Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A New Chapter...Maybe Even a New Book



Yes, we are moving from our beautiful farm in North Carolina to a gorgeous camp in upstate New York THIS winter! We have already started packing, and we are putting our lovely farm on the market. (Do you know anyone interested in it)? Our Farm For Sale CLICK HERE

Okay, I am getting ahead of myself. How did we get here?

So, my husband and I felt that God was calling us to missions. Some people told us, we have a mission right here in our own family, but we really felt God calling us to "go." We weren't sure exactly what that meant, but we know that where the Lord leads, we will follow. We prayed about this for a great deal of time, and finally reached out to the Children's Shelter of Cebu, which is where we adopted our Filipino children from. It is an absolutely fabulous organization, and we were excited about the possibility of being a part of it. We will go wherever the Lord leads us! We began preparing our hearts and our minds for this possible life-changing mission, and we waited.

We didn't have to wait long though because shortly after we contacted Children's Shelter of Cebu, we received a phone call about a different opportunity in upstate New York, which is where I grew up. The opportunity was a Christian camp on over 300 acres of beautiful wooded forests with trails, cabins, streams, and waterfalls. It is absolutely gorgeous property that we have even visited while traveling to see family up there.
Originally, the camp was run as a Christian summer camp, IdRaHaJe (I'd Rather Have Jesus); in fact, my sister was a camp counselor there when she was in high school, which is how we knew that the people running it were getting out of the business. Since then, the summer camp portion has closed down, and they mostly have focused on hiking trails, stream hikes, team building exercises, camping, retreats...etc.

The opportunity seemed just too good to be true, but we also wondered if it was a distraction from the mission we were pursuing in the Philippines. So, we prayed fervently. We asked close family and friends to pray with us and fast as well. We prayed for clarity and discernment. We prayed for wisdom. We prayed that God would open the door wide open if it was what we were supposed to do, and that He would close it shut if it wasn't. We prayed that God would make the path abundantly clear, and He has.

Children's Shelter of Cebu staff and board, while initially excited about the possibility of us joining their team, had some hesitations regarding our possible position there. They were concerned about our Filipino children being caught between two cultures and concerned with how difficult that may be for them. They were also concerned about the logistics of such a large family: traveling, finances, and even housing to accommodate our large family. Additionally, they informed us that there are also racial tensions there that we would have to deal with there. It seemed that God was closing that door.
However, He has opened wide the door to the opportunity in New York. We cannot even believe how fortunate we are to have this incredible opportunity. The B&B Lumber Company, who actually owns the property, is a family owned company run by a Christian family who wants to see the property used to glorify God. We spoke to them about our vision for ministry and outreach with the property, and they agreed to sell it to us!

So we are taking a leap of faith!

There are a great deal of details we are still working out. We do not even know what the name will be yet of this new camp. (It was formerly known as Adam's Eden. However, we will rename it since it will be under new ownership).

Will you join us in praying? We are praying for God's hand to be on this entire process. We pray that God will bless this transition and draw us closer to Him through it. We pray that our farm here in NC will sell or rent quickly, that paperwork will go smoothly, and for efficiency in packing and moving a family of 15 over 700 miles. We are also praying for emotions. This is an exciting time for us, but it is also bittersweet as we will be saying good-bye to many wonderful close friends and even family members here in eastern NC where we have called home for the past 15 years. We pray for peace and comfort for everyone that will be affected by us leaving. And, we pray for this ministry opportunity in New York to blossom; that God would use us as an instrument of His love and grace, and that we would glorify God with all we do.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"If the student hasn't learned, has the teacher taught?"

I had someone ask me that the other day when I was extremely frustrated with the reality that some of my children are STILL not doing as well academically as I would have hoped they would do. (Probably not the best time to ask me a question like that), and in my frustration, it's definitely not the best time to answer it. Nevertheless, I will:

YES. It is possibly that the teacher has taught, even if the student didn't learn. There are many things to consider, therefore, it is not a clear cut answer, but it is possible.

As a concerned mother, I have gone to great lengths to ensure that my children have the very best possible education that I can give them; however, that doesn't mean they are all excelling. WHY? I ask myself? What else can I do? I beat myself up over it. How can I teach them better? I feel like I am failing some of them, but I cannot figure out what else I can do. (Now, let me clarify, some of my children did absolutely phenomenal this year, and all of my children have made progress since last year; however, some of them are still struggling).

First off, let me warn you that this is NOT going to be one of those posts where I point out all the benefits of homeschooling  or where I encourage homeschooling moms by pointing out all the things my kids are learning that don't show up on end-of-year testing. Nope, not at all.

This post is to share with educators, homeschoolers, and anyone that has children (or knows any children) about a difficult reality that has taken me quite some time to learn:

After researching every possible curriculum, reading reviews, talking with fellow homeschoolers, considering the students learning style, and so on, I invest thousands of dollars every year in books, school supplies, and my kids' curriculum (I have 13 kids....so it adds up fast).  My summer is spent planning the next school year (along with countless hours every week of the actual school year). I write up checklists, outline schedules, write syllabi, pre-read the information we are covering. I rearrange and decorate my classroom. I expand my classroom library. I research more hands-on activities to enhance learning, buy more manipulatives, and plan monthly field-trips. I organize and participate in co-ops and book clubs. I do what I can do to prepare for an awesome year. So, what else can I do? Where am I going wrong? Why aren't they learning more and learning faster. Why do they still complain? Why do they still need to be made to check their math before turning it in? Why don't they look up words they don't know how to spell? Why don't they follow directions (or sometimes even read them)?

Well, they complain because they are human, and that's what humans tend to do until they learn that it doesn't help, and then learn to control their tongues (which scripture tells us is the hardest thing to control James 3:8). Some of them are lazy which is a sin, and all of them are sinful (because we all are Romans 3:23). Some of them have actual learning disabilities, but some of them aren't learning more or learning faster because they choose not to put in the effort. Some of them just don't care, and no amounts of lectures, logic, pep-talks, rewards, or punishments can make them try. No, seriously, hear me out. Here is a smaller example:

HOW TO MAKE KIDS LOVE READING? Short answer....you can't.

I take my kids to the library regularly and try to encourage a love for reading. I read books out loud to them (all genres). We listen to books-on-tape in the car, I set an example of reading books for pleasure in front of them and talking them up to get my older children interested in reading them. I have hundreds (if not thousands) of books on bookshelves readily accessible to my children (no I am not even exaggerating; I am a book collector. I even used to sell books with Usborne for awhile). We have magazines, comic books, and graphic novels. Plus, if there is a movie that corresponds with the book, we let the children watch the movie after they finish reading the book as a reward. In school they do have assigned reading (obviously), but they also have allotted time where they can "fun read" (which is where they can choose the book they want to read). We also have "buddy reading" where older and younger children pair up and read to each other (older ones to model fluency, tone, inflection, and verify their siblings comprehension), and younger children to work on fluency and comprehension). This past year, my kids also had weekly book clubs where they got to pick out a book to read with some friends, and once a week, they would get together to discuss it. (During book club, my friend and I would make the kids hot chocolate or tea with a special dessert as if they were grown ups at a coffee house chatting about a book. Additionally, we have dear and devoted friends from church who come and read with our younger kids each week (to multiple our time). Plus, the children have reading programs on the computer which they do as well (ReadingEggs.com and Raz-Kids.com). WE HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING, and you know what? Some of my kids love to read, and some of them still don't.

It is becoming more and more apparent in schooling (and with everything for our children), we do not control as much as we think we do.

Even if we did everything right (which we cannot possibly do), but even if we did....children have their own choices to make, and we cannot put all the blame on the teachers and/or the parents. (I am not saying it's not ever the parent or teacher's fault, but it is definitely not all their fault all the time people). Children are not robots where we can program them to do the right thing, and they always do it. (Then again, I am pretty sure even robots malfunction). Children are not recipes where if we put all the right ingredients in at the right times that they will come out the way we hope.

With regards to schooling if they choose to skip the lecture portion (or just daydream during it), we can't make them pay attention. Even if we read the directions with them or to them, we can't make them follow them. We can't make them think or use strategies we have taught them when they choose to guess at the answers. We can teach them how to utilize a dictionary, but we can't make them look up words they don't know the meaning of when they are reading on their own. We can give them strategies to be engaged in their reading, plot out story graphs on the board, teach them how to use context clues to figure out unfamiliar vocabulary, ask questions, talk about main ideas, point out foreshadowing, author's purpose, cause and effects, sequence of events, and so on. However, we can't make them draw from ANY of that when they read on their own. It is up to them.

We can teach them, but we can't MAKE them learn.

The same is true of their salvation. We can teach them the truth about the gospel, but we can't make them believe it. We can take them to church, but we can't make them take the message to heart. We can give them advise, but that doesn't mean they will take that advise. We can help them memorize scriptures, but we can't make them take them to heart.  We can set an example for them and tell them to be kind to others, but we can't make them have compassion.  We can teach them how to be polite and have good manners, but that doesn't mean they will do what we have taught them.We can teach them right and wrong, but we can't make them choose the right thing for themselves.

So, all that is to say, it's not all the parent's and/or teacher's fault. The children have choices too. Let's stop passing the blame, let's stop beating ourselves up for the children's mistakes, failures, or inadequacies. Contrarily, let's be careful not to fall victim to pride when our kids do get it right or excel, and look down or judge others whose child or student didn't make the right choice because that isn't all on the parents or teachers either.

We can't save our children, only God can. Lord, please work in our children's hearts. Draw them close to YOU! Guide them every day of their lives, that they would stay the course and always keep their eyes on you Lord. Please give us wisdom as we teach and lead our children, and please give us copious amounts of patience, grace, and mercy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why We Homeschool

Frequently Asked Questions about our decision to homeschool:

1."Why do you homeschool?"
2. "Wouldn't it be easier to send at least some of the kids to public school?"
3. "How do you do it with so many kids?"
4. "I would be afraid my kids weren't getting what they need."
5. "Don't you worry about socialization?"
6. "I would go crazy if I was home with my kids all day. You must be a saint."

I am writing this post as a reminder to myself because as the year progresses, I am sure I will question our decision when it gets challenging (like I always do).

1."Why do you homeschool?"

There are a multitude of reasons that our family has chosen to homeschool, but I will try to be brief (though if you have read my blog before, you know brevity is not my strength).

My first two children, Bryce and Blake, attended public school though 2nd grade and kindergarten, respectively. Honestly, I had never really considered anything else. However, in their last year of public school, my oldest son was bullied terribly (yes, as a 2nd grader). I was shocked at how early the bullying started and how ruthless kids could be, which started me thinking of other options for my son.

In addition, my son was very smart, and the work he did at school was not challenging him. It was as if he was treading water in his class despite his desire to learn which saddened me.

It was also in that last year of their attendance in school that I was fortunate enough to work as a teacher's assistant in a public school under an amazing teacher, Mrs. Bray. I absolutely loved her and learned so much from her, and I wanted to share that joy of learning with my own children. However, I noticed that all day I was giving my all and my best to other people's children, while I had no idea what my own children were doing in their classes.

I also witnessed the bureaucracy that public school teachers come up against, and for the record teachers have an amazingly difficult job and don't get paid nearly what they are worth.

It was also about that time that our family truly came to Christ and realized that we wanted Him at the center, and we wanted to cherish our time together as a family. We wanted to teach our children about biblical truths to give them a good foundation of their faith so that as adults they would be able to defend their faith.

Plus, as we began to add older adoptive children to our family, the need to spend time together laying a foundation and bonding also became incentives to homeschool.

Currently, we have 10 adoptive children and 3 biological. I only mention that because 10 of my children are not native English speakers. They are ESL (English Second Language) or ELL (English Language Learners)...or whatever it is called now. That definitely posses some challenges that make it difficult to attend public school. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing are all areas that are affected by having English as a second language. Additionally, math word problems and "keeping up" with lectures are affected.

Some of my children had little or no schooling before they came to our family, which means we were not only starting with a new language, but we were also starting with zero academic knowledge at all (and one of them was 11 with no school experience and no English)!

Some of my children have major learning disabilities and processing issues that would make them easy targets for bullying in public school. Not only that, but there is a good chance that they wouldn't ask questions or do the work and therefore they wouldn't learn.

We, as parents to these children, have a vested interest in our children. While I'm sure all teachers want their students to learn, they also only have them for one year. Our children are our children forever. We know their strengths and their weaknesses. We know what motivates them and what they need for encouragement.

Flexibility. While one student may be struggling at English, he/she may be doing amazingly well in Math. Therefore, the student may be working at multiple levels at the same time doing 4th grade reading and 8th grade math (an option that isn't readily available at a public school).

Anyone who has read up on adoption (or even has a close friend that has adopted) knows about the challenges of attachment and bonding. We knew that we wanted our children to learn to love one another and love us, and we weren't sure when there would be time for that if everyone went off to different classes and different directions. We have a very unique situation, as we have teenagers that are almost adults that have only been in our family for a year. We want time with each one of them; we don't have all the young childhood memories with these children, and we want to make as many memories together as we can.

Being a part of their growth is beautiful. It's painful and often slower than we'd like, but that growth is evidence of our work together.

2. "Wouldn't it be easier to send at least some of the kids to public school?"

YES! Well, at least during the day while they were at school it would be easier (obviously). But, that's only part of it. Getting everyone up and out the door with 15 people sharing 3 bathrooms to get ready, would definitely be an obstacle. Then, I would have kids going in all different directions all day, coming home at the same time, and all needing help with homework (that I would have to figure out as to what is required along with what they covered in class) for the next hour or two. Then dinner, bed, and start again. Not a whole lot of time to enjoy each other, and they are growing up so fast. Maybe I am selfish, but I want to spend quality time with my kids and have them spend time with each other.

Additionally, I would have to try to keep up with what is going on in each of their classes to be an involved parent, which logistically would be difficult. Not only that, but like I said, some of my kids have behavior issues that would be more difficult to monitor and correct in a public school setting (and which wouldn't be fair to the teachers or other student's in their classes). Plus, then we would spend the time with them at home dealing with discipline issues from school rather than getting to enjoy our now limited time together which doesn't sound like fun. So, would it actually be easier? In some ways maybe, but in other ways it would be harder.

3. "How do you do it with so many kids?"

Shoot, I could probably write a blog post just on this aspect of our homeschooling. There are the basic things like how we use videos to teach the different lessons of math, and computer programs to help with reading comprehension quizzes, and so on. But, without going into the daily schedule and which actual curriculums we use, let me say it is a juggling act, but, honestly, the key is that the older children help with schooling the little ones (which helps solidify the concepts they have already learned).

Older students help me grade papers (which would probably take me all night if I did it alone). They also help with putting kids on their computer programs, and sometimes they even help make snack or lunch. Older children sit with younger children to listen to them read a book and ask them questions about it (because it would be impossible for me to listen to every one of my children read every day and do anything else). Then, the younger children get to listen to their older siblings read a story to them working on auditory skills and listening to modeled fluency. (We call this exchanged reading time "Buddy Reading" as the younger siblings read to their older sibling buddies).

The older kids will throw in a load of laundry and younger ones hang it up on the line during their break. The kids help take turns cleaning up from lunch and snack.

I have to say, our kids are pretty awesome, and I honestly couldn't do it without them. We work together, and that is the only way it would work.

4. "I would be afraid my kids weren't getting what they need."

Absolutely I worry about this. I am only one person, and I am not specifically trained in special needs or even teaching for that matter. How do I know they are all getting what they need? In short, I don't.

I mean, obviously, I research, organize, and plan all summer and throughout the year. I use the best curriculums I can find after reading the reviews and research. I try to make sure that I provide a rigorous and yet interesting curriculum that is hitting all the areas that are required, but I am sure I am missing things. I try to modify work for each child's needs and challenge them enough to make it achievable but not overwhelming, which looks completely different for each child. I try to give the children opportunities to use the learning styles that work best for them. However, almost every sentence in this paragraph is about me "trying." I can't do it all, and no matter how hard I try, I will fall short (as we all do). However, we try to keep Christ at the center, and trust in His help to fill in the gaps.

While my students may not be exposed to every piece of subject matter that they should, I try to give them the skills needed to comprehend, analyze, think logically and critically, and make connections. I want them to love learning, so that they can learn anything they put their mind to.

There is another part of this equation though; the children have to put forth effort too. No matter how amazing a curriculum is or how perfectly someone teaches it (not that I ever teach something perfectly, but hypothetically even if I could), there is no guarantee that the student will learn if they don't make a choice to. I saw a quote somewhere that summed it up well,

"If you don't want to learn, there is nothing I can do to teach you; but if you want to learn, there is nothing I can do to stop you."-unknown

I often feel inadequate to the task, but it reminds me to more fully rely on the Lord for His strength and His wisdom.

5. "Don't you worry about socialization?"

Um, No. I don't. I know there is a lot of negativity regarding homeschoolers not being socialized, but I am not buying into that hype. First off, we live in a 2300 square foot house with 15 people. It's not like my children are off in a bedroom by themselves all day. In fact, none of my children even have their own bedroom.

My children are exposed to all different ages of kids with different personalities and idiosyncrasies (some of which are extremely challenging and often annoying). Yet, my children have to learn to problem solve, communicate positively, diffuse situations, and figure out how to get along. All the while, my husband and I are here to demonstrate how to effectively do that and instruct them on acceptable options rather than just having them fight it out on the playground. We are family, so the option to just avoid a child that is mean to you on the bus isn't an option; instead, we work to restore relationships between one another no matter what.

If anything, our are probably more socialized than they would be at public school where they would be grouped with only peers who were the same age as them (which by the way is not like the "real world" where they will work in jobs and have roommates of all ages).

Our children are also involved in youth group, Sunday school, piano lessons, and home school co-ops where they are socialized with others outside our family too.

6. "I would go crazy if I was home with my kids all day. You must be a saint."

This is probably the statement that makes me cringe the most.

First off, what is it saying about our children when we say that they make us crazy. I think people say this in jest, but it sends a hurtful message about not wanting to spend time with our kids when they are gifts from the Lord, and we should cherish the time we have with them.

I am NOT saying that I don't get frustrated and feel overwhelmed and inadequate at times, because that would be a complete lie. However, even in those difficult moments, I have to remind myself (sometimes out loud) that my children are on loan to me from the Lord, and He has entrusted them to my care. I should be honored at the privilege that it is to be home and be with my children when many others cannot be.

I am NOT a saint. In fact, when people say that (sometimes in front of my children), I am literally waiting for one of my kids to start laughing and say, "My mom, a saint? Ha!"

No. I am not a saint; I am just a mom trying to do my best like most moms I know. And, just like every mom I know, I fall short... Every. Single. Day. I say the wrong thing. I raise my voice. I get frustrated. I forget appointments. I am human. However, I also say sorry... Every. Single. Day. I tell the kids to pray for me for the things I am struggling with.

My kids are smart. They don't need me to admit that I have flaws for them to figure it out on their own (it's pretty obvious). But, hopefully, by humbling myself before them, confessing my own sins, and asking for their prayers and help, they will recognize my (and later everyone's) need for grace and mercy.


Friday, May 15, 2015


A letter to my children in response to an accusation that I am an overprotective mom.

My "little" ones, I assure you, I am not trying to ruin your life; sorry for the confusion.

I am not trying to steal your joy, but to preserve it. I am not trying to take away all the fun, but to help ensure that you make well-thought out decisions so as to avoid as many preventable mistakes as possible.

I know that I can't save you from everything, and I can't protect you from everything. Quite honestly, that isn't my intention (though if there was a way to do this, I would definitely do it).  Nevertheless, some people have argued with me that I am doing you an injustice with my "overprotection" because you need to be in the "real world."

However, I disagree. I am trying to give you strong roots. Roots grounded in the Lord, in truth, and in grace. I want you to have a strong relationship with the Lord with confidence that you can defend your beliefs in the harsh world that would love no more than to tear you apart.

Personally, I know the "real world," and I know you will be in it for a very long time. If I can shelter you from some of the evil of the world for awhile, I don't see how that is such a bad thing.

We discuss the evils of the world; you are informed. We talk about the issues of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, crime, premarital sex, bullying,... etc. You learn about these issues and are able to discuss them with us logically, rationally, and maturely without actually having the practical application for these topics, which, to me, seems like a better medium.

You want to know why most other children your age have their own cell phones, computers, and even cars. Why other children your age are allowed to have girlfriends and boyfriends. My sweets, I can see why these questions would surface. I know you may not understand right now, but please know that our intentions are pure. We truly are trying to do what is best for you, and I pray that you will understand.

I cannot answer for anyone but me, but I want you to know that I am trying to help you. I will be always be honest with you. We want you to have a relationship with us where you can feel free to talk to us about anything and know that we love you with all our hearts. We desire to give you godly wisdom, and we want what is best for you.

For now, you may not understand. And, there is a chance that when you are out "on your own" you may choose to do some or all the things that I have tried to help you avoid, and that will be your choice. Hopefully, we will have given you all the information about the decisions and the consequences of your choices ahead of time, so that you may make informed (and hopefully wise) decisions.

If you choose to disregard our advise, that is up to you. Of course, we will still always love you.

Our intentions are not to control you, but to help you. We want to share the wisdom that we have received, through our own experiences and the experiences of others around us, so that you will not make the same mistakes that we and others have made.

Bad things will happen and mistakes will be made, because everyone makes mistakes. And that is where that need for grace and mercy comes in.

We love you, and the Lord loves you even more. I pray that He will give us wisdom in how to teach you, and that He would give you wisdom, discernment, and courage to make good choices. I pray that grace and mercy abound, and that you would know how much your father and I love you!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Disney World Family Vacation

We had an AMAZING opportunity to take all 13 of our children to Disney World this summer!

My mother-in-law and father-in-law have a time-share in Orlando for 4 days each year, and they offered us to use it! Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!

We decided we couldn't pass up the wonderful opportunity to take all our children to Disney World. (I didn't get to go for the first time until Dustin and I were already married, so I was excited to be able to bring the children while they were still young!)

We bought tickets for a 1 day entrance into the Magic Kingdom, and figured we would spend the rest of the time at the time-share. However, an extremely generous family (who wishes to remain anonymous) at our church decided they wanted to upgrade our 1 day tickets to 4 day park hopper passes! Can you believe it? We are so grateful to this wonderful family and pray that they are rewarded by their Heavenly Father for their generosity.

Here are a couple of the pictures from our family vacation to Florida:

We also were able to go to Medieval Times.

This vacation has been absolutely incredible, and we cannot thank everyone enough who made this possible.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pursuit of Perfection

"I was the perfect mom before I had children." Have you ever heard this? I have, and while it is funny, it is very true (at least it was for me).
Then, once I had children, the reality that I wasn't perfect started to set in, but I didn't want to admit it to anyone (not even myself). Sometimes, I was tired or in a bad mood (what? I know, right.). Still, I made my very best effort to do everything "right." My first born son had a set schedule, he always had all his vegetables and fruit  dietary requirements, he took daily vitamins, brushed his teeth twice a day, said his prayers every night, and read at least one story to him every night before bed too. In fact, for the first year of his life, he never even had any refined sugar (which presented a problem when he had cake at his 1 year birthday party and threw up from all the refined sugar his body had never processed before...bad mommy). 
Post first child, my house was still pretty clean and my child's clothes always matched. I worked out regularly to lose all the baby fat, and even pumped breast milk so he could have the "very best" for a full year. When he was 2 yrs old, we had another son. His addition made the schedules and "perfect" mom role a little more challenging especially when I was tired at bedtime from getting up through the night, and I didn't really want to read the same book "one more time."  Still, I struggled to try to keep up the facade and fantasy that I could be the best mom ever of my own strength, and it seemed to be working. My first born was reading by the age of 3, and I was doing my best to be a perfect mom to both of them. I pat myself on the back as I pridefully thought, "What a great job I am doing." I am ashamed to admit, I would even look down at other people who's children were dirty, wore mismatched clothes ,had snot running down their faces, and had children who threw temper tantrums in public (shame on them!). 

In an effort to be the best mommy ever, I enrolled the two of them in everything under the sun. They tried karate, soccer, football, piano, gymnastics, swimming, baseball,...etc. EVERYTHING was about our children, and we wanted them to have everything and get to do everything.
I had bought into the myth that giving them everything they could ever want was what I "should" be doing. Well, I have since changed my mind. Having 13 children under the age of 16 will definitely change your perspective, about a lot of things. 
Let me back up. After having 3 biological children, we adopted 3 more in less than a year and a half. This definitely provided challenges. The children didn't speak any English and had never gone to school (I home school, so that was definitely a challenge). Obviously, there were communication challenges, attachment challenges, and a multitude of other "issues" that God would use to teach me SO much about relying on Him and His strength and about my own need for grace and mercy. But, it would take me some time to learn these lessons, and I am still learning them (sometimes painfully). 
I will never forget about 1 week after I brought home child number 5 and 6, things were going well. Lunch was done, the kitchen was clean, and the children were all playing nicely. I remember thinking, "I can do this! Look at that! It's not so hard." Moments later, I was in a complete panic calling 911 because I realized that my 4 year old daughter had gotten into the prescription medication on the other side of the baby gate she climbed over. 

Panic set in as I rushed in an ambulance to the hospital to have her treated for possible poisoning. Dustin proceeded to call everyone we knew to pray for our daughter's health and recovery. Thankfully, she was fine. They kept her overnight, but they discovered she hadn't actually ingested any of the open bottle of pills. Praise the Lord, right?! 

Only, I didn't just praise the Lord. Once the fear of poisoning subsided, I became extremely depressed and embarrassed. How could I face anyone after I "let" such a horrible thing happen to my child. I was clearly a horrible parent, right? I failed at even the most basic parenting role, protecting my children.
"No, it was an accident."I was told, but the reality was indisputable, and now everyone knew it too: I am not perfect. I made a mistake. A big one, yes. But, all the while, God was revealing to me, that I could not do it alone, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He is sovereign, He is in control. He was the one that could give me strength and wisdom to do all things. I am not perfect, nor would I ever be (until I am with my Lord and Savior in Heaven), but He still loves me.
Sometimes, when we see the pictures on Facebook of people smiling and having a good ol' time, we can fantasize about other's lives which can be very dangerous. It can cause us to covet what others have and compare ourselves to others. But, what we need to remember is, people don't put the pictures of the fights, the arguments, the tears and tantrums. No, those we hide. But, the reality is that no one's life is perfect. No one is perfect. We are all sinners: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).

Adding 3 children created financial challenges as well. A family of 8 is a lot more expensive than a family of 4 or 5. Plus, time was now stretched, and I just couldn't seem to fit everything in. Then, adding 7 more children, solidified the fact that I just can't be everything to everyone all the time. The children couldn't all get to do every sport and every musical instrument that they wanted. First off, there just wasn't enough time to get to everyone's extracurricular activities, and secondly, there wasn't enough money for such "luxuries."
Sometimes, these limitations have been a difficult reality to admit. I have felt, at times, like I was robbing my children of the "perfect" childhood. My one son was previously on the competitive gymnastics team, and I could no longer justify the expense of the team and the travel. Then, I would see my friends and family members on Facebook with their children involved in nearly every activity a children could ever desire, and I felt even more guilt. Gone were the ideals of being a "perfect" mom. I was screwing this all up. So, let me go ahead and admit some of the realities:
Perhaps at times some of my children may go to bed without brushing their teeth (though we try to ensure they brush twice a day). Sometimes, they wear mismatched socks (or no socks at all). Sometimes their clothes don't match. Most days there is a pile of clean laundry somewhere that needs to be folded (hey, better clean than dirty), some lunches don't include a vegetable, and I occasionally eat lunch with the children at a drive thru (gasp). We aren't always on time (which has been difficult for me to let go of with my military background). Some days, we ditch school, and just play outside or even watch a movie (shocking, I know. Hey, sometimes it is an educational movie). Don't look under the couch at my house, because I can guarantee that it isn't clean, and I can't tell you the last time I dusted or washed my windows. (sigh) How far I have come from the quest for perfection? Some of it has been merely a survival mechanism, and some of it has been the reality of having to prioritize and pick my battles.
But slowly, God has shown me that all the sports and activities, the perfectly cleaned house, and perfectly coordinated outfits are not the most important thing. He is. A relationship with Him is more important than giving my children every little material thing their heart desires. Teaching them the value of hard work and saving their money for what they want to buy is better than just buying them everything they could ever want. Spending time as a family with my children and fostering loving relationships and memories as a family is more important than having the cleanest house and best dressed children on Facebook. 
Obviously, I am still not perfect (nor was I ever really). I am not saying our way of doing things is right, or that having your children play organized sports is wrong....please don't misunderstand me. On the contrary, I am admitting my flaws and my imperfections. I am acknowledging my shortcomings and my desperate need for grace and mercy.  Thankfully, my children and I have a Heavenly Father who never makes mistakes. Who is always there to listen. Who never says the wrong thing. A heavenly Father who is perfect, and His grace is enough!

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day

Thankful for the many men and women who have gone before us and those who still serve in our military (and for their families). Thankful for the freedoms we have in our country. Thankful we have to homeschool. Thankful to be in a country where I am able to unashamedly worship my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Happy 4th of July!