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Dependence: December, 2003

Dear Family and Friends,

The Christian life consists of many paradoxes, like lose your life and you will find it, or give and you will receive. God has been bringing me to a point of dependence upon Him, after being taught to be ‘independent’ and to stand on my own feet, another one of those paradoxes. In fact, we derive a certain pride when our children learn to walk on their own, talk, or gain degrees of independence. Jacob, while three, learned to race his two-wheeler down the hills he wanted everyone to watch him. Jonathan (8) demonstrated his independence by climbing every tree on the property to the tiniest branches at the top. Soon everyone had taken to the trees, even James (2) had to climb as high as he could go ‘all by himself.’

Even the desire to live by themselves was expressed when Joey had helped them build a tree-house-fort, complete with ramp, lookout tower and second floor. “When can we stay overnight in it?” Or their own version of a house, when they dug tunnels underground that would hide Joey John’s long body without a problem. After a friend told of his boyhood adventures underground and warned of cave-ins and suffocations, the rule became: dig with a buddy, going against their ‘do it myself’ mindset.

After buying yet another garden wagon, they experienced the thrill of owning their own set of wheels. They would sail over the hills at neck-breaking speed, until the reality of dependence hit home, the expense of repairing their wheels. Jonas (6) said, “Maybe that was why the directions for installing the wagon said, ‘not for use by children.’” (If it could haul 1,200 lbs and the boys were doing the work, they better be able to ‘use’ it.)

Reality came of how really ‘independent’ we were when news came in March that Joey was assigned a one year activated army mission. We prepared for a month—purchasing a lap top computer, digital camera, cell phone and other equipment required for his reports with the army. Independence definitely turned dependent when we found we were also expecting baby number seven due in November. Like James, who can be tough and rough until he sees his mom and wants something, our independence is linked closely to our security around us, instead of in Who is really in charge.

My test of dependence upon God came in April when Joey left. How do you become one with someone—in mind, in soul, in body—for thirteen years then not feel like your heart is split in half when he is not there? I had learned to depend on Joey. Things like finances and car maintenance were suddenly my responsibility. (I can spend better than Joey, he can save better than I.) The car maintenance became a concern. The excursion had a service light come on. When the men from the church checked the oil, they put in close to 6 quarts of oil (Oh!) I guess a lot of things ‘depended upon me.’ But I found that when I thought about them, I would never have an answer. When I would hand it back over to God, answers came in unexpected ways.

When people would ask about our plans for the birth, I wouldn’t have the answers. Yes, we had planned to have it at the hospital, but as far as how everything would get ‘done,’ I didn’t know. I also didn’t want to think about it—when I did I would cry. (So much for dependence on God.)

Guess, my independence came out—now that I had the funds or at least could spend them. The boys and I went to work fixing some of the problems that bothered us. We dug a ditch to channel rainwater away from the milking stall, cemented the milking stall and pad around it to cut down the flies and aid cleaning. Joey John (12) became an ‘almost’ expert on repairing dripping outside water lines and sprinklers. The boys with my ‘instructing’ installed a 25 ft long 4 ft high cement block retaining wall. Fifty-five bags of cement later and who knows how many blocks and mortar bags, we finished that project and several others that were related. With each project, their independence grew as they learned to gauge cement consistency. Joey John commented that he now had muscles that he didn’t have before. Josiah (10) is thrilled with a garden that is gopher proof. Jonathan (8) is just glad that we’ve run out of blocks and can’t do any more projects to allow us to learn anything for a while.

Recognizing the boys’ need for dependence, Joey and I had allowed the boys to get a puppy before Joey let. Someone who raises Australian Shepherds gave the boys two. But the making of a dependent dog from an independent dog was and still is yet to be ‘produced.’ Just as God must continue to train our independence to be conformed to His Will.

Josiah had requested buying a bird several years ago I had tried to pacify him with one of the chickens that we had ordered as chicks. Well, that sufficed for a time. But he was requesting one again. We went and bought two at a flea market. If you want to see dependence in action, watch where one bird goes, the other must be, and usually it’s on Josiah’s shoulders, head or back as he does his school, plays the piano, does his inside chores or reads. Messy birds??? I don’t see it; Josiah takes care of them cheerfully.

Jonas, needing something to cuddle, was given two cats that were suppose to be excellent mousers. The two didn’t get along with each other or the dogs (very independent). One left, the other wandered off to come back giving us a litter. A neighbor had fed it tuna during its absence, not knowing she was ours. The cat preferred tuna to our dry food and stayed along with the litter at the neighbors. Jonas has learned that the independence of a wayward cat can be heart breaking just like God must feel with our independent ways. We were given two more cats these have decided to stay with us, so far.

Our milking cow Baby had her baby Norman last September. Norman was an example of one who didn’t want to ever be ‘on his own.’ He would jump our chain link fence to take all her milk. After installing an electric fence, he would approach the fence, touch it with his nose (and get zapped) to size up the fence and jump over it from a stand still. He also destroyed our temporary fence around the hay. His dependent days were numbered when the butcher was called. Even getting the butcher up to our house was an exercise in dependence in God’s timing, when it took two times for him to come to take care of Norman, who wouldn’t grow up.

Our two goats, that we have remaining, will become someone else’s independent, stubborn animals—although when it rains I’ve warned the new owners, they become major babies, not wanting to go out in the rain.

The last of our animals, the chickens, are really on their own…eating any bug they can find, although the boys do feed them every night.

People ask about our pigs—we butchered the last two before Joey left. Joey’s brother Albee helped make the distinguishable cuts for us. As far as getting more pigs to raise, my dependent answer comes, “Not without Joey.”

On Sundays we would have church and during the school year we’d have AWANA (a club to learn the Bible and sportsmanship) Sunday evenings. The day traveling up and down the hill (45 minutes one way) was full and tiring for me. The church people faithfully provided a meal for us every week after church. Afterwards they allowed me to rest, while they took the boys swimming, played croquet, baseball or soccer or other active things. Their graciousness and abundance in giving helped encourage me, yet also reminded me of how I would like to be independent, but that God wanted me to be dependent on Him and His people, like the body He has designed.

(Guess this letter is going on and on—but then again this year was like a forever.)

With the fall season, football came. We had four boys on one team—Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan and Jonas with Jacob faithfully helping on defense during practices. Their season went well—but the absence of Daddy was deeply felt. His cheering and motivational talks were brought home by some special phone calls from the Philippines, a special link of our dependence and need for him. Reminds me of the link we have with God through prayer for His cheering and talks that I need.

As baby time approached, I took up residence on the couch. My need to depend on the boys to do most everything increased. My dependence upon God was tested, as I wished for Joey’s return before the birth.

Two weeks before the due date, in the doctor’s office, I asked about leakage. Dr. Curry tested the pH; it indicated amniotic fluid. Due to my other physical problems, he wanted me to go to the hospital soon. My best friend and neighbor, Jennifer took me while her two teenage daughters remained to watch the boys. We were admitted Wednesday after a speedy e-mail to Joey letting him know what was happening—he was to be away from his cell phone for three days and unreachable. Dr. Curry recommended requesting the Red Cross to find him. Ten minutes after we had given them the information, Joey himself called to say he had read the e-mail and was in Japan. (If he had still been in Philippines, he would not be allowed to leave, but since they had arrived in Japan, he was given leave to come home.) In the meantime, Joshua Mark was born, via C-section on Friday. He was the seventh son, on the 7th of November, weighing 5 lbs 7 oz. Joey continued to fly home, by way of U.S. Air Force and arrived at the hospital Saturday afternoon, ten minutes before Jennifer and Dan brought the boys. I was released on Monday; the baby was released after staying in a special nursery on Tuesday—a hard lesson on dependence on God’s timing—waiting for Joey’s return, being away from the boys, and not holding my baby until we took him home.

Now the struggle continues—of that dependence over independence. Joey left again after 14 days; we cannot say that it was any easier this time than before. But like Joey John said, “waiting is hard, but then again, it should be easy because you don’t have to do anything. Yet waiting is hard, but then again, when you don’t have to do anything, it should be easy. But…”

Now, we wait as Joey is in Los Angeles waiting orders to be signed. This is his hardest wait—so close to home but unable to go home, while our waiting at home continues.

Josiah didn’t wait doing nothing. He fractured his wrist while playing tree tag. He’ll learn dependence anew with his handicap. He’ll also learn to depend upon some of the other boys to carry his bulk of the jobs—although he’s getting pretty good at one-handed typing and other assorted tricks, another one of those lessons in depending on God’s family.

Grandma (my mom) arrived to  help—she’s finding the mudroom floor, sorting laundry, baking treats that we haven’t made since the pregnancy began…Friends, neighbors and even a Mennonite church that is up here in our hills have brought meals, baked goods, offered to run errands, clean, take Jonathan to his dental appointments, the list continues…I’m very grateful. I wish that I could say that I learned utterly to depend on God through this and that it was easy…but I know like training the boys, that independent heart rears up and it has to be reminded that dependence upon God is necessary, that I really can’t do anything without His help and that when I do depend upon Him things are right where they should be. I still await surgery for correction from ‘stuff’ getting pulled loose. It will require six weeks of absolute nothing afterward, which I do not relish as I will be back in that total dependence state again.

When I think about it, that is what Christ did for us. For Christ ‘Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing…taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness…he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross.’ (Phil 2:5-8) He, the very God, totally independent of any need, became totally dependent by becoming a baby in the creation that He made, so that we may know Him, the Christ, and that His Father would be glorified (Phil 2:11). Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it for this season?

Thank you for your prayers during this time and we pray that your dependence upon Him grows so that we may together “Know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Phil 3:10)

Joey, Sonya, Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan, Jonas, Jacob, James, and Joshua

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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