Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz In People’s Ears?

After our newest children moved in with us last summer, I went through what I call a crisis of faith. It’s happened after every birth and adoption so far. The stress breaks my body down, I’m fatigued, and I give in to every temptation and hopeless thought Satan throws my way. God always feels silent.

At the height of this desperate time, I was hiking and praying. It’s always my goal to pray during these hikes, but shiny objects pull me from my Daddy constantly. I prefer to look at the shadows of him instead of just enjoying the real thing. This time was no different, and I found myself, as usual, asking God to draw me to him in prayer without being distracted.

A mosquito started buzzing in my ear. Because of the doubts I was feeling at the time, I foolishly decided to test God. Even though I believed in my heart that Jesus was king, that he’d paid for others’ sins, that I wanted him desperately, I just couldn’t believe that I belonged to God. This is the main lie I believe in those dark times. So to try to get God to prove to me that I was his, I prayed something like, “If I’m yours, please make this mosquito stop buzzing in my ear.” As soon as I prayed, the mosquito buzzed again.

This happened multiple times during the walk. Each time the mosquito buzzed, I prayed God would stop the mosquito. And a few seconds after I prayed, buzzing again. After an hour or so of this, I was sobbing and yelling at God: “You can raise people from the dead! This mosquito is nothing hard for you. Why won’t you just do this one thing???” In my despairing heart, this predictably led to saying, “OK, I’m not yours. Just help me not be angry and bitter about it but instead to see how much I deserve this.”

The whole experience crushed me. It was dumb, but that was all it took. The hopelessness ended a few days later when several friends were over. One dear sister noticed I’d disappeared. She went hunting for me upstairs and found me in my closed closet curled in a ball on the floor, sobbing. This friend didn’t ask questions but simply lowered herself to me and let me wail on her shoulder for more than 30 minutes, praying out loud for me the whole time.

(This doesn’t actually have a ton to do with the rest of the story, but man, it was one of the best ways I’ve ever been loved, and I simply wanted to share.)

That day, some of the fog lifted and I was able to see things more rightly. With friends speaking truth to me, my hope in Jesus instead of in my works or even in the strength of my faith was restored.

A couple of months later, I was hiking again and praying. Once more, I wanted to pray the whole time but my mind was wandering. So again I simply prayed that God would help me continue talking to him instead of thinking of other things. Almost immediately, a mosquito buzzed in my ear. My heart was lighter this time, so I started laughing. This time I prayed: “God, I know what happened last time, and I trust you have a reason. But I’m still going to ask you to stop this stinkin’ mosquito. If you choose not to again, help me to trust you.” Again, the mosquito buzzed.

A few minutes later, finding myself distracted, the buzzing started again. I prayed, “God I know I don’t need to know, but will you please show me why you aren’t answering this prayer?” Almost immediately, he revealed it to me: What was I always asking God for when I was hiking? I was asking him to keep me praying and to keep me from distractions. What did I do every time the stupid mosquito buzzed in my ear?

I prayed.

When I saw this, I laughed, like a crazy lady laugh, and I may have started whooping in the middle of a state forest, not really concerned who heard me or not. Because now I knew why mosquitoes buzzed in people’s ears.

At least, I knew why they buzzed in mine.

How many more mosquitoes do I have in my life that I see as nuisances which are really just God drawing me closer to him?

 

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The Answer to Life’s Problems

Don’t you hate it when you get click-baited by some article that claims to solve some problem in life? You get excited looking for answers only to discover the article ends up just ranting instead of giving any useful solutions at all. Don’t you want to scream at that person for wasting your time? Don’t you just get so annoyed???

Yeah, me, too.

Transitioning to Tween Years

If there’s one topic that’s almost absent in the self-help genre of books, it would be the topic of raising tweens. This title was coined several years ago to describe the years right before our kids become teenagers. It’s a confusing age for kids. Their bodies are changing in weird ways, and they flip back and forth constantly between wanting to act like a young child and wanting to act like an adult. They don’t really fit anywhere, often feeling like outcasts because of it. And we parents sit on the sidelines all like, “What? The? CRAP???”

And there are basically no good articles or books to help us. Woohoo.

So, I’m about to write an article that isn’t going to be all that helpful either. You’re welcome.

But from much trial and error and a plethora of tweens in the house, here’s the one thing we’re learning the most: These years as parents are mainly about transitioning from hands-on to overseer.

A couple of years ago, Liam made the comment that it must be really hard for me to raise eight kids. I told him that physically, it was actually much harder when I had four kids. At that time, none of my kids were even school aged. It was me who had to prep all food, do all cleaning and laundry, dress my kids, strap them in car seats, carry them to and fro, teach them everything new, and make all decisions, usually with a baby on my boob. Now, I only prepare one meal a day (with a cooking helper I might add), do minimal cleaning, only fold my own laundry along with Bill’s, shop for kids clothes that my children dress themselves in, walk myself to the van where all kids are strapped in and ready to go (many times with lunch packed that I had nothing to do with), listen to them tell me about what they’re learning from reading on their own, and often get creative ideas from my kids to help me make decisions. And, well, there’s still a man who occasionally sucks on my boob, but never while those other things are going on… [oh to be a fly on the wall so I can see my poor, mortified mother’s face as she’s reading this].

The little years are the years your hands are literally full all the time! You never stop doing, and it’s physically exhausting. For us, this has changed immensely. Even with the amount of children I have, I don’t need to be nearly as active as I once was because my kids share so much of the load.

However, I’m not less exhausted.

My exhaustion has simply transitioned from a physical (though I’m still plenty active here, too, as a mom!) to a mental exhaustion.

These are the years my kids want time, time, and more time with me. They want to talk about everything from the newest Super Mario game (it’s Odyssey, if you didn’t know–I do now!) to feeling left out with friends in the neighborhood. They get extremely vulnerable late in the evening, ready to spill everything. Their slap-happy gets more ridiculous and funnier all the time. They tell me that I’m their best friend.

I’m loving it!! And it’s so incredibly hard because I would almost rather give my energy to physical work than that much emotional work. But the times I give myself up to listen, really listen, and simply talk as friends to my tweens have truly been some of the most blessed moments of my life.

Here are a few ways Bill and I have changed our parenting focus with this age:

  • Instead of us doing most of the physical work around the house, we watch over the kids work, giving them instruction and letting them learn by trial and error. We also inspect what we’ve expected. If you’re still doing most of the work here and your child is at least ten, I can almost promise you they’re able to do almost all the work you do.
  • I push myself to stay awake later at night. Even in college, I cried if I had to stay out after ten. I figure since I’ve acted like an old person for so long, it means I’ll be the best grandma ever.
  • Bill and I really try to carve out time for each other and give the kids most of the rest. The two of us really really love talking to each other, so we find every excuse under the sun to do so. Family walks–let’s hold hands and talk. Working in the kitchen–let’s talk. Family games–time to talk to Bill. Great quality in a relationship, not so great if it means the kids rarely get opportunities to talk to you because of it. We have time set aside as a couple every day and other times throughout the week, month, and year. And we push ourselves to be patient in the other times to wait for each other (cause true love waits–ba dum bum) so we can be free for the kids to talk our ears off.
  • We have weekly time set aside just for our tweens. We call it Dude/Chick Time. After everyone else is in bed, we split into guys and girls to talk about tons of things relevant to their lives.
  • As they enter this season, we take them on an individual weekend trip to talk to them about the changes that are coming up for them, how our bodies work, and sex. Every year after that, each of these kids get a day trip with one of us for some individual time and to continue these conversations.

We’d love to hear other ways you guys pour into your tweens. And we’d love your list of resources, too. Though we haven’t had great success finding quality ones we love, we still have hope they exist.

Discipling Our Kids as Individuals

A few folks have raised a question from Courtney’s last post about how we do life together as a family: how do we disciple our kids individually and how do we ensure that get enough individual attention from us? There are a few different ways I want to approach this because I think there’s a lot of clutter and assumptions we need to work through before really getting to the meat of that question. I hope you’ll show me a little patience as I work through that before getting to the answer I think most would expect.

1. How much is enough?

In meeting with people over the years for discipleship and the such, a question I frequently ask is “how often do you read your Bible or pray?” and I consistently get an answer along the lines of “not as much as I should.” Then I follow up with the question, “How much should you be?” which no one can really answer. There’s a deep shame that most carry around where however much time is spent on a worthwhile endeavor such as Bible reading, it’s never really “enough.” It seems to me that individual time with our kids would fall in a similar vein. There’s an unspoken expectation that our kids should get lots of alone time with us, and we never really do it enough.

This Enough Complex really has a set of problems all its own and bleeds into all kinds of areas: parenting, spiritual disciplines, eating well, exercise, serving others, caring for the poor, giving money, and on and on and on. We never do “enough” but we never really know what enough is–just that we’re falling short of it. I’m not even remotely arguing that we should just be content with our shortcomings. But I am trying to question how we have set some unstated standard which is probably impossible to meet and does nothing but drive us into shame and guilt instead of driving us into the Sabbath rest of the Savior, who has both accomplished our righteousness completely and given us his Spirit to make us into a new creation.

To sum up: what would be enough individual time with your kids? If you can’t give a definitive, faith-filled, convicted answer then you have a problem before we even start this conversation.

2. Why individual time?

I think this has become my shtick to ask “Why?” about everything, but here we are anyway. Moving past “enough,” I really want to question the foundations of individual time. If nothing else, we have a pressing biblical question to ask about what God requires of us as parents: Does he expect us to give individual time to each of our children and, if so, how much?

I’m going to go out on a limb here by saying: he doesn’t. So where does this idea for individual attention and the importance of it come from? I can’t pinpoint it, but I can assure you it’s a North American socially driven idea, not a biblical one. Now, the fact that it doesn’t come from the Bible doesn’t make it bad. The Bible doesn’t say to sleep with a blanket and I’m a mighty big fan of that, so that’s not the point here. But I would say that if someone wants to sleep without a blanket, then good for them–because it is not commanded or implied by Scripture.

What we’re really dealing with here is a pressure that exists because of our current social context that is driving our parenting priorities. I love individual time with my kids. I really do. But I am under no conviction that I must do so or that I must do so for a certain amount of time or frequency.

This is probably the point where the gut reaction against what I’m saying is coming out. “Don’t you think that all kids should get individual time? Don’t you think that’s important for individual development?” Again, I’m not arguing that they’re bad, but the assumption that they are necessary is the issue. And perhaps (in my context) our American superiority complex is coming out. There are plenty of cultures that spend almost no one-on-one time with their children–while still maintaining strong family connections. Shoot, the central premise of the British-cultured Harry Potter books is that the children spend 3/4 of the year completely separated from their parents. And no one bats an eye. But in America, one-on-one time is practically a non-negotiable.

I also strongly suspect that much of this comes from the shrinking family size of American families as well. With the preponderance of one- and two-children homes, individual attention for each child is either the norm or very easy to attain. Historically, that certainly hasn’t always been the case, nor is it true for many other non-Western cultures. Regardless of the causes, we’re standing on an expectation that is groundless from God’s perspective. There might be wisdom in it (like taking your kids to the dentist), but we need to place this conversation into the right context before trying to really parse it out.

3. Doesn’t God want something greater?

I think my big issue about all this is to see something greater that just a parent-child relationship. In Deuteronomy 6 after the great pronouncement that Yawhew is one God, we should love him completely, and we do that through obeying his commands, we’re told:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This isn’t a program. It’s not a kid date. It’s not even individualized. Parents are to impress upon their children the words of God. Why? So that they’ll know him, his mighty deeds, and his holy commands. And this isn’t at set times, but all the frickin’ time. The way we train our kids and invest in them is by continually pointing them to the Word, Jesus himself.

We do this at shared meals, while taking walks, on long drives, when playing games, when disciplining, when reading together, when praying together, when going on vacations, when fixing the leaky sink, when sweeping the floor, when cooking dinner, when loading the dishwasher, when getting the mail, when raking leaves, when throwing snowballs. It’s all the time, not just these set one-on-one times.

But more than that, individual time with our kids really needs to be geared toward something other than a deepened relationship with our children–and let’s be honest, that seems to be what most of the concerns are with individual attention. The Shema of Deut 6 is about continually pointing our children toward their True Dad in their True Family. We parent for only a little while. By faith, we believe that those who are our kids will one day be brothers and sisters, all of us sitting at the feet of our great Father. We’re not raising them to a closer relationship with us, but toward the infinitely relational God himself.

The fact is that our kids don’t actually need one-on-one time with us as their parents. We’re striving to raise our kids into Jesus–something far grander than us and our pale imitation of God’s family. And we are bringing our kids into God’s family. This is more than just a God-and-me religiosity, but the fact that God has called himself a people. This people is made up of individuals, but individuals called into a community.

Let’s even draw an analogy from Jesus’ time on Earth. He had his “family” of twelve who went along the road with him. He preached the kingdom to them in houses and along the road, as well as in the morning and in the evening. And as far as is recorded, he spends very little time one-on-one with each of his disciples. He brought them with them everywhere and used the opportunities of day-to-day life to train them toward the Father.

And are we really going to say that Jesus didn’t know his disciples personally and individually? That if only he’d spent a little more individual time with them, Judas wouldn’t have betrayed him or Peter wouldn’t have denied him? Jesus was perfect and he disciples his disciples perfectly.

Wrapping it up

Maybe it sounds like I’m giving very little direction about how to disciple our kids as individuals. In one sense, that’s true–I’m not helping build much and instead am trying to tear down a lot of unhelpful assumptions. Though I think that’s incredibly important, because we’re driven by our core convictions and if they don’t come from God’s Word, then we ought to question them. But in another sense, I’m advocating for discipling our kids in community and for community. I’m advocating for getting to know our kids not so much through individual time, but through the many ups and downs of daily life. I’m advocating for knowing our kids as individuals and discipling them as individual souls, but without feeling like we need all kinds of separate time with each to do that. I would argue that I know each of my kids, I know what they like and hate, I know their preferences, I know their sin struggles–and I know almost all of that from the variety of daily life situations we’re in, not from a kid date here and there.

And lest we be accused of being haters, we’ve posted in the past about how we pursue individual time with the kids. But the point of that time is to fill in any cracks that might come out of our parenting along the road of life. Some months, those individual items might go by the wayside–and we don’t sweat it, because our parenting is built on the gospel of Jesus, not on the quality of our planned one-on-one times.