Monday, May 23, 2011

Goodbye, Cubbies! Hello, Sparks!

I am, as designed by my Creator, a sentimental person. Scraps of this and that, letters and cards, deflated mylar balloons, along with pictures in albums with space for writing our adventures- all of these things tell our life story. Over the years I have learned to pare it down so that we don't have a mountain of scraps, but we treasure those things that are most precious and important.

Now to our collection I can add my son's Awana Cubbies vest. It is complete. After two years of going to Awana faithfully every Sunday night from August until late May (with the exception of 3 evenings when sickness or icy conditions kept us from our fun), our son has said every verse and earned every patch. He has hopped and jumped his way through Cubbies.

The shirt which was a little big to begin with will soon be outgrown. His bag which held his book, crafts, and dues will find a new home along with his vest. Oh, the vest which looked like it would take forever to fill with patches is now full with room for no more and has more than one stain that this momma cannot get out. Two years passed in a blink.

Funny, I didn't shed a tear nor come close to it last night. He's growing into such a fine boy; I don't feel the sadness of the time gone by. I feel joy. He's becoming who God has called him to be. He's reached another milestone. He's no longer a Cubbie, but a Spark. He was so excited at this 'graduation', how could I be anything but joyful at his accomplishment?

This is his first of many graduations, good LORD's willing, in his future. I don't see it as an end. I see this as a beginning. He's beginning his adventures of being an elementary schooler. He is continuing the adventure of who he will become.

There are times I think back to his infancy and toddlerhood and miss those days. In some ways, I miss those days; in many ways, he's still who he was then. He still loves to snuggle in my lap under a blanket and read. He still loves to work along side his daddy.

When I get too sentimental, I remind myself, "This is the best stage ever!" It helps me to remember and rejoice in the new skills that he's mastered. It keeps me in check not to hurry through this stage (as trying as it can be, another and more trying one is sure to be around the corner).

Reminding myself, "This is the best stage ever!"  helps me savor the moment.

Now, I cannot promise that I will shed no tears on the other milestones, for I am certain that I will cry. My children will have many milestones that will bring such joy that tears fill my eyes. And that's why I'll cry- not because my babies are no longer babies but because they are becoming all that God has called them to be one milestone at a time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Now, Don't Y'all Rush Off....."

"Now, don't y'all rush off....You don't have to be in such a hurry...."

I don't know how many times my Papa said that during the thirty years that I had with him. Whether I'd stayed for days with Nana and him, which was my custom when I was a teenager or whether I'd stayed an afternoon, he'd always say those parting words.

He's in heaven now. He's been there for one year, four months, seven days and twelve hours. I wish I could hear him say them again. I know that one day I'll see him again and I won't have anywhere to go or anything to do but sit with him in the company of our LORD.

Sometimes it feels like so much longer than sixteen months since he went Home. And it seems as if he were in a rush to get there. Of course, I know the good LORD has everyone's time appointed. Still, it felt like the years with him went by too quickly.

I can honestly say that in all those years I never rushed my time with him. Listening to his stories, enjoying him playing his guitar and singing, or simply sitting in the silence next to him and just being- I loved being in his presence.

Papa is not my first grandparent who has gone on to his reward. It's just that he was the closest one that has gone on. As the years pass by, I realize my time with my other grands on this earth is slipping by, and when I say, 'grands' I am including my husband's grands, too. We've been married so long, it's easy to forget which one is 'his' and which one is 'mine.'

I really should go see them all more, should take the children to love on them and be loved by them. How precious it is to have the connection to one's grandparents, but to also be blessed enough to know one's great-grandparents, now that is truly a gift.

For some stupid reason I've worried about bringing the little ones in on the great-grands' quiet. We're loud. We're messy. We're hungry. ('We' meaning my kids.) I don't want to impose our boisterousness on them. For some reason a cloud of dust, diapers, and toys seems to follow us wherever we go. And no matter what my kids have eaten they're always ready to eat again when we go see any of the grands, especially the great-ones.

Maybe my kids know something I don't. Maybe they realize that the silence needs to be filled with their young, happy voices. Hushed tones, be gone! The great-grands appreciate the music of their little voices!

Make shift toys littering the floor- clunky purses, slippers, old hats- delight the great-grands. Perhaps it's a reminder of when they were young. Or maybe when their kids were young. Or maybe when their grandkids were young. And they get to relive those happy times, no matter how briefly again.

And, empty (or suspiciously empty) bellies are heartily welcomed and filled by great-grands. There always is something especially delicious (even if we have the same thing at home) to be enjoyed on the lap of a great-grand. Maybe that's the difference- not what they're eating but where they're eating it.

No longer will I feel guilty that we've broken the silence; that's what they want. No longer will I feel guilty that we're messy; they never mind. No longer will I feel guilty that they've made something for us to eat; they enjoy filling tummies.

No, we will go. We will be loud. We will make messes (within reason and pick up after ourselves). We will eat. Because one day they will have gone to their rewards and we will miss those times. We will linger a little longer. We will not rush at all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If Not Us, Then Who?

The other day I received a message from a relative expressing concern over teaching our children about God and encouraging them to have a relationship with Jesus. "Wasn't I worried," the message asked, "that they would rebel against what we were teaching them?"

 I stopped and pondered that question.

Yes, I do wonder sometimes if our children will rebel against what we're teaching them and then I stop and ask my Heavenly Father, who loves them more than I ever could, to put a hedge of protection around them. I ask Him for them to find Him early in life and to love and serve Him all the days of their lives. My husband and I fervently desire for our children not to just identify themselves as a Christian. Many people claim that and don't live it out. Our goal is for them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to identify themselves as a Christ- follower.

I do not worry because God promises that His Word will not return void. Meaning, that if we share His Word that He will take care of the rest. I also take comfort with the promise that if we train up our child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it. I claim these promises over all my children.

The very best we can do is to train our kids, to teach them- through example- that what we say we believe aligns with how we actually live our lives.  We also pray with all our might that they will desire a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A real, true, authentic, genuine relationship with Him.

We cannot NOT teach our children to have a relationship with Him. God is very clear in His Word-
   "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."  ~Deuteronomy 6:5-9

God cannot make it any clearer. As their parents, it is our God-given responsibility to teach them to love Him with all their hearts, souls, and might. He has given us a direct command. There are no 'maybe's' or 'shoulds' or 'you might considers'. We are to teach them every moment of the day.

That doesn't mean life is one big, long lecture of what our kids should and shouldn't do. Rather, it is a conscious effort to teach them about God every moment that we can- to look for the teachable moments.

Sometimes, it's as my son and I snuggle before his sister wakes up and Daddy's left in the morning that we pray for Daddy's safety as he goes to work. Other times, it's seeing something really cool in nature and talking about what an awesome Creator God is. Sometimes, it's a lesson in forgiveness, grace, redemption.

In our journey as a homeschooling family, we are looking for ways in which to draw even closer to God. What we're doing is contrary to most of society. And there are times this choice can be lonely. What we're doing is viewed as 'weird' or 'extreme' by many. And we want our children to identify themselves in Jesus, not the world says we are. What we are doing is a huge leap of faith. And we want our kids to learn to live by faith, not by sight.

So, we invite God into our homeschool every day. We ask Him to bless our time and our efforts. And, privately, I've been asking God to reveal more ways to teach my kids about Him.

How could I incorporate more time spent reading from His Word? The answer was quite simple- reading the Bible as we had breakfast. We've been reading a Proverb according to the day, maybe a Psalm depending on how long our son eats. We definitely read a Bible lesson (I don't like the word 'story', which implies it's made up. The Bible is absolute Truth.) before reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic begin. And for quite some time now we read the Bible before bed. (We often use a children's Bible with lots of pictures.)

This has been a really neat experience for us. First, our time is stretched so much. We are finding that we get much more done when we get our priorities straight. The tone in our home is different. We are not focused on ourselves. Our conversations are deep. (Proverbs 10:1, for example- "The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." This lead to a five minute discussion on words such as wise, foolish, heaviness- with our five year old. I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind as he chewed on these words and their meaning as he was literally chewing his poptart.)

Exposing our children to the Bible only during church time would lead to disasterous results; they'd have a narrow view of what God is like if we only talk about Him Sunday morning. And if they only 'visited' with Him on Sundays, what would their relationship with Him be like as they become adults? Polite. Restrained. Distant. Not at all what we want for them.

We want them to have a passionate relationship with their Creator.

So, do I worry that our children will one day rebel?

No. I don't. Their future is in God's hands, not mine.

He has never let me down before, and I "[b]eing confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" (Philippians 1:6).  I claim this over our children.

His Word promises, and He always keeps His promises.