Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child. Have fun!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Immeasurably more

Victor's bedhead this morning was just a bit disconcerting. Not just because of that whole guy in the red suit with horns thing but because it's rare to find a fictional character with horns who also has behaviors worth emulating.

And because we were 3 for 3 for good days at pretty school this week, I hoped that this wasn't a bad sign.

Since I had an older child at home to stay with HopeAnne, I was able to leave extra early for pretty school pick up. All of the children were sitting at the tables, busily coloring a counting book about flowers. Victor was, I hoped at least, around the corner, so I went to the one-way mirror to see if I could get a good view of him.

The view was perfect. Victor was seated (seated!) with his TVI* next to him and his TSS standing nearby. His TVI was helping him put stickers and pompoms on the flowers in his book and braille stickers over the numbers on the page. Victor was compliant and participating in the activity. Did I mention that he was seated? Every few minutes he would jump up, spin a time or two, but then would sit (sit!) back down and pick up right where he left off.  It was beautiful. I might have found my eyes leaking just a little.

His pretty school teacher came out into the hall and I expressed my joy at finding Victor seated (seated!) and participating. She echoed this sentiment and added more examples of how Victor is not only progressing but succeeding. This is so much more than I could have asked or imagined when we started the year.

And then it was time for Victor to meet me and take me to the office where he is to give me the report for the day.

"Okay, Victor, how was your day? How many times did you go to the office today?"

A big smile and then, "Zero!"

We are 4 for 4 for this week, folks. We've never been 4 for 4 before. Until this week we've never been 3 for 4 and most weeks we weren't even 2 for 4. 1 for 4 used to be something to be celebrated. Today we celebrated 4 for 4. 4 for 4!

Victor is in the right place with the right team so that he can be exactly what God promised those months before he was even born - victorious! God prepared this team for us long before we asked for a team, long before we even knew we needed a team.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, 
according to His power that is at work within us, 
to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3: 20 - 21



*A code for Victor's alphabet soup team:
TVI - Teacher of the Visually Impaired
TSS - Therapeutic Staff Support

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kick in the pants

Meals on Wheels. It's a hot topic these days. It came up in two separate conversations within two days. And of course it showed up multiple times in my newsfeed. It's the new poster child for everything that's wrong with our country. And funny thing, Meals on Wheels isn't even directly funded by the federal government.

But I get it. I know that it gets its funds from somewhere and some of those funds come from federally funded programs and those programs face possible cuts.

I get it.

What I don't get is my fellow Christians. Christ-followers, as our name says. We are to blame here. Not President Trump. Not the Senate or the House. Meals on Wheels should have been our job in the first place. Taking care of widows is in our job description, from the Old Testament to the New.

********************
Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 
If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. Exodus 22: 22 - 23
(And read verse 24 to find out what God said He would do to those who didn't listen.)

Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, or the widow.
Deuteronomy 27:19

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,
if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,
then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 
But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless... 
Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. Jeremiah 7: 2 - 11, 23

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: 
She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; 
they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16: 49

This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer  true justice; 
show mercy and compassion to one another. 
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. 
In your hearts do not think evil of each other. Zechariah 7: 9 - 10

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

********************

"But," the argument continues, "there are so many people who rely on Meals on Wheels!"

Yes, and if, as a Christian, you are truly concerned, are you ready to get to work? Do you know how many churches there are and how many people there are who attend those churches?

God has provided the resources and the people. We are Plan A. We need to stand up and be counted for.

And this obviously isn't just about feeding the elderly. Whatever the need: refugees, immigrants, homeless, mentally ill, single parents, children ... The needs are great. They always have been. But there are always enough resources if those of us with the ability, time, and finances are willing to give of our time and resources to care for those right around us.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed. "God, I'm already caring for orphans. I'm tired. Do I really have to add something else?" And I hear that still, small voice, "I gave my son who gave His life."

A few weeks ago, a friend at church came to me to tell me that she had had a very vivid dream that week and she needed to share it with me because I was in her dream. She told me that she saw all of the houses in my neighborhood and that John and I owned all of them. My first thought was that it was just a crazy dream; no meaning here. Surely God was not saying that we were going to buy all of these houses and put children in them? (Yes, my mind always goes to the children.) A few weeks later, I think my eyes have been opened. I have long felt that we are not doing enough for our widowed neighbors. Shoveling here, sending over a loaf of bread there... That's nothing. What if God wants our family to "own" the needs right around us? I already cook for an army. What if I provided for our neighbors, too? And, what if we carved time out of our lives to visit with them more often? Took our instruments and played songs for them? What if we were the neighbor Jesus spoke of in Luke 10?

And what if that dream wasn't just meant for me but was God speaking to all of my friends who call themselves Christ-followers? Who occupies those houses right around you? Might God be calling you to "own" the needs around you? For too long we have forgotten that we follow a radical, crazy Lord who loves and serves with a radical, crazy love. He told us to "Go, and do likewise." He never asked the Roman government to do the job for Him or even to join Him in His work.  He never seemed concerned that the Roman officials were not investing money in feeding the poor, housing the homeless, or caring for the physically and mentally ill.  Instead, He lived a life of giving, loving, and caring; a life of sacrifice. Are we?

Maybe this administration is just the kick in the pants we need to do what we were meant to do in the first place.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Victor keeps talking...


I love you, Mom. You're my special boy.
But when he's mad at me he yells...

STUPID BOY!
********************
Victor: Mom, where's Dad?
Me: He's at work.
Victor: What is he doing?
Me: I don't know. He's probably in meetings.
Victor: He's playing his guitar. And listening to Hershey.
Me: Hersh.
Victor: What did you say?
Me: I said, "His name is Hersh."
Victor: Right. He's listening to Hersh. And singing songs...
********************

But I don't want to eat supper; I just want to have fun! (And then he called me an apricot for suggesting that he eat supper. On the meanness continuum, I'm not sure if I should be more or less offended that I've moved from a period to a question mark to a pepperoni to an apricot?)
********************
Me: Victor, tell me about pretty school today.
Victor: I went.
Me: Yeah, I knew that.
********************

Soda buzzes me. Take the spicy out.
********************
Me: Victor, please turn that music down so I can hear myself think.
After a bit of a fuss he turned the music down and then...
Victor: I can't hear you thinking.
********************
I was narrating the morning for Victor, telling him about the children and parents I saw walking into pretty school. "Oh, there's Owen and his daddy. I see Jacob walking up the stairs." Etc. Then I said, "I see a little girl but I don't know her name. She must be in Ms. Ursula's class."
Victor (who couldn't possibly see her because she was too far away for his limited vision): Ooooo, she's so cute!
Hope: Oh, are you going to marry her?
Victor: Yes! I'm going to buy her a ring that lights up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Snow day!

So how do we spend a snowy day with no school?
There is, of course, the necessary work of snow removal but after that comes lots of play...

First games...
Victor insisted he had to be on
Isaac's team. It worked. They won.

...then snow.
Those are smiles. In case you couldn't tell.


and for the Mama, time to sew while there are extra Victor entertainers in the house. A while back I heard of organizations like Dress a Girl Around the World and Little Dresses for Africa. I was intrigued and went to the Salvation Army to find a few pillowcases that could be repurposed into dresses.

And then those pillowcases sat on my shelf for a long time. A few days ago I pulled one off the shelf and then another and another. I added pockets and ruffles. Today, I finished off three more. How fun to look at a plain pillowcase and then look through the odds and ends in my stash to add flowers and lace and other embellishments. Now there are no more pillowcases on the shelf and these dresses are ready to be shipped out. Anyone have any pillowcases in the linen closet that aren't being used? Just in case there's one more snow day left this season?

Two boys got stuck cleaning off the hot tub so some could enjoy the fruits of their labors.

And that's how we spend a snowy day with no school.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Olympics, Opry, and horse poop

June 29, 1994. It was our anniversary. It was also the day we saw one line turn into two.

The Good Doctor's mom and grandmother were visiting from Ohio and in the next room but we didn't tell them. This was our little secret.

A few weeks later we were in a van, taking a group of teens on a mission trip to Chicago. We tried to keep our secret. But you know teens, "Why doesn't she [me] have to paint, too?" It's all about being fair, you know. And if the youth pastor's wife ain't paintin', then they ain't paintin'. And maybe my weird cravings were just a bit, well, too weird. So we had to tell them. We swore them to secrecy. But you know teen girls...

The secret was out. 42 long weeks later, he was here. Andrew John King.

Who would have guessed that 22 years later we'd be celebrating with a son who has been to the Olympics,

filmed at the Grand Ole Opry,
and sets up photo ops of  horse poop?
(And is equally proud of all of these accomplishments.)

Love you, Andrew! Happy birthday! Thanks for the last-minute decision to come home despite the chaos, broken down car, and forecasted blizzard. Here's to a safe trip back.

P.S. Your gift should be waiting for you when you get back to Kentucky.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grateful and giving

How do we teach our children about entitlement and safeguard them from this vicious trap? There may be some who haven't even thought about this since entitlement is rampant in America, and it knows no age limits. Of course there are many forms of entitlement and we do need to teach our children about all of them but for now I'm talking about material entitlement.* Why? Because the Good Doctor and I just finished team-teaching an 8 week class for parents. On the last day we had an extended Q and A time. It's always difficult to adequately formulate an answer to a question on the fly so we did our best but since then, I've been thinking about each question and how I could have answered it better or, if we had more time, in more detail. This is one of those topics that has had me thinking and since it fits right in with our family's Lenten studies, it's in the forefront of my thoughts.

The holidays are a great time to look at the topic of entitlement. More specifically, to ask ourselves the question, "How do our holiday traditions and activities encourage or discourage entitlement?"

In 2013 I read the book, Advent Conspiracy by Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, and Greg Holder. I must have looked funny, sitting in the NICU in Utah, reading a book about Advent and Christmas in the summer but I did. It had been on my pile for a while but I didn't have time to read it until I found myself with plenty of uninterrupted time between diaper changes and limited baby holding. I decided that summer is the best time to read it so that you can plan ahead for your family's Christmas. If you wait until the Christmas season, you'll probably fall into all of the same traps and find yourself too busy to read the book.  It's also best reviewed yearly. You'll forget. I promise.

The book has 4 tenets: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.  Pursuing each of these will not only change your family's focus during the Christmas season, it will be freeing as well. But shouldn't we be living those four values every day of every year? In that light, Easter seems like another good time to focus on those four. Take a look at how your family celebrates Easter. Is it all about the bunny and the eggs and the basket? There's nothing wrong with that side of Easter as long as it has its rightful place behind the true meaning of Easter. And there's nothing wrong with giving our children gifts in baskets and eggs as long as we think about what we're giving, how much we're giving, and why.

Do our children really know what we're celebrating? Do we?

It's not surprising that since our Lenten devotional is written by one of the authors of Advent Conspiracy (Seay) that many of the same themes come through. On Day 5 of Lent, Seay talks about entitlement and suggests that increasing our gratitude is one way to cure us. "If entitlement is like a disease to a healthy spiritual life, then gratitude is the proven vaccine. What lengths are you willing to go to in order to integrate a grateful spirit into everything that you do?"  (Seay, 71) And, I would add, how can we teach our children to have a spirit of gratitude so that they can go against the tide of entitlement?

For our family, we've found that the more we share with others, either in our home or out, the less entitled we become. We have less to spend on ourselves, first of all, but more importantly, we find the joy of giving far exceeds the act of getting.

As Christian parents, let's agree to use this Easter season to purposefully share the true meaning of Easter with our children. Let's promise to re-think what goes into their baskets and eggs, if we do Easter baskets. Do they really need another stuffed animal, just because we've included one every year before?  Is it really necessary to purchase a cart full of Dollar Store items that will break before the day is over just to have an overflowing basket? And how we might be able to share our abundance with others? Could we purchase two of everything we're giving to our children and put them in a basket for a child in need? Could we take our children shopping for a family that could use some encouragement? How fun it would be to anonymously drop off a box or basket of food and clothing to bless that family. And let's agree that this is just the beginning. To counter entitlement, we need to be grateful and giving.

Lent

A chance to
Stop
Breathe
Rest
Ask whose we are
And why we are here

A time to
Humble ourselves
Take less and share more
Make room at the table
And be transformed into Christ-likeness

A season to
Surrender our hearts and lives
Remember the miracles and grace of God
Follow Jesus on His journey to the cross

And discover for what we might be willing to die

*For an excellent book on anger, unforgiveness, feelings, and entitlement, I highly recommend Unoffendable by Brant Hansen.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dangerous men

Our church has a ministry to teen boys called Dangerous Men. Several men, committed challenging our young men to a life of integrity and purity, meet with a group of teens to mentor, model, and work through a curriculum on these topics.

As parents, we are thrilled that such a ministry exists and that each of our four oldest sons has participated in a small group with their peers. We know that we can't be the only voices in our children's lives and desire to have godly mentors for our children. As children transition to adulthood, they tend to listen to outside influences more than what their parents say. This is part of launching our children well; providing people who will speak into their lives, and teaching them to seek them out.

Dangerous Men has also been a blessing to us as we celebrate rites of passage with our children. Long before we had any teen-agers, we were intentional about thinking through specific ages that we would like to celebrate and ceremonies that we would like to accompany those steps into adulthood. Our desire to do so started with the reading of Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis. We took the idea to celebrate milestones, made it a little more Anabaptist (the whole knight thing was foreign to us), and found a way to include our daughters as well. Later, the Good Doctor chose to research this idea of transitioning to adulthood when he prepared his doctoral dissertation work. He found that while many civilizations and countries celebrate rites of passage, the concept is completely missing in western cultures. In fact, it is almost counter cultural. After his qualitative study was complete, the Good Doctor came up with this statement: The transition to healthy manhood involves a process of accumulating greater responsibilities and experiences in the company of at least one other man who has already made this transition.*

In our home, one of the rites of passage we celebrate occurs when a son turns 16. All of the men in that child's life are invited to a celebration. (Don't worry, the daughters aren't forgotten. The only difference is that all the women in her life are invited to the celebration. Get it?) The men are sent an invitation with the following information:

"Thank you so much for the important role you play in _____'s life. As you may know, _____ turned 16 recently. To celebrate this big milestone for him, I am planning a special night to bless him as he becomes a young man. You are invited to come to a special evening at _____ on _____. During our time together, we will have a lot of dessert, some great times to talk together, and a time to bless _____ as a young man. If you are able to come, I would like you to come prepared to share a few words about “what it means to become a man.” When I have done this for other children, people would often come and have something written out to give to them that evening. At the end of the night, _____ will hopefully have a lot of letters and notes of encouragement. If you would like to give _____ a gift, please feel free to do so, but my request is that you make it symbolic. in the past, I have seen people give a CD of music, a book, a Bible translation, something that they are passing onto the next generation, and even a sword. Creativity is very welcomed. 
If you are unable to come, I would still ask you to write a letter to _____ about becoming a young man and what that means for him. 

And since the last of our triplets turned 16 recently, last night was his night. Even though I'm not there  for our sons, I love to read the letters that are given to each of them and then I put them into a scrapbook for him to read over and over throughout life.

Here are some of the highlights of last night's letters:

"I'm grateful that your dad invited me to spend the evening with you celebrating. The question of becoming a man is difficult for today's young generation. You are bombarded by so much at such a young age. I will offer my humble opinion on what it takes to be a man. I must be honest in the fact that no one ever did what you're doing tonight when I was your age. I would offer up that you have the opportunity of a lifetime to hear from other grown men what it means to be a man. I would also posit that many other men you will hear from never had this opportunity either. So what you will hear is what it means to be a man through the lens of past mistakes and failures that otherwise may not have been made had we had this information earlier in life."

"Leadership and being an example to others is directly related to your connection with [our son]. That boy admires you, not just because you are the cool teenager, but because you truly care about him. You are teaching him truths that will help him guide his thoughts and decisions for years to come. You set an example for him to follow, which as his father, am so grateful for in his life. Even the 'little things' like your handshake when you first see each other are ways that you purposefully attempt to connect at his level. Psalm 78: 72 - 'He shepherded them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.'"

Some thoughts on driving a car...
"-driving a car is a huge responsibility
-slow down, it's ok to ride in the slow lane
-the most important part of a car sits behind the wheel, it's not the bling accessories
-when reacting to another driver, you never know what the other driver is going through
-follow the rules of the road
-if you ever get lost, take time, pull over (safely), and ask someone"
Connected metaphorically to life..
"-becoming and being a man is a huge responsibility
-as life comes at you, be careful to not get caught up in the fast lane
-what matters most is what's in your heart, God really doesn't care about bling
-be ever mindful of others and what they may be going through
-rules of the road = The Bible and wise counsel of others
-when troubled times come, don't be afraid to seek out help"

"You are a gifted young man, with many talents in many arenas, but especially when it comes to music. Sometimes masculinity is mistakenly thought to exclude love of the arts. God made the world with intricate beauty - think of the vast array of colors in flowers, the unique camouflage of various insect and animal species, the awesomeness of a river roaring down from the melting snowcap of a majestic mountain. Historically, many of the best tailors, musicians, writers, composers, clothes designers, gardeners, sculptors, painters, chefs, and architects have been men. We have been made in the image of a Creator, and have that creative drive instinctively. God put a love of art, music, and beauty inside us to draw us to Him...I encourage you, young warrior, to continue to cultivate the gifts within you. You have a good heart. Continue to love and lead others. The Kingdom needs a man like you, to bring the redemptive work of Jesus to those who are lost and hurting."

"As you already know, you will receive mixed messages about what 'manhood' means and it can be difficult to determine the truth. I encourage you to focus on your personal relationship with God, and hear His plans for you, specifically how the gifts and talents He has given you can be used in the world around you. I believe that you have been blessed with some great examples of Godly men, starting with your father and grandfathers, brothers, and other family members. As you look around and consider the men in your life, you will see Godly examples in your youth leaders and youth pastor, in the adult men of McBIC who have watched you mature, and even in some of your peers in the youth group. Be thankful for the examples that God has placed in your life, and use these me when you need encouragement, support and advice."

"I have seen many virtues in your life. I have seen the patience that you have shown in caring for Victor. I am sure that you are needing to show patience in sharing driving privileges with three sixteen year olds in the family at one time. I have seen the virtue of being a team player as you have performed with your family in the King's Strings ensembles. You have shown that you have perseverance and have worked hard in becoming a top notch viola player. I was happy to see you be rewarded for that hard work when you earned the fourth chair in district orchestra and qualifying for the regional orchestra! I have also seen you as a person with a gentle spirit. This is a wonderful virtue as you work with other people."

3 thoughts about becoming a man...
"Don't hide your weaknesses. We all have them, and when we are able to acknowledge our challenges and even our failures, we build trust and relationships that are strong.
Be willing to take risks. It's so easy to go with the flow, but if you feel the nudge of God, follow it. And surround yourself with people of the Spirit who will be honest with you if you are falling into self-centeredness.
Listen, listen, listen and love, love love. Listen for the voice of God in its myriad of forms. Listen to those who seem very different from you. Listen to those who care about you. Love yourself. Love those who are nearest to you. Love those who the world says are unlovable."

"You also have a heart for people and a compassion for those around you. I sense that God will lead you to help many people around you. You will be a protector for the weak. I would caution you, however, not to follow others blindly. Choose your friends wisely. You cannot follow God's chosen path alone. But poorly chosen friends can easily lead you astray. Learn to differentiate also between friends or peers, and mentors or coaches. They serve valuable but very different roles in your life. And finally I would encourage you to have a plan for your life. With God's leading, and the advice of your mentors, set goals for yourself and stick to them."

All of the letters are important and special, but maybe Dad's and PopPop's are just a little more special. Many verses are shared, advice given, challenges made, encouragement provided. As one participant said of last night, each time affirmation of character was given, our son grew taller and taller in his chair. That's what this night is about.

Our children have free will; they get to make their own choices. As Christian parents, we pray they will choose to love the Lord our God and love others. We need to be intentional to raise up adults, living in community, who are independently dependent on God.

*The Good Doctor is not sexist. A dissertation needs to be specific and limited. Since the Good Doctor is a man, he thought it would be better in the context of this study to meet with, and ask questions of, men. If I were to allow him more degrees, I suppose he could, at a later time, study the process of becoming a woman. However, he has many degrees and no funds so that will not be happening. If it bothers you to read this post in light of all the masculine comments, just stick she/her in there and it can read the same. It just hasn't been studied yet, for the reasons just stated.