Friday, August 20, 2010

day 216: job change; another priority purge

Another series of incidents led us to another priority purge—our eighth baby died in utero during an intra-uterine blood transfusion performed to try to save her life. In 1999, we had seven children, ages fifteen down to one. Ray's job as a plant manager in an automotive plant was becoming more and more unbearable as he worked sixty to seventy hours a week to keep everything running smoothly. Joshua and Kayla were fifteen and twelve years old and our simple, tidy schedule of Ray teaching the kids before work, doing devotions during a late night dinner, then spending little spurts of time with each child before bed was unraveling. It had worked okay for the previous fifteen years because I stayed home most of the time and picked up the slack--and the children were younger and were not as high need emotionally and spiritually. The few minutes before bed with Dad had been sufficient. Our Sundays together, and anytime we had at all, had been maximized and adequate.

However, we began to realize the needs of teens were drastically different than the needs of ten year olds and babies. They required much more time and energy in order to raise them the way we felt that God wanted us to. Basically, we wanted out of our demanding lifestyle, but felt helpless to do so with a high mortgage and comfortable lifestyle. How could Ray change jobs and take a forty percent (or more) pay cut with the bills and lifestyle we had acquired?

So we put it on the back burner--until the weekend our unborn baby died and my life was in jeopardy (from a ruptured uterus). When that weekend was over, everything looked different. We came out of that whole ordeal with even stronger, more narrowed priorities--God and family were all that mattered.

Ray left that job and took a “normal” job in a non-automotive plant. We sold or gave away half of everything we owned, moved to a little, old country house, and had a new life. Ray went from working a minimum of sixty (but often up to eighty) hours a week to working a normal forty hour a week job.

We had hours and hours each week to devote to our new priorities--reaching and keeping the hearts of our teens. We didn't have much money. We didn't have many things. But we had the greatest commodity of all: time.

Again, an outside influence took us through a priority purge that we could either recognize and utilize for our family's benefit or not. Nothing happens by accident. Watch for and learn from the priority purges God brings into your life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

day 215: more priority purging

I have already described a couple of the priority purges we have experienced in our lives. There have been several more of these over the years. I can't emphasize enough the importance of paying attention to the priority purging that might naturally happen in your life. These purges may very well be God's way of steering you in a certain direction in terms of your priorities.

Many years ago, when we had five children ten and under, Ray's plant shut down, and he was transferred to another plant in a city an hour away from our hometown. We had always lived in the same area as our parents, the community in which we were born and went to school. Moving with five young children to a community where we did not know anyone was overwhelming at first, but proved to be God's way of purging our priorities even further.

Our move took us away from the church we had been in since our early married years, away from our families, and away from our friends. However, God used it to help us focus on the most important priority we had: our children. We didn't know anyone in our new town. We didn't have a church. We didn't have extended family just up the road to go play games with or visit. We didn't have any outside activities. It was just us--our marriage, five young children, homeschooling, and Ray's job.

Talk about priority purging! This move forced us to bind together in our marriage and with our children more than ever. We were not distracted by outside friendships for us or the children--and our family unity, child training, and marriage were all strengthened as a result of it. We could have used this time to dig into even more busy-ness and activity or rush to find new friends, but because we took this as God's way of making us more strongly united, and we focused on the heart-training of our children rather than outside things, this priority purge became a turning point in our family's life. New friends and activities would come later, after the priority of strengthening our family was well underway.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

trying again...once Kayla leaves for the mission field Friday, I'm on my own here...LOL!

Cami (22); Kayla (23); Britanny (9); Kara (19); Brieanna (10)
My girls with my sister's girls Christmas 2009

My sister came home for Christmas in December 2009 while her husband was in Iraq. Love this picture of my nieces with my girls!

still experimenting!!!

Ray and I Christmas 2009

experimenting with photos--bear with me

Trying to learn how to upload photos to blog...

Jonathan wanted 80% books for Christmas! And he was thrilled with the books he found under the tree on Christmas morning. Here he is with one of his C.S. Lewis books.

Here he is with his stack of a dozen or so. Jonathan is studious, wise, spiritual, and self-disciplined. I am so proud of him!!!

day 214: narrowing down the list—our priority purging continued

Back to our original priority purging: we had to narrow down the list. The sixty activities would not fit into thirty evenings. So, we listed our priorities--those things that we truly felt that God desired for our life at that time. We recognized that we had built-in boundaries (a young son that I was home with all day, a demanding job for Ray that consumed at least sixty hours a week, etc.). Then we determined what we believed God would have us do with the small amount of time we had remaining.

This list was fairly general at that time: Ray's job, Joshua, our extended family, growing in the Lord, hospitality, etc. From that list of "priorities," we looked at our sixty-night-to-do-list and decided what activities on that list would help us meet our priorities. We didn't know a lot about seasons of life and prioritizing at that time, but we did the best we could. It was a step in the process of establishing mature priorities.

We decided that in order to meet our priorities, we had to get rid of the good things on our list and keep the best things. We had to eliminate the average things and retain the excellent things. We had to spend our time on those things that would help us meet our priorities.

From your priority list, you can discern what you should say yes to and what you should say no to. If you have your eight, ten, or twelve priorities listed based on the built-in boundaries of your life, then you can examine each activity and opportunity based on whether it helps you meet your priorities or not.

If you are truly a prioritized person doing what God wants you to do, you will have to say no to things, but our no should not be one that denotes that we have better things to do that what was asked of us. It should not be a "no" that elevates our goals and activities above others. If you truly are unable to serve in that capacity, graciously say that you are unable to take on the task at hand, then be about what you should be about!

However, there are many tasks and activities that can be done even by the busiest people, especially when you work together as a family. We have found that we can do things for others that we didn't think we had time for when we do these things together. For example, we often all cook together to make meals or treats for people or special occasions. When we used to host debate and speech tournaments, we found that we could relieve other parents' stress and extra hours by all working together here at home to prepare ballot packets, make food for judges, figure pairings, etc. It is amazing what several people, intent on serving others, can accomplish when they work together.

*Note: For several days, I will be excerpting material from our parenting book, “The Well-Trained Heart” about prioritizing. Following these posts, we will delve more deeply into organizing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

day 213: whatever you do for your children, they will do for others

I am a firm believer in today’s blog title, moreso the older I get and the older my kids get. I could sit here now and tell you of literally dozens of times that my kids have done for others over the past three months exactly what their dad and I did for them, but tonight I want to share one specific thing that is blessing me immensely—and I pray that the story will show you that truly what we do for our kids and with our kids gets “played forward” many times over.

Twenty-seven years ago this fall, at the age of twenty-one with a young son and a newly-acquired college degree in education, I (along with my husband) sat out to do something extremely unpopular at that time—and something that I knew very little about except for the information I had gleaned the week before from two books by Dr. Raymond Moore. We homeschooled my younger (eighth grade) sister who was struggling in school. Now this story isn’t really about me, but about another twenty-one year old girl who is about to embark on a homeschooling adventure of her own.

Fast forward to tomorrow—the first day that one of my children will be a homeschool teacher. And just like her parents before her, she will not be homeschooling her own children. (She and her husband do not have children yet.) She is homeschooling a family of four kids whose mother died suddenly in the spring. (See my post about her death at .)

I have watched Cami with incredible pride (and tears of joy for her heart and many, many tears of sorrow for this family’s loss) prepare for tomorrow—the big day that school begins in her “nanny” children. I have watched her come alongside this family and do literally dozens of things that her dad and I did for her. From her recipe and meal plans (and cooking alongside a different child each day) to her efficient chore chart to her cleaning blitzes with them to their colorful, inviting daily school checklists. From fun times at the park to swimming days from table games to movies on the wall. I have watched her humbly receive guidance from another experienced mom who is laying out lesson plans for Cami in a few subjects—and observed her pouring her heart into these children whom God has entrusted to her for several hours each week day. I see her laugh with the kids and jokingly threaten them with “more school” as they talk about their days together.

And then I realize, once again in a dramatic way, that our children will do for others what we do for them. That they truly “learn what they live.” Whether it is homeschooling, Bible and character training, heart-reaching, fun family times, fond memories, or special gifts. Or, whether it is meanness, lack of understanding, selfishness, sin, or missing relationship. They learn exactly what they live—and they will do, someday in some way, to others and for others exactly what has been done to and for them.

I pray that my children will forget all of my mistakes, anger, and harshness but remember—and do for others—only the good they had in their growing up years. That they will learn only the positive things that they have lived. And that I can do and be what God wants me to do and be as I finish this parenting race (of children, anyway) over the next ten years.

And I pray for this precious family this school year—as an adorable little girl works through fifth grade math and fifth grade emotions without her mama, as their young son has that important thirteenth birthday, as an amazing daughter turns sweet sixteen, and as their oldest graduates from high school, blessed by the eleven years her mother spent educating her. I know that Cami will not take the place of their mom—nobody could and Cami wouldn’t even try---but I pray that she will be a blessing to this family in phenomenal ways as she does for them the very things that have been done for her.

Monday, August 16, 2010

day 212: priorities and eternal value*

We have said that each person's priorities are his own and will be different; however, as Christians, we are all called to love our neighbors as ourselves and make disciples. Our priorities should reflect things of eternal value.

This is where it gets even stickier. What is too much emphasis on temporal things and not enough on eternal? How do we lead our children into learning the value of spending time on God's kingdom rather than the kingdom here on earth?

Nobody can determine those things for you but you. However, we challenge you to take the infamous "end of lifetime test.” If you were on your deathbed, would you wish you had been in more clubs and activities or would you wish you had taught and enjoyed your children more? Would you wish you had made more money or made more disciples?

In the well-trained heart area, would you wish that you had put your son in three sports a year or memorized three chapters of Scripture a year with him? Would you wish that you had driven around four days a week from three to seven for kids' activities or would you wish you had spent four afternoons a week getting into your children's hearts?

It is true. You alone can determine your priorities. But without placing eternal value on them, they might be the wrong priorities for you and your family. They might not truly be what God is calling you to.

Prioritizing is an action word—it takes action to prioritize.

*Note: For several days, I will be excerpting material from our parenting book, “The Well-Trained Heart” about prioritizing. Following these posts, we will delve more deeply into organizing.

day 211: when you add something to your life, remove something else*

This brings us to another important prioritizing truth: when you add something to your life, you need to remove something else to make room for the new thing. Just about everyone is maxed out. We are nearly all living on the edge. So, how can we add anything else into an already busy life? The only way we can do this is to remove something that is presently there.

In the case of the "toddling toddler" described earlier, if we are adding into our schedules the extra time and attention that little one requires, we need to remove something else (i.e. part of our read aloud time?) in order to accommodate another addition to the day. In the case of the new reader, you will need to remove something that takes thirty minutes a day from your life in order to add the extra reading lessons to your day. This is especially important for new parents. When I talk to new moms, I often ask them if they were busy prior to their newest addtion. They always answer yes, and list myriad things they were previously doing. Then I drop the bomb: What are you going to remove from your schedule in order to have the time to raise this little one? Where will you get the several hours each day that a newborn requires?

We use this concept with space in our home as well. We have a small house, only fourteen hundred square feet. Before Joshua got married, we had four boys in one bedroom and three girls in another, and Mom and Dad's room tripled as a library and pantry. We have an ongoing rule that nobody can bring anything into the house unless he takes something out. If the girls have a good day at thrift stores, they are to come in and remove the number of clothing items they just purchased. There simply is no space for anything else. Something has to go. The same is true of time.

Money, space, and time are all the same. We have X amount of each. We can try to fool ourselves into thinking that we can spend our entire check this week shopping—and still have money to pay our bills. However, we will get a quick reality check when there is nothing left in our billfold. We can try to fool ourselves into thinking that we can utilize this space of our house for a new bookcase. However, we will get a quick reality check when we have to move the desk from that spot in order to accommodate the bookcase and there is no place to move the desk to. We can try to fool ourselves into thinking that we can add something to our schedule and squeeze it right in. However, we will get a non-immediate (which is often the problem) reality check when we realize that the things we put into our schedule squeezed something else out that was truly important, even life-affecting.

When it comes to time, we must remove something lesser to make room for the greater. If we don’t do it purposely, it will be done automatically through mere math (twenty-four hours per day; seven days per week; fifty-two weeks per year). We might not like the results if it is done for us---and it might not hit us until too late what was substituted in and out in our lives.

*Note: For several days, I will be excerpting material from our parenting book, “The Well-Trained Heart” about prioritizing. Following these posts, we will delve more deeply into organizing.