Baptism & my children: going Ukrainian

One thing that only recently dawned on me is that, when I was choosing Ukraine in missions and marriage … well, whenever I imagined my children, I imagined them like me, American. I didn’t see coming that they would be so involved in and influenced by Ukrainian life and culture. They are, much more than other children who have two American parents.

So one way this has touched us is in the question of baptism. I am surprised how Vitaliy and I have never even discussed this, at all, ever, not before nor after we married.

I think I just understand, after 17 years in Ukraine, why Ukrainian churches do baptism like they do, so I don’t even really mind it being that way for my kids.

So, in Ukraine, no one is baptized until about 15 years of age, maybe a bit earlier, in some cases, but even 15 is young.

Considering the persecution they used to live under, I understand this. It was a very responsible choice. I am not familiar with Mennonite beliefs/practices, but it might be influenced by that, too, as they historically had a big influence in Ukraine, too.

Baptism here gives one the ability to 1. be a church member 2. take communion, 3. marry another believer.

But another thing is that they don’t really evangelize children, by that I mean, pressing children to pray a sinner’s prayer or things like that. They teach them the Bible, memorize verses, but they don’t press them to make a decision.

At 43, I’m OK not judging that. I haven’t pressed my own children, though, and that is probably a result of Ukrainian culture on me. And my own experience of having a child’s faith for many years, but not saving faith until around 12 years old.

I teach my kids the Bible, that they are a sinner, and Jesus is their Savior, not only from the punishment for their sin, but from the sin they want to do right now. I assume they will be saved, and I speak to them that way, and frame it also as a choice they need/will need to make. They want to believe in the gospel, and they do to the level each is able. It’s kind of hard to put all this into words.

But I wanted to write it out somewhere, because I was recently talking to someone in an international marriage, about how we have adopted the culture of my husband in this issue. And she’d never thought about how they were going to address that either.

midlife: not solving the tension, but living with it

So, after all this writing, reading, thinking, here’s what I’m realizing.

It’s a tension I can’t solve by making one choice or another. This has been frustrating me for a long time because I’ve been assuming that I could make some series of life choices that would be perfect.

Like, I could find some trail of choices that would make me perfectly fulfilled and not regretful of anything.

But what is dawning on me, is that it will never be that way, no matter what I choose. (Well, I mean I’m not even considering some options, like choosing to dump my family and “follow my heart.” I mean, poop, how elusive and confusing is my “heart”?)

I’m talking about choosing between valid, responsible choices. Like, should I start studying to be a midwife? Or should I invest myself more into understanding home education?

I’m between two mountains. On the one hand, my kids will all be gone in the next 7-14 years. So, do I want to invest myself more heartily into this “one go” I have with them?

The second mountain is that I’m 43. If I postpone midwifery for another 10 years, or indefinitely, then the chances of coming back to it and/or having a meaningful practice are shrinking proportionally.

Last week, I was leaning towards midwifery. This week I’m leaning towards my kids.

But here’s what I’ve realized, and what may actually be the release from this slow torture: That either choice will have imperfections. Regrets. Joys. Fulfillments and disappointments.

So, in one sense, it doesn’t matter what I choose. I can stop trying to find the perfect life fulfillment. It doesn’t exist.

I have a friend who has kids and a career, and it has a lot of agonies, worries, unfulfillments….

Jesus exists. And maybe where all this winding trail is going. He is more than enough for life fulfillment. Not a profession or career, or kids or whatever.

I think one benefit of this midlife exploration is that, whatever I choose to do with the rest of my life, shrinking as that time is, is that I will learn to value what I have now . That might be the whole purpose of this life exercise.

midlife: teenagers

Not everyone has teens in midlife, but most of us do.

I’ve been avoiding studying this, like, sheesh, I loved studying pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, that’s my thing….. But then I had to study non-punitive parenting, ages and stages, yada yada. And that was a huge transformation.

So now, for about a year, it’s been niggling me that things are changing again, and we have a teenager, and soon we’ll have more, and I need to get myself in a better place with understanding what’s going on and how I can parent well through this stage. Because it’s becoming …. hard.

So yesterday, at a used book store, I started this course of study with two books.

I also want to read Paul Tripp’s Age of Opportunity.

So I’ve started Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, and I’m learning things already. Imagine that.

my home schooling phases: Idealistic, frustrated, reluctant, thankful

Honest confession: I didn’t want to be around my kids all day long when they were little.

I say this because I heard veteran home school moms talk about one main reason they home schooled being that they just enjoyed being around their kids so much, and it would be too sad to send them away to school each day.

So now, at 43 (am I 43? not 42? …. I never could understand why my dad had to count his age up from his birth year…. yikes), I’m ready to confess that I didn’t enjoy my kids so much when they were young. I eventually learned to enjoy them (by studying a lot about developmental ages/stages, getting lots of training ideas, getting out of a punitive mindset, I’m so thankful to God for that transformation). I still don’t enjoy everything, to be honest. But I enjoy a lot. And I enjoy it a lot more than I did.

I didn’t come into home schooling as it being something radical or different to do. That all happened in the 70s and 80s in the States.

It was already an ideal for me. Which might have contributed to other issues/expectations I struggled with.

Because I couldn’t do my ideals. There were moments of it though. (Well, now that I look back on it, it was fairly ideal, though it didn’t seem like it at the time.) Like the year the girls and I would go to the mall and sit at a huge table, and I would read aloud to them forever while they worked on crafts. That was fun, looking back upon it.

Insert: I don’t like the phrase “enjoy the moment” applied to everything in life. There are plenty of worthy moments I don’t enjoy. I enjoy the memory. Or I enjoy the sense of accomplishment. But in the moment, I could just ditch it all if I feel compelled that I must also enjoy myself.

I enjoy a lot of things in retrospect 😀

I “enjoy” that I home schooled, looking back, even in the months I wasn’t having the time of my life by a long shot. For example, doing Jewish holidays felt kinda frustrating and underwhelming and unappreciated. But looking back, I love the memories and the fact that we did those things.

So I’m not going to analyze this much further, just want to say that I’ve been through coming into home schooling as an ideal, been frustrated–by my unpreparedness, lack of skills, lack of follow-through, by the fact that my children couldn’t understand conforming to and loving that ideal as much as I did ….

So I struggled also with resenting having to do it sometimes. I didn’t have many options. A couple things helped me through that: I DID have options. We could have spent crazy money (for us) or gone into debt to send our kids to the Christian school. We could’ve sent our kids to Ukrainian school, but neither of us wanted to *do that* to our kids…. So, if I were honest, it was a free choice I was making among options.

I read a book about home schoolers (by a non-home-schooler researcher) and she gave me language for my experience. She says there are primary and secondary home schoolers. Primary means they home school by conviction or ideal. Even though these mothers are often overwhelmed and burned out, they will home school. Secondary home schoolers are those who choose home school because they can’t get the option they wanted first. So home school is their second-best option. These are more open to trying other mixes and styles.

You know, I WANTED to be a primary home schooler. I love crusading, and I want to have that crusading spirit about home schooling. Really. It was very hard for me to accept that I’m an uncomfortable mix of the two.

It helped me a lot when I could finally break down my ideals and start “farming out” some of the teaching aspects. They watch a math video. One of the greatest reliefs recently was signing the girls up for 7th grade online English with a *real teacher* who gives assignments, evaluates their work, and gives feedback.

I went through a period (around their fifth/six grades) when I asked God to please give me a conviction about home schooling. There are home school moms who can just wax on and on so sweetly about how wonderful home school is and surely most if not all should do it! It’s superior, right? But I have tasted so much of the drawbacks, I couldn’t bring myself to speak that boldly! But I WANTED to.

God answered me by showing me through a series of events when I tried enrolling the girls in school that He wanted me to home school. That it was His providential will that I keep them home (though farming out some of the actual subject teaching is really nice).

OK, so here’s what I want to say: My kids are 13, 12, 6 and 4. Seventh, first, and pre-k. And what I can say is that now, I am so happy and thankful that we home school!!! in our own un-ideal way. We home school. And I like being together now.

NOW, when I’m half-way through my firsts, I can’t stand the thought of sending my kids away to school all day. I would miss them terribly.

I’m thankful for the low-stress style of our home school. The kids read a lot and have “free” time for other activities, spontaneity and travel. They have time to teach English as a Second Language to younger students, they do crafts, help with church activities, babysit….

Anyway, so, I’m thankful. This is somehow part of my mid-life process of agreeing with my life.

And maybe now I can be a crusader about how great home schooling is???

mid-life: determining the will of God … more maturely ?

I would like to hope I can determine the will of God with some differences from 20 years ago. There is a life lesson that is influencing my thinking right now, and I want to explain it.

I’ve let my kids ask over and over for things they want. For a few reasons. One, it’s human tendency to give a negative answer first. So I let them keep asking because maybe I ought to change my mind. (When I’ve had a chance to think it over, and the answer is sure, I might say, “Please stop asking” or something like that, so they know asking is futile.) Second, God encourages us to ask repeatedly. He listens to it. So I am trying to allow that quality in my life, too.

So, kids and asking. It’s a thing. You know how we say “no,” and our kids ask “why?” … “why?” … “why?” even though I’ve explained why …

Vitaliy said the most striking thing one time. He said: You know, they are not asking Why because they want to understand your will. they are asking Why in order to change your will.

I thought about that a lot. And I started thinking, so why am I saying No? What is my “will” for my child that would cause me to say No? And sometimes I would explain this to my child, like, “I’m saying No because my will for you is that ….”

This was years ago, and at that time, I began thinking about when I ask Why? of God in order to change His will for me. And I began to think: what if I stopped trying to change God’s will for me, and rather began trying to understand why this is His will for me?

It opens up a huge world of thought, exploration, and lessons. If something really IS God’s will for me, then that is huge. Because God is very purposeful in having a will towards me. Every detail is by design. If I open myself up to accepting, agreeing with, and exploring why for the purpose of understanding God’s purpose, then the possibilities of growth and riches are pretty limitless.

OK, so yesterday–The Guidance of God chapter.

2. Ask God to empty your heart of any desire of your own. Otherwise, it is impossible to sincerely ask God what His will is, and impossible to correctly interpret His providences.

3. Again, don’t skip point two. This is essential. Ask God to empty our hearts of all personal preferences.

And I wrote:

I’m in points 2-3 right now, in a particular process I’m trying to decide. I feel preference-less, but not fully because I’m scared of the feeling of not having a preference, so I’m pausing here to accept it and adjust to that before I move on.

The author of this book frames it as doing your known duties first. So the way my thoughts turned yesterday: I began thinking about all the known duties I have and that I ought to examine how I am doing on those–think this through first before I add another activity to the mix.

And I am thinking about my Why– exploring trying to understand more fully why God gave me these particular duties in life so clearly, like fundraising and home schooling. And how I can mine them more for God’s purposes. To accept more fully the blessings and transformations He wants to bring about through these.

So, I’m feeling less preference and feeling more comfortable in that place right now.

mid-life: discerning the will of God

So, maybe this is not just mid-life, it’s all life long, which surprises me. I thought I was done trying to “figure out the will of God” when I got out of my early to mid twenties.

But hey, here I am. Choices keep coming– imagine that! They become, perhaps, less life-altering choices. I’ve already chosen where to go to college and what to major in (for all the good it does me now, ha ha), and who to marry. I’ve already chosen missionary work in Ukraine, though I’ve realized that that also could change (though I don’t see any moves of God in that direction, phew because I love many things about it).

But you know, life, choices keep coming. Things are always growing and changing.

A few months ago, I started reading Arthur Pink’s book The Attributes of God, just reading it devotionally, usually a chapter a morning– to start my prayer time with meditating on God. (I’m on chapter 21, so I obviously don’t read it every morning.)

God intersects things very intentionally, so I don’t think it’s happenstance that I come to the chapter about “The Guidance of God” just when I’m mulling over some perhaps-minor life changes.

Minor because, sheesh, when you have a husband in ministry and four kids ages 13 to 4 , there is not much wiggle-room for adding in a whole lot after that.

Sorry, this is a long post, if some of you just want to stop now. It’s OK.

But I wanted to give an overview of this chapter. It’s a good exercise for myself, to internalize the principles more, and maybe it will speak to some of you, too. This is simply my own brief scan of the chapter. You will get a lot more out of it if you read it for yourself here. My encapsulation follows:

Intro: We need clearer language around this subject. Rather than asking vague questions like “Is this according to God’s will?” or “Do I have the prompting of the Holy Spirit?”, we should rather ask ourselves, “Is this in harmony with God’s Word?” or “Does it sqauare with the rule God has given us to walk by?” or “Is it in accord with the example which Christ left us to follow?”

Next Pink says: In your life, focus on obeying what you already know is the will of God. There are many clear, indisputable instructions for us for life

Read the Bible in order to obey it, not merely to praise and laud it. The PRIMARY purpose for which God gave us the Bible is so that we will order our lives by it.

Over and over he says: walk in the revealed will of God. God will not be mocked by someone who wants to “know His will” in one point of life.

Also: Don’t be misled or mislead yourself. By this he means, there are plenty of clear duties given to us in the Bible. Actions like casting lots, open the Bible and putting your finger on a verse, a strong impression, finding freedom in prayer, dreams– Don’t seek direction from these things. And don’t believe them if they go contrary to what is expressed in the Bible.

So: Back to loving and obeying the Scriptures. And when we get to a particular life scenario, what to do?

Don’t hurry. Be ware of impatience, be “jealous of being deceived by appearances,” don’t move ahead of the light given for your path.

Seek daily to please God in the details. He will not then leave us in the dark. Don’t be a fool who leaves God out of life. “Our daily walk is to be ordered by God’s Word. In proportion as it is so we will be kept in His will and preserved from folly and sin.”

Practical obedience works in us spiritual instinct and we become better judges of what to do. “Where God’s commandments are loved by us, we can count upon Him to teach us good judgment.”

“Two main things: the absolute necessity of being controlled by the Word of God without, and having the heart within which is single to God’s glory and set upon pleasing Him–if we are to have the light of heaven on our earthly path.”

Going deeper: The help of the Holy Spirit. The two pitfalls of mysticism and fanaticism. “As the Spirit of holiness, His aim is to deepen the imprint of the restored image of God in the soul, to increase our happiness by making us more holy. Thus he leads to nothing but what is sanctifying.”

Then notes from Proverbs 3:5-6: TRUST 1. Full confidence in the Lord, childlike simplicity, our affectionate love’s reliance in believing dependence and expectation. LEAN NOT: “The highest act of human reason is to disown its sufficiency and bow before the wisdom of God.”

Interesting quotes on that point: “Yet many find it harder to repudiate their own wisdom than they do to abandon their own righteousness…. Philosophizing about our lot, or reasoning about our circumstances, is fatal to rest of soul and peace of heart.”

ACKNOWLEDGE HIM: ask God’s permission in everything, seek His guidance (admit our ignorance), seek God’s glory in everything. seek God’s blessing on everything.

“What is meant by “He shall direct thy paths?” It means, He will make clear to me the course of duty. God’s “will” always lies in the path of duty, and never runs counter to it.”

In a case of two duties and we need to discern God’s will:

  1. Don’t make haste. Ask God to slow you down and calm any feverishness of the flesh.
  2. Ask God to empty your heart of any desire of your own. Otherwise, it is impossible to sincerely ask God what His will is, and impossible to correctly interpret His providences.
  3. Again, don’t skip point two. This is essential. Ask God to empty our hearts of all personal preferences.
  4. Fast. “There is nothing meritorious [favor-gaining] in fasting, but it expresses humility of soul and earnestness of heart.”
  5. Next: “Humbly and sincerely acknowledge to God our ignorance, and request Him not to leave us to ourselves…. Plead before Him His own promises…”
  6. Be on the lookout for God’s answer. Mark attentively each movement of His providence … so the hand of God may often be discerned by a spiritual eye in what are trifling incidents to others.”
  7. Finally, we don’t just need to discover our duty, we need to ask God to help us all along the process of fulfilling our duty– to rightly do the thing He’s shown us to do. Otherwise, the thing will become a snare and curse to us.

So, if you’ve read this far, I’m in points 2-3 right now, in a particular process I’m trying to decide. I feel preference-less, but not fully because I’m scared of the feeling of not having a preference, so I’m pausing here to accept it and adjust to that before I move on.

mid-life: escaping resentment loading

I just made up that term, resentment loading. Let me capitalize it to make it official-sounding: Resentment Loading.

It’s one of the traps of mid-life. Like cynicism is a trap.

By resentment loading I mean … just that. Loading up my wagon with resentments. Towards people, groups, God. Whatever.

We’re more teenagery than maybe we want to realize, when we “grow up” and realize that the people we admired actually have shortcomings and even might hurt us in some way.

Around 40, we get pretty confident that we have a measure of life experience that allows us to judge.

Or resentment might be disappointments, seeing choices that we regret somehow, Or not regretting the choices we made, but we might regret that that particular choice then meant that another option I also wanted was closed off, perhaps forever.

It’s one of mid-life traps I’ve noticed.

I’ve been tempted to resent things about my parents, my husband, God, my kids … basically anything, because … why? Often, there’s no good reason, or no reason for which they could not also resent me. It’s just a crazy road to go down. So I stay away from that path as much as I can, thank you, God.

Anyway.

What’s helped me is two things:

  1. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.

2. Humbling myself under the mighty hand of God and telling him that no matter what, I will truly trust and know that He is good towards me, in control of it all, and He’s working for my best interests, even though it really hurts.

Mid-life: Beware of Resentment Loading.

mid-life: some things never change

I thought that seeking for “the will of God” was basically over, once I decided where to go to college, what to major it, going to the mission field, marrying…..

Yikes.

I also thought I would reach some point of maturity that I would feel … maybe irrevocably in love with God and obedient to him. Like, I would become so mature, I would not even need to choose those things anymore.

Yikes again.

Midlife is realizing that it wasn’t all just for the late-teen, early 20s. It’s all life long. Determining what to do, what God wants me to do… renewing my affectionate love for God over and over, choosing obedience over and over.

Mid-life: realizing that some “youth” stuff is not youth but the nature of a long-term relationship with God.

mid-life, the reward of the Word of God

I’m reading slowly through Arthur Pink’s book, The Attributes of God, and here is a paragraph from chapter 21 “The Guidance of God.” (I’ve been spending time in this chapter these days because I’m seeking guidance on some mid-life stuff.)

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:8). God will be no man’s debtor. In keeping His commands there is “great reward” (Ps. 19:11). Part of that reward is deliverance from being deceived by the false appearances of things, from forming erroneous estimates, from pursuing a foolish policy. Part of that reward is acquiring wisdom so that we choose what is good, act prudently, and follow those paths which lead to righteousness, peace, and joy. He who treasures in his heart the divine precepts and diligently seeks to walk by their rule will escape those evils which destroy his fellows.

Getting reflective here:

About 30 years of almost-daily being with God through His Word. And I learn to appreciate those rewards of steering my life by His ways.

For example, I started doing birth work in 2010, until about 2013 or so. Then I mostly stopped (I took a few exception clients.)

You know, stopping was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever done, because I love birth work, and there are times I regret and sigh over it, but now, at 43, I’m glad I did it. With getting perspective, I guess I derailed my career, but it’s not a hard career to return to, though I regretted and sighed because I thought it was forever gone. I’m glad I was available to and with my kids so much during those years. What I’m glad about is that I didn’t sell my soul or my family to birth work. (I personally wasn’t able to make it mix at that point, though there are others who certainly can.)

“Part of that reward is deliverance from being deceived by the false appearances of things, from forming erroneous estimates, from pursuing a foolish policy. Part of that reward is acquiring wisdom so that we choose what is good, act prudently, and follow those paths which lead to righteousness, peace, and joy. “

I’m actually, as part of my mid-life motions, getting ready to return to birth work, but I think differently about it now, and I’m not so sacrificial towards it as I used to be.

So, even though it’s the long middle, I have definite rewards– a well-invested marriage, nice kids, long-term friends, meaningful ministries ….

mid-life, from changing myself to accepting myself

I’ve noticed this shift in my thinking and life considerations lately.

That I don’t think so much in terms of who I’m becoming or who I want to be. Projecting myself into the future. Now I think more in terms of who I am.

I’m not saying that I’m closed to changing or learning, that happens still. But more that I have to think more now in terms of who I am.

I’ve kind of stopped striving in some areas. Like striving to be a super house cleaner. Or striving to cook constantly. Or striving to love those things.

It’s more OK with me now to accept my level. It’s a pretty good level, I guess, and works for our varied lives.

Perhaps it’s even more peaceful, to stop striving for some kind of perfection in every area of responsibility. And rather accept that I don’t need perfection, I rather need to determine what is important and focus on that.

This is another shift I’ve noticed about mid-life.