Breathe

This has been a crazy and busy and sad few days.  Mark’s grandmother, Mama Maude, passed away.  She has been suffering with congestive heart failure over the past several months.  We were very sad about her home going.

I could write more and more about the impact that Mama Maude (or Aunt Maude as some called her) made in our lives and the stories about the lives she impacted.  However, to keep me from getting tearful, I’m going to link back to what I wrote close to our anniversary about her.

She was truly loved.  She had such a hard time breathing with fluid building up in her lungs.  But now…ah, now she is breathing in something more rich than oxygen…she’s breathing in the glory of God.  And we feel so much the more excited about continuing her legacy in our children and their children…

Following…

The short version:  For those that are not interested in all the details but want to go on in shock and awe.  After almost nine years with our current church family, we are visiting other churches.  This in no way is due to any serious issues or problems we have had with our church or the staff (whom we all love dearly).  This is a Spirit-led decision and below are the details that have led to that decision.  This, also, does not mean we will indeed leave our church and join another fellowship but that is a possibility if that is where God is leading.  Not our will but His!

Now the long version:

When Mark and I were dating, one of the things we frequently would discuss was the make up of the church.   We both have grown up in a Southern Baptist church and have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of being a part of a denomination that supports the largest amount of missionaries in the world.  Unknowingly to us, when we were married, we joined a Southern Baptist church but instead of it being Deacon led (as our churches were when we were growing up…meaning committees, not the pastor, made all the decisions) it was pastor-led (meaning the pastor made Spirit-led decisions and was accountable to the congregation, deacons, and other staff members).  This was a great move and really got us to think about the New Testament church and discuss even more about how God intended for the church to be set up and how it currently was functioning.

Before we ever had children, we both agreed with the Bible in that God had clearly given parents the authority to raise their children up in His ways and truth.  I’ve shared a lot of our ideas about how we view the church here.  But in a nutshell, we believe the church should come alongside parents…not the parents dropping the kids off at church to be raised in a Biblical worldview.

While we were coming to these conclusions, and welcoming our first child into the world, Mark’s brother and wife joined a family integrated church.  We did some research (you know, to make sure they weren’t joining a cult) and realized we believed a lot of those basic values but still saw no need to be dramatic in changing churches and dropping Sunday school and all the other traditional things we’ve always done in a Southern Baptist church.

After reading and listening to Voddie Bauchum in recent years, we were affirmed in our belief that church was not, indeed, responsible for our children’s well being and raising.  And after reading this startling statistic from Bauchum’s book, Family Driven Faith

Researcher George Barna found that less than 10 percent of self-proclaimed “born-again Christians” in America have a biblical worldview.” (pg 76)

we realized that, more than ever, we needed to be vigilant in insuring that our children’s extremely influential years were full of us saturating their lives with a Biblical worldview.  If you think about it, take 100 of the Sunday school teachers, Awana leaders, and children’s worker and pull out ten of them (100 is a small number of the volunteers in our church)…what’s the chance that those ten are actually the ones that you are lucky enough to have teach your children?

So after much prayer, last December, Mark resigned as a tech volunteer to help me in the service.  And after much more prayer, we decided to pull our children out of Sunday school to continue to have Bible study at home and to give us a very much less stressful Sunday to worship Christ.

That decision was hard.  Very hard.  I mean my friends were in my Sunday school class.  And guess what, I have lost some of my close friends.  But God has been faithful to allow me to grow stronger friendships with others.  This has not been easy and I am struggling with some bitterness at even losing, what I thought was a best friend, however…God opened my eyes to His word in Psalm 84 which tells us that His house is basically a house of worship…not of friends and fellowship first.  I realized I had made it my “social hour” and that He was leading me to realize that worshipping Him was more important than any other part of our life.

To be fair, we had asked to lead a family-integrated Sunday school for all ages at our current church.  However, the time has never been appropriate for it.  They had started, in the fall, with a family-integrated Sunday school but that was only for middle to high school students (and I have heard nothing but excellent things from it…both from the students and parents who participate).

Backlash from our decision to miss Sunday school has been minimal.  And while we know that worship is the first most important part of attending a church, fellowship is the second.  And because we wanted to make sure our children were influenced directly in a Biblical worldview and took them out of traditional Sunday school, our fellowship with other believers has been lacking.

Aside from that, while children are not banned from corporate worship, they are certainly not encouraged to attend it at our current church.  There are high energy “Disney” style activities during all corporate worship times to entertain the children and entice them and their parents away from worshiping together as a family.  We’ve been blessed that only a small amount of times we’ve been told where the nursery is or take our screaming two week old out of the hallway because they were disturbing the other worshippers.  And it’s never been in a rude and ugly way.  We’ve requested a “cry room” to help when we are training our children to be quiet (a cry room would be a room where you could still see and participate in worship but where a temperamental child could be disciplined and trained without disturbing others) but that, too, has been left unanswered.

So now, this all leads us to what God has been speaking to my heart as well as Mark’s. And neither of us realized it until a couple of weeks ago.  I had been feeling God leading me to talk to Mark about visiting a family integrated church, however, in my stubbornness to not let go of the familiar and wanting him to lead, I never said anything.  I didn’t want to be uncomfortable in a new place.  I didn’t want the kids to be transplanted away from friends.  I didn’t want the few people who were still friends to become angry with us.  Bascially, I was being selfish.

So, since I wouldn’t say or do anything…God did it for me.  We drove past a church with a sign about training families in God’s word.  A small church, it appeared…Mark looked at it and made a comment as to wondering whether they were family-integrated, and noted they had Awana.  I realized I had seen a church with a similar name listed on a family integrated directory. A few days later, we looked up the name and I mentioned to Mark that the idea of visiting a family-integrated church had been floating around in my head for awhile.  He informed me that it had his too.  He looked up the church, their website, their doctrine and other information we could find (Google rocks!)…none of it, although the church was non-denominational, contradicted what we believe through God’s Word. 

At that point, we realized we couldn’t deny God moving in both of our hearts to visit.  So, we talked to the kids about it.  They, reluctantly (at least Zoe) agreed.  After all, the current church we attend has been their home and family since they were born.

So, we stepped into the unfamiliar and visited the church.  All of us a bit apprehensive. 

We were welcomed, all be that it was a very small church.  The kids were welcomed and the pastor didn’t blink an eye as Ceili Rain came barreling down the aisle during his sermon (and yes, she was promptly caught and removed).  Nor did he freak out when Liam raised his hand during testimony time…because that’s what Liam does.  However, I did stop him before he gave another sermon or expounded on mom’s temper the previous week!

And Zoe, although very nervous, loved the church.  The worship is quite a lot like what we’re used to (yes, on a much smaller scale), and she made a friend right away (which may or may not be a good thing…they’ve been pretty inseparable since meeting).  Besides that, when we asked them all what they thought of the church, they all agreed they liked it.  And from Zoe, “I love that the preacher uses a lot of Scripture in his sermons.”  Yes, my seven year old daughter said that.

They have two Sunday schools for the kids.  And we allowed them to attend (although Liam wanted me in there with him and Josiah didn’t care)…but the kids are more than welcome to attend the main Sunday school time with us.  Kids are welcomed in the service and on Wednesdays they do have a children’s program…which, as I stated earlier, is Awana during the school year!  There are a lot of friendly people there.  Their doctrine is sound and what Mark and I believe.  We are still planning on visiting and meeting with the pastor and his family in the future (probably after our family grows by one).

All this to say that the past two times we have visited we have been blessed by the worship and felt comfortable in the setting.  Whether this means God is leading us to join, we still have no idea.  We may be back at our “old” before the end of the summer, but God may be leading our family in a different setting.  Either way, we are open to His will for our family and our lives individually and we will follow Him where He leads us. 

Disclaimer:  Mark pre-approved this post before sending it out!

Another Rotten Brother…

**Warning:  Controversial Post Ahead**

I went back to look at the video of our first ultrasound and the title above were the exact words the technician used to tell us (including Zoe) that we were having another boy.  I tried to say, before she announced it this way, “Oh, look Zoe another baby boy!”  But she “corrected” me with the statement above.  I cringe when I see the video.  The way she said it and her continued attitude about boys in general is not something we want to convey to Zoe nor the rest of our children nor do we wish to hear (but she shared…and continued to share anyway).  Nor is it something we want to show him when he gets older (“Look dear…here’s a video of when we found out you were a ‘rotten’ boy.”).

We’ve had a few friends and acquaintances make remarks that seem to lead to the belief that I am not excited to be having “another boy.” 

Maybe my enthusiasm hasn’t shown as much.  Not sure how or why.  I’ve been intentional about being excited about another little one.  Both for my sake and for the sake of my child.  I, in no way, am not thrilled that we are expecting another little blessing from God. 

We also know that God is Sovereign and He is the one that orchestrates the family.  It’s His final say in what our family needs in terms of a child and sibling.  We didn’t agree with God that our family would be open to more children if we did not want or would not be excited about a boy.  We could have easily said (like so many today), “Well, nope, we’re not going to have any more because we don’t want to have a boy!”  We didn’t even contemplate the issues of just as easily “getting rid” of the baby if it was a boy (an issue that so many believe they have a choice to make).  We believe that God knows what is best for our family.  And in His way, though we don’t understand, He’s given us the awesome and amazing responsibility to raise not one son but FOUR for His glory and Kingdom work.

You may also remember that I was not expecting this little one to stay with us for so long.  As I lay in bed last night, with Mark feeling, and me watching, little Bryant kick and wiggle (and it was late too), we talked about what a blessing it was that this little one was still here.  I never posted my fears on here, but I fully expected to go into our eight week ultrasound (with the low progesterone) and find out that he was no longer with us.  I didn’t expect to hear his heartbeat strong and healthy at our 12 week ultrasound after being on progesterone and dealing with the hematoma scare.  I am thrilled each time I see our little one and realize that he is not only here…but that he is healthy and growing (and extremely active).  We know all too well that our little ones are each precious and valuable (whether they are boys or girls).  We’ve experienced the loss of a child in utero and we’ve watched as families have had to say goodbye to their children (some at the ripe old age of two months or less). Why would be any less thrilled that God chose us to be parents to six beautiful children just because we were having “another boy?”

Mark and I just have issues with the way children are viewed today. Add to that the view of men and boys….well, it’s no wonder that we have to be intentional about our excitement of little boys.  If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about…here’s some examples.

Moms complain that they can’t dress their little boys as cute as girls (and I’ve done this before)…so, therefore, girls are easier and more welcomed.  I’ve even heard a mom say that she’d rather have a girl solely based on this (while she may not have really felt that way…that was what she was conveying to those around her).

Then continue on and switch on the television…women are told all over sitcoms, reality shows and the like, that men are stupid, useless without women, and have no clue how to do anything except watch television and drink beer.  Mark and I realized this early in our marriage and have had to make conscious decisions not to watch shows that were demeaning men.  Not to get legalistic…this has been our choice to turn off these shows (and commercials…and there are quite a few), because we noticed when we watched these shows, our attitudes changed…mine especially changed toward how I treated Mark.  As I became a mom, first to a daughter and then to sons, I realized that I don’t want my children to grow up to have this worldview.

This view has also penetrated the church.  Men are to sit back and watch and are not forced to participate in any needed/given area.  They’ve been babied into thinking they aren’t needed and the women have stepped over them (and sometimes on them) to make headway in leadership positions.  The majority of volunteers in the church are the women (and in our church it’s just as true…even as our pastor and other ministers encourage the men to step up)…so, we’ve allowed this demeaning and undermining worldview of men to invade the church.  Of course, women are at fault too…becoming overly willing to jump in and do something and being extremely vocal about it not even giving the men the chance because (as the secular worldview wants us to believe) “they can’t do it anyway.”  Woman after woman in the church has been heard downgrading and complaining about her husband and all he does or doesn’t do (not in a counseling session but in a hallway).  And yes, I’ve been there too and have to watch my words very carefully to keep from falling into this trap.

And so, we embark on this journey of raising four sons in the total opposite direction of our church and society.  It’s a thrilling and crazy adventure and no where do I see a child sitting, left alone, to be “rotten” like a piece of fruit!  We take raising children seriously and boys even more seriously (Sons are a heritage from the Lord…Psalm 127:3a).  We aren’t raising them to be functional idiots in society (harsh words but look at the secular worldview of men…seriously).  We are raising our boys to be men in the Lord.  We work hard at turning their hearts and attitudes to Christ so that they will grow up to be leaders, spiritually and otherwise, in their home, society and the church.  This requires a constant heart and attitude change in me to be intentional in teaching our sons what it means for a woman to respect and love and support her husband and the men in her life.  And Mark faces the awesome responsibility of leading these boys to know what a “real” man is in Christ so he can send them out as “arrows” (or ballistic missiles as he says) to share Christ’s love .

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a deep post (and probably even longer since I’ve written a controversial one), but I needed to get this out so that I didn’t explode 🙂  Just kidding!  I really wanted to share how precious each of our blessing are and how thrilled we are to have yet another healthy little baby.

Yesterday, I was blessed to be a “model” to allow a friend from church to practice doing later ultrasounds/getting measurements to determine due date and such.  She volunteers at a care pregnancy center in our area and they do these to help moms see that they are carrying life.  Anyway…I couldn’t resist.  I had to share some more pictures of Bryant!

He opened and closed his eyes for us!  And he did his mouth too.  His eyes are closed here.
And look at that leg!!!  He’s got some meat on him!  The sonographer commented that she just wanted to squeeze that little thigh!  I agree!  It’s too sweet not to.  Sorry about the “graphicness” of the picture but I couldn’t resist that leg (and probably only those who have seen ultrasounds know what I’m talking about and don’t care)!

A Little About Our Bunch

Faith and Family
It’s been awhile since we’ve done a faith and family blog post, so I thought I’d share a little about our beliefs on faith and family.

I would not consider us to be a part of the “Quiverfull” movement in that we don’t expect everyone to have a ton of kids.  But, here’s our stance on kids and how it works for our family:

First of all, we believe children are a great gift from God.  Each child is created in His image and therefore, a direct work of our loving Creator. (Psalm 127:3-5)

We have always believed that God created marriage for us to have children and grow a legacy grounded in God’s glory.  It’s about us putting our selfish desires aside and seeking out what God wants for our marriage and our life.  We’ve been perfectly content, ecstatic even, in having children only two years after being married.  In fact, I’ve told Mark that if I had a do-over, we would have allowed God to work in our lives to have children earlier than later.  But, yet, God is more Sovereign than me and knew when I needed to have these babies.

After each pregnancy…well, when we got up to four kids for sure, we started to pray.  I think I’ve mentioned a time or two that I really thought we’d have four children and then adopt from there on out.  Filling our home with laughter and love from our own gene pool and then from others.  After Josiah (#4 if you’re trying to keep count), we began to pray both together and separately, and realized that while we still wanted to adopt, we didn’t see where God was telling us to quit having children and allow a doctor to stop us from having kids.  Lo, and behold, Ceili Rain was born about nine months later.

After Ceili Rain, we once again, took to praying and seeking out what God’s will was for our family and our lives.  It’s not easy, having five kids six and under.  Of course, a mom of one would say it’s pretty difficult and I totally agree with her.  For all of us, sinners, it’s hard raising sinners for the glory of God while trying to bring glory to Him ourselves.

Back on to my other tangent now:  So, we sought out God’s will.  We still did not feel a peace about surgically stopping our procreation abilities (that’s some fancy words for me huh).

One day, Mark looked at me while I was holding Ceili Rain and said, “Let’s have another one…well, I mean, let’s let God decide if we’ll have another baby.”  I knew this was what God had laid on my heart as well.

And so, about a month later, we found out baby #6 (well, #7, counting our little one in heaven) is on the way!
And now, let the negative comments, snide remarks, and goofy laughs begin!!  At least you now know why we have so many of these kids.  Our house is about to truly become a bunch of Characters!  Here we go on our adventure with our seventh pregnancy…can you just feel the anticipation!  And guess who God has allowed me the privilege of sharing this pregnancy journey with???

My dear sweet sister in law, who is on her sixth pregnancy but #7 baby (remember my two adorable twin nephews…not that all my nephews and nieces aren’t adorable, I’m just saying they are the latest adorable ones).

And here are the facts:  I’m not as far along as I thought and based on the ultrasound on Monday, I am about 6 1/2 weeks along.  I’ll go back in a few weeks for another ultrasound.  This puts me due July 2010.  We’re back on track (for now) having our summer and winter babies.

Worship-It’s not just for Church

So now you’ve taken a peek at how we worship (or attempt to) at church…now here’s how we do it at home…

What?! You can’t believe we actually worship at home. Well, sometimes it’s a bit like the zoo you see at church but most days we can do it.

We have just started doing worship in the mornings. I would love for Mark to lead both of our worship times, however, he has to be at work early so he doesn’t get home as the kids are going to bed, so it’s up to me in the mornings.

So morning worship consists of: We sing two worship songs and then study the Bible discussing a character trait. I am using Courtship Connection’s Character Building for Families Volume1. Basically, it takes a character trait and then studies what the Bible says about that trait. It’s been great for the kids, especially since I’ve combined it with the charts they suggest using. The kids have been enjoying trying to fill in their charts. I am loving that we are getting into God’s Word first thing in the morning. Simple, no frills, straight from God’s Word teaching. Can’t get any better.

Now for what we sing: We were finding hymns and printing them off and such but then after asking a friend about hymnals and costs, he showed up with two! We were pumped! Especially since these two hymnals are the newer ones and contain many praise songs as well as many older hymns (and newer ones too). Right now, we are singing accapella (which if any stranger were around, they’d have to plug their ears…we make a joyful noise in our family). We mix up what we sing between old hymns and praise songs, but we strive for all the songs we sing to fit our theological beliefs. Hymns were not written in Biblical time and we know our God is Soveriegn and can use other people, through His music to speak to us…and so, hymns, praise songs…as long as it’s theologically sound, we’re good with it. As far as the “repetitiveness” of praise songs. I know many a hymn that does the same thing (the choruses of any number of them!). I also know many praise songs that have no chorus and no repeats.

I have to say there is nothing like hearing your two year old (Liam way back when) singing, “Up from the grave He arose,” or “In Christ alone, my hope is found.” Mmmm, sweet music to a mama’s ears.

Now to evening worship: We started out with a kid’s rhyming Bible and other things…just reading a little at night. This past Spring we noticed that Zoe’s eyes were glazing over…she had heard the same Bible story over and over and over again…it was time to move on and find something a little deeper. Then, for Father’s Day, I found these books called Balancing the Sword. Armed with a great coupon, I was able to purchase them for very little. They basically can take you through the Bible twice (one per volume). There are comprehension (non-denominational/non-theological…just straight up comprehension) questions on average for every two verses in the Bible. You can set up your reading plan with the software included and get to it. Again, seeing our children sit down with their Bible, it’s beautiful. Zoe is now reading some as we read through it. Ace even gets to read a verse or two. And we all work to answer the questions about what we just read. Mark and I are seeing and able to point out to the kids more and more evidences of Christ’s prophetical coming in the Old Testament…and we’re only in Genesis! After reading our Scripture and answering questions, we sing two “hymns” and pray. And yes, Mark leads us through all of this time (he’s a waaay better singer than me. I sing to my own tune if anyone must know).

Family worship is great for us as we use it to practice sitting and listening (both skills that are necessary when sitting in “big church”). I’m teaching Josiah to sit in my lap while we are going through our family worship. And he can do it (most of the time)!

When we are out and about and have to miss family worship for several nights, we can definitely see the difference in our kids! Worship brings us closer to each other, but more importantly to God and His Word. We are learning and leading our kids to have a desire for and knowledge of His Word. And that is what Faith in a Family is all about.

So, how do you worship as a family? Please leave a comment and share! I love getting new ideas.

Now, why do we really homeschool? Is it that important to teach our kids at home? Why not just turn them over to the church acitvities and government schools? Stay tuned (If I totally haven’t offended you yet. Me, watching the numbers of viewers plummet)…

Big Church-Not Just For Big People

Disclaimer: I realize that most of my friends who read this blog go to church with me. I’m not trying to step on toes or disrupt “how we’ve always done things.” We’re just trying to state how we do things and deal with them. So if you don’t want to hear it…just skip over this post…or think, maybe God wants to share something with you, or maybe you can share something about how God works in your family.

Back when Zoe was oh, about the size of Ceili Rain or younger, Mark and I started talking about what we wanted for our children. We both came to the conclusion that we did not want to judge their “success” by American standards…but by God’s standard, and God’s alone. Believe me, as they’ve gotten older, that’s been harder and harder to do. We are constantly working to keep ourselves in check.

So, we agreed we didn’t want to see our kid’s rising on the corporate ladder or finishing medical school just so they could send us to the “good” nursing home. In fact, I’ve always told Mark I would much rather brag to people that our children are serving Christ in an inner city ministry or in a hut in Africa than to say they are trying to attain the monetary riches of this world.

We started examining how we would go about assuring that they were seeking God and not the earthly things.

Our first look at this was at the church. We came realize that the church was a tool to use in this parenting journey and not the sole provider of faith and Christianity for our kids.

We found a book called Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman and thus began our entrance into “Big Church” with our kids. Zoe, being first born, was rather mature for her age and so we began bringing her to church at 2 years of age. Castleman talks about starting to bring them in full time at age four, but we felt that we could handle/work with our kids at age 2 to learn to sit and listen. As such, when each of our kids has turned two we welcome them to “Big Church.”

Now, our church is fairly big, with a fairly big children’s church. So, we could have tucked our kids in the children’s church and allowed them to play and learn back there. We really felt God calling us to teach them how to truly worship God in a corporate setting.

Bauchum says in his book, Family Driven Faith: “I believe one of the greatest crutches in the church is the nursery…The father who should be up in arms by the time he gets home from church because of the embarrassment to which his child subjected him ends up going home with a clear conscience while the nursery worker takes a handful of aspirin.”

Basically, what it boils down to for us is this: Are we willing to sacrifice an hour and half in public to teach our children what true corporate worship is? Or are we going to take the “easy road?”

It can be extremely hard at times. But then there are the great rewards. Liam sat through worship a couple of weeks ago and did not have to go out to be disciplined! That was a little miracle. It also requires sacrifices on our part. I would love to sing in the choir or participate in other ways, but God has called me to be a mother first, and a “church member” second. So for now, sitting in the pew with my kids is where God has called me…not on the stage or behind the scenes.

However, just dragging your kids into church is not all. We are teaching our kids to listen to the sermon (take notes if they can read and write) and we even discuss the points at home. That means they sit with us, not with friends. They do not have a myriad of activities in the pew. We do allow the younger ones a Bible and sheet of paper and pencil (although a lot of times those have to be taken away).

Okay, so worship in a corporate setting is the parents’ responsibility. At least that’s what we believe. “But,” you say, “my kid is not like yours. They could never sit through a service.” To which I say, “Have you met my sweet adventurous son, Liam?”

I’ve also heard the excuse that this is “my time.” Or “my adult time to worship God.” Hmmm, an hour and a half a week to worship Christ. Ephesians 5:18-20 tells us that we should be worshiping always…not just once a week.

Seriously, though, there are things that can be done at home to teach your child to sit through a 20 to 30 minute (and if you have a pastor like ours…sometimes 45 minutes…but that’s stretching it for a 2 year old and we know this and will heed to their needs) sermon. Next up: Worship…it’s not just for church

(Disclaimer #2: I [Mark] have read and approve of the content of this post)

Faith & Family

Mark and I just completed reading a book I bought for him for Father’s Day called Family Driven Faith by Voddie Bauchum. For anyone who is utterly desiring to see their children succeed (in the true sense of the word…as in…following Christ with their whole heart) this is a must read. Mark and I got a lot out of it and it basically has reiterated to us what we feel our role is in being parents and members of a church.

It’s easier now, armed with the knowledge that we’re not alone in our parenting/church/family philosophy. We’re part of a minority right now but we so see the need and urgency for our children and others’ children that we want to just stand up in our church and yell that this is it…this is how to beat the statistics of young people leaving the church. But we can’t do that because then our secret would be out…everyone would know we’ve gone loopy. As such, we like to just keep them guessing right now!

So, to vent my frustrations and desires, I’m using my blog…because it’s mine (all mine!…mu-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha). So stay tuned for some information on how we do it…faith style! And while you’re waiting, go get Voddie Bauchum’s book!

*I must admit that it’s taken me over a year to correctly pronounce his first name…ugh. Don’t you just hate it when you have to work to pronounce weird names. Why can’t people have simple names like, Ceili Rain? (ahhh, sarcasm)