Saturday, 20 September 2014

Approaching Adventure

I observed such a fascinating thing today.  And it summed up all three of my boys so precisely that I couldn't help but write about it.

We needed some fresh air today.  We were craving the wild spaces.  The boys needed to be able to shout and holler.  They needed to make wolf cries and throw sticks.  They needed to lift heavy logs and climb trees.  Their bodies had to slip and slide down muddy hills, doing stunts and landing upside down.  Sometimes there is nothing else that will do.  So, despite the drizzle, we headed out to the nearby hills.  

We found beauty in wet, glistening cobwebs.  We laughed at knobbly bits on trees that looked rude.  We threw sticks up into chestnut trees to make the conkers fall down.  We stamped, rolled, lifted and climbed.  Oh, how we needed the freedom.

And then we found this 'awesome' tree which was asking to be climbed.

With a leg up, all three boys managed to climb and explore.  They breathed in the high up air, which is so much more liberating than the air on the ground.  They pulled each other up and congratulated one another.

And then it was time to move on and get down.

Toby, the cautious risk taker, assessed the situation searching for the best way down.  "What do you think, Dad?  Is it about 2.5 metres?" he asked as he peered over the branches.

Max laughed and launched himself out from behind Toby. "What do you mean 2.5 metres?  I'm just gonna jump!" he hollered as he landed and rolled across the wet leaves.

Meanwhile Jonah had found a 'throne' in the tree and sat quietly, watching his brother's responses and trying to gauge his own.  "I'm not getting down." He declared. "I'm going to live here."

Eventually, after much huffing and puffing, Toby made it down the tree by holding on carefully and sliding down.

Jonah was the last climber left.  "Dad!  Will you catch me?"  He found a safe place to jump from, but not onto the far away ground like his brother.  He would only jump when he could see his Dad's arms were ready and strong enough to catch him.  When he was satisfied, he leapt into the safety of his father's arms.

I have never witnessed such a truer representation of the way my boys approach risk-taking and it made me understand that we must teach them differently and treat them individually when we are faced with larger risks than an enormous tree.  

It doesn't mean we must never take the risks, it means that our job as parents is to help them approach the adventure they were made for in the way that is best for them.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A little potted history and why we don't have to be super.

Growing up, I devoured biographies about missionaries.  I was so inspired by the likes of Jackie Pullinger, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, William Carey and so many more.

As a student, my bedroom was decorated with an enormous world map and the walls were littered with quotes from missionaries who had given up everything to serve God in another nation.  I woke every morning to this prayer next to my bed:

'I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept your will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to You to be Yours forever.  Fill me and seal me with your Holy Spirit.  Use me as you want, send me where you want, work out your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.'

This prayer was written by Betty Scott Stam, who served as a missionary in China and was marched naked through the streets and then murdered in 1934 shortly after hiding her baby daughter to protect her life.

I lived and breathed these incredible stories of courage and sacrifice.  

For me, following Jesus meant there was no other way to live.

Despite having 'settled' with three children for the last 13 years, these stories have continued to gnaw their uncomfortable teeth into the relative comfort of my world and they still make up a fundamental part of who I am.

That honest and powerful prayer is still written at the front of my bible.  There have been times when I have chosen to ignore it, but deep down I am still that girl who yearns to just be obedient to her God whenever and wherever he calls her.  That strand, woven into me so young, has wound it's way around the rest of my life and has made me the woman I am today.

But here's the problem.  When I look again at those tough, sacrificial people who spent years in remote jungles with no Facebook or Skype; when I read again about women living on their own in the middle of huge drug dens; when I remember stories of diseases rampaging and eight week boat journeys I wonder if those people are some kind of 'super-Christians'.

How can any normal person attempt anything like that?  How can I, so flawed and often so lacking in faith, say 'yes' to the call to something so far removed from any comfort zone I have ever known?  I'm no 'super-Christian'.  I shout at my children (shhh). I get cross with people who leave dog poo on the pavement.  I like to be comfortable.  I don't like spicy food.  I get tired and irritable.  I don't like camping in a tent for a week so I'd never be able to live in a mud hut for endless years.  I'm not super.  I'm just me!

And then I realised I don't have to be super.  In fact, there's no such thing as a 'super-Christian'.  All those people I read about were normal too, but they were following a super-God.  I don't have to be super.  I don't have to perform or look like I'm a very holy and sacrificial person to others.  I just have to love and follow my super God who was more than enough for those people who left everything to answer his call and He will be more than enough for me too.

He's enough.  And that's all that matters.  

So when He calls us to do something scary, whether it's boarding a plane to a far off country or showing kindness to a neighbour, we can say 'yes'.  It's not about us, it's about Him.  He's the one who gives us all we need and He's the one to receive the credit.

And, of course, a blog about my favourite missionaries wouldn't be right if I didn't end with one of my favourite quotes.  William Carey, a normal shoemaker turned Baptist missionary, lived in India for 41 years.  Often referred to as God's plodder, there were no big stages and bright lights for him but he loved faithfully adventuring with his God.  He said this:

'Attempt great things for God.  Expect great things from God.'

Let's live attempting great things knowing we don't have to be perfect, because we know the perfect One will give us all we need and more.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Tell me what makes a man....

During one of our long car journeys this summer, we managed to have a family philosophical conversation instead of the usual whining, arguing, 'are we there yet's and wee stops. It was so refreshing.  

Interested in the culture of muscles and brute (and with the old Take That song singing inside my head) I asked the boys this question:

What do you think makes someone manly?

Their answers surprised me.

1. A man can burp over 100 decibels. (Ok, that one didn't surprise me.)
2. A man is strong enough to cry.
3. A man is not bothered by what other people think.
4. A man is courageous.
5. A man is sacrificial.
6. A man knows he is weak but knows the God of all strength.
7. A man has a good friendship with God.
8. A man is able to walk away from a fight.
9. A man works hard and finishes a job he has started.
10. A man is wise like Jesus.
11. A man is humble enough not to win every argument and puts others first.
12. A man can pop his pecs. 

What a list!  In all their boyish fun about farts (and lighting said farts), burps and boobies, they shocked me with their wisdom.  

What would you add to the list?