Uncategorized

Gender Inequality at the Local Bookstore.

A Reading Room post worthy of cross-posting.

El's Reading Room...

I was recently in Barnes and Noble to pick up a paperback copy of the book our 11-year-old needs for her literature class this upcoming semester. As I was looking for the title another book, on the subject of black women in American history, caught my attention. I was less than impressed with the some on list of names presented as worthy of emulation and consideration, but as I put it back on the shelf, the sign above the books caught my attention:

20180101_134314_Film4.jpg

As I turned around to leave, I ran across another table of books. Included on those shelves was this title:

20180101_134254_Film4.jpg

And a second volume:

20180101_134301_Film4.jpg

Above another shelf of books was this sign:

20180101_134908_Film4.jpg

By this point I was thorougly ntrigued and totally distracted from the purpose of my original foray into the young people’s book section. I spent the next 15 minutes carefully combing the children’s and young…

View original post 102 more words

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Not your parents’ homeschooling.

Some thoughts about the evolution of Christian homeschooling.

El's Reading Room...

One of the things we still get questions about on a regular basis are the scope, accountability, or limitations of homeschooling. Given the way the practice has exploded in recent years, this surprises me, but the reality seems to be that most people are still fairly committed to the conventional public school system, with private school close behind for those who can afford it.

The perception of homeschoolers as isolated, socially awkward, and lacking educational rigor or responsibility is far removed from our particular homeschool experience. In fact, we have run across a lot of things and people in our Christian homeschool community that dovetail and overlap pretty closely with the secular school world. For example:

  • A strong emphasis on acquiring the tools to test well enough to get into college
  • A trend toward insuring kids have credit transferable to the state system
  • A marked increased in thee use of…

View original post 572 more words

Uncategorized

He who was forgiven much loved much.

My daddy would have been 86 this month. I wrote this about two months after we lost him in 2016.

I notice among today’s Christian men (from the pulpit to the back pew) a tendency toward self-flagellation. Even if they were delivered from womanizing, dishonesty, alcoholism , or some other addiction decades prior, they feel compelled to preface every uttered truth with a sin bio for the sake of credibility. My husband isn’t like that, thankfully. My daddy? He most certainly wasn’t like that.

My father had his share of weaknesses as a young man. He never denied it, but he also rarely discussed it unless he could see an immediate and eternal benefit to the recipient for doing so. He was a firm believer that you judge a tree by its fruit, not by its ability to convince you of how much it has grown.

To that end, my father took a vested interest in men who were struggling in their lives, whatever they were struggling with. He rightly understood that “we all got somethin'”. So many of us forget about the power of grace and redemption the farther we are removed from periods of our life which were rife with sin. We grow increasingly judgmental of people, even if we were well acquainted with their particular vice. Not so with my Daddy. He understood grace.

Over the past few years, my father had allowed my brothers to take over care of his yard. Having run his own weekend landscaping business for many years, he took pride in a yard well kept. When my brothers insisted he let them take over care of it, he did so, but always under his supervision. Then he started noticing the struggling men in his community: men out of work, men laid off, and some he knew were struggling with various addictions.

When he would see them around town, he’d pick them up in his truck, giving them an opportunity to earn some money by doing odd jobs for him; cutting the grass, raking leaves, painting trim, weeding flower beds. In fact the week before he went home, in his hospital bed, he was concerned about a guy who was scheduled to come by his house to do some yard work: “I hate that I won’t be there tomorrow [David] stops by.”

My brother assured him that he would take care of the yard work and Daddy explained to him that he wasn’t concerned about the yard work so much as he was with spending time with the young man coming to do it. To my father anyone under 50 was “young”. He wanted to give these men more than just money. He loved much.

Every week he visited a local nursing home with the express intent of visiting those residents who never or rarely got visits from their own family members. Another day of the week, he loaded up his truck with bags and boxes of food from his church’s pantry and delivered them to families he knew were having a rough go of it.

He understood the importance of Christian fellowship and once a week he got together with a bunch of other retired men at a local church to have lunch. Every now and again, the men would be magnanimous and let their wives join them. But just every now and again.The church’s secretary said she enjoyed it when they showed up and was more than happy to serve them in whatever way she could.

Because his life and work was touched with the Divine mark of one who had been redeemed, he didn’t need to waste words and self-flagellate to convince anyone that he’d had an encounter with The Master. His life was the evidence.

This generation talks too much about what we’re gong to do precisely because we don’t live lives that eliminate the need for excess words.

Daddy was forgiven much, therefore he loved much, and his life spoke for itself.

from the best-ofs files, Uncategorized

Children are not a fashion accessory.

This was originally posted in July 2013. At the end, I’m going to add the most articulate and strenuous comment in objection to the post. Partly for context, and partly because I am fairly certain one of my daughters agrees with Christina more than with me.

buying-babies

I was thinking about the epidemic of divorce in our culture. Things have changed a great deal in the past 75 years or so. Parents are not intimately involved when their children choose a mate. Young women are groomed for the market place rather than the home, and marriage is viewed as an addendum to a full life rather than the beginning of adulthood itself.

There are many obstacles to successful young marriages in this climate. Alte outlines in great detail the hurdles standing between young men and marriage in this post.  The lack of incentives to marriage for young men have caused many to check out. In addition, we have young women being encouraged to  delay marriage* until they feel ready to have children, then setting out to find a husband to get that item checked off their list.

With this lackadaisical approach to marriage and the ease with which even Christians divorce, this is a disastrous path that we must discourage our daughters from taking. It is not the foundation for lasting marriage. The primary foundation is Christ, first and foremost.

However, I left these sentiments (expanded a bit here) at Sunshine Mary’s recently because I think it is also pertinent, given that women initiate 2/3 of the divorces in this country:

There are two types of women who marry. Those women who want to be mothers and set out to find a man to marry. They are often quick to say that they “love children” on the first date. They are often well  educated and have done quite well  in their chosen careers.

And then, are those women who meet a particular man, want him and want to have his babies. The marriage is the way to sanction their ability to fulfill that. They want him and are prepared for all that goes along with that.

The latter group is a better marriage risk in 2013, this age of decadence where marriage is more often initiated by feelings rather than love in its truest sense.

It’s one of the very reasons I am vehemently against women building  careers and personal monuments before considering marriage, even if they are chaste while doing so. That path treats marriage like an afterthought, children as accessories, and men as a means to an end. It also makes it much easier to dispose of the marriage when the checklist has been fulfilled.

Marriage and motherhood is a vocation all its own.

College and the marketplace will always be there. The vitality, fertility, and the openness of heart and mind that accompanies with youth will not.

There is a difference between being open to marriage and meeting someone you are prepared to give it all for versus spending years pursuing personal ambition and grabbing a poor sucker to inseminate you for your coveted babies. But if you do that, as a Christian you are not exempt from all the responsibilities and standards required to be a godly, faithful wife simply because you are suddenly not in love anymore.

Marriage is more about making us holy than it is making us happy anyway. Believers used to know that, which is why even arranged marriages managed to last and produce many children. However, times have changed, and we largely choose our mates with little to no family assistance driven primarily by emotion.

This new system means that  early marriage is a net advantage rather than a disadvantage. Better to marry when you’re young, naive and horny than when you think you have it all together and know who you are. The former person is teachable and able to grow. The latter, not so much.

Children are not a fashion accessory that we pick up on the way out the door as an afterthought because we were so busy we “forgot” to do it sooner. We need to change the way we do things. Oh, did I mention that this modern trend undermines chastity? Well it does.

* I know for sure that there are women who desired to marry young for whom it didn’t work out that way for various reasons despite being attractive, faithful, and eager. This post speaks to the current trend of parents discouraging their young people from marrying young and building a life from the ground up with the mate.

Christina commented on my post at the time:

“This is wrong. I would’ve commented earlier, but I was having trouble forming an argument to explain why I thought it was wrong, but the conversation about the alpha-male at SSM’s just kinda made it more clear to me.

The bad guy is not the woman that wants a family and a husband to make that a reality. The bad guy is not the woman that is looking for a man to provide the financial support to help raise a family. ESPECIALLY when she is also of the mindset that children need their fathers and divorce is damaging to HER CHILDREN THAT SHE WANTS SO BADLY. We need MORE of these women, not less.

As to the woman who is “so in love” that she wants to have “his babies,” you know who says stuff like that? Teeny-boppers about Justin Bieber. Psychopathic, stalker types about the hot, Brad Pitt look-a-like. We do NOT need more of THEM. Much less, thank you. THOSE are the ones that think children are an accessory… something they can bring along with them and say “LOOK!!! This is MY baby… and you’ll NEVER guess who the father is… JUSTIN BIEBER!!! It’s ok to be jealous… I would be, too, if I weren’t me!”

Arranged marriage didn’t work because they felt “in love” and wanted to have “his babies.” They worked because the parents arranged it with a financially secure and emotionally stable man. It worked because they were difficult to get out of and because the woman typically WANTED children. They didn’t usually want the man, they wanted the babies. And for the lucky woman who married a man who chose to LOVE her, she would want him, too.

But now we live in a society where women would rather abort their children than raise them. We need more women who want to raise children to be solid people. I don’t know… my 5-year-old self certainly wanted babies because they were just so darn cute, but my 17-18 year old self (thanks to good parenting or something that infected my brain and just made me ultra traditional and hard-core Christian) wanted to change the world with my children. Pass on my values, my faith, my morals… teach them so they can be bright lights in enclosing darkness… and the darker it gets, the brighter they’ll be. My 5 year old self didn’t want a husband (boys were gross, bleh)… but you have to be married to have babies. So marriage was always part of the plan.

So I’m a bad bad bad woman who thinks my children are mere accessories? No… I just have a much much much more old-school and traditional view of marriage. Sometimes I think I’m heartless, but I do, indeed, love my husband. I’m just not much of a romantic…”

My response to her at the time was as follows:

Okay Christina. I have given this one a lot of thought. It’s actually been a mental distraction to me.

I appreciate what you are saying and I can see how my comments sound overly emotion/libido driven; “like a teeny bopper”, if you will. I can accept that there may be holes in my logic while still respectfully disagreeing with you. And I do disagree.

~ Wanting to be a mother is not sufficient reason alone to get married in my opinion. Even Scripture suggests that one is better off remaining single unless he/she burns with sexual desire.

~ A decent Christian woman  (even a decent secular woman) has sense enough to marry a man who will be a “good father” however you define that. My husband, despite being less than perfect on [metaphorical] paper was a man of high integrity with a strong ethical code. And he cared about me deeply. Is there any other criteria to consider than that for whether a man will be a good father?

~The problem with “I want kids let me find a husband” is that the children leave. When they do, you’d better darn well have married your spouse for more than their potential parenting abilities.

~ Infertile couples, couples who lose their only child and the aforementioned empty nesters are all couples for who there must be something more to keep the relationship afloat.

At the very least, if you’re passionate about the person, you can weather these trials in a way that is much less difficult than if you don’t.

Now, having said all of that…

I am not suggesting that emotion be the only driver of who we marry. I mentioned on the other thread that despite massive tingles, it took a while (and some vouching from a longtime family friend) before I gave serious consideration to my husband’s pursuit.

Additionally, for the wife truly following Christ, commitment to honoring your vows, submission, upholding your end of the marriage bargain, and loving your spouse as Christ commanded and demonstrated will take your marriage to places where passion simply cannot. It was never my intent to argue otherwise.

My point (and I stand by it) is that looking for a husband specifically for the purpose of fulfilling a personal aspiration toward motherhood is not a good bet toward happy, fulfilling, lifelong marriage.

The question isn’t whether or not you want to be a mother. Contrary to popular propaganda, that’s relatively easy because we love our children instinctively. The question to ask before marrying is whether or not you’re prepared to be a faithful, respectful, submissive wife, and if you’re marrying a man for whom you’re willing to do that.

100 years ago these debates were foreign because we understood that nothing less than lifelong marriage and fidelity was acceptable. The man was the official head of his home. Being a shrew was frowned upon and being divorced was shameful.

But it’s not 1913.”

Adding those two comments made this much longer than my usual 1200 word max, but I thought they were relevant.

from the best-ofs files, Uncategorized

Just do it.

This was originally posted in 2013.

My husband indulges my Internet commentary and philosophizing, but it’s just not his thing. He often notes that if people lived the truths they already know rather than pretending to perpetually dig for deeper truths, the world would be a much more sane place.

At the end of the conversation on my post Children are not a fashion accessory [I’ll post that controversial re-run on Monday], a reader offered a few thoughts for me to consider.  Although I stand behind my post’s original assertion, I also acknowledge that she has a point. Namely, that when you’re wholly committed to doing the right thing, no bells, whistles (or tingles) are necessary.

I don’t really have a convincing rebuttal to her argument. I’m happy that my marriage has maintained a spark. It’s awesome, and adds a degree of pleasantness to life and marriage, but it’s only absolutely necessary for those of lesser character who lack conviction.

We spend a lot of time in this neck of the sphere discussing the practical realities of life, relationships, health, and politics.  I am by nature a “what works” kind of thinker so these conversations are intellectually stimulating for me. They also  make me appreciate my husband’s approach more and more all the time.

The more I learn, the more I realize how simple life can really be. Few of us are ever going to be perpetually in love, always feel like making the healthy choice, or be in the position to make the ideal choice. Sometimes we made decisions a long time ago that has rendered the ideal option forever and always…impossible.

All we have is right here and right now. The beauty of this for the Christian is that there are very few things (none really) where we have to search for truth and wring our hands to figure out the best way handle a situation. We have the Scripture, which offers us everything we need that pertains to life and godliness.

It really does come to down to reading what God’s word says and obeying it.

Don’t feel like respecting or submitting to your husband (and forget about having sex with him)?  How you feel doesn’t matter.  Just do it:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  Corinthians 7:3-5

Feel like eating a whole roll of chocolate chip cookie dough? Why is that nasty store bought stuff in your fridge anyway? Remember what Proverbs says about the glutton, and don’t do it:

And put a knife to thy throat, if thou [be] a man given to appetite. Proverbs 23:2

Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. Proverbs 25:16

When we have an overwhelming desire to whine and complain, there is a Biblical alternative:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil 4:8

We are hard wired to take the path of least resistance. We have to override that tendency consistently or we’ll succumb to our sin nature every single time. Whether it’s our marriages, health and fitness, family obligations, friendships,  prayer life or lack thereof, we have to act intentionally and in obedience.

One of my peeves is the modern trend in Christian teaching to avoid preaching a hard line on obedience while focusing on all the ways we can make our feelings line up with the Biblical injunction to love, respect, and give. Doing what’s right simply because it’s right is enough.

It can be helpful to contemplate the practical ways we can do better and the strategies that can make it easier for us to do the right thing, and we’ll continue to do that. But it’s dangerous to rely on pragmatism, fleshly urges, and fickle feelings as a guide. Christianity requires that we act on principles.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one. We spend so much energy trying to figure out how to make it easier to do the right thing, how to make it feel right.  Perhaps we should skip all that. It’s too bad we find that so hard to do because more often than not, when you do the right thing, right feelings follow.

When you feel conflicted even though you know full well what you should do, just do it.

Related:   Just Stop It! By Annasach.

Uncategorized

Where I Stand, again.

From 2010. Follow up thoughts to the first one.

I ran across this recently:

Our society finds truth too strong a medicine to digest undiluted. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. It is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions, they are commandments.  Are, not were.—Veteran News Man Ted Koppel (quote in fuller context here, and well worth the 5 minutes)

I have been thinking about the direction and tone of this blog. I want the things I post here to be God-honoring, relevant, and uplifting without shirking back from truth.

It’s interesting, this little corner of the blogosphere that I occupy and the readership that it’s attracted because I, like most people I guess, don’t fit neatly in any of the boxes that we use to pigeonhole each other. Having been raised in a community where the family has been ravaged by liberalism and  feminism (and yes, sin, but unless we intend to assert that one group of people is more prone to sin than another that should go without saying), I hold a tightly conservative and literal Scriptural perspective on  issues relating to marriage and families because I’ve seen what a matriarchal, largely fatherless community looks like on grand scale.

My upbringing and background ironically have also created in me a strong belief in the truth that outward piety alone and rigid adherence to rules won’t get me very far in the long run.  God sees our hearts anyway, so it’s just easier to be me.

While I sincerely try to live a lifestyle that lines up with the teachings of Scripture, I am not at all interested in being a part of a Christian subculture so isolated from the realities of life and removed from the people that we are supposed  to reach that I become nothing more than a proponent of religious dogma.

So here, you’ll get a woman who believes firmly in wifely submission and that the home is where a woman excels. But one who also believes that marriage may not be for every woman. A homeschooling mama and a public school parent. A decent cook who loves fresh bread but couldn’t imagine ever going without her bread machine. An unashamed anti-feminist with Jane Austen books lining the book shelf and no Alice Walker. I do have a couple of Maya Angelou works, since I love a good autobiography, but I prefer C.S. Lewis, and could read him everyday without getting bored.

For all my opinionated pontificating, I do appreciate the rich diversity of humanity.  I just believe it’s best expressed within the framework of Biblical Truth.

I read a thoughtful article recently titled Christianity is a Faith, Not a Culture.  It is easy for Christians to get so caught up in what we should or should not be doing that we can lose sight of the One we should be worshipping. Trying to force a godless political system to accommodate our faith and reflect our values does more harm to our cause than if we just let our light shine before men so that they see our good works and glorify Our Father.

Expecting to escape the hardships and difficulties that other believers around the world endure for the faith by victory at the ballot box is foolhardy. So when I write, understand that I’m  not trying to change the culture. I’m reminding myself and my sisters in the faith that we are supposed to be different not just for the sake of being different, but because we are the salt of the earth.  But we should be noticeably different. The Scriptures call us a peculiar (or special) people.

When I express what I believe are the clearly stated Biblical principles for godly living, I am amazed by those who would reprimand me for attempting to “squeeze women into a mold”, or “focus on the negative” instead of expressing the joy of the Lord when I write.

Let’s set the record straight about why I write and believe the things I do, and why it’s important for Christians to hold one another accountable for our lives and our adherence to Scripture. It’s certainly not because I am unhappy or lacking in joy. I have much to be thankful for and thank God every day for His extravagant grace towards me.

There are many different sects within the church grappling with many different cultural ideas, from the roles of daughters before marriage to whether the institutional church in America has lost its way and should be abandoned to educational choices and everything in between. I think there is a place for discussing these things, although long time readers know that I have never come to any rigid conclusion on most because frankly I don’t think the Bible does. Also, because I don’t believe that Christianity is a culture, it’s perfectly acceptable even advantageous for the sake of the gospel’s spread, for us to be doing different things in different corners of society.

The problem I am having as I look around me in the world we inhabit and the church in particular, is that we have begun to translate diversity of station for the sake of the gospel to mean that we can all just do whatever we want,  slap a Christian label on it, and dare anyone to confront us with the truth of Scripture. How dare I point out that in Scripture there is a greater purpose for the marital structure God put into place, that has nothing to do with our feelings but a transcendent principle; that we are to obey the command of Our loving Heavenly Father and see the results of that obedience instead of insisting that we are perfectly happy doing things the way we’ve been doing them, thankyouverymuch. 

And while I have expressed on the record numerous times my apprehension with the tendency of Christian women bloggers to attempt to forcefully push a lifestyle agenda onto women that may or may not jive with their specific husband’s vision, I can hardly see the problem with calling Christian women to live what we say we believe. In fact, when a Christian wife obeys the Scripture’s command concerning the way she relates to her husband, she falls in line with his vision by default, regardless of what she may read here. I can only write from within my own frame of reference. Apply or disregard it as you see fit.

While there is a fine line between reducing Christianity to nothing more than another subculture and embracing an all-encompassing faith in the One who redeemed us, it is a line that can be balanced, though I cannot claim to have mastered it.

I do know this: the truth of God’s word is sharp. It cuts, and cuts to the heart of the matter. It causes our walk to look different, our lives to be different, and our families to be different. As the family goes, so goes the church and the society at large. But our “Christian” families don’t look any different. Our divorce rate rivals secular society and our kids are fleeing the faith in droves, if the statistics are to be believed. So please don’t tell me to lighten up, and don’t expect me to cease and desist from imploring Christian wives to play the role that God has given us to build and preserve strong families. Certainly there’s a central role for husbands and fathers to play, but this isn’t the place to address them. There are men attempting to do that.

I’m not sure how long I’ll be on the anti-feminism (and yes, pro men) bandwagon. I guess until I stop getting comments from Christian women telling me there’s nothing wrong with feminism even though we are drowning in evidence to the contrary. I can’t straddle the fence, ’cause the fence hurts types like me.

Am I calling for a judgemental attitude towards unbelievers who don’t agree with me? No. In fact, I think those are the people in most need of my love and prayers. It’s those of us in the church who should know better, but are too stubborn or too afraid to take a position that rub people the wrong way.

I refuse to do that here, so don’t expect it.

Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody.- Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

dare-to-be-different

Uncategorized

Where I stand

Originally published in 2008. I don’t think there is much here I’d say differently. If there is…oh well.

I have a few hot topics bouncing around in my head. I know, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now. I have and do pray fervently for my words (spoken as well as typed) to be seasoned with grace. The truth can be spoken with conviction and lovingly at the same time. I’m confident of that. I do believe, however, that it’s important to establish the ground rules of any engagement before hand so that’s the point of this post. It’s longer than what I’d normally write but I needed to cover all the bases. Here goes:

Hills I’m willing to (literally) die on:

  • There is One mediator between God and man, and that Mediator is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God who was crucified on the cross at Calvary for the remission of my sins, was raised on the third day, and now sits at the right hand of the Father in glory making intercession for me and hopefully you as well. At the appointed time He will return in power to unite with us who have placed our faith in Him. There is no other name under heaven or in the earth by which men may be saved.
  • Salvation is a gift from God, which we receive by grace through faith in Him who gave himself for us. It is not of works and we can do nothing in our own power to make ourselves more acceptable to God. Of course, the truly converted are looking for a way out of sin, not an excuse to sin. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling as we, through the power of the Holy Spirit grow in sanctification and grace.
  • The Bible is the inerrant word of God and that in it are the words of life. It is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. I’m certain I don’t own a complete and thorough understanding of all of scripture and I as I grow in grace, my current understanding of a particular verse now may expand or contract as the Holy Spirit guides me on my journey toward complete sanctification.
  • The first and greatest commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 28-34

Doctrinal principles that I am building my life on:

  • Every wife is to submit to her own husband as unto the Lord. I believe that this is true regardless of whether or not he is obedient to the word. I believe the husband decides for his own family in what way his wife serves as a helper “meet”, or suitable, for him and that she is to follow as long as it does not involve sin. Please understand that I am not addressing issues of abuse or repeated, unrepentant adultery, nor do I offer counsel for such circumstances because thankfully, I have no experience with either.
  • The first priority of every wife and mother is to be the keeper of her home. This is best accomplished when there are no competing interests such as school, careers, etc. dividing her attention. Daughters are subject to their father’s authority until marriage regardless of age. This is what we teach our daughters. Given the reality of financial hardship, single parenthood and fatherless children, I understand that for some these ideals are unattainable. God loves us anyway and our salvation is NOT dependent upon the ideals. They are boundaries set in place for our betterment and protection. They set the optimal environment and atmosphere for the character of Christ to be developed in the lives of our children and displayed in the life of our families as an example to the world, that the word of God may not be reviled or spoken evil of (Strong’s 987). I can be a keeper at home and still bring shame to the word. This truth helps keep me grounded and has sapped the wind out of my judgmental sails more than once.
  • Children are a blessing from the Lord and should be welcomed into the life of a couple as such. What that will look like for each couple is between them and the Lord. I’ll keep my family planning, or lack thereof, in the bedroom and I’d suggest you do the same.
  • I try very hard not to expect every believer’s walk to look exactly like my own. It is easy to look on from my comfortable, American middle class vantage point and judge another sister’s faith. A sister in China can’t very well be quiver full, now can she? A sister in Germany can’t homeschool her kids seeing as its illegal there. I don’t think a woman in an impoverished third world country (or even a single mother here in the States, for that matter) has the luxury of deciding whether or not she can leave the home to work to feed her children. It helps me to remember that we have been called to a life transformed by the renewing of our minds and a circumcision of the heart, rather than a life conformed to a set of rules that can hardly be adopted outside of Main St. USA.

Disclaimers:

  • I am not perfect. As much as I adore the husband, he’s not perfect either. So it stands to reason that our relationship is not perfect, though we are certainly very happy with it and with each other. Any marital wisdom gained here is the result of hard earned experience, not perfection.
  • We’ve already established that I’m not perfect, so that means I’m not a perfect mother either. I have ups and downs with my kids just like everyone else. Because most of my kids are teens, I’ve learned a few things over the years and am still learning more. I hope to encourage (and receive encouragement) but I’m no parenting expert. Consider yourselves warned!
  • My house is certainly more clean than dirty most days, but there are times that I’m kicking and screaming from beneath a pile of clutter and chaos just like anyone else who’s honest enough to admit it. I have a system, I try to work it, but it doesn’t always go off with out a hitch. Keep that in mind in the unlikely chance that you show up at my door one day. It may be a day when things didn’t go off without a hitch!
  • I’m on a spiritual journey, in the process of sanctification. Sometimes I blow it. I guess that’s been more than obvious in recent weeks! I’ll try to be transparent about my shortcomings, things I’m not sure about, and things I’m working through. I don’t know it all. I see through a glass darkly, and many times I’m squinting to see what I can as clearly as I can. Any spiritual wisdom gleaned here is most certainly due to the grace of God and nothing else.

Please filter any and all future posts through the revelations of myself provided in this post. I look forward to resuming our conversations on everything from marriage to motherhood to politics and everything in between. Since it was rude comments that lead to a very public revealing of how far I have yet to grow spiritually, I’ve put my comment policy permanently on the side blog as a reminder to those unable to debate ideas without demeaning people.

Finally, I want to extend deeply heartfelt thanks you to all of you who sent such beautiful and encouraging messages to me via email over the past couple of weeks. There are no words to express how much it meant to me.

from the best-ofs files, wife stuff

“Should you be eating that?” pt. 2

I edited this 2011 post slightly because there was a link in the original (a review of Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only) that is no longer any good. Here is another review of the book. Not as good as the original link, but…

The last post left me with a lot to think about, as I knew it would. And as usual, it’s the rabbit trails that make the conversation interesting. Before I move on to other new and exciting subjects, I want to share a little of what occurred to me as I read your comments  because I think there are valuable observations yet to be made about this subject.

My first thought concerns whether or not a husband’s expressed concern about his wife’s health and fitness is unfair criticism. This strikes me as odd, because wives frequently encourage one another to express their needs and desires to husbands, and to repeat the nag request until they “fall in line.” Surely it’s no coincidence that Proverbs repeatedly mentions the agony of living with a nagging wife.

However, it suddenly becomes “unfair criticism” when a husband expresses a desire for his wife to take better care of herself, particularly if this request means she needs to stop eating so much and hit the gym. His request is assumed to be based on something superficial, not worth making the effort required to honor it. Can you see the problem with this line of thinking? Why are wives’ needs viewed as more virtuous when weighed against the needs of husbands?

Of course, in keeping with a husband’s responsibility to dwell with his wife in an understanding way, any discussion of this subject in particular, should be encouraging and supportive. That said, I really don’t have a problem with a man who wants his wife to make an attempt to get in shape. There’s nothing cruel or superficial about it.

I was asked another question in the comments section that caught me by surpise: Is my husband in the same shape physically that he was when we married? The answer is no, but it’s not something I’ve given much thought to because those physical changes haven’t made him less attractive. If the small amount of weight he’s gained was a health issue, I’m sure I’d be much more concerned, but he has yearly physical and he’s all good on the health front.

I think it is worth noting at this point that men and women approach attractiveness in different ways. Men are much more visual than women are when it comes to sexual attractiveness. It’s an apples to oranges comparison in my opinion.

My goal here was to remind women that we are supposed to care. We spend so much time nurturing our needs, feelings, and insecurities that we forget that our husbands have needs and feelings, too. We are supposed to care about those feelings, not be offended by them. We fail to recognize how often we take our husbands for granted, and if they have the stones to call us on it, we get upset.

I read a book last year titled For Women Only. I highly recommend it because it offers a lot of insight into the way men think. Christian men and non-Christian men. Maybe reading what this author found in her interviews with over one thousand (mostly) married men will drive home the point I’m trying to make, however poorly I’m making it.

Several of the commenters asserted that most women are sincerely trying to look their best for themselves and their husbands, but it is very hard, and criticism does little to help. For the record, I know what that feels like. There were a few times when I was really making an effort and the lack of results caused my enthusiasm to wane. I get that. But just as often or even most of the time, I was making half-hearted attempts accompanied more by talking about getting fit than actually doing anything to get fit. It’s amazing how easily we can convince ourselves that we’re doing our best when we’re actually doing nothing.

Each woman has to decide for herself where she falls on that spectrum. If you’re doing more than talking then doing, don’t get mad at your husband for saying so. Perhaps an example from another angle would be less polarizing.

About 6 years ago we went through a brief period in our marriage when communication was difficult. Anyone who has been married for a while knows this is sometimes a reality of married life. Back then my husband said something to me that changed my perspective when it came to forgetting to consider his feelings. It was a good reminder that my tough, stoic man actually has feelings.

What he said was that I seemed more concerned with what other people needed than what he needed. I went out of my way to do things for others while a simple request from him went undone for days. It hurt me to hear that, but it was true. The PTA, The SAC, the ministry I was involved in at church, extended family members (who think “no job” means you have nothing but time to spare), you name it. It did seem that every thing else was a priority.

When I stopped to think about it, that was exactly what I’d done, and it was wrong. So I turned on a dime, dropped out of most of what  I was involved in (it was emotionally draining anyway),  and offended women, many married themselves, who didn’t get why everything and anything was moved to the back burner if my man needed something from me, period, and that was never going to change.

I want to be transparent enough to share the lessons I’ve learned. And yes, I’ m passionate about this because I believe the refusal to honor a perfectly reasonable -if challenging- request from your husband is inexcusable. I don’t think the issue is somehow different because it involves something as challenging as losing weight. Be willing to make sacrifices to be the wife your husband desires. You think I always enjoy drinking water when I’d prefer a Coke?

Oh, and if I start gaining weight back, I solemnly swear to confess right here.

(I regained some -but not all- of the weight. And lost and gained  it nearly evwry two years, like clockwork. Here I go again. It’s only 22 pounds, right?)

 

Uncategorized

“Should you be eating that?”

This one touched off a spirited discussion with some well-meaning sisters back in 2011. Now that I am well into my 40s (I was 39 when I wrote this), I sort of feel their pain, but I stand by it. It was written in two parts, and since the holiday eating season is upon us, I can use the admonishment after enjoying my Thanksgiving feast. Part 2 will be up tomorrow. Again, it is unedited:

It’s been a few years since my husband asked me that question, but I remember what it felt like. It stung, especially on the heels of a pregnancy. I realized quite a long time ago however that if my husband, who has never gone for the super thin Hollywood starlet standard of beauty, says that I need to drop some pounds, I need to drop some pounds.

This is a topic I hate to touch because some dear woman inevitably assumes that I’m attempting to force an unrealistic standard of beauty and fitness on women  birthing babies every two or three years. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am simply asserting that a wife should make every effort to get as close as possible to what her husband finds attractive.

Blogs by definition,  are written from the author’s perspective. My goal is to be what my husband finds attractive and encourage other wives based on my experience, on the importance of considering their own husbands’ preferences.  Most men desire a fit and healthy wife. My husband prefers a bit of meat on the bones, but he doesn’t do fat. I have to skip the second slice of cake.

However, there are men who are very attracted to heavier women. If you fit into that category and your husband likes it, then who am I to say you should ignore your husband’s preferences?  Focus on being healthy and attractive to your own husband, while I approach this from the angle I have witnessed most: the wife who struggles with her weight to her husband’s chagrin.

It  bothers me when a wife summarily dismisses her husband’s desire for her to get in shape. I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve heard statements like these:

“Not everyone is meant to be skinny.”

“He shouldn’t expect me to look the same as I did before giving birth to 3 babies.”     And my personal favorite:

“If he loves me for who I am, it shouldn’t matter what I look like.”

These  statements are astonishing, and they are almost always aimed at me if I watch how much I eat or beg off the phone because I need to work out. Not only are they illogical, they project wrong motives onto husbands while attempting to absolve wives of any responsibility to make themselves attractive for their men. None of these attitudes are very loving.

Further, I don’t believe most men impose unrealistic expectations on their wives concerning their appearance. I’m sure there are a few but this forum demands that we communicate in generalizations, else we needn’t bother trying to communicate. In general, I believe most men are reasonable in their expectations.

Not everyone is meant to be skinny, but few people are meant to carry 220 pounds either.  The “love me no matter what I look like” argument dismisses a very natural, God-given component of marriage: sexual attraction and compatibility. Marriage encompasses much more than physical attraction, but pretending that marriage can be fully expressed by its spiritual and emotional components is disingenuous.  Some Christians are so “spiritual” they border on ridiculous.

The issue of the effects of childbearing on our figures is a valid concern. If anyone appreciates what it takes to bring children into the world, the father of the children does and he’s witnessed the toll it’s taken on his wife’s body. The average husband doesn’t expect his 35-year-old wife and mother of three to look like the 22-year-old girl he married. Childbirth is heavy lifting, literally and figuratively.

There comes a point however when the recovery is complete and a new normal has been established. When that time comes, we need to be about getting back into shape as soon as possible. I admit that I haven’t done the best job of this since Sweetie Pie was born in 2008. In fact, I have just begun to make a dent in the 35 pounds I needed to lose after her delivery. The difference is that I never resigned myself (or my husband) to the reality that this is “just the way I look now.” I needed to find the right strategy. I believe I have, and it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I imagined it would be. This really isn’t rocket science.

It has required some changes in the way I eat even though “skinny” isn’t a goal of mine or a requirement of my husband. I have always been tall and curvy (my definition of curvy has nothing to do with dress size). Even with my build there is a point at which I clearly need to get my butt in gear and exercise some self-control. The older I get, the more discipline I need to exhibit. Interestingly enough, this has meant turning away from dieting and a focus on low-fat foods. I simply started eating all of my meals on salad plates. Also, I don’t eat if I’m not experiencing physiological hunger.

I have found it easier to simply control how much I eat rather than focus heavily on what I eat. Since almost every meal we eat is made from scratch the issue has little to do with eating junk and everything to do with not eating too much, and not eating when I wasn’t hungry. My family can sit and enjoy a meal together now without my obsessing over every bite, sucking the enjoyment out of  a good meal. I used to do that, though I’m sure that’s hard to believe, 😉 .

What I discovered is that I  eating half a cheeseburger  is much more satisfying than eating an entire turkey breast sandwich on low-fat, whole wheat bread with a side of baked chips. Less fat and calories is less fat and calories, and it’s much easier to stay fit if I get my calories from something that tastes good rather than something that makes me feel like I’m being good. The psychological snowjob always *eventually*  gives way to what tastes good so it’s easier to just eat a little of what tastes good and be done with it, rather than fall completely off the wagon later on.

In other words, no foods are off-limits for the purpose of losing weight. I still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, I simply allow myself the freedom to enjoy other foods as well, within moderation.

Eating less is a much more effective strategy for me. I’m down 20 pounds since Thanksgiving, all while indulging during the holiday season. Controlling myself is much more purposeful than attempting to control the food in a family where cooking is such an integral part of our lives. I hope that bit of information is helpful to those of you who struggle with  weight.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore your husband’s needs.

I now have a new problem. My jeans and slacks are getting too baggy, and some of my skirts look like sacks. Secret Agent Man hates that. I’d love to use this as an excuse to shop, but in this economy there are other priorities. I guess now is as good a time as any to learn how to do something on my sewing machine besides a straight stitch.

Anyone know where I can find a great site offering tutorials on alterations?

 

Uncategorized

How we can enjoy what we do, no matter what it is.

This was originally published in 2009. Our youngest was still an infant at the time. It has not been edited to account for life changes or time lapsed.

This morning, as I was on the elliptical machine for the first time in over two months, praying that I could get through the intense workout without experiencing cardiac arrest, I was thinking about a conversation I recently shared with a friend. We talked about how hard our husbands work to take of our families, sometimes doing work that they wouldn’t choose if making enough money to provide for growing families wasn’t their primary consideration. I started to contemplate this rather modern way of thinking: that one has to love his or her job in order to be happy doing it.

In times past, when life wasn’t as convenient, and working the land was an integral part of survival, I wondered how often anyone stopped to consider whether or not they enjoyed their work. If they spent long hours agonizing over their wasted talents or if they were simply thankful for the health and strength to do what needed to be done. We live in a media savvy, technologically advanced society, constantly bombarded with images of everything we don’t have, haven’t done, or might accomplish. A world where the idea of NOT doing something that we love is almost tantamount to being oppressed. I should rephrase that. I should have said we live in a world where not getting PAID for doing what we love is tantamount to being oppressed.

But what if life really is all about doing what we need to, even if it isn’t glamorous? Can we experience joy in the common, daily doings of our lives? Much of my life is characterized by doing the same thing day after day, several days a week. I woke up this morning, read my Bible, prayed, started the coffee maker, exercised, showered, dropped off the big kids, greeted the husband, made and served breakfast, dressed the kids, kissed the husband goodbye, cleaned the kitchen, made the bed (which the littles promptly jumped up and down on), read to the kids, looked at elephant photos and colored elephant pictures (E is the letter of the week), went outside to play, came back in, cleaned up toys, prepared and served lunch, cleaned up the mess, put the littles down for nap, etc. You get the picture. Barring some unforeseen event, the first half of my day will be exactly the same tomorrow, with a few slight variations. To feel the joy in the dailyness of life is a necessity for me, wouldn’t you agree?

I am grateful to be at home serving my family and raising my children. I believe it’s what I’ve been called to. I love it- most of the time. But some days, it’s hard. An introverted book lover with a houseful of kids can feel overwhelmed from time to time. Many of the things that interested me when I was younger have been pushed aside as I am in the trenches of wife and motherhood, where most of my time and attention are directed, and rightly so. Should I feel like life is passing me by?

I wonder how many of us have embraced dreams, desires, and aspirations, telling ourselves that they are no less than the will of God for our life. God wants us to be happy. He wouldn’t want us to neglect our talents and sacrifice our dreams on something as common as duty. We are supposed to be living our best, purpose driven lives now. In my case, and this is probably the case with most believers today, we have clung to our personal dreams, desires and aspirations for so long that we aren’t open to the possibility that they may not be what God destined for us at all. We have taken our demands to God in prayer and said, “This is what I want to do God, work with it, please.” The clay is telling the Potter what it is and is not willing to become.

I am a dreamer. I still dream of writing a book someday. I have dreams for my children, my family, and my future. I am not discounting the power of having a passionate vision. If it seems that I am saying we should kill our dreams, I’m not. That isn’t my intent. Dreams are wonderful, when they spring from the right heart.

Psalm 37 is a fascinating passage of Scripture. In a world where everyone is trying to sell us something to make our lives better, where the mantra of dissatisfaction screams at us from every billboard, magazine cover, and TV and radio advertisement, this passage offers the antidote to the problem of chronic discontentment. The morale of the passage is not to be fooled by the prosperity of those who rail against the truth. The key to finding peace of mind is to corral our thoughts. In the midst of all the admonishments is encouragement concerning the desires of our hearts, and how to receive them:

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

In recent years I have come to view this Scripture very differently from the way it has been traditionally been recited and preached. Most times the verse is ripped out of context and applied to any and every earthly, material vision we have for our lives: When we delight ourselves in Him, God will give us the desires of our hearts. I think it might just as easily or more accurately mean that God will literally give our hearts the desires they should have. He will give us the desires of our hearts. When our desires are given to us by God, and we delight ourselves in Him, we can be happy doing anything.

I believe that God is glorified when we do even the mundane things as unto Him. And certainly He is glorified when we use our gifts and talents in service to Him, whether we get paid for them or not. If we can get paid for them, so much the better. The most important thing is the motivation of our hearts.