Almost the Duggars

The DuggarsLast week while driving from Michigan to Chicago I listened to a fascinating radio interview of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the Christian family with 19 children and TV fame. Our family had its own Duggar-esque experience in 1989 when my sister’s family moved in with ours for a while.

Sorting socksMary and Bervin’s family was adding a second story to their ranch home, and without water, heat or benefit of a roof, they needed a place to stay. We begged them to bunk with us, knowing how much fun it would be, and they agreed, but with one stipulation: that they buy all the food for the duration. Of course Nate and Bervin wrangled over this, but I saw it as God’s lavish blessing. Our family was at its low point financially with Nate’s business collapsing that very year.

A watermelon...I’ll never forget the night Bervin walked in our front door after work carrying a fresh watermelon. Nate and I hadn’t splurged on fresh fruit for many months, and the sight of that big watermelon refreshed my soul. With 18 around the dinner table that night (my folks included), that melon came and went pretty quickly, but it tasted sweeter than any I’ve had since.

Chicken poxDuring the weeks we were together, the chicken pox hit, as well as the school science fair, but we also celebrated several birthdays, a couple of graduations and a few blue ribbons for those science projects. There were no squabbles, despite having to sleep on the floor, cram into vehicles and wait for meals. It was a happy time for all 16 of us, and when my sister’s house was ready for them to move back, we mourned the separation.

Not everyone likes to “live large.” Having to wait for the shower or being without private space can be frustrating. But God is deliberate in putting families together. He matches up husbands and wives and calls some to be single. He sends biological babies or not, sometimes choosing to bring children from the other side of the globe to complete a family.  He asks some couples to be childless in order to parent the children of others. His creativity in grouping us knows no limits.

Off to schoolWe can arrange or rearrange things to suit ourselves, but stepping away from God’s lead is risky. His best may seem endlessly “just around the bend,” but we can trust that whatever he’s preparing will be worth our wait. Putting people into families was his idea first, and he knows how to satisfy our needs to love and be loved.

Though I’m single now, I’m not lonely, because God has called me into it. Remembering our Duggar-esque weeks as a mega-family, though, makes me grin… and want to take a nap.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families. Rejoice in his presence!” (Psalm 68:5-6,4b)

Staying Upright

Little AndrewEmerald, my 7th-of-9 grandchildren, will be a one-year-old for only another month or so. Her cousin Andrew from England (#8) will be one for 8 more months. In the general scheme of things, both are relatively new walkers, and watching them get around is comedic entertainment.

A walk around the block is an athletic event for a new walker, and both Emerald and Andrew still lead with their tummies, shoulders back, arms out to the side for balance. It’s a charming, brief stage of life.

photo(1)When a baby is learning to walk, he falls down continually, though he eventually develops a toddle and falls less often. Still, it doesn’t take much to throw him to the ground. But for all one-year-olds, popping up without damage is the usual outcome of a fall.

A school child who falls doesn’t pop up as readily. Tears flow, and there might be a need for a cartoon-enhanced Band-Aid. But he, too, heals quickly and forgets his tumble in a hurry.

By the time we’re adults, falls are nearly non-existent. We’ve become good on our feet and sure of our step. If we do go down, it’s quite a crash, and before we get up, we pause to see if we’re hurt. Often it’s 24 hours later that we “see” what we really did through stiff muscles and fresh bruises.

The other day I took a fall of my own after tripping over a lamp cord. No harm was done, and I was glad no one saw me, but it made me decide I didn’t want to fall again. A broken bone, common at my age, would be less than convenient, and I’m making an effort to walk carefully, not carelessly.

If we live long enough, however, none of us will be walking. Old folk’s homes make good use of wheelchairs, and as the Bible says, aged people are sometimes taken places they don’t want to go. That’s because they can’t walk in the other direction.

When that time comes, our walking will have to be done in another realm, the realm of faith. Scripture tells us it’s best to walk by faith in God rather than by sight. The verse implies we ought to be faith-walking throughout life, not just in old age, depending on God’s guidance rather than on what we see.

When we’re able-bodied, walking through life without many physical falls, it’s easier to fall spiritually and not know it. But when we’re in a bed or wheelchair, faith-walking comes more readily. Maybe that’s the best kept secret of old age.

Andrew at oneEmerald at oneMeanwhile, I’m seeing two little one-year-olds walking with enthusiasm and managing life completely by sight, not by faith. But that’s ok for now, because once in a while they walk right into the arms of a grateful grandma.

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Praying and Praising with Mary

  1. I’m praising the Lord that medical personnel found a good vein during Monday’s infusion.
  2. I’m also thankful I have only 3 infusions left (out of 18 total).

Making a Good Impression

Wet CementBookstore shelves are loaded with parenting titles, but the one I like best is a 1979 book by Anne Ortlund: CHILDREN ARE WET CEMENT. It’s a powerful statement with accurate parenting implications.

When workers poured the concrete for our patio 28 years ago, our five children each pressed their palms into the wet cement, along with a quarter from their birth years. I pressed in a penny dated that year, 1986, next to the line-up of hands, to mark the date those childhood palms were set. As soft as the concrete was when we touched it, shortly thereafter it became rock-hard and has been that way ever since. Without the use of a jack-hammer, the hand impressions are permanent.

As children arrive into our families, they’re soft and impressionable, “wet” with potential. Parenting them is the most important assignment we’ll ever get, a serious responsibility given to us by the Person who created every baby and has specific plans for each life. The way we live in front of them leaves a permanent mark.

While spending time with my grandchildren this week, I’ve seen again how supple the mind of a child really is. Children spend the lion’s share of their waking hours imitating the rest of us. If we open a kitchen drawer, as soon as we close it, a watching child opens it again, following our example.

Little ones don’t need a reason to imitate us. They do it instinctively. We own the power to be examples for good or evil, an enormous responsibility that should cause us to keep our lives clean as we go along.

Modeling well in front of one and two year olds is easy. In front of teenagers it’s more difficult.

InfluencingBut we do our best, because we want to give our children the strongest possible springboard into adulthood. Despite multiple failures and a list of if-only’s, we keep trying. Knowing we’re being carefully watched is a strong motivator!

As a child of God, I wonder if I’m carefully watching Jesus in the same way. Do I study his life and try to emulate him? Or do I dismiss that possibility, knowing I could never match him? Jesus instructed us to watch what he did, then copy it. Do I?

Of course I’m going to fall short, just as children fail to duplicate adult behavior. But that doesn’t keep them from trying, and the same should be true for me. Although I’ll never be able to exude the fruit of the Spirit as flawlessly as Jesus did, with practice I can improve.

Watching my grandchildren try, fail, and keep trying encourages me to do the same.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15)