Merry Christmas!

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2016 Anderson Family  Christmas Greeting

Tidbits from our year:

  • My (Lisa’s) dear mother went home to be with the Lord on May 17, no longer in pain and suffering. As challenging and stretching as it was at times, we’re so thankful we got to care for her the last three years of her life. Ninety-three-year-old Ukki (Finnish for grandpa) continues to live with us in our in-law apartment. We’re so glad he’s not alone.
  • The Anderson clan was blessed with two new little gifts from heaven: Goldie Bijoux (daughter of David & Bethany Engelhardt) and Evelyn Ruth (daughter of Jesse & Allison Sonneland). We now have nine wonderful grandchildren. We love having the Sonneland five in town, but miss seeing our East coast grandkids except on occasional visits.
  • Half of our kids live east: David & Bethany Engelhardt (with Leon, Soli, & Goldie) live in New Jersey, where David works in NYC and Bethany homeschools the boys. Luke & Lauren Anderson are in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Luke continues to professionally drum and Lauren travels doing technical medical training. Lee & Julie Watson (with Margot) live in Charleston, South Carolina. Lee travels to China for two weeks twice a year for business, which is a good excuse for her to bring Margot home for a visit or for one of us to go there! Rachel is finishing her third year of living in Minneapolis. She just got certified as a nutritional therapy consultant and is ready to start her own practice. Thank goodness for Jim’s huge supply of frequent flyer miles saved up from all his ministry trips—it helps a ton in going to visit our kids or flying them home for vacations or holidays!
  • The rest of us live in Spokane: Jesse & Allison Sonneland (with Eleanor, Josiah, Peter, Jocelyn, & Evie) continue to run their ever-expanding lawn care and landscaping business, lead the young adult ministry at church, and homeschool their children. Molly is in a relationship with Trebor that she is thrilled about, works two jobs, and is a great youth leader at church. Maggie continues as the youth administrator at church and as an assistant to an event planner, paints for a hobby, and just opened an ETSY shop for her art. James, our baby, graduated from high school and had the life-changing experience of spending 2 ½ months at Rolland and Heidi Baker’s discipleship school in Mozambique this fall.
  • We’re so thankful for the past 26 years of God’s faithfulness to us since we started Lifeline Ministries. Jim continues to travel extensively in the U.S. and the world (this year to South Africa, Slovakia, & Ukraine), grateful for continued opened doors and favor. He’s once again taken up bow hunting as a needed hobby and outlet and frequently hits the archery practice range when he is home. He even got a deer this year! Lisa (me!) is in a multi-year journey of transitioning from a full nest to an increasingly more-empty nest. I administrate for our ministry and started a twice-monthly motherhood blog (lisaandersonnotjustamom.com) to give vision and encouragement to the next generation of mothers and homemakers. (The funny thing is that God chose to put this message on my life when it was the farthest thing from my natural leanings!) As bedrooms become empty, young adults are moving in to join us. We currently have a young man and woman from our church living with us. We love having children still at home (plus our additions) since it keeps us connected on a daily basis with the next generation.

Many blessings to you in 2017! Jim & Lisa and the family

PS: Pictured above is the Anderson clan: (L to R) Top pic: Rachel Anderson; The Sonnelands: Jesse & Allison + Jocelyn (held by Rachel), Peter, Josiah, Eleanor, baby Evie in utero; Jim & Lisa; Maggie; The  Watsons: Lee & Julie + Margot; James; Molly. Bottom pic: The Engelhardts: David & Bethany + Goldie, Leon, Soli; The Andersons: Luke & Lauren

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Little Things Matter

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Last spring I spent nine days in New Jersey helping my daughter after the birth of baby Goldie Bijoux. What did I do while I was there? I made meals, washed dishes, folded clothes, swept the floor, dusted, helped Leon and Soli, and tried to give Bethany more minutes of sleep by watching Goldie whenever I could—a week filled with little acts of service. One of the greatest realizations I came away with was that motherhood would be much more doable with two people doing all the work!

My life is filled with lots of seemingly unimportant acts of service, at least from the world’s perspective. After I returned from helping Bep, I de-winterized our front porch and set it up for summer use. That meant replacing burned out light bulbs in the light strand, hosing off the deck, putting out pillows on the furniture, bringing back the big plants from indoors, and rehanging the curtains. In the midst of that, the Lord reminded me that the little things in life are very important. Because of my work the porch was a place of delight over the summer. It provided a beautiful place for quiet times, good conversations, and fun gatherings. So much of what we do as mothers and homemakers has the same effect.

Our days are filled with hidden, mundane tasks. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel like our lives don’t count for much, especially when we lack God’s vision for our calling. One way to evaluate our worth is to imagine life without our labor and acts of service. When I was gone to help with baby Goldie, my absence was very obvious to the family here at home. They would gather in the kitchen at dinnertime, notice the messy counters and sink full of dishes, look at each other, and ask, “What’s for dinner?” They felt my absence and were very grateful when I returned.

In the mist of a world that values public notoriety, I am reminded of certain Scriptures that highlight a whole different set of values. Take, for instance, the story in Matthew 25:31-46 where God gathers the sheep and goats together on Judgment Day. What big accomplishments earmarked the sheep that earned God’s reward? Was it selling a million albums, speaking at huge conferences, or being a famous household name? No! Private acts of service are what separated the sheep from the goats: feeding a hungry person, giving someone who was thirsty a drink, inviting a stranger in, clothing a naked person, and visiting someone who was sick or in prison. These sound very much like the things a mother does as she cares for her family on a daily basis.

We see another example of this among Jesus’ followers in Mark 15:4: In Galilee these women had followed Him and cared for His needs. Translated that means they undoubtedly bought food and fixed Jesus’ meals, washed His clothes, hosted gatherings, and prepared His bedding, among other things. Some versions of this story list these women’s names, but other accounts do not. However, I’m sure Jesus knew them by name and greatly valued them. In fact, His ministry probably would have been greatly hindered without their hidden acts of service.

Dear mother, everything you do in the care of your family and home is valuable, even if the world never sees what you do or calls it important. If you didn’t serve your family in this way, your home would quickly fall into chaos. Your hidden acts of service contribute greatly to your home being a little place of heaven on earth in the midst of a world that desperately needs to experience that reality.

Your work is precious in God’s eyes. Be encouraged!

Lisa

PS: I’m sharing a picture that just got posted on Facebook of four wonderful moms I know: (L to R): Bethany Bruck (mom of 5), Cassie Halloran (mom of 4), Kathleen Batchelder (mom of 5), and Allison Sonneland (mom of 5 & our oldest.) It was posted by Elizabeth Hug (mom of 6 with one in heaven) who said this: My beautiful friends and their babies. It’s dangerous hanging out with people who believe children are a blessing. It might rub off on you!

 

Thankful

Jim & Lisa with Grandchildren
Jim & Lisa with Grandchildren + 2 more pics below!

I have been able to smell and taste for the last month—things I haven’t been able to do for the past 20 years! (Fast approaching the need for a dreaded fourth sinus surgery to remove nasal polyps, I finally agreed to follow the advice of my daughter Rachel—who is completing a nutritional therapy program—to delete all wheat, dairy and sweets from my diet. That, and a lot of prayer, worked!) I feel like the little rat on the movie Ratatouille with an exquisite sense of smell that has fireworks of bright color going off all around him every time he smells something. When I hug a friend at church, I can now smell her perfume. I love all the scents in the candle aisle at TJ Maxx. When I open my bedroom door in the morning, the wonderful smells of coffee and breakfast cooking delight me. My food tastes delicious! I keep apologizing to my kids for making “wonderful smell” comments all day long, but I can’t help it. To smell is exhilarating!

I can now relate a little bit to the blind, deaf, and lame people Jesus healed in the Bible. No wonder the lame man went about walking, leaping, and praising God—he had been lame since birth. Can you imagine the wonder of receiving your sight if you had never experienced it before? The whole world would be amazing to you.

It’s funny, though, how we can easily take for granted the blessings we are used to experiencing. Jim has done extensive reading on the Holocaust. A story from one of his books described women in a Nazi concentration camp. As they lay talking on their crowded wooden bunks, emaciated from hunger, and battling sickness, lice, and fleas, they dreamt of being back in their homes with their families, being able to do simple things like wash dishes or dust once again. What had once been mundane became a wished-for dream now that it was denied.

Different medical crises have left me incapacitated for weeks at a time in my adult life. Once, when I had finally gained enough strength to resume some of my household duties, I felt overwhelming joy and thankfulness that I had recovered enough to vacuum my house again. A job that used to feel like a dreaded chore had become a treasured privilege. I now understood some of what those women felt in that concentration camp.

What does all this have to do with us as mothers? In the routine of life, our day-to-day responsibilities as mothers and homemakers can easily be viewed as drudgery. Instead of being thankful, we begin to view our calling as a prison sentence from which we would like to escape. Maybe we need to reign in our negative thoughts and cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the great calling God has given us. Every job, no matter how important, has menial tasks assigned to it. That is where vision is so important. With God’s vision for our calling, we can see the dishes, diapers, sleep-interrupted nights, and mounds of laundry as part of the God-important job of being “keepers of the home”—a world-changing position of influence.

It helps to realize that there are many women in the world who would love to live the life we are living. Some are waiting for husbands. Others are believing for the gift of children and family. And, compared to women living in the past (or in some impoverished countries of the world today) we are living in the lap of luxury. With our modern conveniences and appliances, we each have the equivalent of several servants or maids had by women of the past. We have so much for which to be thankful.

In this special season, choose thankfulness. Your life will be so much better!

Many blessings to you! Lisa

PS: One thing for which I am thankful is the gift of our grandchildren, featured here. This picture was taken in August 2015 during our son’s wedding weekend. Missing from this photo, but pictured below, are our two youngest grandchildren: Goldie Engelhardt (left) and Evelyn (Evie) Sonneland (right).

 

Being a Tree Is a Very Good Thing

Years ago I waited for a prophetic word as the guest speaker worked her way down the line of women. When she got to me she simply said, “ I see you as a large tree,” and moved on. Needless to say, I expected to hear much more than that! If it was going to be just one word, why wasn’t it at least a more exciting word such as hurricane, tidal wave, or lion? Anything but tree. However, I now see that word in a whole new light. The good news is that you, too, dear mother, can be a large tree. Let me explain.

Since receiving that prophecy, I take notice whenever I see the word tree in Scripture. Daniel 4: 1-37 describes this tree: The tree grew large and strong, and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. Revelation 22:2 adds this thought about trees: On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Wow! Strength, prominence, beauty, worldwide visibility, abundant fruit, food for all, shelter, life, healing—all these words and phrases describe trees. In these descriptions of what trees supply, three things stand out: presence, provision, and peace. I also see those three qualities lived out in the life of the Proverbs 31 woman. Let’s examine these qualities in the context of our lives as mothers.

The Proverbs 31 woman was very present in the life of her family and home. She wasn’t off doing her own thing and delegating from a distance, but was front-and-center in everything that happened in her household. I’m sure her family could count on her being there for them. A tree is an apt description of what it means to be a mom. Trees are stable, predictable, and visible; you always know right where to find them. Our 100-year-old home is surrounded by pine trees that have probably been there since the house was built. They are not going anywhere. That is a picture of stability, strength, and permanence. Our families need us to be that for them in a world that is constantly shifting and uncertain.

Both trees and our Proverbs 31 sister exemplify provision. This model woman was constantly working to provide for the needs of her family whether that meant meals, clothing, or whatever. Nothing was lacking in her home. The trees in the above visions provided food for all and healing, not only to individuals, but also to entire nations. That is a significant contribution.

And last, but not least, is the quality of peace. Beasts and birds found a safe haven in the environment of the tree—a place to rest and be refreshed, a safe place in which to let down. Provision (having our needs met) and presence (having a sure place in which to seek refuge) lead to peace. Our sister in Proverbs 31 looked so well to the needs of her family, that I’m sure they lived in peace. There was no chaos or uncertainty in her household. To the contrary, when our needs are not met and there is no safe place in which to run, out lives are filled with anxiety and fear.

In all my years of sunbathing to get the perfect tan, I think I must have destroyed my internal thermometer. Now I can’t stand the sun or heat, and I always seek out a place in the shade. I have often thought of how hellish the world would be if God had not created trees. They are a magnificent part of His creation—but no more so than mothers.

Don’t let the world tell you that being a mother and homemaker is not a worthy calling. Your faithfulness in being there for your family and providing for their needs is crucial. It affects not only your family members, but contributes greatly to the health and well-being of the church and our nation. As you meet the needs of your family, you may wake up one day and realize that many other people have been drawn to the shade of your tree to find sustenance, safety, and rest. What you are called to provide is invaluable.

Keep going, dear mother. Your family (and the world) needs you!

Lisa

PS: Lisa Phillips (pictured with her husband Dexter and their three children) is a great example of a “tree” that blesses many. They have opened their home wide to embrace others over the years. Now that Hope is their only child at home, they have invited four young adults to live with them: one current discipleship school student, a former student, and two foreign exchange students. Many young adults have found rest and healing in the shelter of their home. We bless you Dexter and Lisa! (When I told Lisa that I wanted to use her as an example for today’s blog, she said, “That’s interesting! My nickname when I played college volleyball was Tree because I was so tall!”)


 

 

 

A Decision We Don’t Regret

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The Grimm Family

We’ve made some bad decisions over the years, but there is one over which we have absolutely no regrets. If we could do it all over again, we would make exactly the same choice.

When Allison, our oldest, was three, Jim came home from a conference saying he wanted us to consider homeschooling. (That was back in the ‘80s when homeschooling was still considered a crime in some states.) After much prayer and fact-finding, we felt led to proceed. We started out by homeschooling Allison in kindergarten and just kept going, teaching all eight of our kids at home through high school. (A number of them did take Running Start classes in high school.)

In meeting with various homeschool families, I realized there was no certain formula for success. One family held school casually on their couch; one mom left her kids to natural learning with no formalized instruction at all; another woman hired a cleaning lady, set up a schoolroom with desks and an American flag in her basement, and held school from 8am-3pm every day. Seeing the broad spectrum of expressions helped me see that we could tailor-make a school experience to fit our family. In order to last for the long haul, I knew I couldn’t do school all day long. What worked best for us was to work until lunch and then leave the afternoons open for lessons, reading, and schoolwork that did not require my help. That gave me time to keep the household running.

We didn’t have an exemplary scholastic model, but I did the best I could with eight children. In the younger grades (K-2nd grade) we focused solely on reading, writing, and math. By third grade we introduced the other core classes. Even though I didn’t do crafts or rarely had my kids do a science experiment, one positive aspect of our schooling is that we were consistent. We schooled five days a week with grace for sickness, new babies, and unexpected vacations. For my sanity we did no school in December and took three whole months off for summer. Even with a shorter school year than most, we usually finished all of their books by dividing up the daily reading and assignments between our eight months of school.

Why was homeschooling a good decision for us? For one, I cherish the time I had with each of my children. It’s hard to believe this when you are in the midst of the infant and toddler years, but our children grow up very fast. We usually only have them at home for a brief 18 years. Now that we are getting close to being empty-nesters, I am so thankful for each day I got to spend with my children. There is nothing else I would have rather done with my life. I also believe there is nothing more valuable I could have done with my time.

One positive aspect of homeschooling is that our kids were not forced to grow up prematurely. When Allison attended a sleepover of a friend in sixth grade who attended public school, she reported that all the girls talked about was boys. That was a foreign topic to our 12-year-old daughter. Our dear Maggie played with dolls and set up pretend offices until she was 11. And James was famous for donning his pirate or cowboy or medieval outfit and sword fighting on the lawn during his school breaks until he turned 12. The funny thing is that after he attended his first youth group meeting, those make-believe costumes were never seen again. I’ve never seen someone grow up so fast! But I’m glad he got to live in that make-believe world for all those years.

Our greatest goal for our children is not that they become successful in the world’s eyes, but that they love God and fulfill His purposes for their lives. I believe we were able to accomplish that to a greater degree by having them under our influence for 18 years rather than under the influence of the world. Unfortunately, most children sent out to be a light in the world are damaged by the darkness they were expected to influence. Eighteen years of steady input and modeling at home is beneficial for most children if they are to become the salt and light they are called to be in the world.

I’m not insinuating that all people should homeschool their children. (I was blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband, plus it really helped that I am naturally administrative.) Counting the cost is important since homeschooling does require a whole new level of self-sacrifice beyond that of normal mothering. For me, that meant thirty years of my life were given to educating my children at home. But as I said earlier, it’s one of the greatest choices we ever made—worth it all.

Love, Lisa

PS: Pictured today are Pastors Bob and Cara Grimm and their family. Unlike us, their kids attend public school. One key to their success is Cara’s intentional decision to be present for her children as much possible. It’s her top priority to be there when the kids return home from school each day. Lots of sharing about their day goes on in that first half hour after school! Bob’s and Cara’s welcoming presence not only blesses their own children, but has translated into their home being a gathering place for their kids and their friends. I told Cara, “You know they come here because you are present, don’t you?” She replied, “They also come because I feed them!” Way to go, Bob & Cara!

 

Have We Swung Too Far? A Commentary on the “Empowerment of Women”

As I lay in intensive care after lengthy brain surgery last May, two things spontaneously flowed out of my spirit. First came words of praise and adoration, thanking God over and over again for the gift of life. Second came a greater and greater burden for the message He has called me to carry: the blessing of children and the great worth of motherhood and homemaking.

That burden resurfaces every time I encounter the “empowerment of women” message. Don’t get me wrong! I am not for the oppression of women that occurred in the past (and that currently exists in many cultures of the world.) Women should have the freedom to vote, get an education, utilize their gifts, handle their finances, and escape abusive husbands. The absence of those things is wrong. However, while early feminists rightly diagnosed the problems, I believe they came up with some wrong solutions—solutions that affect our thinking today.

If you do a little research, you discover that many of the movers and shakers of the feminist movement were blatantly anti-God. The famous Susan B. Anthony (the face on the dollar coin) was a vocal proponent of the idea that women should be able to remain single and completely independent of men. Betty Friedan, author of the wildly popular book The Feminine Mystique, claimed that two things are necessary if women are to take their rightful place in the world: abortion and childcare. In other words, they totally eschewed marriage and motherhood, viewing them as roadblocks to women’s fulfillment.

That’s what concerns me about the women’s empowerment movement. Women are encouraged to fulfill their dreams, but nowhere in the midst of that do I hear an affirmation of motherhood and homemaking. It’s like we’ve let the pendulum swing from one extreme to the other—from the abuse of women on one end to the empowerment of women on the other end—and missed the sweet place of the God-ordained design of a woman that, I believe, belongs right in the middle. In our rush to gain equality with men, we’ve run right past our God-given assignment as keepers of the home and had to step around our God-designed ability to bear and nurture children.

Maybe that’s why Titus reminded the older women to encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children and be workers at home. Maybe that message needed to be emphasized in a world that tells young women to follow their dreams and callings, often at the expense of husband and children.

A study note in the ESV Study Bible helps me understand a confusing verse related to this topic. In the context of the fall, when God pronounced curses on Adam, Eve, and the serpent, God told the woman this: Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16b). The ESV commentary says this: “The ongoing result of Adam and Eve’s original sin of rebellion against God will have disastrous consequences for their relationship: 1) Eve will have the sinful desire to oppose Adam and to assert leadership over him, reversing God’s plan for Adam’s leadership in marriage. But (2) Adam will also abandon his God-given, pre-fall role of leading, guarding, and caring for his wife, replacing this with his own sinful, distorted desire to ‘rule’ over Eve. Thus one of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage.”

Maybe instead of preaching the empowerment of women, we need to go back to the basics and teach a two-pronged message: 1) Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. 2) Wives, love and serve your husbands and children. Maybe we’ve got our message all wrong. It’s possible that women have sought a place of power because the men in their lives have not cherished and loved them as God intended. Maybe we need to run from the pendulum swing and call everyone back to the place of balance and original God-given design right in the middle.

I don’t have all the answers to this very complex topic and can’t begin to deal with all the related issues (What about single women? What about divorced women? etc) but I felt a need to get my thoughts out there before I take a break for the summer.

May you be blessed as you seek that “sweet spot” of God-ordained life in the middle.

See you in September!

Lisa

P.S. Featured today are Patrick and Hope Farmer and one of their foster sons. In the midst of contending in faith for an open womb, they have taken in three precious sons. I am always touched by her online posts about her challenging journey in caring for them, such as the one posted after a day at the fair: “My favorite days are the ones when we can give the boys moments of pure joy. They walk with such heavy hearts because they have seen too much, been through too many horrible things, and taken responsibility for people who should have been caring for them. Today they had windows of time with no thoughts of anything but how exhilarating the ride was! The smiles and giggles on the bumper cars, the cotton-candy grins, the pure exhaustion on the car ride home…I hope they hold those moments in their hearts forever and that these memories push some of the yucky ones straight out of their heads! Sweet dreams, little ones.” We bless you, Patrick and Hope, pray for an outpouring of God’s grace to be upon you as you care for these boys,and stand in faith with you for an open womb!

 

Older Women, Help!

NaramoreTitus 2:3-5 exhorts older women to teach the younger women to, among other things, love their husbands, love their children, and be workers at home. As a younger mom, you may wonder why you need that encouragement from older moms. I can think of several reasons:

  1. You will receive absolutely no encouragement from the world in your calling as a mother and homemaker. To the contrary, you will be ridiculed and made to feel like your calling is a waste of your education, talents, and abilities. Maggie, a young mom-friend of mine, was asked by her high school guidance counselor what she wanted to do with her life. Maggie declared, “I want to be a mom.” The counselor replied, “That’s not good enough. You have to pick something else.” That is the perspective of the world in which we live. You need the encouragement of older moms to be reminded that your calling is worthy of your life’s focus and is an instrumental and strategic position of influence.
  2. Older women have a “been there, done that” perspective that younger moms need. We’re past the labor-intensive part of motherhood and can give you hope and an “it’s all worth it” perspective. Scripture tells us that a woman forgets the pain of childbirth for the joy of a child once it is born. (I have to be honest, though, and tell you that I did remember James’ dramatic birth for quite some time.) I can truthfully say that I can’t even remember the hardships of early motherhood now for the joy of my grown children. They are just vague memories. It was all worth it.
  3. If you have small children, you are in the midst of a very demanding season of life. It’s easy to think that your current status will be the reality for the rest of your life. To borrow the title of a book, motherhood is a “long obedience in the same direction.” God chose to make human babies very needy. They are unlike baby sharks (which are self-sufficient at birth) or giraffe babies (which start walking two minutes after birth.) Our babies are totally dependent on us for survival and are needy of our time and attention for a number of years—all part of God’s design. In the midst of that long obedience, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. You need encouragement and support as you walk through this season of life.
  4. Where there is no vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18). That means they lose hope and want to give up. Young moms need envisioned older moms—women who are convinced of the value and worth of motherhood and homemaking—to give value and worth to the work of their hands. God-vision helps you see past the loads of laundry and dishes, sleepless nights, bone-weary exhaustion, and feelings of being overwhelmed. God-vision convinces you that all your work is instrumental in the plans and purposes of God. You are helping rebuild the foundational building block of society and the church—the family. You are part of God’s MO in the earth by raising up godly seed who will affect the seven mountains of influence in society and generations to come.

Your sacrifice and steadfastness is precious in the sight of God, dear mom. Keep going. You are doing a good job!

Lisa

P.S. Rachel Naramore and her three adorable children are featured in today’s photo. Rachel and her husband Brandon are pastors at Rock of Roseville church in Roseville, California, where Rachel has used Not Just a Mom in various small groups to encourage moms. Her favorite blog of mine so far is “Holiness or Happiness?” where I briefly shared vulnerably about our marriage struggles. One of the greatest gifts we, as the older generation, can give the next generation, is honesty about our failures and weaknesses. That honesty frees those who come behind us to acknowledge their own failures and struggles. Be blessed, Brandon and Rachel!

 

If Children are a Blessing, Why is Motherhood so Hard?

Oh babes“I don’t think I really realized how hard those first few months of motherhood were until now. People told me over and over, ‘It gets so much easier.’ But I never believed anyone in my hormonal, sleep-deprived state when I had a constantly crying and colicky baby who wanted to be held every second of the day. So, I’m here to tell whoever needs to hear it that it does indeed get so much easier (even though she still wakes up 3+ times a night!) It may not seem like it, but one day you’ll wake up and realize, ‘Ah ha! This is what people mean when they say kids are the best thing ever.’ I finally get it.” (My daughter Julie made this Facebook post when her baby–their first–was ten months old.)

Another mom responded to one of my blogs with similar feelings about the challenges of motherhood: “I am so extremely tired from all that goes into staying home with my four little girls (ages 6, 4, 2, and 6 months.) Thank you for sharing the ‘why’s’ and a larger perspective than the ‘here and now’ of being with them. This is definitely a long-term investment with an unknowable return.”

Raising children is definitely plain old hard work. In my 35 years of motherhood, I have made 38,000 meals; done at least 10,000 loads of laundry; driven kids to more than 10,000 lessons, games, practices, and youth group meetings; changed diapers over 30,000 times (we were one of the last hold-outs on cloth diapers); and have had well over 4,000 nights of disrupted sleep due to crying babies or middle-of-the-night diabetic blood-sugar checks. That does not count the frequent feelings I have had of inadequacy, exhaustion, failure, and being overwhelmed that every mother feels at times.

How can children be a blessing in light of those facts? If they are truly a blessing, shouldn’t this “motherhood thing” be fun and easy? How can God say children are a gift and reward when they are so much work?  Why aren’t human babies like baby sharks which are self-sustainable at birth? Or at least like giraffe babies who walk within two minutes of birth?

We don’t understand God’s ways. He, the wise and good Creator, designed babies. He could have designed them to be totally self-sufficient at birth—able to feed and clothe themselves, get around by themselves, not needy of anything. Instead, He made them totally dependent on us for everything–I mean everything! And we spend hours a day nursing our babies. How confining and limiting! What was God thinking?

Maybe it’s His way of telling us that giving ourselves to the care of our children is His good and perfect will–in spite of the hard work. This phrase comes to mind: It is hard to kick against the goads. This Greek proverb was familiar to anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, resulting in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered.

Nothing good comes easy. Every great accomplishment takes huge amounts of time, work, energy, and attention. Talk to any great politician, musician, or athlete—they all paid a huge price for success. Being good mothers and raising whole children requires nothing less. Maybe it’s time we quit “kicking against the goads” and start yielding to God’s perfect design. Embrace the hard work required in raising children.

View nursing as a good reminder of what is important in life. Before the advent of formula and bottles, nursing guaranteed that a mother stay close by her baby–again, God’s design. The hours we spend nursing our infants sow a multitude of valuable things into their little spirits that translate into their knowledge of God. They learn that ever-present mom is always there to meet their needs–just as God is present. Psalm 22:9 tells us that we learn to trust when upon our mother’s breast. Trust is one of the key stages of development that contributes to us becoming whole people who can in turn become world-changers.

As I have mentioned before, God uses all the hard work and sacrifice of raising children to deal with our flesh and conform us more to His image. Surrender. It’s in that place of sweet surrender that we find God’s peace and joy.

Lisa

P.S. Pictured above is my grandson Leon Paul Engelhardt when he was only a few days old–the epitome of a newborn’s helplessness. He is now an active, inquisitive seven-year-old boy who is out to change the world. All the hard work David and Bethany are putting into raising him will be well worth the effort!

 

 

 

 

Some Honest Reflections

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Lisa and her mom “Mummu” Ruth Esther Liimatta

I’m living in a kind of limbo-land right now. Bethany’s baby girl Goldie was due yesterday. As soon as I get the call, I will board a flight to New Jersey. But as any mother knows, a due date means very little. An April 5th due date means she could give birth anywhere from March 22nd to April 19th. So we all wait in limbo, keeping up with bills and laundry, making what we think is our last run to Costco, and making sure our suitcase is packed and ready to go. Every day could be “the day,” but only God knows the exact date.

I’m also living in another type of limbo. My elderly mother lies in a hospital bed in our in-law apartment waiting for the Lord to take her home. She has been bed-ridden since the first of the year, and I honestly didn’t think she would make it to her 88th birthday. She did, however, and she still lingers on. Both mom and dad wonder why God keeps them here on earth when they lack such purpose, especially when mom is hurting and so physically limited. But God has numbered our days, and only He knows when we will leave this earth to be with Him.

I have a partial answer to Dad’s question, “Why does God prolong our days like this?” Our lives affect not only us, but also the many lives around us. Jim and I always said we wanted to care for our parents and have them live with us when the need arose. After we convinced Jim’s mom to finally do so, we built our attached in-law apartment where she lived for 2 ½ years until she passed away. It wasn’t always easy. There were many adjustments on all of our parts, and I often look back and wish I had been more loving and gracious to her. But her death was easy as she simply passed away in her sleep.

My mom and dad have now lived with us for over three years. Once again, it has not been easy. Just as raising children meant a death to self on a daily basis, caring for our parents has required nothing less. I have had to lay down my time and agenda many times. That is hard to do. And mom’s lingering death has required a new level of self-surrender as I have had to care for her. At age 60 I am doing many of the same things you are doing as a young mom: changing diapers, giving drinks through sippy-cups and straws, and having the baby monitor with me at all times. I have had to clear my schedule so that I am home most of the time and feel pretty disconnected at church as a result.

To be honest, there have been days when I wished my life could get back to normal—to real life. However, I realized something that has helped me: This is just a short season of my life. It will not last forever. Sooner or later my mom will go to be with the Lord, and I will miss her. My life and schedule will subsequently be free, but nothing I am able to do then will be more important than the chunk of life I set aside in which to care for her. If caring for my mom is not real life, then what is?

The same holds true for you, dear mom. If you are in the midst of caring for a newborn or a toddler, it helps to remember that this is just one season of your life. Even raising older kids will pass all too quickly. Enjoy it while it lasts. Yield to the “surrender of self” you are experiencing, knowing it will produce the good fruit of a Christ-like life in you. Understand that caring for your child is real life. Reject the lies of the enemy and the world that say you are missing out on real life and there is something better you could be doing with your time.

We are in this together. Keep going! You are doing a good job!

Lisa

 

 

 

 

Where We Sow, There We Will Reap

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Margot James Watson

In viewing lots of “talking heads” on mom and dad’s television, I’ve noticed that a lot of these influencers-of-public-opinion are women. Because of my strong bent toward motherhood, I always wonder about these women’s personal lives. Let me share with you what I discovered as I did a little exploring.

Megyn Kelly, a prominent news and political commentator who hosts The Kelly Files on the Fox News Channel, was honored as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2014.  Wow! I’d say she’s a poster-child for the empowerment-of-women movement. However, we often fail to look below the surface at the price paid for such achievements. At age 43 she has three small children with her second husband. When asked how she balanced her nightly show with raising her kids, she responded with this: “Having a very supportive husband helps a lot.” Another key? A nanny. “I couldn’t do it without a nanny, and that’s the truth.”

Following are quotes from an article posted on several online sites: Unfortunately, Megyn’s first marriage failed. Her first husband remembers the priest who married them expressing concerns about their relationship. Her husband was a doctor and she, at the time, was a high-powered lawyer. When the priest told her that it was going to be important for her to take care of her husband and home, she replied, “What about him taking care of me?” Her husband is quoted as saying, “I wanted a wife and she wanted a wife—we both needed someone to cook for us, clean for us, and support us.”

Ouch! Those comments make me sad. Society has convinced women that motherhood and homemaking are second-class callings not worthy of their lives, time, and attention. Being a “help-meet” to our husbands is viewed as a demeaning calling from which we need to break free. Our daughters are taught that the most important goal is to pursue their own dreams and callings—even at the expense of husband and children. I am not trying to bad-mouth Megyn Kelly (I pray she will choose a path she will not regret in the end.) but her life can serve as a reality- check as we make life decisions based on a Biblical perspective.

The Bible teaches us about the principle of sowing and reaping. It is well understood that we reap what we sow. What we often forget is that we also reap where we sow. If we sow into our careers, we will undoubtedly reap there—as exemplified by Megyn’s life. Unfortunately, she is dependent on someone else doing a major part of the raising of her children. On her deathbed I doubt she will wish she had won another major award or made even more career advancements. I suspect she will wish she had been more present in the lives of her children. If we want to reap on the home-front, we need to make that the primary place in which we sow.

It is interesting that the woman’s husband in Proverbs 31 received his praise in the city gates—in the public arena. What was the source of her praise? It came from her husband and children. Two different spheres of influence, but two equally important callings. Obviously, she had been present, had faithfully met their needs, and had chosen to sow her life into her home and family.

I share these things to encourage you, dear mother. When you choose to lay down your life to care for your children and support your husband—no matter what the world says—you are doing very important work. Your name may not make the list of the 100 most important people in the world, but I have a strong feeling it will be very high on the list of very important people in heaven.

Your calling is valuable and important! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Lisa

PS: Today’s picture features Margot James Watson, our 7th grandchild, as she celebrated her first birthday with her best bud Wally (a.k.a. Sir Walter Watson.) Lee and Julie, our third oldest daughter, are her awesome parents.I had to post this picture, because I can’t stop smiling every time I see it!  Since they live in Charleston, South Carolina, and we don’t get to see them very often, Julie posted a picture-a-day of Margot during her first year of life so I (and her other grandmothers) could enjoy her on a daily basis. Margot is very fertile ground into which Julie is faithfully sowing her life.