Friday, August 30, 2013

Sneakers, Socks and Belts

I’m going to tell you a little secret.  Here it goes….I HATE Kylie’s sneakers.  Sorry.  This confession probably means I’m not the coolest, hippest mom in the world.  I don’t know why I hate them so much…..Perhaps they’re a little too “gangster, hip-hoppy” something for my taste.  I think they’re plain, old ugly.  Where does she get her style?  Besides, they are A LOT of work to put on.  I’m more of a flip flops kind-of-girl.  It takes this child like a year to lace these things.  Last Fall she tried these shoes on and I said no to her getting them.

Oh, her style! Hate the shoes, love her HEART for God!!
Parents, administrators and any one in authority over any child or teen, I ask you, why do you set the rules that you do?  Why do you say “no” as often as you do?  Is it because you like control or to exercise your authority?  Is it some kind of power trip?  Are your concrete rules based on your own preferences or agenda?….OR is it because the rules help the subordinate to become more like Christ?

When our son Brandon first came to the States from Ukraine we had to fight him every Sunday to put him in a shirt, tie, dress pants and belt for church.  He wasn’t aggressive with his dislike for “church clothing.” I could just tell by his fake smile and body language that he really HATED the way he looked in them.  He was more a jeans kind of guy.  After a few weeks of putting him in something clearly he hated, we finally decided, “What difference does it make what he wears to church?” In fact, we buried our son purposefully in jeans, NO BELT and sneakers. 
Brandon's fake smile. This Mama knew he hated his clothing

As a child myself who grew up in a fundamental, Baptist environment and one who upon graduation at 17 WALKED AWAY from the faith for a few years, I tell you plainly: Rules without a REASON breeds REBELLION and/or Rules without a RELATIONSHIP breeds REBELLION.

When it comes down to it, I do not care what style shoes our kids wear.  It does not matter what COLOR their socks are, or if there is a belt around their waists.  It does not matter if I do or do not prefer what they are wearing, as long as it is modest and the Holy Spirit would approve of the content on their garments. 

What I care about is their HEARTS.  I do not want my babies to experience the bitterness and rebellion that I went through.  I made a lot of poor choices that I will always regret.  I want to know more about their actions and attitudes. Are they living two different lives—a squeaky clean, rule book life on one side and a sneaky rebellious life on the other side?  Are they a true follower of Christ?

I read a book about Jonathan Edwards that I took notes from regarding Five Signs of True Followers of Christ (I wish I’d written down the title of the book).  Here they are:

1.     A true follower HAS a genuine and obvious LOVE FOR JESUS

2.     A true follower of Christ HATES SIN

3.     A true follower LOVES GOD’s WORD

4.     A true follower LOVES TRUTH

5.     A true follower LOVES OTHER BELIEVERS

Notice, there is nothing there that says anything about appearance or clothing colors.  When Brandon died, and I was questioning his conversion, I didn’t think about his appearance or clothing.  I wanted to know did he LOVE JESUS, HATE SIN, LOVE GOD’s WORD, LOVE TRUTH and LOVE OTHERS???  And the answer to all of the above is YES, he did! 

Written in Brandon's journal "I like Jesus"

I would caution anyone in authority from focusing too much on appearance and rules just for the sake of having rules.  Tim and I led a 6th grade “pre-youth group” back in Florida.  I will tell you the students that looked the sharpest and talked the sweetest to your face were the ones who were the most wild behind the scenes.  In my own youth group while I was a teen, the youth pastor’s favorite students who “looked the part” were the ones fornicating down stairs in the church basement.  Tim and I have chaperoned high school students before, and the most well-liked, smooth talking, squeaky-clean- on-the-surface, rule-following students are the ones who have walked away from the church. 

So anyway, Kylie has wanted these sneakers for over a year.  I finally caved.  I realized I had absolutely no reason to tell her no to the shoes other than my own personal disdain for the looks of them.  What is most important to me is that Kylie made a decision for Christ and there is evidence in her life that shows she is following Him.  Her Bible has an underline in purple pencil, “Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11. 

This is Kylie's Bible opened up to Psalm 119, with the purple pencil underlining
"Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You."
Parents, Authority figures, I recommend what Matthew 23 teaches, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean.” In other words, worry first about the hearts of the children, and the rest will hopefully fall into place.  Finally, maybe consider sacrificing your own personal tastes or opinions so you do not give a foothold to bitterness in the lives of those children.

There's my oldest girl and boy in their favorite jeans!! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Contacting a Medium

I am always so thankful for all the comments that I get here on the blog and also the personal emails that I get from those who do not want to post a comment publicly for all to read.  Thank you to those of you who comment and  who are kind enough to leave your name so I know who is following our journey.

I wanted to share something that one sweet commenter wrote:

Your family is so near and dear to my heart.   You have been blessed with such a beautiful family and it saddens me that Brandon is not with you in his physical body.  I have been following your blog since 2012 when it first happened.  I think of you very often and read every one of your posts and I’ve been wanting to ask if you have ever considered talking to a medium?  I have had a few friends who have lost loved ones and this helped them greatly.  They were able to find out exactly what happened in the final moments before death and also know that their loved one is okay and happy now.  I thought you should at least try it once to see if it can help you with the grief you are experiencing.  Love and prayers, AG 

When I first read that, I thought how neat it would be if it were possible to talk with Brandon.  I know our daughter, Kylie, asked if it was weird if she talked to Brandon and sang “Happy Birthday” to him last spring at his graveside when her brother would have turned 13.  I told her I didn’t see anything wrong with her talking or singing to Brandon.  I told her I wasn’t sure he’d hear her, but just in case it wouldn’t hurt. 

I really don’t know whether or not dead people have access to the earth after they die.  I have heard people say the dead are closer than you think, and that they still are very much part of your lives even if you cannot see their physical body.  I’m not exactly sure I believe all that because why would anyone who has experienced Heaven even want to return to earth?  I believe the Bible when it says that when the believer is “absent from the body he is present with the Lord.” I do not think a human being can be both in Heaven with God and on the earth shadowing their loved ones somehow.

I do know that there are many times when I feel very close to Brandon.  Several months ago I dreamed about Brandon.  We were in our back yard and it’d been a long time since I saw him so he ran to me and jumped up in my arms and wrapped his arms and legs around me.  I remember holding him and thinking “Goodness, he is getting too big to be held like this anymore.  He is SO heavy.  But I like him close to me so I’ll hold on to him until my arms fall off if I have to.” He put his cheek on my cheek and I could smell him.  Oh, my word, it sure did stink when my alarm clock cut that dream short!!!!

Another time I felt close to him was more recently when I saw a bat on its back on the sidewalk.  The last time I’d been anywhere near a bat was in 2011 when I was in Odessa, Ukraine with Brandon.  It was one of the Ukraine holidays and we were out at night on the balcony of the apartment watching fireworks.  All the sudden I heard wings and a multitude of “birds” went flying in a hurry.  They flew so close to me I could feel the air from their wings.  I screamed and ran inside the apartment.  Brandon was laughing his head off at me (Mind you I'd only been legally his Mama for less than 12 hours!!). I asked him in Russian “Are they birds?” He laughed even louder and said in Russian, “No, Mama.  They’re bats.” He kept laughing and saying “Tweet, Tweet.  Tweet, Tweet.” Then he’d fake-scream like I had screamed earlier (I miss my big-tease-of-a-son!).   As I looked down at the bat on the sidewalk not long ago, I felt close enough to hear Brandon laughing at me, “Tweet, Tweet.” 

Any time I’m not real sure about something I try to find what God has to say about it in the Bible.  I know that recently in my devotions Zechariah 10:2 jumped out at me because I had been thinking about what this blog commenter had asked me a few weeks ago regarding contacting a medium to communicate with Brandon.  The verse says, “the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation.  Therefore the people wander like sheep.”  Leviticus 19:31 seems pretty clear when it says, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.” In the familiar passage in Galatians 5, it talks about various things that God hates and wants Christians to avoid.  Right in the middle of the long list of things to avoid, in verse 20 it mentions specifically staying away from any witchcraft. So the Bible pretty much forbids Christians from anything that has to do with witches, mediums and talking to familiar spirits.  It’s not even a grey area.  It is black and white—It is off limits to me as a believer. 

I know a lot of people probably find comfort in contacting mediums, but the Bible says that diviners are just telling lies.  Even if whatever they are telling the grieving individual seems true or happy, it’s a lie.  And it will cause the hurting person even more sorrow.  I could definitely see how that type of thing would comfort someone for a moment, but I can also see how a grieving person could be taken advantage of by that industry.  Who better to make money off from than a grieving person desperate to hear from their loved ones?  Who better for the devil to deceive than someone weakened by such a deep void?—The Bible described it like a tender sheep and a lion wandering to and fro seeking whom he could devour.    I have read plenty of books about people who have been caught up with wizards and mediums and wound up in a very dark place, attempting to commit suicide.  Please, my friends BE CAREFUL!

While I very much appreciate the comments and the compassion, contacting a medium is not something I will do.   NOT EVER.  I love to remember Brandon’s life and look at his beautiful pictures.  I love hearing stories about him while he was living.  I look forward to seeing him again in Heaven one day.  Until then, I will just have to hurt. Oh, and I know my boy is happy because he’s with GOD!!!!  I’ll be just fine because God is good all of the time and I have the blessed hope of His glorious appearing.  Grace and Peace to all! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Randomness about Food

Over the last few months I have been slowly (or rather quickly) moving our family to organic foods and home made foods.  We have cut back almost entirely on eating out at restaurants.  I've been baking the kids cookies, muffins and sweet breads so they are not eating processed "Little Debbie" snacks in their lunches or eating at fast food "restaurants." The kids say home made baked items are WAY better than store bought and it is so much cheaper.   
I've been doing a lot of reading on all the contaminants in our food and water supply.  A few of my friends have been teaching me various things regarding this better option of cooking and baking, so it has helped me out A LOT in moving in the right direction. One of my newest friends has a whole lot more kids than I do, and if she can cook organic & all home made on a budget, I certainly should be able to on our limited budget!!
 It is just amazing to me what the FDA approves to be used in our food sources here in America.  Many things we consume are banned in the rest of the countries across the world.  It is no wonder that there are so many diseases in America that are not as common in the rest of the world.  There are increasing thyroid conditions, food allergies, cancers, obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, gastric intestinal disturbances, head aches, depression and so much more.  A lot of these sicknesses can be directly related to the foods we are consuming which are full of toxins and chemicals along with our water supply. Garbage in=Garbage out!!
I'm facing quite a bit of resistance from my (picky) family.  Change is never easy.  However, since I am the main grocery shopper and "head chef," my family has been eating so much better whether or not they like it.  Sometime around January I began purchasing a lot more fruits and vegetables.  Currently we have moved to about 75% organic in our home.  I figure that is a really good start for only beginning two months ago.  I didn't know until I actually began converting just how easy it is to convert my family to a healthier diet.  I have realized we truly are SO blessed in America with bountiful is just a matter of using discernment to eat wisely.

Organic, free roaming chickens...cooked with organic balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil, minced onion, extra
virgin olive oil, parsley....SO yummy!
Homemade organic chicken noodle soup...the food critics (kids) said it tasted good.  It just
needed more "liquidy stuff." 
Roasted Tomatoes....Olive oil, organic balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves, sugar, sea salt,
ground black pepper, then I sprinkled it at the end with organic mozzarella cheese.
No, this is not a coffee maker....It's a water purifier
This is a look inside the water purifier.

Tonight I was preparing this...
The 4 kids were standing around it and examining it...Katie: Are those carrots? Kylie: No, they're sweet peas, wait, sweet tomatoes, pink pickles???? Andrew: They smell good. I like this. Haley: I think they're SWEET POTATOES.....I definitely have failed to expose my children to more food categories! (BTW, who has seen pink pickles before?) Correct answer: Sweet potatoes (with organic olive oil, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & sea salt).
A friend posted this recipe on Facebook.
I bought organic vanilla ice cream from Harris Teeter and made
this chocolate sauce to put over it.  The only variation I made was
I used agave nectar instead of the raw honey.  The kids LOVED this treat.
Don't tell the kids they're organic (all except the M&M's) 
Haley & I baked these cookies together yesterday afternoon.  
When we finished she hands me a cookie and says,
"Here, I think you should eat this one because it's perfect and
you are the perfect mother so it fits you." I.LOVE.HER!!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mourning Summer Already

Some time ago there was Staples commercial on television where the song 'The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was playing.  A parent was dancing up and down the aisles flinging back-to-school supplies in the cart, while two frown-faced children walked begrudgingly beside the cart, clearly NOT looking forward to the start of school.  Many parents can relate to the enthusiasm that parent had regarding the children going back to school.  I don’t know what it is about this year, but that enthusiastic parent is NOT ME.  I do not want school to start.  I’m not looking forward to the hectic schedule and the madness to begin.  I’m not looking forward to working on homework each night with at least 3 of our children, the science projects, the reading & reading & reading…the math problems...the signing of planners...the ironing of uniforms....the report cards.  I like it SO MUCH better when our kids can be kids and we can just enjoy one another!  Selfishly I just want my kids around me and not off at school with structure and a set routine.  Thankfully, the majority of our kids ARE looking forward to school, so maybe I can feed off their enthusiasm?????? 
Last night was Parent Open House and I walked away with “information overload,” but we made it through to each of the classrooms.  Our kids are in 3 different classes with at least 6 different teachers, all with different rules, schedules and preferences.  I will have to let the information digest for a little while.  Thank goodness for handouts and that the teachers are just a quick email away if I forget something.   

I can’t believe Katie is going into 7th grade.  Kylie will be in 5th grade.  Haley will be in 3rd grade.  Katie was quite excited about being able to choose electives and being able see her good friends every day at school.  Haley is excited about her teacher and friends.  Miss Kylie is a little more reserved about the whole idea.  She very much enjoyed homeschooling, so it will take her a little bit to get on board about being back in the traditional classroom setting.

Even though I hate the idea of school starting and the craziness of it all, I am thankful for a great Academy that our kids can attend and teachers who love and pray for our children.  In the meantime, I hope to enjoy the last 2 days home with my kids around me, and we are praying for sunshine!  I’m mourning the end of summer vacation already!!!! L Summer was SO MUCH FUN!!


Haley swimming with the turtle in the pool
Bella the hunter....ha!  She wouldn't hurt a fly!  She just want to PLAY with the turtle
Sniff, Sniff, Sniff
Kylie's dive
Katie was so excited that I took her to AC Moore for a 3 for $10 duct tape sale.
She spent her OWN MONEY, yet because I drove her, I was the coolest mom ever. ;)
Katie made this purse out of pop tabs and took her 6 hours
Katie decorated her school supplies with duct tape, made wallets and jewelry.
Crafts is her favorite thing to do during summer vacation.