Kids Need Structure During Vacation

We had a pleasant first three days of school holiday. A fun excursion up Table Mountain (I am working on a post about this!), a day of playing computer games and watching movies (not allowed on school days), a nice hike in the Helderberg, a friend’s birthday party. Then everything fell apart. The arguing, not listening, unkind speech, and even outright disobedience brought on some very real threats from their mother (me) to start school again. Then it dawned on me…while I might be able to impose my own self-discipline, my kids aren’t there yet. I love a long, relaxing morning with no where to be and nothing to do, not bothering to make breakfast or take a shower but for my kids this is too much freedom. I saw their increased anxiety without their usual boundaries and structure.

This is a strange time for all of us. We are excited for Christmas, anticipating a baby, wondering and waiting to hear if we will get the house we want. I have as much energy as this snoozing cat laying next to me and my feet swell up the moment I get up to do something.

Eva has burst through to a maddening two-year old stage where she cries about the wrong sippy cup, wanting her sister’s dinner instead of her own, and screaming for more toothpaste or more grapes or to take yet another bath for the day. She wants to go ‘potty’ but the moment I put her there she cries to get off and then refuses her diaper. Her favorite words are ‘no’ and ‘daddy’ and ‘kitty.’ None of our other children have been this attached to Gert and I get such satisfaction and amusement and delight when she calls for him instead of me early in the morning!

So back to the structure. Last night, after a day of the kids squabbling, we had a family meeting. We challenged them to come up with a plan on how to promote kindness, peace, respect, and obedience in the family again. They came up with a chart to keep track of their behavior, each one giving themselves a ‘mark’ if they are unkind, teasing, etc with a loss of game time for a total amount if points.

I wrote a loose schedule for us to follow on these long, warm, summer days of waiting. We are also studying and memorizing Colossians 3:12-17. Before we put on our Armor of God, we put on the underarmor of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Notice I said we…I am working on this too. It’s so tempting to give into irritation because I am so big and uncomfortable and swollen and feel like I may never go into labor!

The kids know I have their math books at my fingertips and so far today is a little better then yesterday. Last night we read about St. Boniface, the missionary who brought the gospel to the German pagans who were busy sacrificing children to the god Thor, worshiped in the form of a Thunder Oak. Boniface stayed the hand on the would-be priest executioner and saving the child’s life, declared that nothing would happen if they were to cut down the tree instead of making a blood sacrifice. When his claim proved to be true, he pointed to the evergreen trees, proposing to cut one down instead, and used a small fir tree as a tool of evangelism.

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Isn’t this beautiful insight into our tradition of the Christmas tree? Now you can hang decorations and lay gifts under without assuming it’s just another pagan custom. Read the full story of Boniface here.

The freshly implemented Vacation schedule, subject to change. So far it’s working better to have devotions in the evening, which feels more ‘Christmas-y’ anyway.

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The kids’ action plan. As you can see, a couple misdeeds today.

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My beautiful, darling, daughter. Her days as baby of the family are numbered…

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My not so darling budding 2 yr old…

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Dining With the Greats of God’s Army

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Photo by Susie Squirrell

We are excited to announce the upcoming arrival of no. 6! I am happy and feeling good and we embrace this new life and addition to the family. Yet with each new child comes a crisis of faith. Is God really asking more of me? How can I handle another baby? Can he provide for this one when it already seems we are stretched to the max?

And then I need another dose of vision. Of the why. Of the high calling. Of the purpose. I’d like to share with you this poem, which does exactly that.

I am a Woman

My willingness to carry life is the revenge, the antidote, the great rebuttal of every murder, every abortion, and every genocide. I sustain humanity. Deep inside of me, life grows. I am death’s opposition.

I have pushed back the hand of darkness today. I have caused there to be a weakening tremor among the ranks of those set on earth’s destruction. Today a vibration that calls angels to attention echoed throughout time. Our laughter threatened hell today.

I dined with the greats of God’s army. I made their meals, and tied their shoes. Today, I walked with greatness, and when they were tired I carried them. I have poured myself out for the cause today.

It is finally quiet, but life stirs inside of me. Gaining strength, the pulse of life sends a constant reminder to both good and evil that I have yielded myself to Heaven and now carry its dream. No angel has ever had such a privilege, nor any man. I am humbled by the honor. I am great with destiny.

I birth the freedom fighters. In the great war, I am a leader of underground resistance. I smile at the disguise of my troops, surrounded by a host of warriors, destiny swirling, invisible yet tangible, and the anointing to alter history. Our footsteps marking land for conquest, we move undetected through the common places.

Today I was the barrier between evil and innocence. I was the gate keeper, watching over the hope of mankind, and no intruder trespassed. There is not an hour of day or night when I turn from my post. The fierceness of my love is unmatched on earth.

And because I smiled instead of frowned the world will know the power of grace. Hope has feet, and it will run to the corners of earth, because I stood up against destruction.

I am a woman. I am a mother. I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth. Heaven stands in honor of my mission. No one else can carry my call. I am the daughter of Eve. Eve has been redeemed. I am the opposition of death. I am a woman.

By Christianna Reed Maas

Why We Have 5 Children (and are open for a 6th)

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Sweet baby Viola, proud mama Kristen Brooke

An interesting question came up in our small group discussion Monday night.

How can we influence our culture?

“If you don’t pro-actively influence the culture, the culture will influence you.” (Jim Anderson, Unmasked)

This is known as The Influence Principle. We want to be part of a movement leading the way to true revival!

While there are many effective ways to influence the culture around us, the most significant for me right now is through our family.

Early on in our marriage, I had a terrible fear that was actually quite rational. I was afraid I would get pregnant! I felt so inadequate and certain I would be a terrible mother. I felt clumsy and awkward around babies and little kids and although I knew I should want to be a mom, I was terrified. I hoped someday I would be “ready” but that day wasn’t in sight.

Yet I was reading passages like “…Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies I the gate.” (Psalm 127)

Clearly we decided to step out in faith and say yes to the blessing of children. Each pregnancy required a new level of faith and obstacles to overcome. We had three miscarriages; especially difficult times of mourning the loss of life right after we embraced it. We didn’t set out to have five children! I’m the type of person who needs to take things one step at a time, and knowing we would have five would totally overwhelm me.

Most people now look at us, stop and count our kids, ask if they are all mine, comment on only one boy, etc. I usually don’t mind at all and look at it as an opportunity to speak words of life over the vocation of motherhood and the blessing of children.

It was when we packed up to leave the beach one day I knew we are influencing our culture through our children. Someone thoughtfully left a condom for me on my diaper bag, as if to say, ‘don’t you know you can do something about this?’ After I recovered from the shock of it, I recognized the flurry of lies so prevalent in our culture today.

The earth is not overpopulated. We are not running out of resources. The world will end when every nation, tribe, and tongue has heard the gospel, NOT before, no matter what the global warming alarmists preach. God has given us a mandate to raise up a righteous generation, to be fruitful and multiply, to pass on the knowledge of his glory and goodness to the next generation. Motherhood is a task worthy of laying down my life for. It is not a waste of my talents or a drain of financial resources. It is a High Calling and my job is to live a life worthy of this calling.

This is where my faith meets my reality. Can I trust God to provide for the children he’s given us? They are his, aren’t they? My faith-reality is that he can provide for them far better than the best of planning and even unlimited financial resources could do. He has a destiny, a calling, a purpose, and a plan for each life that is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

It is a colossal responsibility to be a parent, it takes a huge amount of faith and sacrifice. I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted having more children. But how many times have I seen the look of longing in a mother’s eyes saying, ‘I wish we’d had one more.’ Or from an older woman saying, ‘I just didn’t think we could handle another, but after they grew up a bit, I realized we could’ve had one or two more.’

I didn’t set out to be a voice of influence in our culture through our family, but here we are, like it or not. The question to ask is, “How can I influence the culture around me?” And maybe the harder question…”How have I been influenced by the culture?”

A Series of Unfortunate Un-adventures

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a family who, bold, brave, and optimistic, packed their belongings tightly in their well-travelled mini-bus and headed north to a far-away place, on their way to a missionary retreat. Their foresight allowed them the prudence of departing one day later than planned, as to allow their sweet little children one more day to recover from a tiny cold. Long before dawn, five chirpy children nestled cozily into their car-beds laid out carefully by their daddy, their duvets, sheets, and pillows piled high. Eventually nodding off to a long-winded sermon CD, they slept soundly over a mountain pass and through an extraordinary tunnel carved through the mountains. Then one little head popped up and said, “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”

The mildy concerned but still optimistic mommy and daddy said, “Oh, don’t worry little one, you’re just a bit carsick. Sit up, and look straight ahead.”

They drove on, comforting this little one when she emptied out the scarce contents of her tummy. A few hours passed and it was time for breakfast, when the mommy noticed she didn’t feel so well. When she passed up an anticipated steaming hot Wimpy coffee, her husband compassionately asked if she is pregnant.

NO, I’m not pregnant!” came the disagreeable response.

The poor mommy turned green and ran for the bathroom.

Later, after consuming many snacks and yogurt drinks, after many construction delays and routine police checkpoints, the little boy started howling from the backseat. He, too, experienced the effects of what this bold, brave and no longer optimistic family realized was the sudden onset of stomach flu.

Again and again this unfortunate little boy headed for the side of the road, his daddy learning just how quickly he could pull over and hit the brakes while passing coal trucks and other inspired African vehicles.

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While on such a stop, another little girl popped up and said the now much dreaded words, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” Her devoted but barely standing mommy quickly handed her the second-to-last barf bag. Then the brave oldest daughter burst into a puddle of tears. “I don’t want to throw up!!!” she wailed, “Why does this have to happen every time we go on a car trip?”

It was then this mommy and daddy realized they were three for three with road trips and the flu.

Time for some prayer! That is not God’s blessing…and his word says he will watch over all our comings and goings! So they prayed and broke any curses off their travel time. Unfortunately the sickness still had to run its course.

The tired, nauseous, and edgy family finally arrived at their half-way stopover for the night. They phoned ahead to forewarn their lovely but temporarily crippled aunt of the sudden onset of stomach flu and asked to be quarantined immediately upon arrival. Unfortunately that was not to be the case as guests were already occupying her bed and breakfast rooms. So while the family tried to be polite and sit around the dinner table with an exquisite homemade lasagna and salad, events were not to move in a positive direction.

The high-context Afrikaans culture of the daddy’s family dictated a table set with china, a delicate table-cloth, wine glasses, and conversation with the former Dean of Theology at the University of Bloemfontein involving the merits of studying Latin.

When suddenly, while the mommy with bloodshot eyes tried to feed lasagna to her fussy baby, this sad fussy baby became the last child to serve projectile-vomit all over the dinner table. Both of them covered in vomit, the humiliated, weary, and queasy mommy quickly excused herself to find the recompense of a hot bath and bed for herself and sick baby.

The next day she awoke feeling much better after sleeping for eleven and a half hours straight to the greetings of an amazing, healthy, considerate and hard-working husband who took care of the baby and all vomiting children through the night.

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Enjoying a ride in Tannie Amanda’s walker as she recovers from knee surgery

Van scrubbed and disinfected and vomit-covered duvets, sheets, pillows, and clothing bagged for laundering they stopped for some Power-Aide and finished the drive to their destination, passing spectacular fields of blooming cosmos along the way, without further ado.

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The End.

 

 

photo credit

I Will Give Them a Crown of Beauty

As I write this, it is Gabrielle’s 5th birthday, and a new tradition is begun. We take turns with each of our kids to have a special “date” with dad. This ranges from a trip to the grocery store (special to be alone when you have four other siblings vying for this privilege!) or out for a milkshake. Once it even involved shopping for clothes at a Thrift Store.

But today, on her birthday, it’s G’s turn. I fully expect her to in be in complete princess regalia as she goes out to breakfast with her Daddy. As the news spread through our home that G is going out for a birthday breakfast with Dad, each child smiled and commented wistfully…”I want to do that.” It certainly helps that our favorite restaurant in South Africa gives a voucher for a free kids meal on their birthday!

It is so important for Dads to make a habit of filling up their daughter’s hearts with words and actions of love, affirmation, affection. It’s easy for me to smother my kids with love and kisses. Yes, they need that too. But something different happens when their father kneels down and looks them in the eye and says, “You’re beautiful.”

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“A father-daughter relationship is the God-ordained birthplace of true beauty in a young woman. Just as God spoke words into a formless void and the world came into being at creation, a father’s words create beauty, security, and confidence in a daughter. When words of blessing, looks of love, and pure touch have gone forth from a father and done their work in a daughter’s spirit, she is not drawn to the other voices that may want to lure her. She is not dependent on those other voices to validate her because she has already been securely validated in her beauty through her father.

There has been a lot of talk about spiritual warfare in recent years. If you want to fight hell and the powers of darkness that seek to destroy the hearts of our daughters, I know a type of spiritual warfare that creates value in a daughter’s spirit. It is called “Taking your Daughter out for Tea” or “Going to Her Soccer Game,” and it works in direct opposition to the agenda of hell and darkness that wants to destroy their lives. They need our time, attention, questions, and interest.”

Jim Anderson, Unmasked, pgs. 44,48

We are so thankful for this princess, this daughter of the King; for her delightful spirit, easy smile, and way of bringing out the best in people.

The Mountain I Climbed

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“The only problem with a busy schedule,” my husband said recently, “is that we lose speed when our feet touch the ground!” He took this beautiful picture in the slide above while doing some good, old fashioned character building with our son.

But it’s true! Our family can run on adrenaline for a while, but at some point, something has gotta give. When our feet do touch the ground, I feel like our family can get a stress fracture and then its time to do damage control.

In the uncanny wisdom of Dr. Seuss, “You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace.” I’m not an advocate of running at the break-necking pace of the western culture. I have no problem with saying ‘no’ to events, meetings, outings and activities. Being busy is not necessarily better! I see my job as a mom in part as the Gatekeeper of the Home. To protect, guard, and sustain our home. Nothing gets in or goes out without going through that gate!

Recently, due to an unusually high amount of activities we’ve committed to, I’ve had to put the brakes on the kids and I attending evening activities. It is so refreshing to be home, get the kids to bed on time with a bath and story, and keep our hearts quiet. Instead of wearing ourselves thin with too much busyness, we are trying to live and parent intentionally.

So, to get to the point of this post! A couple months ago my husband and I sat down with the chief task of writing out a plan on how we want to Live on Purpose in regards to our family. We used 2 Peter 1:5-8 as a starting point in identifying the values we want to pass onto our children. It is by no means a perfect plan, but it gives us a reference point to intentional parenting and building a strong family identity. I’m learning we need to set goals and cast the vision for our family if we want to raise up a godly generation. Or else by default the world will do it for us.

A central value in developing our little disciples is Good Character. Of course this has been drilled into me since my days in Master’s Commission! On the list of character qualities we are hoping to develop in our kids is perseverance. To quote one of my favorite authors and the inspiration for our Living on Purpose plan, Sally Clarkson, “Teaching your child how to endure and how to wait with grace could change the whole story of their lives.”

Perseverance…the ability to strain ahead, endure, press on, strong inner resolution.

Perseverance is something that’s easy to get practical with. We’ve all learned it, to varying degrees. For me, the very best catalyst to develop perseverance is to be physically challenged in the outdoors. Where the natural elements of nature meet the spiritual. Its one thing to talk about perseverance while reading a book about it; its entirely another to talk about perseverance when you’re clobbering a mountain one heavy footstep at a time. Or when you are pushing through the middle mile in a 5k, 10k or if you are like my extreme-sport-loving brother in law, a marathon.

So we decided to make a point to physically challenge our kids through hikes, sports, and exercise in general. Which is some of the reason why we have a full-er schedule than normal! We are blessed to live in a place with ample opportunity for anything you might want to try, so the challenge is more to eliminate all the rest. My husband is training for a ministry trip to an unreached people group in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. It will be an arduous trek, over several 16,000 foot mountain passes. When our six year old son heard wind of a hike up the Helderberg to train with his dad, there was little we could do to prevent him from going with! In his mind, all he would need is a peanut-butter sandwich or two and he could easily conquer that peak.

He came back, four hours later, puffy and swollen, bruised, covered in red dirt,  scraped knees, holes in his shirt, and the tennis shoes that were almost done-in are now officially scrap material. After a soak in the tub…he went to bed! How many six year old boys do you know who tell you they need a nap?

But he learned something of perseverance, and before my eyes, he grew up a little bit. Now, when we drive past the Helderberg Mountain on our way to Cape Town, he reminds me…”See mom? That’s the mountain I climbed.”

As parents we aim to teach our kids the ability to strain ahead, endure, and press on through hard things in order to reach the goal of the upward call of God. Sometimes, it’s just carrying that heavy shopping bag home or finishing a tough math assignment. Later on in life overcoming challenges becomes more complex. We want all of our kids to look back and say…”That’s the mountain I climbed.”

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Building Faith in Children

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I asked a few people to be praying especially for our oldest daughter to make a friend. After a few bouts of tears and discouragement, we talked and remembered the past and how it takes time to make friends. After all, this is our second major move in under a year. When we first moved to Washington, she felt lonely as well, and within a few months had half a dozen girlfriends, was riding bikes through the neighborhood, and playing on a softball team! It helped build her faith to look back and remember how God met her need and answered her prayer then.

Here in South Africa, we live in a security complex, which means we enjoy added safety but the downside is the difficulty in meeting our neighbors. Everyone lives behind walls and gates, with barred windows, and often we can’t even see how to reach the front door of a neighbor’s house. On a Saturday morning we caught a glimpse of a girl about 10 years old riding her bike around the neighborhood. Chloe and Hope worked up the courage to say hello, then these two beautiful sisters came by our house and suddenly, friends! Giselle and Milayna are exactly Chloe and Hope’s age, have similar interests, maturity levels, and sweet dispositions. They are a tremendous blessing and answer to prayer.

Part of our vision as parents is to build our kids’ faith. It is so hard to see them sad or in need…but then what joy to see God show himself strong and real in their own lives!