Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pray for Joshua, my 35th grandbaby

Dear Friends and Family,
I am forwarding this e-mail I received yesterday from my son in law, Steve Miller {click highlighted words to view}.  I am doing as he asked me to do, and ask that you pray for God's perfect will to be done in the life of little Joshua. We trust we will be spared the grief and sorrow caused by little Jonathan's death 5 years ago.
Your friend,
Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Over-cooked Kids...", Or "Honey, I Burned the Children"

“And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.”   Exodus 2:3

It’s been many, many years now…all eight of our children were still at home, and it was our custom to go out every Saturday afternoon, as a family, and make visits for the Church.  We would finish this lovely outing with a little tradition:  my husband would drive to a little store and the children would go in and buy sodas and treats.  I don’t know why, but while we were enjoying this little outing that afternoon, I sat straight up in my seat, and asked a question whose answer I feared:  “Did anyone turn off the fire under the beans?”  And the awaited answer started in the form of a little chorus:  “…I didn’t…neither did I…nor I…I didn’t either.”

I’ll never forget the long ten minute drive home.  I expected to see fire trucks in front of our house.  Thankfully, they weren’t there.  But as soon as the boys opened the gate, and even before I jumped out of our truck, I could smell the burned beans.  The first thing I did was exactly what you would have done:  I turned off the fire, and ran outside with the pot of charred beans, because the house was full of smoke.  Curtains, carpets, and couches kept that terrible memory for many, many days.  How embarrassing to have our guests come in our house!  “Is something burning?”  And I would have to reveal my great mistake:  “I left the fire under the beans when we went out.”

I would like to give a little piece of advice to all you Moms: a gentle warning:  TURN OFF THE FIRE!!  Your children are done.

Referring to the Bible passage of the very well-known story in Exodus 2:1-10, we read about the care of a mother for her child.  Jochebed was little Moses’ mother.  Her son’s life was in danger.  Pharaoh had commanded to kill all the male Hebrew babies.  But Jochebed didn’t give up.  She had to do something to save her baby’s life.  So she hid him.

I have no idea how this Hebrew mother was able to hide her little boy from the Egyptian soldiers who passed in front of her house.  But we must believe the Bible when we read that she hid him for three months.

But the Bible also states that the day came when she could no longer hide him.  To keep him at home would mean certain death.  So Jochebed had a plan.  The Word of God says that she took for him an ark of bulrushes.  I’m not familiar with bulrushes, but perhaps she chose those that easily took the form of a little cradle.  Then she “daubed” it with slime and with pitch.  She made it waterproof.  She did absolutely everything she could think of to protect her little treasure.

Now I’m sure that all of Jochabed’s actions are not recorded in the Bible.  Holy men of God wrote the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Surely if a woman had written this account, it would read something like this:  “Through her tears Jochebed then took her little Treasure’s softest blankets, she dressed him with the sweater and little cap she had knitted for him before he was born, and with all the tenderness of her mother-heart she lay that little piece of her heart in the ark, and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.”

I hear you:  “How could a mother do such a thing…leave her baby in an ark in the Nile River!”  I’ll tell you how:  by the divine grace of God, and through her faith in Him.

Very little has been said about this woman, Jochebed.  But to my way of thinking she is the ultimate of the description of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31.  What wisdom Jochebed showed!  She was led by God, and she obeyed Him.  She did exactly what God showed her to do.  God in His infinite love used Jochebed, in reality, to lead the great Exodus of the Israelites in years to come.  God used Jochebed, because she allowed Him to.

But it cost her something.  It cost her something that at times you and I as mothers are not willing to sacrifice:  she had to leave Moses in God’s hands.  The day came, according to the Bible, when she had done everything possible to protect her little one.

I would like to tell you something.  If you haven’t yet had a “Nile River” experience, your day is coming.  The day will come when you’ll look at that handsome 18 year-old young man.  You’ll look at those hands, hands that caressed your face while you nursed him.  Little hands that got muddy, and hands that got hurt, and hands that you kissed when he mashed his finger.  And you’ll have to say, “This is it, Son.  I’ve trained you, I’ve cared for you, and I’ve protected you.  Now I’m leaving you at Bible College.  The next time I see you, you won’t be the same.  You’ll be more mature.  You’ll know new things about God from your teachers.  Perhaps the next time I hug you, you will know the perfect will of God for your life.  Or maybe there will be a young lady by your side with whom you have fallen in love, and who will help you carry out the will of God for your life.”

Moses became a great leader, a famous man in history.  Very few people, even though they may be pagans, have not heard the name Moses.  But we would never know a great Moses had there not been a great Jochebed.

Sometimes I ask myself, “Why didn’t the other Hebrew mothers use this plan to save their babies’ lives?”  I don’t know.  But could it be because they weren’t willing to risk the lives of their little ones in exchange for a little ray of hope that perhaps they would escape death while they were hidden in the Nile River?

How many Moses’ are in the world today who missed the perfect plan of God for their lives, simply because there was no Jochebed there for them?

One of my favorite dishes is beans.  Mmmm.  Give me a bowl of beans, a slice of buttered cornbread, and a little pepper sauce!!  Royalty doesn’t know such a delicacy!

But there’s nothing more horrible than that pot of burned beans that came out of my kitchen that afternoon when I returned home.  I had over-cooked them.  They were burned.  They had turned into despicable ashes…good for nothing.  They left an unpleasant odor, and they embarrassed me when my friends came over.

This isn’t the noblest motive you can have, but if it’s the only thing that motivates you to give your children to God when they’re “done,” I would like to ask you a question:  “Don’t you want to be proud of your children?”  Well then let them go when your training session is over.  Give them to the Lord so He can do with them as He wishes.

How to turn off the fire,

1. When they decide to go to college, or other fields of training.  If I had to choose only one word that would stand for the greatest gift you could give to your adult child, it would be the word “freedom.”  Untie your apron strings.  Cut the navel cord, and let them go.  At the risk of sounding like a modern day mother, I beseech you to let your children go once you’re through “cooking” them.  For the seventeen…eighteen years that they live under your roof, you have a perfect right, the obligation to build walls, barriers around your children.  We’ve heard volumes of sermons about the different types of walls we are to put around our children.  But once “your little loaf of bread” comes out of the oven, turn off the fire, and let ‘em go.  If you were faithful in building walls of protection, now you should test those walls, put to the test what you’ve taught them.  Don’t embarrass your children by sending them off to college with their pants or their dress on fire, and smelling of smoke.  TURN OFF THE FIRE WHEN THEY LEAVE FOR COLLEGE.

2. When they decide to serve the Lord in full-time service.  The phrase “full time” when referring to the Lord’s work means that one has decided to have a ministry requiring all his or her time, with no time to do secular work, as the ministry of Pastor, teacher in a Christian School, missionary, etc.  It also means that for the most part…in ugly terms…they will have to sacrifice material things, such as a financial retirement plan…what’s more a full-time worker never retires, so he doesn’t need such a plan.  It also means that he or she isn’t promised yearly vacations, which means that you will have to go a long time without seeing your offspring.  Maybe they won’t have a late model car, or possibly they won’t even have a car.  All of the above comes from the imagination of a mother who still hasn’t turned off the fire under that child that has decided to serve the Lord full time.  And even if all those things were true, a mother who has truly turned off the fire has learned to trust completely in the Lord.  I never tire of hearing the story of Abraham and Isaac.  He had waited all his life until he was an old man for God to give him the promised son, Isaac.  And while Isaac was still a young man, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar.  Now, Abraham loved his son as much as you love yours.  But he loved God more.  We have all heard sermons about Abraham’s faith in God…how he believed that God would raise his son after he sacrificed him.  Although God stopped him before he could take the life of his son, He saw his obedience, and gave him back his son.

I wonder:  What did Jochebed have in mind that day when she left her baby in the Nile River?  He was a tiny baby.  Surely she still nursed him.  What was her plan for feeding her little one…for changing his diapers…for protecting him when night came?  Just as Abraham had faith in God that He would give him back his son, I believe that Jochebed had faith enough to believe that God would miraculously care for her baby.  What a surprise when the princess arrived, and found the little Jewish baby, and sent his sister, Miriam, to bring a nurse for him!  But we’re not surprised to read that his sister brought Jochebed…and she was given wages to raise her own little boy.  Did you know God can do more with your child than you can?  Trust completely in God when you TURN OFF THE FIRE WHEN YOUR CHILD DECIDES TO SERVE GOD FULL TIME.

3. When they decide to get married.  This is perhaps the most difficult time of a mother’s life.   Especially if she still hasn’t turned off the fire by this time.  What a joy it is to be a mother!  The first years of your baby’s life you are the center of his world.  He depends completely on you.  This forms a sort of bond between you and your child.  If things develop normally, little by little your child will become independent of you…normally.  Unfortunately, those mothers who insist on remaining Number One in the life of her child, to the point of “over-cooking” him, suffer incredibly when they decide to marry.  She’s no longer the Biggie in his or her life.  She must share his attention, his caresses, his words of love, and his confidence.  Those mothers look at their child’s spouse as the competition.  Woe unto that couple that suffers from this kind of a mother.  It is hard for a marriage like this to survive, and sadly they sometimes end in divorce.  Every morning I ask the Lord to help me never to interfere with the marriage of my children or the discipline of my grandchildren.  I thank the Lord that I learned to TURN OFF THE FIRE WHEN MY CHILDREN DECIDED TO GET MARRIED.

Praise the Lord for Jochebed, the woman used by God to save the life of the man who saved His people.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chapter 15 - "Super 8"

I’m writing this from the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn near Chicago.  I’ll be speaking this week at a Family Conference, and one of the blessings of being invited to speak to ladies is the royal treatment I’m given…being chauffeured around, fruit baskets full of my favorite treats (mostly chocolates, little fruit, actually)…AND staying in five-star hotels.

This morning I was doing my prayer walk in my room, and since I have a lovely view, I paused a moment to look out my window. Even though it was only 5:00 a.m., it was daylight! Something caught my eye: right across the lane that runs beside the hotel was a sign, and for some reason it brought tears to my homesick eyes. I’ve been traveling now for over seven years, and I still get miserably homesick for my beautiful mountain valley home. But an emotion even greater than homesickness was the nostalgia, past memories. And that nostalgia prompted me to write this chapter.

And this is what the sign said: Super 8, and it was the name of the chain of hotels, or similar at least to the hotels, where my husband and our 8 children and I used to stay. As I looked down on that hotel, I asked myself, “Am I really happier spending the night in the lap of luxury than I was, sometimes when the manager would let us, staying in the room with all eight of our children? My husband and I would sleep on one bed, and sometimes we’d turn the girls cross-wise, and throw pallets on the floor for the boys. If there was a baby in the bunch, she would sleep in her travel bed.

Forget about courtesy breakfasts in those places. We felt honored to be offered stale coffee after 7:00 a.m. in the lobby.

But there was a coziness about those memories. We would travel all day, no reservations, because we didn’t know where we would be stopping. My husband didn’t go for reservations, because he said it put a restraint on the Holy Spirit. (Sorry, Honey, now that you’re not here, I’m a firm believer in reservations!)  

By the time we would find a hotel meeting my husband’s requirements (looking for a room was like shopping for a house. I often thought it would be nice if we could have been able to travel with a real estate agent.) So by the time we would stop, we were so happy to be out of the van, it looked like the 5 star hotel I used to longingly drool over as we passed them on the freeway on the way to another Super 8.

I learned something this morning as I gazed across the parking lot, at the sign on the other side of the trees: “Lord, help me never to forget where I came from. Help me to remember that I’m not a conference speaker. This is not what I do. I’m Mom and Mimi, that’s who I am. I feel more comfortable in an apron than I do in a suit, and You know that better than I do. But help this…this looking down from where I am to where I was remind me of where I am because of Your grace. The circumstances that brought me up here weren’t fun. There was a molding process that got me on the elevator across the road from where I used to be. There were hardships that taught me lessons that I share with Super 8 ladies today. Those ladies think they will always be stuck with diapers and dishes and homeschooling. Super 8 ladies are up all night, and when the night is over, they have it all to do over again.

Super 8-ers don’t think about wardrobes, and hairdos, and plane reservations. They’re happy to get their hair tied back in a pony tail before the last baby wakes up for the day or the doorbell rings. I know. I’ve been there.

Super 8 Moms look out their windows, up at my seventh story window with longing, wishing with all their hearts that they could spend one single day rushing to the airport, going through security…from one moment being treated like a queen, the next moment like a criminal. But they’d gladly change places with me while I stay with their little ones. Oh, the joy of being baby-free for a whole day, to do adult-talk, and browse in airport shops (who cares if you can’t afford anything), and have lunch at the restaurant of your choosing during your long layovers.

You’d save every bag of the peanuts, and the napkins with the airline logo on it to take back to your little ones, the only souvenirs you can afford.

You’d study the latest styles that parade in front of you while waiting to be boarded at your gate. You’d smile at the stewardess, who asks what Madam would like to drink.

And when you got to your hotel room, escorted by the lady who will be at your beck and call all week, you close the door, double lock, and climb into a bubble bath because, Hey, no babies to knock on your door, no baths to give. Just little ole you and you alone to care for.

But from up here, and believe me, Baby, I’ve come a long way…it ain’t what it looks like from down there. Get your little binoculars and take a close look at my face. I’m tired, and I’m exhausted from smiling, and greeting, and hugging, and signing, and speaking. I don’t get a good night’s rest, not at my age, at least from 12:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

And in the midst of people who literally surround me with their love, and lavish attention on me, and who have sacrificed things I can’t even imagine, I sometimes feel a loneliness I didn’t feel down there where you are. I have almost physical waves of homesickness when I hear, “Mom!” I instinctively do a double-take, and tears come to my eyes when I realize I’m the wrong Mom. I’m thousands of miles away from those who call me Mom.

I remember back in the Super 8 days. I had just spent a few days with my parents and my brothers and their families. Mother gave me a beautiful white suit with lace on the collar, and a pink blouse. Super 8 moms don’t do super white suits. So I treasured that suit. The next day was Sunday, and I wore that suit to church. I imagined my self a conference lady, and I was walking in to the church where I would be speaking. Who cared that there were only 25 in attendance. This was my dream, and no one would steal it from me. Looking back over those thirty years ago, I believe that’s where my dream started, like it was a gift God had given me, a longing, a desire. It was like, “This is what I want to do. This is what I was created for.”

I would be invited to speak at small ladies’ prayer groups, or a baby shower, or a bridal shower, and I’d give it all I had. I was like transformed into another lady…that lady up there on the 7th floor. As I would leave my Super 8 room, up the elevator (figuratively speaking, of course) I was another me. Who cared that I didn’t know beans about anything back then, I pretended I had all the answers, and I spoke with authority. Who cared that I was just repeating things I’d heard from the Hyles’ preaching tapes we used to listen to so many times I had them memorized!

For two whole hours I lived on the 7th floor, speaking to Super 8 ladies, and I’d do it with gusto.

There’s a peace, a routine, a sameness in that little Super 8 room that doesn’t exist on the 7th floor. There’s simplicity, a fun-in-common-things that I enjoyed in my Super 8 room that I miss here on my 7th floor.

I love my life, and if I try real hard, I can imagine it adventuresome and exciting. But there’s a fluff up here that’s not needed down in that little Super 8 room. When it’s over, it’s over. And I’m off to another plane, another city, another country, another challenge, more lessons, and reservations.

Down in ole Super 8, it was always the same, never the fluff, then the work; the queen and then the criminal. It’s steady down there, comfortable, nobody to set deadlines for you, or to scrutinize your words, your advice, and your ideas.

You’re surrounded by people who see you before you brush your teeth, who know the real, real you, and not the you that has been dressed up and anointed with expensive perfumes. You can smile if you feel like it, but if you’re sad or discouraged, you don’t have to smile. You don’t have to act like you’ve got it altogether; your kids love you and listen to your advice, anyway. And besides, they are truly the ones who know you ain’t got altogether, kid, and you never will, even if you live to be 68 years old.

I have 8 children, 8 Super Sinners. But they’re my Super 8, and I like to think that most Super kids come out of little Super 8 rooms. Super 8 kids know things 7th story kids don’t know, because they never had to learn them.

Hey, Super 8, Mom. Put down that binocular, look around you down there. Your little brood doesn’t need a 7th story mom now. You can’t be a 7th story mom to Super 8 kids. You wouldn’t have time, and neither you nor they would be happy.

This is what I told my daughter, Sarah, a few months ago. We had spent a glorious week at a ladies’ conference together, just her, her two sisters, and me. She loves her husband and six children, but she said, “Mom, I feel like I’ve been on a honeymoon with Jesus.” And I tell you, Super 8 mom, what I told her, “Sarah, one morning you’re going to wake up and go downstairs for your coffee. You’ll look at your tidy living room, you’ll go into your kitchen where you left every dish washed last night, and there won’t be one dirty sippy cup in your sink. You’ll relax over your first cup of coffee while you read your Bible, and won’t be listening for your baby to cry for her diaper to be changed. There won’t be any sox on the stairs, or toys in the bathtub as you go in for your shower. That’s how fast it will happen.” Your 7th story day is coming, don’t worry. But there are things down where you are now that I miss.

I miss having to please just one man. I miss that wonderful man making all the decisions in my life, because his desire was God’s will for my life, not to worry!

I miss loads of laundry that marked that feel-good feeling you get from really, really having accomplished something extraordinary. I love memories of, “Mmmm, this is soooo good” from a husband who didn’t compare my fried potatoes with anyone’s Crème Brule.

Luxury to me was crawling between sheets that still smelled of Downy and sunshine from hanging in the sun, all in one glorious fragrance.

Didn’t take much for this Super 8 Mom to feel special and loved. “Mom,” I remember one of my teenage daughters saying to me many years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it because it makes me know I’m me, and can never be anyone else. “You do everything so special. Like you have a certain way you get things ready to make lemonade, you never clean your rice before you clean your kitchen. Even if you’re in the middle of making dinner, everything is organized and clean.” (Musta been a blind Super 8 kid.) No matter, I can still feel the glowy feeling, the Super Mom feeling it gave me. And that came from a little teenager.

Super 8, or 7th story Holiday Inn. I enjoy both of them still, and would certainly be an ingrate for not loving the wonderful life the Lord has given me.

He’s given you one, too.