All Good Gifts

1Sep2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

While looking for a picture this morning, this photo stopped me in my tracks.

Honey Jojo

That’s my baby Jonah, with my beloved grandmother, Honey, a few weeks before she died.

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They used to have the most fantastic conversations.

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And he was never afraid of her, as babies often are of much older people. Of course, Honey had a way of making everyone feel comfortably saturated in love.

I think babies know when they’re adored.

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Like many third (and fourth or more) babies, the announcement of my pregnancy with Jonah was met with mostly lukewarm reception. I’ve found that, aside from the parents, the overall excitement for a second child is about half that of the first, and virtually non-existent for any children that follow.

But not my grandmother! She was thrilled about having another great-grandbaby.

And these pictures I stumbled across today show their mutual adoration so clearly.

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My sweet Honey suffered so much in her last years on this planet. But oh, the joy she found in this new little life, and how he made her smile!

Actually, the last time she smiled this side of heaven was when we came to see her a day before she passed.

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All I can think when I see these pictures now is what a good, loving Father God we serve, who delights in giving good gifts to His children.

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Even the ones over 80. Maybe, especially to them.

 

Writing in the Dirt

24Aug2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

I know some people are going to say I’m crazy, but I feel more sympathy than condemnation toward Josh Duggar.

I logged on this morning to even more headlines about his apology, and it makes me sad to see the glee some people express over bashing the Duggar family. It’s not just coming from the liberal side of the fence, either. I read this the other day. The author has zero sympathy? Really? Is she so righteous that she can’t feel even slightly sorry for someone whose private sins have been repeatedly thrown out on public display?

I think if you profess Christ yet can’t muster an iota of pity for Josh, or his family, then I think you need to check yourself. Because who on this planet, who, can say that they’ve never done anything privately that would result in shame if made public?

I can’t say that. And if you’re honest with yourself, neither can you.

I’ve seen people saying, “Well, he didn’t apologize until he got caught!” Well, duh. Do you? And how do we know he hadn’t confessed his sins and battled and struggled to do the right thing for years? It seems pretty clear now that he is up against a real sex addiction.

We’re drawn to gossip over the sexual sins of those in the public eye, but what about the gossiping itself? Oops. We’re not really supposed to be indulging in that, either.

The problem with Christianity, the problem with Jesus, is that he said really difficult things like, if you simply look at someone with lust in your heart, it’s the same as actually committing adultery.

Another tough one: hating someone is the heart equivalent of murder.

Just reading a few articles brings to mind mobs chasing down the Duggar family with torches and pitchforks. But who among them is free of any personal wrongdoing? You can’t call Josh a hypocrite while simultaneously declaring your own hatred. I mean, you can. But at least acknowledge the irony.

I get that what he did was dirty, low-down rotten. Molesting his sisters as a youth, being a paying member of that adultery website, cheating on his wife. Leaving those cherub-faced little ones at home to go experiment with what amounts to prostitutes, all while working for a family-values organization and projecting a sound, moral character. He deserves to be called a dirtbag, and worse, for the shame he’s brought on his wife and their precious babies. I feel sorry for Anna and the kids most of all.

But, here’s the part that makes me twitch: by Jesus’ holy standard, I’m a total dirtbag, too.

Ever lusted after a person you weren’t married to? I have. Did I act on it? No. Would I have? I’d like to think that I am totally incapable of such an action. I truly love my husband and have zero desire to hurt him. But during a particularly tough season in our marriage, the grass started looking greener elsewhere and though I’ve never stepped a toe over that property line, I get why people do. Because it’s tempting and easy and escaping. What was Josh escaping? I could write a whole other blog post about the possibilities, for sure. But it’s not really my business, is it?

I know women who will curse their husband’s use of pornography while being the first one in line to see Magic Mike or Fifty Shades of Grey. Ever watched those films, read those books? Then you can’t say anything about anyone else’s sexual sins because you are guilty, too.

Ever told a lie? I know some compulsive liars who are publicly bashing the Duggars. Have you ever been gluttonous? Slothful? I have. Actually of all the vices on this planet, I love the combination of slothful gluttony the most. Give me some Chinese carry-out, my recliner and the remote control and I am in heaven. Top it off with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Crunch and whoa, you ain’t never seen someone enjoy sinning as much as me! I’m not saying that watching Netflix or eating those foods are in and of themselves, bad. But my heart toward them, the deep, gutteral drive to pursue self-indulgence, that is the problem. And oh, how we all love chasing after our particular brands of self-indulgence.

But sinning isn’t always about satisfying self. What about this gem from James 4? “Any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.” Fed any orphans lately? Bought shoes for the homeless? Tutored a child in need? If not, why not? We all know people are in need of something we could give, but we don’t do it. Sins of omission, I believe the Catholic church calls them.

The trouble with sin is how we see it:

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So no one is in a place to condemn, even if you haven’t cheated on your wife, or hurt a child, or indulged in pornography.

Plank eye. We all have it. We’re all hypocrites, every one of us, if we bother to look that far inside.

Remember when the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus started writing in the dirt? Slowly, all the accusers walked away. Some have speculated that he wrote their secret sins in the dirt, and as their truths were brought into the open, they left in shame, realizing they were no better than the one they were about to kill.

The media has encircled Josh and they laugh as their fists lob sweat-covered stones at his face.

I’m no Jesus and I let him down daily, but I am forgiven. And though salvation is a one-time deal, we all remain in continual need of forgiveness. And this post, today, is me writing in the dirt with my finger, my heart breaking for a broken man and a broken family, and wondering: who is so pure that he can throw any stone at all?

Jesus is the only one who could’ve. But he didn’t.

And because he didn’t, I can’t, either.

I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its décor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp –
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.

Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
‘I would love to hear Your take.
‘How’d all these sinners get up here?
‘God must’ve made a mistake.’

‘And why is everyone so quiet,
‘So somber — give me a clue.’
‘Hush, child,’ He said,
‘They’re all in shock!
‘No one thought they’d see you.’

~Author Unknown

 

Our Kindergarten Choice

19Aug2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
Kindergarten Jonah

It probably seems funny for a homeschooling mom to send her youngest to public school kindergarten, but I did it.

A lot of people have been asking us why. Although I know Donnie and I don’t have to defend our choices to anyone, I don’t mind sharing our thoughts because I realize this seems like an unusual decision for our family to make.

The short answer: it just seemed best for everyone.

The long answer, is of course, a bit more complicated.

Last spring, Jonah was diagnosed with sensory processing issues and possible Asperger’s. At least, they used to call it that–now the new thing is to label it high-functioning autism. One of the clinicians felt that his quirks might simply be related to giftedness and suggested having him re-evaluated when he’s a little older. The psychologist, however, wanted to go ahead and give us an on-paper diagnosis, stating that if Jonah did need therapies or services, it would be easier to obtain them with something in writing.

Knowing that the public school system offers this kind of help was a big factor in deciding where to place him. We’d been seriously considering a private kindergarten, but they all state up-front that they don’t have resources for kids who need special help. And Jonah is so far ahead in some areas, and so far behind in others, that it just seemed logical to place him where there is greater access to help he might need, including gifted programs.

That said, a lot of my friends, especially other homeschooling moms, asked why I didn’t just homeschool him. He does, indeed, seem like the kind of child that would thrive on homeschooling because each subject can be catered to his needs.

The short answer: I’m….

Not Supermom

I like to pretend I am, and I have friends who jokingly call me that, but Lord have mercy. I. Am. NOT.

My two middle-schoolers are being homeschooled again this year. They go to a co-op academy one day a week for history, math, science and composition. Then we do extensive homework on those subjects throughout the week, in addition to the other subjects we cover at home. Since they are teenagers, I won’t go into their struggles publicly, but I will say that each of them have special circumstances that would make homeschooling them a bit challenging for any teacher-mom.

And Jonah’s favorite thing in the world is to distract and engage his siblings. All day long. And one kid in particular is extremely easily distracted.

And I just can’t face that all day, every day. Not with kids who are getting close to high school and really need to buckle down on their work.

I had to raise my hands in surrender, throw in the towel, and every other metaphor for realizing one’s limits. I wish I was one of those super homeschooling mamas who can teach a dozen kids of different ages with various special needs, but I’m not her. I’ve never been that patient. Or organized.

Which brings me to one of the final deciding factors in choosing public school for Jonah. This child thrives on routine and structure.

And he clearly didn’t get that from me!

Out of all of my kids, he’s the one who blossoms most under structure. I suppose it’s part of the rigidity that accompanies Asperger’s, how they’re so resistant to change, but he just adores the predictability of school. Try as I might, I could never structure our homeschool as tightly as he’d need for it to be right now. It’s just not in my DNA.

So, that, my friends, in a rather large nutshell, is why my little guy is at public school this year. I have no idea what’s going to happen next year. If this school ends up being a good fit, we’ll probably keep him there. Even though we adore homeschooling and I think it’s a fantastic way to educate children (and have been doing it since 2007), I’ve realized that each kid is different, and each year is different. My oldest almost decided to come back home for his junior and senior years, but then changed his mind and stayed at his public high school. So we take it year-by-year, kid-by-kid, and prayerfully decide what is best for each one.

Which, at the end of the day, is all that any of us parents can do, right?

Lego Ninjago Airjitzu Launch

16Aug2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Atlanta is always a favorite destination for my Lego-loving boys.

Jonah pretty much wore a smile all the way there and talked NONSTOP about what he was going to do at LEGOLAND! We could barely get him to stand still for this pose.

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He even planned his own outfit for the occasion, which was…creative.

Oh, and while we waited for tickets, we marveled over this artistic feature in the lobby. It’s Renoir’s “Monet Painting in the Garden at Argenteuil” rendered in LEGO:

Renoir Monet Painting

Anyway, on Saturday, we were among the first to experience LEGO’s release of their awesome new Ninjago Airjitzu flyers. These little toys are inexpensive bursts of flying fun!

In one of the classrooms, groups of six children followed directions to build their own Airjitzu flyers.

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Then, with the help of this friendly LEGO employee, they practiced flying them inside these cool “fly-high” towers!

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While the towers were necessary to keep kids from sending Airjitzus all over the room, the sky’s the limit when you’re playing with them outdoors. Check out these videos to see some really creative tricks that your little¬†Spinjitzu Masters can achieve with their Airjitzu flyers.

One of the cool things about visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center is posing with the giant Minifigs, like the red Ninjago warrior, Kai.

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And you know, you’re never really too old for LEGO. Eli shared a Coke with Kai, whom we affectionately renamed “Tom.”

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(See the name on the bottle? Tom?)

And then we took a break in the cafe and shared a Coke with Jonah. (And a sandwich and Dippin’ Dots, too.)

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Of course, the sugar just jazzed him up again for the rest of the afternoon. Look at that crazy-happy face while watching the miniature MARTA train circle around Atlanta’s MINILAND!

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And what kid wouldn’t love climbing through a pit full of giant foam LEGO bricks?

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Of course, no visit to LEGOLAND is complete without seeing the 4-D “Legends of Chima” movie. Just make sure you’re ready to get wet, and maybe pluck a few bubbles out of your hair afterward.

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This little guy is going to have a lot to talk about at kindergarten tomorrow!

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

17Jul2015 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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My son Jonah is what people tend to call “a handful”.

Recently diagnosed on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, he is a busy, brilliant, frustrating, loudly energetic bundle of boy.

He also amazes me on a pretty regular basis.

My 13-year-old daughter came home from a mission trip quoting that verse I shared above. It’s not one that I recall having taken note of before, but I love it. It meant a lot to her, too, as they worked at a day camp for underprivileged children and gave out food and water to the homeless.

As for me, I’ve been in a bit of a dry spell recently, spiritual-wise. Daily bible reading has shifted to the back burner, and I haven’t been making the time to pray and study as I should. We pray at mealtimes, and bedtime every day, but I have to confess that I am not the best example to my children of what it means to be a student of God’s word.

That’s probably why what happened tonight both shocked and humbled me.

Jonah has a little collection of bibles. He loves them. Often if he’s scared at night, he’ll sleep with one. Although he reads several grade levels above his own (he’s starting kindergarten next month), I was never really sure if he actually read the bibles or just knew from being taught (and my all-too-rare example) that God’s word is a source of comfort in this family. Whatever the reason, his sleeping with a bible is a behavior I find endearing.

A few minutes after I tucked him in tonight, he came wandering into the living room and asked if I’d like to hear what he was just reading in the bible.

“Um. Sure! Of course!” And as is often the case, I didn’t know what he would say or do next, but he certainly had my attention.

He settled in his dad’s chair, opened his bible to Genesis and started reading to me about Adam and Eve. He read, in the sweetest, softest little innocent voice, for a solid five minutes, and that little smarty-pants pronounced nearly every word correctly!

But what’s amazing is that earlier tonight, his sister told me a joke about why Eve was called woman. (Because she was so pretty, that when Adam woke up and saw her, he said, “Whoa, man!”) I didn’t think Jonah was even listening to her, as he was busy jumping on the sofa (and getting scolded for it). But apparently, he was listening. Because it was still on his mind at bedtime and he looked it up to see if it was true or not! And he did this without telling anyone he was doing it, or asking for help.

Mama. Mind. Blown.

Maybe he just got lucky because it is near the beginning of the book and he didn’t have to look far? But still. I feel like I just got trumped in Bible Study 101 by a five-year-old!

Our kids are listening, y’all. They’re listening and watching and seeking even when we aren’t aware of it. Man, that’s a humbling truth for a Christian mom to realize. May we give them good things to see and hear and witness.

God, thank you for my children and all the things they teach me.

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(I was trying to sneak what would’ve been the cutest pic of him sitting there reading, but he saw me and had to strike a pose. Little stinker!)