Do you ever have days where it seems like the devil is fighting you constantly? Does it feel as if you literally take two steps forward and one step back......or vice versa? Does it seem like there is a constant barrage of negativity coming your way from media, relatives, the world, your friends, and even inanimate objects surrounding you?
This weekend has been like that for our family and our church. Friday night, Amanda and Katie were invited to a birthday party. They've been friends with these girls for years and were excited to go. When I dropped them off at the birthday girl's house, however, I noticed that there were a couple of teenage guys there. (See where this is going?) Chad and I had assumed that this would be an all-girls party, and I was dismayed to find the boys present. I tried to brush aside my concerns, thinking that these are the same guys in their youth department and in school---no harm, right? When I got home and talked with my husband, I found that he agreed with me: we just didn't like the idea of having guys and girls at a party together. There were adults present (her mom and dad, at the least), and I'm sure everyone just had a good time, but I couldn't shake the feeling of unease. Chad concurred and decided to go get the girls early. He said Mandie and Katie both agreed readily to leave early, saying their goodbyes and getting in the car without complaint. In the car, Chad explained why he had picked them up before the party was over, and at home we discussed our reasons as well. Our girls, bless their hearts, were somewhat confused but obedient. Dad tried to make it clear that, on a well-chaperoned activity sponsored by our church or school, we have no problem with guys and girls having fun together. But no guys at parties! I think they understood our concerns---not wanting to leave any room for couples to misbehave---although they may have chafed under this new rule. As I told them, we are setting boundaries based on what we believe is best and safest......especially considering we have, not just one, but four daughters to rear properly! They know we love them and desire God's best for their lives, and that helps them adhere to our sometimes strict guidelines.
We have had quite a few "discussions" lately within our family on a variety of subjects, ranging from pants on women to multiple piercings to tattoos to boyfriends in high school to following God's instructions whole-heartedly. Chad and I have explained from the Bible why we believe what we believe so that our children will understand why we live the way we do. It may seem peculiar to others; it may seem excessive; but we are simply following God's Word to the best of our abilities. And the girls know that, when they become adults and are on their own, they are free to make their own decisions. In fact, I encouraged them during this latest family meeting to search the Scriptures to find what God wants them to do in every area. If, when they are grown, they read the Bible and do not agree with us that women should not wear pants, that is their decision. We will respect that, just as we expect them to respect our beliefs as long as they are in our home. Their decisions will not change our love for them, and they know this. But, they need to stand on their own convictions, and to do this, they need to know what they believe. Too often, people make decisions based on what they want to do rather than what God says. And, there is a difference between convictions and preferences. I told Katie, "If someone were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to get a tattoo or die, I would get a tattoo. If they were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to renounce the Bible or die, I would die." Some things are worth dying for; others are not. It seems, as the girls get older, that we have these discussions more often; but that's not a bad thing. It's simply part of growing up and moving toward independence. Yet it is one major way the devil attacks families, seeking to pull them apart. And we know Satan is always on the attack.
Our church suffered some trouble this Sunday as well---bus trouble. We had four buses break down! This was nearly catastrophic. One route didn't get picked up at all; the route my girls are on only got to bring three people---and that was by car. They spent part of the morning broken down by the side of the road and then spent a lot more time on the phone to bus parents, stating that there was no way their child could be picked up for Sunday school. One bus that broke down couldn't even make it up the hill in front of our church; it couldn't go past an idle. They had to let it coast back down into the parking lot and simply shut it off. With another of the broken-down buses, they thought to replace it with a bus that was in the shop. However, once they had that bus on the road, its brakes seized up. Kind of hard to drive like that! All in all, bus attendance was way down Sunday, and there were several noticeable absences in the church as various bus captains and workers simply couldn't get back to church for the services.
Then, during the evening service, we lost power to our public address system. The pulpit microphone worked as did the platform monitors, but no one past the middle of the auditorium could hear very well and those in the back and in the balcony couldn't hear at all. The problem is thought to be in an amplifier somewhere (I know less about this stuff than I do about our van's engine!); the PA guys tried turning everything off and back on again quickly to see if this would fix the problem......but it didn't work. The platform monitors were turned around to project toward the congregation, but even that didn't help much. Since we sit on the front row, we didn't have a problem hearing the sermon; but it must have been a looooong service for those who couldn't hear anything. And it was a good sermon, too! Pastor Minge taught about the young man who fell asleep during Paul's lengthy sermon and fell out of the window. Paul performed a miracle, restoring the young man's life---and then went right back to preaching! Pastor warned us not to be "asleep" like that young man but to be awake and aware of God's work in our lives and to be vigilant against becoming satisfied with our Christian walk. Like I said, it was a good sermon; too bad only half the auditorium could hear it!
And so we come to today........ We are going about our normal activities, meaning Dale and I are doing schoolwork and the girls are lazing about. That's not entirely true; they have been getting ready for school, packing their backpacks with the supplies we just got on Saturday. They know the clock is ticking down---only two more weeks before school starts. Still, I think they are ready to get back to work. Dale gets next week off for "vacation" so he gets a chance to vegetate some before officially starting eighth grade.
Chad has had an interesting day. He called this morning to say he was on the side of the road with a blown-out tire. This is an inconvenience that must be endured, but it seems to happen more frequently with these gravel trucks. I think their tires are just subjected to more: rough tracks, lots of rocks, heavy loads, etc. Unfortunately, Chad called again this afternoon, saying the newly-replaced tire had just blown out! The mechanic had put on what seemed to Chad to be an old tire; he said it looked beat-up already! Sure enough, it couldn't handle the pressure and blew out, so Chad's on the side of the road again awaiting the mechanic. Wonder what he'll do this time.........
Dale has been doing pretty well walking this week. We took a "field trip" on Thursday to the mall for some fun. We had to drop off a paper at the doctor's office on the way and then stop at the vision center to order new lenses for Katie's glasses. (Did I tell you about that? We thought we could go to Wal-Mart to get new glasses for Katie. I had called our insurance who had assured us that our plan would cover that. As it turns out, the optometrist at Wal-Mart took our insurance to cover the actual exam, but Wal-Mart itself wouldn't take it for the frames and lenses. What a ridiculous setup! Katie had her heart set on certain frames, only to be told that we'd have to pay out of pocket for them. So, on Thursday, we stopped at the Group Health Vision Center to try to get new glasses. The only frames plus lenses that our insurance would completely cover were not appealing to Katie, so we opted to just put new lenses into her old frames.) Anyway, Dale walked around the mall very well and had fun, even though he fell three times! The girls got to look through Claire's again (favorite store!), and Amanda bought everyone a snack lunch at the food court's McDonald's. Then, on Saturday, we went to Wal-Mart to get school supplies and groceries. Again, Dale did really well even in such a crowded, noisy environment. Praise the Lord!
We are excited to see what this coming school year will hold for each of us. Amanda will be a senior, Katie in 10th, Dale in 8th, Ashley in 6th, and Emily in 1st. (She is so excited about not taking any more naps at school! Wouldn't we love to be able to just kick back and rest for an hour or so in the middle of the day?) For now, I will just be used on an as-needed basis---relieving teachers for break duty, grading papers, maybe stepping into a class to sub while the teacher runs an errand. My ability to teach/help out depends quite a bit still on what Dale is able to do. The first few weeks will be quite an adjustment for him as he gets used to being back in an actual classroom with different teachers. Please pray with us that he will do well and continue to improve.
By the way, thank you, Susan, for your recent donation. We greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness toward us. Every little bit definitely helps! ;-)
God bless each of you wonderful people who are continuing this journey with us. May you receive the same benefits of prayer and support as you have shown us.
Psalm 25: 1 - 4 "Unto Thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in Thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths."