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The Glad Game: 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I have these statements taped on my refrigerator as a daily reminder:
 
We are so Blessed.

There is always, always, always something to be Thankful for.

Not good grammar, but good philosophy in which to live. This year, I read to the boys an old book, Pollyanna originally written in 1917. She was a young girl, whose father had been a missionary out West.

When they received the missionary barrel from their support church, Pollyanna had wished to receive a doll. Instead she found a crutch. Her father, seeing her disappointment, started a game that would change the way she viewed the world. He taught her the “Glad Game.” “You can be glad that you don’t need this crutch.” He said with tenderness. After his death, and her arrival at an elderly aunt’s house, Pollyanna began teaching those around her of the freedom the game gave to live one’s life ‘gladly.’ An aging gardener was told by the little ray of sunshine, “He could be glad that he stooped so low from rheumatism, because now he wouldn’t have to reach so far to pick the weeds.” The maid was told when she confessed that she didn’t like Mondays, “You can be glad that there is only one Monday a week.” And so the book continued. Pollyanna taught the game to the entire village.

We, in turn, have tried to play “The Glad Game.” Although, we don’t always instinctively play the game, we have found when we do play that an acceptance of sad happenings can make us, indeed, thankful and yes, blessed.

King David must have known the game when he said,

The Lord Reigns, let the earth be glad…
Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
For He guards the lives of His faithful ones and
Delivers them from the hand of the wicked…
Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous
And praise His Holy Name.
Psalm 97:1, 10, 12

We could start by telling about how the “Glad Game” helped James (8 years). His pet duck was killed by a stray dog. His tender heart would burst into tears in memory of his beloved duck. The “Glad Game” was difficult to play, but led to our purchasing 25 day-old ducks. He tended those ducklings with the care of a mother duck, but one thing or another brought their lives to a short end--(maybe too hot, too cold???) The entire experience made me wish for adult birds.

While looking for rabbits for Jacob (10 years), we bought six bantum hens for James. He sits in their coop and they roost on his shoulder or head and peck his teeth (not an image upon which I wish to dwell). He rushes down to the coop before the break of day to help Snow, his rooster crow (so much for all hens). James finds an egg a day from his hens. I would call it a half of an egg, by its size. We just purchased a shipment of 25-day-old laying chickens that we will add to these hens for more eggs. We are so blessed.

Josiah (16 years) was in charge of the garden this year. The boys were having problems ‘being glad’ after three months of squash every  night. I made a salad with two cucumbers from the garden. To make them stretch for ten people, I added squash to the cucumber salad. Jonathan (14 years) had seconds saying that he was glad that it wasn’t squash. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was squash--until after the salad was gone. I was glad for the abundant and versatile vegetable. Our tomatoes came in a bunch--actually 100 pounds every third day for a week and a half, then petered to a handful at a time. We’ve been pleased with the green peppers that still have blossoms and fruit in middle November. We will rejoice.

Joey John (18 years) and I took a Spanish class at Reedley College last spring. We, as well as, all the boys who had to baby-sit, make dinner and keep everyone happy while I was gone, were very glad at the class’s conclusion. Although, I wish that I could remember more than ‘adios’ from all that studying that I did.

Jonas (12 years), Jacob, and James played baseball. Joey John took action photos of the players and sold them to interested parents. Joey even umpired some of their games. Since the league didn’t have Jonathan’s age group, he especially found it hard just to watch. I was probably the only one glad when the season of hectic schedules, a messy house, and throw together meals (before and after each practice and game) was over in a month. The boys are always so glad to play. After a particularly hard time calming the boys to go to sleep after a game, Joshua (6 years) complained about this ache behind his knee. He said, “I think that I’m missing a bone.” Well, that warranted having Daddy look at it. I’m glad that he had all his bones and was now able to go to sleep.

While visiting my folks in Indianapolis, we went north to Shipshewana Amish Country. We toured a museum of their history and ideology. Several of the boys wished that we could go back to horse and buggy for transportation. We are grateful that God does give freedom to His children to live differently as He directs and know that ‘the Lord reigns, let the earth be glad.’

Joey John, Josiah, and Jonathan went to help our friends in Illinois with their strawberry farm. They were glad for their experiences. While they were gone their brothers (Jonas, Jacob, James, Joshua and Michael) had to tear down our wooden fence to put up a pipe fence. They were ‘glad’ when their brothers returned to do the big jobs. Joey was gone during that time on an army mission. I was glad when everyone made all their connecting flights arriving safely home again. “He guards the lives of His faithful ones.”

We were glad for the new fence, when two of the horses were tied to it. Michael threw a Frisbee at the horses; it went through the fence at them. They both reared back on hind legs and pulled to get free of this flying saucer. They continued rearing for a few LONG moments, until they settled down to watch Michael guardedly. We were glad that the fence held--we were standing behind the horses. And that He again, ‘guards the lives.’

Mike (when 2 years) was jumping off the couch, something not allowed. He started crying with blood gushing out of his mouth. Joey was home (I was glad) because Mike had chomped across most of his tongue. We were glad that it was still attached on the bottom. It helped him to stop using the bottle (he couldn’t suck without pain). There is so much to be glad about.

I watched Mike grab hold of our rope climbing swing and drag his feet to a dust stirring stop. I suggested to him, because his toe was already bloody from a previous injury that he ‘find something else to do.’ Two minutes later, he was going down one of our steep hills on a tricycle that had no brakes. The bike stopped in a ditch and he flew over the handlebars and landed laughing. I again told him ‘to find something different to do.’ All this is all by himself, with no assistance from any big brothers. He grabbed a skateboard went to another steep hill to sit down on the board to ride down in a cloud of dust---I reminded him to wear his helmet---and I found it a glad thing just to go inside. That was in a short fifteen minute period…I wonder how many guardian angels are worn out on our property? And I can rest assured that because ‘the Lord reigns…’ that ‘He will guard…His faithful ones.’

I know the guardian angels don’t stay just on our property. Joey John went to Engineering Camp at Cedarville University, Ohio during the summer. It was an introduction to various fields of engineering. He brought back a video clip about a mother concerned for her son. She took him to their doctor. While discussing her concerns, the son is in the background fixing the doctor’s broken machine She asks with concern, “Will my son be able to live a normal life?” The doctor with the greatest sympathy in his voice responded by saying, “No, he will be an engineer.” The mom breaks down and sobs. James, perhaps with concern for my sanity, will say out of the blue, “No, he’ll be an engineer.” And weep into his hands. James makes me more concerned for his own ‘normal’ life than Joey John’s. But we are very glad for the different talents God does give--to all our boys.

We were glad for God’s protection when I wrecked Joey’s car. I couldn’t see the car coming off the exit ramp from a highway, until he was upon us. I was following Joey at the time; he could see the whole thing. I was glad Joey was there to take care of the issues. We were glad that James and Michael were not injured. We were just---Glad for a lot. We are blessed and will be glad.

Josiah (16 years) has joined the club of drivers. We now have four drivers in the family. For God’s continuing protection--again we are glad. “He guards the lives of His faithful ones.”

The process of purchasing the right trailer was in God’s hands--as we all know. Joey took the older boys to San Diego (a six hour drive, one-way) to buy a trailer. Fifteen minutes from getting to the lady’s house, she called to tell them that she just sold it. It was a disappointed ‘glad.’ From some advice from a patient, we started looking for a gooseneck trailer. In the process of getting the goose-neck trailer hitch installed, Josh (5 years) suggested since our friends were going to eat their goose, we could use its neck. It was not quite the solid ‘neck’ that we needed. With the ‘right’ gooseneck hitch installed, the trailer was found. The price was too high for us but we asked the owner to take our number if he should be able to come down to our price. Joey prayed, as did the boys, and that next day the owner called to say that he could not sleep all night and that he would accept our amount. We became the proud owners of a goose-neck three horse slant trailer. Josiah’s especially glad that we can now take his horses for more training where the boys train, as well as, for some hiking trips to the Sequoias. Jonathan finds ‘gladness’ in parking the trailer mere inches from the carport with the truck looking like it is ready to pull it anywhere. I am always glad when we arrive safely home from each outing.

We purchased in May a highland heifer that was bred. The boys were excited to use the trailer to go get her (a six hour trip one-way). She is the daintiest cow that I have every seen--if a cow can be dainty. She has bangs that fall down across her eyes. Her horns are a bit daunting, but she is docile and almost shy with the boys. Her due date is April 15--a reason to be glad for that day.

One of our dogs was seen limping toward our pond. He always liked to swim. After chores the boys went toward the pond and found him drowned. Rather bizarre and unexplained, but one of the boys said that we could be glad that he died before we bought the rabbits and other animals. That dog was not one to get along with other animals. It has been quiet without him stirring the other dogs to fight. “The Lord reigns…let the animals be glad.”

Jonas talked of becoming a jockey and a football player when he ‘grew up.’ Jonathan said, “How can you be small and a football player?” We heard of nothing else for awhile until Jonas mentioned that he would like to be a K-9 police officer. “What happened to being a jockey and a football player?” His response after great thought was, “Those were just childish whims.” I’m glad that God doesn’t give us all our childish whims….

Joey John has worked for over a year and a half to get an older dirt bike working. One thing after another caused difficulty, especially since the parts were no longer available. We all celebrated when he was able to complete the project and take it for a ride. We were all glad for him. In regards to his mechanical knowledge, Joey was informing all the boys that they needed to learn how to maintain our vehicles for future needs. James piped up and said, “I won’t be doing such things, my wife will do it,” as he gestured flamboyantly. Joey and I looked at each other and wondered who in the world will marry this one? Reminds me of the verse in Proverbs 23:25, “May your father and mother be glad. May she who gave you birth rejoice.”

Speaking of wives, and marriage and such…James was speaking about how he was made. He said that he came from God and Mommy. Joey was sitting listening to him and asked, “What about me?” He responded quickly by saying, “Well, of course, you, too.” I am so glad God knows where we have been and what to do with all of us.

Josh was riding the small dirt bike. I could hear him making his circles around the house. In a moment, I couldn’t hear the engine any more. I looked out the widow to see if all was fine. I watched as the other boys didn’t even get off their horses, but rode quickly to where he was. I knew something was wrong. When I went out there, they were all huddled around him. He had missed his turn around the pond and gone up and over a rock that Jonathan had said, “Even we don’t go over it with our big bikes.” His little bike had gone over the boulder and left him half-way. Glad for helmets, glad for God’s guardian angels (again), glad for my heart still working. Glad again, for He Who guards the lives of His faithful ones.

After a particular long session instructing and correcting Joshua, we could hear him outside yelling, “Someone help me, I’m dying.”  I’m so glad that or neighbors know us and know children….I’m also glad the times are getting shorter and the lessons are getting learned, although too slowly for both our sakes.

Michael is responding to instruction. Mike is a good little tormenter. I can often hear him from the back room saying, “You baby.” Jonathan will say, “No, I’m not.” Mike will again say, “You baby.” “No, I’m not.” He can irk all of them…and he does. We should be thankful that he is finally talking--a slow process. Jonas was tired of Michael calling him and everyone else “Mom,” so he painstakingly taught him how to say ‘broder’ (brother). We’ve since worked on specific names for the ‘broders’--but even I don’t always get that right. But we are glad for his progress.

The conflict between Joshua and Michael continues to arise. Josh, on one occasion, was heard to tell him, “obey your elders.” I’m really, really glad that I don’t have twins of two certain young boys. Let everyone be glad.

Joey John has been preparing for the SAT, applying for schools, and taking a few classes at Reedley College in addition to his senior year at home. It has been quite the process for all of us to prepare him for college life. I am more nervous than he at what he will experience there, but I am so glad that the God, who holds our hands at home, can reach toward him wherever He directs him to go.

Joey let me have a taste of the empty nest, when he had a conference in San Francisco and took me with him. The boys seemed to think that it was a great party--alone with seven brothers. I was glad that it was only a weekend. Of course, our good friends kept them busy and entertained. We are glad for good friends.

We went camping for just a weekend. We were thankful for the little things--hot chocolate on a cold morning, stars over head, quiet--when the neighboring campers finally finished their loud music. I was glad for showers when we got home.

Jonas has been learning about the Middle Ages in school. We, as a family, have read Ivanhoe, Men of Iron, and The Three Musketeers. So we prepared him for next year’s subject by attending the Renaissance Fair in Fresno. They had costumed characters of various stations of life. We watched a jousting match where two knights charged each other on horses, colliding with eleven foot solid wood lances that resulted in earth shuddering cracks and splintering wood that flung into the crowd. One knight was knocked from his horse. The boys like the trebuchet which flung pumpkins and cabbages into a field to be crushed by its impact. Jacob especially enjoyed every sword and knife display. They also saw briefly how long bows were made by patience an perseverance. Jonas is still addressing me with “My Lady.” “Indeed, this is so.” “Aye,” we can be glad to learn.

Josh, after his recent birthday, was thinking he was getting so big. He said that he thought that he had hair growing under his arms. Then he felt his stomach and said he had some there, too. I assured him that he had nothing but peach fuzz and that it was too soon for him to even think that he was that old. I am glad that one of us is still young.

Another family raised chickens for us. We just finished helping them to prepare them for the freezer. Jacob was in his element, digging out the insides and preparing them for packaging. Jonas did well cutting the whole chicken into legs, wings and parts.  We definitely  have the boy mentality--at the end of the cutting table, we witnessed headless chicken fights, walking chicken legs (minus the bodies) and other assorted entertainment. I will be glad for the variety of meat and the supplement to our pork that is getting low.

The ‘Glad Game’ has helped us through the good times but more importantly the ‘bad times.’ Fore it reminds us that our God is in charge of the big things and the little things, good things and bad things and that He indeed does “let the earth be glad.” It reminds me of the verses in Romans 8:28-32 where it says,

                                                          “And we know that in all things God works
                                                              for the good of those who love Him,
                                                      Who have been called according to His purpose…
                                                                            If God is for use,
                                                                    Who can be against us?
                                                           He who did not spare His Own Son
                                                                   But gave Him up for us all---
                                                          How will He not also, along with Him,
                                                                 Graciously gives us all things?”

At this Christmas time, as we look to the Son of God who came to earth, gave His life in order to gives us the good, while He took our judgment, we can truly ‘be glad.’ “Be Glad that the Lord reigns, that the earth can be glad, that He guards the lives of His faithful ones, and that we can rejoice in the Lord for He is righteous and we can indeed praise His Holy Name.”

We hope that you, too, can be glad this year.

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



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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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