31 January 2006

Birth Control as an Idea {Disclaimer}

Disclaimer: In light of the discussion here yesterday, I decided that I want to do a two- or -three-part series on the idea of birth control.

To set the stage, I request that all comments discuss birth control as a broad cultural idea rather than whether it is right for the commentor's personal family situation. This request is motivated by the wish to avoid unnecessary controversy on Afterthoughts.

Please note that I am not against birth control 100% of the time, and I am not attempting to persuade my readers to any view as much as I am attempting to inform and be informed, and then subject what I have learned to Scripture.

For the most part, American Christians I am familiar with have unquestioningly embraced the secular idea of birth control. Though it is not wise to judge an idea purely by its consequences, one cannot deny that ideas have actual historical beginnings, and change future history depending on our acceptance or denial of those ideas.

What do I Teach a 3-Year-Old?

There was a time, not too many decades ago, where preschool was the exception to the rule. In fact, 100 years ago, most 3-year-olds still slept in cribs!

Preschoolers are an odd mix because they are half-baby and half-child. The child half is ready and willing to learn and be trained, while the baby half wants Mommy to rock them and sing to them. The child half asks good questions and engages in interesting conversation, while the baby half manages to actually enjoy {at a peer level} chasing a ball on hands-and-knees with their 11-month-old sister.

To me, the fact that they are still half-baby is reason enough to keep them home. Babies need their mommies, not a specialist. Or, the way I prefer to look at it is that I specialize in my child in a way a teacher never could. While a preschool teacher may specialize in teaching 3- and 4-year-olds, I specialize in teaching E.

So what do we do? For starters, we have our Average Day chart to guide us. We read out loud {usually Milne, Potter, Stevenson, or the book of Proverbs}, memorize one little verse a week, do copy work {he traces letters}, phonics lessons, learn to read Bob Books, and recently we've started beginning math {it's fancy counting, really}.

And then we play and play and play. Lessons are 30 minutes, or an hour if he's begging me to read story after story. I'm not sure half-babies really need life to be all that academic.

I'm not very creative, but I did find this book in my church's homeschool library. It's very Darwinian in its view of the child, but it has great teaching ideas, explains how children think and why they make the "mistakes" they do, and the lesson style works very well for E.'s personality. More than anything, it reminds me of all E. doesn't know!

I remember one time a friend introduced himself to E. and offered his hand to shake, and E. just stared because neither Si nor I had never taught him to shake hands! It is always strange to remember that they really don't know what they haven't been taught.

Last week, we drew stick figures on our white board and discussed family relationships because I realized he wasn't certain about what the terms husband, wife, sister, brother, etc. meant. And he was truly shocked to discover that I thought his aunt was my sister!

So what do I teach a 3-year-old? Everything. If I haven't taught it to him, he likely doesn't know it, so I just teach him anything that comes to mind.

30 January 2006

The Adventure of the Unplanned Life

Every time I read a posting like this, I want to rejoice and weep all at the same time. If our life together {Si's and mine} has been one thing, it is unplanned. This is not to say we didn't have plans, for we certainly did! Our plans had to do with jobs and vacations and cars and houses and financial stability. Doesn't having children require all these things, including the initial childless travelling adventures? We thought so, and we had plans for it all.

And God had other plans, namely little E. I've discussed this a bit before in the context of learning to be content, which is a struggle I've found to be greatest when life has not been according to my plans.

What I haven't mentioned at all is the joy that can be found in the unplanned life. Here I am, 4.5 years after that "surprise" second red line {for that is the true starting line of parenthood}, and I think only now am I beginning to understand the significance of it all.

In E., God had His way with us using a means I would never have imagined. And we have learned more about struggle and heartache and disappointment than I ever thought possible, especially in such a short period of time. But we also are learning to rejoice in the smallest of small daily events, a first word or first step, something that never could have happened in a life cluttered with the world's goods and missing our two beautiful children.

Because God made us parents while we kicked at the goads, we have been changed. We even live in a different city and Si has a different job. But more importantly, we are different people.

Slowly, we are learning to let go of our control. For us, that's what birth control really was {and is!}, especially in the beginning. It was a means of control, a shaking our fists at the Almighty and refusing Him rights to intervene in our lives. We liked them the way they were, thank you. We wanted to walk in faith in some areas, but not all.

And God had mercy on us. He turned the tables on us while our hearts were still hardened {if you can believe it, I actually apologized to Si, telling him I thought that, by getting pregnant, I had ruined his life}. Reminds me of the verse...While we were yet sinners...God knows the appropriate teaching tools for each of His children, and little E. was the best lesson He could have given us.

So now, I am learning {slowly} to rejoice in the unplanned life. God delights to conform His children to the likeness of His Firstborn, and the unplanned areas are signs that He is working. As painful as it can be, it is a sign of His love that He is caring for me, that He is teaching me, that He is not as far away as I sometimes think.

27 January 2006

Beyond ProLife

Some of the thoughts I have been attempting to collect since our time in DC has concerned the concept of being prolife.

While in class with Si, we had a chance to discuss with people at our tables. The idea that Christians are often known by what they are against came up. There is a lot of negative terminology out there, a lot of it being the liberal media's attempt to label us {think homophobic or antiabortion}.

Even when one uses a positive term like prolife, the outlawing of abortion is usually implied. Now, please do not misunderstand me. I have never been more prolife than I am now, and I am all in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade.

However, through some recent conversations, I now have reason to think that there is no real prolife vision beyond outlawing the killing of the unborn and the elderly. A lack of a cohesive, encompassing vision is detrimental to the movement.

Remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Did he march out into the street and explain how terrible discrimination and segregation were? Is that what he is remembered for? No! He is remembered as a man of vision, the man who dreamed of a world that was better with the absence of segregation and discrimination. And he could describe exactly what this world looked like. He didn't tell how bad things were as much as he told how great things could be.

I find myself challenged to do likewise when it comes to being prolife. I don't want to march around and only say how terrible abortion is {though that is true}. Rather, I want to develop a vision of what a culture that values the sanctity of life really looks like.

Being a Christian can and must translate into being prolife, for the prolife cause stands on the central doctrine of the imago Dei--man, made in the image of God. To destroy that image is to trounce on the authority of the Creator. But we can't stop here. Being prolife can and must become a behavior and an attitude that affirms that life is sacred in every word and every deed, no matter how difficult, no matter how unpopular.

26 January 2006

Baby Ache

Little A. is rushing into toddlerhood without looking back. We are so fond of her and proud of all her little achievements, and yet my heart just aches to have her be a baby again.

I know, I know, she's not quite one. But she's walking! She's not perfected it yet, but she's practicing every day now, and I know it won't be long before she's wandering the hallways trying to open doors.

Si and I purchased her first birthday gift today. We have a tradition that started when E. was a baby. For every Christmas and every birthday, the children receive a truly good book. It has to be a good story or rhyme, with colorful pictures, and preferably a hardcover edition. E. has received some of the true greats: the complete works of the likes of A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter, not to mention Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.

A. will be venturing into unknown territory for her first birthday. We purchased A Is for Annabelle and 1 Is One, both by Tasha Tudor {who, incidentally, illustrated E.'s Stevenson book mentioned above}. I've never read them, but they come highly recommended by bibliophiles I hold in high regard.

There is nothing like a book to enchant a childhood, and if there is one thing I wish for my children it is an innocent, sunshiny, enchanted childhood. I want them, in their adulthood, to look back and see a warm, welcoming glow around all their memories.

25 January 2006

The DC Update

Now that I've gotten the complaints out of my system, it is time to update you with the details of our trip.

Friday was amazing. I've never been much of a traveller, so my senses were overloaded by it all, but it was great. We started the morning at Bill Thomas' office, where a member of his staff met us to take us on a tour of the Capital. Did you know that all of the buildings are connected by tunnels? We were told that this helps the representatives, judges, etc. get to where they want to go without encountering crowds of people and reporters. I'm sure it also helps when it's icy outside.

Anyhow, we saw the Capital, plus the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Archives, IRS building {just kidding}, Washington Monument, and the new WWII Memorial {incredible, by the way}. At the Supreme Court we learned that Moses is not a religious figure, but rather a famous lawgiver. Oh! And for this being a "Christian" country, I must say that Christ was conspicuously absent from our Capital City.

We also perfected the art of taking the Metro, which was fun. This means that we walked to the point of exhaustion and shin splints, and saw amazing paintings, architecture, sculpture, as well as the real historical documents like the Gutenberg Bible, Constitution, Declaration of Independence, etc. Since everything in our neck of the woods is about 2-5 years old, we were in awe of it all. We could have spent days there, for there was so much more we could have seen.

Friday night, we checked into the hotel and had our first of many communal meals. All of the students eat together in the cafeteria {sound like college to you?}. There was also a class that night, and a dessert afterwards.

Saturday, we were up bright and early, first for breakfast, and then for a whole day of classes. I did skip out for a while Saturday afternoon. I had to iron my skirt for graduation the next day, and then my eyelids became quite heavy. I'm sure you get the idea.

The speakers were amazing. I took a lot of notes and have some thoughts I'm still collecting. I'll be sure and share them when I find them all. We ended the day with another dessert {sorry to rub that in, Dessert Girl}.

Sunday was the big day. After a year of reading book after book, analyzing movies, attending web conferences, writing papers, and heading periodically to DC for his residences, Si graduated. It had that graduation feeling about it, somewhat solemn and a bit sad to know that it was coming to an end. Because it was Sunday, the ceremony doubled as a church service, including communion.

Because we were at the Prison Fellowship Headquarters for the service, we also took a tour afterwards. They weren't really open, but one of the staff was willing to let us nose around. We even got to see the room where Chuck records Breakpoint when he's in Virginia!

I must say that I was most impressed by Chuck Colson, as well as Pat Nolan {the head of Justice Fellowship, and former Republican minority leader from our state}. I don't know many people who have been in prison, and they are so humble about it and are working so hard to bring about a Biblical methodology for "doing" prison--not liberal, not conservative, but truly Christian. It was amazing and inspiring. I can see why Si was so passionate about his schooling.

By the way, when we were speaking with Chuck's assistant, Martha, after graduation, she said that Chuck was impressed with Si's thinking and that he stood out as a "star" among the students. I was so proud, and yet not really surprised. He really is amazing.

24 January 2006

Triumph of the Average Day

Okay, three posts in one day! I don't think this has ever happened before. But I just had to announce that the (Average Day Chart) actually worked! For the first time ever, I came home after being away and I wasn't lost. I can't say everything was perfect, but I wasn't lost. This is huge, enormous even.

My advice? Make a chart. For people like me, who find any unplanned event cause for confusion, it is a best friend.

NEVER Fly America West

Well, we're back. And in a future post, I'll tell all the good stuff. Si graduated, we had a great time, etc. But first, I feel the urge to share the drama.

Thursday night, we were set to fly to Las Vegas around 9pm and connect to a second flight that would take us to Dulles. {We were planning a day of touring in DC before heading to Virginia to commence with the school activities.} The flight to Vegas was delayed. Because of this, we were going to be missing our connecting flight. We were informed of all of this at about 8pm as we were checking in.

There was a very nice man behind the counter who had already rebooked us on a United flight {note that this is an entirely different airline} to Vegas. He said we only had 30 minutes to change planes, so we would have to hustle, but this flight would get us to Dulles at very close to the same time we had planned on arriving in the first place. This all sounded good to us!

Unfortunately, this very nice man has never actually been to the Vegas airport {its most notable feature, by the way is the pornographic advertising proudly displayed on the walls}, and is a little in the dark about how they function. Vegas is not one big airport, but rather a grouping of buildings. America West does not share a computer system with United, so we couldn't be checked all the way through to Dulles. This meant that we had to run for 15 minutes straight while carrying our heavy bags and jackets and go out of security and back to ticketing, acquire a new boarding pass on the new airline {United}, and then go back through security...

When we arrived at the United ticketing area, the woman who "helped" us was very rude and seemed to take it personally that they at America West had rebooked us on the flight to Dulles. She told us in no uncertain terms that they knew better than to do something like that, she could not help us, and she marched us over to America West to let them deal with us.

They, thankfully, located a third flight to the DC area, this one heading to Ronald Regan airport. Now the problem with this was that our luggage was checked all the way through to Dulles, and the two airports aren't very close, and we didn't have a car. America West assured us that the bags would arrive in Dulles, and we'd have to go to baggage claim at Regan and have them call Dulles and transport the bag to our hotel. We weren't thrilled about this, but what choice did we have?

This new flight was about to leave, so we had to run again. When we got to security, a very rude security person didn't seem to want to let us through, and sent us over to the first class security area instead. {We were later told by someone that most of the employees at the Vegas airport are rude. So far, I'd say this is about 2/3 true.}

We were also randomly selected to be searched, patted down, and have our carry-on bags gone over with those little round tissues that look like acne treament pads! We couldn't believe it. Si tried to explain that we were going to miss our flight, but nothing will get in the way of the US government protecting the country from we dangerous white Christians. We're all terrorists, you know.

The best part is next. This is where the woman who searched Si's bag zipped it up, but not all the way, and as we were running, his bag with all his school papers flew open, and everything ended up on the floor. It was all I could do to not end up in a heap of tears on the floor. It felt like chasing the wind. We were trapped in Vegas, and no one wanted to help us get out. We shoved everything back in the bag and started running again. Miraculously, we made it to the flight.

Neither of us slept much on the flight. Red eye flights are always the same. No matter where I sit, it feels like the only person who decided to turn on the overhead light and read is sitting right by me.

We arrived at Regan, and the baggage claim worker there was a very nice, helpful, and thorough man. But he didn't really know where our bags were. I guess it is hard to figure out, with us missing two flights on two separate airlines, and flying a third to a different airport and all. He gave us a huge list of phone numbers, started trying to track down the bag, and sent us on our way.

We enjoyed a wonderful morning in DC, which I will tell about another time, and on and off throughout the time we were calling and trying to find our bag. I don't remember what time it was when it was finally explained that our bag was actually still in Vegas. Apparently, it didn't make that United flight either. And for some reason, no one thought it was their job to send it on the next flight, so it was just sitting in Sin City, waiting to be rescued.

We were told they would have to fly it to Dulles and then have it bussed to our hotel. The flight didn't even get in until 7pm or so, and we were to be at dinner by 5:30. Needless to say, we were a bit underdressed and dirty after a red eye and a very long day in DC.

At 10pm, we finally had our suitcase. I was so happy to wash my face with my very own soap, and we both had our PJs just in time.

Now, how funny would it would be if we encountered a similar fiasco on our way home on Sunday evening? Hysterical, indeed.

We were supposed to fly from Dulles to Phoenix, and then from Phoenix to home and be home around 8:30pm. I even told E. we'd come give him a final kiss goodnight. {Mommy was made to be a liar in this, but Si let me know that, with no definite sense of time, it was all the same if I snuck into his room at 1:30am, which I did and it was.}

We arrived at Dulles to be told that our flight was delayed and because of this we'd be missing our connection, and that connection was the only flight from Phoenix to home that night. His first option was to put us on a flight the next morning. We were trying to be kind, for this man was very easy to work with and we knew it wasn't his fault. But there was no way I was going to be away from my children another day.

It was decided that we'd fly from Dulles to Phoenix, and then from Phoenix to the dreaded Las Vegas for a yucky 2-hour layover, where we'd make a third connection to Bakersfield and be home around 1am.

A lot of people on our flight were stressed. The second the plane stopped, they all jumped up, frantically reaching for their carry-ons. They were all missing connections, or getting to their destinations much later than planned.

Later, on our flight out of Vegas, I overheard a young man sitting behind me say that his flight out of Florida was delayed and he also missed the Phoenix to Bakersfield flight and ended up adding a leg through Vegas in order to get home.

At one point in our journey, someone told us they had heard that 50% of America West/US Airways flights are late. I have never heard that before, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were true considering all we and all the people around us went through. Even Tyrone at the ticket counter in Dulles said that he had recently had trouble {with his own airline} in Vegas and somehow ended up spending the night at LAX before being able to come home.

We bought tickets on AmericaWest because they were the cheapest we could find. I'm not sure if their organization was as much of a mess before the merger with US Airways, but in light of our recent experience I would say that, unless one is in need of a good dramatic story to tell friends, perhaps one should avoid AmericaWest/US Airways as much as possible. I know we will!

18 January 2006

Chaos Controlled??

Ever since we returned from Florida {and it's been a few weeks}, I've felt a little off-center. I don't adjust well. If we are gone even a day, I might as well have been gone a month, because it always seems to take me forever to get back in the groove. Today, I tried to make that groove a bit easier to get back into.

Today was an Organizing Day for me, and I feel much better now, thanks for asking. I came up with a six-day chart boldly entitled "The Average Day." I am calling it a chart because I do not consider it a schedule, and if we miss a day of something, we will not be trying to make it up. We will simply move on, unencumbered, to the day called Today without looking back.

There really isn't much to it, for my days don't have much in them. But something about having it all written down helps me. I think it's that I like following rules, especially when I'm a bit disoriented, and this was like writing a whole bunch of them for myself. I feel much better when surrounded by structure.

So, anyone want details? Mondays we are out and about. In the Morning we have a prayer and play day at a friend's, and during nap that afternoon Si is home, and I run for groceries and supplies. Or if I have time between lunch and nap, we all go together. Every other day, Tuesday through Saturday, has a slightly different plan for my lesson time with E. {which is during A.'s morning nap}. And I added in prep time for lessons on a couple evenings so I can be a better teacher!

Ahhh...the feeling of triumph.

So...The Average Day chart will be put to its first test Monday morning. Si is graduating from his program on Sunday, so I will be feeling lost again come Monday. We shall see. Will Monday be chaotic? Will I be overwhelmed by trying to switch gears from out-at-graduation to we-are-at-home-again? Or will it be Average? I am hoping for the latter.

17 January 2006

Little Family in Big Style

Si and I tend to run our family in a bit of a "large-family" style. A lot of this started when we were still living in LA county, and I "accidently" {by God's grace!} became a mom of the stay-at-home kind. We lived in an apartment that was over the detached garage belonging to a much larger house. In this larger house lived our landlord with his wife, his three adopted daughters, and his three adopted sons.

Most Friday evenings, this couple would invite two other couples, with all of their children, over for an evening meal and time spent together. One of these couples had seven daughters, while the other had three boys and a girl and had only stopped having children because of a tragic emergency hysterectomy early in life. All of this is to say that those who had huge influence over us early in our parenting years {and we had much admiration for them}, were of the "large-family" mindset.

As time has gone on, and we have decided to homeschool our children, we have once again come in contact with many large families. Part of this is because homeschooling is {or at least, used to be} part of a bigger picture of living a counter-cultural life of faith. And having a large family is about as counter-cultural as one can get in the antinatalist society we have built.

When I was younger, I found large families slightly intriguing...and slightly odd! We had the typical family of four {2 parents, 2 kids, 1 dog}. As I got older, I considered the parents in large families to be either completely unable to control themselves, or just really weird.

There are pretty much three different religions in our society that produce large families, with three different reasons for doing so. Take, for instance, the Mormons. Bearing children is somehow connected to a woman's salvation, and women bear "spirit babies" in eternity. Using birth control therefore has some sort of adverse affect on salvation. {My friend Kristen knows so much more about this than me that I hardly feel I have a right to comment except that I want to use it for the sake of comparison.} At the very least, Mormon women have many chidren out of a combination of expectation and duty.

In Catholicism, it is a sin to use birth control, and so abstaining from it is done out of fear {the Law brings about fear, remember}.

But in these Christian families, there is a belief that children are a blessing, a reward from the Lord, and also that they can trust in God to provide for their needs. Abstaining from birth control in this situation is an act of faith in God and love and appreciation for His blessings.

Si and I have been debating the birth control issue on and off for years {we have had a conviction against the use of The Pill from the very beginning}. What we have begun to realize in recent months is that what divides us from those Christian big families is not that we are superior to them in that we have more common sense. It is that in the areas that they have much faith, we have little. Where they have much trust, we need more. Where they are brave, we are mere cowards.

This does not mean that I expect all married couples to have large families. In fact, some of can't, and, due to my required C-sections, we probably can't. But I do think that next time one sees a Christian couple at one's church, seated next to their six or seven or eight beautiful children, one shouldn't shake one's head with disdain, but rather nod a bit in respect.

16 January 2006

The Darndest Things (01/06)

For some time, I've been wanting a good format for documenting the cute and silly and even bad things my kids say and do. Kids really are quite amusing. I tried a notebook, but I think I will find that the blog is an easier place to keep it all together. I will try to add a link to this in the sidebar, for any of you who are interested {Auntie Grace will be for sure}, and this way I can just keep adding to one running list...

30 January 2006: Bad Trees and Bad Fruit?
Daddy {during family devotions}: So you see, E., Jesus said that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit.
E.: That's right. A pine tree doesn't grow apples.
Mommy: {giggles}

End of January 2006: E. Loves to Blaspheme
I can't end this month's Darndest Things without remembering E.'s constant wandering through the house "preaching," or sitting on the couch "reading" his Bible aloud, and all of the decipherable thoughts being heretical! I think my favorite was when I overheard, "Jesus was a sinner, yes He was." In fact, it was the tendency to blaspheme daily which caused us to get on the ball and begin a nightly time of family devotions.

25 January 2006: The Biggest Loser
E. was given some Old Maid playing cards for Christmas, and this morning, before Si went to his office for work, we decided to play a game. At the end of the game, E. had two cards remaining, one of which was the Old Maid. Now, we thought he understood that the last person to have the Old Maid was the loser, but we were wrong. Instead, he held tightly to that losing card, and said, "No! This is my card! You can't have it; you can have the other one."

24 January 2006: Questioning Daddy's Theology
Our Bible reading tonight included the Beatitudes in Luke. We have been reading from the children's version {I forget the official name}, so it doesn't translate exactly. As Si was trying to explain the verses to E., he quickly found himself in a pickle!
Daddy: So you see, here we learn that it is okay to cry because Jesus will comfort us.
E.: It's okay to cry?
Daddy: Yes, because Jesus will comfort us.
E.: But you told me last week not to cry!
Daddy {turning red}: Well, that was different.
E.: But it's okay to cry and you told me not to!!

17 January 2006: The E. Dictionary
Here are some words or phrases we adults use, followed by either what E. means when he says them or the funny pronunciation he uses.
Last week: this refers to any moment in the past {i.e., 5 minutes ago, a year ago when I was two, etc.}
Icecream: "asscream"

14 January 2006: E. Understands and Then Tells His First Literary Jokes
Mommy: Some bears say ARGGGGHHHH!
E.: {Giggles}
Mommy: And some bears say, "Oh, bother."
E.: Pooh does! {Then adds, in his best Eeyore voice} If it is a good day...Which I doubt.

13 January 2006: Boys and Girls are Different
In order to be discreet, I will leave this one vague. E. discovered that boys and girls don't have the same...um...parts. And he can't for the life of him figure out how girls are able to go to the bathroom.

Early January 2006: E. Gets a Lesson on Mushrooms
E: I don't like these marshmallows. {Said while staring in disgust at the mushrooms in the spagetti sauce}
Daddy: Just push them to the side if you don't like them.
E: But I don't like marshmallows.
Daddy: E., did you know that these are really called MUSHROOMS? Say it after me: mush
E.: mush
Daddy: ROOM
E.: woom
Daddy: Very good! MUSHROOM.
E.: Mushroom! {And now, as recoginition spreads across his face}...Like DINING room!

I've Been Redeemed

Yesterday morning in our Newlyweds Ministry class at church, we began a new series on Galatians. One of the activities the teacher had us start in class, to finish later on our own, was to build a "relational" family tree. The relational part essentially meant giving more details than one would in a normal family tree. We were to put a star by those who had become Christians, put a "x" over a branch if someone was estranged from the family, put a dark box around someone who had an extremely strong personality, and add little details on sins like alcoholism or divorce.

Galatians 1:4 speaks of Christ giving Himself for our sins and rescuing us from this present evil age. Our teacher mentioned that it has been his observation that those raised within the Church are sometimes handicapped in that they tend to forget what they have been saved from. I agree, mainly because I have observed this in myself. There is a verse that explains that he who is forgiven much has more gratitude than he who has been forgiven little. It's kind of like that. Only in reality I have been forgiven as much as anyone and my handicap is that I've been so prideful, I've overlooked the fact.

This building of a "relational family tree" was good for me in that it increased my gratitude. My grandparents did not raise Christian families. I can remember when my Grandpa {now deceased} became a Christian and was baptized. One can easily see that we do not have a solid legacy of faith as some families do.

As I quickly diagrammed my family, I saw the results of rebellion against God. I have an aunt divorced once, an aunt divorced thrice {!!}, and an uncle divorced once. This last one is also an alcoholic estranged from the family. But then I also see the fruits of faith. My father and his brother both became Christians and tried very hard to raise families of faith {though they didn't have an immediate example of what that really meant}, and they both are married to the wives of their youth, and have children who love the Lord. And then I see myself and Si, trying to learn and improve upon what was passed on to us.

Si's family tree is even more dramatic. His father's parents remained married, but were not people of faith (they attended the Catholic Church and we have no reason to believe either one knew Christ). That side of the tree is full of divorces, illegitimate children, etc. But the Lord has had mercy on that family, too. Out of the six children of his grandparents, only one had sons {my father-in-law}, and all those sons are now believers. {In fact, the youngest, who is age 16, became a believer within the last few months!} Christ has redeemed our family name, and there will now be a different legacy for this part of the tree!

These details are given to emphasize how thankful I now am. I suddenly became aware of who I could have been, what my marriage could have been like. The Lord, for some unknown reason, decided to cast His favor upon us, and change history. We now need not fear divorce or drink or the power of the flesh, for Christ has set us free. And though there are still struggles and areas in which we are learning to submit, we know we can rely on our Perfect Tutor to teach and guide us forevermore.

14 January 2006

Lessons on Virtue: Modesty

Moreover, the LORD said, "...[T]he daughters of Zion are proud,
And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes,
And go along with mincing steps,
And tinkle the bangles of their feet..."
--Isaiah 3:16

I know, I know. Anyone reading this who knew me between the ages of 15 and 19, you probably thinks I have no right to speak on such a subject. And if I were still 19, I would agree. However, sharing life with a man {a godly man, at that} has granted me a measure of wisdom. One learns lessons in the years subsequent to one's teens, some more than others.

I'm currently studying chapter 12 of Raising Maidens of Virtue, and I feel honored that God is teaching me these lessons in such time as I may be able to raise A. to be truly virtuous in a way that was foreign to me in my girlhood.

I have a few thoughts on the subject of immodesty/modesty that were sparked by this study. It's funny how being a wife changes the way I feel about things. At 18, I wanted to be beautiful and turn the heads of men. Now I look at 18-year-olds and cringe. And does anyone have girls in attendance at church that appear to have forgotten to change their clothes after clubbing on Saturday night?? Me too...

One cannot prevent lust in one's Christian brothers, nor is it one's job to do so. But one can and must try one's best not to tempt them to commit such a sin. If one's dress exposes one's body or attempts to accentuate one's private areas, one is being neither discreet nor pure. Part of the concept of being discreet is to "keep silent about a matter" {I got that one in my dictionary}. Revealing much flesh is the equivalent of screaming.

Dressing immodestly could draw a man into lustful thoughts. Doing this at church could also prove to be a distraction from the teachings and worship. When I dressed immodestly as a teen, the purpose was to attract the attention of males. But I didn't have a right to that attention. I wasn't anyone's wife, and none of those men turned out to be my future husband.

I was selfish, concerned only with my own felt need for attention rather than the good of a man's heart or his relationship with his future or present wife. I was elevating my desires above what was best for the community.

And now I hate it when I see a female dressed like a harlot, especially on a Sunday morning at church.

If a man is married, the temptation to sin can at times cause a rift in the marital relationship, because now he has a secret struggle he hasn't shared with his wife, and he is, naturally, hesitant to tell her about it. If he is unmarried, he can be distracted from his resolve to seek a wife in purity. This type of carelessness in dress reveals not only disregard for a man in his weakness, but disregard for a wife's right to be foremost in her husband's heart.

13 January 2006

From House to Home

If you're a stay-at-home mom, then stay at home!

This was one of the pieces of instruction given during our Keepers at Home time on Tuesday night. The young wives giggled. The context was keeping the family budget, and staying at home (literally staying there) was being considered as a way to save money on gas, plus removing the temptation to spend that one suffers while out visiting the mall or, my personal favorite, Target.

I've been mulling this sentence around a bit in my head {as is a tendency of mine}, and I can't get away from its wisdom. During the two weeks leading up to our trip to Florida, I was an errand maniac, and poor E. was being dragged about daily. There was so much I had to do to prepare for "Christmas" with local family before we left, the "Christmas" we were sending some of Si's family in the mail, the "Christmas" we were taking with us to Florida, plus all the odds and ends we needed for the trip.

This flurry of activity took its toll on our home. Sure, we were able to pull it all together before we left, including leaving clean toilets and sinks behind to greet us upon our return, but I still shudder at the picture of our kitchen island etched in my memory. Clutter everywhere upon it; no room to prepare a meal!

This was a season and, like all seasons, it came to its end in due time. But I must consider that staying home regularly really is part of the key, not just to saving on gas, but to saving our home from disarray. Like any job one wants to do well, keeping a home requires a significant investment of time. For me, being there helps me see it in the first place. I'm not much of a detail person, and so if I fly past a mess on my way to the garage, it's unlikely I'd even notice it.

But more than this, being physically at home helps me ground myself and the children. Filling our days with time at home reinforces to all of us that home is where we belong. If the average waking hour for a child is spent outside the home, they may be tempted to believe that the world out there is where they want to be. As a parent, I must guard their hearts from being wooed by the world.

Moreover, I am a firm believer that what greets a man at the end of the day communicates to him where he belongs. If I am out all day, and exhausted upon my return, I will not have the energy to give my husband the warm welcome he deserves.

There really is a difference between the concepts of house and home. My first thought is that a house is something standing empty that a person buys with the intent to make a home. But some people never make a home. They decide to live in a house. So now, I define a house as a drop-off place for all the junk of our lives, kind of like a big, overgrown locker where we toss "stuff" on our way to the next activity. A home is where a family {of 2 or 10--it makes no difference!}, finds a haven from the outside world.

When one becomes a wife, even before one becomes a mother, whether working or not, one would be wise to stay at home more. Becoming a good wife necessarily requires a pushing aside of any and all feminism in order to build not a career, but rather a life that honors the Lord.

12 January 2006

"Needing" One's Wants

I have been given many lessons in frugality lately. Has anyone had this happen before? One is taught a lesson in one place, hears it repeated in another, and then the next day one hears it reaffirmed and restated in such a way that one finally gets it, and all one can think is that God must be offering tutoring in some new subject? This is what I mean by "many lessons."

What I have come away with is that many Gen-Y-ers {including myself} have too many "wants" considered to be "needs", and this leads to much materialism...not to mention dependency on "stuff" for comfort, and distraction from community interaction.

If one would like to check out where I have been learning these lessons, one can first read this post by Cindy at Dominion Family. Here is an excerpt:
Truthfully, clean sheets and shampoo are luxuries. Everyday more and more “things” move from the luxury column into the need column. You have to be counterculture these days to do the most ordinary things like read a book or say no to your child or get rid of the TV.

In her posting, she suggests reading this article on agrarianism {a topic I am exploring a bit lately} by Andrew Nelson Lytle. It's pretty long, but gives some good concrete examples in story form, which I found helpful.

I don't really need to tell what I learned directly, because the next day I found this post, which I found strange because he was also quoting Lytle's article. I liked this analysis {emphasis mine}:
We might also paint the struggle as that between contentment and lust. The shiny skyscrapers are not built by them that teach us to be content with such things as we have, but by them that spend great sums creating perceived “needs” which can be filled only with the latest The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine. And once you buy the machine, the purchaser finds that he has yet more needs - more gas for the machine, parts for the machine, the children want a newer and faster machine, the latest accessories for the machine, help repairing and maintaining his credit which he used to purchase the machine, more consumable entertainment to fill the idle time when they used to be doing the work that the machine now does for them, etc.

But things really came full circle when, on Tuesday night, I went to my monthly Keepers at Home meeting. I must briefly explain that this is a ministry of older women in my community to younger wives. Once a month, in accordance with Titus 2, they instruct us in some topic that encourages us to be better wives or mothers {or both}.

This month's topic was budgeting/finances/financial organization. Now, this is a topic that I consider to be one of my strong points, and yet I still became aware {probably because of lessons I had been learning in the days prior to the meeting} of my own struggle with mentally labeling a "need" a "want."

Here are some issues Si and I are now discussing in light of what I have learned:
  1. Long Distance: We have a long distance plan that includes unlimited minutes covering all three phone lines in our home. {Please understand that our three phone lines include the two lines for my husband's at-home business.} Up until now, this has actually been the cheapest way for us to maintain our phone bills, because of all the minutes required by the business. But I learned Tuesday night that our local discount store is now selling calling cards for $0.99 that contain 99 minutes. If we can make this work for the business, we may save about $45 per month--or $540 per year.

  2. Date Night: As much as everyone will advise that having a regularly scheduled date night will {statistically speaking} add to our chances of marital bliss, the fact is that "dating" as a concept didn't really exist until just under 100 years ago, and people have managed to get married and stay married for thousands of years without going on dates of any sort. Now, making sure that we have uninterrupted times devoted to nurturing our love is, of course, quite important. But really, a "date night" {where we spend money on babysitting and gas and food and entertainment} should be distinguished as a luxury item.

  3. TV/Cable/Internet Access: This is a tough one in our modern world. My husband's business requires us to have internet access. But if he had another job, we wouldn't need it at all. We don't need our basic cable, we want it. Technically, we don't really need a TV at all. We only turn our TV on for a couple days a week. We find the days without TV to be quite enjoyable.

  4. The Little Things: I'd like to use the example of microwave popcorn. Early in our marriage, we kept it on hand, as I am a popcorn junkie. Then, I remembered that it could be cooked from kernels. And I don't cook it in one of those Stir Crazy things, but rather in a traditional soup kettle right on the stove top. It's cheaper, it {in my opinion} tastes better, too, and E. finds the popping sound entertaining.

I could go on and on, but I won't. And please don't misinterpret all this as a suggestion that one should, without question, get rid of all these things...though if one is currently facing bankruptcy, one may need to.

My point is that I think I need things, when in fact the truth is that I want them. This could be twice as long if I went into "why" I want them, but suffice it to say that God has promised to take care of me. And He does. {Oh, the stories I could tell!}

So why do I chase the wind as if it mattered? As if it could ever make us happier than He?

11 January 2006

Filling Tummies for Less

It's funny what a difference a day makes {as the song goes}. 24 little hours...Monday night I was perusing my Square Foot Gardening book, mentally planning the spring garden that E. and I {and A., once she can walk} will be working on with my dad. I dreamed of picking a fresh salad straight from the garden. And E. dreamed of growing some carrots to put ranch dressing on. I know this because he told me so.

And then, yesterday morning, I went to my new neighborhood grocery store and fell in love!

It is cheaper...a lot cheaper, actually. And anything that stretches our dollars farther is a blessing to the whole family. But that wasn't the reason I was excited. I was excited because of the novelty of it all.

For months I had been hearing about how this grocery store was supposed to be so different because it sold bulk foods, and that was so much cheaper. I was dubious, because all I could think of to compare it with was Costco and I just couldn't envision myself bringing home vats of mayonnaise that would last our little family a couple years {though I wouldn't mind buying olive oil by the gallon, but that's another story}.

But this is different. Let me explain. You know how some grocery stores sell bulk coffee beans? How they pour the beans into those tall plastic containers and then you grab a little bag, put it under the dispenser, pull the little lever, and pour out as much as you want? Or the way you can buy plastic bags full of rice or beans or something by putting a shovel into a giant barrel? I actually think this is an older way of selling things, back before man created things like packaging and artificial preservatives. That is what they mean when they say bulk.

If you cook from scratch, which I do about 90% of the time, then something like this can revolutionize your life. There is an entire department lined with these tall plastic containers full of normal staples, plus nuts, dried fruit, popcorn kernels, wheat germ, and, my personal favorite, cracked bulgar wheat. Okay, so it's not my favorite. But I have this recipe that requires it as an ingredient, and I haven't bought it because I don't want to buy 10 pounds worth for an experimental recipe that only asks for half a cup.

They also do bulk candy, which I think will come in handy for all the baby showers I've been throwing lately.

I suppose this really doesn't conflict with my garden as much as I originally anticipated. After all, I don't plan on growing coffee, corn, or wheat, so this really is going to positively affect the food budget...which should give my hard-working man cause to smile.

10 January 2006

The Hope of a New Year

It is only the 10th of January. The year is still blowing freshly through our lives. In fact, considering that the flu has just now vacated the premises, the new year began approximately yesterday for us. And so I find myself again considering what I wish for in this new year. I'm not speaking of a resolution. I don't want to resolve to do anything. It is more along the lines of a hope: who do I hope to be at the end of another year?

Last year at this time, I was great with child, and terribly nervous about not only being a mother of two {for I was told two would be quite different from one}, but the mother of a girl. And now I find myself at the end of the year to be a mother of two who is no longer overwhelmed by that thought, who actually wants more children, and who is gaining a vision for the raising of girls.

Culture had pressed in hard last January, whispering to me that girls were harder than boys, that two was exponentially burdensome and tiring, and I had listened a bit to its lies. But by the end of the year, the Lord has been faithful to deliver me. And so now I look to see where the world has a hold on me this year, and burst with the hope that I shall be free by another year's end.

I think that I long, more than anything, to be free to delight in this simple life God has given me, in my loving husband and two sweet children.

You see, I am influenced by all the negativity around me. When big and pregnant and tired, people invariably said to me, Oh, you poor thing. And I put on my best miserable face so they would feel right. How could they possibly know that a year previous I had been mourning the loss of my unborn child and that this pregnancy was a sure sign of God's generosity? But I wanted to satisfy, so I frowned as best I could.

Later, when I was at the grocery store and purchasing size 5 diapers and also size 1, I heard it again: You poor thing! I didn't feel poor at all, and I was so aware of it that this time I turned to joking. I mumbled something about yes, I was poor, what with the cost of diapers and all.

The list goes on. Life can and must be a burden in this world; the culture demands it. I cleaned my house today. Ugh, I bet you hated it and you are glad that it's over. I did three loads of laundry today. Don't you just hate laundry? My husband rarely cooks. I cook twice a day, because everyone is always home and hungry at lunch as well as dinner. Are you kidding? You deserve a break! Well meaning people reaffirm this mindset of life-as-burden.

But can I tell you my secret? Sometimes I really like cleaning my house, or at the very least I don't mind it because I consider it part of being a woman, and so it almost feels like an expression of my feminity to care for my home, to take the parts that have become ugly and transform them into something beautiful again. And most of the time, I love doing laundry. E. and I do it together, and he is such a good helper. When you are three, folding rags or putting away your own clothes is very exciting, and that excitement is very contagious. And sometimes, it is tiring to cook all the time, but mostly I like to cook, and the menfolk are always very grateful.

So you see, I am realizing that not only am I letting the attitudes of this world influence me to grumbling about blessings in my life, I am also being dishonest. I hope that by the end of this year, God has grown me into the kind of person who isn't afraid to delight that I get to serve my husband, that I get to care for my children, that I have a house to clean, that I have clothes to launder, and that He gave me a mother who could equip me to do many of the tasks of womanhood.

I am not saying that I never feel the press of life upon my heart, and that there is never any unsatisfied longing in the recesses of my soul. But why manufacture discontent for the sake of conformity? Christ freed us not only from sin, but to a life of service. To serve and care for others is to live out our calling, and to live out our calling is perhaps the greatest source of satisfaction I can think of.

09 January 2006

Granddad Turns 70

Saturday night, my parents held a surprise birthday party for my Granddad. It was a good time of celebration. My mom and her sister did a wonderful job of honoring their father. We ate at a long banquet table, all the guests in seats, little E. and his cousin at the "kids' table" and then a row of high chairs filled with little ones! Everyone partook together. It was beautiful.

During dinner, different guests would hit the side of their glass, and then rise to share what it was about Granddad that makes him so special. Later, there was a recitation of a poem written especially for him, and then some special music...by me. It was a full-fledged Johnny Cash routine with a cousin playing guitar accompaniment, because Granddad is a long-time fan.

As I recently told a friend of mine, I used to think that I was always asked to sing at these family events because I was the only one who could. I have since decided that I'm the only one who will, making me the biggest sucker in the family. But I digress...

I'm not sure I really want to discuss the party and all it entailed, though I will mention that I found it all so beautiful--the various family members using their different gifts to bless our patriarch. It all felt like something out of the 1800s with the home-grown talent and home-cooked food. What really struck me was what an amazing man my grandfather is. I wasn't brave enough to click my glass and speak; I thought I'd end up in tears.

What I admire most about my grandfather is that he is such a hard-working, servant of a man. Old people these days seem to give up and drop out of society, long before there is any physical need to do so. They spend all their time "taking" once they reach 65: they quit their jobs, they even seem to retire from ministry. They indulge their every whim. It is no wonder we start to forget them before they are even gone.

But my Granddad is so different. His presence is powerful because of it, and he seems much younger than his 70 years to me. He still works at an auto shop three or four days a week. And on Saturdays, he has been known to drive all the way to our home {a good 15 miles} to drop off oranges from the tree in his backyard, and do some pro bono work on the older of our two cars. He and my Grandmother have spent many hours watching our children while Si and I spend some quality time alone, and he loves teaching E. how to fix things. He is always there to give us advice if we are making decisions about something electronic, or need coaching on how to repair something ourselves.

The last line of the poem that was read aloud after dinner was: Granddad, I want to be just like you. The more I think about it, the more it's true! I want to still be working hard when I'm 70. I want to be helping the people around me and investing in my husband, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The world needs more people like him, people whose lives depict the power of hard work and service, rather than the weakness of sloth and self-centeredness. I wish everyone had a Granddad like mine.

07 January 2006

"Permit the children to come to Me"

Recently when I was at worship service at my church, an aquaintance approached me. She made what I interpreted to be a friendly comment about the presence of my children in the service. I replied that we had decided it was about time we train them {well, mainly E.} to sit through church. She responded with a light sort of sarcasm that surprised me: "Yes, well they are getting a bit old...{turning to speak to E.} Tell me, E., what did you think of the sermon?"

Well, of course, little E. didn't know what a sermon was exactly, so he just stood there, blinking. And I was played the fool, I suppose. It hurt just a bit; I felt as if she had, somewhere in the midst of her humor, called me stupid.

So is it stupid? After all, he doesn't understand the sermon. And most of our time is spent discouraging squirming. Wouldn't it be better to send A. to the nursery, and E. to the three-year-olds class where he can sing songs and play with cars and do crafts? And even if it wasn't better, wouldn't it be easier? Well, of course.

When I think about why we are training our children to participate in corporate worship, a whole list of reasons flies through my head. Here is my attempt to summarize:
  1. When people brought their children to Jesus, he not only welcomed them, but also warned those who wished to hinder them. Jesus did not consider them a distraction, but rather spent time blessing them and touching them. All of this conveys that children were important to Jesus as children; they didn't have to wait and grow up before He would accept them.

  2. An article I once read pointed out that in the Old Testament in Joshua and again in II Chronicles, the children were present for the reading of the Law. God didn't create nurseries and designate some people to keep the children away from the others so they wouldn't be distracted, but rather welcomed children as a part of His congregation.

  3. This is my more practical reason. It is quite difficult for a little boy to learn to sit still in church. He may try very hard, but most boys are born with the wiggles! I don't want to fight all the battles when he's older. I want to train him now, so that, as he grows older and is ready and able to understand, he won't still be struggling with simple things like remaining in his seat and concentrating.

  4. I think it is important that my children interact with different generations. When you think of it, it is very unnatural for us to segregate ourselves by age the way we do. My husband and I both attended public school, and for a long time we felt as if all our friends needed to be in our exact same life stage, and when our life stage changed, it was as if we needed new friends. I think this mentality was bred by being segregated by age for most of our lives. We had no clue how to interact with anyone who wasn't exactly like us. I want my children to learn their place within the entire body of Christ.

This is not to say that our children never attend children's church. Si and I attend a class on Sunday mornings with other couples, and during that time E. is in the three-year-olds class, doing all the fun things I listed above. But when we come to worship, we now do that together as a family. And you know what? I love it! I love holding baby A. while we sing the songs. I love A. and E. holding hands during prayer. I love that E. is figuring out what a pastor is and does. I love that Si can try and explain what it all meant to E. It is exciting to be there, to see him grow and be stretched in sitting still. A little while, and he will be grown. Everyone says it goes faster than you expect. My goal is not to miss it.

06 January 2006

"It's Not Gonna Kill Him"

I'll repeat it in case you missed the title: "It's not gonna kill him." We hear this phrase from people very often. Sometimes, it is in reference to letting our son watch television. Other times, it is to encourage us to let him eat candy. The person who says it is always well-meaning, and usually thinks we are a bit too...something...too strict, too religious, too over-protective, too something. They can't quite pinpoint it, but our parental activities make them uncomfortable.

It is true, you know. If I gave him candy, he wouldn't keel over and die right there at his little white table with matching little-boy sized chair. If I sent him to preschool, he wouldn't die there, either, and he'd probably have a lot of fun. TV doesn't seem to kill me, and I confess I do turn it on once or twice a week. So why not?

Why not place these things in his life? The fact is, whether or not something kills my sweet boy isn't really the deciding factor we use when making decisions. Our litmus test {or one of the many, more like it} is found in Hebrews 13:17 which tells people to obey their leaders because "they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account." Parents are a type of leader, and we firmly believe these little souls are entrusted to us for a time, and we will be required to give an account for how we cared for them.

Which brings me back to TV, preschool, candy, and whatever else may be on the menu for today. Though all three of these things can and do cause harm in their own way, I'm not sure that the reason we "forbid" them {if we must use such a word, and I suppose we must} is not the harm we try to avoid, but rather the good we try to accomplish. Take candy, for instance. It's not that I don't want him to eat candy, but that I do want him to eat healthy foods and develop healthy habits. Therefore, he is rarely given candy.

Or, to use a recent example, let's think about television. I recently wrote here about my day on the couch, experiencing the flu with my son. A couple people were dismayed when I explained that we just layed there {in misery}. I was informed {again} that it won't kill him to watch a video or something when he's sick. It's not that I was trying to avoid anything, but think of what I would have missed! TV can and does distract a child from his pain. But we don't have a TV in our living room, so instead I held him, I consoled him, and in the end we were closer because of it. This cannot be replaced.

So it's true. Again, I say it: watching TV won't kill him. But it will change him. And it might cause his heart to stray a bit. And though "entertaining" a child in such a way is indeed an easier path, the easy path is hardly ever the best.

03 January 2006

Lessons on Virtue: Contentment

I am currently reading chapter 8 of Raising Maidens of Virtue, but I'd like to backtrack a bit and share a bit that I learned in chapter 3. This chapter begins with a long excerpt from the book From Dark to Dawn: A Tale of Martin Luther and the Reformation by Elizabeth Rundle Charles. It tells the story of a young girl named Agnes, who goes to visit her wealthy family {they even live in a castle!} for the holidays. There are many insults given to her "low" status--she overhears her father being referred to as "only a schoolmaster" and "only a printer." Her homemade dress is declared unfit by her cousins, who proceed to buy her an extravagant gown for an event they are to attend.

It is when Agnes returns home and confesses the whole, sad story to her mother that I was presented with a different lesson than I would have expected. We pick up with the mother's piercing question {emphasis mine}:
"Your father 'only a schoolmaster'!" she said, "and you yourself presented with a new taffeta dress! Are these all your grievances, little Agnes?"

"All, Mother," I exclaimed, "and only!"

"Is your father anything else but a schoolmaster, Agnes?" she said.

"I am not ashamed of that for an instant, Mother," I said; "you could not think it. I think it is much nobler to teach children than to hunt foxes, and buy and sell bales of silk and wool. But the world seems to be exceedingly hollow and crooked; and I never wish to see any more of it. Oh, Mother do you think it was all nonsense in me?"

"I think, my child, you have had an encounter with the world, the flesh, and the devil; and I think they are no contemptible enemies. And I think you have not left them behind."

"But is not our father's calling nobler than any one's, and our home the nicest in the world?" I said; "and Eisleben really as beautiful in its way as the Thuringian Forest, and as wise as Wittenberg?"

"All callings may be noble," she said; "and the one God calls us to is the noblest for us. Eisleben is not, I think, as beautiful as the old forest-covered hills at Gersdorf; nor Luther's birthplace as great as his dwelling place, where he preaches and teaches, and sheds around him the influence of his holy daily life. Other homes may be as good as yours, dear child, though none can be so to you."

And so I learned that what makes any calling noble is its being commanded by God, and what makes anything good it its being given by God; and that honest contentment consists not in persuading ourselves that our things are the very best in the world, but in believing they are the best for us, and giving God thanks for them.

There have been times in my 4 1/2 years of marriage that I have struggled with contentment. I have envied single girlfriends and childless couples, with their beautifully decorated homes, nice cars, and exciting vacations. But all this has been a rejection of the plan God has had for my life, as well as a denial of certain Scriptures. When I wanted to be childless, I was denying God's teaching that children are a reward and a gift. When I wanted to be single, what I really wanted was to live a more selfish life.

But I think that as I tried to grow toward contentment in these areas, I actually allowed pride to take root. I was tempted to try and convince myself that our life was better than that of others. {See the similarity between myself and little Agnes?} In an attempt to push out my envy, I wanted to be able to look at a single girl and think my life superior {to console myself, of course}. But then I remembered I Corinthians 7 where Paul explains that singleness is a high calling, too, in that it offers the chance for "undistracted devotion to the Lord."

And so I have finally learned that envy sometimes gives birth to pride. But God can wash one's soul clean, and give one that settled feeling that comes with true contentment. One can rest in Him and find that one's own calling is the highest calling one may have.

02 January 2006

The Flu: A Severe Mercy, Perhaps?

Some of you know that we spent eight of the twelve days of Christmas in Florida visiting Si's side of the family. It was full of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second-cousins, and...germs. Another way to say this is, in the words of my dear husband, our last and final Christmas gift was influenza.

It is hard to visit such a great multitude with any effectiveness, and it is even harder for unpracticed parents to keep track of their offspring, who tend to become the center of the multitude's attention. Little E. was the number one hit of the year, let me tell you. And, unfortunately, he knew it.

I knew this would happen, but what I didn't expect was his response. Perhaps it is because he is older, but I literally felt his heart wandering from the family. He actually seemed to avoid us, and badly wanted to leave and be with others whenever possible. It was hard to balance the desire to keep his heart closely knit to ours with the desire of everyone else to bond with this little boy they rarely get to see.

But pride grew in this little boy's heart, and much disciplining ensued in the latter half of the week. By the last day, Si and I were discussing a little outing to try and romance him back into the family a bit. But the Lord had other plans.

Friday was a horrid day. The flu struck E. and I quite hard first thing in the morning {our first day home!}, with very high temperatures and an overwhelming desire to sleep, which is what we did most of the time. What a severe mercy, indeed! The Lord knew that E. needed this. The two of us spent hours that day, on one couch together, sometimes sleeping, sometimes talking, sometimes just being silent.

And by the end of the day, little E.'s heart came home.

01 January 2006

Resolutions One Can Keep

In 2005, my father resolved to "work less and sleep more." Lest you think him lazy, let me first inform you that 60-80 hour weeks have been the norm for his last 25 years at his job, during which time he also had undiagnosed sleep apnea. He has a lot of sleep to catch up on after a quarter-century of tiredness, and lessening his work load would still mean he works more hours than the average working man.

When I told my father I found his resolution quite humorous, he told me that it was much easier to make resolutions and keep them if they were realistic. He said that vowing to lose 25 pounds is much less practical than vowing to gain 10, as is vowing to read more than vowing to watch more movies (well, for most people, at least). And I must confess that he has a point, in the sense that resolutions that are in line with what one truly wishes to do are more likely to materialize.

And so Si and I found ourselves discussing 2006 last night during our very private toast (which, by the way, can be credited to the cancellation of our New Year's Party due to our family coming down with the flu on the 30th). We first marvelled a bit at 2005. A daughter born in February. A son (3 years old at the time) telling us that he wants to "follow Jesus all of my life." 2005 was a year of tremendous growth for our family in many ways, and we feel quite blessed by God.

So what did we toast to last night? Siah began to toast to "new life" and I questioned whether he thought I would be pregnant again this coming year. He quickly changed the toast to "growth." I had to smile. As much as he adores his children, the thought of a new one always puts him a bit on edge. He surely feels the burden of providing for us all, sometimes more than he should.

I must say that my personal resolution is a bit more specific. I want to grow (to use our key word for the year) in my submission to Christ. I feel like God has taught me much this year, more than I ever expected. And I want, more than all else, to be faithful in what I have learned.

I had promised God when I became a Christian that He would never again have to deal with my disobedience (ignorance, perhaps, but not disobedience). I asked only that He would make His will for my life very clear so that I wouldn't misunderstand it. His Word said it for me: "Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I'll wholeheartedly obey. Make me walk along the right paths for I know how delightful they really are. Help me to prefer obedience to making money" (Psalm 119:33-36 TLB). --Larry Burkett in Business By The Book