Reflections on a Goat

We have yet to find a church in our new town and honestly we haven’t had time to seriously look with everything going on.  Ryan has been back and forth, Tennessee to Michigan and back again a time or two, and I’m not going to a brand new church alone with 7 kids, Luke included.  We’ve also had sick children off and on throughout the past few months and when one of us gets sick, it’s only a matter of time before all of us get sick.  In Michigan we attended mega churches which can accommodate all of our children and not have us feeling like we’ve doubled the children’s ministry within 5 minutes of our arrival.   Generally a mega church will also have some sort of set up for special needs kids like Luke; small town churches do not usually have something in place for these children.  This week we made it a priority and visited the top church on our list and had a chance to sit down with the pastor who said that he would do everything possible to make his church work for our situation, including reaching out to his congregation in an effort to recruit some help for Luke.  In the meantime, we had home church once again which has consisted of Ryan and I listening to a sermon from one of our favorite pastors on a podcast while our children watch a video (this weeks was on Jim Elliot, the missionary) and then doing some sort of activity to either reflect on a particular issue in the world or an activity to bless another person. This week we did both.  They wrote letters to one of the grandparents and then we had them reflect on the question, “What does beans and rice mean to you?”  I wanted to know what was going on their little hearts and minds concerning an issue I hoped was making an impact on them in one way or another.  Here were some of their answers.

1.    Tate – It means feeding people in need of food and water.
2.    Mya – We are giving the orphanages the money that we would have spent on our big dinner.
3.    Mabel – it’s because we were praying for those kids.
4.    Caleb – It means helping people in need of things or helping starving children who don’t have any food or water.
5.    Josh – Because we’re praying for the kids
6.    Jada – Because the kids doesn’t have food or water. 

I think they’ve got it!

My Take
Admittedly, beans and rice is not the tastiest dish in the world, and honestly I, the mother, the schemer of this fantastic, grand proposal probably had the biggest problem with this meal; it just ranked in regards to meal possibilities, very bland, lacking in flavor, and in need of a good dose of enhancing options such as a side of grilled asparagus or possibly a succulent rib eye steak. Sarcasm aside, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to put things in my mouth that don’t taste good, a waste of calories in my opinion, but I will heavily indulge in a particular item if it tickles my taste buds, which plenty of foods do, so this entire exercise in humility proved to me how desperately I needed this lesson – probably more so than most of my family! I admit, VERY America and very self – indulgent.  Lesson slowly taking shape in my heart.

Last night we also talked about where our first meal offering is going to go. We looked at the website samaritanspurse.org which has tangible options, with pictures, for the kids to choose from including: goats, chickens, donkeys, cows, clean water and other choices, all with the prices for each attached.  The kids decided that our first purchase as a family is going to be a goat, a goat which costs $45, a goat which will be life changing for a particular family half way around the world and a goat that will only cost us a mere 3 weeks of beans and rice, what a deal.


Just keep livin!!

Beans and Rice

We tried something new and exciting in the Ronne house tonight (“we” means mom had a light bulb moment, and she decided that the family needed to be a part of it).  

I recently read some staggering statistics in the book Jesus Wants to Save Christians written by Rob Bell.  Regardless of your opinion on this highly controversial author, the information he presents is not only eye opening but extremely convicting as a Christian and as an American citizen.  He explores this idea of America being a 21st century empire displayed in our lavish extravagances and then contrasts the American empire with Biblical empires such as Egypt, Babylon, and Rome.  He explains historically God’s lack of enthusiasm towards these mega powers and how they ruled and reacted to those they conquered. The book ultimately leads into comparing our American lifestyle with the majority of lifestyles around the world including some statistics such as:   

1.    America controls 20% of the world’s wealth.
2.    One billion people in the world do not have access to clean water.
3.    Every 7 seconds a child under the age of 5 dies from hunger
4.    158 million children have to go to work every day just to survive.
5.    Nearly one billion people live on less than one American dollar a day.

Yikes… makes my biggest dilemma of the day (brownies or cookies for dessert?) seem like overindulgent, spoil rotten, cow dung. 

I learned an immense amount from this book about how our present world can take the lessons of the past and apply them to our modern day situations.  A principal of being and showing Jesus to a desperate world by FIRST feeding people’s bellies, cleaning their water, providing them with basic resources and then presenting them with the saving knowledge of Christ because it’s difficult to think clearly about any major decision, especially a life and death sort of decision, if you haven’t eaten in three days.  

I was also deeply convicted about the fact that we, the Ronne family, seem to have SO much, surrounded by blessings of every kind, never having to feel want or the despair of hunger pains for days on end.  I prayed, asking God, “How can the 9 of us make a difference? Are we called to be hungry just because others in the world are hungry?  How can I relate to my children this idea that we aren’t owed something just because we were fortunate enough to be born into the most prosperous nation in the world but instead we OWE the world because we have been so richly blessed.  Lord, what should I do?” 

Something I had once seen or read somewhere came to mind.  If I had any idea where I saw it, I would give credit where credit is due, but I have not a clue. The premise went like this; a family sacrificed one meal a week and substituted it instead with beans and rice, the main staples of the poverty stricken nations around the world; beans and rice, which are rejoiced over as a blessing in many parts of the world.  This family ate this unexciting, inexpensive meal and then donated the amount of money it would have cost to have a regular meal to an organization which could supply food to the poorest countries of the world, a symbol of acknowledging others pain and hardship around the world, a “do this in remembrance of me” moment and by doing this in remembrance of Christ they prostrated themselves in a Christ like attitude by thinking of others before themselves.
 
By the time I fell asleep the idea had begun to take shape in my mind, ready to change the Ronne clan’s attitude towards hunger around the world, and bonus, I would get the night off from cooking dinner one night a week (winner, winner, rice and beans dinner….) 

The following evening I presented the idea to my older kids during our family meeting time.  At first they looked at me with gaping mouths and wide eyes,

“We’re ONLY going to eat BEANS AND RICE??”

 “If we eat it all, do we get dessert?” 

“Uh, no dear children, that’s not the point.  The point is many, many, many people around the world, like millions of people, ONLY eat beans and rice and they rejoice in the providence of this meal as it fills their aching bellies.” 

Silence….

“And, I continued, “We will eat this meal, and we will pray for those around the world who are starving and then after we pray we will take concrete steps as a family to do something to make a very tiny difference in this world, we are going to donate the $10-15 dollars I would normally spend to make my family a big beautiful spread.”

“Ohhhhhh………”

“Can we help pick where the money will go?”

“Yes”

More silence.

And then,

One

By

One (a tribute to Mr. Bell)….

“Yeah, we’ll do it.”

Four smiles greeted me around the room.

“Yes?”

“Yes!”

My family was on board.

YAY!

Do I have grand expectations that this small gesture will dramatically change their entire world view?  Nope.  I feel like there is still so much to be done but it is one small gesture that we can take right now, where we are, and make a teeny, tiny difference to someone and who knows where this will lead?  Maybe another mother will read this and think, my family should do this and maybe she’ll tell someone who will follow suite and then maybe, just maybe, it snowballs and turns from a teeny tiny action to a bigger action, to something that will actually make a significant dent in the problem.  Maybe, just maybe, we CAN make a difference. 

beans1Our Centerpiece – Our Reminder
beans2                               Our crew, ready to feed the hungry

beans3This child had 3 helpings!

beans4

 

Just keep livin!!

 


Little Man and a Fiery Visit

Last Sunday my baby boy turned 4.  This was surprisingly difficult for me.  I look at him, now a little man and think when and how did this happen?  My pregnancy was completely unexpected, in the midst of so much pain and heartache as his birth father battled for his life.  His birth catapulted me into an arena of caring for an infant, caring for a terminally ill spouse, caring for a two year old and caring for a severely handicapped child (Caleb was a very independent six year old).  Although it was extremely difficult, he brought so much joy to my life during those very tumultuous months, and as a toddler he brought a smile to my face on a daily basis.  I’ve been busy his entire life, busy with cancer appointments, caring for my children, a new marriage, adopting three children, two moves, one out of state, writing a book, writing a blog, and blending a family, and now I look at him and stand in awe – my baby is no longer a baby, he is a little man.  I adore you Joshua Isaac, may the Lord richly bless you all your days. 

babyjoshBaby Josh

birthday1

birthday2

igotscoobyI got scooby!

greenbarbie

birthdaysuckersso sweet, sharing his birthday suckers

Ryan’s dad also came for a visit.  This is basically my glimpse into what my husband will be like in twenty years or so.  They fished and arrived home empty handed, sparking an interesting conversation about how fishing is like golf. Apparently it’s the thrill of the catch, not necessarily the idea of KEEPING the catch.  I still don’t quite understand the sport of fishing but apparently fishermen (or Ryan) likens the experience to that of going golfing; the thrill of catching the fish is like catching a golf hole? I don’t follow the whole analogy, perhaps someone can clarify, but I think it’s along the lines of conquering something.  He tried to relate it to a woman’s love of shopping, which didn’t work on his woman because that is not a relaxing or conquering type of activity for me.

They also started a few household projects one being our air conditioner which is now fixed and renovations on our bathroom and laundry room.  More specifically, we are turning our bathroom into a laundry room and transforming our front breezeway into a bathroom.  The new bathroom will be immediately off the kitchen, easy access for Luke as he ages, and it will have an outside entrance as well, easy access for any guests staying in our trailer.
grampa

Like father

laundry1start of laundry room renovations

laundry2washer and dryer are in!

bath1Starting on the bathroom

remainsthe aftermath


The girls and I had a goofy night of making head wraps.  Not a lot to say about this but a whole lot of goofiness, giggles, and happiness.  Funny how old material scraps can have that affect. 

head2
head1She’s not quite sure about this look.

 Finally, no date night this week, but we did have a fun family night.  I made appetizers, dips and chips and a pioneer woman shrimp dish, which 5 out of the 9 loved.  We ended with a fire that despite his best efforts, Ryan finally resorted to making the modern day way, with a box of matches.  The kids had a blast, roasting marsh mellows, posing in eerie ways, catching mom and dad letting loose, and having way too much fun creating special effects with the camera.

fire1                           “YOU ARE MAN, I AM FIRE!”

 

fire2

fire3                           ghosts!
fire4

fire5

fire6

fire7RED HOT LOVE!

 

JUST KEEP LIVIN!!

Void of Facebook and Microwaves

I mentioned before that our move to Tennessee was very intentional.  Early on in our marriage Ryan and I sat down and discussed how we wanted our life to look and feel, our marriage, our children, and priorities for our family.  This conversation included questions such as, how do we want to raise our children?  What does that look like in terms of discipline and this sense of entitlement kids seem to have today?  How are we going to model this life of simplicity for them?  What is our highest goal in searching out this sort of life?   It boiled down to this; we wanted to strip away the stuff that the world dangles as the ONLY way to live, the pressures, the vortex of entertainments, the wants and desires masquerading as needs, a modern day inability to sit and be still with one’s own thoughts or feelings, and a 1st world drive that often swallows inner peace in one big gulp.

We have discovered through stepping away from the noise, the dizzying madness that commercialism touts as a superior way to live, we have gained more meaningful and intimate relationships with one another, which in our reality as a blended family amounts to a significant amount of work, I believe, to even come close to getting this new found reality somewhat correct.   I desired to embrace this idea of growing closer to one another, especially connecting on a deeper level with my adopted children, but I had to incorporate  concrete decisions into my life because there are multiple distractions vying for my attention as a wife, friend, aspiring writer, blogger, and mom of seven.  Here are a few adjustments I have personally made to intentionally grow closer to my husband and my children.  

1.     Facebook. This is by far the biggest decision I made and it was embarrassingly difficult to follow through with.  I erased the Facebook app on my phone, no big deal, right? Wrong. Now what in the world was I going to do if I had two seconds of boredom while pumping gas?  I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook to begin with.  I hate what a time suck it is, I hate that there is this obsessive need to know what’s going on with everyone at all times, I hate that people in the publishing industry have said to me, “In order to get published, you need to market yourself and this includes Facebook.”  In numerous ways it has harmed our society and families in indescribable ways because there is no legitimate reason to be all up in everyone’s business 24 hours a day, but there I am, on it, engaging with it, despite my better judgment at times.  I decided I was sick of being a slave to Facebook at every waking moment and my phone was the biggest culprit in this aspect.  Waiting in the carpool line, bored, check Facebook.  Clerk taking too long at Walmart, check Facebook, family night at a park, check Facebook.  “Mommy, mommy look at me on the swing!” not nearly as  exciting as the woman I haven’t seen in 25 years rant about her ex-husband and what a scum bag he is, right? Needless to say, I deleted the app on my phone and it has been incredibly freeing.  I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again, I will probably not be a life longer on Facebook.  I have too many issues with it.  

2.    I got rid of our microwave and our Kitchen Aid, and all sorts of other dumb little gadgets that were never used.  I know, I’ll get grief about the Kitchen Aid but I didn’t use it, EVER.  Kneading bread is therapeutic for me, and I didn’t want to give up this highly enjoyable activity to a dough paddle.  In doing this, (and I am a woman who enjoys being in the kitchen) I’ve noticed that cooking has become a family affair.  The girls love to help out, peeling apples, kneading bread, stirring batter, and because we’ve eliminated so many of these “helpful devices,” I find I have a significant amount of time bonding with my children while teaching them certain skills.  

3.    I gave up my gym.  My wonderful sanctuary of peace and strength while rocking out to Bon Jovi’s, It’s my life.  I gave it up for a 30 minute hike with my husband, alone, most nights after dinner, up and down hills and crevices, where we reconnect with one another and talk about the day.  Also in giving up my gym, I forfeited this false sense of control I was holding onto instead of trusting God’s headship over my life, see Testosterone Filled Female.

4.    Ryan and I have both consciously incorporated the kids in activities that we enjoy.  For example, I love to crochet and craft, (and cook) he loves to fish and wander around our property looking for snakes, these are things that are admittedly more relaxing to do alone but we’ve found that we are able to enjoy these activities with greater frequency if we are willing to involve our children’s interest in them as well.  What used to be a once a month activity, becomes a weekly activity if the kids are split between two parents, both engaging them in separate activities.

5.    Finally, lately after the girls have showered, they’ve asked me to braid their hair before bed because they like to wake up to curly hair in the morning.  Such a simple thing that takes 15 minutes or so but I’ve found that it’s a meaningful way to connect with each of them through communication and touch – sounds like just about every other female in the world, communication and touch 🙂

Just keep livin!!