Why Don't We Have Any Adventures? 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

This year started when Jacob (11 years) asked me, “Why don’t we have any adventures?” After I finished choking, I asked him what more of an adventure he wanted. I discussed his comment with the other boys. Joey John (19 years) said, “That’s just what Josiah and I were discussing last night.” After gasping for breath and wondering who had really gone mad, I said, “What kind of adventure are you looking for?” He said, “You would think with eight boys that we would have more….adventure.” I again thought, “what are thinking?” I asked Joey, who said that he had been thinking the exact same thing a week before. 

ADVENTURE….I thought that I had enough just preparing for their activities, tagging behind their projects, and praying through their ideas…. Someone gave us Wild at Heart by John Eldredge to read that helped articulate this adventure that the boys had in mind. “In the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” (p. 9) “Aggression is a part of the masculine design; (they) are hardwired for it. If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that ‘the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name.” (Ex 15:3) (p. 10)  

Because the boys somehow have forgotten the adventures of this year, allow me to remind them. We started the year giving our seven pigs shots every day for five days. Have you ever seen the picture of a flying pig over a pond? (It is authentic---according to our findings.) Our pigs could fly—over bales of straw, over doorways, anything to avoid that shot. Josiah (17 years) administered them while the rest of us tried to corral and to restrain them. Each morning those pigs were ready for us with new tactics. We lost the needles from the syringes (finding a needle in the haystack takes new significance when you actually have to find it). After that, Jacob said, “Now THAT was an adventure.” We might just be catching on….

Jonas (13 years), Jonathan (15 years), and Josiah continue taking horse reigning lessons. Josiah was bucked off an unbroken filly. He broke his right wrist. The instructor said, “If you haven’t gotten bucked off, you haven’t ridden long enough.” The orthopedic surgeon had to reset manually the displaced bone. Glad that adventure included Dad and not me. Try keeping Josiah from his adventures. He chopped with a hoe one-handed to prepare his expanded garden beds for planting. I guess nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.

After a good rainstorm, our wall by our kitchen was wet---not a good sign. I sent two of the boys to the attic to find the leak. Joey and the boys were up on the roof in the middle of a rainstorm that night putting a tarp over it to hold us until some day. Another one of those praying for the least risk involved.

The same day, my washer broke (it had not been a good day). Try keeping boys from getting muddy in the rain, especially after a week of it. The bigger boys were not immune from mud either since they mended fences, or rode dirt bikes through the streambed and around the pond. (If I recall, I was not the one who asked for an adventure….)

I was busy helping Jacob with a test when I heard Joshua (6) screaming. It was the real cry scream. When I went to check, Josh showed me his finger that he “could not bend.” Joey John (19) pulled a two-inch fiberglass splinter from his finger that kept him from ‘bending’ it. He had used his marshmallow bow with a regular arrow and it had splintered as it left the bow. “The boy is a warrior; the boy is his name.” (p. 11)

Joey removed a pre-melanoma mole from Josiah. “Yes, a man is a dangerous thing. So is a scalpel. It can wound or it can save your life. You don’t make it safe by making it dull; you put it in the hands of someone who knows what he’s doing.” (p. 83). I feel the safety because; I know Who holds the scalpel.

Mike (4 years) was playing on the fence (not allowed) when he flipped upside down and was just hanging by his shoelace for six seconds. “We are made to depend on God.” (p. 121) If Mike does not make me run to God, nothing will.

Jacob wanted to breed rabbits. He enjoyed the process of preparing them for meals, but not the daily duty of care. After several baby rabbits did not make it, Josh wondered to me, “What does it feel like to be dead?” What a teachable moment to explain how our lives go on—with God or without God. It ended with his request for God to allow him to cleanse him now and to live with God when he ‘dies.’ “The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death. All men die; few men ever really live.” (p. 169)

I was just walking…. Josh was following me and said, “I can’t do that.” As if, he was in admiration of something. I asked him of what. He said, “I can’t walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other.”  We found one of those rare things that he could not do. I proceeded to explain, “Because I am a lady, and God made my hips to allow babies to be born, my legs have to ‘walk’ that way." He had to curtail his adventure to walk like a ‘man.’

We built a chicken coop. Even Josiah informed me that we were not going to use lattice and duct tape. (That is my standard for fixing anything---the fence, a hole, a cage…) How do you arrive at a working plan with three perfectionists who have their own ideas on how to do it and one mom who just wants it done (cheaply)? That adventure took several months to actually complete. Now we have a chicken palace that they all should be proud. “Explore, build, conquer…take risks.” (p. 49)

Joey John, much to his excitement (I will not tell you what it does to me), purchased his own, bigger dirt bike. He had really out-grown the one that we had bought for him three years ago. He went through the process of paying DMV for registering—welcome to the real world of government taxes. “Do whatever brings me back to my heart and the heart of God.” (p. 171)

“Adventure requires something of us, puts us to the test. Though we may fear the test, at the same time we yearn to be tested, to discover that we have what it takes.” (pp. 13-14) The next adventure would make me again depend on God [probably not any more than Jesus who lived in desperate dependence on His Father, the ‘Son could do nothing by himself’ (p. 127)]. Joey John and Jonathan went to compete at the Hollister Dirt Bike Race. To look at Joey John’s face—it was an adventure of a lifetime. After watching several other heats start—and some wipe out in the first turn—I was recognizing even more how dependent upon God I had to be. Joey John started with his heat cautious but keeping up with the rest. I kept looking for him to circle around for the first loop. Finally, when he did circle around outside the loop, I told him that he should be over on the track. He said that the medic told him to circle around there. I looked down to see what was left of his pant leg. He had gone over a cliff to drop ten feet and land on a bike peg of another biker who had gone over the drop. The foot peg took out a chunk of skin two inches deep and three inches wide. Someone offered Vicodin (I should have taken it for me.) Joey asked him, “On a scale of 1-10, what was your pain level?” Joey John responded with, “Oh, maybe three.” We did not want to prevent Jonathan from racing his heat. However, he wisely declined after seeing his tire rim cracked and Joey John’s bike unridable. Joey took Joey John to his office to put 14 outside stitches and eight internal stitches. “A man must have a battle to fight, a great mission to his life that involves and yet transcends even home and family. He must have a cause to which he is devoted even unto death….Your whole life has been preparation.” (p. 141). 

While outside, I chanced to look up to see this contraption in the top of our tree. Jacob informed me that it was his bola. (A tool used in Swiss Family Robinson. They took a rope and attached stones on both ends. They would swing it around their head then throw it. They could strangle rabbits for their dinner.) Somehow, I do not think a rabbit would be that high in the tree. “The recipe for fun is pretty simple raising boys: Add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction and you’ve got yourself a winner.” (p. 13)

Oh, and now January is over and we are ready for February –right? And yes, we have no adventure.

Josh, after one mishap, said, “I bent my bone.”

For Jacob’s birthday dinner, he wanted pig stomach. He also wanted to invite people over—he chose some of the guests who had never dined with us before and one that I hadn’t even met. I tried to prepare him that this was not the typical meal to serve to company—but he was not budging from his request. Then I tried to prepare the visitors for our meal---reminded me of the Clampets from Beverley Hillbillies when they offered “possum innards and pickled crow’s feet, mmmm, mmm”. The visitors were very gracious and we survived the adventure—with sowbelly requested for his next birthday. An adventure waits at every meal at our house.

After raising 25 hens to maturity, James (9) had his eggs to sell. He has been quite the entrepreneur, asking everyone how many eggs they would like to purchase from him (not if, but how many and when.) He is thrilled with his chickens, his eggs, and the money that he then spends on other people. His mission in life—starts where he is.

James exercises his chickens’ wings by throwing them in the air. Even our animals must have a sense of adventure to survive the daily tasks. 

James came to my room to talk and said, “I want to be a chicken.” I thought, “Well, I’d like to be invisible, but that’s not going to happen.” I did not know what to tell him. Several hours later, he again approached me and said the same thing. When I asked him what he meant, he said, “I’d like to breed my chickens.” Oh, well, that I can help him with---now to be a chicken may take something beyond my ability as a mom.  We started his project. He raised several families using his banty hens for mothers. Dad gave his blessing for another adventure.

James has also been asking me for a cat. I have always had the excuse that our dogs would kill one (which they would). Since our dog died, the excuse no longer existed. We acquired a freshly weaned kitten. James’ responsibilities with his kitten were not duty but devotion. He reminds me of what our devotions with our Lord should be like, ‘the discipline of devotions is never the point. The whole point of a devotional life is connection with God.” (p. 172). We were alarmed one church morning when his little charge sat on a rattlesnake (a baby). Her face puffed up immediately and we could see the fang marks on her face. What a time of waiting, as she hid for the day and we prayed for both James and the cat to survive this ordeal. The next day awoke with her back to normal and James as devoted as ever.

Later, after our cat, Weed, had grown, the boys found a kitten, barely weaned in the boulders of our property. After pursuing an owner, the boys adopted her. Weed fought for her rights in her kingdom. We have tried to maintain peace with two kingdoms: one the house and the other garage. The kitten still gets her fresh milk from the cow and sometimes gets in the house but the cat’s aggressions are not as fierce and the litter box problem is not as noticeable. James is the gentle warrior.

Baseball season came with tight schedules to get all five boys where they needed to be with one vehicle. Joey John stayed with Jonathan in Sanger (45 minutes away) to take pictures of other Little League games for them to purchase on-line. He found that he earned $.14/hour—not a money raising experience but we told him an ‘experience’ worth having. Josh (6 years) made two unassisted triple plays. Somehow, I think that he was up for the adventure. James just gives his all and is a joy to watch his expressions of utmost concentration. Jonas was in his element as catcher, directing the fielders and encouraging the pitcher. Jonas and Jacob both pitched. How they get that ball over the plate at that distance with accuracy always amazes me. Jonathan was in his warrior motif when he faced the pitcher as the batter. He caused me more anxiety watching him steal every base to score runs almost every time he got on base. The warrior came out of me when ‘the league’ did not permit Jonathan to finish playing in the All-Star Tournament because of where he lived. Do not get me ready to fight! Baseball season continued for the boys long after the games, as they practiced at home. Mike was again on the fence. ‘Someone’ hit Michael in the chest with the baseball; he flipped over the fence and landed on his feet. Sometimes, adventure is not the word for it….

Our pregnant Highland cow had a delayed delivery. After being shown, Josiah would stick his entire arm inside the heifer to palpate the baby to determine movement. When she had labored several hours without help—we were able to apply chains to its feet to help pull the calf out. The baby was back end first, and like a fuzzy puppy dog (only much bigger). I was greatly relieved that ‘waiting’ adventure was over.

Blossom (our milk cow) delivered her baby, Henry, without adventure. Now it is an adventure to keep Henry from sucking off my hand, if I am outside, while he waits for Jonas to bottle-feed him. Jonas chose to bottle feed Henry hoping that it would make it easier to keep him away from ‘our’ milk. Jonas informed us the other day, “Henry was getting BUFF.” Jonas’s adventure has brought him to own and manage the milk cow and her offspring. He has succeeded in helping the family have enough milk.

The ‘adventure’ of painting the house fell on Jonas, Jacob, James, Josh and Michael this time. Michael found himself designated to painting the doghouse with a watercolor paintbrush (it did less damage than a full-size paintbrush). Their enthusiasm waned a bit when I added the barn, but their diligence paid off and the job was completed. The green looks ‘calming.’ I will work on the trim, ‘sometime.’ A rest from that adventure came willingly.

Josiah, in addition to maintaining his own horses with training, has worked for others to tame or to gentle their WILD horses. He knows by experience the phrase “Master your horse or it will master you.” Most of the boys have taken the three horses to the Sequoias to trail ride. My absence requires me to let go and to pray.
Josiah and Jonathan started a lawn care business—involving weed-wacking, mowing, cutting trees, and even fencing. They were busy from April through the summer. The “Be Careful, Drink Plenty of Water, and Make Sure you Look for Snakes” before they left every morning was not old to me—but they would just listen with a knowing smile and a nod of their heads. “If we can reawaken that fierce quality in a man, hook it up to a higher purpose, release the warrior within, then the boy can grow up and become truly masculine.” (p. 140) That requires me, the mom, to let go….but not without caution.

Josiah struggled internally with his lawn care business because he always had to work around the family vehicle. His mission was to obtain his own vehicle. After much searching, and several misleading advertisements, he purchased his first truck. We are all very pleased with his purchase. Sometimes, I think that I use his vehicle more than he does to haul hay, straw, pig food, cement blocks and mortar. His dream became reality—and it has led to other adventures.

Maybe, I should be praying more in my sleep. Josiah went into the kitchen one predawn morning to find a snake stretched out in my kitchen. He swept it outside with the broom and dustpan. This led to the boys ‘wondering’ how many insects we could actually have inside our house. I stopped their wondering---I do not want to know how many nor how they get inside….Did I ask for adventure?

Josiah also was the master gardener for our constant source of produce this year. He planted peas, beans, beets, radishes and carrots. He started from seed peppers, and tomatoes. He added squash, asparagus and potatoes. He planned and planted, but with his lawn care business, he kept us busy picking and ‘putting it by’. We picked more than we had room in the freezer and on shelves for the canning. Josiah had planted a patch of cantaloupes that gave us all delight. I had just told the boys how Joey would eat cantaloupe when he was a boy—“He’d cut it in half and fill the half with ice cream and dig in.”After the ah’s and oh’s , I hastened to add that they should never think that we would ever have enough cantaloupe to do that in our family; we would all have to be happy with sucking off the rinds and taking a quarter of a piece. Well, three weeks later—Josiah brought that adventure to our table: a half of a cantaloupe with ice cream for everyone. What a summer delight!

 We went picking apples this fall. The younger boys helped (Michael especially as he sat on a bucket and told me how good the apples tasted.) We were able to can 18 jars of applesauce and 18 jars of apple butter, plus plenty of eating apples. We have all enjoyed the fruit of that adventure. 

I woke one night to the smell of smoke. I went through the house trying to locate the cause. The smell came from the room where four of the boys were sleeping. I went outside and smelt around to see if I could isolate it. Finally, when I could not settle my thoughts, I woke Joey. He smelled it and went up on the roof to see if it was stronger from the roof vents. We walked around the pond and still smelled it…Joey determined that it was coming from a fire from the forests east of us. Who wanted adventure?

I have been procrastinating writing this part of our year, maybe in hopes that it really did not happen…I had been trying to prepare myself for Joey John’s departure for college for at least a year now. Knowing when he leaves, things will not be the same. With his return, he will be different. God will have taken him on his own adventures that we could not share. We could not guard or remind him of all the mishaps. His senior year brought him acceptance to three colleges. He chose Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Joey and I crammed all our advice and knowledge to prepare him for “life” and school. We wondered how much could possibly sink in, and how much he would just have to learn by experience, the hard way. We flew Joey John to Milwaukee taking Josh and Michael. The other boys stayed behind to work the homestead. The weekend was full of helpful parent and student activities and sessions but nothing prepared our hearts for the emptiness that came when we left. Abandonment is not a strong enough word for it….Joey was quick to encourage me that there was nothing for Joey John at home. He had reached all that he could be where we were. His Lord and God will stretch his life. We had to commit him to His care. 

In preparation for our trip, I was anxious about those left behind. Joey had told me that this was what we would do; otherwise, I could not have left them ‘on their own.’ James could not stop talking about how much fun they were going to have. Jonas was excited to move his clothes into Joey John’s room with Josiah. All was in expectation of a wonderful vacation. I was relieved by the many offers to provide dinners (although I had left plenty) that allowed a distraction during our absence. They want adventure with total abandonment.

The hole still exists but we have assurance that Joey John is growing with the Lord and fighting his battles with victories. The weekends were initially difficult for him, since most students went home and the campus took a quiet atmosphere. He has sought out several Bible studies and has found someone to take him to church on Sundays. He is adjusting and finding his class load challenging. He is finding the battle Satan wants to win is in the mind. Discouragement, feelings of loss and disappointments are battles that will be lost or won in his mind. “When you are under attack, we’ve got to hang on to the truth. Jesus stood on truth. Answered with Scripture….Satan throws feelings. Your strength is revealed and even increased—through exercise.”(p. 164) Proverbs 4:23 tell us to “guard our hearts.”  “Defend them like a castle the seat of your strength you do not want to give away.” (p. 164). It is easy for me to tell him to fight those battles, but harder to fight them on my end. Satan likes his victories.

I was surprised at how the boys responded to his absence with a subdued, quietness the first couple of weeks and a continued concerned prayer vigil for Joey John’s needs.

Joey John has his ‘beauty’ to come by his side. He has asked Rachel and her parents if he may court her. They have corresponded for about two years.
Jonathan participated in the Civil War Reenactment complete with battles. Jacob and Josh also dressed the part. Jonathan camped out with the regiment and found comradry with his Confederate Unit. “Man is born into a world at war.” (p. 49). He hopes to participate in several others around the state. We will have to see how much adventure this mom can take. 

Our fall project has been to prepare the pig house for twelve pigs. This required cementing an area that bogged in the rain. We also constructed the pig house with a cement wall half way up to prevent the pigs from destroying the wood (what they have done in previous years). Once Jonathan laid the cement forms, the younger boys were in charge of this project. Jonas led the way with cheering the boys and showing the responsibility of his years. Now they reap the benefits of an adventure successfully completed.

Once the house was completed, we searched for the pigs. Jonas is our resident businessman, calling the businesses to find the best bargain. When we met one of the businessman in the feed store, he teased Jonas by saying, “He called, asked his questions, then before I could ask about the family, he had hung up.” He suggested, “Try an auction for the pigs.” This would be stretching me beyond…. We were comforted that someone would come with us to help us, each step of the way. Three-fourths of the way to the auction, we received a call from this acquaintance saying he could not make it but we would do ‘just fine.’ Now I was on ‘my own’ and not liking it. He called ahead to ‘warn’ the auctioneer of our presence. Between not understanding what was going on and what the auctioneer was saying, I was confused. The auctioneer finally stopped and asked me, “Lady, do you want these pigs.” Yes, “Then put your sign up.” He then said that we had “just paid top dollar for an education.” If that was not enough, we had to bid again for the remainder of the twelve that we needed. Again, I paid top dollar, trying to figure out what he said and what it meant. Then we had to lug them home in the trailer—never a pleasant adventure for me, even though Josiah does all the driving, backing and hauling. Joey encouraged me that night with “now we have them.” I still get bugs in my gut at the thought of that auction.

Joey’s Dad has dementia. Joey’s Mom took care of him—even when he would not sleep for 36 hours straight and would wander around, sometimes leaving the house and be unable to find his way home. She was exhausted. He was becoming difficult to manage. She took him to a specialist for evaluation.  As they were leaving, he had an outbreak that required hospitalization. He has remained there, keeping the interns busy following him around as he ‘re-organizes’ people’s things. The requirement for admission helped alleviate the initial decision to admit him, but it does not fill Mom’s hole in her heart over the loss. Adventure in aging requires more trust in our Lord’s ways.

Our family visited the Ronald Reagan Museum and Library. Patrick Henry College sponsored the event, including the dinner, which the boys are still talking about how good it was. Michael Farris, the speaker, warned us of what he sees in the government activity toward homeschooling and the government’s desire and necessity to control all children through legislature. We are reminded of Whose battle we are fighting, against the powers of the world, and our need to prepare because persecution seems inevitable. 

We attended a Draft Horse Auction. The boys were able to watch horse training, drive buggies and observe the auction without the pressure of buying. We did not know why it was so difficult the first time.

 When we stopped at Joey’s office afterward, the excursion would not start again. Triple A came for the tow. We had so many “thank you’s” for the timing. Thanks that we were not at home and then have to tow it 50 plus miles. Thanks, that it stopped then and not at my next stop stranding us with no way home and Joey on his way to L.A. Thanks for the extra vehicle, someone from work lent us (big enough to get us home). Adventures with cars are never top on my list, but then again, I did not ask for the adventure, or did I?

Josiah called this next adventure a combination of circus and rodeo. The boys started doing chores as it approached darkness. A pig got out of the fence to stick his head into the milk pail. Its head was stuck. We heard this squealing pig stumbling and running through the horse arena, stirring the four horses to kick and run in circles. The clank and rattle told us where it had run into things as it tried to escape. The remainder ten pigs ran out of their pen area to see the excitement and found Blossom (our milk cow) lying upside down exhausted from running from the horses. (We had not had time to evaluate whether she was even alive.) The pigs were jumping on her and around her. Henry was ready for his bottle and following anyone around that looked like Jonas. We finally heard silence as the pail came off the pig’s head. Now we tried to corral all eleven pigs back inside their pen. When half of them were inside the pen, we would turn around and they would be out again through a hole in the fence. Finally, they were contained and we were able to look at Blossom.  We were not sure if she had broken bones, especially by the way she was laying. Because of the way she was laying, we positioned ourselves on the downhill side of her to attempt to roll her up hill and onto her feet. Jacob became pinned under her head when she swayed back in an awkward, unexpected position (he still hurts a bit from it). Michael, again on the fence, climbed off to fall in the horse’s water bucket. The rolling of Blossom continued with pulling on her halter until she finally stood. The rain started to fall and the boys now had to complete the chores in the wet darkness. Another evening of chores finally accomplished. I was glad that Joey was home for this adventure. Yes, circus and rodeo all rolled into one.

I have not gone into detail with the many adventures Joey has with the Army Reserves. His ongoing orders to jump out of airplanes and helicopters have kept us all hopping. The army dissolved the position for medical civil-affairs officers except the position he holds. 

The letter would be amiss without at least saying this warrior rescued ‘his beauty’ and we are living the adventure of our lives together. “You can tell what kind of man you’ve got simply by noting the impact he has on you.” (p. 27) Joey prays for his patients to have peace the night before and the time in the office, knowing that many will be nervous for their procedure. Joey prays for the soldiers as they exit the plane. When he is not home, we miss his peace and calmness. Are there any less battles? Probably not, but with his presence the peace through the battles makes the emphasis not on the battles but on the life.

I guess that we have come full circle to another closing of another year. Did we have adventure? Probably depends upon whom you ask. But as we look at Christmas for the adventure of the Babe in the manger, we are struck with the deed foretold centuries before. “Adventure?” you may ask, “from a babe who lay calmly sleeping in a manager?” Yes, look in Revelations 12:1-13.

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him…. He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short. When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.”

That image is not quite the peace in a manger that I usually picture at Christmastime.  God made Christmas possible by a war in heaven: a war between God’s best angels and those who wanted their own way. God won the battle of course, and we received the awaited promise. If Jesus’ coming on earth was nothing short of a battle, could we expect anything else on a daily basis. Satan’s time is even shorter; his fury has not lessened. He is still waging war on God’s people—and we need to be equipped and ready to fight the battle God has already enabled us to win. Adventure? You bet. Are you prepared? Get ready. “Do whatever it takes to bring you back to your heart and the heart of God.” (p. 171). 

Ready for God’s Adventure,

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

Excerpts from John Eldredge's book Wild At Heart Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001 used by written permission.

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