Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Heart and a Schedule for Everyday Ministries

Recently, the Lord has laid a burden on my heart for people. Specifically, the burden is for missions and ministry, to encourage and pray for those involved in doing God's work, to contribute my own resources toward helping others, and to impress this burden onto my children. Part of my motivation grew from reading about a curriculum called Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve. Since my boys already know their letters, we love our My Father's World curriculum, and I prefer a more cohesive, unit-based method of study to the disjointed "letter of the week" approach, I decided not to invest in the curriculum kit, but reading about the serving aspect was certainly inspiring. In the free sample lesson, author Laura Coppinger shares how she taught her son letter sounds with service projects: surprising Daddy with Doughnuts, bringing Flowers to Felice, or Making Muffins for the Millers. I love the idea of doing projects, not just for the sake of doing them, but in order to bless others.

As I thought and prayed about this subject, an idea for "Missions Mondays" quickly grew into a week of alliterative themed days to help the children (and me) grow in our faith. Here is the proposed schedule for our upcoming weeks:

Missions Mondays: We will pray for specific missionaries, write notes of encouragement to them (the boys will draw pictures or make cards), learn about the parts of the world where these missionaries are serving, and develop a heart for evangelism.
Teens and Twenties Tuesdays: Since Don and I recently started a College and Career ministry at our church, this will help the boys get involved as they make cards, assemble care packages for college students, and join us in praying for the youth of our church body.
Worldwide Wednesdays: We recently started sponsoring a child through Compassion International, so some Wednesdays we will write to him. Other weeks we will do service projects that benefit the local community, contribute to charity, bake cookies for a neighbor, or find other ways to show compassion to people anywhere in the world.
Thankful Thursdays: To develop a spirit of thankfulness, each child will think of something he is thankful for, write and illustrate it, and add the page to a Thankfulness Notebook. I anticipate that learning about missionaries, lost souls, and people in poverty will help us all become more aware of how very blessed we are!
Fellowship Fridays: We will pray for families at church and find ways to bless our brothers and sisters in Christ with notes of encouragement, small gifts, or acts of service.
Selfless Saturdays: This could also have been "Family Fridays" or "Sibling Saturdays" since the goal is for us to focus on showing love to those in our family. All five of us are guilty of displaying selfishness at home, so spending Saturdays together can easily lead to sibling battles and outbursts of anger. My prayer is that all of us, and the boys especially, will look for ways to bless our family members instead of acting in selfishness.
Sanctuary Sundays: Sunday is our day to gather with other believers and worship God. We don't do "school" on weekends, but I hope to always make time to meet with God, and encourage the children to do the same. Sadly, in the rush of getting out the door to church and other activities, Sundays are often the day when we spend the least amount of time reading His Word!

It is only Wednesday, but so far the boys, and five year old Donny especially, have been enthusiastically receptive to our Days. They love to make birthday, holiday, or "just because" cards for people, so encouraging others with some unexpected mail naturally resonates with them. Earlier this week, they drew pictures and helped me write a note to a missionary family that we met last spring, and painted watercolor paintings to decorate the dorm of a college friend. Today they eagerly helped me sort through all of our family's shoes to decide what to donate to Shoes 2 Share. We just read in Donny's magazine yesterday about the Clubhouse Jr. challenge, and we are all excited to add our contributions to the thousands of shoes already collected for children in Haiti and other parts of the world!

I am not sure how many projects we will be able to fit in once we get back to our regular homeschooling schedule on Labor Day, but I hope and pray that we continue to make service a priority in our home education. I am confident that our themed days will give us the structure and enthusiasm we need to keep joyfully serving the Lord!

Lord willing, with continued prayer and diligence, a schedule for everyday ministries Works for Me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Day, Three Emergencies, Five Lessons

It was about 10:00pm on Sunday. Don and I were just wrapping up the second meeting of our new weekly College and Career Bible Study, when we realized that the faint noise in the background was one of our boys crying. I went into their room to find Donny in great distress, and though he opened his eyes, I was knew he was not awake. We have had episodes in the past of Donny crying during the night without fully awakening, but this episode was more intense than usual. I cuddled him, sat him up, brought him into my room and turned the light on, and rocked him, but he was completely inconsolable. He continued to cry, occasionally scream, and would say a few words like, "I need" (without finishing the thought) and "Ow!" (but would not answer when I asked what hurt). I left him on my bed and sent Don in to see if he could help. I guess Donny indicated that his side hurt, which coupled with the screaming, prompted Don to have me call 911. I awkwardly said goodbye to people as I spoke to the dispatcher.

The ambulance arrived quickly, but Donny had already calmed down, and was resting on the bed with Don when the paramedics walked in. When the friendly EMT asked him questions, he responded normally, as though he was finally awake, and the only thing that hurt was his stomach, "a little." There was certainly no indication that he was on the brink of a burst appendix or kidney failure. In fact, he was fine - much to our relief!

A friend suggested the next day that Donny may have been having a night terror, and shared how her daughter had a similar experience (minus the "Ow!" cries). After reading some on the subject, I definitely think that is what Donny was experiencing. Night terrors are characterized by sudden "waking" where the person may open their eyes but does not wake up, and they experience intense fear, screaming, and crying. This would explain, too, why he often cries during the night but never describes any nightmares. Though night terrors can be scary, it is a relief to know that his cries are nothing more than an unconscious reaction to stress and fatigue.

On Monday morning, Donny was happy and healthy, but the ambulance was outside again - this time, parked at the house across the street. The boys watched the trucks intently, and after some time, we finally saw the paramedics carry out Mrs. K., our elderly neighbor, while Mr. K. followed behind. I was suspicious when I noticed that Mr. K. did not arrive home until later that night, and was accompanied by several other cars, but when I saw a large group of people, including Mr. K., exit the house in formal wear on Wednesday afternoon, I was certain: Mrs. K. had died. I found her obituary online to confirm my suspicions; she died at the hospital on Monday. I only met Mrs. K. a few times; they came to our house warming party when we first moved in, but since then our only interactions have been brief hello's at the mailbox, and Mr. K. is usually the one checking the mail. I do not think they are believers, so I welcome prayers for the right words as I draft a sympathy card, that this loss would open Mr. K. and his family to learning the Truth about eternal life in Christ.

But before we knew all this, the ambulance drove away, and we resumed our Monday morning chores. I left the boys folding laundry while I went to quickly vacuum the office, with a brief warning to Hayden as I was walking by that the way he was lying across a chair was not a good idea. A few minutes later, over the noise of the vacuum, Don and I heard sounds of screaming - which sadly, is not an unusual occurrence, since Hayden screams whenever he doesn't like what Donny is doing. I finally turned off the vacuum as Don and I called the boys to come, but no one appeared. We swiftly walked to the dining room, ready to discipline the offending parties, only to find three crying children, the chair Hayden had been lying on tipped over, and his leg wedged between the slats. According to Donny, Hayden had been standing on the chair when it fell, startling Lydia and trapping Hayden's thigh. Don promptly tipped the chair upright and attempted to free Hayden's leg, but it only seemed to become more stuck as Hayden continued to scream. Don quickly found a saw and in a minute (one of those minute-that-feels-like-20), the chair was broken, but Hayden was free.

An investigation revealed a bruise line along his right thigh, so Don set him up on the couch with some ice, and he was excused from laundry folding in order to indulge in a video day. I thought he would be fine in a few hours, but Don wanted to have a doctor check Hayden out, just in case his knee was injured. It turned out that the earliest appointment was at 4:45, and it was only 10:00 in the morning. After straightening out some questions regarding our new medical insurance, Don was advised in the afternoon to take Hayden straight to the hospital for an X-ray. The results were unclear; apparently there was a possible fracture along the growth plate in his thigh. The diagnosis was pronounced: Broken Femur. Sweet Hayden came home an hour later with his leg wrapped in a splint from thigh to toe.

Tuesday was a sitting-down day, but a fun day for the boys, who were showered with gifts of arts and crafts materials as well as a new DVD. (My favorite was the Wikki Stix - what a neat combination of toy and mess-free activity, especially for craft-loving children like mine!) Hayden had to be carried to the bathroom and from couch to couch. We were thankful to get our Thursday appointment with the orthopedic doctor moved to Wednesday morning, and equally thankful to get an appointment with a trusted orthopedic who has worked on Don, his parents, and his sisters in the past!

The orthopedic turned out to be a comical, bow-tie wearing gentleman, but as Don had assured me, he was an excellent doctor. He didn't see any break in the X-ray, and when he unwrapped Hayden's leg to poke and prod him, Hayden didn't even flinch. The doctor told Hayden what a handsome boy he is and had him try walking to Daddy, which he managed with only slight pain. His official diagnosis was not a broken bone, but a Soft Tissue Contortion. I am so thankful that my little boy who loves to run, jump, and swim won't have to spend the rest of the summer in a cast! He spent a day crawling around the house and is now limping slightly, but he seems to be healing properly. There is nothing like a few emergencies to make you appreciate your family's health and mobility!

In fact, our faithful Lord has woven several lessons of varying significance throughout this episode. To summarize:

1) There is a reason to always keep oneself and one's home looking reasonably neat and presentable. You never know when a guest may stop by with a gift, or when three men in uniform will have to race from an ambulance to your bedroom.
2) There is a reason to work out regularly. You never know when you may need to haul 30 to 40 pounds of boy from one end of the house to the other.
3) There is a reason to pray for and reach out to one's neighbors. You never know when they will be gone.
4) There is a reason to listen to one's husband. You never know when he may be right about something. ;)
5) There is a reason to read, study, and meditate on God's Word. As we discussed at our Sunday night study, the Bible tells us to count it all joy when we face trials. We can be excited about our salvation even in the midst of calamity. Our family has been singing Nehemiah 8:10 all week:

The joy of the LORD is my strength!

And He is, indeed, the source of the joy and strength that overcomes pain, suffering, and even death. Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness, for three healthy children, and for the joy of walking with You each day!