Monday, January 26, 2015

If it Hadn't Been for that One Monday in January

Do you ever play the "What If" game? Trying to imagine how life would have taken a much different path if not for one seemingly small event that wound up changing everything?

When I do indulge in this game, it is most often in December or January.

I sometimes wonder how my life would have turned out if it hadn't been for a particular Monday night in January 1997 ...

What if Pastor Johnson had never agreed to meet with us?

What if my friend had never made that life-altering phone call?

How would our lives have been different ...?


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I possibly would have gone through with the scheduled abortion. If so, MacKenzie would never have been born. Oh my, how I cannot imagine life without this precious daughter who brings so much joy and laughter to our days!

But MacKenzie is not the only child who would be missing from our lives. Corrie. Isaac. Samuel. Destiny. Michael Ray. Half of our family would be absent!

Amanda had already moved in with her dad the same day Terry had moved out, on New Year's Day. Stephanie, Emily, Haley and I would have continued on as best we could.

I'm convinced that Terry would have remarried. I've thought about that aspect quite a bit. How agonizing it would have been to see my husband happily enjoying life with someone else. Sharing his hopes, his dreams, his fears with another. Married to a woman who would not only take my place in my husband's arms, but who also would be mothering my daughters. The two of them would have picked up my little girls on Friday evenings to spend fun weekends together; making plans and wonderful memories. All ... without Mommy.

I would have found a job, most likely as a restaurant manager, working at least 50 hours a week, including many evenings away from my daughters. My focus would have been on earning enough money to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Three little girls probably would've viewed daddy and his new wife as fun and cool and much more enjoyable to be with than a tired, grumpy mommy whose standard answer would be "NO". "No, you can't have your friends over; I'm too tired." "No; we can't afford it." "No, you can't be involved in that; I have to work."

I cannot imagine that I would have remarried. I mean, even if there had been a decent man who would have considered marrying a woman with four young daughters, I doubt that I would have been up to the challenge for a third marriage.

Besides, bitterness, depression, and jealousy don't leave much room in the heart for love.

This bleak world that exists only in the dark recesses of my mind also eventually includes rebellious, promiscuous teenage daughters and out-of-wedlock grandbabies. I can almost feel the pain and heartbreak of this tragic, imaginary life.

A life that could have become my reality.

But ...

And this is the part where I begin praising God for that last Monday in January 1997; the first of many life-changing Monday nights!

This is when my eyes well with tears as my heart overflows with gratitude to my Lord and Savior for pouring out His grace and mercy on us; for saving my soul, for rescuing my family out of the miry pit, and for putting our feet on the path to abundant life in Him.

Thank You Lord, for sending a godly Pastor that Monday evening to counsel us; a wise man of Your choosing, with a servant's heart, who was willing to step down into the trenches with us to show us the One Way out of the pit we had dug for ourselves.

The stage had been set long before that night, of course. Our hearts had been drawn and prepped to receive the truth that would be shared with us. 

But I will always hold a special fondness of remembrance in my heart ...

For the last Monday in January. 

Photo of Pastor and me, during one of those Monday nights in 1997.

Is there a particular day, event, or season that causes you to reflect on the goodness of God?


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Friday, January 23, 2015

Raising Counter-Cultural Sons: What We Encourage

Last week in the post Raising Counter-Cultural Sons: What We DON'T Allow, I shared with you the activities we have decided to forego in raising our sons to be wise and godly men. Some of you may be wondering (and a few have asked), "What on earth do you allow these boys to do?!" 


Here are some of the activities and hobbies we encourage our boys to pursue:


4-H

Each of our children have been involved in 4-H since we moved to the country ten years ago. Contrary to popular misconceptions, 4-H is not just about farm animals. Our boys have taken projects in electrical, small engines, woodworking, and cooking. As a result of a 4-H trip to the local airport two years ago (and again this past summer) in which the children were privy to rides in small airplanes, Sam has decided he wants to be a missionary pilot! The airport even has a program for children in which they will train and assist him in getting his pilot's license!

When Sam told this pilot his plans for the future, the man spent extra time instructing him.

In addition to learning new skills via excellent manuals, we also encourage each of our children at some point to hold "office". This year eleven year old Samuel is serving as our club's Devotion Leader. 


Woodworking

4-H was instrumental in introducing the boys to the wonderful world of woodworking, of which Isaac has taken a great interest. As Terry works at a lumber yard, he often brings home discarded wood, as well as getting good deals on lumber. The past few years Isaac has learned to properly and safely use his daddy's tools to create some amazing projects!

Handcrafted by 13 year old Isaac.
Anytime the girls decide they need a new piece of furniture, they usually go to Isaac.

Car Repair and Maintenance

Terry has taught the boys everything from how to replace wiper blades, burned-out light bulbs and change flat tires, to how to check and change the oil, replace fluids, and charge the battery. Isaac has also helped his dad test and change spark plugs, replace the brakes, and grease the ball bearings. Both boys enjoying tinkering under the hood!


Electrical and Plumbing

Both boys have learned a lot in 4-H regarding electrical. Isaac recently changed out his bedroom ceiling fan by himself! 

The boys were a bit younger when we installed a new septic system, but they both understand how it works. Isaac has been responsible to clean out all the drains in the bathroom and kitchen for the past several years.


Construction and Home Remodeling

Our house is a continual work in progress. All the children have been involved in each remodeling project, including the attic renovation several years ago. 


That's Isaac in the 'coon skin cap! 

With the boys' help Terry has been replacing all of our old windows. This past summer Isaac made a new ceiling for our mud room and he, Sam and I are planning a major demolition (which we all enjoy!) of mine and Terry's bedroom next week. 


Guns and Weaponry

We do allow Michael to play with toy guns, but not projectile toys (the ones that shoot plastic bbs, darts, or even marshmallows). 

We want the boys to understand that pointing a gun and shooting at something (or someone) is serious business. The older boys have both used a real bb gun for target practice and last year for his birthday, Isaac received his first .22 rifle.

The boys began carrying knives when they turned 10 and they use them responsibly. 

Isaac enjoys bow hunting as well.


Music and Art

We desire for all of our children to play at least one instrument. Isaac really enjoys playing the guitar (he is taking lessons from big sis Stephanie, who teaches him in a class with his buddy Robbie). Isaac also has a bass and we are hoping he will be able to play with The Long Family Singers soon.

Sam plays piano and enjoys making up his own songs. He is also interested in learning guitar and violin in the future.

Both boys enjoy drawing (Isaac draws horses and Sam usually draws military battle scenes). They also enjoy decorating their bedroom with various things they create.


Reading

Sam enjoys exciting adventure stories but Isaac has always been a bit of a reluctant reader. With this in mind, imagine my surprise last year when I discovered Isaac reading a rather thick book on deer hunting. More recently he has been reading a book that was a birthday gift from a good friend, titled "Survive!", which teaches "essential skills and tactics to get you out of anywhere--alive".


Sports and Physical Exercise

While we don't participate in organized sports, the boys do play football, baseball, broom ball (played on ice), kickball, volleyball, and Ultimate Frisbee with their friends at gatherings. Both boys also enjoy running and Isaac joined several of us in running a 5K in 2013

Our homeschool group has an annual Track and Field Day in May each year, a favorite activity for all our children.

Toys

Most of their toys consist of building supplies such as legos, blocks, Lincoln Logs and K'Nex.

Sam's creativity as demonstrated in these aircraft that he designed.
They also enjoy board games such as 10 Days in the USA, Battleship, Settlers of Catan, and Risk.

Time in the Woods

A favorite way for our boys to spend an afternoon is exploring the woods, working on one of their many forts in "Settler's Camp" or hanging out in a teepee in "Cherokee Village" (they have mapped out the woods!). And of course everyone enjoys swimming and playing in the summer in the creek that runs through our property. 

Work

Terry and I both desire that our sons grow to be diligent, dependable, hard-working men. This doesn't "just happen", but rather requires us as parents to look beyond the present, keeping an eye on future goals, and then taking daily steps toward those goals. It is true that this mindset doesn't allow for a lot of amusing entertainment or frivolous pastimes. But through the years, we've discovered that a boy who lacks a sense of purpose and has nothing profitable to occupy his time is a boy who will quickly get into trouble. 

Whether they are chopping and stacking wood, push-mowing the property, tilling the garden, or helping to build a deck onto our house, our sons are learning to be good workers. 


They know how to work hard. And they know how to play hard when the work is done.

What pursuits have you found to be productive as your sons grow?


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