Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Don't Want To Give My Kids The World

At 11,000 ft above sea level, one can "see" everything better. Nick, Ava and I took the ski lift up to the very top of the mountain at Angel Fire last weekend. We got off the lift and proceeded to walk about a 1/2 mile to a small private lake, called Summit Lake. It was quaint. We got there, (after walking uphill at such a high elevation) and sat on the "shore". It was like all of a sudden, life stopped, but in a good way. There was no place to be, no schedule, no noise. Nick and Ava decided to go "exploring" so I stayed behind and my pregnant self sat there in some shade and just let life be still for a minute. I'm so terrible about letting life stop for a minute. In the capacity that we work, serve and participate, I just don't. It's not good to let life continue constantly without ever stopping to just be. The reality is that, between our jobs, trying to maintain as many nights a week at home together, worship ministry, Kairos ministry, etc... being still for longer than an hour or so at a time, in a place not our home can be nearly impossible. I am thankful for the time we had, even if it was just a day away, to get some fresh air, be together and to not have lots of things to do. Even the car ride was nice because we could have uninterrupted conversation and laughing together.

I'm not sure when I started thinking that a busy life was a full life. I know that when we got home from Ft. Worth I got really busy to fill in some of the gaps I felt I were made when I was away from home and "normal life" for almost 6 months. I realized later that I was trying to "feel better" by being busy and that wasn't healthy or the right answer. I have always enjoyed simple things, but I have also had this struggle to always have a plan of action, something to do, somewhere to be and lately I've just sickened myself with how much ministry(not just one certain church, but as a whole in our life), get-to-gethers, ("fellowship" as we call it), running errands, service projects, fundraisers, ball games, extra curricular events, etc. It just all piles and piles and suddenly a year has gone by and we haven't even taken the time to breathe, let alone, listen to our children, spend time with our spouse or truly enjoy some quiet.

I'm not saying we should stop going to church (trust me, that's the last thing I'm saying). I am not saying we should stop serving (by any means), the times our family serves together are precious and they are full of learning, gospel and they lay a foundation for our children that is undeniably secure. Yet, we do fill our weeks with so many things that I have been reluctant to even have Ava signed up for anything "extra" without being very careful about how much time it will take to commit her to that activity. We have had to say no to some fun events and some "fellowship".

It says in 1 Timothy about leading a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified; this is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 
Seems to me that if we weren't so busy with "stuff", but we were leading a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified that we would be pleasing to the Lord and through that lifestyle (that people would and will question incessantly) we could bring people to the Lord. THAT IS CONVICTING.
Right now, is our family life showing the peace of Christ or are we showing the world, well, the world? The Christian life is not one without stress or conflict, hard times or struggle, by any means. Yet, how much of our life are we willingly letting become overwhelming and stressful at the cost of our children's childhoods, our sanity and ultimately the time we HAVE with our families.
I've just felt so convicted and since God has been pouring into me to try to write weekly on issues I am learning, wanting to discuss, share with you, this was what I have been struggling with this whole week.

Why are we so busy? What can we do about it? How can we live the peaceful and simple life God is asking us to
(I didn't say boring, unadventurous, bland)? He doesn't want us to be boring, but he wants us to have PEACE. When did you go to bed and not lay there going through lists in your mind about what all is going on the next day? When will we decide to quit overcommitting our children to things that are so temporary? When will we decide that serving, ministry and fellowship are all GOOD things but they don't have to dominate our schedule? I know I don't actually understand this right? I only have a 4 yr old that isn't even in an extra curricular activity yet. I know, I just don't understand. Do I? Here is the thing. I want to create a plan and a foundation for our home while my kids are little so that we won't have to re-learn or back track later into some new lifestyle that doesn't make sense after years of pushing the envelope. I want to challenge Nick and myself to be picky about what we commit to, what our children commit to and how much we extend ourselves. Church will always be a priority to our family, 1 other ministry outside of church will be high on the list, 1 activity at a time for our children is totally acceptable and seeing how they get interested in things such as music, etc. We will evaluate as they grow. Deciding to say no to an event or a get-together is ok and also planning to attend and being a part of those things are healthy and awesome for our family.

My heart: may we not lose sight of the goal of the family by being a busy group of people who happen to live together. Nick and I have 18 years to mold, shape and develop our children into adults who will then go out and be the followers of Christ and model citizens God has asked us to raise them as. Will lots of activities and mindless busy-ness make that happen? I don't think so. I think intentional involvement in Biblical learning, growing with other Christians, serving the least of these, being intentional about teaching our children the value of hard work, service, sacrificial giving, etc. are all the goal. I don't want Ava to know 3 instruments, take voice lessons, play basketball, golf for fun and be in every club at school just so she'll go off to college and then me "be shocked" that she doesn't find a church home, leaves her faith all together and begins to make foolish choices because she is FREE. Lord help me if I spend the next 14 years making her busy and not feeding her spirit.

God, may we cherish our children and may we feed their souls, nurture their minds, teach them your ways, give them grace all while disciplining according to your word and truth SO THAT they can be vessels for your love and gospel WHEREVER they go.

I want to give the world to Ava (I thought). No, I want to GIVE HER JESUS. I want to give her a life that IS FULL of HIS WORD, HIS LOVE, HIS SPIRIT, HIS WAYS. I want her to love Jesus and love her life with him, not resent the church, her parents or feel like she can escape when she is out from under us.

Let us slow down the pace. Let us take TIME to teach. May we enjoy the quiet sometimes. May we make the efforts to get out of our 8-5 routine and show our children God's world, let's give our kids the opportunity to serve, minister, sacrifice and grow through sharing GOd's love and his gospel everywhere we find ourselves.

Be convicted (alongside me) but be encouraged that FRUIT will come from our efforts and we will never regret making the hard decisions.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Answering Honestly

"Momma?", she asked. "Will we get to bring our new baby home?"

... Mustering up the faith and confidence to tell her to not worry, but obviously not knowing the true answer to that, I said, "oh I believe we will, sweetie. We have been praying for this baby, you have been praying for this baby and we trust that God is going to let us bring him/her home and enjoy him/her forever and ever. No matter what, we will just trust him with this new baby."

I didn't lie. I just can't lie to my daughter. We have been open and clear with her about death and why Bubby isn't here with us, where he is and how we can be with him some day. She has been so sweet to ask questions and process the answers. We have obviously been careful and sensitive to her, but we have not lied. So, when she asked me if we would be taking home our new baby, I could not just out of the blue tell her, "YES of course!". Do I truly know that yet? Of course I don't.

That is part of the journey that I have been on since finding out I was pregnant in March. I don't truly know that this baby will be perfectly healthy, come home, live a great life, etc etc. That's the gamble. I don't even know that for my 4 year old. It was made known to me again last week, though the death of a young man in our church, that at 28 life can be finished on earth. There are no guarantees when it comes to our life, except that it will end.

Pregnancy after child loss has had its ups and downs, just as any pregnancy. I definitely get asked the  questions...
"so, are you considered high risk this time?"
"what are the odds that you could have another with a heart defect again?"

Well, I'm not considered high risk because at this time there is nothing to be at high risk about. I am doing well in my pregnancy. Vitals and all labs have been perfect and so each dr appointment we evaluate and go from there. We will have 1 thing done that a "usual" pregnancy wouldn't and that is an extra fetal echo done on the heart in Ft. Worth, so that we can be sure about this baby's heart/function/ etc. Our gender/organ sonogram is at the end of this month and so we will be checking for 4 chambers during that sono as well as finding out if we are having a boy or girl. Ava is certain she is getting a sister. :) We'll see.

So, how do we approach the hard questions and the hard conversations with our littles when it comes to loss and how do we also keep ourselves from over stressing, worrying and trying to control things we can't? How can we really put our faith and trust into action in our daily life?

Some of the things I have learned about this in light of experiencing the death of a child are this:

-it will be ok. (it really will. Noah dying was terrible and you know what? Our family is ok, we are thriving in our new season, we always miss him, but we are ok. Noah is ok. Life is ok.)

-pray. (I find that if I pray first, instead of over thinking, talking to someone else, or try to figure out every detail, I approach the entire situation more clearly and with more strength) That seems like common sense, but really think about how we react to situations and generally we do not pray first.

-think simply. (Do not try to figure out every detail at one time. What can you take care of or answer immediately? What can you ask for help with? What can be set aside? All of these things can work you through the problem at a simple pace instead of overthinking, stressing and in the end, not even asking God for help)

-seek Godly counsel. (there are so many resources for every hard situation and you can generally find them easily. I suggest your church pastor/pastor's wife, Life Group/Community Group leader, and there are some amazing parenting/loss/grief counselors, groups and support online as well.

I suppose I could have told Ava, "yes we are certainly bringing home this baby and all will be perfect!" I could have told her, "I'm not sure Ava, God sure didn't come through on that with Bubby did he?" I could have easily just avoided the subject at all. I truly believe that if we take the time, every time, to honestly, simply and appropriately discuss hard things with our kids, we will grow our bonds deeper, their faith will plunge into deeper places and create roots of foundational faith that will not shake later in life. We create a trust that they know we aren't joking around, messing with their minds or giving them the easy answer to shut them up.

When Ava has hard questions I want to find the best way to be Biblically true, honest and yet sensitive to her age, feelings and emotions. In the same way, when I come to hard times/questions, I want to approach God with honesty, willingness to listen, seeking the truth in His word, and then acceptance that he is wise, he is good and he knows. We cannot be the models of faith to our children if we are not truly putting our faith into action. We must be mindful of how we respond, not react, to life situations. (trust me, this is a work in progress here for me)

I hope you're encouraged to be honest and gentle with your kids as issues come up. I also hope that no matter what you've gone through or are going through now, you can truly trust the Lord. We can talk about God all day long, but our kids will remember what they SEE us doing WITH our faith.

Noah's mommy (and Ava and #3)