missionaries in the guest room ~ bringing home the whole world

 

guest room

 

My earliest memories of missionaries all come along with those of white-gloved church ladies, potluck casserole suppers, and a noisy slide projector streaming foreign wonders on a crooked Silver Flyer screen! My six-year-old mind reeled as I soaked in the photos of men holding spears and ladies modeling fascinating beaded jewelry. I marveled at the men and women describing each slide, sharing their stories and making another country come alive right there in our fellowship hall.

When I became a parent, I knew I wanted my own children to have the valuable exposure to foreign missions I had experienced. Our bookshelves were filled with missionary biographies and the large atlas on our coffee table was rarely closed. We volunteered to help with the missions conferences in our church and I wrote a series of skits based on some of our favorite characters from missionary history for them to dramatize. I will never forget my 12-year-old son dressed as Hudson Taylor and my daughter as Rosalind Goforth, both knowing much more about China than I had ever learned in any geography class!

However, our greatest experience was hosting missionary families in our home and having the privilege of getting to know many people whose life stories enriched our lives in ways book studies alone would never have done! Though the thought of welcoming a family of strangers into your home for a meal or even an extended period of time might initially seem daunting, it will leave a lasting impression on your children and build everyone’s faith!

Here are a few tips for making your missionary hosting experience a great one:

Learn as much as possible about the country where your missionaries serve and encourage your children to ask lots of questions! I recently chatted with a homeschooling mom whose family just returned after 8 years as missionaries in Burma. She told me one thing she really loves is when people ask them real questions about their work and she assured me it ever gets old! Be sure to ask thoughtful questions yourself. Not long ago I asked a missionary stationed in a fairly primitive area how they find the balance between making Bible translation and Gospel preaching a priority and addressing physical needs. It opened up a great discussion and we all learned so much.

Get other families involved! Invite another family or two for dessert in your home and ask your missionary to share more informally and personally. One afternoon a lovely older retired missionary set out a display of carved animals and jewelry she had brought home from Kenya, allowing our group to touch everything and she even gave each child small treasures to keep. Another time we participated in a School of Missions where each family studied a particular country, prepared native foods, wore authentic clothing, and shared what they learned with each other. We quickly found out that the best way to learn something is to teach it!

Encourage your missionaries to tell as many real life stories as possible while in your home! Missionary stories are the best stories! One of our favorite missionaries is Tom Randall, the best man at our wedding and long time missionary to the Philippines with World Harvest. I will never forget the wide-eyed expressions on our children’s faces as he told them hair-raising tales of God’s provision for him through both natural calamities and at the hands of evil men. His life story continues to build our faith to this day and my thirty-something children still vividly remember his amazing stories!

Remember that your missionaries may come to you with very real physical, emotional, and spiritual needs! One time, we were asked to host a missionary family who, unbeknownst to anyone else, was really struggling with whether or not to return overseas. I soon learned that their financial support had dwindled and the wife, especially, was struggling with fear and bitterness. Since they came from a hot, arid climate to the Midwest at the end of October, they had no cold weather clothes. We were able to find some things for them to wear until they could unpack their stored boxes but I didn’t realize how truly needy they were until I discovered the man had left a terribly threadbare t-shirt in the guest room. My heart ached at how much more I could have done for them and I was much better prepared in the future.

Keep in touch with your missionaries once they are gone and plan to see them again! Encourage your children to become pen pals with missionary children. Send care packages, letters, and emails and plan to Skype when possible. Pray specifically for missionaries by name and keep a prayer journal to record how God is working! Become missionaries to your missionaries and bring the whole world home!

This article was written by me and was originally published in Family Magazine, Issue 3, 2015

 

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bearing our children’s burdens

baby clay

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”   Galatians 6:2

In the middle of one July with Midwestern temperatures soaring into the high 90s and humidity registering about the same, my three little preschoolers came down with the chicken pox. Their creamy Scottish complexions combined with the intense heat left them with nearly every square inch of their little bodies covered in the itchy, painful rash. For three weeks I spent most of my days taking them in and out of baking soda baths and feeding them popsicles and pudding. We camped out on the hide-a-bed watching Little House on the Prairie reruns and reading until my voice was hoarse. When Clay came home from work, he took over as only a daddy can do, and in the night we took shifts.

Every mom has similar stories of bearing the burdens of her family, some much more difficult than our chicken pox saga. I have friends who have children with physical struggles, others who care for little ones with learning disabilities. In reality, all of us have burdens and live with children who do, too. We live in a fallen world where physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual burdens are continually part of the ebb and flow of life. If this is true and burdensome for us, how must it be for children who do not have the context for understanding their woes or the maturity to face them?

Bearing the burdens of others, especially of our children, involves both sympathy and empathy. As Christians, we are called to come alongside others, sympathizing with them, even if we do not understand the struggles or the pain. As mothers, we have experienced so much of what our children face that we need to recall our own experiences as part of empathizing with them, thus helping them carry their burdens. Ultimately, we become a living example for them to see how Jesus bears our burdens and calls us to do the same for others.

In our parenting zeal, we often forget what it was like to be a child. They are shorter than adults and closer to the ground so they see things we miss. Everything is new to them and they want to examine and explore. Their concept of time is measured by events rather than a schedule. When they have teething pain they have no idea why. When they wake up alone in a dark quiet room, they are scared and just want to be with somebody else. Their little bodies do not comprehend a menu plan, they just know they are uncomfortable and eating makes them feel better. Bearing the burdens of our children is no mystery, it is meeting needs they have simply because they are children; it is seeing each one as someone in need of an advocate rather than as an adversary.

Scripture talks about bearing the burdens of each other in terms of a weight that prohibits someone from being able to function, that presses down on them or around them. Sometimes we can see that burden, like chicken pox or a swollen gum hiding a new tooth. Other times there are hidden needs, an emotional or a spiritual burden. As children walk through their teen years, in particular, it is natural for them to struggle in ways we cannot see. But if we have purposed to carry those burdens we do see, being free of judgment and full of tender mercies toward them, our children will be more likely to allow us to carry the heavier burdens they bear as they grow up. And we cannot pick and choose what we will bear; we are called to bear all things (1 Corinthians 13:7)! And what is the result of bearing the burdens of our children? We fulfill the law of Christ, to adequately complete our service, literally “to fill in” as in filling an empty ditch to overflowing!

In John Bunyan’s famous allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, the protagonist, makes his way along the path to the Celestial City but falls into a miry swamp, “such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.” Christian struggles to near exhaustion when a friend named Help comes along and, looking from a different vantage point, is able to see steps that come up out of the bog. He shows them to Christian, who is then able to get free of the entanglements of the slough and they both go on their way.[2]

I believe this has a particular message for parents as we mentor our children. We, ourselves, are further down the path than our little ones. We know the dangers and the trials associated with sin as well as life’s struggles; we, too, have wallowed in the Slough of Despond. So when our precious children fall and are tempted to despair, we can come alongside them and are able to give them steps to returning back to the path! What a privilege it is to be called to such a glorious ministry of encouragement in their lives!

What burdens do your children carry at the stages of life they are currently in? What are some ways you can carry those burdens for them? How is God kind to you? In what ways can you show more kindness to your children?

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home   Available at Rainbow Resource and on Amazon!

 

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no eye has seen

ben and girls

 

“Through the years I have met many moms who were just beginning this wonderful journey, this adventure called “homeschooling.” I must admit that they always made me feel a little wistful as my days of actually schooling my own children were slipping by so quickly. It was as though I was turning the pages in a really amazing book and knew that the last chapter was coming. I was sad and some days wished I could go back. But even better yet has been the sequel, the next book of my life that God has written! 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV) holds a promise for us that stirs up great anticipation in my heart. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” We cannot begin to know how wonderful the next chapter is…whether it is the moving from kindergarten to first grade, graduating the last child, welcoming a new baby, a husband’s job change…whatever it may be, we know that it is for our good if we love God.

Recently, a new friend shared this story with me. She told me how, many years ago, she struggled with a rebellious son who had come through the public school system. At the urging of friends, she and her husband decided to bring home the other children and begin homeschooling. As they attended their first homeschooling conference, a new world opened up to them, a world beyond anything they had ever imagined. As they came out of the conference center at the end of the day, walking in front of this couple was a mother with her teen-aged son towering above her. As they walked, spontaneously and without embarrassment or reservation, the boy leaned over and kissed his mom on the cheek. At that moment, my friend told me that she was so stunned and overwhelmed by their relationship that in her heart she cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘This is what I want for my family!'”

They brought their children home and began schooling them and as the years went by, they were amazed at all the Lord was doing in their lives. Then, at the end of her story she told me this: Just the other day she and her husband went to a family movie with their youngest child who is almost ready to graduate. As they were walking along, the boy, now a man, was in between the two of them, and he reached out and placed his arms around both parents and hugged them as they walked. Her mind raced back to that day so many years ago when she had cried out to the Lord to give her good and godly relationships with her family. When we love God with all our hearts and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength, we cannot begin to imagine all that He has prepared for us!

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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priorities exercise for homeschooling families

prioroties pic

What are the areas of your life as a homeschooling family that are the most important to you? Brainstorm, making a list and narrowing it down to your top five priorities. Consider how the curriculum, programs, activities and learning methods you now enjoy either enhance or detract from these goals.

Begin to eliminate those things that are not beneficial or that take time away from accomplishing these five goals. Ask yourself if those goals can be better met at home rather than outside the home, and be honest. Remember that life is short, and life with our children at home is even shorter. Imagine yourself, 25 years from now, talking with your adult children who are raising your grandchildren. How can you spend your time today that will best prepare them for that task?

Say “no” to new things that come along that also won’t help you accomplish your goals for your family. There are a plethora of opportunities for homeschooling families, but ask yourself which options are the best choices for yours. Don’t succumb to the latest curriculum fad just because it is popular and appealing. Don’t jump on any homeschooling lifestyle bandwagon without evaluating it according to your goals. Don’t sign up for a single thing that will not help you accomplish one or more of your five goals.

Make time for those things that are important. Never allow yourself to say “I don’t have time” if it is something that will help you attain your goal. For example, if you want to develop a new family habit, wrap that activity around something you do every single day. For years we began the day as a family with Bible reading and prayer but found it difficult to keep as a routine because of Clay’s work schedule. A few years ago we decided to include it as part of something we do together every single day, so we incorporated it into our evening meal. Success!

Throw yourself into accomplishing those five goals. Read, study, and learn everything you possibly can about things related to that goal and see how it changes your life!

Remember that the eternal always trumps the temporal. This will be a continual battle as long as we live in this world, but purposing to live each day with this agenda at the core of your life will be worth it all. As I have been making these evaluations for my own life and family, the Lord brought words from the old hymn to mind that says: “I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear.” What a good reminder that my calling as a Christian means that my goals and priorities are not to be shaped by the things of this world!

from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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true biblical submission

Ben&Julie-54

 

“Why has the command to “submit to one another” become such a stumbling block to so many? I believe it is because the church has missed the example of Jesus and His servant’s attitude; we have neglected to take in the whole of Scripture and have refused to place our lives square in the middle of the weightier matters of the Word of God. We have ignored the simplicity of life in the covenant of faith and have replaced it with phrases and semantics and man’s principles that reflect a divisive agenda and adversarial assumptions. We have mistakenly regarded submission as a vertical rather than a horizontal action. We have substituted the beauty of an organic, natural one anothering approach, with a legalistic, top down, military chain-of-command list of rules for family life.

“In reality, the true beauty of living a life of genuine, biblical, one anothering is discovered in our submission to one another! When the difficult issues of life come before us, if the spirit of submitting to one another is present, conflicts rarely occur! If the desire to express our love and care for one another takes priority, yielding to each other can become a source of great joy and comfort. You see, submission is not something controlled by someone who requires submission. Rather, it is yielding your personal rights as an expression of love for and commitment to another person. It is done out of a heart of genuine respect, care, and interest in another person, and can never be demanded. Submission is the choice of an individual, is never done out of obligation, always has the best interests of someone else in mind, and does not stand alone in its own category. It combines with all the other one anothers of Scripture to produce a picture of what heaven will certainly be for those who love God. Submitting to one another is merely an instinctive, beautiful dance we do as a couple, as a family, as the body of Christ, choreographed by the grace of God in each of us.   from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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only a dad

grandpa

One of my fondest memories of my dad is his love of poetry. He, and my mom as well, would often burst into spontaneous verse. It was amazing how many poems he could recite and how appropriate they were to the occasion! It was a gift to me and it wasn’t until I was a grown-up that I realized not everyone had a dad who recited poetry! This was one of his favorites.

 

Only a Dad
by Edgar Albert Guest
Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.

Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.

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Father’s Day admonition to dads

clay

 

from my friend, Wally Long:

We have an terrible epidemic afflicting children in our country. It’s not drugs, alcohol, bullying, suicide or gang violence. This terrible epidemic is fatherlessness.

It is estimated that 24.7 million children in the US (about 33%) live in fatherless homes. Millions more love in homes where the father is physically present but emotionally detached or not involved. Still more live with abusive fathers. It is likely that over half the children in our country do not have a loving, engaged relationship with their fathers.

71% of all teen pregnancies come from fatherless homes.
85% of children with behavior disorders come from fatherless homes.
91% of homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes.
63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes.
85% of youth in prison come from fatherless homes.
72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers.
60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way.

All these stats are sourced but I know that stats are not absolute facts. They are estimates and extrapolations. Still, I think the picture is clear and sobering. Children need fathers who love them and are engaged in their lives.

On this Fathers Day let this be a call for us to “man up” and be the men and fathers our children need.

Ezekiel 22:30 (HCSB)
I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one.

Your children need you to stand in the gap and repairs the wall. God is searching men. He is calling you. Will you answer the call?

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when failure comes to our children

ebay and zoo 234

 

“The sense of personal calling on the lives of our children will help them persevere during those times of discouragement and difficulty that are certain to come to them. Early on, our children must embrace the truth that God has no plan B for their lives, only a plan A, and that He is bringing that plan to pass in spite of our best efforts or worst mistakes. Sometimes our children sin miserably and, lost in our own grief and disappointment, we forget this truth ourselves. But it is during these very times that we need to fulfill the calling God gives to us as parents: to comfort, exhort, admonish, strengthen, and encourage our children, affirming God’s forgiveness and watch care.

“I am always jarred back to reality by the story of Jonah, of his refusal to obey the Lord, his recognition that he was in the belly of the fish, the biggest mess of his life, because of his disobedience and the fact that it was God who placed him there. In the second chapter he cries out to the Lord for mercy and deliverance and then makes this profound statement: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8) (NIV). How well Jonah summed up the reality of what happens when we follow a life plan that does not please the Lord or put Him first! If our children fail and try to run away from the Lord by sinning against God through disobedience, especially by following a call He has not placed on their lives, they need to know that God may use amazing but painful ways to bring them back to Him. They need to understand that God is also a merciful and gracious God who is swift to forgive. We should do likewise.” ~ from The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home

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summer fresh quinoa salad

delicious

I have been trying to find delicious and simple ways to cut the “bad” carbs from our diet and this is one of our favorites. Similar to our familiar traditional pasta salad, this one skips the high carb count and goes well with so many of our usual summertime standbys!

Summer Fresh Quinoa Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 cups chopped cucumbers

1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives

1 Tbs. minced garlic

juice of one fresh lemon

1/2 cup olive oil

fresh ground pepper

fresh ground pink Himalayan salt

Mix garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and set aside while quinoa cooks and cools. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until chilled. Serve alongside grilled meats or with a fruit salad for lunch or supper. Delicious!!!

 

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