First and foremost I think we are actually doing what we've been called and equipped by God to do. If we work against our God-given nature and talents we are going to spend our lives spinning our wheels and banging ours heads against proverbial (and perhaps literal) walls. Flowing with the stream of God's provision is much easier to do than stubbornly portaging upriver against our natural inclinations. Not everyone has it in them to give birth to 7, adopt 5 more with special needs and homeschool to boot. Good thing too, because I am not equipped to deal with the "real" world and all of its ridiculousness. I don't have the patience to spend my days with needy, cranky people and be sure their true basic needs are being met. I'm not equipped to be a medical missionary in Zimbabwe and I'll never be able to translate anything into another language. We are able to do what we do because we are doing what God created and prepared us to do. I understand that what we do seems like a lot more than what other people may be called to do and I just accept that this is the way God made us. I certainly don't put expectations of what I'm called and equipped to do on anybody but me and my family. And there are, whether you want to believe it or not, people doing what we do who are far more amazing than I. Doubt me? Take a look at this. I hereby defer sainthood.
But the nuts and bolts of doing what we do is knowing how to say no - setting boundaries that empower us rather than limit us. Jesus was not a doormat and He doesn't expect us to be one either. Believe it or not, we don't say yes to every thing/person/situation that comes our way. We carefully weigh what we're called to do and can handle. Then if it doesn't seem healthy for us - or for others - we say no and don't look back. The no's can be seemingly insignificant (like no candy before breakfast) or they can be huge (like breaking from a destructive friendship) but all of them are equally as important. It's the discipline of evaluating each and every decision we make and then sticking to our guns that matters. The key word here is discipline - it takes practice and effort to make your no be no and your yes be yes.
Of course the flip side to every "no" is the resounding "yes" that results from our decisions. It's really the yeses that energize and excite us and give a sweet place of rest from time to time. Here's a little run-down of some of our more recent no's and the corresponding yeses:
- No to a relationship with a drug-addicted neighbor until she agrees to get help for her addiction. Yes to freedom from the tyranny of the unpredictable and yes to safety for my family.
- No to kids staying up past 10:00 (that one takes a ton of nightly discipline). Yes to some down time for Mom and Dad in a quiet living room before bed.
- No to 2:00am nursing. Yes to 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep for Mom (unfortunately also yes to the same 5 hours of sleeping on the sofa with the baby for Dad).
- No to the many, many demands of three year olds. Yes to a bit of peace and the knowledge that they are learning the life-time benefits of understanding delayed gratification.
- No to regular meals of processed foods, fast food and petroleum laced artificial additives. Yes to kids with more self-control and less behavior problems.
- No to endless hours of screen time. Yes to kids who enjoy being outdoors, reading for pleasure, playing creatively with one another and have a passion for good old fashioned interactive board games.
Alternately, sometimes it's the learning how to say yes first that makes the difference. This year for our schooling I have committed us to classes almost every afternoon of the week, including three separate co-ops. While that may seem like a lot, I know that if I knew I didn't "have" to do something, it would quickly slip out of our schedule and our kids' education would be lacking the depth and richness it currently possesses. Because of the yes to these time commitments I have girls who are doing sports they love and spending time with instructors who love them, my "juniors" have had two playground days a week - in good weather or foul, our whole family gets to spend weekly quality time with grandparents, an aunt and cousins *while* taking classes in Art and Constitutional Law, I'm re-learning Spanish after 25 years, building up a friendship of my own with another mom and teaching our children how to put together a logical argument and recognize fallacious thinking in advertisements and politics - absolutely invaluable, all of it.
We have in our family a standard of behavior and expect our children to live up to it, regardless of disability. We aren't accepting that "kids will be kids" as an excuse for poor manners, destructive acts and inappropriate childishness. We know that God's best for them is better than that. Often we receive compliments on how well-behaved and happy our children seem to be. They know the rules, they follow them and they are happier for it. They are also (for the most part) capable and likable. I am a firm believer that the best gift we can give our children are good, strong boundaries. This means saying the tough "no" in the face of their protestations and it also means helping them explore the "yeses" in a safe, resourceful and joy-filled environment.