and said, “Not you.”  I thought about this.  I thought about the other bloggers that I know and love and read every day.  I felt small and insignificant.

“And you can forget about physical healing…”  She began to list my sins and she began to list the good and godly people I know who’ve received full and total healing.  “You aren’t like them, you know.”  And I felt so unworthy.

“And how can you be the mother you want to be?  For one thing, you’re way too old to have very many more kids.  And look at how you parent…you get impatient, you lose your temper…You’re not like…”  and then she listed mother after mother that I know.  Wonderful mothers with one child or six children or nine children or more or less and mothers who are patient and soft spoken.  Mothers who always know where the library books are and what day the field trip is.  Mothers who feed their kids freshly baked bread and healthy, organic foods…mothers I aspire to be like.  Suddenly I felt like I’d never be good enough.

Before I knew it, my whole living room was filled.  Jealousy, Discontent, Self Hatred, Envy, Unworthiness, Restlessness, and Comparison filled the room with their noise.  Their voices, so loud…I could barely hear the Shepherd anymore.

Poor Me and Selfishness folded their arms and smiled at Discouragement.  The three of them had accomplished their goal.  I was a mess.

I kind of just curled up into a ball in the middle of the floor and let these bad friends assault me with their words.  I took them in and I let Discouragement win.  She is so relentless.  So stubborn.  So loud.

And then I did hear the Shepherd.  “Judge Not.”  He said.

“Really, ”  I replied.  “Really?  You’re exhorting me now when I’m a mess?  A puddle of me on the floor?  I need grace right now.”

“Judge not.”  He said again.  Firm but serene.  Like He is…the Eye of a storm.

And then I could hear myself correcting daughters in this house and what they always say is, “But she…”  wanting to point the finger at another sister.  They always do that, always want to blame another sister.

And I always say, “You need to be looking at yourself, not at your sister.”

And then the Shepherd said that to me, “You need to be looking at yourself, not at your sister.”

Because how true.  Looking at my sisters in Him, I am measuring my successes and failures against theirs and how can I know what work took place in their hearts and lives to get them to that point?  How can I know what fires they’ve walked through?  How can I judge my life against someone else’s?

I can’t, really.  And, I shouldn’t.

I picked myself up off of the floor and started kicking these awful friends out.  I told Selfishness that Love is not self serving and she slunk guiltily out the door.  I told Poor Me that I am blessed and loved by the King of Glory and she rolled her eyes and flounced out dramatically.  I told Jealousy that the King is enthralled by my beauty and she turned from me, walked away.  I told Envy how blessed I am and that Love gives and doesn’t take.  She nodded and departed, knowing I was right.  I told Unworthiness to go, go, go because Jesus Himself suffered and died that I might be free.  That I am made in His image and I swear she went up in flames right then and there.  I told Restlessness that I am content in my circumstances and she waved good bye.  I told Comparison that I am created in His own image and how could that be any better?  She conceded my point, got her things and off she went.

And then it was time to have a talk with Discouragement.  I realized then that I was not alone, that Obedience and Faith had joined me while I was sending off all of the others.  That their friend Hope has arrived as well.  We four stand with arms linked and we said to Discouragement that she must go and stay gone…because we are in this together.

I looked at my own life again.

I can do this.

I can be a missions supporter.  I can help Peter and the Good Samaritan orphans and the good ladies.  I will not grow weary in doing good.  

I can be a writer.  I will finish my book.  I will blog every day and if the only people who ever read it are my mom and my mother in law and my sister and me…that’s okay too.  He has asked me to write…write, I will.

I can be healed.  He is in the business of miracles and I am qualified for one because He loves me.

I can be the mother I want to be because this is the job I was created for.  And maybe it won’t look like I dreamed it would back when I first began to long for a large family, but I will do the work God has given me.  I will do my best.  I won’t measure myself against others.

I won’t judge.  I won’t even judge me.


Come On, World Changers!

This morning I had visions of sipping coffee and writing an inspiring and motivating blog about the Good Samaritan Orphanage.

This morning, Claire got up about an hour before I’d planned on waking.  In the first fifteen minutes of our being up, she dumped out her sippy cup full of chocolate milk on the carpet, got into some lotion and unraveled a scrap afghan I’ve been working on for the poor freezing children of our household.

I did not give up. I put on Veggie Tales and got her a no spill sippy this time (what a rookie mistake, anyway!) and sat down to type.  Claire took note of the situation, climbed into my lap and then went a step further and climbed on top of my laptop.  I put it aside and gave her my undivided attention but what she really wanted was the lotion that was now on the table beside my chair.

After an epic meltdown over the lotion and another fight over my yarn…she got mad and stormed off.  She is now wrapping herself in her blankie and watching “Gideon the Tuba Warrior” and so I might have just a few minutes here to get a paragraph or two down.

I think about our home and Claire’s life and how she never has to worry if there’s clean water to drink and wash in.  She never has to worry that there won’t be enough food or that she won’t be able to go to school.  Her life at this stage is mostly about getting away with things and drinking my water.  We have a safe and happy home and all of our needs are met.  I think about my hot coffee (and huge bag of coffee beans) and kitchen full of food and the fact that we can keep our house as warm or as cool as we want.

I remember how last night I wanted a snack.  I went to the kitchen and looked in the pantry and looked in the fridge.  I thought to myself, “Ugh…I don’t want any of this stuff.”  And then I remembered Peter telling us a story about how his daughter picks up leafy greens off of the side of the road during her travels because they can be cooked for the children.  How she can make a soup out of almost nothing.

I remember this picture of a lady who is waiting to be sponsored.  She has broken legs and has no one to care for her.  I think chances are good she wouldn’t look in my pantry and say, “Ugh…I don’t want any of this stuff.”  

My mind moves to the pictures spread out on the dining table last night of all the young ones in need…how $25 is enough to cover ALL of their needs. I see their faces and ask the Lord, “What do I do?”

And it’s not that I feel guitlly or that I want you to feel guilty. No, it’s not that. It’s that I feel conviction.  It’s that my heart is stirred for the needs of these people.  I am asking the Lord for opportunities to help, to change the world.  To bless these ones that He loves.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  James 1:27

Let me tell you a bit about my friend Peter.  I wrote about him here, if you want some back story.  A Good Samaritan, Indeed  Last night, we were fortunate enough to have dinner with Pastor Peter and our friends, the Tiefenbacks. He was able to talk to us about all that is going on with Good Samaritan and with his family and I just knew I had to share it with you.

Peter is the head of an organization that does four different things.
1. He has an orphanage. Here is where you can read more about the nuts and bolts of the whole thing:  Orphan Homes.  Pastor Peter told us that he currently has 59 orphans and that their needs are simple.  They need education, they need clothing and they need food.  The monthly maintenance for each child is $25.   (And for perspective, I spent almost that much at Chickfila yesterday.)  He told me that the children gather in small groups to pray each and every day.  He told me they’d been praying for me, since the time we first became acquainted.  My heart broke into a million pieces as I imagined these beautiful children, half a world away, praying for me as they hoped against hope that they would have enough food to eat, that they would be able to go to school.  The children are made aware of their “foster parents” and they pray daily for the people who support them.  Peter sends out twice yearly updates and photos of the child you foster.  He also sends regular email updates.

The children that Pastor Peter has in his orphan home are children that are not adoptable.  Either they have parents still and the parents are too poor to care for them, or they are disqualified for other reasons.  In short…their only hope is the Good Samaritan Orphanage and sponsorship from people like you and me.

2. He makes a home for widows. You can read more here: Widow Homes. The mission is to provide health care, homes, food and clothing for these women who have no husband and no children or children who are unable or unwilling to care for them.  Pastor Peter told us that he has nineteen such women in the widow home and that there are many more on the horizon.  He is hoping to purchase a small piece of land in order to build another house for the women to live in, because they are running out of room.

The cost to maintain one of these dear ladies is only $30 per month. This is $1.00 a day.

3. Pastor Peter and his organization hope to build homes with proper toilet systems. You can read more about the housing and sanitation project here: Housing and Sanitation. They hope to build 50 to 250 homes for the most needy of nearby families, to improve their quality of life. At the current time, these families are living in straw huts that are very vulnerable to weather events, not secure, and which don’t have toilets at all. This project needs donations, as well.

4. Pastor Peter explained to us about his latest project. He is hoping to get the tribal families to begin raising sheep as a good source of food and income. The idea is to provide a sustaining livelihood for these families.

I am telling you all of this because I want to ask you for help. I have set in my heart a goal to secure ten sponsorships for the children, five sponsorships for the widows and one lump sum donation for each of the four projects. I am asking you, really, to provide resources for these widows, orphans and poor people of Andra Pradesh, India.

Because yesterday, I listened to a man talk about doing the work of the Lord…I listened to him cheerfully and optimistically list the needs of his flock. He believes the Lord will provide. He knows the Lord will provide. Don’t you want to be a part of that work?

You can leave me a comment, you can send me an email at joel2twentyfive@gmail.com. You can go to directly to the website through any of these links I’ve listed above and figure out how to donate that way. You can send checks with “India Orphans/Peter Subbaiah” in the memo part to:

Hope Community Church
28 Harpersville Road
Newport News, VA, 23601

Hope sends off a check once per month to the orphanage. They handle it all, including keeping track of your donations so that you can use your giving as a tax deduction.

We can make this happen. We can be world changers, dear readers. We can change the world for an orphan or a widow, we can provide resources to build homes, we can provide clean water, we can provide sheep! Sheep! How cool is that? And I can assure you…I know Pastor Peter. You can trust him to use your resources wisely. He is thrifty and he is always thinking of the greater good. He will make sure that every dollar you send is put to a good use.

And then, in the mail, twice a year, you’ll get a picture and an update of a beautiful young person who is fearfully and wonderfully made…you’ll get a letter written by that young person, thanking you and telling you how their life has changed. You’ll get an update on your “new granny” and you’ll know that you’ve changed the world for her. This is good work and I am truly begging you to ask the Lord if you are to take part.

Let’s be world changers. Let’s serve the Lord by serving His loved ones.

Walking Fearless

I watch Claire walk on the sand and she is not so sure about it.

She doesn’t remember this beach from the summer before. She doesn’t remember sitting in this very sand, playing in the water, crawling around and trying to cram the whole beach in her mouth. This is all brand new.  It’s unexplored, unknown, untamed.  She doesn’t know what might happen here.

She walks gingerly, looking to us for reassurance.  She talks a lot about, “Beach, beach, beach!” trying to assure herself that she’s not scared and that she’s okay.  She wants us to stay near.  If I walk too far ahead, she says, “Mama!”  and holds out sweet little arms.  If her daddy steps too far away to get a better angle for the picture, she says, “Daddy!” until he comes back close.

She needs to know that she’s okay.  That this is good.

She sits down and tries to brush the sand off of her feet.  “Beach?” she says to me and I smile.   She is funny, trying to figure out what the meaning of all of this is.  Her Nana and I laugh at this little one we love so much.

Claire is independent and likes to do things herself.  She wants to be able to walk fearless on the sand.  She keeps trying it out but won’t go very far. “Mama?  Daddy?  Nana?”  She wants us near.

Because she knows that if we are near, she is okay.  Just like if we know He is near, we are okay.

 I am struck by this as I watch her try, as I watch her have her adventure.

In the end, she wants Daddy’s hand and then she walks with confidence.

Her little heart already knows that she is safe holding Daddy’s hand.  She moves faster now, with more excitement and with assurance.  “Beach!” she says.

Her little heart knows that Daddy’s nearness is good, that his hand holding hers is good.  That he will keep her safe and that he will walk with her.  She doesn’t doubt him, or second guess his motives, or wonder if he’ll be there for her.  She knows that he will.

We can know that too.  We can know that He is with us, that He walks with us.  We can know that He will stand with us, hold us up, keep us safe in the storm.  We can know it because we can see it in our lives and we can read it in His word.

In my thankfulness journal, I record His great love.  How He loves me with the smell of the ocean air, how He hugs me with warm breezes and kisses me with a mist blowing in.  How He is with me as I gaze out on the expanse of sea and sand…He set each grain of sand, He knows every wave.  He can name every bird swooping down on the sound and every jelly fish washing up on the beach.

I can read in His word of His great love as I read about His Son and the gift of Calvary.

As I read this:

Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can reach for His hand and call His name.  He will be faithful to give hand and answer.  He will be faithful to walk with me in unfamiliar places, through scary new adventures, through flame and storm.  He will be faithful, even when I am not.

I will just hold His hand and know that I am okay.

Bubbles, Peez.

Claire brings me a little bottle of bubbles while I’m folding the last load of laundry of the day.  I remember my Mother’s Day resolution to her and her siblings, even though I was really just trying to finish this last load.

I blow bubbles for her and she laughs and laughs and tries to catch them.  I watch her, how cute and little she is and how much fun she is and I think, “This is a moment I’ll be writing about in my thankfulness journal.  Or better yet, I’ll blog about it.”  And as I watch her chase the bubbles, a whole blog about living simply and living in the moment is forming.  About keeping those Mother’s Day resolutions.

I put the bubbles down to fold a few more things and she says, “Peez.”  and does the sign for please.  I cheerfully blow more bubbles and she shakes her head, “No!  Bubble.  Peez.”  She holds her little hand up and I realize she wants to blow the bubbles.

But she’s only nineteen months and the only thing that’s going to be accomplished by handing her a bottle of bubbles is a giant, sticky mess.

So, I say, “No, sweetie.  Mommy will blow the bubbles for you but you can’t hold them.”

“Peez.  Bubbles.”  Hysteria threatens her little voice.

“No, no, sweetie.”   And for someone who likes to say No so much, she sure doesn’t like to hear it.  She starts screaming, throws herself on the floor and starts flailing and occasionally reaching out to try and hit or scratch me.

I ignore her, which was the day’s ineffectual approach to tantrums and the fit goes on and on.

I shake my head wondering where my blog post about living out my resolution had gone.  “I was just trying to have a nice moment with this baby!”  I think to myself and she rages in the floor.

I keep folding and finally finish as Claire cries and yells, “No, no, no!” at me.  (She has a very strong personality.)

“Claire!”  I say, “Want to help me?”

She likes to help.  She loves to help me unload the dishwasher.  It’s not actually super helpful, but she feels like such a big girl and she is so happy to be doing work with Mommy.  She’ll like helping with the laundry too.  I show her where the wet laundry goes in the dryer and hand her a wet shirt.  She throws it in and I am rewarded with a beaming grin.  I give her each piece of laundry to then put in the dryer.  She is proud of her work, shouting, “Yay!” after each item goes in.

I don’t think about how I’m trying to beat the clock and get a certain amount of chores done before dinner needs to be cooked.  I don’t think about how I would be done already and on to something else.  I just think…”Wow, giving her something else to do stopped the fit…and…I am living out my Mother’s Day resolutions after all.”

We put the last thing in the dryer and she looks to me for the next one.  “All done.”  I say, wondering if this will set off another fit but she slams the dryer door closed.  Another, “Yay!” and we go on to the dishwasher.  The bubbles are forgotten.

As we spend an inordinately long time putting the dishes away, I am reminded of how Aubrey was a lot like this one.  Full of fire and a personal agenda that no one else could decipher.  I think of the many tantrums Aubrey threw.  How we were all a little afraid of her.

As though summoned, Aubrey twirls into the kitchen, dancing a Hindi dance to a Bollywood song on her iPod.  She is all tall, willowy beauty and cheer and she hasn’t had a fit in like fourteen years.  She is responsible and smart and is quick to serve.  She uses her drive and determination and her perseverance for good purposes now.

But she didn’t know how to do that when she was little and neither does Claire.

I realize that there was a time when I thought Aubrey would never stop having fits.  But thinking about it now…I don’t remember when her last one was.  One day, she just didn’t have tantrums anymore.  And she grew up into this lovely woman who is so full of promise and potential.

She recently did a project in her photography class, take a look.

And all of my friends kept asking, “Hey, if there are really four Aubreys, can I have one?”  because she is such a delight.  Helpful and funny and smart (smart mouthed too, in the good way).  She’s fun to hang out with, she’s great with kids, she doesn’t mind doing her share.  But like I told everyone…you have to grow your own.

I take the bowl Claire gives me and put it away in the cabinet.  She pulls out a spatula and goes to the wrong drawer to put it in. I let her, thinking I’ll fix it later…she is taking great pride in her work.

This too shall pass and I will just wait it out…because before I know it, this little dervish who colors on her legs and dumps out my coffee into my yarn bag and wants to drink all of my water, every day…she’ll be like her sister…using her powers for good and not evil.

Changing the world.

“So maybe this moment will go in my thankfulness journal”, I say to myself.  Because there’s freedom in figuring out that this too shall pass and I must just fight the good fight and persevere and it will all pay off in the end.

The Lord reminds me of a verse I learned while teaching the kids at church a few weeks ago.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

And the tantrums can be really wearisome.  And honestly, sometimes the “help” she offers…it’s wearisome because I want to rush through and get it done.  (Let’s don’t even go into how she helps by throwing everything away, including keys, shoes and library books.)   The day to day and the here and now can be wearisome.  But we remember the promises we made our children.

We are making world changers.  That requires perseverance and hard work.  And if we persevere, if we see it through and do the best we can to love them well…we will reap a harvest.

You can do this, Wearied Mama.  You can do it.


A Good Samaritan, Indeed

I just don’t believe you ever meet anyone by accident.

Some years ago, (ten, eleven, twelve?) I met a family who had eight children.  You know how I get such a kick out of large families…but did you also know how loudly my heart beats for adoption?  This particular family has two daughters that were adopted from India.  I loved them instantly.

We struck up a friendship and we got to know each other.

They told me all about the orphanage their daughters came from in India and the service of the man, Peter Subbaiah who was the founder and pastor of the Good Samaritan Orphan Home.

At this time, this family full of wonderful teens and their mom and dad and I were all involved with a coffeehouse called “Shadrach’s”.  It was decided (and the details are fuzzy) that a benefit concert would be put on to try and raise enough money for Peter to build a well for his orphanage.  A much needed thing.

All went well and enough was raised and the well was built.

And a few years went by.

I had the opportunity to meet Brother Peter in 2006 when he took a trip to America.

It was a happy meeting and I can tell you that Brother Peter is about the work of the Lord.

He doesn’t have the support of a big mission base like World Vision or Heifer International.  He relies fully on donors like you and I and every single penny is so important.

At the Good Samaritan orphanage, they tend to both widows and orphans, just like the Word says we are to do.  (And the Word says it so often.)

These are people who have no one and nothing but through the support of donors like us, there is hope for them.  Our meager $20-30 provides food, shelter, education for the children, medications for the elderly and a better quality of life.  It also allows us to do the work of Him to whom we owe it all.

I’ve recently been introduced to the concept of first world problems and third world problems.
First World Problem: Slow wi-fi
Third World Problem: No clean water

First World Problem: Which pair of shoes do I buy or do I buy them both?
Third World Problem: No shoes and no hope of buying any…ever

First World Problem: Long lines at Starbucks
Third World Problem: Starving babies

First World Problem: Bad Traffic
Third World Problem: Orphaned children with no one to care for them

It’s so easy for me to forget about poverty, about women and orphans who have no one and nothing…It’s so easy for me to forget that sometimes teenage girls must turn to the sex trades to stay alive. It’s so easy for that to seem separate and unreal.  Unrelatable.

Until you meet someone who has two hands and a whole heart in the midst of pulling people up out of the mire of starvation, poor health, dirty water and no hope.

Until you meet someone who takes the Word of God so seriously that he has devoted his life, since 1979 to care for the widow and the orphan.

But sometimes a few years go by and the urgency fades. When I met Peter in 2006, my heart was stirred for his ministry…and I have dutifully sent $20 here and $25 dollars there. But I forgot how desperate his flock is. I forgot how much these widows need sponsorship, how much these young girls and boys need help. I didn’t keep it fresh in my mind.

And then this morning…as I’m walking over to the prayer room, who walks directly into my path? Brother Peter. We spoke and we hugged and we prayed together and traded contact information. He said he almost didn’t recognize me since “now you are fat” and I laughed because, well, it is true.

I told him that we’d recently been blessed with a bit of excess in funds and that after prayer, we’d decided to donate a portion to his orphan home. He reminded me of the well and then he said this…”Madame Chris, now, we can use that money to dig that well even deeper.

To dig deeper the well that began my relationship with Peter and with the Good Samaritan Home.

To dig deeper the well of clean flowing water, to dig deeper the well of Hope and New Life.

There are no accidents.

Brother Peter’s eyes were filled with tears as he thanked the Lord for me and I said no, thank the Lord for Peter who is the hands and feet of Jesus for his flock.  Who has served the Lord in a way I have not.

We shook hands, we hugged again and I scurried off to the prayer room to sing to the King.  I kept thinking about it, praying for Peter and for his orphans and his widows and his family.  Asking the Lord to dig deeper the well in my heart of compassion, of service to the less fortunate.

To dig deeper the well in my heart, where His Living Water can flow more freely.  I want to be His hands and feet too.

And so here I am, asking you to consider if there’s a place in your budget for the widows and orphans of the Good Samaritan orphan home.  There is a website:  www.goodsamaritanorphanhomes.org And there is a place to click where you can see the widows and the orphans who need you.  This website is run, I do believe, by Brother Peter’s son, who cares for the flock in his father’s absence.  Servants they are, web masters they are not…so if you have any trouble with your sponsorship, I can help you get it figured out.

Let’s do this, you guys.  Let’s change the world for these ones who need us.  Let’s be His hands and His feet.  Let’s be the Good Samaritan.

You can also donate to:

Hope Community Church
India Orphanage/Peter Subbaiah
28 Harpersville Road
Newport News, VA, 23601

Or, you can email me for more details at joel2twentyfive@gmail.com

How to Be the World’s Best Mom

I often get compliments on my wonderful tribe.

I hear that Julia is so artistic and witty and so fiercely in love with Jesus. I hear that Aubrey is so grounded, hardworking, that she is such a wonderful performer and that she puts her all in to everything she does. I hear that Chase is so great at putting people at ease, that he is able to talk to anyone, young and old…that he is so great at including younger kids. I hear that Lila is clever and imaginative and that it’s beautiful how she prays. I hear that Claire’s red hair is beautiful and she is so spirited and smart. People say to me, and this is my favorite one of all, that they love to sit behind us in church and watch us all worship. That there is beauty in our love for Jesus, that we worship whole hearted.

We do and it is my biggest joy. That my older children have chosen Jesus for themselves, that my younger ones are learning to hear His voice…it’s my greatest joy.

And sometimes, people ask me for parenting advice. And that’s when I’m dismayed because…I’m still just figuring all of this out. And the thing about it is this, there are few black and white areas in parenting. No one way is the best way. I’ve managed to figure out some basics that work with my personality and the personalities of my kids…but I’ve also managed to screw up a lot of things.

I tried to sum up my parenting philosophy and this page of craziness is what I ended up with.

We do sleep training, but co-sleep out of desperation some nights.
I breastfeed…but only for as long as it works for baby and me. This means anywhere from never to one full year, in my five cases.
I love baby wearing but some of my babies did not.
I don’t care at all about what type of birth I have- I prefer vaginal over c-section because of recovery time, but I’ve done it every way you can think of and if you line up my kids in a row…you can’t tell which one was 100% natural, which one was complicated and which were heavily medicated.
I believe in teaching independence, but I want them to know I’ve got their backs.
I don’t believe in “clean your plate” but I regulate snacking.
I’ve been a stay at home mom, a work at home mom and a working mom. I listed them in order from my very favorite to my least favorite. Mostly I like having the freedom to wear my pajamas all day long.
I’m all about the right carseat and following the rules and guidelines but I do turn a baby forward facing by fifteen months because I can’t stand the screaming anymore.
I want them to do well in school but consistently forget to check Edline, the homework folder or even (this has happened more than once) parent teacher conferences.
We vaccinate on schedule, partly because I believe strongly that vaccines are important but just as much because I don’t want to have to scramble when the school says they need this vaccine or that.
Our kids go to public school even though I have a romanticized dream of homeschooling and a less romanticized dream of private Christian school. Public school is what we can afford and they have all done just fine.
I don’t care if the tv is on, but I know I should.
I don’t even much care if they eat junk food, as long as it’s moderate.
I encourage playing outside for two reasons- it’s good for them and they’re out of my hair.
I don’t condone disrespectful speech, to me, to each other or to anyone else. But I don’t mind their smart alecky jokes one little bit. (In fact, I take a special pride in a well placed smartie pants comment.)
I encourage them to do scary things but sometimes secretly hope they’ll still chicken out.
I use time out liberally, spankings when necessary, logical consequences (which seem to work best) and long lectures way more than I should. Especially since the latter does not work at all.
I’m a scheduled sort of mom but only very loosely.
I believe in bedtime but if we’re doing something interesting…I might forget to check the clock.
I love kid activities- amusement parks, birthday parties, the zoo…sometimes more than the kids do. Oh, and I’m be paranoid the entire time that someone will get lost, kidnapped or injured.
I will bring my camera to every single thing we do.
I believe in being consistent but letting something go if it’s not working.
I don’t sweat the small stuff and offer almost no input on their wardrobe unless we’re going to a wedding or a funeral. Same for the hair styles of teenagers.
I’m phobic about freak accidents.
I require my children to say Please and Thank You but could care less about Ma’am and Sir.
I don’t allow anything zombie related in the house, but we love Harry Potter.

See, I’m all over the place and I don’t have it all figured out. Sometimes, when someone points out a trait that one of my kids have…I just have to give credit to God, because it’s literally NOTHING I’ve done or it’s something that developed in spite of me.

I think what I’m bottom line trying to say is this:

I’m just doing my best, like most moms.

And I think what I’m also trying to say is this: We have to stop debating about what’s best for kids. We have to step out of the battle, stop participating in the Mommy Olympics because no one is going to win.

There is no medal for doing things all “right” or for doing things best. Because the truth is, there is really no “right” or “best”. You use your judgement because you know your treasures and yourself best. What’s the perfect solution for one family may be the worst solution for you.

Besides, any time I’ve judged a mother by her child’s behavior, I’ve guaranteed myself that one of mine would be behaving that same way within the week. Likewise, any time I’ve patted myself on the back for my good mothering…that very thing that I’ve congratulated myself over has gone south.

Stop going to war, stop letting the Mommy Olympics divide us.

I find it always comes back to this:

Love Well.

This is our family motto and this is what I filter all things through. From parenting choices to defending my choices or to offering advice to others…am I loving well?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus is asked what the greatest two commandments are.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Jesus said it. We must first Love God and then we must Love Others. We must Love Well.

And that’s all most moms are trying to do…trying to love their children well.

I’m learning a lot lately about encouraging others…about how little these debates really accomplish. I’ve had to ask myself why I get so angry when someone claims that her particular approach to mothering is the one good and true way. I’ve had to ask myself why I feel defensive when someone gets on their soapbox about a parenting decision that is not the way I’ve chosen to go. I asked myself frankly, “Is it because I’m insecure about my choices?” And no, it’s not that. It’s because it’s not loving. It’s not loving to judge one another, it’s not loving to participate in the mommy olympics.

Because, as another blogger recently said, We’re All Mom Enough and because, you know what? Some things are even more important than the choice between cloth and disposables. Where is the mommy war for the motherless child?

It all comes back to love and the choice to love well.

So here is my advice about how to raise kids as awesome and interesting as mine:
Be consistent but flexible.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Pray for them and with them.
Teach them to honor God, themselves and others.
Love well.

Mother’s Day Resolutions

Well, of course I am going to blog about Mother’s Day.

Mine was beautiful!  Saturday, I went to a luncheon with three of my girls- Deanna, Aubrey and Lila.  Sunday, I awoke to a clean house (thanks, girls!), cards, flowers and the sweetest, most beautiful letters I’ve ever read.  I’ve got a locket coming to me that’s full of beautiful birthstones of my wonderful loves.  It was all good and my cup ran over and over and over.

I smiled as I counted my sweet blessings, as I wrote down the things I was thankful for this Mother’s Day weekend.

349. Looking at old scrapbooks with the girls
350. Chase’s funny card
351. The letters from Julia and Aubrey
352. The luncheon at the Circuit
360. Perfect Mother’s Day weather
362. Burgers on the grill
363. Kids running and playing in the same yard I ran and played in as a child

I thought about how blessed I am to have such a great extended family, to be able to spend time with them…laughing and chasing kids and eating all sorts of good things…I thought about how blessed I am.  How good my life is, how full of good gifts it is.  How wonderful my children are.

I decided that instead of New Year’s Resolutions…I would make Mother’s Day Resolutions.  Because I always want to be learning how to love them better.  So here goes:
1. I will give them my full attention when they need it. I will put down my iPhone, my laptop, my crocheting, my book, my whatever and give them both eyes, both ears, my whole heart and my whole mind.  I will not think to myself or say aloud, “But I need to get my blog written…” or “I need to edit these pictures” or “But I’m on Facebook…” when they climb into my lap.
2. We will hurry less. Less “Hurry up! We’re late!” and less “Get your shoes on already!” and less “Are you coming or not?!” and more setting everyone up to succeed in getting out the door sooner. Maybe we’ll go a little bit less and maybe we’ll build in a bit more time to get ready…but I want to hurry less.  I definitely want to fuss about running late less.
3. I will stop and thank the Lord for the moments we spend together. I won’t try and rush through…I will be glad to read “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” for the twentieth time. And I will be glad to play peek-a-boo all the live-long day. And I will listen to that story about Minecraft or about Kombucha or about the Korean community or about play practice and I will really hear them. I will. Because these are my most cherished people and I want to treat them as such.  The people I live with are interesting and bright and lovely…I will listen fully.
4. I will thank the Lord every day for them. There are a lot of women with empty arms who would trade places with those of us who complain that it’s so hard and so much work. There are a lot of women who long for even one child and there are a lot of women who long for health and wholeness for their children. How can we stop thanking Him for these gifts?  I know it’s hard some days.  Yes, I know.  But I also know its a gift every day.
5. I will keep perspective. I will fix my eyes on the One who gave me these precious people and I will bear in mind that it literally zips by. My first Mother’s Day was in 1993, when Julia was nine months old and now she is on the verge of twenty. It flew. I mean it. It really did.  I will keep perspective and give the job it’s due.  This is a privilege.  Mothering them…it’s a privilege.
6. I will NOT be a part of the Mommy wars. I will not compare my mothering to any other mother’s, nor will I compare hers to mine. I will encourage moms to be the best they can be and I will encourage them by pointing out their successes and the wonders of their young. I will encourage moms to love well, to be present, to be consistent and to appreciate their little people. I will enourage moms to say thank you. I will acknowledge and validate those days that are not our favorite, but I will encourage more. We are our own worst enemies, women…we go after each other with our claws exposed every time someone’s choice is different than our own. But there are very few things in the world of childrearing that are black and white and for which there is only one good answer. We must encourage each other.

What we’re doing, Moms…It’s important.

What are your Mother’s Day resolutions?

Discouragement, Circumstances, Poor Me, Obedience and Gratitude

Discouragement knocks and I spend the whole morning deciding if I’ll let her in or not.

She’s persistent, knocks often and sometimes loud, sometimes quiet.

My inner me reminds me that we know Discouragement well and that she is a comfy companion but I don’t know.  Circumstances nods in agreement.

I think maybe Circumstances gave her a call and invited Discouragement over when I wasn’t looking and I am not happy with Circumstances right now.

I’m tired.

I’m hurting- my back, my knee, my ankles, my shoulders, my neck. All hurting.

The house has been neglected by all and my pain level has prevented me from doing my usual chores. Poor Me pokes her head around the corner and says, “Poor you, your house is a mess because no one is pitching in, even though your poor back, your poor knee, your poor ankles, your poor shoulders, your poor neck are all hurting so much. Even though your medicine makes you extra sleepy and you can’t really take it…no one is pitching in. Poor you.” For a moment I look at her gratefully and then realize that Poor Me is really not a friend to me at all.

I’m busy and the whole week will be busy.

Little girls spent the morning making messes and squabbling.  That Littlest Girl can’t stop coloring on her self and on walls and how does she keep getting these markers anyway?

Discouragement knocks louder and my countenance droops lower and Poor Me pulls up a chair next to Circumstances.

I balance the check book and Poor Me sees her opportunity to just let Discouragement in herself.  I shake my head no at her…albeit reluctantly.

I go to the kitchen, determined to be productive and begin to tidy up.  I see where a toddler girl has dumped out a bag of chocolate chips on the floor and there is the detritus of a full and busy household on every counter top.  Poor Me starts towards the door.

And then a five year old girl cries because her two fishes have both died, right here in one day and they were the very bestest fish anyone ever had.  And why would I clean the tank and “Kill Someone’s Pet Fish Anyway, Mommy”?  Good intentions but not the outcome we were looking for.  Poor Me asks me, “Now?  Can I open the door, now?”

And I almost let her.  Because this day is not going great.  Sometimes the day in, day out of the laundry and the dishes and the cooking and cleaning and the squabbling and the destructive nature of my particular children and the long stretch until my Prince rides home on his white horse…sometimes these days all kind of blend together and mush together and the tedium calls long and loud for Poor Me and Discouragement.  I wonder if maybe a day with these two old friends (since Circumstances seems to want them here so much anyway) might be in order.

I make a space for Poor Me and Discouragement on the couch and then God gives me a sort of shake.

“This is not who you are.”

And I just roll my eyes at Him and say, “Some days, it is.  Some days all these things I say in this blog feel like hypocrisy because some days really suck and some days I don’t have it in me to do my best and to–”

But I stop.  I don’t want to say it but He knows me and He says, “You don’t have it in you to be obedient?”

I don’t want to say it.  Because being tired, achy, annoyed, busy…these are not excuses that cut it with the One who died for me.  For the Maker and Holder of Everything and All.  For the One who bears the sorrows of every grief, sin, hardship, travesty, pain, wound, wrong, big and small…they are all on His shoulders.

He holds it all on Himself.  My exhaustion, my annoyances, my busyness, my pain…every wrong done to me and every wrong I do.  He holds it all.  My taking that from Him denies the power of the cross.

I tell Poor Me to slam the door in Discouragement’s face and I choose Obedience.

Obedience quietly ushers Poor Me out the door and waves good bye from the porch to them both.  They back away slow, wanting to lurk there on the porch, to wait for me to call them back in.  Obedience crosses her arms and steadies herself.  “Good bye, now.” she says and she means business.

I open my Bible to Matthew 8, it’s where we’re studying this week.  I read about His miracles, how He healed, how He delivered and I realize that my petty Circumstances are nothing.  Circumstances backs away and quiets herself.

Circumstances is what she is, and a lot of the things that she is, I can’t change.  But I can change my attitude towards her and take away her power.  Circumstances has no power really, she can’t change Who He Is and Whose I Am.

Obedience draws near and encourages me to seek Him in the Word that is Life.  I read and I am stilled.

And in that stillness, He is there and He reminds me of the dare to be thankful.  And so I pull out my list.

339.  Lila’s pink sparkly dress
340. Being a stay at home mom which is worth what it costs me
341. Lila’s choice of Megamind over Sponge Bob
342. The sound of David’s giggles
343. Claire’s long morning nap, uninterrupted
344. Peace for a few moments to read the word
345. My camera

Gratitude wins the day. Obedience smiles, pleased and proud of herself. She knew all along that she was what was needed. Obedience and Gratitude are twin helpers to the weary, the heavy laden, to the Ones who really, deep down, want to do better and be better.

I close my eyes and listen to this.  Because this song can get you off your feet and dancing around the kitchen.

Strong Love by Jon Thurlow

I put it on repeat and start the dishes.