Friday, March 28, 2014

A Lesson God Has Taught Me;

It's funny what we get used to. Many people are in awe when I tell them that Paul and I have seven children.
It isn't uncommon to hear things like,

"Wow! I could never do that!"

If anyone would have asked Paul how many children he wanted to have when we first got married, he would have first swallowed hard and then he would have said, "Two". I, on the other hand, was thinking that five would be reasonable. Both of us picked a number we were familiar with. He was one of two. I was one of five.

When I had only six children, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and thought to myself, "I couldn't possibly handle another". It was at that time that through a certain situation, I ended up with three more little ones in our care for a while. So I had one 3 month old baby, two one year olds, two three year olds, a five year old, a seven year old, a nine year old and one ten year old. At first I though I was going to go crazy. But we lived moment by moment and I learned very quickly that learning to love what I was doing was important. And more importantly, learning to praise God in everything was a life giving joy. Life is indeed a gift!

It was after this time when things were back to normal in our house that I found out I was expecting our seventh child. I thought to myself, "Seven! I can handle that!" I had gotten used to nine, after all. And seven seemed like a breeze! That was nearly six years ago!

These days it is not uncommon for us to have MORE than seven children with us. Between cousins and friends the number of children in our home is often in the double digits, and that makes for a pretty busy household!

Cooking, teaching and cleaning up after that many kids takes a lot of time and energy. But at the same time, the house runs fairly smoothly because everyone usually chips in and does their share.

So on days like today, when we had 13 children total on the Redding farm, we are busy busy busy but loving every minute of it, because life is more than a duty. Life is a gift that is to be enjoyed with those whom God has given you. And we just happen to be blessed with a large family who loves to spend time both with each other and with our friends. We do life together here, and honestly I can't think of a more enjoyable gift.

It is truly amazing what we get used to. And even more amazing is how much the attitude of our hearts matters.

If I would have found out I was pregnant with number seven before I had taken care of nine for those few months, I would probably had wilted a little inside. But God prepared my heart for my last little bundle of joy by allowing our family to suddenly grow for that temporary situation. In the end it turned out He used this situation to prepare my heart and mind for the next little blessing He was about to give me. And now, when the numbers of children in our home increase on any given day, we know how to float and how to praise God through it all. The gift of life is not lost on us. And each situation carries with it new ways to give thanks and rejoice in God's blessings.

Paul's dad, when he's speaking of his grandchildren, says,

"I'm RICH!"

I too feel rich with these blessings of God.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hello, My Name is Amy and I Used to be a Martha

Most women in this region know what someone means when she refers to herself as a Martha. They don't assume she's talking about Martha Stewart. They know she speaks of Jesus' good friend, the sister of Lazarus and Mary.

Martha was one who was always working, keeping busy about the business of running an efficient home, especially when Jesus came to call. Her first inclination was to serve and make sure everything was just right, even to the extreme of choosing to work rather than taking the time to listen to Jesus, as her sister Mary had done. And one day, in exasperation and probably fatigue she complained to Jesus telling Him to command Mary to help. But Jesus told Martha that Mary had made the better choice.

Most of us women have a bit of sympathy for Martha, because we know very well how much work there is in running a home efficiently. And for Mary to sit down leisurely to listen to Jesus while her sister worked seems a little on the...well, you know...the lazy side. If you're a woman, you're probably nodding your head. Often times in Christian circles it can be a badge of honor to be noted as a "Martha", because it means that our efforts have not gone unnoticed.

I must confess, I have always identified as a Martha. Those of you who know me, know that in the past I have taken great delight in having a huge garden and a clean home and farm that are run well. In our home we make just about everything we can make from scratch. We didn't start out this way, it just happened as our family grew and our food budget didn't. At the same time, we learned to do most things ourselves, because our budget couldn't support hiring extra help. Through all these years, God has watched our labor and blessed our efforts, providing the support and finances as we've needed. And through it all, I've been a Martha. And I've been raising good little Martha's right along behind me.

But many of you know, something in my life has changed. Difficulty with my back has brought a total change of pace.  And I will admit it has brought with it some depression and sorrow. Where at one time I found my worth in my accomplishments and strength to get things done and done for the least amount of money, now, I have been forced to do things differently.

Who am I? What am I here for? What am I good for? These questions plague my mind daily...almost moment by moment. Having all my life been used to being strong, fast, flexible and hard working, I am now none of those things. Paul calls me his princess. My hands have no callouses, save for those that come from playing the guitar. My arms have lost a lot of strength and I am often times unable to even bend over and pick up a dirty sock off the floor, or put clean socks on my own feet. These things are often to much for me. And I find myself wondering why God doesn't just heal me so I can be useful again, and do the things I love. But He has shown me that my Martha ways, though I loved them, are not what He wants from me. He wants me to be a Mary. And He has allowed for pain and affliction to drive me to the end of my Martha self.

I've had to work out some of these things in my own mind. And I've also had to own for myself God's words to the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

These things have been hard for me. But I've learned what Mary knew all along. That sitting in quietness and rest and being still before The Lord, is truly a privilege. I was too busy, trying to work hard and live an exemplary life to take the time to be with Jesus for long whiles before. It was just expected that He would come with me as I accomplished my goals. And while He knows I've lived my life and done my work heartily as for The Lord rather than for men, as scripture commands, He also knew that I was missing the point. Life isn't about my's about Him. And nothing I can do in all of life is better than being with him, listening intently, forgetting about all the to do's and instead rejoicing in His grace which is sufficient for me.

He said His power is made perfect in weakness. I don't yet see my weakness being used for anything except my breaking...but I will wait, and hope. And I will give up my Martha badge to become a Mary if it means I will bring Him more praise.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Have This Fear...

I have this fear...
I have a story to tell you. It's a true story, but to protect the integrity of a few, I will leave their identities concealed.

I took my children along with some others to a park yesterday. Before we unloaded at the park I, once again, gave "the talk". You know the one I'm talking about. It's the "don't wander off or go with strangers" talk. I think I've put a healthy fear in my children about this. If anyone disagrees about the need for such things, just watch the movie "Absolute Wickedness" on youtube. It's about two hours long, but after watching it you'll understand my reasoning. Anyway, I never like to go to the park we went to because there are just too many "hiding places" for lurkers. Honestly, it takes a whole crew of responsible people to adequately watch over the size of the group of children I usually have with me in this park. Between my three oldest girls and my another mom we were watching over ten younger children.
The first thing I do when I get to this park is scope out who's there and try to identify what children belong to them. There's a high point in this park from which I can see almost everything. So I was standing there turning my circles and counting heads like I usually do. My immediate concern was a young teen who looked to be about 15 years old who was with a younger boy about 12 years old. There was just something not quite right about the two, so while constantly counting the kids, I kept my eye on them. And what do you of the little ones in my charge wandered over to the swings where these boys were "hanging out". Within seconds this little one jumped on the tire swing and this teen jumped up and began spinning the swing at a dangerous speed. Needless to say, Mama Bear roared. And I roared loud enough for the entire park to stop. And from my "perch" I pointed and the other mom, who was nearest, immediately ran to the "rescue" of this little one. The teenager began defending his actions, spouting off his innocence and justifying his senselessness. This whole situation happened in a matter of seconds. His last words to us were, "I was going to keep spinning (this little one) until I was told to stop", then he casually walked off, as if there was no shame in his meanness. It was clear that this boy had no remorse and actually took delight in the thought of hurting children. After things were dealt with he kept his distance from me, but there is no question in my mind what he would have done had we not been there to intervene. 

This scenario is not a rare thing to happen. It seems at every turn there is evil awaiting those who are unsuspecting or unprepared to resist it. Unfortunately for children, there are many parents who don't know how easy it is for a young child to be cornered and within mere second fall prey to evil people who lie in wait for an opportunity to act out their desires.

One thing I've learned in life is that Satan doesn't wait for a stage. He and his minions creep in quietly and subtley, sneaking in whenever opportunity gives rise. It's amazing how many people don't realize this. They feel that being on guard is extreme and that they will "just know" when evil is present as if it will make itself obvious. But it doesn't work that way. Just like this boy, Satan is always hanging around lurking, waiting for an opportunity to single out his next victem. That is why scripture tells us to be vigilant and keep watch. Our enemy is prowling, and he means to devour us one by one until we are destroyed. And he will not rest until the day he is bound for all eternity.
I have this fear for my children. Yes, because of the actual physical threats to their safety, but more so because the eternal war that is being waged against their souls. Evil will gain a foothold where ever it can. And it is up to me to teach them to be vigilant and watch in order to guard against the evil that lurks. But even when I do a good job of teaching and warning, the gravity of the situation may not always sink in, and that is why I must keep a watchful eye on them.
Someday my children will be able to stand ready and prepared to fight on their own. But until then, I do not and will never take lightly the responsibility of keeping watch over them both physically and spiritually. I'll fight for them until they learn to fight for themselves. That is my Mama Bear promise. :)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guard Your Mouth

Jeremiah 15:19
"If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth"

We'll know a tree by it's fruit, right?

If our mouths are uttering precious things we will be like Jesus. But if a person gossips, weighing in on a matter that has nothing to do with her, to another person who has nothing to do with the situation, it doesn't matter how many times she says, " I don't want to be around all the gossip".  The fruit of her lips exposes the truth of her character. Her fruit is worthless.

If we truly want to be like Jesus and be a blessing to others,  gossip has no place on our lips.

Engage vs Endure

A glimpse of the kinds of things we discuss in our home;

In regards to difficult situations...

"We engage suffering to the glory of God, not to the comfort of man. And the key word here is 'engage', as opposed to endure." Paul Redding

The concept of 'engaging' verses 'enduring' reflects the intention not only of persevering through difficult times, but pressing on in them with passion and purpose in order to glorify God rather than pursuing that which would please ourselves.