Sunday, September 16, 2007

Protection can be a Judgment Call

Today's sermon brought our pastor to mention that we as parents have to be willing at times to not over-protect our children. One of the parents later asked the pastor to what that looked like. The pastor asked people to share what they do in terms of that, and I had a few things to share regarding our own children. While I will not apologize for raising my children in a more protective environment than most parents I know, because I feel that for them it has been more beneficial and suitable, there are circumstances and times that seem God-given to expose them to the world's ways and allow them to impact the world if they might, or be impacted for the sake of learning and prayer and discussion at home.
It's strange how at our previous church we were considered over-protective, whereas at this church I suppose we may seem less-protective, maybe even the most liberal family in the church in the things we have allowed Katie to experience. I'm not sure which position makes me most uncomfortable! Still, we don't live to please people at any church but to please God. He is the One who has given us all these opportunities and He is the One who entrusted these children to us and to Whom we entrust them in return.
I know though that while they were little, I would not have been able to foresee us allowing Katie to take part in so many of the opportunities that have molded her life thus far. There are a number of them that would have frightened me a great deal if they had come her way before we were ready, before she was old enough, and I'm sure I would have said that I would "never allow" any number of them.
First of all, with Katie, the youngest exposure I can remember for her to a fairly large variety of unsaved people (other than relatives) was enrolling her in a secular co-op preschool. I was new to Christ, and I don't remember expecting it to be inappropriate or risky, though it was sometimes offensive. I had an advantage in that I was there with her. We did end up sometimes running into conflict with the other mothers. I remember one boy wanting to hit another, and when I would restrain him, one of the mothers was indignant that I was inhibiting his self-expression. For the most part, though, I think it was a positive experience and I remember having some interesting discussions with other moms, such as regarding where Adam and Eve's boys got their wives.
Also of course, we've always had issues regarding exposure to unsaved relatives. Interestingly, most of them severely curtailed social interaction with us when salvation entered our household, so that exposure was limited to say the least (for which I am somewhat grateful, to tell the truth). Nevertheless, Katie's concern for her unsaved grandfather was highly instrumental in his coming to Christ a week before he died--and he had been a pastor of six churches in his life. He's the only relative who has come to Christ yet. She was only about 12 when he died.
Katie didn't play with many unsaved children; being homeschooled made that easy, and living in a strange old neighborhood where substance abuse and witchcraft abounded, made that vitally important.
We allowed Katie to go to the Snow Retreat into the Cascades and on College Preview Weekends down to the Master's College in Santa Clarita, California. I remember one very protective mother asking whether the girls' dorms were separate from the boys' dorms at the Snow Retreat. That was of course a given--and her daughter was probably the most trustworthy one in the group to send on such an outing. The consideration I recall coming to mind is, "Do you trust God with your child?" and then, "Do you trust your child?" and then, "Do you trust the leaders of the church with whom your child is going?" Perhaps you don't trust the boys, at least not the whole group--but I've been to one of those retreats, and there's really hardly any chance anything would happen, especially when the interest would be one-sided. Katie also was in the realm of the trustworthy. There really were no boys in the entire group whom she found even slightly interesting in any romantic sense, and in response they found her quite boring in that regard as well.
When Katie was 16 she had the opportunity to be a Senate Page. She stayed down in Olympia at Senate Page housing that was made available. I had signed her up to be in a house with all girls, but she got reassigned to a house with some girls and some boys. We assumed that she would be amongst a good amount of conservatives, if not Christians, but it was not the case...the vast majority were liberal kids with very unholy ways of living. I was a bit alarmed at her house assignment, but we prayed about it, and it turned out to be a good and safe exposure for Katie to what she would have experienced in public school, and what the world she was going to meet in adulthood would be like.
When Katie's cousin Kristin (who is about 8 years older than Katie) was 16, she went over to Germany for a year to stay with a family that her family did not know. I remember saying, "Can you imagine? I cannot imagine sending my daughter all the way to Germany at age 16." (I do believe I said "to stay with a family we've never met." Still...) When Katie was 16, what do you think happened? The youth ministry was planning a three-week missions trip to Germany. At least we had met the family she would be staying with, and they had a strong Christian testimony. We signed her up to go with a team of leaders and--this sounds shocking but really wasn't, for the same reasons as described regarding the snow retreat, above--five teen boys. She was 16, and she was going to Germany to distribute invitations to the Bibelgemeinde there, a small Christian church in Berlin. It was a great experience. Something happened to her world view, her picture of the global Church, and she changed from being something of a theoretical Christian to one who had experienced a big picture of it, and her understanding was more clearly defined. She seemed more real after that. If we had decided not to let her go, it would have left an integral part of her learning and spiritual growth unfinished. We couldn't have taught her at home what she learned and experienced on that trip.
She has since worked at Safeway, at Let's Dish (a "Dinners Ready" kind of place), at Lavender Hills Farm, and at Red Robin, and attended Everett Community College--many of these environments are replete with non-Christians who at the very least gossip and backbite and compete, and at the worst have foul mouths and speak of their foul lives with no shame. And a great many of them rarely see a Christian and know very little about Christianity in general or Christ in specific. Katie had many opportunities to share various aspects of her faith; if not intentionally then unintentionally. Without asking, they knew that she would not be interested in their nightly drinking parties, and one was very amused and went on at great length about it when she thought Katie had used a swear word--only to find out that she hadn't. In her speech class, Katie gave one speech on the Resurrection, and another speech (she had two minutes from being given the topic for preparation, and another two minutes for the speech) on her stand regarding premarital sex. Wow. She asked if she could use an outside source, and when the professor said, "If you can find one in 2 minutes," she pulled out her Bible. Her speeches were well-received, though it seemed they didn't convince anyone.
Tim is another, different consideration. We now live in a mostly unsaved and amoral but comparatively safe neighborhood of unsupervised and unkind children. I know this sounds contradictory, but it describes it to an extent. I feel safe allowing Tim to go out and play as long as he doesn't go into anyone's garage or house or back yard, or the park that we can't see from our house. He has told the Hindu and Sikh girls about Jesus, and they now consider him racist because he has the gall to consider Christ better than their many gods. If they were to consider the whole story, they would have to recall that when no one else in the neighborhood would come to their birthday parties or invite them out to birthday parties, Tim would. There were many ways that we tried to help their families out and participate with them, but they have turned on him. Now it's not much fun for him to go out there, so he stays home or plays with friends from church, when we can drive him there or bring them here. When it was possible, he's taken opportunities to be kind when mistreated, and the kids are aware also that he doesn't swear, as they do.

I am excited to recall the opportunities that Katie had to see and experience things, to be a witness, to become girded in her faith for the future as the time unfolded. Now Tim is reaching an age where that will be my anticipation as well. There may be times where we protect him more or less than we did Katie, depending on prayer impact, his character, the circumstances and the timing. I am eager to see what God provides in his life.

Stitch, Stitch, Stitch...

Every Sunday I feel a little more attached. I picture it as us being "stitched" in a tight little zigzag to the people of the church--that each Sunday at least one more stitch is placed, and eventually we may never be inclined to leave; never strong enough to, if that strength were needed! (I hope it's not.)
The first week we all agreed that there was something great about this church--and I have to say, it's in spite of the building, which is small, somewhat dark inside, and to be truthful, downright ugly on the outside. On the way home that first day, Gary kept talking about "programs" such as Awana and how he wanted to find a church that had them. First stitch that first Sunday might have been seeing a mother and daughter speak about the short-term missions trip they went on together. The next was having the pastor pray with us regarding our finding a church that worked for us (he's made a lot of stitches--see my blog on the Shepherding Pastor); then the Fourth of July picnic at a family's home, and the fellowship we had there.
Another was when a family we know came to visit the church. They have many children and would need a number of seats in a row. The usher asked an older couple if they might move from a row at the side to make room for them. I was so struck by how sweetly the couple willingly moved to accommodate the family; the lady said to me, "I kind of like to sit in the middle part anyway, once in a while."
Then there's the way that the congregation is included in the goings-on. Some of the songs we sing were written by one of the young men there. The pastor makes eye contact with various members of the congregation, especially the row of older ladies in the front center, as he gives his message. He asks questions occasionally and we are urged to answer. After the first service there is a prayer time in the second service time, accommodating whatever needs for prayer the congregation might have.
That was another big stitch--the last Sunday that Katie was able to attend before going off to college in California. They devoted much of the prayer time to praying for her, as well as for the homeschooling and other parenting responsibilities of all the families.
Then the family camp that we thought was washed out, but it wasn' may have read my blog about that.
Then there was a wedding shower for a young lady in the church. One of the women called to see if she could pick me up so we could ride together to the shower--along with all her seven daughters and a couple of other riders. She said she had quite the people-mover, and it's true!
Today the pastor's wife said she was glad we'd come, daring to say that she and I were a lot alike, though short and tall (I'm the short of it!). Another stitch.
There's been less talk about the missing programs. Tim's not dying to go to Awana anyway, and we can memorize Scripture in our homeschooling without it. Besides it's no longer available where we were attending before. We had been thinking we might move to California, or to Colorado, but those thoughts are becoming a little less vivid. (I'm still thinking a bit on California, because the tie to a daughter in school is pretty strong! But we could always fly if we had to.)
Stitch, stitch, stitch. We're being sewn in, and it's not our own doing (just like so many great things God does). We're not on the ragged edge, we're not being treated like a dangerous fringe element. We're becoming part of the church.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

And to Think that I Saw it Going Down Grove Avenue!

Today I was driving to get a couple of pizzas (we like the Mediterranean Chicken from Papa Murphy's, if you must know), and on the way there I was struck by all the sights I was seeing that would have amazed anyone even a hundred or so years ago. Not just the everyday sights of cars and lit up signs and traffic lights! More than that. I saw a glider overhead with just a person hanging from it, gliding by and hardly anyone seemed to take note. It seemed interesting to me even though I've seen such things before. Then there were people talking on cell phones. Not too long ago, these were the up-and-coming things and people obviously felt quite important if they were speaking on them. Now, though, they're the old thing, and the new thing is to have a big electronic pellet on your ear and look for all the world (from one side of your head especially) like you're talking quite animatedly to yourself. People talking on these always talk louder than it seems would be necessary. (Now you could seem up-and-coming even if all you are is stark raving nuts--everyone would assume they're looking at the wrong side of your head.)
Anyway, then I saw a girl go by on a motorized scooter. Can you imagine the ruckus that something like that would have started about 120 years ago? Horses would have gone buggy! But she just rolled right by and no one took a bit of notice (except me. I guess I'm kind of easily entertained!).
And I probably went under about 200 electric wires on the way to the store. Someone about 120 years back would have had no idea what those wires were doing there.
I think the thing that got me noticing these things was the fact that I've been reading a book to Tim about Leonardo daVinci, who was born in 1452 and went to great extremes to understand the world around him and who tried to invent all sorts of novelties. He's one of my favorite people in history. He sure would have appreciated the glider I saw. I think that's what got me started. That's one thing I particularly love about makes me think of things I never would take note of otherwise--it gives me a weird appreciation for some fairly ordinary things, a new perspective (even though it might actually be a very old one).


Today Katie told me that some of her young friends thought it was funny that her mother blogged. Huh. I don't know why they think an old lady wouldn't have twice as much to say as they do, having more than twice the history they do! It does strike me funny how surprised people are when they find that I blog. Seems like anyone with a testimony should blog--their story is not just their own. Also it makes the most of every opportunity, to give people a chance to know what great things God has done in a life. Not only does a believer have a start-up salvation testimony, but any believer who trusts in God for their daily wisdom, grace, forgiveness...seems like every day has a story of some sort, and most of them point in some way to what the good is that God can do in a person's life.
Maybe I should do better in incorporating the Scriptures into my blogs, how they apply in my life. I know there's probably at least one for every blog I've ever written. (If it's only "Jesus wept."--I hope not!) For that matter, sometimes God acts in my life and it's not exactly something that I have to hammer home, it speaks for itself. Then the humorous ones are just for a matter of mental health--mine and maybe that of the reader. The humor is from Him, too: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
So if you think you're too old, I'd say hardly. You might be too young, little squirts! :O)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We're Pitiful at Adventuring

Weekend before last, we were planning to just visit the family camp that our church put on just past Darrington. The same day, we also attended the 50th wedding anniversary of our friends Alice and Ed Richards, which was amazing and sweet. We left that early in order to get to the camp--just to visit. However, within just a few minutes of being in the car, going home just to get some casual shoes, Tim had pleadingly convinced us that what we really should do is join the church in camping there.
Camp is not what we often do. I actually dread the thought of a night in a tent, and a few nights will guarantee me a sleep-deprived state that will garner lack of energy, plenty of pain, likely crankiness, and inability to think. Still, we rushed around the house to cram enough things into the car to at least approximate preparedness for a camping trip, rather as if we were looking forward to it. We did leave the tent at home because it was missing a tent pole; we'd buy a new one at Target along with a short list of other items. So next we stopped at Target on the way up; we quickly got our things, including a tent on clearance, which (other than it being a tent) is to my liking and speaks my financial language.
As we left Target it was sprinkling. It had been cloudy, but this is Washington and you have to just be willing to chance it once in a while if you camp anywhere any of the time at all. As we headed east, the sprinkling turned harder and it was hard to see eventually whether there really were individual rain drops or if it wasn't just water cascading in torrents down upon us, at a 45-degree angle. Still, I was amazed to see Gary determined to try to get there. We almost got to Darrington, pretty close to the camp, when we became convinced that it was not possible that anyone had stayed at the camp by then. We turned around and went home; still, our spirits were pretty good that we'd made the effort.
The next morning we arrived again for church at the camp, not too sure whether they would have it there, thinking it had to be a most sodden mess of moisture and muckiness. They indeed were there, and seemed quite settled in as if they had spent the night. They made room for us to join them in the worship time, and because we'd arrived a few minutes late, our noise and disturbance embarrassed me. However, there were a few who'd arrived just before us, so they assured us it was okay.
After the service I asked if many had stayed the night. Indeed most of them had; only a few had arrived that morning. It turned out that while we were being drenched it was fairly dry at the camp just a short distance away. We must have been dragging the forefront of the storm around just over us! They didn't feel the rain until hours later.
So we had a great visit, some good fellowship and Tim enjoyed the rope swing over a creek and we potlucked. Due to my lack of preparation pretty much all we had to share were a jar of peanuts, some peanut butter, and some homemade jam--no bread; I'd unpacked it the night before, somehow thinking we wouldn't need it. They were kind enough to make a fuss over my jam while their masterpieces were being devoured by all. It was a memorable day and might have been an even more memorable night of camping if we'd persisted in our efforts to get there.
Since then, I shopped at Walmart and found a nice little tent that Tim could use for just messing around, and he's had it put up outside for about a week. He's asked to camp outside by himself, but knowing that bears have recently been sighted nearby, and coyotes roam the nature preserve behind us, we're not too comfortable leaving him out there where we'd be oblivious to any danger he'd encounter.
So he's been begging us to camp outside with him. The only problem is, when night-time comes, we're tired and don't feel ready to park our carcasses out on the cold ground in a tiny tent that has no room for air mattresses. He hasn't managed to talk us into it yet...but tonight he found a way to accommodate his needs and some of Gary's: he brought the tent indoors. Now they're cozy and warm, if uncomfortable, in the tiny tent, in our front room. It may not be Hilton camping, but it's as close as we're likely to get to any of the options for adventure this summer.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A New Link on my Blog for your Enjoyment

Okay, another blog. I got distracted and started updating my links. So in the process I went and explored who others were linking and since Katie links Get Fuzzy, it brought me back to the days when she was here and we would laugh together over that comic strip. I relate rather strongly to the dog in the strip, my good friend Satchel--I rather think I look like him, and that I also think somewhat like him too. I almost think we would fit in the same clothes--sigh. (One thing I have to take exception to, and that is that I gather he's a Democrat...and I most certainly am not, and without apology. There may be more travesties; I haven't been reading it for a while.)
I'm not sure who the corresponding cat would be, except maybe Tim on his more mischievous days or even rather malicious moments...still, I'm thankful he's Tim and not Bucky. He does bear resemblance to Bucky in more than one way, however, and I'll leave that for you to explore.
Who would the man be? I'm not sure. Gary doesn't usually interfere in these moments of conflict. I'm not sure either where Katie belongs in all this. Maybe I'd better explore some more comic strips, and we can morph them.
So now you know how to get to Get Fuzzy online. Enjoy! (And don't you see the resemblance? Katie doesn't express disagreement on this one. Sigh.)

The Simple Pleasure of Nature

One of Tim's favorite simple pleasures is to go for a walk to a nearby creek that runs through a park near our house. The place is so secluded that in the summer when the leaves are plentiful, you can't see any nearby houses or roads, and it could as readily be a scene 20 miles away from civilization as one within about 1000 feet of the nearest house. Except for the recent carelessness of litterbugs, and thoughtlessness of kids with spray paint cans who decided that some boulders and a tree were a great place for their messages. That has a tendency to telescope the place in a bit closer to humanity.
Still, it was a peaceful, tranquil place, and I sat at the edge on the root of a tree while Tim puttered about in the creek. He knows to look for crawdads; a couple of summers ago he found an adult crawdad and we put it in a mayonnaise jar and brought it home to observe for the day. We kept it overnight in the fridge so it wouldn't get too warm and die, and the next morning we walked back and put it back in the creek.
So yesterday he found another crawdad, this time a baby, probably less than an inch long. Very tiny, it took the patient observing eyes of an eager young boy to find it.
While he puttered and I sat, I listened to the world around us. Even in our house I don't find such a feeling of tranquility, even if everything is as silent as it can be. Even though there was much more noise at the creek than our home is if I'm quietly sitting in it, there's a peacefulness that the hum of even the quietest electric appliances can't match. The birds were singing, and the wind was whirling through the trees, easing loose the first yellowing leaves so they'd flutter down hesitantly to herald the fall season. It makes me wonder that I never ended up being the outdoorsy naturalist I think I imagined myself to become when I was growing up.
One thing that struck me while enjoying the quiet and calm surroundings was that the entertainment world that would attempt to present some of the natural world to kids, such as Disney movies, seems to completely miss the mark in shows like The Jungle Book, Finding Nemo, and Ice Age. Though I know that in nature there's a certain necessary amount of the "big fish eats little fish" scenario that causes all animals to be on some level of constant alert, there's so little of the high-tempo panic mode in the average natural environment that is everywhere in a Disney movie. To truly experience nature is to actually be there in it, not to see it on a screen anywhere or to use any man-made imitations.
I love the fact that Tim loves the outdoors. I love it too. My dad loved it, and used to take us camping every weekend that he could. I always assumed that we'd be campers, and yet it didn't happen that way. We tried, but the effort that went into camping just always seemed far too demanding; I wasn't one who could make it seem effortless. (Maybe it had something to do with camping in a tent?) All that effort, all that exploration and adventure ended up just getting choked out by the everyday chores and the inconvenience. I regret that. And our little Katie hated hiking, didn't care for being dirty, didn't muck about much in streams and in all the mysterious flora and fauna that you never find at home. I don't know if Katie's enthusiasm for the natural world would have grown if we had kept trying. I think, though, that as an adult she may have gained more of an appreciation for all that, more than she would have if it were forced upon her.
Tim seems to have received both of his grandfathers' inherent love of the outdoors, of tools, of mucking about. I hope that it will open doors for a love of science, and maybe of art and music, because I think all these loves may be connected. These subjects have something of the dreamer, the curious, the experimenter, the adventurer. Perhaps now that I am focusing more directly on him and his learning, we will need to pursue the trails and the backroads a bit more. I'll have to keep the mayonnaise jar handy.