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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Tithe Story

Top Ten Percent

                I was asked to write about my favorite tithing story…no problem, it is fresh in my memory.  When I sat down to write this recollection, however, I felt like some explanation of a tithe needed to come first.  A simple definition: ten percent of your income earmarked for the church.  More than that, though, it is a test of our obedience and faith, as well as an opportunity to join in the work God is doing and being blessed by what can happen when we allow our little droplet of money to jump into the pool of resources destined for bigger impact.

                A general memory of tithing dates back to childhood, hearing and seeing my parents (both of them worked) getting their tithe together, writing a check and sticking it in the envelope for the offering plate.  No grumbling, no worries, it was a given.

 Before my husband was “saved” (another story for another time) our church attendance was sporadic and I’m pretty sure George would not have known or cared about the “ten percent” thing.  We were definitely living paycheck to paycheck, and easily blowing ten percent on non-essential junk.

                After 2002, however, lots of things changed around here.  The man who previously wouldn’t care to read any book dove head first into the Holy Bible and …Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  This combination of reference materials meant tithing was now a part of our family’s existence.  It wasn’t an optional, casual thing.    It was very important to him to tithe because his newly found faith in Christ was changing things for the better, and God seemed to be pouring out the grace.

                Here’s the story part:  We planned a trip to Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park one weekend.  We rented a cabin for 2 nights which meant we wouldn’t be at church to drop off our tithe.  George realized this when we were in Henderson gassing up the vehicle, so he insisted that we put the tithe check in the mail before we go any further.  Of course, I reasoned that we could just write a check for 2 weeks next time and call it a day.  He said that wouldn’t represent first fruits if we spent money on lots of other things, and even received money again before giving to the church.  He said that God would know his heart on the matter and to just mail it regardless of all the logistics like when the church would get it, when they would cash it, etc. So, I mailed it...there was a big mailbox nearby.

                Our cabin at the park was one of several others that were occupied by an apparent family reunion…we were the only ones on this particular stretch that “didn’t belong.” Slightly awkward, but we just went about our fun on the paddleboats, at the pool, walking around the lake.  The second day we were there, a water pipe to all of our cabins broke, and we were without water.  That was unfortunate, but they said they were working on it and it didn’t bother us as we were going to Eddyville to play at Venture River Water Park that day anyway. We ate a wonderful supper at the lodge and returned to find that we still didn’t have water, so we took a chlorine bath at the Lodge Pool.  That evening…if I have my timeline correct, they managed to get the water going again, but only to our cabin, debris was clogging the line to all the others.  The reunion group was very unhappy and said they were leaving, but before they left, they gave us quite a bit of their food, since many wouldn’t be there to cook it or eat it.  People from that group kept bringing us food they didn’t want to have to take with them, one person after another brought sweet corn, bread, juice, eggs, cheese, ice cream all kinds of stuff.   It was actually much more than our family could eat.  This reminded George of the verse in Malachi where he says something like…see if I will not throw open the floodgates and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room for it.  What a blessing indeed!  When we went to check out, the desk clerk apologized for our inconvenience and gave us a percentage off discount, which was another blessing.

                We call this our tithe story because everything was just so obvious that it couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a lesson from God.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Letter to my family...

Letter to my family…

Dear Family,

        First of all, I love each and every one of you very, very much.  I am writing this letter to give you some insight on what it is like to be a mom.  Also, writing is probably my best form of communication second only to lecturing. 

As a mom, I feel like it is my job to make sure you are all safe from harm.  I try to make sure you are not physically injured by teaching you about safety (example: don’t touch that red hot glowing  burner, stay away from moving vehicles, don’t run with scissors or other sharp objects ) and personal health (you are not allowed to have 6 energy drinks because I don’t want your heart to explode, you can’t eat candy for breakfast or drink soda because it is not good for your teeth, you have to eat fruits and vegetables so that you can grow strong and be able to play hard and think clearly, etc.)  I try to be vigilant about what you watch, read, listen to, or are otherwise exposed to in this world.  (Example: internet supervision, playstation time limits, filtered movie and TV options, and interactions with peers and friends.) These things are very important because these are the years that you are developing who you are as a person.  It would be irresponsible of me to let you make all of your own decisions based on your limited knowledge and life experience.  I was raised to be a responsible person, so you can thank your grandparents for that…Anyway, I would like to take a moment to report that I am very proud of the smart, caring, responsible kids you are and that each of you have unique, wonderful personalities that often make me smile with pride.  I am honestly blown away by the genuine love you have for one another.

  I am completely impressed by the way you look out for one another’s interests and safety and general well-being. Like when I see Kyler do his chores without being told or without complaining, and when I think I’m right about something and start to yell, Kyler just calmly discusses the issue and leaves it at that.  That is a sign of maturity, an example of grace. Way to go, son.

I am also very humbled by  Carson’s genuine caregiving to his younger siblings…it is a blessing to see that he has made oatmeal and fed Joely, cleaned up after her, and all the while maintains a loving attitude.  I like to see him purposefully engage in activities with Harmonie, teach her how to do things, and when he bought her the Barbie house at a yard sale…it was his idea, his money, his gift to her because he thought she would like it.  Beautiful generosity.

I consider myself very lucky to have such an energetic daughter with a helpful spirit.  Being in the middle of big brothers and younger sisters has to be difficult, and I need to remember that Harmonie needs Mom-time to learn some of the more subtle ways to get along with others instead of having to be the loudest, or the best at something, or anything else that is not true to her loving, sweet, funny self.  She is a whiz at organizing and cleaning her room in a hurry…she can do most things in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean we have to. I just like spending time with her, wish I had more opportunities for that.

Anyone else that is a mom knows it is an exhausting job taking care of a newborn…but you all are not moms, and so let me be a little more specific.  The exhaustion comes from lack of good restorative sleep that you can only get by being able to achieve all stages of sleep without interruption.  My sleep is interrupted by crying to be fed, or crying to be changed, or weird baby noises that sound like irregular breathing, gagging, etc. With each one of these things, I wake up and take care of whatever it is.  This is all normal, and I had to do this with all of you. Dad even tries to help, but the reality is I am the only one who can nurse and I might as well change her and freak out about the other stuff all by myself, too.  Nursing a baby is very draining (no pun intended).  I have never been energetic, and when I’m nursing, there is even less energy to be had. Not to mention, I have to make sure my other children and husband are fed, bathed, have clean clothes, make sure food and supplies are maintained, keep the bills paid up to date, make sure our living environment is clean (enough) and the most important thing …which is to raise you right…back to my original point.  I am responsible for raising you to be responsible, so you can raise your kids to be responsible, so they can raise their kids to be responsible, and so on, and so on.  I am sure you have noticed I am sluggish sometimes; some things I am supposed to do don’t get done.  You may not be able to help much with the newborn, or say, pay the bills, or go to the grocery, but you can help with the other stuff.  If everyone would just consistently do ALL of their chores without complaining and without skipping the ones nobody likes.

  I would like for you to know that you absolutely have permission to do anything that needs to be done even if it is not your chore.  If there is a towel on the floor, hang it up, if there is a dirty glass on the table put it in the dishwasher or sink, if there is something sticky on the table, wipe it off.  Here are some other “unwritten chores” that you should be doing anyway: put your shoes in the pantry or your room…not the bathroom, nor living room or the middle of any walking path, put your clean clothes away, put your dirty clothes down the chute, and take care of your dishes after you eat.  If everyone did their part, our home would be pretty neat, and I would be a lot less stressed and grumpy.  So, see, you have it within your power to make me a better mom.  I love you guys!