Wednesday, July 29, 2009

~ A "Life Lesson in Perspective" Week ~

When I mentioned this name of a little project that I had cooked up to my boys, lets just say it was met with less than an enthusiastic response.
Tradesman and I were looking for a way to give our 13 yr. old and 11 yr. old a good dose of reality. Now maybe its not their reality but it is the reality of many millions of children around the world.


We all know about it but do we really get we actually feel a responsibility to do anything about it. It's so hard here in our culture to see outside of ourselves, to think beyond our own daily hardships. We live such self-centered lives where we think nothing of over indulging with our hard earned money.

Honestly, we don't know any different. This is just the way most of us were raised. Sure, some of us have had tough times, have known an empty fridge or pantry and have had no way to pay our bills. But even that is not real poverty.

There is a lot more that I would like to say on this but it's only recently that God has been really stretching my thinking on this and challenging me.

Hence, my little "project."

My boys are probably like most other boys. They don't always want to do their chores cheerfully, they don't always want to do their school without complaining. And since both complaining and grumbling are met with consequences around here they obey but sometimes inside I can tell they are still protesting.

I, as a mother can admonish, encourage, train, and biblically guide them but I cannot make them be grateful.

However, I can control the circumstances and the environment in which they live which in turn can inspire a new found appreciation for all that they have.

When I pitched the plan to my boys they were hesitant but seemingly up for the challenge.

Their week would look like this:

1.They would live in a tent in the backyard for 6 days allowed only to enter the house for the use of the toilet. All other bathroom practices like washing and teethbrushing would have to be done outside.

2. They would be provided enough plain rice and beans to have 2 meals a day. That's it, no other food allowed.

3. They would be responsible for building their own fires and cooking their own food over them.

4. Gathering and cutting the wood that they needed for this would also be their own responsibility.

5.They would have to leave early and walk each morning to pick up their water jugs that would provide them with the water that they would use for that day. They lugged these full, heavy jugs for over a km back. They were not allowed to drag, or roll the jugs. They had to carry them.

6.They were required to work 8 hours a day of heavy labor. This was broken into one 6 hr. period after which they were allowed to stop to cook and eat their second and last meal of the day and then followed by a 2 hour period.

7. When their work day was complete they had a 2 hour period of free time. The activities that they were allowed at this time were limited. No mp3s, no trampoline, no games, no books, no regular "funtime" daily luxuries. Simpleness and reflection was the goal.

They were allowed to bring their Bibles of course and a journal and a pencil. They were encouraged to spend time in prayer anytime that they were feeling sorry for themselves, whenever they were hungry, whenever they were exhausted and overwhelmed by their workload.

This was not an easy week on either of them. After the first two days they were questioning whether or not they could handle the rest of the week. The difficulty of the week had been complicated by the fact that they both came down with a nasty sinus and chest cold along with a fever and headache the day we began the project.

So over the first two days they were battling illness along with adjusting to their drastic lifestyle change. The weather compounded the issue. We had rain most of the week. Lighting fires, keeping their wood dry, cooking their food, walking carrying their water jugs in pouring rain all made things less than pleasant. Working long hours outside while wet, shivering and cold made the work seem far more difficult than it actually was.

It was painful for me to watch. It tugged on my momma heart strings more than once. I had to fight the urge to rescue them. I covered them in prayer consistently. I wondered how women in third world countries ever survive the devastation of watching their children suffer and die. I could barely watch my children suffer a little.

The morning of day 3 the boys began to crack. Morning had come especially early, the jugs seemed incredibly heavier, and the 11 yr old had not eaten in 2 days. Day 1 he discovered that he did not like plain rice and beans at all and was waiting to get hungry enough that it would become appealing and he would be able to stomach it. However this time had not yet come.

He cried that afternoon(so rare to ever see this child cry) - hunger, chestpain, a headache and fatigue got the better of him. He was burning up and I started to worry about him. I brought him in for a couple of hours, gave him some Tylenol and let him rest.
He woke up with a renewed sense of purpose and determination to finish the task at hand. He shared with me how he felt that being so sick and hungry he was even better able to empathise and relate to what many impoverished children must feel on a daily basis. I have never felt so proud of him.

The 13 yr old however, was crusty. He was not happy about his circumstances, he was angry, full of self-pity and unwilling to see beyond himself. Afterwards I found out that he had not read his Bible that day and felt that he was under attack spiritually. He moped and was unpleasant most of the day. Because of an infraction system we had set up ahead of time that related to the amount and quality of work that had been accomplished he had already lost his pillow for the night, his plate, cup, eating utensils and finally his last meal of the day. He also earned an extra hour of work to be done during his free time.

I started to doubt our decision, wonder who this child was, feel sorry for myself!

I encouraged my son, reminded him of Gods promises, counseled him on how it's easy for us to praise God and be joyful in pleasant circumstances but it takes faith and maturity to be joyful during hardship and trials. I encouraged him to spend time in the Word that evening along with prayer.

The next day his disposition was much better. Not like his brothers' mind you, but better.
13 is a tough age for a boy but neither of these boys are children any longer and expecting them to rise to the challenge of being young men was our goal for the week.

The last 2 days went smoothly, the boys attitudes were great, their illnesses were easing up, and they saw an end in sight. My younger son had figured ou he could swallow black beans whole 5 at a time, but still couldn't eat the rice without gagging. He was losing weight rapidly and I was thankful it was almost over.

The last afternoon I strapped baby My to my back and worked along side my boys so I could encourage and praise them. They were running out of steam, the hunger was weakening them along with the bout of sickness they had endured through. The younger one had barely eaten in days and was pale, shaky and very tired.

Funny thing was, their spirits were high, they had been brainstorming about what they could do to help combat poverty. They had taken the focus off of themselves and had redirected it into creative energy. They bubbled over with excitement with some of their ideas, they kept them coming for about an hour. I listened and silently cheered. These boys..ahem, young men had grown these past 6 days. School, chores, rules no longer seemed that bad.

They had gotten some perspective.

On the last eve of their project when I was working alongside my 13 yr. old, he apologized to me for his bad attitude earlier in the week. He felt guilty and admitted that he had some growing to do in this area. I reminded him that all of us struggle with being thankful and joyful in trials. The call to live the Christian life is not easy for any of us. Only through Christs' power which is made perfect in our weakness can we persevere.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, what will come of their plans...but either way the week was a success.

The wheels are turning in their heads, their hearts are more pliable, their spirits have been awakened with passion and their knees have been bent in humbleness.

This momma is thankful.

Last day...taking everything he's got.

Eating out of the rain in their make-shift shelter.

Tradesman and the boys spending time in prayer at the top of the hill in the morning.


mumsrea said...

I. Am. Without. Speech. (She said, continuing to type.)

Who got more out of that, you or them?

How privileged are WE to be able to provide our children with so MUCH! How little we know of the burdens of the mothers of the millions of poor, hungry, cold and frightened children in our world.

I can't believe your courage. I am in total awe of you. Your kids are so lucky. Good for them.

Liberty said...

I have 4 boys ages 8, 6, 4, and 2 weeks and this just touched me deeply. This was such a good lesson and spiritual journey. I pray that I can do the same for my boys someday.

Angelica Bays, TygrLilies said...

Such fortitude. I'm talking about you. I don't know if I could do it, especially after they turned up sick? But what a life lesson for them and right there in your backyard where you really could swoop in and get them before it got too bad. Wow. I may not be brave enough to follow your example, but my boys will definitely read this and learn fro your young men's example.

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