Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let the Children Come

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Matthew 19:14

Throughout the month of December, in the midst of tree trimmings and family gatherings and stockings overflowing with candy, the Lord has continually pressed one idea upon my heart: these days with my little ones are so very precious. This earthly life is so fleeting anyway, and as any parent will agree, children grow up too quickly. Don shared that one of his coworkers was surprised when, at his six year old daughter's birthday party, someone told him, "Congratulations, you're one third of the way through!" While parenting is in many ways a life-long job, these years of raising young children are a special time that we can never get back. Our children's beliefs, values, and character are being formed and molded before our eyes each day. With Hayden recently turning three, Donny turning five, and Lydia reaching the half-year mark, I am reminded that they will not be little forever, and I must cherish each day that the Lord graciously gives me with them. A verse from the poem "Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton has been echoing through my mind:

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

So in recent weeks, I have been more mindful to savor the moments of nursing my smiley baby Lydia, or hugging my snuggly Hayden, or learning the intricate imaginations of Donny's five year old mind. Yet today the Lord convicted me, as He has in the past, of missing opportunities, not to merely enjoy my children, but to teach them to love his Word. After a few years of reading children's Bibles, I read through Mark and Acts with the boys, reading a half chapter or more before they went to bed each night. After Lydia arrived, we struggled to finish the final chapters of Paul's journeys chronicled in Acts. And now that Don is working evenings again and Hayden requires a nebulizer treatment before bed, I often find that I don't "feel like" reading a Bible story. Sometimes there are dishes to wash and diapers to change, other days it's just too late by the time the boys have jammies on and teeth brushed, many days Lydia is fussy right at the time they are getting ready for bed, but whatever the excuse, regular scheduled Bible time continually gets pushed aside.

With this in mind tonight, while Hayden sat on the couch breathing in his asthma medication, I opened up his children's Bible and raised my voice over the loud hum of the nebulizer machine to read, "Jesus loves the little children." While I read the rhyming words of the toddler storybook, I envisioned the scene I have read so many times in the familiar passage from Mark:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16

If you have children, or have ever met one, you know that their presence is not always desirable. If they are anything like some children I know, they will interrupt your conversations, wake up when you want to sleep, crowd your bed or lap or personal space, and pound the bathroom door the second you lock it behind you, insisting that they have to go "right now!" They assault your ears with bickering and repetitive songs, your eyes with messy faces and messy bedrooms, and your nose with noxious diapers and garlic hommus breath. And yet, Jesus - God Himself! - told His disciples to bring those little people to His arms. He put His gentle Hands on them, never averting His eyes from their uncombed hair or despairing over their childish antics, and held them up as an example of faith for us. He commanded us to let the children come to Him. And how, I wonder, can I obey this command unless I take their hands and lead them to His loving arms?

Father God, how often do I miss an opportunity to bring my children before you! When I am too busy, too self-absorbed, too discouraged by their disobedience and noise and mess, you still want them to come to you. You see in children that something that I only catch a glimmer of during their before-meal prayers or their peacefully sleeping faces: an uncompromised faith and trust in you. Let me remember that always, and cherish each moment with them not just because they are my precious children, but because they are yours. Help me to carve out moments to build Lego creations and color pictures and sing songs with them because the days are fleeting. But even if I am never the "fun" mom or the perfect mom, even if I miss opportunities to play, or fail to keep their toys perfectly organized, or if dinner consists of peanut butter sandwiches for several nights in a row, let me never fail to bring my children to you. As you draw me closer to Yourself, may my children develop the same passion to know the living God, and to live their lives in accordance with Your Word.

In the coming year, I pray that I will make the most of every moment, living each day to be more like Christ. In doing so, may I never hinder my children from knowing their Heavenly Father. As I bask in their smiles, their hugs, and their stories, may I remember that every moment counts...and that this moment is one of the few precious ones I have to show them what true Love looks like.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Card 2009

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas 2009! This year has brought many new things to our family. Last December, despite last-minute closing glitches and a major ice storm that delayed our move, we had the privilege of purchasing our first home. It has been a wonderful blessing to be close to family, friends, and our church again! Our first winter here was a crash course in New England home ownership. We learned valuable lessons, like never to choose a paint color online, how to replace a toilet, and to fill the oil tank before an ice-cold shower alerts you that it is empty. In spite of the six-foot icicles and an ant infestation (yes, in winter!), we have really enjoyed having more space for our growing family, our own yard, and a living/dining area that is perfect for hosting social gatherings - something we love to do!

In addition to indoor parties, we have enjoyed several outdoor evenings with friends toasting marshmallows over a campfire in the firepit Don built. In late spring, we also decided to repair and open our inground pool. After six straight weeks of rain and a leak issue, we were finally able to enjoy a few pool parties and several afternoon swims during the warmer weather of August. Another major investment this spring was the purchase of a minivan to fit three car seats, which has been quite a luxury after sharing one small car for over a year. Our new purchase was made possible, in part, by an unexpected blessing: when he was not even seeking it, Don got a new job! His new position in the IT department at a large hospital has provided for our family’s needs and shortened his commute significantly. And though he took the summer off, Don has continued to coach gymnastics – his true passion – a few evenings a week through most of the year. His dream is still to own his own gymnastics facility, and we eagerly look forward to having the resources necessary to make that a reality.

On June 11, after a long and slow labor, our daughter Lydia Faith was born by cesarean section. She is such a joy and blessing to our family. She is a good natured baby who sleeps well, eats well, and bestows enormous grins on anyone who talks to her. Lydia’s brothers adore her, often showering her with hugs, songs, and baby talk. It is hard to believe she is halfway to her first birthday already! Manda is happy to be a mom of three, and even though she has less time to blog about the details, she enjoys her busy days at home…some of which are even busier thanks to our friends’ two little girls, whom Manda watches two mornings a week. In our spare bits of free time, Don and Manda are likely to be found working out, having people over, or serving as volunteer youth leaders for the youth ministry at church.

Our Hayden is now a bright and affectionate three year old, while Donny is turning five, and just as imaginative and intelligent as ever. This year Donny has been working on intricate creations with his “tiny” Legos, even mastering a building kit that is supposedly for ages 8-10! He also loves crafts, especially making cards for people. Hayden is often singing and loves working out with Daddy. He is currently perfecting his forward roll, which makes his gymnastics coach Daddy very proud! In September, we also started more formal homeschooling with the boys. We are using My Father’s World kindergarten for Donny, and Hayden keeps up with most of the lessons. So far we have had fun learning about the sun, moon, leaves, apples, nests, and turtles together.

In September, the five of us also enjoyed our annual apple picking excursion and a trip to Kittery Trading Post, where Don purchased his first shotgun. He hopes to complete a hunter safety course in time for hunting season next year. September also brought challenges to our family: Hayden was hospitalized for two days with wheezing and pneumonia. It appears that he has developed a viral-induced asthma that leaves him coughing and wheezing whenever he catches the slightest germ. He is currently on a daily nebulizer medication to prevent symptoms, and whenever he gets a cold, additional medications are necessary to help him breathe. It is difficult to see our little guy so uncomfortable, but we praise God for doctors and medicines to help him, and for Hayden’s joyful spirit. He has been quite a trooper, from charming the hospital nurses to enduring twice-daily nebulizer treatments without complaint.

Now that we have been in our home for nearly one year, we are excited to spend our first Christmas here, complete with our first real Christmas tree! As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we thank God for the gifts He has given us, but we thank Him for His Son most of all. It is because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we, broken and sinful people, can have hope for our family and our future. We pray that you too will find new life in Christ this Christmas season!

With love,
Don, Manda, Donny, Hayden, and Lydia

The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126:3

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Today's Status

This life may be temporary, but it is complicated and engrossing nevertheless, filled with moments of joy and pain and routine, with memories and hopes and problems and people. My readers who are fellow Facebook members may understand the difficulty inherent in summarizing one's daily thoughts, emotions, and activities into one witty, pithy, or remotely interesting comment that is fit to present to the virtual world as our "status." I feel a bit stuck today, not because I have nothing to say, but because there are so many things to say...there is not enough substance for a blog post, and no one thought that stands out clearly above the rest. Below are several accurate assessments of my current status. You can help me choose the best one for today!


...loves staying inside on rainy and snowy days. the winter gear out of the attic, went out in the snow, and made a snowman with the boys this morning.
...saw the snowman melting in the rain this afternoon.
...heard thunder this evening!
...wishes her camera wasn't broken; there are so many picture-worthy moments to capture.
...hopes to get a new camera for Christmas! entertained by Lydia's frequent spit bubbles and raspberries.
...smells our yet-to-be-decorated Christmas tree.
...made some yummy beef dip sandwiches for dinner.
...was amused when Donny called his sandwich a "bundle" instead of a bun.
...has almost finished the cookies from Saturday's cookie swap. getting addicted to working out, but knows that doesn't excuse the extreme cookie consumption.
...will someday be able to do a perfect push-up.
...refuses to turn on the oil heat. We're trying to use just our electric heaters this winter.
...knows she is a stubborn New Englander when a 62 degree room feels comfortably toasty compared to the rest of the house.
...wonders why Donny is still awake...
...doesn't like to hear Hayden coughing at night.
...loves putting fresh clean sheets on the bed. Proverbs 9 and 1 Peter 1 today. thankful for time spent in the Word, and wants to make Bible study and prayer more of a priority.
...rejoices in the love of her Savior!
...needs to address the stack of Christmas photo cards. ("Hello, cards!")
...finds Candy Cane Lane tea delicious.
...hears, "You have your hands full!" at least three times during every trip to the store. thinking about New Year's already.
...thinks she might actually be caught up on email and laundry. glad to be part of the youth ministry team.
...will have a five year old, a three year old, and a half year old by the end of the week.
... is "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."
...should probably sweep up the Cheerios on the floor from yesterday.
...will be getting a phone call from her husband soon. being growled at by a tired baby.
...has a lot on her mind.
...has a lot to do.
...has a lot to be thankful for!

Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

- 1 Thessalonains 6:16-18