HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY TO MY HERO DAD!

64083_2771514652360_1392829541_32035041_1646772071_nIn a day when fathers are missing or hurt their own children, I am so privileged to be able to celebrate the DADS in my life. I first celebrate you, dad, Don Miller, in your 90s, still praying for people and loving people, everywhere you go. Even on your toughest days, you walk the mall with mom – the two cutest people out there. Even though knees are weak – your heart is not – it beats to love others and to know God more fully! Dad, you set an example of life-long commitment to Christ – to mom –to our family – to your church – your neighbors, near and far. Your generosity, to this moment, astounds me as you give your life and your possessions away, knowing you will not take it with you.

 

I treasure having been your only daughter. You were such an encourager in all that I attempted to do. Thank you for meeting me at breakfast each morning on school days and praying for me as I was ready to walk out the door. Thank you for never making me ride the school bus and taking me to and from school every day. The one day the blizzard came and we had to leave school early, we were all put on busses. Frantically, you put chains on your tires and braved the weather, and got to a bus stop as quickly as you could so I wouldn’t have to ride it all the way home.

Thank you for loving mom so well even now –407571_10150819170128047_763398046_12439404_1716560581_n you will always be a romantic – your grandsons have inherited that from you. Thank you for facing your physical afflictions and setbacks with such courage and grace. Thank you for ministering to people every day that I have known you – from the alcoholic businessmen you began with, to the church plants on Long Island, to physically building a church with your own hands. You have loved everyone in between. Thank you for teaching us to open our home and lives to anyone – for hosting groups and missionaries – just loving those who entered and giving them a meal.

You are teachable as you seek the Lord each day and swing in your prayer arbor as you talk to the Lord. You still find joy in little things and laugh with mom at your “elderliness.” You may lose your hearing aids from time to time, but you never lose your sense of humor. You still tell a joke and deliver a punch line with perfect timing better than anyone I know – you have always been a story teller!

You are optimistic and trusting about your future and all of ours. You believe things about me and for me that I do not even believe for myself. You are such an encourager. You dreamed big and always want us to do the same. Your daily prayers for Bob and me, our children, and now our grandchildren see us through.

My three brothers and I could not be more blessed to have you as dad. You never 1012648_616935851651346_525001827_nread parenting books or went to conferences. You did not have the support of “dad” groups. You just sought after God and then tried to act like Him to us; I am so grateful. When people talk about heroes and roll models, your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren do not have to look far. In fact, they only have to look in your direction. app_full_proxyYour smile tells a story that has changed all of us forever.

I love you so much. Happy Father’s Day to you, to Bob whose heart reminds me of yours, and to my two sons who are now dads, carving out the path ahead for their children. May they father with the same grace and love that you have displayed through close to 70 years of parenting. You are one to whom the Father has already been saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!!” He is so proud of you and so are we!!!

To “Thirty Years” and Beyond – Lessons Learned

In the early 80s while in seminary in Texas, I listened to radio broadcasts on parenting. One intriguing interview introduced a recycled idea, “homeschooling.” It was new to me as Raymond and Dorothy Moore, homeschool pioneers, encouraged waiting to begin formal schooling, especially with boys, and doing it at home. They did not mean to bring “traditional school” home but involve all age children in life learning – a one room schoolhouse – resulting in a complete education. While pondering these thoughts, days later, I met and talked to my first homeschooling family.

Considering this option, I collected everything I could find about homeschooling and jumped on the bandwagon. In 1985 we attended one of the earliest homeschool conferences in the country, in Orlando. Hundreds of other curious parents joined us in the quest for how to do get equipped for this educational concept.

With three small boys and convinced to homeschool, many concerns and apprehensions remained, especially under intense scrutiny from others – family, friends, and even strangers. Is this legal? How will they learn? How will they take standardized tests –be socialized – survive missing the prom? How will they ever go to college? These sincere questioners were usually met with, my honest, unimpressive answer, “I don’t know.” Questions have finally ended, but in those early days, we certainly felt we were “out on a shaky limb.”

When our oldest was five, someone gave us a full kindergarten curriculum, gold to a new homeschool mom with no book budget. This impressive program taught a concept, then repeated it daily for weeks until mastered. Excitedly, I began Day 1, the “Five Vowels” lesson. Wanting to get it right, I followed the well-scripted lesson for the day. Rising early on Day 2, I read the next script, which repeated the lesson from the day before, when my son interrupted, “Mommy, you told me that yesterday – I already know all that – why are you saying it again?” My first lesson – every child learns differently – at “his” own pace – and timing is everything. I would have wasted the next six weeks because he began reading in the first five days. Don’t be impressed. That situation never repeated itself in my other children…Lesson #2one size doesn’t fit all –my first son was just ready! In fact, my second son learned to read at age nine, even though I tried to teach him every month. He went to bed a non-reader and woke up reading whole books.

Pregnant with my 4th, I often frantically moved through my days as homeschool mom and busy pastor’s wife. I tried to stay off the phone since all broke lose when someone called me. I had punted on the kindergarten curriculum, ordering a simple phonics program for $12. Lesson #3 – It doesn’t have to cost much to be effective. In fact my children learned from home made, “hand-me-down,” inexpensive, and “no” curriculum throughout the years. Curriculum Lesson, #4 stop searching for the “perfect” curriculum – it does not exist, and there will always be new ones.

Homeschooling was not for the faint of heart. Our adventure included instruction and arguments – tears and laughter – frustrations and breakthroughs. Surrounded by nursing babies, toddlers, teens, and the male energy of seven sons was challenging and intense, but the woods and trampoline came in handy for dispelling some of that energy. One morning we were reading from Ephesians 6 about the pieces of armor. I tried to make sure we read something from the Bible first – just in case we got nothing else done that day– #5 lessonif we read the Bible and talked meaningfully about life, the day was considered a success in our often crazy household. The conversation that followed led to a son’s personal commitment to Christ later in the day. Lesson #6a simple homeschool day can change a life – a child’s or a parent’s.

Eventually “eight was enough” – seven sons and one long-awaited-for daughter. Each baby’s arrival changed and challenged our schedule. Lesson #7there was no perfect homeschool schedule. It constantly changed with people and life’s interruptions. We all had to learn to embrace these times, not despise them – they were part of the curriculum specially made for my family. I started out controlling and strict in my early approach to homeschooling, but then something would happen – a burp, a really dirty diaper, and everyone would fall apart laughing. One day birds came down our chimney and flew around our house, causing uproar. We were terrorized but couldn’t stop laughing. If it snowed we had to declare a snow day and head for the hill outside. Lesson #8never stop laughing and enjoying the homeschool process. Laughter, flexibility, and field trips were our best friends on difficult days. As frustration mounted, I yelled, “field trip.” Within minutes we were out the door for the nearest park and mountain stream…peace.

Moving back to Florida in 1999 with high school sons, I looked for ways to accomplish advanced high school subjects. Florida’s public school system allowed my boys to play multiple sports, sing in choirs – some making “all state” chorus, and perform in Epcot’s Candlelight Processionals. One got the lead in a high school musical and was later awarded “most talented” superlative in the high school yearbook his senior year, without being a student at the school! One was asked to pray the blessing at every varsity football team meal all season. School leaders appreciated our guys and we loved this contact with the community as a family. I began a homeschool co-op to encourage others to keep going through high school, with moms helping moms. We participated in the dual enrollment program at local colleges, with seven graduating from high school with Associate of Arts degrees – tuition free. This provided further growth and life lessons as our children took the challenge of college courses while still being at home.

Homeschooling has changed, gaining momentum and respect. Myriads of curriculums available – state conventions around the country – massive used book sales – enrichment and academic co-ops – technological advances – more acceptance as an educational option. It is not an easy road, as unpredictable as each child, with his own unique gifts and callings. I never believed the people who told me how quickly the years would go by. Yet here I am, officially done this spring, thankful my children weathered well the path of homeschooling, with me and in spite of me. I tried to find the right plan for each child every year but final lesson learnedthere was no perfect path – no guarantee.

My prayer – “God, I will give homeschooling my best; will You make up the difference?” He has done that and more. 64116_4753431521046_1148517697_nLooking back, I worried I would not do enough or be enough – my children wouldn’t read the right books – get the scores, the scholarships. Chaos of family and church life would overwhelm us. Yet during those times, my children were learning life’s most important lessons – how to love God – love each other – and love the people around them. We pass an engraved baton to mark the transition of each graduate from high school. How they are running is not without pain but with character and endurance. My eldest and wife are now homeschooling what they call his “village” of six children. This journey has been more than worth the thirty years investment, and I cannot wait to see what is “beyond.”

“Joy to the World,” even Newtown, Connecticut–a response to a t-shirt with a false message.

A wise friend of mine wrote this response to those who posted on Facebook a picture of the t-shirt, “God, why do you allow violence in schools” with the answer being that he is not welcomed there, a popular religious answer to the tragedy in Connecticut:

L, this way of looking at the tragedy in Connecticut makes me very sad. Horrible, terrible, violent things happen in places and to people where God is welcomed, spoken to, cried out to, day after day. Although none of my children are currently in public school, they have all attended, at various times, and for multiple years, our local elementary and middle school. There is no way it would be honest for them to believe that public prayers not being allowed at their school would (1) keep God out of there or (2) remove them from the sovereign care of God for whatever time they are there, at a public school.

On the other hand, it would not be healthy or honest for them to think that when they are in church or in any other place where God is publicly "welcomed" they are absolutely safe from tragedy or violence or suffering. They are not. Safety and protection from suffering and violence is not something we are guaranteed, even when/though we are walking in God’s presence and care. Being in a place where God is welcomed does not create a cloak of invincibility around us, nor does being in a place where some people do not welcome God take us out from under God’s care. (I intentionally do not use the word "protection" because God does not guarantee protection from suffering or violence on us, in this fallen world, and yet we do continue to trust he cares for us in this world.)

There are no good answers (and certainly no simple ones) to tragedy and suffering, and when we put answers out there like "God wasn’t welcome in the public school, so that’s why he allowed violence there" we cheapen the suffering of people (including believers in that school who certainly were praying and crying out to the Lord before, during and after the CT tragedy), and we back ourselves into a theological corner when similar tragedies happen where God was and has always been clearly welcomed.

The shooting in Connecticut was tragic and desperately sad, and I do hear and share your deeply saddened and rightly angered heart for the victims and their families. Facing the sadness by taking up God’s defense with what this t-shirt communicates, however, adds sadness, and I believe mis-truth, on top of the sadness that already is.

My favorite verse of a Christmas carol is from “Joy to the World.” I believe tragedies like this happen because of sin, and the curse of sin and the fall. And I believe that Christ’s birth and eventual death and resurrection prove that he comes to make (and he will make) "his blessings known, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found….." For today, I have to trust that somehow, some way that includes what happens in Connecticut, in an elementary school, where nothing, not even the curse of the fall, could keep out God’s care and somehow, someway, hopefully even his blessing. It’s not an answer, but it is a bit of a comfort.

May you and your children (as I also hope for me and mine) find comfort and peace today in God’s care, in a world full of the curse, and yet touched and covered by the blessings he brought to earth, when he became flesh, like us, to live and die and rise again, amidst sin and violence, with those who welcomed him and those who did not. Hurting with you, and the rest of the country today,

Celebrating Kirk!

k & bTwenty-three years ago tonight, we met a long little guy named Kirk Robert. It sounded like old news to some – “it’s a boy” – a fifth boy! But we were thrilled and still feel that way today. You were our first dare-devil – the one who got the most stitches and knew your way around the emergency room the best. You climbed everything, from the beginning – from couches and tables to tall Tennessee hill trees – you jumped off of everything including our rooftop – now that sent us to the emergency room our first day in town! We used to sing your song to you and you rocked away while hearing, “Hey’s a Kirk-boy, my friend. Hey’s a Kirkie-boy, He’s a my friend.” I can still see you swaying back and forth in your crib as we all sang to you. “Friend” – is one description that fits you perfectly. I can remember times when so many guys felt that you were their best friend. I remember the year you did not want to have a birthday party because you were afraid you would leave someone out who considered you their friend. You are a great friend – loyal – sensitive – gentle – loving – caring – optimistic – trusting – stay true to those qualities – do not give them up…no matter what you find ahead!

There are many emotions I feel today as I remember your birth in Knoxville, Tennessee. You have been a treasure of a person in my life and to so many. Your name, Kirk, came from a close friend and also meant, “worshipper” – a name that you have lived up to in your passion for writing, singing, and playing worship . Robert – named after your dad – you have many of his attributes, like him in so many great ways. Home-schooled – football – soccer – track – dual enrollment – college graduate – Summit Ministries – mission trip – a whirlwind of memories since those days. God has so gifted you with artistry through music and photography – and now work in a whole new field. I commend you because in the challenges of life, you have persevered – you have had hope – you have kept believing and moving forward. You have loved and kept on loving! One year ago you walked up the aisle to meet the girl of your dreams in a powerfully, emotional   ceremony. No one will ever know all that walked up that aisle with you that day – 15what went into the relationship and your first year of marriage. But really, there is One Who knows and cares. He really has walked beside you and led you – even in those times you felt most alone in the journey. What a treasure of a person He led you to.

I guess we have all been learning that people’s words do not define who we are and where we are going. The power rests in God alone, who was and is our Great Shepherd. Follow Him!

Many new adventures await you and I am so thrilled to be a part, praying, and watching from the sidelines, as you grow in Christ-likeness. New job – new wife – new possibilities – I cannot wait to see all that is ahead.

The words most on my heart for you is “press on.”
-“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3 HE WILL, SO PRESS ON!
-“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 3:14 

CHRIST IS THE GOAL, SO PRESS ON!

Press on Kirk and know that “He Who is faithful will do it” – I will keep praying, believing, and pressing on with you. I love you and am so proud of the man you are- mom

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“16 Candles and Counting”

They said it would  never happen…that the odds were against me…that I didn’t know how to have one…that God never meant for me to experience this…that I needed to eat more tomatoes,   or was that chocolate?…that I wouldn’t know what to do if I ever did have one, so I probably shouldn’t!  It’s amazing how knowledgeable people are and how willing they are to share that knowledge, but no one knew the plans that God had for us. I am so glad that I never believed all the input I received about this subject. It gives me even more reason to celebrate this day that began 16 years ago when Bob and I met our first and only daughter, after seven sons. Bob began to laugh (he is not normally a hearty laugher, and I began to cry). The phone calls went out to the sons, to the parents, to all our friends. A friend, at the church we pastored, was standing by the phone and took the call on that Wednesday night: “It’s a girl!.” The choir director never re-gained control of the choir practice – the church was in an uproar – after seven sons, Bob and Joy had a baby girl – their world was turning pink. MK

By the time we got to our home on Thursday morning, there was pink everywhere – pink spray paint in our front yard, “It’s a Girl!” Airplanes flying overhead could read it. Pink balloons – pink signs  – pink shoes at the front door – pink all over our 15 passenger van – church sign announced it – the newspaper had already called to do a story about it – and she wasn’t even 24 hours old. That Thursday, I never put her down; I was totally mesmerized by this little girl in my arms. We quickly got all the boys, who had been farmed out for the birth, back home and the newspaper writer and photographer were there. They  asked if I had a pink blanket, but there was not a pink item in the house, except for the mauve pink print curtains in my living room. It was my token decoration to celebrate girlhood – a mauve (popular then) living room and matching country curtains. I had to borrow a pink outfit, blanket, and bonnet for her first public appearance. Front page article and color picture in the Sunday paper, “It’s A Girl! Bristol Family of Seven Sons Finally Gets a Sister!”

The first Sunday, it was snowing but this little girl three days old was going to church – we arrived at a packed house and people in pink – men, women, teens, children – pink dresses – blouses – shirts – ties – boxes of pink bows were at the entrances of the building in case anyone did not get the memo. Everyone wore pink! The elders presented Bob with a book on raising daughters and gave us a framed print of a little boy looking into a crib with a baby girl in in, “For this child, we prayed…” it said. What a joyous occasion to introduce our little girl to the world, and we have never stopped enjoying this gift of girlhood. IMG_0036

Our daughter and sister has been more than all of us ever imagined. She is girly and adventurous – feminine and athletic – funny and serious – MK 2careful yet courageous –  reserved yet fearless – personality plus plus plus! She is dramatic and often loud – quiet and often gentle – dependent and independent. She would lead the way to the roller coasters as soon as she was tall enough. She was the one in the front car with her hands up! She is a lover of people and happy to spend time alone. Creative – daring – sensitive – artsy – practical! She is content – secure – at peace! IMG_0639

Her brothers have adored her since her first arrival. They fought for years over who got to carry her into a room anywhere we went. She was the object of attention, probably because the headbands and bows were so large on her tiny head. I had waited for this moment for many years and wanted to make the most of it. She loved hairbows, dressing up, and twirly dresses. She accompanied me to every sports practice and game for years – soccer, wrestling, tennis, football, swimming, soccer, track. We together have held our own in the midst of a major boy house. She was the first one to have her own bedroom – one of the perks of her position in our family! The boys could not believe it. She is sensitive but not easily offended. She could handle teasing and special names the boys chose for her. The brothers learned to treasure her and appreciate her – no insults or put downs – they have surrounded her with support and lots of love! They are so proud of her.

Today we celebrate this little girl who has grown into a beautiful young woman, who n24wants to change her world – checks out books to learn Russian – wants to go to Russia and minister there. Her artistic ability in dance is so powerful and her desire to grow in her skills motivates her to ask for help and work hard.  She is a diligent student, who does not require a great deal of oversight because of her goals for herself.

She gave her heart to Christ as a little girl and continues to desire his direction and plans for her life. She sets goals and works hard to attain them – she prays about her aspirations and watches God open and close doors. I really cannot say enough about this girl. I love her as my daughter and also as my sister in Christ. I cannot wait to see all that is ahead for her and how God will use her gifts and abilities. She loves to read and dance – sing and write – exercise and cook – she is just pure fun with her crazy thinking and acting! She is an easy friend to be around – not easily offended – friendly – outgoing – wish we could bottle and sell her energy!!

Mary Kathryn, you are a gift to this family – you are a girl of vision – a girl of conviction – a girl with great freedom to be who God wants you to be – you are a delight to all who know you. I am thankful that people were wrong and God knew that He had a girl just for me. You are a reminder to me of the goodness of God; He just knew that we needed you and you needed us! I love you deeply and so look forward   to this next year with you. As an only daughter with brothers, I have treasured my relationship with my mom, who is now 90 years old; I look forward to this same ongoing treasure in our relationship! I love you – Happy 16th Birthday! I am thankful – blessed – proud – honored – to know you and have relationship with you!

After we had our daughter, those same people I mentioned earlier, said that we would get over it – the novelty would wear off – but through the years, I can honestly say – we have never gotten over having this girl!

mk 3