A Cell Phone and Social Media Contract With My Son

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To begin with, many can testify that my children know how to play. They have bedrooms full of well used toys, are experts in many card, board and high activity games, run wild in an amazing backyard with neighbor friends and tell stories from a long history of exploring cities, national parks and museums around the nation. Their time with technology has always been contained and closely monitored in order to allow them to develop as well-rounded individuals who can function well in as many environments as are required of them. This has not been a perfect process as I am far from the perfect parent, but the desire to nurture well-rounded children has always been a primary paradigm through which I evaluate my own parenting.

That being said, my oldest son is truly passionate about technology and all that it can do, and that does come with a potential for danger.  People these days can escape the “real world” and replaced it with a virtual reality that causes many to lose their humanity and deadens their emotions and desires for relational, physical, or spiritual health. So when at 11 years old he began hinting at a desire for a cell phone of his own for his 13th birthday, I began residing in a state of uncomfortable dread. At least on our home systems and tablets I can filter out a lot of junk, and he is restricted to playing games in family spaces rather than with any privacy, but a cell phone opens the door of unrestricted access to a world that no 13 year old is ready for.

Here’s the thing I keep going back to. I know a cell phone is in his future, even if I don’t allow him one for his entire childhood. This is something I can allow for now while Stephen and I are still the most influential and prevalent figures in his life and have a ton of say over when and how it is used, or I can force him to wait until I have progressively less and less say. I sat down with him 2 months before his 13th birthday and together we worked on a list of the reasons he wanted to have a cell phone that included being able to text or call Stephen or me when we are apart, the ability to text and communicate with his friends and family, have the handy camera, learn responsibility by paying his own monthly bill, and lastly as reward for being a good, trustworthy kid, which he is. I wouldn’t be considering this if he was not an honest and sincere kid. Together we began researching and discussing the pitfalls and dangers before making an extensive lists of rules and guidelines that will hopefully mature in habits that become the healthiest possible relationship with cell phones and similar technologies. A healthy relationship with technology that is well-rounded with other healthy activities and relationships is, of course, well worth the effort.

I’ve thrown into this blog the rules of our contract for social media involvement as well. On his 13th birthday, he wanted to sign up for Facebook and Instagram to daily check the flow of information coming out of our very active church and its youth group. He also wants to keep up with our much beloved, but spread-out family across the country and even the world, many of whom are very active on social media.

I can’t say I will agree to this for my other children. Thirteen is not a magical cell phone and social media age. Each child must be evaluated as an individual. I also can’t say that my oldest son will always have this privilege. This is in its probationary phase until he moves out of my home in 5 or more years. I just want to use these years to hopefully form in my children healthy relationships with all the aspect of life that are available to kids like mine, and to teach them to use what they have been blessed with to pour into the lives of those who need a hand from someone with their unique resources and knowledge. Every day I pray that my kids not turn inward or escape their realities or the realities of others whose lives they can reach into. Rather, with a head full of faith, I pray they chose to face all aspects of life head-on with all that God has blessed them with.

Because I didn’t see any examples of rules or contracts online when we were creating ours outside of blogs or articles with general guidelines for teens with phones, I talked with my son about sharing our contracts on my blog for anyone else to use or get ideas from. He thought it would be a great idea, which is just another reason why he’s a great kid who has, thus far, earned my respect for this newest endeavor in our lives.      cell-phone-rules-and-contractsocial-media-contract

 

A Regular Mom’s Response to Terrorists and Extremists and Jihadists, Oh My.

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Considering that the vast majority of us aren’t even close to being trained soldiers, cops, military leaders or government policy makers, what is our response or role in a world where the mentally ill son of a fellow church member or maybe the otherwise hip and friendly Muslim neighbor turns out to be a mass-shooting, bomb-toting terrorist wannabe, plotting my demise at a bus stop or at the local grocery mart?

We could live with anger, in fear and mistrust, with our fingers ever hovering over the triggers of our concealed weapons. But speaking for myself on this idea, remembering that I am in no way a trained military personnel, open firing with trembling hands at the local food mart or crowded theater is mostly likely a recipe for further disaster. So, no guns for me. Then what?

That’s not even to imagine the state of mind of someone who lives in constant anger, fear and mistrust. If you haven’t seen a show like “Doomsday Preppers”, with people who have spent lifetimes cultivating that paranoia and sense of entitlement to their ideals and/or safety at all costs, then you should take a few moments to do so. They have allowed that state of mind to rob them of their sanity and humanity. They see the world as everyone against one and have lost their ability to be taken seriously or contribute in any tangible way to the overall good of their communities. So, no doomsday prepping for me. Then what?

Oh, and what do we suppose drives the mass-shooting or bombing lunatics so many are angry, fearful and mistrusting of, to perform these heinous acts of terrorism in otherwise peaceful atmospheres? Oh, yeah. It’s anger, fear and mistrust that has been cultivated until it destroyed their sanity and humanity. So no anger, fear, or unchecked mistrust for me. Then what?

Am I going to allow a depraved terrorist, who violently drove (and even followed) refugees from the family, friends, and country of their birth, to terrorize me into not helping a Muslim man or woman who happens to have had their car break down in front of a government building? I mean, there could be a bomb in there, right? I say this because, with my kids in the car, I was faced with this decision a few weeks ago, and I decided I would not lay down my desire to see all Americans practice their religion without fear, or deny my heart to reach out to all others without discrimination for any amount of ensured safety, and I wasn’t about to teach a fearful mindset to my children either. All we did was pull over to ask if they needed help, and we were rewarded with the most touching gratitude I’ve received in recent memory.

Here’s the thing the people who live their lives fighting terrorism with paranoia don’t consider about those of us who chose not to. We don’t live in denial with rose colored glasses. We know we could be bombed, shot, burned, or abused. It’s just that we chose not to let terrorist rob us of the right to do the right thing no matter what. We let those called to make policy, make policy and those in the police force and military do what they were trained to do. Then the rest of us can carry out our lives according to the ideals and principles our country was founded upon, with huddled masses yearning to be free from the religious and economic tyranny our ancestors worked so hard to establish.

Do those of us who profess to be Christians remember that America was colonized by immigrants and refugees who escaped tyrannical governments and oppressors in Europe that used the bible as the platform for their violence? Do many Americans know that our military and civilian operations abroad would be a total dead end without the help of many Muslims who are also fighting against extremists?

I am not ignorant. I know that peaceful immigrants can give birth to radicalized children who mow down dance clubs, but does that mean I put myself on a pedestal above those problems and turn my backs on those my kindness could even mean the difference between choosing a radical path or a healthy one? The answer to the “Then what?” for me, someone who has no formal training or policy leadership what-so-ever, is to live as it was intended by those who founded our nation. I will makes space for all religions, even though we will have to agree to disagree on our understanding of God, and heap kindness on anyone who may be teetering on the brink of a decision to angrily become radicalized or live in peace. In this land founded on refugees and immigrants, where we allow space for all kinds of potentially violent ideologies (Hello, KKK and Neo-Nazis, or weird cultist compounds dotting the landscape) let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have a rule of law that has withstood and contained the vast majority of intended violence or government coups and continues to search for ways to maintain the relative stability without trampling our freedoms.

One last thing on a personal level that I want to add. Even if all of that fails, and a secret society of Muslim jihadists rises up to take over the nation, establish sharia law and takes my life because of my faith in Jesus as the son of God who gave his life for me, the words of Jesus ever echo in my mind.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” Mathew 16:24-27

Loaves and Fishes: How the Heck Does a Georgian Homeschool Mom and a Software Consultant Keep Ending Up in Arctic Alaska?

There are so, very many stories I could share from our time in the village of Gambell, Alaska on the remote island of St. Lawrence (nearer to Russia) this past year, but most of them are not mine to share publically. They belong to the precious people we went there to love up on. In person I would be happy to share more, but I am extremely careful to only air things publically that provide hope and encouragement to the native people.

Because this is my last installment I want to say that we had an amazing time again this year, but it’s not an easy trip and there were hardships. There was even an hour of sheer terror in which God faithfully reached down and revealed himself in a mighty way by turning my paralyzing fear into courage in the face of danger. He brought in other amazing locals to provide protection and selfless support. I want those beautiful faces to be the face of Siberian Yupiks the world sees. None of us should be defined by our weakest counterparts, and those weakest counterparts need to feel safe reaching out to us too. That’s why we are there, and why we plan to go back this summer.

In Part one of this three part series, I wrote a wee smidge about my roll on our team this year. We decided that rather than hire a local missions organization to fly in all of the food for us again, we could more cheaply fly in our own food from home. Because of Stephen’s diamond status with Delta, we all flew in on his itinerary giving us 3 checked bags each. Then we required everyone on our team to fly with one small bag so we could fill their larger carry-ons with supplies as well.

Even with the ability to fly with dozens of bags, coolers and tubs, Stephen and I still had to strategically calculate to the absolute weight limits, how much food we should buy and how to pack it without adding weight. Sandwiches were planned with precise detail, even measuring out the exact amount of mayo we could ration for each slice. Then we weighed and multiplied for the exact number of sandwiches we could ration out to each person. Serving sizes for dinner were calculated to allow for adequate portions after a hard day’s work, but there would be no space for serving more than what was sufficient. In fact, I had to deliberately seek God for rest from anxiety that I had not packed nearly enough food for our hard working team members to feel satisfied. 14 people had to get by on 4 tubs and 4 coolers worth of food for 6 days. It was a tremendous responsibility that I took incredibly seriously. Despite it all we came in way, way under budget on all of our food spending.

I would like to pause for a moment to thank Lindsay Mullinax, Dena Starnes, Sharon Carmichael, Lynn Tynes and Joan Gull for making dinners in their homes that could be frozen into gallon sized, Ziploc bags and slid vertically into the coolers like file folders. That helped me fit 6 dinners for 14 people into two, airline-appeasing sized and weighted coolers and leave the other coolers for breakfasts, lunches and other essentials.

Hunting and fishing has changed up there for what is believed to be climate change related reasons. There aren’t the walrus and seal populations there once were, and the people are hungry. Day one, hungry people begin showing up at the church and a well-meaning team member invites them to dinner.

I panicked. “Wait, wait, wait. I didn’t plan food for extra people. You can give them my dinner, but I can’t give away dinner for everyone else on the team. They paid for this trip and this food. It’s not mine to give away.” Stephen turns up in the kitchen to witness my panic. He assures me not to worry and promises me that we will hold a team meeting to decide what to do.

That night I made sure each person remembered that we have just enough food for our team. If we give away food, we will run out and go hungry. I was completely OK with that. People have survived longer periods of time without food, but I needed to hear everyone else’s thoughts on it. To a team member, each person said without reservation, “If these people are hungry, they can have the food.” We all decided to feed all those who came our way.

OK, then. Dinner on night one was 4 chicken pot pies (thanks Sharon Carmichael). 16 people were at my table for dinner. I had rationed 2 pieces of pie per person, including 10 grown men who had worked very hard that day out in the cold. Everyone could have one biscuit and 2 large scoops of black-eyed peas. People were eating and eating and then visiting when they were filled up. I went around to pick up empty pans, but found pie left in every pan. When I combined them to put them away I realized there was a complete pot pie left. 16 people ate to their fill on just three of the four, nine inch pot pies, and there’s biscuits and peas left too?

I’m slow, so this baffles me. I repeatedly tell people to not deprive themselves. “Eat more!” But they all claim to be too full.

The next day was Sunday so we had our church service. Then several locals stayed for lunch. They brought their own native food, which isn’t quite the kind of stuff our pallets were accustomed to, and I set out our pot pies, biscuits and peas. They ate until they were satisfied and we ate up our planned meal of sandwiches. Dinner is Cajun stir fry (thanks to Lindsay Mullinax) and there was so much left I could barely fit it back in the fridge.

The next day we eat our planned breakfast of egg sandwiches (Lindsay again!) and at lunch I set out carefully rationed sandwich ingredients. But there is plenty left to share with the native men who were helping us around town. I check and re-check to make sure no one is hungry. Everyone claims to be stuffed. Dinner is Chicken King Ranch (Thanks, Mrs. Joan Gull) with some kind of bread and a vegetable. Everyone, including native guests, ate a hardy dinner, and now I couldn’t even close the fridge door without pulling everything out and re-arranging. We’ve been here 3 days, and I’m in a bind for space for all this food.

Day 4. Breakfast with much left. Lunch, much left. Dinner: “I get it, God.” I open a cooler I haven’t even opened yet and it’s bursting with chili (thanks Dena Starnes) and chicken vegetable soup (Thanks, Lynn Tynes) and Lasagna (YAY again, Lindsay!)

Day 5 and 6 and I’m giving out food with reckless abandon. Who cares? Packs of bacon, bags of roast beef for sandwiches, pans of soup, shredded cheeses, pounds of butter and breads are going out to needy moms and grandmas with empty fridges who stop by the church. I’m giving out fresh frozen vegetables and fruits to locals who blessed us in any number of ways. If for some reason we ran out of food then, we only had a short time to go before we left, but we never did. In fact, there was an overlap between our team and the next team that came in, and I had to give instructions to them on my wishes for distributing the food we never got to!

Does anyone still remember that we came in under our food budget?

Are you crying right now, because I can’t tell this story without crying. I’m not worthy to witness this kind of miracle. This is provision and faithfulness that many only read about, but we were living and witnessing with our own eyes.

When I am following the Lord onto the mission field, I’m never sure who he really sent me for. I’m sure it’s for the local people, but it’s equally, if not more-so, for me. He reveals himself in such a real way when we are in a situation that is bigger than us. It’s in those times that we have no choice but to surrender our fears and put our trust in him that we see his heart and his hands.

We have not forgotten them during the year. Coats have gone out and will go out again. More food for the food pantry will be shipped out this month to the local church we are based out of. We keep in touch with many of them on Facebook and via text messages. Prayer. Oh, is there prayer for them to endure the incredible winters and draw closer to the Lord. Our work isn’t done just because we live in Georgia. It truly feels like we get a break from our homework when we actually get to be there with them, and satisfy the longings of our hearts.

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Here in the Nome airport terminal you can see some of our luggage and the 4 coolers we took with us.

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What our dinners looked like. Two guys who live in Gambell are in this picture and two more who ate with us aren’t in the picture. One is taking it.

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This fruit is part of a tradition we call the “Fruit Parade”. A few people from the team walk around town and give out fresh fruit to children and other locals. Fresh fruit is a real treat for them and the fruit parade is always a major hit.

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The Fruit Parade. Kelly is being pulled in this cart behind a 4-wheeler.

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Bob and Kelly set out on the second fruit parade of the week. This is their favorite part of our time there. LOVE them!

 

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Kids around town clamoring for fruit. You can tell from their gear that it’s very cold so far north, even in July.

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Carefully rationed sandwiches are met with great attitudes by the team.

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Take a break for lunch in the living room of the church we are based out of.

Part 2 of “How the Heck Does a Georgian Homeschool Mom and a Software Consultant Keep Ending Up in Arctic Alaska?”

It was for a while, but now it’s now no secret that I abhor flying. This raw hatred of mine toward flying began when I was pregnant with my oldest child and the turbulence that I would normally snooze through … Continue reading

The Craziest Thing. . .

Maybe I wrote this blog for my future self? I stumbled on it looking for something else today, and I have no recollection of writing it at all. It appears I wrote it over a year ago, and then I forgot about it … Continue reading

Tissues, Toilet Paper, and Trust

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I wanted to take a minute to write about a moment from this evening that will leave it’s impression on me forever. This won’t be the best example of my writing because their aren’t enough tissues or toilet paper in my house to dry the tears out of my eyes tonight. Some close friends know my grandma has been dealing with some tough health issues for the past year. We didn’t get good answers about why until a couple of months ago, and since then she has been through numerous procedures and two pretty major surgeries, and yet has found no relief. She is suffering greatly each and every day, and her pain is our pain too. She has been in an out of the emergency room trying to deal with fits of agony and finally, a week ago, they admitted her to her own room for constant care.

Let me back up a smidge. My grandma is no stranger to tough medical battles. When my mom was a kid, she took on a lot of responsibility to care for her siblings when my grandma was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis. Medical treatments weren’t nearly what they are today, and so my Grandma nearly lost her life. . . That is, until God heard the faithful, broken-hearted prayers of my grandparents, and healed her. He completely healed her. She still has the lesions on her brain to prove she had MS, but she has no MS, and hasn’t had a single symptom in over 40 years.

Then there was the time she got rheumatic fever as a child. It damaged her heart so badly that by the time she was 40 (I was a toddler) with three of her own kids still in her care, once again, she faced death. She told me her heart was working so hard she was dying. She cried out to the Lord, “Lord, please heal me!” And he healed her. He completely healed her.

And just like God left the lesions on her brain as a demonstration of his healing, we learned what he did about that heart several months ago (35 years after the healing) when her heart was checked as the potential source for some nagging chest pains. The doctor’s exact words during his report were, “Ma’am, you have the heart of a 40 year old!” A 40 year old. . The doctor told us it wasn’t her heart, but a hernia that could be treated with an operation.

She has walked through so many trials and has seen so much triumph with a beautiful grace and faith in Jesus Christ she could only have achieved after being tested time and time again to end of her being. And yet with each breath she remains faithful, hopeful and surrendered to God’s plan for the new day that He has given her. I could say a ton about my grandpa too. I could say a ton about my aunts and uncles and parents and their faithfulness to God and to each other through all of this, but this blog is about my grandma, who I am watching suffer, once again to the end of her being and still remaining faithful.

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Today is my grandparents 58th wedding anniversary. These are two people who genuinely love and have great affection for each other. Even though bending over and standing back up, or even rolling into a kiss is an incredible feat for them these days, they still kiss when they see each other and when they part. They are effusive in their display of love and it stands as an amazing testimony to all who see them of the love of Christ and what it can look like when lived out like it should be.

Tonight, all local family went up to the hospital with balloons and cake to celebrate and praise the Lord for yet another anniversary we are never certain we will see, but grandma was struggling with many things. With the help of the nurses, we tried to make her more comfortable, and finally we all just gathered around her bed and lifted her up in prayer.

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Then comes a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life and inspire my worship as long as I live. My kids step forward to read the cards we brought. Grandpa listened quietly, but intently and then expressed gratitude when they finished each card. Grandma, despite her pain, faced each child, and whispered praises to the Lord the whole time they read. “Praise you, Lord. I love you, Lord. Thank you for these children. Thank you for blessing me so much. Thank you for loving me through them. Praise you, Lord.”

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Let me say that during this emotional and challenging moment someone says to grandma, a bit tongue in cheek, “Well, I bet this is the best anniversary you’ve ever had,” and Grandma’s face goes from pinched with pain to downright pleasant and says, “Well, yes. It is.” Despite everything she is still grateful for each day with Grandpa and her family at her side through it all.

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If you catch her in the worst of her suffering, and she isn’t responding to doctors or nurses or questions, you might just hear her praising the Lord for being with her through it all and for the strong sense of his presence all around her. She praises him for her wonderful husband and for generation after generation of believing children and grandchildren.

My grandmother has unconditionally loved and showed compassion to so many, decade after decade for nearly all 75 years of her life. She is a peaceful woman with a quiet, encouraging wisdom she has blessed me with time and time again. She has taken me around the world and back, literally, and picked me up when I was very, low down with no judgment. Just grace. And she has blessed me with the best extended family a girl could ever ask for. And so, Lord, please end her suffering with the same, Holy Spirit inspired peace that she has so faithfully shared with all of us.

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Me with my grandparents in Enore, India out side of Chennai.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

I love you, Lord. I rejoice in the hope and promise of your glory being revealed. I rejoice that my children are blessed to watch my grandmother “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20), that they might live for you all of their days. You are with us, inhabiting our praises and lifting our eyes to the author and perfecter of our faith.

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Grandma and Grandpa with all of their kids one year before I was born.

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My wedding day with all of my wedding guests except for my parents and brother. My grandpa performed the quiet ceremony at his precious, rural, central Minnesota church. (The grandparents on the left of the picture are my dad’s parents.) Both my grandmas loved Stephen from the moment they first met him.

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My daughter, Julia Carolynn with my grandma, Carolyn Joyce. (The extra “N” is for my mother-in-law, Lynn.) She always tells me her love for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren goes right to the same spot in her heart.

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Grandpa Harry with Harrison, or as I like to say, Harry-pa with Harry-son.

Part 1 of “How the Heck Does a Georgian Homeschool Mom and a Software Consultant Keep Ending Up in Arctic Alaska?”

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When I was discussing the idea of a blog post with my beloved cousin, Beth Ringsmuth, on how Stephen and I keep ending up on the arctic island of St. Lawrence, I told her I was having trouble with finding a place to start that wasn’t, “So I was born early the morning of August 13, 1978.” I can see God’s hand in making me the person that makes the decisions I do since as far back as I can remember. In fact, I can see it in my parents and my grandparents, and for generations before them. I was raised by people who were raised by people, who were raised by people who were committed to following the Lord and sharing his love with others regardless of where that brought them. It goes almost without saying that there were deviations along that path for me and for my family, but the legacy left to me by them is one of service and of using our blessings to reach out to the downtrodden of any kind.

So, I went on “mission” to India with my grandparents in early 1994, and then to Russia in the summer of 1994 with my family and a good friend. I’ve worked with kids in the inner city here in Atlanta, and supported local and foreign ministries through my church and extended family. Then last year I worked in Ethiopian slums with my cousin Jessica, and most recently, missions-type work (along with vacationing) in Argentina with Stephen over the last few years. Much of this work is just random stuff that pops up, and I have the major blessing of jumping in to fill a need. . .And then there’s the work we do in Alaska.

Three-and-half years ago this idea of Alaska missions was presented directly to Stephen and me. A pioneer trip needed to be made to one of two, small, Siberian Yupic (Eskimo) villages on the Island of St. Lawrence in the Baring Sea, quite near to Russia. We would fly progressively smaller airplanes from Atlanta to Nome, Alaska, and then take a bush flight out to an airstrip that ends in a village with no cars to bring us to the ancient church building we would stay in. Only 4 wheelers and snow machines are able to maneuver the difficult terrain of an island on which people still live off the berries and greens on the tundra, and its land and sea life. A few people from our church had witnessed the needs in Northern Alaska among native populations for handymen, carpenters, and community outreach to encourage women and children. Addictions and abuse of all kinds are rampant as a result of some tragic historical events I want to be careful not to exploit publically. A vision needed to be established for how our church could be used to build long-term relationships with the local people and kindle a flame within the local church to make it self-sufficient.

That first trip was bare-bones mission work in the village of Savoonga. We went in there with some food, and the clothes on our back. We used materials we could scavenge from the church or around town to do some light-construction on homes in great need of drastic repairs. We visited with and prayed for the local people who have endured a long history of negative and even horrifying experiences with missionaries and church leaders. God has been demonstrated to them as a purely angry, vengeful God who wishes to punish them into submission. They were mystified by these new missionaries who smile, hug, pray, encourage, feed and lend a helping hand. The hardened hearts of those who stood back and watched with great, and totally justified, skepticism, began to soften, and in the first trip, locals moved in for a closer look.

The following 2 years, Stephen went to the other village, Gambell, on the very tip of St. Lawrence Island. From it you can see the mountains of Eastern Russia where their ancestors came from and their cousins still live. Stephen and a couple of his buddies worked their tails off serving the people by making simple, but often life-changing repairs to their homes. Most on the island lack the know-how to make even the most basic home repair, but time is spend teaching and showing people how to become self-sufficient in their own homes. The children were loved with fruit (sent in by Stephen and I and others who donate to the cause from our church) and healthy play from trustworthy men.

I was unable to go on those trips because of the concern that I would be left alone while the men worked on homes. No other woman was willing and able to go those years, but this year God put it on the hearts of not one, but 6 other ladies to go with me, including an amazing, godly, heroic, local Eskimo woman named Dorcas we got to know on our first trip in 2012, who now lives in Nome, Alaska.

By early spring of this year 8 men and most of the women were committed to the 4th trip our church was doing on St. Lawrence. The locals largely live off the land, and the local store is hit-or-miss with an incredibly expensive assortment of items that make it impossible to plan consistent meals for anyone not accustomed to eating whale or walrus. With me able to go on the trip, we decided rather than hiring an Alaskan missions organization to prepare and bring our food for us, we could plan for and bring that on our own too. The logistics of 4 days just for travel to and from Gambell for a total of 14 people, bedding, food for 6 days, and the gathering and packing of tools and materials needed for home repairs, among about a million other details and pre-trip meetings and phone calls, had Stephen working with every moment he could give for months to make it all happen. The new influx of women on the trip meant supplies and plans had to be made for outreach to woman and VBS for children. Plumbing for sewage is not available in the section of town where the Gambell church building sits, so work went into arranging access to flush toilets for the women, while supplies for a home-depot bucket, bathroom situation for the men were also flown in. This is just the tip of the nearby iceberg, but hopefully the readers of this blog entry are beginning to realize the logistical miracle pulling this trip off was for those involved.

Let’s jump back for a minute and think about the lives we are leaving behind for this trip. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can speak to Stephen’s career, limited vacation time, and our 4 young children among many other responsibilities that must be considered and closely managed. Our children sacrifice for this trip too. They have to give up some financial flexibility due to the cost of the trip as well as prep and travel time with Stephen and I without growing bitter or feeling sorry for themselves, and that requires visiting and revisiting the reasons why family sacrifices like these are worth it. When a child is pouting because they are told “No” to a new pool toy or day at a trampoline gym with their friends because Alaska must be paid for, or when they are having to entertain themselves at home for pre-trip shopping trips, phone calls and then ultimately two weeks without us for the actual trip, it takes time to walk them back through the reasons it’s worth the sacrifice.

Christ did so much for us in laying down his life for a world filled with hopeless failures, during such a brutal moment in history, in order to bring us redemption, hope, peace, strength. . . We must be careful never to feel sorry for ourselves for sacrificing Earth’s temporary comforts for an opportunity to share our blessings with a message of hope to those God puts in our lives. Sometimes that’s as simple as taking a meal across the street, but sometimes it gets more complicated. If you’re a “believer”, there is only room for gratitude that God puts us in a place to bless others despite our natural depravity. We struggle with depression, insecurities, a compulsion to lie or lust or have bad attitudes about this and that, and then God says, “Remember how my love and mercy are enough to cover for all of that? Go tell those people about my redeeming and perfectly, excessively overflowing love to them right where they are.” In consideration of that, giving into fear or a temptation to feel self-pity is a victory for the Enemy of any work of redemption or ministry to a world who is desperate to see the grace and mercy of a loving God.

If you ask my kids, they already get it. If you catch them when they are in the mood to talk about it, they will actually beam with joy over how excited they are to be a part of it all. We have them help pack and sort and pray. Oh, and do they ever take the part they play in prayer seriously. Just because they are children doesn’t mean they are impotent to help carry the message of love and hope to others. They are part of this with us. They are already empowered to serve and see the most satisfying fruits of their sacrifices.

Well, I think that brings me up to the actual details of this year’s trip and ends part one of “How the Heck Does a Georgian Homeschool Mom and a Software Consultant Keep Ending Up in Arctic Alaska?” The details of the trip itself knock my socks off. What happened there was so ginormously bigger than me or any of us on our team that it speaks for itself of a God who is so present in our lives that he could never be denied or argued away by any brainiac atheist. Undeniable. I am changed again. Till part two. . .

(Here are a few photos, but many more are available if you want to contact me directly.)

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The kids helped a lot with food prep for the 15 people and numerous villagers who were fed during the trip.

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Stephen and the other men play out in the open with the children we love so much on the island.

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One of the houses Stephen and the men on our team built an extra, plywood room in the back section of this home that burned in 2002. A family of 8 has lived in one front room ever since.

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Stephen reading a bible story and discussing it with an adorable child.

 

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Headed out to pick arctic greens on the side of a mountain with our fearless and amazing Siberian Yupic friend for senior citizens on the island who can no longer do so.

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Native Siberian Yupic, Dorcas, and I holding hands on our first, sobering unsuccessful attempt at getting into Gambell, Alaska in fog and storms on our bush flight.

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The form of transportation on the island. In the winter it is snow machines.

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We left the island in sea of hugs and tears. An epic moment.

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Our team eating dinner. Only one native made it into this picture, but many other joined us.

Hurt People Hurt People

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I am a careful, deliberately, protective parent. Overprotective? Maybe. Whatever. Who cares?

The world is fraught with miseries and my main goal as a mother is to instruct my children on how to avoid falling victim to those miseries. To be clear, to me those miseries aren’t necessary a result of material poverties, a health epidemic, or even persecution. They are more painful than that, more desperate. They are spiritual, mental, emotional and relational poverties.

The bearers of these poverties are those who live feeling perpetually victimized by political policies, conspiracy theories, bad drivers, critical family members or coworkers. . . anyone who disagrees with or inconveniences them and their fragile senses of well-being. Oh, our society and churches are filled with these people. . . Sometimes it’s me. . . Might be you.

What am I demonstrating to my children if I pridefully ridicule another driver for mistakes or selfish maneuvers I am certain I have pulled at some point in my life? Am I making powerless victims of my children when I rant and rage and complain bitterly from my living room or blog from my office about political policies and societal ills? What am I teaching my children when I cast merciless judgment on the actions of our neighbors or fellow church members or our friends. . . when there is little to no faith or grace in my words and attitudes?

When I do those things, I am teaching them to feel like victims, to feel powerless, to feel self-entitled. I am feeding them anger and rage and fears and anxieties and bitterness. . .There is no shortage of these feelings and attitudes in the world. One does not have to look far, or even past ourselves to see them.

However, there is this passage in the bible that slays me and all my natural, self-righteous, self-entitled impulses. Gal:5:22-12, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

This is my inheritance, my yardstick for spiritual maturity, the support beams for my temple, built on my foundation of faith. These are my gifts even when the world is failing me. I can watch societies fall, let drivers cut me off, endure when governments strip my rights, bear up under ridicule and judgment from others because of these precious gifts. Others can sin with no regret and that does not have to leave me feeling unstable. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress. In Him will I trust, “ and no other. (Ps 94:22) It’s not the republicans, or the police force, or new legislation of any kind. This peace, this patience, this kindness, this goodness, this faithfulness, this self-control. . . It comes from the Lord as our gift despite our circumstances.

So I teach my children compassion, and overprotect them from those who cast self-righteous, merciless judgments. I want them to see the world through this compassionate lens that so compelled God to send His one and only son to die for us. . . for me. . . for homosexuals. . . for liberals and conservatives . . for selfish drivers. . . .for gossipers. . . We are not victims of a world set against us. Because of His love and grace, and NOT because our political party won or that bad driver was ticketed, Romans 8:37 says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

When people are hurting, they hurt others. It is those who give in to their compulsion to hurt and hang onto an entitlement to earthly comforts and validation from others, and deny forgiveness, mercy and grace to others who need it just as much as we need it for ourselves, who end up hurting others and perpetuation the problem.

The power goes to those who can break that vicious cycle with compassion, mercy, grace and all of those delicious and liberating fruit declared in Galatians. The victors are those who see imperfections in others and the world and offer them the same grace, compassion, mercy, and fruit that we ourselves crave for our own imperfections. Since we live on earth and not in heaven we cannot achieve heaven or perfection in ourselves or others or our circumstances or societies. We can only seek the Lord and his sufficiency to bless us with spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational health in the midst of external suffering.

One last thing, this is not a call to sit cross legged in compassion circles and sing “kumbaya.” Action is needed. Actively reaching out and serving others is key. Sharing our hope through Christ is cornerstone. This is simply call to stop complaining, stop raging, stop with demanding our self-entitlements, and start nourishing a starving world with the nutritious fruit of the Holy Spirit it needs in order to see Christ in us. . .

Lord, I surrender every part of my life to you. Use me that others might see the liberating, victorious truths of your Word in my life.

Romans 8

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Blogging About My Issues With Blogging

Oh, friends, would I ever love to get back into blogging on a regular basis. Here’s the problem that repeatedly stalls any progress toward actually doing it; I can’t find a single topic that meets my ever expanding set of self-imposed rules for writing things I don’t end up feeling terrible about. I have started many blog updates and have subsequently deleted them all when I realize they offend one if not all of my ideals. I’m stalled. I’m stumped. I have a passion, but it’s got major problems.
So, I’ve decided to open myself up to the thoughts of others by posting these self-imposed rules of mine and potentially hearing what others think of them. I would also be curious to hear what, if anything, people would read of mine if I did go back to writing more regularly.
Self-imposed Rules for Blogging:
  1. I don’t want to portray myself as a perfect, super-spiritual, know-it-all, intimidating, stay-at-home-mom. I’m not, and no one should subject themselves to reading stuff like that.
  2. Conversely, I don’t want to throw myself, my children, or my husband under the bus by posting about our many shortcomings, even for altruistic reasons. That kind of stuff makes me do what I call a “compassion cringe”. My heart goes out to the families with moms who air too much before children are old enough to consent, or wives who don’t realize how poorly husband bashing reflects on themselves. . . Though, I know I am personally guilty of having done some level of this before. . .
  3. I should not act like I am an expert on anything since I am not an expert on anything.
  4. I don’t ever want my children to feel like they have to comply with some kind of ideal simply because of how I have portrayed them or our family to others. I don’t want to post “Here’s how to be a happy, loving, creative, God-centered, family” blogs and then have to figure out how to handle a kid making decisions that fly in the face of that image. I also  don’t want to give a rebellious child the power to destroy any image I’ve built up.  Chances are one of my children will at least temporarily do things their own way, and I need to feel free to let that happen without feeling like I’m yet another example of “good parenting gone wrong”, or “posers get exposed”. I’d just rather be an example of “I tried my best even when there are no guarantees” parenting.
  5. It feels to me that everything there is to write about, has already been written about, and not only written about, but beaten to a bloody death all over the ground. Anyone can just share their every thought, however unhealthy, however amazing, at any moment of any day, and so, many, many of us do. If I googled it, I am sure I could find a blog or fifty about this exact same topic floating around not too many clicks away from my own. What is left to say?
  6. I won’t blog for self validation. Oh, that feels so egomaniacal, and I’m really, really trying to break free from viewing the world through the lens of my own insecurities or selfish wants and needs as an individual. The world is bigger than me and my problems, blessings, or giftings, so I should write like it.
  7. Several times in the past I have found myself enjoying a situation or even creating a situation simply because of the blog post it would make. EEK! I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to blog about life, not live to blog.
  8. I don’t want a post to make me or my family feel vulnerable to painful scrutiny. Is avoiding that even possible?
So why would I bother blogging at all?
  1. I love it.
  2. It motivates me sort through my thoughts.
  3. I think it’s cool when others benefit, at times, from my ramblings.
  4. I love reading back through them to see personal growth I might not have noticed otherwise.
  5. I love the record of moments that should never been forgotten.
  6. Others sometimes ask me to.
So, with rare exception, I’ve spent the last few years sorting through my rules rather than writing and now I’m opening them up to you if you care to contribute. Many thanks to my beloved SIL, Natalie, beautiful cousin Jessica, and dazzling new friend Elizabeth, all fellow bloggers, for their wise insights into this topic already.

Stage

2013 Christmas Newletter Review while we work on 2014.

I wanted to take a minute this morning to back up something that is very precious to me in yet another way. I want these files to be saved everywhere they can be saved so I never lose them. While the kids and I work our 2014 Christmas newsletter, we reviewed last years. We all laughed as I read through their articles, and I also cried at points while the kids looked at each other awkwardly. There are several typos in this that never got corrected in the JPG version, which is unfortunate, but we all get the point. I absolutely can not WAIT until our 2014 newsletter is ready to publish. Blessings on you and yours!!

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