Monday, December 20, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 4)

The UPS man came today.  To deliver the girls' Christmas gift from their Grandfather.

The delivery guy said to me apologetically "It has what it "is" labeled on the box..... I'm sorry...... "
To which I replied "Oh, that's fine!!!  Not a problem at all."
His response was that of obvious relief- the poor guy may as well have wiped the sweat off his brow,
"Ya.  It's really tough being Santa Claus right now...."
( I hear ya, buddy!)

Well? This is the final installment of "Convictions and Controversy".  Here's the whole reason I started this set:

Santa doesn't come to our house; and our girls know it.
We've told them the "truth" from the get go.   Ok.  Not really.  We never told them that Santa wasn't the bringer of gifts at Christmas time.  We simply told them that God had blessed Mommy and Daddy with the ability to get gifts for them on Jesus' birthday- as a way to remember the amazing gift that God gave us... His son.

Here we are- the "ab"norm- on yet another subject, and up until this Christmas season- we've only had to fend for our right to "teach our kids what we want to teach them" among our family members.

Up until THIS Christmas season, our 5 year old Zoe wasn't in a kindergarten class full of Santa Clause believing peers, and up until THIS Christmas Season- we didn't realize just how strong minded our amazing little girl really was on  the subject of "truth" and "not the truth".

Zoe's class began prepping for their Holiday Cheer and they were all talking about Santa. Apparently our daughter decided that they were all crazed loons for believing that Santa was the bringer of their Christmas gifts,  and she wanted to remedy their illusions by announcing what all parents fear for their children to hear:
 "Santa. Is. Not. REAL!!!"

The email I received from her teacher went like this:

Mrs. Anderson,

I have something that I wanted to address with you. I know this can be a very tough subject, but I hope for your understanding. 

Today we began doing special activities with the students for the holidays and Zoe was very adamant to announce that Santa is not real. I asked her to please keep comments like that to herself but as the day progressed she continued to announce that he is just a made up person. 

By no means am I asking for Zoe to believe or for your family to believe a certain way, but there are so many students that do whole heartedly believe in Santa Clause and are devastated at this age when someone announces something like that. 

Could you help me with talking with her about this subject? I respect everyone’s beliefs when it comes to the holidays and find the importance of all of them with every family. However I would just like for Zoe to be able to enjoy these activities with the class without upsetting others. I really hope that you understand. Thank you so much."

I love this teacher.  She's a perfect match for our Zoe.  And because Zoe loves her so much, this was, indeed, a tough subject.  Not because we didn't agree that Zoe could keep her "Santa Truth" to herself, but because Zoe (I feel the need to repeat- age 5) was NOT okay with keeping the truth to herself.

My (careful) response was this:

" I sincerely appreciate and respect your concern.  Per Zoe's strong will and spunk, I'm not surprised at all that she is announcing "what she knows".   Zoe has a "black and white" personality.  She has no gray area.  

It's such a tough subject; we have talked to her about how other kids really like to believe in Santa- and that it makes other kids sad when she tells them that Santa isn't real.  We've asked her to make better word choices such as "I believe that Jesus is the reason for Christmas" and we've asked her to leave the part about Santa not being real out of her words.

We told her the story of the real St. Nicholas; and Lord have mercy, her questions were slightly tough.  She asked if he was 'dead now' and we said "Well, he lived a long time ago, but he's not alive anymore'.  And now- she's saying that Santa is dead.   It went from bad to worse.

Sigh.  I don't quite know how to handle this.  She believes what she believes and she says exactly what's on her mind.  She's not trying to be mean or disrespectful.  It's just a part of her personality and the temperament that's ingrained in her.  

When she was 3 years old her doctor asked her if she was ready for Santa Clause to come and bring her presents, and she didn't even blink before she announced matter-of-factly 
"Nope.  Santa isn't the reason for Christmas.  It's because of Jesus."  

One thing I can't do is ask her to keep quiet about what she believes; I can ask her to make better word choices as to not hurt other people's feelings.  I've went over it and over it, and I can't figure out another way to remedy the situation without going against what we hope to teach Zoe; to say the Truth, to speak up about what she believes in.

She was pretty emotional about it when I talked to her; she said it "wasn't right because Santa is not real and everyone keeps saying he is"- and she was pretty upset when she said,  "My teacher keeps saying that Santa is real when he's really not".

I think another idea would be for you to take her aside and make it a "big secret".  Maybe you can explain to her that you know that Santa isn't real, and she believes that Santa isn't real- and that's okay- but that you and her need to have it be a big secret from the kids that believe Santa is real because they all like to be surprised on Christmas day....   or something to that effect.

Her teachers response went like this:

pulled Zoe to talk to her this afternoon. 

I told her how much of a big girl she was to understand the true meaning of Christmas. 
I then told her how much I would love for her to share what she knows about the true meaning of Christmas with the students.
 I then told her that so many people her age truly believe that Santa is real. She immediately said “but he isn’t.” 
I told her that was true but we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by telling them that he is not.

 I said she was such a big girl to understand but that others didn’t quite understand yet. I did tell her that it was our secret and that we did not want to hurt anyone by saying those things. 

She then asked if Mrs. H knew that he was not real. I told her that she knew and that it would be ok for her to talk about it with her as well. She seemed very understanding, and I really feel like everything has been taken care of. Let me know if she has anything to say this afternoon. Thanks!

And the remedy of all remedies occurred after this amazing teacher took the time to work with our precious daughter to ensure that she was comfortable, and secure- despite her controversial beliefs!!!

This was NOT the norm in these types of situations.  Most families get angry and offended when a child announces what "they know" about Santa.  My youngest sister, as a matter of fact- who's baby is 9 months old,  contacted me about the situation and clearly announced that
"If your kids tell my daughter that Santa isn't real- we're going to have a big problem.....".

Ouch.  That hurt. (And my sister and I are close, too!)
But it's not the first time a family member got upset regarding what we teach our children.
And the sting of it didn't burn for very long.

It's not easy to live by what you believe.

We don't think it's necessarily BAD to do Santa.  It was just our personal conviction NOT to.  Our choices were based on a thought process that said this:

We want our children to believe that everything we teach them is The Truth.  We teach them about a Living God, and a Savior, and we tell them Bible stories, and we explain that it's "real".
We wanted to stick to a "The Truth Only" path.  So that later in life- there isn't a question about what was 'real' and what was 'not'.

Interestingly, our 7 year old has decided that she "wants to believe that Santa is real...." and pretend like he comes down the chimney and brings her presents.  


We said "sure" to her desire to pretend, with a reminder that Santa was "actually really truly NOT REAL".... and a bit of confusion in our self about whether it was "ok" to pretend or not.

She asked us if it would make God sad for her to pretend, and I said to her with complete humility
"Baby, I have no idea.  Let's just pray about it- and if you feel like it's okay to pretend, then I think it'll be fine..."

We don't have all the answers.  That's WHY we have to follow our convictions.

Controversial or NOT.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 3)

We have some fine-lined convictions concerning our children and their well being.  Particularly, to do with health- we've gotten a lot of grief.  Specifically- on the subject of vaccinations.

Vaccinations.  Ewww.  What a touchy subject.  
(Almost as touchy as Santa Claus- but we'll get to that soon enough).

First born children are, for lack of a better term, sort of the guinea pigs.  We try and fail and tweek and readjust parental structures based off of Numero Uno, don't we?  

In our case, I was 22 when our first born daughter graced the world with her sweet, tender presence.  I questioned no one, and thought reading "up" on parenting was not a necessity.  I mean? I was born to have babies- I'd figure it out, right?!  


Hah! Hah!

We did all the things our doctors told us to do; them being the experts and all.... obeying their instruction wasn't an option- was it?

I had a friend that was deeply involved in natural health and wellness, and didn't vaccinate her newborn.
I thought she was a nut-case!!  I judged her motives and intellect.  I remember thinking to myself (as I was holding my 9 month old on my hip) "Wow.  She'll find out how wrong she is when it's too late!" 
Secretly I'm squeezing my daughter a bit closer to me, proud of our decision to parent her the right way, and choosing to be intelligent parents and giving her all of her vaccinations!

3 months and hours upon hours of research later, and I am finding myself at our pediatricians office explaining to him why it is that we are choosing not to allow them to give our daughter vaccinations from that point on.  

I won't get into the "why" we came to our decision.  Honestly, it's not important to touch on that. I'm not an educator, and this isn't a soap box I'm willing to chisel out and stand atop just yet.

There are books, and articles, and internet searches at the tips of all of our fingers- and anyone who'd like to look into whether vaccinations are right for their family have this available to them.  Aside from that- my brain lost it's sponge soaking ability long, long ago; I read, and then I conclude- but afterward forget what brought me to said conclusion, marking my ability to teach anyone, anything slim to none unless I have carefully taken notes and Google in front of my face.  

We simply made a personal decision, after educating ourself fully on the subject.... When I say fully, I mean fully.  I read both "sides of the story".  I compared the benefits vs. the risk, I read articles of those that were convinced that vaccination was 100% right-to-do, and articles of those that were 100% convinced that vaccinations should NEVER be given.  I found a happy middle ground, and settled into it.
(Funny enough- I started out my "research" to prove my friend wrong in her personal decision to decline vaccinations.)

So we do not vaccinate; and that's that.....   we sign our "religious" waiver for the school's records, and we're good to go.  No issues.

As a very important side note: 
One fear that I had when facing the decision as to whether I would be a working mom or a stay at home mom was insurance, (or the lack of).  We took a dive into faith when we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mommy to our children, but not with our prayer and a boat load of "what if's".  Regarding insurance, I believe we were promised supernatural health when we submitted to my being a stay at home mom. 

I heard the Lord say it loud and clear in my spirit, and so it was, and so it is. That's what I like to call
 "Crazy Faith".  You tell people this sort of thing, and they think you're super-crazy.

Our girls are, indeed,  supernaturally healthy.  I don't mean to say that none of them never experience a common cold, or a stomach virus, or the like.  What I do mean to say is that we can accept the promise to their supernatural health, but understand that with God's promises- our efforts are also required!
We don't assume that if we were to feed our  kids McDonald's everyday, and sugar for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, that we'd reap the rewards of health..... I do, however- assume that if we use wisdom and allow God to direct us in our convictions- that we will reap those  rewards.  And we surely have!!!

Wisdom plays a huge role in following our convictions.  If small pox were to become an epidemic- I wouldn't stand firm on our decision without first seeking out wisdom.  I'd study the disease, I'd research everything available to be researched, I'd pray, and then we would discern the right choice for our family.

Quacky or Cookey, or Looney or Weirdo are all great words to peg on us, as a family, regarding many of our convictions.  We make choices very far away from the world's standards.  But we are totally OKay with it.  We know what's right for us.  

I want to encourage every one and say again:
It really is OK to swim upstream,  to go against the flow..... to be OURSELVES....
None of us are the same as each other; nor should we hope to be.
Some of us are heads, some of us are arms, some are legs, or feet, or big toes......
We aren't designed to conform; we weren't created to be the same.  We're all made unique!  

We're ALL weird!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 2)

Before our first child was born, we decided firmly on these 2 things: 

A. Our child will NEVER go to public school.
B. We will ALWAYS keep our kids in church.


Never say never, my friend.  

Our daughters are prospering in their little kindergarten and second grade classrooms, in this very moment, as I type out this blog.  We worked so hard, and tried and tried to make it possible to keep them out of the public school system; but finances and frazzling of my brain redirected our convictions when private school and home school were erased from our "options" list for this school  year.
God has bigger plans than ours.  And that's just how it works.  One day- I hope- I'll bring them back into our safe little nest, and I'll home school them sans frazzling and frying of my brain.  But? For now? I'm positively certain that they are exactly where the Lord would have them be.


We took a little over a year "off" from church.  Worst year of our life, to say the least.  Despite our decision to ALWAYS keep our kids in church- we were backed into a season of "anti-church" when we started seeing through a scratched up window; that window allowed us to peer into just how messed up church and the people that go there can be; ourselves were NOT excluded in the factor of 'messed up people in a messed up church', either.  We needed to step back; and it worked out for the greater growth of our spiritual lives that we did.  Realizing that nobody had anything together, and not putting any person on a pedastool, despite appearances of righteousness.... now we're looking through a pane-less window (or so it seems).

I WILL NOT.... unless I SHOULD

Conviction to keep our kids out of the public school system lead to many many long conversations defending our choice for educating our daughters.   It was a battle on top of a battle.  I second guessed myself more often than not; but stuck to it......... until the glorious day that God released us from it.  

Even after He released me to move into a new direction with school, I second guessed myself.   The Lord removed every option for education aside from public school.  He made it clear:
 "This is what you need to do right now."  I still doubted, and questioned, and schemed and planned to figure out a way to keep them out of public school.  "Maybe there's another way?  Surely there's something else we could do?"  I was tormented and pained when the day came that I registered our daughters for school.  I cried and cried and met frustration after frustration, but I did it anyway.
It wasn't until after registration, and after we met their teachers, that I found relief from the boulder that seemed to be weighing down my shoulders!

Convictions to keep our kids in church were layed aside when (I believe) God allowed us to be removed from that atmosphere to gain perspective.  He called us to go to church, and taught us why corporate worship was so very important; and then He removed us from church- and taught us why keeping our eyes on HIM, and only Him when we were in search of TRUTH is so important.
"Men will fail you.  But I will never leave you, or forsake you!"  (the Bible)

In conclusion to part 2, sticking to a conviction- whether it be challenging or not- should NOT be an option. 

Obedience brings more relief than continuing on with 'our own' plans. 
Obedience brings relief.  AFTERwards.  Obey first......  Relief later.  

  (Read 2 Kings 5:1-15)
*The king had leprosy, and was instructed by the prophet to receive his healing by dipping into the Jordan river 7 times.  
It wasn't the WATER that healed the king, it was his obedient act!*

God instills convictions inside our hearts for a purpose.  He's an all knowing God- and He'll speak to us and lay out a guideline for us to go by- if we'll listen to HIM.  He determined a path for us to take; but that doesn't mean that He will have us to stay on that exact path forever.  If we believe that He's the navigator, we should also understand that HE may tell us to do a turn here, or take a back road there.  He knows exactly what each path has in store for us, and HIS PLANS (paths) are much greater than our own!  

I'm thankful and humbled that He chooses to speak to us regarding our life walk.  
WE don't always listen, but He is, in fact- ALWAYS directing us.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 1)

I'll certainly have to divide this out into parts; it's a long story to say the least.

In the beginning, God created the Earth.... and so on and so forth, and now here we are.
And 7 years ago when our first born was... um.... born, my husband (the baby-daddy) and I talked about all the things we would and wouldn't and should and shouldn't do.

Like? "We will never let our kids throw tantrums in public like that!!!"

(our 3rd born,  little Leah, age 2)

And: "We will make sure our kids are always properly dressed."

(Zoe, age 5.  Yes, those are training pants on her head.  Leah, age 2.  That's right.  She's not even wearing any clothes!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweetness in the Mire

Tuesday morning, my husband drove our 5 and 7 year old to school; and by some miracle, our 3 year old decided to take an extra long snooze break as she slept in past her normal 7 AM rise and shine.  Incredibly, by 8:45 sweet girl was still snoring when I went upstairs to check on her.

Our girls share a room, and just beside Leah's bed- Zoe's twin bottom bunk bed seemed to be calling my name.  It's soft sheet, fluffy down pillow, and cozy down comforter were lying there looking more comfortable than anything I'd ever seen.  I decided that since Leah was sure to wake up at any moment, I'd just take a quick little nap in Zoe's bed.  This way- when Leah woke up, she'd see my snoozing right beside her, and wake me up.

And  certainly- she woke up to see me snoozing; but she woke me up in the most unconventional and absolute sweetest way!!
My eyes cracked open to see the cutest curly-headed 3 year old girl sitting on the edge of her bed, staring at her mommy, making a 'kiss-kiss' sound with her lips.  When I looked at her, she said with an excited grin,  "Mommy!!!  I woked you up by doing THIS (kiss-kiss-kiss) sound!!!  Heee heeeee heeee!"

I must have been more tired than I realized, because somehow- despite the cuteness- I closed my eyes again and fell back to sleep.  The next time I opened my eyes, Leah was sitting on the bed with me, half beside me, half on top of me, and she was attempting to shove a chocolate chip cookie in my mouth.  I look up to her expectant face as she said "Mommy!!!  I broughted you a cookie to eat!  It's really yummy!"

When it's all grim and gray and dreary,  and the "life-is-hard-reaper" is towering over my shoulder beating me down, the easiest thing to do is crawl into bed, cover my head up, and ignore it all.  Easy or not- I've never had the option to do that.  My 3 girls "force" me to keep the momentum up.  Having to take care of their needs trumps any desire I have to give up.  For that, I am ever thankful.

At this point, I'm gonna be honest, and bare "the life is crazy tough" right now stuff.   Breaking it down with out too many details- I'll give a quick example: 

Finances are kah-put.  Being in the construction/repair industry- ya- in this economy,  'nuff said.  
Mis-managing our week-to-week paycheck is an attribution, as well.  There are times we really should not eat out, or joy-ride around town..... but we do it anyway. Unwise.

We've created a budget, and the budget would work- if we'd just suck it up and stick to it.  Budget (the lack of) aside, another spin out in our bank account happens when there isn't any work for Joshua to do- staying home, sans pay, is especially painful on our pocket book.

With Thanksgiving being hosted at our house this year, an extra large chunk of dough moves itself down our belly's, inside the same week that Joshua is only able to work for 2 days.  Ouch! Ouch!  OUCH!

Monday night this week my van (our only family vehicle) randomly quits working just down the road from our house on my way to the grocery store.  Plans that I had to attend a bible study that night, take our 3 year old to her sweet little class the next day, and volunteer in my 7 year olds classroom that morning are all immediately canceled.  

It's almost December, which means we should be prepping to pay our Property Taxes, and making plans to buy Christmas gifts.

Our family life, specifically our marriage, has been in a "growing" process- trying to overcome certain issues and junky stuffs. 

The power company gives us a call to "remind" us of our "nonpayment" and just before that phone call, our Zoe walks upstairs only to come flying back down squealing "It's raining in our house!!"

By all personal standards; I should be an incredible wreck.  I'm typically a high strung, high stress personality type; I can get overwhelmed in a snap if the conditions are ripe. 
There again- taking care of my 3 girls as a stay at home mommy for the past 7 years, I've grown so much in learning how to handle stressful situations.  Any mom can attest to this after experiencing numerous grocery store meltdowns, park-play-date tantrums, the rush of dinner time, bath time, and bedtime chaos, and the squeals and whines, and tattle-tales of sibling rivalry.

Inside the mire, I am witness to absolute sweetness.

Our marriage issues are on hold as Joshua and I lock arms to stand beside one another and fight the battle of stress and uncertainty.  Not gone.  But- on the back burner. 
We have both experienced the trials of extreme financial woes, each during our childhood and adolecent years, and during the first several years of our 10 year old marriage.  It's tough, but an easy fight to win.  God has shown us over and over and OVER how faithful He is in providing for our needs.  I'm excited (crazy excited) to be in this situation right now; because I know I'll get to witness the miracles that God has in store for us.   And- whoa!- in our experience, His miracles are incredible.  Far beyond anything that we could ever accomplish.  It's amazing.

And inside the mire, perspective is gained: "What's really important? What matters?"

I honestly believe that God orchestrated these trials.  He wants to teach us something, lead us in a new direction, and 'force' a change in all of us (for the better!) if we let Him.

I'm open to it and I'm ready for it.

"Here I am, Lord.  Change me!!!!"