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.

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family life, wife stuff

How to Stay Happily Married (most of the time)

This is the first of the best-ofs, from 2013.  I recently linked it somewhere, but it is no longer visible at the original link, so I’m putting it here. I left it unedited so all pertinent imperfections remain. If I left out something important, leave it the comments.

We have a young family friend who married very recently. She’s a lovely girl and I recognize many of her characteristics as I was similar at her age.  If I could give a young newlywed  bride advice this is what I’d say. In fact,  I’m already planning  to print this and give it to her.

  • As a Christian committed to Christian marriage, resolve to set aside your ambitions in favor of your husband’s. Yes, you’re smart, and yes, you could do great things, and yes, I know you had a plan for your life. However, you are a wife now. This means you are no longer leading the dance of your life; your husband is.
  • Part of submitting to your husband is not bad mouthing him to your family. The worst thing you can do when you’re angry with your husband is talk to your mother about it. Unless there is a very serious marital breach to address, your family should know nothing about your internal squabbles, as most of disagreements aren’t worth the drama of letting outside observers know about them.
  • His family is your family now. Be respectful, always. Learn and love his family as your own no matter how difficult it may sometimes be.
  • Keep your eyes on your own paper. One of the main reasons wives have so much to nag and complain to our husbands about is because we labor under the deep delusion that we are perfect. That everything we do is the right or best way. There are two problems with this way of thinking. The first is that we are not perfect. Imagine that! And the second is that even if we were, it doesn’t change the command from God that we respect and submit to the authority of our husbands.
  • Don’t be afraid of the word submission. A wise husband appreciates his wife’s intelligence, gifts and talents and wouldn’t consider refusal of such a valuable resource. A loving husband knows that his wife needs this from him as much as he needs her strengths and talents. It doesn’t diminish you in the least to trust God with control of your life and marriage. Submission is a signals to your husband that you trust him. The more you demonstrate faith in him, the more he will demonstrate faith in you.
  • Most of your girlfriends and female family members have no idea what a happy marriage looks like. At your age, most of your friends are still single. They can not offer you relevant marital advice. Be careful who you listen to.
  • Never use sex as a weapon against your husband. Not only is it sinful,  it’s unloving, disrespectful, and indicates that you care very little about the state of your marriage. Don’t do it. Ever. Contrary to popular modern opinion, it is good and right for you to do it even when you don’t feel like it at first. You’re married. You don’t set the terms of intimacy as you will.
  • Do not let yourself go. When you’re young and beautiful, this hardly registers on your radar screen. However, marriage is a long haul. Babies come, you get tired, you eat junk, and you get lazy. Develop healthy habits now. The bloom of youth keeps at bay what it will not a few years from now without some work on your part. Your husband will appreciate the effort.
  • For the unequally yoked: Your outward expressions of faith don’t make you any better than your husband.  I realized that mine actually made me look worse. The church girl who marries the heathen is hardly in a position to judge him, is she? Always have a measured and honest appreciation for who you really are, faults and all.
  • This is your husband until death parts you. Do not entertain divorce fantasies of your own, and don’t listen to anyone who tries to plant seeds of doubt. The grass is not greener on the other side. If your grass is brown, oh well. God expects you to tend to it, water it, and green it up. You’re not allowed to hop back over the fence. You will be utterly shocked at how much you’re willing to concede and overlook when you accept that this is your life. For better or worse were not just words you uttered. God expects you to keep them.
  • Laugh a lot. Be willing to laugh at yourself. Marriage is not the vocation for a woman overly obsessed with her dignity. Self-actualization? Forget that. It’s feminist speak for “put your husband and kids on the back burner and charge forward in search of your own happiness.” Selfishness will never make you happy.
  • The kids are his too. The fact that you were the incubator doesn’t make them anymore yours. Don’t ever forget that.
  • Laugh a lot. Yes, I know I already said that.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, I know I already said that too.
  • Sex… Yes, I am repeating myself again, but I should add that it’s fine, preferable even, to enjoy sex with your husband.
  • Don’t be a martyr. Have some fun, and be fun to be around.
  • You’re not done growing or changing. Enjoy knowing that this is not the end of your journey. Keep learning, keep your mind and heart and hands busy. Learn something new.
  • Enjoy being in love, and don’t be afraid to show how head-over-heels you are with your husband. There is nothing wrong with a woman who loves her man. Let him see it, let others see it. Praise him in front of others, show your respect for him in front of others. Have his back, and bless him with your loyalty.

If I’m forgetting any important pieces of advice, I trust someone here will remind me.

blogging madness, healthy living, real living in a virtual world

Okay, I lied.

I said I wasn’t going to write before next month, and with the exception of this little explanation, I’m not going to write. But this counts as writing, so…

What I am going to do is run what I would consider my “best ofs” for the next six to eight weeks, posts I have written over the past 7 years that I am particularly pleased with. After that, I need to get back to what I really want to do, which is read books, write book reviews, and write my own book on a topic that I feel very strongly about.

I started Cal Newport’s Deep Work yesterday, and it is already reverberating in my mind in ways I never anticipated. In addition, it is my firm conviction that the extra things we add to our lives, the things that our lives can do without, are things that we should re-examine, change, or abandon when they cease to add real value to our lives or anyone else’s. That isn’t to say we should only do things we enjoy, but those things which add stress without any corresponding value are things best left behind.

During a season when this particular enterprise was adding value to me intellectually as well as offering encouragement to other people, I (along with some other really smart chicks) wrote some interesting stuff. I call them my “best ofs”, and the next several weeks this space will consist completely of those pieces. Mostly for posterity.

To some of you who have been folwoing me a long time, it’ll feel like re-runs, but I hope they’re the kinds of re-runs you don’t mind enjoying again; kind of like your favorite old movie.

To those of you who haven’t read them before, I can only hope they were as good as I think they were.

 

el's rabbit trails, healthy living, Kitchen tips, Uncategorized

Breakfast of champions

20171025_072917
You have to try this!

I thoroughly enjoyed our quick and delicious breakfast this morning so I thought I’d lighten things up by sharing it here.

I visited with my sister this weekend and when I arrived there was a show on the Food network where the hosts were sharing new, different, and delectable things to mix into your morning oatmeal.  One of the ideas was titled “Carrot Cake Oatmeal”, and I was inspired to try it. I didn’t use the recipe of the television chef, which you can find here, but it was my inspiration. This recipe served 8.

I prepared 3 cups of old-fashioned oats using the standard 2:1 water to oats cooking method, with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the water. To the oats I added:

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 large carrots, peeled and shredded

3/4 cups chopped pecans

chopped candied bacon (optional)

vanilla yogurt (optional)

I cooked the oatmeal with the carrots maple, and spices in it, then topped it with more carrots, the pecans, chopped candied bacon, and a dollop of vanilla yogurt. Not everyone in our house eats bacon, or wanted the pecans or yogurt, so I did what we generally do here, and lined all the toppings up on the counter for each person to top their yogurt the way they liked. A couple of people added butter and brown sugar as well since I made the recipe to suit my husband’s preference for “not too sweet”.

There are lots of ways to spice up your oatmeal, and since the temperatures are dropping, there’s no time like now to liven up your oats.

 

el's rabbit trails, healthy living, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world

Grow or stagnate.

I think about this most often in relation to the Christian faith, but it occurred to me today that it applies in most areas of life.

Life provides a wide range of  conversations, experiences, interactions, and trials. To go for years on end, never having our perspectives challenged, understanding clarified, capacity for grace expanded, conclusions honed or faith deepened, is indicative of lack of growth.

If anyone can live 5, 10, 15 or more years and not have the lens of their view in any way changed, or their reactions evolve more maturely and graciously, they’ve lived a stagnant life.

Stagnant water stinks, and the only things which live and thrive in it are bacteria and parasitic insects which transmit disease. Insects like mosquitoes, which fly around biting as many people as possible to spread the diseases they carry as quickly and as widely as possible.

I am thankful for growth, including stretching, painful growth. That I questioned suppositions I was so certain of years ago, and that my smug surety about so many things has given way to an openness about the things that don’t matter as much in the eternal paradigm. Even so, I have grown more certain than ever about other things.

This, of course, requires thought and ours is a culture in which thinking has died a painful death. Even among the supposed smart people. That’s is too bad. Without growth, what’s the point?

*I am not referring to watering down The Faith, its bedrock principles or the clearly commanded principles in Scripture that form the foundation on which the believer is to live her daily life.

 

 

things that make me go hmm....

Swedenborgianism?

Every single time I think I have run across nearly every variation of Christianity, I bump into a new one.

From Wiki:

The New Church (or Swedenborgianism) is the name for several historically related Christian denominations that developed as a new religious movement, informed by the writings of Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Swedenborg claimed to have received a new revelation from Jesus Christ through continuous heavenly visions which he experienced over a period of at least twenty-five years. In his writings, he predicted that God would replace the traditional Christian Church, establishing a “New Church”, which would worship God in one person: Jesus Christ. The New Church doctrine is that each person must actively cooperate in repentance, reformation, and regeneration of one’s life.

The most curious thing I noted about this particular group is that they reject the Pauline epistles as authoritative.

From What is Swedenborgianism?

Swedenborgianism clearly denies the canon of Holy Scripture for the usual teaching (variations might be found) encourages rejection of not only The Book of Acts, but all of the Pauline epistles, seeing these books as being clearly outside of correct, inspired biblical teaching! Having said that, many Swedenborgians believe that there are lessons to be learned within Paul’s writings, but these writings should not be regarded as of equal value to the Gospels and Revelation.

Hmmm…

Swedeborgianism is a fun word to say, though.

Uncategorized

Date the frog, not the prince?

I just ran across this and thought it was a curious article. I guess I’ll put a poll at the bottom. No commentary to add as of yet.

Date the frog, not the prince begins:

The secret to long-lasting love could be as simple as dating a frog instead of a prince.

Relationships are more likely to be successful when the woman is paired up with a less attractive man, according to a new study.

After listing the criteria for the study, they offered this analysis:

The study had “Beauty and the Beast” results — women were happier with less genetically blessed hubbies, who compensated in the relationship with acts of kindness, including giving gifts, sexual favors or completing extra housework, according to Esquire UK.

“The husbands seemed to be basically more committed, more invested in pleasing their wives when they felt that they were getting a pretty good deal,” the study said.

Meanwhile, women who had hot husbands were found to more likely obsess over exercising and dieting in an effort to be slim.

“The results reveal that having a physically attractive husband may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive,” said Tania Reynolds, an FSU psychology doctoral student.

I should probably just add a category tag titled, “things that make me go hmmm…”

 

Uncategorized

Minor quibble: Our hair grows just fine.

I already warned y’all that I have very little interest in a deep blog, so…

I was reading a site where  a debate was kicking up about whether women are required to wear a head covering when we worship. The post author was of the opinion that the Bible says a woman’s “long hair” (it doesn’t say that) is sufficient covering.

On that particular issue, my opinion doesn’t matter all that much. Covering is a sign of submission to God and to appropriate authority. For the married women, husbands are appropriate authority. Mine doesn’t want me to cover, so the Biblical answer for me is to not cover. We are Protestants and covering (except during communion) was not a tenet even when I was a child.

In the comments of the post I referenced there was a comment that caught my eye:

People have different terminal lengths of hair and these people have very short hair. This is the way God created them so they are not in disobedience to God by wearing short hair. Some African women (and many black American women) actually add hair to give them length that they cannot achieve on their own.

I have seen this asserted numerous times througout my life. I can certainly understand why people think this is the case, but it isn’t. Well, the part about black women adding hair is certainly true, but the rest isn’t. I touched on this quite recently, so I won’t go into a long re-hash, but the appearance of short hair on black women is a matter of texture and not a lack of hair. Cases in point here.

African women wear their hair short on purpose. They cut it. It’s hot there, and the access to products and services for styling is limited compared to the U.S. Almost every African woman I have encountered who emigrated to America stopped cutting their hair when they got here. There are more options and styling products available, and it’s not as hot year round.

As for American black women, many have shorter hair due to the damage and dryness caused by precisely the things mentioned, including adding hair, and all the hair drying and scalp destroying techniques that go along with it. I’ve never had a problem growing a lot of hair, but I have never in my life (not even once) worn a wig, weave, or braids with artificial hair. Not because I was too good for it. Just always been around men who hated it.

So for the record, ’tis not true that black women cannot grow long hair. It’s good to be  informed since misinformation abounds; on everything from the “dangers” of saturated fat to the life saving technology of mammograms to global over population. I could probably list a dozen more commonly acceped myths off the top of my head.

Reading really is fundamental.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Beauty in the ashes.

I read this piece by Rod Dreher and it immediately resonated with me.

Dreher gets that there are many facets of life. He highlights how three dimensional living adds a richness to life which opens us up to rich, meaningful relationships with all kinds of people.

As I read it, I was reminded of several life affirming, beauty deriving,  uplifting moments spent with family or friends just in the past four weeks:

  • A mini road trip I took with our daughter to try out a great bakery.
  • A picnic in the park with SAM and our two youngest.
  • Great conversation with a group of other mothers over lunch.
  • Surprising my sister in a way that brightened her day.
  • Listening intently and enjoying something new as my husband shared the music of an artist he recently discovered.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg, but Dreher’s expression of moments like those juxtaposed against his professional presentation and reputation was masterfully articulated:

I’m serious when I tell you I thought about that catfish all day, and it made me so happy.

But I am limited as a writer, and cannot find a way to express in more than a few words how eating that catfish with my girl was pure sunshine. So I didn’t write about it. Instead, when I got home, I found in my e-mail queue several outrageous things that were happening. That’s easy to write about, in detail. The late Roger Ebert once observed that the worse a movie is, the easier and more fun it is to write about it. It takes a writer of rare skill to essay about how a platter of fried catfish in Manchac made the big mess that is our world seem farther away, and in fact reminded one that life, despite it all, is good.

I am not that writer. Alas. And this is why people who meet me for the first time are always surprised that I’m so easygoing, and want to do nothing but eat, drink, and sit around telling funny stories. I’m not playing a cynical role; I really do care about everything I post here. It’s just not reflective of who I am, deep down: a guy who thinks the world is probably going to hell, but who believes good food and the company of people he loves redeems it all.

Yes.

No matter how bad things are, and no matter what we think -or write- about them, beauty is available to appreciate and joy can be spread and shared.

Go, read, be encouraged:

Fish and chips as a guide to life.

Uncategorized

Summer’s Last Hurray.

Today begins my nutritional reset from a summer of excessive celebrations. I’ve written before that Whole 30 is my favorite reset and I will be doing that until Thanksgiving.

Actually everyone in our family is doing a reset of some sort for at least 30 days. Everyone except my husband. He’s not a bandwagon guy. Speaking of SAM, his birthday cake is the title reference.

While I have passed the baking torch to our daughter in many areas, when it comes to SAM’s birthday cake, no delegating is allowed. That is just fine with me, because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

He doesn’t like anything that is overly sweet, which includes lots of frosting, so I made him what is referred to as a naked cake:

As you can see, the caramel frosting is only on top and between the layers.

It was delicious, an apple pecan spice cake with caramel frosting topped with glazed apples. I know it isn’t quite fall yet, but it is exactly the kind of cake he likes.

Between homeschool, supplemental school, church,  homemaking,  and other activities there is no way to eat paleo without a meal plan and prep work. As a result Saturday afternoon is dedicated to meal prep for the week.

It may be September 2, but fall has come early to our house.

Just ignore the sweltering heat.